Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sleepless (Untitled 'Person of Interest' fanfic, pt. 5)

It's Person of Interest Thursday, although tonight's episode is a rerun. Yesterday my beloved laptop came back from the repair shop. All my pre-Windows-update-screwing-up-my-OS data appears to have been recovered, but I almost lost this: a short POI fanfic, the fifth part of a serial fic that I'd previously said I was done with.

If you're into CaReese (as something other than a mixed-gender bromance), please enjoy.

I think there will be at least one more part. And that it will have a happy ending.

Part One
Part Two - FYI, the most explicit part
Part Three
Part Four

Joss remembered this from when she was pregnant with Taylor: the moment her belly was officially too big to allow her to sleep comfortably. After half a dozen extremely restless nights - during each of which she cursed herself for having been reckless enough to have gotten into this situation, after she’d cursed John for having been conveniently nearby in her moment of weakness – she went out to the big bed and bath store and bought a body pillow. It was no help at all. She’d been a single mom a long time, but had gotten through her first pregnancy only with much help from her husband. A body pillow was no substitute for the real thing.

Carter sighed. She’d just have to bite the bullet and call him, no matter how much it hurt her pride. He’d probably turn her down, anyway. He was probably on a self-appointed stakeout, or sound asleep after a long day of kicking ass. Still, she had to be practical – she wasn’t any good to anyone if she couldn’t sleep more than an hour or so at a time. She was exhausted, and she needed to ask. Reluctantly, she picked up her phone.

He picked up on the second ring. “Joss, is everything okay?”

“Actually – no. I can’t find a comfortable position to sleep in.”

“Do you want me to come over?”

She hesitated. “If you’re not doing anything.”

“I’ll be there in half an hour.”

She hated this. She hated needing anything from him, waiting for him, asking him back into her bed. When she’d made the decision to carry the baby, they’d agreed to keep the complications to a minimum. Still, when he let himself into the apartment, she felt a little pang of longing. It quickly passed.

“I’m here,” he said, “but I’m not sure how I can help.”

“When I was pregnant with Taylor, my husband would let me lie with one arm across his belly. Propped up like that, I could get some sleep without my belly getting in the way so much.”

“You know I can’t be here every night.” Was it her imagination, or did he sound disappointed?

"I know, I know. I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in almost a week, John. I’m getting desperate. Could we at least try?"

He nodded. “Of course.” He followed her into the bedroom, where he took off his shoes, jacket, belt and watch. “Which way do you want me?"

“The usual way – on your back, head on the pillow.” He did as she asked. She got in the other side of her bed and pulled the blankets up over them. She could feel the chill of the winter night on his skin, but she’d take care of that soon enough. Facing his head, she draped an arm across his body, resting her face against the hard, flat muscle just below his ribcage. This angle lifted her belly off the mattress enough to take the pressure off.

“Is this okay?” she asked him.

“It’s fine,” he said quickly, so quickly she suspected he was lying. “Joss, you’re so warm.”

“I’m not warm, John. You’re cold, but you won’t be after a few minutes under the blankets with me.

“I remember,” he said with a slight laugh. “Good night, Joss."

“Good night, John.”

Soothed by the familiar scent of his shirt, she relaxed and fell asleep. When she dreamed, she dreamed of being at work, coming across two cold bodies in the field. Her eyes fell on the smaller man first. He lay on his side, the gunshot wounds plainly evident in his chest – John’s enigmatic partner, Finch. She fought back a wave of tears as she noticed five fingers, protectively holding onto Finch, shielding him even in death. She didn’t mean to look at his face. A quick glance revealed blue eyes open, staring sightlessly up at the ceiling. She screamed and fell back into Fusco.

“Joss.” She awoke to John shaking her gently. The sun was up; she must have had a few hours of sleep. “Having a nightmare?”

With some difficulty she sat up, leaning back into him, and he embraced her. It was embarrassing how reassuring this felt. “Pregnancy hormones do strange things to the brain. I’ll be glad when this is over.” She didn’t say what they both knew: even after the baby was born and placed with her adoptive parents – Joss’s cousin Rick and his wife – they’d never stop worrying about whether or not she was safe. This could go wrong in a thousand different ways, but Joss didn’t regret her decision. She knew she couldn’t have lived with the alternative.

“Do you want to tell me about your dream?”

Thinking about it brought tears to her eyes. “Not really. I thought I lost you, that’s all.” Her face pressed up against his chest, she felt him sigh. As good as it felt to be in his arms, he couldn’t truly reassure her; they both knew losing him was a possibility every single day. Hey, it wasn’t like her job was exactly safe either.

“Want to try to get a little more sleep?"

“No. I’m awake now. Thanks for your help.” He showed no sign of letting her go any time soon, and that was fine with Joss. It was nice just to feel his heartbeat.

“I’ll be here whenever I can,” he said.

“I hate to be a burden.”

“You’re not. Don’t ever think that. I figured we’d spend more time together as we got closer to the due date.”

She took a deep breath and tried to keep her tears from falling and soaking into his white shirt. They were skirting a dangerous area here, a relationship that didn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t exist. At the same time, for very practical reasons, she needed him. The softer places inside her – the places she liked to think came from her overactive hormones – needed to believe they loved one another, at least a little.

His cheek brushed against her forehead. The night’s coldness was gone; he was warm now. “Do you need to leave now, John?”

“Not yet. Finch is hardly ever up this early. Why don’t I make you some breakfast?”

She sat up and wiped her eyes. “I’d like that.” Her bladder wouldn’t let her sit around much longer anyway. “Help me up?"

He got up and walked around to her side of the bed. She held out both hands, and he lifted her to her feet. For a moment, she thought he would kiss her.

Instead, he headed for the kitchen.

----



(They were from two different worlds - she was Marvel and he was DC.)

...I am mad at Pinterest, though. Yesterday they deleted one of my pins because "we don't allow nudes" but it wasn't a nude. Apparently even lingerie and bathing suits that are deemed too revealing (by whose standard, I'm not sure) can be deleted. I had to go through and delete a bunch of my beautiful nude pins, even though I thought all of them were artsy and tasteful. I mean, obviously the website's owners can make up whatever rules they want - even Puritan rules! - but I think it's more fun to let creative people have, if not free reign, at least close to it. Within reason. I don't want it to be a hardcore porn site, but I'd appreciate it if at least fine art nudes were considered acceptable.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Few Awesome Women in Honor of Black History Month



Happy Wednesday! I've been really uninspired to blog this last week - it may have something to do with my work period being 13 days (February 16-28) instead of the usual 15-16 days. Time crunch? Yeah, just a little bit.

I still had time to finish reading Carrie's Story and interview Molly Weatherfield. As part of the book tour, I'll be sharing the interview and my review on April 4th.

This is just a small sample of the women of African descent I admire. I could keep going but the post would quickly get too long.

The poet Ntozake Shange, who wrote For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. Even if you don't read poetry, you may remember it from its adaptation into a Tyler Perry movie with an ensemble cast including Thandie Newton, Janet Jackson and Kerry Washington.



Lucille Baldwin Brown is an everyday woman who blazed a trail (with an extraordinary sense of style!) - she was the first Black public librarian in Tallahassee, Florida.



Author Alice Walker.



Sojourner Truth. (It's a little hard to read here, buy easier to see on Pinterest.)



Josephine Baker - the singer/dancer/actor/civil rights activist was also an Allied spy during World War II!



Rosa Parks - there's so much more to her story than the time she refused to give up her seat on the bus. She was a lifelong civil rights activist who also worked to bring more attention to the issue of violence against women. When she passed away, she was the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda and only the second African-American. With Sojourner Truth, she's soon to be one of two African-American women honored with a statue in the Capitol.



Raina Lamont, age 3, wore her Captain America costume to the polling place during last year's election.



Music and style icons Grace Jones and Tina Turner hung out together in 1981.



Going back one more generation, here's Billie Holiday hanging out with Ella Fitzgerald.



Finally, our strong (and beautiful) First Lady of the United States, Ms. Michelle Obama. Whether you agree with her husband's politics or not, you must admit wherever she goes and represents American women, she makes a good impression.




Wednesday, February 20, 2013

OHP! Things I Read and Want to Read



Now that Valentine's Day is over, I'm ready to start pinning green things for St. Patrick's Day, but it's pretty early. So...books. Y'know, my usual obsession. 

Did anybody else read Where the Lilies Bloom in grade school? I remember it being pretty good - kinda like Katniss Everdeen's life minus the Hunger Games - which is to say, turn-of-the-century rural Appalachian. I need to reread this.



I read this circa 4th grade-ish. I don't intend to reread it, but I do think that Shane-Marian Starrett was the first fictional character pair I ever shipped, long before I knew what shipping was.



I want to reread this some time in 2013. I read it in high school and all I really remember is the loss of virginity scene, which is perfectly consensual yet physically traumatic.



I also intend to tackle Middlemarch in 2013. My annotated Jane Eyre said that if I enjoyed Jane Eyre, I would also like Middlemarch. Let's hope so. I already bought this paperback version at Barnes and Noble.



I also need to get this one. Even though I didn't love Jane Eyre Laid Bare, I'm perfectly willing to give it a chance.



First I saw this on Tumblr, posted by the artist who created it, Katie C. Turner.



Then I bought the magazine it was published in.



Debbie Stoller, the editor of Bust, titled her letter from the editor "Fifty Shades of WTF." It says what I think may be the smartest thing yet written about E. L. James and her Fifty Shades series:

"Millions of (mostly) ladies bought the titillating title, and almost as many folks mocked them for it, disdainfully pointing out that the book was badly written. But I mean, c'mon - nobody bought FSOG to stimulate what's between their ears; they bought it to stimulate what's between their legs. And I think it's that fact - that women (some of them middle aged!) spent money on something just to help them rub one out - that's rubbing people the wrong way. After all, nobody criticizes porn - a multibillion dollar that still caters mainly to men - for having crappy cinematography. We just assume that men, no matter their age or percentage of body fat, have sexual appetites that need to be fed. But when it comes to women, we seem to have confused the idea of 'being sexy' with 'being sexual' to such an extent that the idea of possibly unsexy women looking for a turn-on is as laughable as a monkey shopping at Ikea."



Now I'm looking forward to reading Carrie's Story by Molly Weatherfield (a.k.a. Pam Rosenthal). So far I've read Tristan Taormino's foreword, which says:

"Today, it seems no one can talk about a BDSM novel - hell, we can't talk about any erotic fiction - without invoking Fifty Shades of Grey. Carrie's Story was written decades before Fifty Shades, and it surpasses it on nearly every level. But one difference in particular stands out: Carrie's Story is about a submissive female heroine with a brain!"



Well, I contend that Ana Steele has a brain, but just belongs to a long romance novel tradition of very innocent, inexperienced female protagonists - but that's a story for another day. (This one.) Still, I think I will like Carrie's Story.

But nobody spoil Fifty Shades Freed for me. I haven't read it yet.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bloody Valentine Blog Hop, 'Heartache' #Giveaway

Hopping by from Evernight's Valentines Snippets Blog Hop? Please visit this post and leave a comment for your chance to win your choice of book from the Evernight Publishing catalog.

Once again, the Lupercalia begins! Pagan Spirits is linking up with A.F. Stewart for the Bloody Valentine Blog Hop, a celebration of the exact opposite of cheesy lace-trimmed cards and candy hearts spewing trite store-bought sentiments.

Ludo succinctly sums up the drama of two people shot by Cupid who never should have laid eyes on one another, two people whose love is more of a horror novel than a paperback romance:


Love doesn't always go according to Hallmark card blueprint, and it isn't always pretty. It could end messily - Romeo and Juliet messily, in extreme cases. It could be thwarted at every turn before it has a chance to begin.

Don't get me wrong - I love love. I love romance, and I generally expect my romantic fiction to have a happy ending. In fact, I might get upset if it doesn't  (The Fault In Our Stars, right?). But at times, fiction has to give a nod to realism. It's pretty darn hard to find a human who hasn't had his or her heart broken at some point, and even the best of romances can be bittersweet.

So here's a salute to all the romances that went down the drain. In honor of the Valentine's Days that didn't turn out so well, I'm giving away one copy of Heartache, an anthology edited by Selena Kitt.



Book Description: Erotic, romantic, poignant and wistful, this anthology collection from Excessica authors will thrill you, touch you, and stay with you. These stories dare to explore the pleasure and pain of a lover gone, the one that got away, the forbidden affair, a true love existing on borrowed time. These are tales of passionate affairs that cannot last, but they are exquisite gems while they do, and like the star that burns brightest, these stories burn fast, dazzle and smolder in the memory. 

Authors include Giselle Renarde, Willson Rowe, Bekki Lynn, Elliott Mabeuse and yours truly. My contribution, "The Witch's Tale," is a paranormal romance between a wolf shapeshifter and the healer who tried, but failed, to save his stricken loved ones. Read an excerpt here.

Warning: readers may get sad.

Giveaway rules: The contest is open internationally; however, U.S. winners are eligible to win a paperback copy of the book, while international winners are eligible to win an e-book copy. Winner will be chosen by Random.org. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post by midnight, February 15, 2013 (U.S. Eastern time). Please make sure I can find your e-mail address either in your comment or by clicking on your name so that I can notify you if you win. Note: you can enter both this and the Evernight Valentine's Snippet contest on my blog, but if you win one, you'll be disqualified from the other.

Don't forget to visit the other websites participating in the blog hop of broken hearts!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Eve OHP: IT'S SO ROMANTIC I'M GONNA DIE

Dropping by from Evernight's Valentine Snippets Blog Hop? Please see this post and leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of book from Evernight Publishing. 



Happy Valentine's Day Eve! (Valentine's haters, tomorrow's blog post is for you. Another book contest is coming tomorrow, too.) I just did the blog post of kisses back in January, so I'm trying a different approach today: romance novel covers.

This was the last one I read:



...and if you liked The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks, you're probably going to like Far From Perfect.  (If you only saw the movie - and I wouldn't blame you for wanting to look at Zach Efron for two hours - you have no idea what you're missing because the book is awesome.)

I haven't read these. (If you want to see what I've read, check out my Books Worth Reading board.) Taken together, they set a very Valentine's Day-appropriate mood, don't you think? Beautiful models, beautiful dresses (I love books, but 50% of the fun of romance novel covers is the fashion, honestly), two lovers enraptured in each other's arms: what's not to love?!






I would probably read this one. I love the paranormals. (Okay, I'd probably read any of them. I'm such a sucker for romance. I still can't watch the Letters To Juliet trailer without bursting into tears when Lorenzo's horse comes riding around the corner.)



Guys, if you ever hope to be on the cover of a Regency romance, you must not own any shirts. Apparently it was not cold in the past and men, historically, did not wear shirts.



I'm sensing a "wedding" theme here.



No collection of romance novels is complete without at least one kilt. This is another one that I've actually read; this series is both paranormal and Highland.



What's your favorite romance novel?


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

YA Book Review: Cora:The Unwilling Queen by Amy Hutchinson

Dropping by from Evernight's Valentine Snippets Blog Hop? Please see this post and leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of book from Evernight Publishing. 

Cora: The Unwilling QueenCora: The Unwilling Queen by Amy Hutchinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Cora Dell is a 17-year-old high school junior who lives with her parents in San Francisco, California. She has the usual compliment of teenage concerns, including whether or not she'll have enough time to finish reading Brave New World and stylistic conflicts with her best friends Joanna and Roxy. (If the trio were the Powerpuff Girls, Cora would be the Blossom, Joanna would be the Bubbles and Roxy would be the Buttercup.) Oh yeah, and she also has super-realistic dreams in which she visits the Underworld and is courted by its unnamed ruler, who wants her to be his wife. In some ways, Cora resembles the mythological Persephone, who was also called Kore in her maiden aspect. Her mother, Deidre, works in a plant conservatory and is a vegan, reminding readers of the plant-loving earth goddess Demeter of classical Greek mythology. Like Persephone, Cora is promised to the Underworld ruler by her father without her mother's knowledge or permission.

The Underworld ruler is never called Hades (or Aidon), and he already has a wife/queen who, when Cora meets her, states that she's not Persephone but started out as a mortal woman just like Cora. The Underworld itself seems to resemble the classical Greek version thereof, a bleak sunless landscape in which the souls of the dead slowly lose their individual identities, although some are better off than others. There seems to be the possibility of moving to a more heaven-like afterlife (perhaps similar to the Elysian Fields), and those in the Underworld seem to be able to die a second death, after which they are completely annihilated. This is the very fate that Cora wishes to avoid for Søren, an Underworld resident whom she comes to care about. In fact, Cora is willing to make an enormous sacrifice for Søren's life; she agrees to marry the Underworld ruler and stay with him for half of the year (the Persephone deal, although in some versions of the myth, Persephone spends only the winter in the Underworld).

I really enjoyed this book, and particularly the way it combines Cora's normal teenage life with her nocturnal (and ultimately more long-term) visits to the Underworld. It's obvious that Cora isn't merely dreaming the Underworld or making it up inside her mind, but it's also not entirely clear what it is that makes her different from other teenage girls, other than the fact that her biological father's an enormous jerk. The novel ends with quite a cliffhanger, with Søren's fate hanging in the balance and Cora not knowing what's going to happen once she becomes queen. (The last page says the conclusion is to come in Summer 2013.) I'd recommend this book for anyone who enjoys mythologically-inspired books like The Lightning Thief (which I haven't read, but which my niece adores - Cora will be passed to her next), The Goddess Test and The Shadow Thieves. I'll be excited to read the conclusion and, perhaps, have some of my questions answered.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Discloser: I won this book in a contest on Goodreads. I received no other compensation for this review, which represents my own honest opinion.

This is an affiliate link:

Shift by Madison Dunn. $8.99 from Smashwords.com
I'm not sure why it happens, but when I focus just right, I can slow time. Things around me become lighter somehow, and I almost feel the tiny particles of energy spinning inside of them. The thing is, having the ability to transform the world around you isn't all it's cracked up to be -- especially when you are running from the Valencia without any deodorant.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: 'Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire,' Edited by D.L. King

Dropping by from Evernight's Valentine Snippets Blog Hop? Please see this post and leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of book from Evernight Publishing. 




Last week I had the pleasure of reading Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire, a Cleis Press anthology of tales of that most erotic of mythological creatures, the succubus. I'm not unfamiliar with the lore of the daughter of Lilith who seduces men (and sometimes women) in their sleep, stealing their essence through pleasure. In fact, I already have a favorite succubus book: Hell's Belles by Jackie Kessler (and its sequel The Road to Hell - I have yet to read the third book, Hotter Than Hell, about Daun the incubus). It's fun to get a new book on a topic I already enjoy. Wherever folklore and erotica meet, there you will find me.



Honestly, I loved just about every story in this collection, and even the ones I didn't love, I liked. I really love a "bad girl," a lady of the night with claws and fangs (literally, in some cases) who might seduce her lover into the illusion that he's in control, but dominates him stealthily, or the vixen who takes control outright. Her lover might be a momentary amusement, a means to an end or her truest love, but there's always an edge of danger to her affections. It's not that I don't love an alpha male, but sometimes femdom is exquisitely satisfying.

The anthology begins on a high note; Aurelia T. Evans' "Harvest" is scorching hot. It's your classic "boy summons succubus into a pentagram drawn on his bedroom floor" tale, expertly told. "In the Service of Hell" by Michael M. Jones is the anthology's first "succubus meets girl" tale, and it has a nice twisty ending. I enjoyed the setup of Kannan Feng's "Before a Fall:" a spirit of lust vs. a spirit of pride.



I was highly looking forward to "Star-Crossed" by Canadian author Evan Mora, because she really impressed me with "Real Boy" in the Cleis Press anthology Lustfully Ever After. I wasn't disappointed.  "Star-Crossed" turns Romeo into a vampire and Juliet, through a last-minute deal with the devil, into a succubus. The result is much sexier (and surprisingly romantic) than Shakespeare's "everybody dies" ending. (No offense, Will.) It was like a more adult take on Juliet Immortal.

Jay Lawrence's "Deliverance" has a nicely haunted, old-fashioned feeling to it, like a really good ghost story with an erotic twist. Anya Richards' "Minions Have Needs Too" is one of those power-play stories I enjoy so very much. Nan Andrews' "Sweet Tooth" features some nice food/sex writing that would've worked well in Hunger. It's basically about an enchanted recipe box, in a really fun and sensual way. Giselle Renarde, whose food/sex writing does appear in Hunger, contributed "Neither Love Nor Money," a guide to how to care for your succubus when she cares for you too much to suck out your essence and her health suffers as a result.

NJ Streitberger's "The Girl on the Egyptian Escalator" has an interesting perspective, in that the succubus is a manifestation of one of my favorite goddesses of destruction, ancient Egypt's lion-headed Sekhmet.

Everything that comes afterward is pretty good stuff, too. Really, there is no bad story in this anthology.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review, which represents my own honest opinion. I did not receive any other compensation.







Sunday, February 10, 2013

Evernight Valentine's Snippets Blog Hop: 'Indecent Encounters' Excerpt and #Giveaway


Welcome to Pagan Spirits, the book blog of author Erin O'Riordan (me)! This Valentine's Day, I'm featuring a sexy excerpt from Indecent Encounters, the naughty collection of threesome/ menage a trois stories from Evernight Publishing.

An excerpt from "Post Op" by Erin O'Riordan, in Indecent Encounters:


Max laughed. Resting his hand on my thigh, he leaned over me and kissed Joey’s lips. They didn’t have to tell me the rest of their story; I could see it in their eyes. They kissed deeply and passionately. I could see the love between them.

Then Joey turned his head slightly, leaned in, and kissed me. He tasted just as I imagined he would. Beer and cigarettes. He was a good kisser; I could feel it in my belly. Max’s hand still rested on my thigh. His other hand supported Joey’s back, just inches from where I knew Joey’s beautiful scar to be. I felt the warmth of Max’s body against me, but I lost track of his hands as Joey’s kisses got longer and deeper. Joey’s hand was under my t-shirt, playing with the lace of my bra at first, and then teasing my nipples. I wanted to take off my shirt for him, but didn’t know how to break away.

It was Max who broke away first. He knelt on the floor in front of me. Max untied my shoes and worked them off my feet. He did the same with my socks. Then, gently, he began to work on the buttons of my jeans. I helped him slip them off. Joey pulled my t-shirt over my head. Joey took my face in his hands and kissed me with a fervor I’d only wished for before.

He reached behind me to unhook my bra.
          
          Max, meanwhile, couldn’t wait for me to work my way out of my panties. “Oh, Maggie,” he said, “you’re so soft, and you smell so good.”  He kissed his way up my thigh, then hooked a thumb into the crotch of my panties and pulled them aside. 


****

The Evernight Publishing best-selling anthology Indecent Encounters is available for $5.99 (U.S. price) from its publisher. Some of the other authors in this collection include Ashlynn Monroe, Angelina Rain, Delilah Hunt and Amarinda Jones. A paperback version is available from Amazon.com.



And Now, a Giveaway. I'll give two lucky winners, chosen by Random.org, one book of their choice from Evernight Publishing. The book can have a value of up to $14.99 (U.S.; I will also cover any shipping if applicable). U.S. winners have the option of choosing either an e-book or a book from Evernight's Print Store; international winners can choose an e-book. 

To Enter: Just leave a comment on this post before midnight (U.S. Eastern standard time) on February 14, 2013. I have to have a way to reach you if you win, so please either leave an e-mail address with your entry ("name AT server DOT com" format suggested), or make sure clicking on your name links back to your blog if I can find your e-mail address there. Good luck, and don't forget to visit the other book blogs participating in the blog hop for a chance to win even more prizes! 


I regret that I can no longer offer open commenting, but I've had to go to sign-in commenting due to an unfortunate number of spam comments. 


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Thank Crunchie It's #Caturday: Grumpy Cat Valentines (Literary Ones, Too)



I'm linking up with Sarah for Thank Crunchie It's Caturday, the weekly gratitude/kitty blog hop. I happen to have some great cat-related Pinterest pins this week. If that's not enough goofy Internet cattery for you, check out the "cats" tag on my Tumblr blog.

In addition to linking up with her, you can support Sarah's creative endeavors by checking out her new inspirational book, Never Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle.



This one cracks me so consistently up.



Hipster Garfield was grumpy before it was cool.



But by now, you must know of my love for Tard, the famous Grumpy Cat.



She's not very excited about Valentine's Day. You can actually order the Grumpy Cat cookies from the Whipped Bakery via Etsy.



Tard seems to have made a new little friend: Sam, the cat with eyebrows and a permanently vexed expression.



I had a cat named Sam when I was a teen. He was tuxedo pattern, but no eyebrows, though.



If you're more into literary Valentines than kitty ones, I suggest you check out Nouvella. Through Wednesday the 13th, the bookish website (a small-press publisher of novellas) encourages one and all to Tweet our best #LiteraryComeOns. I think this one's my best so far:


Also, check out Ben Kling's High School Lit Valentines. How excited would I be to receive a J.D. Salinger Valentine that says "Just take this stupid, phony card?" Very.



This is an affiliate link:

Think like Cat by Benedict Stewart. $1.99 from Smashwords.com
Cats are probably the most adorable creatures on this planet. At least that is what cat lovers would say, but there are times when they can get very unpredictable and you would just want to get your way into their minds to think like cat. You want to know what a cat likes and does not like and before that, you would also want to know whether you should get yourself one or not.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Oh How Pinteresting! - Books, Cartoons and Tea


(Note: There was more to the beginning of this post, but I accidentally deleted it. - May 31, 2013.)






This is what Daniel Radcliffe tells people he's doing this weekend.



This is what he actual does.



After the Harry Potter reference, I might as well just own up to it.



One book that I recently read and got really into was The Count of Monte Cristo. This is the minimalist movie poster.



Yesterday I started watching the anime series Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo. This is the beautiful Haydee (of Eastern Space) in one of her most fabulous dresses.



Oh! and look at this clever thing that Meg made. It's a tea based on Bear the dog from Person of Interest! If I hadn't recently splurged on various media acquisitions (the first season of Veronica Mars, a paperback Middlemarch of George Eliot, the Bust Magazine with "The Thinking Girl's Guide to Erotica") I would have ordered some already.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Be a Book Reviewer - Tips and Tricks - Guest Post

The winner of the e-book copy of Summer Spirit by G. Jay is...the blogger known as The Eye Wit, a.k.a. author/actor/musician Mark Woodland. Congratulations, Mark! And now, a guest post. 


I don’t know if you noticed, but there was an explosion of books in the last few years and it might feel like you are lost in a pile of books you want to read. It feels like there are far too many books to read and too little time. There needs to be someone to sort through this mess and help readers decide what to choose. The answers is book reviewers. You can be a book reviewer to help sort through the pile, but there are some things you need to know.

If you want to be a book reviewer to help people choose the best books to read I think I can give you some advice. It is easier than ever to be a book reviewer, but it is also harder than ever to be a good book reviewer. There is a growing need for them, but it is becoming harder to be found on the internet. Take a look at my tips and tricks of being a book reviewer and they will let you find your path.

1.      Find a Home and Choose Carefully

You need a home to be a book reviewer; a nice warm place where everyone feels welcome. Having a clean and easy to read layout is important, but also figuring out your long-term goals now is important. Don’t focus on this year; think about 3 years away (at least). Where do you want to be? Now you need to think about the path. Do you want your own site? Your own blog? Or just working on someone else’s site? Each is up to you, but most people do a combination of two. They have their site and also write on another. I think it is best to have your own site because it lets you control your work. If you write on another site, they control your work (which is not good long-term).

For your own book review site you need to decide if you want complete control (your own URL and Webhost) or if you want to be a book reviewer on typepad.com, blogger.com, or wordpress.com (they technically control your content). Controlling your book reviews lets you decide to change formats, grow, or change topics easier than the other sites, but it is more expensive and time consuming in setting it up. That’s why you need to look longer term and decide how often you will write and if there will be other writers eventually. For control of your blog check out wordpress.org (not .com, they are different). It is really hard to change from one to the other, so choose carefully. If you do change you might lose lots of links from other sites and you’ll see a huge drop in traffic (plus angry readers looking for your great book reviews).

2.      Decide on a Name and a Genre

You need a great name that fits the genre you will review. I still love www.rabidreads.ca that reviews science fiction. Also, look up some great information about choosing a blog name. It isn’t easy and once you choose there is no turning back, it is permanent. A name usually defines the content and your style. I would rather read a site called Bookdwarf than a site called John Does Book Reviews, unless John Does has a really unique name or nickname.

3.      Realize the Responsibility

When you choose to be a book reviewer you are taking on a huge responsibility. Something you may not realize. You might just start doing it as a hobby, but your writing affects people around you. It affects readers and authors. You write a bad review authors can be angry because people don’t buy the book. You write a great review and readers will be upset if they don’t like the book. You influence buying decisions and both your reviews will change people’s minds. Think about creating review guidelines so people know how you review and why you review in a certain way. You can have them in an area on the site for everyone to see. Then when you receive negative reviews you can mention the guidelines and clear up any misunderstandings.

4.      Be Honest and Objective

Once you realize the responsibility you probably realize that being honest and objective book reviewer is really important. You need to protect the authors and the reader, while providing them with useful information. This doesn’t mean that you should give everything 3 stars, far from it. It just means you need to justify yourself in the book review you wrote. Don’t sell yourself out for paid reviews, but do it honestly. Be objective, but still emotional.

5.      Connect with the Reader

The reader wants to connect with the book reviewer despite it being an honest and objective review following the guidelines. You need to be able to paint a picture when you are a book reviewer. This will help you connect with the reader and have them coming back. Try to engage them on the site with questions, polls, and other information. If you have the time you can also create content that is not book reviews, but opinions. Giving them more information will bring them back more often.

6.      Write and Rewrite

Every time you write it is never perfect. Therefore, rewrite it and make it better. Make a review and check it the day after. Make adjustments and then publish it. Be a book reviewer who cares about his content. 

7.      Promote Like Never Before

Promotion is probably the hardest part of being a book reviewer. There is so much that needs to be written and then you also need to get people to come see it. Where do these people come from? How do they find you? Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other social media are good starts, but not the be all and end all. They are good for finding a few people and keeping them engaged. The best promotion comes from hard work. You need to be in the book blog network to be a book reviewer with readers. When you write a review tell the author, tell your friends, tell other blogs who reviewed the same book about it (in the comments), and anyone who will listen. Ask other blogs to guest review on their sites. Ask other people to guest post on your site. Reciprocate and share link love. Link love makes the internet go around.

And for every post you need to be doing this. Remember the secret to being a book reviewer: read, write, promote, rinse, and repeat. That is the key to success for every post.

Advanced: It is also good to learn the basics of SEO (search engine optimization) in order to get Google working on your side: SEO for Beginner Bloggers.

8.      Don’t Accept Every Free Book

Only accept the ones you like. Read what you love and the reviews will be better. Sometimes give other books a shot, but it is better to choose something you thought you would love over something you took a risk reading. Risks do have rewards, but being consistent may be more important. There is no reason not to try it once or twice and then decide if it is for you.

9.      Have Fun

Have fun. The moment you feel like you need to get the next book review out because you readers are expecting it and you are stressed out means your writing is going to suffer. You need a break at this point. Write about something else besides book reviews or write a blog post about how you are taking a week off. You need a fun and happy blog to be a book reviewer who has great reviews.

With Barnes and Noble closing its brick and mortar every other day, people will move online more to find books they want to read. This is a great chance to be a book reviewer, create a following, and learn more about books. You can get free books and once your following is big enough you can maybe put some ads up and be a book reviewer who makes money. Good luck.

About the Author

William Yatscoff is the founder and marketing manager of both Bookkaholic Magazine and Bookkus Publishing. Bookkaholic is launching in February 2013 and Bookkus launched in September 2012. Bookkus is continuously looking for readers to be book reviewers and writers wanting to improve their manuscripts. William is an avid readers and a manager of book reviewers on the site.



Sunday, February 3, 2013

Favorites from 'Hunger: A Feast of Sensual Tales of Sex and Gastronomy'


Some of my favorite stories from HUNGER A Feast of Sensual Tales about Sex and Gastronomy, edited by M. Christian and Alyn Rossellini (other than "Hungry Things," the one I wrote, of course):

I mentioned the other day that Susan St. Aubin's "A Meal" is a nice opener featuring brave writing and Dominic Santi's "Jeb's Wife" is some very sexy writing.

I also enjoyed "A is for Apple" by Jessica Lennox. It's about a playful sexual encounter between two women who've just met, involving a little light bondage. At first I thought the ending was a little abrupt, but when I got to the very last line and it suggested the lovers would play together again, I decided I liked the ending.

"Happy Birthday to Me" by Heidi Champa starts off on a melancholy note, at the unwelcome birthday party of a man who's lost his girlfriend. Marcus is sad, but the cake and the caterer who baked it make him start to feel a little better. She runs out of cake, but the lack can be made up for in other ways.

Billierosie's "Fruits de Mer" is gorgeous, gorgeous writing. Not a single word is out of place.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the other tales in the anthology, but everyone has their own preferences, and these are the ones that particularly catered to mine. I do happen to have a favorite, though. It's "Un Apetito Robusto" by Cesar Sanchez Zapata. Set at a family-owned small vineyard in Italy, the tale is romantic, evocative and just plain delizioso.

Next I'll be reading an anthology to which I did not contribute: Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire, edited by D.L. King. The theme is "succubi." Good stuff, lots of femme dom. Giselle Renarde has stories in both.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Imbolc, Buddy Holly and Human Sacrifice

Please leave a comment on yesterday's post for a chance to win a copy of Summer Spirit by G. Jay (romantic suspense).

For some basic background information on the 1st and 2nd of February, variously celebrated as Groundhog Day, Brighid Day, Candlemas and Imbolc, please see this post.

One day in August last year, I fell down the rabbit hole and stumbled upon several conspiracy theory blogs. I linked to several of them, including VISUP, which features an intriguing post about death symbolism in the Christian Bale movie The Prestige. (Don't read it unless you've seen The Prestige, because it spoils the major plot twist.) About two weeks ago, I stumbled back onto VISUP a 4-part series of posts called "How the Music Died."

Ostensibly, "How the Music Died" is about the February 3, 1959 plane crash that killed rock 'n' roll performers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and references to the tragic event in the song "American Pie" by Don McLean. What's interesting about the series is how the author, who  goes by the pen name Recluse, links the January 31 date to the traditional celebration of Imbolc. (You'll notice me referring to Recluse without pronouns, since I do not know this person's gender.)

In the first article, Recluse links Holly's name with the ancient folklore of the Holly King (or Holly Knight) and the Oak King (or Oak Knight). These figures have an annual battle on the first of May (Beltane) or at Midsummer, in which the Holly King beheads the Oak King and takes over the Oak King's kingdom. The Holly King's literary descendant is the Green Knight of Arthurian literature; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (composed in Middle English by a poet or poets whose names are lost) has been translated by literary luminaries including J.R.R. Tolkien and W.S. Merwin. (You can download a copy as inexpensively as 99 cents for Kindle. In fact, here is a free version.

Recluse associates the Green Knight with death and rebirth, an association similar to the folkloric character known as The Fool, celebrated at the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia (December 17-24). In the second article, Recluse explains that the Oak King and the Holly King do battle not only once, but twice a year, endlessly beheading one another and each time returning from the dead. The second battle takes place at Midwinter, or the Winter Solstice. The Green, or Holly, Knight is also associated with the folkloric figure of the Green Man.

The Saturnalia custom was for social class distinctions to be temporarily suspended, so that slaves and their masters reveled together freely. The festivities also included the choosing of a mock king, perhaps representing the god Saturn, who was empowered to give commands (typically ridiculous, silly ones) to festival guests. This custom survived as the "Lord of Misrule" tradition in medieval and Renaissance Europe, associated with the Feast of Fools, which was especially popular in France. 
Saturnus by  Polidoro Caldara da Caravaggio, 16th century. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons
According to Wikipedia, James Frazer in The Golden Bough associated the Lord of Misrule with an annual ritual sacrifice performed in ancient Rome - in other words, after serving his ceremonial function, the man chosen as the Fool or Lord of Misrule was sacrificed. However, Clement A. Miles disputes this in Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significant. Miles writes, "Dr. Frazer's theory, dependent for its evidence upon the narrative of the martyrdom of a fourteenth-century saint, Dasius by name, has been keenly criticized by Dr. Ward Fowler. He holds that there is nothing whatever to show that the 'Saturn' who in the fourth century, according to the story, was sacrificed by soldiers on the Danube, had anything to do with the customs of ancient Rome."

Miles does note that one holly-related tradition was to take the holly decorations down at Candlemas/Imbolc. According to The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker, holly has traditionally been considered feminine; the masculine equivalent is ivy. Walker considers the word "holly" itself etymologically related to a Germanic word, Hohle, which meant the grove or cave sacred to the Goddess (a vaginal symbol as well as a geographic location), and to the name of the Germanic goddess Holle, or Hel, who governed the Underworld in Norse mythology. (You may remember Hel as one of the children of Loki.)

Whether the sacrifice is associated with the masculine Saturn or the feminine Hel, Recluse's implication is that Buddy Holly's tragic accident is a kind of human sacrifice in honor of Imbolc. Recluse notes that the goddess generally associated with Imbolc is "Bright" (likely a misspelling of "Brighit"), also known variously as Briid, Bride (pronounced "Breed"), Brigid, etc. The goddess, Recluse notes, is one third of the Triple Muse, the Celtic holy trinity. A connection is made between the trio of Holly, Valens and Richardson and the goddesses' feast night.

Although their deaths are recorded as having occurred in the early hours of February 3, the February 2 date of Imbolc had just passed. Who carried out the sacrifice and how exactly it was achieved in the form of an aircraft accident are not explained. Parts 3 and 4 depart from "American Pie" and focus on the Blue Oyster Cult (BOC), music with which I personally am wholly unfamiliar. (I mean, I've heard "Don't Fear the Reaper" on the radio before, but that's about it.)

Mention of the goddess is made again in Part 4, which equates "Susie," a mysterious woman mentioned in BOC songs, with the "sacred prostitutes" of antiquity, temple priestesses whose sexual favors were a form of action-prayer intended to link the worshiper to the goddess (as, perhaps, Mary Magdalene). Another song character is "Charles the grinning boy," which Recluse associates (rather freely) with a sacrificial victim.

The reasoning is rather interesting: Recluse claims the phrase "grin like a Cheshire cat" predates Lewis Carroll and referred at one time, gruesomely, to those who'd had their throats cut. This mode of execution is associated with the Celts, Recluse says, and can be seen in ancient sacrificial victims whose preserved bodies have been found in peat bogs. (This may remind you of the "Old Man" in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, if you've read Ransom Riggs' charming YA novel.)

Brigid's Cross, woven from rushes. Author: Culnacreann via Wikimedia Commons

Even if Imbolc was associated with human sacrifice in the distant past (and I think you can conclude the link between the two is rather tenuous), I don't want it to be something you think of as eerie or frightening. Let's remember the true meaning of Imbolc (in the Northern Hemisphere, especially if you live in a temperate climate): gratitude to some Higher Power (whichever one you like) that winter is loosening its grip on the world, that spring is coming, new life is on its way, and the forces of nature are already turning the days longer and the world warmer and greener.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

G. Jay 'Summer Spirit' guest post and book giveaway



An Interview with G. Jay, author of Summer Spirit

Please tell us about your current release.

Summer Spirit, A Ryan Kinkaid Mystery, is the first in my series of at least four books about a successful gay Manhattan antique dealer. This story starts with Ryan realizing he has had it with life in New York City, especially his random love life. Although he has what most New Yorker’s want – his own successful business, and a mortgage-free brownstone on West 71st Street, one very important thing is missing in his life . . . a meaningful and loving relationship. With summer just around the corner, the approaching heat and his restlessness are reasons for his escape from the city. He takes a four month rental in historic and picturesque Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with his best friend Lauren in hopes of gaining a new perspective on life.

Renting a house built in 1810, a kindred spirit Nicholas reaches out for contact, and Ryan finds himself wanting to know about the past. However, Nicholas is not the only one wanting Ryan’s attention. Ty, a handsome local man, also has strong desires for Ryan.

The stark contrast of the past collides with the present in this story of lost and betrayed love, and irrational and undying prejudice.

In the end, all that is left is the affirmation of the value of honesty and commitment in love.

Can you tell us about the journey that led you to write your book?

On a recent trip to the South of France, my husband and I met a successful romance novelist who, over a dinner at a restaurant in Marseille, suggested that I try my hand at gay erotica. She said her gay friends told her she should write some books for that genre because they felt there weren’t any decent ones out on the market. However, since she’s straight and it wasn’t her genre, she wasn’t interested. That suggestion stayed with me and, after a few months, I acted on it.

In the past few years I have had in the back of my mind the idea of writing a book. Granted whatever story I thought was there was not based on gay erotica. But none the less, it was there.

My professional career for the last 30 years has been in the field of human resources. It afforded me the ability to see the various sides of people. For example, how they handle change and have an unending desire to hold on to the anger of past hurts and disappointments. Two issues I address in my book. I’ve since ended my career in human resources, focusing on writing the next book in the series.

Can you tell us about the story behind your book cover?

The main graphic on the cover is a male figure. This figure can represent one of two male characters in the book, Ryan Kinkaid or Nicholas Walsh. In each case, the characters are unfulfilled until this certain summer where love and contentment gives life and color, uplifting their spirits.
What approaches have you taken to marketing your book?

Writing and publishing is all new territory for me. Marketing the book is something I am still working on. My publisher helped by setting up my website and I’m telling everyone I know and come in contact with about my book.



What book on the market does yours compare to? How is your book different?

I think my book is unique in that if you take away the sexual aspect of it, there would still be a decent story there. Many books on the market that I have read in this genre are based solely on sex acts, which meet the needs of a large percentage of their readership.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I don’t know if it’s a quick, but I do not outline the book beforehand. I let the story happen as I write it.

Open your book to a random page and tell us what’s happening.

Ryan, Lauren and Jason are traveling from Manhattan to Portsmouth for the weekend. On the way they stop at a rest area in Connecticut to use the facilities and Jason takes care of someone else’s business (if you catch my drift) along with his own.

Do you plan any subsequent books?

Yes, this is the first in a series of at least four. The next book will be a continuation of the story between Ryan and Ty and is called Autumn Reveal.

Tell us what you’re reading at the moment and what you think of it.

I’m not reading anything at the moment. I am focusing on writing Autumn Reveal. However, when I do, I’m sure it will be one of the more popular fiction books on the market. I doubt it will be gay erotica because I don’t want to influence my writing by how another author depicts sex in their story.



Guest Post

The main character in Summer Spirit is 41-year-old Ryan Kinkaid. A New York City antique dealer who, throughout his adult life, has looked for that certain someone with whom he could have a loving, committed, and monogamous relationship. Some may ask, “So what’s the problem?” The problem is that in the gay world this is not as common as one may think.

As a gay man in my mid-50s, I have observed many gay “couples” who call someone their “partner.” Usually it’s the person whom they live with and share living expenses. However, their sexual lives are not exclusive. I’ve seen advances made at parties by someone in a relationship toward someone not their partner, or hear how when at a conference or the gym they hook up with someone. It is when hearing those individuals say, or do, such things I want to correct them by saying, “Don’t call him, or her, your partner. They are your roommate who you have sex with occasionally, nothing more. You’re shopping, and are only with him, or her, until you find someone better. Besides, it is demeaning to the other person to know they are not good enough.”

I’ve been chastised and criticized for this opinion. However, I certainly know I am not alone in my view, as I have met many couples who are in loving, exclusive relationships. However, if the truth be known, I think we are in the minority.

After 32 years, in 2010, my partner and I married in the state of New Hampshire. For the years prior I did not need to have a piece of paper to prove my commitment to him. I have always loved and wanted him. It is also safe to say that during those 32 years we had been through everything there is. Thereby, if you can stand up in front of family and friends and say vows of commitment to one another you mean them, because you’ve lived them, proven them.

At this time in our nation’s development, with the religious right trying so hard to shove homosexuality back into the closet and take away what few rights we have achieved over the years, gays have to work hard to promote positive relationships and dispel negative stereotypes. That piece of paper I mentioned above means everything to me.

I have written the character of Ryan Kinkaid to hold the same values as myself. He is not perfect or saintly; he has had his share of experiences. He is looking for someone who makes daily living worthwhile, someone to share life with and not be alone.

As a writer, I would like readers to be able to connect with my characters. I try hard to have them be realistic. I welcome any comments from readers on my book, your views on my characters and the relationships I portray. You can contact me through my website, www.gjayb.com.


The Giveaway

Prize: A e-book copy of Summer Spirit

How to Enter: Leave a comment on this post before Monday, February 4 at midnight (U.S. Eastern Standard Time). I regret to announce that I can no longer allow open commenting on this blog, due to a discouraging number of spam comments. You'll be required to sign in using a Google or OpenID account. I'll announce a winner on Tuesday, February 5th, using Random.org to choose. 

U.S., Canada and International Entries Accepted: yes! Please enter and share the giveaway with anyone you know who might like to win the book. 


Summer Spirit
 blog tour site:
http://summerspiritmystery.blogspot.com/

Summer Spirit Book Summary:
Ryan Kinkaid, a successful gay Manhattan antique dealer has had it with life in New York City, especially his random love life. Ryan has what most New Yorkers want — his own successful business, and a mortgage-free brownstone on West 71st Street. However, at age forty-one he discovers he is lacking one very important thing in his life: a meaningful and loving relationship. With summer just around the corner, the approaching heat and his restlessness are reasons for his escape from the city. A four-month rental in historic and picturesque Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with his best friend Lauren was the answer.

Renting a house built in 1810, kindred spirit Nicholas reaches out for contact, and Ryan finds himself wanting to know about the past. However, Nicholas is not the only one wanting Ryan’s attention. Ty, a handsome local man, also has strong desires for Ryan.

The stark contrast of the past collides with the present in this tale of lost and betrayed love, and irrational and undying prejudice.

In the end, all that is left is the affirmation of the value of honesty and commitment in love.

Link to Summer Spirit excerpts:
http://www.gjayb.com/excerpts.htm




G. Jay's Bio: 
A communications graduate of the City Universities of New York, and after twenty-nine years as a human resources administrator, Jay decided to apply his understanding of the complexities and foibles of the human character in a more creative way.

Like the main character, Ryan Kinkaid, Jay is a gay man who believes in love and commitment. He and his husband have been together for over thirty years and live on the West coast of Florida with their two cats. A transplant from New York, Jay continues to travel regularly to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to connect with the New England life which he so loves.

Format/Price: $3.99 ebook
Pages: 132
mobi ISBN: 9781938008665
ePub ISBN: 9781938008672
Publisher: Publish Green
Release: October 15, 2012

Kindle buy link ($3.99):
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009RT6L8A?tag=tributebooks-20

Nook buy link ($3.99):
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/summer-spirit-g-jay/1113508642?ean=2940015504538

iBookstore buy link ($3.99):
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/summer-spirit/id571016500?mt=11&uo=4

MyBookOrders.com buy link ($3.99):
https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/969