You want to write a Romance?

I’m not going to lie. This is about a post I saw giving some ‘basic concepts’ to writing Romance. Except what the author of the post wrote is backwards. It holds just fine if someone is writing a different story and there HAPPENS to be a romance in it, but not if you’re actually writing a romance novel. I’m not going to rehash the points made in the other post, I’m just going to offer a little wisdom on the Romance genre for those who wish to write an actual romance.

romance

The ROMANCE is the story. This is, apparently, quite a hang-up for those who don’t read or write romance. It’s nice to add outside plot elements, those can really spice your story up…but the focus is the relationship. Romance is not used to set the mood or describe the customs of your time or place. It is not there simply to raise the stakes so the hero has to rescue the heroine and the heroine can then rescue the world. Nope—the ups and downs of the relationship are the core of your story, it is the world, it is the suspense, the conflict and the resolution all wrapped into one.

Follow the tropes, and a few clichés aren’t bad either. It’s one of the few places where ‘expected outcome’ is a necessary, though you may feel free to twist other things however you please. Try not to be overly dramatic, but that’s still much better than being too subtle to feel the chemistry between the characters. If you begin with insta-love, make sure the characters FEEL it all the way through—they can have doubts about the direction of the relationship, what they truly feel and even if things can work out (etc.), but their mind should be occupied with this other person, they should agonize a bit over things. Love at first sight isn’t all that common, so if they feel it, make it special.

Erotica and romance aren’t the same thing. There is a bit of cross-over. They can be connected. They can both be present in the same story. But for the love of God, please stop confusing the two.

Finally, I will add, as so many others have, that romance and its authors take shots to the chin a lot. On the flip side, every time some author from a different genre sits down to write a romance they feel the need to then blog about how difficult it was. Yes, prepare yourself, it is difficult finding the proper balance of things, but if you keep looking at the events of your story through the prism of falling in love, you’ll stay on the right track.

Secret Babies and Stolen Goods

fb new banner

I write a lot of darker stories, serious issues buried behind terms like ‘erotic romance’ and ‘paranormal suspense.’ I love exploring those subterranean emotions, the things so many of us hide on a daily basis with wide smiles and gentle lies. Things like distrust and greed, perversion, obsession, unhealthy love…these things we have to face within ourselves. Or, at least, my characters do if they want to find their happy ending, or whatever they’re striving for.

And sometimes I just want to write an easy story. Stories that are just for fun, entertaining and quick. Others that are romantic and sweet. Sometimes, my brain starts churning with happy thoughts, though it can’t help but put a little bit of the darker edge on just about everything I touch.

My beta readers tell me Stolen Goods is cute, and I’ll take that. It’s exactly what I was going for. A sweet story with a happy-ever-after dripping in syrup. I’m pretty sure everyone who glances at the cotton-candy cover knows what to expect, right?

Ah, but I can’t help myself. He’s a little obsessed, she’s a little untrusting. After all, what is sweetness without a little sour?

Weslyn Moon is a woman who has not only fallen on hard times, but doesn’t even know what good times are. She’s got a history that makes her men-shy, she doesn’t want much to do with them but she does want a baby, and the unconditional love one would offer. Agent Nolan Findley has a failed marriage behind him. He and his ex had tried to have a baby but failed…and yet his attempts left a forgotten semen sample at the Barre Birth and Reproductive Center.

Findley gets a call about replacing his stolen sample and learns a doctor was blackmailed into an illegal IVF procedure. He starts tracking down the culprit, art forger Weslyn Moon. But is she even pregnant? Odds are—no, but Findley’s determined to find out, just like he’s determined to bring Moon to justice.

But then his investigation turns into so much more…

Stolen Goods 2000x3000

 

Amazon  /  Amazon UK

Magic Matched: Motherhood

motherhood_facebook

 

In witching society, there is a strict hierarchy. Family covens are ruled by Mothers or Fathers who hold the bulk of their bloodline’s power and archaic rules are enforced, disregarding modern sentiments. Magic and politics are the only things that matter, and marriages are arranged for advantage rather than love.

motherthood_800

Christiana Davenold doesn’t want to be Mother, but her husband is pushing for her to be named heir. Milo just wants to protect his wife, and he believes the position of leadership would keep her, and their unborn child, safe from the challenges of her cousins.

But Mother Madeleine refuses to name a successor.

As the Davenolds gather in the hopes that they can heal their Mother from the dark magic attack that has left her weak and near death, Silviu Lovasz and Georgeanne Davenold find themselves at a turning point neither could have expected. Troublesome Family members, secret alliances and the unexpected arrival of Father Daniel Levy cause an emotional upheaval that will test them both.

Only love can see them through the danger, but in witching society, magic and politics are all that matter. The connection they’ve managed to forge will be tested as suspicion grows and trust is broken by the ultimate betrayal.

 

won't let them teaser

~~Excerpt~~

Frustration heated the back of Silviu’s neck. “I’d hoped for a little more than a small moment, love.”

“Make an appointment,” she snapped. “Silviu, I have a lot going on right now. I appreciate you doing what you can to help my grandmother, but while she’s ill the Family problems come to me. I have a job to do and I can’t let everybody down.”

“They could solve most of these problems themselves.” He shook his head, irritation tightening his muscles. “They bring you silly things for no other reason than to occupy your time.”

She steered him to the right and opened an inconspicuous door. Inside wasn’t what he’d expected, until he reminded himself that the estate belonged to the secondary branch and wasn’t Madeleine’s primary residence. In New Hampshire, the Davenold Mother had a bright, opulent office, but the space he followed his betrothed into was dimly lit with a single, narrow window and filled with an overly large desk.

It was perfect.

“You have to understand how nervous they are.” Georgie’s tone turned mildly scolding, “Our Mother is ill with no cure we can find and the Family is frightened. I must provide them with the leader they need.”

Put that way, the Davenolds’ dependence on her made more sense. “You are the natural choice,” he conceded.

“Yes, and if I’m not available, the witches here are more likely to go to Suzette than Christiana. Most of the people running around here belong to the secondary branch. What did you need to talk to me about?”

There was no way he could tell her the truth. He knew she would reject him outright if she had even a hint of his plans. He would scare her off and offend her at the same time.

A flick of his fingers locked the door before he leapt on her. Silviu trapped Georgie against the desk and hauled her to his chest, his mouth coming down on hers before she could protest. He crushed her close, pressing his rigid dick to her belly and smoothing his hands down her back in a single, hard stroke.

He wondered if she could taste his desperation as he twisted his lips against hers and thrust his tongue into her mouth. If she could feel the thrum of his magic sliding over her, sinking into her, and if she would understand what it meant, if she understood what he was doing. He wondered if he cared what she thought as she went to her toes and moaned. Silviu pressed his advantage.

Her lack of magical knowledge was his saving grace and he fully intended to use it to the best of his ability while he still had the advantage. Before her suspicions became engaged. He gripped her hips and dragged her against his cock until Georgie was clinging to him for balance. He kneaded her ass and bit her lip.

She broke the kiss with a gasp. “Silver, I don’t have time—”

“Make time,” he growled, attacking her mouth again. He licked and rubbed, used the hard edge of his teeth against her soft curves and sucked her lower lip. “I need you, Georgie.”

Milo teaser

Totally Bound  /  Amazon US  /  Amazon UK  /  Barnes & Noble  /  Kobo

Magic Matched

 betrothed_800

The game they’re playing turns treacherous

Totally Bound  /  Amazon   /  Barnes & Noble  /  Apple  /  All Romance  /  Kobo

married_800

A minefield of lies and betrayal

Totally Bound / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Apple / ARe

adDelve into the emotions, dive into the erotic.

An extensive traveler who loves to incorporate various legends from around the world into her tales, Lola White likes to twist reality at its edges in her stories. She likes delving into the emotions of her characters, finding their strengths and weaknesses, and seeing (and showing) how they get themselves out of whatever trouble has found them—if they can.

For news, exclusives and special deals, sign up for her newsletter

Facebook  /  Tumblr  /  Twitter  /  Goodreads 

 

Magic Sale!

betrothed_facebook

 

Magic and politics are the only things that matter…until love comes into play

Magic Matched: Betrothed

SALE!

99 cents for a limited time only!

~~~~

In witching society, magic and politics are the only things that matter, and marriages are arranged for advantage rather than love.

But neither Ileana Lovasz nor Eliasz Levy are looking for love. Humiliated by a string of broken betrothals, Ileana only wants freedom from her manipulative grandfather. Eliasz simply wants an alliance with Ileana’s brother Silviu, a man rising through the witching ranks. That is, until the Lovasz woman arrives at his home and stirs up emotions he’d never thought to feel.

Silviu has bigger things on his mind than his sister’s marriage. Georgeanne Davenold, Silviu’s betrothed and the key to his rise in power, is back in his life after a ten year separation that left her distrustful of his intentions. Their union is a novelty, spanning the divide between Matriarchal and Patriarchal Families. Their union is also alarming, combining the influence and magic of two witches only heard of in myth and legend.

Ileana, Eliasz, Silviu and Georgie must build an alliance that will help them all get what they want but, with too many lies and too many enemies, the game they’re playing turns deadly. When the two women come under attack, neither Silviu nor Eliasz knows which is the target. They only know they will protect the women their hearts have claimed as their own, even though that means defying the traditions of witching society, risking every goal they hold dear and confronting the dangerous members of their own families.

betrothed_800married_800

Amazon  /  Totally Bound                                                   Amazon  /  Totally Bound

married_facebook

$3.99 / £2.50

Limited time only!

In witching society, magic and politics are the only things that matter, and marriages are arranged for advantage rather than love.

Tulah Ngozi doesn’t want to go home, but she’s being forced to attend the wedding of the man who killed her father years ago. The Ngozi men are determined to use her in their plots against each other, but she takes her future into her own hands when she learns that Adam Davenold will also be in attendance. Adam is a powerful man in a matriarchal Family, used to being seduced by women looking to gain power. He’s good at guarding his heart—until he meets Tulah.

Diplomacy demands that the Davenolds attend the wedding and, in the company of their Matriarch, Adam and Georgeanne travel to the Ngozi residence, where they become embroiled in a frightening power struggle. Georgeanne is grateful for the unexpected presence of her betrothed, Silviu, who arrives uninvited after he learns she will be there. When the groom proves disturbing and the Davenold Mother falls to a suspicious illness, Silviu’s magic is the only thing Georgie can depend on for support.

In witching society, magic and politics are the only things that matter, and marriages are arranged for advantage rather than love. But more than politics is at stake in a minefield of lies and betrayal. Death and dark magic stalk the Ngozi–Levy wedding, and only Silviu and Georgeanne’s Matched magic has a chance of getting everyone out alive.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

motherhood_facebook

Christiana Davenold doesn’t want to be Mother, but her husband is pushing for her to be named heir. Milo just wants to protect his wife, and he believes the position of leadership would keep her, and their unborn child, safe from the challenges of her cousins.

But Mother Madeleine refuses to name a successor.

As the Davenolds gather in the hopes that they can heal their Mother from the dark magic attack that has left her weak and near death, Silviu Lovasz and Georgeanne Davenold find themselves at a turning point neither could have expected. Troublesome Family members, secret alliances and the unexpected arrival of Father Daniel Levy cause an emotional upheaval that will test them both.

Only love can see them through the danger, but in witching society, magic and politics are all that matter. The connection they’ve managed to forge will be tested as suspicion grows and trust is broken by the ultimate betrayal.

Totally Bound  /  Amazon US  /  Amazon UK  /  Barnes & Noble  /  Kobo

Three Acts

Here’s some free advice for every aspiring write out there: Write a three act story.

3 acts

(super simplified, but you get the point, right?)

Even short stories follow the format, though some have more events and others have less. Hell, even non-linear tales have this format buried somewhere in the back and forth of chapters. You need a beginning, a middle and an end. Each of those needs build-up and a challenge the character(s) must face.

The beginning should have at least some build-up, though not an info-dump of backstory. We should get to know the character, start understanding what the problem of the story will be and at the end of the beginning, the first major turning point of the conflict should occur and draw the character into the drama. Like a mini cliff-hanger.

Middles are tricky, don’t let yours sag. The middle needs some backstory and character insight so the reader continues to care and root for success. The middle needs some action—whether that’s actual plot events or emotional action. The middle also still needs world-building or some setup, basically some driving details to pull the reader ever further into the conflict, the struggle, the feels…and it needs to contain the MAJOR turning point somewhere between halfway and three-quarters of the way through the whole story. This is where everything changes, and if it’s somewhere in the middle of the middle, you’ll still need a cliff-hanger to push the character into the end.

The ending should, of course, have a resolution, even in the case of actual cliff-hanger endings! (A cliff-hanger still resolves one problem before introducing another, usually larger, challenge. That gives a sense of satisfaction for the reader. Ah, problem solved…OMG, look what happened! Get it?) The ending must have a conclusion for the character, and preferably at least a little extra to tie up any loose ends, unless you’re carrying it on to a new story.

Remember that not every major plot point will necessarily concern the major plot. These turning points can be also be emotional turning points, places where the characters learn something about themselves, etc…Think of them as ladder rungs, adding or subtracting from this diagram as needed, but each rung takes the characters farther and gets them closer to their ultimate goal.

TOC drama, and how to avoid it all…

The word of the day is TOC…which really isn’t a word, but an abbreviation. Table of Contents.

Why is TOC the ‘word’ of the day? Well, scammers are using them to skip to the back of their books for big payouts so Amazon has to change some things around to slow that bullshit down. (Can’t stop scammers forever, but you can throw a wrench into their monkeyworks.) Now the Zon may or may not be pulling titles with a TOC at the back of the book or without TOCs altogether. The writing community is in an uproar, and rightly so, as they are any time Amazon does something wonky, because it will directly affect so many authors’ ability to pay their rent, or feed their children.

(Yeah, that’s a dig at the asshats who want to belittle other people for getting (admittedly dramatically) concerned at frequent changes to the Zon’s TOS. For some of us, this is the difference between being able to afford real vegetables to add to your Ramen dinner, or moving into the local homeless shelter. At least for me it is…)

But that’s not why I’m writing this. No, this post is pure procrastination and broken concentration. I’m getting emailed, tagged and DMed about this TOC thing…and I have to look it up because most of my books don’t have one.

Because…well, why should it? Okay, I’m just going to put it out there: Why the fuck does your novel need a table of contents?

Yes, some of mine have it. If the publisher requires a TOC, then I put it in. It’s not like I have a moral objection to it, I just don’t see the appeal in any way, shape or form. In my many years of reading (since I was 3 years old!) I had never seen a TOC in a fiction book. Ever.

In my straightforward, linear fiction erotica, will a reader feel the need to skip ahead to Chapter 10? I doubt it. Shit, even in books with a TOC, I’ll be damned if I can access it easily. Maybe that’s just my Kindle app, but it opens wherever it feels like, regardless of where I’ve bookmarked, and I’ve never been able to find the TOC without swiping for several minutes all the way to the front or all the way to the back.

(This is actually why I haven’t read nearly as many books over the past year as I would have liked to. My Kindle app makes me hesitant to start a book unless I know I have the time to read it straight through. Anything else starts turning into Too Much Work, which means I’ve been reading a lot of shorts lately, but I really miss the longer, let-you-get-into-it novels I grew up with. In fact, I’ve been mostly rereading my favorite, physically-on-my-bookshelf novels this past year…)

My point is…why do we need a TOC? And if you have it, why should Amazon care about where it goes? It didn’t seem to me that the scammers were manipulating the TOC links, so what’s the point of cracking down on this non-threat?

Come up with a new way, Amazon. Surely someone over there can be innovative toward book sales and not just drone deliveries, right? Get rid of the Kindle Unlimited pay-per-page rule and start paying per book again…but qualify the page count. Books between 10 and 20 pages get paid X amount per borrow, books with 21-40 pages get Y amount, 41-60 pages gets Z amount…etc. Price accordingly. Those who write shorts will be happier, those who write epic novels will be happier, and this straight-to-the-back-of-the-book scam will be profitless. As an added bonus, my system would be easier to keep track of the scams that simply stuff a bunch of words into a thousand pages without rhyme or reason…

Dust, Depression and Love

audaciousaudit_facebook

The 1930s was a difficult time for most people living in America. For those in the western and Midwest states, the Great Depression was compounded by terrible dust storms, brought on drought, which led to famine. People left the Dust Bowl in droves, because the land their families had occupied for generations no longer lent them a sense of hope.

Women were forced to knead bread in dresser drawers to prevent dirt from being on the menu. Men worked in dusty conditions that had them choking behind the handkerchiefs they tied around their faces. Children walked miles through the driving grit to get to schools in danger of collapsing under the weight of the wind. The government began initiatives that may have done more harm than good and creditors fought loan forgiveness all the way to the Supreme Court. These were dark days.

The Double O Saga is all about hope, though. In the face of great challenges, insurmountable obstacles, the O’Neal family holds tight to their hope, and in the process finds love. Opal is no different than her grandfather in this regard. She’s been abandoned or betrayed by every man in her life, has taken on the responsibility of single-handedly raising her young nephew and is left the burden of dealing with her family’s broken-down ranch, The Double O. She’s a fighter and she doesn’t trust anyone, but Sam Hollister, the bank auditor, is determined to gain her heart, no matter the danger to himself.

~~Excerpt~~

Samuel Hollister fell in love at first sound.

The sound of a shotgun being cocked, a bare second before the cold barrel came to rest against his nose. Though stillness reigned in his chest—his heart had stopped dead—there was a whole lot of movement in places much farther south. Places he couldn’t adjust due to the fact that his hands reached for the sky, in spite of the iron grip he maintained on his briefcase.

He cleared his throat and tried not to look as fascinated as he felt with the rough-edged beauty on the other side of the shotgun. “This isn’t exactly a warm welcome to the Double O, ma’am.”

Dark blue eyes narrowed, emphasizing the lines around them created by too many years squinting against the sun. “Who said you were welcome?”

The woman had the voice of an angel, if an angel had been forced to spend a great deal of time in the constantly swirling dust that had descended on Creek Bend over the past few years. She was a bit hoarse, but so were most of the people in those parts. At least she wasn’t gargling with the effort of dislodging the grit from her lungs—probably due to the protective handkerchief she’d pulled down below her chin when he’d emerged from his automobile.

Fighting to keep his gaze on hers, rather than dropping it to run over curves barely contained in a ragged pair of men’s breeches, Sam did his level best to seem professional. “I’m looking for Opal O’Neal.”

“Why?”

The woman gave no quarter, and if the situation hadn’t appeared so dire, Sam would have leapt up onto the rickety porch the woman defended so fiercely and taken her into his arms. And kept her.

“My name is Samuel Hollister. I’m an employee of the River’s Edge Bank and Loan. I’m here to begin auditing the Double O ranch.”

audaciousaudit_800

Totally Bound  /  Amazon

Ten Long Years…

In the course of a decade…

That’s right, a decade. Ten years. Not ‘last year’ or ‘so quickly’ or ‘slapping stories together.’ I don’t write 10,000 words a day, I’m ecstatic if I write a whole chapter. This writing thing isn’t something new, it isn’t something I just took up last year or the year before.

10 yrs

I’ve been writing for ten damn years. But some people think just because you publish a lot in one year, you’ve written a lot in one year. Last year, 2015, I wrote two novels and two novellas. That still makes me a fast writer, but I’m not writing a book a month and throwing it up on book sites without even reading it over a second time.

I’m just doing what most people are doing, which is finally finding the fucking courage to put my books out in the world.

Ten years ago, I started writing stories for real, with the intention that I would try to get them published. I’ve written things my whole life—short stories, poems, essays—but ten years ago I set out to write a novel. It was horrible and I doubt it will ever see the light of day. But I learned I actually could do it, that I had 80,000+ words inside my head that could come together and tell a story.

So I wrote another. Then I wrote two more. That took me nearly four years. At the end of those four years, I took the biggest, scariest step I’ve ever taken (and I moved to Africa with nothing more than a suitcase of clothes!) and published them. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t get an agent, no publisher I queried wanted them—so I rewrote them and got awesome beta readers and self-published. They have not been a ‘success’, but they got some good reviews and taught me a valuable lesson.

10 yrs

I have a backlist. Really, I’m reaching the end of my backlist, but over the past few years I’ve edited and published many things I’d written in the course of reworking that first trilogy. I’ve grown and developed as an author and an editor, which has also helped me write faster. I never-ever submit the first book of a series to a publisher unless I have two or more books ready to be edited, at least. I don’t want to be scrambling to write the sequel if readers are excited about the first. I want to have it ready so I can get it out there in good time, and then slow it down a little to give me some more breathing room to write subsequent books. Also, I have pages and pages of outlines and research for books I’ve half-started or intend to start. I have snippets and character descriptions, scenes that have already played out my mind, genealogical charts and word lists, genre tropes and a database of mythological creatures.

We all do things differently. Some of us write one book at a time and carry it through the process before starting the next. Some of us write erratically, multiple books at a time, and then we don’t market at all in favor of writing more. *raises hand guiltily* Some of us are ridiculously busy and others have willingly made sacrifices that give them more time to write. But very few of us are writing just any old thing without caring about the actual story.

I’ve been writing seriously for ten years and I published my first short story as an experiment in late November 2013. I’m holding on to my patience with the process by my fingernails and if I do manage to reach a level of ‘success’ I guarantee it won’t be labeled ‘overnight.’ Although this year I intend to do things differently. This year, I have a strong backlist and feel that I can market more effectively with a lot more things readers can choose from. So, maybe, if readers finally figure out I exist, I will be an overnight success…after years of hopes and prayers.

Which came first, the changeling or the champion?

I don’t know how other authors do it, but I seem to start everything out of order. Then I have to go back and write the story that should have come before. That tends to leave me with fully-written sequels I have to rewrite because I decided another book should have come first.

reverse

For example, Changelings & Champions. This is now the second book in The Tithe Collector series, but I’d already written Myth & Massacre, which will now be the third. Myth & Massacre is focused on Wade, but Beryl was emotionally unstable in the first book, Santeria & Sorcery (are you keeping these all straight?). I felt the readers deserved to know why, and though the now-fourth book, Fallen & Framed (see the pattern?), has a lot to do with her, her reasoning behind her emotional instability, and her relationship issues, I thought it unfair to ask people to wait so long for those answers.

So I wrote Changelings & Champions. It took a long time, and was a complicated, disorganized process that had me bouncing between two books and an outline to see where certain things could fit and where the subsequent books would have to be changed. I love how it turned out.

I got a chance to show Beryl in a whole new light. If you weren’t sympathetic toward the fairy assassin before, you will be. She’s had a hard time of it, even Zahra feels a bit sorry for her. Oh, and Zahra got to show a different side of herself too. They all did, in fact, and I love that this series gives me the chance to let the characters grow and develop. As they learn to trust each other, as they come to rely on each other and love each other—as they form their own kind of family—more and more will be revealed. Their pasts are brought into the light, their emotions, vulnerabilities and inefficiencies are tested. And they find new strength.

In Changelings & Champions, Beryl is asked to investigate a series of magical spikes at the Red Raven Casino, the home of the Dark Fae Court, ruled by her aunt, Morrigan. She refuses to go without her team, and so the SCT finds themselves in Vegas. Wade doesn’t handle the environment well, Niccolo learns he’s something of a celebrity, and Zahra is bloated on all the magic streaming through the casino.

But Beryl runs face-first into the demons that plague her. No, not Aza Shepherd, he’ll make a return in later books. The former fairy assassin has no choice but to brazen out the hostile welcome she receives, and soon the entire Special Collections Team is aware of all the things Beryl wishes she could hide.

Join the Special Collections Team as they investigate magical crimes, pay penance for their own sins and a find a place where misfits like them belong.

Changelings & Champions

Magic is necessary to all things, but too much of it is sending the emotions of the Dark Fae Court to extremes.

The Fae Nation’s championship boxing match is the highlight of the year, but there’s a chaos-creating surge of energy accompanying every exhibition bout leading up to the main event. With the championship looming, the Special Collections Team is called to Las Vegas to investigate the magical disturbances at the Red Raven casino, the home of the volatile Dark Fae Court.

But the fae are not the only ones affected by the instability. The Dark Court is a hostile environment for the SCT, dragging them closer to emotional breakdowns and lines drawn in the sand. Dangerous royals, randy revelers and relationship dramas have the Special Collections Team close to folding, until a pair of changelings ups the ante.

 

From Taboo to Traditional

You see, Liah came first, and she’s something of a wild child. But, a few chapters into her story, her brother, Levi, started yelling at me. I had to switch focus, and once that happened, everything changed.

cross 2

What started as a naughty idea for a kinky tale took a hard right turn into romance territory. But what can you do when your characters are determined to write themselves?

Levi became the hero of the first book in my new series, The Garguiem, and he decided he was an honorable guy, a man of faith, though his faith may not look like yours or mine. His respect for the Church is skewed by the nature of his job, but his faith is unshakeable.

Marcella’s a bit more traditional…which is fairly common for nuns, right? She’s always been a believer, but she turned to the Church in the darkest of times and found refuge. Levi is trying to convince her to leave the convent, as he’s convinced she’s his other half.

Marcella’s faith is tested in ways she never expected. With demonic influences sweeping through the city, she’s roped into helping Levi with his investigation—and soon realizes she has a very important part to play.

As I said, Levi is the first in the series, and each novel will build upon the last in an overall story arc. While each book will be complete in its own right, not every loose end will be tied in a pretty bow, leading you farther down the path of temptation, conviction and duplicity.

The Garguiem fight evil and corruption with weapons of faith, duty and love – necessary munitions as, one by one, they pull together to expose and confront the greatest threat the Church has ever known.

Levi cover 2000x3000

Goodreads

 

The Bane Moon

When I began my story about a witch with no magic, I pictured an event so rare, though naturally occurring, that it would have to be destiny, and have to speak of destiny. I chose a full moon, and called it a Bane Moon.

bane

In my Magic Matched series, Georgeanne Davenold is a Bane-born witch, born under the very rare Christmas full moon, but in the book, this corresponds with the winter solstice.

No, I didn’t get it wrong. I had decided to give my witches a combination of beliefs and customs that would set them up as the forerunner to the neo-pagan religions, traditions and lifestyles we still have around us today. But I also wanted my witches to have a greater, though subtle, influence through history.

 

Now, we celebrate the solstice, or the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere, typically on the 21st of December. But over the centuries, the calendar has gone through changes, science has advanced and timepieces have become more accurate. Back in the olden days, they were using sun-lit rocks, stars and seasonal cues, and it turned out the ancient pagans were pretty spot-on, all things considered.

The winter solstice, in ancient days, was celebrated on December 25th. (This is fairly simplistic, but trust me, okay?) In the general timeframe of what we now know is the shortest day of the year (northern hemisphere), the ancients celebrated with a wide variety of customs and rituals meant to bring people together during the darkest of days (literally!) and share a communal sense of optimism for brighter days to come. (Ahem, again, literally…) Examples include Yule and the Feast of Saturnalia.

So when the early Christians began making inroads, they saw a way to insert their own rituals and beliefs into the festivities, and voila! We got Christmas.

I think that’s pretty fascinating, but also really important. Think about how many cultures and religions all celebrate holidays around this time, and think about why. For me, it goes back to the need of being with friends and family in the darkest of days, sharing a communal sentiment about optimism, hope and love. This is the season where we gather together, we eat, drink and be merry (hopefully), knowing that the dark days are just about behind us, and soon the sun will shine bright and warm.

Twenty-three years ago, my witches had a full moon on Christmas. For Georgie, the moment of her birth set her destiny. Bane witches have no magic…or do they? Bane moons are very rare, after all, so who can say what magic she has or doesn’t have? She’s the key to unlocking Silviu’s ability, so maybe she’ll find a bit of her own somewhere in the mix.

This year, we have a full moon on Christmas. My wish for you, no matter what holiday you celebrate, is that, like Georgie, you can meet your destiny in the coming days, that you, too, have/find/accept the gifts you’ve been given and look forward to brighter days ahead.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a season filled with joy and love. And hope, because, for me, that’s the whole point.

xmas banner

Marcella, Levi and POV

Well, it’s been a crazy month, so forgive me the delay in writing a new blog post. Magic Matched: Married was released, I attended HallowRead, and I participated in two Facebook release parties where I got to take over the posting. I’m also trying to get ready for my next release, My Voyeur.

And what’s uppermost on my mind? POV. My schedule got away from me a teensy bit—I blame Changelings & Champions, the second book in The Tithe Collector series which will release in early 2016. See, that story proved a little stubborn and set me back…and filled my head with first person POV.

I know you’ve all seen the posts about POV, but just to recap…

First person POV puts the reader in the head of the character they’re reading at the time. I would say ‘main character’ but sometimes there’s more than one, like in The Tithe Collector. This is the ‘me’, ‘my’ and ‘I’ style. I walked to my car…You get it right?

Then there is third person POV, which puts the reader outside the character’s head. There are a thousand other blog posts out there that can tell you how many types of third person POV styles there are, so I’ll just keep it simple. He walked to his car. Got it?

Good.

So what’s my problem? My extreme first instinct was to write The Garguiem series in 3rd person. I have a chapter of what has now become the second book in that POV. But then I wrote Sister Marcella for the Holy Communion box set released through Excessica. And Marcella was written in 1st person.

The first book of The Garguiem series is about Levi and Marcella. And I wrote it in first person, except one scene that is in 3rd person, and started making me think about a shift in POV.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. My last confession was one week ago.”

She paused, and Levi thought perhaps Father Tom was of the idea that a passage from Scripture should be read, but Levi didn’t dare speak. If he said a word,
she’d know it was him she was confessing to.

“I committed many mortal sins since my last confession,” she finally whispered. “I am guilty of one act of blasphemy in this very church yesterday. I have
also committed one act of fornication, one act of adultery, and numerous times have fallen to licentiousness with lustful thoughts plaguing me. I am sorry
for these and all the sins of my past life.”

Levi listened to her confession in shock. The agony in Marcella’s tone almost hid her excitement, but she was breathless and he’d been in her company enough
by then to know the break in her voice had little to do with shame and everything to do with curiosity.

Still, one particular sin had caught his attention more thoroughly than anything else. Levi ripped open the door of the confessional and leaned out to tear
at the curtain covering the entry to her side. He jerked it back.

“Adultery?”

Marcella’s mouth dropped open.

So, that particular snippet is causing me some serious mental anguish. I’ve now written half this story in two different POVs, trying to figure out which one to settle on. The question comes down to this: Do my characters need a little separation to fully get what’s going on (3rd person POV) or should my readers be invited into the inner workings of both characters’ minds.

Any suggestions?

Holy CommunionThe Garguiem: Levi will be out by the end of January 2016. Fell free to check out Sister Marcella in Holy Communion on Amazon .

I’m Giving Things Away!

What’s up for grabs? A swag bag full of stuff I think you’ll love!

swag bag
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter my giveaway for a chance to win! (I write for adults, so you need to be 18 to enter.) Giveaway is October 12, 2015 to October 21, 2015

 

betrothed_800BETROTHED

In witching society, magic and politics are the only things that matter, and marriages are arranged for advantage rather than love.

But neither Ileana Lovasz nor Eliasz Levy are looking for love. Humiliated by a string of broken betrothals, Ileana only wants freedom from her manipulative grandfather. Eliasz simply wants an alliance with Ileana’s brother Silviu, a man rising through the witching ranks. That is, until the Lovasz woman arrives at his home and stirs up emotions he’d never thought to feel.

Silviu has bigger things on his mind than his sister’s marriage. Georgeanne Davenold, Silviu’s betrothed and the key to his rise in power, is back in his life after a ten year separation that left her distrustful of his intentions. Their union is a novelty, spanning the divide between Matriarchal and Patriarchal Families. Their union is also alarming, combining the influence and magic of two witches only heard of in myth and legend.

Ileana, Eliasz, Silviu and Georgie must build an alliance that will help them all get what they want but, with too many lies and too many enemies, the game they’re playing turns deadly. When the two women come under attack, neither Silviu nor Eliasz knows which is the target. They only know they will protect the women their hearts have claimed as their own, even though that means defying the traditions of witching society, risking every goal they hold dear and confronting the dangerous members of their own families.

magicmatched

Betrothed is the first of my Magic Matched series, featuring witches, specifically two with a power only heard of in myth.

In witching society, there is a strict hierarchy, Family covens are ruled by Mothers or Fathers who hold the bulk of their bloodline’s power and archaic rules are enforced, disregarding modern sentiments. Magic and politics are the only things that matter, and marriages are arranged for advantage rather than love.

Silviu and Georgeanne have been betrothed since the moment of Georgie’s birth. When Silviu’s father learned a baby was to be born under the Bane moon, he reached across the Schism dividing the covens into matriarchal and patriarchal houses to the Davenold Mother, with a bold scheme to place their children at the top of the witching hierarchy. With Silviu wielding the enhanced talents of a Reap witch, he is the perfect match to Georgie, an abomination without magic who should have been killed at birth because of her defects. The only way to protect themselves against those who fear them enough to kill them, is to take a position of leadership.

But they can’t reach the top alone. Reuniting after a ten-year separation that left Silviu aching with loneliness and Georgie distrustful of everyone who claims to love her, they begin building strong alliances. Silviu’s siblings, Costel and Ileana, and Georgie’s cousins, Adam and Christiana, are instrumental to their plans. But not all family members are worthy of their trust and the closer they get to their goals, the more dangerous some witches prove to be.

Silviu and Georgeanne must learn to open their hearts to each other in order to unlock their full magical potential. But with all that stands in their way – archaic traditions, murder plots, and a betrayal that threatens all they can be – they will need the group of allies they have built to help them navigate the dangerous world of witches, and the dark magic stalking them every step of the way.

**************

Here’s to hoping I did it right!

As it turns out, there is some sort of disconnect in my mind as to what in the hell I just did, in regards to Rafflecopter. Did I do it the right way? Good Lord, I hope so. I hardly understood what I was doing, and I don’t know if that was due to the wording of all the crap I had to wade through, or if it was because I was recently home from my ‘real job’ Saturday shift and tired, when I set this thing up. It’s my first giveaway like this too, so I have to ask for patience.

Write the Damned Story

Have you noticed how many blogs out there give tips on writing?

Spend just a few minutes online and you’ll be bombarded with what to do, how to write and even when to write. They’ll tell you how to make your story more romantic, more suspenseful, more terrifying. They’ll tell you how to world-build, and even when to stop world-building. They’ll tell how you how to develop your characters to the point you know them better than you know yourself, and then they’ll tell you not to use that information directly.

Sometimes, it’s enough to tear your hair out.

Do you plot, plan or ‘pants’ it? Do you fill out multiple-page questionnaires detailing every little thing about your character, or do you only have a general idea of what color their hair is? Do you draw a map so you can keep track of where in the world your story is happening?

If you really want some sage, down-to earth advice slicing through all the contradictions, then here you go…

THEN, and only then, after you’ve written the thing you’ll swear is your ‘baby,’ the next bestseller, the newest trend to hit the book market in at least a day you can go read those blog posts. ‘Cause they really do have some awesome advice.

Don’t be afraid to take the long way, though. Don’t be afraid to screw it all up and waste your time in epic fashion. Don’t be afraid to write a complete piece of garbage that will never see the light of day again, let alone sell a single copy.

Some of us have to make those incredible mistakes to find our voice. We have to ‘pants’ a few novels before we understand that plotting might be better for us. And that’s MIGHT, people. Not everyone will successfully plot a story EVER. Some are Pantsers for life, and that works for them.

Point is, you gotta figure out what works for you. How does your vision come across on the page? In a blinding stream of consciousness, or a meticulously laid out sequence of events? Do you write chronologically, with Chapter 1 always coming before Chapter 6, did you write the end before you even began the prologue or did you bounce around…Chapter 7, 4, 9 then 1?

After you figure out what works for you…well, don’t hold on too tight. There’s a downside to being ‘artistic’ and that usually involves your creative brain hijacking you and taking you for a hell of a ride. You might write your book in a step-by-step, logical fashion…all the way to Chapter 25, when suddenly Chapter 40 is so bright in your imagination that you just know the muses have gathered around you and you MUST write it down before all is lost…And later you go back to write the chapters you skipped.

Or, maybe you’ve got an outline that is absolutely perfect…until your hero drives over a cliff and suddenly your story takes a sharp turn. Don’t fight it, people. Inspiration like that is actually very, very rare. If your story does something you never expected, go with it…

See, it’s just that most people are hands-on learners. We understand best when we dive in and get our hands dirty. Maybe it’s a waste of time NOW (or maybe not) but whatever you discover will be put to good use in the future. You’ll have a better idea of how to craft a story, when to rein it in and when to let it run. You’ll have a better idea of your own talent, skill and determination.

Never out-write your own ambition.

Don’t understand that? Well, try writing a 500,000 word epic adventure (without a bunch of filler or subplots or excessive world-building) and you’ll understand. Write for as long as your attention span holds, for as long as your belief in your tale holds true. And I don’t mean that you shouldn’t get bored with your story, that happens, and I don’t mean stop when you think it sucks, because you probably won’t get past page two. What I mean is, if your gut says your epic adventure would be better served as a less-than-epic novella, do that. Otherwise, you’ll quit a third of the way through, and that might be a shame.

Above all, enact your vision. Only your story is yours. Yes, of course it will be similar to someone else’s story, we’re all writing variations of just a few themes and there’s nothing original in the world of story-telling… except you. You are the unique element, your voice is what we haven’t heard before. That’s your ace-in-the-hole.

So get in there, get dirty and waste your time. Learn what your voice sounds like, and learn what your methodology is. Write the damned story…

Then go read all the advice so you can write a better story next time.

Cliché

Destiny…perhaps the most common fantasy cliché in the biz. As is in The Chosen One and the Task They Must Undertake To Save The World. A lot of people hate that crap.

My goal for Beloved Priestess was to take the feel of an epic fantasy and condense it into a quick, sexy fun read that captivated your imagination and got you hot and bothered, too. But yes, there is a Chosen One, and her name is Dahlene.

Obviously, this is not the tale of some poor, orphaned boy who now must struggle against his own fate. He doesn’t spend chapters resisting, only to fall in line with destiny and ride to the rescue. Uh-uh, Dahlene has had a pretty good idea of what’s expected of her since childhood.

And, you know, she’s a woman.

I never say if she’s orphaned or not, but the prince of the Wasted Kingdom, Valeran, found her in the slave market when he was young and threw a royal fit until his father bought her for him. She wasn’t obtained as a harem girl, though, but as an acolyte to the rain goddess because Dahlene has white hair in a land where pale hair is uncommon, to say the least. It was a Sign.

Yeah, yeah, I know…but she’s got be visibly special somehow. Unlike a lot Chosen One/Destiny themed stories, Dahlene can’t bring rain to the Wasted Kingdom on her own. Also, her white hair doesn’t necessarily make her pure and shiningly perfect. In fact, she’s been carrying on a secret and forbidden affair with Valeran for years.

Then Valeran has to get married. Dahlene’s jealous, but dutiful in her determination to let him go…and a little hesitant when Valeran asks her to vet his intended bride. Carani of the Riverlands is a gentle soul who is a little scared of men, but has always been attracted to women.

So yeah, I used some clichés, but I also tried to make them mine, unique in my story (though nothing in this world is truly original). I’ll even list them for you: destiny, The Chosen One, fated mates/soulmates, forbidden love, maybe even PI considering Dahlene and Valeran grew up together, a jealous brother and greed. Whew, I crammed a lot in there, didn’t I?

*Did any of them interest you? Just perhaps?*

Hmm, I could tell you to take my word for it, winking and smiling as I promise you’ll like it, trust me… Or, you could go to Amazon and read the sample and see for yourself. Right now, it’s only 99 cents, priced so it won’t break the bank while you decide if this is a world you’re interested in reading more of. Beloved Priestess is even free on Kindle Unlimited, if that’s an option for you.

If you’ve read it, let me know if you want to read more set in this world. Or feel free to leave a comment here telling me what fantasy and romance clichés you love, or hate, or wish would never see the light of day again… We’ll call it Interactive Readership, shall we?

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this:

bp pic_800Beloved Priestess—Her duty, their pleasure

Travel to a whole new land, where fantasy meets fated love…

The Wasted Kingdom is perched on the edge of a desert that creeps closer every year. Dahlene has been chosen by the rain goddess to save her people, but she can’t do it alone. When her lover, Prince Valeran, must choose a wife, Dahlene helps him find a woman that suits them both and their triangle turns out to be exactly what the drought-stricken kingdom needs…

So long as Valeran’s jealous brother doesn’t destroy everything before the new union can be consummated.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013PJZRM8/

Follow Your Gut

I’m gonna get a little metaphysical on everybody today.

So I wrote a story…like forever ago. I wrote it for a specific submission call for lesbian short stories for a publishing company that closed up shop before I could even submit it.

Having never written a lesbian sex scene before this story, I was nervous. But I had a plot and a vision, a whole tale spinning out in my head, though it ended up being a ménage story, F/M/F. I liked it—and as a bonus it can stand alone or be expanded into a great many tales.

On a whim, I submitted it to a publisher I consider a powerhouse in my genre and they accepted.

Here is some advice for aspiring authors—be willing to walk away if you can’t come to a contractual agreement. That’s what I did, and though it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done career-wise, I also know in my gut it was the only thing I could do to preserve my vision and my story. As an author, your business is your intellectual property, your asset. Your imagination and your voice are what define your business and passion. That’s worth a lot more than most might think.

Sometimes I get superstitious about the craziest things. I read my horoscope every day, though I don’t believe it. They’re never right for me, but on the day I got my acceptance letter for my story, my horoscope said I would get a second chance at a missed opportunity.

The horoscope thing is just eerie, right? But I refuse to sign my story away with no protection for it. I can’t throw it to the wolves and wonder if it’ll ever come home. Can’t do it…

Plus, I was completely unenthused about the whole thing. I felt no particular joy in the acceptance. Many times, I thought of withdrawing the submission. It took forever to hear back from the publisher, which wasn’t too surprising considering they’re facing some major legal hardships these days, which I spent far too many hours researching online. I knew right away I wanted a lawyer to go over the contract. There was very little communication about how the company operated and what they expected.

Obviously, there was doubt. It’s not that it felt wrong…just that it didn’t feel right for me. I chose to listen to that initial sense, rather than talk myself into believing it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The day I sent my ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ reply to their rejection of any and all changes to the offered contract, my stomach squeezed up and my hands shook. I wondered if it was the stupidest decision I could ever make. And yet, in the midst of that chaos, I was very calm.

I have a bad habit of ignoring my gut instinct. I always rationalize myself into situations that sound great on paper, and yet I know it’s not going to work out well. This time, I’m pretty sure I did the right thing.

Even if I didn’t, it’s too late now, huh?

I still have that superstition swimming through my head. But maybe it wasn’t the publisher that was the second chance, but the story. Maybe that story would have sat on my flash drive forever, without me ever looking at it again. And maybe it should be brought out into the light. Maybe that’s the second chance.

I’ve decided to put it in Kindle Unlimited rather than sending it to one of my other publishers. I’ve never had anything in KU, but I know a lot of people like it. I also know a lot of people aren’t so happy with the changes that have recently been paid to the program, but I’m willing to take my chances.

Writing is my passion, and I’ll even toot my own horn and claim I have talent and skill. But I also want it to be my career, which is a difficult thing to achieve, and so I must turn my mind to the business end of things. I need to focus on name recognition and giving readers a chance to discover my talent, give them a chance to find out whether or not they like my voice. KU does that for a lot of people because they take the risk out of buying.

 

I’ll be putting Beloved Priestess out this month. It’s F/M/F ménage, a high fantasy taking place in a world not our own.

beloved-priestess-Amazon

Beloved Priestess: Her duty—their pleasure

Dahlene is an acolyte of the rain goddess, tasked with the responsibility of bringing hope to her drought-stricken people. She is faithful in her duty – even if it requires her to give up the man she loves. Prince Valeran chooses Carani as his bride to be, but he has no intention of giving up Dahlene. That suits Carani just fine – she wants them both.

A jealous brother and an old pact with the fire god has left Valeran’s kingdom wasted. It will take all three –groom, bride and priestess– to right past wrongs and bring the rain.

What’s a Girl to Do?

What’s a Girl To Do?

Well, not much, if you were a woman in the late 19th century. Women didn’t have a whole lot of career prospects. The overwhelming majority were fairly dependent on men—their fathers, brothers and husbands.

There were a few who denied the status quo and became legendary figures. There’s always a rebel somewhere, right? Most of us have heard of Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley, or the outlaws Pearl Hart and Belle Star. But women that brassy, or as desperate for money as Pearl Hart, who turned to luring men to her room to knock them out and rob them, were few and far between.

That’s not to say the women of the 1800s didn’t have ‘grit.’ No, the 19th century was chock-full of intrepid women, adventurous, stubborn and determined. You needed those qualities to survive, especially out west, where there was little in the way of luxury and daily life was a struggle most of us in the modern era could never truly understand.

A pioneer woman was a homemaker in a time when just procuring clean water took a great deal of energy. They raised the children, cooked, cleaned and took care of their husbands. It was considered a pretty good deal, too, considering the lack of options for women in a society totally ruled by men.

teaser 2

So what could a woman do?  Well, there’s always prostitution. The most common occupations were seamstresses and laundresses, teachers and boardinghouse matrons. Women could work in factories, they could sing or pick a male pen name and become writers, or they could be nurses. However, women who worked in the medical field were primarily pushed into obstetrics or home care, and with the expansion of medical schools and hospitals, they were overwhelmingly left out of even that profession.

And, of course, most of their career options were completely taken away after marriage.

Out west, a woman had a little more freedom—they even had the right to vote in the Rocky Mountain territories—but less to choose from. Most pretty much had two options, be a prostitute or be a wife.

In Outrageous Offer, Hyacinth Woodley traveled west as a mail-order bride, only to be rejected by her would-be groom. Like most women back then, she has a choice, but her options no longer include marriage. She can either work in a saloon or become Offer O’Neal’s unpaid mistress, in addition to taking over the ‘women’s work’ on his run-down ranch, the Double O.

Alone, desperate and in unfamiliar territory, what’s a girl to do?

teaser 1

Excerpt:

Offer stood up and held out his hand. A wicked gleam entered his eye. “Then I believe I deserve a reward for arranging things to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Hyacinth’s lower belly quivered in agreement. Warmth rushed through her from her head to her feet and prodded her into jumping up to take Offer’s hand. The more the man touched her—pleasured her—the more she needed. She couldn’t wait to retire every night, slipping into Offer’s bed with him and waiting for him to slip into her.

He led her the few steps to the bed and turned back the covers. Then he let go of her hand and whipped off his shirt. Hyacinth made an appreciative noise as she took in the sight of his hard chest, the strength that was so apparent in every ripple and flex of his muscles as he unbuttoned and shucked off his pants. When he straightened, his cock jutted out proudly, flushed with need and tempting her to reach for it.

Offer backed up. “Uh-uh, darlin’, not just yet.”

Hyacinth’s hand dropped to clutch her skirts as Offer climbed up onto his rickety bed and laid back, arms folded beneath his head. He did nothing more than watch her as she fidgeted, waiting for him to give her some clue as to what he wanted.

“Well?” His eyebrows lifted.

She cleared her throat and tried to still the excited tremor in her vocal cords. “Well, what?”

“Take your clothes off, Hyacinth. Real slow.”

Biting her lip, she did as she was told. Her lungs worked faster while her shaking fingers struggled to release the tiny row of buttons fastening her bodice. The thrill of Offer’s gaze upon her as she peeled the fabric down to her waist was something she still hadn’t gotten used to, though she enjoyed it, craved it, and wished he would do it more often. Most nights they were both too tired to draw out the kind of teasing that Hyacinth liked so much.

She shimmied her hips and pushed her skirts down farther. They fell to the floor with a quiet swoosh that still managed to echo loudly in the tension-filled room. Tingling awareness raced over her, pulling her nipples tight as she reached for the ties to her chemise.

“That’s right, darlin’, show me your pretty titties.” Offer levered his weight up onto one elbow and stared at her with eyes gone dark with hunger. “I love your tits. They fill my hands and my mouth, topped by those pale pink nipples I could suck for hours.”

With Offer’s words swirling around her, the slide of the fabric over her chest was excruciating. The material caught on Hyacinth’s peaked nipples for a brief moment before falling free, and she caught her breath at the sensation as she shrugged her chemise straps off her arms. Like her skirts, she pushed the thin fabric over her hips, then stepped out of the pile of material at her feet.

Offer lay back again. “I’m a tired man, been working hard all day. I just don’t think I have the energy to fuck you.”

Hyacinth went still. “Excuse me?”

Offer flashed a grin at the ceiling. “Guess that means you have to fuck me tonight. Come over here, Hyacinth.”

outrageousoffer_800

 

Amazon /  Totally Bound /  Barnes & Noble / Kobo   / All Romance

Check out my interviews on Goodreads and Female First !

The Strength of Female Characters

There have been a lot of internet posts on the strength of females. A surprising amount, actually. So I thought I’d weigh in—just ‘cause I can.

And because I write female characters and they’re all strong.

I don’t particularly care for weak female characters, but that’s my preference. I don’t mean Damsels in Distress, hell that’s usually the bulk of a story, right? But when that damsel can’t even contribute to her own ‘rescue’ I start losing interest.

But what is feminine strength?

There are a lot of female characters who are straight-up kick-ass. They can shoot and fight, solve crimes, arm wrestle werewolves, or whatever. I do love these stories, because reading is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be an activity to engage your imagination, and lots of readers love to put themselves in the shoes of that kick-ass heroine because it’s completely different from our reality.

I’ve got a few of these women roaming around the pages of my books. Nina in Ties of Family, Georgie in Magic Matched, Beryl in The Tithe Collector. These women are strong, tough and more than capable of handling themselves in physical confrontations. They’re brash, bold and intelligent.

But strength often comes in softer forms. The most important characteristic of strength is courage, right? Courage doesn’t necessarily mean swooping in to slay the dragon—it can also mean ducking the dragon’s fire while trying to point the villagers toward safety. It’s about standing your ground as the person you are, and meeting the obstacles you face with determination and hope.

For example, in spite of my personal preferences in regards to FSOG, I knew Ana’s character to be strong from the start. A quiet strength, and that’s part of the reason the trilogy is so wildly popular. This was a form of strength millions of women could relate to, the quiet aspect of daily life and pushing forward with hope.

Strength is the courage to keep going.

That’s it, right there in a nutshell. I have a lot of female characters that fit this description, too. Rebecca from Monster’s Chains, Ileana and Tulah from Magic Matched, and Hyacinth from Outrageous Offer. They are afraid or anxious over their situations, but they get themselves together and push forward, because there is little other option except completely giving up. (And my women rarely surrender!)

I’m going to add a third form of strength that doesn’t quite fit into either of my above categories. It’s not bold and it’s not quiet. Stubbornness, I might call it. The drive to change oneself, or something about oneself, for whatever reason. In real life, this is the hardest thing to do, for either men or women, because that involves facing the darkness within, a true battle with demons that have been hauled around for years.

For example, Meggie in Demon’s Bond has spent the majority of her life denying her psychic ability, but she has to face her fears when a demon attaches itself to her. She has to fight using the only weapon at her disposal, which, quite frankly, scares the hell out of her. Zahra, the djinn in The Tithe Collector, is an addict trying to reform her life. She’s got plenty of motivation—but, then, many addicts do—and she’s determined to succeed no matter the pain or loss. That takes a special kind of ‘guts.’

Strength isn’t just limited to female characters, of course, and for any aspiring writers reading this, give all your characters enough strengths and weaknesses to make them real, to make them 3-D, interesting and relatable. So what’s my point in specifically focusing on females? I write erotica, and all too often I see weak female characters…though I’ve also reads tons of stories following strong women. My genre has definitely drifted away from the helpless maiden who has been ravished by…wait, that’s actually a good story…

Seriously though, this is just me and my opinion of women in fiction. So if you’re looking for a definitive purpose in me writing this, there isn’t one.

Strength has no gender, but it does have form. It comes in boldness and physical combat skills, intelligence and innovation, determination, the ability to stand their ground, face their fears, and, most importantly, hope.

Because what good is strength if there is no hope in using it, whatever form it may take?

 

My Stranger…my thanks

My Stranger - 2000x3000 Intensely erotic read, and a captivating story.  – Johanna Panko

Amazon     Barnes & Noble    Kobo    Apple    Excessica

Is pleasure addictive? My Stranger is about a woman who is sucked into the orbit of a Bad Boy Alpha Male, but her stranger wields a darkness that goes beyond normal behavior. Confidence hints at aggression, intelligence turns to manipulation, care is hidden within control, and persistence slides into obsession.

 

I wrote My Stranger last summer (2014) and didn’t really know what to do with it. Every time I wrote something that tended toward the dark side, my story was rejected. I thought My Stranger would be no different, but I took a chance and sent it to Excessica, and they accepted.

Now I’m overwhelmed at the reviews coming in for my story. I never expected the responses I’m getting. I have a lot of trouble getting people to review my books, though many have emailed me to say how much they like them—which I appreciate, but that doesn’t get those sentiments in the record books, you know?

I was very excited about this book, and nervous. The My Stalker trilogy is a piece of me I rarely show. Well, every book I write is a piece of me, but this dark erotic/erotic horror series digs down into my own dark places. Maybe that’s why the responses have been so overwhelmingly positive—this series is personal to me. Maybe that shows.

I am intensely private, and I don’t trust people easily…but when I do trust, I accept that I am a little gullible where they are concerned. I’m no different than any other woman in the desire to be someone’s priority, the center of their world. But I have been stalked and I have been in relationships that border on terrifying, and I got out of them because being someone’s sole focus is suffocating.

My Stranger came from the questions raised from my own personal experiences. What if I made different decisions? What if I stayed, what if I sacrificed. So far, I haven’t met a man who made me want to play the odds the way my characters do in the My Stalker trilogy.

Three books, three different women, three different circumstances. Three different facets of myself and the what-ifs that have gone through my head. In the end, I labeled the series erotic horror, because the decisions made are horrific, and well outside the bounds of what most would call normal.

Yet, every day, women make the same choices. So maybe My Stranger (and the rest of the series) isn’t just personal to me—maybe it’s reflecting something in you, too. I appreciate that.

 

Thank you to all the bloggers who participated in the My Stranger tour. Thank you to all the reviewers, no matter whether you liked the book or not, I appreciate the time you took to read it. Thank you to Shannon Hunt and Once Upon an Alpha for the opportunity to tour and get My Stranger out there.

To the readers, or potential readers, you can see the reviews (including Johanna’s, above) on Goodreads

But my favorite snippets are:

The erotica in this book is a ten out of ten and will leave you breathless.  – Samaris Creech

Wow…this book left me absolutely speechless! – Carrie
All I Can Say Is Wow…  – Jenna Fox
This book blew my mind. – Kathy Wideman

This book is all kinds of erotic – like need new panties hot. – Jessica

Santeria & Sorcery

S&S3a (1)

 

DHP

Amazon

All Romance

Smashwords

 

 

Santeria & Sorcery is the first book in The Tithe Collector series. The whole series is a little dark, hidden inside lighter material. In each book, the Special Collections Team will investigate a magical crime…yes, the crimes they investigate are the ‘light’ stuff.

Oh, but the series has deeper undertones. There is a larger plot afoot, one that will change every member of the team, but especially the tithe collector, Zahra.

Zahra is a genie who committed the capital crime of consorting with humans. The most sacred law of the Djinn Nation forbids any relationship between the two, because humans and djinn can so easily become addicted to one another.

Zahra is addicted to human magic, the most potent force on earth—but she had help getting there. Her boyfriend knowing, and repeatedly, brought humans to their bed, and Zahra pays the price for their pleasure.

There are three other members of the Special Collections Team:

Niccolo is a vampire who has been handfasted to a hyena shape-shifter, Chimbwe, after having an affair with him—when Niccolo was supposed to be in his goddess’ bed exclusively. He struggles with issues of fidelity, because if he cheats in his new relationship, more time is tacked onto the handfasting, and Chimbwe will never be free. Unfortunately, vampires aren’t known for monogamy.

Beryl is—was—a fae assassin, one of the most feared assassins of all time. Now she’s been demoted and banished from the fairy courts because she had an affair with the new Summer King, which displeased the new Queen. Beryl has deeper secrets though, which will be unveiled in upcoming books. Her most immediate problem, however, is a sexy Fallen Angel that turns her world upside down.

Wade is the only human, an injured vet recently returned from the Middle East. He should have died in the war, but El, the king of gods, saved his life. Wade has a hard time finding his footing among the paranormal creatures he’s suddenly surrounded by, and he clings to his faith to the point that he is blinded to El’s manipulations. He’s also suffering from an odd manifestation of PTSD, and an unwanted attraction to Zahra.

In Santeria & Sorcery, the team is assembled, and they’re not happy about it. They’re paying penance for their sins, but the danger is more than they ever expected. The team isn’t just investigating any old crime, but those committed by humans—and theirs is a job typically reserved for elite law enforcement.

The Special Collections Team is anything but elite, but they’ll have to hit the ground running and learn on the fly. In Miami, a sorcerer is taking refuge in the Santeria community, and turning the religion’s traditions on its head as he amasses enough magical power to take on the king of gods, himself.

Manipulative boyfriends, deadly Fallen Angels, the kings of gods, a sorcerer, and—on top of all that—the team members’ individual emotional distress create a pretty hostile working environment. But there is too much on the line for failure to be an option. The Special Collections Team must learn to work together and to trust each other, but that’s an uphill battle for all of them.

Excerpt:

Wade

I tried to keep my words level. “I’m real damn sick of y’all trying to make me question my faith.”

“I’m not!” Chimbwe looked surprised, even sad in a way. He turned in his chair, leaning back as he studied the window over the sink. “El has Blessed you, and you must follow his rules. But his rules are not what you’ve always believed them to be.”

“Well, since no one wants to explain it to me in a way that even remotely makes sense, I’ll just have to follow my own conscience, won’t I?”

“We are at war.” Now Chimbwe looked fierce, as he turned back to me. He drilled a finger into the tabletop, rocking the whole thing until the dregs of my coffee splashed up to the rim of my mug. The man had some strength. “It is a very silent war. A war humans don’t know about, and couldn’t understand if they did.”

“The girls explained that to me already.” I slid forward in my seat, mimicking the bouda’s posture and not giving a fuck if he saw it as a challenge. “Lucifer’s Fallen provides the balance so the Five Nations don’t duke it out with each other.”

“But they still do,” he told me. “They are always trying to gain the advantage. Maybe not the angels, they have a strong alliance with El, but the djinn, especially, are slobbering for revolution.”

I shrugged and sat back, unconcerned. “El will win.”

“He must.” Chimbwe nodded. “He’s the only one who is able to keep everyone else in their place. No one else is as strong. I don’t wish to break your faith, I only hope you widen it to include what is truth, rather than focus on what you wish to be truth.”

To hide my surprise and gain a little time to think of something to say, I drained the rest of my coffee. There wasn’t much more than stray grounds left. “I deserve a little time to come to terms with all this. Your world is new to me.”

“This world is new to me, too,” he argued. “I have been forced to hide everything I am for my whole life. I could not be a bouda in a village of humans, I could not love a man in a country where it means death.”

That quick, the need to wriggle my shoulders and run from the room took hold of me. “Mmm, sorry to hear that.”

The corner of his mouth tipped up. “Niccolo used to be an investigator. Gaea sent him to my village after it seemed some people were killed by a bouda. All the signs were there, but it wasn’t true. Niccolo saved me and I saved him. Gaea was not pleased with the way we did that, so she handfasted us.”

“Congratulations. That means you’re married, right?”

“Not exactly. It was meant to be a punishment. I am sure Gaea would not like to hear you wish us well.”

I got up and poured more coffee without a word.

Chimbwe laughed, a deep sound coming straight from his belly. “I know you don’t care, Wade, but I need you to understand. We are together because my goddess says it must be so, but he is a man I would have chosen for myself anyway.”

My fingers tightened around my mug. The man was as intent on discussing his relationship as I was on avoiding the subject altogether. I glared at him, noting the stubborn glint in his eye as I surrendered. “Why do you need me to understand?”

“I think this team has been assembled as more than punishment. I know Niccolo is well placed in vampire society, for all he believes he is not. From what he’s said, I think Zahra also has some importance she is not telling. Beryl has served her goddess for a thousand years, and people say simply speaking the assassin’s name is enough to make Lucifer’s Fallen cower in fear.”

“So what?”

The bouda shook his head. “And you are Blessed. I think the team is being used for a bigger purpose than what we’ve been led to believe.”

“Sure, Chimbwe, that’s possible.” But that’s all I was prepared to say on the matter, at that moment with his words of war mocking my memories. I was half-believing, and half-resistant to the idea. On one hand, it was excellent strategy to take the wind from the enemies’ sails, on the other, it was hard to imagine God being so manipulative.

“I don’t know what is going on yet,” Chimbwe whispered. “But the team needs to learn to trust each other. I am afraid of what may happen in the future, and I do not want Niccolo caught in something that may lead to his death.”

I waved my mug because it seemed a better option than putting it down to cross my arms over my chest. “So you and I need to be all buddy-buddy to get the job done. Is that it?”

Chimbwe grimaced. “Even if my suspicions are not correct, this team must meet the expectations of the Council in order to be released from their punishments. I want Niccolo to be free, so you four will need to work as one.”

I weighed his words carefully. I was used to being a part of a team that shared the same training, values and goals. This team, though, was all over the map. They only spoke to each other when they had to, came from different Nations, definitely had different training because I couldn’t imagine Zahra or Niccolo handling a weapon like Beryl, and they all reported in to different leaders.

Hell of a team. Four of us were moving in four different directions, and it seemed Chimbwe wanted to be our wise guide, leading us all into a cohesive whole. A wise guide might be just what we all needed.

That realization had me sitting back down at the table. “I would like this team to work together,” I told him. “Considering the monsters we might run up against, our lives might depend on it.”