Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Write Where You're Planted by Nancy Gideon

Some readers think paranormal authors are hunched down by candlelight under the eaves in a dark garret while lightning flashes and thunder ominously growls, Poe's raven peering over their shoulder at the furiously scribbled prose, quothing, "A little more! Go for a vein!"

Writers write wherever they can find the time, space and energy, be that garret or grocery line. Inspiration isn't picky where it strikes, and like lightning, is swift and unpredictable. We plant those seeking rods at our comfy desks in hopes of drawing that sizzle during the allotted hours (or minutes!), but more often than not, it lights up the imagination in the most inconvenient places. In the car on the way to work. In the middle of a manicure. Watching baseball practice. Waiting for your fast food order. That flash, if not quickly seized, just as quickly fades and is gone. And even as I repeat a phenomenal line of dialog over and over as I pull in the parking lot to hold onto it, by the time I find my keys, unlock two sets of doors, find the lights and a notepad on my desk, what I have is a ghost of what I envisioned at the stoplight.

Authors need to steal their mantra from the Scouts: Be Prepared! Learn to use the recording app on your cell phone and have it assessable in the car on drives long and short (Use them at the stoplight, not while changing lanes, please!) to capture those pithy quotes. Carry a small notebook in your bag to jot gems of plot while in the wild. Consider a light weight tablet to capitalize on any available barista table or bleacher knee. The bottom of my purse is littered with Post-It notes (my drug of choice) to memorialize that clever twist of tormented backstory needed in Chapter Twelve.

There's no such thing as a non-writing trip (or moment). Who knows when those electrifying mental images will strike. I never leave on an overnight without my trusty HP and power cord . . . just in case my characters decide they have to have sex in my hotel room. And I have a lighted keyboard just in case they prefer to do it in the dark.

A missed opportunity is rarely recaptured with its original vim and vigor. Be prepared. Be vigilant. Keep an eye on the sky and have that lightning rod at ready. Here are some places my computer and I have found ourselves working in a few paragraphs:

On a cruise ship balcony in the dark watching the sun come up by the light of my monitor and keyboard while my fellow travelers were still sleeping . . .

Finishing a chapter during a power outage trying to type fast enough to outlast fading battery...

Stretched out on the floor on the Miami airport . . .

On the train . . .

E-mailing chapters of work done over the lunch hour to my home computer . . .

Over breakfast at the Cubs Bar in O'Hare during a four hour flight layover (see above) . . .

Watching the dessert come to life at sun rise in Tucson (I seem to always be getting up earlier than the sun!) . . .

Sneaking out of a workshop to tuck away in a game room with one heck of a view . . .

Where's the most unusual place you've had that "Ah Hah!" moment strike and how did you capture it?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nancy Gideon on the Web

Monday, April 24, 2017

Guest Augustina Van Hoven Talks Plotting @augustinavhoven

            I’m a plotter.  I’ve tried to just sit down in front of the computer and write whatever comes to mind, but I usually find myself staring at a blinking curser or writing scenes that I have to cut later because they don’t really move my story forward. I need a road map to lead me to the happy ending of my novel.  Since I write paranormal romance, I have to create the world I’m traveling in as well as all the details on the map before I can take my first step.  This has actually become one of my favorite parts of the writing process, taking the kernel of an idea, planting it and watching it grow with a series of ‘what if’ questions until I have the universe in which my story takes place. 
            World building is a very detailed process.  An author must know a lot more about the story and the world it plays in than the reader will ever see on the page.  An example of a true master of world building was the author J.R.R. Tolkien.  In the final book of THE LORD OF THE RINGS there are six appendix sections containing family trees, histories, short stories, an explanation of calendars in the Shire, a timeline and a section on languages of the various inhabitants of the Middle Earth complete with alphabets and grammatical rules.  All of this detail made his stories feel more like history than fiction.
            My current work in progress is my first venture into a new genre. Futuristic romance.  The first book will be out this fall.  There is a lot of world building necessary for this series.  I’ve had to create home worlds for the various species along with their governmental structure, politics, myths, legends, customs, religions, technology, as well as the physical appearance of the planet and its inhabitants.  With all this structure in place it is no possible to create the outline or road map my human characters will be following as they enter into this new and strange galaxy.  If I have done all of my world building correctly it will be a fun and interesting experience for my readers.

The Bloom of a Rose
Rachel Bartlett doesn’t expect to meet the man of her dreams at a funeral.  But a chance conversation with Paul Miller inserts her in a political game between good and evil.  Her political strategist mother has other plans for her, and they don’t include romance.  Paul is the wrong guy for her, but sometimes it takes someone from the opposition to show you the way out of the maze.

Paul Miller is fighting battles on multiple fronts, and he doesn’t have time for an infatuation with a pretty graphic artist, no matter how blue her eyes or how sharp her wit.  If his trust is misplaced, then a betrayal can cost him the game.

What the couple doesn’t know is that they are not alone.  Supernatural beings battle behind the scenes—and humans are all pawns on a chessboard.  The outcome of the game will determine not only what the future might be. . . but whether there even is one.

            Paul reached for the sweet and sour chicken trying not to let his hand shake.  “Did you come to a decision?”
            She set down her fork and stared at her plate. “No.”
            He let out his breath and his chest relaxed a bit.  “Are you leaning one way or the other?”
            She looked up and he could see the tears sparkling in her eyes.  He set down his food, reached out and gathered her in his arms.  She leaned against his chest and he could feel the moisture of her tears dampen his shirt. 
            “It’s all right.  I’m here, I can help you.”
            She wrapped her arms around his waist and cried.
            After a while she let go and straightened up.  He handed her a dinner napkin and she wiped her eyes and nose then took a deep breath. 
            “It’s cheaper for me to go back to school.  There are some low rent apartments available not too far from a bus route that will go right past the school.  The school has a list of places willing to hire students.  I can also apply for some of the art scholarships provided by some of the school’s patrons.  Because of the time I’ve lost since I came to Boise, it will take me a year and a half to two years to finish my studies.”  She ran the napkin over her face again.
            “If I take the online option, it will take two to two and a half years to finish.  It is more expensive to live here and I will have trouble finding a good job because of my mother.”  She sniffed and used the napkin again.
            “I don’t want to leave you but I don’t see how I can stay.”

Buy links:


Augustina Van Hoven was born in The Netherlands and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two dogs and three cats.   She is an avid reader of romance, science fiction and fantasy.  When she’s not writing she likes to work in her garden or in the winter months crochet and knit on her knitting machines. 

Other links to include

Twitter:  @augustinavhoven

Pinterest: Augustina Van Hoven, Author

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Mystic's New Lover:Another Short Tale by Francesca Quarto

The Mystic's New Lover: Another Tall-Tale by Francesca Quarto

They say that mystics transcend human knowledge into the mysteries surrounding life and death. Their intuitions are keenly honed to a fine edge, upon the unseen stone of the spiritual and ghostly energies surrounding us all.

I am a mystic.  This is my tale of love found in the lonely shadows of desperation.

Once beautiful of face and figure, stopping hearts and conversations with my appearance at the Mad King's side, I have since marked  many score of years.  Now, my sallow flesh hangs in rippling folds around my face and sags like limp flags under my arms.  My legs have thickened and dimpled as if filled with blood pudding and my lustrous hair, turned ashy gray and dry as autumn leaves.

This destruction of my mortal beauty has taken many long years, but taken me it has!

My place at the side of the Mad King, ended with his own mortality asserting itself one gloomy winter's night as we lay abed, among his furs and silks.  I stayed on at Court, fulfilling my role as Reader of Omens and Celestial Signs, Mystic to the King's Court.

I was not particularly bereft of the Mad King's company; Kings can be rather dull when they remove their crown and robes of power.  Besides, the transition of kingship was as smooth as the flow of a quiet river this time; not the turbulent rush to power of a flooding brown Nile of the last!

The fact that time had begun to trample across my visage, a shorter journey than could be imagined, and was pulling on my beautiful body like a crazed sculptor, took none, but myself, by surprise.

It only dawned upon my knowing that I was no longer the ardent beauty at Court, when the Young King passed over me as his boon companion and lover early in his reign.

I had preened like a peacock, my body soaked in perfumed oils as if I was being mummified. My straw-like tresses were treated to henna and captured the glint of sunlight when I was presented to the Young King.

He recognized my station as Mystic and Seer to the King, but nodding curtly in my direction, moved forward leaving me to wallow in the wake of his passing.

Rather than fall into the trap of other women, believing themselves immune to the ravages of time, I returned to my rooms and plotted, as any wise Mystic would.

My powers were untouched, in fact, quite enhanced over my many years.  I began to study more than the stars; now I studied the dark arts.

I would harpoon the handsome Young King's affections, and haul him to me like a Behemoth of the great seas.

He would become enamored of me, seeing me as beautiful and sexually desirable; an easy feat for me, or so I believed.

I set my ritual in play and brought the darkest forces to bear.

After a long period, I returned to Court to present myself to the virile Young King, I found all facing his ivory throne, arranged like a human Stonehenge at the foot of the dais.

Approaching, I knew in my heart my incantations and dark powers had prevailed.  The Young King would see me as the beauty I was once, as I had given him the eyes of the Mad King, his father.

But like all in life's planning and cunning ploys, one must keep in mind the many factors impressing themselves upon our choices. For instance; time is using all of us like balls in a game of croquet, there are no exceptions.

As I came closer to the rigid crowd of Courtiers, I heard soft mumblings and sharp intake of breath.  I believed that perhaps my magic had affected all who saw me now.  I was once more the reigning beauty among them.  A path was made open for me and I nodded from side to side, as I passed through what I saw as my admiring fellows.  They too were clearly beguiled.

When I turned my eyes at last to where my conquest was seated, I saw the Young king was as shriveled as last winter's apples.  His skin was yellow and scored with deep furrows.  His body sagged and smelled of old urine.  He was not only old, he was now ancient!

His eyes, like his dead father's, were rheumy and red rimmed, yet he saw me clearly.

"Ah!" he said with a leer twisting his blueish lips. "Ah, here at last is my love!"

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Guest Tony-Paul deVissage

It was totally quiet inside the truck as Semris regained consciousness.
            Where am I?  Why am I in this cage?
            Abruptly, he remembered--the camp, the strange, gray beast, and the strangers, one of them with the odd war club that spat poisoned darts--and he was certain the dart had been poisoned, else why would he have lost his soul to darkness so quickly?
            He was groggy and disoriented.  His face hurt where the stranger had struck him with the club.  He could feel movement, but knew he was lying inside a small cramped space.  How can I be moving when I'm lying down
            He couldn’t stand upright, was barely able to get to his knees.  Because of the net entrapping them, he wasn't even able to retract his wings to give himself more room.
            Slowly, he turned his head.  In the shadows, he saw a seated, sleeping figure holding the war club.  One of the men who had thrown the net over him, the tall one with the hair holding the color of the noonday sun.  Was this some child of Ah Kinchil, come at last to punish Nikte-Uaxac for abandoning its worship of the Sun to follow the Children of Cizin-Yum Cimil-Ah Puch?  Did they plan to kill him and thus send the city into chaos?
That is Tucker Upchurch's introduction to Semris, Emperor of Nikte Uaxac, a still-existing Mayan city in the Yucatan jungle.  Before the story is over, Tuck will find both his life and Semris' changed forever. 

Dark God Descending is tentatively considered a vampire story but it's one, I hope, with an enjoyable twist.  It's also a story of friendship--between two men, separated by thousands of years:  Tucker Upchurch, an archaeology student from the University of Georgia, and Semris, a Mayan god-king who is several thousand years old.

Tuck and Semris meet when the student accompanies his professor to Yucatan, on the trail of an ancient bat god.  Instead of finding a stone statue, however, they find a living being in an extant Mayan city in the middle of the jungle, and as usual when modern civilisation intrudes into the past, disaster results.  Tuck's professor is without scruples if it will enhance his own reputation, and this is an opportunity he can't turn down.  He and his men steal the city's most prize possession—its Emperor, Semris.

Drugged and caged, Semris is guarded by Tuck who soon develops an emotional bond with his captive charge.  The two men communicate through an archaic form of Spanish, and Tuck learns that Semris is the son of Yum Cimil, the Mayan god of death, and is, in the eyes of the civilised world, a vampire.  Tuck gives his blood to keep his friend alive, and when the opportunity arises, he helps the emperor-god escape.

Before he manages to once again return to the city in the jungle, Semris will learn of human love and human sacrifice, and will suffer an all too-human grief.  Tuck will lose the one person he's loved all his life but will gain something more precious in Semris' friendship, and be blessed with near-immortality.  Everyone they touch on the journey back to Yucatan will be changed forever…and the punishment to the villain is both fitting as well as ironic.

Damn, I write a good story!

Two men…separated by thousands of years, cultures, and customs…and in love with the same woman…
All grad student James Tucker Upchurch wanted was to earn summer credit on an archaeological dig to Central America…and to marry his fiancĂ©e, Shannon.  All Semris wanted was to escape the monotony of a millennia-old life, and the burdens being a demon king, and the son of the Mayan God of Death, have placed upon him.

For five thousand years, the misplaced Dark Lords of Hell have been  trapped in this world, ruling the Mayan city of Nikte-Uaxac.  While elsewhere civilizations rise and fall, they and their subjects remain unchanged, until Twenty-first Century intruders appear, stealing from them their most precious possession, the Emperor himself…

Tuck never expected to lose his girl to a demon nor to be given immortality, and Semris never thought he’d experience mortal love, but when the current world meets a more ancient one, everything and everyone they know will be changed. Forever.


Tuck walked over to the cage.
Oh, God, did that last shot kill him? As far as he could tell, Semris hadn’t moved.
When he saw the slow rise and fall of the bare chest, he felt abrupt relief. He also saw the golden amulet, recognizing it as the twin of the one that had started all this unpleasantness in the first place.
The fruit hadn’t been touched, was rapidly darkening, the sweet, overripe smell permeating the cellar, attracting flies. How the Hell did they get in here, anyway?Several big bluebottles were buzzing around inside the cell, hovering over the peaches, a couple crawling along the edges of the plate. One was floating in the water glass, wings fluttering and making little splashes.
Tuck knelt and opened the little flap, reaching inside to remove the glass. As he reached back in for the plate, it happened. so fast he didn’t even realize Semris had moved until he felt the iron grip upon his wrist, saw the fangs drop and the dark head covering his hand.
He screamed as twin razor slashes struck through his wrist...knowing no one could hear, struggled desperately to get away. Frantic, disbelieving thoughts whirling through his mind. Oh, God, this is why he didn’t eat the fruit. He’s a vampire! Sweet Jesus, he’s going to kill me! Help someone, help me! Why should they? I didn’t help him.
The pain went away, his arm numb from wrist to fingertips.
He knelt there on the floor, watching the pale body crouched so near he could have reached out and touched his shoulder...his bare, wingless shoulder.Where did his wings goWhat happened to them? All he could do was watch those shoulders heave with the strength of each deep swallow, feeling his life ebb away, and a vague surprise that it didn’t hurt at all.
Eyes rolling up, Tuck gave a little sigh and collapsed against the bars. He was barely conscious as he saw Semris raise his head and release his arm. In spite of being only slightly aware, he felt a stab of surprise as the quiet voice whispered, “Gracias. Gracias por su sangre.”
He’s thanking me? Thanking me for letting him kill me? With an effort, he made himself withdraw his wounded arm, cradling it against his chest with his other hand. Forcing his eyes open, he stared at his wrist, fighting the wave of blackness floating before his eyes.
There was no bloody ripped-away flesh as he’d imagined, only four deep punctures. Two of the five little veins had been pierced, but the wounds were clean and already clotting. Tuck forced himself to take a deep breath, then let it out, and repeated the procedure. Keep breathing! Don’t pass out. He might decide to have a second helping.
“I took too much. I am sorry. I was too hungry.”
There was such concern in Semris’ voice that Tuck found himself replying, “That’s all right. I-if I’d known, I… Oh, God, what am I saying?” He fell silent, feeling a bout of hysteria galloping toward him.
Something was thrust into his hand. One of the peaches. Semris’ hand, between the bars, holding it out to him. “Aqui. Come. Pronto.”
So he took the peach and bit into it, choking slightly as the rich, sweet juice slid down his throat, but forced himself to keep chewing and swallowing. As the fruit sugar hit his stomach, he began to feel better.
“That was good.” With a sigh, he tossed the peach pit aside.
Through the bars, hands helped him to his feet. He leaned against the door, hanging onto it to keep his balance as dizziness flooded back.
 “Again, I am sorry. He looked up, meeting Semris’ eyes, startled at the concern in them. “It has been so long since I have had the living wine.”
Living wine…what a beautiful way to describe it. Tuck still felt a little groggy, wondered if he was now under the vampire thrall. He decided to find out. “Am I your minion now?”
“Why would you think that?” Semris sounded genuinely puzzled.
“Well, you’ve taken my blood. Generally, when a vampire--”
Vampiro! Donde?” Semris looked around quickly, arms crossing over his throat in a protective gesture.
You.” Tuck answered, feeling he’d made a mistake. “Aren’t you a vampire?”
“Of course not!” The answer was disdainful that Tuck might mistake him for such a vile creature. “I am a Dark Lord. Un demonio.” The pale chin lifted proudly. “Los vampiros are creatures accursed.”
Tuck thought that over. “And you’re not.”
“No.” Semris shook his head, the dark hair swinging. “I am not.”
Tuck realized he must be feeling better, to be able to marvel at the absurdity of this conversation.

Tony-Paul de Vissage

A writer of French Huguenot extraction, one of Tony-Paul de Vissage's first movie memories is of being six years old, viewing the old Universal horror flick, Dracula's Daughter on television, and being scared sleepless—and he’s now paying back his very permissive parents by writing about the Undead.

Find out more about Tony-Paul at:

Twitter:  @tpvissage

Buy Links:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Guest Nancy Northcott Talks About The Idea Box @NancyNorthcott

The Idea Box

“Where do you get your ideas?”

That’s one of the most common questions posed to writers and, for me, one of the most difficult to answer in a way that will make sense to the questioner.  Like most writers I know, I always have ideas. It’s hard to put myself in the shoes of someone who needs to ask that question.

I generally say something like, “I see a story on the news or hear about something or someone interesting and ask myself what if….”  But that’s only part of it.  I think everything we experience has the potential to bubble up later as an idea.  It’s as though all our memories are jumbled in a big box that generates ideas when the right what if comes along.

I set my Light Mage Wars contemporary paranormal romances in south Georgia near the Okefenokee Swamp because of a trip my family took when I was about seven.  We used to go to Florida every year to visit relatives, and my parents stopped at the Okefenokee on our way back to North Carolina one summer.  I remember almost nothing about that trip except the swamp’s name and the fact that we didn’t take a boat ride because my mom was afraid a snake would fall out of a tree into the boat.

Yet that memory surfaced years later, when I was trying to form the Light Mages’ world.  I’m a native Southerner, so I wanted to set the series in the South, but I didn’t want to use Atlanta.  I mentioned that trip to my brainstorming group, and one woman said, “Energy is different in a swamp.”  And we were off to the races with lots of ways I could use that. 

There isn’t much of the swamp in my first book, Renegade, because I wasn’t able to go there and, dependent on the internet for research, was afraid I might make a mistake out of ignorance.  After the book sold, though, my husband and our son and I visited the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.  I remember saying as we drove into the refuge, “I hope this is as cool as I think it is because I’m stuck with it now.”

It was truly amazing--wild, beautiful, and completely different from anything I’d ever seen before.  The Okefenokee is really a blackwater peat blog, not a swamp, and when the water is still, it’s perfectly reflective.  The place is magical. Not to mention spooky at night. With one exception, Sentinel, I’ve used it more as the series progressed and I was able to go there more often.

Will Davis, the hero of the latest book in the series, Warrior, is a good example of how things bubble up and blend.  I’m a geek, having grown up loving fairy tales and comic books and history.  When I was very young, I was interested in archaeology--until I found out about the whole digging up bones thing.  At age nine, I wasn’t keen on that, so I shifted to other things.  But I’m still interested in archaeology.  My husband and I watch a lot of TV programs about it.

So Will is an archaeologist and a geek.  He has two Ph.Ds., one in history and one in archaeology, and he’s into comics, science fiction, fantasy, and gaming.  But he’s also into martial arts and can more than hold his own in a fight. Unfortunately, Will doesn’t trust women.  They never like him for the right reason, he figures, so he’s into serial monogamous dating with no plans to ever change that.

Since I was writing a romance about him, though, I had to change that.  I needed a woman he couldn’t avoid and would never see coming as a threat to his independence.  I came up with Audra Grayson, an archaeologist who was excavating an island in the Okefenokee and was finding Bronze Age European artifacts--an idea that bubbled up from long ago, when I heard that the Americas didn’t have a Bronze Age in the European sense because Native Americans did not smelt metal.

Will is assigned as a consulting archaeologist to figure out what’s going on with this project and its weird finds.  He’s attracted to Audra, but she’s not the bright, flirty type he favors.  Meanwhile, Audra has no interest in a guy she sees as a player, no matter how attracted they are to each other.  She’s more interested in saving her career.  If the artifacts she’s finding are fraudulent, no one will ever believe she didn’t plant them. 

The site of her excavation was inspired by one of my research trips to the swamp, to a place called Billy’s Island.  It has a Native American burial mound on it, one of seventy-some known to be in the Okefenokee.  So that seemed a perfect place to have Audra dig, investigating the legend of an advanced civilization deep in the swamp, something that snagged my interest when I was reading the journal of a man who surveyed the Okefenokee.  That legend is going to pop up through the series because I knew when I read it that this was something my world could use.

With ghouls and possibly a demon from the Void between worlds taking an interest in the excavation, Will and Audra have a fight on their hands, and danger has a way of influencing people’s perceptions.

When I look at the way my books have developed, I see a blend of inspiration from the past and new ideas.  All of it came out of that imaginary box, and it was fun to mix the two.

Thank you, Paranormal Romantics, for having me today!  I appreciate it.


A Woman Tormented by Darkness
Archaeologist Audra Grayson hopes this dig will save her career. But that hope is dashed when she finds strange relics and a brilliant, sexy consultant comes to investigate her for fraud. Worse, the evil shadow that has haunted her for years is growing stronger.
A Mage Sworn to Oppose It At All Costs
Will Davis senses the darkness in Audra. Worried she’s allied with the enemy, he vows to ignore his attraction to her. Then deadly ghouls target the dig, seeking the ancient relics to open a portal for demons. If they succeed, everything on Earth is doomed.
The Fate Of The World At Stake
With ghoul attacks escalating, time is running out for Will to stop the portal from opening. The chemistry between him and Audra threatens to combust, but the darkness within her may give the enemy its chance. Will he be forced to choose between the fate of the world and the woman he loves?
Chapter one is posted on Nancy’s website: http://www.nancynorthcott.com/warrior/?action=excerpt
Buy links:

Nancy’s Bio

Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman.  Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy and YA romance.  A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the magic, romance and high stakes she loves in the books she writes.

Her debut novel, Renegade, received a starred review from Library Journal.  The reviewer called it “genre fiction at its best.”  Nancy is a three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist and has won the Maggie, the Molly, the Emerald City Opener, and Put Your Heart in a Book.

Married since 1987, Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.

Nancy’s social media links:

Twitter: @NancyNorthcott

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Key Elements of Paranormal Romance

I think if you ask any paranormal romance reader or writer, they'll give you a different list of what the key elements of a good paranormal romance might be. Or, at the very least, you'd get a different emphasis on what's important. I can only tell you what I look for as a reader and try to write into my own paranormal romance books:

1. Romance is the Key

I'm not talking about sex. I'm talking about the heroine and hero must fall in love and have their relationship develop over the course of the book in a way that makes it a primary story line.

2. Kick Ass Heroine
This is a personal preference. I'm not a huge fan of wimpy heroines who can't make a decision, and need the hero to save them or protect them. I do like the "development" plots where the heroine discovers her strength over the course of the book. As long as she's kick ass by the end.

3. Alpha Male Hero
The hero has to be as kick ass as the heroine, otherwise it's not a balanced romance. This doesn't mean he's an alpha-hole jerk or super bossy--though that can happen as long as the heroine is the catalyst for change in him. It doesn't mean he's the head honcho even, or supernatural himself. But it does mean he can hold his own with her, has specific values, is trustworthy, is protective, and so forth. And, most of all, he loves the heroine (or falls in love with her). There are entire posts all over the internet devoted to the Alpha Male.

4. Supernatural Elements
I find this to be the fun part to read and write. It's limited only by my imagination. Super powers, shifters, fairies, ghosts, etc. But it's not a paranormal romance if there isn't some kind of supernatural element to the story.

5. World Building
Paranormal romance is set on earth in current day most typically. Other more exotic settings tend to fall into other subgenres. So the current world is already built. Paranormal romance has to build the supernatural world into it. Is it a secret? Are there societies? What dictates their norms? Is it more about the individual? And so on and so forth?

6. Conflict
The conflict in these stories can come from a few places. You can have a villain - which, because of the paranormal elements - tends to be some kind of super villain. You can have the supernatural elements be the conflict. Remember that the romance is the key - is her ability to see ghosts freaking him out and that's the conflict? Is the world building the conflict? Is this a dangerous world for our heroine/hero to live in?

7. Happily Ever After
This is a romance. It has to have the happily ever after. I know there are series of books in this genre where the hero/heroine don't have their happily ever after till the last book. While this works for some, it's not my favorite. I like to have the couple end up together and happy at the end of a single book. Even in a series.

Those are my key elements to paranormal romance. These are pretty high level, and there are many different ways that authors in this genre can take each element. That's what makes it such a fun genre to read! Imagination is the limiting factor.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Into the Woods by C.J. Burright

So I was hit by some unexpected time off a few weeks ago. The boss decided to ditch town and said I could too, and no way was I going to turn down time off. As I was unprepared to go anywhere, hubster and I decided we’d stay close to home. The only problem? I’ve pretty much seen everything in Oregon…so I thought. I surfed the internet for fun things to do and came up with the usual stuff: the zoo, all the coastal attractions, the mountains, the waterfalls, the forests, the Goonies house. Yawn. Not that I don’t love those things—I totally do! But I wanted to do something different, and different is tough to find when you’re a native. Hubster suggested Powells City of Books…and I was tempted (because Powells is the most amazing bookstore ever). Some girls go gaga over shoes or purses. For me it’s books and music. But I digress.

I once found this shrine to Fabio in the romance section at Powells *snicker*
I resisted Powells (after one look at my overstuffed TBR bookshelf), and then I found it: The Witch’s Castle. 

All my supernatural senses immediately perked up, of course. How could I have not heard about this? The scoop is back in the 1800’s, a dude by the name of Danford Balch bought some land around where Portland is now. He needed help, so he hired another dude named Mortimer Stump. Clearly, anyone with a name like that is going to be trouble. Ol’ Morty lived with the Balch family and managed to charm his way into the affections of Anna Balch, their 15 year old daughter. Let’s just say Daddy-o Balch was none too pleased about this arrangement, and even though Mortimer wanted to be all proper-like and marry Anna, his proposal was refused. The couple threatened to elope, and old man Balch warned Mortimer that he’d kill him if they did.

They eloped, of course. And then it gets even more interesting. The final, fateful meeting between Balch and Mortimer a few weeks later is claimed to be a result of a bewitching. While there are different stories about how the meeting occurred—some sources say Morty and Anna returned to the cabin, others say Balch found Mortimer in town—Balch stayed true to his word and shot Mortimer in the head. When he was arrested, he claimed his wife bewitched him into committing murder. What a man. He then escaped prison, was recaptured, and was the first legal execution in Oregon. Mrs. Mary Jane Balch, the suspected witch of the story, remained living on the property.
If you look really close, you can see the creepy face artwork inside
While I didn’t catch any strange vibes or see anything out of the ordinary, others claim to have photographed plasma orbs. Others claim they’ve spotted the ghosts of the Balchs and Mortimer. Still others visit for a different sort of, ahem, spirits. Such as teenagers with bottles at midnight. While it was disappointing that this isn’t the actual ruins of the Balch home, but rather an abandoned ranger station built on the same site, it was still a beautiful hike down to it, and the creepy artwork in the lower section was quite creative. Maybe this is the only building left for the spirits of hopeless lovers, a murderer, and a witch to haunt. If they were hanging around, they didn’t pop out to say hi. They’re probably saving up their energy to scare those naughty teenagers.

I'm sure there are other supposed haunted places around Oregon I haven't checked out yet--I'll have to save them for my next unexpected vacation.  Are there any haunted places near you? Or have you been to Oregon and visited my personal heaven/hell, Powells book store?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Elizabeth Alsobrooks on Why Egyptian Mythology and the Illuminati Make Sense

After the “elevator pitch” summation of what my book series is about, I am often asked to elaborate because of the rather complex themes that form the foundation for the series in which a multitude of subplots and equally complex main characters reside. I have written about world building before. Obviously I love world building, but in this blog I will attempt to explain the actual logic behind my ancient and modern book series compilation that I think is responsible for making it a what if scenario that is fun for readers to believe (i.e. suspend their disbelief).  The most basic answer to all questions is in why I combined the Illuminati with ancient Egyptian mythology in my Illuminati series.

First, for those of you who may not be familiar with it, let’s take a very basic overview of ancient Egyptian mythology. Like many mythologies, it provides a foundation for its civilization’s culture and rituals. The basic fundamentals of how the world “in the beginning” was created, and by whom. [Let me remind you that myth does not mean untrue. In fact, a culture’s belief system is generally considered “untrue” only by those from other cultures or different belief systems. Merriam-Webster defines myth as, “a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon [such as] creation myths: parable, allegory Moral responsibility is the motif of Plato's myths.”] The ancient Egyptians (from around 4000 BCE to 30 CE) believed that Atum was lonely so using magic he mated with his own shadow to give birth to two children, Shu (god of air) and Tefnut (goddess of moisture). 

They went into the world so that Shu could provide the principles of life, and Tefnut could give it order. They were gone so long, Atum removed an eye and sent it to find them. From this we get the ‘Eye of Ra’. It came back with them and Atum was so happy he cried tears of joy that fell onto the fertile soil of the hill (Ben-Ben) he lived upon and created humans. The humans had nowhere to live, so Tefnut and Shu mated and had two children, Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky). They fell in love and mated, but Atum separated them so that they could always see each other, but never touch. Already pregnant, however, Nut gave birth to Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys and Horus.

Ma’at (harmony) is an important element of all Egyptian myth and when order is disrupted it must be restored. In my stories, as in ancient Egyptian myth, Set is jealous of Osiris, a good and just ruler of the earth. My immortals struggle good versus evil, chaos versus harmony, while Osiris and his wife, Isis, also rule the world. As in ancient mythology, Osiris also presides over the underworld.

But how does one explain ancient gods ruling the modern world? Enter the Illuminati. Though many modern concepts have it as a fairly new organization, heralding from only as far back as the Crusades, I have taken the liberty of using the mystery and secrecy, even the romanticism surrounding the society to create the perfect platform for a powerful, global organization whose machinations are as clandestine as one would expect. To maintain power, they must have their hands in all aspects of the world. They have warriors and assassins to help them maintain order and secrecy. They have researchers, scientists, financial experts, and technology gurus, powerful companies to mask both their work and their motivations. They are the true ruling force behind the Vatican and major world powers.

The stories I conjure grow from these deceptively simple concepts, and like the ancient Egyptians they are infused with an enthusiasm for living that stems from a world in which life on this planet is only one step on life’s journey, but in order to live a full and joyful life for eternity, one must mirror that in this life.

Why do I think my stories are what Joseph Campbell referred to as Hero’s Journeys, with International appeal? Because they have their foundation firmly set in mythos that have universal themes and morals. 

Below is a commercial by the modern day "official" Illuminati site which claims that, "The Illuminati is an elite organization of world leaders, business authorities, innovators, artists, and other influential members of this planet. Our coalition unites influencers of all political, religious, and geographical backgrounds to further the prosperity of the human species as a whole." I guess my "what if" story scenario isn't as far-fetched as some might think...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Burying Your Books

By Sandy Wright

In addition to the thorough spring-cleaning of our home of 20 years, I'm also attempting to pare down and de-clutter. It's a daunting task, so I'm concentrating on only three clutter categories:

1.     Books
     This is the hardest category for me because I absolutely love books. But I don't like to re-read them, with a few notable exceptions, like the Harry Potter series. So why keep them all?
     To give up my cherished friends, I had to shift my mindset from eliminating to sharing. In that new mindset, I was able to take four boxes of books to the used bookstores in town. The move also prompted me to fill out paperwork and apply to have my own book, Song of the Ancients, accepted at Changing Hands.

Now, this chore has become fun! I selected a few old books to re-purpose. I plan to "plant" them in my poison garden at our cabin, when I plant it this summer. 

This book, an old Atlas of the Worlds, I acquired from La Posada hotel in their "leave a book, take a book" shelves. I left a copy of my own novel in exchange, plus a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

I stole the books in the poison garden idea from Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants. In her NY Times interview, she talked about her own poison garden. The books there are half-buried, or nailed to shelves so their pages turn in the breeze. Autopsy for an Empire, with its dried-blood-colored jacket, is planted beside the hellebore, which the Greeks used to poison the water of their enemies.

"I wanted the sense that the book I'm writing is coming out of the ground," she explained. I loved that image.
Back in the upstairs library, I've grouped my "To Read" books together—they take up an entire bookcase! I've myself I can only buy bring in a new book if I read and release one from my shelf.

1.     Papers.  We've filled the shredder a dozen times with old tax files, receipts, out-of-date instruction pamphlets, appliance warranties, greeting cards.  I also sorted through our photographs and eliminated the duplicates, unflattering or boring shots. There were so many! Paul plans to scan many more, but I won't hold my breath.

2.     Clothes. Another really tough chore. But now it's done. The boxes and bags are neatly stacked and labeled by donation site in the garage. One whole closet of my good work suits for a charity that specializes in outfitting women for job interviews. A stack of boxes for The Clothes House, which gives clothes to the homeless, and also launders their clothes for free, so they won't just be tossed when soiled. Another charity that has a free store for families who live in my part of Chandler.

Once those boxes and bags are gone—it'll take me about another week to make the deliveries—we will have 1 ½ bays of our garage open. Wow! We'll have room to park a car! Oh, and to store the half-dozen additional boxes of more expensive things, like crystal and collectibles we've inherited from both sets of parents, but that our sons have said they don't want.

So, the cleaning and decluttering saga is progressing, but not finished.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Gettysburg and Her General in Gray

In the early summer of 1863, for various reasons, including victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Lee urged President Davis to again take the war to northern soil. 
On July 1, 1863, a 3-day bloodbath was fought in Gettysburg, and when the smoke of the cannons cleared Union had triumphed, although nearly 5,000 horses and 50,000 men lay dead or dying.

It is conjectured that because many of the Confederate soldiers never received a proper burial, and with the utter massacre and violence of the battle, historic Gettysburg is the home of many unquiet spirits, including the ghost of what appears to be the ghost of General Robert E. Lee.

There is a Ghost Tour of Gettysburg and a long list of haunted sites.  I’ll only attempt here to list them, but more information can be found at: http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/history/articles/ghosts-of-gettysburg

The Daniel Lady Farm
Cashtown Inn
Gettysburg Hotel
Baladerry Inn
*The Ghost Train
Tourists can also take a 90-minute ride on the Ghost Train -- the only ghost tour in Gettysburg that takes visitors across the actual battlefield. 

April 7, the Wild Rose Press released Her General in Gray.  In this 93-page story, the hero died at Antietam fighting for the Confederacy.  John Sibley Allen never saw Gettysburg.

Autumn Hartley purchases Allen Hall at a steal, but the northern lass gets far more than a beautiful plantation in the South Carolina Low Country. The house comes complete with its own ghost, a handsome and charming Civil War General—for the Confederacy. The stage is set for another civil conflict.

John Sibley Allen died in battle from a wound in the back, the bullet fired by the turncoat, Beauregard Dudley. The traitor’s reincarnation is Autumn the Interloper’s first dinner guest. Sib bedevils her date and annoys her with fleeting, phantom touches, certain he can frighten her away as he did previous purchasers. As time marches on, her resident ghost becomes more appealing while her suitor, Beau, pales in comparison. Autumn finds her ability to love didn’t perish in the divorce that sent her south seeking a fresh start.

After over a century in the hereafter, Sib discovers he is falling for none other than the feisty Yankee girl, but what future could a modern woman and an old-fashioned ghost possibly hope for?


“You are not there.” Autumn dropped her book and leapt to her feet, shaking her fist at the apparition standing beside the fireplace.

The frolicking blaze shone through the whatever-he-was lounging by the hearth, his arm stretched along the mantel.  A ceramic clock beside his hand chimed the hour—seven golden notes. Tall candles in brass candlesticks flickered in an eerie fire dance. He appeared to be a Civil War soldier of the South, his opaque uniform gray with a nasty red-stained hole near the heart.  Double rows of gold buttons decorated the coat. Three gold stars and a wreath on the collar glittered in the firelight. No blood spilled from the apparition.  Except for his wound, he looked perfectly healthy—for a dead man!  He nodded and bowed elegantly...as much so as his lost society had been, regardless of the strong backs supporting that way of life.

“Oh, but I am, Miss Hartley.”  He straightened, longish hair gently curling over his face.

A chill raced over her, but she suppressed the tremor of apprehension.  Autumn swallowed hard and adjusted her white cotton blouse.  “I don’t believe in ghosts.  You’re not welcome here. I bought this house and am struggling to pay for it.  Get your Halloween self out of my living room.”

He smiled.  “It’s not Halloween, and we share this house.  It was mine, you know, and still is.  I’m willing to share it with you—even if you are a Yankee.  After all, the conflict is over, and I’ll hold no grudge against the Northern aggressors. Even though the South will never surrender.”

“Northern aggressors?”  She inhaled sharply, the vanilla scent of the candles on the dining room table drifting into the living room.  Everything about Allen Hall was beautiful. She loved the house. But this conversation with an arrogant spirit solidified defiance.  “And, for your information, the South did surrender.”

“A point of history.” He shrugged and gave her a condescending glance. “No more.”

It’s a funny and poignant story now available at Amazon for $2.99: https://www.amazon.com/Her-General-Gray-Linda-Nightingale-ebook/dp/B06W9HFMBM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488456671&sr=8-1&keywords=Her+General+in+Gray

IN HONOR OF THE RELEASE, I'm giving away to one commenter the winner's choice of a PDF of any of my backlist, available on my webside:  http:www.lindanightingale.com

For the fallen heroes: