Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Please Welcome Tara Fox Hall!

A huge thank you to Regina Paul for having me here today as part of my Broken Promise Blog Tour! I’m here today to promote Broken Promise, the second book in the Promise Me series. Most readers of romance—unless you’ve been locked in a crypt for the last few decades—are well aware that there are many vampire romance series with a dashing yet brooding heroic vampire and a strong female lead. Here are my reasons why my Promise Me Series is not just one more.
I spent my youth reading about vampires, being in love with the idea of living forever and staying young, partying all night, every night, and having a strong protector that was not only invincible to attack but would love me with a love that would be just as undying as he was.
            When I look back at the novels of my youth, all I can say is “Reality check, please.”
            Now let me hurry to put in a disclaimer, lest I be staked by tons of rabid vampire fans; I am not against fantasy worlds, all and any definitions of vampire, or star-crossed lovers with hundreds of years in age difference. Love is not always logical; hell, most times it isn’t! I’m just asking for an authenticity to the world, characters and plot that the writer is offering me. I go into a new book looking for a reason to believe in it, hoping to lose myself in its pages until something in real life forces me grumpily to set the book aside. I want to be captured, nay, enslaved, so that that story becomes as real to me as my own life, an alternate realm that I treasure as much as my own reality, with characters that are so real they feel like old friends. There are some vampire novels out there that accomplish this with aplomb. Yet there are far more that don’t.
            Be brutally honest with yourself. If you were a vampire who had lived for centuries and experienced tremendous persecution and suffering, would you really go back to high school, so you could get a little more added on? Would you really be haunting nightclubs for eternity, having rampant sex with people for their blood night in and night out? Would you be calling attention to yourself by brutally killing victims in alleys, or sitting on a throne each night for people to stare at and admire? These suppositions all have two things in common; they have been used over and over again for vampire plots and— for anyone who was actually living them for eternity—they would likely be incredibly tiresome, if not mind-numbingly boring.
            So why do we vampirephiles like these unrealistic scenarios? Because we remember being in high school, and the dream that the new pale exchange student really was not only “into” us, but also capable of sweeping us away from the rigors of trigonometry and chemistry lab. We hope down deep every time we enter a nightclub that there will be some creature of the night waiting for us at the bar, baring a hint of fang in a sidelong glance of licentious interest. We want the feeling that our normal, everyday lives—no matter how happy we are—could be swept away into a tumult of passion, romance, and danger, of life and death decisions, and love that lasts forever. We want the fantasy so we can drink down every red, sweet drop with insatiable hunger. In our passion to be lose ourselves, we forget about the feelings of the creature we are lusting for: his hopes, dreams, and passions. As such, the vampire in romance is often cookie cutter in the extreme and full of logical contradictions, doomed to spend his eternity suffering in loneliness, waiting for that special someone to turn his immortal existence on his ear.
I want more than that for my fantasy…I want a vampire that breathes.
            So what would a real vampire be like? To go on for centuries would take determination beyond love, greed, lust, or even duty. It would take a sheer act of indomitable will to face wars, rises and falls of culture, shifts in world view, the death of your loved ones from your mortal life, and the constant struggle to support yourself along with the need for sustenance, that no matter how the world changed would never accept a vampire’s nature. Having bitter enemies would be a given with immortal life, but good friends would be likely, also. Having a system of blood donation would be essential, as would security. That the vampire would have loved and lost goes without saying. Personality traits expected would be cynical, opportunistic, and calculating, as well as driven and interested in the world around him. But most crucial to a vampire would be having a purpose, a reason to wake up each night and go out into the darkness.
Enter Danial Racklan, my 400-year-old vampire and male lead from the Promise Me Series. A suave businessman who owns the corporate detective business Solutions, Inc., with his  werecougar partner, Theo, Danial is no novice at surviving. Ensconced in his private fortress with a network of personal security and blood donors that make house calls, he is secure from his enemies by day. By night, he commits his life to solving mysteries and murders…and sometimes committing the latter in service to organized crime. It’s been so long since he loved anyone that he doesn’t miss it, choosing to bury his passions in work, a course sure to guarantee his heart won’t be broken again.
When Danial goes out to commit a murder on an overcast fall night, he’s sure nothing will go wrong. Caught unawares by a killer he could not have anticipated, Danial is wounded badly, but escapes. Fighting poison, he collapses at the end of an unknown road. And there he would have perished…but for a royally pissed off country woman named Sar who goes to investigate what she is sure are partyers in her neighbor’s rock quarry. Finding Danial unconscious, Sar hauls Danial back to her house—yes, literally, in a front-end loader—and in the process, discovers he is a vampire. Being a vampirephile herself, Sar gives him her blood. While the experience is not what she bargained for, it has the intended result: Danial wakes up…and Sar’s old life is swept away into a tumult of passion, romance, and danger, of life and death decisions, and love that lasts forever.
What can I say? I want a realistic base…but I want the fantasy, too!

Blurb from Broken Promise:

Shocked at Danial’s betrayal, Sarelle returns to her old home to consider her options. Yet even as Sar plans a reconciliation with Danial, Terian arrives, confessing his desire. When Theo witnesses Terian and Sar kiss, he angrily confronts Sar, leading to startling consequences. Will Sar’s heart choose Danial, Terian,…or Theo?

Excerpt from Broken Promise:

Danial followed me. “Sar,” he said hesitantly.
I turned reluctantly to face him. “Danial, say whatever you have to say and get out,” I said wearily. “I’m exhausted.”
“I love you,” he said, his eyes tearing.
“I know you do,” I said evenly, meeting his gaze with my own, before turning from him to start washing the dishes.
I felt him behind me in an instant, and put down the dish I’d been holding before I dropped it. His hands rested on my shoulders, and then slid down my arms, enfolding me as he pulled me close. His hands were cool, as they had been the first time we embraced.
How many nights had I longed to be back in his arms? How many nights had I wished he would come to me like this, and tell me he loved me? Almost every night since we parted. But it didn’t change anything between us.
“I was wrong, Sar. I was wrong to do what I did.” He leaned his head on my shoulder, holding me. “I want you to know, I didn’t have sex with her. I left her, after talking to you. Please forgive me, for the things I said to you that night,” he whispered into my ear. “Please forgive me, my Oathed One.”

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween World! By Ciara Lake

Don’t you love to dress up and pretend?  I do.  I like to decorate too.  I recently attended a costume party at my friend’s house.  The theme was “not so nice” Disney characters.  My friend’s house was amazingly decorated and the guests dressed up in great outfits.  It was so much fun.  It was an opportunity for adults to be like children and sometimes we grownups need to regress.   I dressed up as Snow White’s evil queen.  Pretending to be a naughty character is lots of fun.  I practiced my wicked laugh and got pretty good at the cackle.  Halloween is a time to allow your imagination to go wild and free.  It is a wonderful time to dream up new ideas.  Tonight little monsters are coming to my door for goodies.  It’s rainy and chilly in Ohio this year but has not seemed to stop the little creatures from begging for candy. 
                 In Angel for Avery, which is coming out in February there is treat or trick scene with a bad monster at their door.   But my heroine is protected by her guardian angel.  Ah, just got an idea… to have a book start with a modern day masquerade party.  Yep, that’s on my list now. 
                Halloween is the beginning of the fun holidays, at least to me.  Soon we will be decorating for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I love the lights and the atmosphere they create.  I put lights up for Halloween too.  I write a lot over the holiday times.  I have time off work and spend days and nights writing up my dreams.  I am busy working on the next in the Forsaken series and will use a lot of my time off to get much done.  At least this is my hope.  I have so many projects in writing to accomplish. 
                My newest book is coming out in the beginning of November, Forsaken Norse Wind.    It is about a troll and his beautiful mate.  My spin on the troll is a bit different from usual tales.  He is ugly only when he wants to be and gorgeous all other times.    
                Writing has been a blessing in that I have connected with wonderful people, like my series co-writer, Elise Whyles and my publishers.  Writing has also been a learning experience and I feel blessed with this opportunity.

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!   

Ciara Lake


Saturday, October 6, 2012


Many things in my world inspire my writing.  I feel blessed when inspiration hits me.  Anything can start a string of thoughts, which can manifest into a new tale.  The daily news, music, people I meet and or watch when people watching, television, movies, and general life experiences.  I love to sit outside or take walks.  During these times, I come up with new dreams to write about.  I love spending time outside when it is fall.  The autumn weather and the beauty of Ohio stimulate my mind.   Ohio has a lovely fall season.   I also love fall because my birthday is in October.  We go to the state parks to see the autumn foliage on or around my birthday.  This time of year has always been enjoyable.  Fall is also the beginning of the big holiday seasons we celebrate.  It is all very exciting to think about and plan for our family events. 
            When I started writing Tallusian Nights it was fall of 2011, the leaves changing in the woods at my father’s farm gave me the idea for the Tallusian Forest.  In Tallusian Nights, the lovers share sensual moments under a canopy of beautiful reddish and amber trees.  On the planet of Tallusia, the forest is always the colors of Ohio’s fall.  This vision came to my imagination from admiring the woods out the windows of my father’s house.   It was like I painted the scene in my mind and put it on paper to be read.  I added the people to create the complete story.  In fact, I was pleased the artist for the book’s cover used the amber and reddish colors too.   
            Now I am working on another book for the Forsaken series and the weather is helping my imagination.  The cool breeze blowing through my hair is great motivator for imagination. I just step outside when having a block.   Or just looking out the windows at the pretty colors seems to make my mind work better.  The book I’m working on now features Mermaids.  Unfortunately, Ohio has no ocean views.  So, I look on the web or pictures of my past vacations.  I lived on Guam for several years so I think of the days I played in the sea.  I learned to scuba dive and became a PADI rescue diver while living there.   Guam is surrounded by glorious blue water.  It is a gorgeous island.  The water is so clear and full of life.  It is great to reminisce of playing in the warm sea.  Of course, the Mer don’t need special equipment to frolic and play.  They swim free as masters of the sea in my story.  They have magical powers under the sea and on land.  It is so much fun to dream up these places and people.   As of today, I am only 15K into the Mermaid story.  I have named it, Forsaken Waves of Time.   I am still dreaming it all up.  I like to dream as I go along.  I start with an outline, but I often change it until it falls just into place. 
            Just remember when starting to write stories, poems, and or music, allow yourself the time to look at your environment.  Enjoy the people around you too.  A mere word can get an idea flowing into a great work of art.  Enjoy your imagination. 
Happy reading and enjoy the fall season,
Ciara Lake  
This is Guam… one of my favorite views.  
This is how it looks around where my father’s farm is located.   It is very similar.  See how beautiful Ohio is.  Wouldn’t these views stimulate your mind?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Favorite Rogue: Rhett Butler by Libby Mercer

I’m probably going to be stoned to death for admitting to this, but… Mr. Darcy bores me to tears. That’s a strong statement, I know, and I can definitely appreciate his good qualities, but as a romantic ideal, I really don’t get the universal appeal. Captain Butler, on the other hand, well… he’s a different story.

A scoundrel. A scamp. A scalawag.

Any reader with even the slightest case of Bad Boy Fever (whether in real life or in fiction only) will warm to Rhett right from the start. His confidence, and yes even his cockiness draws the reader (or the filmgoer, if you prefer) to his side almost immediately. I think it’s a combination of courage and perhaps a bit of the devil-may-care that leads him to question aloud the wisdom of going to war in the presence of so many bloodthirsty gentlemen, desperate to fight in the name of honor.

And we can’t overlook the fact that the man is smart. Unlike all the other men in Gone With the Wind, who are swept up in the hullabaloo of impending war, Rhett is able to understand and articulate the foolishness of engaging in battle with the North. His later roles as blockade-runner and war profiteer don’t endear him much to his contemporaries. Granted, Rhett’s sense of community is questionable at this point in the story, but his business sense is admirable. It’s not mentioned in the film, but in the novel, we learn that Rhett, estranged from his family and kicked out of West Point, made his fortune in the California gold rush. Intelligence and business savvy are, I believe, two of the most universally appealing aspects in a man, whether real or fictional, and Rhett Butler has them in abundance.

One thing that sets Rhett apart from the other men in the Gone With the Wind is his frank sexuality, which is particularly notable when we compare him to the very non-sexual Ashley Wilkes. He makes no secret of his frequent visits to Belle Watling’s house of ill repute, and long before he asked Scarlett to marry him, he asked her to be his mistress. Although this was overlooked in the film version, in the novel, we learn that Rhett is the guardian of a young boy who’s away at boarding school. It’s never confirmed, but the implication is that the child is Rhett’s illegitimate son.

And then of course there’s the manner in which he handles Miss Scarlett. Scarlett is a top class manipulator, skilled in using her charms to bend people (well… men, anyway) to her will. She’s unable to do this with Rhett. Not that he doesn’t have it bad for her. Obviously, he does. But he’s fully aware of the motivation behind her coquettish behavior, and the fact that he has this knowledge takes her down a few pegs. Rhett is the only one who truly understands Scarlett and this is why they’re so perfectly matched. Too bad she doesn’t realize this until it’s too late.

So there you have it. Rhett Butler, my all-time favorite rogue. Just as a disclaimer, John Harrington, the hero of my new romance novel, Fashioning a Romance, is nothing like Rhett. He’s not the least bit rogue-ish. I have yet to write a Rhett-inspired hero, but I definitely plan to do so in the not-so-distant future. So be sure to stay tuned! 

Libby Mercer lives in San Francisco, CA. She enjoys crafts, knitting and sewing in particular and traveling. She also likes long walks on the beach, and a cup of hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire. Visit her website today to find out more about Libby and her books, including a lovely free read!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Spaced Out by Mary S. Palmer

Making revisions to my science-fiction book TIME WILL TELL gave me new thoughts about values. Since the outer-space beings in it have a lot of free time, I began to wonder how that would feel.
 Since I have a type "A" personality, I need to be busy. My philosophy is that people who have all day to perform a task, any task, take all day to do it. Perhaps without realizing it, they drag it out. A four hour chore can usually be accomplished in that amount of time.
 It's good for retirees to keep occupied, but it bothers me when they say, "I don't know how I ever had time to work." It seems to me they've just reset their priorities.
 The same would apply for people who say, "I don't have time to write." Honestly, though, don't we make time for the things we really want to do--especially fun activities? Oh, but writing is work. Right. But if you really love it, it's a blend of work and pleasure; sometimes, a catharsis. It can be much more entertaining to put down your own thoughts than it is to sit passively and watch a boring TV show with a plot line that tells you the outcome up front. Or one filled with so much sex, violence and offensive language that you can't even determine what the plot is.
That's a waste of time to me. I'd rather be creating characters and learning to love or hate them. In addition, I like to see where, when and how those characters are going to lead the plot forward. More importantly, I like to let them reveal why they act as they do. If I can feel what they feel, maybe readers can, too. In interacting with my characters, by extension, I am interacting with my audience.
 If I learned anything by editing my book, it is that outer-space creatures in novels often aren't too different from earthlings. Even though we may say we'd like to have time to do different things, most people become discontented and bored if they don't feel productive, except the couch potatoes, maybe. But I wonder if even they feel useless some of the time. Isn't it human nature to have a purpose in life? Perhaps TIME WILL TELL.

Mary S. Palmer teaches English at Faulkner State Community College and Faulkner University. She enjoys collecting beanie babies, and plates from the states and countries that she has visited. She writes stories in a variety of genres. Visit her website to find out more about Mary and her books.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Interview with Clayne MacDagon, Curse of A Dragon’s Claim, Forsaken series book 2 by Ciara Lake

Ciara Lake was asked to do Regina Paul’s blog.  She’s been really busy with other work. So, she asked me to participate in this interview. 
1.    What about you is heroic?
This is hard for me to answer this question.  I guess I am heroic in the love for my family.  I would do anything for my mate, Arianna and or my entire family.  I would sacrifice myself in their protection.  Also, I will protect my friends, my people as well.  I am a warrior and have fought many battles with the vampires and or anyone else who desires to pick a fight with us.  I hate to enter into conflict but I will not hesitate to defend my home.

2. Do you have a nickname? What is it, and where did you get it? 
Over the years my mate has started calling me Clay…instead of Clayne.  She just shortens my name.  She calls me this mostly when we are alone and in our intimate moments.

3. What's the worst thing one of your siblings ever did to you? What's the worst thing you've done to one of your siblings?
The worse thing my only sibling did to me was to die.  I know this sounds harsh, but this is the truth.  My heart breaks at the thought of her passing away from us.  She was beautiful and sweet.  Clarrisa was my twin sister.  We were so close from our beginnings.  My heart ached forever when we lost her.  The worse thing I did to her is to fail her, to not protect her as I should have.  I should have been there to fight off her attackers.  I have lamented over this fact for centuries.  I had failed to be her hero or even a good brother.  Sorry I get carried away.  Arianna scolds me for harboring these feelings. 
Arianna has helped me to escape my pain.  Our children have helped as well.  I see Clarrisa in my children’s eyes and it brings joy to my heart.   Despite the years that have passed I miss her so very much.  You know immortals aren’t supposed to die, so we are less equipped to handle such losses.  Clarrisa was murdered right in our home by the vampires.  This betrayal of the vampires from those who were supposed to be allies has caused me years of anger and hatred against them.  It almost stood in the way of me meeting Arianna.  My beautiful wife and mate, is a Dracvipen, a mix between vampire and dragon.  When I met her she was living as a Forsaken among the mortals.  She is my lovely soul mate, who has saved my heart from eternal loneliness.  She has not replaced Clarrisa, she has healed me with her love.  So you see sometimes hate can cripple a person.  I thank the gods I found my true love. She has eased my pain and brought me renewed joy.

4. What is something you had to learn that you hated?
I think I answered this question above.  The answer is the vampires.  I hate their blood thirsty need for war.  Their dishonesty and betrayal to other immortals.  I also hate Amuliana’s for what I think her part was in all of this.  I cannot speak too loudly against her as she is a goddess.  However, the deep down feeling I have about her wickedness causes my feelings to erupt.  Trust me when a dragon’s feelings erupt, the room gets really hot. 

5. What annoys you more than anything else?
It annoys me when my children don’t listen to me as they should.  My oldest daughter has waywardness about her. She wants to experience adventure. Too much adventure.  She has a hard head.
 She wants to travel to New York City in the year 2013. She wants to live and work among these modern day mortals.  She says they are interesting and curious.  She also has made friends with some vampires.  Can you believe that? They are young vampires born long after the conflict between us began.  But still, it worries me. 
I have warned her about modern cities too and mortal men with their more sophisticated ways.  Mortal men have changed a lot over the centuries.  They have the magic of technology now.  They are not the simpletons they once were.  They are powerful in their ways. Many are now in tune with the supernatural and we are more easily detected.   This has benefits and disadvantages to us.  Anyway, it annoys me she and my other children do not listen as I would prefer.  I always listen to my parents.  Ouch!  Arianna just slapped on arm. Okay, I guess not always…. Okay… not much.  Arianna keeps me honest.  J

6. What was the wildest thing you've ever done, sexually? Who was it with and when did it happen?
This answer better involve my mate.  Huh?  She is sitting here next to me as I do this interview.  I’m smiling and so is she. 
Of course, I have been faithful to my lovely wife and mate and I cannot remember anyone else.  I refuse to think of others, ever.  A dragon always is always loyal to their mates.  She is my heart, my soul.
 So, the most exciting or wild moments have been with Arianna. We have had romantic and wild moments while in the Enchanted Forest.  I love the time in that enchanted wood.  Making love beneath the branches of those charmed trees is like nothing else.  You can read about our sexually charged moments in Ciara’s book, Curse of A Dragon’s Claim, Forsaken Series book 2   

7. Is there any sexual activity that you enjoy and/or practice regularly that can be considered non-standard? (Bondage, Fantasy Play, etc.) Why do you like it?
            Arianna likes me to chase her.  We play this game a lot.  I play the big bad dragon after her and she acts like she is running.  She giggles a lot while running from my fierceness.  When I catch her I get to do all sorts of things to my lovely victim.  She likes that too.  She begs me for mercy and agrees to satisfy me in all I desire.
 She started this game.  I love it now.  LOL.  It is all done playfully.  Arianna, who once lived as a mortal, gets a really big thrill out of me roaring at her and flames coming out of my nose.  Then she soothes my beast, I transform to my human form to make love to my captive.  You may laugh, but we have fun. J    
That’s all I can say about my Lady wife, the rest is really too hot for this interview.  Just know Arianna is hot blooded as I am.  We really enjoy being together as much as possible.  It never gets old for us. 

Thank you for allowing me to do this interview.  I hope you enjoy our story, Curse of a Dragon’s Claim, Forsaken Series book 2.  Remember, immortals and Forsaken are among you.    
If you have any further questions for me, please contact Ciara Lake at CiaraLakeromanceauthor@gmail.com
Check out http://www.BeachwalkPress.com to purchase our story.

 Good day,
Clayne MacDagon

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Chocoholic Confesses by Lynn Hones

My newest release, A Titanic Tale, went on sale April 15th, exactly 100 years to the day of that tragic maritime disaster. On this blog tour I planned on talking about the Titanic, and I still will, but today something else has been on my mind.
Easter was a while ago, but my kids still have their baskets hidden away. Why are they hidden away, you ask? It’s because I’m a candy fiend and they’re not. They’ll eat a piece here and there, leisurely enjoying the bounty of chocolate bunnies and those delicious jelly beans. Not me. I’ve already sniffed out their hiding places and unbeknownst to them, because I’m crafty, I’ve eaten most of it. Usually, in the middle of the night, I start my commando mission. I wake up and tell myself, “Not tonight. No, you’re stronger than this.” Two minutes later I’m tiptoeing into their rooms and silently rifling through the plastic green grass for those little pieces of paradise.
I wake in the morning surrounded by the brightly colored foils of Ghiradelli Chocolate eggs and feel remorse, shame and guilt wash over me as swiftly as Willie Wonka’s wonderful waterfall washes over the rock candy in his factory of caloric hell.
I’m an older woman—fifty-two-years-old, when will this insanity stop? I know admitting I’m a candyholic is the first step, but I guess if lying to, and stealing from my own innocent children is not my bottom, I’m destined to wallow in the chocolate river of aforementioned movie as a bottom-feeder, forever.
When they were small, I’d hide the box of Ho-Ho’s I bought at the grocery store, lest they see them. When the craving for chocolate came on, I’d grab one, (or God help me, two or three,) from the box and slowly retreat to the bathroom and close the door. Unwrapping, as quietly as I could, I’d hear breathing on the other side and see the shadow of pint-sized feet under the crack.
“Mommy, what are you doing?” I’d hear.
“Nothing,” I’d mumble back with a mouth full of chocolate goodness.
“Can we come in?”
“No, I’m almost done.” Swallowing, I’d wipe my mouth on a towel, shove the wrappers deep in the wastebasket, flush the toilet for effect and walk out.
“I smell chocolate,” one of them would say in childlike innocence.
“I took a laxative.”
“Oh,” they’d answer in unison, a look of confusion washing over their faces, and walk away.
Not too long ago my youngest was talking to me while standing next to my bed. Her hand inadvertently found its way between my mattress and box spring and she pulled out wrapper after wrapper of damning evidence. I’d been found out. My adrenaline rose, our eyes locked and she screamed for her sister like a banshee on a mission. My oldest came running in and they both glared at me as if I were Arthur Slugworth, the villain hired by Mr. Wonka to fool the children into selling the gobstopper as a morality test. And I felt like him, too. Or, should I say, I felt like one who’d failed his said test of integrity.
How low will I go? When will it stop? What am I doing to my family, my children, my home? I wish it would all come to a brilliant cinematic end. Me, finally admitting I can’t take it anymore as I renounce my love of candy. In the multi-directional glass elevator, I’d take flight out of that chocolate river of guilt infested waters for the fresh blue skies of healthy living. I’d renounce my candy and sweets binging, cravings of green vegetables and ripe fruits my new normal. What an ending…what an ending. Nope…not going to happen.


Beautiful Cornelia Bainesworth cared only about herself and her own life the night the Titanic went down. A curse brought on by a woman who witnessed her selfish behavior that evening destroys her, but it doesn’t stop there.
One hundred years later, the curse rears its ugly head in the life of small-town teenager Callie. As if the tragedy of her boyfriend’s death wasn’t enough, strange occurrences bring her to the brink of insanity. Callie’s search for answers is unsuccessful until a nerdy schoolmate takes up her cause and together they experience frightening apparitions, unexplained phenomena and chilling truths. These truths turn Callie’s life upside down and reveal a shocking ending to a story that began on the deck of a ship doomed the moment it saw light.


Callie went to her window and stared out at the streetlight in front of their house. Lost in thought, she caught a quick movement, but ignored it. When she saw a small child peek out from behind a telephone pole and looking up into her window, however, she grew concerned.
“What the hell?” She watched the little figure’s head dart from behind the pole, look up at her and quickly retreat back. It seemed to either be playing games with her, or trying to hide.
“Hey, you? What are you doing up so late?”
The child gave no reply. She walked out of her room, down the stairs and opened the front door. I bet some neighbor kid walked out of their home and can’t find how to get back.
Stepping out on the porch, she wrapped her arms around herself. The air was still hot and muggy, but it was worry, not chill that had her hugging her body.
“Hey? Where are you? Come here.”
No movement, but she saw an arm still visible from around the pole. Gathering some bravado, she stepped off the porch and walked toward it.
“Hello. Don’t be afraid. Are you lost?”
The person stepped out from behind the pole.
Callie’s eyes had adjusted enough to see a boy with light hair and fair skin. His clothes, if that’s what they could be called, were rags. A gray suit, that had to be several years old, hung off his skeletal frame.
“Hi, honey. What are you doing out here so late?” Callie squatted and held out her arms for the boy, hoping to show him she meant no harm. His dirty, drawn face held the soul of an adult, although he couldn’t be older than three or four years.
“Tis late?”
“Yes, it’s two-thirty in the morning. Where do you live? Where are your mommy and daddy?”
“I don’t know,” he said shyly.
She caught the distinct brogue of the Irish in his speech. “You don’t know? Well, where do you think you live?”
He pointed down the road.
“Is it close by?”
He shook his sad little head. “No.”
“Okay, look, come with me. I’ll get my car and drive you home. Do you think you can find it if we drive and look for it?”
The waif nodded, yes.

Once in the car, she drove for about a mile. Every so often, she glanced at the boy to see if he recognized anything.
“Nothing looks familiar, huh?”
 he child shivered.
“Are you cold, honey? Here, I’ll put the windows up.”
“Thank you kindly, ma’am.” He sat up, straightened his legs and looked out the window, obviously searching for something familiar. His thin hands were folded neatly in his lap, but rose occasionally to point the way. Callie realized he was leading them to the neighborhood where the Coopers lived, Bainesworth Manor. It butted up against a large field that turned into woods further back. On the other side of the street were miles of barren farmland, waiting patiently for the inevitable McMansion to be built. However, they drove past Bainesworth Manor and about a half mile down the road he spoke.
“Here it is,” he said timidly.
She pulled into a dark, park-like area barren of any homes. Her blood ran cold when, upon closer inspection, she noticed it was no park, but a cemetery. Not just any cemetery either, this was the kind of cemetery where skeletons wandered and witches made their brew. The kind where werewolves hid behind gravestones and hands reached up from the netherworld, searching around for the ankles of unsuspecting mortals stupid enough to be in a graveyard after dark. She pressed the gas pedal, but instead of moving, the car died.
“What?” Frantically, she turned the key and the engine turned over once and stopped. After several more tries she realized if she continued she’d simply flood the engine. She reached into her purse for her cell phone. In her panic, she’d forgotten her passenger and looked across at him.
“Sweetie, this is a graveyard. It’s not your home.” Unable to find her phone, she dumped the contents of her purse between the driver and the passenger seat.
“Dammit. This is not happening.” Without even glancing his way, she apologized for her use of foul language.
Resigned, she sat back in the seat and stared ahead. “Great, I guess we can walk to the Coopers.” She put all the items back into her purse. Slinging it over her shoulder, she grabbed a flashlight out of the glove box and stepped out of the car.
“Come on, honey. I know some people who live a bit down the road. We can wake them up and hope they won’t be too pissed off.” She glanced at the squirt. “I’m sorry, again. I mean angry.”
This cemetery was unknown to her, but from the looks of the dates she spotted as they walked, it had filled up long ago. The new one, where Blake was buried, was on the other side of town.
She glanced up at the full moon. “Queue the howling.”
Attempting a bravado she didn’t possess, she closed the door and moved away from the car. The moon cast enough light to see perfectly.
“I’m fine walkin’. My home is right there.”
“I don’t see any houses.”
He pointed into the cemetery.
“You live past the graveyard? Are you sure you don’t want me to walk with you?”
“If you be a wishin’ to.”
She smiled at him. “Come on, let’s get you home to your mother.” She put her hand reassuringly on his shoulder.
“Me mother is dead.”
“Who do you live with? Your daddy?”
“Never been knowin’ me dad.”
“Well, you must live with someone.”
“All the kind people. They don’t know me, but when I get to cryin’ someone will rise up and come to me.”
Large prickly gooseflesh covered her body from head to toe at that comment. Something wasn’t right. She’d suspected it the first time she’d laid eyes on the boy, but now, she knew for sure.
He began to walk. In the middle of the graves in a noticeably older area, he stopped and turned toward her. He seemed to grow paler, thinner, and sadder. He took a couple more steps, stopped and stared down.
“I be home now, mum.” His expression was heartrending, his large eyes rose and met hers.
“What?” She looked at him. “There’s nothing here but weeds.”
“I’m home. Tis my home ‘til the curse be lifted.”
Stunned at his words, Callie backed away. “What are you talking about?”
“The curse, ma’am. It’s stickin’ good.”
A wind picked up and, before her eyes, he metamorphosed into a mist, which swirled about for a moment before sinking into the ground.
A cold sweat broke out on her skin and a crippling fear stabbed roughly at her chest. An ugly, wintry fright came close to bringing her to her knees and impaled her to the spot. Paralyzed, she willed herself to breathe.
“How…why?” She gathered her courage and backed away, clutching her stomach, forcing the urge to vomit away.
“Dear, God, what just happened?”

Please visit my website: Lynn Hones

Thursday, April 19, 2012

WALK LIKE A MAN: How a Woman Writer Captures a Man’s POV by Donna Del Oro

How does “She tipped up her chin at the stranger, resisting the man’s attempt at intimidation” become “He shot the stranger a don’t-fuck-with-me look”?
            In order for a female fiction writer to avoid caricature and instead capture the sensibilities of a male, her mindset must change. As we all know, POV is vital in accurately portraying a male character (or any character, for that matter) and thus creating and sustaining verisimilitude. A story hinges on how believably the POV portrays/expresses the character in question, and that believability extends to gender. Even if you jump POVs from hero to heroine, the male POV scenes MUST BE MASCULINE, and therefore DIFFERENT in VOICE, ATTITUDE, and LANGUAGE.
            The two sexes are different. We have different world views, mindsets, expectations and preoccupations. For example, one psychologist’s study showed that men think about sex at least sixteen times per day; assuming sixteen hours of wakefulness, that’s a minimum of once per hour. Conversely, women contemplate sex one-third as often. Isn’t it a marvel how men find time to start and fight wars, when so much of their conscious mind is preoccupied with sex? Or find the time to fill a weekend as an armchair quarterback? Are sex, sports and war games their main preoccupations?
            Another preoccupation is their sense of “manhood”, their need to prove themselves “manly”. Watch a fence-enclosed playground of children some time. Little girls will reasonably enter and exit via the open gate. Not little boys. The five-foot high cyclone fence becomes a test of physical strength and agility—a challenge of manhood, if you will, and a string of little boys will dare each other to climb over. The little girls look on, some puzzled by the boys’ illogical behavior, others openly admiring the little daredevils who need to resist the lure of logic.
            Read the novels of male authors to learn the male mindset. From the cerebral, artistic but nonetheless lethal Mossad assassin, Gabriel, of Daniel Silva, to the military action heroes of Brad Thor; from the political thrillers of Vince Flynn to the police procedurals of Michael Connelly and John Lescroat, to the scientific adventurers of James Rollins and Steve Berry—the male gender has his own distinct Point of View. And that includes, of course, his VOICE, ATTITUDE and LANGUAGE.
            So, how to capture a man’s worldview, or—as the German philosophers call it—“weltanschauung”?  Sparingly.  A male fiction hero uses action more than speech to convey his worldview.  A female writer not only has to reflect his POV in inner dialogue and reflection (or narration), but also in his actions and his spoken words. Or lack of them.  For a male character, long silences are common. Daniel Silva’s Gabriel, the Mossad agent whose cover is Renaissance art restorer, spends days silently restoring his canvasses while simultaneously plotting his next mission.  When a male author writes men’s dialogue, he does so sparingly. When a female author writes men’s dialogue, there is almost no difference between the male and female characters. We don’t realize how little men really speak.
            Dialogue, of course, has to reflect the character. Men don’t talk as much as women. This is not stereotype or cliche. The same applies to little girls and boys. Several psychological studies have rated female speech as four to five times more frequent and denser than male speech. There’s more profanity, too, in male speech and many more sports metaphors.  How many times have you heard a man say, “Time to get the ball and run with it”? Or “The ball’s in your court”, “I’m going for broke”, and—one from the military—“It’s all FUBAR, man”.
            When FBI analyst, Jake Bernstein, in my sexy spy-thriller, A BODYGUARD OF LIES, gazes at the medieval-era Iron Maiden torture chamber in the dungeon at Cardiff Castle, he reflects on man’s inhumanity to man, and then thinks immediately of his German-Jewish grandfather’s survival guilt. He thinks outloud and, in a moment of spontaneous candor, shares his grandfather’s suffering with Meg, the grand-daughter of the woman he’s investigating. In the next moment, he covers his embarrassment by seizing and kissing her.  A moment of vulnerability takes a more aggressive, sexual turn. Men’s rule: Never show your weaknesses.
            In another scene, by-the-book Bernstein crosses the line and risks his career by becoming sexually involved with Meg, but only after confirming in his own mind Meg’s innocence. He rationalizes his involvement with the needs of his investigation, but soon assumes the role of protector for both the target—the grandmother—and the target’s grand-daughter. Jake shows, not by words of affection, but by action alone his feelings for Meg. That his investigation has been compromised creates a moral and practical dilemma for Jake, which he deals with in his own inimitable way. His lonely search for love supercedes the need for justice, but only temporarily. Ultimately, Jake turns things around. Justice does prevail in the end, but not in the way some might expect or hope.
            Surliness, cynicism and sarcasm are all accepted male attributes, especially in tough “alpha” males. From the lone gunslinger to the “Mission Impossible” stoical action hero, the alpha male feels, suffers, but never complains. Especially not to females. He might be flawed, drink or smoke too much, pick the wrong woman, or put himself in life-threatening situations, but HE NEVER COMPLAINS and NEVER CRIES. Remember an incredulous Tom Hanks exhorting his female baseball players, “There’s no crying in baseball!”?  There are unspoken mottos of machismo among men: NO CRYING EVER.  TAKE IT LIKE A MAN. WALK LIKE A MAN. TOUGHEN UP AND STAND TALL.  Those attitudes are deep-seated and intrinsic to a male’s psyche. My seven year-old grandson already has incorporated those mottos into his outlook and behavior, and the male role models in his life are sensitive, educated, verbally gifted men. Somehow, through osmosis of cultural mores, little boys learn what is necessary to WALK LIKE A MAN.
            “Defending the Caveman”, a one-man comedy show, reminded me recently of the male mindset and male speech. Men tend to get confused when women are verbose. Like their canine counterparts, they look for tone of voice and body language because they know that women don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say. Look at classic passive-aggressive power struggles between men and women. Men have difficulty arguing back, so they are more inclined to switch to passive-aggressive mode. They don’t like taking orders from a woman, and so if a woman nags a man to be home by five o’clock sharp, you can bet he’ll find something to do until five-thirty. Passive-aggression is a man’s stock in trade. Or he’ll take the opposite stance and just tell you to “fuck off”.
            As a rule, however, men tend to clean up their language when in mixed-gender company, and that’s one of the main appeals of men-only clubs and teams. In such an environment, they can blow off steam, scratch themselves, belch outloud, insult each other with “dickhead” and “butt-wipe” and laugh. And still remain good buddies.  Imagine women going up to their girlfriends with a greeting like “Hi, fatty” or “Still wearing that old, ratty shirt?” That’d be the end of that friendship. With men, such insults are just friendly talk, a sign of good-humored male-aggression and tolerance. Listen in on a men-only poker game. Or go see the musical, “Jersey Boys”.  There’s a reason why men loved that musical but hated “Mama Mia”.
            Listen to men when they don’t realize a woman is around. Very hard to do because their sexual antennae always lets them know when a female is nearby or within earshot. But if you can avoid being detected, just tune in to them and listen with an open mind to their speech. It’s hilarious and, for a woman writer, quite an education. Go ahead. Do it. You’ll see what I mean.