Z Is For…

ImageWell, we made it to the end of the A to Z Blog Challenge  and I’m glad to say I made it. I blogged faithfully each day, but now I have zilch to say. The letter “Z” doesn’t impress me much. I can’t think of anything remotely interesting to say about it. It’s cold outside again, and I’ve zipped the zipper on my jacket. Here it is the last day of April, and there isn’t a single leaf or flower on a tree-zilch.

What could I say about “Z”? I could talk about zebras in zoos, but what could I say that hasn’t been said? I could mention Zoe and Zac, but do the names mean anything to you? Zippo used to be a popular name in lighters, but with smoking being less popular than ever, and like the Zeppelin, it seems a pointless topic. I could talk about the “Z” in the Bible. the tax collector Zacchaeus who dined with Jesus, but who wants to hear about another tax man in April? I could talk about zero, but unless there are a few of them on my next royalty check, they don’t mean much either. I could zigzag around this topic for hours, but I’m just not in the zone, and unless Zeus sends me a muse, it isn’t going to get any better. So, for “Z” I have zilch, zip, nada, nothing. And on that note, have a great day.  Don’t forget to check out the last of the A to Z Blog Challenge  entries. 



Look Who Dropped By Today: Ana Blaze

My guest this morning is Ana Blaze, here to tell us about her relaunch of The Best Man. Look for your chance to win at the bottom of the post. 

You can’t keep a good man down.

You certainly can’t keep THE BEST MAN down!

I’m excited to announce the relaunch of The Best Man by Ana Blaze. Back and better than ever with a fabulous new cover, The Best Man is a humorous, Imagecontemporary romance about bad first impressions and undeniable chemistry.

Available now in e-book or audiobook! The Best Man is a steamy 

Contemporary Romance Novella.

About the Book:

Beth Chase is too busy planning perfect weddings to worry about the lack of action in her own love life. But if she was looking for a man, she wouldn’t be looking at Colin Pratt. Her boss swears that Best Man Colin is a quiet scholar and science fiction writer who couldn’t possibly cause a fuss at his own brother’s wedding. He’s clearly never met the man in question.

Snarky, sexy and more than a little inebriated, Colin is the final obstacle between Beth and the last perfect wedding she needs to make partner. Of course, when she helps him into a taxi at the end of the night she has no idea that he’s only just begun to poke holes in her professional exterior. Colin might have the skills to seduce a romance professional, but can he convince her that he’s the best man to share her happy ever after?

Buy links:  

Amazon.com     Barnes & Noble.com   Goodreads

Excerpt from The Best Man:

Colin was right; she let him take her to dinner. He wanted to call and have a limo pick them up, but Beth insisted on driving. She did let him pick the restaurant from a list of suggestions.

They were seated at a very nice Italian place with an old stone fireplace and a dozen small round tables covered by pristine white cloths. Classical music played quietly, allowing for the possibility of private conversations.

Colin smiled at her from across the small table. “You look lovely.”

“You already said that.”

“It’s still true.”

 “Thank you. You look rather handsome yourself.”

“Wait until you see me without any clothes. I’ll blow your mind.”

She bit her lip to keep from chuckling too loudly. “I have seen you without your clothes on.”

He nodded. “That’s right. How did that go over again?” His head dipped to the side and studied her.

“I was under the impression you knew how to behave in public as long as you weren’t dosed with Xanax and the entire contents of the courtesy bar. Should I have prepared a list of appropriate dinner topics for you?”

“Ah, like the rain in Spain? No worries, love. If I have learned anything from television we are now expected to surreptitiously survey the couples around us and guess at their lives.”

Beth giggled. “Is that so?”

“Definitely. Take this lovely couple to our right.” He inclined his head in the direction of a grey-haired woman who was arguing with the white-haired man across from her. “Oh. Don’t look directly at them! Sneakiness is an essential part of this mating ritual. So, what do you think, first date or high-priced escort?”

Charmed and feeling playful, she leaned closer. “No way. Clearly, they’re spies. Only they work for enemy organizations. Twenty-five years ago they met on an assignment that involved seducing each other and accidentally fell in love. Now they meet in secret once a year in honor of the life they couldn’t have because of their duty to their respective groups.” She sat back in her chair and grinned.

“That’s good.” Colin nodded. “Damn, that’s brilliant. You must go on a lot of dates because you are very good at this game.”

 She nodded to a young couple across the room. “Go ahead. Try again.”

He nodded. “Cause a distraction so they don’t see me looking.” He glanced over at them quickly and then back. “Challenging.”

“If you’re not up for it …”

Colin held up his hands. “I didn’t say that. I’m just suggesting that successful completion of this mission should allow me access to the next level.”

“The next level of what?”

“Us. I want to know your middle name, at least one honestly embarrassing story, and I want to be in your bedroom tonight.”

Grinning, she shrugged. “Deal. Impress me.”

“This is their third first date.”

Beth raised an eyebrow.

“Hear me out, love. Their first, first date went horribly awry. He made an utter fool of himself but knew immediately that she was the only girl for him. Seeing no other option he obviously created a vessel for time travel and went back to try again. Their second date went only slightly better, so he is trying a third time in hopes that she will agree to go out with him again.”

“Do you think she’s going to say yes tonight?”

His eyes softened when they met hers. “I hope so. But if she doesn’t he’ll keep trying until she does.”

“He does seem persistent — what, with the whole time machine thing.”

“He has to be. He’s never fallen for a woman quite so hard before, and first impressions are very difficult to override.”

Beth nodded. “My middle name is Rose.”

“That’s … My mother was named Rose.” His voice took on a wistful note.

 “If another man told me that I’d be sure it was a pickup line.”

He smirked. “And it no doubt would be. All other men are total scum. You should give up dating them completely.”

She rolled her eyes. “What kind of stuff do you write? You write, don’t you? You said that last night.”

He stared at her for a moment before responding. “How do you feel about poetry?”

Her lips twitched. “You write poems. Poems?”

“Of course not.” He shook his head. “Only total saps write poetry. I write manly guides to … manliness, and also … motorcycles.”

“So that’s a yes on the poetry? I thought you said something about short stories.”

He sighed. “I write, in general, everything. The poetry is the worst. I’m complete rubbish at it, but I like it the best. I also write short stories — generally in the science fiction genre. I have one entirely un-publishable novel and a few more unfinished, but almost equally unlikely to find an audience.”

“Tell me one of your poems.”

He leaned across the table. “No.”

Beth leaned in and dropped a sweet kiss on his mouth, smiling as she sat back again. “I’m glad I came out with you tonight.” She was having fun, nearly too much fun given their temporary status. The air sparked between them. 

He grinned and sat back in his chair. “I am too, Beth. But, I’m still not going to recite any of my poetry.”

“Fair enough, though I’ll bet hearing one would have gotten me all … hot for you.”

Colin snorted. “Doubtful. Besides, we both know you just changed the subject so that you could get out of telling me your embarrassing story.”

Beth nodded to the waitress as she placed their food on the table. Colin gave the woman a quick smile and said, “Thank you.”

“I don’t have any embarrassing stories.” She twirled some pasta around her fork, brought it to her mouth, and groaned in appreciation. Colin was smirking at her. Beth blushed. “This is really good.”

“I’m very happy to see you enjoying it.”

 “This whole don’t-mind-me-I’m-just-a-shy-book-guy thing is totally an act, isn’t it?”

“Book guy?”

“You know what I mean. The nice manners and excellent vocabulary come in handy by getting girls to lower their shields, and then you swoop in with all the innuendo and … touching.”

“Ah, yes. You’ve got me. I’m a dreadful rogue.”

About the Author: 

ImageAna lives just outside Washington, DC, with her very supportive husband and three rather demanding cats. She loves the ocean, Indian food, Ikea, and cooking. Before settling down as a writer, Ana was an elementary school teacher, a preschool teacher, a camp counselor, a waitress, a research assistant, a canoe tour guide, and one glorious summer during college she spent eight hours a day placing stickers inside library books so they would be part of the fancy new automated checkout system. She won’t say which job she liked best.

 Ana is a member of Romance Writers of America.

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Y Is For Yellow

ImageIt’s come down to the second last letter of the alphabet. Today’s A to Z Blog Challenge  blog entry is about the letter “Y”. I thought I’d pick a lighthearted topic today and blog about the word “yellow”.  Most of us associate the word with the color, but there are literally hundreds of shades and variations of yellow, and each has a fancy designer name associated with it. We have sunshine, maize, mustard. lemon, just to name a few. 

In Color Psychology, “yellow inspires original thought and inquisitiveness. Yellow is creative from a mental aspect, the color of new ideas, helping us to find new ways of doing things. It is the practical thinker, not the dreamer. Yellow is the best color to create enthusiasm for life and can awaken greater confidence and optimism. The color yellow loves a challenge, particularly a mental challenge.” If you’d like to know more, check out yellow.

Yellow is also the color of spring, at least it is in Eastern Canada, where the dandelions bloom wildImage all over the place. The flowers look nice for a short period of time–that is unless they take over your lawn and turn it into weed heaven. There are other yellow spring flowers I far prefer– daffodils, tulips, yellow irises and crocuses, but the dandelions last the longest, and my allergies hate them with a passion.

Yellow is a color associated with the heat and the sun. It’s usually the color of happy faces and good times, but yellow, like many words has a dark side. When things age and fade, especially things that are white, they tend to yellow. This is especially true of teeth. Remember those sweet pearly white baby teeth? It takes time, effort, and bleach to keep them that way as a adult. Everyone likes the sunshine, but no one likes yellow teeth. Back in the sixties, I remember a cute commercial where the native maiden turned away from the big, strong brave because he had yellow teeth. The jingle went,”You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”  I guess bleaching teeth has been around a lot longer than people remember. 

Another negative side of yellow is its connotations of cowardliness. The lion in the Wizard of Oz claims he “ain’t yellow.” The term yellow-belly is an archetypal American phrase originating in England. Apparently, people from the fens were said to have yellow bellies like eels–not a popular thing I bet. 

Finally, and probably the least pleasant aspect of yellow is a form of xenophobia I blogged about yesterday.  The Yellow Peril, sometimes referred to as Yellow Terror  was a term which originated in the late 1800’s to describe Chinese immigrants who came to work in Canada and the United States. Many worked in homes as servants—who can forget Hop Sing, the cook on Bonanza? Many of these men were responsible for the construction of the trans-continental railways in both countries. Referred to as coolies, they were treated abominably by people in both countries.  The Tunnels of Moose Jaw will explain what was definitely not one of the brighter moments in Canadian history. The  fear that the mass immigration of Asians would threaten so-called white wages and standards of living was unfounded and irrational, but fear makes people do terrible things.

The term was later associated with the Japanese during the mid-20th century, due to Japanese military expansion, and eventually extended to all Asians of East and Southeast Asian descent. During WWII, the fear the Japanese  would attack and wage wars with western societies and eventually destroy them was rampant. Look how we responded to that threat. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some people say the  Orient won in the long run–how many of us drive Japanese cars, own Japanese technology or wear clothing made in China. Have our cultures been destroyed because of it? Not really, changed , yes, because many products once made here are made there, but the Yellow Races aren’t top blame for that–corporate greed is. Think about that the next time you go bargain hunting. 

Don’t forget to check out the other belg entries in today’s A to Z Blog Challenge.


PERSONAL OPINION ONLY: Xenophobia–The World Suffers From It

ImageGood morning, we’re definitely down to the short strokes in the A to Z Blog Challenge. Today’s letter is  “X”, not an easy letter to blog about. There’s no point in talking about scientific words like xylem, the woody part of stem of a plant that carries water, or xenon, a gas. There’s little reason to discuss x-ray, a medical procedure we’ve probably all had. Of course there’ s xylophone, another name for a musical instrument simplified from the glockenspiel, an instrument popular in kindergarten rhythm bands around the world. Finally X, XX, XXX, is a common way of designating sizes and movie ratings. 

I’m going to climb up on my soap box this morning and opine. These are my opinions only, endorsed by no one but myself. They are not meant to offend anyone, just supply food for thought. What I’d like to talk about is Xenophobia. What is it? It’s an irrational fear of foreigners and foreign races–but not just fear. It includes a deep-seated contempt as well as hatred for foreign races. We’ve all heard Muslim extremists who swear they won’t rest until every last infidel is dead. No tolerance, no understanding allowed. Sadly, it’s what’s at the bottom of all the problems plaguing humanity. Xenophobia has morphed into an ideological war where God, Allah, Yahweh, or whatever name you chose to give the deity, has been blamed for this all encompassing hatred. 

Muslims, Christians, Jews have a great many things in common. They all honor the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, also called the Books of Moses, and yet, for reasons I have never understood, hate one another. Terrible crimes have been committed in the name of religion–including the Crusades and the Inquisition, the witch trials that raged across Europe and in America. Sadly people hate others because of the color of their skin,and the beliefs they have. The Holocaust is an example of xenophobia at its worst, as was the genocide in Rwanda, the atrocities in Bosnia and Yugoslavia,  Apartheid in South Africa, the Klu Klux Klan’s torture of African-Americans in America–even the circus freak shows of the 19th and 20th centuries where the “Wild Man of Borneo” and “African Pygmies” were on display in human zoos are examples of this disease.  During WWII, thousands of Japanese American and Canadians were locked up in camps no better than concentration camps  for the simple reason they had Japanese ancestry.  Sadly we see the potential for this happening again in the recent Russian”Ukraine difficulties in the Crimea.

Today, for good or ill, racial profiling is a prominent factor in everything from traffic stops for violations and searches in airports. Deep down, many of us know it’s wrong to treat people like that, but fear is irrational. Unfortunately, fanatics have shown us they will go to any lengths to achieve their ends–innocent people are simply collateral damage. Nine-eleven was proof of that. Our world is not a safe place to be. It’s hard to argue with irrational beliefs and fears. I’m guilty of being xenophobic myself at times. I get decidedly uncomfortable when a woman in a burka approaches me in a store or on the street. I don’t understand why she would even wear such a thing, but my fear stems from the fact that i don’t know who’s under that cowl and mask–and I’m pretty damn sure it isn’t Batman.  Hollywood has probably contributed to my fears, but what can I say? Will this fear ever go away? I don’t know. In the meantime, I’ll do what I can to stem my fear, to try and be tolerant of others, but it can’t be one-sided. I can try to stem my fear and mistrust, but there’s nothing I can do to stem theirs. Let’s hope, someday, we can all live together in love, peace, and understanding, but we have a very long way to go before that’ll happen. 

Don’t forget to check out the other entries in the A to Z Blog Challenge.


Door Closed? Open the Window.

Today’s blog has nothing to do with the A to Z Blog Challenge. I thought it would be a good time to clear the air about my writing career, and where things sit for me at the moment. Many of you know by now that I’ve lost not one but two publishers in the last six weeks. Entranced shut its door and put the book I had with them back into the “to be sold” pile. When Front Porch Romance announced that it was shutting its doors due to the publishers ill health, it left six books without a home–two of them consigned to the “to be sold” pile and four others tossed into limbo.

At this moment in time, while the  ebook versions are no longer being sold, there are  paperback copies of Holiday MagicThe Perfect Choice and The Captain’s Promise available. Once the copies are gone, the books, as they sit now, will be gone forever. I’m not sure what I will do with these books. Will I self-publish them, or will I look for a publisher willing to reissue them? I’m not sure. Either way, I will definitely do something with them before the end of the year. Most likely, I will revise them and reissue them under new titles, so watch for that. I promise to make enough changes by adding information that if you bought the first book, you’ll buy the new one just to see what’s new.

I do want to thank everyone who purchased one of my FPR books and provided reviews or had me as a guest on their blogs. While it hurts to know these books will no longer be available, it reassures me to know that while they loved, they were enjoyed and loved by those who read them. They will continue to be displayed on Goodreads because, on Goodreads, once a book has been published, it never disappears. That’s reassuring to me because it lets me remember that people values them. I will take note of the comments made and use them to make improvements to the story and satisfy my harshest critics. 

In the meantime, I’ll continue to write and release books with my other publishers–Sweet/Secret Cravings and Crimson Romance. Fire Angel, In Plain Sight and Just For The Weekend are available wherever ebooks are sold. Grand Slam, my Misty Matthews co-effort, is available too, for those who like a quick read–at only 16,000 words, it’s a snippet of a story, complete in itself, but it’s only a moment in time. It’s a novella, a short story. Come July 14, 2014, Echoes of the Past will be available too.

Being an author is a life of ups and downs. At the moment, I’m down, but I won’t stay that way. I wish Madison Connor improved health and happiness. To all my FPR and Entranced fellow authors, I wish success in whatever path you choose to follow. Don’t give up your dreams of becoming an author. That bestseller may be the next book you write. 

Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How

ImageGood morning, on another dismal, cold, wet Saturday morning, the last one in April. Let’s hope May brings better weather. My  A to Z Blog Challenge topic for today consists of the five w’s–who, what, where, when. why, and their buddy, how. These six questions are the backbone of any good story. No matter what kind of story you’re writing, answering these questions is absolutely essential.

As an English teacher, among the things I taught were the elements of plot–setting, initial incident, rising action, crisis, climax, falling action, and resolution. Students would read a short story or a novel, and find all of these elements so we could study the piece of literature. While I’m sure the estates of countless writers thrive on the royalties they receive from all the books sold to schools, colleges, and universities, I wonder sometimes if the authors meant for their works to be analysed that way. I think of my own novels for example. While there is definitely too many hot scenes in Just For The Weekend, both Fire Angel and In Plain Sight are clean enough to be read in school, but would they stand the test of a teacher tearing into them? I’d like to think so. There are more than enough examples of figurative language in them, I’d like to think my characters are well developed–at least my critics think so, and, there are enough sub-plots going on to keep everyone happy. If my books were to be the books studied, how would they stand up?  In the plot outline, would they even make it past the setting and initial incident? 

ImageI decided I’d put Fire Angel to the test by examining it the way I did as an English teacher, and I decided I’d share some of that with you by answering the 5’w’s and the h, without giving the story away.

WHO? Main characters:  Alexis Michaels, fire investigator; Jake McKenzie, profiler 

WHAT? (Initial Incident) People have died because of an arsonist. Jake and Alexis have to stop the arsonist

WHERE? in the town of Paradise, Ontario

WHEN? modern day, late November

WHY? The Fire Angel uses arson as a weapon to kill people. Each fire he sets has a higher body count than the previous one. He seems to be targeting specific individuals, but a lot of innocent people are dying too.

HOW? The Fire Angel kills using different sophisticated arson methods. Alexis and Jake must figure out how he does it and why. Once they know when he’ll strike again and where, they can find him and stop him before who knows how many others will die. 

Well, I guess I covered my bases, and if by some miracle, the book ever ends up as a teachable, I know the kids won’t be whining, but it doesn’t have … Want to read more? Fire Angel is available from most ebook distributors and Amazon. Fire Angel

Check out the other  A to Z Blog Challenge entries. See you all back here on Monday. 

Vision: Making a Blind Character “See”

ImageWell, we’re winding down to the end of this marathon blog. Today’s letter on the  A to Z Blog Challenge  is the letter “V” as in vision. When I wrote Fire Angel, I did a great deal of research not only on fire and arson, but also on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It was while reading about PTSD that I discovered Conversion Disorder, the new terminology for psychosomatic illnesses. As a teacher, I’d learned over the years people could indeed make themselves sick, and no matter how real the illness seemed, when the tests results came in, there was nothing wrong with them. That made no sense. If there was nothing wrong with Mary, why was she sick to her stomach so often? 

I’m old. The times I grew up in are vastly different than those we have today. Children didn’t have the plethora of rights they have now. For the most part, they did what they were told–they went to school, did their chores and homework, played outside, were polite, and if they wanted adventure, they read or went to the movies. I was 10 before we even got a television set, and there were only four channels. I saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show on a 14 inch screen, in black and white–no stereo sound system. 

In those days, you had to be really sick, aka at death’s door, to miss school. If Mom didn’t think you were sick enough, she’d pack you off to school with the admonition, “it’s all in your head.” 9 out of 10 times, you made it through the day just fine. Staying busy usually helped and when you got home, if you still felt sick, you were sent to bed. Chances were you’d be right as rain in no time. 

It came as quite a shock to realize she might have been right. I think back to Mary and realize her tummy troubles always presented themselves when she has a  test of some sort. We have a name for that now. Her upset stomach was an avoidance mechanism. But, she was really sick–I witnessed her retching. Well, according to Conversion Disorder, a person can exhibit physical symptoms of a disease even if they don’t have it. In other words, it’s all in their heads

People with Conversion Disorder can have the same symptoms people with the illness have–they can be sick as if they have ulcers, limp, as if they have sore bones or muscles, and even have asthma attacks. They can be blind, deaf, even fully or partially paralysed, and there is no physiological reason for the disability. So, what causes it? Fear, guilt, anxiety, and other emotional issues are to blame. People with Conversion Disorder can be cured, but it takes patience and understanding. They need to realize what’s making them the way they are, and want to get passed it. 

ImageIn In Plain Sight, my hero Nick suffers from Conversion Disorder brought on by deep seated guilt–misplaced guilt at that. Nick is seriously injured in the car accident which killed his wife. He recovers from his injuries in every way but one–he’s blind. Doctors run tests, but nothing can account for his blindness. Nick refuses to believe its “all in his head.”

The challenge in writing the book was in giving Nick vision–not curing his conversion disorder, but in letting him “see” although he was blind. As a writer I rely heavily on description, but where Nick was involved, I had to rely only on 4 of the 5 senses–taste, touch, smell, and hearing. He couldn’t see the roses on the table, but he could smell them, perhaps touch the velvety petals. 

Here’s an excerpt of Nick’s reaction to meeting Mindy. 

Nick sat with his back to the keyboard listening to Misty’s footsteps as she hurried out of the theater. What had just happened? His hand pulsed with heat and energy. He hadn’t imagined that jolt of electricity through his body, the flash of lightning that had illuminated his darkness. He’d been struck mute, unable to utter a sound. He’d shaken more than his fair share of hands, and no one had ever affected him that way. Had she felt it, too? She’d sounded flustered before she’d left so abruptly.

Without sight, it was harder to judge someone’s initial reaction, but she’d let him hold her hand a second longer than necessary, and he’d felt her pulse race almost as fast as his. Hell, he was still breathing heavy, and all he’d done was shake her hand. He stared into the black void in front of him as he had every waking moment of his life since the accident. He’d come to hate the blackness that surrounded him, but just for a moment tonight, when he’d touched her, there’d been light.

Her voice! She had a wonderful voice, an angel’s voice, the kind of voice that belonged on Broadway, not in some small-town theater production. She must have had vocal training. He hadn’t been kidding; she could out-sing more than half the so-called divas out there today… He continued to listen to her sing because she touched his soul, that part of him he’d thought as dead and lost as his vision.

He wondered fleetingly what she looked like. Her voice had carried into the hall where he’d been standing with Micah before they’d entered the room. He knew from her quirky comments that she must be short since she didn’t think the pink stripes made her look taller. A smile crossed his face at her sense of humor when he remembered the way she’d compared herself first to a cabana and then a clown; he figured that possibly she was on the more voluptuous side, curvier than Becca had been. He had always liked women with a little meat on their bones, but he’d been mesmerized by Rebecca, and it hadn’t been until much later in their relationship that he’d realized what a cruel, self-centered bitch his wife had been.

Interested in knowing more about Nick’s vision? Check it out. In Plain Sight is available at most ebook distributors. It can also be purchased in paperback.  

Kobo   Amazon    Barnes & Nobles  

Don’t forget to visit the other A to Z Blog Challenge entries today.