For the Love of Horses and Books

Do you love horses and enjoy reading about them?

My equine partner is a sweet mare named Corrin Castle, an Irish Sport Horse enjoying retirement at a farm in Ocala, Florida. Below is a picture of us together.

I belong to a group of fantasy/romance writers called the Pen Dames who find horses inspiring, and we include them in our books. Most of us own horses now or rode in the past. Since May is Derby and Preakness month, we decided to celebrate our love of horses by holding a contest with bales of books and buckets of prizes for our readers! The horse name game is fun, the prizes are fantastic, and all the books include horses.

Want to enter? (U.S. residents only) Come on over to my facebook author page and reply to my pinned post there. Contest ends May 15th, so click on the link now:

#horses #fantasyromance

A Love Letter to Libraries

Last night as I pondered what to write for my April blog, I came up with a blank, but my brain worked on it while I was sleeping. I woke this morning thinking of the perfect concept–discussing a pop-up picture book titled, What’s Happening at the Library

The image in my mind was so realistic, I was certain this already existed. So, I searched fifty pages of Amazon offerings containing almost everything (even a pop-up Kama Sutra!) except one about a library. Maybe paper engineers don’t consider libraries interesting enough, but I do, and I bet all the other bookworms will agree. Maybe I should create it.

This wouldn’t be just for children, but something for everyone to enjoy. With its intricately cut, detailed, three-dimensional illustrations on glossy paper, it would feature all the amazing services our libraries provide. Here’s how I envision it:

The first two pages portray rows of wooden shelves packed with intriguing hardcovers and paperbacks alongside overstuffed leather armchairs perfect for comfortable perusing. A twelve-inch, bronze, metallic, raised-relief floor globe in a cherry wood frame stands in a bay window surrounded by bright red, cushioned benches for children to sit and explore the world. Large windows leading to a high ceiling allow sunlight to suffuse the room. A smiling librarian at a circular check-out desk completes the scene.

In the next tableau, computer monitors and keyboards, each with an attached mouse, rest on high-sided metal desks with task chairs. Printers, crisp white paper, and reference materials await the eager hands of youngsters and adults.

Following are meeting rooms where groups learn new skills or discuss issues. In others, a volunteer reads to children or teaches crafts.

Authors exhibit stacks of their new releases, reading excerpts and signing copies for patrons.

Displays of local artist’s works; performances by community dancers and entertainers; mentors helping students with literacy, math, languages, and other courses are all shown.

My book would be immense! I probably won’t ever craft it, but that’s all right. We don’t need this to tell us what’s going on in these magical sanctuaries. We can walk in the door and see for ourselves.

April 4 – 10 was National Library Week. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep love for our libraries. From the small building in my hometown where I checked out stories as a child, to the large, modern structure in the county where I live now, these institutions have been, and will always be, enthralling places for me.

Over many years, I watched them evolve into true community centers that are welcoming havens for all people. Libraries opened up the universe for me, taking me to locations I never thought I would visit, and domains where I could only go in my imagination. They ignited my creativity, and I will always be grateful.

Would you tell me your favorite story of how a library has helped you? Reply to my post on the Pen Dames blog:

I’ll collect all the responses and send them with this blog to my local library. I will also include them in posts on social media (anonymously if you wish). Feel free to share! Let’s show our library staff how much we appreciate them!

This post was originally published in the Pen Dames blog


Win a “Pot Full of Gold”

March is a wonderful month! Springtime, St. Patrick’s Day, green everywhere, and we all get to be Irish for a day. To celebrate this amazing season, the Pen Dames are holding a Mega Contest for Lucky Leprechauns. We invite everyone to play, but only U.S. residents are eligible to win. Apologies to our international readers, but shipping costs are prohibitive.

To Enter the Contest: 

Go to the Pen Dames Blog and reply to the post there with your Lucky Leprechaun name. 

The list of prizes is below. (We don’t literally have a pot of gold to give away. If we had such a thing, we’d keep it for ourselves.) But we do have some fantastic goodies lined up. At the end of the month, we’ll draw one random winner and send the person enough gifts to fill up that mythical cauldron.

From Loretta Rogers:

  • The Witching Moon ~ Ebook
  • Isabelle and the Outlaw ~ Readable PDf on CD
  • Magnetic Refrigerator ClipSpiral Bound Note Pad

From Flossie Benton Rogers:

  • Time Singer eBook
  • Irish Connemara Marble Wishing Stone
  • $3 Amazon gift certificate to purchase audio Celtic love song

From Jennifer Taylor:

  • Heartbeat of the Moon Paperback
  • Color Street Nail Polish Strips with Hearts

From Linda Tillis:

  • A Heart for All Time Paperback
  • Handmade Necklace

From Katherine Smits:

  • 3 signed paperback books (Water Dreams, Water Desires, and the combined paperback edition of The Sea Witch and the Mage and Siren Descending)
  • Imperial Jasper Turquoise-color Bracelet
  • Rose Gold Crystal Pen

Check the Pen Dames blog every week this month for pictures of all the prizes, and please tell your friends! We love our readers and hope we’ll get lots of participation.

Valentine’s Day & the Gift of Love

  “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.” ~ Sophocles

On Valentine’s Day most of us think of hearts and flowers and the giddy feeling of meeting The One. Romance is fantastic, but love is about relationships of all kinds and fundamentally involves acceptance.

I’d like to share an excerpt from Siren Descending which examines the different kinds of love. 

The main character, Athenia, is trapped in the underworld after trading herself to the devil in exchange for her lover’s freedom. Though she knows her life, her powers, and her soul are forfeit, she agrees to sing her siren song one last time for the inhabitants of Hades. At first, she only wants to delay her fate for as long as possible, but she ends up giving even the most repellent creatures the gift of love through her song.

Keeping her promise, Athenia gave everything to the song. Opening her soul, she let all her pain, fear, loneliness, and desperation suffuse her voice. At first, the notes jangled with sharp edges and discordances, evidence of her anguish. Minor chords overwhelmed the music with their overtones of alarm. When the inhabitants of the underworld came out to listen, they milled about, whispering, and glaring at one another. At a gesture from Gelion, they stilled, but tension filled the air. Eyes narrowed, Gelion started toward her.

While her deepest emotions took over, she ignored everything else. She sang of her grief for Delphie, for what might have been with Thorne, and for the soon to come loss of her identity. Next, she poured out her longing for the sea and her acceptance of kinship with the Atlantean Nerei, especially Deme, who had been a friend.

She trilled a refrain for the other mages, who would have accepted her, if she hadn’t been so secretive.

When all else drained away, she let the ballad take her back to her first time with Thorne. The moment when she’d realized how perfect he was for her played like a movie in her mind. She crooned her love for him. So long as he survives and goes on to lead a happy life, I can tolerate all this.

The pure notes echoed around them, and the denizens of the underworld stood with arms around each other, swaying in rhythm to her music, staring at her as though hypnotized. 

Three-headed Cerberus rolled on his back, whining through all his mouths. 

After the harpy landed beside him, she reached over and rubbed his belly. No one moved away from the winged creature this time, though her stench rolled through the area in an almost palpable haze.

Staring at Athenia intently, Gelion stood behind the crowd. Clear-eyed, he didn’t appear mesmerized like the others. However, the corners of his lips turned up, and he tapped his foot.

As long as I’m singing, he won’t make me have sex with him. A vision of him naked and jamming himself inside her made her stomach heave. Worse, he’ll make me enjoy being raped, long for more, and beg him not to stop. She shuddered.

Momentarily, her song shrieked into a register so high human ears probably ached. The demons clenched their claws, some digging talons into boulders, scraping long gouges out of the rock. Growling, Cerberus shook his head. Then, he snapped at the harpy, who snatched her hand out of reach of his jaws.

Can’t let my fear stop me. Must face this with as much dignity as I can summon up. With an effort, she brought her voice back to the pleasing range and added a hint of hope. Not for me since I’m doomed. For these poor creatures. Maybe this moment of solidarity will be all they ever experience, but this small amount of peace is my gift to them. For once, I can offer something to someone else without needing or wanting repayment. Besides, they aren’t the reason I’m here.

Everyone settled down. Now, her voice strained to reach the high, pure notes, and lost some clarity. I never used my siren ability so long or with so much emotion before, so I won’t last much longer. When my voice dies, Gelion will come for me, and that will be the end of me, too.

Sadness threatened again, but she refused to give in to despair. For as long as I can, I’m going to focus on joy, even in difficult circumstances. All I want now is to be fully present for every moment of my precious life while I possess free will. Though my time is almost over, I’ll make the most of every second.

At the top of her aria, her voice cut out. She lost a few notes, but not enough to end the enthrallment of the crowd. To preserve her vocal cords for as long as possible, she lowered her range. A siren with no voice. How ironic, I’m morphing into a Disney character.

Time passed. How long has it been, hours? Can’t keep on more than a few more minutes.

From the depths of her soul, Athenia poured every form of love into a haunting chorale.

Philia, the deep connection between comrades in arms, who are loyal and willing to sacrifice for each other. Though this was partly what I felt for Thorne, I realize now I care so much more for him.

Ludus, playful love or affection. Not as serious as Philia, but important to help us remember we’re not alone in our mortal condition, and we can make connections with many people, including those different from us. Like when Bathin helped me.

Philautia, or love of self. Through all this, I discovered I’m not a horrible person. Of course, I was misguided to think I needed to protect myself from everyone, even Thorne. Yet, though I did some awful things, I’m not bad. I care about myself and want to live, but it’s too late now. At least, I figured this out before the end.

Eros, or sexual passion. What I felt for Thorne all along, what I thought was the most important kind of love, but it’s not. Romance is wonderful when combined with friendship and affection, and when both lovers care about themselves, but sex isn’t everything and is empty without the other dimensions.

Pragma, or longstanding love. The pain of loss in her chest increased. This is the type of love I’ll never experience with Thorne.

Agape, the selfless love, which encompasses all people. This is what I offer you today. She sent agape to every creature assembled, even Gelion. He’s still part of the universe and needs whatever caring anyone can spare for him. Odd, to pity someone so powerful, but I do now. In these final moments, I understand so much more than I ever did before.

The rasp in her voice became huskiness. Then a whisper. Finally, she stopped. I’m done. There’s nothing left to do or say, no way to fight the inevitable any longer. Strangely at peace, she bowed her head.

Through the silent throng, Gelion marched toward her. None made a move. All of Hell’s occupants sat as if turned to stone.

Thank you for joining me. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. This post was first published on the Pen Dames blog. Please come on over and join us for more wonderful posts from my fabulous colleagues.

Join Me for a Choose Your Own Adventure PNR Micro-Story

Like me, many of you probably stayed home on New Year’s Eve and quietly watched 2020 exit. While I believe everyone is happy to see that dumpster fire end, we missed having a rousing party. So, I thought in this post, I’d give you a chance to stage a bash in your imagination.

I call this a Choose Your Own Adventure Paranormal Romance Micro-Story. That’s because you get to pick the characters and decide what happens and because it’s short, only one paragraph. Even so, there are lots of possible combinations you can use to create the fete of your dreams. I hope you have fun!

Let’s get this shebang started! Pick one item from each of the six categories below and insert your choice next to the corresponding number in the story. Use the prompts or just pick the one you like best. That’s it. Easy peasy and you have your unique shindig.

  1. Your favorite color: (Heroine/Hero)

Blue: Queen/King

Red: Billionaire

Green: Scottish Highlander

Purple: Motorcycle Gang Leader

Yellow: Pirate

Orange: Movie Star

Pink: Sports Star

Gold: War Hero

Silver: Famous Novelist

Other: Superhero

2. Your Favorite Beverage: (Love Interest)

Water: Griffin

Coffee: Unicorn

Tea: Ogre

Juice: Fairy

Soda: Elf

Wine: Mermaid/Merman

Beer: Werewolf

Whiskey: Kelpie

Rum: Demon

Vodka: Witch

Tequila: Vampire

Other: Centaur

 3. The first number on your street address. Includes postal code. If no number, use 5: (Villain)

0. A Rival

1. An Enemy

2. An Ex

3. A Jealous person

4. A False Friend

5. Your Boss

6. An Evil Twin

7. A Random Stranger

8. A Crazy Neighbor

9. A Drunken Co-worker

4. Your Zodiac sign: (Conflict)

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18): Picking a Fight

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20): Telling their Secret

Aries (March 21 – April 19): Stealing their Money

Taurus (April 20 – May 20):  Poisoning their Drinks

Gemini (May 21 – June 21):  Getting them arrested

Cancer (June 22 – July 22):   Kidnapping them

Leo (July 23 – August 22):    Spreading lies about them

Virgo (August 23 – September 22): Casting a spell on them

Libra (September 23 – October 23): Shooting at them

Scorpio (October 24 – November 21): Trying to break them up

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21): Starting a fire

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19): Challenging them to a duel

5. The first letter of your pet’s name. (Action) No pet? Use a friend or family member’s pet name or select M.

A. Escape to a land in another dimension

B.   Hide in a magic trunk

C.   Change their identities

D.   Pay a fortune for ransom

E.   Find the key to an invisible lock

F.  Tame the Minotaur

G.  Outwit a rogue A.I.

H.   Sacrifice their most treasured possession

I.   Rescue a changeling from the fey world

J.   Learn a government top secret

K.   Stop a psychic killer

L.   Prevent a war between two kingdoms

M.   Discover a cure for a terrible disease

N.   Transform a frog with a kiss

O.   Acquire a rare, magical jewel

P.   Bind a demon

Q.  Develop and Drink a magic potion

R.   Spin thread into gold

S.   Make a deal with the devil

T.   Persuade a dragon to give up his hoard

U.   Pretend to be enemies

V.   Defeat an evil overlord

W.  Find and Raise Atlantis

X.   Shoot cupid with his own arrow

Y.   Swim with crocodiles

Z.   Appease a poltergeist

6. Favorite time of Day: (Resolution)

 Morning: Find the answer

Noon: Overcome the problem

Afternoon: Negotiate a compromise

Evening: Manage to get away

Night: Defeat the enemy

Here’s the template:

A (1) meets a (2) at a New Year’s Eve costume party. They are instantly attracted to one another but (3) causes a problem by (4). In order to be together, they have to (5) by the stroke of midnight. When they (6), they achieve their Happily Ever After.

To kick things off, I’ll start. Here’s my story: A (Queen) meets a (Merman) at a New Year’s Eve costume party. They are instantly attracted to one another but (an enemy) causes a problem by (challenging them to a duel). In order to be together, they have to (change their identities) by the stroke of midnight. When they (negotiate a compromise), they achieve their Happily Ever After.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and read your stories. You can add them in the comments. 

Thank you so much for playing!

This post was first published on the Pen Dames Blog.

Want a longer story? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you Siren of the Deep which is only available for subscribers.

We Can All Be Butterflies!

Life changes during a pandemic. My deepest sympathies are with those who lost loved ones, or who are dealing with illness at this time. Even if the virus has not personally touched us, we have all been forced to adjust. Whether we self-isolate for protection, lose our favorite restaurant, or miss new movies and travel opportunities, we all experience upheaval in our daily routines.

My husband and I haven’t gone out to eat, visited friends or family, shopped in a store, or been to the dentist since March. So far, we are lucky and remain healthy, but we miss our children and grandchildren and being able to do normal activities without wondering if we are risking our lives. We don’t go to the post office. We pick up medications from the drive-through window at the pharmacy. We get all our groceries through curbside delivery. We watch church services on-line. The list is endless.

However, I refuse to give in to depression and anxiety. One day this will end, and I want to be ready.

During this time of isolation, I take inspiration from the butterfly. A universal symbol of renewal and beauty, she starts life as a poor, unsuspecting caterpillar who, without warning, loses everything.

Biological imperatives force her into a silk chrysalis, where her entire body dissolves and rebuilds her into a new creature. When she emerges with vibrantly colored wings, she must learn a new way to live and how to fly.

I embraced this new lifestyle by beginning an intensive exercise program. I also finished writing my fifth novel, with a central motif of a butterfly, and submitted it for publication. (Release will be in 2021.) To celebrate, my husband bought me a lovely butterfly necklace.

Being a butterfly means going on a journey into ourselves which turns us into a new creation ready for a different phase of life. It means taking the opportunity to push past boundaries which stopped us in the past. It means having faith that life can change again, and maybe it will be more beautiful than we imagined.

We can all be butterflies! Find transformation within this unplanned chrysalis, and when you emerge, you’ll discover your own gorgeous wings.

Thank you for reading this blog. I hope you enjoyed it. Please let me know in the comments about your experiences with the pandemic. I’d love to hear from you.

What the Heck is a Beta Reader?

Chances are you don’t know what a beta reader is unless you’re a writer or friends with one.

Beta readers are usually the second people to peruse a story after critique groups or partners. Nothing is set in stone, but beta readers often provide their feedback before the novel goes to the editor.

Since they see the book before it is published, they serve a special function by finding plot holes, mistakes, and problems.

Beta readers are not other writers, but people who love books and reading. They tell us the boring parts, the places where they dropped out of the narrative for one reason or another, and many other things.

What qualities do you need? First, it’s important to like the type of work you’ll be evaluating. You’ll bring to the table an awareness of what fans of the genre appreciate. Also, you’ll have more fun with the process.

Being able to finish a book quickly is also helpful. No one expects beta readers to devour the book in a day, but we do prefer to hear from you in a reasonable length of time. Authors are anxious to release their books as soon as possible.

A critical quality is the ability to give honest reactions. We need to know where the work can be improved, and we won’t get mad at you for telling us. Please be specific. Just saying the book was great or terrible isn’t enough. Tell us exactly what you didn’t like and why. We can take it!

What you don’t need is expertise in grammar or punctuation or an eagle eye for spotting typos. Editors and proofreaders address those issues.

What do you get for doing this? You probably won’t get paid in cash. However, you will get the book for free, and your name may be listed on the acknowledgements page. I also give my beta readers paperback copies of the book, bookmarks, and other swag, and take them to lunch or dinner. I treasure my beta readers and treat them like solid gold, because that’s what they’re worth to me.

If you’re asked to beta read for someone, I hope you’ll consider it. It means the author trusts you with their baby before it is completely ready for the world, and they believe you can help them make it better.

Are you already a beta reader? What has the experience been like for you? If you aren’t, are you interested in trying it out or isn’t it for you? Do you have questions about anything I didn’t cover? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

This post was originally published on the Pen Dames blog

Witches and Fae

Fall is the time for witches, fae, and things that go bump in the night! It’s a spooky time when days grow colder and shorter, and the line between reality and possibility thins a bit more each day. If you’re like me and love the otherworldly, celebrate your appreciation of the paranormal. Check out these 83+ books available now on KU. They all look fantastic and I can’t wait to read them myself.

How Do You Create Characters?

Most readers ask out of idle curiosity. Or maybe they’re fans and want to know more about their favorite heroine or hero.

When a storyteller’s family asks that question, they have an agenda.

Here is an actual conversation I had with several people close to me. Most authors I know have had this same discussion.

Me: I wrote a book.

Family: That’s nice.

Me: I found a publisher!

Family: You didn’t write about people you know, did you?

Me: It’s a romance.

Family: But did you include any relatives?

Me: A paranormal romance.

Family: No family?

Me: About mermaids.

Family: But did you—

Me: You’re not in the book!

The truth is, most of the time we don’t know where our characters come from. They may start out with attributes or personality quirks of people we know, but they grow and change and become unique. They are themselves, genuine, if insubstantial.

However, characters can be “real” people (or as I like to call them, the corporeally incarnated).

Like everyone, I’ve been treated badly by some people during my life. When someone wrongs me, I make them a villain in one of my novels. (Disguised, of course.) I don’t know if karma will pay them back in life, but in my stories, bad guys get what’s coming to them. (And I enjoy it.)

Historical figures may play roles in our books. This is tricky because we must research every detail and stick to the facts as much as possible. If we make a mistake, an alert reader will catch it. Every time. Still, some people are so intriguing, we need to tell their story. If the writer happens to be a descendant, sharing the person’s tale with the world is even more compelling.

In Loretta C. Rogers’ newest historical romance, Bitter Autumn, the protagonist, Birdie Mae Dix, was inspired by the author’s ancestor, who was captured by Indians as a child and later escaped. Not only is this fascinating story based on a real person, but Ms. Rogers even has her great-great-grandmother’s diary to learn how this remarkable woman thought and felt.

For more about Bitter Autumn, check out Loretta C. Rogers’ post on the Pen Dames website. Here’s the link:

Where do we get our characters? They show up in many ways, but in case you’re wondering, you probably won’t end up in someone’s book unless you do something extraordinary or piss off a writer.