Monday, December 31, 2007

At Year's End!

2007 is at an end.

It’s been a year of ups and downs, of excitement and sadness, of taking one leap forward and two steps back. In short, it’s been a year like many others.

As far as my writing career goes, I feel as if 2007 was a good year, yet I still have so much more I want to accomplish. That leads me to the time-honored tradition of New Year’s Eve—resolutions!

Most folks make the same resolutions every December 31st—take off weight, stop smoking, eat better, focus on career, etc… You know what I mean. Personally, I try not to be quite so specific. I usually say I want to be happy and health. Now, I’m generally a healthy and happy person, so that’s not asking for much. LOL

This year, I think I’ll take a different approach and get very specific.

I want to cut back on the sugar intake and take off the ten pounds I’ve put on since I’ve started writing full time. Nothing like leaving a physical day job and sitting in a chair at a computer all day to pack the pounds on. I also want to get back to doing yoga at least four days a week. I used to do it all the time. I’m not great at it, but it made me feel better.

Balance. I’ve been trying to find it for a few years now, but it has continued to elude me. Since I work from home, I’m always working. If I’m not working, I feel as if I should be. Gotta love that Protestant Work Ethic and the resulting guilt. NOT! I really need to block out time for exercise and hobbies and fun.

As far as my career goes, I want to plan out this year so I know what I’m doing. I think a lot of writers spend much of their time feeling as if they are trying to catch up or get ahead of projects.

I also want to move this year. We’ve been in the same apartment for a while now and the time has come for a change. I’m feeling the need to shake things up a bit. It’s a daunting thought to have to move—it was much easier when I was younger—but I’m finally ready for it to happen.

All in all, not life-shattering goals, yet goals that are important to me. In the end, I guess that’s all that matters. Everyone’s hopes and dreams are different, but all are valid and important.

So pour the champagne and toast 2007, the year that was, and welcome 2008! Whatever you wish for in the coming year, I hope that you achieve at least some of it. May 2008 bring you health, happiness, and prosperity.

See you next year. :-)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A book and a book reader!

Two exciting things happened this Christmas: I got a Kindle and I have a new book out.

I'm not sure which I'm more excited about.

First let's talk about the book. If Not For You is the story of a business-drive CEO whose life is turned upside down by an independent free spirit who 'accidentally' enters his life.

Accident? Or planned? Max Lerner knew that Layla Whitford was thrown into his path for some reason, but why? What do they have in common? He's a Suit from Tieland and Layla -- Layla is like an act of nature, a tornado who sweeps him up and leaves him breathless. Who wants them to meet and why?

I'll give you one hint: you won't see this one coming. You might suspect who might be involved, but you'll be left shaking your head saying, "Now wait a minute ... isn't that too much of a coincidence? If he met her and ... oh, wait. Now I see. Oh, yeah. Okay. Wow."

At least that's the reaction I got from my critique partners, my editor and others who've read it. {insert smug smile here} I think it's a doozy.

And speaking of doozies: the Kindle. I was drop-jawed surprised when I got that one. My DH heard Jeff Bezos talk about the Kindle on Charlie Rose one night and he bought it the next day. My DH knows that (1) I am a gadget lover and hence would love this gadget and (2) I plan to stay in e-publishing for the long haul since I believe it's the future of publishing.

So .. the Kindle. I have barely scratched its surface, so to speak, but I am impressed. The resolution and ease of use is nice. The possiblities are legion. All I need is the hack to get Cerridwen and other publisher's books to load into it. There's no way I'm sticking with just "Kindle" books ... too limiting. Once I get that hack, look out. My Ebookwise reader may have to retire. Until then, though, I'll have 2 devices that I use.

What a fun Christmas ... gadgets and books.

I are happy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Day After

Good morning, everyone!

I hope you and your family enjoyed Christmas Day. I had a wonderful day. I love the way that life slows down on December 25th and there is nowhere you have to go and nothing you have to do. I spent a lot of time on the phone talking with my family, cooked a big dinner and ate too much, and curled up with my hubby and watched Scrooge. Does it get any better!

Today, we plan to take in a movie at the local theatre. Later we'll eat leftovers. *g*

The best present of the season is the gift of slowing down and taking a moment to remember what is really important in your life. May this holiday season bring you all health and happiness.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Another Reason Why Diet Foods Are Wrong

For years I avoided anything with aspartame in it because the sugar substitute left me with headaches and a weird taste in my mouth. A number of people laughed and told me it didn't do anything negative to them. Well, they're so wrong! Check out the ugly truth about aspartame, folks.

And say no to low-calorie, low-fat food this holiday!

Friday, December 21, 2007

NEVER Thought I Would Say It, But....

I'm totally hooked on a video game! This totally ruins all my "mother moments" when I tell my son to "get off that blasted computer" because he's been gaming too long. Or my daughter to "get up and take the puppies out" in between wild bouts of Kirby Air Ride.

Yes, boys and girls, TJ is hooked on WarCraft. World of WarCraft, to be exact. I haven't been playing all that long, but it's something I started doing so that my son and I could have something that we do together. And we make a great team!

God, but it's become an addiction really FAST! Since it's played online you can check in on friends and group members to get help in completing quests and things like that. And I've seen some of my fellow authors out there, too! For example, Heather Holland is, like, the WarCraft goddess or something! She's awesome! And it's alot of fun. Helps to get my mind off of work (day job) and writing, so I can relax a bit before getting back to it.

Have a vice? Tell the rest of us so we can have an opportunity to pick up more habits (LOL!)


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Woo hoo! Two releases to celebrate!!!!

Book One: Shadow of the Hawk by Judith Rochelle
The Wild Rose Press
The Blurb:
Hawk Riley’s life is in a downward spiral until his truck falls on him and he meets Maggie Devereaux. Maggie has problems of her own. Lots of them. A neighbor is out to destroy her. On the verge of losing her cutting horse ranch, she needs help to prepare for the Wayback Grand Rodeo, her make-it-or-break-it moment. Pursued by a red tailed hawk and haunted by a persistent nightmare, can Hawk help Maggie save Mercy Creek and in doing so, save himself?

The Excerpt
He hauled the jack out of the truck bed, got down beneath the undercarriage and clamped it into place. As he began levering the handle the first fat drops of rain splattered on his battered Resistol hat and dripped onto his hands.
Great. Just damn great. Could anything else possibly go wrong?
He pumped the lever harder, anxious to get the job done. He could feel the eyes of the hawk, still in its circle of surveillance.
A jagged streak of lightning flashed across the graying sky and the heavy boom of thunder rumbled through the air, sounding a lot closer than he’d like. When he cast a look at the darkening sky he saw the hawk circle once then head off into the distance. He knew that with any kind of darkness they immediately sought shelter. To bad he wasn’t as smart as the hawk.
Jocko whinnied and shuffled his hooves restlessly.
“Easy, boy. We’ll be on our way in a minute.”
I hope.
With the jack finally in place, he began the task of removing the lug nuts. He had them about half done when a streak that Hawk swore looked like Thor’s own thunderbolt zapped the air. With the companion roar of thunder even closer, the rain began in earnest, pouring down over him like a waterfall. The water soaked into the ground beneath him, causing the jack to shift slightly.
Just one more damn minute. That’s all. Just one more damn minute.
He worked furiously, the aged equipment balky in his hands. One more lug nut, then another. The dirt beneath him began to shift perilously and he tried to brace against the truck with his legs.
Then the next cloud burst washed away the dirt holding the jack in place, and it slipped, the truck dropping onto Hawk like a granite boulder. Blackness rushed toward him. His last thought, strangely, was of the hawk fiercely guarding his territory. From the distance came the sound of thundering hoof beats.

The Contest
Email me at to enter the contest for a basket of Texas goodies. The winner will be announced January 1.

Book Two: Double Entry by Desiree Holt
Ellora's Cave

The blurb:
Over one too many appletinis, Lauren Henderson created a sexual wish list for her birthday. Little did she know that her friend, Marcia, would recruit her mouthwatering next door neighbor, Scott Erickson, and his brother, Curt, to make her wishes come true. Nor did she know that not only did both men lust after her, their imaginations would turn her simple list into the most erotic night of her life. A night that taught her what real sexual ecstasy is all about.

The excerpt
As she took one last glance at herself in the mirror, the doorbell rang. Her heart did a little skip and she moved forward to open it. Her hand shook slightly on the doorknob as she pulled on it, she moved her lips into a smile of welcome—and her jaw dropped.
Shock rippled through her body. Standing before her was truly one of the most magnificent male animals she had ever seen. Blond hair that had seen a lot of sun barely touched the collar of a navy t-shirt that outlined every ridge and muscle of his chest and abdomen. Soft gray slacks rested on narrow hips and outlined lean, muscular legs. His face was that of a Norse god, all high cheekbones, straight nose and eyes that rivaled the blue of a summer sky.
Next to him was his photo opposite. Where one was light, the other dark. Where one’s eyes were sky blue, the other’s were the color of a stormy ocean. But the faces were the same and the bodies could have been stamped from the same masculine mold.
Twins! My God!
But what stunned her even more was the identity of the dark-haired twin.
“Hi, Lauren. Happy birthday.”
The last person she expected to see on her doorstep ready to provide her with a night of erotic adventures was the neighbor she’d lusted after as long as she’d lived next to him. Scott Erickson. He wasn’t waving at her casually from his driveway now, or shouting a hasty greeting as he ran into his house. Instead his eyes were heated with lust and his smile was feral and hungry.
“H-Hi, Scott.” She was rooted to the floor. Scott? This was her birthday present from Marcia? How had she even pulled it off? And who was the equally gorgeous carbon copy?
He pointed at the man with him. “My twin brother. Curt.”
“Hey, Lauren.” Curt’s smile was equally as devastating.
Lauren tried to make her mouth work but no sound came out.

The contest
Email me twice at for two chances to win a download of this hot novella.

And Merry Christmas to everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


A Naughty Noelle, a Christmas quickie with bad guys with guns, releases in TWO days. Woohoo! It's my first release in two years and three months, give or take a few days. Uh, yeah, I had a really long bout of writer's block (25%) and lazy-ass-itis (75%).

The Blurb

Two days to Christmas and Noelle Mason is in danger of becoming a New York City statistic when a walking cliché—tall, dark and unshaven—rushes in to rescue her. Thus, when he literally and painfully bumps into her just hours later, bleeding and with bad men chasing after him, she decides to return the favor.

His cover blown by someone on the inside, Sergio Ramirez knows hospitals, the station house and even his home are off limits to him. As should be the woman determined to help him, but it’s snowing and cold outside, and Noelle’s so very willing to share her body heat and work with him to generate even more.

Then the bad men catch up with him—and this time they have guns.

The Excerpt

"Are you hurt?"

The voice was low and raspy, but it triggered something in Noelle’s still-recovering memory. Heart picking up pace once more, she peered up at the lean figure sitting rather rigidly on the backseat. She could make out the shape of the head in the gloomy interior of the moving cab. The shoulders were broad and the torso long. The line of the jaw was shadowed with stubble. Her eyes widened. "You."

There was a dry, masculine chuckle followed by a groan and a muffled curse. "Yeah, me. How are you doing down there?"

"I’m in pain, but I’ll live." It was the truth. She had banged her head before and suffered nothing more than a raging headache for a few hours. Such were the trials of wanting to play pond hockey with four older—and much bigger—brothers.

"Can you get up?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered and began disentangling their legs. She was puzzled when he didn’t offer his help. Maybe he only did one good deed per night.

Noelle slowly released her breath when she was finally seated beside the man who had saved her earlier only to violently barrel into her from behind a few minutes ago. Pain creased her brow. She closed her eyes, needing the refuge of darkness.

"I thought I told you to go straight home," he finally said quietly, turning to look at her.

"You did," she confirmed without opening her eyes. "I didn’t listen."


She made a noncommittal sound. "Where are you going?"


Noelle’s lashes lifted and she caught the driver’s gaze in the rearview mirror. She had to give the man credit for taking it all in stride. It couldn’t be every night when he gets a woman shoved into his cab by a strange man on the run. Then again, what did she know? Maybe this was a common occurrence for him.

"Then why is the cab moving?"

"I told the driver to drive," he explained, the words labored.

Noelle frowned. Was he hurt? She slowly turned her head to the right and glanced down. Her frown deepened.

"Is there a reason why you’re clutching your side like that?"

"Yes," he gritted between clenched teeth, the pain almost successfully veiling the sarcasm in his voice.

Her brow puckered, but it wasn’t because of the ache in her head this time. "Oh." Her eyes widened. Realization dawned. It was belated, but it did dawn. "Oh God! How bad is it?"

Her headache was forgotten as her hands felt all over his face. It was heated and coated with a sheen of cooling sweat. His stubble scratched her fingertips. Noelle’s exploration halted there as she savored the discreet tingle that shot through her fingertips straight to her tummy. She was a sick, sick woman to be turned on by a man bleeding all over the place.

And only hours ago, she’d believed herself in love with another man.

Noelle gingerly probed beneath her defenses. She should be hurt, torn up inside. Yet, all she felt was more anger at herself for being so stupid than at Gil for cheating on her.

The rough voice pulled her back. "Not there."

Noelle was glad of the darkness as warmth flooded her cheeks.

"Is it just your side?"


"Are you going to let me check it out?"

"Are you a nurse or a doctor or a paramedic?"

She drew back as if attacked by a kitten. Her lips thinned. "No, but I do know basic first aid. Or do you think sheer macho willpower will take care of your injury?"

A rough sound rumbled from his chest. "I’m sorry." Very gingerly, very slowly, he moved his hands away from his left side and said, "Here."

Carefully, Noelle scooted down so she could better examine the wound. She pulled the black T-shirt from his jeans and peeled it up. A blade had sliced through the leather jacket and the T-shirt and left a long cut that wasn’t as deep as she’d feared. But it wasn’t as shallow as she’d hoped.

"We should get you to a hospital. You need stitches."

The only response she got was an indecipherable grunt. She assumed it was a sound of protest.

She sighed. "Shouldn’t I call the police?"

He growled a very decisive negative.

"What is this aversion you have to the police? Is it cops in general or just the NYPD?"

"No," he repeated more firmly.

"Why not? Your tax dollars pay for their services." A thought occurred to her. "Uh, you do pay taxes, right?"

He slanted a narrow glance at her. "Yes."

The Contest

In the spirit of giving and receiving, I'm running a contest to give away 5 copies of the book. Check out my website for the details.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Writing, Sweating And Writing Some More

To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone – just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over….
John Hersey

Earlier last week I finished a book. Well, the first draft anyway. Then I put it down for a few days and Saturday, I picked up that huge binder and began the process of editing and revision. Then I’ll send it out, chapter by chapter to my crit partners who will pick it apart and send them back to me and then I’ll revise again. And then, I’ll send to beta readers and of course they’ll see things I need to address so I’ll revise again and then I’ll send to my agent. And then after it’s been looked at, read, picked apart, put back together, tightened, shortened, lengthened and honed - it’ll be printed up and mailed to my editor.

I was sort of afraid to pick it up. In fact, last night I was afraid to.

Afraid for a multitude of reasons - this is my first NY single title. Will it be good enough? Will my editor like it or when she sees it will she rue the day she signed me? When I read it, will it be what I remember? Better? Worse? How much work will it be to revise?

The list goes on really because I’ve found fear to be a constant companion since I sold my first book. In truth, I’m not sure anything is truly worth working for if you don’t want it bad enough you have fear of losing it.

The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing.
Ken MacLeod

But I will pick it up again tonight, and tomorrow and every day after until it's done. I will revise it and I will make it the best I possibly can. Because it’s the only way to finish. Because I love the story and I want my editor to love it too. I want the readers to love it. Because I’m a writer and we write.

Lauren Dane is currently working on Undercover - a futuristic, menage, bdsm flavored erotic romance due to release from Berkley Heat December 2, 2008.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

All I Want for Christmas... the Toshiba Portégé R500 notebook.

Just joking!

Well, not really. I do want one of those notebooks. C'mon, people. It's a 12.1" notebook that's an inch thick and weighs only 2.2 lbs! My current one is the same dimensions, but it's closer to 4 lbs. And the R500 has an LED screen! *sigh* The geek in me so wants to upgrade.

Moving onto the real list now...

To These 13 Authors: Please Come Back...I'll Buy Your Romance Books
A list compiled by Ann Bruce

  1. Laura Kinsale. It's over three years since the last release...can I expect something in 2008?

  2. Suzanne Robinson. No one does Elizabethan historicals like she did.

  3. Meagan McKinney.

  4. Michelle Martin.

  5. Theresa Weir.

  6. Jan Freed.

  7. Karyn Monk. Unfortunately, her website says she's busy with her young children. Who knows when she'll turn on her computer again?

  8. Iris Johansen. Her thrillers just aren't nearly as satisfying (in fact, some are downright awful) as her romances, both category and historical.

  9. Julie Garwood. She's going back to historicals in 2008. There is a God!

  10. Tami Hoag. I love the mainstream thrillers, but I loved the romantic suspense so much, much more.

  11. Teresa Medeiros. After two paranormals, it's time to go back to straight historicals. PLEASE.

  12. Linda Francis Lee. Why, oh, why did she have to go to chick lit?

  13. Christina Skye. Hasn't the Navy Seals series dragged on long enough?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Coming Tomorrow

I'm thrilled to announce my first new release in a long, long time. My novella, "A Vampire's Christmas Carol" is included in the anthology, BENEATH A CHRISTMAS MOON, which will releases from Cerridwen Press tomorrow.

Blurb for "A Vampire's Christmas Carol"
Can Christmas Eve get any more fun? On her way to her family's home, Carol Prescott’s car slides into a ditch in a deserted area with no cell phone signal. The only available shelter is already occupied…by a vampire. To Michael Carpenter, Carol is the bait of a trap. In an effort to hold onto his soul, Michael has resisted the urge to drink human blood for almost a century. Now he hovers between human and vampire. If he doesn’t drink from a human before the night ends, he’ll die. He’s desperately thirsty, but Michael has seen the soulless monsters vampires are and he prefers death. Carol is pure temptation to him, the Christmas present from hell…or is it from heaven?

BENEATH A CHRISTMAS MOON includes two other terrific stories by the very talented Ariana Dupre and Eden Robins.

This book is also the occasion for my first every book trailer. Rather than embed it here, I invite you to visit my web site at and take a look.

If you view the trailer or read the book, please let me know what you think!

-- Karen McCullough

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Books for the Holidays

I had my Christmas list whittled to a fine point. My dad was getting new shoes (or rather multiple relatives are each buying a share of his shoes, which he selected and purchased...I just have to pay him back and wrap them); my brother was getting a gift card to a home improvement store (he's restoring a Victorian town house...the home improvement store is like a second home to him); my brother's girlfriend was getting foodie gifts of marinades since she loves cooking; and my mom was getting Crabtree & Evelyn hand creme that she'd tried and loved while we were on a shopping trip to Manchester.

There was just one problem with this list. None of those gifts are books.

The first to succumb was the gift to my mom. She has a cherished cookbook that has been so well-used that it needs to be kept in a plastic bag wrapped with rubber bands, to keep the bits of broken pages from falling out and getting lost. About half the index has fallen to the ravages of time. But she refuses to get a replacement, since she declares the recipes were changed for the worse when the cookbook was revised in the '50s. I managed to find a copy of the 1949 edition in almost-new condition, complete with dustcover! I never even knew it originally had a dustcover. :-) It was surprisingly affordable for an antique cookbook in such good shape. Oh, well, the hand creme was bought on sale... and I know she'll *love* this.

Then I saw a book written by my dad's favorite financial pundit. With coupons, the price came down to $10. I'll just adjust everyone else's gifts up by the same amount, to keep things fair.

Hey, with that extra $10, I can get a literary food book for my brother's girlfriend. Wow. An awful lot of people have written about their adventures in cooking and eating. Still, she was saying at Thanksgiving how this is one of the only types of books she reads. She'll love it.

And now I see that there's a new novel out in a series that my brother got hooked on from the PBS miniseries. I'll just wait for the next coupon to take effect, and that'll be down to around $10, too.

Every year, this happens. Every year, people tell me, "I don't want a book." Every year, I start out with the best of intentions, trying to find the perfect non-book gift for them. ... And every year, I end up breaking down, and buying books for everyone.

And every year, I'm thrilled to find a package beneath the tree with my name on it, that contains a new book for me to read.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Winter's Daughter is Now Available!


To say that I'm excited...would be a HUGE understatment. I am stupidly thrilled that WD is now available that I'm almost beyond words. (Note the 'almost') And now for some review quotes...

"This is an incredibly engrossing tale and I did not put it down for more than five minutes once I started it." The Romance Studio, 4.5 hearts

"The first Coven tale is an exciting paranormal thriller with whodunit and romantic elements to enhance the tense drama." Harriet Klausner

"Murder, mayhem and magic will send chills down your spine in this haunting first in The Coven series." RT Magazine, 4 stars

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Jessamyn's Christmas Gift

If you're looking for a break from the holiday madness in the malls, check out my Christmas Quickie from Ellora’s Cave Publishing , Jessamyn's Christmas Gift.

It's sure to heat up your cold winter night and leave you smiling.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thirteen Random Birthday Thoughts About Writing...

…and life in general. It’s my birthday. I’m allowed! :)

1. There’s no great mystery to being a writer. A writer applies the seat of her pants to the seat of her chair, and writes.

2. First drafts are not the time to be careful. First drafts are designed to let you glop it all out, get the voices out of your head, unleash whatever beast that’s hounding you to get the story down on paper. It’s meant to be messy. Roll in it! Get your hands dirty!

3. Write every day. Even if all you can write is “I don’t know what to write,” do it. Over and over again. Fill pages with it. Eventually your brain will get bored and want to write something else.

4. Waiting for your muse to inspire you, IMHO, is just nuts. You want to be a writer? Siddown and get started. Your muse will just have to eat dust until it catches up with you.

5. Read. Widely and often. Never stop learning.

6. Observe.

7. Listen.

8. Don’t be afraid to try out any story idea. 100 pages that don’t pan out are still 100 pages of learning experience you never would have had if you hadn’t tried.

8a. Don’t be afraid. Period. I mean it. Just stop it right now. :)

9. All reviews are good. Really. So what if a reviewer hated your book. Did they spell your name right? Then it’s a good review.

10. On the other hand, learn to put aside your emotional attachment to your manuscript, and listen to constructive criticism. Your editor is on your side!

11. You’ll never make story perfect. There will always be a typo, a flaw, something accidentally left hanging. It’s possible to revise the life out of a story. Learn to let it go. (This is one I’m still working on—note the claw marks on my manuscripts where my editor had to tear them out of my hands!)

12. You will never please everyone. Write for yourself first, the markets second. Make the market follow YOU.

13. Learn to love your Shadow Self. She is the part of you that makes you—and your stories—fully human.

Now available: Wildish Things

More Thursday Thirteens!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Learning curves

I've been a bit reflective (no, I'm not shiny) lately. Almost exactly a year ago, I had just signed my third book contract. That made me stop and think ... in the summer of 2006 I had no book published and not a hope of having any published.

Here we are, a year+ later, and I have three out, one coming soon, and three more next year.

What little Gems of Wisdom have I learned?

Lots. Let's list them:

1. There is no magic bullet. You still have to write the best book you can. This doesn't mean you have to write Your Absolutely Best Book and put your soul into it. I've discovered that I can write a good book and know it's not my breakout book. There is a difference between the two. I can feel it. I just am not to the point where I want to write that Big Book ... yet. Or maybe I'm fooling myself and all I can write are Good Books. I'll figure that out later. For now, I'm going to continue writing what I enjoy and worry about best-sellerdom some other day.

2. Just because you've sold X number of books to a publisher, doesn't mean you'll continue to sell to that publisher. You can change editors and the new one doesn't love your work, the publisher can change what they're looking for, etc. Case in point: I had an editor at Publisher A who loved my work and was happy that my books were all similar (small town themes, older heroes and heroines, quirky plot lines). That editor is now no longer my editor and I have a new one. She only bought one of the three offered books "because they were too much alike".

Go figure.
You will always be looking for publisher even when you're happy with your publisher. It's just the nature of the beast.

3. There are good reviews and bad reviews. One key to sanity is to evaluate the reviewers. If you tend to agree with their assessments on other books, then consider what they say. I've read some reviews that made me cringe not because they were bad reviews -- they weren't, they were very positive. But the reviewer was inarticulate, or had terrible grammatical mistakes or spelling mistakes, or mis-used words. Yikes. A good review from that person is a mixed blessing at best. So take it ALL with a big grain of salt.

4. Just because you have a contract it doesn't mean you'll necessarily be treated fairly. Witness the whole Trisk debacle and authors who had their rights returned to them long before the bankruptcy was filed. Those authors STILL appeared on court papers.

5. As in all businesses, there are good people, there are snarky people, there are 'who let that person in here?' people. There are those authors who have had some modest success and are bitter because their success hasn't been greater. There are those who are generous and willing to share. And there are those who are simply clueless. Learn from them all because there's something to be learned from everyone.

More than anything, though, this has been an enlightening experience for me to find out about myself. I occasionally feel the inevitable jealousy when a friend or critique partner attracts positive interest and I think 'why not me?' There are times when I think I deserve more recognition than I've gotten, until I step back and realize I'm not actively promoting myself the way others do. I'm getting a sense of where writing fits into my life and who I am.

Check back with me in a year. I suspect there'll be even more learning experiences and changes down the road.

Friday, November 23, 2007

REVIEW: Lord of the Fading Lands by CL Wilson

I received an ARC of CL Wilson's Lord of the Fading Lands because I promised to post a review of it. Normally, I'm not that much of a book-whore, but Dear Author and Smart Bitches raved about this book, so I thought it would be a safe bet I wouldn't hate it.

The back blurb:

Once he had scorched the world. Once he had driven back overwhelming darkness. Once he had loved with such passion, his name was legend...Tairen Soul.

Now a thousand years later, a new threat calls him from the Fading Lands back into the world that had cost him so dearly. Now an ancient, familiar evil is regaining its strength, and a new voice beckons to him--more compelling, more seductive, more maddening than any before.

As the power of his most bitter enemy grows and ancient alliances crumble, the wildness in his blood will not be denied. The tairen must claim his truemate and embrace the destiny woven for him in the mists of time.

Dramatic much?


The first book in CL Wilson's series (yes, it's a series and, no, this book cannot stand alone) introduces a very familiar world that blends fairy tale and fantasy. The world building is rich with details that reminded me very strongly of Tolkien. (I also found touches of Star Wars, but let's not discuss that further.) The plot is familiar epic fantasy: good versus evil on a grand scale--and, of course, the humans Celierians complicate matters because they're too blind and greedy and easily manipulated to see the evil that is apparent to the frustrated Fey hero.

Rainier vel'En Daris Feyreisen, Rain Tairen Soul, King of the Fey (phew! give me a second to catch my breath) and a were-tairen (or large winged cat that breathes fire), realizes his people are dying and seeks answers from a crystal ball that has a sadistic streak and likes to play power games: the Eye of Truth. The Eye leads him to his truemate, a shei’tani, who is the key to saving the Fey.

Ellysetta Baristani is an orphan, which is romancespeak for has special powers because her parents are special people, but was taken in by a kind couple (well, the father's kind, but the mother wanted her to marry an over-the-top evil porker). She's tall, red-haired, green-eyed, and curvy, but, since this is a romance, everyone thinks she's a troll except for the magical Fey who can see into her soul. And her soul, just like everything else about her, is beautiful and perfect. She's kind, gracious, and even feels sorry for her enemies--which is why Rain and his men have to do the dirty work for her:

Fey women cannot kill, not even to defend their own lives. Their natural empathy prevents it. The shock of slaying another living being would kill them. (379)

Rain knows Mary Sue Ellie is a Fey--and the most powerful Fey female, at that--because with a single touch, she can cleanse a hardened warrior's soul:

[Belliard] had so much death on his soul that all but the strongest women among the Fey had avoided touching him centuries ago, unable to bear the pain of his sorrow, the ruthlessly self-enforced emotionlessness, and the dark burden of the lives he'd taken to protect the Fey. Even the shei'dalins only touched him when they needed to heal wounds he gained in battle. Yet this child, this incredible child whose soul called a tairen's, had reached out to touch him and sent a flood of healing warmth and love so strong that it burned straight through the block of black ice that encased what remained of his gentle Fey emotions. (92-93)

Despite her magic touch, Ellie denies her special powers again and again and again and made me want to reach into the book and shake her. And while I like alpha heroes, Rain is an overbearing jerk too often. He's a king not because he has the diplomatic and strategic skills, but because he can shape-shift and burn down a village with his breath.

So, why did I finish book besides it being a condition of getting the ARC? Well...

  • The world building, as I mentioned at the beginning, is well thought out.
  • The secondary characters are fleshed out and serve purpose.
  • The plot, predictable as it might be, is intricate and moves quickly.
  • The villains, other than the cartoony spurned former suitor, are unapologetically evil and power hungry and, most importantly, have the smarts to potentially pull off their maniacal plot.
  • The prose is tight and quite lovely in places.
  • And, even though I'm not a fan of soul mates, truemates, bondmates, bloodmates, breedmates, or any other kind of mates because it seems like an excuse for characters to instantly fall in love and jump each other's bones because it's destiny, it's meant to be--and the sex will be magical and somehow save the world, it works for me in this book because Ellie and Rain have to work to form the truemate bond. It's not instantaneous. They have to learn to accept each other on different levels for the bond to be formed, and it's a nice change from the paranormal/fantasy romance norm.

Overall, this book is a B- for me. The good outweighed the bad and made me want to read the next book in the series, where "an epic battle [is] fast approaching and only united could [Ellie and Rain] hope to turn back the armies of darkness."

"Armies of darkness"? Really? Should Bruce Campbell and his chainsaw be called for help?

And other unintentional humor: umagi, a term Wilson uses for someone who is mind-controlled by the evil Mages from Eld, made me giggle, especially during the villian sex scene, because if you change the m to an n, you have the Japanese word for eel.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another Year, Another Gray Hair

I woke up this morning and rolled over in bed to snuggle with my hubby. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I love waking up in the morning. Everything is still so new, the day has yet to take shape, and anything is possible.

Today is even more special. I’m forty-three today and plan to celebrate each and every single year I’ve lived. I’ve never been one of those women who worry about the turn of the calendar. Instead, I take each and every year as the precious gift it is.

When you reach a certain age—which is different for each person—you realize that you’re no longer concerned with what other people think. Not that you’re inconsiderate, you’re just secure in who you are as a person. I no longer worry so much about appearing foolish. I’m forty-three years old, I’ve already appeared foolish more times than I can count. What’s one more time?

The added bonus of getting older is being able to put the past years into perspective. When you reach your forties, you realize just how much darn energy you had when you were twenty. LOL But, you also have the wisdom to know that you’ve got a lot more energy now than you will when you hit your sixties. It’s all in how you look at things.

Most of us by the time we hit forty have had several careers. That’s a plus. You know that you can start over again if you have too. After all, you’ve done it before and survived. There is freedom in that. I spent almost twenty years in retail management before embarking on my writing career. It’s fun and exciting and some days downright scary. But if it all ended tomorrow, I’d at least be able to say I did it. And as you get older that becomes much more important.

So, what do I want for my birthday? Hmmm, here is what I’d like the next year to bring.

I’d like to get healthier this year. I’ve slacked off on the exercise and put on a few pounds the past few years. I’d like to take better care of me. Think of it as maintenance, after all, I want to be around to celebrate quite a few more birthdays.

I’d like to take a few more risks, not play it safe. After all, I’ve been through some of the toughest things a person can ever go through and I’ve survived. So what else is there to be afraid of? I’d like to do a few more things on my “life list of things to do.”

I’d also like to find more balance in my life. Work has taken over my life in the past few years, so it’s time to even things out and have more fun.

I treat every day as if it’s special, because it is. You never know when this amazing ride called life will come to an end. I think about my father, who was terminally ill when he turned forty-three and dead by the time he was forty-five. He died young, but he lived well, in many ways better than I am living.

This year I want to have as much fun as possible and not sweat the small stuff. ‘Cause in the end, most of it doesn’t really matter. It is people and relationships that matter—the connection you have with yourself and with others.

I plan to eat dessert first, do more things that bring me joy, and love myself for exactly the person I am. Not much when you think about it, but when you really stop and think about it, it’s everything.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New Print Book and New Contest!

The wait is finally over!
Summersville Heat, which contains the first two books in the Summersville Secrets series, Annabelle Lee and Heat Wave, is now available in PRINT!
Feel the HEAT and check it out today!

The holiday season is inching closer, and to celebrate, I'm giving away a PRINT copy of White Hot Holidays Volume 3, which features my Ellora's Cave Christmas Quickie, JESSAMYN'S CHRISTMAS GIFT.

If you'd like a chance to win, go to my website and click on the “contests” page for details!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Web Design for Authors: The Quick and Dirty Guide, Part 3 of 3

ATTENTION: Bad design can kill!

And 2 tips and tricks I missed last week:
  1. Have a custom error page so you can redirect users to your home page or report a dead link.
  2. Keep in mind users are increasingly using handheld devices to surf the Internet. Design with small screens in mind: less is more!

Now, onto today's topic...

PC World ranked MySpace as the number 1 worst web site.

When I first stumbled onto MySpace, I looked, I shuddered, I clicked away. Animated graphics, music, textured backgrounds, illegible fonts, crazy colors, and countless other violations. MySpace pushed web design back a good decade.

But wait! Your MySpace page doesn't have to follow the trend. Please stop the madness. Pages like this one hurts! Read Parts 1 and 2. And apply the guidelines to your space because good design is for everyone.

So, what's below? A break down of the MySpace style codes that can help you customize your page. (Example shown is from PARTS of Ann Bruce's space.)

Breaking Down MySpace

The following should be placed within STYLE tags.

NOTE FROM ANN: Some "friends" paste in really large images in their comments, which can take up your entire page, so I included the following to make the images smaller.

td.text td.text table table table td a img {

td.text td.text table table table td div img {

td.text td.text table table td img {

td.text td.text table table td div img {

* html td.text td.text table table td img {

* html td.text td.text table table td a img {

* html td.text td.text table table td div img {

NOTE FROM ANN: This is a background image that I allow to tile, but I don't allow it to move when users scroll down the page.

background-position:bottom left;
background-repeat: no-repeat;

NOTE FROM ANN: Everything after this point is pretty self-explanatory.

table, tr, td {

table table table{
border-color: F5F5DC;

table table table td{

table, tr, td, li, p, div {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.btext {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.blacktext10 {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.orangetext15 {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.redtext {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.nametext {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.whitetext12 {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.blacktext12 {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.lightbluetext8 {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.redbtext {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

.text {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

a img {border: none; }

a:link {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

a:active {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

a:visited {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

a:hover {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;
color: FF0000;

a.redlink:link {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

a.redlink:active {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

a.redlink:visited {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

a.redlink:hover {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;
color: FF0000;

a.navbar:link {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;

a.navbar:active {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;
color: BDB76B;

a.navbar:visited {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;
color: BDB76B;

a.navbar:hover {
font-family:helvetica, arial, tahoma, verdana;
color: 000000;

u {
color: BDB76B;

NOTE FROM ANN: When replacing the default images, try to make sure your image is the same size as the default. If you make an image that's too big or too small and then force it to the correct size using the WIDTH and HEIGHT functions, the images usually won't be crisp.

span.blacktext12 {
visibility:visible ;
background-position:center center;
display:block ;

span.blacktext12 img {

body, html {
visibility:visible ;

.contactTable {
background-position:center center;

.contactTable table, table.contactTable td {

.contactTable a img {

.contactTable a {

.contactTable .text {

.contactTable .text, .contactTable a, .contactTable img {

.contactTable .whitetext12 {

/* URL TEXT */
div, strong {

table table table table div strong {
margin: -11px -1px -26px -1px;
background-position: center center;


That's it. I'm done. Go forth and design well, young grasshoppers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thirteen things I’m looking forward to as the holidays approach:

(No, this isn't any kind of official Thursday Thirteen thing, but it inspired me.)

1. Thanksgiving! It’s a special time for me, a wonderfully warm, quiet, reflective holiday, even when the house becomes a zoo with all the visiting family and the refrigerator is so crammed with leftovers you have to be careful opening the door.

2. Family. I don’t get enough time with my family. Even though my oldest daughter and her family live in the same city, our busy everyday lives mean we don’t see each other often enough. And my other two live in Washington, DC and Oxford, England. My son and daughter-in-law won’t be coming from England this year (they’ll be going to her family’s home in Kent), but my youngest daughter will be and I never get to see enough of her either. Plus we often visit or are visited by aunts, uncles, cousins and others we don’t see very often.

3. Church Services. There’s a warmth and joy about the Advent and Christmas services that moves me.

4. Baking cookies. I’m not much of a cook but I do love baking cookies. I like it even more when my grandchildren help. Yes, really. I love eating the cookies, too—way too much.

5. The Music (Part A) – Christmas Carols, Trans-Siberian Orchestra…. Never heard Christmas Eve Sarajevo? YouTube has several versions of it:

From a movie TSO produced (I’m not wild about the visuals on this but it’s the best musically):

A Live version (A TSO concert is an unbelievable experience, but it doesn’t translate well in recording, so it’s hard to hear the music or words.

A house lights rendition. Hey, it worked well with Wizard in Winter, so why not?
(Oddly the house lights version captures the spirit of the music surprisingly well!)

6. The Music (Part B) The ubiquitous novelty songs:

This is my favorite: (Jeff Foxworthy’s words, but I love the way this other guy sings this.)

And Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas from the Family:

7. Lights. My neighborhood does an unusual and spectacular display during the Christmas season. Called lighted tree balls… They’re balls made from chicken wire woven with strings of lights and then hung high in the trees. Hundreds of homes in our neighborhoods do this and it turns the place into a fantasyland. They don’t photograph well, but this video actually came out quite well and gives you some idea of what it’s like:

And yes, the display turns our normally quiet neighborhood into a traffic nightmare.

8. The Aromas. I’m especially fond of these because until I had surgery on my nose about ten years ago, I had very little sense of smell. I still don’t have the most super-sensitive nose, but I can now smell the aroma of pine greenery and baking cookies and harvest-scented candles.

9. Hot spiced cider. I don’t have a specific recipe. I just put about four cups of cider in a pan, throw in a broken cinnamon stick, sprinkle on a bit of Allpsice, Nutmeg, and ground Cloves, then heat and let it simmer gently until it smells so good you can’t wait another minute to sip it. For a bit of added punch, pour in a jigger or two of vodka.

10. The Movies and TV shows. But not It’s a Wonderful Life. Eeek. Can’t stand it. Sorry.
Give me The Muppet’s Christmas Carol (or almost any variation of the story), Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated TV version, not the awful movie), Charlie Brown’s Christmas, even The Nightmare Before Christmas. Yeah, I’m weird that way.

11. Football, mostly the pro variety. It gets more exciting as the season draws to a close.

12. Peppermint bark. I love the stuff and have to stock up since it’s generally not available any other time of year.

13. The Release on December 13 of my novella, A Vampire's Christmas Carol, in the anthology BENEATH A CHRISTMAS MOON, Cerridwen Press.

What are you looking forward to during the holidays?

-- Karen McCullough

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm way too happy

Veterans: Nothing to Lose released yesterday from Loose Id.

You ever have a story where the words flow like butter melting? And everyone who reads it, says, "Wow! That's hot."? That's Nothing to Lose.

I fell in love with my tortured hero, Richard *dreamy sigh*. And of course Bryan *2nd dreamy sigh*. And I'd love to be friends with Niki.

Not only was it a fun story to write, I got the chance to work with Bobby Michaels, Liz Andrews, and Rachel Bo, connecting all four novel(llas) in the series. It's a loose connection, but I'm so awed I got to work with these three very talented writers. Rachel Bo is a name I heard when I first discovered writing erotic romance. Liz Andrews is another that I've heard over my time in the industry. And Bobby Michaels writes hot m/m, including the Jock Dorm series.

Have I gushed enough? LOL. Yes, I'm very excited about this release. I'm always excited to see one of my babies come to fruition. But this one is rather special.

Mechele Armstrong aka Lany of Melany Logen

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Just in Time for the holidays

Normally, when my turn to blog comes up, I talk about writing, or what can be learned from what I've been reading, or other similar topics. Instead, this month, I'd like to give you a helpful hint for the Thanksgiving/December-holiday-of-choice/New Year's holiday feasting season. There will be office parties, family get-togethers, and all sorts of delicacies laid out to tempt you during the frenetic last-minute shopping. Come January, you'll be wishing you'd eaten less, and taken more time to exercise.

I recently picked up a book called Bikini Boot Camp. (I was looking for a replacement Pilates book, having realized after a few hours of searching that the reason I couldn't find mine was that I'd loaned it to someone, and picked up this instead -- I don't know the authors.) It's non-fiction, in the health and wellness section of the bookstore. The book describes the two-week intensive weight-loss and fitness program at a famous tropical health resort. Every day starts with yoga and meditation, then breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner, with time in the middle somewhere for a cardio workout, Pilates workout, and weight training. There's also questions to ask yourself (and answer) in your journal, and a different home spa treatment, so your skin and hair looks as good as the rest of you feels.

I'm a hugely picky eater, because of food allergies. So I was very excited to find a book filled with foods I could eat (no yeast, and non-dairy alternatives). Best of all, it's yummy food!

Get it now, to be healthy, toned and relaxed before the holidays, or ask for it as a holiday gift to help recover from the season. :-)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hollywood Writer's Strike

I’m sure by now everyone has heard that the Writer’s Guild of America is on strike. Other than some of your favorite shows going on an early hiatus, what does this mean to you?

Say you’re a cake decorator and you’ve spent six months perfecting your recipe and your design. The bakery, who pays your check, compensates you for your time, then proceeds to sell your recipe, your design and pieces of your cake while they rake in the cash. They’re making money (and publicity) off your product while you receive nothing extra.

Messed up isn’t it?

In a simplified fashion, this is what is going on with the Hollywood Writers.
Ten years ago DVDs, internet streaming downloads, and internet purchase downloads didn’t exist. Now that the movie / tv studios are making money hand over fist with these new technologies while the writer is making nothing more than their standard pay.

A good example is the HBO show, The Sopranos. HBO took in 300 million on Sopranos DVD sales then took in another 200 million when they sold the series to the A&E channel. Yes, I said, 500 million dollars.

What did the writers receive?

Nothing. Not even a kiss on the cheek.

The very popular show, UGLY BETTY, can be viewed online for free and there are commercials embedded in the feed. Commercials that advertisers paid for. The studio claims it is promotional while the writers receive…nothing. Now, how can the studios pull in monies from advertising yet tell the writers that is promotional. Trust me, the IRS doesn’t recognize ‘promotional’ income any differently than income from straight sales.

The fiction / non-fiction writing market is also dealing with this issue. Fifteen years ago there were two basic markets, Audio and Print. Now that the electronic media has come into being, what some publishers are doing with regards to paying the authors for this new venue is a crime, IMHO.

A standard NY house pay scale is between 2 – 10% of a paperback sale price. So here comes the e-market which has quite a few advantages for the publisher: – intangible asset, no warehousing required – low overhead, the file is already 90% in line with the ebook format when its sent to the printer. At this point all it needs is a reformat to the standards and it’s a saleable product. – no editing, paper, supplies etc – only space on a website

So how much (on average) are the authors receiving for this new, viable media?

4 – 6%.

Now, reread the paragaph above about the standard NY house pay scales, I’ll wait.

Do you see what I’m getting at? The house is still making the usual paperback rate for this new media (which is crazy IMO – but lets not go there) while the author gets the same or LESS than the rate for a paperback – a product with considerable overhead.

I think it’s safe to say the days of most companies looking out for their writers has gone the way of the dinosaurs. We are no longer artists, we’ve been forced into the role of content providers. What they do is special, magical, and they shouldn’t have to deal with their employers giving their work away for free. While I do not write for the television / movie industry, I support their strike wholeheartedly. It’s past time for writers to stand up and remind the industry of the value of their work.

Besides, when your favorite shows go into repeats, what would be better than supporting your favorite writers and picking up a book? :)

Friday, November 9, 2007


Many people can't listen to any kind of music while writing, especially if it features vocals and lyrics. I'm one of those authors who finds the atmosphere outside, the weather, and the music I'm listening to a real inspiration for my work. Fog and rain and gloomy actually inspire me as much or more than sunshine. Go figure. :) In fact, on my iTunes there is a playlist called LOVE AND DANGER. That's right. The music is set up just to inspire me when I need it and give the story in my head a soundtrack. Just recently I found some intriguing music watching Moonlight on CBS. I hunted and hunted to find out what some of the music was...believe me that took some serious Google time. I was delighted! In fact, I hunted for a long time to locate Evanescence (at the time I didn't know they were a gothic band) with lead singer Amy Lee's song My Immortal. I'd heard it during the end of the first episode of Moonlight and it haunted me. When I found it I knew I'd be able to use it as a background for other things I am writing. Ahem. But I digress.

November 9 is the reissue of a book of my heart, BRIDGE THROUGH THE MIST. I lived in England while I was writing the first drafts of this book, and although the setting for the book is 1318 Scotland, the misty English countryside where I loved was a genuine inspiration. The book came out in 2001. When I submitted to a new publisher in 2006, I went through another round of edits and listened to quite a bit of Braveheart and some Rob Roy music to inspire me. So when you're reading BRIDGE THROUGH THE MIST, I hope you can feel a little of that mystical magic yourself, and allow some Celtic inspired music to serve as a background. Here's the blurb and a snippet excerpt. For more, be sure to stop by Ellora's Cave at and my website at

When Alenna Carstairs is hurled through time into 1318, Scotland's medieval world brings her face to face with hot, sexy Tynan of MacBrahin. Infuriated with his barbaric manners, and yet sensing vulnerability within him, she vows to discover the heartbreak that has scarred his soul.
World-weary knight, Tynan of MacBrahin lost two loves to the brutality of other men. He can't forgive himself for failing to protect the women who depended on him. When Alenna saves his life, her independent spirit stirs desires so strong within him he can't resist her. A depraved baron soon wants Alenna for his own, and Tynan must find a way to conquer this powerful man to save her. Alenna struggles with soul-staggering desire for Tynan, but most of all, she must convince Tynan his love is not lethal, and she is the one who can bring shine to his armor again.

* *
Most women would run in fear from him. A few inches over six feet, his sheer size swallowed the small room. Did a man this outrageously feral have a concept of tenderness? Of restraint? He looked ready to spring, to dominate. His brutishly handsome face arrested her. Time slowed, and all the fantasies she’d harbored about gorgeous men over the years dissolved, overwhelmed by the sheer male animal presence in front of her.
Unfastening the broach at his shoulder, he allowed his heavy brown cloak to fall open. Under the cloak, he wore a dark shirt of rough material open at the throat. The gap revealed a bit of muscled chest sprinkled with dark hair. Broad of shoulder, his powerful frame demanded attention. His black trousers revealed just enough with their cut to suggest strong thighs and calves. She licked her lips involuntarily. His gaze landed on her mouth and stayed for one stomach-dropping second, then glided over her body with a mix between curiosity and pure male appreciation. His hungry appraisal sent a coil of heat deep into her loins, and a blush to her cheeks. She couldn’t speak and she almost couldn’t breathe.
Taking off the cloak, he settled it over a chair. Crossing the room, he stood next to her makeshift pallet. “Are ye deaf, then, lass? Or mayhap a mute?”
“No,” she said softly, her throat feeling as parched as if she’d crossed the Sahara. His strange questions threw her, and she couldn’t think of a first-class retort.
His brow crinkled, and she noted a deep scar ran down the right side of his forehead, as if he’d suffered a severe blow at one time and never had it stitched properly. He shoved a hand through his inky black hair, and it fell about the top of his shoulders in thick waves.
Turning to the skinny boy, he said, “Clandon, ye had best get back to yer duties. And visit yer sister at the donjon to see how she fares.”
Continuing to look at her as if she might decide to bite him, the boy nodded. He scrambled up from his chair and started for the door.
“She must be a witch, sir,” the boy said, his voice squeaking in his excitement.
The man smiled slightly, a twinkle leaping into his eyes. Before the boy could open the door, the man clasped his arm. “Tell not a soul about the woman.”
Tell not a soul about the woman.
A curl of apprehension wandered along her body.
“Aye, sir,” the boy said in a whisper, and rushed out the door as if the devil were on his heels and fast closing.
Maybe the boy knew something she didn’t. She looked at the door with longing. It really wasn’t far, and Alenna wasn’t that ill. She could dash by this big man and make a run for it.
No. The man had planted his solid bulk in her way. If he caught her, she knew she wouldn’t be a match for him. He possessed a sheer, brutal power she knew could overpower if provoked.
“Why did you send him away?” she asked.
The man turned back to her. “His sister worries about him.”
As he stared at her, Alenna shivered and realized that although her stomach no longer lurched like a drunken sailor a heat wave invaded her. She pushed the pungent fur off her shoulders. Again his eyes traced over her, penetrating and searching. He didn’t guard his emotions well, she realized. She saw unadulterated sexual interest overlaid by curiosity.
Sexual interest? Another warm wave settled over her and then she shivered. God, since when did extraordinary men like this enter her life?

Denise A. Agnew

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Web Design for Authors: The Quick and Dirty Guide, Part 2 of 3

Last week, I listed a number of common mistakes that decrease web usability. This week I touch upon tips and tricks that will improve--naturally--usability and save you time, which can be better spent writing. As much as I would love to--and I do because I'm a geek--I don't get into the nitty gritty technical details because numerous websites already provide this service.

Tips and Tricks

from Ann Bruce

  • Like with any system design, sit down and write out the specs. Draw out what you want the site to look like. Don't start coding until you're completely happy with the design. This step will reduce rework.

  • White space is good. Really. It's not a waste of space. Long passages of edge-to-edge text look cramped and can tire eyes. Give your text breathing room.

  • Use the TITLE tags on ALL of the pages. It allows users to (1) know where they are by simply looking at the top of the browser instead of having to scan the page and (2) bookmark pages easily without having to rename the page.

  • Use the ALT attributes for images. Users may have images turned off on the browser, so the ALT attribute will let them know what those large blank spots on the web page should be.

  • Be consistent. Decide upon a design and apply it throughout the site. Consistent design makes it easier for users to navigate. The best way of maintaining design consistency is through the use of cascading style sheets.

  • Server-side includes are your friends. They allow you to include the contents of a page in another page. Don't want to have the code for your header, footer, and menu repeated on every page, which can make updating a nightmare? Create separate pages for each and pull them into the other pages using server-side includes!

  • Test, test, and test again. And test on different browsers and platforms. What works in Firefox and Opera might not work in Internet Explorer. What works on Windows might not work on a MacIntosh.

  • Update--and update often! This tip doesn't save you time, but it will bring users back to your site more frequently.

  • Learn from others. Any site’s HTML is easily accessible by viewing a page’s source code. See how others have done things and apply their methods to your own work.
Edited to add:
  • Write descriptive comments within the code. If other people have to edit your page, the comments will serve as a guide for them--and for you. Trust me, your memory is not as good as you think it is.

Helpful Sites

Next week, I will decode a tiny part of PC World's worst website winner: MySpace.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wanna Read About Me? Looking for more to read?

Then head straight on til morning to Paranormal Romance. They did a wonderful interview with me.

And Loose Id released the first two Veterans' stories yesterday. Liz Andrews Through the Fire is a great story of man in pain and the woman who pulls him through the fire. It's a mulitcultural erotic romance. Rachel Bo's *squee* Risen from Ash is a BDSM tale about a dominant recovering from his pain and the woman whose "bound" to help him rise from the ash.

I'm really pleased to have been a part of this series. And yes, next week, two more will release. Bobby Michael's and mine!

Mechele Armstrong aka Lany of Melany Logen

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Waiting...

This should be my theme song:

(Can you believe how young Tom Petty and Mike Campbell look on this?)

So much of being an author involves long hours writing, writing, writing, and it seems like almost as many hours waiting, waiting and waiting some more.

You wait to hear back from your agent or editor whether they like the proposal or book. You wait for the contract. You wait for the edits. You wait for the cover. Then you wait for the book’s release. And finally… A few days of excitement and happiness. Then you wait for the reviews and the feedback.

Meanwhile, you’ve likely sent in another proposal or book and you’re waiting, waiting…

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Web Design for Authors: The Quick and Dirty Guide, Part 1 of 3

I started my own web design business when I was 13. It was fairly successful and I kept it up until I was 16, when I got really distracted by romance novels. (Damn you, Laura Kinsale! I could've been the female Bill Gates!)

I spent a few years in my late teens and early twenties working on the web teams of a number of companies whose revenues are in the billions. So, yes, I have some experience in this area.

After seeing a number of requests for web and MySpace help from authors on the mailing lists to which I belong, I decided to put together a trilogy of blog entries to help out my fellow authors who are interested in this topic.

Common Mistakes

According to Ann Bruce


  • Serif fonts--the fonts with the little flourishes at the end to help the eye travel to the next word--should be used for print only. For the web, since screen resolution is not as high as print, stick to sans serif fonts because serif fonts tend to blur together, making it difficult to read. The most popular fonts for the web are Arial and Verdana. The latter was created specifically for web use.
  • Fixed font sizes must be avoided. Users need to be able to adjust the font for comfortable reading.
  • Justified text usually results in uneven spacing and makes reading more difficult. Yes, I know text in books are usually justified, but remember the web is an entirely different medium.
  • Light text on a dark background is inherently less readable than dark text on a light background. That's not to say all dark backgrounds are bad, but unless the site is graphic intensive, like a photographer's site or a movie site, stick to light on dark. And never use dark on dark. Really, you want to sell reading material. If users can't read the content, such as excerpts, on your site, you're going to lose potential sales.
  • Text on textured backgrounds is WORSE than light text on dark backgrounds. It's not easy for the human eye to distinguish and read text when the background is busy. Sometimes, it actually HURTS!


  • Drop-down menus don't allow users to see all the navigation options right away. They hide information the users are looking for and can be confusing.
  • Non-standard menu headings confuse users. Really, users do not intuitively go to "Muse" to find a listing of available books. (This author's site was so confusing that instead of searching and buying up her back list list like I originally intended, I stopped reading her altogether.)
  • Image maps are wrong. Do you enjoy running your mouse all over the cute picture of someone's office to find the link to a book listing page? No? Then why do you think other users would? And really, it's not intuitive to have a desk lamp link to a bio page.
  • Users sometimes get lost in a site. Have a link to your home page on every page so they can find the starting point if they get in too deep.
  • Underlined non-link text is deceptive. Users have been trained--yes, trained--to associate underlined text with hyperlinks. If you need to emphasize something, try bolding or italicizing it.

Bells and Whistles

  • Big graphics = long loading times.
  • Animated graphics. Yeah, I used animated graphics...when I was 13 and just starting out.
  • Music increases the loading time and, frankly, not everyone shares your taste in music. I listen to Tool, 30 Seconds to Mars, Nine Inch Nails, etc. How many people would like to hear "The Kill" when they go to check out a romance author's site? Probably not many. But if you MUST ABSOLUTELY have music on your site because your life would not be complete without it, let the users start it. Unless you're doing a music band's website, don't ambush users.
  • So, you've won award or are part of a special network. Great! And you want to share it with the world. Great, again! But do you really need to clutter up your main page with EVERY SINGLE thing you've won? I came across an author's website and the home page with its 17--yes, 17--badges made me think they were ads so I skipped over every single one of them. Have the most current award and put the rest elsewhere, like on the bio page or have a separate awards page.

Just Say No and Other Miscellanea

  • Frames are evil and clumsy. Bookmarking doesn't work properly, causing problems when users try to return to the site. And if the users enter a framed page, navigation might be missing because it is located in another frame.
  • Opening new windows pollute the users' screens and breaks the BACK button. Do NOT break the BACK button. Let the users decide where they want to go. If they want to go back to your site, they using the BACK button.
  • Horizontal scrolling. Do I really need to explain why this is wrong?
  • Re-size my browser and I curse your name because I should be the only person in control of my browser.
  • Front Page and other cheap HTML editors create poor code riddled with bugs that may be incompatible with different browsers. Do NOT use them. Notepad should be your best friend if you don't want to shell out $$ for a good editor.
  • Typos are very ironic when found on an author's website. Proofread.

Agree with me? Think I'm off my rocker? Want to share something that irks you (e.g. text links that change size when the mouse rolls over them)? Please do so!

And next week: Part 2 - Tips and Tricks.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Have a spooktacular day!

In the mood for tricks or treats? Stop by Romance Junkies Halloween Contest. It's a scream *grin*.
Mechele aka Lany of Melany Logen

Eternal Brothers and November Newsletter!


I'm so excited that ETERNAL BROTHERS, book 4 in the Dalakis Passion series is available today from Ellora’s Cave Publishing .

You'll finally find out who the mysterious Zane York is and if he is friend or foe of the Dalakis family. Check out the amazing cover the EC Art Department did.

In honor of today's new release, the November issue of the Awakening Desires Newsletter is now available. This months Newsletter winner is Lori (mctclover). Lori has won a print copy of Dalakis Embrace, which contains Harker's Journey and Lucian's Delight, books one and two of the Dalakis Passion series.

This months issue contains all the latest news and contest information, as well as an excerpt and all the usual features.

Check out the November interview with the talented Sally Painter.

As always, for more information on any of my books, check out my website .

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

30 Days, 50 Thousand Words...It can be done.

November is National Novel Writing Month. Did you know? I didn't until last week. Apparently, tens of thousands of people (2006 had 79,000 participants) use the seat-of-your-pants approach to writing. They throw quality out the window because it's all about quantity, baby. You have 30 days to churn out 50,000 words (and, no, you can't copy and paste "the" 50,000 times).

Have a story kicking around in your head? Ever read something and thought you can do better? Well, go for it! Check 'em out at

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween contest!

I'm taking part in a Halloween contest hosted by my pal Sam Cheever. We're giving away a great "trick or treat" gift bag! Take a look!

Good luck to all those who enter!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007



Just a reminder for you all to check out the Eternal Brothers Sneak Peek Contest! To celebrate the upcoming release of Eternal Brothers: Book 4 Dalakis Passion vampire series, I'm giving away a download copy of the book.

Another lucky winner will receive a print copy of Dalakis Embrace, which contains Harker's Journey and Lucian's Delight, books 1 & 2 of the Dalakis Passion series.

That's two chances to win. Just go to my Website and click on the contests page for details!


If you're not already receiving Awakening Desires--the Newsletter of Romance Author N.J. Walters, then you're missing out on all the latest news, author interviews, excerpts and tons more! You're also missing out on a chance to win every month!

Each month, some lucky newsletter subscriber wins a prize. This month, the prize is a print copy of Dalakis Embrace--which contains the books Harker's Journey and Lucian's Delight, Books 1 & 2 of the Dalakis Passion vampire series.

All you have to do to be eligible to win is to go to Awakening Desires Newsletter to join.

I’m also one of the participating authors in the Raven Halloween Scavenger Hunt! There are tons of prizes to be won. Click on the link on my website for details on how you can enter and be a part of the Halloween fun! Or go to The Raven Happy Hour.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Speaking of retreats ...

I'll be heading out to a local casino soon with some writer friends. This is what we call our "Turtle Retreat" because it takes place at Turtle Lake Casino in a small town in Wisconsin.

I organize it twice a year (spring and fall) and I always get energized by it. I don't take my laptop, just my Gadget (a handheld computer that's good for composing and notes, but nothing else.) There's no Internet in the hotel, so it's just 2 days SOLID of brainstorming. We each get two 1-hour slots to do whatever we want (within reason, of course. No running around naked or getting crazy. Two 1-hour slots to do WRITING stuff).

It's amazing how much energy you can get from people when they're on the same wavelength as you, isn't it? I went to a one-day conference a week or so ago, with a creativity coach, Eric Maisel. It was amazing -- this guy had the whole room (50-60 people) energized and focused and ready to write. There were people in that room who had given up writing and when he got done, they were working on their first drafts again. He showed us how so many things are just roadblocks to writing: the 'I can't' syndrome, versus the 'I can'.

As it turns out, we were in a conference room next to an incredibly NOISY bunch of people, and it just proved his point: you can write anywhere, any time, as long as you have your story in your head. I got a whole chapter written that day in 5 minute chunks. I've always been very disciplined and focused when it comes to my writing, and this just reinforced what I've always known: there's no Silver Bullet.

Sit down and write.

I'll report back in from the Turtle in a few weeks and tell you how I fared on the slots (I usually come out ahead) and in the brainstorming. I've already decided I want to brainstorm one book and use one hour for promo brainstorming. Since the others going with me are unpubbed, I can get reader perspectives on what might work and what won't.

I'm already looking forward to it.