Saturday, August 31, 2013

A to Z Blogging: M is for Mistletoe and Magic

It's the end of August. What better time to think about Christmas? (I know the retailers agree with me!)

Mistletoe and Magic is an anthology of two holiday stories. One was written by the uber-talented (and all-around fun gal pal) Carolyn Hughey. The other is mine. Two sweet holiday stories about the magic of Christmas, Mistletoe and Magic starts in New Jersey with Carolyn's quirky but touching story, Insanity Claus, then moves to Krakow for a special traditional Polish celebration in The Gift of the Magic. And yes, there's a lovely surprise at the end!

Sizzling Hot Books said, "If you're looking for a 'feel good' Christmas read, I highly recommend Mistletoe and Magic."

Mistletoe and Magic is currently on sale for 99 cents at Amazon and Smashwords. Be sure to get your copy now! It's guaranteed to keep you warm throughout the coming winter months.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A to Z Blogging: L is for Long Island

My home. Why do I love it? Because I'm a two-hour drive to all that New York City has to offer if I head west, and a two-hour drive to the more relaxing beaches and wineries of the East End if I drive...well...east. For those unfamiliar with my little corner of paradise, Long Island is shaped like a fish. See?
Photo courtesy of Loving Long

From the "head" to the "tail," it's about 110 miles long and at its widest, about 20 miles across. The tail is divided into two forks: north and south, as is the island itself with its north shore and south shore.

On the North Shore, Long Island is separated from Connecticut, northern New York, and Massachusetts, by the Long Island Sound. North Shore beaches boast calm waters and rocky coasts. The rocks are leftover from a glacier during the Earth's Ice Age that melted from south to north. This same glacier provided the rich soil that gives Long Island its great farms and vineyards and white, sandy beaches on the South Shore which, conveniently borders the Atlantic Ocean.

We have dozens of lighthouses, fishing, water sports, farms, and vineyards. Long Island was the place for the very first suburb (Levittown). Like history? We've got spies and pirates, presidents and movie stars from ages long gone by. Plenty of books have been set on Long Island from The Great Gatsby all the way to my own Calendar Girls series (Snug Harbor is my version of Montauk).

Yes, we have the Hamptons. But we also have charming towns like Port Jefferson (where a ferry connects us to New England via Bridgeport, Connecticut) and Greenport (where another ferry connects us to the laid back beauty of Shelter Island). We have Fire Island with its four-hundred-year-old forest and lots of beaches (reachable by...yep...a coupla different ferries). We have Montauk--the most eastern town on the South Fork (and still another ferry to Block Island, Rhode Island). Orient Point is the easternmost point on the North Fork (and offers more ferry services).

Like a nautical atmosphere? There's the Nautical Mile in Freeport, an esplanade that opens onto the fishing center of Nassau County. And Gosman's in Montauk. Check out the shops at either site and have a seafood meal with fish that came out of the ocean an hour before you sat down to eat. 

We have a full four seasons with sunny springs, hot (and humid) summers, crisp autumns and snowy winters. Sure, we get our share of hurricanes and the last one really walloped us good. But we're nothing if not resilient here, and we bounced back.

Come visit us. We'd love to share our beauty, our friendship, and our fun with you!

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Monday, August 26, 2013

A to Z Blogging: K is for Kindergarten

One of the first articles I ever wrote for a writing group's newsletter was a take on the old "All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten." My  full version is available on my website. Here, I'll just give you a few highlights. Be sure to take some time to read the full article. It's fun and informative!

Practice makes perfect. Remember when you first learned your ABC's? Twenty-six letters. Wow, I didn't think I'd ever be able to recognize every one of them. Still, in Mrs. Palmer's class, we wrote them over and over, shaky at first, but with more confidence as time went by. We sang songs about them, cut pictures from magazines and glued them onto collages, and planned our days around them. Within no time, I knew them all. And not only did I know them, I learned how to string them together into real words!

It's the same with the rules of writing. Point of view; misplaced modifiers; goal, motivation and conflict; dangling participles; independent clauses; punctuation. It's all pretty daunting to the newbie writer. But every one of us has learned to master the mechanics-how? By practicing, writing every chance we get, eating, drinking, and sleeping the writing process, sharing our work and experience with other writers. The only difference is, now we call it, "honing our craft."

Spelling and neatness count. How often have we heard about the editor who automatically rejects any query that has her name misspelled on the address line? Or the agent who despises typos in the first three chapters because it shows the writer didn't take the time to proofread? And really, can you blame them? If you don't care to send out your very best work, why should they care to represent you?

Mind your manners. Ah, yes, the very first anecdote that comes to mind here is the wanna-be writer who slipped her manuscript under the bathroom stall to get an editor's attention. Some in the writing community dismiss this as urban legend, others swear it really happened. Regardless, would you look twice at a work that was delivered to you in this bizarre fashion? Would you buy a car from the salesman who slipped a set of keys under the stall and insisted you take a test drive just as soon as you pulled up your pants? 'Nuff said.

Do your homework. Whether you write historicals set in ancient Rome or contemporaries set in a Wall Street boardroom, research is a writer's best friend and nemesis at the same time. It's a necessary evil. Trust me, if your hero ties the wrong knot in his toga or invests in the wrong currency market in Ecuador, there'll be a reader out there who knows it. Learn how to find the information you need and don't ever think you can slide by with a little bluffing. If Mrs. Kellogg could see through the con jobs in your essays, you can bet Ms. Regular Romance Reader will see through it in your novels, too!

If you don't understand something, ask. Romance writers are the most supportive, generous people in any career field. And thanks to the Internet and hundreds of listserves available at the click of a mouse, if you need help, you can find it in no time. For an obscure example, you could pose the question, "What did the caveman wear when his only outfit was in the laundry?" I guarantee someone somewhere in the world who writes Neanderthal romances will have an answer for you within twenty-four hours. Want to know about a specific agent or editor? Post a question on one of the numerous links available. You'll get everything but their hat size! 

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

A to Z Blogging: I is for Inspiration

People are often mystified by writers (or any artist, really). They want to know where we get all our wonderful ideas.

The thing with a creative mind, is the more you allow that part of you free rein, the more ideas will come to you. No matter how many stories I've written, there's always another one brewing in my mind. 

So...where do I find inspiration?


Overheard conversations, music, famous quotations, a change of scenery, dreams, and of course, my imagination. 

Water is a big inspiration for me. Whether it's a trip to the shore or a quick shower in my own bathroom, there's something unique about water and creativity. Neuroscientists have begun to study the effect of the ocean on human brains and theorize that the endless view frees us to literally "think outside the box" because there's nothing hemming us in. The sound of the waves kissing the shore is the most relaxing sound for us, which allows us to imagine on a grander scale.

Biologist Wallace Nichols calls this phenomenon "Blue Mind." Being near the ocean or hearing the sounds associated with the ocean opens up our minds, makes us more contemplative, and generally calms us. Stress seems to sail away.

Makes sense, right?

The shower is different, and yet, so many of us get great ideas in the shower. Rumor has it, John Cougar Mellencamp wrote the first line of his mega-hit, "Hurts So Good" with soap on the shower door. 

Neuroscience (again!) has some answers. Studies show that showers relax us so our brains release dopamine, a chemical that stimulates our creativity. Add to that the isolation of a shower. We're totally alone and cut off from all distractions. It's no wonder we get our best ideas there!

There's even a product for creative shower people. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to "Aqua Notes," the waterproof notepad!

I bet the inventor came up with that in the shower...

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A to Z Blogging: H is for Happy Birthday!

I'm 51 today. (Sssh. Don't tell. I usually say I'm ten years older so people compliment me on how fabulous I look for my age.)

I already got my gift from the Hubster: a brand new Kindle Fire HD, along with a sassy cover and convenient plug-in keyboard. 

What else is planned for my day? Le Day Job. And writing, of course. Writers never take a day off. When we're not actually writing, we're thinking about writing: plotting our next scene, our next outline, our next book. If you catch me talking to myself (it happens more often than you think), I'm either running a scene or dialogue for my latest WIP.

Oh, don't feel sorry for me. I'll have a lovely dinner with my family, complete with birthday cake. That's an ideal celebration for li'l ol' me.

Wanna wish me a happy birthday and get something in return? Head over to my Amazon page (or my Katherine Brandon page) and get one of my books. Consider it a celebration of "Read A Romance Novel Month," which coincides with the month of my birth. How's that for synchronicity?

I have something for everyone and the prices range from FREE to under ten bucks, with many of my books on sale for 99 cents. Don't have a Kindle or e-reader? You don't need one. Several of my original hardcover editions are featured for $3.00 or less! That's a pretty good deal, doncha think?

And those 99 cent deals? Will be going up, up, up after this month is over, so act fast!

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A to Z Blogging: G is for Gina

Yes, that's my real name. Sort of.

My legal name is Victoria Regina. 

But I come from a long line of Victorias (mom, grandmother, great-grandmother and on and on), so before I was born, while my father insisted he wanted to name me Victoria if I was a girl (John Francis Kenneth if I was a boy--I dodged a major bullet on that one!), my mother insisted my middle name would be Regina and they'd call me "Gina." Not Victoria, not Vicki, not even Regina. Just plain Gina.

She once told me I was named for Gina Lollobrigida. Funny. I don't see the slightest resemblance.

According to my favorite reference book, The Secret Universe of Names, here are a few facts about Gina (a GN name):

"If the GN were a drink, he or she would be a gin and tonic: effervescent and bubbly, but with an intoxicating kick. 
GNs love to laugh and can't seem to enjoy themselves unless everyone around them is laughing as well."

What's the story behind your name?

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A to Z Blogging: F is for Fifty

Half a century. That's how old I am. (At least for another week.)

How the hell did this happen?

I remember myself at six, at ten, at thirteen, at twenty-one. It's all right there in my head, like only a sliver of time has passed. I remember myself at age 22, when I first met the man who would become my husband two years later. I remember giving birth to my daughter at age 28 (which means she's now 22!) and going through delivery a second time for my son at age 34. It's all so clear. I remember all their firsts: steps, words, first day at school.

I remember specific days and nights, and it doesn't seem like I've survived more than fifty years of them. But, apparently, I have. Which means, I'm now at an age where I should be able to give sage advice to the younger generations. So what have I learned by reaching this milestone? Aside from spelling and how to solve math problems. What life lessons can I share with my kids (and anyone else who seeks my wisdom)?

Pull up a chair and listen up, my babies. Here are some of the most important things I've learned in my half century on this ride:

"Family" is made up of those who love you, who forgive your faults, who only want what's best for you, and who don't denigrate or diminish you so they can feel better about themselves. Blood has nothing to do with family; love is all that matters.

Dare to follow your dreams. The greatest tragedy is not if you try and fail; it's not trying at all.

Happily Ever After takes a lot of consideration, fighting, compromise, and stubbornness. But it can be achieved with hard work and it is soooo worth it.

Do what you love and love what you do. Happiness will follow.

Never trust someone who has no sense of humor. Laugh a lot. Out loud.

Life's too short. Give love freely. Surround yourself with others who do the same. Avoid those who are petty or make you feel small.

Above all: love, laugh, live. 

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Monday, August 12, 2013

A to Z Blogging: E is for Editing

No matter how you write, editing is crucial for all writers. Me? I'm an "edit as I go along" writer. Yes, I know. All those how-to books say that's a no-no. That I should just regurgitate words and worry about the editing later. But I'm a control freak when it comes to my writing. If I know something I've written is wrong--whether it's a timeline issue, an incorrect phrase, or a dull scene, I can't move on until I fix it. Each scene I write hinges on what's come before. So if the previous scene isn't as perfect as I can make it, I can't move forward.

Like the writing process, the editing process is unique to each writer. What works for others may not work for you. I'm a perfect example of that. So whether you edit during or after you've written your manuscript is a personal choice. Editing, however, is an absolute must. Do not publish or shop around your work until you've had several different sets of eyes and one professional editor review it for both structural and line edits!

And (shameless plug): If you're looking for an editor, check out my website at for tips, sample contracts, and additional info.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

A to Z Blogging: D is for Dante (A Double-Feature Sunday Snippet)

I'm combining two of my blog features today, the A to Z Blog Challenge and the Sunday Snippet to bring you a scene with Dante LaPalma, the hero in my sweet contemporary romance, A Run for the Money:

Nicole Fleming and Dante LaPalma have nothing in common except an old man's legacy. Joe Corbet has promised that a great treasure awaits them--if they're clever enough to solve his riddles within a six-month time frame, that is. According to Joe's will, Nicole and Dante must participate in several excursions. After each adventure, a new clue will be presented that will lead them to their next obstacle. Only when they've completed every task can they discover the treasure meant just for them. Along the way, Nicole and Dante are forced to share their secrets and place their faith in one another. If they can learn to work together, they'll discover what's truly important in life. And maybe, if they're lucky, they'll find the greatest treasure of all: love.

Dante's one of my favorite heroes. Beneath his alpha exterior, he's full of vulnerabilities and has a major league sweet side that only the heroine, Nicole, can pull out of him.

On the opposite side of the road, a mint green Jaguar pulled a rolling stop, and then cut left in front of him.
     “What the--?” He turned right and followed the idiot in the Jag.
     Seconds later, the Jaguar sped up and into Nicole’s driveway where it slammed to a halt.
     Well, now this is getting interesting
     Curiosity burning, Dante pulled over a few houses away and cut the engine.
     A man, tall as Dante but not as broad, stepped from the Jaguar. A speeding Nicole launched herself from the back porch into his open arms.
Okay, so who was this clown? And how long should he wait before punching his lights out?
     The intense expressions on both their faces drove a spike through Dante’s chest, and he rolled down the window to hear their conversation, but had parked too far away to discern their low voices. When the clown stroked Nicole’s hair and she buried her face in the crook of his neck, Dante’s hands clenched the steering wheel with enough force to strangle it.
Meanwhile, still wrapped around each other, the couple ambled up the steps and into the house.
     Now what? A sane voice told him to turn around and go home. One love triangle in a lifetime was more than enough. No way would he go through that misery again.
Shifting in his seat, he reached to turn on the ignition when the two exited the house again. The clown held two suitcases, and Nicole toted a red plaid box that he guessed was a pet carrier. With her shoulders hunched and her eyes staring at the ground, she had the posture of a beaten woman.
     Leaning over the dashboard, Dante squinted and peered harder through the windshield. Hard to tell from this distance, but she sure didn’t look happy.
     Okay, pal. All bets are off if you’re making her cry.
     Before his saner side could talk sense into the furious side, he opened the car door and stepped out. Fists clenched and ready for action, he strode forward, prepared to pummel the guy into a bloody pulp his own mother wouldn’t recognize. As he drew nearer, their conversation grew clearer. The guy had a namby-pamby voice some might describe as “cultured.” Dante preferred “snotty.”
     “…Unless you need a drink or anything to settle your nerves first,” the guy said.
     “No, thanks,” Nicole said, her tone flat and emotionless. “I just want to hit the sheets.”
     With this guy? Was she kidding?
     “Don’t sell yourself short, Nic,” Dante called, sarcasm sharpening the words. “Hold out for dinner at least.”
     She stopped abruptly and stared, open-mouthed. “Dante? What are you doing here?”
     “I changed my mind. Thought I might like to spend a little more time with you before I went home.” His cold gaze took in the clown. “I didn’t realize you’d get so desperate for a man you’d order one from Schmucks R Us.”
     The clown had the nerve to laugh.
     Nicole, on the other hand, shot red-hot lasers through her eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
     “I think it means he’s jealous,” the clown replied. “A girl like Nicole doesn’t sit home alone for long, Mr…?”
     “LaPalma,” he replied through gritted teeth.
     “Mr. LaPalma. As a matter of fact, I suppose I should let you know that Nicole spends quite a lot of time with me.” He flashed Dante a snake-like smirk. “In my house. In my bedroom.”
     “Jason!” Nicole shouted, placing the cat carrier at her feet. “Stop it! You’re not funny.”  The clown turned toward her, innocence etched on his finely chiseled features. “What? I’m only telling him the truth.”
     “You’re twisting it,” she retorted. “Deliberately. Keep it up and I’ll tell Farrah.”
     His laughter grew loud enough to shake the trees. “Okay, fine. You win. I’ll just put these in the car while you calm the savage beast.” Hitching the suitcases up, he jerked his head in Dante’s direction. “Mr. LaPalma. Nice to meet you.”
     “Yeah, right,” Dante replied, barely able to repress the urge to punch the guy square in the face.
     “Are you out of your mind?” Nicole shouted. “Jason is Farrah’s husband. There’s nothing romantic between us.”
     “There could be,” Jason sing-songed from the trunk of the Jag.
“You’re not helping,” she sing-songed back, and then returned her attention to Dante. “He’s harmless. Really. It’s a long story. I was upset and called Farrah. She’s still at work so Jason showed up to help me out.”
“Yeah, well, you’re not riding in a car with him. He drives like an idiot. He nearly got us both killed at the intersection back there.”
“Oh, please. I blew the stop sign,” Jason said from behind him. “So sue me. I was in a rush to reach our girl.” He sidled up to Nicole and draped his arm across her shoulder. “Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get you settled. Mr. LaPalma, you’re welcome to follow along. Nicole can tell you the whole story when we get to my house.”
“No.” He grabbed Nicole’s wrist and tugged her out of Jason’s hold. “She can tell me on the way. I’ll drive her.”
Jason looked ready to argue, but Bomber chose that moment to meow her frustration at being penned. Jason dropped his gaze to the carrier, then looked up at Dante, grinning. “Okay. But if you’re taking Nicole, you take the cat, too.”
“Oh, no. You take the cat.”
     “No way. It’s a package deal. You think I want to listen to that thing howl all the way back to my house? Forget it. We’re not splitting up the set.”
     “Hell-o?” Nicole interjected. “I’m standing right here. Could you stop talking about me like I’m the dotty old auntie no one wants? Bomber and I will ride with Dante. We have a few things to talk about anyway.”
     “Sounds good to me,” Jason said.
     Yeah, sure it did. Bomber was caterwauling and lucky Jason had just danced out of putting up with the noise for however long the drive would take.
     “But, Dante?” he added. “Let me give you fair warning. Nicole’s been through enough today. You hurt her and--”
     “And what?” Dante straightened to full height, fists at the ready. “Are you planning to take me on?”

     “Me?” Jason gave a mock shiver. “God, no. I’m a lover, not a fighter. My wife, on the other hand, will destroy you.”

A Run for the Money is available in hardcover, paperback, and digital versions from Amazon's Montlake Romance division.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

A to Z Blogging: C is for Cookies (Chocolate Chip, to be precise)

My family members have a bizarre cookie ritual and I'm wondering if any other families do this.

Whenever I bring home Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies, my husband and kids rip open the package and the fun begins. They rifle through the tray of cookies to find the cookie with the most chips. Then it becomes a competition to see which of them grabbed the "chippiest" one. 

This game drives me nuts for several reasons. First of all, what's the freaking difference? So what if one cookie has a chip or two more than the others? But my husband and kids are practically mercenary about finding that ultimate cookie.

Secondly, these are people who are not good with packaging so once they rip open the bag and remove the plastic tray, they can't replace them snugly. The cookies left behind quickly go stale.

They also try to drag me into the competition by complaining that I should be more "selective" in which package I buy at the store. As if I can see through the package to find the one with the greatest amount of winners.

My daughter's former boyfriend was originally on my side, but now, according to his mother, plays the same game, holding up the winning cookie for all to see as if it were the Holy Grail.

Apparently, the sickness is spreading.

I often complain, remarking that, really, in the grand scheme of things, all the cookies are the same.

You'd think I compared Star Wars to Star Trek at a geek convention. Their faces take on these horrified expressions. "They are not the same!" they exclaim.

So, how about it? Any other families compete over chocolate chip cookies. I'm honestly not sure if I'd prefer to be alone in this bizarre quirk or find other people suffering along with me.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

A to Z Blogging: B is for Body Language

I do a workshop on body language for romance writers called, "Hips Don't Lie: Body Language Between the Sexes." It's one of my most popular workshops because it's fun, funny, and informative. And it gives writers the tools to create their own character quirks to display body language, rather than providing a list of useless facts about head positions or when to tell when someone's lying. Whenever I do this workshop, I spend some time refining my info, researching, and adding new tidbits to keep the workshop fresh. So no matter how often you've seen it, there's always something you've never heard from me before.

For example, did you know that the strongest sense in sexual attraction is the sense of smell? We not only choose a mate based on looks, but also based on the pheromones our bodies give off. In fact, in a lot of metropolitan cities, a new popular dating craze is the T-Shirt party. Basically, each participant is asked to buy a new t-shirt and sleep in it. The next night, they bring it, unwashed to a central locale where the shirt is placed in a Ziploc bag and numbered. Party-goers then choose a date by smelling each t-shirt in its bag and choosing the one they find most pleasing. Similar scientific experiments have shown that not only can we find a mate this way, but also, our sense of smell repels us from those who are related to us. In this manner, we can find a mate who will help us strengthen the gene pool our children will inherit, making them stronger and more immune to disease.

In essence, your nose does the picking! (Make of that what you will.)

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A to Z Blogging: A is for Afterlife

Ever wonder what happens to love when we die? 
That question helped create the first of my Afterlife Series, Eternally Yours, and is now propelling me toward The End of Book II, In Your Dreams. In Eternally Yours, I introduced Jodie Devlin, who committed suicide and winds up in a strange place on the other side. Here's a snippet:

“Next! Yoo-hoo? Next!”
            Jodie snapped alert at the snotty woman’s prompt. Where was she? Was this hell?
            Blinking, she studied the polished golden marble walls and floor. Red velvet ropes with brass fittings encased her in a serpentine line along with a host of other barely attentive people. Each figure—male or female, tall or short, fat or thin—wore a diaphanous lavender toga. When she looked at her own body, she saw the same garment draping her limbs, soft as spun spider webs.
            They stood in a tremendous reception area of what might have been a five-star hotel lobby. Deep mahogany wood framed the glass elevators and a wraparound railing one story above her. Although a dozen doors broke up the monotony of solid walls, none held an exit sign or window which might lend a clue to her whereabouts. From the ceiling, at least a hundred stories up, chandeliers dripped filaments of colored light like purple rain. Was she in Prince’s house? Oh, God, this was hell!
But no. Behind her, a waterfall, surrounded by lush ferns and majestic palm trees, splashed cool mist into primavera air. Men and women, garbed in white uniforms with gold braid, raced around life-sized white marble statues of angels, unicorns, and smiling dragons.
            “Neeeee-exxxxt!” The woman’s voice turned the one syllable word into two.
            Jodie’s gaze flew to a long reception desk with ten clerks behind and nine customers in front. A dark-haired, sloe-eyed woman in the same white and gold uniform leaned forward from the open slot and signaled to Jodie with a crooked finger. Confusion dogging her steps, she inched forward. The woman’s attention veered to a computer monitor and keyboard, fingers clickety-clacking with expediency. “Name?”
            “Jodie Devlin,” she replied through dry lips.
            “Any middle initial?”
            “R. Rosalind.”
            The woman frowned. “Date of death?”
            She almost answered with her birth date, but then stopped to think. “Date of…” A lump rose in her throat, and she swallowed with difficulty. “…death?”
            Over the polished mahogany top, the woman’s hands rolled in mid-air. “Can we speed this up, please? There are a thousand people behind you. What was your date of death?”
            “The eighth of A-April.”
            Brow cocked, the clerk sighed. “You’re not on my reservations list. Are you sure you’re supposed to be here?”
            Was she? She had absolutely no idea. After another glance at the marble and mahogany d├ęcor, the crowds of lost sheep, and the harried attendants, she leaned over the counter to whisper, “Ummm…where exactly is here?”
            “Oh, for God’s sake.” Palms against the marble edge, the woman pushed away from the keyboard. Her barstool-style wheeled chair skidded across the floor. Leaning, she slammed a large red button on a table behind her. “Sherman? I think I’ve got a thirty-six-slash-eleven over here.” She rolled back behind the counter, eyes narrowed. “Are you, perhaps, a suicide?”
            Heat rocketed into Jodie’s cheeks—did she have cheeks? Whatever she had, embarrassment shot flames through her face. She managed a slight nod, and then turned away.
Through the milling crowd, a small man, only about as high as her shoulder and narrow as a swizzle stick, strode toward her. He was garbed entirely in white except for the gold studs winking in his earlobes. Despite the snow white clipboard he clutched under one arm, he extended his hands in greeting. “Miss? My name is Sherman, and I’m the spirit guide here. How can I help you?”
He had a face like an apple left too long on a windowsill, ruddy bronze with sunken cheeks, wizened to a state that made him appear ancient, yet ageless. Long white hair, a lion’s mane, swept away from his high forehead and fell to his padded shoulders.
“She doesn’t have a reservation,” the woman said with a sneer. “At least not for her current date of death.”
            Understanding dawned on his mushy face. “Ah. Miss…?”
            “Devlin.” Jodie’s reply sounded hoarse in her sandpaper throat. Swallowing, she tried again. “Jodie Devlin.”

            “Miss Devlin, why don’t you step away from the reception desk so we can continue moving others forward? If you’ll follow me, I’m sure we can straighten this out.” Without waiting for her reply, he turned to head back into the crowd.

I revisit this area, known as the Welcome Level, time and time again in these Afterlife stories. In fact, here's a sneak peek of a similar scene from In Your Dreams, where bounty hunter Sean arrives with his latest spirit, a former female impersonator who goes by the stage name, Mercedes Bends:

          With one final spin of electrical cyclonic energy, Sean touched down and guided Mercedes to a stop beside him. As always, the Welcome Level of the Afterlife roared with activity. New spirits lined up inside the velvet-roped queue that snaked around in front of the long white marble Reception Desk. Busy clerks behind the desk processed the incoming with assembly-line speed. The occasional staccato call of “Next!” resounded like gunfire in the cavernous marble lobby.
           Amethyst crystals, suspended from the sky-high ceiling on silver filaments, winked with light. Water splashed into fountains shaped like unicorns, angels, and winged horses, saturating the vanilla-scented air with spring mist.
          Like the local yokel experiencing the big city for the first time, Mercedes Bends gaped and gawked, craning his neck to look up, down, around the porcelain statues, past the throng of dazed newcomers, up to the numerous floors towering hundreds of stories overhead. “Oh, my.”
         Yeah, yeah. Sean, long accustomed to the hustle and bustle here, simply pulled the man…woman…bounty along. “Come on. This way.”
         One hand clutching the bounty’s arm, he meandered around the lost sheep waiting to be processed, but stopped dead when he caught sight of a familiar profile among the newcomers. The kid. He stiffened. It couldn’t be. Coincidence, right? Yet, that hawk nose, strong chin, slender build, and screw-you-attitude all matched up. He’d have to get a closer look, see the guy straight on, rather than from the back, to be sure.                 
         “Sean!” The Afterlife’s top spirit guide, Sherman, strode forward, ivory hair flowing behind him as if he posed for the cover of a romance novel. He wore his usual white suit with gold braid embellishing the padded shoulders. His ever-present clipboard sat snugly tucked beneath one armpit. Expectancy glowed in the ageless geezer’s marble eyes.
         “Sherman,” Sean greeted him with a terse nod, gaze still glued to that unique buzz cut and pimpled neck in the crowd.
         “Splendid to see you’ve returned from your hunt, successful again,” Sherman enthused.
         “Uh-huh.” All he wanted now was to hand over the goods so he could catch up with the kid on line. Was it him? Really? He was too far away to be one hundred percent sure. Sweat broke out on his palms, and a high-pitched buzz filled his head.
          Apparently unaware of Sean’s discomfort, Sherman addressed Harris…Mercedes. “Ms. Bends, I’m delighted to make your acquaintance. My name is Sherman, and I’m here to assist you with your transition. If there’s anything I can do to make your stay with us more comfortable, please do not hesitate to ask.”
          Sean shook off his distraction to pay attention to the discussion in front of him. What a load of crap. In some other life, Sherman must have been a hotel manager or concierge. He played the part perfectly.
          Harris, like most other newcomers, fell for the act, clasping the offered hand as if it were a life line. “Thank you,” he replied on a whoosh of drama-laden breath. His gaze dropped to his platform sandals, and his voice lowered to a mere whisper. “Should I be frightened? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now.”
           Sherman’s boisterous laughter drew several curious stares from the milling crowds. “You’re not supposed to know, my friend. If you did, I’d be out of a job.”
          Yuck, yuck, yuck. The humor in this place made the Three Stooges look like comedic geniuses.
          Sherman cleared his throat, and the gawkers went back to staring blankly ahead. Patting the manicured hand in his grasp, the spirit guide added, “There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of here, Mercedes. You’re about to discover the peace that eluded you on Earth.”
           Lucky bastard. Sean wouldn’t recognize peace if it slapped him across both cheeks. With his anger mounting, he itched to get to that queue and see the dead kid’s face. Maybe talk to him. Apologize. “If you’ll excuse me,” he said with a nod.
            Before he could spin away, Sherman’s voice stopped him cold. “Sean, I have some news for you, as well. The Elder Council has agreed to meet with you. If you’ll follow Mercedes and me, I’ll let them know you’re available now.”
            Well, well. About damn time.

Eternally Yours is available now for 99 cents. Warning: the price will be going up before the end of the month so now's the best time to buy your copy! You can buy Eternally Yours at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.

In Your Dreams will be released in September. 

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page: Need editing services for your manuscript? Gina is proud to announce the launch of Excellence in Editing:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Snippet: Nobody's Business

Nobody's Business is Book II of the Nobody series. This time around, Brooklyn Raine finds love in an unlikely place. Brooklyn was once an Olympic ski champ, but dropped off fame's radar after the death of her Olympic ski champ husband. Now, she's content to live a quiet life as Lyn Hill, local B&B owner. 

Sports reporter Doug Sawyer lost his arm while embedded with a military unit in Iraq and has enrolled in a rehabilitation program called Ski-Hab. When he discovers Lyn's secret identity, he believes he's found the news story that will renew his journalism mojo. 

What I love about the Nobody series is the relationship between the three sisters. Each one is a unique individual, and each holds on to grudges that have affected the way they interact with one another. But the more time they spend together, the more they talk, the closer they become. Case in point:

“C’mon, April. Speak up. Gimme the details. What’s planned for me today that I’m not going to like?”
“Well…” She sipped the coffee, smiled again at Lyn over the rim. “I figure we can either call Summer to ask for her help with my wedding…”
“Or…?” Lyn waited for the other shoe to drop.
“Or we could talk about your date last night.”
April’s eyes brightened as she fidgeted in the captain’s chair, clutching the arm rests as if to keep from leaping in the air. “Who was that guy? And why didn’t you tell me you were dating again? Not that I’m not thrilled. Believe me, I am. It’s long past time you put away the grieving widow routine. And this Doug guy’s adorable. In a big, bad lion-with-a-thorn-in-his-paw kinda way. Did you meet him at Ski-Hab? How’d he lose his arm? Did you see his prosthetic? It’s totally realistic. You could barely tell it was fake. He says it has fingerprints and everything.”
Lyn rubbed the pads of her fingertips over her closed eyelids and sighed. “April? You’re rambling.”
A flaw only Jeff found endearing. For everyone not currently engaged to April, including Lyn, her runaway mouth had the same effect as nails on a chalkboard. Particularly when she honed in on a topic no one else wanted to discuss. Like Douglas Sawyer.
“Oops.” April slapped four fingers over her mouth. “Sorry. I guess I’m nervous about calling Summer.”
“Why? I’d imagine she’d be thrilled to help you. This is right up her alley: planning, organizing, bossing you around.” She laughed, but April didn’t join in.
“Let’s get back to your date,” April said with a feral grin. “I see you haven’t opened your card yet.”
Amusement fled abruptly, and Lyn frowned. “I’m not ready.”
“What’s to be ready for? It’s a card. And I’m dying to see what it says.”
Another sigh escaped Lyn’s lips. “You have no boundaries, do you?”
“Oooooh. Testy, huh? That means this is more than just a date for you. It’s a relationship.”
“It’s not a relationship. For heaven’s sake, we just met two days ago. And how would you know what my testiness means? If I was, in fact, testy?”
“Trust me. You’re testy. And I know what that means, thanks to Jeff.”
She briefly closed her eyes so April wouldn’t notice her pupils rolling into the back of her head. “Just because you’re marrying a psychologist does not make you an expert on people.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Sarcasm slipped out easier than a third sigh. “Do tell, oh wise and gifted one.”
“Okay, I will. You really like this guy. And that scares the bejeezus out of you.”
“Liar.” The accusation slipped between them smoother than a dryer sheet under a door. “You can’t fool me, Lyn. I’ve been there. When I first started falling for Jeff, the idea scared me stupid.”
“I’m not--”
“Yeah, you are. Scared stupid. Just like me. For different reasons, but the reaction’s the same. See, I kept thinking about my first marriage. All the times Peter cheated on me and (a) did I want to go through that agony again and (b) what if he cheated because I was boring? How long would it be before Jeff found me boring?”
“I am not boring.”
“Yeah, you are,” April repeated with a toothy grin. “But that’s beside the point. Those were my issues. Your issues are different.”
Lyn folded her arms over her chest and glared. “So what are my issues, Dr. April?”
April shrugged. “Only you know for sure, but I bet one of them is, ‘What if I fall head over heels for this guy and he leaves me? Like Marc did.’”
“Marc didn’t leave me.”
Her features softened, as did her tone. “Yeah, sweetie. He did. I admit, it wasn’t his choice. But he left you. And then you left you. You holed yourself up in this inn and built a wall around your heart. But now, this Doug guy’s climbing over your wall. And you’re scared stupid.”

Nobody's Business, along with the other books in the Nobody Series, is available at Amazon

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page: Need editing services for your manuscript? Gina is proud to announce the launch of Excellence in Editing:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Overheard in the Ladies Room

So many people loved the comments I posted that I overheard in Atlanta at the RWA Conference. Well, guess what? Those kinds of conversations aren't limited to the once a year get-together of a bunch of romance writers. Put any group of women together in a social situation and the most bizarre discussions occur. The following are things I've overheard in the ladies room at my office.

1. (To a pregnant woman): "Well, the baby comes out feet-first, right? That should make it easier."

2. "How was your weekend?" 
"Great! My uncle passed away."

3. "Every time I mention my husband's name at the dry cleaners', they roll their eyes and chuckle. They speak Korean so I don't know what they're saying, but it can't be good."

4. "This sink is broken again? I swear to God, you come in here and play 'Sink Roulette' every day. Which one works, which one has soap, which faucet's going to splash my skirt..."

5. "She wrote me up for going to the ladies room thirty minutes before lunch. Told me I should've waited. I told her my slacks were from Jones New York, not Pampers."

Be careful what you say, ladies. You never know who might be taking notes for blog fodder. <wink!>

For tips on writing and fun articles, visit Gina's Articles For Writers page:
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