Blog Archives

Z is for Zany: Which describes what this #atozchallenge has been like. #blogging #writing

What a ZANY month April has been. Between the unusual weather throughout the country to this amazing adventure called the A to Z Blogging Challenge. When I agreed to participate, I really had no illusions about ever completing the challenge. While I do like to talk, having something new to say every day for a month? That is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

Yet, here were are on the lat day of the challenge and I actually managed to complete it successfully. HOORAY FOR ME!

I want to take a quick minute to thank and welcome all the new blog followers my participation has earned me, and I hope I continue to entertain and interest you with my blogging going forward. I have also started following a whole new set of great blogs and look forward to growing and learning alongside all of you as the year moves forward.

Thanks again to everyone who visited during April and I hope to still see and hear from you all come May.

Happy Monday!

Y is for Youth… Man, I miss having that… #atozchallenge #blogging #writing

Ahh, to be young again… to not feel the aches and pains of age, or notice the little gray hairs starting to come in at my temples. To be able to look at the world with all the excitement and vigor of a child… what a neat thing that would be, eh?

Now, if I were truly pressed, and had to choose to go back and live my childhood again or stay where I am now, Im not sure I would really go back. I mean, heck, there were a lot of hard life lessons between then and now, some of which I have absolutely no desire to see again. But, there are some moments in my youth, if given the choice, I would decide to live in forever and ever. I would agree to never grow up if I could just experience what I did on a particular day, or feel what I felt at a particular moment.

Then I take a look at my children. My oldest is grown and on his own now, starting a life with his girlfriend and my job where he is concerned is done. My two daughters are still home with me, but the oldest, Casey is 17 and a senior in HS — off to college in the fall and on to adulthood. My youngest daughter, Shelby is 11 (12 June 1st) going on 35, and while she is the one I will get to experience childhood with for just a little longer, soon she will find Mom as boring as the other two did when they got a bit older. But, each time I look at what they have each grown to become, I smile — I am so proud of them, and of me for all the things we overcame and did together.

Being a single parent isn’t easy, and some days I feel a hell of a lot older than my mere 42 years, but when things get hard and I start to feel old, I just look at my kids, spend a bit a time with them, and that youth each of the oozes seems to rub off on me just a little bit, and once more I feel like a little kid, excited by a new sunrise and the prospects of a play date after school.

Thank God enthusiasm and feeling young is contagious! I may never grow up at this rate 🙂

For fun, I thought I would share some before and after pics with you — an illustration of youth, as it were.

This is my very special gang 🙂





Me and My Little Gang of Youthful Exuberance!!

X is for Xebec: Courtesy of 17th Century Shipping #atozchallenge #blogging #writing

Like the rest of the participants on the A to Z Blogging Challenge, it was tough to come up with an X word that would not be used by every other participating blog. Good thing I write fiction with historical elements or this would have been a really boring Xylophone post 😛

You may be wondering at this point, “What ‘s a Xebec?” and “Did she make that word up?”

The short answers are a ship, and no, I didn’t.

Let me elaborate a bit 🙂

From Wikipedia: A xebec (play /ˈzbɛk/ or /zɨˈbɛk/), also spelled zebec, was a Mediterranean sailing ship that was used mostly for trading. It would have a long overhanging bowsprit and protruding mizzen mast. It also can refer to a small, fast vessel of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, used almost exclusively in the Mediterranean Sea.

Xebecs were similar to galleys used by Algerian Berber corsairs and Barbary pirates having both lateen sails and oars for propulsion. Early xebecs had two masts; later ones three. Xebecs featured a distinctive hull with pronounced overhanging bow and stern, and rarely displaced more than 200 tons, making them slightly smaller and with slightly fewer guns than frigates of the period.

The protagonist in Call of the Sea, Jashir, the notorious pirate, captains a Xebec.


“Sails to the stern, Captain!”

The call from the crow’s nest jerked Daniel’s attention toward the topmast and the crewman pointing behind them.

Captain Winters lifted the spyglass, peered through it. “Lateen sails, no colors. Looks like a xebec.” Lowering the glass, his gaze swept to Daniel. “All hands at the ready.”

“All hands at the ready!” Daniel shouted across the deck of the brigantine. “Step handsomely, men!”

The Captain rested a hand on Daniel’s sleeve. “Take the helm, Daniel. I want you at the wheel if there’s to be a fight.”

Daniel nodded, looking to the man he’d grown to admire. “Aye, Captain.”

I bet you feel supremely educated now, don’t you? Okay, maybe not, but at least I managed to come up with a somewhat informative X day posting. Only two more letters to go (is that the finish line I see ahead?)

See you tomorrow 🙂

WANT by Stephanie Lawton (@steph_Lawton): A Review #AtoZchallenge #blogging #bookreview

I thought for W day, I would post my review of the YA novel I just finished titled, WANT. (appropriate, right?)

Want by Stephanie Lawton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying this book was absolutely nothing like what I expected when I sat down to read. I have read a fair share of YA books, but WANT is miles above anything I have read from this genre lately.

Stephanie Lawton presents us with a southern world, steeped in tradition and dark secrets. The MC, Julianne is flawed and “real” and I was rooting for her from page one. What a wonderful departure this was from the usual perfect life, beautiful flawless MC’s present in so much of today’s YA fiction.

About halfway through the novel I had worried I wouldn’t be pleased with the ending based on how the story was unfolding, but boy was I wrong. Ms. Lawton drew me into her southern world and had me gnawing my nails as I prayed for Julianne to make the right choices — pick the right man. Don’t even get me going on the hotness of the men — one dark and brooding, one the perfect southern gent (even if he is a Yankee).

While some of the subject matter was deep and emotional, I feel it was well handled and none of the drama read as over the top or gratuitous. All of it lended to the authentic feel to the story.

Really enjoyed this one a great deal and will be looking for more titles by this talented new author.

View all my reviews

V is for Victory: Sometimes Winning is Losing #atozchallenge #blogging #writing #CalloftheSea

While I was pondering what to post today, I started to flip through my brain for words starting with V that would translate into a excerpt for you all from Call of the Sea — Then it hit me. Victory! what a great V word. Everyone likes winning.

So, with that in mind, I began to think on what scene I could share to illustrate the theme of VICTORY. The irony of this snipit is that it shows us that even though you can claim victory, sometimes you still don’t actually win. Below is an example of what I mean, brought to you by CALL OF THE SEA and Ellie Winters.

The ship drew closer.

A tingle started at the base of Ellie’s neck and trickled down her spine. The burning ember of familiarity sparked to life in her chest. Her heart froze when the vessel finally raised its colors. The brig flew the flags of Winters Shipping—The Siren’s Call.

Ellie dropped the spyglass and her hands grasped the rail, fingers curled so tight her knuckles whitened.

Papa! She took a deep breath, rolled the sudden tension from her shoulders, and called down to the deck. “She’s a friendly, Captain!” Was her father really aboard?

While the brig was her father’s first ship and his favorite, he did own a few others. Ellie scrambled for the spyglass, chest tight. With shaking fingers, she lifted it to her eye and searched the deck for her father. Would he even recognize her?

She sat back, gathered her knees to her chest and hugged them tight. Maybe I can just hide up here until they go away.

Ellie wrinkled her nose. She didn’t want that either. If she were brutally honest with herself, she wanted to see her father, missed him more than she cared to admit.

As The Siren’s Call drew closer, she was able to make out the shapes scrambling about the deck. The olive-skinned men with flowing pants and bare chests were not Papa’s crew. Her brow furrowed and her heart plummeted.


Ellie jumped to her feet and pointed across the waves. “Pirates, Captain!” Pulse hammering in her ears, Ellie climbed out of the crow’s nest and hurried down the rigging. “Pirates have taken The Siren’s Call!”

A panting Captain Harris reached Ellie as her feet touched the decking. Worry lines etched his forehead. “Ye sure, boy?”

Ellie nodded. “Positive, Captain.”

“Man the cannons! Prepare to come about!” Captain Harris withdrew his pistol, checked it with narrowed eyes before stuffing it back into his belt. He glanced at Ellie. “Arm yourself and get on the wheel, boy. Send Barry to me at the cannons.”

Ellie bobbed her head and bolted for the quarterdeck. Tendrils of panic wormed their way through her stomach. Where the hell is Papa?

Upon reaching the quarterdeck, Ellie fell to her knees and lifted the heavy chest lid. She grabbed her cutlass from inside and sheathed it at her hip. Slamming the lid shut again, she lurched to her feet. Ellie took the helm from Barry, sending him to the captain. Wrapping damp palms around the wheel, she turned her attention to the oncoming ship.

Their sloop would be no match for the heavy guns of The Siren’s Call. She’d have to outmaneuver them to have a chance. Ellie pulled hard on the wheel. The ship responded with a flap of canvas, swinging to port. Her eyes sought Captain Harris. The painful realization they were about to fire upon her father’s ship hit her with the force of a tidal wave.

Harris raised his sword.

Ellie held her breath. Please don’t let Papa be aboard.

“Fire all cannons!” Captain Harris swung his arm downward. The cannons answered his command with a deafening concussion. Smoke exploded from the ends.

Screams of both anger and pain mixed with the sound of splintering wood as the shots found purchase.

The muffled shout of “Fire!” rang from across the water. A second volley of guns rent the air. Gunpowder burned Ellie’s nostrils and stung her eyes. The quarterdeck stairway exploded to her right, a jagged chunk of wood grazing her shoulder and throwing her to the ground. Searing heat radiated down to her fingertips. Gritting her teeth, she crawled to the other side of the helm, pulled at the wheel’s smooth handles.



Three rungs.

The Surf Runner veered hard to port.

Ellie scrambled to her feet.

“Reload the cannons!” Captain Harris’s voice carried to the helm. “Swing ’er about, Ellis!”

Ellie glanced over her shoulder, made a quick distance calculation. Her gaze swung up the rigging. She yanked on the steerage, eyes glued to the sails. Right on cue, the sheets of white canvas caught wind and snapped to attention. The ship sliced through the waves in a tight arc until The Surf Runner faced The Siren’s Call.

Taking a deep breath, Ellie clamped down on her apprehension and steeled herself for another pass.

U is for Urges: The Tasty Vittles of Life #atozchallenge #blogging #CalloftheSea

Urges — we all have them. Sometimes we follow them, others we do our best to ignore them. As humans, we are almost slaves to our baser urges. Well, some more than others, I guess.

I wanted to take today to tantalize you with a short excerpt from my soon to be released debut novel, Call of the Sea, set for release June 21, 2012.

I think this snipit aptly defines some of the most basic human urges — Desire and Passion.

A knock sounded at the shed door, jerking his head upright.

Who the hell would be out in this weather?

Daniel pushed back from the table and got to his feet. Curiosity piqued, he swung open the door.

Light spilled out the entryway to reveal Ellie, clad in a dripping wet nightgown, shivering, arms wrapped tightly around herself. Strands of wet hair hung in her wide blue eyes. Her teeth chattered.

His breath hitched. “What are you doing, El?”

“I’m not entirely sure, frankly.” She glanced down at her bare toes, wiggled them before swinging her gaze back up to him. “Can I come in?”

Daniel held the door open for her. “Of course.”

Ellie sucked her lower lip between her teeth, glanced back at the cottage. “Thanks.” She stepped into the shed.

“Is everything all right?” Concern laced his tone. He shut the door and twisted to face her.

She stood in the center of the tiny space, cheeks stained pink, and a growing pool of water at her feet. Her hands fretted with each other at her waist. The thin wet nightgown clung to her curves, leaving nothing of her shape to his imagination, as if he needed the help.

Daniel groaned and snatched a blanket from the bedpost, shoving it toward her. “Here, put this around your shoulders before you catch your death.” And drive me insane.

His fingers itched to touch, explore the bounty laid out before him. He swallowed hard.

Ellie wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and snuggled into it.

Daniel lunged for a chair, pulling it away from the rickety table. He brushed a hand over the seat to free it of any accumulated grime and offered it to Ellie. “Please, sit.”

She sank into the chair. Her doe-eyed gaze swept the modest space. “I’ve not been in here since Papa let you take it over. This is nice. Cozy.”

Daniel shoved his hands in his pockets. What is she doing here? “Thanks.” He noticed the cooled mug sitting on the table. He cringed at his lack of social graces. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“No, no.” Ellie floated up from the seat. She closed the space between them. The look in her eyes, swirling pools of sapphire, hypnotized him. “I’m not thirsty.”

Under her spell, Daniel gaped as the blanket fell away. Her calloused fingertip traced his lower lip and her eyes filled with wonder.

Daniel’s hands surrounded her waist before he realized he’d moved. Her scent, a heady mix of lilac and peppermint spice, wafted up to him. His desire surged. “Ellie?”

The question hung in the air between them for endless seconds. In silent reply, she lifted on her toes and pressed her soft warm mouth against his.

One of my favorite things about Ellie, is how quick she is to give in to some of her urges.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share your thoughts.

T is for Take Over: My Daughter, Casey Takes Over The Blog #atozchallenge #blogging #poetry

I am a proud Mama today because T is for Take Over, and my 17yr old daughter, Casey Hart has agreed to be the taker.

Casey is a high school senior heading to college in the fall. Besides being an amazing daughter, she’s a budding poet, and has graciously agreed to let me feature one of her original poems on the blog today.

This particular poem is aptly named Taken Over  (see what we did there?) 😛

by Casey Hart
The initial blow is nothing compared to the ache,
You fall even though you put everything at stake,
They don’t care they just take it all away,
Until you feel as though you must stay.
You think that maybe it’s just a phase,
But, years later you discover that it has lasted way too many days.
Suddenly, it gets pushed back into the depths of your brain,
But, you will always feel the pain.
You find yourself crying as you go to sleep,
It’s hard to understand how words could cut you so deep,
You cringe every time he walks through the door,
But, you cannot run; you’re stuck to the floor.
After months of waiting for the pain to go away,
You start to live life day by day,
That’s when you finally begin to dream again,
But, he pushes and prods you until you despise all men.
It was fun when it started but now you’re just scared,
You can’t remember the last time you even cared.
This situation engulfs your entire life,
‘Til you’re ready to end it; all it takes is a knife.
That’s when your brain shuts right down,
Nothing cheers you up; you’re always wearing a frown.
Thoughts of suicide take over your brain,
You convince yourself that you would feel no more pain.
Your life is over; your heart just won’t quit beating,
Your insides feel like they’re always bleeding.
Your liver, your heart, your kidneys, your spleen,
Are yearning to end this wretched scene.
It never goes away, even when you’re free,
It’s waiting for you,
it’s waiting…
for me.
Feel free to share your thoughts and comments on the poem. Casey was looking forward to knowing what “real people” thought about the piece.
Happy Monday!

Selkie: What the heck is that? #atozchallenge #blogging #writing #myths

While my debut novel, Call of the Sea has not yet been released to the general public, there are a few ARC copies floating around and a few reviews have come in (all good so far – YAY). That being said, one of the comments that has come up a few times from readers are: What is a selkie? and I didn’t know what a selkie was when I started reading.

I tend to forget not everyone is as obsessed with myths and legends as I am, especially the Celtic ones. So, in an effort to clarify for those who may be interested, I decided to take the opportunity of S day to explain what a selkie is.

Let’s start with a definition:

From Wikipedia: Selkies (also known as silkies or selchies) are mythological creatures found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish[1], and Scottish folklore. The word derives from earlier Scots selich, (from Old English seolh meaning seal).[2] Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

Doesn’t help a lot, does it? I mean sure, it gives you a basic idea, but not much else. This is what I ran into when researching as well. While they are an oceanic mythical creature, much like a mermaid or siren, little has been written about the selkie myth.

The section regarding the legend does help some (also from Wiki):

Stories concerning selkies are generally romantic tragedies. Sometimes the human will not know that their lover is a selkie, and wakes to find them gone. In other stories the human will hide the selkie’s skin, thus preventing it from returning to its seal form. A selkie can only make contact with one human for a short amount of time before they must return to the sea. They are not able to make contact with that human again for seven years, unless the human is to steal their selkie’s skin and hide it or burn it.

In the Faroe Islands there are two versions of the story of the Selkie or Seal Wife. A young farmer from the town of Mikladalur on Kalsoy island goes to the beach to watch the selkies dance. He hides the skin of a beautiful selkie maid, so she can’t go back to sea, and forces her to marry him. He keeps her skin in a chest, and keeps the key with him both day and night. One day when out fishing, he discovers that he has forgotten to bring his key. When he returns home, the selkie wife has escaped back to sea, leaving their children behind. Later, when the farmer is out on a hunt, he kills both her selkie husband and two selkie sons, she promises to take revenge upon the men of Mikladalur. Some shall be drowned, some shall fall from cliffs and slopes, and this shall continue, until so many men have been lost that they will be able to link arms around the whole island of Kallsoy.

Male selkies are very handsome in their human form, and have great seductive powers over human women. They typically seek those who are dissatisfied with their life, such as married women waiting for their fishermen husbands. If a woman wishes to make contact with a selkie male, she has to go to a beach and shed seven tears into the sea.

If a man steals a female selkie’s skin she is in his power and is forced to become his wife. Female selkies are said to make excellent wives, but because their true home is the sea, they will often be seen gazing longingly at the ocean. If she finds her skin she will immediately return to her true home, and sometimes to her selkie husband, in the sea.

Sometimes, a selkie maiden is taken as a wife by a human man and she has several children by him. In these stories, it is one of her children who discovers her sealskin (often unwitting of its significance) and she soon returns to the sea. The selkie woman usually avoids seeing her human husband again but is sometimes shown visiting her children and playing with them in the waves.

Selkies are not always faithless lovers. One tale tells of the fisherman Cagan who married a seal-woman. Against his wife’s wishes he set sail dangerously late in the year, and was trapped battling a terrible storm, unable to return home. His wife shifted to her seal form and saved him, even though this meant she could never return to her human body and hence her happy home.

Some stories from Shetland have selkies luring islanders into the sea at midsummer, the lovelorn humans never returning to dry land.

As you can see, there is tons of room for play within the confines of this sparse information. In Call of the Sea, I took some liberties with respect to the rules. For instance, in my novel, selkies have to change form at least once a year for a full lunar cycle (full moon to full moon) to satisfy the requirements of their curse. Of course, the shedding of the skins part plays nicely into my plot, so I left that little factoid alone.

In addition, while researching references and mentions of selkies in literature, I learned that the large majority of such tales feature a female selkie, not a male one. With my gender twist on the pirate in my story being a female, it worked out perfectly to make the mythical selkie creature a male. Gender twists all around — love it.

Do you feel mythically educated now? Me either, really, but I managed to find an S topic, so I can live with that 😛

Happy Saturday, folks!

Rejection: Just Another Piece of the Writing Puzzle #atozchallenge #blogging #writing

Absolutely nobody likes rejection.Yet, for writers it is an integral and unavoidable part of the writing for submission process.

One of the first things I was told when I started looking for places to submit (by just about everyone) was you will be rejected… A LOT. They aren’t kidding, folks. The more you sub the more you open yourself up for the potential for rejection. It is just the way the jungle works.

I have found, in order to survive this inevitability in the publishing business, I needed to develop a thick skin, as well as carry around a barrel full of self confidence. The second part — that was a tricky one. I have never been the self assured type –more the hyper critical, make everyone happy all the time type–so this was something that took me a while. A few acceptances peppered in with the rejections certainly helped. 🙂

Some rejections are amazingly helpful, while others are the dreaded, standard form response –“thank you but this is not for us”– leaving a writer to try to scrape something positive out of  the months (and months) of waiting, while putting bandages on their damaged ego and trying to figure out exactly WHAT wasn’t for them. (Melodramatic much, Bec?)

So how do we deal with this as writers, if it is an inevitable part of the process?

Here are five tips to help in dealing with rejection:

1. Don’t take it personally – Just because one agent or editor doesn’t like it, or think they can sell it, doesn’t mean they all will. They are rejecting a piece of writing, not YOU.

2. Expect rejection – If you are prepared for the worst, it hurts less. Plus, if you go into the submission process understanding that you will be rejected somewhere along the line, you give yourself the opportunity to figure out what steps you will take once the rejection comes in. Again, preparing yourself…

3. Maintain your focus – There is nothing good that can come from stressing over things outside your sphere of influence. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…” Concentrate on the things you can change and the things you can do with the rejection.

4. Learn from the rejection – What could you do differently? Did you pitch an agent that doesn’t rep your genre? Maybe your pitch or query was too confusing? There are always lessons to be learned from our live experiences, no matter how unpleasant they may be.

5. Understand rejection is progress – If you are learning from your rejections, each one teaches you a new lesson, making each subsequent submission (hopefully) that much stronger or well written. You are moving forward by submitting and opening yourself up to the potential for rejection. Celebrate that forward progress.

How do you handle rejection? Do you have any tips or stories to share?

Queries: Oh the Horror! A Necessary Evil #atozchallenge #blogging #writing

I can only think of one author I know who literally LOVES queries. The rest of us, or at least a large majority of the rest of us, hate them, fear them, and avoid them at all costs. I am one of those writers.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand the importance and need for them, but that doesn’t make them any easier to write. What to put in, what to leave out… will it hook? So many things to consider and so many schools of thought with respect to the best ways to approach them.

In my time subbing stories, I have found that simple and to the point seems to work the best.

For giggles, I thought I would put up the queries I have sent that have earned me either a partial request or an acceptance from a publisher or agent. Maybe by putting them all on one place, a pattern will emerge to show what works vs what doesn’t.

Okay, I admit it… this is a complete experiment, but maybe it will be entertaining 😛

This is the original query letter I penned for CALL OF THE SEA – It was sent to a literary agent I wanted to work with (still do). She request the first 30 pages from the MS, but later rejected the MS. At the time, it looked much different than the final version, and I can honestly say I understand why it was rejected. (Rule #1: AGENTS WANT SOMETHING THEY CAN SELL NOT SOMETHING THEY CAN EDIT AND THEN SELL)


There’s no denying the call of the sea.

Thanks to the selkie blood coursing through his veins, young Daniel O’Rourke is tied to the ocean–whether he likes it or not. In an effort to earn a living while staying close to the coast, Daniel takes a job aboard The Surf Runner as their cabin boy.

When his beloved captain and mentor is murdered by pirates, Daniel must work with the captain’s headstrong daughter to hunt down the killer.

That is, if she’ll let him anywhere near her.

 THE CALL OF THE SEA is a historical fantasy romance complete at 78,000 words.

This novel is currently a finalist in the adult category of Miss Snark’s Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction and up for bid by the sixteen participating agents on Tuesday.

My short stories have been published in various anthologies and collections by Pill Hill Press, Wicked East Press and DFE Quarterly (erotica).

When I read this over again, I find it hard to believe three is enough here to bait a hook with, but it did earn a partial request as I mentioned, as well as full requests from my publisher and another small publisher I had queried at the time I was shopping the story.

The below query was for a short story (written under a pen name) — which was rejected eventually, but with the reasoning that it didn’t have a HEA/HFA ending, which this particular publisher requires from their erotic titles. They went on to add that if I made changes to the plot to make it that sort of ending, they would be interested publishing it.

As you can see, a query for a short is a bit different from a novel query (but not a whole lot).

Let me start by congratulating you on your upcoming launch. I’ve been following you on Twitter and Facebook for a little bit now, and it looks like you have some fantastic things happening at [name withheld] Publishing. I am submitting my speculative fiction erotica short, Ace in the Hole for consideration by [name withheld]‘s (BLANK) imprint. The story is complete at 6,000 words.
Twenty year old, Marley Drake is smokin’ hot and she knows it. In search of her next Sugar Daddy, Marley hits a trendy downtown bar with her best friend, Amy. What she finds may just be the jackpot–if she can get past the fact that he’s at least three times her age and a bit creepy. She realizes Professor VonHessen is much more than he appears when he introduces her to his robotics masterpiece, ACE; an anatomically correct android built for sex.
My short stories have been published in anthologies by Pill Hill Press (Sinisterotica – 2011 and Daily Flash: 366 Days of Flash Fiction – 2011) and Wicked East Press (Cutlass and Musket: Tales of Piratical Skullduggery – 2011).
Thank you for your time.
 I would have more queries for you, but flash fiction pieces don’t generally require them, and I haven’t completed my next novel yet, so haven’t written a query for that.
So, did we learn anything from the examples — besides that I am pretty terrible at writing the darn things? Do you have tips or hints for others who are in the process of writing a query?  Feel free to share below 😛