Friday, August 28, 2009

Special Guest: Icy Snow Blackstone

For my blog today, I have as my guest Philip Hamilcar, hero of Earthman's Bride. Welcome, Philip. Thank you for coming. I hope speaking to this many unseen people won't be a daunting project for you.

Philip (The Governor of Tusteya is a tall, blond Earthman. He wears a dark blue uniform similar to the ones : Thank you, Mistress Blackstone. As Governor of Tusteya, I've spoken to the entire population of a planet, so I'll just pretend this is more of the same. (clears his throat) I suppose I should introduce myself. I'm Philip Hamilcar, Junior, and I'm the Earthman in Mistress' Blackstone's novel Earthman's Bride.

ICS: And you're the governor of the planet Tusteya.

Philip: That's right.

ICS: Pardon me for mentioning it, Philip, because I’m sure you get a lot of this, but you’re awfully young to be governor of an entire planet. I understand you became governor at a very early age.

Philip: That’s kind of you, Mistress Blackstone, for I’m fed up to here (waves a hand above his six-foot-three-height) with people pointing out my age! I was fifteen when I inherited the position from my father and I’ve been governor for five years now. Actually, no one else wanted the job. The men calling themselves my father's friends refused to accept the responsibility--even my Uncle Alexander. was dropped into my adolescent lap. I became governor by default.

ICS: Uncle Alexander. That would be Alexander McIntyre? Your father's ensign?

Philip: Yes. He's not really my uncle but he helped my father raise me. I'll have to admit he's been a great help. (smiles with fondness) He managed to help a lot of the weight off the shoulders of a young boy who hadn't the foggiest idea how to rule a conquered planet. In fact, Uncle Lex and I got along fine...until I learned how to think for myself!

ICS: Give us a little background here. How did a man from Earth become governor on another planet?

Philip: It's not a pretty story, and--being an inhabitant of Earth, you may not like it's goes: The Earth I know isn't a very nice place. They've used up all their resources and have started conquering other planets and sending their natural materials back to Earth. They call it "taking them into protective custody." The planets called it “invasion.” When it happened to Tusteya, they fought back but they were conquered anyway, and my father... Well, he protested the invasion and for his trouble, he and his men, including my Uncle Alexander, were left on the planet. To maintain Terran control, they were told. (looks angry) In reality, they were marooned!

ICS: That's awful! Was your mother marooned also? Did she chose to follow your father to the planet?

Philip: The Federation doesn't allow women in its ranks, Mistress. Every child born to the Terrans has a Tusteyan mother. There isn't a purebred Terran in the second generation and I'm one of them. I guess that's an old story where invaders are concerned but my father made certain every couple who got "involved" was lawfully married by a Tusteyan priest. Unfortunately, where the others had been love matches, my mother hated my father, hated the child she bore him and ran away to join the rebels in the mountains three days after I was born. She died in those mountains, killed by a wild animal.

ICS: Philip, I'm so sorry. So there your father was--stranded on a hostile planet, a widower with an infant, and--

Philip: --a planetful of natives wanting to kill him. Is it any wonder he died early? But please, let's not dwell on the sad part of this story. I loved my father, he did what he had to do. He raised me as an Earthman and I suppose I might have turned out as he did if Alcin Spearman hadn't decided to call a truce.

ICS: How long had this war with the Tusteyans been going on at that time? Thirty years or more, wasn't it?

Philip: Yes, thirty years. I was born ten years after it started and I was near to celebrating my twenty-first birthday when Alcin sent his representative to me. An honorable gentleman named Dr. Martin Celcius.

ICS: So Dr. Celcius came to you with an offer of peace...?

Philip: (smiling broadly) Oh, he brought more than an offer of peace! He told me Alcin had sent me his most cherished possession to keep until he himself could arrive to go over the terms of a peace treaty.

ICS: His most cherished possession! That must have been something very valuable.

Philip: It was...most valuable...(studies his hands a moment) and it also came my most cherished possession and one I'd die to protect.

ICS: My goodness, what was it?

Philip: My wife. Rebeka. He offered Rebeka to me as part of the peace agreement, and I-- (laughs in embarrassment) --Well, I was a twenty-year-old and not married and... (face reddens slightly) Do I have to go into detail? Let's just say that I fall in lust with her immediately.

ICS: Hmmm.

Philip: And within twenty-six hours of meeting Rebeka, that lust turned to love, though I didn't realize it for another twenty-six! Meeting Rebeka Spearman was the luckiest day of my life--and of the Tusteyan people's.

ICS: How do you mean? I think I understand how it was lucky for her people. After all, you apparently signed the peace treaty but how was it lucky for you?

Philip: Because Rebeka encouraged me to rebel. Don't think I was a wimp or anything but I was still fairly young to have such authority and I'd come to lean rather heavily on my uncle, but for a couple of years I'd been questioning the way we were treating the Tusteyans. And then Rebeka came along. She was the catalyst. You wouldn't think it to look at her rhat she could stir up everything so. I mean, she's so tiny, and delicate...with the most beautiful blue eyes and hair that's like black silk...and when she moves...(stops, coughs slightly) Excuse me, didn't mean to get so poetic. Guess you can tell I love the girl. Anyway, Rebeka kind of tipped the scales, make me recognize the fact that I wasn't an Earthman and I wasn't a Tusteyan but a combination of both. I was part of the conqueror as well as the conquered. She gave me the courage to do the things I later did.

ICS: And what were those things?

Philip: I think, Mistress Blackstone, that at this point, I'll have to be a little coy, and suggest anyone wanting to know about that part of our story should read your book. For a native Terran, you've been a very accurate historian, by the way, recording our struggle with total truth and a great impartiality. I'm hoping you'll stick around to report anything else that happens to us and to Tusteya, also.

ICS: Thank you for saying that, Philip, and that's a great segue for me to announce that Earthman's Bride, the first part of your and Rebeka's story, is available from Lyrical Press as an ebook.


He held out his hand, and she took it without hesitation, and when he smiled at that, she smiled back. They continued to walk.

They were behind the high hedge, now, out of sight of the android. Philip glanced towards the terrace. He couldn't see Darius and he was certain the robot wasn't able to see them, either.

Without warning, he caught her by the arms, pulled her towards him and kissed her, thinking as he did it, Fool! Idiot! She'll call for Darius and he'll pound you into the ground and you'll lose your life and your chance to make peace just because you're getting a hormone itch for Spearman's daughter!

But she didn't move, didn't fight, didn't do anything as he pressed his mouth against hers. All he felt was her warm breath floating gently onto his tongue.

When he released her, Rebeka's hand went to her mouth. She was breathing in little gasps.

"I know I shouldn't have done that," he began, thinking he'd better ward off the hysterics he expected.

"You're the first man who's ever kissed me."

He was startled at the--Oh God, was that awe?--in her voice.

Since she didn't appear to be about to yell for her bodyguard, he asked, "Then may I also be the second?" and kissed her again.

This time, her arms went around his neck and her mouth opened slightly, and, he felt a warm, soft tongue brush his lips before darting back into her mouth like a frightened little animal scurrying for its hiding place.

This time, when he released her, they were both breathing rather heavily.

The man who gets you is going to be a lucky devil! Philip thought. He'd felt just a brief hint of the passion Rebeka possessed, probably was holding in check for the man she'd marry. God, he thought, if I could be the one to unleash it! If keeping the girl untouched weren't so important, if only there was some way he could have her and the treaty, too!

Earthman's Bride is available as an ebook from See the trailer at

Monday, August 24, 2009

Villain Archetype: The Parasite

The Parasite is always dissatisfied with his own life and wants to live someone else’s, and he/she doesn’t care what they have to do to make it happen.

When I first started thinking about this archetype, I was surprised at how many examples leapt to mind. The first being The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). The movie is based on a novel written in 1955 by author Patricia Highsmith.

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is working a part time job as a piano player at a party in a borrowed Princeton jacket when he is approached by Herbert Greenleaf. Ripley leads Herbert to believe he’s a graduate of the university and a friend of his son, Dickie. Herbert Greenleaf hires Ripley to travel to Italy and convince his son to return home to help run the family business. Thus the man gives Ripley a taste of the life he’s never known and a hunger for more.

Ripley arrives in Italy, contacts Dickie Greenleaf, and wastes no time ingratiating himself into his life. Throughout their relationship, in both the movie and the book, the reader/viewer becomes aware of the sexual attraction Ripley feels toward Greenleaf and how he covets, the man’s wealth, attention, and charm. But his feelings go deeper than that. He wants to BE Dickie. He emulates the man in every way and becomes desperate to maintain the lifestyle to which he’s become addicted.

Ripley ends up killing the focus of his affection and takes on Dickie’s identity in an attempt to cover up the murder. But when a friend of Dickie’s comes to visit and grows suspicious, Ripley’s parasite persona once more turns to murder to cover up the horrible truth.

He later writes a suicide note to explain Dickie’s death. Herbert Greenleaf pays Ripley off to keep his son’s past indiscretions secret, unknowingly allowing Ripley to avoid prosecution for his murder.

In the end, a chance run in with a woman who knows him only as Dickie forces Ripley to kill his lover, Peter Smith-Kingsley, to hide the secret once again and Ripley realizes the life he wanted has cost him everyone to whom he’s become close.

Similar but less dark is the second example of the Parasite Archetype that came to mind.

In Six Degrees of Separation, (1993) Paul (Will Smith) is a gay con artist. He shows up at Flan and Ouisa Kittridge’s (Stockard Channing and Donald Southerland) door asking for help. He claims to have been mugged in Central park but his lies don’t stop there. He also says he’s friends of their son and daughter at Harvard and Sidney Poitier’s son. This last outrageous lie doesn’t set off the alarms that it should. The couple take him in for the night and are completely charmed by him. But when they investigate Paul’s life later, they learn the truth. They’ve taken a stranger into their midst on face value and been conned. The truth makes them look at the insular existence they lead and turns their perception of it on its ear.

The third example of the Parasite Archetype is DJay ( Terrence Howard) in Hustle and Flow (2005). DJay is a drug dealer and a pimp. A Parasite of the worse kind. He doesn’t just prey on his customers, but lives off the women in his stable while he tries to pursue his dream as a Rapper.

In his quest for his big break, DJay hustles a way into a party where he attempts to give a successful rapper, Skinny Black, a demo tape he’s created. The rapper destroys the tape and DJay assaults him and shoots one of the man’s entourage.

While in prison, DJay learns that one of his prostitutes and business partner, Nola, has succeeded in getting his demo played on the radio. But “Everybody’s gotta have a dream.” No matter what the cost. Right?

The Fourth example of the Parasite Archetype is Jullian Kaye (Richard Geer) in American Gigolo (1980). Julian is a male prostitute in Los Angeles. He’s handsome and polished and works hard to maintain both his outward appearance and his lifestyle. He even takes some pride in being able to please his clients. But he’s a Parasite.

When he meets a politician’s wife, Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton), he becomes more involved emotionally than he’s ever been tempted to do before. But he continues to work as a Gigolo.

His pimp sends him to a house of a wealthy businessman who wants him to abuse and copulate with his wife while he watches. Julian’s heart isn’t into the abuse, the one thing that saves him from being completely unsympathetic. But he does perform, though the experience gives him a bad feeling.

A few days later, the woman he was with that night is killed and the police hone in on Julian as the main suspect. He was with another woman the night of the murder, but she won’t give him the alibi he needs to prove his innocence.

His life spirals downward as he realizes he’s built his existence on a house of cards that could have crumbled at any time. He’s not important to anyone. He’s viewed as the Parasite that he is.

He turns to the one person he thinks may view him as a valuable commodity, his pimp, and learns he’s the man responsible for his being framed for the murder. They get into an altercation and the man falls over his apartment balcony to his death.

With the only person who can clear him dead, Julian ends up in jail. He’s humbled by the experience, accepting of his fate, and perhaps even feels that he deserves some punishment for the life he’s led. When Michelle shows up, he’s surprised. She’s laid her reputation on the line to give him an alibi and cleared him with the police.

Out of all the Parasites thus far, I’ve found Julian the most sympathetic because he learns from his mistake and you feel as though he will make an effort to change once he’s set free.

My last example of the Parasite Archetype isn’t human at all, but grew from the imagination of one of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton. Crichton died earlier this year, a real loss to the human, writing and television community (he was the creator of the hit show ER.) His numerous books have always fascinated me because he was able to take the unusual things he discovered about technology and put a wonderful spin on it and make it completely spellbinding. He’s the author of such blockbusters as Jurassic Park, Timeline, The Andromeda Strain, Rising Sun, Congo, The Sphere, Airframe, Disclosure, The Terminal Man, and several others. Most of his books have been made into movies. But I suggest you read them for each one has a warning in it as well as an unusual way of making the technology he’s focused on a character unto itself.

Jack Forman is an out of work software programmer and house husband who’s having trouble finding another job. Because he sought to blow the whistle on an illegal operation at his last job, other companies are wary of hiring him. In the high-tech world of software it doesn’t pay to be honest.

Because Jack has been a house husband for so long, his self-image and his confidence have taken a nose dive. Thus when he grows suspicious that his wife may be having an affair, he’s almost numb about it. Julia has grown increasingly distant and distracted, but also acts almost manic when she’s at the house.

Concerned for her and their children, Jack accepts a job with his old company to iron out problems their having with a computer code he wrote for a game. They’ve subcontracted with his wife’s company, so he’ll be working at the same facility as she and he may be able to figure out what’s going on with her.

When he arrives at the facility in the middle of the desert, he grows increasingly suspicious and concerned. The members of his team (people he’s worked with before) act both glad to see him and wary. Everyone speaks in double-speak but no one wants to come straight out and tell him what the code problem is.

He learns that his wife’s company, Zymos, has been contracted by the Defense Department to use the nanotechnology they have created as an internal imaging tool as a spy and reconnaissance weapon. The nanobots have been released into the desert and have begun to evolve and learn on their own. In fact they have become a swarm who Prey on any living creatures they come across in the desert.

Crichton’s nanobots evolve to the point they become Parasites using living hosts, their creators, to carry out their agenda, to reproduce and conceal themselves in plan sight within the general population. They learn to take the form of the humans they come into contact with and represent a global threat.

To tell you the ending of the story would be a spoiler. You need to read the book and discover what happens. But these small microscopic computers represent one of the most vicious Parasite Archetypes I’ve ever read about.

What makes Crichton’s books remarkable is that they always hold a grain of truth and that makes their impact thought provoking and a little scary.

Thank you for reading my blog on the Parasite Archetypes. What Parasites have you run across in other books and movies, or in real life? Join me on Inspiration-Ink and let me know.

Write on,
Teresa Reasor

Friday, August 21, 2009

Special Guest: Toni Sweeney

1. How long have you been writing to get published and what do you think finally garnered your success at it?

I started writing at age 6, gained speed in high school, got serious about it in 1975, and had my first novel published in 1989. As for success? I don't know that I have that, yet, but if anything, I'm darned persistent! If anyone ever comes up to me and says, "Toni Sweeney? Yes, I read (insert title here) and liked it (or didn't like it, for that matter), I'll know I've arrived!

2. Since you write science fiction, what differences and similarities to other genres stand out to you?

I guess all stories are similar in that they all have (or should have) plot, characters, and conflict. Placing a story on an alien world, in an alien culture gives the writer freedom to make comments on society by contrasting it to what's going on there, or having the aliens view our own society with scorn, irony, or curiosity, pointing out how absurd, unjust, or complacent it sometimes is. I have one story now that's a horror story but I realized the other day that with a change of the characters' natures from vampire to human, it could be a very entertaining story set in the England of the Plantagenets.

3. What inspires your story ideas?

Anything! Sometimes, it might be something someone says, a catchy phrase, or a play on words. Or an idea that pops into my mind. Or the question: "What if...?" Or just a title.

4. How did you come up with your titles?

I try to have my titles relate in some way to my story, try to make them intriguing, of course, so the reader will look at the title, think "Hm, wonder what that's about?" and buy it to find out. Like in my new book Blood Sin. I'd like the reader to wonder "What's a blood sin? And how does it relate to the hunky guy on the cover, with the beautiful woman clinging to him?" Generally when I choose a title, I stick to it. There have been only a couple of times when my titles have gone through changes. Bloodseek went through four titles before one stuck. Blood Sin went through three. The second story in the series was actually titled Blood Sin and was written first; when I wrote Book One, it was called Blood Ties. Then, I decided that would be better for the second book, so I swapped them. Later, I changed the second title also. (Is that confusing?)

5. Do you use visual aids to help you write? If so, what kind?

Once in a while, I find an online picture which strongly resembles my hero or heroine. I might print that and tape it near the computer to look at while I type. Generally, I just keep things like that in my head. I've done the same thing with scenery, castles, etc. And I'm always researching so if there's a lengthy explanation of something which is integral to the plot, I may copy it out to refer to directly instead of accessing it continuously online or in a book. Saves time.

6. Do you relate more with the hero or heroine in your stories?

My heroine, although when it comes to emotions and secret feelings, I tell myself both men and women experience the same things deep down so there's really no difference. A man can feel the same dismay, elation, and feelings of inadequacy as a woman; he'll just display it differently. I try to make my heroines feisty, so the heroes, who tend to be the domineering type until you get to know them better (or perhaps they change once they meet the heroine) see them as a challenge.

7. Whose POV do you like to write your love scenes from the most and why?

I generally write from the third person POV. Somehow, doing a love scene in the first person feels a little embarrassing. Then, too, that limits the sensation of the act because only the other person's reactions--and not their emotions and thoughts--can be described. First Person always limits the story because nothing can be told that doesn't happen in the speaker's presence. I once wrote a first person love story but before it was published, changed it to third person because that made it flow better.

8. Describe the hero and heroine of your current release.

My latest novel is Blood Sin.

The hero is Aric kan Ingan, a prince of Arcanis, a planet in the Emeraunt Galaxy. At the age of twelve, Aric was taken from his mother and raised by his uncle to be the next Margrave of Arcanis and as a result, he's proud, spoiled, and more than a bit of a snob. He's twenty when the story opens. His uncle astounds everyone by not only opening trade relations with the Earth--a minor planet which has been quarantined from outside contact for two thousands years because of its propensity to violence--but also announces he's marrying an Earthwoman. Aric not only loses his succession to the throne but is expected to accept this graciously and welcome his new aunt with open arms, which--being the spoiled young noble that he is--he refuses to do. This isn't to say he's not a worthy person; he's also brave, an able warrior, and obeys his mother. He just wants to be king!

The second "hero" in the story is his uncle Deroes who became margrave at the age of eight. When Deroes was thirteen, he dismissed his advisors and has ruled alone ever since and is continually in conflict with those same men. They want him to marry...just not an alien, which, of course, is what he does. He recognizes Aric's dislike of his new wife but has no clue how to make his nephew accept what's happened.

Elizabeth Sheffield is more like Aric than she wants to admit. She's spoiled, beautiful, and an opportunist who's accustomed to manipulating men into doing what she wants. At first, this doesn't work with Deroes who's much older and experienced than she, but eventually, even he is maneuvered so that he thinks marrying Elizabeth is his own idea. She thinks she can control Aric the same way she has all the others but it finally comes down to pitting one spoiled young person against another spoiled young person, two personalities too much alike...and the inevitable happens...they fall in love.

9. Is there wiggle room for a sequel and do you have plans to write one?

Blood Sin is the first in the series, the kan Ingan Archives, the premise being that all these stories are in the history of the royal family. (They weren't shy about writing down their faults and foibles for posterity.) The second has now been tentatively titled Sinner's Exile, and there are two to three more, if things work out.

10. What are you up to now? Do you have upcoming releases you'd like to share a little info on?

The next one out will be Blood Sin which will be released in August. I also have A Singing in the Blood, in the Chronicles of Riven the Heretic series, and Sinbad's Pride, from the Adventures of Sinbad, both expected out toward the end of this year. Maybe an anthology of short stories.

11. Tell us something we'd be surprised to know about you.

You mean other than the fact that I'm madly in love with a hunk thirty years younger than myself? Nothing much, I guess.

12. What is your favorite fictional love scene of all time (can be literary or film)?

The first one coming to mind is that famous scene from Gone with the Wind where Rhett forcibly carries Scarlett up the staircase and into their bedroom but I have two others, also. The novel Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong, in which witch Paige Winterbourne and sorcerer/lawyer Lucas Cortez first make love. Also, a novel which I bought decades ago (and, I'm ashamed to admit, no longer remember the title). It was the third in a series, about the Colonies and sailing ships, and the titles had something to do with the ships names and the sea (if anyone recognizes this vague description, thank you!) The first time the hero and heroine make love, he gets very instructional, telling her various names for "things" and it gets very funny. He's trying to be so understanding and gentle and and serious and she's sooo ready!

13. What can readers expect to see from you in the next few years?

Probably more of the same. I'm pretty consistent and predictable.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Villain Archetype: The Evil Genius

The Evil Genius has an evil plan--for you. Intricate puzzles are his specialty and he’s contrived one in your honor. This character not only has street smarts but is a walking encyclopedia of just about everything. Brilliant, clever, skilled and determined this bon-a-fide show off has a unquenchable appetite to beat you in his game of life or death. You’ll think you’re a player only to learn your nothing but his pawn. Unrelenting, this villain’s always two steps ahead.

Dennis Hopper in Speed. Recall the crazed bus driving 50mph on the freeway with the huge gap? Sounds like something only an Evil Genius could contrive. Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves were pawns for the hell-bent, retired officer Howard Payne until the very end.

I Robot. Ah, ha. The Evil Genius here is the main computer, VIKI, aka Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence. VIKI controls all the robots in the film, who are commonly used as servants. Will Smith’s character detests the technology of robots and, in the end deactivates her Positronic brain with the help of good robot, Sonny.

Primal Fear. The genius here is played by Edward Norton. OMG, what a creepy sociopath of an altar boy he portrayed. Aaron Stampler and his multiple personality “Roy” played Richard Gere’s character, Martin Vail, like a finely tuned fiddle--until Vail questions a moment of “lost time” both personalities are privy to.

Other movies include Eagle Eye, Fractured, and Murder By Numbers.

Thanks for reading!
Sloan Seymour

Friday, August 14, 2009

Special Guest: Diane Craver

My Experience with A New Publisher

Since my publisher of Whitney in Charge is new, you might not have heard of them yet. Just this past March I learned about Desert Breeze Publishing from one of my author friends, Lula Thomas/Miss Mae. I immediately went to their website. After reading what they wanted in a manuscript, I felt it would be a good fit for the type of sweet romances I write. I asked others active in the publishing world if they knew anything about this new house, and was pleased to hear only positive things about Desert Breeze Publishing. Their first books were published in April, and I was told by a review site co-owner that the ones reviewed had been well edited and were top-notch.

Early April I emailed my manuscript Whitney in Charge to Gail Delaney, the editor-in-chief of Desert Breeze Publishing. I was happy to receive a contract from her during the same month. At the same time, another small publisher offered me a contract, but I felt Desert Breeze was the best fit for me as an author. I knew I'd submit my future novels to them. I especially liked the fact that they launched their company to provide a place for readers and authors to go where there are only non-erotica/non-erotic romance novels. You don't have to search through erotic romances and erotica that are offered on many other publishers' sites. I haven't regretted my decision in accepting Desert Breeze's contract.

Gail instantly posted my author and book information on their website. After I submitted my cover art form, Jenifer Ranieri contacted me for my input. It was nice to be included so much in the whole cover art process. I'm very pleased with my Whitney cover.

I can't tell you about my sales since Whitney in Charge just released on August 1. I do know that as owners of Desert Breeze, Gail and Jenifer have a great relationship with their authors. Both are available to answer questions and give frequent updates about the growth of their company. Just in the short time I've been with them, they have made great strides in the publishing world. They are definitely getting our books noticed by their aggressive marketing.

If you are an aspiring author or a published author looking for an appropriate home for your non-erotica/non-erotic romance novels to submit to, you should consider Desert Breeze Publishing.

Question for Aspiring Writers or Published Authors: What do you look for in a publisher?

Question for Readers: What do you think of my cover for my new release? What enters into your decision in buying a book by a new author? Is it the cover, reviews, excerpts, or the book jacket blurb?

Whitney in Charge
By: Diane Craver

Whitney Benson is tired of her older sisters’ attempts to fix her up with every single male they meet. Shannon and Regan cross the line when they arrange for her to go skydiving with the simple excuse that more guys like to float in the air than women. Whitney needs to find something else to keep them busy.

When she suggests that the three of them start a family business, the fun begins in their small town. And she thought being a TV producer in New York had been exciting.

Without going skydiving, Whitney meets two eligible bachelors, Jack and Ben, who constantly battle for her affection. Which one will she choose? Both men make Whitney realize, even a heart shattered by her husband’s death, can once again be made whole.

But did she have to fall off a cliff to learn that?


Shannon and Regan entered the room with determined looks, immediately making her wonder what they were up to. With her being widowed and their mother gone, both felt she needed direction and had told her so more than once.

“Whitney, we need to talk,” Shannon said.

“But first, let’s go into the kitchen.” Regan smiled, carrying Chinese food. “I brought your favorite.”

“And fortune cookies,” Shannon added.

Well, that wasn’t a good sign. When they wanted her to cooperate with their plans, Regan always thought food was necessary in winning an argument against the youngest sister. Two years ago, she’d been a television news producer for a popular morning program, but those two still treated her like the baby sister. Maybe if she’d had children with Rob, things would’ve been different. Probably not. She’d always be their little sis.

What plans did they have for her? She loved Shannon and Regan but at times they overwhelmed her. Whitney followed them into the kitchen, getting plates from the cupboard while Shannon made coffee.

Regan opened up the containers of food. “We think it’s time you get out of the house and do something exciting. Mom would want you to go on with your life. And…” She grinned as she scooped out fried rice. “We thought of something to do for you.”

Whitney shook her head. “That’s not necessary—”

“Yes, it is.” Shannon put a spoonful of sugar in her coffee. “You quit your job and came back to take care of Mom.”

“I didn’t mind. Both of you have families, and I didn’t have any reason to stay in New York.” Please don’t mention Rob.

Shannon carried the cups of coffee to the table. “Regan and I have thought of the perfect thing for you to experience.”

Whitney broke open a fortune cookie and read from the slip of paper, “You will soon fall in love with a handsome stranger.”

Shannon thumped Whitney on the back before joining them at the table. “That fortune fits right in with our plans for you.”

“I think it fits in with any single woman’s hopeful plans,” Whitney said. “But certainly not mine.”

“It’s a sign,” Regan said in an eager voice. “You’ll see.”

“Not a cruise. Remember, I told you I don’t want to go on another cruise.” Several months earlier, they made her go on a three-day trip while both took turns staying with their mother. They had meant well but going by herself and being surrounded by couples hadn’t been much fun. Shannon and Regan were disappointed that Whitney hadn’t fallen in love on the ship. The only available guy she might have been interested in was the recreational director and he was too short.

“We knew you’d say that, and we’ve heard you say how you’ve done it all.” Regan put a lock of auburn hair behind her ear and cleared her throat. “But we thought of something you haven’t done and will be a thrill of a lifetime.”

“And when we tell you what it is, please don’t say no,” Shannon said. “We already paid for it.”

Whitney stared at them. “Okay, you have me curious now. What is it?”

Regan set forks down on the table and mumbled, “Skydiving.”

Whitney gasped, spilling coffee on her hand. Why in the world would they pay for her to go skydiving? Had they lost their minds? “You can’t be serious. Are you trying to kill me?”

“You won’t be jumping by yourself. We talked to the owner about signing you up for a tandem skydive for your first jump. You’ll meet fun people.” Shannon patted Whitney’s hand. “And the female-male ratio is good…”

Regan nodded. “There are more guys than women skydiving. And the men are hot and love any woman who drops from the sky.”

With raised eyebrows, Whitney asked, “How would you two know?”

“We checked it all out before we got it for you,” Shannon said.

Regan grinned. “Shannon, you’re skipping the best part of our visit. We drooled over all the instructors before we signed you up. I did mention I thought you’d be the most comfortable with Nate.”

“Why Nate?” Whitney asked.

Shannon laughed. “Regan couldn’t take her eyes off him. He’s drop-dead gorgeous.”

Whitney swallowed a forkful of rice. If her sisters were correct and there was an overabundance of men, she knew why. Men wanted to act macho, but how many brain cells did they have to think jumping out of a plane made them tough? That wasn’t fair. Just because she wasn’t into skydiving didn’t mean it was stupid. When had she become so critical? She knew when. After Rob’s death, the optimistic, open-minded part of her died with him.

“Maybe you two should go skydiving instead of me.”

Regan shook her head. “No way. We want you to go.”

“But I’m afraid of heights.”

“It’s time for you to overcome your fear of flying.” Shannon took a bite of shrimp. “We want to go to Hawaii sometime. Remember how we promised Mom we would? Just the three of us.”

Whitney shrugged. “That’s different. I can fly to Hawaii without doing skydiving first.”

“I don’t think so.” Regan scooped a heaping spoonful of chow mien onto her plate. “You drove me crazy when we flew to Wisconsin for Aunt Martha’s funeral. You had such terrible anxiety attacks.”

Why did she have to have such stubborn sisters? The last thing she felt like doing was something stupid like skydiving, but she knew they’d never give up on her. They always thought they knew best because they were older and married. Big deal they were a bit older. Shannon just turned thirty-nine, and at thirty-four Regan was only three years older than Whitney.

Shannon nudged Regan, grinning with her eyebrows arched high. “Tell her about Jack.”

Regan shook her head. “Not a good idea.”

“Who’s Jack? Another skydiver?” Whitney asked.

“He’s a paramedic and single. He’s worked with Casey, but Jack’s not a firefighter. He’s not interested in meeting you.” Regan gave Whitney an apologetic shrug. “Sorry. It’s a shame because Jack’s a dead ringer for Matthew McConaughey.”

Shannon raised her eyebrows. “What did Casey tell Jack about Whitney?”

“Not enough obviously,” Regan said. “But I’ll─”

“No.” Whitney put her hand on Regan’s arm. “Don’t say anything. I don’t want to go out with someone who feels pressured.” She grinned. “Although resembling McConaughey might change my mind.”

Friday, August 7, 2009

Special Guest: Christine Clemetson

Inspiration comes in many Forms
By Christine Clemetson

Early on, I discovered that I loved reading about the relationships in books. I would read the Nancy Drew books, most of all anticipating Nancy’s next date with Ned. As I grew, I enjoyed reading books that zeroed in on a love story—a story that made all things right in the world. I enjoyed learning how the characters could depend on each other, despite the conflicts they faced along the way. Authors like LaVyrle Spencer and Kathleen Woodiwiss created magic between the characters, and those stories inspired me in a way that made me want to write my own stories.

In general, for me, inspiration comes in many forms, from the books I read, to the support from people in my life, to all the events happening around me. I keep a folder of story ideas. This includes everything from newspaper articles to even dreams that I’ve had. I’ll jot the ideas down and stick them in a folder. The thing about inspiration is funny thought—if I’m inspired with a great story idea, in my eyes destined to be The Great American Novel, I won’t need to put the idea in the folder. Good ideas for stories are like first loves….you never, ever forget them.

When my first book came out, “A Daughter’s Promise”, the question I was asked most was “What inspired you to write this story?”. Inspiration came in the form of an article in my local newspaper. It detailed the history of a surprise attack on Anzio beachhead in Italy, 1944, which killed thousands of US soldiers. When I did more research, and learned more about what the soldiers faced, I wanted to give a voice to those lost. In my book, a soldier survives the battle, and through his pain he finds love and unexpected hope with a local woman. The strength of their love is what helps them survive and be able to share their strength with others—and shed light onto a dark part of our history.

What inspires your stories?

**For some reason Christine's lovely cover isn't displaying properly. I uploaded the picture a few different times trying to correct the problem, but it must be a Blogger glitch because it won't show up right. There is a banner on the right side of this page that displays the correct coloring for Christine's cover. (Sorry, Christine!)**

Christine Clemetson – A Daughter’s Promise

A Daughter’s Promise, by debut novelist Christine Clemetson, is a sweeping love story of sacrifice and unexpected hope. In war torn Italy, 1944, Serene Moneto made a promise to her dying mother—a promise so haunting that it directs the course of her life. When she chooses to save an American soldier from death, she risks everything—her name, her life, and capture by the Germans. Finding forbidden love with this soldier tears her world apart. Against the backdrop of a war raging right outside her door, can she choose happiness? Despite the promise she made those years ago?
See the trailer at


They both knew Serene’s turn had come. She took in a deep breath and touched his arms in a stiff embrace. She hugged him the way she had rehearsed in her head over and over, the way a mother would hug her son going off to war.

“I don’t care who sees,” he said gruffly, pulling her closer. He pushed her chin up with his
fingertips, and bent his head to kiss her.

She took his lips, his body, all of him, into her heart for the last time. Feeling the rapid beating in his chest, she fought the urge to mold her most intimate part against his.

When their lips parted, his warm breath on her neck made her body shiver. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she buried her face into his jacket. “I’m not ashamed about
what I said to you last night or what happened between us.” Her voice cracked. “It’s a sin, I know, but it was the most beautiful—”

“Ashamed? I don’t think I’ll ever have that kind of love again.”

Trembling, she stood back a little, clinging to her emotions with the delicacy of a spider web. “But you were right. We made the most logical decision.”

“Jesus, Serry. I want to tell you so bad that I—”

“You’re all set, then?” Sam said, coming back into the house.

Serene let go of Miles, letting her one finger intertwine with one of his pinky fingers. She couldn’t let him go.

Slowly, he released her and went to the door, putting one foot on the outside pavement before hesitating and turning back. His eyes were red, and she clutched the stair banister to keep from running to him. How much she loved him would be a secret
she’d take to the grave.

Carrying a bottle of whiskey, Marcus passed him at the door and gave him a friendly slap on the back. “I came to give you a goodbye, Coulson.”

Serene stood up straight and froze.

Miles jerked himself away. “Change of heart about me?”

His answer was Marcus’ deep kiss on Serene’s cheek and an arm around her waist. “I realized, Coulson, that I’m proud of her for taking the responsibility for you. I thought it was about time that I offered my apologies for the undiplomatic way I acted. We’re all in this for a cause, no? Why don’t we share a bottle to celebrate?”

“No, your change of heart doesn’t rub me the right way.” Miles offered an apologetic glance to Serene and then shifted his gaze back to Marcus. “You hurt her, and I’ll hurt you. You understand me?”

“Have a safe trip,” Marcus drawled.

Serene watched the driver help him in and her knees weakened. As the truck’s engine started, she braced herself against the wall.

“Don’t worry. Serene. Just think of this as a wedding present from me. No more worries about your American. He is well now and gone for good. Your only thanks is to marry me.”

She couldn’t hear him. Her throat ached and she made no effort to wipe the tears spilling freely from her eyes. She started for the door, but he grabbed her by the shoulders.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It's All About A Drip in the Bucket

My friend, Lisa Miller, told me about a guest blogger on Zen Habits who wrote about The Power of the Gradual. The blogger talked about turning a water tap on just to drip into a bucket then walk away. Later, the amount of water collected in the bucket surprised him.

Many tasks when viewed from the big picture perspective, such as the following, look simply too overwhelming to begin:

• Cleaning out and organizing a garage, or
• Removing outdated clothes from your closet, or
• Throwing out food in your kitchen cabinets with an expiration date of 2007 (2007? Yikes), or
• Cleaning out a child’s playroom and removing outgrown toys freeing up valuable storage space for new toys (from Gramdma!), or
• Completing a deep editing pass of your current work in progress,

You need a starting point that doesn’t overwhelm you. You need a – drip!

Start with one section of the room or closet. Not only will that give you a sense of accomplishment, but it will also motivate you to move on to the next section, and the next. In a few days, or weeks, or however long it takes, you’ll be able to look from the big picture perspective again and pat yourself on the back, or click your heels together if you happen to be young enough to get both feet off the ground at the same time!

Now that I think about it…if I could just get the clothes that are stacked haphazardly on top of my dresser, back into the drawers they belong, then I’d be taking a small step at solving a larger problem. I don’t have to clean out all the drawers today. Whew! But if I have to remove something old that I don’t wear when I put away something current that I do, then I’ll at least have taken a step at cleaning out all the drawers and all the closets.

Actually, I think I’d rather tackle that deep editing pass. Reading about love and romance is much more fun!

It’s all about a drip in the bucket.
Have a blessed day, Katherine
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