Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Savings

Starting on Black Friday and lasting through Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and beyond:

$0.99 e-books

$1.99 e-book bundles

Holiday Exclusives!!

Eight books have been bundled together to include the books that connect the GROUPIE universe. Whether you gift it to someone else or to yourself, buy fast! It will be discontinued by January 2014!

Deals apply for your Kindle, Nook or iPad!!

Happy Holidays!

*If you cannot see thee links above, check out my blog here.

Winner of the Scavenger Hunt

And the winner is...

Drumroll please....

Denise Carter!!!

Denise wins The Complete Books of the Groupie Universe PLUS a $25 gift certificate. Details will be emailed to you.

And guess what... since EVERYONE who participated kicked major ass... everyone who entered gets...

'Nuther drumroll please...

The e-book super bundle "The Complete Books of the Groupie Universe," a $9.99 value!!

We will contact you with details.

Here are the answers:

1. What is the name of the song and artist used for the book trailer for "My Immortal"?

"Indian Summer" by Zero 1

2. Ginger's first novella was inspired by what song/artist? BONUS what grade was she in when she wrote it?

Ships, by Barry Manilow. Bonus: 7th grade.

3. What did Ginger give her husband for his 40th birthday, and which of her talented friends helped her pull it off?

A painting of Steven as the Doctor and me as the companion, by Chris Bonno

4. What books are included in the mega-bundle The Complete Books of the Groupie Universe?

Groupie, Rock Star, Mogul, Fierce, Unstoppable, Epic, Love Plus One and a surprise book.

5. Who does Ginger cite as her idol?

John Hughes.

6. Which of her books are Ginger's favorites?

Comic Squad, My Immortal and Groupie.

7. What are the titles in the new biker series Ginger wants to release by the end of 2014? BONUS: What was the song/artist that inspired them?

Biker Wild, Biker Lost, Biker Strong BONUS: Welcome to the Jungle, Guns N' Roses

8. What book is Ginger reading right now?

"Ready Player One"

9. Ginger also publishes straight erotica under a pen name. What is that name and which title is available?

Ivy Greene, "Raven Walks"

10. What two physical characteristics make Fierce's Jordi and Jace atypical?

Jordi is plus-sized, Jace lost his leg in the war.

11. In Ginger's short story, "The Waiter," what was the waiter's name and what was unusual about him?

Gus. He was a ghost.

12. In what US city do "Groupie's" Vanni and Andy meet?


13. What is the name of the heroine in "Taste of Blood," and what makes her special?

Reese McKenzie. She's psychic/clairvoyant.

14. "Under Texas Skies" was inspired, in part, by what theme album by what classic rock group? BONUS: Where was the photo on the cover taken?

Desperado by the Eagles. Fort Phantom Hill, near Abilene, Texas.

15. Ginger herself cites being a groupie to which three celebrities?

Davy Jones, Steve Perry, Hal Sparks

16. Ginger's "Comic Squad" opens to which two characters?

Dr. Horror and Twitch.

17. Which best-selling author provides the foreward to "Dirty Little Secrets"? BONUS: What charity do a certain percentage of the proceeds of sales go to?

Marie D. Jones. BONUS: RAINN

18. Ginger wrote a script based on her favorite TV show. What was the name of the show and the name of the script?

Moonlighting, "O Teacher Where Art Thou?"

19. Which of her heroes does Ginger say she married in real-life?

Graham, Groupie/Rock Star/Mogul/Fierce/Unstoppable/Epic (and surprise appearance in The Undisciplined Bride.)

20. What is the name of the song/band used for the Groupie trailer?

"She Waits," Zero 1

21. Which author inspired Ginger to add "Easter eggs" within her books and join the worlds within her universe? BONUS (and it's a toughy) Which of this author's books affected Ginger in a memorable way when she was a teen?

Stephen King, BONUS: Salem's Lot

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Prepare to be ENTICED.

November is National Novel Writing Month, or, as it's more affectionately referred to, NaNoWriMo. Writers are challenged to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 hectic, sleepless, manic days just for the sake of having finished a book. Many people want to write a book. Fewer actually start said book, and even fewer actually finish it. NaNoWriMo exists solely to close the gap from wanting to do something to having done it by giving a concrete stopping point. I hopped on board this crazy train back in 2004. Since then I've participated seven of the last nine years and "won" five times. By winning, it simply means I wrote more than 50K words in novels completed in 30 days. The other two years I either didn't finish the book by the deadline OR the book didn't meet the 50K-word requirement. I personally consider these triumphs rather than failures. I finished the books, that was the bigger objective.

Historically I've used NaNoWriMo as a kick in my arse, to get words out of my head and onto the page. Even if I didn't write anything else that year, in one month I could churn out a book from start to finish and really accomplish something significant. One month out of the year I could juggle the life of a writer, despite having "real" jobs, a family or a home to manage. But even after I began my professional writing career in 2010, the lure of Nano was far too tempting to ignore. For instance this year, after completing four other books, one might think I wouldn't feel the urge to immerse myself in the craziness. I should take the rest of the year off, enjoy the holidays and maybe even enjoy a rare, extended vacation.

But honestly I love the process. Deadlines are great motivators. Without a deadline, you have the luxury on waiting around for your muse to show up. You don't have to scan the skies for that brief glint of inspiration so you can rob it right out of the clouds to harness your own bolt of lightning. You can fit it in when the conditions are perfect, which they so rarely are. "Real life" is filled with distractions that can be far more tempting sometimes than just churning out a set word count every day, which varies in time spent depending on which words, exactly, you're writing. Some days it can take a couple of hours, other days it can take a full day. Setting up a plot, connecting each dot from chapter to chapter, laying the foundation for a book... that all takes time and can be fairly tedious. It's work that goes so far beyond mentally playing in the sandbox and typing whatever words pop in your head at the time. You're creating worlds that come with real rules you must obey, otherwise you create much more work for yourself.

Planning and research are the reasons books can take so long to write, but even then you could have a finished product in no time at all if you piece it out to a certain number of words per day. If we all followed Stephen King's example and wrote 2000 words a day every day no matter what, we'd all be writing 730,000 words a year. That's at least seven, count 'em, seven 100K novels PER YEAR.

Kinda makes 50K in a month seem like child's play.

Bottom line: writers write. NaNoWriMo just means we're not doing it alone.

Some critics have derided NaNoWriMo because it seems unthinkable to finish a good novel within such a short period of time. Whenever you picture a writer in your mind, he's usually toiling hard over his keyboard, tearing his hair out to get THE perfect turn of phrase. This romanticized image of a tortured artist suggests the more time spent on the struggle is the only way to ensure that it is "good." The longer it gestates, the better it gets, right?

Well... sorta.

The books I write today are light-years away from what I wrote two years ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago. If you put the first book I wrote (which took much longer than one month to complete) and put it side by side with the first draft of one of my recent NaNoWriMo projects, the writing that took less time is actually shades better. And the only way that happened was through time, because it gave me something far, far more indicative of value: experience.

That critical time passing HAD to be spent writing. The more you "exercise the muscle" as it were, the stronger that muscle gets. That's a universal law no matter what you endeavor to accomplish. That is the very nature of evolution.

Funny thing about evolution, though. It has a limit posed only by what the thing evolving truly needs. It's adaptive to the situation. If you take a thin piece of fish and cook it on a rock, it'll take way less time than a thick steak. Cooking it any longer than what it needs won't make it any better, anymore than adding more stitches than a dress needs makes it any prettier. In fact, often the reverse is true. The longer we fuss over something, the more we risk compromising its value. Would the Mona Lisa be any more valuable with another stroke of the brush? Would Gone with the Wind be any better with another few chapters spent on sub-characters? Art is way, way too subjective to assign a time limit on what makes something "good." So one cannot state empirically that all NaNoWriMo novels are bad simply because of the limited time it took to write them. If Stephen King tackled Nano, his book would be light-years ahead of someone who has never written a book before. His writing muscle is honed through decades of developing it, and the only way it got that way was because he repeatedly and tirelessly did the work.

The difference between writing for self and writing for a job is that you simply can't afford to wait for excellence to happen in some mystical, far-away future. You do your very best to get the stories right as they come to you, but you have bills to pay. That product, at some point, has got to be "done." They say that art is never finished, only abandoned. You learn that quickly the minute you are tasked to meet publishing deadlines, imposed on you by whoever it is whose livelihood depends on you completing a project.

See, that is what they don't tell you. Working writers don't have the luxury of waiting around for inspiration. We are, at the heart of it, manufacturers. Books are our product, and we need product to make profit. A working writer can't just write when the mood strikes or when the conditions are perfect. We have to summon the muse by planting our butts in the seats and willing inspiration to come to us. Exercises like NaNoWriMo train us to do this fairly efficiently. If anything, it was the best training tool for my writing career.

The fact so many other writers join in the fray and can commiserate/support/understand this particular journey makes the process more bearable. For one month out of the year, we're not alone. There's a sense of community that links a lone writer to the rest of the creative community.

I wouldn't miss it for the world. ANY excuse to write is a good one, IMHO.

This year, I decided to write the first book of a new series, THE FULLERTON FAMILY SAGA, as my NaNoWriMo project. But, overachiever that I am, I decided to write ALL THREE books in this new series without a break in between, completing them all by mid-January, so I can release the complete series by no later than March 2014. If I am able to pull off this hectic and crazy deadline, I plan to release each book within TWO WEEKS to ONE MONTH of the other. These are not novellas, shortened to entice you into paying $0.99 per "book" by slicing one book into three separate parts. These are full-length novels with three different, distinct plots to tell one larger story. "Enticed", book 1 in our new series, weighs in at nearly 60,000K words and is about 2/3rds done. It should be ready for release by January 14.

These books are actually based on a monster novel I wrote back in 1995, which was way too much story for a stand-alone. As I reviewed it last year to consider it for publication, I realized that this story would best be served in a series, which I knew I'd have to tackle as a page-one rewrite. Virtually nothing but the timeline of events is transferring over into the new story, which makes it far more contemporary.

It also makes it a lot of fun to write, so the next few months, while hectic, sleepless and crazed, will be absolutely worth it. So happy Nano, everyone brave enough to dare the challenge. And for those anxious to read something new, you won't have long at all to wait.

For your consideration, Chapter One of "ENTICED: BOOK 1 OF THE FULLERTON FAMILY SAGA":

My entire life changed with an e-mail. Granted, my life desperately needed changing, and it really wouldn’t have taken much of a nudge to move me in another direction. I just didn’t expect the 180-degree turn Fate had offered me when I opened my work e-mail that Friday morning right before Spring Break.

Dear Ms. Dennehy: it read.

My name is Drew Fullerton, and I am a prominent businessman located in Los Angeles, California.

I couldn’t stop my snicker if I wanted to. “Prominent businessman,” indeed. Like I had never seen the cover of Forbes magazine.

I wanted to congratulate you on your nomination for Secondary Teacher of the year. Your work with your seventh-grade students in the advancement of green energy has been quite commendable. I truly applaud your forward-thinking and your ingenuity, and the passion you so clearly instill in your students.

My brow furrowed as I wondered what the catch was. Why was one of the most important businessmen in the nation contacting me over a mere nomination?

You probably are wondering why I have decided to contact you.

Smart cookie. No wonder he was worth a gazillion dollars and change.

I am scouting a new personal tutor for my son, Jonathan. He is nine years old, which is – granted – quite younger than students in the grade you teach, but I assure you that he is quite advanced. Too advanced, maybe, given our current issues. Unfortunately, my son has not reacted well in the wake of my divorce with his mother. He has managed to get kicked out of nearly every private school in Los Angeles, and at least two boarding schools overseas. Placing him in a respected institution with this prior record of misbehavior has proved challenging. It is my hope that one-on-one instruction with a dedicated teacher will give him the motivation he needs to remain focused on his education. I have combed the entire country for a candidate who could provide him this crucial instruction. Suffice it to say, it has been a proverbial needle in a haystack to find a professional who could fit my very specific criteria.

This is more than just a job, Miss Dennehy. I want someone who could dedicate their time to my son as both an educator and a mentor. He would be your only student, and you would be expected to engender his trust over a long, hopefully successful, tenure as his personal tutor. This is a pretty drastic change for any public schoolteacher because it includes immediate relocation to Southern California where we live. But we would provide more than adequate compensation, as well as personal, private living arrangements in our estate so you can have immediate and total access to Jonathan on whichever schedule works best for the both of you.

The email went on to detail the six-figure salary I could expect, along with a very generous benefits package, should I sign the contract for exclusivity for at least one year. These terms would be negotiable in the future, depending on how well I managed to detour the junior heir from his current road to ruin.

It wasn’t a Nigerian promising me I won some International lottery I had never entered, but it was close. I was supposed to believe that one of the richest men on the planet had resigned himself that a servant of the public school system three states away should educate his son? Clearly this was a scam, and I, for one, didn’t buy it. I clicked out of the email without reading any more.

I closed my laptop, drank my last little bit of tea and padded softly into my tiny, cheerful yellow kitchen to rinse out my cup and set it in the dishwasher with the one plate, one fork and glass leftover from dinner the night before.

I was at school by seven o’clock that morning, preparing class for the day. Normally I would organize lesson plans and fill the blackboard with instructions on what materials needed to be studied for which examination. But this particular day I knew I couldn’t corral my excitable group of teenagers if I wanted to. Spring Break was that necessary part of the year where we all could put a stop to the endless monotony of homework, studying and tests and just recharge the batteries for the week. Well, that’s what it meant for them. For me it was a matter of spending the week cleaning out my apartment or taking care of plants and pets for my colleagues who would use this precious week of freedom for family vacations. I also had a stack of books I wanted to tackle. That was really the only vacation that I needed. My library card was old-school, but it was my first-class ticket to anywhere in time and space.

A short knock caught my attention and I glanced toward my classroom door, which was partially ajar. I saw her sky-high hair before I saw her face, but I would have recognized my best friend Nancy Gilbert anywhere. “Hey, girl. Please don’t tell me you’re going to be here all week.”

“Can’t,” I offered with a sardonic grin. “I’m going to be at your house, watching the dogs, the cats, the gerbils and whatever plants you haven’t killed with your notorious brown thumb.”

“You could still come with us,” she said. “Think about it. Five days in the Caribbean. The cruise may be sold out, but you could probably bunk with the kids. It’d be a slumber party all week. They’d love it.”

I couldn’t help but smile. All four of her kids had adopted me as Aunt Rachel from the time they were born, and I lavished attention (and gifts) on them at every available opportunity. I had no one else to spoil, so they cleaned up big time whenever Aunt Rachel stopped by to visit. Despite how fun a tropical cruise with my favorite people sounded, the simple truth was I looked forward to this week to myself even if Nancy could never understand why.

“Thanks, but no thanks. These hips do not belong in a bathing suit. And have you seen my legs? They glow in the dark.”

She waved her hand. “Stop it. You’re gorgeous. And fuller figures are in now. You’d probably know that if you, you know, ever went out on a real date.”

I suppressed a sigh. Here we go. “Nancy…”

She held up her hands in defeat. “Another battle for another time. At least tell me that you’re coming to my party tonight.”

My eyebrow arched. “Do I have a choice?”

“Nope!” she chirped happily before she twirled and headed off to her classroom down the hall. I had to chuckle to myself. My best friend was certainly irrepressible, which had drawn us together in college. She was the one who got me the job in Grand Prairie after my life fell apart three years before, so I really did owe her for helping me piece my life back together. Only now she had decided that I needed to find a man as the final stage in my healing process, and it was an ongoing battle between us these days. I wasn’t ready to date again, and I doubted sincerely I ever would be.

Once bitten, twice petrified. I was kind of like an unyielding block of fossilized wood, and about as exciting.

I had a sneaking suspicion she was going to use her “Bon Voyage” party as one more excuse to set me up, and true to form, that was exactly what it was.

I arrived early, to help out, and she dragged me to her bedroom to ply me with makeup and jewelry. “Black, Rachel?” she complained of my simple dress. “It’s like you’re going to a funeral.”

“I like black,” I told her as she did her best to gussy me up for her big party, which… by no small coincidence, was full of eligible bachelors. I glared at her over the spiked punch, and she just shrugged her shoulders innocently as if it was all a happy coincidence.

She grabbed me by the arm and dragged me from possible suitor to possible suitor. “This,” she said, as we came to a brief stop in front of a tall man with sandy brown hair and a mustache, “is Phil Monroe. He’s a biology teacher at the high school.” I gave her a side-eye glare at her ever-so-slight emphasis on the word, ‘biology.’

Phil offered his hand. “It’s so nice to finally meet you,” he drawled easily. “I’ve heard so much about you.”

“I’m sure,” I murmured with a polite smile.

Nancy looked triumphant as she made a speedy departure that was about a subtle as a wrecking ball. “If you’ll excuse me, I have more guests to greet. Don’t have too much fun without me, you two!” she winked before she danced away, leaving the both of us in an awkward silence.

“So you teach at the high school,” I offered first.

Phil nodded. “I’m also assistant coach with the football program,” he said with a proud grin worthy of any Texan when it came to the subject of football.

“So you work with Greg,” I said, referring to Nancy’s husband.

“One of the best guys on the planet,” he said and I nodded my agreement.

“They’re the best,” I said begrudgingly as I spied Nancy out of the corner of my eye. She was keeping a close watch on our interaction, probably waiting for me to blow it – again.

“I hear that you will be housesitting for the week,” he said as he studied me hopefully. “Maybe we could go out for a cup of coffee or something.”

I smiled politely, but inside I was seething. Nancy was so determined to set me up she was planning reconnaissance missions even while she was away. “I don’t really drink coffee,” I murmured easily as I stepped out of the unwanted conversation. “It was nice meeting you, Mr. Monroe.” By using his last name instead of his first name, I firmly established any further intimacy was unwelcome. He looked bewildered as I set my drink on a nearby table and made a hasty departure.

Nancy was on my heels by the time I slipped through her front door. She chased me down the sidewalk toward my car. “Rachel! What happened? What’s wrong?”

I spun on her. “You, Nancy!” I finally yelled. “You are what’s wrong.”

She was dumbfounded. “I’m just trying to help.”

“I don’t need your help!” I snapped. “Not with this.”

She took a deep breath to steady herself. “Rachel, it’s been six years.”

My eyes hardened as I stared at her. “So what? Ten years, twenty years… no amount of time can fix what’s broken, Nancy. Time can do a lot of things, but it can’t raise the dead,” I finished flatly.

“No, Rachel,” she agreed. “It can’t. But you can. Do you really think this is what Jason would want for you? To be alone?”

My chin tilted. “Neither Jason or I had a say in that, did we?”

Nancy softened. “Rachel…”

I spun away from her before I started to cry. I hadn’t cried over Jason in a long time, and I didn’t want to start now. If I started again, I feared I may never stop. “Find someone else to housesit,” I said over my shoulder as I headed to my car. “Maybe your good friend Phil.”

Nancy ran after me. “Rachel! I’m sorry!”

My eyes met hers before I got into my car. “Me, too.”

I slammed the door and gunned my engine before I sped away.

I was still an emotional wreck by the time I got home to my empty, darkened apartment.

I tossed my phone onto the table after silencing the ringer. Nancy was frantically trying to get ahold of me, perhaps finally realizing how far she had pushed me this time.

You would think, after all these years, she would have known better not to bring up Jason to me, especially to manipulate me into doing something I had told her in a hundred different ways that I didn’t want to do. I silenced my phone and went into my bedroom to change.

I got even angrier as I scrubbed the makeup off of my face. She had truly outdone herself to “fatten” the lamb for slaughter. I took a hot shower and emerged ten minutes later in my fluffy robe. I stomped angrily toward my computer to fire off the email I had mentally crafted while I furiously rinsed away all the pretense of the evening. When I opened my email, Drew Fullerton’s proposition sat right there on top.

Los Angeles, I thought to myself. Fourteen-hundred miles, give or take.

Maybe I was ready for a change… a really, really big one.

I ended up writing only one email that night, and that was to accept Drew Fullerton’s invitation to fly to L.A. for an interview over Spring Break.

Sure, it sounded too good to be true. Why would some business magnate like Fullerton want anything at all to do with a secondary schoolteacher from Texas when there had to be hundreds of acceptable teachers much, much closer to home?

It was a paid vacation no matter the outcome of the interview. More than that, it was a break I desperately needed right when I needed it, like it had landed on my lap on purpose.

For once, though I had no reason whatsoever to trust good fortune, I’d give Fate the benefit of the doubt.

I could only hope the bitch wouldn’t screw me over again.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The scavenger hunt begins NOW

Send your answers to the following questions to by Monday. Those with the most correct answers will be entered to win the drawing. A winner will be chosen by Thanksgiving night and announced on my Facebook Author page. This is for a free copy of the holiday super bundle, "The Complete Books of the Groupie Universe," PLUS a $25 gift certificate.

And guess what... EVERYONE who participates gets a free digital copy of one of my single books. YOUR CHOICE.

Have fun and GOOD LUCK!! :D

1. What is the name of the song and artist used for the book trailer for "My Immortal"?

2. Ginger's first novella was inspired by what song/artist? BONUS what grade was she in when she wrote it?

3. What did Ginger give her husband for his 40th birthday, and which of her talented friends helped her pull it off?

4. What books are included in the mega-bundle The Complete Books of the Groupie Universe?

5. Who does Ginger cite as her idol?

6. Which of her books are Ginger's favorites?

7. What are the titles in the new biker series Ginger wants to release by the end of 2014? BONUS: What was the song/artist that inspired them?

8. What book is Ginger reading right now?

9. Ginger also publishes straight erotica under a pen name. What is that name and which title is available?

10. What two physical characteristics make Fierce's Jordi and Jace atypical?

11. In Ginger's short story, "The Waiter," what was the waiter's name and what was unusual about him?

12. In what US city do "Groupie's" Vanni and Andy meet?

13. What is the name of the heroine in "Taste of Blood," and what makes her special?

14. "Under Texas Skies" was inspired, in part, by what theme album by what classic rock group? BONUS: Where was the photo on the cover taken?

15. Ginger herself cites being a groupie to which three celebrities?

16. Ginger's "Comic Squad" opens to which two characters?

17. Which best-selling author provides the foreward to "Dirty Little Secrets"? BONUS: What charity do a certain percentage of the proceeds of sales go to?

18. Ginger wrote a script based on her favorite TV show. What was the name of the show and the name of the script?

19. Which of her heroes does Ginger say she married in real-life?

20. What is the name of the song/band used for the Groupie trailer?

21. Which author inspired Ginger to add "Easter eggs" within her books and join the worlds within her universe? BONUS (and it's a toughy) Which of this author's books affected Ginger in a memorable way when she was a teen?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My unlikely and unexpected love affair with a time-traveling alien from Gallifrey

There are two things you should know from the start.

1. Though I have diverse tastes, some genres leave me cold. Whether movies or books, I just can't into certain things, fantasy and science fiction landing fairly high on my list of movies/books/shows to avoid.

2. I'm married to a man passionately loves fantasy and science fiction.

Truth be told, my husband is a huge geek. He's been reading comic books since he was a kid and has inhaled more sci-fi books than I even knew existed... at least two at a time, every single week, since we met nearly 15 years ago. Along with my Danielle Steel books, he added the likes of Jim Butcher.

Within the first month we started to hang out, Steven was flabbergasted that I, at the grand ol' age of 29, had not seen the original Star Wars trilogy, which he corrected with a movie marathon within a few days of my startling confession.

When I met Steven, he was balls deep in Magic: The Gathering. His room was filled with long boxes full of comic books and movie collectibles. His time was spent between competitively shooting darts, playing Magic or adding weekly points to his AMC rewards card. He was essentially Leonard from The Big Bang Theory. So I got a quick education in all things Geek long before Geek became en vogue. I learned quickly that there is no enthusiasm that quite matches the intensity of fanboy enthusiasm. They passionately love these worlds that capture their interest, which meant Steven was going to immerse himself in every Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, DC, comic book, sci-fi and fantasy movie/book/show that came along.

Like I said, I'm way more selective when it comes to choosing movies/TV shows/books, having done my fair share time in Super Girlfriend mode with my first husband watching action guy flicks, war movies and westerns. (ICK.) But... I did try my level best to wrap my mind around my new love's interests. We actually spent our first date in Hollywood, where he saw that Tron (the original) was playing at the El Capitan. This became the very first movie we saw together.

Despite this, there was a second date.

As much grief as I give my darling hubby, honestly I love the fact that he is a geek. The things he loves are things others have created, and I dig that. I don't understand competitive sports, but I get the art of storytelling, which is found in every single one of his interests - WWE aside. (I had to draw the line somewhere.)

The better the storytelling, the more likely I am to follow my happy hubby into Geekland. Without him, I likely would have never been able to appreciate The Bang Theory as much as I do, often out-geeking every single female on that show. (For instance, I know why The Red Hulk should have never been able to pick up Thor's hammer, and can pretty well give you a heavily researched commentary on the matter.)

If I hadn't met Steven, I might not have met and fallen in love with Tony Stark...

Or the entire cast of the Avengers...

....Daryl Dixon...

....and a man who goes only by "The Doctor."

When I wrote an article on my top 10 Groundbreaking TV Characters, this Doctor came in at #1.

A character known only as “The Doctor” hit the ground running in the 1960s and has long endured as Britain’s (and the world’s) favorite alien. This humanoid Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey traverses about the galaxy in between different planets and pockets of time, saving multiple races from dire menaces such as the Daleks and Cybermen. What makes the Doctor so completely original is that this character is not dependent upon any specific actor, though by 2010 eleven different actors have played the part. Thanks to a crafty writing provision, the Doctor can regenerate up to twelve times – becoming essentially a new person with each regeneration. Not only has this enabled the series to run for so long, it also frees up the writers with countless possibilities how to tell the Doctor’s stories. He can be an old man or young, stodgy or dapper; the interpretation of the character is often as unique as the actor who portrays him. The original series ran from 1963 to 1989, and was successfully relaunched in 2005. Though his face and his companions may change, the sci-fi television world is a little safer knowing that the Doctor roams the galaxy in his trusty TARDIS, protecting what is good and righting what is wrong.

Steven met The Doctor in the first installment of the series, during the unparalleled reign of the scarf-wearing, curly-haired Fourth Doctor through the late 70s, early 80s.

When this series relaunched in 2005 with decidedly more impressive technology, he was completely on board. In fact, he was a bit like a kid on Christmas morning. I was a little slower to follow. The story picks up with The Ninth Doctor, played by Chris Eccelson, who wore leather and looked far more like a superhero than his predecessors. Still, it remained mostly background noise every Saturday. Like I said, sci-fi often leaves me cold so I usually found other ways to spend my time. Despite the much cooler visuals and a budding romance between The Doctor and his lovely traveling companion, Rose, this show really didn't start to grow onto me until #9 regenerated into the Tenth Doctor.

Instead of the brooding action Doctor that Christopher Eccelson often brought to life, David Tennant's Doctor was every bit as cute and funny as he was smart and strong. Like so often in my life, I started to pay attention the minute he made me laugh. During his five-year tenure as The Doctor, I ended up falling down the rabbit hole of fangirliness without even knowing it at the time. I really didn't know how far I had fallen until I learned that David Tennant would be leaving the role. Not only did I skip his last episode and his regeneration (if I didn't see it, it didn't happen,) but I couldn't bring myself to watch the entire first season with his successor, the Eleventh Doctor played by the boyishly charming Matt Smith. He wasn't MY Doctor, so I couldn't bring myself to watch another in his place.

See, that's what they don't tell you about Doctor Who. It'll break your heart, repeatedly. Whether The Doctor must say goodbye to his faithful companions or we say goodbye to him, the entire series is built upon one simple premise:

This man has no limits within all of time and space... except those limits of his own two hearts.

He is a character tasked to save the Universe and all its inhabitants, a job he's had for hundreds and hundreds of years. Those brave souls who join him in this noble quest are usually bound by the constraints of mortality that he simply does not have. This makes his road even lonelier. Just as he cannot stay in one form, neither can his companions stay with him for more than their season.

And as it so happens, The Doctor hates goodbyes and endings every bit as much as we do.

He must love enough to save entire worlds... yet this abiding passion often leaves him completely alone.

This is the heart and soul of the Doctor Who universe, and this is why I fell head over heels for the most tortured and lonely character ever penned. His is the epitome of our human condition. We risk the inevitable pain of loss just for those few moments of genuine connection with one another. We want it. We need it. We long for it... even though we risk our very heart to have it. I have wept openly in front of my TV at every triumph and every disappointment, every moment of hope and every moment of loss. He is us and we are him, which you know for a fact the minute you meet a fellow fan. When it's all said and done, this character binds us to one another every bit as much as it connects us to this fictional character.

What a wonderful, beautiful, impossible achievement for any storyteller.

Doctor Who inevitably became a weird kind of cornerstone for our marriage. It is something that I never, ever would have found without Steven, and something he can totally share with me. In a way, he is my Doctor and I am his companion. I even enlisted my wonderful, talented friend Chris Bonno to immortalize us as such to commemorate Steven's 40th birthday.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of this groundbreaking series. This Saturday I will tune in to watch the 50th anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor, in a historic simulcast that will broadcast in 75 countries across the globe. I'll get to see my Tenth Doctor again, and likely lose him again, in what will surely be a love letter of this amazing franchise to their legion of fans.

This takes what makes Doctor Who so special, this power of connection, and spans the entire world for one epic moment in time. We Whovians instantly bond with those who understand and appreciate the special magical language of this fandom. No one will understand the mourning process following a regeneration, or the exquisite heartache of saying goodbye to beloved companions like another Whovian can. Only they will understand why I'm sitting here BLUBBERING at the end of "Journey's End" as I write this blog.

If you have not yet been introduced to the storytelling power and tremendous heart of this sci-fi show about a shape-shifting alien, I recommend two episodes that capture the brilliance and genius of this show:

You'll quickly learn the same two things I learned courtesy of my wonderful hubby's shameless passion for this time-traveling alien from Gallifrey.

1.) No matter how fun the adventure or how charming and entertaining the doctor, your heart will ultimately shatter. Repeatedly. 2.) It will be totally, completely and wonderfully worth every single moment.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things...

Favorite color:

My favorite color is/has always been purple, though I surround myself with it surprisingly little. I have a purple laptop, but there's no purple decorating my house aside from my Fiesta dishes, which I shamelessly collect in almost every color there is. Likewise I can count my purple clothes on one hand. This is a far cry from my freshman year, when nearly every article of clothing I bought for school was purple in some way. This coincided with my Prince phase; I suspect that two are not unrelated. I'm fairly particular about my favorite shades of purple, as they are not all created equal. The deeper and richer the better, I far prefer stronger bluer hues than the reddish ones. In truth, though, I love all deep, jewel tones. As a young adult, I fell in love with cobalt and have collected it ever since.

Favorite TV show(s):

I love to laugh, so I have always historically leaned toward comedies. From Three's Company to Night Court, Roseanne to Seinfeld, I prefer the kind of laughs that teeter on just the right amount of wrong. These days my must-see TV is The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Doctor Who and The Walking Dead. (I blame my Fanboy husband for those last two.) My favorite show of all time would have to be Moonlighting, which I loved so much I did my own homage with a script:

Oh Teacher, Where Art Thou?

Favorite Movie(s):

This is a little trickier. The top three are Tootsie, Up and Hairspray, and each one vaults to the #1 position whenever I watch it. American Beauty, Crash and the Godfather also land in the top ten. Some of the movies I wish I had written are Pleasantville, Galaxy Quest and Monsters, Inc - and I aspire to reach that pinnacle in my lifetime, even though I tend to write darker/more angsty material than what I choose for my own personal entertainment. Though I lean almost disproportionately towards comedies, any movie that can make me laugh AND cry in the same sitting impresses me the most, which is why I am a total Pixar devotee. The love montage between Ellie and Carl in Up captures this kind of storytelling BRILLIANTLY.

I want to write like this when I grow up.

My idol was/is John Hughes, who proved with The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller that genius does not equate time spent on a project. (TBC written in a weekend, FBDO written in six days.) He mixes humor and heart in a way that inspires me, and I can't imagine my teen years with his movies guiding my path.

Favorite Band/Singer(s):

I love all kinds of music and always have. My playlist can spit out any number of genres back to back. Take a long car ride with me and you'll get soundtrack musical numbers, rap, disco, country, classic rock mixed in with Weird Al and the Blue Man Group. I can go from Metallica to Lady Gaga in the blink of an eye. I dig it all and I find inspiration for it all. I think Prince is an unparalleled genius, Pink is a goddess and I still mourn Freddie Mercury. My favorite bands when I was growing up are my favorite to this day. I think the Eagles were ah-may-zah-zing songwriters, and one of my favorite things to do in the world is to drive through the southwest parts of the U.S. with their music blaring from the car radio. My favorite band of all time, though, is Journey - thanks to the amazing epicness and general badassery of Steve Perry. If anyone should ever disparage exactly HOW badass he is, consider this: he's technically been "retired" since 1998, yet a mere chance to have coffee with him for charity is currently fetching $10-effin-thousand buckaroonies in an impressive bidding war that is sadly, very sadly, too rich for my blood.

He's one of the reasons I remain a groupie to this day.

Favorite Song(s):

This is even trickier than the movies question. I have so many for so many different reasons. Every book has its own soundtrack; every life event and childhood memory can be traced directly back to specific music. While I LOVE the Goldbergs, the new comedy on ABC, I often get yanked out of the story by the weird timing that mixes a later 80s time frame with earlier 80s music. This screws with my perception of the past, where I use music as a landmark to navigate through the memories, particularly that era. "Tuesday's Gone" by Lynryd Skynyrd tops that nostalgic list. I really like important songs that say something significant, like "The Last Resort" by the Eagles or "Animal" by my good friends, Zero 1. My son asked me the other day if there was a song that changed my life in any way, and I guess I'll have to go with "Proud" by Heather Small. It's a song that asks a question I think we should ask ourselves EVERY day: What have you done today to make you feel proud?

When that becomes your focus, you'll be amazed with what you can do!

Favorite Author(s)/Books:

I was a voracious reader as a kid and inhaled everything I could get my grubby little paws on. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Borger, encouraged this reading habit by giving me books to read. One of the books she gave me that year was "Summer of the Monkeys" by Wilson Rawls. He, too, managed that delicious line of heart and humor that I love so much, and was really the first author I noticed because of it. In fifth grade, we were reading "Where the Red Fern Grows" as a class assignment. My English teacher had let her PA do most of the reading, but when we got toward the end she had to take over because the PA was so overcome with emotion she had to leave the room entirely. Meanwhile I had my head in my arms on my desk, hoping that my classmates couldn't hear me sob like a baby. I love that emotional connection. If a book makes me cry, I'll scour libraries and book stores far and near for more from that author. Danielle Steel was a staple when I was a teen. I loved how she blended history into her stories, and because of her influence, I found I got more out of the stories that detailed a woman's journey/life instead of one central relationship. Two of my favorites of these are "Full Circle" and "Family Album." My favorite book of all time is "The Blessing Stone" by Barbara Wood, which is an EPIC saga that blends history with a subtle social commentary on how women have evolved since the dark ages. I was a huge Stephen King fan as a teen because I always felt like he was telling these stories directly to me. This was his magic. He'd often weave little tidbits into his stories for his fans, referring to his other books as if all the stories were connected in some way, and I got such a kick out of that I literally squeal when I can do that within my own book universe. His "On Writing" is the Bible for any aspiring creator. I also collect Bloom County cartoons from the 1980s. I always wanted to be Berkley Breathed's best friend. He was way too cool for school.

Favorite Foods:

I guess it comes as no surprise that I am a "foodie," of sorts. I love most all foods and I love trying new things and new cuisines. There's really only two foods I won't eat at all, (beets and liver) both of which nearly made me vomit when I ate them the first (and last) time. I never thought I would eat/enjoy sushi, but I passionately fell in love with it. I keep toying with the idea of learning to make it myself. I'm not much on precision in my cooking, so I'm a little intimidated by the process.

Favorite Cities:

I was born with wanderlust in my soul. I love to travel and I need to make at least one significant trip per year. If I can travel by car, all the better. I've been to 29 states, including 13 capital cities (as well as Washington D.C.) Most of these were back in my days as a comedy groupie, when I followed Hal Sparks around the nation. I even inspired part of an "ode."

My favorite of these destinations included New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Austin, in that order. Within the next few years, I want to add Boston, Chicago, Hawaii and the UK to my list, preferably at my own book signings this time around. ;)

Not-so-guilty Pleasures:

American Idol, disco, Barry Manilow, playing the Dazed and Confused drinking game, early Britney Spears music, later Madonna music, glitter nail polish, glitter everything (except maybe vampires,) watching re-runs of cheesy shows from my childhood like the Monkees, Sid and Marty Krofft and the Love Boat. I have seen "Finding Nemo" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" so many times I can quote them almost verbatim, and I will always, ALWAYS stop and watch classic Looney Tunes cartoons when they air on TV. Twice a year, I have an epic "North and South" marathon, watching the first two books ONLY of the 1980s miniseries. I am a standup comedy junkie who can quote actual routines, like these from Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Ellen Degeneres, Hal Sparks, Bill Engvall and Eddie Izzard. In fact, in ninth grade speech class, I did the entire "Noah" routine for an assignment. If I meet people who know what I'm talking about when I spout off a movie/TV/comedy line, I feel like I've met a kindred spirit. If they take the next line and run with it, I fall in love with them - male or female. This cemented my attraction to my hubby, Steven. Weird Al and standup comedy albums played a huge part of our initial courtship.


Humor, intelligence, kindness, creativity and a strong sense of GRR. Know what you want, go after your dreams, and I'll think you rule the world... because essentially you do.


Negativity, ignorance, superiority and cruelty.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fun With Writing!

A little bit of trivia, some author insight and shameless plugging begins NOW.

Favorite scenes:

1. The cruise ship scene in Groupie where Vanni stakes his claim at last. It was the first time we see him lose himself to what he really wanted, rather than put a bunch of other stuff (and people) in the way. He was also very GRR. And I like GRR.

2. The NYC hotel scene with Vanni and Andy in Rock Star. Like the scene above, Vanni is stripped down to his most vulnerable state. When he tells Andy, "It hurts," my heart shattered. I think that was where I truly fell in love with him.

3. Peyton's first "lesson" with Mateo in The Undisciplined Bride. It's the first time Peyton doesn't get her way, no matter how bitchy or whiny or manipulative she tried to be about it. In one simple scene, Mateo lays down the rules for their relationship. It was hot and funny all at the same time.

Favorite heroines:

1. Alice, from Comic Squad. She may only be twelve, but Alice is probably the strongest heroine I ever created. She was smart and fearless, and never backed down from doing what needed to be done. Reese, from Taste of Blood, runs a real close second.

2. Peyton from The Undisciplined Bride. Like anyone who read the book, I hated this chick from the get-go. She was a first-class, grade-A, number-1 BITCH ON WHEELS. She was selfish and entitled she didn't give a rat's ass who she hurt in her pursuit to always get her way. But as I got to know her better, I realized that under all that yucky stuff was strength and determination and truly a fearlessness to grab the world by the balls and never apologize for her flaws. In her world, being a bitch was the only way she was allowed to be powerful. She just needed to learn to channel these assets through better behavior. Enter Mateo. ;)

3. Andy from Groupie, of course. She was the first plus-size heroine I wrote who didn't apologize for her size. Despite all the ups and downs with Vanni, her self-esteem was never tied to a number on a scale. Her focus was always a little higher than that. Her identity came from who she was as a person, not some arbitrary dress size. Personally, I think that was what attracted both Vanni and Graham to her in the first place.

Favorite heroes:

Here's where it gets a little tricky. I've fallen in love with each and every one of my heroes at any given time while writing these books. I love the swagger of Vanni, the power of Mateo, and the goodness and steadfast loyalty of Jace and Jake.

In the end, however, I married my Graham... so ... make of that what you will. (I guess that makes me Maggie. I'm OK with that.)

Favorite supporting characters:

1. Lissette Goodreau from The Undisciplined Bride. When I outlined this book originally, she played a very minor part. She was meant to be this little mousy character always at the receiving end of Peyton's bad behavior. But Lissette had her own story to tell, and she let me know that right in the first chapter. Once I realized what she wanted - needed - to say, I was merely along for the ride. It was great fun and very rewarding to get to know this character and follow her journey. I'm honored she picked me to tell her story.

2. Jorge Navarro from Love Plus One, Mogul and Fierce. I can't even tell you how much I love this man. Not only did I shamelessly pattern his physical look after his partial namesake:

But he was the one character in all my books who could see and bring out the beauty in anyone. We all need a little Jorge in her ears, telling us how sexy and wonderful we are... but who can also tell us when we're being jealous shrews and to slow our role.

3. Twitch from Comic Squad. Steven told me when I outlined the story that the bad guy needed a henchman, and thus Twitch was born. He provided comic relief and - surprisingly - a lot of heart from a completely unexpected source.

Favorite Couple:

1. Peyton and Mateo, The Undisciplined Bride. When it comes to what I find sexy, power play is at the top of that list. I love the push/pull between two people who alternately yield and wield their sexual dominance. And these two Titans have that power in abundance. They were both confident and unapologetic in what they wanted, and that was a refreshing dynamic for me. And they both grew from the process, which was icing on their sexy, sexy cake.

2. Jordi and Jace, The Fierce Trilogy. When I introduced Jordi in Mogul, I anticipated that she'd be a fierce diva who didn't give a flying fig what the world thought about her. She knew she could SANG, y'all, and she was about to throw. it. down. When I sat down to write Fierce, though, I was in for a HUGE shock. Jordi was essentially me, with all the same insecurities tangled around her "never say die" nature. We had some things to work through. Fortunately for both of us, we had a steadfast companion at our side, filling our spirit with acceptance unlike anything we had ever experienced. Jace was almost TOO perfect. I never wanted to hurt him... EVER. This is not good for a writer/character relationship. So I gritted my teeth and put them through their paces, and they surprised me with an enduring love that was both sexy and sweet. He was her friend, he was her lover... he was her rock. And what did she give him in return? You'll have to read Epic and find out. ;)

3. Andy and Vanni, The Groupie Trilogy. To be completely honest with you, I didn't think that Vanni deserved Andy throughout the entire first book of the series. That is why there are two more. Vanni was a self-absorbed man-child who vaulted into the life of a celebrity, which meant he could get whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. And he made no bones, really, that was what he was going to do. Many people have expressed their displeasure regarding his "cheating," but the fact is - he never cheated. Not technically. He never promised to be faithful to Andy, and in fact told her right from the start that he couldn't make any promises beyond the moment. These same people get angry with Andy for not kicking him to the curb (which, btw, she does... repeatedly,) but in her mind, she was never gunning for the wedding ring. She simply fell in love with a man who didn't quite deserve her, and who of us hasn't made THAT mistake a time or two? Because Andy was the first real woman to tell him "no," she got under his skin until he had no choice but to turn into a guy that deserves her. By Mogul, that transformation is complete. I, for one, couldn't be prouder of the man he became. I squeal like a shameless fangirl every time he pops up in new stories.

Worst Villain:

1. Eddie Nix, The Fierce Trilogy. Most of the villains in Fierce were created to mimic the inner dialogue most women in our culture are trained to have from a very young age, and this was especially true with Eddie. He validated all those horrible things we tell ourselves about men (and the most horrible men tell us about themselves, i.e. Romeo Rose.) The hardest scene I ever wrote was in Fierce, when he was using Jordi for sex and berating her while he essentially forced himself on her. I've written rape scenes before, but this scene was so insidious that by the time I finished I literally threw my laptop across the bed and burst into tears. Essentially Jordi was complacent in her own abuse in this scene, and that resounded in many, MANY of my past mistakes. Eddie Nix is so hated among those who read the book, I have been begged to give him the most Epic comeuppance that I can, well, come up with. All I can tell you is Karma is a bitch. And so am I. *EG*

2. Talia, Groupie. Talia was probably THE most mentally unstable character I ever created, and I made the monumentally STOOPID decision to write her in the first person. That meant I had to get inside her head and witness the crazy first hand. I truly didn't like living in her head, so much so that when I do reread Groupie, I skip her chapters entirely. Once was enough. Actually more than enough. Let's be honest, she teetered on the edge of Too Much. The even scarier thing about Talia is that people like her do exist. She was inspired by a number of people I either had direct contact with OR knew others who did. Talia simply took things to the extreme. And that's a scary thing when you personally know and care about those who attract this level of crazy.

3. Mike, Dirty Little Secrets. When I wrote the screenplay that Dirty Little Secrets was adapted from, I was still relatively new to the process and resisted outlining my stories. I had a general direction where I wanted to go, but I let the details spring forth as they willed. As I brainstormed my idea with Steven, he told me that my beleaguered heroine needed a friend that she could talk to and bounce things off of. Since she was a drug addict/alcoholic, the most obvious choice would be he guy who owned the town's liquor store. From the minute I hit return to type his first lines of dialogue, I realized one irrefutable fact: Mike Beyer was a sleazeball. He was not Grace's friend; in fact he turned out to be her biggest tormenter. There were really no limits to his depravity, so much so that a fellow screenwriter suggested I tone some of it back, that it was too much. (Yeah... I kinda didn't.) (You have been warned.)

Favorite books:

1. Comic Squad. This book doesn't get a lot of attention because it's not in my more popular Romance genre, but it is my lovechild with my geek husband, Steven. As such, it includes the best of both of us. There's a lot of humor and heart with some absurdity and fun thrown in for good measure. It's a kids book, but it's not just written for kids. The theme of the story is finding the strength to be your own hero, and that's a lesson I need every day of my life. There's an underlying theme of family, which ended up being a tribute to my own mom.

2. My Immortal. This book is a very emotional love letter to the two most important men in my life, my first husband Dan, and my second husband, Steven. I really wanted to examine the idea of soul mates, and how that bond is never broken even in death. So naturally I wrote about reincarnated vampires.

3. Groupie. Not only is it my most popular book, it's an homage to my own past as a groupie, dating all the way back to seeing Davy Jones on TV for the first time when I was nine. But more than just the fantasy of landing a rock star, I really worked through some disillusionment I was personally experiencing at the time. So I anchored that sumbitch with some gritty realism. This is what happens when you write for revenge. I really wanted to throw back the veil of celebrity and examine the ugly parts. The driving theme for that series was, "Be careful what you want. You may get it." In the end, I was tremendously proud of the result. If you're looking for a mostly good bad boy, keep looking.

Biggest surprises:

1. Graham Baxter, Groupie. Just like Mike and Twitch before him, Graham was never in the original outline for Groupie. He was created in a moment, simply to give Andy someone to talk to. But the moment they met, their chemistry was undeniable. I kept wanting to go back and explore that connection more and more, until he forced an entire rewrite of my original ending for the first book in the series. Better still, he keeps popping up in several other books, this quiet pillar of strength who shines like a beacon guiding me home. (Not unlike the man he's patterned after.) Not bad for someone I didn't even know was going to show up!

2. Griffin Slade, Epic. By the time we get to book three of Jordi's journey, her life is pretty populated with people who love and support her. There's Jace of course, along with her best friend Corey. The entire Groupie Gang rallies behind her, Graham, Maggie, Vanni, Andy, Jorge, Iris and all the guys in Dreaming in Blue. They all tell her how wonderful she is and give her advice and support her and generally fill her head with positive reinforcement. This is useful because her enemies are likewise vocal, telling her how awful she is. From PING on down to Eddie, those who would hate Jordi don't mind telling her or the world that. Enter Griffin Slade. Griffin, unlike anyone else, doesn't feed Jordi's ego. He's actually quite dismissive, though he never says anything directly insulting or demeaning. In this void, Jordi must decide which camp he belongs in for herself. This depends almost entirely on her own self-esteem. Her relationship with Griffin works much like a mirror, reflecting back to her what she thinks about herself. Like many women, this causes the ultimate confusion as she bounces back and forth between does he or doesn't he? And guess what? Griffin didn't tell me much either. I got to learn who he was and how he felt along with Jordi. Is he a good guy? Is he an asshole? You'll just have to read Epic to find out.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Music as a Muse, Part Two

Here's a little known piece of trivia:

I wrote my first full-length novel in 1989, when I was homeless and living out of my car in Los Angeles. I was only 19 at the time, and I headed west with my then-boyfriend, eventual husband, Dan, because it had been a dream of mine to move west since I was a fairly young teen. Though I had moved to be closer to a certain member of my family, she decided she didn't want to "encourage me" to sponge off of her by letting me bunk at her place until we got on our feet. It was an unexpected turn of events where I learned a hard lesson about the limits of family at a very young age. Inevitably my struggle made its way into a story hatched in my brain one day while listening to Guns N' Roses on my car radio.

I channeled a lot of the fear, uncertainty, abandonment, hopelessness and desperation into that angry anthem, in a mainstream fictional tale about a runaway who happens upon a dangerous crime lord on the mean streets of Hollywood just as he preys upon the most vulnerable among us. In her escape, she happens to cross paths with a biker named MJ Bennett, who must save her and keep her safe, though MJ has a hard and fast rule about getting close to anyone.

Over the years that followed, several songs made it onto this particular soundtrack (or playlist) to bring my story to life, heavily influenced by my love for classic rock.

I wrote most of the story long-hand on ever-present notebook paper. Then I used a typewriter to type it old school, so I could send it to book agents and book publishers. I was sure they would love the story and love the book as much as I did. I was about twenty-two when an agent said thanks but no thanks and sent back my carefully typed manuscript covered in marks from her ruthless red pen. It was the first time I didn't get a glowing review of my work. I wasn't a kid anymore, so I didn't get brownie points for finishing a project beyond my years. Instead I was expected to have done my research and polish my manuscript to play in the big leagues.

It wasn't ready, which meant I wasn't ready... and I certainly wasn't ready to find that out. This was the ONE thing I knew I could do, and as it turned out, I couldn't do it half as well as I thought. It took me about two or three more years before I dared to write another book, realizing with distance what a gift that agent had given me.

Because I loved my first story so much, I didn't revisit it my original story. I knew the story was better than I was. I started a screenplay - briefly - but didn't get further than five pages. I've never felt confident I had grown enough as a writer to bring this story, and these characters, to life the way they deserve.

At least... until now.

The theme for my new year, starting on my birthday, is the Year of Muchness. Like so many of us, I often forget how much muchness I have because I'm so focused on all the things I have yet to accomplish. In the last many years I've done several themed years to push me outside my comfort zone. There was the year of courage, the year of boldness, the year of being unstoppable and the year of being epic.

The next step is inevitable. I've been building the skills I need to own my muchness. And the only way to do that is to do those things I think I cannot do.

By the end of 2014, I plan to bring you a brand new trilogy: BIKER WILD, BIKER LOST, BIKER STRONG. These stories will take you deep into the concrete jungle where the stakes are much higher than a happily ever after. Life, death, murder and revenge await... with a hero you might never expect.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Music as a Muse, Part One

Anyone who knows me will tell you that music has inspired and driven me creatively from a very early age. My husband, who is a weird vault of all sorts of entertainment trivia, won't even challenge me to play any games that involve music questions. I've been known to cream his corn on more than one occasion, especially when it comes to 70s and 80s music. That was the era I lived by my stereo, was joined at the hip with my radio, and had a hard and fast Saturday commitment to listen in to Casey Kasem and America's Top 40. And don't even get me started on Solid Gold. That was Must See TV from 1979 on.

Basically if it had to do with pop music I generally knew about it, and almost all my childhood/teen memories are tied to what song came out when.

As virtually an only child (all my half-siblings much older than I was and out of the house by the time I was 6,) music was my constant companion from as far back as I can remember. I would sing in the middle of my living room along with Donny and Marie or Sonny and Cher. I also made one of my Barbies a singing sensation because, well, she was a superstar.

She constantly performed to all my sister's castoff 45s, courtesy of an equally castoff super groovy 1970s portable record player.

THIS was how I discovered the wonder that is Barry Manilow, making this the first album I ever requested for my own.

I still have that vinyl LP, btw. It's scratched all to hell because I played that sucker OUT, like most records I owned in those days.

I became a full-fledged Fanilow by the age of 8, and I fully blame American Bandstand for completing my conversion. It was on right after Saturday morning cartoons, so I got a weekly front row seat to all the hits that Dick Clark could introduce me to from the mid-70s until the late 80s. This included the jaunty tune Barry wrote for the intro.

In 1978 I got a radio for Christmas, so my musical tastes diversified into rock and yes - disco. But I still had a special place in my heart for the former jingle-writer who sang all the songs that my hopelessly romantic pre-teen heart could wish to hear. "Mandy" was a personal favorite.

I understood the angst of love and heartache from a tender age.

Fast forward to the late summer before I had turned 13. I remember distinctly lying in my canopy bed in a pink paradise of a room, listening to my records play,and thinking (read: obsessing) about my first significant crush. It was unrequited love all the way. He was sixteen, I was twelve. And I had learned a bitter lesson that no matter how much you love someone, they don't always love you back. I escaped, as always, into music, and Barry's album "One Voice," was cued up on the record player.

Though I had heard the song "Ships" many times before, this particular day it struck me in a brand new way. Suddenly these familiar lyrics had wings, taking off with this amazing movie happening in my head. I saw an older man and a much younger man, trying to connect though years of absence had left them estranged despite being father and son. The father wanted to reconnect, the son was angry, and somewhere in the middle of it all was a story of redemption and forgiveness. As I followed along, I realized that this story was good enough to be a book... someone just needed to write it.

I was still relatively new to the idea of writing by this age. I had discovered this particular talent just the year before, in sixth grade, thanks to a fortuitous Halloween assignment. Since then, I hadn't tackled anything more ambitious than few poems and, of course, some very primitive song lyrics. I couldn't write actual music of course, these were just lyrics I'd hum to notes I had no idea how to compose.

But as I listened to this emotional song, I could feel the characters take root in my soul. Though this may sound crazy to all those who do not write, these characters wouldn't let me ignore them or forget them. They would whisper their nagging, incomplete stories to me until I was forced to ask questions of the muse just to unravel the mystery.

Now that she had awakened, my muse unexpectedly and readily responded, leading me eagerly down the rabbit hole for the first time in my life.

This is usually how a story possesses me. An idea sparks to life and I can't stop thinking about it until I hack it into something I can work with. This first time was no different. I mentally turned it over in my head until a story emerged.

Since I was already a voracious reader, I felt reasonably hopeful that I could write a book myself. I got one of my spiral notebooks and worked furiously on this story whenever I could fit it in. I wrote between classes, or after I completed my homework or classwork in class. I'd write at night before bed, when I normally would read. And when I wasn't writing it, I was thinking about it. I wore out my copy of "One Voice" within weeks, playing it over and over again until I basically filled that notebook cover to cover. It was a story that... if I'm being honest... was more a novella than a novel, and certainly wasn't very good. There were many things I dragged out or added in order to fill the spiral notebook, because, to my adolescent brain, many words were what you needed to write a book.

But finish it I did, and I offered it to my seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Wiseman, to read and critique.

Actually, SHE offered to read it after I shyly admitted to her what I was trying to do.

God bless that sweet lady, she read that drivel from start to finish. Better yet, she gave me thoughtful and helpful advice that could build upon the rather impressive accomplishment of finishing a 70-page story in long-hand in the first place. I felt so empowered that I found an address on the back of one of Barry's albums and wrote to see if I could use his song in my dedication, because I was sure I was on the road to publication.

Before I had a chance to forget about it, I got a letter in response:

To say I was stoked was a bit of an understatement.

Unfortunately for both Barry and me, the book was every bit as awful as you'd imagine a spiral bound notebook full of clunky juvenile ramblings might be. If Barry's name was going to be on it, it had to be perfect. And it was light years away from that. I shelved it, and in fact lost it, without ever pursuing it further.

Maybe one day I will revisit that original story, my first real attempt as a "serious" writer, and bring it to life like I had wanted to do so long ago. (31 years ago... GACK) I already planted the seed by putting one of the lead characters, Ivy Cunningham, into the Groupie universe as Vanni's lawyer in Rock Star.

I often "Stephen King" my books with fun little Easter eggs like that, but that... my lovelies... is a blog for another day.

Friday, November 1, 2013

November 21st. #savethedate

November is my favorite month of the year. As a kid, it meant my birthday and a score of new toys and gifts. As an adult, it means a time for reflection on the year before and goal-setting for the year ahead. It's a time of renewal. A new year of life, and anything is possible. As you get older, you see THAT is the most priceless gift of all.

To celebrate my favorite month, I've decided to make it a worldwide party for my readers and, dare I say, fans. I want to hold a Scavenger Hunt, and I'd love for you all to participate.

In honor of completing EPIC, the third book in my FIERCE TRILOGY, I've decided to bundle my GROUPIE universe books together for a low price this holiday season. The following titles will be included:

Along with two standalone novels: LOVE PLUS ONE
And a special surprise title where a GROUPIE Easter egg has been dropped.

If you were to buy these eight e-books separately, you'd pay more than $23. But the special holiday gift-giving bundle is ONLY $9.99. That's eight books, with best-selling fan favorites, the highly rated spin-off series and two standalone novels for less than $1.25 per book.

And, for my birthday on November 21, one observant fan can have the whole bundle FOR FREE.


I got the idea from this book that I'm reading, READY PLAYER ONE, in which the last will and testament of an eccentric game designer offered any gamer that could crack a massive online game and find a well-hidden Easter egg hundreds of billions of dollars as a reward. I like this idea, and I don't want to have to die to host one of my own.

From now until November, I'll be tweeting or updating Facebook dropping clues to a questionnaire I will post the evening of November 20th. You will have the entire weekend following my birthday to answer the questionnaire and submit it to win. The people who have the most answers right will be entered into a drawing, and whoever wins gets the Big Holiday Bundle FOR FREE and... guess what... I'll even throw in a $25 gift certificate to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble so you can do a little YOU-shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. That brings the value of this giveaway to nearly $50!!!

It's my birthday... but YOU get the presents!!

This questionnaire will include questions about my books, from free samples readily available on the Internet, as well as personal questions about the birthday girl (me) in general. Fan my Author Facebook page HERE, follow me on Twitter HERE, and befriend me on Goodreads HERE, which links back to this blog. These four, along with my website, will be the places you will find ALL the answers to the questions.

Let's have some fun!