Friday, February 22, 2013

Whatever Happens In Vegas Is Probably Expensive

I have to start this post with the disclaimer that I don't drink, rarely play slot machines, certainly don't gamble and have never paid for an escort in my life. Therefore the chances of finding things to do while in Las Vegas is narrowed by a sizable percentage. Over the course of my life I have been in Las Vegas three times: in the 80's to take a defensive driving class, and then twice this century for conventions. My, how things have changed.

Remember the stories of getting great dining for very little money? Yeah, those days are gone. Now every hotel has several award winning chefs running restaurants and the prices reflect that high level of competition. I took my son with my this time. For lunch one day, we each ordered a regular hamburger, we split an order of fries, he had a soda and I had a milkshake. Grand Total: $60.00 before tip. For a hamburger!

I love to shop. I enjoy nothing more than wandering through mall after mall of shoes, purses, clothes, jewelry; it produces a calm that soothes my agitation. However, I would like to give the big names a few pieces of advice. First of all - it's a purse people, there is no reason it should have more studs on it than the headliner at the strip club down the road. I would strain my back trying to lift those suckers.

Second - what kind of world do we live in when a 40% off sale means the watch is still $12,000.00. That's more than I paid for my first new car! For a watch! Sure it looks pretty, but so does a high priced hooker and she'll hang on my arm too! Third - most people are not a size 6. Why does no one stock on their floor sizes for real people? Real people have lots of money too.

So after six days in Las Vegas I have come to the conclusion it is a great place to visit for three days tops, but more than that and the sad fact of the excess begins to bleed through until all you see are the homeless begging for money which might or might not be to feed their own addictions. All in all, it was a good learning experience for my son. The mystique and allure of Las Vegas has tarnished and he sees the truth.

Not all the glitters is really gold.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

And the Oscar Goes To...

Better late than never!

Having just returned from a business trip, I have my winners for the Carrie Ann Heartbreaker Blog Hop!

Congratulations to Amber Slagle and Meghan Stith!

Thank you everyone, for visiting. There are many fabulous bloggers and authors who participate in these hops, and I still humbles me that I am one of them. I hope everyone enjoyed the story, and I will be back for the March event.

See you then, if not before.

NEXT TIME:  I spent a week in Las Vegas and all I have to show for it is a collection of prostitute trade-in cards?

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Heartbreak of A Lifetime

Are our heroes heartthrobs or heartbreakers? Or are they just the same thing? Yummy right? Valentine's Day is just around the corner for this blog hop and we're gearing up to see what exactly is a heartbreaker. Is the song playing in your head line mine? "Cuz he's a heartbreaker!" We love those sexy men, but what about those times in the story when they aren't perfect. Because come on, we know they aren't perfect. What makes those men heartbreakers? What can those guys do to make it better? Is there a way to grovel? Come on! Tell me about your heartbreaker!!

Almost 300 bloggers have giveaways and posts about those men we love!

But that's not all....

We have THREE grand prizes. You as a reader can go to EACH blog and comment with your email address and be entered to win. Yep, you can enter over 200 times!

Now what are those prizes?

1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet
2nd Grand Prize: A $100 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
3rd Grand Prize: A Swag Pack that contains paperbacks, ebooks, 50+ bookmarks, cover flats, magnets, pens, coffee cozies, and more!

Welcome! Today, just in time for Valentine's Day, we are joining Carrie Ann's Heartbreaker Blog Hop.

Everyone remembers their first true heartbreak. Whether it was the angst of teenage hormones or the pain of a deeper connection, heartbreak affects everyone who dares to put their emotions on the line, and each successive break is only amplified. Soon we begin to wonder why we open ourselves up for such a visceral emotional response.

My worst heartbreak came with the loss of my first real love. His name was Joey, and we were together off and on for more than four years. He was older, but the complete definition of a Southern Gentleman. With dark blond curly hair and beautiful blue eyes he could make me laugh and scream at the same time.  I loved him with every fiber of my being, and I would have jumped into a roaring fire if he asked. I thought he felt the same way.

For many years afterward I pondered our breakup, wondering what I could have done differently. On the surface, we split over religion and my own ideas for the future. I wanted college, a career, everything Women's Lib had been telling me I deserved for years. He wanted a wife, a family, someone to tend his hearth while he focused on his own career. But I have wondered for years if I had agreed to his conditions would it actually have worked?

I was always a free spirit, one who marched to the music only I could hear. Could I have tamed the will-o'-the-wisp inside long enough to live inside another's vision for my future? I doubt it. Patience was never my long suit, and I could not have given him the large family Joey dreamed off; it was hard enough to conceive the two I have.

I have to admit to a reluctant truth: If I had married my first love, I never would have rebounded into a relationship that was much more complicated, but which introduced me to the man I now recognize as my soul mate. My hindsight is perfect but took a long time to admit.

I will never forget my first love, but I forgave him long ago for choosing religion over me. The anger did nothing. But if I could still ask him the WHY question I would, just for the satisfaction of having a closure which was denied me so long ago. How can you get closure with a man who breaks up with you by sending a wedding invitation?

The relationship was a magic time, the end sent me into a tailspin for years. But now, all that remains of the heartbreak is the thin scar down my heart with his name on it. Thank goodness there aren't many others, and only one other as deep and traumatizing as the first. And so I will take the pop culture view and "Smile Because it Happened."

How about you? Have you ever been on the receiving end of a heartbreak or were you the giver? Which do you prefer in your stories, male love 'um and leave 'um or a woman who does the dirty work?  Leave a comment below and be sure to include your email address. Winners will choose from a $25 or B& gift card.

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Now Available at
Now Available From Keith Publishing: Catalyst - Guardian Rising

In a post-apocalyptic future, the fate of the rebuilding world hangs in the balance. An unknown power seeks the forbidden knowledge needed to unleash total devastation once more upon a fragile Earth. It falls to one woman to safeguard the future of the Five Kingdoms.

Princess of the West, Vivienne has been plagued by nightmare visions of past and future since the moment of her birth. Now, to save all she loves from destruction, she must rise above the crippling self-doubts that have assailed her since childhood to become the prophesied Guardian—because the enemy is moving, and the world will soon plunge into a war of sword and sorcery.

But who is the enemy? And who is a friend? Can Vivienne trust anyone apart from her sworn protector, Devon?

The answers lurk in the past—but should the past be destroyed to protect the future?

Excerpt from "Catalyst - Guardian Rising" :

I grew from a lanky, awkward, skinny girl into a tall, well-muscled, and fit teenager; I was five-seven and no longer looked like a scarecrow. Soon after I arrived, the rest of my body began to fill in, and the angles finally rounded out into curves. By the time of my sixteenth birthday, even Uncle Alastyre had to admit my beauty exceeded the wildest imagination and hopes.
My hair, of course, was still silver, with some darker streaks underneath and my eyes were still odd, switching from purple to gray randomly. The druids were working on a theory as to their strange origin. The most accepted was, because there are so many members of my family on both sides with varying strong talents, the eyes were a blending of the potential powers with which I was born. Once I declared which art I would dedicate myself to study, the other colors would depart, leaving me with the one traditional color. They had been working on this theory for four years, and my eyes were still multicolored. Just another oddity.
Once I began to grow into my body, my skills as a Warrior began to improve. Theirran kept his promise to work with me when he was at the Fortress, which became more frequent as I grew older, stronger, and more competent. Occasionally, he would tell me what was going on with his family, except for Devon; what he didn’t tell me, I would gather from his mind without his consent. It was wrong, but I needed the knowledge to keep some semblance of sanity.
From Theirran’s memories, I discovered after the three brothers left us that cold winter morning on the road to the Fortress, they chased down leads and trails for months. Der and Theirran had broken off the chase and returned to the Northerns before the winter snows closed off all roads until spring. Devon continued the chase off and on for three years, stopping at the Citadel or Der’s home when he was in the vicinity. I never once directly asked about Devon, but I always knew in my head and heart where he was. Perhaps our detractors were right to keep us so far apart. Though he was never close enough to test me, I knew inside the marrow of my bones I would have run away with him. But for whatever reason, Devon never came to the Fortress or its surrounding areas while I was there, not until the spring after my sixteenth birthday.
That spring was glorious. My studies were going so well in Mysticism and Healing I had been given time off to concentrate on War Craft. While I was beginning to excel in fencing and tactical strategy, I had proven myself to be horrible at scouting and worse at tracking. A large bear could walk right in front of me for miles and I would miss the signs. So I was given extra assignments to learn where the processing errors kept happening. My fellow students tried to help me, but there was only so much they or anyone could do. I was, in a word, hopeless.
On this particular day, two of us had been assigned to check out a small lake, nestled in a valley near the border between the Western Kingdom and the Fortress territory. Several druid Warriors had been sent out three days previously and we were supposed to track them from the Fortress to their final destination, which only the Warriors knew. A blind hunt, they called it. The ability to track down a person after accidentally crossing a trail was one of the more advanced skills. So far, I was no better than average.
Sauk, my partner, was son of the Torran, ruler of the Southern Territory, and his talent lay in War Craft. The exercise mainly was for his training; soon he would be leaving the Fortress to return home, but he volunteered to try as a tutor to improve my tracking scores. I was grateful for his assistance and attention, because he was one of the best-looking students at the Fortress, as well as an excellent tracker.
Sauk was tall, taller than me, with jet-black hair, dark, black-brown eyes and skin the warm tan so prevalent among those who lived in the Southern Territory. When he smiled, which was often, the cutest little dimples appeared on his cheeks. Just as any woman who met him, I had a huge crush and felt a little nervous knowing we would be out on the trail together for at least three days. But this was all about learning a difficult skill, not a dating game, so I was sure he would be a gentleman. Southerners were always gracious.
There was a rumor in the Fortress that Sauk became the crown prince under a cloud of suspicion. His older brother died in a hunting accident; some whispered it had been Sauk’s arrow that had slain him. I remembered from political lessons with my father hearing the Torran wasn’t happy with Sauk but had no other son to inherit the throne. But when you were in Sauk’s presence, it was easy to forget any questions once you looked into those deep black eyes. They were mesmerizing yet vaguely unsettling.
When we reached the lake, things became interesting from the very beginning. First, we ran across two different trails. That was a bit of a surprise, marking two trails would not have been part of the druid’s exercise. After much debate, we decided each of us would take a trail for a short way, and then meet to decide which was the main trail and which a decoy. It was a sound plan, using the rules spelled out for novice trackers. Before we split, Sauk rode up close, facing me. Removing his helmet, he shook his hair and looked at the sky and the darkening clouds rolling in.
“Listen, Vivienne, if it starts to rain before we meet, just remember to follow that western mountain ridge back to this point. The trail you are going to be following lies almost due east, so heading back toward the ridge should bring you straight back to the lake, okay?”
I took a deep breath. “Okay.”
He smiled his brilliant smile.“That’s the spirit. You’ll be fine. If you run into anything you cannot handle, just scream. I’m sure I can find you.”
“Ha, ha, ha. You think there is something out here that I can’t handle? I do have some skills in other areas; you might be wise to remember. Maybe you should scream if you run into anything.”
Sauk smiled again. “Deal.”
That’s when the other interesting thing happened. Before I could put my helmet on, Sauk leaned over and grasped my wrist. I looked at him with one eyebrow raised. He had already turned nineteen. This made him three years older, a fact which made my heart race more whenever I thought about him. Several of the other, older female acolytes had been romantically linked to Sauk, and their stories were pure adolescent raging hormonal drivel, fascinating and slightly terrifying to those of us who were considered pious or chaste. But just the look in his eyes was making my heart pound crazy rhythms all on its own. He had magnetic charisma.
His eyes still locked on mine, he bent down and kissed me, gently at first, then with more assurance as I began kissing him back. It was a wonderful sensation, his soft lips against mine, his hand behind my head, fingers entwined in my hair. Sparked with electricity from an internal generator, my hormone system went into overdrive. I might be a princess and a freak, but inside I was a sixteen-year-old girl with screaming puberty angst. At any moment I could have burst into full flame and charred us both into dust. I began breathing a little too heavily. Then, as suddenly as it began, Sauk pulled away, a strange, superior expression in his dark eyes.
“See you later,” he promised, then replaced his helmet and rode away down the chosen trail, laughter ringing out behind him. Shaking the cobwebs out of my brain, I headed down the other track. My body didn’t feel heavy enough to stay in the saddle. While it hadn’t been the romantic swoon some of the other girls professed to have experienced, it was still my first kiss and Sauk was extremely handsome. But I needed to get down to business or I was going to fail this task in magnificent fashion. To make sure I didn’t miss anything vital here in the open field, I dismounted Shae and began to walk the trail, watching the bent blades of grass as best I could. Before I could get too far, I heard a voice very close at hand, a voice I hadn’t expected or heard from in many a year.
“Well, that was uncalled for, don’t you think?”
I stood up from my crouched position so fast the world spun for a moment. Devon leaned against a large oak tree just ahead at a small bend on the trail. It didn’t take a genius to figure out he was the one who made the second, yet more defined trail. I was so surprised to see him I completely forgot the strained circumstances under which we had last seen each other.
We stood face-to-face without touching for what seemed an eternity, each one studying the other, noticing the changes brought about during these long years spent apart. I knew what he saw when looking at me. No longer was I the shy, under-confident, awkward twelve-year-old he had left behind in the snow that horrible winter morning. I was taller, filled out in all the right places. I was strong, lithe, and poised. I would say I had become a self-assured and beautiful woman.
For his part, nothing much had changed. Devon was still the best-looking man I had ever laid eyes on — even including the boy who had just given me my first kiss. Devon’s eyes were that deep, clear green I remembered so well, with a few more lines at the corners. There were also more lines between his eyes and around his mouth, as though he were more accustomed to frowning than smiling. His boots and cloak were mud-spattered and stained, worn by one who had traveled a long way very quickly. While I stared in wide-eyed amazement, he graced me with one of those perfect smiles, the one that reached down into my soul and reminded me of sunshine. He cocked his head and held his arms open wide, an invitation I never could resist.
“Oh my God, Devon!” It was difficult to hear my voice, seeing as how my face was pressed against his chest. Even though I was taller than the twelve-year-old I used to be, he was taller still.“Why are you here? Is everything okay?” My happiness suddenly vanished as I thought of all the reasons, none of them good, why he could be here. I leaned back in fright. “Is something wrong with my father? With your family?”
“Calm down and don’t worry. Everything is fine, I promise. I was simply in the area and saw you and your‘partner’. I decided to hang around and see how you were doing. I heard through the wind you aren’t having much luck tracking. Then I saw him take advantage of the remote and secluded location, and I waited around to see if you needed me to straighten him out. But obviously I was mistaken. You didn’t even notice me until I spoke.” Devon’s voice cracked ever so slightly. If my senses hadn’t been on alert from the tracking exercise, I doubt I would have noticed it. “Is he someone important to you?” The attempted off-hand way he asked let me know he was concerned.
“No, not really.” I replied with a full-on blush spreading from the top of my head down to my toes. “Sauk is about to leave and return to the Torran to assume his duties as the crown prince. He volunteered to help me with some tracking practice. Because I really do stink at tracking. This is the first time he has even expressed any interest in me, other than as a tracking partner. Until today, I wasn’t even sure he knew my name.”
Devon snorted. “Tracking partner. Right. Trust me, Vivi; his thoughts have been geared toward a different sort of partnership, I’m sure of it. He wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t.” He rubbed his hand across his face. I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed at having seen Sauk kiss me or if he was extremely cross.
“Devon, stop it. It was just a kiss.” I wasn’t sure what exactly he was so upset about.
“Well what?”
“Did you?” The look on Devon’s face was priceless, part innocent but mostly obnoxious.
“Did I what?”
“Enjoy it?”
His attitude was beginning to make me angry. “I don’t know. I mean, not that this is any of your business, and I have no idea why I am telling you this, but I have nothing to compare his kiss against. That was my first kiss. Ever.”
He leaned over closer so he could look straight into my eyes. “That was your first kiss?” I could feel his soft breath against my skin, that warm, delicious, musk fragrance that was all him. I always associated it with safety and love. He was easily overpowering my already shaky senses. “I guess you kissing me good-bye so long ago didn’t count?”
“No, I don’t count that as a real kiss; I was only twelve. For all it should concern you, yes, this was my first real kiss.” I knew I was beet red from head to toe, but I refused to look away. I wanted him to see me, not my embarrassment. After all, I wasn’t a child anymore.
We stood there looking at each other for one long heartbeat. Suddenly, my brain was not controlling my body; my raging hormones were. Their actions were not those I would have taken if I were in my right mind. But because I wasn’t, I plowed ahead full steam, looking at him with a curious expression on my face.
Devon frowned at me. “I know that look. You want something. Go ahead, spit it out.”
“Do you want to kiss me? Give me something to compare with? Or is that why you’re so angry? Are you jealous because someone else got there first?” If he was going to play, then so was I.
His face went blank. “No, I am not jealous. You see, I know who wins in the end. But right now, I don’t think kissing you would be a very good idea for either of us.”
“Why not? You know we both want you to.”
Devon took several slow, deep breaths before answering me. “Do you remember what Der said on that last day? About you and me and our inability to separate? I’m really testing the waters here, hoping that in the morning when you are ready to leave and return to the Fortress for the remaining three years, I won’t follow you or try to stop you. I’ve become stronger, more in control over these past years we’ve been apart, but I still don’t want to push it.”
I thought about that for a minute.“I can respect that. In the meantime, I’m really sorry. I don’t want to hurt you more. I won’t push you. But I really would like to kiss you, someday.” I smiled broadly to let him see the honesty I was trying to convey.
He smiled in return, brushing my hair back with his right hand. “Don’t worry about it. Our someday will come along, as we both know. Vivienne, I decided long ago to stop fighting against fate, to follow the course set out for us, take whatever comes as it comes and to always remember that I’m sixteen years older than you. Each year the emotional gap between us gets smaller. I know you aren’t ready for what my heart desires, but one day you will be. Our time will come; it’s just our clocks aren’t running together yet.”
“I know.” As soon as I said the words, I knew this man and I were meant to be together forever. Whether by magic or fate, we were paired and there could be no other person for either of us. We had to wait for me to turn nineteen before Devon would touch me in any way remotely intimate, or at least my brain knew this. At that moment, however, my body would have gladly sold the rest of me out for just a little more time alone. “What difference can it make? If we are meant to be, surely there can’t be any harm …?”
“You say that now, but what about when I die and leave you alone, young and widowed? Devon said it with a slight smile on his face, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Or you decide to run off with some handsome prince closer in age?”
“But the dreams show that we are fated to marry.”
“Are you having more dreams?” Devon was instantly on alert to either talk with me or do damage control. With my temper, you never knew which to prepare to handle.
Frowning, I nodded. I hadn’t meant to say anything about the dreams and I didn’t want to change the subject.
“What have you seen?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“Probably not. On the one hand, I need to know if we are still having the same dreams. To see if the physical separation has changed anything or if we are still linked. But at the same time, there are things I don’t know how to discuss with you.”
“You figure prominently in many of them, Devon, if that helps. By the way, when did you get that new scar on your left hip?” I tried to keep a straight face but I think I failed miserably.
Devon winced as though I had hit him. “That’s what I was afraid of. You’ve had the dream …”
The blush I’d had just moments before came back with a vengeance. “Yes, I’ve had it. Rather vivid, actually. I usually have that dream around the full moon every month. I’ve grown to use it as a predictor for … other reasons.”
Devon rubbed his hands across his face, walked away, and began to pace, back and forth across the grass between the lake and the tree. It was to cover his embarrassment; this time I was sure. It seemed strange to have things we could not talk about openly the way we did before. The whole dynamic of our relationship had changed, and I knew why. I was no longer a little girl. I was grown, closer in physical image to the Vivienne he had been fantasizing about since that bizarre day. I had been using some of my spare thought to process how this would affect Devon ever since the first time I experienced the dream in exquisite detail. It had to be hard for him to stand there and see me but not be with me.
I watched him struggle with the knowledge I also saw the pictures which disturbed him most, and tears sprang to my eyes. To keep him from noticing, I turned my back, pretending to study the trail that had led me to him. But apparently I was not very good at hiding my emotions. Especially not from Devon, not now that we had finally, to a degree, both acknowledged what had never been said or thought before: our futures were braided together, intricately woven in a pattern tighter than fabric. Everything seemed to be falling into place, but I wanted to pull Devon back to the present, keep him there with me beside the lake for a while longer. I was needy, but I didn’t care. He may have gotten stronger, but I hadn’t.
“Devon, stay here tonight? I mean, Sauk will be here also, so it’s not like we would be alone. And hopefully having you around will keep his mind and hands where they should be. I don’t know if I could fight off too persistent a suitor, if you know what I mean. Right now my mind and body are not on speaking terms.”
He stopped the pacing and looked at me with a thoughtful expression. It occurred to me reminding him we were not out here alone might not have been the best idea, given his earlier reaction to Sauk. Suddenly, he smiled at me with undoubtedly the coldest, most sarcastic smile he could summon, just as one might see on a cat that has swallowed a bird. He tilted his head to the west; we could both hear Sauk riding hard in our direction. Cocking his head toward the sound, I heard Devon whisper under his breath, “That might not be such a bad idea.” I rolled my eyes. This was going to be a long night.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

So Many Characters, So Little Space in My Head

If it's the first Wednesday in the month, then it is Insecure Writer's Support Group. Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about several different stories at once. The sounds in my head have been deafening. As a result nothing has gotten accomplish of any great magnitude. What do you do when the characters start intermingling and the stories get muddled?

I keep notebooks, I jot story lines, everything I have done for years, but since the New Year my thoughts have been splintered and unorganized. I can see story arcs, characters evolving, all the pieces of the puzzle lay themselves out then I notice - it's the wrong story! Frustration is settling into my brain.

The problem is probably me. With undiagnosed ADD, I am juggling 4 stories in various stages of development. For me, that's a lot! Other people may do more, but I'm not organized enough to entertain that large a cast of characters. I'm trying to wrap one up, but then I need to start writing on Book 3 of the Guardian Stories. Which brings me back around to the overcrowding issue.

For the rest of this week and most of next week I have to attend a convention. I actually hope the diversion and enormous changes of scenery provide a vast fodder of information to jump start the process. If that doesn't work, I might have to resort to alcohol (and I am a cheap drunk!).

Do all writer's overstretch their imagination or am I burning myself out? Does anyone else have suggestions for maintain all the individuals in their separate corrals? I''m tired of the stampede!