Thursday, 5 September 2013

Back up your memory

Dangerous Waters by CM Michaels
Please help us welcome, CM Michaels, author of Dangerous Waters, an urban fantasy, vampire novel.

~ ~ ~

Having worked with computers all of my adult life, both personally and professionally, I have learned all too well the importance of backing up critical information embedded within the machines that we have come to be so dependent upon. For example, I have a daily backup of Dangerous Waters going all the way back to February 19, 2009, when I penned the first three and a half pages. Master copies are also saved on a portable hard drive, a zip drive and on a secured cloud network.

But what do we do to preserve the information contained within our minds? Oh sure, with the advent of smart phones, and before them the camcorder, parents now take countless pictures and hours of digital footage of their children during their formative years, but how much of this will still be viewable thirty or forty years from now? Think of how many smart phones and computers you will go through between now and then, and how fast the various social networking sites have come and gone. Anyone looked at the information they entered on Myspace lately? Are you really going to transfer all of this material each time? And then there is my generation and those before it, when the internet didn't even exist—let alone Facebook or Twitter— and pictures were taken on film that had to be developed and now sit in countless boxes in our parent's attics.

Our childhoods are filled with cherished experiences with family and close friends—playing sports, first crushes, great books we read and countless other things that helped shape our personality, character, and values. But as we age these once prized memories are marked as "available space" by our minds, and are overwritten with information deemed more relevant to our current lives.

To illustrate, I want you to think about the following: What is the first vivid, detailed memory you have of being in school? What can you clearly recall from your childhood family trips? What is the first meal you can remember eating—not just remember the food your parents made, but actually recall eating it? What is the first book you read that you can still remember the plot? First movie? For those of you over 40, how many detailed memories do you have from junior high or earlier overall? Of those, how many can you recall more than just that something happened, and actually see the images play back in your mind?

The sad truth is that by the time we reach middle age the first fifteen years of our lives are all but forgotten. Aunts, uncles and cousins who we once knew well become strangers we bump into at family reunions, the stories they recount lost on us. Accomplishments we were once so proud of fade into vague memories that almost seem as if they happened to someone else. Books responsible for inspiring our love of reading are reduced to titles and cryptic blurbs. And family trips to national parks, Disneyworld and the like are purged by our minds like they mean as little to us as the algebra lessons we were sure we would never need.

So how can we prevent this fate from repeating itself with future generations? Will sharing pics and videos on social sites be enough to allow this generation to retain more from their formative years? In my mind social sites in and of themselves are not the answer. If you disagree, ask your child how many posts they have looked at from more than even three months ago. And these sites have their own purge routines. The only way to truly retain these memories is to force our minds to think about them often enough so they are deemed valuable as we age. Having your kids keep electronic journals of important memories that they review once a month, taking the time to truly think about each item on it, would reduce the data that needs to be retained / transferred to one file, and would allow their generation and the generations to come to truly recall their childhood throughout their lives.

Bio:

C.M Michaels grew up in a small town in northern Michigan as the youngest child of a close-knit family of seven. He met his wife, Teresa, while attending Saginaw Valley State University. Together they've provided a loving home for several four-legged "kids", including Sophie, their eternally young at heart, hopelessly spoiled Spaniel.

He has always enjoyed writing, and still has fond memories of reading his first book, a children's novella, to local grade schools when he was 14. Dangerous Waters, the first book in the Sisters in Blood series, is being published by Freya's Bower on September 5th, 2013. C.M. is currently working on the second book in the Sisters in Blood series along with a Fantasy romance.

When he's not writing, C.M. can be found curled up with a good book, watching movies or hitting the hiking trails with his wife. An avid reader since discovering Jim Kjelgaard novels in early childhood, his favorite authors include Kelley Armstrong, Peter V. Brett, Richelle Mead, Rachel Caine, Cassandra Claire, J.R. Ward, Laini Taylor and Tessa Dawn.

C.M. currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky.

Social Media links:
Blurb:

For Emily Waters, a nature-loving, small-town girl with an overprotective father, heading off to Boston University to study conservation biology is a dream come true—until a chance encounter catapults her into a mythical world she'd do anything to escape.

The latest victim in a rash of abductions near campus, Emily is brutally attacked before being rescued by a powerful new friend. She survives the ordeal, only to find herself held captive and presented with an impossible choice.

While preparing for the unimaginable life she must now embrace, clues soon emerge that Emily may not be entirely human, and her physical transformation awakens goddess-like powers that her new family cannot begin to explain.

Dealing with her human first love, the not-so-platonic relationship with her coven "sister," and her new vampire sort-of-boyfriend further complicates matters, not to mention being secretly hunted by the psychopaths who attacked her. And as the only known offspring of a once all-powerful race, the climactic battle is just the beginning of her journey.

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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Grade School shouldn't be in your 40's

I have a friend I’ve never met, she lives in another state.  I met her through an online writers group and in a very short amount of time she became a very close friend.  Life being what it is, she discovered she had cancer, and decided on a hospital to get treatment and surgery.  Things did not go all that well.  She ended up in a coma.

Since that time I have been in contact with her father, supported him by phone and text through a lot.  Other friends and co workers reached out to me and I often could get info that others couldn’t and passed it on.

Along came a friend of hers, someone we had often talked about, she was in an abusive situation, and I wanted her to ask this friend for help.  She’d known the woman for 40 years, so in my mind this woman should have helped her. She told me repeatedly that this woman would not help her, that she would say she would and then wouldn’t follow through.  My friend often called me when things got bad.  She told me things that she didn’t tell others. 

Anyone who knows me, knows, I don’t lie, and that I don’t judge.  Most of my friends feel very comfortable telling me anything, and talking with me about things that they don’t tell others.  Autumn (not her real name) confided in me.  We texted sometimes 200 times a day, IM’d while she was at work and emailed several times a day and talked on the phone several times a week.

This so called 40 year friend of hers has now managed to cut me off from any info about Autumn.  Her dad has stopped taking my calls; I can only imagine what this vindictive, shallow woman has said to him.  I went off on her the other day when she again reiterated that only family should have any info about Autumn, she isn’t family either but apparently told the nurses at the care facility she was.   I’ve caught her in several lies in the time I have talked to her.

I can see her being hurt that Autumn didn’t share everything with her.  But friendships are different, some you wear a mask with, and Autumn often talked about taking off the masks she had been wearing all her life, with me she didn’t have to wear a mask, and didn’t.

And length of time known doesn’t preclude you from loving and caring about someone.  I feel punched in the gut.  And I am sure this woman is wearing a self-satisfied smirk, and is more than happy she has managed to shove me out of Autumn’s life, what there is of it.  She is very much like Autumn’s abusive husband.   Doesn’t really know the real woman under the mask and doesn’t want to.  She only cares about being Autumn’s only friend, and standing on her moral pedestal, while she passes judgment on others based on the time they knew Autumn.

Seriously, are we still in grade school? In this situation everyone who knows Autumn should be pulling together and supporting each other because of our love for Autumn, not quibbling over who knew her longer, and how that somehow is a measure stick of love and caring.

Yes she has known her 40 years, but that doesn’t mean that Autumn has told her everything in her life. And given some of the comments this woman has made about abusive relationships, I doubt Autumn would have told the real story, she wouldn’t have seen any support there, and Autumn herself was just starting to realize that her situation was abusive and that her husband had no right to do the things he has done to her.  That she didn’t deserve the treatment he gave her.

And now Autumn languishes in a persistent vegetative state, and I won’t even know if she is getting better or worse—because of a shallow minded selfish woman who can’t even see past the mask someone she knew 40 years wore! 

If you can’t be yourself with your so called friends, then what is the point of having those friends?  I guess we all have that one friend who we have had maybe forever who we can’t be our self with, but for fucks sake, if I ever end up this way I hope none of my newer friends get treated this way by my so called lifelong friends. 

If they do, then I wasn’t very good at picking my friends.

I will have to find a way to live with being cut off this way because of this woman who can’t accept that Autumn had other friends, and had friends that she confided in more than she did in the 40 year friend, but it isn’t going to be easy.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Gas Price Blues

Help us welcome guest author Patrick Royal.

~ ~ ~

It's Sunday night. I just picked up grub for dinner and passed by the gas station. The price sign read $3.52 a gallon. I passed it and headed to the next one just down the road from it, which is usually lower. When I get there, the price sign reads $3.45. Quickly, I debate whether to stop right then or get it on my way to work in the morning. I procrastinated and decided to wait until morning.


In the morning, I get up, get dressed, pack my lunch, grab my laptop, and head out the door. I started the engine, pulled it into gear, and off I went. On my way through my neighborhood, I glanced at the gas gauge a few times. Stopping at the stop sign at the end of the neighborhood, I turned right and headed straight. When I got to the gas station, the price was still the same, $3.45 a gallon. In a split-second, I ended up procrastinating again, passing up the pumps, just heading into work.


The work day ended, and I'm on my way home. Glancing at the gas gauge, I realize that I'm on my way to running out. A few feet from the gas station, my engine shuts off, and I steer my van into the lot and up to a gas pump. Shew…made it. I smiled and told the attendant that I just ran out of gas a few feet from station but managed to coast to the pump. He chuckled. I hand him a twenty dollar bill and sat back waiting for him to finish pumping it.

I'm pretty happy with myself at this point. As I wait on the gas attendant, I look over at the digital numbers on the pump and the price reads $3.53 a gallon. Not only was the gas station's price higher from the night before, it's a cent higher than the first station I checked.


That's just my luck. Why does the gas companies have to play with the prices so much? Can't they leave it at one price and be happy with it? Why's it I can get gas for a certain price, and the next day it's lower? What's the reason for the hike or drop in prices from one day to the next? I think the oil companies like pissing us off. Why? Because they know we'll buy it because we need it.

Author Patrick Royal
Bio:

Patrick Royal is a family man. Born in Virginia, raised in Northwest Indiana, he and his wife Lynette have resided in Western Kentucky for ten years. An avid reader of Stephen King. He's inspired to use the gift God gave him to chill his readers. He's also the author of Novels "Jacob's Closet," Sleep Stalker, and Mind Shadows: Book 1: Shattered.

Blurb:

Shattered by Patrick Royal
The only thing that multi-published, award winning horror author, Tom Elliot, wanted was to move to the country for a change of scenery and relaxation, to a quiet part of southern Illinois. It seemed he'd picked out a wonderful spot, miles away from the closest neighbor and even further away from civilization.

Tom couldn't write to save his soul. Weird thoughts trampled through his head and left him wondering if he'd made a mistake moving from Chicago. Could it have been that he ripped himself from his element, like his best friend, Michael Gully, had predicted? That he couldn't answer yet.

Words came and flowed like wildfire, but at what price? Tom's imagination was getting the best of him and running rampant. The very characters that he created tormented him, driving him mad where he couldn't distinguish fiction from reality.

Excerpt:

A moan drifted from the next room and teased Tom's ear. Stopping to listen, he struggled to figure out what he'd heard. He stepped slowly into the living room. A woman stood with her back toward him.

His heart thudded fast.

The woman moaned. Her long-fitted skirt hugged her hips, and a pleated white shirt. On the floor by her feet lay droplets of blood.

Tom peeped around the woman's body and caught a glance of her face. "Lady, who are you? Why are you in my house?" he asked and widened his eyes.

Tom still faced the woman's back, and she wept a bit harder. "You should know why I'm here," she said in a soft but shaky voice. She turned around, faced him, and quickly threw her arms out in front of her. Blood trickled and dripped onto the floor from deep slits across both wrists. In her hand she held a yellow hair ribbon.

Tom's jaw dropped open and he stumbled back, widening his view. "Oh my God. Wha…?"

The woman stepped closer to him and held her arms out with her wounds still dripping blood. Her body projected forward, as if traveling in flash.

"You did this! You killed my daughter, and you made me what you see." She shoved her bloody wrists toward Tom.

"No, no. You've made a mistake," Tom screamed and backed away from her. He clung to the wall with his legs weakening and his hands trembling.

The woman stood and laughed hysterically.

Tom squeezed his eyes shut. "You're not real. You're not real," he screamed. Opening his eyes, the woman had disappeared, the room once again silent. Tom sank to his knees, sat on the floor, and leaned against the wall with a blank stare.

Not long after the sun rose high in the sky, Tom's nerves finally calmed. He called Michael, and it ended similar to the other times he called him for some well needed answers. His friend proved unable to offer any help. Hanging up, Tom sat at his desk more confused than ever. Am I losing my mind like Michael fears? He chuckled over his friend's reaction when he told him that he planned to take a small break from writing. He had to admit that it even sounded strange to hear himself say it. Maybe, he was losing it. He had never really been scared of anything. Michael was the one that had always been scared and had nightmares over things that bothered him. What bothered him now was that he loved where he lived, but he hated the idea of being so far away from Michael. He had grown used to driving over to his house and discussing life's little problems, and vice versa.

Buy Mind Shadows: Book 1: Shattered

Monday, 19 August 2013

Alexander Graham Bell. I Hate You.



I am so full of rant, I don't even know where to start. Well, maybe first, I want to complain that cell phones these days just don't do my rage justice. See, the big black rotary phones we had when I was a kid, they had some weight to them. Someone pissed you off on the other end? You could slam that puppy down and hear it in the next room. It left a high, reverberating ring clanging into the silence. It was a beautiful thing. 
I don't care how hard you tap that icon, it will never give the same satisfaction. Not. Ever.
So why do I need the physical gratification achieved by the slamming of a telephone receiver? Rogers. Every month when the bill comes in, I have to call them to figure out why they are forever, endlessly, inexplicably, adding charges onto my bill I never authorized, asked for or okayed. And believe me, I never get explanations. Hell, they completely cancelled my Ipad account without a word to me, then continued to charge my credit card for data I couldn't access because they had disabled my sim card without telling me that, either. All on an account that was pre-paid. In other words, I had to request the data and pay for it before I could use it. At least, that's the contract I signed. So how did three months go by where they charged my card for data I hadn't asked for and couldn't access? And then tell me that was my fault? Um....no.

And seriously, don't get me started on the Iphone bill...

And then today, hubs, who is home all day with the kids doing the stay-at-home dad thing asks me to arrange for the school to call me at work and arrange a time for him to go register our son. Oh. And can I call the girl's dance studio and figure when her classes and registration is? And set up a time for him to go do that with her? Really....what?  

The girls at work tell me this is a generic male trait, this thing I can only describe as phone phobia. Because seriously. I don't even have a phone on my desk at work and I can't turn my cell on except on my half hour lunch break, so this is not just a simple little thing for me to do between work files. This is a major get up, find an empty desk with a phone and hope my boss doesn't wander by and wonder what the hell I'm up to kind of thing while I spend a half hour arranging his appointments for him.

And they want to reconfigure our jobs so instead of writing letters, we phone our clients to get the information we need. Shoot me now. Really. I'm not kidding.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

While the Cat's Away...

Image by Alexander Briel Perez
Yesterday, my husband made a split-second decision to go to the West Coast for an emergency business meeting. I helped him get clothes ready, he made a run to the store for shaving cream (although why he couldn’t take my travel size can is silly—so what if it smells like baby powder?!). Hours later, he was gone.

Don’t get me wrong…I love my husband. We both work from home, and while that might make many women shudder at the mere thought of spending 24/7 with their significant other, we do very well, having found plenty of outlets to get the hell away from each other when necessary.

But this is different. And as soon as he announced his travel plans, I began making my list of what I’d do while he was gone. I’m a night owl. I will use this time to my advantage, like maybe, but not limited to:

Read in bed. With the light on all night if I want. The compulsion to smother complaining husbands momentarily eliminated.

Eat in bed. Something with crumbs. They’re my crumbs, I don’t mind them.

Watch TV with the volume turned up so I can hear it and I don’t need to rely on closed captioning to know what’s going on. God forbid I should wake up HRH.
             
Go to a movie. Or two. I love going to movies and will see anything except horror. I will make good use of this movie time. Watch me.

No cooking. Unless it’s something I want. I like to call this Fend For Yourself Night. You want it? You make it.

Write something. Or not. It’s my call.


What are your favorite things to do while the Cat’s away? Give me more ideas!                                                                                                                                                              

Marriage is the end of the road...


Welcome guest blogger, Zee Monodee!

I was 14 when I received my first proposal. No, it wasn’t from my then-boyfriend! Instead, a professional matchmaker – called an agwa here – brought this offer to the table. How did this happen? I had been to my cousin’s wedding, and there, dressed in a lehenga suit (you know those Indian outfits with long embroidered skirts and short, equally embroidered blouses, with a hugely heavy drape called a dupatta), I easily looked to be around 18 with my long hair pulled up in a complicated updo (yes, we stopped at nothing to shine at weddings. Some even went as far as outshining the bride, but she’d probably not mind, seeing how an Indian or Indian-origin Muslim wedding went on for about 4-5 days).

The match? A young doctor, 26 years old, who’d recently come back from England after his studies. Very good prospect (I mean, a doctor!), from a good family, and better yet, he had fair skin. In short, a handsome boy. And he was ready to wait for me to finish high school!

That match received a ‘no’ from me. Seriously, I was 14! But it was the first of many such ‘good’ proposals I fended off between then and the age of 17 (when I did get married! That’s another story, but in a nutshell, my British boyfriend, who, thank goodness for the family, happened to be a Muslim boy, and I couldn’t be allowed to ‘date’ seriously. It’s marriage or the highway. We were married shortly after...and divorced just as quickly. So here I was at 18, back in Mauritius, a divorcee, while my peers were graduating high school. Springboard for penning this story.... Anyway....)

In traditional societies like India (whether you’re Hindu, Muslim, Tamil, or even Christian), a girl is ‘allowed’ to flitter around like a caged butterfly until she is 20, tops. If she gets married before then, all the better, because let’s face it, what else is there for girls except than to become wives and produce the first offspring (preferably a male!) a year later? Beyond 20, she starts to become a ‘case’ because *gasp* what if she ends up an old maid?
Such is the case for the Indian diaspora all over the world, and the Indo-Mauritian community is no different. Marriage is the end of the road for a woman.

So what happens when that marriage explodes, and you end up getting divorced? Back in the year 2000 and around, it meant you’d be shunned, labeled a divorcee as if that was a scarlet letter to be ashamed of. And also, how dare you even imagine you can end up with a ‘proper’ boy when you are ‘tarnished’? (Understand by that, a man not a divorcĂ© or a widower).

What happens is that you, as the ‘jilted’ woman in this equation, put on your big girl knickers and go out to forge your own path on your own terms. Sod what the rest of the world thinks or how they are labeling you – life is waiting for you; you simply have to embrace it.

Less than a year after my divorce, I met a man, who was divorced too, and that shared bond of being ‘castaways’ became the foundation on which we built a marriage that has been going strong for over a decade now.


Lesson learned? There is always hope; we just have to believe.

The Other Side
The Other Side available HERE
Divorce paints a scarlet letter on her back when she returns to the culture-driven society of Mauritius. This same spotlight shines as a beacon of hope for the man who never stopped loving her. Can the second time around be the right one for these former teenage sweethearts?
Indian-origin Lara Reddy left London after her husband dumps her for a more accommodating uterus—at least, that’s what his desertion feels like. Bumping into him and his pregnant new missus doesn’t help matters any, and she thus jumps on a prestigious job offer. The kicker? The job is in Mauritius, the homeland of her parents, and a society she ran away from over a decade earlier.

But once there, Lara has no escape. Not from the gossip, the contempt, the harassing matchmaking...and certainly not from the man she hoped never to meet again. The boy she’d loved and lost—white Mauritian native, Eric Marivaux.

Back when they were teens, Eric left her, and Lara vowed she’d never let herself be hurt again. Today, they are both adults, and facing the same crossroads they’d stood at so many years earlier.
Lara now stands on the other side of Mauritian society. Will this be the impetus she needs to take a chance on Eric and love again?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Research, Research and a Little More Research...


Welcome guest blogger, Georgie Lee!

Research, for me, is not an onerous task. When I’m ready to start writing about a particular time period, I can’t wait to go to the library, pull every book available on that era off the shelf, take them home and lose myself in a time period. However, research isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It can be overwhelming deciding where to begin, what to look for and when to stop. Today, I want to offer some advice and a few suggestions for getting started and seeing it through until “The End.”

The first thing to do is…

Start Big: You know what era you want to write about, so it’s time to learn about the era. General overview books are a great place to start because they give you the key politics, ideas, people and events that helped shape the time period. Once you know the basics, you can begin to…

Narrow things down: Decide when in the era you want your story to take place then focus your research accordingly. In my upcoming Regency novella, Hero’s Redemption, the hero was involved in the battle at Hougoumont Manor during the battle of Waterloo. As a result, I did a great deal of research on the particulars of the battle including the manor layout, the French soldiers who stormed the gate, the British soldiers who held them off and how the wet weather turned the ground muddy. Details like this are important since they helped me craft scenes and add to the historical realism of the story. So once you’re done narrowing things down, it’s time to...

Get personal: The details of everyday life help create characters, make them real and flavor a narrative. To make the Regency period come alive in the story, I researched everyday life including dress, food, furniture and the plans of both London town houses and country manor houses. I sprinkled these details throughout the story to help make the setting come alive and draw the reader into the time period. However, be careful with how much historic detail you add to your story. Too much will make it read like a college mid-term instead of a sweeping saga. So, what happens when the research you need isn’t there? Well, it’s time to…

Think outside the box: Depending on what time period you’re dealing with, or what obscure historical event you’re trying to incorporate into your story, you may or may not have a wealth of information to draw from. This is when it’s time to start looking at primary sources like journals, autobiographies and even government reports. These writings will give you more detail on a subject than a general history book will and most are in the public domain and available free on Amazon. It’s time consuming but worth it, even though at some point I’m going to have to…

Know when to say when: Research can be fun. It can help you outline your story or navigate a tricky plot point. However, it can also distract from writing. There is no end to the research available or the hours you can dedicate to it. It’s an important part of the process, but so is sitting down and getting words on paper. So, don’t be afraid to put your research aside and start writing, because the great thing about research is, you can access it any time and you can always do more.
Thank you everyone for stopping by and a special thanks to Valerie for having me here today.

Hero’s Redemption
by Georgie Lee

London, 1817
Devon, the Earl of Malton, is a hero for his deeds at the Battle of Waterloo. But he suffers terrible nightmares, and drinks himself to sleep most nights. A habit he vows to break when he awakes one morning to find a woman sharing his bed, no memory of how she got there, and her angry brother at his door.

Cathleen is mortified when her wastrel brother and his greedy wife propose a blackmail scheme involving the earl, but as a penniless war widow she's at their mercy. She goes along with the plan and sneaks into Devon's bed one night, and ends up comforting him through a night terror.

Charmed by her beauty and kindness, Devon determines that rather than pay the blackmail, he will offer his hand in marriage to Cathleen. Although she is deeply attracted to the stoic earl, Cathleen cannot understand why Devon would want to marry her. What she doesn't know is that Devon owes her a debt that can never fully be repaid…


BIO:
   A dedicated history and film buff, Georgie Lee loves combining her passion for Hollywood, history and storytelling through romantic fiction. She began writing professionally at a small TV station in San Diego before moving to Los Angeles to work in the interesting but strange world of the entertainment industry.
   Her first novel, Lady’s Wager, and her contemporary novella, Rock ‘n’ Roll Reunion are both available from Ellora’s Cave Blush. Labor Relations, a contemporary romance of Hollywood, and Studio Relations, a love story set in 1935 Hollywood, are currently available from Montlake Romance. Look for her Regency novella, Hero’s Redemption from Carina Press on July 29, 2013, and her Regency novel, Engagement of Convenience, from Harlequin Historical on October 1, 2013.
Buy Links:  Carina Press|Amazon 

When not writing, Georgie enjoys reading non-fiction history and watching any movie with a costume and an accent. Please visit  www.georgie-lee.com for more information about Georgie and her novels.

Social Media Links
Twitter: @GeorgieLeeBooks
Website: www.georgie-lee.com