Archive for February, 2012

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Tipping Rant

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems like you can’t go anywhere without encountering a ‘Tip Jar’ or a notice saying that gratuities are welcome. This is a strange phenomena that started occurring around ten years ago. It used to be that the only people who received a tip were service industry providers (i.e. Waiters, bartenders, taxi drivers, etc.). The reason these folks received tips was because their per hour wages were so low (i.e. $2.00 an hour for restaurant/bar staff). The idea was to make up the difference in tips or try to.

Nowadays, everyone expects a tip. And I do mean EVERYONE. Go into an ice cream shop/sandwich shop and you’ll find a tip jar on the counter. Am I the only one who wonders why the employees expect to receive a tip for, oh, I don’t know, doing their jobs? Do they need an incentive to stay/do their job beyond receiving a paycheck? This is especially baffling to me when the customer does the bulk of the work (i.e. you pick up your food/drink, nothing is brought to you). It doesn’t stop with food chains either. Maid services, theaters, tow truck drivers all welcome gratuities. It normally comes in the form of ‘If you’re happy with the job they do, show them by tipping’. You’re already paying a premium for those services. Why in the world would you tip them on top of it?

I probably sound like I’m against gratuities. I’m not. I consider myself a good tipper. (I used to wait tables and bartend.) I just don’t appreciate being asked to tip for something that by nature is a set priced service. This is especially true when I know the employees make at the very least minimum wage, but normally more. When I took care of people in their homes, I didn’t expect them to tip me. Nor did I expect tips when I was a flight attendant. After I left bartending, my jobs came with a set hourly wage. Tips were not factored in to supplement the income. If you work at a sandwich shop, you are paid to make sandwiches or work the cash register. That’s what you’re hired to do. There is nothing special, unique, or extraordinary about what you’re doing. You are taught how to make the various sandwiches (or press the buttons on the machine). You are paid for so many hours a day to make those sandwiches. What are you doing that requires a tip?

The same goes for tow truck drivers, cleaners, theater workers, etc. You are hired to do a specific job. You agree to the terms of the employer. If you don’t like their terms, then apply to work somewhere else. I understand that the economy is crap and everyone needs as much money as they can get, but this has been going on long before the economy tanked. It’s not a new phenomena. Just a disappointing one.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling

We finally bought the last Harry Potter movie. We’d seen it a few times at the theater, but wanted a copy for home. Last night we were watching the special features, which included an interview between Dan Radcliffe and J.K. Rowling. Every time I see them interviewed, I love them even more. There is just something so utterly charming and grounded about Dan that really comes through when he speaks. He’s smart, funny, driven and self-depricating. A wonderful combo for an actor to be.

I find J.K. Rowling to be all those things, too, but when she speaks it always puts me in a ponderous mood. Her answers about writing are so thought out and the emotions behind them so deeply ingrained that I find myself thinking about them for hours/days. I think I relate to the emotion that she conveys. She makes me think about whether I’ve dug down deep enough with my characters, whether my world/s are rich enough to support a meatier story, and to be honest, whether I’ll ever be good enough to write something that hits people so profoundly. When I read her writing, I see some of the things that have been ‘ruled’ right out of mine. It makes me realize how easy it is for the ‘rules’ of writing to get in the way of good storytelling.

As I edit my YA again, I’m going to try to keep some of the things that J.K. Rowling talked about in mind. I’m going to be more conscious of the story and the world, than the rules of writing. If I can do that, then maybe I’ll end up with something I can be proud of.

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Phantom Warriors: Arctos–Excerpt

Arctos smelled her before he saw her. He’d been watching the polar bears play when the soft flowery, feminine scent reached his sensitive nose. The aroma had been so fleeting that he’d almost ignored it like the bears had, but something inside him had urged him to investigate.

He found the girl hiding in the snow a quarter mile away. She had small hands and equally small feet. Standing, she’d barely reach his chest. She was a tiny speck of a thing barely noticeable against the sea of white. He glanced at the bears in the distance.

What was a child doing so far from the nearest town and so close to danger?

Protective instincts spurred by bone-deep honor prompted him to act. Arctos took a step in her direction to find out, when the child shifted to the side. The small, seemingly insignificant movement revealed lush round curves. The kind of curves that could only be found on a woman in her prime. He stumbled in surprise. Her scent came again, this time stronger. The delicious aroma filled his lungs, leaving Arctos breathless and achingly hard. How could he have made such a mistake?

Arctos watched as the woman wiggled her butt and burrowed into the high snowdrift. He’d yet to see her face, but she now had his undivided attention. He couldn’t seem to pull his gaze away from the round little globes as they twitched from side to side. His hands itched to touch them, taste them, stroke them, and squeeze them. He clenched his fists, fighting the sudden urge. The beast snarled inside of him, demanding to be let out. It wanted to see this woman for itself. Scent her. Mark her. But Arctos forced the beast down to keep his presence cloaked and continued to observe.

What was she doing out here all alone? Didn’t the woman understand the danger she’d put herself in? Arctos did and he didn’t like it. Anything could sneak up on her like he had. Wolves, bears…other men. His muscles tightened and his jaw clenched as anger washed through him. She should take better care.

The woman reached into the bag tucked at her side and pulled out what looked to be a weapon. Arctos stared in disbelief as she pointed the device at the white bears in the distance. Surely she wouldn’t…

She pressed the trigger and a rapid-fire sound filled the air. Arctos’ hearts clenched and his ardor quickly cooled. This was not the type of female he wanted as a mate, no matter how intoxicating she smelled. If he wanted a bloodthirsty mate, he would’ve found a nice Phantom female from the Blood Clan to settle down with. It mattered not that the women on his planet were few in number.

Arctos glanced at the bears and waited for their large bodies to drop into the snow, but nothing happened. He looked back at the woman and frowned in confusion. Had she missed the shot? It seemed unlikely given the range and the lack of obstructions, but it was always possible. She raised the weapon again.

He growled, a deep rumbling sound that seemed to come from the depths of his bowels. No way would he give her a second chance to make a kill.

* * * * *

Caitlin Kelly hunkered down lower in the snow-bank to ward off Northern Alaska’s biting wind. She raised her equipment and gazed through the scope, focusing before taking careful aim. Two polar bears wrestled in the fresh powder, flashing deadly claws and powerful teeth as they vied for dominance and the mating privileges of a nearby female. Funny, she could’ve sworn there’d been four of them earlier.

She set the scope down and replaced it with an even longer lens, then fired. The click, click, click rattled out in quick succession as she captured the bears’ every move. “Big payday, here I come,” she murmured.

Caitlin had made sure to stay down wind, since polar bears weren’t exactly known for their sunny dispositions.

Unlike most bears, polar bears loved sneak attacks. It wasn’t uncommon for them to come up behind their prey and be on them before the prey even knew they were there. It helped that they blended seamlessly in with their environment. There’d only been one fatal polar bear attack in decades, but Caitlin had no plans to become number two.

She focused on her prey and continued to shoot. “That’s right, smile pretty.”

Caitlin kept her attention glued to her subjects, watching for any sudden changes in behavior that would indicate that they’d detected her presence. Risk wasn’t a job requirement for a nature photographer, but it was certainly an occupational hazard.

She switched out lenses on her camera and fired off a few more shots. “Come on baby, show me some claws.” With any luck, she’d make enough on these photos to pay for this unexpected trip to Alaska. Caitlin had only planned to stay for a few days, but four weeks had past in a blink. She’d somehow missed her last rent payment and what little savings she’d had, had now dwindled to dust.

Caitlin had her old college roommate, Allie to thank for her current financial crisis. At least partly. Allie had called last month in a panic, leaving a cryptic message. She’d dropped words like ‘severe pain’ and ‘not getting better’ into the voicemail. When Caitlin tried to phone back, she couldn’t reach her.

After replaying the message a dozen times, Caitlin decided there must have been some kind of an accident. That could be the only explanation for the brief message and the lack of further contact. Even though she’d recently lost her job, Caitlin had thrown her things into a bag and rushed to the airport. It had been the longest nine-hour flight of her life—and the most expensive.

Caitlin had arrived in Alaska haggard and beyond worried. She’d been so out of it that she’d walked right by Allie at security. There were no slings, scars, or broken bones visible when her friend stopped her. In fact, Allie appeared to be in perfect health. Caitlin’s anger over the deception had lasted all of five minutes, before quickly being replaced by relief.

It turned out that Allie had phoned because she was heartbroken…

Heartbroken over the fact that despite there being a ton of single men in Alaska, she hadn’t been able to snag a husband yet. She was convinced that if Caitlin came to help that she would somehow succeed.

As if that was ever a goal worth achieving, Caitlin thought, then rolled her eyes.

As the child of multi-divorced parents, who put the capital ‘B’ in bitter, she had learned early on that marriages weren’t worth the paper they were notarized on. Prince Charming didn’t exist. And if he did, she’d tell him to get back on that white steed and move along. This princess didn’t want any part of him and she was way past believing in fairytales.

Caitlin had tried to tell Allie this, but her friend wouldn’t listen to reason. She was convinced the man of her dreams was out there somewhere waiting to be found or worse yet, searching for her. Pathetic! Caitlin shook her head and sighed.

It was more likely that he was somewhere sitting on a couch, scratching his ass, tossing back a few cold ones, while the delightful aroma of beer farts filled the air.

Ah, romance…

She glanced once more through the camera lens. The bears were still frolicking; two balls of white against a blanket of soft powder, but it no longer mattered since sometime during her musings she’d lost the light. Go figure. If Caitlin didn’t get some cash soon, she’d have to resort to waiting tables.

She shuddered at the thought. Allie had given her a ‘worst waitress ever’ ribbon when they were in college. Caitlin had no plans to repeat the experience if she could help it. Nope, she’d just have to come back tomorrow and try again. She wasn’t looking forward to the long hike back to her snowmobile or the freezing twenty-mile ride into town.

It’s either that or camp here. Your choice.

She stared at the endless sea of white. So not happening. Caitlin lifted the camera and put it in the bag. She’d just zipped it up, when a deep rumbling growl sounded behind her. Her breath locked in her lungs. It couldn’t be. She’d kept them in sight the whole time.

The sound came again. This time louder and closer.

The blonde hair on Caitlin’s neck stood on end and she froze too frightened to move, too scared to blink. Maybe the bear hadn’t seen her yet. Even as the thought crossed her mind, Caitlin knew she’d never be that lucky.

Bears had an exceptional sense of smell. She put her camera bag down and slowly turned to find a thousand pound male polar bear standing twenty-five feet away, panting and watching her.

With her white coat and matching pants and gloves, Caitlin had no doubt he thought she was a chubby oversized baby seal, a delicacy for a polar bear. She knew enough about bears to know there was no way she could outrun him. And the gun she’d brought wasn’t going to do much at this close range, even if she could reach it in time. She’d never been a good shot on the best of days. Panic wouldn’t help her aim.

He took a step forward, his massive paws making soft crunching noises in the snow. He snorted and lowered his head. Crap! This was not how she’d planned to die. I’m never going to make the cover of a national magazine. Never going to get my own Discovery show. Never going to get the chance to…fall in love.

Caitlin whimpered and scooted deeper into the snow bank, praying it would somehow protect her, but knowing in the end that it wouldn’t. She pulled her camera bag close to her chest and hugged it. The bear lunged. Caitlin screamed and threw up her hands in front of her face in a pathetic attempt to ward off the attack.

There was a loud thud followed by a roar of anger. Caitlin’s eyes flew open in time to see a silvery white monstrosity flying through the air toward them. Another bear. Oh God, now there were two.

* * * * *

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
Phantom Warriors: Arctos

Phantom Warriors: Arctos has been officially released and is now available. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Now I’m off to re-edit my YA. After that expect either Aidan’s Mate or Josephine’s Surrender. I’m leaning toward the latter because it’ll allow me to play with vampires in a historical world. 🙂

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
The Fades

I’ve been watching THE FADES, a BBC America show. Very few times does a show start out as one thing and turn into something completely different, while maintaining the same quality of storytelling. I haven’t seen writing like this since Joss Whedon’s shows. The characterization is strong, the acting solid, and the twists are breathtaking. It’s like ‘watching’ a master writing class unfold before your eyes.

A second season hasn’t been announced yet. I am keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that it gets another go because TV shows like this are rare indeed.

Now I’m off to type in the edits on Phantom Warriors: Arctos, while my subconscious works on how to take my writing to a Fades kind of level. 🙂

Saturday, February 11th, 2012
Fear…Is An Evil Bitch

It’s difficult for me to admit, but lately I’ve been experiencing a lot of fear and anxiety. It’s not because of the news–though there’s plenty depressing happening there. It isn’t because of my home-life. All is quiet and peaceful on the western front. It isn’t even the writing. I’m quite enjoying writing books now. I haven’t had this much fun, since my first book was published.

No, I’m embarrassed to admit that what has me stressing is my upcoming agent appointment. Silly, right? Right? RIGHT?

For an author who’s had three agents, a pitch should be a walk in the park. And it is…or would be, if the industry hadn’t changed so drastically. These days it feels like the pitfalls of signing with an agent far outweigh the benefits. It makes me wonder if there are any real agents left. Of course I know that there are, but some days I truly wonder. Just like authors, a lot of agents are morphing into more than agents. I suppose that’s to be expected given the changing industry. The problem is these changes in agencies make it very difficult for an author to have a level/equal partnership. Things tended to be lopsided in the past and they’re even more so now.

The whole situation freaks me out. I even wrote a friend today to tell her that I was seriously thinking about canceling my appointment. Yep, that bitch fear was riding my a$$ hard. Thankfully, my friend talked me off the ledge by giving me a few options. I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to do yet. It’s just a sad day when it seems easier to go it alone.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
Feeling Movie Deprived…

I haven’t managed to see all the films that I’d planned on seeing over the last two weeks. Really bummed about missing Haywire and Young Adult. I suppose that happens. It just sucks when the films don’t stay at the theaters long.

In the meantime, I have stayed busy. I finished writing PHANTOM WARRIORS: ARCTOS on Sunday night. Monday was a bit of a wash work-wise. I spent time with friends instead. Tuesday, I broke out the YA and started the slow process of re-editing. So far I’ve managed to rearrange the first seven chapters of the book. I think the changes will take care of the problems I had with pacing. (I don’t normally have problems with pacing, so when I do, I know there’s a BIG problem with the manuscript.) Anyway, it’s off to a good start. I was going to plow ahead, but decided to edit PW: Arctos first, since I knew it would be easier and far quicker to do. I’m hoping that it doesn’t take more than a couple of days to complete. Once it’s done, I’ll format it and release it on Kindle, Smashwords, and Nook, then send it off to be reformatted for All Romance Ebooks. With any luck, it’ll be up and for sale by the middle of next week. 🙂

The Passive Voice blog had a very interesting survey on the site today. It was all about Indie authors and the self-publishing movement. If you’ve self-published a book (backlist or original), you may want to stop by and fill it out. The whole thing is semi-anonymous. (i.e. No names given, but I’m sure there are captured ISP’s.) I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

Bernard also had some good news to share. He received a terrific review for his book, COLD BLOODED. Way to go, B!!! May it be the first of many great reviews. Another bit of good news is that the audio version of Lynn Viehl’s new book, NIGHTBORN is now 50% off. Grab them while you can.