Eat, Drink, & Be Scary

Quote for the Week

A title like the above can mean only one thing: today is Halloween! Whether you're a vampire or a witch -- or you live with one -- today is the day to celebrate scary -- in a fun way.

As children, we all believed what Steve Almond, author of Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, said: "Nothing on Earth so beautiful as the final haul on Halloween night."

Ah, yes. Those were the days when we gobbled Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Butterfingers with nary a concern for the number of calories, carbs, and fat grams. Somehow the pleasure in those luscious chocolate candies is dimmed by the realization that we'll have to do 30 extra minutes of exercise the next day to pay for eating 1 tiny little candy. {Sigh} Life just isn't fair, is it?

Smart adults only buy candy they hate so they're not tempted to indulge. If any candy remains after Trick or Treat night, they take it to the office and put it in a big bowl on their desk.

Takeaway Truth

My candy bowl is already placed on the antique wash stand in the foyer, and it contains Butterfingers, Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Hershey's Miniatures. What can I say? I'm still a kid at heart.

Why Horror Appeals

Do you know why some people really like mystery or romance? Or why others like science fiction or horror? The reasons are universal in that people all over the world respond to the genres because of the same reasons - reasons that speak to an individual on a sub-conscious level based on what the individual values.

Appeal of Different Genres

Science fiction appeals because of the desire for science or intellectualism to triumph over problems or challenges.

Romance appeals because of the desire for love and belonging.

Mystery appeals because of the desire for justice.

Fantasy appeals because of the desire for imagination and magic to conquer problems.

Horror appeals because of the desire for good to triumph over evil.

Now, you may not watch some spatter punk film or read some gross gore horror and see it as good triumphant over evil. Nevertheless, that is what it's all about.

You can take any horror book or film and boil it down to its basic components, and you'll find it's always a battle of good versus evil. At least the successful examples of this genre are. The unsuccessful examples probably were meant to be that, but somewhere along the way, the story had an identity crisis. probably because the writer didn't know the genre well enough to understand its dynamics.

Primitive To Contemporary

The horror story is ancient. I imagine some caveman telling stories around the campfire tried to scare the T-Rex out of his listeners. Horror connects with those not-so-logical parts of our brains. The primitive parts that tell us to get scared by what goes bump in the night. Stories from ancient times to today's urban myths are the end result, and people voluntarily listen, read, or watch in order to be frightened and to subsequently be reassured that good wins over the evil.

The Horror genre has always reflected the anxieties of each generation. In the original Dracula film Nosferatu, the story wasn't just about a vampire. It was a metaphor for the seemingly senseless and random deaths in the first world war and the later world flu epidemic.

The Dracula tale is told anew for each generation. Even George Hamilton's comic turn as the Count in Love at First Bite was a reflection of the superficial, hedonistic 1970s disco party decade and the greed-is-good 1980s that was rising.

What's really interesting is to take older horror films and contrast them with remakes to see what group stars as the villain and what the message is.

In previous decades, vampires, mummies, Wolf Man, and zombies starred as monsters. After the war with the threat of nuclear bombs, aliens and robots were the monster along with giant insects and other animals. All these reflected fears arising from the unknown. From UFOs to the effects of radiation, people were worried and writers and movie makers used this in their work.

Modern Monsters

Today, even with amazing visual effects, it's hard to create a really terrible monster when the evening news is full of stories about serial killers, war deaths, kids rampaging through schools, and parents murdering their own children. So tellers of tales ramp up the horror thus giving us Thomas Harris's books about Hannibal Lecter and movies like the Morgan Freeman-Brad Pitt flick Se7en.

Perhaps the last good monster flick was Alien and Aliens - forget any that followed those two in that series - and the Schwarzenegger flick Predator. What made those two films really scary and worthy of the horror label wasn't really the monster. It was the suspense as the monster picked the victims off one by one without the audience ever really seeing the monster.

In other words, it was the unknown, the fear of what goes bump in the night when you're imagining the absolute worst. And then you find out what you imagined wasn't nearly bad enough.

Takeaway Truth

The horror storyteller must understand and respect the genre and stay true to its conventions, no matter how those conventions may be interpreted for contemporary audiences, then good will inevitably triumph over evil, and the resulting book or film will be a success.

My Don't List

You see this little poster on the left? That's graced the wall next to my desk for years. In case you can't tell, that's a pelican swallowing a frog, but the frog has a chokehold on the pelican's neck because he hasn't accepted death by pelican. He's fighting for everything he's worth. He just won't give up.

I've been judging a lot of writing contests the last six months. Over the years, I've listened to writers who enter contests talk about the feedback they get from judges. I don't know why, but it seems unpublished writers are the harshest judges out there.

Plethora of Contests

The contests I judge have entries that range from the very professional, near perfect, to the poorly written, very imperfect. Most of the romance writing contests I judge have extremely skilled writers who have learned their craft, and they're on their way to a contract. Another group, whose contest I judge every year is, I suspect, composed mostly of retired people who have time to indulge their passion for writing.

Regardless of what the manuscript is like, I make it a policy to find something good to praise. You see, I'm not the kind of person who's going to stomp on someone else's dream.
Maybe it's because I am a professional writer, and I know how hard it is to carve out a career in this subjective arena.

Not The Easiest Career

I know how hard it is to breathe life into a dream and keep doing that until the dream comes true. For some, the dream never comes true. They don't need me to tell them that they don't have a chance. They'll figure that out on their own. I give them the respect due someone who has had the guts to send their words out into the great unknown.

They do it even though they're scared. Of what? That they're no good. That they haven't got a snowball's chance in a really hot place of succeeding. Yet, as scared as they are, something makes them want to know if there's any chance that what they've written is even a tiny bit good. I respect that. I always write: "Keep writing, and you'll get better."

The Lesson To Learn

The real lesson a writer of any age should take away from a contest is that as one writes and grows, the desire to write and publish gives the persistence to hang in there and grow a thicker skin so that rejection and negative comments bounce off like a rubber ball against a brick wall.

That's learned if you keep writing. You keep writing only if you carry the dream in your heart. You carry that dream only if someone doesn't convince you that it (you, your writing), is hopeless.

My Don't List

I don't discourage because I know how easy it is to stomp a dream flat and break someone's heart.

I don't tell someone the literary equivalent of you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny.

I don't make my day by tearing other people or their writing down.

I don't send an entry back without offering specific suggestions like books to read and study or tips on writing something they seemed not to grasp.

Takeaway Truth

Most of all, I don't do hopeless. If you feel hopeless, then snap out of it. Remember to keep writing. You'll get better.

Meet Keena Kincaid

This morning, I'm chatting with Keena Kincaid. If you've read Keena's sexy paranormal romance novels, you know how much history influences her stories. So how did Keena take her love of history, formed when she was a child learning to read by picking out words in an old history book, and blend that love of history so skillfully with sexuality to create a historical romance novel with a paranormal difference?

Her Backstory

Keena's love of history stayed with her from the age of four into college, where she studied history, and then medieval history in grad school. After college, she started as a newspaper reporter, then editor, and then migrated to a public relations firm. That's when she started writing fiction.

Let's see how she made the transition from business writing to penning sexy paranormal historical novels like Enthralled, which stars William of Ravenglas, in love with the most dangerous woman at court – the king’s mistress.

Book & Author Details

I know you'll probably want to read Keena's latest book after meeting her here today so here's the info you need:

Title: Enthralled
ISBN: 9781601548412
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

You can catch Keena at her website or her other favorite web hangouts: Facebook, and Twitter.

If you want to email Keena, you can use this addy: keena at keenakincaid dot com.

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Joan: Let's get this conversation rolling with a fun question to break the ice. Which celebrity is your guilty pleasure, the person you just have to read a gossip tidbit about? Why?

Keena Kincaid: It's sad, but Lindsay Lohan gets way too much of my attention at the moment. It's like watching a super slow-mo car/train wreck during which the train backs up and runs over the car again and again and again.

Joan: While we're talking about guilty pleasures, tell us if you have a fave TV show that you just can't stand to miss? What about it draws you in?

Keena Kincaid: There's always one or two that draws you in, isn't there? Right now Mad Men is my favorite, can't-miss TV show. I love the clothes, the political incorrectness and how it presents the era through a mix of historical and mythical details. Is there any other decade as legendary as the '60s? Plus, I used to work at an ad agency, and while we never had days quite like they do at Stirling Cooper Draper Pryce, some of the craziness you see on screen does happen in real agencies. Before Mad Men, it was Doctor Who, but I find the new doctor less compelling than David Tennant. Of course, everyone says your favorite doctor is your first one.

Joan: A lot of people say they're going to write a book one of these days, as if time were the only element required to complete the task. Of course, you and I know there's a lot more to it than that. Why don't you tell us how long you've been working at your craft and something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

Keena Kincaid: I don't really remember when I decided I wanted to write a book, but I do remember when I decided to actually write one. I wasn't working, and I finally ran out of the excuse of not having enough time to do it. It was stop and start for a few years, but eventually I really started working at it. Wrote two stories that were pretty good, found an agent on my second, but didn't sell either one. Then I was out of work again (seems to be a theme in my life) and decided to sell my house, put my belongings in storage and travel. I was writing a medieval murder-mystery, but while rambling through the England's north country, the story completely changed. The characters in Anam Cara truly just came to me. It was the easiest book I've written, and the first I sold.

Joan: Enthralled, the book about which we're talking today, was what number book for you? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

Keena Kincaid: No. 4 to be published.

Joan: Tell us something about the book from its inception to its birth. How did you come up with the title, and do you have a 1 sentence blurb, or log line, to tease readers? What do you think accounts for the popularity of your book?

Keena Kincaid: Midway through Ties That Bind, I realized that the external plot (Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine's attempt to murder her husband, Henry II, and rule as regent through her eldest son) was not going to be wrapped up in this book. However, Ties That Bind had two very strong secondary characters who were part of the opposition. So Enthralled is a sequel to Ties that tells William and Ami's story as they step forward to continue the fight against Eleanor's treachery. Readers also will be able to learn what happens with Aedan and Tess as they begin their marriage.

Anam Cara, Ties That Bind and Enthralled all revolve around siblings who are descendants of Druids. They possess fey magic that is out of place and dangerous in the medieval world. They must learn how to accept the responsibilities that come with that power.

The title refers to Eleanor's charisma, as well as the hold Ami has over William's heart.

The books' log line: "To claim her, he must abandon home, duty and honor – or reveal the secret of her Sidhe heritage and risk losing her forever to dark magic."

My popularity? I love the way that sounds, although I'm not sure if its accurate. Based on emails and notes from readers, though, what they like is the lushness of the world I've created and my characters. One reader described them as "staying with you long after you close the book." Another one, this one with a PhD in medieval history, said the story was wonderful and the history was accurate. That comment made me smile for days.

Joan: If they made a movie of this book, who would you cast to portray the characters?

Keena Kincaid: From your lips to Hollywood's ears! If that did happen, I'd leave the casting up to the experts, although I do like the idea of a blond Brendan Hines as William (but I wouldn't object to Josh Holloway in that role). As for Ami, she's be a bit harder to cast, but maybe Anna Paquin, Emily Blunt or Abbie Cornish.

Joan: What do you think distinguishes you from the other writers in your genre?

Keena Kincaid: I write lush, sexy historical paranormals. My main characters often have an extra ability, such as telekinesis or psychometry, but those abilities are more curse than blessing. I love larger-than-life heroes, and this genre lends itself perfectly to characters who are stronger, faster and more intense than average.

What also interests me as a writer and a reader is how the protagonist struggles with the dark side of whatever extra “gift” he or she possesses. I find it boring when heroes are just superhuman. But if the gift is also a curse, i.e., makes them capable of great deeds, but also isolates or weakens them in some way, I’m hooked. This comes through in my writing, and readers love a wounded hero.

Joan: We know this business is rife with rejection. Sometimes, it's hard to take. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Keena Kincaid: The inability to do anything else well? A frightening blend of confidence and stubbornness? I'm not sure what keeps me going, to be honest. Rejection always hurts, and I still have moments of doubt so strong that I wonder if perhaps I should go to work at Starbucks instead. But something inside me just can't give up. Even when I've tried to stop writing, I can't.

Joan: What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

Keena Kincaid: My rejection recovery regime:

Long walk. Tall glass of wine (Scotch if I'm really taking it hard.). Chat with friends, who assure me of my brilliance. Bubble bath and go back to work on the current WIP the next morning.

Joan: Who are your writing influences?

Keena Kincaid: Robin Hobb, Tolkien, Shakespeare. Probably many more but those are the ones that come first to mind.

Joan: What are you working on now?

Keena Kincaid: A story that I've dubbed the Yorkshire Gothic. It's not set in Yorkshire, but it's becoming more Gothic with each word. My hero lives under a curse and has vowed never to sire children, who would carry the curse into the next generation. Celibacy, as we all know, is the only certain way to prevent children. When he must marry Matilda to protect her and gain control of her lands, he begins searching for a way to undo the curse and uncovers a family secret that is even worse.

Joan: What's the best thing about writing?

Keena Kincaid: The best part is getting to tell others’ stories. Whether it’s a personality profile for a newspaper or the single, most important event in a fictional character’s life, I can tell a story that makes the person real for readers. That’s heady stuff – and fun.

Joan: What's the worst thing about writing?

Keena Kincaid: The worst part is how much time it can take to get the words from my head onto the page. And I never seem to get them exactly how I want them. I come frustratingly close, but it’s never perfect.

Joan: If there's someone in the audience who's interested in writing, what advice would you give them if they're just starting out?

Keena Kincaid: Enjoy yourself. I view writing like preaching, if you can do anything else, then by all means, do it. But if it’s a calling, then embrace it and enjoy what you do. The road to becoming published can be a long, tough and frustrating haul – and you may never make it – so embrace the journey and have fun.

Joan: What's the one thing no interviewer has ever asked you that you'd really like to talk about?

Keena Kincaid: No one ever asks about my mad pie-making skills. They are extraordinary. My family fights over the last spoonful.

Joan: Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share or is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

Keena Kincaid: Thanks so much for having me here. I've enjoyed our chat, and the coffee is wonderful. For more information about my books, check out my website. Also readers can email me or connect with me on Facebook.

Takeaway Truth

Until next time, remember, a good book is a little vacation from the cares of life. Enjoy one today.

Plots: Nothing New Under the Sun

New writers worry about the wrong things. Some of the most prominent worries are: someone stealing their work or their ideas, worrying about getting an agent, or writing a plot that's been used before.

There are a lot of things about writing that have the ability to create intense anxiety in an aspiring writer, but, of all the fears I didn't list and those above, writing a plot that's been used before is the most easily cured.

The Cure

The cure is easy because, write this down and commit it to memory, there are no new plots. Stitch it into a sampler if you wish and hang it above your computer. Depending on which source you site, there are only 3-9 plots in all of the world's cultural history. Everything else is a variation of that finite number of plots.

The way you make each plot seem different, new, and exciting is all in the execution. It's what you bring to the plot in terms of your word choice, the way you tell a story, the spin you put on it. Of course, word choice, sentence construction, and the way you, not anyone else, write that story are all matters pertaining to your author's voice.


Quit worrying about not having an original plot, because you don't. What you need to be most concerned with is getting the story written. Execute the plot as only you can because there are no new ones, only new ways of telling the same kind of story that's been told for millennia.

Willa Cather once said: "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."

Takeaway Truth

You're the spin doctor of your writing ideas. Put your own spin on an idea and just write. As Larry the Cable Guy says: "Gitterdone."

Teach Tony Danza

Have you discovered Teach Tony Danza? I am seriously addicted to this show, but I didn't even know it existed until I caught a retun episode at some weird hour when I was flipping channels.

When I stumbled across it, I laughed. After all, why would Tony Danza set himself up to be embarrassed by signing on as an English teacher at a Philly high school?

This may sound as if I'm not a Danza fan, but that's not the case. The man can act, sing, dance, and he's an attractive man. He's had a successful acting career in a couple of shows that made TV history. So why ruin it now?


Apparently, Tony Danza had planned to be an English teacher when he was in college. Big surprise. I guess I'm like too many people who thought he was nothing but a dumb jock or a typical good looking dumb actor.

Biggest Surprise

He actually has the kind of compassion and caring that a good teacher needs. He was scared and was man enough not to hide it. The show is captivating and encapsulates all the problems that teachers face in today's world. He learns early on that there are no easy solutions to the problems undermining education.

The show is a gem. I've just found out that they're ending it early because of lack of viewership. My question for A&E is: "How can people watch something they can't find?" I saw one ad for the show, but I never could find when it aired. I had to go to the Internet to find out the schedule.

This show is one of the best of reality programming because it has the potential to make a difference, not just in the lives of the students, but in the perception the public has of publish education. Perhaps it may make parents rethink their idea that teachers are entirely responsible for a student's success or failure.

School success of failure is a partnership with parents, student, and teacher playing an integral role. Too many seem to think that's not true, and the student suffers.

Takeaway Truth

Watch Teach Tony Danza on A&E. Tell your friends. It's compelling and eye-opening for Mr. Danza and the viewing public.

Small Towns

We had a blast yesterday at the Texas Mushroom Festival in Madisonville.

Small Town Delight

Madisonville is a delightful small town. Those rushing by on nearby Interstate 45 never get to see this little gem of a town. Sure, they may stop at the new Buc-ee's, but they miss the courthouse square, the historic Woodbine Hotel and Restaurant, the Madison County Museum, and all the quaint little shops.

At the Mushroom Festival, we hit all those places and more and spent a delightful few hours in the wine vendor section. Tried some excellent wines. Ate grilled portobello mushroom "fajitas" (to die for!) and listened to music.

Fried Anything & Everything

Everywhere people paused and took time to chat. I think I had more conversations with strangers than at a cocktail party. We took tons of photos, and I even stood in the longest food line to get my daughter a -- wait for it -- Fried Oreo.

I kid you not. This food vendor had fried everything: Snickers, Oreos, Milky Ways, Baby Ruths, funnel cakes, ribbon potatoes, Twinkies, green beans, and okra. From the time I entered the line until I placed the order, 30 minutes elapsed.

I took pictures of my daughter eating this heart-unfriendly snack. She said it was fabulous. I took a bite. Well, it didn't exactly inspire a passion, but I can now say I have had Fried Oreo. It's certainly nothing I'd eat again. Instead, we decided we'd try the Fried Snickers next year.

Friendly Folk

Our fun-filled day with the cheerful citizens of Madisonville reminded me of what television journalist Charles Kuralt once said: "To read the papers and to listen to the news... one would think the country is in terrible trouble. You do not get that impression when you travel the back roads... small towns do care about their country and wish it well."

How true! I didn't hear one negative comment about the governor's race, the sitting president, the depressed economy or anything.

Takeaway Truth

Two thumbs up to the Texas Mushroom Festival and to Madisonville. Plan to attend next year. Maybe I'll see you there.

Texas Mushroom Festival

I love Texas in autumn not only for the beautiful turning leaves but also for the many festivals across the Lone Star state. Today is the annual Texas Mushroom Festival at Madisonville. I'm writing this as my husband and daughter get their backpacks ready so we can leave.

I'm Ready

My backpack has some of the junk I usually cart around in my handbag along with a water bottle in each of the mesh holders. My husband's backpack contains snacks and bubble wrap and plastic bags to hold our wine purchases. My daughter's contains her purse junk and her photography gear.

Eat, Drink, Be Merry

There are about 2 dozen wineries and vineyards with booths at the Mushroom Festival. For a mere $10, you can get an all day ticket to sample all their offerings. That's a bargain. I know we'll be buying some bottles, hence my husband's backpack.

They also have chefs preparing mouth-watering food, incorporating mushrooms of course. We'll probably buy a food ticket too.

The festival is rounded out with arts and crafts vendors, an antique car show, souvenirs, a Queen pageant (You can't have a festival in Texas without a beauty pageant.), and more.

Takeaway Truth

In other words, we're looking forward to a fun-filled day in a small Texas town, one of the best offerings of autumn.

Reputable Poetry Contest

A lot of people write poetry, and, all too often, they learn the hard way that many of the contests for poetry are scams. Fortunately, Writers Digest offers a legitimate poetry contest.

6th Annual Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Competition

Entry Deadline: December 15, 2010

Click the link for all the details and to enter. Awards for 1st through 50th Place. The winning poems will be printed in a special competition collection. You can reserve a copy when you enter if you wish, but there's no obligation to purchase. The publication date is May 2011.


1st Place: $500 and a trip to the Writer's Digest Conference in New York City

2nd Place: $250

3rd Place: $100

4th - 10th Place: $25

The names and poem titles of 1 - 10th Place winners will be printed in the August 2011 issue of Writer's Digest Magazine, and their names will appear on Writers Digest website.

11th - 25th Place: $50 gift certificate for Writer's Digest Books.

Additionally, all winners will receive the 2011 Poet's Market.

Takeaway Truth

British author and classical scholar Robert Graves once said: "There is no money in poetry, but then there is no poetry in money either." Poets don't write with the expectation of getting rich. Like most writers, they write for the love of combining words to express thoughts and emotions.

Writing Mass-Market Fiction

Want to know how to write a novel that sells? If you've wanted some one-on-one guidance from a published author, this is your big chance. Elaine Raco Chase, a talented author who's also an excellent teacher, is taking enrollment for her latest online class.

Something About Elaine

Elaine Raco Chase is the award-winning author of 16 fiction novels and one non-fiction writer's guide. She has over 3 million books in print, and all of her books are still available. She was past president of numerous Romance Writers of America chapters, Past National President of Sisters in Crime, and has taught creative writing for over 20 years at various colleges and universities in the U. S. and Canada. She just finished a stint at Miami-Dade College before returning to the Northern Virginia Area. She is working on her 18th novel, a romantic mystery.


Start date: Monday, October 25.

End date: December 6.

Cost: $75.00, due before class starts.

The class will be run via a special Verizon email account Elaine has set up for this purpose. A lot of the students like the privacy this affords.

Study Sections
  • Overview of publishing today, including info on ebooks, POD, and contacting agents, including a sample query letter/email
  • Word length of material
  • How to layout your novel; when to create a new chapter.
  • Sentence structure
  • Beginnings, middles, endings—of the novel and the paragraph
  • Transitions: how not to take 20 pages getting your character in and out of cars. Moving them through the novel.
  • Dialogue
  • 5 W's: who, what, when, where, why plus how—as it pertains to characters, plotting, plot structure—linear, inverted
Your Responsibility

Weekly writing assignments that will be emailed to Elaine. (Each Monday night, a new section will be assigned, along with a homework assignment.)

What You Get

You'll receive a 10 page critique of the book project you submit for her analysis.

If Elaine feels anyone is "ready," she give those people one on one sessions along with ideas on how to approach an appropriate agent.

How To Enroll

If you're interested, contact Elaine Raco Chase using this email: elainerc at verizon dot net, and, in the Subject box, put Fiction Class.

Takeaway Truth

When you get to the point where you need some honest feedback or some clarification of narrative skills, the writing process, and/or the publishing business, choose someone who has credibility and the ability to help you. Elaine Raco Chase is an excellent choice.

East Texas Mounted Search and Rescue

A couple of weekends ago my daughter and I were tooling around the hill country, snapping photos of scenes that caught our eye. From the highway, we could see there was a lot of activity going on at the stables at Hilltop Lakes so we drove over there.

Just Organized

To our pleased surprise, we discovered a training session underway for the newly organized East Texas Mounted Search and Rescue. A few gentlemen were standing about while their horses grazed. With typical Texas hospitality and friendliness, they greeted us and invited us to watch.

Training The Horses

The riders in the training exercise were lined up in a long row. The instructor was teaching them how to cover an area in a consistent manner, not missing anything nor having to backtrack. The riders and the horses learn. Even one stubborn horse who'd never learned to step to the side, according to his owner, managed to do that once the instructor set her mind to making him learn.

I've seen mounted search and rescue groups in news footage before so I understood the exercises they were putting the riders and horses through. They have to be able to pick their way through heavily-wooded areas, step to the side to open gates, etc. in their search for a missing child or a lost camper.

Sounds & Noise

Horses don't like sudden weird sounds or anything out of the ordinary actually. They're easy to spook so part of the training exercise was walking them over a big sheet of black plastic so they could get accustomed to the crackling sound. This de-sensitization continued when one of the Leon County Deputies drove up to do his part by turning on the emergency flashers and the siren. Horses really don't like that, but if they're to be a part of a rescue team, they'll be working with law enforcement so they must get used to that.

Want To Help

This group is primarily out of Leon County, but, according to Secretary/Treasurer Sherry Smith, who is also in charge of Communications & Publicity, they welcome riders from anywhere and everywhere. If you ride, they've got horses or you can bring your own. If you have some time on your hands, even if you don't ride, then they can use you.

Takeaway Truth

Groups like the East Texas Mounted Search and Rescue provide a valuable assist to law enforcement so if you'd like to help by donating time and/or money, just email Sherry: lilrangercb at hotmail dot com. Ask to be put on the mailing list so you'll know when they're going to appear at a training session, parade or festival. You'll love watching them!

Meet Ashlyn Chase

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashlyn Chase for The Celebrity Café. Since space was limited, I had to leave out some of the material. However, the conversation was too good not to use the "deleted scenes" so here they are. I'm sure you'll like this closer look at this multi-published, award-winning author of humorous erotic romances.

She's garnered great reviews for her paranormal comedy Strange Neighbors, and she's just signed on the dotted line for a Thai translation of her novel. Add to her list of accomplishments, finalling in the New Jersey Romance Writer's Golden Leaf contest and attracting the interest of a Hollywood producer who wanted an Advanced Reading Copy of her novel.

You heard it hear first: Strange Neighbors might be coming to the big screen some day soon.

Book & Author Scoop

Strange Neighbors
ISBN# 9781402236617

You can visit this author at or chat with her at or catch her blogging at Naughty Author Chicks and Casablanca Authors.

Joan: Tell me, Ashlyn, what number book for you was Strange Neighbors? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

Ashlyn: Try 17! I published a few under a different pen name at first. Then I found my voice was in comedy rather than suspense and reinvented myself as Ashlyn Chase. This is the dozenth Ashlyn Chase book. . . although not all my stories are full novels. There are a fair number of novellas in that 17. Strange Neighbors is my longest book to date at about 90,000 words.

Joan: Tell us about your book please.

Ashlyn: I came up with the title first when talking to one of my real neighbors. It was barely more than an idea when I met a Borders bookseller who said, "I have a friend who's an editor. Do you have anything?" I told her about my idea and she told me to write up a proposal. Her friend turned out to be Sourcebooks editor Deb Werksmen and she loved the idea! She requested a look at my first 3 chapters and last published book. (Love Cuffs from Ellora's Cave.) Three days later she called and offered me a contract for a series. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time.

As I said, I had never written a book that long and to write 3 of them? Whoa! But I did it. I just finished the 3rd book in the series and it's due Sept 30th. My agent told me it's being called "the paranormal Friends." I guess that's a good hook. An old brownstone converted into an apartment building in an upscale Boston neighborhood attracts paranormals of all ilks. A professional baseball player buys it as an investment and remodels the top floor to be his penthouse. He re-signs all the present tenants' leases without realizing the building houses a werewolf, a vampire, a shapeshifting raven and two witches who are phone sex actresses.

Joan: What are you working on now?

Ashlyn: I have a couple of projects in the brainstorming stages. Another series I'm calling the paranormal Sex and the City, which begins with my already published book Vampire Vintage. I hope I can find an advance paying publisher willing to republish that and the rest would be originals. I'm starting book 2 in that series now. Plus I'm writing a ghost story with Dalton Diaz, my writing partner for Love Cuffs and Strokes.

Joan: We know this business is rife with rejection. Sometimes, it's hard to take. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Ashlyn: That's a reality that could drive oversensitive people to suicide! Writers need perspective. Rejection happens for a reason. Usually your story isn't what the publisher is looking for — that doesn't mean it's bad. Rejection isn't as big a deal to me as an unkind review. That's like telling the world your baby is ugly. It doesn't happen often, but when it does how do I cope? I get angry. I cry. I vow to fight the person in a duel. Then I calm down and realize it's their opinion and they have a right to it. Not everyone will agree with me all the time. (I don't understand that since I'm always right. LOL) That's what makes this country great. The book one person hates might be one others love. But they're all available for us to sift through.

Joan: What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

Ashlyn: You're going to make me admit I down a couple of rum and cokes aren't you? Sigh. Well, sometimes numbing helps. And the time spent doing it allows my perspective to return. I just shut down the computer first. I have a little statue on my desk of a woman glugging down a bottle of wine. The caption reads, "Merlot and email don't mix." Ain't that the truth!

Joan: Who are your writing influences?

Ashlyn: Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series was the first romance I ever read. I was raised by intellectual snobs who turned their noses up at romance. I'm glad I didn't realize I was reading romance novels until I was into the sequel! LOL I was amazed a romance could be so intelligently written and so entertaining. From then on, I was hooked.

As far as who influenced me to write like I do? Annette Blair inspires me, loads of writers in my RWA chapter have helped critique and improve my writing, especially Sylvie Kurtz, Jessica Andersen, Emily Bryan aka Mia Marlowe and Dalton Diaz. Mary Janice Davidson is who I want to be when I grow up and Delilah Devlin is my hero. Does that answer the question?

Joan: I think it does. So tell me, what's the best thing about writing?

Ashlyn: Being home during the day. Yes, I quit my day job. Most of us can't do that without a sugar daddy, but thank goodness I've got me one!

Joan: What's the worst thing about writing?

Ashlyn: It's hard (she whines.)

Joan: If there's someone in the audience who's interested in writing, what advice would you give them if they're just starting out?

Ashlyn: The same thing I was told. Write the book, then send it out and write another. Rinse and repeat until you have a contract. Meanwhile, all those rejected manuscripts become your back list when your publisher wants to see what else you've got! Don't. Give. Up.

Takeaway Truth

Readers, I hope you've enjoyed meeting storyteller Ashlyn Chase, and I hope you'll get her book.


Quote for the Week

For the last few days, I've been home alone. Egads! With the family gone for a few days, I thought I'd get lots of rest and catch up on my sleep. Instead, I looked around and realized the house needed a really good cleaning. So I tackled everything from the blinds to the floors.

I'm exhausted, but I have a really clean house. I'm looking around with pleasure instead of feeling overwhelmed by the sight of tasks delayed and delayed yet again.

I think Dave Barry had the right take on housework. He said: "The obvious and fair solution to the housework problem is to let men do the housework for, say, the next six thousand years, to even things up. The trouble is that men, over the years, have developed an inflated notion of the importance of everything they do, so that before long they would turn housework into just as much of a charade as business is now. They would hire secretaries and buy computers and fly off to housework conferences in Bermuda, but they'd never clean anything."

Takeaway Truth

If only my clean house would stay that way. Fat chance. Dust is like a zombie. It always comes back.

Meet Jules Bennett

This morning we're having coffee with Silhouette Desire author Jules Bennett.

In addition to being a successful writer, Jules is also a wife and mom with 2 toddler girls. As if that wasn't enough to keep her super busy, she works full-time in a bustling beauty salon. Whew! Now I know why she told me that when she "has a moment to breathe, she enjoys the simple things like eating dinner and going to the bathroom."

How To Find Jules & Her Book

He faced the toughest decision of his life - love...or money? Ah, yes, that's the age-old question that faces Jules hero.

From Boardroom To Wedding Bed?
ISBN: 9780373730599
by Jules Bennett

You can find her book at eHarlequin,on Amazon, or at your favorite bookseller.

In case you'd like to ask Jules a question, email her at authorjules at gmail dot com.

Let's Get Comfy

Joan: Let's start with a fun question about celebrities to break the ice. Which celebrity is your guilty pleasure, the person you just have to read a gossip tidbit about? Why?

Jules: I always want to learn more about Sandra Bullock. It's hard because she's so private, but that's what I admire about her. She is so classy and seems like her common sense for reality keeps her grounded.

Joan: While we're talking about guilty pleasures, tell us if you have a fave TV show that you just can't stand to miss? What about it draws you in?

Jules: I have to watch Dancing with the Stars! I make no secret that I want to be on there, but, first, I guess I have to have the one requirement: I need to be a Star. I want to dress up in cool costumes or lavish ball gowns, not to mention the rigorous workout they get!

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Joan: A lot of people say they're going to write a book one of these days, as if time were the only element required to complete the task. Of course, you and I know there's a lot more to it than that. Why don't you tell us how long you've been working at your craft and something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

Jules: I started writing in 2003, got my first contract in 2005 with The Wild Rose Press, then Samhain Publishing. In 2008, I got a call from my agent that my Silhouette Desire had sold! I never would've thought I could do it, but my agent assured me that my voice was perfect for Desire. (Guess she was right.)

Joan: The book, about which we're talking today, was what number book for you? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

Jules: From Boardroom to Wedding Bed? is my 9th if I add in my 3 novellas.

Joan: Tell us something about the book from its inception to its birth. Do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers? What do you think accounts for the popularity of your book?

Jules: This book holds a special place. It's the start of a series set in South Beach/Miami, and it's a reunion story. I LOVE reuniting couples!

Here's my blurb.

He'd been faced with the toughest decision of his life—a future full of wealth and power, or the love of Tamera Stevens. And self-made billionaire Cole Marcum had never regretted his choice. Until now, when circumstances forced him to work as partners with the woman he'd left behind.

The brilliant CEO was determined to keep their relationship strictly business. Even so, working so closely with the only woman he'd ever cherished had Cole rethinking his priorities. This time, was he prepared to choose love over money?

Joan: If they made a movie of this book, who would you cast to portray the characters?

Jules: LOL! I always think of that while typing. That's my own little daydream. Who would play my characters? Hmm...good question. For the female, I think Carrie Underwood would be the perfect heroine, if only she acted. For the hero, Gerard Butler or George Clooney just for their sexy persona.

Joan: What do you think distinguishes you from the other writers in your genre?

Jules: That's hard to say when there are so many wonderful imaginations out there. My agent and some reviewers have said I have a sexy voice with that emotional, realistic twist that makes me fresh.

Joan: We know this business is rife with rejection. Sometimes, it's hard to take. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Jules: Hmm...I always took a rejection as, "Oh, yeah? What do you know?" They always propelled me to do better just to make that person sorry they turned me down.

Joan: What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

Jules: My hubby takes me to Cheesecake Factory for any occasion. Happy, sad, anything in between!

Joan: Who are your writing influences?

Jules: Every author who paved the way before me and set the bar for me to be a better writer. I love Roxanne St. Claire and Catherine Mann. Those two have been so sweet and generous of their time to a newbie like me. Not to mention they are awesome authors!

Joan: What are you working on now?

Jules: I'm working on book 3 of this series.

Joan: What's the best thing about writing?

Jules: Everything. I love that the "fake" people in my head get a real life with a happy ending, I love chatting it up with readers, I love brainstorming with other authors. I'm thrilled this is my career.

Joan: What's the worst thing about writing?

Jules: Sleepless nights, but even those don't bother me too much.

Joan: If there's someone in the audience who's interested in writing, what advice would you give them if they're just starting out?

Jules: Never give up. I would never tell my children to give up on a dream, so I felt that I couldn't, either. No matter how rough the road, keep going. It wouldn't be rewarding or worth it if everything came easy.

Joan: What's the one thing no interviewer has ever asked you that you'd really like to talk about?

Jules: No one has asked if they can find me a chef. Maybe you read my chaotic schedule? Yeah, there's no time for cooking around here unless hubby does it. I'd like to know some easy recipes or just an in-house chef;)

Joan: Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share or is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

Jules: I'm just grateful to all the readers who keep buying books in this shaky economy. I know we all want to get away from day to day drama and a good romance is certainly the way to do it! I'm also running a contest on my website to give away a Kindle, so make sure you check it out!

Takeaway Truth

Thanks, Jules, it was a pleasure. Good luck with your Silhouette Desire series.

3 Free Softwares for Writers

If you've thought about writing a book, but you're intimidated by your inability to master the more popular word processing softwares like Microsoft Word and Word Perfect, this post if for you.

Most professional writers already have the word processing tools, but beginners sometimes don't. Even if you know your Word or WP backwards and forwards, you might be interested in taking a look at these free apps.

yWriter5 by SpaceJock

This is free to download and use. You don't even have to register, and there's no expiration on it. This word processor breaks your novel into chapters and scenes and keeps track of your word count. You can check them out on YouTube also.


This Open Source novel writing software was designed for novelists and other creative writers. This software allows you to store all the information about your characters and locations in one place. You can use the Storybook features to manage chapters, scenes, characters and locations.

If you like charts and tables of data, this organizational tool will please you.


There are 2 versions of Treepad: TreePad Lite (freeware) and TreePad Asia (freeware). Both are small, powerful personal database programs that allow a user to store notes, emails, texts, hyperlinks, etc. into one or more databases. For a Windows user, the look and action of this software will be familiar which will make it easy to explore, edit, store, browse, search and retrieve data.

TreePad Asia supports non-western/Asian fonts. TreePad Lite is for Western users.

Takeaway Truth

Price Tag of Just About Anything

I made a haul in a lot of those fascinating facts books. I put them at our Hill Country house because they're perfect for a guest to pick up and read a bit for amusement if they're just sitting around with nothing else to do.

I was skimming through Everything Has Its Price by Richard E. Donleyand found it fascinating. The copyright is 1995 so I'm sure some of the prices have risen even higher.

Not Making This Up

A license for a legal brothel in Nevada is $25,600.00.

The price tag to buy a legal brothel in Nevada is $1.5 million.

A 17th century suit of armor $80,000.00.

A full body tattoo $50,000.00 and 5 years to complete. Ouch!

Renting Disneyland for a private party with a minimum of 7,000 of your closest friends required, $133,000.00. (I'm sure that's much higher now.)

A complete frog or lizard preserved in amber $40,000.00. According to the book, interest in these items increased dramatically after the book and movie Jurassic Park.

Even historical prices are given, for example, Stonehenge was put up for sale in 1900 for $625,000.00. Eventually, the site was purchased by England.

Takeaway Truth

I guess it's true that everything can be bought. Fascinating book.

Technology Laughter & Tears

I've had some technical issues for a few weeks. I finally broke down and called the appropriate technical services.

I usually try very hard to avoid this because I get someone like the guy shown on the commercial. You know the one where this burly guy says his name is Shirley and then he repeats the same fractured sentence over and over, regardless of what the caller asks?

I got someone just like that. I could almost hear him turning the pages in the manual as he tried to find the information to help me. As is usual, I knew more than he did about computers. So why aren't there jokes about customers dealing with the so-called experts?

Of course, that made me think of some of my favorite jokes about people who call help lines. Here are a few for your pleasure. This first one makes me laugh until I cry.

Technical Services: Double click on "My Computer"
User: I can't see your computer.
Technical Services: No, double click on "My Computer" on your computer.
User: Huh?
Technical Services: There is an icon on your computer labeled "My Computer". Double click on it.
User: What's your computer doing on mine?

On the negative side, I've been getting charged for a ton of stuff I didn't order lately. On the positive side, I did win that 'Who's Got the Best Password' contest on AOL last week. ~Spike Donner

All parts should go together without forcing. You must remember that the parts you are reassembling were disassembled by you. Therefore, if you can’t get them together again, there must be a reason. By all means, do not use a hammer.~IBM Manual, 1925

Takeaway Truth

If you're ever feeling less than brilliant when using technology, remember that even so-called geniuses make great big blunders too. After all, 6 years ago Bill Gates said: "Two years from now, spam will be solved."

Naming Characters

I was answering a question over on a website I frequent, and I thought perhaps this might be good info to pass along to those of you who are just beginning to write.

Quick Naming Tips

1. Pick a name that was common during the time era in which your character was born. A 14-year-old protagonist would have been born in 1996.

A quick look at shows that the top 10 girl names that year were: Emily, Jessica, Ashley, Sarah, Samantha, Taylor, Hannah, Alexis, Rachel, and Elizabeth. That site breaks names down by sex, year, and lists 200 names in each year. You're bound to find one there.

2. Pick a name reflective of the character's nationality and personal background. Example: a British girl would probably never be named Dixie. A minister's daughter probably won't bear the name Delilah.

Do some research with Google search engines to find names reflective of different countries or just look to the movie stars from other countries. In the UK, Cate is a popular first name as in Cate Blanchett, and Emma Watson in the Harry Potter movies.

3. For a surname (last name), scan church bulletins, organization newsletters, and even the phone book. Pick a surname and pair it with the given name (first name) you've chosen. Again, you can find English surnames on the Internet.

4. If you're serious about your writing, buy a baby name book. There are many on the market that include information about ethnicity which is important if you're naming a character from a different country or culture. I have 5 baby name books on my research book shelf.

5. Don't choose names that have the same letter or sound. Do an alphabetical cross out of names you choose so you don't have Kathy, Ken, Conner, or Caitlin. Do this alphabetical elimination for first names and last names.

6. Avoid names that end with S because making a plural and/or a plural possessive of these names can you drive you crazy. If you do it correct grammatically, it will look wrong to you. If you do it the way most people do, it's incorrect grammatically.

7. Avoid weird spellings and names. Those 2 things drive readers nuts. A reader wants to be able to pronounce a name and know what it is at first glance. Guessing at a pronunciation makes a reader not want to read the piece. Example: Korajus (real name I came across -- pronounced courageous)

8. Never use a real name though sometimes you can create something fictional only to learn it's a real name. Don't knowingly do it though.

9. Avoid androgynous names. This can be irritating for a lot of people. Sure, there are lots of Samantha's who are called Sam, but try to avoid a plethora of nicknames: Sam, Mike (Micah), Mac (MacKenzie), Pat (Patricia), and Taylor, Blake, McLane, Rory, Harper, et al.

In the beginning when a reader is just getting acquainted with your cast of characters, it can be off-putting keeping all these unisex names straight (no pun intended) with the gender of the character.

10. If a name has to be explained, then choose a different name.

11. Choose a name that offers subtle characterization. It's easy to believe that a woman named Presley might have had a parent with a serious obsession with Elvis. A similar obsession can be opined for a parent who names a child Lexus.

12. Keep a bible: a master list of the names you choose and in what work you used them. In fact, keep a master list of every name used: people, places, business, etc. That way you won't find yourself discovering at the last minute that you already used a name in a manuscript 10 years ago. No lie: writers forget.

Takeaway Truth

Names go in and out of style, just at a slower pace.