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Conspiracy Theory, Anyone?

Our answer to the raid.

By now, most of you have probably heard about the Raid on Area 51. Supposedly it all started as a joke, but it has now developed into a possible festival of some kind.

The locals are apparently not amused and neither is the military.

Regardless of intent, attending the raid may end up being more hazardous than heroic, so the delightful Terri A. Wilson had a better idea;

  1. Gather some of the best indie authors anywhere and prompt them to write their best short story – any genre – any style – based around the mysterious desert outpost known as Area 51.
  2. Donate all proceeds to a reputable charity benefitting U.S. Veterans.
My answer to the call.

And it worked! Twenty-five authors answered the call, lending their pens and plot lines to create a wide variety of stories. From romance to adventure, to horror, we have all the relevant details on Area 51, past, present, and future. Now you don’t have to go to the raid to enjoy it. Just pick up the book, kick back, relax and read.

To celebrate the launch on September 20th, we gathered some of our favorite bloggers for a hop. Blog links can be found here. Plus, we’re having a Facebook party at the Red Hatter’s Book Hangout on the 22nd. Come and help us celebrate the raid from the comfort of your own home. (Hint: It’s sure to be fun, and there might be surprises!)

Meanwhile, keep your tinfoil hats handy and carry on.


Series Review: The Devil’s Assistant by HD Smith

H.D. Smith’s Devil’s Assistant series is a winner.

The four books track the protagonist’s journey from helpless assistant to the Devil (The actual devil. This is not a metaphor. However, it’s also not your mother’s devil) to kick-ass heroine who takes very little sh**.

The writing is tight, tense and well-turned with engaging characters and a number of great surprises. The story continues through four books, all of which are out. There is some retelling in the later books of “what has gone before,” but it’s pretty well integrated and compact.

I don’t often find a book, let alone four, that consistently surprise me and/or keep me guessing. Smith manages this with ease. It is telling that I read all four within a week, immediately obtaining the next when I finished the current read. Between the magic, the realms, prophecies and time travel elements, I didn’t bother trying to predict anything, but just allowed the words to take me along for a highly entertaining ride.

The series begins with Dark Hope, followed by Darke Awakened, Dark Forsaken and ends with Dark Contender. I give them four stars each.

HD Smith is a software developer by day and an author of kick-ass Urban Fantasy at night. She grew up in South Carolina, but has called the Sunshine State home since 1997. She has a Masters degree in Computer Science, but her love of writing has really unleashed the creative siren in her soul. For more information, visit HD’s website.


XX Author Interview Featuring: Olivia Hardin

CLR: Give us the deets – genre(s), length of writing career, how long you’ve been writing – all the basics.

“Women are fantastic creatures and I love writing them.”

OH: In 2011 I published my first book, Witch Way Bends, the series starter for my (currently) 12-story Bend-Bite-Shift Paranormal Romance series. Since then I’ve dabbled in contemporary romance and urban fantasy genres. I also write erotic romance as Lili Von and I’m just launching a brand new cozy mystery brand as C.H. Sessums!

CLR:  How do you feel about female characters?

OH: Women are fantastic creatures and I love writing them.  With my female characters, I tend to write what I know, focusing on the characteristics I’m familiar with. My first few stories I think there was a lot of me in those women. Devan in Witch Way Bends didn’t realize her own power and strength and had to be taught how to channel it for good. In my contemporary romance All for Family I even touched on my own body image issues by writing a woman who was self-conscious about her weight. I think as long as I’m listening to the characters and learning who they are, it is all good!

CLR: Male characters, same question.

OH: I tend to go with what I know. All the males in my stories have tidbits of the men in my life. They’re strong yet flawed and my favorite thing about writing them is revealing how they open up their female counterparts and encourage her to get out of her safe zone to grow.

CLR:  What is the hardest thing about being a female author?

OH: I don’t imagine being a female author is any harder than being a male. The business itself is tough and learning how to muddle through writing a great story, packaging a great story and then selling a great story isn’t easy. I write romance and I’d say that the greatest majority of my fellow authors are also female (and frankly the majority of my readers tend to be as well.) I have seen though, with my husband who is also an author, that he tends to be a lot more secure in his writing than I am. He’ll talk to anyone about his books and a lot of the time he’ll sell them one. And I seem to see that with other male authors too. It’s hard for me to tell a stranger about my books, to essentially brag about myself and when I’ve talked to my female author friends they say the same thing. Thankfully for me though, my fantastic man will tell everyone about my writing for me!

“I can shoot a gun and I’d step into a fight if I had to.”

CLR:  Do you make a conscious effort to include feminist themes in your writing?

OH: I don’t. The definition of feminism has been changing so I’m not sure I even clearly know what that is. In my stories, the partners—men and women—are better because they’re together, either as friends or as lovers. They have different strengths, but none of them are better than the other. Equity and not equality because in my mind equality doesn’t really exist. I’m a true southern lady (at least the hubby tells me I am.) I can shoot a gun and would step into a fight if I had to. I don’t necessarily believe I can do anything a man can do. Some women can, yes. Some men can do things just as well as women, but not always. I think we expend a lot of energy trying to bridge gaps and break through glass ceilings. Now don’t get me wrong. If a woman has a passion to do something and has to fight her way through discrimination to get there, I applaud her and will lift her up. I just don’t think we all have to do those things to prove our strength. Men and women are inherently different. I don’t “need a man” because he’s a man. I need a partner who has strengths in areas I don’t. I try to do that with my characters too when I’m writing.

Author Bio:

Olivia Hardin always realized how strange she was to have complete movie-like character dreams as a child. Eventually, she began putting those vivid dreams to paper and was rarely without her spiral notebooks full of those mental ramblings. Her forgotten vision of becoming an author was realized when she connected with a group of amazingly talented and fabulous writers who gave her lots of direction and encouragement. With a little extra push from family and friends, she hunkered down to get lost in the words. She’s also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run and is sometimes accused of being artistic, though she’s generally too much of a perfectionist to appreciate her own work. A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband, Danny, and their corgi pup Bonnie and their brand new hound Heidi.

For more on Olivia and her books, check out her links:

WEBSITE | NEWSLETTER | FACEBOOK | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS


Enough

Sunday mornings should be peaceful. Calm. Quiet. This past Sunday was the opposite, and as I watch the news reports rolling in, I want to weep and shout my anger in equal measure.

You already know what happened. Two gunmen in two different places walked into public areas and opened fire, murdering as many people as they could before being apprehended by police.

By most standards, the police moved swiftly. In El Paso and in Dayton, they cut short what would undoubtedly have been a much larger massacre without their intervention. The work they did was, relatively speaking, successful.

But this isn’t about the police.

One of the gunmen posted a blatantly racist screed on social media. The media is blaming his violence on a racist viewpoint. The other shooter’s violence is being attributed to possible mental illness. In both cases, the weapon of choice was at least semi-automatic, allowing more bullets and faster firing than a standard rifle or handgun. Such guns are not meant for hunting, or even target practice, though they can admittedly be used for both. Their main function is far uglier. They are human killers, plain and simple.

Regardless of the cause, these types of shootings are on the rise. From California to Florida, we are seeing mass shootings on an unprecedented scale. People are dying in terrorist incidents perpetrated by our own against our own.

Never in civilian history have so many died so pointlessly, and yet nothing is being done to prevent future incidents like those that occurred in Texas and Ohio this past weekend.

Calls for universal background checks, red flag laws and bans on certain weapons rise into the stratosphere after every one of these massacres. This time is no different, and as usual, none of them have been put into effect. The most recent gun legislation bills (HR8 and HR1112) passed the House in February, but both are stalled in the Senate and unlikely to pass. The bills extend the requirement for background checks and the time allowed to complete those checks.

How many must die before we demand action?

And while the Senate stalls, hemming and hawing with the NRA whispering in their ear and plying their pocketbooks, our people die. Our mothers, fathers, siblings, and spouses, die. Our children die.

What will it take before we demand action?


XX Authors Featuring Julie Morgan

Today, we take a look behind the scenes with best-selling author Julie Morgan. Welcome to the Pages, Julie. Let’s chat!

Best-selling author Julie Morgan

CLR: Give us the deets – genre(s), length of writing career, how long you’ve been writing – all the basics.

JM: I’ve been writing almost my entire life. I started with songs and poetry as a child, then moved into storytelling, and eventually, my first novel. The first-ever book I wrote was never published. I wrote it 14 years ago and it still sits away, nice and neat. Never to see the light of day lol!

CLR: What made you choose paranormal and contemporary romance?

JM: I’ve always had a fascination with all things paranormal. I can remember back to reading about demons and vampires as a child through our encyclopedias. Back then, we didn’t have internet so it was the big books and the library card catalog. I’ve enjoyed all things dark as far back as I can remember. As for contemporary, I love this genre as well. For me, the only difference is the universe the story is told in.

CLR: How do you feel about female characters?

JM: I love them and all of my stories focus around a strong female.

CLR: What are the dos/don’ts of writing them for you?

JM: I don’t make them weak, need to be rescued, need a man in their life. I do make them strong, make them the dragon rather than the damsel, make them beautiful. I don’t make them unrealistic. I make them relatable.

CLR: Male characters, same question.

JM: I love strong male alpha characters, but I do NOT enjoy assholes. Give me strong, focused, and fierce, but dammit, be a nice guy. No woman wants to be talked down to. Put me on a pedestal and whisper me sweet nothings!

CLR: What is the hardest thing about being a female author?

JM: Not wanting to eat all the things in my house when I write! LOL!

CLR: What is the best thing about being a female author?

JM: Having my female and male writers support.

CLR: How does being female affect your writing – or does it?

JM: It doesn’t affect my writing.

CLR: What do you think about the “strong female character” trope in literature?

JM: I don’t necessarily find it a trope. I find writing strong female characters gives you a chance to be something you’ve always wanted to see in yourself. Not having to rely on anyone but yourself, being able to walk away when sometimes it’s the most difficult thing to do, and giving your heart fully knowing the character she’s giving it to will accept it without pause… because I’m writing him/her.

CLR: How do you treat misogyny in your writing, or do you?

JM: I don’t.

CLR: Are there any special challenges to writing female characters in your genre? If so, what are they?

JM: There can be. Writing a slim female vs full-figured. Sometimes I write a character so flawed and relatable, then turn around and write someone thin, strong, and someone who needs serious redemption.

CLR: What does your writing day look like?

JM: It all depends on when I can get time. I’m married and have a daughter. My schedule revolves around them.

CLR: Do you think the industry treats male and female writers differently?

JM: Yes, from romance to non-fiction, each genre is treated differently.

CLR: Do you think the market treats male and female protagonists differently?

JM: That honestly depends on the author creating the story/world.

CLR: What outside influences, if any, do you see having an impact on your writing?

JM: Everything around me influences my writing. From a kid in a candy store to a woman praying over a headstone. Everything around us can become a story.

CLR: Favorite author? Why?

JM: I have too many to list!

CLR: Do you make a conscious effort to include feminist themes in your writing?

JM: No I do not. It’s not who I am and I don’t put anything like this in my stories, feminist or any other topics of this nature.

CLR: What themes are your favorites to include in your writing?

JM: Angst! My favorite! Steamy, romance, second chance romance, starting over, girl/boy next door, forbidden romance (also a fav!)

CLR: What advice would you offer to new women authors coming up?

JM: Find your tribe. Find people who will have your back and support you. Never be afraid to ask for help. Not everyone will have your best intentions so be careful who you give your time to when starting out. Research, get a GREAT editor, great beta readers, and people who are not afraid to tell you the truth.

CLR: What are you working on now?

JM: I just wrapped up my first story for Waterhouse Press in the Misadventures world. It’ll come out Spring 2020! Misadventures of a Firefighters.

CLR: What are your “next steps”?

JM: Next I’ll be outlining my second Waterhouse book, Misadventures with my Lawyer, plotting out Enzo, book two with Gracen Miller in our Private Dick series, and I’m starting a collaborative effort with someone new. We haven’t shared details formally yet, so look for news of this, and who it is, coming soon!

Julie Morgan is an award-winning USA Today best-selling author. Her forte is writing strong heroines who are more likely to be the dragon than the damsel. Julie reads a wide array of genres from paranormal romance to horror, and her writing reflects that variety. She lives with her family in Florida and loves playing board games and reading.

To find out more about Julie and her books, visit her website. Other places you can find Julie:

Book bub | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

Hint: signup for her newsletter and receive a free book!


The Evil Worm

Category : Musings

Worry is an evil thing.

I don’t say this because worrying will cost you sleep, give you an ulcer, break up your marriage, ruin your health and cause you mental anguish and, eventually, illness. All that is true, but that’s not why I say that worry is evil.

Worry is evil because it does all of this…and it’s useless.

Jesus wisely pointed out that worry adds nothing good to your life. It fixes nothing, builds nothing, attempts nothing, succeeds nowhere except in immobilizing the worrier. Like a great noxious mud puddle, it simply sits, a festering, seething moil, between us and our goals. It is the thing that holds our horrifically fascinated gaze so that we can no longer see our blessings.

I’m not talking about looking carefully at real possibilities and taking reasonable precautions. I am speaking of fretting, or even obsessing, over things that “might” happen; allowing the very dregs of our imagination to paint worst case scenarios in our tired minds until we become physically ill. Or even just a little nauseous.

Because even a little worry has the potential to grow into an all-consuming monster…if you let it in and feed it.

So don’t feed it. Instead, make a good plan and move forward, because “worry is rust on the blade.” (Henry Ward Hughes) And nobody wants that. If you’re having a hard time letting go of it, take Bobby McFerrin‘s advice.

Meanwhile, relax. Follow your plan, and let go of the things you can’t fix, change or eliminate by worrying. (Which is basically everything, BTW.)

Now, where did I put that margarita mix?


Fault Lines

I have a tendency to wonder about things. In general, this is a helpful habit for a writer.

Full disclosure, this isn’t me. It could be, but it isn’t.

For example,  I wonder if corporate America is really scheming to take over our educational system in order to increase profits. (Probably.) I wonder if I’m good at my job. (Possibly, hopefully.) I wonder if the person who just cut me off in traffic needs a complete attitude adjustment or just a rigorous course in the reasonable operation of a motor vehicle.  (Maybe both.) Cue half a dozen possible plot lines.

Anyway.

While I’m wondering about these things I write, and take classes on writing, and teach and grandmother and wife and friend and complain to my husband about the aforementioned bad driver. Fortunately for all concerned I usually do these things one at a time because, the usual expectations of my gender aside, I am a one focus type of gal.

I can’t help it. With the exception of a few special situations, I have the attention span of a Chihuahua. I am, in fact, so easily distracted that I have been known to stop mid-sentence and

In general, I don’t mind this issue. It’s part of who I am and I’ve kind of learned to live with it. I do understand that it can be extremely irritating to those around me. My husband, in particular, has experienced a colossal increase to his patience gland due to having to live with me.

My point is, I know this about myself. I understand, accept and try to take steps to decrease the effect of my attention deficit on others. But, as a person who wonders, I got to thinking about my disorder and realized that everyone, and I do mean everyone, has issues. I’m not talking about actual, diagnosed illnesses. That is a whole different kettle of popcorn. I mean just regular, everyday faults.  We all know someone who is chronically tardy, or forgetful or impatient.  Everyone has flaws.  But do we all recognize that we are part of “everyone?”

One of my biggest pet peeves is the statement, “that’s just how I am.” The implication being that a person knows they have this fault, but they aren’t willing to at least try and improve. Instead they expect all those around them to simply learn to live with it. Not cool, oh faulty one. Not at all cool.

Not that we need to get all Judgy Jean on each other. We need to be compassionate and forgiving of each other’s foibles. But we also need to work to become kinder, better, more responsible versions of ourselves. Tell you what…I’ll try if you will. Who knows, if even twenty percent of us did that…

Oh look, a kitten in a basket!


True Patriotism

Today is July 4th. Independence Day for the United States of America.

For most of us, that means hot dogs and fireworks. Maybe a family trip to the lake, or a nearby park. Plus plenty of red, white and blue bunting, balloons, and other decorative paraphernalia, in various places. All this meant to celebrate the birthday of one of the most powerful, and in my view, best countries in the world.

Not everyone would agree with that last bit. Some say we’ve lost our footing, our moral imperative. Some would say we never had one in the first place, and there may be some truth to that. Lately, I’ve seen our government do some things that made me cringe. Things I never would have envisioned happening in America. And it made me want to rage, and wail, and weep.

But I still love my country.

I love that we are supposed to be a nation of equals. I know the ideal isn’t always – or even usually – realized. But it is there, and if we hold it up long enough, support it vigorously enough, maybe we can make it the norm instead of the exception.

I love that America takes a hodge-podge of cultures, ethnicities, customs and viewpoints, and not only allows them all, but gives them a place in the greater social experiment. Whether we recognize it or not, our American culture exists, a tapestry woven together with threads of every imaginable shade and texture. Traditions and faiths from all over the Earth have a home and make a contribution here. And that is beautiful.

I love that the majority of our people tend toward generosity more than toward stinginess. Check out any crowdfunding page created by those in genuine need, and time after time, you’ll see that need filled, and more than filled. Often by those who are struggling themselves.

All these things have flip sides. There are those who routinely work the system to get over on those they consider “less” than themselves. Some of our people have an unhealthy addiction to racism, sexism, faith-ism and a host of other ugly isms that tear down and destroy rather than lifting us up. Far too often, the greedy and ruthless among us succeed financially while the kinder and more compassionate bear the burden of assisting those in need. And the blame-game is far too popular here.

There is the challenge. Love your country without allowing yourself to be blind to her faults. And then work to repair those faults as much and as well as you can. It isn’t easy.

But that is the work of a true patriot.


My Top Ten

Occasionally, in my electronic travels, I come across a list. Some are smart, others are funny, some are just plain weird. My favorites are the “Top Ten Things I’ve Learned” type. So, I got to thinking, if I were going to come up with a list, what would be on it?

  1. Things that are planned generally go better than things that aren’t. The same cannot be said for things obsessed over.
  2. In the heat of the moment, when anger presses hardest against your teeth, is when your lips should be closed the tightest.
  3. Never fight the spirit of generosity. The rewards of giving may be uncertain but regret caused by resistance is virtually guaranteed.
  4. Thoughts engender words, and words give birth to actions. Control what you think, and you’ll have less cause to regret your offspring.
  5. Pursuing your passion is not selfish. Done right, it allows you to offer your best self to the world.
  6. It costs much less to be kind than it does to be mean. Never doubt it.
  7. Choosing to forgive releases you even more than it does the offender.
  8. An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but an ounce of communication is probably not enough.
  9. “Knowing all the facts,” is a mythological concept.
  10. Seeing through another’s eyes is one of the hardest tasks you can set yourself. It is also one of the most necessary for an honorable life.

So – these are ten of mine. What has life been teaching you lately?


What The World Expects

What do I have to offer the World?

What have I got to say?

Is it important?

Does that matter?

Some days I don’t know the answer to any of those questions and yet, I keep talking. Because isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? Isn’t that what’s expected?

Expectation is a strange and ugly beast. Most of the fights and nearly all of the heartache in this world can be boiled down to unmet expectations.  It’s easy to forget that the world owes us nothing, and if it did, it would never acknowledge the debt.

So many of us have difficulty with the painful lesson that the world does not love us. Neither does it hate us. It simply lacks the capacity to care. We say, The World, or The Universe, in proper noun capitalization, as if either were an entity with a mind and a heart that is conscious of us. It isn’t.

A dithering head at either end with a voracious belly in between

Even society, made up of billions of minds, isn’t a conscious being. It is a hive without a mind. In fact, it’s rather like an amoral version of Dr. Dolittle’s pushmepullyou; a dithering head at either end with a voracious belly in between. Try to ride it and it’s likely to devour you, two tidy bites at a time.

It isn’t surprising that we often expect the World to care for us. All the time we are growing up we are told repeatedly what we “have a right to expect” from the World. Then we get a zapped at some point in our young adulthood with the discovery that the World had no knowledge of these expectations and further, has no plans to meet them. If our expectations or even needs are to be met, we’re probably going to have to do it ourselves.

The disappointment can be crushing.

The only way to avoid that blow is to realize that the World can do nothing for us, and it isn’t going to try. But we can, and should, do what we can for each other.

Our best shot at a good life is to put aside the childish notion that the World is obligated to give to us, and realize the beautiful truth that we are instead, created to give back. Not to the amorphous, anonymous World, but to our neighbor, our friend, the stranger we meet and find we can help.

If enough of us do that, the World will become our friend, even if it doesn’t mean to.


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