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All Hallow’s Eve

Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve as the church would have it, is today. This evening there will be visits from assorted ghosts and goblins as well as the occasional ninja fighter and superhero.

All Hallow’s Eve was the Christian church’s answer to Samhain, a pagan festival of equal parts ancestor veneration and rituals designed to protect one from monsters and the Fae. Our tradition of dressing up in costumes and giving out candy to visitors arises from Samhain. The church moved the date around quite a bit, and tried the handy substitution of saints for faeries and pukahs, but didn’t manage to get rid of the festival in any meaningful way.

Samhain is a fire festival. At the end of the year, when the harvest was being brought in, hearth fires were allowed to die out, mostly of necessity. There simply wasn’t time to both get in the harvest AND keep the fires going.

Of course, once the bounty was gathered from the fields, a celebration was

in order, including a big fire and conversations with dead ancestors to catch them up on the year’s events. Apparently the veil between worlds is very thin on Samhain, allowing for dead relatives to visit. Hence, a communal feast was held. There was a lot of mead and ale involved, which may offer a partial explanation for the visitations. At the end of the night, each family took a brand from the communal bonfire and relit the fire in their home hearth.

Of course, ancestral spirits weren’t the only ones to take advantage of the thinning of the veil. Costumes were worn to trick monsters, who might want to kidnap the unwary, into thinking that one was just another monster, and would therefore not be much of a prize if brought back to the underworld.

Whatever else Samhain (pronounced sow-win) might have been, it was a time of gratitude. People were grateful for the gifts of food, warmth, and safety that the successful end of a harvest represented. It was a reminder that though everything has an ending, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Endings make way for new beginnings.

And if you can do that in costume, and get candy for it, all the better.


XX Authors Featuring: Terri A. Wilson

…paranormals are nicer to each other than humans.

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

TAW: I write paranormal romance and contemporary romance I’ve been writing since 2015 and published since 2018.

CL: What made you choose these genres?

TAW: I think paranormals are nicer to each other than humans. It’s also more fun because you can really make up stuff.

CL: How do you feel about female characters? Are there any types you refuse to write?

TAW: I can’t stand whiney female characters. It’s okay for female characters to rely on their male counterparts, but not to the point of indecision. I also have issue with a female who is supposed to save the world but can’t figure out what to eat without asking her male counterpart. My female characters don’t really gossip and they’re very much into cooperation.

CL: Male characters, same question.

TAW: My male characters probably talk more than they do in real life because that’s how I want them. I also tend to write them with mental and emotional struggles that need a female touch to work out. As stereotypical as it is, they are also handsome because that’s what I want. There’s a little bit of my husband in every male character I write.

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

TAW: The sex part. It’s assumed that if you write about sex then you must be a floosey. I’ve had some people ask my husband if I practice on him and if I do then he’s very lucky. The other part has to do with being a caretaker i.e. mother, daughter, wife. There is always someone or something that needs to be taken care of and more often than not, it falls to me.

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

TAW: It’s a wide-open business that truly allows for independence.

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

TAW: It’s easier to tap into that imaginative and sensitive part of my brain. I bet it’s easier to remember the smaller details.

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

TAW: It’s different for everyone. I like a woman who can kick ass, but I don’t want her to be so unapproachable she’s too mean. I don’t like mean people in the real world, so I don’t want them in my stories unless they serve as an antagonistic force. I try to create female characters that I want to be.

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

TAW: If the story calls for it, I use it, but I don’t want it to become overkill.

CL: Are there any special challenges to writing female characters in your genre?

TAW: The balance between perfection and realism.

CL: What does your writing day look like?

TAW: I’m not a morning person and I’m not a night person, so I write during the day. Everything is mobile so I can write anywhere. I run my kids around a lot so I squeeze in writing when I can.

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

TAW: I think the movies do, but I don’t see that much of it in books.

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

TAW: Just recently, I realized that whenever I have a “parent” in my books, they are exactly like mine, falling into a rut there I watch a lot of TV, so I’m influenced a lot by that. Honestly, I’m influenced by everything.

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

TAW: I make a conscious effort to include love, mostly of the feminine energy, in all my writing.

CL: What themes are your favorites to include in your writing? Are there any that you come back to over and over? If so, why?

TAW: Love is Love, All you need is love, The underdog is the best character, Believe you can fly.

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

TAW: Think of this as a business or keep it a hobby. There is no middle ground. Never step on anyone on your way to the top. Help everyone. Trust the process and just keep moving forward.

CL: What are you working on now?

TAW: I’m finishing up the Dragon Royalty series and The Shadows series.

If you’d like to find out more about Terri and her work, check out her links below:

Facebook | Website | Instagram


Priorities

…slowly running out of time.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve become gradually more aware that I am slowly running out of time.

Don’t worry, I’m not terminally ill or suicidal. But I am a realist. When I was twenty, I believed that I had “world enough, and time,” as the poet once said. But as I leave the middle of my fifth decade, I realize that though death is (hopefully) not imminent, neither is it getting any farther away. So I tend to think about life a bit differently, and my priorities are being adjusted accordingly.

I’ve started thinking more about a thing’s importance than its urgency. Watching TV has dropped way down on my “to do” list, while writing has leapt into the top five. Online games are reserved for times when I’m waiting in line and not currently reading an e-book. Reading, always high on my list of preferred activities, takes precedence over gaming and other forms of entertainment.

Attending signings and writer’s conferences has replaced sunbathing, though I do enjoy an hour or two in the pool with my GBs. My husband and family have always been at the top of my list, but time, distance and conflicting schedules sometimes make finding the time difficult. So, I’m trying to adjust my attitude. My mantra these days is, “this too shall pass — so catch hold and enjoy it before it’s gone.” Even writing plays second fiddle to watching my favorite bits of starshine grow, and that is as it should be. My priorities have been rearranged, and I am trying to keep my attitude in line with those changes.

I’m learning to be kinder to myself. I’d still love to see my books on the bestseller list, but I am working toward acknowledging that having eleven books out in the world is a worthy accomplishment in and of itself. I’m learning to celebrate successes, even — and perhaps especially — when they are smaller than I wanted them to be. Aiming high is good. But squashing the nastier tirades of the inner critic is a necessary process if one is to move forward with grace.

And then I’m going to light a lamp.

As far as I know, I’ve plenty of years on my ticket yet. But it is important to me that I refuse to “go gentle into that good night.” Don’t know about you, but I plan on raging until it is full dark. And then I’m going to light a lamp. There is too much joy and beauty in this world to do anything else.


What is Art?

Not my mother’s work, but it illustrates my point.

My mother is an artist. Her medium is cloth and her tools are pins and scissors, needles and thread and heart.

My husband works in metal. Wheels and wrenches, wires, pliers, manuals and heart.

One of our daughters uses paint and canvas, brushes, pastels, oils and heart.

Our other daughter is a writer. She uses words, images, plot lines and character and heart. Both have turned parenting into an art-form. Here, their medium is patience, persistence, guidance, discipline… and heart.

I have seen teachers create learning with papier-mâché and paint. Nurses who create health with medicine and education. Policemen, fireman and grocers who work in the medium of service and human kindness to create community.

In all of these people and vocations, creativity begins in the heart and the results personify beauty.

…humanity’s truest interpretation of itself is created when its members choose love…

Forget about the museum and the gallery – humanity’s truest interpretation of itself is created when its members choose love and joy and peace to create connection. Paintings, sculptures, music, books and all the other things we typically classify as “art” are simply varying expressions of our view of the world already created by community. Sometimes these expressions are beautiful. Sometimes they are ugly, but always they are a commentary on who we are.  Those who create relationship with kindness and compassion are no less artists than those who paint or sing or dance.

Never mind the medium in which it is created, true art is only a reflection of the truth that lies within us. What truth are you displaying in your art, and how do you create it?


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?


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