When Innovation Runs Rampant

In the 2010s I’ve noticed a lot of trends.

Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

First up, the everything old is new again. From Magnum P.I. and McGuyver gettings facelifts to Target’s attempt at acid wash jeans and hi-tops it seems like the 80s have come home to roost. There are some things I’m still hoping make the big come back – come on scrunchies. But I’m okay with the past staying in the past.

Second, the bigger, badder everything. Starbucks has this going with their Witch’s Brew and Unicorn drinks. Then there’s the Chicken as taco shells, and the McDonald’s breakfast all day, every day. Being able to buy Egg McMuffins any time of day makes me an extremely happy.

Now, I bring into the downswing of things. When innovation starts getting a little crazy. Crazy as in, upside down Christmas Trees. It started with the Dress Form Christmas Trees and now it’s moved on. Seems a regular Christmas tree isn’t the thing. Reminds me when Aluminum Christmas Trees were all the craze… wait, that link shows you can still buy them.

Truthfully, trends will always come and go. Some are more appealing than others and some never seem to disappear (Pokemon still going strong). What are some trends you love? Ones you despise? One’s you regret trying?

Next month, plan on the greatest hits of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) paired with pictures from either my Thanksgiving dinner or Black Friday shopping (we’ll see what I pull off).

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Romance and our Middle Grade

I’ve been dipping into other pools lately, and even though I still have no focused direction, I have lots of questions about what kids are reading now a days.

  1. who reads middle grade?
  2. who reads YA?
  3. What do kids want in a story?
  4. What makes a story compelling?

So, One at a time because I like how these questions have answers that also lead me into a deeper understanding of if this is something I want to do. Who would I be writing for? What is my target audience?

1. Who reads Middle Grade?  Word on the street is that 8-13 year olds are reading middle grade. That’s the standard, so to speak. And I imagine they are!! But I also remember reading a lot as a kid. When I pick up a MG book and it is about an 1/8 – 1/4 of an inch thick, I stop imagining it. Avid readers, at this age, are well beyond this story… A 5th grader is 10 or 11, and even my own kids had started in on Harry Potter by then. Okay…

2. Who reads YA?  This one is also broad, because we all know the twenty-something who loves YA. But technically, YAers are 14 – 20[ish]. I think the appeal of YA holds the readers into adulthood. [just an opinion, of course…maybe I need to do a poll!] I’ve never quite gotten into YA, so no matter what I discover about this genre, I can’t imagine writing it. However, is there an overlapping spot between MG and YA that I could squeeze a book into?

Overall, I feel like both of the labels are skewed and depend too much on the markets and namecallers to be valid. What do I mean by that? I mean people–kids, teens, young adults, and adults–are never going to be pigeonholed. So, what do we do? We balance between writing what we want to read and writing for the market. Selling the book is important if we want people to read it. And publishers want to know WHO is going to buy your book!!

3. What do kids want in a story?  This one is tricky. I know what I want in a story. I know what I wanted when I was in 3rd grade and reading trixie belden mysteries, when I was in 6th grade and reading Agatha Christie…and in 10th grade and reading Michael Phillips. Part of me hopes that kids still want a riveting story, characters who bring depth, and emotions that jump out from the page and make us feel. And something fun. I found a blog post answering the question “Can my middle grade book have politics?” Besides the fact that the answer is YES, I would question, why? I’m bored already and I haven’t even read the book. The matter of a book should be so ingrained in it, we don’t see it until we’re done and we step back and go…wow. For me this is where Christian Fiction goes wrong. There are a few good Christian fiction authors who can put a story on the page without slapping me with the dos and don’ts. [hey, Beth…you’re rambling now!] Ooops.

4. What makes a story compelling?  Nothing like asking a question that has a million answers!!! However, I’m going to wrap it up in one word, CONFLICT. Emotional, moral, relationship, external…no matter what you choose to highlight, there better be the idea that something better or worse is out there, waiting to ruin everything.

 

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

When Christmas is the New Fall Goal

Hi, all.  Jennifer here!

I can’t believe it’s fall already. But maybe I’m so surprised the year has been flying because I’ve been so busy with writing projects! Truth be told…I’m getting a little burned out.

Well. I’m trying to not let that happen. So I’ve created a new fall goal. 🙂

See, last December was terrible. Not TERRIBLE terrible, mind you. Just that I really didn’t get to enjoy Christmas like I normally do. I didn’t bake cookies and I watched maybe one Hallmark Christmas movie. (Yeah, I know. Really bad.)

So this year, my new fall goal is make sure I have ALL my writing projects completely done before December 1st. Then I’m going to take the entire month off and just ENJOY the holidays.

Sounds heavenly, yes?

Here are my plans:

  • I will make my normal 8 different kinds of Christmas cookies
  • I will make a gingerbread house (from scratch!)
  • I will host a girls Christmas get-together/cookie swap
  • I will watch EVERY NEW HALLMARK CHRISTMAS movie made
  • I will read Christmas books
  • I will spend most of my days in yoga pants and try not to eat all the cookies I make
  • Oh, and I will research on Pinterest and make really creative food gifts to give away

That there is motivation! (For me)

I can’t wait!

Have you thought about Christmas yet? Have you made any fall goals for yourself?

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. 🙂

Happy Birthday, ME!

Every time I hit a new decade, I hear the sweet whispers about how awesome this decade is going to be. Well, so far, 40s have been awesome.

The 20s were uncertain and scary, but in a good way! The adventure of becoming an adult, striking out on my own, having sex for the first time, learning my limits and expanding my boundaries. Questioning everything…and not always learning.

I spent my 30s tired. Seriously tired.  Matt was working his tail off to support a growing family. Yet, our 30s were where we came into our own. We started the decade drinking on the weekends and smoking, working to pay the bills, and wondering what the hell we were doing. But as our 30s came to end, we’d made concrete goals for the future, joined the Army, quit smoking and drinking, and had our last kid, too. Our lives had finally melded into one, and even though we were exhausted in those goals, we were happy…and still married! I was writing. He was soldiering. Two dreams made into a reality.

So, here I am at 42 this year.  It has taken me two years to understand what this decade would be about. But this one is mine. All mine. This past year, especially, has made me realize that I need to take care of myself as well as everyone else. My writing is important. My health is important. I’ve lost 30 pounds this year. I’ve written more since 40 than I have in a long time. I’m driven to do so much more. I volunteer for Sunday School classes, am president of the Catholic Military Woman’s group, and also [sorta] help out with the FRG–family readiness group. In my 30s, relationships with other women wasn’t a key that I needed in order to unlock anything important in my life. Now, they are. I crave strong, independent, opinionated women–like myself, like the friends I have here at Passionate Critters and Through Heart-Shaped Glasses. I have eight more years in this decade. And I can’t wait!

Life is like our books. We start with an idea. We develop it and work at it for a long time. And we might even hit that point where we just want to throw it all out the window! But if we keep going, keep searching, keep learning, keeping loving, we reach the other side and suddenly the book makes sense again and we actually like it! Ha!

Share with me: What decade are you in? What is the theme for your life right now?

With Love,

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Release Day: Treasure Her Heart

Happy Book Birthday to me! Marin here, and I’m delighted to announce my latest release from Wild Rose Press, Treasure Her Heart.

This book is a prequel of sorts, and tells the love story of the parents of Jonathan (Stirring Up the Viscount) and Julia (Tempting Mr. Jordan).

A shy, late bloomer, the Honorable Judith Leslie survives her debut into Regency society despite ridicule of her height and her ruddy Scottish complexion from her more delicate contemporaries. But she surprises even herself when she boldly greets the eligible yet reluctantly marriageable Peter Tenwick, Viscount Caxton, at her first ball.

Their mutual attraction is instant, but when they speak to their respective parents, they learn that opposition to the union runs deep and personal. So deep that Peter’s father arranges for him to marry instead the worst of the ill-tempered shrews who have made Judith’s season so unpleasant.

In order to marry, Peter and Judith must not only overcome their parents’ objection but find a substitute suitor for Peter’s fiancée. Those obstacles become the least of their worries when Judith is kidnapped by a gang of smugglers and Peter must act fast to rescue his heart’s treasure.

You can find Treasure Her Heart in print and ebook at these online retailers:

The Wild Rose Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Apple

Excerpt: 

A man stood in the doorway. Tall and rugged, he was, in a word, astonishing. Fashionably mussed as if he’d just risen from bed, his dark blond hair hung over one eye, and he wore a self-satisfied smile suggesting he hadn’t been alone there. But it was his waistcoat
which drew everyone’s attention.

Having abandoned his post at the ballroom door due to the lateness of the hour, the butler sped to the newcomer’s side. After a whispered conversation, he turned to the assembly.

“Viscount Caxton,” he said in a tone conveying both surprise and disapproval.

Lord Caxton wended his way through the ballroom, nodding to many of the guests. He plucked a glass of champagne off a passing tray and stood near the mantel, his hooded gaze observing those who were observing him. Judith vaguely noticed her feet—somehow no longer sore—move of their own accord until she was standing just in front of him. She blinked, as much to clear her suddenly foggy brain as to relieve her eyes of the sight of his rather mesmerizing coat. She didn’t think she’d ever seen so many colors and fabrics in one place, not even at her modiste’s. He winked at her, his eyes twinkling with mischief.

He took her hand and bowed over it with a flourish, his hair curling around his bright purple collar. He kissed her hand, straightened, and winked again.

His touch sent tingles screaming up her arm. Judith was so startled she burst out the first thing that came into her head. “Wherever did you find that atrocious coat?”

The crowd surrounding him began to laugh, the ladies tittering behind their fans. Heat flooded Judith’s cheeks, but she was rescued from further embarrassment by her mother, who appeared at her side visibly quivering with indignation.

“My lord. Have you been introduced to my daughter?”

“I have not, but I should very much like to be, if this vision before me is she.”

Lady Grangemore cocked her head but did not immediately introduce Judith, a notable social gaffe most uncharacteristic of her. Finally, she said, “Lord Caxton, may I introduce my daughter, The Honorable Judith Leslie.”

Judith observed this exchange with wide eyes before her mother elbowed her hard in the ribs. Resisting a childish urge to poke right back, Judith instead curtsied to Lord Caxton. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance, my lord.”

“And I yours.” He bowed again, but Judith kept her hand safely at her side this time.

“I don’t believe I received your acceptance of our invitation, Lord Caxton.” Lady Grangemore straightened to her full height, regarding Caxton with a rather icy stare.

“Please forgive me, my lady. I did not believe I would be able to attend due to another engagement, but there was an unexpected change in my plans.” Lord Caxton’s smile was engaging, designed to charm even the most hostile mama. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be doing much for Judith’s.

“How nice for us,” she said, in a tone suggesting quite the opposite. “Come along, Judith. There is someone else whom you must meet.” An obvious lie, since she’d spent an hour in the receiving line meeting every single attendee. Her mother grabbed her arm in a
fierce grip and tugged her away from Lord Caxton. She glimpsed over her shoulder, only to have him wink at her again.

She nearly tripped as her mother all but dragged her through the ballroom. “Mama, stop. What on earth is the matter with you?”

“You should have nothing to do with that man. He’s a rake of the worst sort.” Her mother wrestled Judith into a corner behind a potted plant and finally released her.

“Why did you invite him, then?” she asked, rubbing her arm.

“Because it would have been rude not to do so, but I dinna for a moment think he’d come. He hasna attended a ball in years.” Lady Grangemore’s native Scottish brogue only slipped into her speech when she was highly flustered or upset. Judith scrunched her face to study her mother, wondering what would cause such a reaction to one young man. Noticing her mother’s flushed cheeks, she
decided it was best to leave the subject for the moment.

“And it wasn’t rude to drag me away, leaving him standing there on his own?”

Her mother took a deep breath, and the redness in her cheeks faded. She waved her hand in dismissal. “He obviously cares little for social mores. Look at that ridiculous waistcoat he’s wearing,” she said in a harsh whisper. “It must have a dozen different colors.”

Judith peered around the plant, only to find him staring at her, an impish grin plastered upon his outrageously handsome face. “Ouch!” Her mother had grabbed her arm once more, pulling her back.

Studying Judith, she said, “You seem tired, darling. Perhaps it’s time for you to retire. It’s been such a long day.”

Curiosity overcame fatigue. “I’m not in the least tired, Mama. I believe there is one more dance, correct? And I just happen to have it open.” In an act of defiance she’d never even have considered at the start of this evening, she ducked away before her mother could stop her and strode back to Lord Caxton, who remained alone, sipping champagne.

She took a deep breath. “Lord Caxton, I realize this is terribly forward of me,” she squeaked. She cleared her throat, pushing her voice back down to her normal deeper tone. “I wonder if you might consider doing me the kindest of favors.”

He nodded, his expression amused. “If it is within my power, I should be delighted.”

“There is one dance remaining in the evening, and I find myself without a partner. As this is, after all, my debut, I should be most embarrassed to be a wallflower.”

“Perish the thought. Although I cannot imagine a more attractive bloom, whether you are in motion or not.”

Judith flushed and nearly considered abandoning this ridiculous flirtation. “Oh, my.” Having exhausted her store of clever repartees, rather limited to begin with, she feverishly waved her fan in front of her face, hoping she was sending an appropriate message.

He laughed, not unkindly, and tipped her head up with a finger under her chin. “What an innocent you are. I should be delighted to dance with you.” He glanced at something over her shoulder. “But we should take to the floor quickly before your mama comes back
with reinforcements.”

As the beginning strains of a waltz filled the air, Lord Caxton swept her onto the dance floor. He was a large man, but she was tall enough that they fit together as if two halves of a whole. He flashed a surprised grin at her, as if he were thinking the same thing. She
shivered as he placed his arm around her waist, her skin tingling under his hand at the small of her back.

As they spun around the room, Judith caught glimpses of her mother on the edge of the dance floor, lips pursed tightly together, rising and falling on her toes, fists opening and closing at her side as if she were getting ready to punch someone. Judith could almost
see the war between propriety and preservation taking place in her head.

The music slowed, and the waltz came to an end. Lord Caxton removed his hand from Judith’s back, leaving her oddly bereft. He kissed her hand once more,bowed gracefully over it. “Thank you for a delightful dance, Miss Leslie. I do hope we’ll meet again.”

“Um. Yes, thank you. I mean, you’re welcome.” As soon as the words left her lips, she wanted to call them back, but he was gone, his shoulders vibrating as he laughed, she was sure, at her idiotic response. She would not have been disappointed if the floor opened
up and swallowed her whole.

A fate made even more attractive when her mother’s talons dug into her shoulder.

“Come. With. Me.” Lady Grangemore’s voice was low, nearly inaudible, signaling anger so profound it didn’t require words.

Judith huffed out a breath, then obediently followed her mother to the front hall, where they bid goodnight to each remaining guest. As the last one left the house, Lady Grangemore turned to Judith.

“We will speak in the morning.” She paused, held up a long finger, and shook her head. “No, the evening. I will require an entire day to overcome my desire to ship you back to Derbyshire on the mail coach.”

She stalked up the stairs, leaving Judith in the hall, imprints of her mother’s nails on her skin and the gentleman’s hand tingling in the small of her back.

About Marin McGinnis

Clevelanders are tough, a bit cynical, and just a little crazy, and Marin McGinnis is no exception. When she’s not chasing after big dogs or fantasizing about giving up the day job, she is immersing herself in Victorian era romance. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, son, and two standard poodles named Larry and Sneaky Pete. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Best Ever Sci-fi Romance Tropes

Best Ever Sci-fi Romance Tropes

Uncontrollable, book three in my Beyond Human series releases this month. The series is a mixture of contemporary sci-fi and romance and contains some of my favorite sci-fi tropes. I won’t go into details as it might give away the story, but here are a few of the sci-fi tropes I love…that may or may not appear in my Beyond Human series.

  1. Time travel. My favorite TV program growing up was Doctor Who. I wanted to be the Doctor’s assistant (actually, I wanted to be the Doctor, but I was trying to keep my dreams attainable). I’ve been obsessed with time travel ever since. And there are so many ways to travel through time, whether it’s by a time machine, like the Doctor, or a genetic mutation as in The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Or through some sort of mystic tear in the fabric of time as in Outlander by Diana Gabalden or Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series. And my particular favorite—wormholes in space.
  2. The idea of telepathy fascinates me. How the human race would be different if we couldn’t hide our motivations, our thoughts, our nefarious plotting and planning. What if there was no need for torture, if the secrets of the mind could be found as easily as looking into someone’s eyes…? Some of my recent telepathy favorites are the TV series, Sense8, which follows a group of eight people from around the world who are all linked telepathically, and In Your Eyes, a film by Joss Whedon, where two seemingly unconnected people form a telepathic bond which allows them to share each other’s experiences.
  3. Space pirates. So if Doctor Who was my favourite TV program growing up, then Firefly is my favourite as an adult. Firefly was my inspiration for my Dark Desires series. I love the idea of a close knit crew having to do some shady things just to survive. I wrote Break Out, book 1, after watching Firefly for the first time. I wanted to write a space opera with space pirates and…vampires (My editor refers to the book as vamps in space)
  4. Genetic Modification. Scary and probably happening right now. Genetically modified heroes pop up in sci-fi romance all the time. I’ve even written a few. It’s an excellent way to get a larger than life, super hero and still be believable. A great example is Christine Feehan’s Ghostwalker series.
  5. Alien and human love matches. Who doesn’t want to fall in love with a stunningly gorgeous (usually) larger than life (especially certain parts of their anatomy) alien. And learn their weird mating rituals and strange customs… I love Ruby Dixon’s aliens in her Ice Planet Barbarians series—they are pretty gorgeous and easy to fall in love with. But what if the Aliens are not quite so attractive?  I recently read Cottonwood by R. Lee Smith. Absolutely loved it. Her aliens looked a lot like cockroaches, and she still managed to write a totally convincing romance—that is seriously impressive.

So what are your favourite tropes in sci-fi romance?

Uncontrollable is up for pre-order now and you can get it here!

 

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

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