Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter Holiday Traditions


Traditions hold a special spot in human culture, and I think they’re especially important in the winter, when daylight is scarce, and here in Wisconsin snow is plentiful. The thermometer keeps dipping down below zero this week, and my car makes an unhappy rawrrrrr, rawrrrr, rawrrr sound when I start it on cold days just to tease me a little and make me think it might refuse to get it’s little Honda butt in gear for me.

At least we’re lucky enough to live in an age of insulated homes and central heating systems (right at the top of my “to be grateful for” list lately!), but the dark half of the year is still a challenge. More so with the economy so rocky. In the dark of winter, holidays bring light, color, and joy. Time honored traditions give us something familiar to cherish, a touch of comfort in the cold.

My family celebrates Yule on the winter solstice. Sometime in early December, we cut small branches from the cedars in our backyard and fill glass vases with the vivid evergreens. Then we cut a bundle of bright red dogwood branches and put them in a large ceramic jug of water. The girls hang a collection of carved wooden birds on the branches, some of which we’ve had since before our teens were born. Next, they attach red silk flowers and red feathered cardinals, until the branches are filled with color.

We exchange the first gifts of the season on Yule, and then another each day until we’ve worked our way through the pile. Our family keeps gifts simple, and the girls often give us things they’ve made themselves. The other night, I was sorting through a drawer and I found a present from Solstice past--a little creature made out of pom-poms and glued-on eyes nestled into a yellow and white woven bed created with a potholder loom. I’m not sure which daughter made that particular gift, but she couldn’t have been more than five at the time, and it was delightful finding it now that they’re thirteen and fifteen.

Another solstice tradition in our family is that we put food out for the animals. We make sure the birdfeeders are brimming full, and the girls cut up fruit and vegetables to put out for the small critters that populate our yard. Dried feed corn cobs are another favorite treat for the bunnies and squirrels, though we can only put those out in the front yard so our goofy poodle doesn’t eat them. If it’s not too cold, we all go outside to look at the moon after dark while the girls put out food for the animals.

As with any celebration, food plays a central role. We have a big feast on Yule, and some foods--nuts to crack, clementines, fresh cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mulled or sparkling cider, homemade pumpkin or apple pie, and either homemade cookies or scones--appear every year, and others vary. After the meal, we hold our Yule circle ritual, a time for spiritual introspection and a welcoming of the return of the light, since each day following the solstice will be a bit longer, and each night a bit shorter.

In a tradition unique to our family, we hold a Winterfest celebration several days after the solstice. Each year we pick a different food theme for a fun family meal. This year’s theme is Mexican food. Last year, the girls cooked the entire Winterfest meal, and we had six different kinds of pancakes. I’m not kidding--blueberry, banana, chocolate chip, plain, cinnamon sugar, and apple pancakes. The event provoked a great deal of laughter as we watched the teenage chefs scurry around in their red aprons concocting different batters and sprinkling the kitchen liberally with flour and globs of wet pancake goo. In addition to the feast, we decorate the table in keeping with the meal theme, listen to music, and watch a movie together in the evening.

Our winter holiday traditions help knit the family together, and give us something to look forward to when we’re cooped up indoors fighting cabin fever. What are some of your family’s most treasured winter traditions?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nature's Pentacle is an EPPIE Finalist!












After a rocky November, December started out on a much more positive note. On the first day of the month, I got a wonderful little note in my in box announcing that Nature’s Pentacle is a finalist in the 2009 EPPIE Competition. I’m still doing a happy dance over that one!

Here’s the blurb for Nature’s Pentacle, my paranormal witch ménage, available now from Loose Id :

After someone exposes their role in a forbidden, sexual rite to heal the parched earth, Matt and Lena are forced to flee vigilantes and a rogue witch. Drawn to each other despite Matt's ties to Kenji, the man who rescued him from a troubled past, they're swept into a ménage, and the three witches exchange magical traits in an explosion of power and passion.

As Matt and Lena face another pentacle rite, a violent kidnapping, and a magical duel, their attachment deepens--and so does Kenji's resentment at losing Matt. The addition of another witch to the group eases Kenji's jealousy, and sparks fly when the foursome mingles sex and magic on the kitchen floor, carrying them finally, to the love they never imagined they'd find.

And here’s a PG-13 rated excerpt to introduce you to Lena, Matt, and Kenji and give you a little taste of the story:

Perhaps sensing her distress, Matt crossed the room and touched her shoulder. “Not your fault, little witch.” Returning to the table, he scooped his violet glow from the bowl of oil and gestured for her to retrieve hers.

“Why?”

“I’m going to show you what you’re feeling isn’t anything you can control. I feel like I’m caught in the sun’s gravitational field, and I couldn’t break free of you if my life depended on it.”

Curious, she reached out and called her light globe to her hand, cupping her palm to receive the slight weight. “I don’t see what you--”

“Something happened during the rite--a connection between us. I think our magic got scrambled, tied together, and I want to test my theory.” The streak of mud across Matt’s shoulder and his tangled curls didn’t do anything to diminish his beauty. When he smiled at her, his amber brown eyes glowed with warmth.

“Okay, I’ll play. What next?”

“Toss your glow sphere in the air. If I’m wrong, it’ll just float back to your palm.”

Realizing he had no more idea what would happen than she did, she bit back a cheeky, “And if you’re right?” Instead, she tossed her blue orb at the same time he launched his. When the spheres spun toward each other she let out a surprised yelp. The lights crashed together, setting loose waves of force, sound, and shimmering color.

“Get down!”

At his warning, she plastered herself flat on the rough wooden floorboards. But rather than harming her, whatever magic they’d set loose caressed her body like a warm stream. Sheets of emerald, sapphire, ruby, and turquoise arched over them like the aurora borealis.

Helpless in the wake of the unexpected discharge of power, she tensed as the door opened a crack. She staggered to her feet, attempting to gather a protective shield. “Matt?”

“‘S okay. No one can cross the wards but me and Kenji. This is his place, and the magic guarding it is unbreakable.”

As if on cue, Kenji--looking no less intimidating than when he anchored the rite last night--stepped into the room and gaped at the light show. “Every witch in the country is in danger, and the two of you decide to play bedroom games with your power?”

Ignoring the continuing display, he clicked the door shut, strode across the room to the table, and set down two grocery bags and his cell phone. Lena’s first impulse was to grab the phone and call Serena, but she had to get something straight first.

“What do you mean, no one can get past the wards?” Bedraggled and exhausted, she drew herself up to her full five feet five inches and cloaked herself in a curtain of power. “Given the time and inclination, I could smash those wards.” She fixed Kenji with a brittle stare. “And what you walked in on was an exercise to test our combined magic--not some kinky game.”

“My apologies.” Six feet of wiry grace wrapped in a package of soft leather shoes, tan chinos, and a plum-colored shirt, Kenji bowed. The formality that would have seemed ludicrous coming from Matt seemed natural, if slightly mocking, coming from Kenji.

Suddenly, the fact that this was one of the three witches who’d drawn molten power through her last night, bleeding her dry as she trembled and wept, hit her with the force of a blow. Kenji couldn’t be much older than she was, and yet he’d earned a spot as one of the three anchors--alongside Sorren, the most powerful witch in North America.

Sweet Brighid, what had she gotten herself into? Taking a step back, she studied the lines and angles of Kenji’s face. The cinnamon mocha warmth of his skin softened his sculpted features, and thick lashes shaded his deep brown eyes. Black curls fell to his shoulders, covered with a sprinkling of rain. But for all his heart-stopping beauty, every movement, every mannerism, reeked of power.

When outmatched, bluff. “I need to borrow your phone.” Feigning confidence, she crossed the room to the table.

Matt, not Kenji, intervened. “You can’t. It’s not safe.” Closing the distance between them, he covered her hand with his own as she grasped the phone. “Your sister needs to be able to say she hasn’t heard from you--with 100 percent honesty. That’s the only thing that will guarantee her safety--and your mother’s.”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Thanksgiving Blog



One of the things I love about writing is that it’s something completely separate from my family life. Mine alone, it’s a world where I can escape and create characters and plots, explore passions and adventures utterly separate from my own experiences.

On the rare occasions the separation between the two worlds--real life and fiction--intersects, I’ve shared a few details from my personal life. I’ve blogged about being bi, since my books have many bi characters--a necessary ingredient for the steamy manlove in many of my ménage stories.

This fall, both of my daughters came out of the closet at school, after coming out to us this past summer. My younger daughter received universal support when she told her friends she’s bi. My older daughter lost a couple close friends when she told them she’s lesbian. Supporting them both through the coming out process has been an intense journey, and my focus on family this fall has pulled me away from some of my writing-related activities, like blogging.

All of that has at least tangential relevance to my writing, since I’m immersed in the LGBT world on a daily basis, so it’s natural to me that the characters in my erotic romances represent a range of sexual orientations. But today I’m going to break one of my own rules and talk about a part of my life with no relevance at all to being an author--other than it’s brought all promotional and writing activities to a screeching halt for awhile.

My younger daughter has Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic lung disease. At home, she uses a variety of treatments on a daily basis, and though treatment is time consuming (with lung clearance techniques to shake the extra mucus loose, and several daily aerosolized breathing treatments taken with a nebulizer), she’s been wonderfully healthy for a child with Cystic Fibrosis. Most people who know her don’t even realize she has CF. She’s a spunky kid, and doesn’t let anything slow her down.

Just over a week ago, she got a high fever in the middle of the night and was having a tough time breathing. A trip to her pediatrician the next morning revealed pneumonia on the X-rays, and got us a one way ticket to the hospital. She hadn’t been hospitalized since a two week stay when she was six weeks old, so in that sense we’ve been very fortunate. This past week we got a crash course in things like bronchoscopies and PICC lines for IV antibiotics. I stayed at the hospital with her, and my husband stayed with my older daughter. Now that we’re home, we’re continuing all of the treatments she was doing at the hospital, including learning how to give her IV antibiotics at home.

As we head toward Thanksgiving, I’m profoundly grateful that my family is home together again. Some of the kids who were in the hospital at the same time as my daughter will be there over the holidays. After the scary fever in the middle of the night last week, and the first few days at the hospital when we didn’t know what bacteria was causing the infection, or if the IV antibiotics would work, I’m more aware than ever that family is what it’s all about. I have a first draft for Pentacle of Storms waiting for revision, and a heap of promotion to catch up on for my November release, Fighting the Undertow. But for the moment, it’s all about helping a sick kiddo get through her treatments and keeping her spirits up until she’s feeling better.

And while I’m counting my blessings this week--with my two beautiful daughters right at the top of the list--I’ll take a moment to put in a word for the kindness of strangers. The doctors, respiratory therapists, and nurses who cared for my daughter at the hospital were wonderful with her--always kind, always patient.

I tend to be a tough cookie under stress, doing what needs to be done and keeping a positive attitude. But what choked me up this past week were the people who went out of their way to volunteer and make the hospital experience as positive as possible. Child Life volunteers checked in daily to let us know about activities in the playroom, bring my daughter games and DVDs, and see if we needed anything. The Sewing Ladies came to engage sick kids in a sewing project. Pet Pals volunteers brought their therapy dogs to visit--a wonderful experience for a young teen fiercely missing her poodle. And several community organizations and businesses catered “Family Meals” so that families of hospitalized children could sit down and enjoy a hot meal together.

As you head into the holidays, keep in mind that the volunteer work you do over the course of the year is appreciated by so many individuals who may never get the chance to thank you personally. Also keep in mind that children in many countries--as well as too many children close to home--don’t have the advantage of the excellent health care my daughter received. It’s a tight year, economically, but any amount you donate to your favorite charities will go a long way toward aiding those who need a helping hand.

If you have children, give them a great big hug this Thanksgiving. They’re so very precious. Same for your significant other, friends, and family. The economic news may be gloomy, but bottom line, when we’re counting our blessings, it’s all about the people we can throw our arms around. That’s something worth celebrating.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fighting the Undertow Now Available!


I’m so excited it’s finally release day for Fighting the Undertow, now available from Loose Id! This book is an absolute favorite of mine. I loved every second of writing it! All through the writing process, I could hear Val and Ian’s voices in my head, and their sassy dialogue simply flowed onto the page.

I love the way their cheeky banter helps them face the darker elements of the story. I have a special spot in my heart for Ian’s brother’s ghost, and the way his story unfolds and affects those still living. And the ménages in this story--mmm yum. Like the dialogue between Val and Ian, those scenes poured out so fast they seemed to write themselves. I hope you enjoy reading Fighting the Undertow as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Blurb:

For Ian and Val, falling for each other is all too easy. But his sexy friends, her career goals, his writer's block, and a troubled spirit redefine the meaning of the words "complicated relationship." Val presses for information about Ian's brother’s ghost, but meets a wall of silence. When she discovers that Ian’s highly emotional, sexual connection with his friends was what held him together after his brother died, she's intrigued and frightened by the eroticism of their bond. Truly entering into his world will involve expanding her sexual experiences in ways she's never imagined.

For Ian, Val's willing to take that erotic journey. But when she uncovers secrets about his family, his brother's death, and the group's sexual history, she suspects she’s in way over her head. Confused by her new hungers, she’s overwhelmed by the searing passion of two emotionally charged ménages. Although the friends have become the family she always wanted, she's not sure whether she's ready to accept Ian's world of complex relationships and dark passions, or whether she and Ian have even a ghost of a chance at happiness.

R-rated Excerpt:

For Christ’s sake, he hadn’t been this nervous since his junior prom. As he lit the candles, Ian ran through a list of things that could go wrong. Maybe she’d ask what the hell was up with him and his friends, and since he was an honest guy, she’d run screaming from the house when he answered. There was always the chance for ordinary disasters, like dumping eggplant parmigiana in her lap while he served dinner. Or Abby and Tyler could get back early from their evening out and scare her off.

At least Jeremy and Nathan lived close enough to visit without sleeping over. Better yet, Abby and Tyler would be heading back to Boston when their vacation ended in a few days. After that, they’d just be around on weekends. Hell, he’d known Val one day, and already his loyalty to his friends was evaporating. These were the people who’d kept him sane when Lisa walked out, who’d been there for him when Kevin… He stopped that line of thought before it ended up somewhere dark and painful.

Before he could subject his attraction to Val to further scrutiny, he heard a confident rap on the door. “Come in.” He slipped a bottle of wine into the ice bucket, wiped his hands on a dish towel, and went to meet her.

“Hey. Something smells good.” Val gave him a quick hug.

“I hope you don’t mind eating here.” At her inquisitive glance toward the kitchen, he rushed to reassure her. “Tyler helped me with dinner, so it will be edible.”

He continued talking as he busied himself in the kitchen. “Tyler and Abby are out for the evening, and Nathan and Jeremy drove home a while ago.” Her shoulders relaxed. A good sign, she wanted to be alone with him. Or maybe a bad sign, she was wary of his friends.

Somehow, he managed to get dinner on the table without any disasters. Though entertaining a sexy woman felt sort of strange. He hadn’t cooked for anyone other than his friends since Lisa left. As they talked, he reminded himself of his priorities. Write the damn book. No new attachments until I can think about Lisa without my gut twisting into a knot.

As for his attraction to Val, that could be a pleasant distraction. Just because he wanted to reach out and touch her face when her cheek dimpled with laughter didn’t mean he had to get involved. She didn’t want that any more than he did.

All of that seemed rational, until they finished dessert. The next thing he knew, his arms were wrapped around her waist, though he wasn’t sure who’d initiated the embrace. As he explored her mouth with his tongue, sweet with dessert and tart with a hint of wine, the pounding of the ocean clouded his thoughts. He broke away long enough to close the windows. Then, before he could think of a good reason not to, he invited her upstairs.

“Ian, I…” If she’d been about to voice second thoughts, he drowned her words with another kiss. When they reached his room, she threw open the window, inviting in the crash of the waves.

Neither of them bothered to turn on a light. In the moonlight, she looked even sexier than she did with the waves playing at her skin.

“You’re sure you want this?” Damn it, Winters, what if she says no?

“Mmm hmm. Just a formality, but my roommate would kill me if I didn’t ask…”

“Yes, I’ve engaged in risky behaviors. Yes, I’ve always used a condom. Yes, I’ve been tested, and I’m fine.” He held his breath, waiting to see if she’d ask for specifics. He’d tell her, but he didn’t know if she was up to hearing the details yet.

“Me too. Well, except for the risky behaviors part.” Val tugged at the clip that held her hair back from her face. As thick curls spread across her shoulders, she found his lips and nipped hard enough to elicit a grunt of surprise.

When she moved toward the bed, Ian was relieved not to have to navigate that particular transition. “Miss Vee?”

“Yes, Mr. Winters?” Laughing at the feigned formality, she tugged him down beside her, sinking into the down comforter.

“I was wondering something yesterday, and maybe you could help me come up with an answer.” Teasing his hands over her shoulders and neck, he brought them to rest in the silky curls that spread out around her head on the pillow.

“Yes?”

“When we were walking on the beach, the wind blew your curls around your face and…” He paused to tug at a few tendrils of hair, shining reddish brown in the moonlight. “I wondered if you might be that wild, that free…”

“In bed?” Without embarrassment, she finished the question.

Ian nodded.

“With you, I think maybe I could be.”

That was all he needed to know. She wouldn’t run blushing if he forgot himself and took things too far. But she wasn’t Lisa, either. Lisa had used him for the sex, for his friends, for the excitement of the forbidden. But he’d been so in love, he’d been blind to her motives, expecting nothing less than the honesty he’d offered her.

As Val slipped her fingers under his shirt, he pushed aside the past and focused his attention on her. What frightened him wasn’t how much he wanted her -- though he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this hot and bothered for someone -- it was how much he wanted to be with her. To fall asleep with his head beside hers on the pillow, to see what those crazy, wonderful curls looked like in the morning…

“Ian?” She tugged his shirt over his head and paused with her fingers on the button above his fly.

Ian slid his hands under her shirt and unhooked her bra, and soon they sat naked in the moonlight. He leaned over and grabbed two silk scarves from a drawer in the bedside table. Val’s shoulders tensed under his hands, but as he trailed the silk over her skin, she relaxed.

“Okay?”

“Yes.” As the silk brushed across her nipples, she made a soft sound of approval.

His balls were making a concerted effort to crawl up under his skin, and he hadn’t ached for anyone like this since high school, but he forced himself to go slow. Seeing as he wanted to avoid attachments, he shouldn’t be so afraid of scaring her away. But he’d reason that out later. For now, their bodies told him what he needed to know. The way she arched into his embrace. The shivers of fire that raced across his skin when she touched him.

“No.” He moved her hand away from his cock and eased her down onto the mattress. Not that he objected to the heat that followed the path of her fingertips along his dick. But he wanted this to last until morning. God help him, he wanted to pull her close and watch her sleep as the sun rose.

Val flinched as he draped a scarf across her eyes, but when he left it loose, she settled back onto the pillow and explored his body with her fingers. She stroked his hair while he sucked one nipple, then the next, and when he tried to sit up, she locked her hands behind his neck and guided his mouth to hers.

He could tell by the way she nipped at his neck and jaw, by the way she tried to shift to her side when he rested his weight on her, that she wanted to take control. And he had no doubt she could. In fact, he looked forward to the night it would happen. But he wanted something else tonight. She protested when he knotted the scarf at the back of her head, but didn’t try to tug it away from her face.

“Okay?” A few heartbeats of silence greeted the question, and he soothed his hands along her arms as he waited.

“I think so.”

Not wanting to spook her, he waited to see what she’d do next. Reaching out to find his face, she shifted onto her side and pressed her mouth to his. The heat of her kisses, the probing insistence of her tongue in his mouth, nearly pushed him beyond the thin shred of control he had left.

What is it about her?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fighting the Undertow--Coming Nov. 4!!!



Fighting the Undertow, coming November 4 from Loose Id.

When the New England riptide sweeps Val into Ian’s path, she’s pulled into the vortex of passion he shares with his friends. But as Ian struggles with the ghosts of his past -- literally -- Val’s not sure there’s a place for her in his sexy, turbulent world.


Book Trailer for Fighting the Undertow--A vortex of passion forces Val to face dark secrets, forbidden hungers, and a troubled spirit.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

So Much to Think About


I’m supposed to be writing at the moment. Not my blog, I mean more scenes for Pentacle of Storms, my work in progress. I’ve had my Snickers flavored Kudos bar to fuel the process, and I left off at an exciting part yesterday evening, so I’m even motivated to get back to my story.

I’m not sure if this happens to all writers, or just me, but when my mind becomes cluttered with too many details I have trouble settling down to play with my characters. Often the details are environmental--a pile of dishes or a stack of laundry can provide an irritating distraction, and I tend to need a tidy house before I can sit down and work.

Other times, my everyday to-do list gets too long for me to focus. Multiple errands pile up, and post-it notes multiply across the kitchen counter in a sea of reminders. I’ll reach a point where I need to dedicate a day, or two, or even three to running around doing errands before I can focus at the computer again.

Another common distraction is what I call my “emotional to-do list.” If it’s been too long since I’ve sent my mother photos of my daughters, or called her, or if I’ve been putting off planning a birthday party for one of my girls, or if I haven’t downloaded photos from the digital camera to the computer and the card’s full, or if I know one or both of my daughters needs some “Mom time,” or I haven’t done some basic, self nurturing activities like taking time to go out for coffee with a friend or have a writers’ study break with my sister, or haven’t scheduled a haircut and I’m starting to look like one of the Beatles in their big hair phase… You get the idea, all these things build up, and at some point, I need to get them all checked off my list before I can write effectively again.

Today, the mind clutter is more complex. The stuff of thoughts. And for me, the only way to clear those out is to talk about the, or write them down. I’m one of those people who soaks in fall colors--the brilliant blue sky, burgundy mums, pink and orange zinnias, yellow and red trees, and rich green grass--until I feel as if I’ve just eaten a huge, harvest meal, and I can’t possibly hold any more.

Today’s been one of those spectacular, visual days. All morning, huge bird shadows raced across the backyard, and there’s just enough wind to set the tree shadows dancing and create a mosaic of light and dark tree forms on the grass. Even the bees on the zinnias right outside the sliding glass doors by my computer chair hold my attention with their fuzzy backs, their frantic movements as they gather pollen, and even one particularly fascinating scuffle with a passing butterfly.

I also woke from a vivid dream this morning. A flock of crows had landed outside a tiny apartment where my dream self was staying, and I stood on the front step watching the wealth of textures in their feathers, the way the light played across their shiny backs, and the way the air itself seemed to rustle with their movements. A stray dog joined the crows, his coat a silky mass of brown, black, and white areas, as if he had a bit of collie in his mixed heritage. I fed the dog and took him inside, but because he snapped and growled at my husband, I had to send him on his way, and as he left, he picked up a torn towel in his mouth and brought it with him--as a blanket, I assumed--and I was captivated by the pathos of the moment.

I’m not sure if all writers think too much, or if it’s just me. Today, I’ve been thinking about--in addition to all of the above--the story one of my daughters shared yesterday. At lunch, one of her friends went on and on about how “grossed out” she was about two men kissing in a history movie. I think the movie was about Nazi Germany, but I can’t remember for certain. My daughter sat there feeling incredibly uncomfortable, scrambling for something she could say without redirecting her friend’s invective toward herself. After school, she still felt frustrated that she ended up remaining silent, and also sad because this was only the most recent instance of various forms of intolerance, and she’s decided it’s a friendship that can’t last.

When I went in for allergy shots today, a nurse who I’ve known for about sixteen years mentioned that she’d just found out I’m a writer (probably from another nurse I’ve chatted with who likes to write), and how surprised she was that she’s known me so long and had no idea that I write. She asked if I write nonfiction, which I don’t. Then she explained that she has a story to tell, and proceeded to share a personal, tragic story from her past. “The book would be about the journey,” she explained, and then mentioned some of the strong, amazing things she’s done since the tragic event.

I was struck by the fact that in the hurried contacts that take place in a midsized city, people can know each other for years, in a professional context, or as neighbors, and never really know anything about each other. I was also reminded once more of the profound strength of women, and the power of the stories we tell.

All this barely scratches the surface. Some days, my thoughts get so full that they race around in confused disorganization. Putting a few of them down on paper helps--but it also stirs up more ideas.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Love Notes



When I write, I write with the complete and total focus of a brain surgeon. I tear myself away from the computer for dinner time, and if my muse is hot on the trail of a plot thread, I return to the computer later in the evening. During the active writing phase (as opposed to working on a second draft, or doing promotion, or tackling edits, all of which require a somewhat lesser degree of focus) I take time off for errands only when we’re out of essentials like toothpaste and toilet paper.

This degree of total concentration is -- ironically, given the nature of my writing -- less than conducive to nurturing a relationship. I may be writing scorching love scenes and tender romantic moments, but I’ve found I need to make a concerted effort to find a few minutes at the end of the day to say something to my husband other than, “Has the dog been walked yet?”

This fall, I’ve been exploring ways to bring a little more romance into my life, even as I dive into writing Pentacle of Storms. I started out simple, with love notes. I found a bunch of art I liked on the web -- an assortment of sentimental, sexy, and humorous images -- and copied and saved it all in a document for easy access. Combined with brief messages or little poems, the images make for appealing notes to leave on my husband’s pillow in the evening, sometimes along with a piece of chocolate.

Along with the love notes, I’ve added in other romantic elements -- backrubs, candlelight, French bistro music at bedtime, classical guitar on the stereo during family dinners, apple and cherry tarts for a late-night dessert for two… None of this takes much time to arrange, and we’re both enjoying the ambiance.

One benefit I hadn’t anticipated is that we’re finding more time to talk. The other night, my husband initiated a conversation about Pentacle of Storms and spent a good deal of time helping me firm up plot threads. Wow. This went so far beyond, “Have you walked the dog?” that it took me completely by surprise. He had some great ideas, too, especially in areas where my muse had been slacking.

I didn’t start out with any expectations other than adding some thoughtful, romantic elements to our daily routine. The little side benefits, like increased communication, have been a delightful and unanticipated bonus.

So what about all of you? What’s your favorite way of stirring up a little more romance in life? Ever do anything sweet and unanticipated for your longtime sweetie? Has anyone ever presented you with a memorable romantic surprise?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

13 Things I Love about Back to School Time



1. My teens are happier. I’ve come to the conclusion that teenagers need constant exposure to their own kind or they become moody and difficult.

2. More time to write!

3. My husband and I are happier because there are less sibling arguments at the dinner table. Teenage sisters get along better when they’re at different schools most of the day.

4. The bags of school supplies relocate from our living room to school lockers.

5. All those fall clothes I bought my daughters start earning their keep, thus justifying the credit card bills.

6. Hours of uninterrupted silence in my office, which is located near the kitchen, in a high family traffic area.

7. Hearing about the girls’ adventures after school--new teachers, what friends did on their summer vacations, all the latest news about clubs, and other tidbits about school life.

8. I can manage to squeeze in a bit of free time to attack my TBR pile in the evenings because I’m able to work (uninterrupted) during the day.

9. Seeing our mini poodle’s wild welcome dance when the girls and my college professor husband arrive home after school.

10. Youth Symphony Orchestra starts up again, as do all of the girls' other school-year activities, so life gets more interesting than trips to the pool, drivers’ ed, and summer jobs.

11. With family life running more smoothly, my muse returns from her summer vacation, and I experience a renewed creative itch to write.

12. The coziness of fall. Hot herb tea on a rainy day, mellow music on the stereo, warm sweaters, and my dog on my lap.

13. Little bits of free time when I can catch a movie with my sister, or go out to lunch with a friend.

What are your favorite things about fall, or kids heading back to school? Any back to school memories of your own you’d like to share?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How to Make Book Trailers & Other Videos


First of all, I’m excited that Broken Pentacle is now available from Loose Id. Doing the release day happy dance here!

I thought I’d do something different for my release day blog for Broken Pentacle and explain how I made the book trailer. It’s easier than you might think, and if you have Windows, you already have Windows Movie Maker on your computer.

For authors, book trailers are an important piece of promotion. And for readers, it’s a fun skill to pick up, since once you learn how to make your own movies for You Tube you can share everything from stories about your pets, to fan pieces about a favorite genre or TV show, or unique creations about your children. The sky’s the limit.

Here’s a link to my first trailer for Nature’s Pentacle, and my second trailer for Broken Pentacle. I felt more comfortable with the whole process the second time around.

To start, scratch out some basic notes about what you want to include in your movie text. For book trailers, I start with my blurbs. Here’s the short blurb for Broken Pentacle:

Seeking justice and revenge, Sky, Alec and Zach race to find a rogue witch before he claims more blood sacrifices. Hunted by the rogue’s followers, they turn to a scorching ménage to augment their power, but only love can heal their hearts.

From there, I highlight key words, and write out my “script” for my movie. The word “hunted” caught my eye, and I ended up using “broken,” “hunted,” “desperate,” and “beloved” to carve out mini sections within my trailer. Try to keep your script short! I aim at about 10 frames, with text shown over each photo. If I end up with a few more, I shorten the time each frame shows, so I don’t go over about a minute and fifteen seconds. Anything more and you may lose people’s attention.

Once you have a script (just a brief phrase for each frame), check out istockphoto.com. You can find royalty free photos and video clips here. For photos, the smallest size (extra small) works fine for movies. I spent under $20 on the photos for each of my trailers. Pick photos that work well with your script and the mood of your piece.

Next, move on to the music selection. My favorite site for royalty free music is incompetech.com. You can find others if you Google “royalty free music.” Pick a piece that fits the mood and subject matter of your video, and remember to pay attention to length.

Now, go to Start, All Programs, Windows Movie Maker and open up the program. Choose about 10 photos from your own photo files and make a practice video. The program is user friendly, and “help” provides useful information. Play around to your heart’s content--you can’t break it.

The first thing you’ll do is go to “tasks” and import photos or video from “my pictures” or “my videos.” Once you have photos in the collections frame, drag them down to the video section of the storyboard. Right clicking on a photo once it's on the storyboard gives you several options. You can also drag photos around to change the order, or drag the edge of the photo bubble on the story board to change the length of time the frame shows. Click on a photo or video clip on the storyboard and got to “tools,” “video effects” if you want to fade in, fade out, zoom, etc.

To add text, click on a photo frame and then go to “tools,” “titles and credits.” My advice is that plain frames of text are boring, so use them sparingly. It’s more interesting to have text fade in and fade out, show as subtitles, etc. over a photo or video frame. To edit text, right click on the text bubble you want to change in the title overlay bar of the storyboard.

Adding music is easy. Use the import function, and then drag the music from the collections board down to the audio/music strip of the storyboard. Once you’ve put everything together, play around until you’re happy with all the effects, text, music, and photos. Then start from scratch with your actual video project.

An important note. Save your project frequently (it will save as a project file). When you’ve completed your video, you must click “save to my computer” under the movie tasks, and save a copy to your “My Videos” folder. You can’t upload project files to You Tube--only the final saved video file will upload. I saved Broken Pentacle as “video for broadband 358kbps.” It uploaded fine, and the playback quality is good.

When you’re done, set up a You Tube account and upload your video. Spend some time learning your way around You Tube. It’s a fun networking site, as well as a place to park your videos. After you upload, You Tube will offer a code to embed your video in other locations. Copy this and save it somewhere you won’t lose track of it. This code allows you to place your video on MySpace, your blog, your website, and anywhere else that allows video uploads.

Remember that the title of your movie and the search terms you use in your description are important, since they help people find their way to your video. Check out similar videos on You Tube and see what they use for search terms and titles.

When you set up your You Tube account, don’t forget to create your personal channel. Click here to see mine. You’ll have the chance to write a bio, include a link to your website, and display not only your own videos, but favorites, friends, recent ratings, and more.

Good luck, and have fun!
Eden
www.edenrivers.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Broken Pentacle Trailer



Broken Pentacle, coming August 19 from Loose Id!

Eden

Sunday, July 20, 2008

'08 Pride March in My Town












Representative Tammy Baldwin (D - WI)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bi the Way...


For a number of reasons, my husband and I have been a lot more out about being bi lately. No one who didn’t already know has been terribly surprised. And perhaps the most unexpected positive experience was how well my husband’s Catholic family took the news, and how supportive they were when he told them. Wow! That means a lot to us.

But myths about bisexuality are pervasive and strongly held, and since I’ve been doing a lot of explaining and debunking lately, I wanted to address the topic here. The most common assumption seems to be that my husband and I must have same-sex partners during our marriage, and that if we don’t, then being bi is sort of a “hypothetical situation,” such as being attracted to people from a certain ethnicity, but not actually having sex with them.

Well, fact is, we’re a lot more boring than people assume--married 19 years and still monogamous. And yet we’re bi to the very core of our identities. Part of what works so well for us as partners is that we understand on a deep, fundamental level what it’s like to be bi in an either/or world where most people don’t feel comfortable with shades of gray.

As an author, being bi is about my political determination to make bisexuality a bit less invisible through my writing. As an individual, bi is as much a sexual orientation as being gay, lesbian, transgendered, or heterosexual. Bi isn’t something I became; it’s the orientation I was born with.

Being bi includes my feelings of differentness, stretching back to grade school, and encompassing everything about my adult self that doesn’t quite “fit” in straight society. Bi is about the emotional connections I make, my dreams, my fantasies, my politics, my feminist pagan spirituality, the books I read, the online forums I belong to, the magazines I pick up, the articles I celebrate or cry over in the morning paper…

I could go on, but you get the idea. Whereas society often defines “bisexual” as just about “sex,” for someone who’s bi, identity combines many factors. There are so many other bi myths that, rather than attempting to address them all, I’m going to include a frequently quoted essay on bi myths and realities, by Sharon Forman Sumpter.

Myths and Realities of Bisexuality
By Sharon Forman Sumpter

Sexuality runs along a continuum. It is not a static "thing" but rather a process that can flow, changing throughout our lifetime. Bisexuality falls along this continuum. As Boston bisexual activist Robyn Ochs says, bisexuality is the "potential for being sexually and/or romantically involved with members of either gender."

Myth: Bisexuals are promiscuous/swingers.
Truth: Bisexual people have a range of sexual behaviors. Some have multiple partners; some go through partner-less periods. Promiscuity is no more prevalent in the bisexual population than in other groups of people.

Myth: Bisexuals are equally attached to both sexes.
Truth: Bisexuals tend to favor either the same or the opposite sex, while recognizing their attraction to both genders.

Myth: Bisexual means having concurrent lovers of both genders.
Truth: Bisexual simply means the potential for involvement with either gender. This may mean sexually, emotionally, in reality, or in fantasy. Some bisexual people may have concurrent lovers; other may relate to different genders at various time periods. Most bisexuals do not need to see both genders in order to feel fulfilled.

Myth: Bisexuals cannot be monogamous.
Truth: Bisexuality is a sexual orientation. It is independent of a lifestyle of monogamy or non-monogamy. Bisexuals are as capable as anyone of making a long-term monogamous commitment to a partner they love. Bisexuals live a variety of lifestyles as do gays and heterosexuals.

Myth: Bisexuals are denying their lesbianism or gayness.
Truth: Bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation, which incorporates gayness. Most bisexuals consider themselves part of the generic term "gay." Many are quite active in the gay community, both socially and politically. Some of us use terms such as "bisexual lesbian" to increase our visibility on both issues.

Myth: Bisexuals are in "transition".
Truth: Some people go through a transitional period of bisexuality on their way to adopting a lesbian/gay or heterosexual identity. For many others, bisexuality remains a long-term orientation. Indeed, we are finding that homosexuality may be a transitional phase in the coming-out process for bisexual people.

Myth: Bisexuals spread AIDS to the lesbian and heterosexual communities.
Truth: This myth legitimizes discrimination against bisexuals. The label "bisexual" simply refers to sexual orientation. It says nothing about sexual behavior. AIDS occurs in people of all sexual orientations. AIDS is contracted through unsafe sexual practices, shared needles, and contaminated blood transfusions. Sexual orientation does not "cause" AIDS.

Myth: Bisexuals are confused about their sexuality.
Truth: It is natural for both bisexuals and gays to go through a period of confusion in the coming-out process. When you are an oppressed people and are constantly told that you don’t exist, confusion is an appropriate reaction until you come out to yourself and find a supportive environment.

Myth: Bisexuals can hide in the heterosexual community when the going gets tough.
Truth: To "pass" for straight and deny your bisexuality is just as painful and damaging for a bisexual as it is for a gay. Bisexuals are not heterosexual and we do not identify as heterosexual.

Myth: Bisexuals are not gay.
Truth: We are part of the generic definition of gay (see Don Clark';s Loving Someone Gay.) Non-gays lump us all together. Bisexuals have lost their jobs and suffer the same legal discrimination as other gays.

Myth: Bisexual women will dump you for a man.
Truth: Women who are uncomfortable or confused about their same-sex attraction may use the bisexual label. True bisexuals acknowledge both their same-sex and opposite-sex attraction. Both bisexuals and gays are capable of going back into the closet. People who are unable to make commitments may use a person of either gender to leave a relationship.

It is important to remember that bisexual, gay, lesbian, and heterosexual are labels created by a homophobic, biphobic, heterosexist society to separate and alienate us from each other. We are all unique; we don’t fit into neat little categories. We sometimes need to use these labels for political reasons and to increase our visibilities. Our sexual esteem is facilitated by acknowledging and accepting the differences and seeing the beauty in our diversity.

Sharon Forman Sumpter
From Hutchins, L., & Kaahumanu, L. (Eds.). (1991).
Bi any other name: Bisexual people speak out. Boston: Alyson.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sexy New Cover


Hi,

I got my cover for Broken Pentacle, my August 19 Loose Id release, and Anne Cain once again did a wonderful job! She has the concept of "hot" down to a science! I love it!

Broken Pentacle is the sequel to Nature's Pentacle, but can be read as a stand alone novel if you like starting series out of order like I do. Here's the blurb (still in it's unedited form, but I want to give people at least a taste of what the story's like).

After a year spent recuperating from a rogue witch’s attack, Sky agrees to draw Jaimis — her former lover, torturer, and rapist — out of hiding, determined to discover the identity of his followers before they subject others to the hell she suffered. With her magic shattered from the trauma, she needs to rediscover her sensual nature before she reclaims her gifts. Hesitant to trust, she didn’t plan on bonding with one witch, let alone two. But if premonitions prove true, the key to healing and survival lies within a scorching ménage.

Alec blames himself for failing to protect Sky when the rogue witch left them close to death, and he’ll do anything to see Jaimis dead. During interludes when they’re not scrambling to stay one step ahead of death spells or human thugs, Alec strives to reawaken Sky’s sexual nature, eager to help mend her broken magic. He entices her into sexy baths, making love under the pines, and erotic desserts in which he coats her with honey and fruit. But when Sky and Zach, their bodyguard and Alec’s former lover, turn the tables and put Alec on the menu, he’s ill equipped to let his guard down and accept their tantalizing ministrations.

As Alec struggles to overcome the violence and loss in his past, his deepening bond with Sky and renewed affection for Zach pull him into a web of conflicting loyalties and attachments. And yet to survive what lies ahead, the three of them must pull together in a tangle of bodies, hearts, and magic, combining power and passion.


My other news this week is that I just got a contract from Loose Id for Fighting the Undertow, one of my favorite manuscripts. Surprise, surprise, this one has a ghost as the paranormal element, rather than witches, but it's still got my trademark menages.

Here's the (again, rough and unedited) blurb for Fighting the Undertow:

For Ian and Val, falling for each other is all too easy. But his sexy friends, her career goals, his writer’s block, and a troubled spirit redefine the meaning of the word complicated. Fascinated by the ghost, Val presses for information about Ian’s deceased brother, but meets a wall of silence. When she discovers that his emotional, sexual connection with his friends held him together after his brother died, she’s intrigued and frightened by the erotic pairings within the group. She suspects entering into his world will involve expanding her sexual experiences in ways she’s never imagined.

With Ian, Val begins an erotic journey, but when she uncovers secrets about his family, his brother’s death, and the group’s sexual history, she panics. Although the friends have become the family she always wanted, she's not sure whether she's ready to enter into Ian's world of polyamorous relationships, or whether she and Ian have a ghost of a chance at happiness.

Hope everyone's staying cool this summer!

Eden
www.edenrivers.com

Monday, July 7, 2008

Some Promotion Insights

Lately, so many loops have been talking about "what works" for promotion. Of course, the reply is usually, “Try lots of different methods!” And that's my approach. But in reviewing my website statistics the past few months, I've had some insights into some things that seem to be working for me, so I thought I'd share. I'm too new an author to track book buying trends and link them to specific promo successes, but overall, I'm happy with my sales, so something's working.

Before I get started, I should mention that so far I’ve been promoting e-books. My friends who have books out with NY publishers are doing pretty much everything I list below. But they also tend to do a lot more with paper promotion (book marks to give out at conferences, book signings, press kits, ads in romance magazines, etc.). Some of my e-pubbed friends have done a good deal of paper promotion, too, but I’ve opted not to at this point because of the added expense.

The following list of promo ideas and insights isn’t in any particular order. If I were going to prioritize, then I’d list websites first, since that’s the piece of promo every author in today’s market has to have. Also, I’ve added promo strategies bit by bit over time. If I’d done all of this at once, I’d have gone stark raving mad! And I’m still adding pieces, still learning.

My book trailer, which I just put up a few days ago. I put off making one because I thought they'd be really hard to do, and it's quite expensive to have someone make one for you. But I googled the topic, and read several author blogs on how to make one. Who knew I had Windows Movie Maker right on my computer? Here's what I came up with Click Here for Trailer. What's cool is that within the first few days of having the trailer up, I'm getting a significant number of website hits coming from You Tube (you can post your website link in your You Tube channel profile). I'm also getting traffic on my "trailers" page on my website, and more traffic to my MySpace page since the trailer went up. All very cool.

Blogs. I've had significant hits to my website coming from all three blogs I'm involved in as jumping off points. The group blogs tend to produce more hits than my individual author blog, but they all produce enough website traffic to make blogging worth my while.

Chats. Everytime I do a big loop chat with my fellow Loose Id authors, or with my writer friends, I get a big spike in website hits. Rock on! I've also met people on chats who have followed up later and told me how much they like my books.

MySpace. I've had fans who've already read my books friend me on MySpace, and I've had MySpace friends who haven't read my books yet buy them after getting to know me on MySpace. It's also a great place to post trailers and all sorts of other personalized info, promote new releases with event invitations and bulletins, and it's a lot of fun getting to know more people. I’ve also found it a great resource for networking with other authors I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.

Paid ads with romance review sites, such as Romance Junkies, The Romance Studio, Coffee Time Romance, and Fallen Angels Reviews. I've been especially happy with the results of my Romance Junkies Feature Ad (lots of website hits, plus a snippet of my review and a buy link and two cover photos posted with the ad, and it's really inexpensive).

Yahoo loop promo. Get on KyAnn's promotion loop schedule! It's a very helpful reminder of which Yahoo loops you can post to on which days, and has simplified promo for me immensely. Yahoo loop promo has been working for me, because every time I post to the loops, I get more people signing up for my author newsletter.

Author newsletter. I've had great interactions with people who've signed up for my newsletter, especially those who win my contests (which I use to promote my newsletter and gain new members). I use a yahoo announcement only loop for my newsletter, and everyone who signs up qualifies for all my future contests. For prizes, I’ve used things like a DVD related to my book, a gift card to a national book store chain, and copies of my books.

Oh, and this tip is for people at absolute square one in the promo game--your website will be the cornerstone of your promo efforts. I've had website traffic that comes from Japanese, Spanish, UK, and German search engines, plus from all the usual places you'd expect, such as U.S. Google and Yahoo searches.

Just thought I'd share, since promo's such a headache, especially when you're first getting started.

Have a great day!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Weighty Secrets


My in-laws called my husband yesterday about travel plans. They wanted to be here around my husband’s August 1st birthday. When they’ve been here over his birthday in the past, we’ve skipped our Lughnasadh celebration, so this news was met with a collective groan.

Lughnasadh is the summer harvest festival, and a family favorite because of the focus on bread baking, colorful garden flowers on the altar, and weather warm enough to carry some of the festivities outdoors. Living in Wisconsin, Samhain, Imbolc, and Beltane, the other three major sabbats, tend to be indoor celebrations--unless we’re gifted with an unusually warm end-of-October or transition into May. Imbolc, in February, is guaranteed to be celebrated indoors.

In any case, today my daughters and I called a family meeting, and lobbied to come out of the broom closet to the grandparents/in-laws. My husband wasn’t any more inclined than we were to cancel Lughnasadh festivities two years in a row, so he agreed to make the call.

Secrets seem to gather weight over time, and really, it’s a call that should have been made many, many years ago. We’d toyed with the idea back in May, before their last visit, but at the time my father-in-law was having major health problems, and we didn’t want to stress them out more than necessary. With him doing well now, that no longer presented an obstacle.

So, shrugging off the burden of years of furtiveness--hiding pagan books before visits, making sure the photos of seasonal altars don’t go up on Snapfish with the other family pictures, and other secret-bearing actions that made us all feel generally “ick,” my husband shared the truth.

After a brief chat with my father-in-law about his health, my dear husband blurted out, “By the way, we’re pagan.” Growing tongue-tied when asked what that involved, he then shoved the phone at our 13-year-old daughter, who was lurking around to hear her dad’s side of the call. She calmly walked her grandparents through the basic definitions of earth-based religion, seasonal festivals, and such, and then handed the phone back to my husband.

My mother-in-law was very supportive. Wow. That means a lot. My father-in-law didn’t say much. He’s devoutly Catholic, so who knows what he’s thinking. But for us, the weight of years and years of not sharing a very basic part of who we are evaporated with one phone call. Again, wow.

After that, letting it slip that I write erotic romance will be a cakewalk! That will result in a whole realm of other objects (dry erase boards, appointment calendars, to-do lists, recent book contracts, and anything else lying around our combined office and family room that reveals my book titles and/or pen name) that don’t need to be tucked away before visits.

Eden
www.edenrivers.com

Monday, June 16, 2008

Torrid Teasers Vol. 47 Now Available


My latest release, Torrid Teasers Vol. 47, is now available from Whiskey Creek Press Torrid.

Three Nights with Adam

Determined to keep their sex life red hot, Paige plans a birthday surprise for Adam—his hottest fantasy come to life. But when she initiates a ménage with their friend, Lynne, she's unprepared for the emotional intensity of the experience.

The Ones We Love

Sarah struggles with her inhibitions as she prepares for a bacchanalian evening at her friends’ beach house. Within her close-knit circle of friends, the web of love and loyalties can get a bit—tangled.

Happy Reading!

Eden Rivers
www.edenrivers.com

Friday, June 6, 2008

Dreams as Inspiration


I’ve heard from several authors over the years that they’ve either drawn ideas or entire book concepts from their dreams. This fascinates me. I dream in vivid color, and I remember my dreams in the morning. But I can’t claim I’ve ever created a book out of my nighttime adventures.

Still, I believe there’s much to be gained in jotting down fascinating bits, keeping a dream journal, or simply remembering a dream setting or an interesting person to slip into a story down the line. Dreamed emotions can be a fertile source for writing, as well.

My 15-year-old daughter shared a series of dreams this week which could have come right out of an urban fantasy by Charles de Lint. In one, she created a host of trolls who loved bicycles so much that they stole them from people’s back yards. The writer in me delights in the image of blissful trolls pedaling down the street on their stolen rides.

In another, my daughter dreamed up a squirrel with fairy wings. “A flying squirrel,” I gleefully commented. “No, the squirrel couldn’t fly,” she replied. “It just had beautiful fairy wings.” Dreams seldom do what we’d expect. In that sense, they’re not so different from book plots or the characters we create and set loose in our fictional worlds.

And people in dreams seldom behave as we’d expect. Even ourselves. My daughter was delighted with a dream in which hummingbirds and butterflies surrounded her, and said she’d never seen anything so beautiful. She remains mystified, however, as to why she caught one of the hummingbirds, popped it into her mouth, and ate it. Any dream analysts out there want to take a shot at that one?

Some of the most fascinating dreams are the darkest. I had a friend during my law school years who, while expecting, had repeating dreams in which she and her husband ate their newborn. My own dark dreams often involve flight and pursuit, with the adrenaline charged escape set in eerie warehouses, dark forests, or over a series of perilously steep staircases which end halfway down and drop into nothingness. Often I end up flying (no wings, just flying) to escape my pursuers.

And then, of course there was the memorable night horror in college, where I awoke screaming at the top of my lungs because I’d dreamed there was a portal to hell in my dorm room closet. I a) scared the living crap out of my roommate and her boyfriend and b) convinced them I might have a mild psychiatric disorder. Both of us heaved a sigh of relief at the end of the year when we were able to go our separate ways.

I’d love to see a survey that addressed whether avid readers and writers have more vivid and elaborate dreams. I’m guessing we do. What about all of you? Writers, have you ever included dream elements in your stories? Readers, do you ever dream about what you read? Any especially humorous or frightening dreams you want to share?

Sweet Dreams,
Eden
www.edenrivers.com

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pagan Festivals in Strange Sabbats


As in Nature’s Pentacle, I’ve returned to my delightfully lusty, supernatural witches in today’s Loose Id release Strange Sabbats (Buy Link and Excerpt). Strange Sabbats is structured around seasonal festivals celebrated by the witches in my story--festivals which are dear to my pagan heart.

I’d like to share a bit more about the Sabbats celebrated by Aileen, Bryan, and Sylvie in Strange Sabbats, but first, here’s the blurb from my new release:

Aileen sacrificed her power for the sake of her marriage, only to see her husband die in a car crash. When childhood friend Jon appears on the scene for a Yule celebration, the sex is scorching. But jealousy gets in the way of true love, until Aileen's power returns--and so does Jon.

Aileen's brother, Bryan, still carries a torch for Jon, and fears revealing himself to humans. But when he includes his human friend Dallas in an erotic Beltane ritual, it's clear who holds the whip in that relationship.

Jon's Aunt Sylvie has the erotic relationship of a lifetime with Ty, a younger man--until she's offered a CEO position in New York. On the night of the summer harvest festival, Ty makes Sylvie's most wanton fantasy come true by inviting another woman into their bed.

For three witches related by blood and common circumstances, finding the men of their dreams is a supernatural ride through love, jealousy, kink with a touch of magic, and fierce, red hot witch sex.

Strange Sabbats starts with a Yule celebration, and concludes with a wedding reception on the Autumn Equinox (not telling which couple ties the knot, though!). The pagan calendar is called The Wheel of the Year, to represent the circular progression of the seasons. Here’s a bit more about the festivals, or Sabbats, celebrated by the witches in my story:

Samhain, October 31. A time of serious reflection, when the boundaries between the physical and spiritual world are thinnest. This is a day to honor ancestors, often marked with feasts in their memory.

Yule, around December 21. The shortest day of the year, the solstice marks the point when darkness will soon give way to the return of the light. Celebrations focus on the beauty of winter, and the introspection befitting a season of quiet and snow. Candles or bonfires symbolize the movement back toward the light half of the year.

Imbolc, February 2. This festival celebrates the first hints of spring, returning light, and fertility. The earliest flowers or budding branches are used to symbolize the movement into the light half of the year, when growing things will again cover the land in shades of green. Imbolc is Brighid's day, and the Celtic goddess is honored during seasonal rituals.

Ostara, around March 21. The spring equinox celebrates the greening of the land. It is a time of balance, when light and dark are equal. Symbols include flowers, eggs, baby animals, and the soft colors associated with spring.

Beltane, May 1. Beltane celebrates the fertility that comes with the warmer months, when the sun is high in the sky and days are long. Flowers, maypole rituals, bonfires, feasts, and joyous celebrations are associated with Beltane.

Litha (also Midsummer's Eve), around June 21. On the longest day of the year, festivals celebrate the bounty of the earth and bonfires mark the sun's highest ascent. Celebrations are playful and magical, for Midsummer's Eve is a time of myth, fairies, and dancing.

Lughnasadh, August 1. A harvest festival marked by festive meals featuring seasonal foods. Grains and breads symbolize the plentiful harvest.

Mabon, around September 21. On the autumn equinox, harvest festivals mark a time of balance, when light and dark are equal, and preparations begin for the quieter months of the winter ahead.

Happy Reading!
Eden Rivers
Website
Buy Link and Excerpt for Strange Sabbats
Buy Link and Excerpt for Nature’s Pentacle

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Keeping My Head above Water


Some weeks, it’s harder to swim with the current than others. Some people seem to have captured the secret of getting through weeks like that with grace. I’m not one of them. I thrash around, spitting out mouthfuls of water, go under a few times, and then start swimming again, out of pure, obstinate determination. I also yell at my husband a lot.

Lately, I’ve been wondering how authors of 15 or more published books keep from experiencing burn out. I’ve completed four full length manuscripts, two novellas, and three short stories in the past three years. Promoting my first book (first out, third written) has been a job in and of itself. And while I’ve been promoting, I’ve completed the sequel and written an unrelated novella.

May 27, my paranormal erotic novella, Strange Sabbats (another story about lusty witches) will be released, so I’m heading into the promo cycle for that one now. At the same time, I’m working on a synopsis and cover letter for the recently completed sequel to Nature’s Pentacle (Broken Pentacle, Sky and Alec’s story), and editing that manuscript so I can turn it in to my editor.

So, how do authors who’ve published 15 or more books keep from losing the creative spark among the hustle and bustle of writing, publishing, and promotion? Because bottom line, the current moves quite fast, and authors have to swim in several directions at once.

And of course, many romance authors (yes, even erotic romance authors) are also moms. This week, one of my daughters fainted at school, so I rushed out to pick her up mid-synopsis. Today, the younger one’s home with a stomach bug. And then there’s my husband, who’s a constant work in progress (aren’t they all?). Social groups, errands, paperwork, appointments, household chores, homework help, and heck, my to-be-read pile, all take up their respective chunks of time.

With the sequel to Nature’s Pentacle finished, about ready to turn in, I’m mentally moving on to my next project already, swimming in yet another direction. Which is why I’m wondering, for all you multi-pubbed authors out there, how you keep up the pace year after year after year.

Okay, I know, we write because we love it. We write because we have to. But I’m curious about flotation devices for when we hit white water. Any thoughts?

Eden
www.edenrivers.com

Thursday, May 8, 2008

In-laws, Erotic Writing, and Paganism

My in-laws are about to descend for a four-day weekend. So my husband and I have been scrambling to get the house clean, pick up extra groceries, and all the usual in-law type preparations. Fresh tulips on the mantle, fresh lilacs on the coffee table, and all that.

But as usual, I’ve put off the most important tasks till last. My husband’s parents don’t know I write erotic romance, or that our entire family’s pagan. They’re old. My mother-in-law has heart trouble. My father in law has cancer. And as my teenage daughter said when she took her Teen Witch and Living Wicca books off her shelf earlier: “I’d better put these away before grandma and grandpa get here. Grandpa’s such a snoop, and although I feel so ick hiding my books, I don’t want to give them a heart attack or anything.”

Like my daughter, I’ll put away my books on paganism, as well as the erotic romance and erotica titles in my to-be-read pile, and the dry erase board by the computer which includes a hefty amount of information about my writing. Incriminating details such as book titles, and all that. And like my daughter, I’ll feel “ick” when I put things out of sight till after the visit.

That’s why I always leave the task till the last minute. And I wonder how bad it could really be to just come out and tell them what I write. Well, not the details, of course. No one from their generation really needs to know the gritty logistics of m/f/m ménages with double penetration, or the art of including m/m sex within the context of a ménage scene. But I wonder if their hearts might just be strong enough to handle the erotic romance bit. And wow, as for being pagan, it would sure be nice not to get Christmas cards every December.

But they’re old. And sick. And stressed. So instead, I’ll put away my incriminating dry erase board, and make sure the manuscript my husband’s reading for me is tucked securely into a drawer. I’ll put away my erotica titles, along with my dog-eared copy of Circle, Coven and Grove and any other books likely to make a pair of devout Catholics fear for their grandchildren’s souls. And I’ll remind myself that they live far away, and we only see them once a year.

But I’ll still feel ick, because I'm an open sort of person, and don't make a habit of hiding either what genre I write in, or my spiritual inclinations.

So what about all of you? Anyone have personal details they feel they can't (or shouldn't) share with relatives?

Eden

www.edenrivers.com

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bedtime Words


As an erotic romance author, I’ve noticed sometimes the dialogue in sex scenes boils down to very simple phrases. Don’t stop. Oh god. (Or in my stories, more likely “Oh gods.”) So good.

You get the idea. But what about boiling it down even more? Here’s a list I came up with of ordinary words which take on whole new layers of meaning when characters use them in bed.

More
Again
Yes
Hurts
Now!
Come
Enough
Stop
No
Always
Never
Maybe
Love
Good

I could go on, but I want to leave the rest to you. Keeping it clean (come on, we all know those words already, and sure, you’ll find them in my books, but let’s get more creative here), what are some single words that speak volumes in the heat of the moment?

Happy Reading,

Eden
www.edenrivers.com

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hearing Your Own Voice


As writers, we’re told that our voices make us unique. They may be strong, or subtle. Bold, or understated. But somewhere in there is buried what we’re all about. I’ve never been particularly good at hearing my own. Voice is such a part of us, it’s like trying to hear your own accent when you’ve lived in one region all your life.

But lately, I’ve been working with my new critique partner. She’s got a great voice. Her writing sparkles with energy, and whatever she’s writing, I get a sense of her personality in her words, even though we haven’t known each other that long yet.

So I looked back at my own work, trying to hear my own voice. I do things like this when I’m feeling any kind of pressure with my writing (currently, to complete Broken Pentacle, the sequel to Nature’s Pentacle). I go off on interesting tangents, procrastinating under the pretenses of better understanding my own writing process.

What I decided as I read back through my work in progress is that, for me, voice is tied directly to how I experience the world around me. I’m one of those people who’s constantly aware of air movement, shadows, bird calls, and other earthy details, like what the soil smells like after a spring rain.

I guess it’s a pagan thing, that constant connection to the world around me. But what I’d never noticed before was how much it comes out in my voice when I write. It’s there in the words I choose. The details I describe. The structure of my sentences.

And really, it made for a delightful bit of procrastination. So, what about you? If you write, what would you say characterizes your voice? Sets it apart from others? And as readers, can you think of any authors with a voice you love? What makes them one of your favorites?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Thirteen Things I Love about Spring



1. Pussy willows blooming against a blue sky.

2. The smell of rich earth.

3. The reappearance of chairs and tables on my patio.

4. More sunlight.

5. Birds swooping around my yard and singing at the tops of their little lungs.

6. The first purple crocuses coming up through the snow.

7. The greening of the grass.

8. The absence of winter coats, hats, mittens, and scarves.

9. More energy to write.

10. Planning summer gardens.

11. Seeing neighbors I haven’t seen since we all crawled into our houses in November.

12. The first spring thunderstorms.

13. Buds on the trees.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ethical Voyeurism


My first novel, Nature’s Pentacle, is now available at Loose Id! When witches use sexual energy in a rite to mend the shattered environment, the forces set in motion carry them into a vortex of loss, a sizzling ménage, and finally, to the love they never imagined they’d find.

Since it’s a scorching paranormal erotic romance, it comes with a warning label. Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, dominance, male/male sexual interaction, ménage (m/m/m/f), multiple partners, voyeurism.

Most of those warnings I not only expected, I suggested myself on the promotional forms the publisher hands out to authors. I don’t want anyone to pick up my book and feel uncomfortable, and warning people that the story contains controversial elements is the right thing to do. Plus, the “Publisher’s Note” lets readers who love scorching erotic romance know that Nature’s Pentacle is the book for them.

But one thing surprised me when I saw the warning today. Voyeurism? In my book? When I think of voyeurism, I think of a man tip-toeing outside a window as a couple has sex inside, or a teenager watching his sexy neighbor’s bedroom when she forgets to draw the curtains before undressing. Nope, that’s not my story.

But then I thought about it a while, and yes, my characters are involved in a ménage (first a threesome, and then a foursome), and they do watch each other--with great interest. They watch both in the context of the ménage, and also when twosomes pair up in crowded quarters. A cabin doesn’t allow for a lot of privacy.

And of course then there are the two forbidden sexual rites where five pairs of witches summon sexual magic to heal the shattered environment. Each time, three witches stand at center to channel the power--and yes, they can’t help but watch what’s going on around them. And they’re interested. Aroused.

So I’ve decided what I have in my story is some form of consensual voyeurism--“ethical voyeurism,” if you will. What’s important to me is that the person being watched is okay with what’s going on. In the end, the element of consent, or willingness to let someone watch, is what separates the common window peeper from adults involved in a complex, consensual sexual situation.

Here’s the point where I confess that my college dorms had huge, wall length windows. I can’t count the number of times I’d be walking home with a friend, only to spot a couple entangled in a passionate (read this naked) embrace. We’d laugh, blush, and hurry on. But nonetheless, those bits of accidental voyeurism were--interesting.

So what are your thoughts on watching? Ever been an accidental voyeur? Or a watcher of a more intentional ilk? Any favorite scenes from fiction that involve consensual voyeurism?

Happy reading!

Eden Rivers
www.edenrivers.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hot, hot, hot new cover!


Today I got my cover for Strange Sabbats, my novella that's coming soon from Loose Id, and I love it!

I dread the moment where you get the cover files, and your pulse speeds up, and your hand shakes as you move the mouse, and you think, "Please, please, please let it be okay!"

Becasue we've all seen nightmare covers. Wrong genre. Wrong mood. The hero looks like a space alien--and it's not science fiction. So when I opened the document and it was just great, I let out a huge sigh of relief!

Here's the blurb for Strange Sabbats: For Aileen, Bryan, and Sylvie, three witches related by blood and common circumstances, finding the men of their dreams is a supernatural ride through love, jealousy--and fierce, red hot witch sex.

The cover's of Aileen and Jon, the first couple introduced in the novella. Okay, now I have to get back to finishing my second edits, so my great cover has a story to go with.

Happy reading and writing!
Eden
www.edenrivers.com

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Firsts

Since I’ve got my first book, Nature's Pentacle, coming out on March 25 with Loose Id, I thought I’d write about romantic and erotic “firsts.”

Ever read a book where the hero and heroine spark so much heat, but just can’t seem to get into bed together, and by the time they have sex for the first time you’re panting right along with them? Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series comes to mind, since it takes several books for Anita to finally hook up with Jean-Claude, the Master of the City.

Or maybe the first erotic encounter comes fast and heavy, right at the outset of the plot, like when Lena and Matt are thrown together in a forbidden sexual rite on the first page of Nature’s Pentacle.

And what about the first kiss? Do you have any favorite first kiss scenes from movies or books? I love both the first kiss and first lovemaking in the mainstream novel What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, by Pearl Cleage. The heroine is HIV positive, and her relationship with the hero is so beautiful, so healing, that the “firsts” pack even more power than usual.

What about your own memories? First crush? First kiss? First date? First relationship? And of course all those exciting erotic firsts. Any stories to share?

Believe it or not, my first crush was on a freckle-faced fifth grade boy who much, much later became my husband. We were in the same class, and I always hoped he’d choose me as a square dancing partner in gym. I had to wait a lot of years to dance with him, though. Finally got that dance when we went to the senior prom together. We hooked up again after seeing other people in college, so sometimes those firsts stick.

Firsts can be good or bad, sublime or just plain humorous, touching or painful. But one thing’s for certain, we tend to remember them. So come on, share a few of yours…

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fear Factor

Have you ever stared at a blank page with the conviction that you just can’t write anymore? Okay, so you’ve finished many manuscripts--novels, novellas, short stories--been there, done that. But now, at this very instant, you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have lost the touch.

Rejection doesn’t hold any fear for me. I’ve had enough truly scary experiences in life to know what matters, and it’s not about gaining any one person’s approval. But facing a blank page when I’ve been in editing mode for weeks, or maybe even taken a couple weeks off to deal with a backlog of errands, chores, unpaid bills--now that’s frightening.

Because maybe I just can’t do it anymore. Maybe the muse has left for good this time. Maybe if I do write, it will be so horrific, so completely without merit, that I’ll throw in the towel for a life as a professional chick sexer This job actually exists. I know, because one of my friends in grad school kept coming up with that on his career profile tests. What does that say about a person? I figure this would be a perfect job for an out of work erotic romance writer.

Now that’s fear. So I stare at the page. I demand that my muse appear. I threaten her with nipple clamps, handcuffs, whips, and hours of disco music. Then I bribe, entreat, beg, and wheedle, promising her wine and cheese, Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, Bach, Maroon 5, anything her little creative heart desires!

But the evil little thing is on vacation in Florida, or Europe--anywhere but Wisconsin in February. So I force myself to type a sentence without her. It’s awful. It may well be the very worst sentence I’ve ever written in my life. But I keep typing, clacking away at the keyboard. And I eventually get a sentence or two I like. And hey, that scene with the fruit and honey in the bathtub, wow, very kinky. I like it.

Disaster averted. I’ve once again pressed past the fear factor, muse or no muse. And in the winter, it’s much more likely to be just little old me, muse-less, typing away. But at least the fear’s gone. Until the next time I start a new manuscript…

Happy writing!
Eden
www.edenrivers.com

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Morning After

Ever wake up and want to hit rewind as fast as possible, backing up say twelve hours or so to erase whatever you did the night before? Or maybe you’ve woken up with the less horrific, but still troubling, sense of, “Holy crap, I so can’t believe I did BLANK last night!”

Lena, the heroine in Nature’s Pentacle, my March 25 release with Loose Id, wakes up on the mother of all mornings after to find her life has changed forever. After participating in a forbidden, sexual rite to summon rain to the drought-ruined land of the Midwest, she learns that her roommate leaked the identity of the thirteen witches involved to the press.

Here’s a snippet of what Lena’s morning after looks like.

Still shaky, Lena rose from the cushion in the center of the living room. The scattering of colorful throw pillows, shelves of books, and pots of herbs blurred as she blinked back tears. As frantic as her need was to drive over to the hospice center and see if her mother had improved since yesterday, she knew she couldn’t go marching in there with the taint of forbidden power crackling around her.

In her drugged stupor, her mother wouldn’t notice. But her sister, Serena, would sense she’d been channeling magic that fell a few shades shy of rainbows and roses. She’d tried to ground the remnants of power after Matt dropped her off last night, and again this morning after she’d grabbed a few hours of sleep. But the energy they’d summoned wasn’t so easily dismissed.

Reaching for the phone to call Serena, she tripped, then delivered a vicious kick to the offending throw pillow lying on the floor. Damn, damn, and damn it all again. Who in the name of Hecate had picked her to help heal the land, anyway? She couldn’t even heal her mother. As she punched speed dial for Serena’s cell number, someone pounded on the door, paused, then pounded again.

“Damn it, we’ve got a door bell!” She slammed the phone down and stalked toward the door.

Great, now she was plus one uninvited visitor, and minus one roommate. Where the hell was Skyler, anyway? Not that it was unusual for her to go home with someone she’d just met--far from it--but Sky had a firm no overnight policy. She preferred to wake up on her own pillow, and wake up alone.

“Quit, I’m coming already!” The pounding continued as she struggled with the locks. This had better be good, or someone was going to find himself on the wrong end of a nasty spell. Scowling, she tugged open the door. “Matt?”

Before she could invite him in, he stepped into the entryway and closed the door behind him. “You need to pack a few things, and we need to leave--now.” Tension flowed off him in waves, and his mouth was set in a tight line.

“What the…”

“Your roommate called the press last night. Don’t know if you noticed, but it rained all night--not just in northern Wisconsin, but across the Midwest. The land is greener than it should be this soon. Add the fact that the Colorado group had similar success in their region, and the Quebec coven seems to have made some progress against the drought up there, and meteorologists would have been suspicious even if your roommate hadn’t gone yapping to the press.”

Pacing like a restless lion, tawny and ready to pounce, Matt whirled to face her. “Skyler wasn’t content to let nature take the credit. She outed us, Lena. Everyone at the circle last night.”

Holy goddess, when Lena got her hands on Sky, she was going to throttle her. That her younger sister would hear those reports was, at the moment, the least of her concerns. She didn’t question Matt’s assertions, since she recognized truth in his voice. Damn hard to lie to a witch.

“So move! If you want a change of clothes, grab it fast.” He glanced out the window. His eyes were wild, and his muscles rippled under his black T-shirt as he paced the length of the room. “I got word from Kenji, the witch who anchored the circle last night. I warned a few others, then headed directly here, but we’re running out of time.”

“I can’t. My mother --”

“Will be a hell of a lot safer if she can honestly say she doesn’t know where you are, and no, she doesn’t know anything about arcane rituals aimed at addressing the drought.”

Fighting a knot of panic that threatened to cut off her air supply, she grabbed Matt’s arm. “The anchor--Kenji? Did he say… I mean, did Skyler --” Oh, bless it. “How much did she say about witches?”

“As far as we can tell, just the facts of the ritual, and who, in her humble opinion, deserves credit.” His voice dripped sarcasm, and the skin on his forearm twitched under her hand. “She wasn’t stupid enough to tell them it’s hereditary--that we’re genetically unique.”

“So if I go…” Goddess, was she really thinking about leaving her mother? “My mom and sister should be safe?”

“Damn, we don’t have time for this.” Covering the distance to her bedroom in several strides, he tugged open her drawers, grabbed the gym bag she’d left beside the bed, and tossed in random items of clothing. “Getting you out of here is the only chance we’ve got to keep you safe. And yes, it’ll help protect your family.”

The fury of his movements, the frantic motion as he packed her things… “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

“Put these on.” Scowling at the jogging shorts she’d tugged on earlier, he threw her a pair of jeans. “The police found one of the Colorado witches dead this morning. So far, that’s all we know--not who, or how, or why. But we need to disappear for a while--at least until we know what’s happening.”

As she tried to absorb the information, he towered over her and gripped her shoulders hard enough to make her gasp. “We’ve got to leave. Now. If you argue, I won’t hesitate to use a spell to save your hide. But it’ll make my day easier if you cooperate. Damn it, Lena, you’re Skyler’s roommate. If there’s going to be a witch hunt, you’re sure to be first on the list. And the easiest to find.”

That’s the aftermath for Lena, or the start of it all, anyway. Let’s just say her week gets a lot worse before it starts to get better, though falling for Matt, a drop-dead-sexy witch, is a hell of a consolation prize. Anyone who’s curious about the arcane sexual rite that sets Lena’s life on a collision course with disaster can pop over to the excerpt on my website, but only if you’re eighteen or older: EXCERPT Nature’s Pentacle. So let’s see a show of hands here, anyone ever wake with that queasy, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t done that” feeling?