Burn Zone

I spent the weekend writing my fingers to a nub.  The next installment of the Tales of the Darkworld is due to my editor on the 31st. I’m hopeful I’ll make the deadline since I’m on the downslope now and only a few scenes left to write. Unfortunately, this one isn’t as long as the last few and won’t be eligible for print unless bundled with another of the books. Which is doable. The seventh book might not make it to print length either so maybe they could go together.

Anywho, because I was so rushed and in a hurry to get back to my manuscript, I decided to make tacos for dinner last night. They’re quick and filling and everyone in my house will eat them. As I was draining the meat in the sink, the fan that sits in the kitchen window fell (it wasn’t plugged in.) It hit the big wooden spoon I held which flipped up and splashed into the hot grease, spilling it all over my thumb and…the front of my very thin tank top.

Now, my thumb I can stick under the cold water tap or in the freezer on the side of the ice cream carton. I can’t exactly stick my boob under the tap or in the freezer. *sigh* Yes, that’s what got burned courtesy of my thin shirt. And really, it seems okay. The thumb and the boob. They both stung for an hour and everything was fine after that. But man, when someone asks you how your weekend was and you have to say “I burned my boob” well, that’s when it’s time to fall back on the old reliable, “It was okay.”

This week my co-worker is back from Napa (Yay!) and even though it’s month end, it shouldn’t be a killer. I spent last week with my nose so firmly to the grindstone it’s a wonder I have one left. But it left us in good shape so we probably won’t have to stress. I do have my IT budget due but I think I’ve got it in the bag. So I’m hopeful the work week isn’t too harsh.

Once Sunstroked has gone to my editor I may write up a romantic suspense review over at the Lex Valentine blog this week. I read one this past week at lunch and I was impressed. It had me turning the pages like a fiend. I’m not even a suspense fan! But I truly enjoyed the hero and heroine and the plot was exciting and timely. So if you see a Valentine Review come across Facebook or Twitter for Carried Away, you might want to check it out.

I’ve been thinking lately that I should look for some new Marcus images. You never know when new ones will turn up. For a guy pushing 40 Marcus is still hotter than hot.

We should all have genes that good. *sigh* Looking at him should have you in the burn zone in no time! LOL Have a smokin’ hot Monday, but don’t burn yourselves!

Backed In a Corner

I think stress has totally rewired me on the inside. This last year and still now, the stress in my life has conspired to change everything for me. How I write, how I deal with my day, how I sleep at night. Pretty much everything. For the foreseeable future, things are not going to change. That means I need to live with this monkey on my back.

In the past, I’ve deal with mega-stress. I’ve suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the onset of sudden massive stress like my parents dying 6 months apart.  I’m beyond that now and I haven’t felt those odd disassociated pangs and horrific nightmares in many years.

The stress I deal with now is insidious and grows exponentially depending upon the moods of those around me, my workload, my deadlines, money, the demands of my kid, how much my body hurts, and how tired I am at any given time. The ebb and flow of high or higher stress is nothing like the 500 pound gorilla suddenly in my face stress I suffered in the past. But it comes with its own set of inherent issues.

Since the way I do virtually everything seems to have changed monumentally in the past year, I think I need to sit down and strategize how to do what I need to do while under the influence of this new type of stress. How I deal with deadlines is a good example. In the past, I would work away at my manuscripts every weekend without fail. Now, every weekend, I nap. A lot. I don’t turn on my IM. I don’t do anything but futz a little, delete my email, and nap. Then I realize I have a deadline and I push myself for a few days at high speed, operating on very little sleep in order to get things done. I back myself in a corner and go on an all nighter for several nights in a row until I’ve forced myself to do what needed to be done.

I could have just made myself work an hour a day on the damn writing, but oh, no I had I procrastinate and feel the stress and do nothing until I hit panic mode while sitting in that corner I backed myself into. And I don’t know why I’m doing this to myself. I astound me. In my head, I know better. A lot better. But do I listen to myself? Do I make myself do what needs to be done?

NO.  I nap.

Now that I’ve decided that stress has rewired me, I have to figure out to wire myself to hit deadlines and other things better. Some people will say it’s a lack of discipline that is causing this. In some ways, they might be right. For the most part, they are not.

For decades I’ve suffered from insomnia. Now, I seem to have the need to catch up on all those hours of sleep I lost over the years. Hence my weekends spent sleeping I think. I’m just damned tired and when I try to do the right thing, I fall asleep at my desk trying to do it. I often feel like my insomnia has morphed into narcolepsy.

Acknowledging that my life is beyond different and I can’t do things the way I used to even a year ago is a big step. I’m hoping I can come to some sort of agreement with myself that leads me out of this corner I’ve backed myself into. Baby steps I tell myself. Just ease into it. Cold turkey might be way too much…although it worked with cigarettes when I got pregnant with Nikki. At any rate, this easing myself out of the corner may mean I’ll drop a post into this blog a bit more often than just Mondays. I did it this week. We’ll see how it goes rolling forward.

Now, it’s time for a lovely Marcus. I missed him last week!

Here he is with some hot companionship for those of you who like women. 🙂

Wishing you a stress fee Monday!

Political Me

I don’t do politics. Anywhere. Those of you who know me, know this is true. I don’t like the arguments that come of talking politics nor the flame wars that come of posting a political discussion. I leave the politics to those who actually can handle the heated comments…people like Jester. Jester calls a spade a spade and is unapologetic about doing so. He can handle a political discussion on his blog, on his radio show, on Twitter, and face to face. I, on the other hand, prefer not to be embroiled in the glories of debate.

Until today.

See, I have questions. Questions about our culture and our government. Questions that juxtapose what my mama taught me is right and what is wrong up against what my father believed with his whole heart.

Lemme backtrack a minute and tell you about my Dad.  He was born in the Philippines. Came here when he was 14 and became a citizen. He refused to speak his native dialect with his relatives because he was an American citizen and the native language of the United States is English. He fought in WWII. He believed that the government of the United States of America was the best government in the world. After all, if he didn’t believe that, he’d never have risked his life in the jungles of New Guinea during the war.

Now my Mama had very strict ideas about right and wrong. She was the most fair person I’ve ever known. She saw no color nor sexuality when she looked at you. You could have a police record a mile long and she would not judge you by it.

So why the family history? Because yesterday a federal judge lifted the stay on his decision that struck down Proposition 8. Same sex marriages can begin taking place in California on August 18.

How this ruling fits in with my background goes something like this:

Everything my Dad believed about the greatness of our nation has now in my head become pitted against my Mom’s teachings about right and wrong.  You see, I have this project, it’s a same sex story set in the military. A Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell story. My characters live in California. I could change my plot and marry them now that the stay is lifted. But since one of them is still in the Air Force (the other one is former USAF) it would impact the story in a huge way. And it’s made my thoughts political to the point that I’m here spewing them on my blog.

If my characters married – and believe me, they are the types who would want to be married – they would have to hide that marriage because one them is an Air Force officer. How fair is that? It’s not. And it angers me.

A federal judge gives them the right to be married in this state and yet they can’t reveal that to their employer? Not revealing it to their employer means they can’t partake of the benefits that other married couples in the military have. And the fact that this arm of the federal government won’t acknowledge gays to the extent that they have to hide their private lives and go without the benefits military spouses have angers me and calls into question my father’s belief that this is the greatest government in the world.

What I’m going to do with my characters and how I’m going to end this novella is something I need to ponder now. Part of me really wants to make a statement by inserting the issue of marriage and gay soldiers’ rights into the book. But as I said at the top of this post, I’m really not that political. The fact that this injustice pricks me will probably have me mentioning it in the story. Whether I let it change anything in the plot is a toss up.

Essentially, my guys are who they are so I suppose it won’t change much in the story to mention this topic in passing. But I’d like to keep my raging sense of injustice out of it and I don’t know if I can do that.  I wish the military would just step up to the plate and deal with this. In the right way. The fair way. The fact that they don’t is an ugly, ugly mark against those men and women who put down their lives for us every day.

My mama would be so pissed. And I guess I am too.

It’s All Greek To Me

We’re having a little discussion on the Pink Petal Books Reader Group about heroes, Alpha, Beta, Omega, Cowboy, Cop, Construction Worker, Corporate Giant… It got me to thinking, who ARE my heroes? What are they? Do they fit neatly into the Greek alphabet or do they cross the lines? I do, after all, love to blur the lines of sterotypes.

If I break it down by book, the most obvious Alpha hero I have is Roul Verlaine in Mating. Roul is the quintessential Alpha. He’s a werewolf who leads his pack. He’s an action man, a decision maker, and within his world he’s a force of nature. When he meets his mate, the fact that she too is Alpha, totally turns him on and makes him even more eager to pounce on her, take her, and make her his own. He’s a tad bit chauvinistic, but then again, that seems to be an overriding Alpha trait. They always want to be the top of the heap and that means commanding their women too even if the women are Alpha. However, like a good marriage, compromise becomes the key and a smart Alpha will learn to work in tandem with his Alpha mate. Despite the fact that within an hour of meeting Morgan, Roul has her beneath him in bed, he does learn to compromise.

Now, Roul’s twin Ranulf is the Beta.  In Runaways, Ran meets a woman on a train and instantly wants her. However, he doesn’t get up from his table in the dining car and approach her. It’s not until some Goth kids push him into her that he takes the opportunity to hit on her. And Dante is the one who invites Ran to her sleeper cabin, not the other way around. It’s not that Ran can’t take charge because he can. And he does, the instant he has a naked Dante all over him.

Ran’s used to being Roul’s right hand and dealing with pack business in an aggressive manner. But personally, he lacks that instantaneous urge to dominate that his older twin has.  Where Roul made the decision in moments to pounce on Morgan, Ran let Dante come to him and then he took control.  The Beta therefore has slightly less strong instincts to possess and has a bit more finesse when it comes to dealing with their mates. Think of it as the Cro Magnon man compared to the Neandertal.

My quintessential Beta has always been Weylyn Randall. But in Common Ground, you don’t necessarily get the impression that Weylyn is Beta. Set beside Marius, you wonder about both men.  Marius has a lot of confusion about his mate for an Alpha.  Fortunately, I give the reasons for it. When Colin ogles Marius’s mate, the Alpha surfaces and Marius takes his younger brother to task for it. Colin, who is also Alpha, but often doesn’t come off that way (see the beginning of Hot Water where Eden thinks Colin is Beta because he’s so laid back), does back off. For one, Marius is his older brother and for another, he already has a mate. Had Colin not been mated, he might not have backed down so easily.

As for Weylyn, you discover that he has an Alpha, a female Alpha whom he respects and would do anything for. You see that Weylyn is the laid back type who often lets his mate take charge. But like any good Beta, when needed to bring a situation or a person to heel, he can bring some major force to bear. Reading Weylyn you’ll find that he shares a lot of the same qualities of Ranulf. If there’s no Alpha to take charge, they will automatically rise to the challenge.  Betas are not weak. In many ways, they have far more strength than an Alpha because they must always hold themselves ready to support the Alpha. Second in command is often a tougher job than leading because not only do the lower ranks look up to you, the leader himself looks to you for support. So it’s no surprise that Weylyn Randall doesn’t come off as weak beside the Alpha, Marius Granville.

In the Pixie Prince, Max doesn’t come off as Alpha when sharing the page with Alexa, his snapping, growling, take charge vampire best friend. Yet, with his mate Bliss, it becomes much more obvious. The fact that Max is a nice guy tempers his aggressive tendencies. And besides, the fae aren’t as territorial as werewolves and vampires anyway.

The obvious Alphas in my books are the ones who are Doms. Ride the Lightning‘s Vahid Delrey may brown nose his boss Sean Antaeus (the most Alpha of Alphas in the Tales series) but in his own domain, his own dungeon, Vahid is a Dom. He controls his mate Emily sexually. The submissive Emily comes off as Alpha while at work because she is in charge of the finances of a multi-billion dollar empire. At home, she has a penchant for pain and submitting to Vahid is what makes her happy. Readers may have thought she was Alpha, but she is not. They may have thought Vahid was Beta, but he is not.

In their case, it’s a question of business versus sex. Just because you are an Alpha doesn’t mean your job lets you be one while on the clock and vice versa. However, at home, their true natures are obvious as Vahid takes control and Emily revels in it.

My other Dom is Aric Calderwood in Insolence. Aric is a total Alpha male and his best friend Ainsley Connor is Alpha too. All Aric has ever known of Ainsley is her strong personality and her need to lead. As children, their similar personalities are what made them best friends. As adults, Aric doesn’t want Ainsley on his turf – his BDSM club Insolence –  because he can’t bear the thought of watching her with another man, even if it’s a Beta or Omega.

For Ainsley, her love for Aric is so strong that she would do anything to have him, including shoving her Alpha into a box and nailing it shut so she can sub for her best friend. The very fact that she has the strength of will to subdue her Alpha tendencies for Aric tells you what she is. And for these two, life has a dividing line similar to Ride the Lightning’s. Sexually, Aric has control. He is the Alpha in the relationship. Outside the bedroom, the two resume the give and take they have known all their lives and Ainsley’s Alpha has free rein.

Over all, my heroes tend to be Alphas, but often my heroines are as well. And my Beta heroes are strong while some of my Alphas must bow to other Alphas. There’s Garret and Holden in Fire Season who must learn to work together despite both of them being Alpha. And in the office, Garret answers to Emily while Holden looks to his older brother Sean. Both of these Alphas have had to learn to compromise in business and in their private lives, but they make it work.

The same holds true of Declan Antaeus who also answers to his brother Sean.  But in Shifting Winds, we also learn that an Alpha who gives control over to the woman he loves can be hotter than the Mojave Desert in August. When Declan lets Elysia fuck him with a vibrator…well, it’s not exactly a very Alpha thing to do. Or is it? Declan still controls the situation. He’s asking her to do this, giving her the toys to use, the whole scene is orchestrated by him very subtly but still. He may be the one being fucked, but it’s what he asks for in order to achieve a certain level of pleasure. He’s definitely still in control.

With the M/M dynamic, you have to be a little more subtle about things when you have a pair of Alphas. Of course, it would be a lot easier to write if one was Alpha and the other not. I don’t tend to take the easy way out of emotions when writing though. In Where There’s Smoke, Zander is clearly Alpha with the aggression to prove it. His mate Voth is Alpha too, but Voth is a bit less aggressive, a little bit more cerebral, and his emotions aren’t as Neandertal as Zander’s. Of course, Voth was raised in a very different culture than Zander and his future was always destined, not something he’d have to fight for. The very fact that Zander’s spent his life fighting makes him appear more Alpha than Voth.  They are essentially equals, but it manifests itself in different ways. When Voth gives in to Zander, it’s because intellectually, logically, it’s the thing to do. Or in the case of sex, he just wants to cause he knows his turn is coming. 😉

So where does all this leave us with regard to the Greek alphabet? I’m not sure. A character like Roul Verlaine is obvious to a reader. A character like Declan Antaeus or Weylyn Randall may not be. There are subtleties to these characters and things that they may have to do to survive in their world that may not fall strongly under the label of Alpha or Beta. Personally, I think the blurring of these Greek lines is what gives a character depth and endears them to readers. But what do I know? In the end, it’s all Greek to me.

Judge Not

I spent Saturday judging some writing contest entries. It was fun, but I have to say, the first few I read were disappointing. I guess I expected them to be better stories. I don’t know why I had that expectation but I did.  The writing was okay, the mechanics not bad, but I felt nothing when I read them. They weren’t exactly boring, but they just weren’t interesting enough to capture my interest.

Of course, I could tell with a few of them that they just needed a better vocabulary, better word choices, to pump up the story and give it more oomph. Others, well, let’s just say that the plots needed some work.  I will say that there were two real standouts of the ten I read and that’s a pretty decent percentage.

I talked to Nikki (Motley) about how to present yourself when you try to get a job. I told her to stand up straight and not slouch. People might perceive you as lazy and schlumpy if you don’t stand up straight. Now, in Nikki’s case, standing up straight means her gigantic boobs are really, really on display. There’s not much we can do about that.  I mean, Mother Nature saw fit to endow her with the kind of chest strippers pay plastic surgeons to get.  I try to get her to dress so that her chest isn’t so much on display when she’s job hunting. After all, despite it not being right for people to judge each other, they just do especially when they need to size up job applicants.

Used to be, Nikki had the attitude that since people shouldn’t judge each other she could suit herself. She was in her teens then and feeling all angsty and rebellious. Now, she gets it that while we shouldn’t judge others there are times you have to and most people are gonna do it anyway.  I don’t think it’s how humans are biologically, I think it’s how our culture is. And luckily, at 21, Nikki now gets this too. Now, if only she could just get people to stop staring at her boobs and give her a customer service type job…

Today’s Marcus is low key and pretty. I was playing around with gradients in Photoshop and used my favorite Marcus photo.  I love purple.

Oh! Before I go I invite you to check out Fonts For Peas. Amanda made a font out of my handwriting! It’s called peaLex Valentine. 🙂 I should probably use it on this site. Whadda ya think?

Wishing you all a non-judgmental Monday!