Friday, March 24, 2017

What lies Behind the Mask of Johnson’s next novel?

Henry III said, “If I were not King of France, I would choose to be a citizen of Venice.”

He wasn’t alone in his admiration. Venice, Italy has whispered its inspirational promises to mankind for centuries. Its charms have proved the catalyst for art, music, literature, and pleasure from lowly artists to pedestaled kings.

Everything from its romantically-arched windows overlooking bobbing gondolas, to its gargoyle-shaped doorknobs, speaks of its uniqueness. There are sights and sounds particular to Venice: bells’ flat gonging, water lapping against boats, hand carts thumping across the walkways on the way to a seven-centuries-old market, pigeons’ cooing right before their riotous fluttering as tourists pour contents from seed sacks into their eager palms, Byzantium architecture, blown-glass chandeliers, standing gondoliers steering their crafts effortlessly through dark water, shops with window fronts advertising hand-crafted shoes or carnival masks.

I first visited in 2005 with a friend since high school. Nacicchetti—and drank wine from the region with names like Prosecco—which we recognized—and the lesser known to us at the time—Soave and Valpolicella—in enotecas and osterias. Everything was strangely delicious and the art and sculpture was so beautifully moving we could barely digest the richness that makes Venice one of the world’s top travel destinations.
turally, we took the clich├ęd gondola tour. We ate squid and other small bites—

One day, as we strolled through the Rialto Market and its surrounding shops, a water ambulance careened through the canal, a big cross emblazoned on its side. The image sent roots deeper than those of simple memory.

Who was the occupant requiring medical attention?
What had happened?
Where were they from and where were they headed?
Why had this been necessary?

A new story forged from this wonderment; one which culminated inBehind the Mask, a suspense-filled romance novel with Venice as its backdrop.

My intention is to bring Venice’s full flavor to the reader as the journey is set into motion between characters who might never have met without this one event which required an ambulance. There is, of course, a mystery to be solved and lovers to bring together—my own Bridge of Sighs.

Renee Johnson is the author of Herald Angels, Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named Hansel and Gretel.

Renee Canter Johnson 

Available to day at all major online retailers

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I have been to see the dragon’s skin…

… and this is what it looks like.

Where I live, the Earth is a mellow creature. It doesn’t move beneath my feet or spew into the sky or break open very often. Folk here are focused more on the sky and the changeable—sometimes wicked—weather it brings us. We never doubt the solidity of the ground we’ve built our lives upon because it so rarely fails us.

We shouldn’t be so trusting.

The Earth is a living, breathing entity … a dragon, if you will. And that is never more evident than where this dragon is daily making itself new. On the island of Hawaii, the Big Island, the ground swells, it puffs poisonous, sulfurous smoke from open red sores and hundreds of bottomless cracks. It disgorges slow-moving lava fields that surround and torch homes, highways, and fields. It creeps downhill to fill a once-beautiful cove with 20-30 feet of solid black rock, rippled like skin.

The Earth lives here, and the people live with it, and

We think of dragons as mythical creatures, armor-plated and breathing fire. I think of them as having skin like this, and sleeping—ever so restlessly—beneath our feet.

Helen C. Johannes is the author of BLOODSTONE, a fantasy romance in which dragons do indeed sleep beneath the earth, and their petrified blood possesses magical power.
nature takes hold of the rock—very quickly, it seems, finding footholds for pollen and seedlings in seams filled with windblown dust. Dragon skin is fertile, apparently, or the islands built by these forces wouldn’t be so lush.

Helen C. Johannes

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Crazy Things Happen When You Write Steamy Romance By Stacy Gold

I recently became a published contemporary romance author. Okay, a published, contemporary erotic romance author. As soon as my first short story, ‘Just Friends’, came out, I let everyone know: friends, family, acquaintances, social media followers and random strangers. I expected the mix of funny looks, genuine excitement, and rave reviews I’ve received.

What I didn’t expect was how writing a book with explicit—but not particularly kinky—sex scenes would shift my personal universe. Especially since most of my friends and family knew what I was writing beforehand. Some even critiqued early drafts for me.

Still, their reactions after reading my officially published work have been fascinating…
At my launch party, I received congratulations cards, a lovely succulent in a pretty pot, a bouquet, and many bottles of wine. I also received a realistically rendered, double-ended, pink silicone sex toy with ‘Just Friends’ and my launch date inscribed in black marker on the side. Very thoughtful. It makes a nice conversation piece on the mantle.

One of my male friends questioned me about the specifics of powder skiing. In great detail. I think it was a mix of genuine curiosity, and a desire to let me know he read my book without talking about the sex. Or the emotions. Or the transformation of the characters. Or their relatability. Or the myriad of other things making up this story that most men avoid in their reading material.

The other night, the initial discussion over dinner with a few other couples revolved around the best words to use for male sexual anatomy. We were at a local restaurant, and not being all that quiet. I can’t help but wonder what the others diners thought, and whether they prefer the d-word or the c-word.

Not that I minded. I’m fine talking about sex. Always have been, even loudly in public places. It’s just, most other people aren’t. Or they weren’t. Until now.

Here are five wonderful and crazy things I’ve discovered:

1) My very conservative Aunt is not as conservative as I thought.

2) My guy friends are so supportive, even they read my book—and most have no idea what to say about it other than it’s very well written. Or they really enjoyed the skiing.

3) My husband likes me spending my days thinking and writing about attraction, sex, love and happily ever after.

4) I have the most wonderful, supportive friends and family ever. Not that I didn’t already know, but it’s good to be reminded.

5) I’ve given people a free pass to have frank sexual conversations with me anytime, anywhere. Which is a useful and appreciated, since I always need more fodder for my books.

What’s the one question you would ask an author of steamy romance? Does knowing someone writes about sex make you more likely to discuss sex with them?

Please do let me know in the comments below.

Stacy Gold
Adventires in Love and the Great Outdoors

Monday, March 20, 2017

unique Australian animals by Kate Loveday

Australia is a diverse country, with amazing wildlife. Amongst these the platypus is one of the most unique. It is one of the most unusual creatures in the world. It has a paddle-shaped tail like a beaver; a sleek, furry body like an otter; and a flat bill and webbed feet like a duck. In fact, the first time a platypus was brought from Australia to Britain, people couldn't believe that it was a real animal. They thought that a trickster had sewn two animals together, according to the BBC.

I have had the good fortune to see a one of these rare creatures. Not in a sanctuary or a zoo. In the wild. Swimming in the Broken River, in the Eungella National Park, Central Queensland. The National Park is in the Eungella Range, 50 miles west of Mackay. With husband Peter we had been spending a week in the Pioneer Valley below, on our way to Far North Queensland for the winter, staying in the Finch Hatton Caravan Park.

We had come here with the hope of seeing the shy and mainly nocturnal platypus in its natural habitat. So here we were before dusk standing in the viewing area on the bridge over the river at Broken River.

We had taken up our positions an hour earlier, waiting patiently and scanning the river for any signs of activity.
“Watch for bubbles on the surface of the water,” said the Ranger. “The platypus dives to the bottom for food and strains it through his bill. Then he comes to the surface to eat it. He’s only there for a few seconds and then he dives down searching for more, so you have to watch carefully. And it won’t happen until the sunlight is off the water.”

Accordingly we had been scanning the shady areas of water carefully.
We had a few false alarms as we saw tortoises swimming below us, and insects on the surface giving the appearance of bubbles.

Peter trained his binoculars upriver and suddenly there it was, many yards upstream. Creating wide ripples as it dived, it was clearly visible, and we watched its progress as it swam towards us and passed under the bridge. It was larger than we had expected at about twenty three inches long, and we saw its distinctive bill, the tail, and dark brown fur clearly. It was truly an exciting event to see this creature in its natural environment.

Apart from platypus spotting the Eungella National Park has many other attractions. It boasts the largest continuous stretch of rainforest in Australia. The winding road from Eungella to Broken River is lined on both sides with vegetation and walks and lookouts lead off from the road.

At the top of the winding road is the historic Eungella Chalet. With tables, chairs and umbrellas set out on lawns in front of the Chalet it is a pleasant spot to sit awhile and admire the view over the Pioneer Valley 700 metres below. A patchwork of green and brown fields interspersed with trees and the odd building and fringed by mountains makes this a spectacular view.
If you decide to visit Queensland the Pioneer Valley is the perfect place to spend a few days of your holiday. There are plenty of things to see and do.
If you are adventurous you may like to try hang-gliding. A hang-gliding ramp at the edge of the lawn provides a take off point for hang-gliding enthusiasts, both local and otherwise. Australian championships have been held here and competitors have been known to glide as far as the town of Pinnacle, twelve miles down in the valley below.

If you come I hope you enjoy it as much as we have. And I hope you spot a platypus.

Kate Loveday

Friday, March 10, 2017

Women's Hearts - Finding Truth in Fiction

Have you ever found yourself in a novel? Do you read to imagine yourself the heroine…or do you read because you are her…possessor of the deeper angst and motivations ready to find their way out in shared dilemmas and dreams, such as these…

Denying cannot be conjured where it isn’t, nor can it be successfully repressed: “Caging a heart – it couldn’t be done. Not a heart in full blossom of passion. Stopping a roaring river would be easier, or harnessing a violent hurricane with bare hands.” From “Love on a Train.”

Losing dreams to reality, when is it right to let them go and when is it wrong:
“Lana strained to see herself in the cracked mirror that leaned against the wall near Grandma’s cot. ‘You think your dress works good for a bride?’ Lana eyed the dress her grandmother was giving her, faded gray fabric with only a hint of white where tiny daisies had once been.
‘You’re going to be a wife, not a bride…’ Grandma muttered around her mouthful of pins, her needle and thread weaving in and out of the gathered waist. ‘Get silly notions about being a bride out of your head.’” From “Asked For.”

Being close to him, but not close enough:
“‘I miss you too,’ I answered, my cheek flat against his chest, my eyes staring across the room at a poster of Cincinnati’s baseball team. I did miss him but not in the way he thought. Even when he was near I still missed him, missed him in the lonely place he should be in my soul.” From “Mine to Tell.”

Longing for a true hero who knows what he wants, and it’s you:
“I had Regina on my horse in a second, seated in my saddle. I reached in front of her, grabbed the saddle’s horn, and sailed up behind her. ‘Let’s go. And this time, I’ll do the holding on.’ And I did, with both arms around the tiny woman I never intended to let go of.” From soon to be released “The Lady’s Arrangement.”

If an author is writing what he or she knows, they are writing your path. The pleasure is to escape to that path, or even escape from it as characters sort through what we sometimes can’t unravel. So, read. And enjoy. And when the pages reflect what you’ve always known, clasp the book close to your heart when you’re finished, and say, “amen.”

Colleen L Donnelly