31 August 2013

A Writer's Travels: A Summer of Inspiration

Yeah, I've been MIA on the blog for a while. Work, family, motorcycles...I'm easily distracted. :)

I've managed to put together a couple of videos with images from my travels this summer. First, my sister, mother, and my best friend J.C. Wilder went on a cruise to the Alaska Inside Passage. I'm not a huge fan of cruising, but I must say Princess is a nice cruise line. I had a much better experience than the first cruise I took, on a line that shall remain nameless. o_O

One of my main complaints about cruises is that there just isn't enough time to explore the ports. I could have spent a week each in Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. Oh, and Victoria, B.C. - such a lovely city! In some cases we had literally only a few hours - in Ketchikan, it was barely enough time to take a tour aboard the Aleutian Ballad, a fishing vessel from Deadliest Catch. Another bit of drama on that trip was that I lost my trusty Sony Cybershot camera on the very first day in Seattle, touching off a frantic trip to Target to get a replacement (which set my teeth on edge because I had to make a decision without having the chance to do tons of research!). I ended up with a Canon PowerShot which I like, but I spent the entire trip learning to use it. LOL Here I've made a video of the best shots with music. Enjoy!

There's also a video of a sled dog ride my sister and I took. Check out my Youtube channel to find it.

Not long after the Alaska trip, my husband, daughter, and her fiance took a return trip to one of my favorite places on earth - the Canadian Rockies. I took over two thousand photographs and am still sifting through them, but I did string together a series of video clips into one themed video I hope you'll enjoy. :)

My daughter is getting married in six months, followed closely by my son a few months later, so things are going to be crazy around my house for a while. The one thing saving my sanity these days has been rides on my MP3, even if it's only a few miles down the river and back. Boy, I'm so not looking forward to winter...unless I invest in some heated gear to keep riding as the snow flies! I might even start motovlogging. Yeah, pretty scary to think I might try talking coherently while negotiating traffic!

If you live in the NW Ohio or SE Michigan region, drop me an email and let's meet up for coffee and a ride!


29 August 2013

Moving and Other Swearwords

We called the moving company and moved the bulk of our stuff last Friday.

We still are not moved in.  Here's a taste:

  1. 13 windows need to be replaced because the prior tenant, the owner's son, let them rot and didn't say anything
  2. 1 of the 2 air conditioners is missing because said son took it with him despite it belonging to the landlord (i.e. his parents)
  3. 2 of the 2 air conditioners was "totally fine" with a filthy filter.  We went to FOUR different stores to try and replace it, but a) it's not made anymore, b) it's not a model that should be washed out and re-used, and c) the frame is broken in 3 places and held together with duct tape.  (Is this where I point out the air conditioner having ducts is not the same thing as using duct tape to repair a broken plastic filter frame?  No?  Spoilsport.)
  4. We ran said air conditioner.  It made a loud rattle and stopped working.  Horrified, we turned it off immediately and waited.  After all, we'd been assured it's "perfectly fine".
  5. We turned it on again, only to have it fall silent, except for a high pitched whine, and started blowing hot air.
  6. The next day, there was a heat wave and the apartment's temperature didn't fall below 96.  My oldest cat started laying around, panting.  I seriously considered re-traumatizing him and stuffing him back in the carrier to take him downstairs to the old place so he could at least live in air conditioning.
  7. Today, the new air conditioner arrived.
  8. The installer threatened not to install it because the window frame is rotted (surprise). 
  9. He figured out a way around it and then went to install it.  Oops.  The landlady told him the wrong amperage for the outlet.  She tried to get him to set it up anyway but he (rightly) refused as a safety issue and will get the correct one.
  10. Oh, and the old unit?  It had a bird's nest in it.  AND it's sitting in my dining room on the drop cloth we put there while we're painting.  He'll remove it.  After the new one comes.  And tomorrow starts the holiday weekend.
Next time somebody suggests we move to a bigger place?  Shoot me.  Even if it's me saying it.  KTHXBI.

25 August 2013

Cover reveal!

I'm thrilled to present the cover art for the fourth book in my paranormal romance shifter series!

Book four of Blood of the Pride

P.I. Rebecca Desjardin is surprised when two seemingly unrelated missing-teen cases land in her lap on the same day. Her cat-shifter instincts tell her there's more to the story, and when she uncovers a bitter feud between the two families, she suspects Romeo and Juliet runaways. She turns to her lover, Brandon Hanover, a man who knows the underground better than most.

Brandon is determined to help the woman he loves outwit ruthless enforcers and bring two missing kids to safety, but when a woman from his past resurfaces he finds himself caught between two worlds once again.

As the claws come out and the war between the shifter families turns deadly, the two will have to stand together or fall separately—and even that might not be enough to save them.

Book 4 in the "Blood of the Pride" series comes out in October but here's an excerpt to let you know what you're in for with Brandon and Reb!


I’d always thought I’d appreciate the sight of a near-naked man scampering around my house in a pair of boxer shorts.

Until now.

I cleared my throat as Jake Middleston glared at me, his back to the kitchen. He had about ten years on me, with skin that had been left out in the sun too long. The jean jacket he wore over a dingy gray T-shirt was ripped along the arms—honest injuries and not for fashion. His short-cropped black hair was turning gray in spots, scattered over the scalp.

His nostrils flared and he frowned.

He could smell Brandon Hanover, my lover and new roommate, as Bran snuck into the kitchen.

He let out something akin to a huff.

Jake was old-school Felis. Tolerated humans when necessary, and even then under duress. He and his kin believed in the doctrine of each to their own and being in the same house as a human was tough, much less knowing said human was mated to me, a fellow Felis. I could see the words on his lips itching to break out, a good old-fashioned racist rant at me for being so involved with human society that I’d consider one of them as my beloved.

I had a snappy retort ready to go, curses included. My home, my rules.

But he was also a client and I had to stay polite in the face of old-fashioned prejudice. I’d done it before for other clients, slimy adulterers who wanted an easy way out of their marriage and itchy-fingered businessmen looking for criminals in their midst who stole paperclips and pencils.

If you had asked me six months ago if I’d have my fellow cat shifters as clients I would have laughed in your face. Being outcast for two decades has that effect on me.

But recent events had brought me back into the family and scored me one hot human mate, so I was prepared to deal with family as possible clients. And keep my mouth shut.

Besides, I needed the cash.

“You said you needed my help,” I prompted, trying to draw his attention away from Bran. I couldn’t see him but I could smell him, fresh from our bed upstairs.

He hadn’t showered yet, making his natural male smell more intense, almost to the point of overpowering—let’s just say that we enjoy waking each other up multiple times before we actually get up. I’d managed to get into the shower before my arranged meeting with Middleston but he’d refused, showing his stubborn streak and annoyance at me having anything to do in the morning other than stay in bed.

Bran knew we Felis had an enhanced sense of smell. And he knew I knew my new client would have it, as well.

The older man rubbed the palms of his hands on his jeans, likely in an attempt to ignore the musky scent drifting across the room. “I have a daughter, Lisa. She’s almost eighteen and thinks she knows it all.” He gave me a knowing smile. “As you can guess we disagree on a few things.”

I nodded. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Bran tiptoeing toward the stairs cradling a huge bowl of tortilla chips and a bottle of salsa.

He knew I hated crumbs in bed.

He knew I couldn’t say anything without making a scene.


You can pre-order "Battle Scars" now from Amazon and B&N! I hope you'll come along for this next installment of Brandon and Rebecca's strange and sometimes stressful relationship!

24 August 2013

Dragon Time!

My idea of the perfect vacation is to fly through the air in an overcrowded tin can to a smoggy southern city at the heat of the summer swelter, work my bottom off, and wind up so tired they have to wheel me off the plane.
Last year, these guys showed up BEFORE the con
started. (All photos by Jean Marie Ward)
Yes, I’m talking about Dragon Con.  It’s finally here, and I’ve got a schedule and everything.  I hope some of you will check out the panels.  But mostly, I hope you’ll join me at the world’s number one summer camp for wayward adults.  There will be parties, and parades, and costumes, and concerts.  And if all that fails to move you, you might even find shwarma.  ;-)

11:30 AM: What's Next in Urban Fantasy?
Industry professionals share their insights on what’s new and what’s next in the field.
Location: International BC - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Panelists: Anne Sowards, Lucienne Diver, Jean Marie Ward, Claire M. Eddy, Elizabeth Donald, Jeanne C. Stein

2:30 PM: Science Fiction or Fantasy?
Lines are blurring. Let's talk definitions.
Location: Embassy A-B - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Panelists: Jean Marie Ward (Hopefully there will be more!)

A Cruxshadows fairy. Who says there's no reason to
stay up late?
4 PM: Writing Non-Fiction for Fun and Profit
Location: Embassy D-F - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Panelists: John L. Flynn, Dr. Bob Blackwood, Jean Marie Ward, Richard Lee Byers, Benjamin Radford

10 PM: Yellow-Brick Fairytales: Oz & Other Alt. History Storybook Variations
Follow the yellow brick road down the rabbit hole and happily ever after as the Victorian roots of fairy tales are discussed within alt. history.
Location: Augusta 3 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Panelists: Erin Leigh Bushko, Jana Oliver, Stephen L. Antczak, Jean Marie Ward

The 2012 Dragon Con Parade.


1 PM: Space Opera Then..Military SF Now
Space opera in the Fifties was rousing space battles and epic adventure. Military SF now is much the same. Or is it?
Location: Centennial I - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Panelists: Michael Z. Williamson, John D. Ringo, Mike Resnick, Timothy Zahn, Jean Marie Ward (Moderator, Jack Campbell

2:30 PM: Social Media--Make it Work for You
Location: Embassy D-F - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Panelists: Jean Marie Ward, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Diana Peterfreund

4 PM: Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Bite-sized readings from the writers of Broad Universe.
Location: Vinings - Hyatt (Length: 2.5 Hours)
Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward


5:30 PM: Parsec Awards
The premier awards for podcasters working in SF and fantasy.
Location: Regency V (Length: 2.5 Hours)

7 PM: Women in Alternate History
This discussion of girl power and gears features writers and costumers sharing their opinions on women in alt. history and weigh in with your thoughts!
Location: Augusta 3 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Panelists: Kathryn Hinds, The League of S.T.E.A.M., Delilah S. Dawson, Jean Marie Ward

So this is shwarma...

1 PM: Win, Lose Or Draw
A perennial favorite hosted by Jean Marie Ward. And yes, there will be prizes.
Location: Embassy A-B - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Master of Ceremonies: Jean Marie Ward

Jean Marie Ward

22 August 2013

Vacationing With Characters in Your Head

So, would Alec like surfing?
It happens sometimes before I realize it.

I'm on a day trip with the family or one of the rare occasions when I get to travel myself and I starting thinking "what would X do in this situation?"

I suppose it's inevitable for a writer and it reminds me of something Jennifer Crusie said years ago during a keynote speech at a National RWA meeting:

Most people, when given an hour of free time, do not run to their computer and make up stories.

For me, that storytelling roams further than the keyboard.

Which characters like amusements parks? How would my historical characters react to current technology? Is this the kind of city/small town where they'd love to work?

Alec Farley, my firestarter from Phoenix Rising, has the most fun in my head. He was raised in a very structured environment, with few chances to experience the outside world. Oh, he's been to New York City now and then and his special ops team (all male) made sure to take him out to bars and clubs, but average human experiences aren't average to him. Every day of his new freedom is a day filled with the new and shiny.

He's never looked at the ocean or the forest with tourists' eyes, only from a tactical viewpoint. So he loves the small town in Maine where Beth hides him in PR and, as the story ends, he's eager to see anything and everything.

It's always fun to imagine Alec at Six Flags because I wonder whether he'd find roller coasters pedestrian (he can fly, so what's a coaster to him?) or if he'd love experiencing something so wild without having to use his powers. It goes without saying that he'd use his telekinesis to cheat a little bit at the games and thus get prizes to give away to his girl or, more likely, to some little kid trying their best to get that stuffed bunny but failing.

But Alec might have the most fun doing something that requires challenges human skills. Something like surfing.

I have this lovely scene in my head where the hero of the yet unpublished book three in the Phoenix Institute series, Richard, teaches Alec how to surf.

As a 600-year-old immortal, Richard's seen everything but the ocean is endlessly unpredictable and that's what he loves about it. Alec would see the ocean as this wondrous thing and would jump at the chance to experience it close-up, as surfers do.

I can already see the bromance <g> brewing in my head.

And that's good because one of the advantages of having imaginary people in your head  is it can make familiar places seem new or experiences that seem a little too scary suddenly fascinating.

I wonder if it's too late to learn to surf?

19 August 2013

On the Journey

I loved Amy's post about her camping trip and thought I would share a few of my pics too. These are all photos I've taken while going for a walk. It is amazing how much beauty is all around us. Sometimes we need to just stop a second and take it all in.

Writing books requires a lot of sitting time at my desk, which is great for the stories, not so great for my body. My backside has no business resembling my desk chair. So, I walk everyday to loosen up the old bod and to freshen up my mind. Stepping away from the computer and breathing fresh air lets my mind relax and many times I come back from the stroll ready to jump on a new scene.

This picture reminds me that life is journey. We never know where that road is going to take us.

And sometimes we have two roads to choose from. Which would you take, the curved, or the straight one?

The road has taken me to a lazy harbor at the base of the Grand Tetons (the glorious sights in this place were unbelievable)...

...along a private golf course in Palm Dessert (who knew the desert could be so lush in August?)...

...and to the top of a mountain on a hike with the local YMCA.

Wherever I go, I try to stop and soak in the beauty all around us. Isn't this a magnificent oak tree?

Oh, and when I get to where I'm going, I might do a little happy dance (see son demonstrating).

Life is a journey. Enjoy the walk.

Kimberley Troutte

13 August 2013

Countdown to Ugly

I’m excited. Three days until the release of The Ugly Truth, my latest novel. Set in a small town called Ugly Creek, the story centers around a woman who visits a small Tennessee town. Where, you might ask, did I come up with the name Ugly Creek?
The answer is I’m not sure. I know, not what you wanted to hear. But, it’s the truth. The only thing I can figure is that I tried and tried for a long time to come up with a name for my fictional town, but couldn’t seem to find anything that felt right but wasn’t already taken by a real town. Finally the Ugly Creek name came into my head and I decided I had my name. Maybe because it was the best name. Maybe it was because it was the easiest. I don’t know.

The actual town from which the fictional Ugly Creek was drawn is easier to track down. I grew up a few miles south of Dayton, Tennessee. I drew on the entire area, plus other small southern US towns. I live in a larger area now, but it was a lot of fun using my childhood home as a template.

Would your hometown be a good basis for a book? Do you like reading about small towns? Do you like stories that take you to places you’ve never been, or would you rather read stories set where you live?

Have a great week!

05 August 2013

Dragons and Cougars and Bears, Oh My...

When you stop to think about it, what we call romance fiction today is quite a far cry from what it used to be. Shapeshifters and fantasy creatures have gone mainstream in a big way - something that was taboo when I first started reading romance back in high school. Back then it was all sea captains, pirates, gang bangs and rape fantasies.

So in some ways, we've evolved. Rape and incest (yes, I remember those books too! Published by big "NY" publishers!) are no longer considered allowable by most publishers. Thank goodness. And character types that were discouraged - I clearly recall submission guidelines saying "no vampires" for example or "no rock stars or celebrities" - are now commonplace.

I think a lot of this came about because the tiny cabal of publishers congregated in New York (where I was born and raised, and still live, by the way), have lost their monopoly on what books get published. The advent of small press publishing, and now, self-publishing, means that the readers decide what they want to read, rather than a small group of twenty-something editors fresh out of college and the elder statesmen in their editorial meetings.

Now, readers vote with their wallets. If they like a particular type of hero or storyline, they search it out and buy the book. As hundreds of thousands of people do this, it becomes clear what the reading population considers worth their time and money. It's very democratic, actually, and kind of beautiful.

I, myself, have been dipping my toes into the self-publishing waters this past year with what I consider good results. I see it as cutting out the middle-man. And as a bit of a control freak, it puts me in charge of a lot more. I get to choose the cover. I get to oversee the editing process. I choose who I hire to edit and proofread. I choose the cover artist and work with them to finalize the design. These are luxuries you never get from a traditional publisher.

It must be working because my indie book, Slade, is competing in All Romance eBook's Ultimate Shifter Challenge. If you haven't voted yet, please consider voting for him! He's in the 9th pairing this week, so scroll down and click! :)

I haven't given up on traditional and small press publishing completely though. An all-new novella in my Dragon Knights series is coming out later this month, on August 20th. It's called Master at Arms and it is a companion piece to the second book in the series, Border Lair, which will be re-released in print in October.

In fact, all the Dragon Knights books are being re-released in print, starting with Maiden Flight this September, one book per month until next March's release of Keeper of the Flame in print. And I'm very proud to say that Maiden Flight was just honored with a TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews Magazine in their latest issue.

Sci fi is another area that was never really considered part of romance until recently. I've always loved it and looked for it when I was younger and thirsting for romances set in some fantastical future - or better yet - in space. My EPPIE Award Winning, futuristic erotic romance series, Resonance Mates, will draw to a close with the fifth and final book, Harry's Sacrifice.

I turned in the completed manuscript a few weeks ago and just signed the contract last week. (Because that's the way I like to do business, when possible - I hate signing first, then having due dates and deadlines. Who needs all that stress?) I'm hoping the book might make it onto their publication schedule for next March, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see what the publisher comes up with.

And as far as indie books go, my next project is called simply, Red. It's the second book in the sub-set of stories devoted to the five Redstone brothers. The Redstone Clan books are part of the larger Tales of the Were series that started way back when with a book called Lords of the Were.

The follow-up to that, called Inferno, was also published by small press, but then the series took a departure. I did a short story that was set in that world as a promotion for ARe a couple of years ago and after that, I decided to take the rest of the series indie.

In December of last year, I published Rocky. It was a story I had written years before and was finally able to pull together the way I always wanted it. It met with what I consider huge success. I had intended it as a test, but the readers responded well enough that I decided to write more. Rocky led to Slade and Slade led to Grif, the first of the Redstone Clan.

Grif was also a book I had written years before, but I'd never finished it or submitted it anywhere. The Redstone brothers and their relatives have shown up in cameo and supporting roles in many of my paranormals, but I never had a chance to tell their stories... until now. Over the next six months or so, the rest of the Redstone brothers will get their books, starting with Red, followed by Magnus, then Bobcat and then finally, Matt.

I hope you'll enjoy the ride as much as I do! And I'm sorry for getting so long winded. Usually, I never know what to say when I sit down to blog, but today, for some reason, I'm finding it hard to stop! (I've already cut this blog down three times!) ;-)

To find out what I'm up to, visit my website at www.biancadarc.com or catch me on facebook! :)

Until next time,

04 August 2013

Vacation Brain

I can't believe it's August. Where the heck did July go?

In one short month my kids will be going back to school and it feels like they just left.

I like that they're gone during the day, but I also enjoy not having to take them to school and pick them up.

I liked sleeping in, even for an hour.

Now summer is slipping away. *wah* I'm not ready for Fall and Winter yet.

So, I thought I'd share some photos of my camping excursion to Sandbanks Provincial Park near Picton, Ontario.

This is where my father's family landed when they came to Canada. I also, living only 2.5 hrs away from it, spent most of my summers here. Then I got married and lived about 5 hrs from it. :(

So my kids and DH had never been.

We all had a blast.

Walking over the large white sand dunes.

The beach in the morning. Lake Ontario so calm. It's a beautiful, shallow sandbar.

Campsite in the early morning.

The perfect sandcastle!

You can find out more about Amy at her website.

Or on Twitter @ruttanamy.

01 August 2013

Freedom and Hope

©2013 A. Catherine Noon, All Rights Reserved
Joyous Lughnasad to you!  As we head from July into August, I know the theme of freedom was last month's but felt compelled to talk about it again, as well as its companion, hope.  I am in the midst of extricating myself from a toxic work situation and am struggling with the idea of freedom.  "Do I have to put up with this?" "Is this harassment?"  These questions make us doubt our sanity and wonder if we're being drama queens, or if the situation we're in is really that crazy.

What worked for me today was to take a long walk.  I brought my camera with me and took some shots of my walk, until my battery died and I just walked and existed with the trail.  There is a Latin phrase, "Solvitur ambulando," which means "It is solved by walking."  Many writers before me belonged to the peripatetic school, as Julia Cameron so poetically calls it.  Today, I put that to the test and, to my surprise, it worked.

Take a look (you can click on the picture to see it in a larger view):

This is deadly nightshade, Atropa belladonna, which is a commonly-growing weed in the Chicagoland area. It can cause contact dermatitis and is poisonous. It is a relative of the tomato family.
©2013 A. Catherine Noon, All Rights Reserved
I love the appearance of nightshade, but I'm allergic to it.  I get contact dermatitis, which is a fancy way of saying my skin turns red and is itchy and burns.  Yuck.  But they're sure pretty, huh?  All sorts of colors that look yummy.  DON'T.  They aren't yummy at all.

Hmm.  Metaphor, anyone?

I don't know what this is, but I love that there are two kinds of fruits/berries.
©2013 A. Catherine Noon, All Rights Reserved
This one caught my eye and I have no idea what it is.  I love the textures and want to create them in yarn.

It didn't rain on me, either.  My walk today has a quality of magic to it, a soft and Zen kind of magic that is subtle yet profound.

In closing, I'll leave you with a Zen Koan (a teaching story):

Chou-Chu fell down in the snow and yelled, "Help me up!  Help me up!"  A Zen monk came and laid down beside him.  Chou-Chu got up and went away.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!

The Persis Cycle:Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for "Seeking Hearts", coming soon from Torquere Books.

Check out "Taking a Chance", available from Torquere Books.
Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
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Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden: The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page | Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers | LGBTFFW FB Page
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press