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Genevive Chamblee: The Season of Mardi Gras
Monday, January 23rd, 2023

Some things we take for granted. For example, it wasn’t until approximately a year ago that I realized that white perch wasn’t sold in grocery stores or fish markets—at least, not legally. And it wasn’t until a friend made a passing comment that alerted me to the fact. It wasn’t anything new, though. I simply had never taken the time to pay attention. Why? Because, whenever I wanted perch, we just fished it out of the bayou. I’d never attempted to purchase it, and never gave thought to it not being sold. After all, it’s not like there’s a shortage of white perch. Since I always had access to the fish, I assumed (and we all know what is said about assuming anything) that everyone had the same access. Wrong!

“Assuming” is the reason for this post. Yeah, I know white perch has nothing to do with Mardi Gras, but in the tangled convolutions of that thing I call a brain, I connected the two. See, growing up in South Louisiana, I assumed (once again) that everyone knew about Mardi Gras… That is, until I started hearing some strangeness that caused me to raise an eyebrow. I mean, South Louisiana isn’t the only place to celebrate Mardi Gras (which, by the way, most refer to as carnival). Yet, I’ve come to discover that there are many misconceptions about what Mardi Gras is and why it’s celebrated.

Now, I’ve tackled this subject before on my Creole Bayou blog, but since Mardi Gras season just kicked off on January 6, I thought it would be appropriate to do a brief refresher for those interested. If you’re interested in the importance of January 6, please visit my post, Is It Mardi Gras Yet? for a deep dive into it. This post will focus on an overview of the basics of Carnival. Let’s jump-start this with answer the question: What is Mardi Gras? To answer this question, I must explain the translation of the term Mardi Gras and define Carnival. Read the rest of this entry »

N.J. Walters: Brand New Year, Brand New Book — Hunter Avenged! (Excerpt)
Friday, January 20th, 2023

The start of a new year is always exciting. The possibilities are limitless. It’s a time for introspection, for deciding what you want to accomplish in the coming year.

I don’t make resolutions, as such, but I do set some achievable goals. Professionally, I want to write at least three or four books, maybe more. Personally, I want to try my hand at a new hobby or two. If I decide it’s not for me, that’s all good. The goal is to push myself to try something different.

The new year is starting out on a high note with the release of HUNTER AVENGED, book 6 of my Forgotten Brotherhood series. I LOVE these immortal assassins. They aren’t the monsters lurking under the bed. They’re the ones that kill them. It takes one very special woman to win their heart.

So, what happens when Rivka, an angelic librarian on the run from Heavenly forces, is tracked by Sven—immortal Viking, deadly assassin, and one of the Forgotten Brotherhood? It’s not only their lives that are in danger but their hearts.

Hunter Avenged
Forgotten Brotherhood Book 6

It’s taken Viking hunter Sven Knutson six frustrating months to find her. To track down the angel responsible for compromising the Forgotten Brotherhood and waking the drakon. She may be clever. Resourceful. But no one ever gets away from Sven. Ever.

All Rivka longed for as an angel was a chance to serve on Earth and help humans. Instead, it all went impossibly, horribly wrong, and she still doesn’t understand how or even why. All she knows is that she’s on the run—not only from Heaven’s dangerous elite guard, but also from the Brotherhood, who want answers.

She might just have to trust the immortal Viking whose icy blue eyes make her feel almost wickedly human. Because someone wants Rivka dead and the Brotherhood eliminated. Someone powerful enough to take on the most dangerous assassins who have ever lived. Someone who could unleash the fury of both Heaven and Hell…and Rivka is the key.

Excerpt from Hunter Avenged

His jaw and cheekbones were chiseled, his forehead high. The short cut of his hair added to the austerity of his features. There was no gentleness to be found. The leather coat he wore added to the rough image, made him seem even more imposing. A chill raced down her spine. This man would be a relentless opponent. He also wasn’t human, but she couldn’t tell what he was.

Time to leave.

Face tight, she tried to smile, knew it must appear fake, but it was the best she could manage. “If there’s nothing else, I have to get back to my tables.”

Her legs were shaky, her heart racing. This must be what a rabbit felt like when faced with a wolf. Running would be a mistake. He hadn’t moved a muscle, but the sense of being hunted was overwhelming.

Hunted.

You got this. You’ve gotten yourself out of tighter situations.

The reassurance did nothing to calm her. Sweat rolled down her spine even as a chill raised goose bumps on her arms. Spinning around, she’d taken a single step when he wrapped his hand around her wrist, chaining her in place. Heat spread out from where he held her, sliding up her arm.

“There is something else.” His deep voice slid inside her like hot fudge over ice cream, melting all resistance. It was startling to realize it was the first words he’d spoken. She’d done all the talking up until now.

Just take his order and leave. “What do you want?” It was a point of pride that her voice was level. Inside she was trembling like a leaf; not all of it was due to fear. Her attraction to him was unwanted but undeniable. It rather took her by surprise.

He rubbed his thumb over the pounding pulse in her wrist. The gentle action was at odds with the tension in his jaw.

“Your name. I want your name.”

*~*~*

Want to read more? Find Hunter Avenged here:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BMYKZQ2T/
Entangled Publishing: https://entangledpublishing.com/books/hunter-avenged
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hunter-avenged-n-j-walters/1142718008
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/hunter-avenged-2
iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/hunter-avenged/id6444414711
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/N_J_Walters_Hunter_Avenged?id=zPqcEAAAQBAJ

About the Author

N.J. Walters is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has always been a voracious reader, and now she spends her days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, assassins, time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smoldering good looks—all vie for her attention. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it.

Visit her at:
Website: http://www.njwalters.com
Blog: http://www.njwalters.blogspot.com
Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepurl.com/gdblg5
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/N.J.WaltersAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/njwaltersauthor
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/NJWalters
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/njwalters
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/n-j-walters

Meg Benjamin: The Romantic Cozy
Monday, January 16th, 2023

My new book, The Pepper Peach Murder (from Wild Rose Press), is a cozy mystery—the first I’ve tried. My other books have all been romances, contemporary and paranormal. But to me, cozy mysteries are also romantic mysteries. Or anyway, they should be, as far as I’m concerned.

When I told friends and family that I was working on a cozy mystery, a lot of them asked me what a cozy was exactly. Some things about cozies are easy to explain. Most of them are written from the heroine’s point of view, and a lot them are written in first person. The heroine usually has some kind of interesting occupation: there are lots of bakers, for example, and caterers and crafters and owners of bookstores or country inns. But the image a lot of readers have of the cozy heroine is Jessica Fletcher, a decidedly unromantic lady who wrote mysteries in Cabot Cove, Maine. Jessica did occasionally have a date or two, but she was much more into solving mysteries than dancing in the moonlight.

As a romance writer, I didn’t want to limit my heroine that way. I wanted her to have a love life along with her jam making and murder solving because that was the kind of book I wanted to read myself. Donna Andrews’ Meg has her Michael; Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna has her Daniel. And my Roxy has her Nate.

Now since this is a mystery rather than a romance, Roxy also has a murder to solve. But since it’s a romantic mystery, solving the mystery will involve solving Roxy’s love life. She had a bad experience as a line cook in Denver and has come back to her hometown of Shavano, Colorado, to restart. But Roxy has concentrated on getting her jam business off the ground rather than her relationships with men until she meets chef Nate Robicheaux at the local farmers market. The two hit it off immediately. There’s just one problem (other than Roxy’s nervousness about getting back on her feet romantically): another local chef, Brett Holmes, wants Roxy on his arm and in his bed, and he won’t take no for an answer.

When someone kills Brett in his restaurant kitchen, Roxy’s the logical suspect since she and Brett had a shouting match in front of the farmers market vendors. Now, she’s got to clear her name and keep her business afloat while she and Nate discover just how much she’s back on her game again romantically.

There’s a lot on her plate, but Roxy can handle it. After all, she’s the Jam Queen of Shavano County, and she wants her romance to be like her jam: sweet, hot, and very tasty.

~MB

Anna T.S./Michal Scott: Her Life, Her Love, Her Legacy — The Ripple Effect of the Life of Coretta Scott King (Contest)
Sunday, January 15th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…bn100!
*~*~*

Born in the segregated South of Heilberger, Alabama in 1927, Coretta Scott’s early life was shaped by her family’s long history in fighting against racial injustice. In 1945, she entered Antioch College in Ohio to study music, all the while actively engaging in civil rights activity through the college’s Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees and the local chapter of the NAACP.

She won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music and moved to Boston in 1952. There she met Martin Luther King Jr. They married in 1953 in a ceremony in which she had the vow to obey her husband removed. After completing her degree in voice and piano in 1954, she moved with her husband to Montgomery, Alabama.

In 1968, she did not allow the tragedy of his assassination to stop her pursuit of justice. She established The King Center to advance his legacy and ideas. To make sure that legacy was not whitewashed, she fought to make sure quotes reflecting his stance on the Vietnam War were included in the King Memorial dedicated in Washington DC in 2011.

In the 1980s, she drew comparisons between the fight against apartheid and the Civil Rights Movement. After meeting with Winnie Mandela and Allan Boesak, she came back to the US and urged then-President Regan to approve economic sanctions against South Africa.

In 1983, she urged amending the Civil Rights Act to include gays and lesbians as a protected class. She called on the civil rights community to join in the struggle against homophobia and anti-gay bias in 1993. In 2003, she made history by inviting the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to take part in observances of the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington and her husband’s “I Have A Dream Speech.” It was the first time that an LGBTQIA rights group had been invited to a major event of the African-American community.

Having been an advocate for peace as early as 1957 when she helped found The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, it came as no surprise she spoke out against the attack on Iraq in 1993. In 2004, the government of India awarded her the Gandhi Peace Prize.

In 2005, she allowed Antioch College to name a center after her. The Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual Freedom addresses issues of race, class, gender, diversity, and social justice. She received numerous awards and recognitions for her activism before she died in 2006.

Moneta Sleet Jr.’s Pulitzer prize winning image of Coretta’s stoic expression while she holds her youngest daughter on her lap during her husband’s funeral is indelibly branded in my memory. Yet, I hope you can see from what I just shared that she enhanced that dignified image by living the life of a courageous activist whose impact rippled across the nation and in the world.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share your thoughts on the life of Coretta Scott King or any courageous woman you admire.

Better To Marry Than To Burn by Michal Scott

Blurb: Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…

A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.

Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.

Excerpt:

“Our children?” She swiveled in her seat. “You made no mention of wanting children, just marital relations as necessary. I understood that to mean intercourse.”

“I wrote I wanted to leave a legacy.”

“A legacy. Not a dynasty.”

“Legacy. Dynasty. Is there really so sharp a distinction?”

“To my mind there is. I understood you meant to affect future generations—endow schools, found churches, create civic associations. I didn’t realize that meant children. I agreed to having sex, not having children.”

 “Of course I want children.” His brows grew heavy as he frowned. “Doesn’t having sex lead to having children?”

“Not with the right precautions.”

His frown deepened. “Precautions?”

“There are many ways to prevent your seed from taking root, Mr. King.”

“I want children, Mrs. King.”

Her lips twisted and her brow furrowed, but she kept her silence.

“All right,” she said. “You can have children with any woman you like. I won’t stop you. I free you from any claim to fidelity.”

“Legacy—or dynasty if you will—means legitimacy. No bastard will carry my name, not when I have a wife to bear me children.”

“I see.”

Her tone signaled she didn’t.

Buylink: https://amzn.to/2KTaGPH

A. Catherine Noon: Letters from Far Away (Contest)
Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…bn100!
*~*~*

Happy New Year, Dear Reader! And just like that, 2022 is over and 2023 is here. I don’t know about you, but it feels like January has gone by SUPER quickly, even though it’s only the 10th of the month so far—but it feels like it was just the 20th of December, like, yesterday!

One way of slowing time down is writing by hand. I have an avid journal practice; do you like to journal? Whether you do or not, another practice I adore is that of letter writing. I have pen pals all over the world, and love getting “happy mail” in my inbox. And what better time to talk about writing letters than on the eve of “Month of Letters!”

What is Month of Letters, you say?

So glad you asked!

Like National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMoo (nanowrimo.org), Month of Letters is a daily writing challenge – but instead of a story, the challenge is to write letters. Specifically, in the month of February, mail an item every day, and write back to everyone that writes you. It’s that simple! What do you write? The list is practically endless:

  • A postcard
  • A genuine letter, on paper and everything!
  • A picture
  • A newspaper, if you get one, or magazine cutting
  • Even a fabric swatch!

I’ve mailed bookmarks and handmade coasters (I weave them on my Zoom loom (https://schachtspindle.com/product/zoom-loom-4-x-4/) and they fit perfectly into most card envelopes.  At just 4 inches by 4 inches, they don’t weigh a lot and I usually don’t even need to add extra postage!

I even have a close group of friends who all share “non-bill mail” with each other, and use any excuse to do it:

  • January 23rd is National Handwriting Day
  • February 14th is Valentine’s Day
  • March or April have Mother’s Day
  • May is my birthday month (May 8th)
  • June is Father’s Day
  • July has Independence Day
  • August is back to school
  • September has Labor Day (and it’s a great opportunity to educate ones’ younger friends and relatives on where the weekend came from)
  • October is, of course, Halloween – or Samhain for us Wiccans
  • November is American Thanksgiving (October has Canadian Thanksgiving)
  • December are the Winter Holidays and New Year’s Eve

So many opportunities to write! Now, you just need to find pals, right?

Look no further than the Month of Letters website, https://lettermo.com/. Registering is free, and once you do, you can make friends and share addresses. Unlike Incowrimo, another letter writing challenge, you have to be logged in to see addresses, and your address isn’t available to the public like it is on Incowrimo.

So, tell me, Dear Reader: What do you like to send or receive in the mail?

A. Catherine Noon
“My own experience has taught me this: if you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured it may never arrive.”
~ Maurice Chevalier
acatherinenoon.com | noonandwilder.com | writerzengarden.com | knoontimeknitting.com

*~*~*

NOTE FROM DELILAH: I love this idea so much, I’ll offer to send one commenter one of my hand-painted postcards as a prize! 

Krysten Lindsay Hager: Using Your Middle School Experiences to Write a Series
Friday, January 6th, 2023

Middle school. Are there two words in the English language that can bring out cringing more than those two? Well, maybe, “gym class”—especially gym class while in middle school. Seriously, how did I have the guts to wear shorts in middle school? There hasn’t been another time in my life when I felt more judged, more criticized, and more uneasy about myself than those middle school years.

It didn’t help that I was one of the tallest girls in my class and one of the girls who much preferred watching soap operas, reading, and daydreaming while writing little story ideas down in my notebooks. Being a creative kid has come a long way in the last few years, but let me tell you in my small town it was seen as weird. Playing sports was normal, writing and telling people you wanted to be an author when you grew up sounded weird, and I was constantly told it would be impossible. And I felt pushed to conform. To be more like the other kids. Even the music I liked was different. I was still listening to George Michael long after he had stopped putting new music out for a while. So, while the others were listening to what was new and cool, I was listening to my pop star boyfriend and writing down story ideas.

However, my preteen angst has a happy ending as those story ideas ended up into a series about a girl dating her favorite pop star and all the anxious moments that go along with it (The Cecily Taylor Series). But even more importantly is that the angsty, cringey, middle school moments that brought me to my knees also gave me story ideas. I took the characters I created in the sixth grade (Landry) and her cooler friends (Devon, Peyton, Ashanti, and India) and merged them with the real-life mean girl issues and growing pains I dealt with back then to create my first book, True Colors, which became the first book in the Landry’s True Colors Series.

All the embarrassing and difficult moments of middle school with doubting yourself, bullying, mean girls, understanding what frenemies are and how to deal with it, and crushes just all came together to create books that I hope will help readers know they are not alone in going through the same things. I also get a lot of messages from parents, aunts, and grandparents saying the topics bring up healthy discussions that get the readers to speak up about those difficult topics. I know I stayed quiet and retreated into books to help me deal with things.

Funny enough, my dad was a middle school assistant principal who I now realize was sharing his stories with me to help me through things without making it obvious. I should have known the way he brought up school dances and his own vivid memories of having shyness attacks at his own school dances.

I’m currently updating and relaunching the Landry’s True Colors Series and I can’t wait for the next group of readers to discover it. I have reading guides for each chapter and am looking forward to helping more readers feel less alone out there. To date, the Landry’s True Colors Series has won three Readers Favorite awards for best preteen books and the Dayton Book Expo Bestseller Award for children/teens. Landry in Like is also a Literary Classics Gold Medal recipient.

I hope you enjoy reading about Landry as she navigates through middle school. I’m including a photo of me back then with Sun In which gave my normally dark brown hair a lovely burnt umber look. Enjoy!

Find the Series here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09W9S664B

About the Author

Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. Her work includes YA contemporary, middle grade fiction, and adult and young adult rom-coms. She received her BA in English and master’s degree in liberal studies from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times, Springfield News-Sun, Grand Blanc View, Dayton Daily News and on Living Dayton.

Website: https://www.krystenlindsay.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/krystenlindsay/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/krystenlindsay/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Krysten-Lindsay-Hager/author/B00L2JC9P2

D’Arcy Arden: The Fourth State of Matter
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

When I first get an idea for a story, it usually starts with a single scene. For example, when I came up with the idea for The Fourth State of Matter, I had a scene in my head of a spaceship crashing while two characters are having sex in the control chair, seemingly unconcerned by the chaos happening around them. At this point, the characters didn’t have names or descriptions. I didn’t even know if they were human or alien. In my mind, they were just “male 1” and “male 2”. So, I started by freewriting this scene, giving it as much life as I could without any background information or details. The characters managed to land on a populated asteroid before I had to stop. Then, I stepped back and carefully read over what I had written.

Sometimes, this is where a story’s life ends. If I decide there isn’t enough potential, or if reading over what I’ve written doesn’t spark any more creativity, then I’ll set it aside and move on to a new idea. With The Fourth State of Matter, however, reading over that initial freewriting scene gave me a lot of ideas for how to flesh-out the world and the characters. A whole novel slowly unfolded in my mind just from this opening scene, so I started outlining the story from scratch.

My first step for planning out a full novel is to draw the characters. I’ve found that I can’t write about a character until I’m able to draw them. Not only does this give me an image to work with, but it can have a profound impact on the story itself.

With The Fourth State of Matter, my original plan for the trio was for them to only be a duo. I wanted to write a story about a human character that gets into a relationship with two aliens. However, this changed when I was trying to draw the aliens. Brog’s design came easily, and I could immediately see a backstory for the character on the page. I had an idea to create alien characters that were partially inspired by fantasy creatures. This would give them a sense of mystery and make them seem “larger than life”. Brog is my version of a reimagined mermaid, only instead of a delicate fish-girl, he’s a powerful shark-man.

Then I created a second alien that was a counterpoint to Brog. So, I drew Xavis, whose design is partially inspired by a phoenix. I liked the contrast between an aquatic species and a winged, bird-like species. Yet, it didn’t quite look right. Something felt off. So, I set Xavis aside and tried something new. This time I used a dragon as inspiration and came up with Desmodian. This also provided a good contrast alongside Brog, with a sort of “land and sea” vibe, yet it still didn’t look right.

It was only when I had all three characters on the page, trying to decide which to use, that I realized they looked best altogether. So, the duo became a trio, and the story was altered to fit this change.

Of course, characters are defined by more than just the way they look. It’s also about their personalities. Since the trio already hand a “land, sea, and air” theme going on, I took the symbolism a step further and based their personalities on the first three states of matter. Desmodian is the solid foundation that the group is built on. Silently stubborn and unmovable, he doesn’t react much with the world around him. He puts himself where he wants to be, both literally and metaphorically, and stays there no matter what. Brog embodies a liquid state in the sense that he is more adaptable than Desmodian but still maintains his own boundaries. He’s very reactive to even small disturbances, like a ripple effect, and while he is capable of standing still, he can also become an unstoppable tidal wave when he gets emotional. Lastly, Xavis’s personality resembles a gaseous state because he is the most wild and untamed. He sometimes seems to “have his head in the clouds” like he isn’t entirely grounded. This allows him to be the most creative and versatile member of the trio, but also makes him reliant on the others to keep him on track.

Once I established the characteristics of the trio, and their connection to the first three states of matter, it was a natural conclusion to base Pet on plasma, the fourth state of matter. This is what gave rise to the overall message and theme of the story. Pet’s journey into discovering himself as a person is the primary focus of the story, so I don’t want to spoil anything by explaining too much about how Pet’s character is inspired by plasma. Just know that it is a step-be-step journey that he’s still undergoing. After two books, he’s already come a long way in his personal discovery, but there’s still a much longer journey ahead of him.