Honeysuckle Winter

Another 3-6-9 prose poem: three verses, 69  words each not counting headings.

Flickr Photo Download: Honeysuckle by wit

1. Dreaming

The thermometer reads 20 degrees F. I'm huddled on the couch under blankets and quilts. The old furnace wheezes and grunts to bring the room to a balmy 59. I'm dreaming summer evenings on a winter morning.

I dream the warm scents: spices, musks, summer florals. I dream the first scent
I recall, that magic perfume that rose with dusk, magnified on evening mist. A
fairy net to capture.

2. Deflowering

Only one scent could distract me from playing hide and seek with fireflies in the darkness, pulling me toward creamy petals, a cone shape that beckoned the tongue, made it twitch. A bulbous tip nodded proudly on the end of the stamen rooted in her velvet core. Honey suckle. The name begs. The name insists.

To suckle her honey, you must pluck the blossom, deflower, pinch the stamen's base.

3. Tasting

You have to go gently, drag the shaft back through that tight tunnel. Your mouth waters. Your tongue is poised to catch. Nectar gathers around that fat head as it emerges. One glistening drop. Inhale perfume. Catch heaven on your tongue. So sweet. It drives the craving to pluck, slide, lick, repeat, into the depth of a summer night.

Innocence stolen from summer's eve to warm a winter day.

Today's prompt from Sunday Scribblings was: delicious. See what other Sunday Scribblers wrote.


When You Dare


I made a resolution at the start of the year, this year I would take the plunge and focus on submitting as many projects as I could to publishers. I dared to have faith in my creative vision. I set my heart on landing a contract before the year was over. I signed one last week for my novel, The Tiger's Tale.

Dare to have faith in yourself.

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt was: Dare. Read what other Sunday Scribblers have dared here.


Friday 55: The Present

Flickr Photo Download: Christmas Present

The Present

Wrapped in glistening red
Its seams, plump folds pressed together
Something glittery winks from the ribbons
Releases seductive perfume
Whispers: open me, come play

Tiny corkscrew curls
Beg for the tug of fingers
My fingers itch to part those seams
Probe that pretty package

I won't. Not yet.
I'm hoping someone beats me to it.

You'll find other contributions to the Friday 55 on G-Man's blog
He has a great post this week. Drop by for a look.


What Beauty is...


For Sunday Scribblings:

Beauty is as simple as the sunrise turning the lake mists purple.

Beauty is as complex as the compassion of the old mama cat when she curls up next to the orphaned pup, her steady purr silencing his cries.

Beauty is an unexpected gift: his clear-eyed gaze breaking through that baffled baby stare, like headlamps cutting through fog -- the man he used to be, returning after months away.

Beauty feels like homecoming, imparts that same inner glow.

Hold tight to those moments. Beauty never lingers long.

See more Sunday Scribblers here.



Flickr Photo Download: Don't wake up already

There are times when what he wants is scary,
Makes me feel too small, too naked,
And I line up all the excuses,
Pointing out with careful logic why this or that can't be done.

He smiles,
Nothing more needs saying, nothing more to do.
The internal war has started, desires duel.
I will lose.

See more Friday Flash here.


Forever Bound

Butterfly on Flickr - Photo Sharing!


1. The Necklace

It seemed an innocent token, a gold butterfly on a slim chain. It was our
symbol, a secret that whispered between two hearts. We watched it spin,
filigree wings sparking in the light.
“I love you,” he said, “and more than that.”
“I’m yours," I said. "Always, and longer than that.”
Truth uttered in innocence.

2. Caught

Did you know it would take us prisoner? Were we too love drunk to hear
the irrevocable click when you pressed the clasp shut?
As mad as we could get, as frightened as we could get, we could never
get beyond that moment, that whisper soft tick.

3. Bound

We tried to run. First you. Then me.
Then me. Then me. Then me.
The bond refuses severance. The promise won’t break. How was it we
didn’t hear the sonic boom of that clasp closing around our hearts?

From Owned, by Nara Malone

See what other poets wrote for Carry On Tuesday #27


Hot Hookers -Last day

Flickr Photo Download: hooker on colfax

Hooks are my weakness so I've been working to make them a strength. I entered Loose Id's Hot Hooks contest and I made the top twenty. Now I need some help. ***Edit (I got my dates wrong. Thursday, Oct. 29th is the last day to vote)Today is the last day readers can vote for the best hooks. If you have a minute and  like mine, please vote for it. If you think it needs work, let me know where I need to tweak it.

You can access the ballot from the front page of the site: http://www.loose-id.com/ 

Scroll Down and click the Hot Hooks Contest link. You get to vote for the ten best stories and if you leave an email address (optional) you'll be entered to win a VIP membership.

Thanks for your help.


Hot Hooker

Flickr Photo Download: alot like LOVE.

My story, The Dungeon Gourmet, was selected as one of the  twenty finalists in Loose Id's Hot Hooks contest. So I guess that makes me a Hot Hooker. Anyway, the blurb and first 200 words of the story will be up on the Loose-Id website for voting, October 26-29. If my story scores in the top ten, I go on to the next round. I'll post more details on the contest as I get them.


Poetry Train: Blue Harbor


I've been so pressed with deadlines this month that I haven't had time to write anything new here, but my poem, Blue Harbor, is in the September edition of Emuse.

It won the Summer Madness competition, a nickle narrative, five parts, one hundred words each. I'll post a bit here and you can follow the link to read the rest there. The illustrations they used are beautiful and a perfect match to the content.

Blue Harbor

1. In the Mirror

I didn't know I had a dark side,
until I saw my reflection in the mirror of a man.
He played dark games.
I wasn't old enough for night games.
He didn’t care.

You don't go crazy;
you go to sleep.
When you open your eyes,
when you get up and dress,
the nightmare doesn't stay under your pillow.
It gets up with you and follows you around.

Read the rest

View the work of fellow passengers on this Monday's Poetry Train here.


Carry on Tuesday: Hero's Journey

FIRE on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Hero's Journey

This is what I wanted: a hero

someone to help me
put out the little fires
that crop up around a life

I got: you

teaching me arson
fueling flames that licked my skin
singed my ideals
consumed and scattered them
like glowing embers across a sooty sky

This is what I wanted: a warrior

someone on my side
someone at my back through life's battles

I got: you

teaching me to sow conflict
to beat the plowshare to sword
to embrace its glittering blade
like a woman sheathes her lover
turning submission to power

This is what I wanted: a savior

someone to pull me up
when life overwhelmed
someone to keep me afloat
when I was too tired to go on

I got: abandoned

dropped in the blackest sea
sucked into the depths of depression
left to sink or swim in my own tears
to claw my way back from the shipwreck
of all I dreamed you'd be

This is what I wanted: you to be my hero

I got: the hero in me

I wrote this in response to the Carry On Tuesday prompt:

"Welcome to Carry On Tuesday. Our prompt this week is the opening lines of the Charles Dickens tale David Copperfield.

Whether I shall turn out to be
the hero of my own life......

Visit Carry on Tuesday to see what others wrote.


Poetry Train: Simmering

Simmer Down on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Silver mists drape the oaks
in a gauzy morning wrapper.
The sun peeks between the folds.
Mourning doves coo seductive approval.

My eyes open into yours.
Heat, a moist blanket unfolding, settles over me,
weights my limbs with a peaceful presence
that could so easily be stirred to passion.
And stir you do, one finger, dipping in, languid circles.

My gaze takes a slow journey to your lips,
watching you lick and suckle,
your eyelids drifting down to savor,
like a chef over a delicate sauce,
a wicked grin as you invite me to taste.
I catch the scent and flavor of my own desire,
wriggling closer, inviting your pleasure.

You withdraw leaving me with
your unswayable smile,
the one that promises,
that despite a bit of simmering,
waiting will be worth it.

On the back burner
dreams and fantasies bubble together
blending, melding, merging
creating something bolder,
more developed, exotic.

Heat clings as the sun sinks
behind blue mountains
and you rise ready above me.
This moment has sizzled in us all day.
A feast awaits.

We smile together at the brink, knowing.
This won't be polite.
This won't be civilized
This won't be proper
It will be worth the wait.

Visit the other passengers on the Monday Poetry Train Revisited.


One Single Impression: Inner Voice


Translation Needed

She doesn't speak in words,
this inner voice of mine.
She takes the long way 'round,
the scenic route.

She leads me through forests dressed in moonlight,
and past fields of dark-eyed flowers.
She comes from a land of feathered trees
and heart-shaped butterflies.

I speak to her in the simplest sentences,
She answers in riddled landscapes.
I don't know what we mean,
but I bet she does.

See other impressions on Inner Voice.

Sunday Scribblings: The Plan

I am hopelessly plan proof. The best way to insure a plan won't get follow through is to write it down and plan on it. But if I keep a secret from myself, hide it in my subconscious and let it find an organic path to fruition, I can realize a goal. I don't understand this side of myself, but I am learning to live with it. I wrote the following scribbling right around the time I decided to make peace with my planlessness.

Siletz Bay wildflowers montage with a beautiful Oregon sunset by ComputerMiracle

I envy the beauty of a formal garden.
I imagine appearing neatly clipped, colors coordinated.
What a wonderful thing it would be to think in tidy paths
that take me past each important element.

All my blooms would open at the proper time,
in proper order, and in their proper place.
All would arrange themselves around an exquisite centerpiece
of good sense and logic.

I'm more like a tangled wood,
honeysuckle vines and thorned blackberries marking my borders,
tiny violets hiding in my shadows.

I'm a web of branches and green growth,
reaching for sun and sky by day,
moon and stars by night.
My roots burrow into a rich carpet,
hidden things that feed the growth.

At my center -- a twisting, babbling stream of moods,
ideas, desires, and dreams.
I envy the order of a formal garden, but my soul knows it could never grow there.

You can see other Sunday Scribblings here, or join us by
adding your own thoughts on: "The Plan" to the list of contributions.


Poetry Train: Widow's Waltz

Mist the Oak Tree by wabberjocky

I heard a chuck-will call
through the dark of morning,
his song never failing
even as the first light
made ghosts from last night's rain.

So rare, the chuck-will's call.
I'd mourned him years ago and given up hope
of hearing his bright flute pierce the predawn,
summoning misty dancers
to a solo waltz through the oaks.

Their luminous gowns swirled in perfect time to his ominous song:

Chuck- Will's- Widow

Catch the Poetry Train and see what other passengers are


One Single Impression: Recursive Logic

This is my impression for this week's prompt on thinking. There's a loop hidden in my loops.

Argument: Recursive by Librarian Avenger

Logic bends back on itself, the way day bends back into night. Night yawns into darkness as infinite as cyberspace, where my words spread out in lines that loop back on themselves, rerunning thoughts through the human processors of life's infinitely looping program.

Program a mantra, a ritual, a fearless loop that will march words from my brain to my fingers without the worry that the prose isn't perfect. Perfect my imperfection until no flaws inhabit my lines, until there is no risk the lines mirror back a personal flaw reflected in the third word of the fourth paragraph's fifth sentence.

Sentence me to soulless loops that curve around my deviations, that line me up and fill my pages with clear, impenetrable logic.

See other bloggers' impressions on Thinking.


LITTLE ORANGE MEN by Jackson Boyle

I attack thick rind,
Pierce rubbery armor with my nails.
It parts on a ripping sigh.
Droplets sprinkle my nose and cheeks,
Sting my eyes.

My tongue can taste him.
I swallow the craving,
Patiently pulling him apart.
I line the sections up
In analytical rows
On white paper.

The fruit weeps,
Big tears that pool and spread,
Darkening the toweling.

I select a slice,
Bend it till it breaks.
Teardrop bits shiver
Between thin membranes.
I bite down.
Pulp explodes.

I crush the marrow,
The core I labored to find.
Sweetness bleeds out on my tongue.
I won't cry.

Check in on the indulgences of other Sunday Scribblers.


Human Scribbles

Flickr Photo by tim.perdue

I never feel so humble,
or so human,
as when I toss my message-in-a-bottle
into the vast sea of words that is the Internet.

It must be something basic, human,
this need to scribble,
like long ago humans leaving messages on cave walls.

It binds me to past and future,
these thoughts I scribble and add to the volume,
like a voice to a choir,
like a glass of water to the sea,
merging into something bigger than my own small self.

I scribbled on this Sunday but lost my Internet to rain until Monday. You can visit other Sunday Scribblers here.

Poetry Train: The Last Layer

Flickr Photo by TLA8

The last layer frustrates
He wants to tear it away like wrapping from a present
I want to weld it in place like so much armor

The best is saved for last
Translucent silk
Peek-a-boo lace
Ribbons and garters
Do the contents ever live up to the wrapping?

I surf through naked photos of strangers
All the pale flesh, moles, scars, rolls hanging out
I respect the boldness
I don't envy it
I shrink from it

I think of wet cats
All that power and arrogance
To gray skin and bone

I want to wrap them back up
In a persona
Give them back their
Hiss and Bristle
Watch that expressive fur
Ripple and fluff with their moods

Do I need to be naked
The last layer stripped away
Like the Lone Ranger's mask
Would I be bland as cardboard
Without the wrapping
Does the last layer stand
Between me
And who I am
Is it me?

Visit other poets riding the Monday Poetry Train.


One Single Impression: The Stranger

This is my first impression for the One Single Impression poetry prompt. This week poets are blogging their impressions of: The Stranger. I've used a narrative poetry form I like to play with. Three parts, 69 words each, not counting the titles.

Flickr Photo Download: Good morning Mr. Toad

The Stranger

1. Wanted: One Toad

I know, right where I lost him,
the exact moment he slipped from my fingers,
landed on his head, and shattered our lives.

He didn’t want the hospital.
I should have listened.
They wheeled him away on a stretcher
and gave a stranger back.

I told the doctor I had someone else's pet.
She pointed at the wristband,
as if that plastic label could make him who he isn’t.

2. Not Wanted: One Puppy

My toad had a whiskey-spiked smile
that always got him his way.

He drove like a demon,
sneaking a hand up under my skirt,
as the cornfields sped by.

The stranger huddles in the passenger seat,
shivering like a puppy from the pound,
his eyes squeezed shut,
hands clasped white-knuckle tight,
while I drive slow.

In case you’re wondering: kissing a puppy won’t turn him back to a toad.

3. Living with a Stranger

He’s house trained, now.
He picks up his underwear,
puts the seat down,
eats with a spoon.

His smile is like a tail wag;
he offers it when he doesn’t know what I want.

I guess he will grow on me.
I will somehow learn to love
this obedient child.

But, what I really want
is my old green toad of a husband back.
This wasn’t a fair trade.

View other poets and their impressions here.


Four Miles to Enlightenment


It wasn't something I planned out, or had even mentally committed myself to. I had clipped a notice from the paper about a women's running program that promised to teach non-athletes to run four miles -- and love it -- by the end of the summer.

Now I was never the athletic type. When we ran laps in gym class, I wasn't just at the back of the group, they could lap me once or twice. I never found a sport I was good at.

So, I didn't launch into running with the idea that I would win races. Quite the opposite, I started running as an anti-perfectionism project. Becoming a perfect runner was not an option, so this was one project that couldn't go from being about journey to being about product. I would reach that four-mile goal, one step at a time, one week at a time. All that mattered was that I finish what I started.

I did finish, but I was wrong about one thing; product did wind up mattering. In learning to run 4, then 6, then 10, then 13, then 26 miles, I discovered a product that wasn't about medals or trophies. I was the product, and the new me that came out of all those miles was an improved version.

This summer as I celebrate ten years of running, I've started a new anti-perfectionism project. It's not something I planned out, not something I was entirely committed to at first.  I launched a summer-long, interactive story on my blog. I have to update almost daily, so I can't spend a week obsessing about getting a scene just right. I'll log the miles of this cross-country journey one word at a time and the goal is to get to the destination by Labor Day.

Some days the writing comes as easily as two-mile run on a spring morning. Other days, I feel like I'm trying to run naked and barefoot through the Death Valley Trail Marathon. I know it's those hard mornings that will shape the writer who emerges on the other side of this summer.

On my office wall I have two bulletin boards displaying the record of every major event in my running. I look at them now and see evidence of a journey that has had monumental impact on my life and I wonder if the accumulation of words in this fiction blogging journey will change my life as much. Will I look back in ten years through the eyes of a new and improved me, and will the scrapbook of the writing journey record as many milestones? 


Fifteen Books in Fifteen Minutes

Craning for a book on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The Rules:


2) List fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you

3) Post your list on your blog and drop a link into the comments here

I found this on Alice Gray's site and decided to join the fun. I chose the novels on my list in no particular order. Some, like Lying in Bed or Love Walked In, have such a strong poetic voice that I can't forget them. I would say that is true for most of the books here. But there are a few that took stories in a new direction or crossed boundaries that I hadn't seen crossed when I first read them. I included the first futuristic romance I read and the first time travel. The We Tell Stories Project is not a single book but it introduced me to the world of interactive fiction and ARG.

Lying in Bed by M. J. Rose
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
Broken by Megan Hart
Hide by Lisa Gardner
The Woods by Harlen Coben
Warrior's Woman by Johanna Lindsey
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Nine and 1/2 Weeks by Elizabeth MacNeil
Shadow Heart by Laura Kinsale
Knight in Shining Armour by Jude Deveraux
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
We Tell Stories Project by Penguin Books and Six to Start


Monday Poetry Train: Black Fruit

Flickr Photo Download: Garden of the moon

The seeds are locked away in a vault,
in an icebound cave,
and there they will stay,
until there is time,
until there is courage.

Your seeds are the germ of desires
too secret, too dark to share,
and so they are left on ice
never to blossom, go to fruit, go back to seed

It's a shame.
You could have sown those fantasies
in me.

View other poets on the train.


Be Afraid Dark Man

Blogging the Dark Art ARG Week Two

Be afraid Dark Man. We're coming after you. Saturday we started sifting through the clues to solve the murders in the Personal Effects:Dark Art Novel. This is the most fun I've ever had reading a book.


This is Violet, checking some facts. Wait, what's that over her shoulder? I didn't see that when I snapped the picture!


Our sleuth headquarters has great atmosphere.


Our notes and clues.


Tracking clues online.


Caroline and the body pic. Now this is one that Kelly liberated from the Brinkvale Site back in January I think. They locked down the login right after that, so we assumed we weren't supposed to be in there yet. Sasha confirmed that the writing on the boat is Russian, something like shore patrol.


Violet holds up the picture I liberated from the hospital files during the winter. We had figured out the message hidden in the painting.


My burger and coffee were getting cold, so this is the last pic I took. We're still following leads, so there will be more to come.


Blogging the Dark Art ARG: Reading in the next Dimension


Picture this, an outdoor cafe on a sunny Saturday in June, friends meeting for coffee, burgers, and the taste of another reality. The WiFi connection provides our portal to another world. We're deep in the story now, and it feels like going to a movie and being able to step through the screen to interact with characters and the set. We're reading the new interactive novel, Personal Effects: Dark Art,by J.C. Hutchins.

We pass props around, make notes on legal pads or the backs of envelopes or on napkins. This is like no book we've ever read. And while we read the book itself the way we've always read stories, alone, taking the journey individually, the props included with the story pave a path that brings us all to the same place: a story that we can experience together in another dimension. Some readers might stop at the last page of the book, and  some, like my friends and I, will keep going past the back cover, through our computer screens and into virtuality.

We've got a good mix of talent to serve us on our adventure: two romance writers, a couple of computer geeks, a retired detective, a lawyer, a friend fluent in Russian, a friend fluent in finance, and a Voodoo expert. Some come to our meeting of minds in person and some participate via Internet from other states and countries.

Word is that if you follow the clues yourself, you'll discover things the hero missed, arrive at a different conclusions. It's a chance to become co-protagonists. Well, we're about to find out. I'll be blogging this second phase of the story as we make our way through the clues.

Stay tuned for updates. And, feel free to join in.

Find out more about the Novel at Hutchins' site or the character blog written by the hero's girlfriend.


When winning a "Madness" Competition is a good thing

My posting here on the blog trickled to almost nothing when my Dad died a few months ago. I had no energy for anything and started to wonder if I'd ever find my words again. When words did start to trickle from my pen, they were so dark that I joked to my sister that if the family saw what I was writing they'd have me committed.

I wrote my way out of the blues, eventually, and the project that played a big part in helping me get there  won the poetry portion of eMuse's Summer Madness Contest:

We received a number of fantastic submissions. As I read through them I found it difficult to choose winners in each category. I wished on more than one occasion that I had more than three copies of the book to give away, but alas, our budget is only so wide, and three copies are all we have.The winners are as follows:
Art: Christie Lindauer·
Fiction: Drew Beatty·
Poetry: Nara Malone

The winning pieces will be published in the September edition of eMuse, so tune in next issue to see the amazing contributions we received.
eMuse Summer Madness

Congratulations to the other winners!

A friend said last night, "I bet your Dad would be proud." I think she's right.


Writing Outside the Lines

no_boundaries on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

A few years ago, the lead editor of a small magazine asked me to do some graphic layouts that would break the magazine out of it’s design rut.  She pulled a couple of envelopes from the slush pile  -- this was a few wheelbarrow-sized loads of manila envelopes, heaped in the middle of the office floor -- and said, “Show us what you've got.” What I had was no experience in magazine layout.

A week later, when the editor called me into a meeting about my submission, her first comment was, “This not what I expected. You didn’t just color outside the lines, you redrew them.”

I had a sinking feeling in my stomach; I could see some thirty-six hours of retina-frying work about to be trashed.

Then she said, “When I showed your work to the rest of the staff, everyone started coloring outside the lines. It's like you swapped our crayon box with 16 colors for one with 200.”

One of the problems I helped the magazine overcome was a paste-up design mentality. They' started the magazine when design layout was still physically cutting and pasting content and fitting it in a grid. And while that original staff made the transition to using layout software, they still designed as if they were laying out physical objects that couldn't be manipulated much beyond size and placement. I showed up with layered images, styles, texture and gradient effects, and a hundred other visual tricks that were either impossible or too labor-intensive before digital design evolved. It completely shook up the way her staff thought about design, and inspired just the kind of creativity she wanted.

I think we're in that same place with book publishing. They have done some migration to using digital tools, but they're still publishing the same old book. The publishing world -- and perhaps the authoring world as well -- hasn't made the shift to creating digitally, hasn't explored the possibilities the new medium delivers. Rules and guidelines have their place, serve to help us communicate better, but bending or breaking them, writing your way into new rules has a place too. As Bruce Holland Rogers says, in this wonderful article, “...I like rules. I like hearing people tell me their prescriptions for what a story must contain. But I know that prescriptive advice teaches only how to do again what has already been done.”

I've tried to stick to the rules and stay inside the lines with my writing, but I find I have to flog myself into spending time at the keyboard when I place boundaries around where the work can go. It's when I let the story stray into new places, new techniques, that I feel the energy and ideas flow. It's when I'm writing outside the lines that I can sit down at the keyboard on Friday night and look up five minutes later to discover it's Monday morning.

While I’m all adventure in the first draft, I get cold feet in the second. I have arguments with myself over what to keep and what to cut. My inner critic wants to erase everything that crosses the lines and reminds me that bending rules is going to make it hard to find a publisher in a business where finding a publisher is too hard already. Publishers need something they know will work. I need to write something that digs into places we don't know about yet.

While wrestling with myself and my latest piece of weirdness, I’ve been reading Dennis Palumbo’s, Writing from the Inside Out. He suggests, “Rather than shaping your writing to please others or to latch onto or anticipate the next trend, your best bet is to write what excites and moves you, to make your growth as a writer the ultimate goal. Acting teacher Darryl Hickman used to tell his students, ‘Keep giving them you until you is what they want.’”

So, I guess I’ll keep writing outside the lines until (one way or the other) I catch on.

Blogged with the Flock Browser


May Pole Dancing

You remember the May Pole Dance they taught in grade school. You skip around the pole, weaving in and out with colored ribbons? This ain't that.


I was doing a little research on the art of pole dancing for a story I'm working on. I thought this looked like fun. The rain has stopped and the sun is out. There's no wash on the line. Maybe I'll give it a try. Hopefully the rescue squad is having a slow day and will be available if things don't work out.
Blogged with the Flock Browser


Another solve for Romance Writer's team

Kelly Jamieson and I have been dabbling with the Personal Effects: Dark Art ARG. The Gamer Geeks had a big head start on us and I don't know how we managed to come out in front on this one. The clue was left on business cards distributed at the Game Developers Conference® in March. I never saw it until I visited the the Pixelvixen707 website yesterday afternoon. I cracked the code on the business card last night.

I had a note in my email this morning that I was the first to get the answer. I really needed a solvable problem. Thanks Rachael and thanks to the Dark Art ARG for giving me a problem that has an answer. If anyone needs help need finding a decoder ring, let me know and I'll point you to one.


Fictionally Insane!

It's official. I've been committed to the Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital. More accurately, one of my personas has been committed to this fictional institution, the setting for J.C. Hutchins', Personal Effects: Dark Arts novel. The online elements of the story allow readers to become protagonists.

I'm a certified "dead-ender." Cool!

You can get committed to the Brink too. It'll be fun. How often do you get the chance to be fictionally insane?

The dark artwork that convinced the staff I'd gone over the edge is on display in the patient gallery. Can you guess which is mine?


Creative Jailbreak

"Before embarking on his life as an artist, Vincent Van Gogh wrote of his yearning to be creative, which caused him to feel like "the man...whose heart is...imprisoned in something. Because he hasn't got what he needs to be creative...Such a man often doesn't know himself what he might do, but he feels instinctively: yet I am good for something, yet I am aware of some reason for existing!...something is alive in me: what can it be!"

Quoted in Brewster Ghiselin, ed. The Creative Process, 1952.

Van Gogh's words resonate with me. So often I sit at the keyboard with only an awareness of something there, something imprisoned that needs to be set free. For me, for Van Gogh, and for Betty Edwards (who quoted the above in her book, Drawing on the Artist Within), freeing that imprisoned something begins with finding an image to express it.

I've been feeling like my creativity is locked away from me and the only things I have been able to write these past few weeks began with images. My poem, Missing, started with a vision of an old mosaic, the tiles breaking away. That vision was so much a part of the words that I couldn't separate them when I wrote it. This article began with with the image of butterflies imprisoned in glass. Sometimes the words will flow when I start to draw. Sometimes an idea will come from a photograph or a strong mental picture.

I wondered if other writers  use images to get ideas flowing, to unlock their subconscious, to find their way into what they need to say. Google turned up some surprises and some familiar names.

On a songwriter's forum I discovered a musician that used a strong mental image to  to unlock the notes of a musical composition:
Sometimes, to defeat writer's block all you need is a vision to focus upon. For example: I once wrote a song about a war. The entire song, although there were no lyrics, had a very precise vision in mind while I was writing it. The vision that I had, allowed me to already determine the way I would like it arranged. If you, as a songwriter, use a specific vision in mind, your framework may very well become more evident.

Songwriting Tips - Combatting Writer's Block

You can follow Pulitzer Prize winner, Robert Olen Butler, through the the process of creating an original story  from an image on a postcard at this site. His book, From Where You Dream, is one of my favorite writing books.

Another favorite writer, Alice Gray, gets inspiration from imagery too and she has an image-related writing challenge up.

What creative ways have you found to unlock that imprisoned something in you?


Blocks and Blues

You can see a punch coming from a long way off. You think you're tough enough to take it. You brace yourself. It knocks you flat.

I knew my Dad was dying before he went into hospice care. I was fighting to get the family to stop torturing him with medical procedures and let him die with some dignity. A couple of weeks ago I got my wish and they stopped all support. Those last few days of him clinging to life were hell. I wanted his suffering over and now it is.

So now that he's at peace, I should think I would have some peace. I don't. I was not prepared for how hard this hit me. I've lost perspective. I've lost my words. I'm so blocked I can't get through answering my email.

I'm trying to blog my way out of the blues today. Putting what has me blocked in words and images, getting this out of my head and onto a page might set me free to start moving forward again.

I miss my Dad. I'm really gonna miss his smile.


Building Better E-books

Why don't we have tons of dynamic, interactive, visually stunning e-books?
The potential has been there for years. It has been there since project Gutenberg launched its e-text repository. It has grown with the first experiments in hypertext fiction and interactive adventure stories. The development of programming languages and scripts, advances in graphic design using HTML and CSS, all opened the doors to possibilities for building better books. Yet when I downloaded Calibre the other night and finally catalogued all of my 1,016 e-books, I was struck by how little evolution we've seen in the book. Most were plain text. A few had pictures.

At one time websites were just text on a page with a link or two. Later pictures were added to pep things up. I don't need to tell you how far web pages have evolved since the early days. But why didn't e-books grow with them? Why are e-books still text on a page, with rarely a link or a picture? Isn't it way past time?

I think it's because change comes from the bottom up. Web pages evolved because the development was simple enough that a lot of people dove right in and added their own ideas, creating new possibilites. If we'd left page design to the programmers, we'd still have e-book looking web pages. Programmers used to lecture that HTML was never meant to do all the things people were trying to do with it. We did it anyway and the tools evolved to meet our demands.

If we want a better book, it has to begin where all great ideas and innvations begin  -- in the hands of creative people experimenting with possibilites, pushing limits because they don't know they aren't supposed to be able to do that.

I think we're finally turning the corner and heading down the road to better e-books. I ran across an e-book this week, that stunned me with its beautiful design, its prolific links, and its lovely images. Of course it turned out to be a work centered around blogger's thoughts and was compiled by a web designer. Download the book and you will discover a treasure chest of links to blogs you'll love reading.

Free download of: The Quote Effect

For e-book design to take off, we need inexpensive tools in the hands of people with the desire to explore. At Teleread.org  I stumbled on new potential, another door opening possibilities for the book, and it places all the tools in your hands. I'd link to their post but the site is down.  I found the following comment on that same tool at a comicbook artist's blog:
“I think we recognized the huge potential of myebook about thirty seconds after first being shown it,” said Orang Utan Comics Studio’s Managing Editor and Young Gods’ creator, Ian Sharman.
Strangely Drawn

Myebook is a free e-book creation site. They supply the tools to make and publish e-books that are visually striking and interactive. Read that last part again. Yes, I said interactive. And as if that wasn't exciting enough, there's a contest coinciding with Read An E-Book Week:

 From now until March 14th we are running a competition on the myebook publishing platform to see who can create the best example of an e-book, making use of the ability to place a host of multi-media assets inside your e-books. Once you've created your book, add it to the 'E-book Week' community.myebook.com will judge the entries and the winner will be added to their carousel of books on the front page of their site, for one week, between the Universal Pictures book and Capcom.
Read an E-Book Week - myebooks

One of the things I love about these e-books is that they are embeddable so that people who love your books can easily plug them for you.  The first example I've embedded is full of interactive tools to beat writer's block;  the second is beautiful.

Myebook - Wordlube - writer's block removal in 5 days - click here to open my ebookMyebook - String and the River of Souls - click here to open my ebook

So what are you waiting for? Build a better e-book  in honor of Read An E-Book Week.
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Bond Blogs

My Blogging Bondage Chef, Jacques Bond, is cooking up a Mind Candy special over at the Otherworld Diner Today. He offers some treats to tempt your creative mind.


Blogging Tips for Beginners:Linking

There would be no WWW without links. Links make the web, one page to another, one idea to another, one person to another. There should be no blog post without links.

Not only do links take your readers to more information about a topic, they provide breadcrumb trails for readers at those other sites to find you. In the blogger world they call this trail a trackback. I know, we all groan and roll our eyes over terms but this one actually means what it says, it provides a track for readers to follow back to your blog from the one you quoted.

In Flock linking and quoting are geek-free processes. To link a word, highlight it and click the button with a picture of chain links. Then type the address of the page you want to link to. I always open a second tab in my browser and go to the place I'm linking so I can copy and paste the exact address, no mistakes. Make sure you delete the http:// that is pre-inserted in the form if you do this.

If you want to quote text on another site, highlight, right click and choose "blog this". That's one of the coolest features of Flock. Often when I'm surfing, I'll see something I might want to include in a post later, so I use the blog this feature and Flock opens the composer, gives the post the proper credit and link back. All you have to do is click save.  You can do the same with pictures.

Be sure to follow copyright rules of fair use and never include pictures that aren't specifically tagged as free to use. Open Stock Photography is a good source of open source images.

While we're on the subject of links, don't forget comments. Comments accomplish a couple of things:

They let bloggers know they've been heard. It can get pretty lonely out there, Feedback keeps your favorite bloggers going. It also makes a link back to your site, so people who are interested in the same topics as you can follow your comment trail back to your blog. Search engines love and reward links because readers love and follow links. So throw out those breadcrumbs and people will be able to find you.

Always thank your commenters with a quick little note of response or maybe a comment at their blog. You'll be surprised at the wonderful friendships that can grow out of those breadcrumbs you scatter.

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Blame it on Plundered Hearts

You don't remember Plundered Hearts? It was the first Romantic Text Adventure Game. And while I'm not all that crazy about games, this was more like a story you could interact with.Plundered Hearts put ideas in my head. No, not fantasies of a handsome man carrying me off for wild passion. It made me dream of finding a book you could read over and over and it would tell you a different story every time.

I haven't found one yet, but I think that is the reason I feel so driven to play with what I write. I spent the last week buried in the final stage of a project I started working on a year ago. I only meant to blog a few erotic poems and learn a bit about blogging when I got started. I got lots of encouraging feedback from readers. One thing morphed into another and before I knew it I had the makings of the first flash romance novel: Owned

I debated quite awhile as to whether I would enter it in Romance Divas' E-book Challenge. It's not interactive. It is not a game. It's just not the usual way to tell a story.

I reread this interview with Amy Briggs on her experience writing Plundered hearts and what inspired her. It gaves me hope that one day I will figure out a way to write a never-ending story, or at least a story that doesn't end after the first read. I think the answer lies in piecing together small stories that tell a larger story and then taking those larger stories and piecing them into a bigger story than that. It'll be like a Russian nesting doll, only you read it from the inside out.

 If I'm going to read the Babushka style story I envision, I'll probably have to write it. If I want to discover a different way to tell a story, I have to take the risks, color outside the lines, and see what happens. So I put Owned together, converted it to a pdf ebook, and submitted it to the Romance Diva challenge. It's a free read and you are welcome to share as many copies as you wish.

I don't know how this project will land in the mind of readers, but I hadn't really understood what form I was aiming for until I put this together. I've been writing, building a body of work around a Babushka style without realizing this was the direction I was headed. This little e-book romance crystalized the ideas, provided a scale modle, and gave my goal a name.
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My flash romance Owned (which you can get free by clicking this download) is now available as part of the Romance Diva's 2009 E-book Challenge.

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Romancing the ARG

Move over Joan Wilder.

Can you picture  two romance novelists sneaking in to rummage through the patient files in a psychiatric hospital? Sound like a plot for a novel?  It was real even if the hospital wasn't. There was so much stuff in Zach's files, Kelly and I decided to tackle it together. She divvied up the tasks. Kelly was supposed to handle anything in French. I was supposed handle everything else. We haven't found anything in French yet.

The contents were creepy. I'm not much of a phone person (I use maybe 8 minutes a month on my cell) but when Kelly offered to be in charge of looking at all dead body pictures if I would call the dead people's phone numbers, I decided I could overcome my phone phobia.

Now the phone number we found in Zach's files is probably not for a dead person. I have no idea what might happen on the other end of that line when I call the number. If this were a TV detective show, I could watch someone else make the call. If it was a book, I could read about someone else thinking about making the call.

But this is immersive fiction, it's on me. No one makes up my cover story for me. It's real. I'm standing there with a phone in my hand, palms sweating.   I might get an irritated recpetionist, a cop, a psychiatrist. I might get a dead person. I was hoping I'd get someone who only speaks French.

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Blogging Tips for Beginners: Which slice of the pie do you want?

It's the most important decision you make as a blogger. It should be the first decision you make. If you look at any popular blog site you know which slice of the audience pie they are after, which theme their blog posts revolve around. Over at the Otherworld Diner they deliver their goal as bloggers on page one:

Our staff is a collection of paranormal romance authors with one thing in common (besides a love for pie) -- we dish up our paranormal with a sprinkle, a splash, or a heaping helpin' of humor and wit. Come in and have a seat. The coffee's hot and the blue plate special is out of this world!
The Otherworld Diner

A recent theme on pie was an excellent example of blogging around a theme. Each contributer posted their own take on the subject of pie and some aspect of writing:

What if the hero is a shape shifter? What if he shape shifts into a black bird? What if the story takes place in the Middle Ages? What if your heroine is a baker? What if she bakes him in a pie? Dang it, she cooked the hero. Not good. OK, so the birds are supposed to survive the “baking” process but the hero will still not be a happy camper when he breaks free of that crust. Moral of this story . . . be careful who you bake in a pie, you could end up eating love of your life. *G*

View Original Article

Same theme different take:

The subject of pies scared me a little right from the beginning. Then, when my coworkers posted yummy recipes, I seriously considered panic. Not that I don’t cook, mind you. I do. The thing is, I write by the seat of my pants, and I tend to cook the same way. I sort of figured posting a recipe for apple cobbler that started, "take a bunch of apples, core, chop, cook with some sugar and cinnamon until soft…" well, you get it. Not too helpful.

Then I realized there was another "pie" I’d worked with just a couple of weeks ago: The Pie of Life.

View Original Article

Not all blogging themes need to be as out of this world as Otherworld. 

Elle Amery does a once a week theme: Elle Amery: Elle Amery's Grammar Tip of the Week She tells her readers: "As both a writer and an editor, I can tell you that it’s much easier to edit and revise someone else’s work than to write perfect prose."

Or if you're interested in writing a fiction blog, check out Alice Gray's  samples of her lovely erotic writing: Aliceblackandwhite  Alice's passion for the sensual is clear in every detail of her site.

The theme you choose will be as unique to you and your genre as your favorite kind of pie. You should be passionate about the theme you choose. I'm passionate about immersive fiction and I don't think anyone reading my blog will miss that fact.

So now you have the Flock browser we talked about last week. Pick a theme, plan your article, click the little blue quill pen in the browser toolbar and start writing your first post.

You configure the editor with your blog settings under the tools menu. You can either save the draft, or hit the publish button and your new article will post.

All the quotes and sources I included in today's post were made using Flock's one-click "blog this" feature. No geek skills required. More on quoting and linking(as essential to blogging as veins to a circulatory system) next week.
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Putting my keyboard where my mouth is

I wasn't going to do this. I was watching my step, trying to stay away from places that might contain rabbit holes. I know I blogged about PixelVixen707 and I think I mentioned it is part of an alternate reality game that is part of a novel that will be released in June -- Personal Effects: Dark Art by J. C. Hutchins. But I had no intention of getting involved in the game.

Why? Because once I get hooked into things like that, they nag at the back of my mind until I solve the problem. I can't put them down. That and I'm more into romance than thrillers.

So what changed?

I read PixelVixen's blog because she's a great writer and she posts links to articles that she considers great writing. So last night I was unwinding from the work week, thought I'd look over her new feature: Pix Vix Picks.  Only there was a new post up and just skimming through I got caught up, and I wound up reading to the end where she talked about some weird interaction between her and her boyfriend's brother. It was one of those oddly out of place things, like a cat toy in the home of someone allergic to cats. I just kept wondering why that post was there.

It crawled into the back of my brain and throbbed. I tried to make it go away with mindless web surfing. Then I tried to ignore it and answer email. When I finally logged off and put the laptop away, I knew. It always happens that way. After you sign off you know what you have to do. It took ten minutes to fire up the computer and log on the net and aim the browser at the website for the hospital where Zach Works. I'd seen something there and that little out of place cat toy was the answer to how to get in.

I had a moment's creepiness when I got to the site. It's pretend breaking and entering but it still feels a little weird sneaking in. It feels even spookier when you get in and find ID cards, and pictures with labels that indicate they are of a dead body. I didn't look at those pictures. I'm trying to talk myself out of trying the emails and telephone numbers I saw.  I didn't look at much because I'm barely running dial-up speed from home. I might look more from work. I'm not looking at that body. I need to find someone to look at those pictures for me.

But now I'm hooked. I'm down the rabbit hole and I know I can't pull back. I put myself on the pre-order list at Amazon, but the book won't be released until June. After looking around in a few more places, it appears the ARG is in place. There's plenty to to sort through until the book comes out.

There is something about this kind of storytelling that empowers you. You can have an impact, figure things out, solve problems, be a burglar and not get arrested. That's addictive.

I want to make clear, that while I've blogged about this ARG, I am not associated with the author or anyone working on the production. I'm just a writer who likes the genre and has a bad habit of falling down rabbit holes before the game is meant to start.
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The unreal are among us

How carefully do you read the profiles of bloggers when you stop by their page? If you're like me, you're focused on what they have to say and occasionally you'll dig further to learn more about them. Maybe we should rethink that. Here's why:

Name : Tatum McGarland
Age: 32
Gender: Female
Occupation: Grief Counselor

Blog: Under the Bridge

But not really. She's a character in an online Serial: A Timely Raven

Or this one seems sweet and tragic:

My name is Alyse Hanssen, I’m 30 years old, and I need help finding my brother. On December 7th, 2007 my kid brother Teddy Hanssen disappeared.
Missing Teddy Hanssen

Teddy and Alyse aren't real either. This is one of the character blogs used to promote the movie Cloverfield

Over at Teach Me Tonight there was a post on Fictions and Reality this week that mentions the difficulties of distinguishing fiction from reality:

"So what is fiction? Simply stories that do not pretend to be about real events. That's the easy answer, but of course there is more to it than that. The relation between fiction and reality is not a straight-forward one. The two have a peculiar way of getting mixed up together; distinguishing the two is not quite as easy as one might think, or hope." (Talbot 5)

Fiction, then, is selective. It can take elements of reality, but the particular elements which are chosen, and how they're placed together to form a whole, reflect choices made by the author, both consciously and subconsciously. What of reality? To a certain extent, all of us construct that too...
Teach Me Tonight: Fictions and Reality

 I would add that reality can take elements from fiction and use them to form a more interesting if not improved reality.

We already discussed Pixelvixen707. She's not real, but she's doing a fantastic job reviewing games. She's vocal about the industry's neglect of female gamers. She provides a real service. There's a dimension in the fiction and reality blend that we're just starting to explore.

Character blogs have been around for a few years and maybe just long enough that it's time to test the limits and see what we can do with a character blog. Or better yet, why confine characters to their blogs?

 Kelly Jamieson and Pixelvixen haven't. A character from Kelly's Sexpresso Night story, contacted PixelVIxen about her prior employment as a barista. Juliet (Kelly's character) and Rachel (Pixelvixen's "real?" name ) chat about coffee, gaming, men, and work.

You'll learn about "tantric coffee consumption", characterization, and secret code words for lets go have sex. Have a look.

So now characters are stepping out of their stories, crossing genres even, to get to know each other.  It's like those fantasies I had as a kid about the toys in the toy chest sneaking out to have fun after everyone went to sleep.  What's next? 

Blogging Tips for Beginners: Best tool for the job

To be a fiction writer is to be a blogger. Not all writers are as enthusiastic about that new aspect of our profession as I am. I love geek stuff. I love playing with new ways to express myself, and I really love the possibilities blogging can bring to stories.

So why isn't every writer enthusiastic about blogging? I think the biggest barrier is a technological hurdle. So that's the blogging issue I'm going to address first. You need more than a web browser to get this job done right. If you are trying to muddle along with Internet Explorer or Firefox, with no enhancements for blogging, you are wasting too much time trying to put your posts together. And that is one of the biggest complaints I hear: Blogging eats too much time.

While you can install add-ons that will improve the blogging experience with IE or Firefox, I'm not even going to waste your time trying to describe how. It's better to use the browser that was designed for blogging: Flock. All the tools you need are built in and they are fantastic.

I have been using Flock since the first release and I started mainly to see how it functioned as a browser. Flock made a blog reader out of me and then a blogger. Here's a snip of a five-star review for Flock at CNET (snip made automatically by my Flock browser).

Flock is designed to streamline and emphasize how you interface with social networking sites, RSS and media feeds, and blogs. Because it's built on Firefox 3, its behavior will feel familiar and it supports most--but not all--Firefox extensions. And yes, the "awesome bar" is part of the latest version.
Flock Browser - Free software downloads and reviews - CNET Download.com

Over the next few weeks, I'll be going over the basics of blogging for writers and I'll explain how to implement these techniques with Flock. If you're already using a blogging tool, you're ahead of the game. If not, go download Flock. It's free.

Get ready to love your blogging.

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Why mess with a good thing?

Mention reading ebooks and most people give you a dill-pickle face reaction. Then they take a deep breath and I know what's coming. Before the first vibrations cross the space between their vocal chords and my eardrum, the words they will say reverberate like a stuck loop in my brain:

"But I love the feel of a paper book, of turning the pages. You can't get that from electronic books."

I'm reminded of my grandfather's arguments about the superiority of horse over horseless carriage, and how the horse instinctively knew every stop along his mail route.

"You can't get that from a car," he said.

My grandmother had a similar argument against the telephone: "Why would you want to shout at each other through a contraption when you could sit down with a nice pen and pretty stationary and write out a lovely letter. You get something beautiful that you can keep. You can't get that on a telephone."

[Author's note: I'm not as old as this makes me sound, but my parents (like their parents), believed in waiting as long as possible before trying something out. That included having children.]

They weren't early adopters. They were the last hold outs. They were right. And yet, cars replaced horses because they evolved and provided services you couldn't get from a horse. Phone calls replaced letter writing because they provided qualities that couldn't be delivered on paper.

Take this ebook conversation a step further, beyond "e" to "I", into immersive fiction. Imagine books that do more than lay in your lap, books that do things, books that make you do things, books you could do things to, books part real and part virtual. Imagine a book where the reader is part of the story. Imagine chatting with a character about the way they could solve their problems. You can't get that on paper.

We're still at the crossover stage, trying to make books that fit both forms. Here are three ebooks that experiment with providing more than a story and in the process serve up material delivered by fiction that you could use in your real world.

Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton

This was a funny paranormal with plenty of suspense. While I'm completely inept when it comes to knitting, I enjoyed reading all the added knitting content included at the back of the book.

Summer by the Sea by Susan Wiggs

The recipes included in at the beginning of various chapters of the book looked delicious. The extra content blended nicely with the story. I liked the way they dropped the recipes in between chapters.

Unmasked by Nicola Cornick

This is an historical romance. I've read a few historicals, but never felt particularly motivated to search the meaning of terms like ton or to look up White's. Thanks to links provided in the book I was able to learn some of the history behind standard terms and places found in historical romance novels. A great story about "a female Robin Hood."

The last in these three examples is the only one that couldn't be delivered as efficiently in print, but the other two stories motivate readers to take something from the book and create something beautiful with it in their life. All three stories straddle dimensions between real and virtual. As these stories demonstrate, a story turns immersive when it motivates a reader to: act, create, learn.

I love these experiments. I love watching what books become. I believe as another innovative publisher has said:

Exploring What Digital Books Can Be: We believe digital books can be a larger canvas from which immersive experiences explode.

Why mess with a good thing? Because that is how you get something new and something challenging. I wouldn't say I'm an early adopter. I'm not a last hold out. I'm one of the pioneers. So let's explore. Let's find the next dimension.



Who I am

I'm an erotic romance writer.  Being a writer used to mean typewriters and paper and a year or more to write a book. As recently as the 90s I made most of my submissions on paper. And not so long ago, being a romance writer meant you spoke about sex in terms of manhoods and womanhoods, or seed and loins.  Writing and romance stories have changed. Those of us who write erotic romance are still defining who we are and what we write, a task further complicated by the fact books are undergoing an evolution and so is the job description.

This quote sums that up in a number of ways, not all of them immediately obvious:
Life was so simple in the ’90s, when all we had was an e-mail address. I keep track of a blog, a Twitter feed, avatars, jobs, a boyfriend, a secret post office box in Boise that nobody - and I mean nobody - knows about. We all have to make and manage dozens of ourselves. And clearly, the easiest way to do it is by paring ourselves to the bone.

User-Created Users » PixelVixen707

I'm asking myself how she managed the '90s with one email address. But she's right, we aren't who we used to be. I go to log in at a site or to check email and I have to stop, hands poised over the keyboard and say, "Who am I here?" I have 3 phone numbers for the different roles in my life, more email accounts than I want to think about, and avatars, and twitter feeds, and blogs. I can't decide if that makes me too divided or if it makes me whole.

I'm not who I was in the '90s.  Books aren't what they were in the '90s, but I can't help thinking books aren't all they could be. Technology and new media have handed us the power to make books something more, to add new dimensions, in the same way it allows us to add dimensions to our lives.

While I figure out who I am in this virtuality that is my writing life, I'll explore what an erotic romance can be and what a book can become.

And just to get things started, PixelVixen707 is a game review blogger, and if you peruse her site I'm sure you will agree she is an excellent writer and game reviewer. You really have to read a couple of her posts to get the full impact of this next bit: she isn't real. She's a character in a story that is being written to sell another story. She is so good at what she does that real game bloggers link to her and comment at her site. She was good enough at the game to fool gamers. Have a look at her site and see if you can find the clues that reveal she isn't real.

While this isn't an erotic romance, as far as I know romance books don't exist in this dimension. Yet. It does involve her relationship with her boyfriend, so I'm considering it close enough to qualify for discussion about what this type of story means for romance writers.

I'm ready for the adventure. Are you?