16 March 2020

Spring into Romance!

It's a pain that we have to defend the genre we love over and over again. (Also yes, I know it's been almost 3 years since I've posted anything. This is enough to bring me out of hiatus!) For anyone who missed the kerfuffle, a library outside of Philly a "Bad Romance" night where the most cringe-worthy of excerpts was read for the amusement of the crowd. All in good fun--except that romance was the only genre mocked, and romance readers and authors already deal with more scrutiny and garbage attitudes than any other genre, even though romance carries the entirety of publishing. Do we know why this is? No. But it is, and that's more than enough to be a problem. To fight back, the ladies of Cupid's Cafe are working to turn that scrutiny on its head by sharing the most beautifully written, arresting passages that make you laugh, cry, think, or pine for that special someone.

When we talked about putting this hop together, one of the first things that came to mind a conversation between Nora and Zach in Tiffany Reisz's The Siren. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of fiction I've ever read, and I haven't stopped thinking about it.

"Look how Ciseri painted Jesus. See the curve of His back and shoulders. It is a classic feminine posture. His hands are tied behind His back and His robe is falling over His hips. And all the men are just pointing and staring and gawking. But the women--see them?--they can't bear it. One's looking down and she--" Nora pointed at a female figure who was turned completely away from the horrible scene unfolding behind her "--and she can't even look. She has to hold on to the other woman just to keep from collapsing. And of all of them, she's the only one whose whole face we see." ... "They know what He's feeling. The women always know. They know it isn't just a beating or a murder they're being forced to witness. It wasn't even just a crucifixion. It was a sexual assault, Zach. It was a rape."
Nora took a deep breath and Zach felt his own breath catch in his chest. He wanted to say something but didn't trust himself to speak yet.
"That's why I believe, Zach," Nora continued. "Because of all gods, Jesus alone understands the purpose of pain and shame and humiliation."
"What is that purpose?" Zach asked, truly wanting to know.
Nora's eyes returned to the two women in the foreground clinging to each other in sympathy and horror.
"For salvation, of course. For love."

The first time I read that, I had to stop reading for hours to sit and think about it. I'd never read anything so...brutally beautifully done.  And I truly fell in love with Nora, with Zach, with Tiffany and with this whole damn series. Seriously, do yourself a favor and get it.

 Notorious Nora Sutherlin is famous for her delicious works of erotica, each one more popular with readers than the last. But her latest manuscript is different—more serious, more personal—and she's sure it'll be her breakout book... if it ever sees the light of day.

Zachary Easton holds Nora's fate in his well-manicured hands. The demanding British editor agrees to handle the book on one condition: he wants complete control. Nora must rewrite the entire novel to his exacting standards—in six weeks—or it's no deal.

Nora's grueling writing sessions with Zach are draining... and shockingly arousing. And a dangerous former lover has her wondering which is more torturous—staying away from him... or returning to his bed?

Nora thought she knew everything about being pushed to your limits. But in a world where passion is pain, nothing is ever that simple.

10 November 2017

Free Promo Friday: Blown Away by DL Jackson

Eight years ago my oldest son was talking to a marine recruiter about his options for jobs he could do in the service. He’d always been an adrenaline junkie and gravitated toward the dangerous things. When he wanted to explore EOD, my heart dropped into my stomach. My first reaction was to steer him away from that career path. But being an army vet, I knew the value of Explosives Ordnance Disposal, and I knew many brave men and women lived because of those who served in ordnance.

So instead of discouraging him from choosing EOD, I encouraged him to research it, and in doing so, ideas for a series sprung to life. He decided to go infantry in the end.

At first I thought about writing a contemporary military romance, but a publisher I had at the time, warned me nobody would want to hear about bombings and terrorists, with our service members deployed and terrorist  acts increasing all over the world.

But I didn’t want to write about the bombers and terrorists. I wanted to write stories about men and women who stopped them. So, in respect for those dealing with the very real and dangerous  situations, I chose to take the series off Earth and into space and on alien planets.

Science fiction has always been one of my favorite genres, and the first novel wrote over sixteen years ago, when I decided to pen my first romance, was a beastly 100k novel which will never see the light of day. Since then, I’ve written in many of the romance genres, but I always seem to come back to my first love.

Science fiction and I have had a mad romance. We’ve seen the ups and downs in the industry, and the neglect of attention this wonderful genre deserves. Now I’m being told science fiction romance is the next hot thing. I’m not surprised. I’ve always felt it was a hot thing and it would only be a matter of time before readers discovered everything it had to offer.

So, on November 10th I will release the first book in my multi-book Blown Away series. I hope you’ll grab a copy. You’ll get a little military and a little science fiction. Action, adventure and fantastic worlds that will beg you to explore more of them. Be sure to check out the second book, Explosive Affairs, which will be up for preorder as Blown Away goes live.

Each of the novels in this series are stand alone, but linked by common denominators. No cliff hangers here and a happy ever after is guaranteed.

Blurb:  One man and one woman, both on a collision course with a mad bomber and the past.

Trios Space Port City is a busy place. MacKay and Boomer must stop a bomber before he strikes again, this time closer to home. Failure is not an option. Success means they get to live another day. But more than the danger is heating up. Their attraction has grown to explosive levels, and it’s become a major distraction. Not good when they need to keep their heads.

Buy Links: Kindle | Smashwords | Kobo

D. L. Jackson is a writer of urban fantasy, science fiction, military romance and erotic romance. She loves to incorporate crazy plot twists, comedy and the unexpected into her worlds. As a U.S. Army veteran, she naturally adores men in uniform and feels the world could always use more. She does her part by incorporating as many sexy soldiers in her novels as she can. When she isn't writing or running the roads, you can often find her online chatting with her peers and readers. Grab a cup of iced coffee, pull up your virtual chair and say hi. She loves emails and blog visits from her readers.

07 November 2017

New Book Alert: Clone: The Book of Eva by Paxton Summers

When a world leader’s daughter meets a clone, a doomed love affair begins.

In the year 2087, a great war erupts on the planet and a struggle to survive begins. One hundred-fifty years later, the continent of America is divided into two factions, Aeropia and The United Regions. There is a shortage of food and an abundance of illness, leaving most to live on the scraps of the wealthy, who wallow in excess.

This is the world Olivia Braun inherits. Sick from birth, she wakes up from surgery with a new heart, only to discover she is the youngest president of Aeropia, an empire that has created and used clones to maintain its position of supremacy since the war. However, Olivia’s rise to power is no accident. Before her transplant, she conspired with a clone to free those enslaved, but the outcome is not what she expected.

Now, enemies hide among the population, and even friends can no longer be trusted. Olivia must make a choice that will decide the fate of an empire. Before her tale of corruption, forbidden love and war ends, the mighty will be brought to their knees.

By a clone.
Buy Links:

Bio:  Paxton Summers loves to incorporate crazy plot twists, comedy and the unexpected into her worlds. As a U.S. Army veteran, she naturally adores men in uniform and feels the world could always use more. She does her part by incorporating as many sexy soldiers in her novels as she can. When she isn't writing or running the roads, you can often find her online chatting with her peers and readers. Grab a cup of iced coffee, pull up your virtual chair and say hi. She loves emails and blog visits from her readers. http://www.paxtonsummers.com

30 September 2017

Guest blog: Hanson was My Suicide Note - Jan Childers

***As many Saturdays as possible, you'll see posts from people regarding their own experiences with their mental health. Use #BreaktheStigma on Twitter to share yours***

***Trigger warning: suicidal thoughts*

                It took roughly twenty years and four months after hearing “Mmmbop” for the first time before I got to see Hanson live for the first time. I had been among the millions of rabid fans as a teenager, but while my love had softened as an adult, it had never waned. Circumstances had continually kept me from seeing them, and this time was no different. Tickets sold out in a stunning four hours after going on sale. I’d given up hope of ever seeing them, or at least seeing them in the next several years. Yet fate smiled upon me, and I managed to obtain a single ticket mere days before the show. A very long drive, a wait in line just as long as my drive, and a small stampede later, I was four rows away from the stage.
                The show itself was everything I’d imagined it to be. It was a beautiful mix of both old and new, from the earliest days to the latest album. I teared up several times, but one song hit me much harder than anticipated. “With You in Your Dreams” was a hit from the day it was released with its mix of both childishly tender, yet shockingly powerful lyrics about death. I hadn’t listened to it in two years, whether by active or subconscious choice, I cannot say. By the opening line, tears were rolling down my face.

If I'm gone when you wake up
Please, don't cry
And if I'm gone when you wake up
It's not goodbye

                I was no longer visiting the carefree days of fourteen. Now I was sixteen, alone in the darkness of some godforsaken hour. I huddled beside my CD player, sobbing as quietly as I could into a pillow as I tried to find any shred of courage I might possess. I knew where my father kept his gun. It was in his bottom desk drawer, unlocked and always loaded. Everyone was asleep, so I wouldn’t get caught being awake and outside of my room. I could slip upstairs and back again, quiet as a mouse. All of my pain would be over in a matter of minutes. I just needed to find the courage to stand up and walk out of my bedroom.
                Through my tears, Taylor continued singing:
Don't look back at this time as a time
Of heartbreak and distress
Remember me, remember me
'Cause I'll be with you in your dreams
                Visions of my brothers danced in my head. They were so young then, too young to remember the pain of death several years before, but old enough to feel the pain that comes in the aftermath of death. They had not truly experienced loss yet. They would mourn me.
 But If I'm gone when you wake up
Please, don't cry
And if I'm gone when you wake up
Don't ask why
Don't look back at this time
As a time of heartbreak and distress
Remember me, remember me
'Cause I'll be with you in your dreams
I wondered if they would understand why I did it. I wondered if they were old enough to realize how many aspects of our lives were cruel and inhumane. Did they remember life from before? Would they understand I wasn’t strong enough to continue? I wanted to be there for them, but it was too much. I kept the song on repeat, losing myself in the lyrics. It was a beautiful memento to leave behind for them. Maybe if they listened to it, they would know I would always be with them. I wasn’t abandoning them. I would always watch over them from beyond.
Don't cry, I'm with you
Don't cry, I'm by your side
Don't cry, I'm with you
Don't cry, I'm by your side
                My reverie was interrupted at the concert. My tears had evolved into body-shaking sobs. All at once, every dark night I had ever had emerged at the forefront of my memory. I was sixteen, too afraid to get my father’s gun. I was nineteen, but I didn’t have enough pills to finish the job. I was twenty, too afraid to take the leap off the mountainside. I was twenty-two, my hands shaking too hard to put the belt around my neck. I was thirty, deciding which barrier I could crash into at high speeds. I was thirty-two, staring at the box that held my husband’s gun, knowing this time, I wouldn’t be too afraid... if only I would decide to open it.
And though my flesh is gone
I'll still be with you at all times
And although my body's gone
I'll be there to comfort you at all times
The girl beside me placed a hand on my shoulder. Her face was gentle and concerned. I couldn’t hear her voice, but the movements of her lips were unmistakable. “Are you okay?”
I don't want you to cry and weep
I want you to go on living your life
I'm not sleeping an endless sleep
'Cause in your heart
You have all of our good times
Oh, all of our good times
I had no words of my own. In spite of the many times I wanted to die, I was alive. I had lived through all the times I thought I couldn’t survive. I lived through my darkest days. I was alive. Whether it was through strength or cowardice, it didn’t matter. From that night in my room until the day I stood alongside this stranger, I had lived. I survived my worst enemy. I survived my own self-destruct button. I couldn’t find the words to tell this kind stranger just how much this moment meant to me. Even if I could, there was no guarantee she would understand, let alone appreciate this incredible occasion. I was alive!
And if I'm gone when you wake up
Don't ask why
Don't look back at this time
As a time of heartbreak and distress
Remember me, remember me
'Cause I'll be with you in your dreams

                There will always be dark nights in my life. I hope I will continue to have the strength to fight my way through them. I hope that during those nights, I will look back and remember how for one night, being alive was a moment to be celebrated. I want to remember how for one night, I wept not in despair of life, but with the indescribable happiness that I lived.

29 September 2017

Free Promo Friday: When Cougar Dates Manwhore The Cougar Journals #4 by @JewelQuinlan from @EvernightPub

Ava’s nemesis, John, made his feelings known by suddenly kissing her while they happened to be on the same cruise. Not just any kiss, but one that triggered a mind-blowing heat that made her want to learn more about him.
They’ve now been home for over a week where … nothing happens, making Ava doubt the signals she thought she’d received. Had the kiss not been as mind-blowing for him as it was for her? And then, suddenly, he asks her out on a date where she gets to see the intimate, sexy sides of him, which she really likes.
Maybe they are a good match for each other after all … or not. She can’t tell. His actions are so unpredictable that she can’t intuit his motives. Should she continue to leave the door open or write him off as the manwhore she thinks he is?

Where You Can Buy It
Or add it to your shelf on Goodreads

“Thanks for dinner. I had a great time,” I said. It was trite, but they were the only words that came to mind.
“Me, too. You’re welcome.” He stood with his hands in his pockets and his head tilted, that knowing look in his eyes. The same one that, at the office, had always driven me the nuts. But, here in the semi-darkness and privacy of the corridor, it made me blush. There was something in the intensity of his gaze that made my body prickle in response. Did he know how many confusing signals were firing inside me right now? One side of me was greatly tempted to run my hands through his silver-fox hair, while another waved a red flag and tried to hit the brakes.
“Oh! Thanks for the coat,” I said. I’d almost forgotten about it. I took it off and handed it to him. “Um, well goodnight. See you at the office.”
I started to close the door, then stopped because he continued to stand there with the side of his mouth quirked up in a grin. It would be awkward to just shut the door in his face. “What?” I said. Our gazes locked, and my heartbeat sped up as static filled the air between us.
“You’re not just going to leave me like this,” John said.
“Like what?”
He stepped forward to lean against the doorframe, forearm up above his head, his face inches from mine. “Don’t I even get a goodnight kiss?” he said in a low voice. “I hate to brag, but I think I behaved pretty well tonight.”
I laughed. “Oh please, you love to brag. And, yes, you totally surprised me with your unexpectedly chivalrous behavior. This, however, is more along the lines of what I expected.” I gestured at him from head to toe. It was as if a tiger stood at my doorstep, powerful muscles lithe yet still ready to pounce. I had to admit, it was deliciously arousing to feel his forthright desire. I had a brief flashback of him by the pool on the cruise. I’d seen what the muscles of his torso were like, and now I couldn’t help wondering what they would feel like through the fabric of his shirt.
“So … no kiss?” he said. “Are you sure? Because I thought there was something between us on the ship. And, even tonight, I could swear it’s still there. Aren’t you just a little bit curious?”
I shrugged. “Maybe.” I am. I really, really am. But I wasn’t about to tell him that. Giving a manwhore leverage was just plain dangerous. “I’m just not sure we should go there right now.” I remained where I was, refusing to budge. Kissing John would be the wrong move right now. Something in my gut made me certain of it. It was just one of those instincts that grew more honed with experience. Like a gazelle sensing a cheetah.
He continued to gaze at me with interest. Then he straightened, but didn’t move back. “How about a handshake then? That’s something you do with everyone, so it’s harmless, right?”
I laughed. “True.” I held out my hand and he grasped it. I did my best to ignore how good his palm felt on mine. As we shook, I said again, “John, I had a very nice time. Thank you.”
That’s all he would be getting from me tonight. I stopped shaking his hand, but he didn’t release my fingers. Instead, he raised my hand to his lips and kissed my knuckles, then skimmed his lips in light nibbles down over my skin toward my wrist. The short stubble on his jaw gently scraped as he went. And that, combined with the sensation of his firm, soft lips, made my stomach curl with heat. It was so easy to imagine him trailing kisses like that all the way along my arm to my breasts. Not just there, but even lower to the most private part of me… His gaze flicked to my face and whatever he saw there made his eyes light up with satisfaction. I didn’t want to give anything away, but I was helpless to control whatever I was revealing.

About the Author:
Restless by nature, Jewel Quinlan is an avid traveler and has visited sixteen countries so far. Lover of ice cream, beer, and red wine she tries to stay fit when she’s not typing madly on her computer concocting another tale. In her spare time, she likes to do yoga, hike, learn German and play with her spoiled Chihuahua, Penny.

For more information about Jewel Quinlan

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23 September 2017

Guest post: Kate Davis on How to be a Mental Health Ally

***As many Saturdays as possible, you'll see posts from people regarding their own experiences with their mental health. Use #BreaktheStigma on Twitter to share yours!***

Ten Tips to be a Great Mental Health Ally

As many as one in four Americans live with mental health issues. Some are short term issues, and some are chronic issues, lasting for years or for a lifetime. Knowing how to help a loved one who is struggling can save lives. While this list is just a beginning, here’s ten tips to be the best mental health ally you can be.
Mental Health Is Physical Health: The first step  is knowing mental health IS physical health. Mental health affects everything from energy levels to what sort of foods we can eat - and it’s every bit as real and impactful as any physical health issue. A mental health issue is every bit as serious as a physical health issue. Mental health has a measurable effect on the brain and body and is no different than diabetes, asthma, arthritis, or Crohn’s Disease.
Treatments Vary: Treating a mental health issue varies, depending on the type of issue, duration, severity, and the underlying cause. Talk therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and medication are the most common. Medication supplements the brain chemistry of a person with a mental health issue, so it more closely resembles what is present in a neurotypical (non mentally ill) person. Some people will only need medication short term (a year or so) and some will require it long term. Some mental health issues have more extensive treatments, like electroconvulsive therapy (a controlled seizure to correct brain chemistry). Everyone’s treatment will be different.
Everyone Is Different:  While this one seems obvious, it’s important to remember each person with a mental health issue is different. Their symptoms, ability, and which treatments work best for them will be different. Some people thrive in talk therapy, and others don’t. Some people benefit from medication, and others have too many side effects or cannot take medication. Every person’s treatment will be unique to them. Support them in finding what works for them.
Ask How You Can Best Help Them: Since everyone’s needs are different, it’s important to ask them how you can best support them. Ask what they need, ask how they feel supported, and let them know you will help them. Everyone is different, and it’s important to ask what they need, and then meet their needs as best you can.
Listen to What They Have to Say: One of the hardest parts of mental illness is how lonely it can feel. Being there for them and listening to how they feel, what treatments are working or not working for them, and even just day-to-day small talk helps combat the isolation which can wreak havoc on people with mental health issues. Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD can lead to long stretches of time in which someone is isolated, and having a friendly, supportive friend there can remind them that they are connected to something bigger than themselves.
Make Sure They Know They’re Not Alone: If they are talking about something they feel, and you can relate, find a time to tell them. The timing on this one is key - don’t interrupt, and don’t make the conversation about you, but make sure they know what they think and feel is completely normal. Remember - mental health issues ARE normal - it’s why we have names, research, and treatments available for all of them. Everyone struggles sometimes, and it’s not a sign of weakness.
Encourage Self-Care: Self-care is much more about basic routine and eating/showering schedules than pampering. Resting, talking, following a treatment plan, and meal planning can all be considered self-care. Remind them it’s ok to take breaks. This one is really important!
Make Sure They Have a List of Contacts: This one seems basic, but it’s really important. Make sure they have their doctors, friends, and family in their phone’s contact list. Remembering phone numbers when you’re upset is almost impossible. Knowing exactly how to contact someone in a crisis saves lives.

Help Them Find Resources: It can be daunting to find a therapist or new doctor, to find a therapy group, or inpatient care. If you can help them by looking up doctors and ratings, or simply being there to support them while they do so, it can make a world of difference.
Keep in Touch: This is the easiest and most effective way to help someone with a mental health issue - don’t lose contact with them. If you haven’t heard from them in a week (or however long would be unusual to not hear from them), reach out and say hi, ask how they’re doing. Talk with them, and listen. It’s very, very easy for someone to become isolated, and with all the wonders of modern technology, it’s very easy to reach out and remind them you’re still here, still love them, and are still their ally.

Do you have more tips? Please share in the comments!

18 September 2017

Disturbing the Peace: Why Mad Love = Mad Me.

***TW: Discussions of abuse***

Recently, the enigmatic and infamous THEY announced a new movie in the DCCU, and fan reaction has fallen pretty much on either side of the spectrum: OMGFINALLYWOW and OMGWTFWHY.

I am on the latter end of the spectrum. OMGWTFWHY?

Because there's a Harley/Joker love story in the works.

Please read that again. A Harley. And Joker. Love. Story.

If you know anything about the volatile relationship between these two, then you know why this is in the top ten of Things We Do Not Need.

If you don't, well....I can sum it up in three easy words: Joker abuses Harley.

Physically, verbally, psychologically, mentally. In pretty much every way possible. So much so that I wrote Harley fanfiction to help cope with my own abuse.

I think once someone has had that kind of "mad love" relationship, they view the world through a different lens. While some see the Harley-Joker relationship as something strange and romantic and whatever, others like myself see elements of that abusive relationship in every interaction.

Image result for harley and joker movie
Just after this, Joker lets Harley take the fall, like the uber romantic jagoff he is.

I have a lot of feelings about Leto's Joker, partly because of the theory that this Joker is my DC husband Jason Todd, and if true, that makes this Joker as much a victim as Harley. 


I have a lot of hatred for the actual Joker. Oh yeah, he's entertaining as hell, and my canon Joker is voiced by Mark Hamill, who is impossible to hate as a person. BUT. The character is a manipulative (and this maddening relationship is based on his manipulations), cruel, sadistic, narcissistic sociopath who scapegoats and gaslights Harley to no end. 

Some background: I identify with Harley in so many ways. Like her, I studied psychology with an intent to become a criminal psychologist. Unlike her, I didn't follow through. Like her, I gravitate toward emotionally unavailable people and want to "fix" them. Like her, I wasted a lot of time in a terrible relationship that sucked away everything I was and almost killed every aspiration I had. I was mentally, emotionally, and verbally abused. I was gaslit and blamed for everything wrong in our relationship. Unlike her, I wasn't strong enough to walk away on my own.

With the releases of movies like Arrival, Hidden Figures, Atomic Blonde and Wonder Woman, and with more women-centric movies coming out in the next several years (still waiting for that freaking Black Widow movie), girls and women finally get to see themselves represented as more than lamps, sex objects, and damsels on the big screen. Hell, Harley's role in Suicide Squad was a win in its own way--Robbie plays her with this complex blend of sweetness, coyness, sass, confidence, vulnerability, fear, and cognizance that we don't see a lot outside the comics (and her runs in the comics are PHENOMENAL; do yourself a favor and check out Harley Quinn #25, by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chad Hardin, Alex Sinclair, and Tom Napolitano and her arc in the Injustice tie-in). 

Needless to say, I am not thrilled about this little movie. I want to trust Margot Robbie's decision to sign on for it, just like I trusted her to bring Harley to life in the way the character deserves. What I don't trust is people who don't understand the nuance and complexity that Harley's writers have developed over the last couple decades. Yes, she's fun. She's weird and not all there (though it's an act and people who understand her know it is because it's a method of survival). She's sexy. She's also grown so much and the threat of not seeing that growth, some of which was exhibited in Suicide Squad, is galling. 

As much as it pains me, I won't be seeing this one. I'll just wait for the Birds of Prey movie.

Sorry, Harl.