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text 2018-04-18 11:00
Facts About Me: A Life of Reading

My parents taught me to read and write before I attended school. Here in the UK (for those not familiar) we start around the age of 4/5, depending on whether your birthday falls before or after August, which is the start date for all after-Summer-Holiday terms. I started at 4, able to read and write, which got me and my folks into trouble at school, because they like to teach their own way, and didn't like that came pre-taught. Tough luck for them.

For that reason, by the time we started doing reading for classes in school, I was at an advanced level to the other kids. I also had a bit of a knack for being patient – sometimes more patient than the teachers! – so I helped another kid in my class with his reading, because he had dyslexia and/or learning difficulties. I'm vague about this, before I was too young to really understand it (about 9/10 years old) and it wasn't talked a lot back then. Some teachers just thought those with such challenges were slow, were lazy, or didn't want to do the work. I remember that much, because I remember staying inside during break times to help him catch up with his reading. Not many of the teachers, or other students, liked it, but the kid I helped did. And he did great.

I'm pretty sure that's why I wasn't much of a reader growing up. Hard to believe, right? Well, I wasn't. I read Sweet Valley High books, Sherlock Holmes, and stuff the school made us read, but I wasn't voracious about it, like I am now. I think that's mostly because of the subject matter. I never really liked what was being given to us, or what was recommended reading for my age at the library. I guess, nowadays, you'd call me a mature reader. Back then, I just didn't have the time (between school work and home life) or the inclination (subject matter!) to be as passionate about books as I am now.

Now, I read approximate 300 books a year. That doesn't sound like a lot, to some people I know, who can read 500+ a year, but in between that, I read-to-review (which takes longer, because I write notes as I'm reading, and then have to process and type that all up when I'm done) for both Netgalley and Divine Magazine. I also write, as you probably know by now. I can write a book (say about 80k) in a month, if I had unlimited time. Since that's rare and maybe only happens once a year, I can write about 2-3 novels a year, all of which take time, planning, editing, repeated reading, and research. That all takes time. So, for me, 300 books a year is a lot.

And I LOVE it. I love getting to explore new stories, new worlds, new writing and new authors. And I love being able to write my own stories. It might have taken a while, but I found my passion in the end.


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review 2018-04-18 02:53
Tough as They Come by Travis Mills


In 2012, Staff Sargent Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne Division put his back pack down in the worst possible place he could in Afghanistan. That's all it takes to set off the IED which robs him of three, and ultimately all four, of his limbs. He is only one of five soldiers to survive such horrific injuries.


But as this book shows, his backpack was also placed in exactly the right place. For as much as Satanic hatred tried to destroy his body and spirit, it did not succeed. It could not. In the great darkness that comes from overwhelming physical and emotional pain, it can only serve to highlight the light that comes from the human ability to bear the unbearable and shine out all the brighter and be seen all the clearer because of the darkness. Because Travis went through the night, cheered and strengthened by one who came to him who had already come back through the black into the light, he serves as a light to others. If he had not gone through hell, he could not show others the way out. Click on the link for the great work this inspired. Certainly not the enemy intended! The darkness wishes to devour us all, but it cannot if we look to such examples as Travis and see the black night rent by their light.


Rock on, Travis, and all your brothers who serve as inspirations. God bless you all.


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text 2018-04-11 11:00
Facts About Me: Music Connections

I have a serious music addiction. But there's a twist to it. When I hear a song in a movie, I tend to always associate that song with the movie, as long as I liked it, its place in the movie, and the movie itself. Or, alternatively, if it ended up with a negative association.


There was a long time when I couldn't listen to 'I Only Have Eyes For You' by The Flamingos after hearing in a particularly memorable and unpleasant episode of Cold Case. I always listen to the song 'California Dreaming' by The Mamas and the Papas and think about the movie Congo. I hear 'The Chain' by Fleetwood Mac and think of Guardians of the Galaxy. Whenever 'Cry' by Mandy Moore comes on, I think about the film A Walk to Remember.


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text 2018-04-04 11:00
Facts About Me: Life As An Author

I had no idea what I was doing when I joined the industry. I knew nothing about grammar, branding, or anything to do with marketing, except the things I'd seen other people do and watched on TV or movies.

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon information. I researched. I began to take it seriously, and I learned from those who were willing to offer even a crumb of advice to a newbie.

Now, I believe I do a decent job of it. My books are branded in two ways – visually and by title. If you take a look at my Decadent series, book 1, Decadent, is the only one (so far) with a title that isn't a song directly related to the events of the book. Books 5 and 6 won't have that theme, either, because when I began writing this series, I had no idea that it could or should be done. Yet, The One That Got Away is followed by Never Let Me Go (see what's going on there?), The Cellist is followed by Clef Notes, both musically themed. The Royal Series is a pattern of 'A Royal _', but it's also a pattern of initials. So book 1 is ARC, book 2 is ARP, book 3 is ARM, and book 4 (in the WIP stage) is ARL. Why? Because I love short hand, when I'm writing my notes, but I also wanted to make sure there were no accidental doubling of initials, like when I briefly considered naming book 4 something along the lines of A Royal Curse. I couldn't have two ARC's, could I? The Cacodemon series takes the angelic/demonic theme of the plots for those titles – Deal with the Devil, Eyes on the Angel, Lead Me Into the Light. See?

I also, somehow, found my way into branding my images. So, The Cellist and Clef Notes are square images, with a bright art deco theme and small quotes; Decadent are all portrait size, with a border at the bottom for the title, a picture that depicts the scene/quote, and a quote of any length. Cacodemon are fragmented images, because of the split between angel and demon, how they're the same but different parts of the same entity.

It took me a long time, but I finally found my way. And I'm always learning.


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text 2018-03-03 03:05
It doesn't have to be a mansion

When I wrote The Looking-Glass Portrait, I knew exactly what the inspiration was: the house.  I detailed the background here via a link to my blog here.  The story kind of came to me separately -- and remember, it started 20+ years before it ended -- but the house was the focus when I structured the plot.


This certainly is no great revelation: the gothic genre began with The Castle of Otranto, so the tradition has been there from the beginning.  As we've seen here on BookLikes with buddy reads of Jamaica Inn and Ammie, Come Home, houses and other dwelling places continue to be integral to the genre.  There are ghosts, but they are connected to houses. 


Sometimes the houses end up destroyed, as happened to Manderley, in Rebecca.  But even then, even in its destruction, Manderley exercised its power over the second Mrs. de Winter.


The house in Edison Park, Illinois that served as the model for LGP, is still there.  Another house I'd love to put into a gothic romance is long gone.  I was told it, like Manderley, burned to the ground 25 or more years ago.


My paternal grandparents also lived in Edison Park, but they moved from there to Roselle, Illinois, a western suburb in DuPage County, in the very early 1950s.  So early in the 1950s that I have no real memories of their home on Owen Avenue at all.  They lived in Roselle until 1966, however, so I have clear recollections of that house.


The original house was small, just one bedroom, one bath, kitchen, and a big living/dining room.  The latter had an open, beamed ceiling.   



There was a big open covered porch, and another closed-in porch that led to the dining room.  French doors opened from the single bedroom onto the porch, too.


I don't remember the front door at all.



Shortly after moving into the house, my grandparents began installing a fireplace, a mammoth fieldstone structure that replaced the front door.  My dad, my grandfather, and my dad's cousin Bob built the fireplace, cementing stones from the yard of the 2-acre property in place.


When the fireplace was finished, my grandmother hung Bells of Sarna from the huge wooden mantel.  I loved those bells; I would be allowed to jingle them once or twice each time we visited.  I have no idea what happened to them, but years ago I purchased a strand of my own.  They hang in my living room now.


I don't have many photos of the interior of the house, and the few I have of the exterior are from my grandparents' earliest occupancy.  Along with the fireplace, they built a larger addition on the east end of the house with two large bedrooms, a shower bath, basement and attic.  I "borrowed" the pull-down stairs to the attic for LGP, since the Edison Park house didn't have any.




The house sat at the top of a low hill, with a long, winding gravel driveway down to the road, Forest Avenue.



I loved the trees, mostly oaks and shagbark hickories.  There was one crabapple tree.  The old horse-drawn plow was rusted and stuck in the hard clay ground, but I thought it was fabulous, a romantic relic.


Though I can't find it in these photos, there was a huge pink granite boulder somewhere in the yard.  It was absolutely enormous, to my two- or three-year-old self.  Best of all, however, it had a "saddle" on the top, a naturally broken out dip that was perfect for a little girl of the suburbs to imagine, there in that big open yard, that she had a horse.


There were other people in the neighborhood who did have horses, though I didn't see them often.  Years later, when I was in high school and bored with being around the family members, I'd go for long walks to catch a glimpse of a horse here or there, or to visit the dogs at the two collie kennels a street or two over.  One of the fences keeping the dogs in bore a sign identifying the owners as The Pettigrews.  Yeah, I stole the name, too.


But that big pink rock was so special.  As I grew up, I was eventually able to climb onto it myself, and then even jump over it.  Yet in my memory it remained gigantic.


I'm not sure when it was, but I was visiting the family years ago and decided to take a drive out to Roselle to see the place.  My dad had told me the house had burned down, but I still wanted to go out there.  It was winter; there was snow on the ground, I remember that much.  And there was a new house at the top of the hill. But at the bottom of the driveway, half covered by snow plowed off the road, was the big pink rock.


And it was so, so, so much smaller than I remembered!


A couple of years ago, while I was doing the online research of old family houses, I swooped down on a Google Maps street view and went digitally driving down Forest Avenue to see what I could see.



Is that the big pink rock?  Or what's left of it?  I don't know.  But I like to think it is.



P.S.  When my grandparents sold the house in 1966, the following ad appeared in the local newspaper:


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