Monday, July 21, 2014

Sexy is as sexy does

I've been contemplating what makes a person sexy. I've gotten a rush of inspiration that has seen me crafting contemporary romances that are short and sweet. Yet, I find myself with a particular conundrum when it comes to writing sexy characters in this genre of romance. 

Let me explain. When I write paranormal romance I feel as if "sexy" is right out there in the open due to the nature of the character. If the person is outherwordly, their sex appeal can be tied in with that aspect of the character. A male wolf shifter can "prowl", "growl", and do a whole host of things that are indicative of his animal half that position him within the archetype of a sexy "alpha". My female characters can exhibit a type of sexuality that is more visceral than what I feel a regular mundane woman is allowed. 

In a contemporary romance I feel I'm always working against what the preconceived notions of appropriate sexual expression is for the gender of my characters. I want the same sexy alpha for my hero that doesn't sprout fur and claws, without him appearing like a creepy batterer. I want a female heroine that owns her sexuality and exudes sex appeal without getting locked into the dreded "promiscuous" box that women of the "real" world often get put into.

I want sexy to not just be about the "sex" of the sex appeal. I want sexy to be about the witty mind and clever conversation of my characters. I want it to be that thing that is hard to describe but you instantly know it when you see it. I want it seems, the intangible quality that one experiences when all those factors come together without explanation or purpose. I want it all, in a finite amount of words, and I want it to be believable. 

It's a large task, and I'll confess I'm missing my characters ability to flash a little fang, or have a growl of desire rumble up from their chest, but I'm determined to make this happen. After all, the norms can be damn sexy too.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Christmas in July and Magic & Loss

Hi ho, readers and curiosity seekers! Happy July and Merry Christmas!

Yep, it's that time of year again - time for the MMP Anniversary and for Christmas in July!

I will be blunt and honest: Christmas at any time of the year isn't my favorite holiday. It seems that every weird thing that could ever happen to me is centered around December. No, I'm serious. In my world, Santa may as well stalk me down dark alleys with a great big club, waiting to put my lifeless body in his sack or something. Most outrageously bizarre or challenging things that happen to me happen around the holidays, which is probably why I've leaned toward the legends of Krampus and the Yule Lads in recent years. I've been outrageously ill, had family members suddenly drop dead, had to have a pet put to sleep on Christmas, nearly been carjacked, nearly been mugged, and accidentally set on fire during a Christmas Eve service. I've been overworked and overbooked and had my schedule jam-packed with every possible combination of seasonal hoopla you can possibly come up with. These days I lay pretty low and while I participate, I keep it to a reasonable amount for my sanity and safety.

Yet, for some reason, I keep trying to enjoy the holiday. Maybe I feel if I appease the almighty maker of Santa in some form, I might get a little relief. Maybe I just need a little light during the dark time of year. No matter how cynical I try to be, I want to embrace belief and hope. For every awful thing that's occurred in December, there's been something uniquely wonderful: meeting new friends, specific memories of family gatherings, being mistaken by a little girl for an actual Christmas elf...I have a million good stories, too.

Darkness and light, fatigue and energy, cynicism and hope. They're two sides of the same coin in winter, which is why the holidays are so important.

In a rare move for me, I actually wrote a fluffy Christmas story a few years back, and Mocha Memoirs Press was weird enough to accept it. It hits on a lot of themes that have meaning for me: a woman at the end of her rope, the chance to rebuild one's life, and the magical. After all, you can't have Christmas (even in July), without magic.

However, given past experience and the dark/light sides to the holiday, I also believe that magic can go hand in hand with loss. As Lou Reed sings in 'Magic and Loss: The Summation:' "There's a bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out." All the faerie stories I read as a little girl had a bit of tragedy in them, even if they ended well, and I'll admit I included those themes in this story. It's one I'm proud of, one that feels true to the stories I grew up reading, even some of the Christmas-themed stories I grew up loving. Yet, there's also a small part that feels definitively me. Holly and Ivy combines Holly's story, Ivy's strangeness, a Christmas tree farm, a bargain, a little romance, and some bittersweet results. I identify so much with Holly's frustration, exhaustion, and tenacity, but I also relate to Ivy's energy, youthfulness, and cheer. In some ways they're both sides of the holidays, as well, and I'm very glad to have been able to write them for you to read.

And if you choose to read about Holly and Ivy, you can get the title now for just $0.99!

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong oninions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keepinga promise to an old friend?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Recharging, letting the stress out

Sometimes, in the stress of everyday life, my creativity gets jammed up. Can't write hardly a word.

Eh. Not really the truth.

Normally, it's because I don't want to say what's really on my mind. I can't say the truth outloud, much less face myself on the page. My last logger jam was because of a bad marriage. This one was because I was terrified of a health concern.

Now I'm on the otherside of that concern and my creativity is just begging to be released. When I'm done here, I'm going to work on my Camp Nano project, and hopefully if the recuperation allows, on my airship pirate steampunk story.

The ideas, the drive to write, is there, springing to life at my touch like an enchanted sword. But like any sword, while not in use it needed to be cared for. Polished. Honed. But if I wasn't writing, how could I possibly do that?

I fed my soul. I'm a NorCal girl, and I like my beaches cold and wild. We went in March, and then again just a few weeks ago. I traveled with people who knew me, my idiosyncracies and my need to take pictures to fuel the dream. I answered a question on my larger work while watching the waves in Santa Cruz, and now that my brain isn't fried and tied up with other concerns, I'm going to get right on it.

I took my son one day, and set off for an adventure... In a small Japanese Tea Garden. Just perfect, quiet, and peaceful with my son running across the stepping stones over the pond, telling me not to be afraid "Just be friends with the stones, Mommy, and the stones will take care of you. Here, take my hand, I'll help you."

Well heck.

I also recharge with other things, things like teaching my son to ride his bike despite his dyspraxia. Watching him get up and try and try and try again... just as any warrior would do. A balloon fight in the back yard. Coloring together. Being family.

But now... My batteries are full. The stress is much less (except for my drama queen tendencies-- I am a writer after all!). It's time to sit and write, because I can no longer not write.  


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US! Merry Christmas!! and happy four days after the fourth

* Dancing in kitchen, putting final touches on the butter cream frosted goodness, attributes flashing of lights to storms or brown outs, can't hear the buzzer or the intercom over the tunes blaring through her head phones*

*Assistant muse storms in, the movement catches my attention and sends me leaping to the top of the refrigerator in a fighting cat pose*

* Assistant muse laughs and swipes a finger through the butter cream mocha icing on the death by chocolate cake i've been slaving over*

"you're late riley"

"and you're an a$$"

"you gonna get on the stage"

*cocks head back behind him indicated the direction i should be moving, yet i stand my ground*

"Dressed like this"  * pointing to my house shoes and kiss me i'm the cook apron, lets not discuss the hair*

"i'm just glad your dressed at all"

"i'm not going"

"Riley, you have to"

"no. i don't"

"Yes,  yes you really do."

"Fine, teleport me there. but glam me up first and bring the cake."

* lands on stage in a shimmering dolce and gabbana maxi dress and adorable strappy summer time wedges. The afro is bigger than the entire '70's and catches the light with its sheen.*

*holds cake out and sings the most soulful jazzy rendition of any happy birthday song ever sang in any language*

Its our birthday here at mmp and we hope you party with us.   as our gift to you, check out our Christmas in July special. All our Christmas themed stories can be your for just .99 cents.
And sign up for a our news letter for your chance to win a super prize bag full of goodies... as well as be able to keep up on all the latest releases!

*puckers artfully glossed lips and leans in to blow out the candles on the yummiest cake ever. listens as breaths catch. winks saucily and blows*

* house lights go down with the extinguished candles. sounds of rubber spinning out on pavement echo through the theater*

Next month I'll be on time ( i hope) But mean while don't forget to party with us.  Its our birthday and we LOVE GIVING PRIZES!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Christmas in July SALE! All holiday titles are 0.99!

July is our birthday month, but we're giving gifts! In fact, it's Christmas in JULY!!

We've reduced all of our holiday stories to 0.99. If you missed these heart-warming stories of romance, we invite you to get them today!

They're all fantastic shots of fiction for your Kindle (R), Nook (R), or tablets.

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong opinions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keeping a promise to an old friend?

Purchase link:
Price: .99

Dear Santa,
My family is insane and I’ve been more than naughty this year.
It was totally worth it.

If you could please, leave some turkey and dressing and other REAL Christmas food under the tree, I’ll promise to work on that “nice thing this year.

Oh and don’t worry about stocking stuffers, I’ve already picked that out for myself . He is 6ft plus of hippie latin goodness and he stuff the very best stocking in the world.

Purchase link:
Price: 0.99

Military widow Rhea Blackmon is forced by her late husband’s best friend Sebastian to attend Fort Mitchell’s Christmas party, much against her will. All she wants is to go home and be alone but Sebastian has other plans. He has a present for her; one that she will not soon forget.

Purchase link:
Price: 0.99

They're more titles that are less than a $1.00 USD. Stop by our website to find more!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cosmic Connections...

Happy Fourth, everyone. (Okay, it's now the sixth, but I wrote this on the fourth.)  And, Happy Birthday to Mocha Memoirs, and congratulations to our newest authors.

'Hope you're all having a safe and happy Independence Day.  Here in Boston, we had our fireworks a day early, due to the storm passing through our area.  I stood on the banks of the Charles and watched the exploding, multi-colored rockets as I do every year.  Then, walking home, I walked straight into a mini-monsoon and got soaked to the skin.  They say Boston and a lot of other eastern cities may be facing major flood disasters in the not-too-distant future, due largely to global warming intensifying tropical storms.  I've done my share of marching and signature gathering this summer for environment-friendly causes and candidates, and you see hopeful signs; more and more of the world's energy is being generated by clean, renewable sources.  Still, it's hard to escape a feeling of helplessness in the face of larger, cosmic events, as beyond our control as a sudden storm.  But, do we, in the course of our mundane lives, contribute to a creeping apocalypse of storm, drought, fire and flood every time we turn on a light switch or a computer powered by coal-fired power plants?  We feel detached from larger, world-altering events, but we may be connected to them in ways we don't suspect or like to think about.

One theme I like to touch on in my fiction is that invisible connection between the lives of ordinary people and cosmic forces and events; that intersection between the banal and the infinite.  Science fiction and paranormal fiction can both be used to find that connection (as religious fiction can.)  Romance might not seem a likely instrument for that kind of story, but it certainly can be.  Two of my Mocha titles, "Black Goddess" and "Along Came a Spider" deal with that theme of cosmic connectedness, from several angles:  Science, altered consciousness, morality, romance, and, in the case of "Black Goddess," religion.  The protagonists in both stories are guys looking for answers, and feeling their lives have hit a dead, meaningless end.  Both find the answer they've been looking for in love, of a sort.

In this excerpt from "Black Goddess," I tried to use a love scene to viscerally express that connection between the human and the infinite:


As they made love, she felt the bed turn to stars, her body to sunfire and nebula, the room around her to infinite space, exploding stars and burgeoning infant galaxies. Her being extended throughout the cosmos, her fingers intertwining with his, new stars blazing into being, forming like beads of sweat on every pore of each finger-tip. She screamed, a universe exploding at the core of every particle of her existence…

“Josh…” she called out as he faded like a ghost, reaching out to her, his fingers slipping away into the ether like wisps of mist as his anguished face called out silently…

He faded like a dream, his memory lingering like a cool kiss of air as time and space resumed their normal shape.

She sighed as her hand stroked the sheets in the empty space where he had lain a moment before.
Everybody looks for answers, but the quest for them often just brings more questions.  I think the best stories are the ones that raise more questions than answers.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Short and Snappy

Last weekend, I was on a panel at ApolloCon discussing short fiction, and was there still any market for it. The resounding consensus was YES!

As the print magazines began to disappear, there was a brief time when the market might have been shrinking, but as people turn more and more to online venues for their reading pleasure, it has come roaring back. There are probably more online magazines looking for short fiction and poetry today than there ever were print. And new anthologies are announced daily.

What does this mean for you as an author/reader? It means that there are dozens--if not hundreds--of ezines and anthologies to read and/or write for. These short story markets are a great place to hone your craft and make a little money.

It is true, that with the growth of the marketplace, you might not be seeing the same financial return as offered by the big magazines of the past, but it all adds up in the long run. Personally, I made more off selling to anthologies and magazines last year than royalties.

So, where do you start? There are basically two ways to go about it. Write a story and then look for a market that it fits, or find a market that looks interesting and write a story to submit to it. Either way can work. In fact, sometimes writing a piece for a specific market can break up a pesky Writer's Block.

Once you have decided you are ready to write short, there are several wonderful resources to find markets. My personal favorite is, because it is free and open to everyone. There are also several excellent Facebook groups with specific focus that have been helpful. These require that you be added to the closed group, but I don't believe anyone is ever turned down. They start with OPEN CALL: and then the specifics. Search for OPEN CALL: and you should get the entire list. There are groups for Horror; Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Pulp; and Crime, Mystery, Suspense for sure. There may be others, but I haven't had call to join them yet. :)

At the next level, Duotrope is considered a must-have tool by many in the industry, but it is not free. On the other hand, it provides a Submission Tracker, and many analytics that aren't available on the other sites mentioned.

Finally, there is the old standby Writer's Market which has now brought in an online component. If you still like the doorstop paper version, you can get it--or you can get it with a year's access to the online version too--or, it looks like, you can now just register online for a year on the website. So many choices!

Spend some time with these market lists, play with words a bit. Short fiction, as I said, can hone your longer pieces, as you learn to write tight description and compelling characters that must grab the reader's attention on the first page. It can supplement your income and start spreading your name around. If people read one of your stories in an anthology, and like it, that can help them decide to give more of your work a try.

And if you need a place to start, try writing something for our Steampunk anthology Avast Ye Airships!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday to Us and U.S. too!

Happy Birthday to Mocha Memoirs Press!

If you've been a part of Mocha Memoirs for the last four years, you know that July is our BIRTHDAY Month! Not only is this the month of the United States' birth, but also ours.
Mocha Memoirs Press began in 2001, but reopened our doors in July 2010 with the hope of spotlighting fantastic fiction in the genres of science fiction, horror, fantasy, and romance. Since we’re giving gifts, it’s Christmas in July! What’s in our holiday sack?
Gift #1-New fiction! Four new titles will launch our TOIL, TROUBLE, AND TEMPTATION line.
Gift #2- MMP GIFT bag. It will include the following:
1.      A sample of our books (both horror anthologies, a science fiction title, two erotic romance titles, and a fantasy title).
2.      A MMP tee-shirt.
3.      A MMP journal to write down your own inspiring ideas.
4.      Starbucks® coffee
5.      Other surprise goodies.
6.      All will be contained in a MMP cloth bag or be spilling out of it.  
(You have to sign up for the MMP Newsletter at
Gift #3-Black Friday sale in the summer-All Christmas and holiday stories are .99!
Gift #4-Sizzling Deals for HOT summer nights-All erotic romance titles are $2.99 or LESS! With many below $2.00!
Gift #5-Select science fiction, fantasy, and horror titles are $1.00 or 0.99.
$.99  or $1 Horror, SF, and Fantasy titles:
  • Drink My Soul by Rie Sheridan Rose
  • Descent into Madness by Michael LaRocca
  • Still Another Day by Janet Eckford
  • Dragon’s Champion by Wynelda Ann Deaver
  • Huntress by Siobhan Kinkade
  • The Soul Cages by Nicole Givens Kurtz
So, join us in the fun!

Nicole Givens Kurtz

First Impressions

What's the most exciting thing for a new author? Having your first short story accepted by a professional publishing agency. To say I couldn't stop smiling for thirty minutes straight is not exaggeration. I'm unbelievably excited to be one of the authors in Mocha Memoir's upcoming Toil, Trouble, and Temptation series, and thought I would introduce myself a bit and talk about my story, how I came up with it, and what it was like to write.

One of my best friends told me I have an overactive imagination. He was more right that he knew. I'm the kind of author who will literally come up with ideas out of the blue. I once came up with an idea walking to Walmart, listening to music, and thinking two words sounded cool put together. I write best when I let the ideas flow like this, naturally and without effort. Once I know what sort of idea I want to explore, I can't let go until it's a completed piece of work.

As soon as I saw the submission guidelines, I knew I wanted to participate. At first I was forcing out ideas, trying to think of something to write and coming up with half-hearted, unoriginal ideas. Nothing I knew I could have fun with or experiment with or test myself with. So I took a step back, and just didn't think about it. Two days later, that little lightbulb in my head flicked on, and this is what shone through:

A necromancer summons an assassin for the mob. Here's a more detailed description:

Tessa Sterling is a necromancer having a bad night. She's kidnapped and confronted by the most powerful gangster in Boston, then ordered to resurrect his most ruthless contract killer. When those she cares about are threatened, Tessa has no choice but to comply.

But the spirit she raises quickly uncovers the truth about his death, and his rage is insatiable. Hell is about to break loose, and Tessa is the only one who can put the spirit back in his grave, if he doesn't put her in one first...

What could be more dangerous than an undead assassin with anger management problems? The trickiest part for me was the setting. For some reason, all the gangsters I pictured were dressed like they'd just walked off the set of the Godfather. The first idea was that Tessa would be a poor girl from that era and dragged unwillingly into the crime life, finding out that her mother had been murdered by the very people she was working for. I liked that idea and really tried to make it work, but I wasn't as in love with the concept as I originally thought. So I changed things around, went with a more modern setting, and it flowed a lot better. I was writing so hard I thought my fingers would fall off.

The funnest part for me was deciding on how Tessa's gift work, what she needed to do physically and spiritually to summon a spirit from the grave. I think I came up with a really unique concept, and maybe that was part of the reason Call From The Grave was selected for the Toil, Trouble, and Temptation series by Mocha Memoirs Press.

I had a great time writing this little story. The more I think about it, the more proud I am, and I can't wait to see how the final product is received. Hope you all enjoy it, and have a terrific Fourth of July weekend!