Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Internet Friends - Are They for Real?

Before the Internet, (BE) people made friends the old fashioned way, by meeting them face to face.


Friendships bloomed between neighbors, school associates, co-workers, church goers and members of groups with common interests who gathered and met regularly.  Dating Services organized blind dates between likely candidates. We usually lived close to our friends.

Face to face meetings meant we assessed others by their physical appearance, their voice, and the conversations we had with them.

Today, we meet people online. They may belong to a group we have joined and therefore have a common interest, they may wish to become a business contact on LinkedIn, or they can ask to be your friend on Facebook or other social media. If you join a dating site, you no longer have to endure the old fashioned blind date. You can swap pictures and emails and never know one another's residential address. 

Today, our friends can live anywhere in the world. We may never hear their voice but feel that we know them intimately after exchanging emails for a while. We've seen their pictures and we've shared some of our more private stories with them, yet we don't know what they really look like or even if the pictures we’ve seen are legitimate.

One can understand why scams have multiplied exponentially in recent years. Most of us have a lot of faith in our fellow humans and just because they seem nice in their emails, we think we can trust them.
So how do we tell if someone is genuine or not?

The answer is we don't. Online scams have caught hundreds, probably hundreds of thousands of people in the past few years.


And yet, despite it all, I still feel an emotional connection with certain people I have met online. I feel their pain when they suffer, and rejoice with them when something good happens to them. I know my life would be poorer if the Internet had never been invented and I truly cherish all the wonderful friends I have, scattered all over the world.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Are You Using Pinterest?

Pinterest use is growing exponentially, which makes sense because humans are predominantly visual creatures. We use our sense of vision much more than any other of the five (or six) senses. I've done quite a lot of searching on Pinterest, and I found not many authors are taking advantage of the exposure it offers. That's good for me, because I have created several boards showcasing books, including mine, naturally.


I think a lot of people are scared to use Pinterest because it works a little differently and it takes time to learn how to create boards and pins.  Basically, it's like hanging a cork board on your office wall, and pinning photographs or articles of interest from glossy magazines onto it. Others can repin your pins (select something you have pinned on your board, copy it, and place the copy on their board.) You couldn't ask for an easier way to advertise. Also, because it is digital, you can add videos.

I'm still learning, but I love what I've found out so far. Here's a screenshot of my profile, showing some of my boards. 


I will be happy to pin anyone's books onto my boards or help them create their own. 

The titles of mine:

Sizzling Romantic Suspense
Really Funny Romantic Comedy
Awesome Books Set in Africa
Books Worth Buying

I also have a board showcasing each of my own novels, plus a couple of other interesting topics. 

Now I'm starting a board to highlight and link back to my blog postings.

To follow me or access my boards, click on the Pinterest icon at the top right hand side of this blog.

I'd love to include everyone's books on my boards, so please comment with your Pinterest link or contact info.

More info on how to use Pinterest:

http://www.theyummylife.com/Pinterest_tips

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtmmGA0M_yk


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Writing Process - Romantic Suspense

I was invited by Marie Lavender to take place in this Writing Process blog tour.  She is a romance writer who focuses on historical romance. Her Heiress in Love series is a must read for all romance readers who enjoy reading what was once known as 'bodice rippers'. Here's a link to her books.


What am I working on?
Romantic suspense is my genre and I usually write about small towns and country folk, and their pets -- and often my stories are set in Africa. 
Capricorn Cravings was released in February 2014 by Soul Mate Publishing. This is the first on my Zodiac Series where each heroine will belong to a different star sign and display the characters associated with that sign of the zodiac. 
The second in the series, Aquarius Addiction, is completed and I've entered the manuscript in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. So far I've made it to the second round so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
I'm currently working on the third, working title 'The Reality Show'. I originally planned to keep the series in the order the zodiac signs are usually presented, but Lexie King is most definitely a Virgo and she wouldn't let me make her anything else. Lexie is a camera operator, and when her boss, producer Allan Dockery pushes her out of the aircraft with the other contestants she knows something is wrong. Okay, so she has a parachute on, and she signed up to work on the show in Zambia in Africa, but she didn't think she would be treated the same as the contestants. Then she discovers the monster who abused her as a child is one of them. When people start being killed, the only thing that keeps her sane is the comforting presence of the cute cowboy Billy Murphy.

 How does my work differ from others of the same genre?
I don't think anyone has ever done a series using the signs of the zodiac in romantic suspense. 

 Why do I write what I do?
 I grew up in Zimbabwe, where life was an adventure and there was a time when I had to keep a loaded UZI by my side at all times in case of an attack by armed insurgents. I think this probably helped to create my love of suspense and thrillers. I'm also an incurable romantic--hence romantic suspense. 
I also write a series about Twila Taunton, a redneck private investigator, which is a little crazy, politically incorrect and definitely in bad taste. Why? It gives me freedom of speech.

  How does your writing process work?
I am a 'pantser', which means I write by the seat of my pants. An idea forms in my head. I mull it over for a few days, then I sit down at the computer and start typing. No careful plotting or planning. That comes later when I need everything to work out in the timeline I've created. 
There is no greater adrenalin rush for a writer than to sit at a computer and start working on the next story.

Here is a link to my books on Amazon and my website www.trishjax.com 

These are the wonderful authors who will follow me on this tour:


http://www.petersavagenovels.com/

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Tragedy of Puppy Mills in the U.S. and How You Can Help

If you love animals, you have probably stopped at a pet store to pet the adorable puppies and kittens. Sadly, very often these are the progeny of puppy mill parents that live in appalling conditions, where the owners are only concerned with making money and have no empathy for the dogs they use for breeding.

So what exactly is a puppy mill?
It is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where the welfare of the breeding animals is not taken into consideration. One or more of the following are common:
1.       The animals are kept in small wire cages, often stacked on top of one another, and are never taken out for exercise. They are forced to urinate and defecate in their cages and it is rarely or never cleaned up.
2.       The cages are located outdoors or under a roof where heating or cooling is not provided, no matter how hot or cold the weather conditions.
3.       The animals are not given adequate food and water.
4.       The bitches are bred as often as possible until they are physically unable to reproduce, at which time they are killed.
5.       No veterinary treatment is given to the animals.
6.       The dogs are not protected from parasites.

The Federal Animal Welfare Act requires breeders with more than three breeding female dogs, and who sell puppies to pet stores or middlemen, called puppy-brokers, are required to be licensed and inspected by the US Department of Agriculture.

You may be disgusted to hear federal law allows a dog to be kept in a cage only six inches longer than the dog in each direction, with a wire floor and stacked on top of another cage. Fortunately additional animal anti-cruelty laws are administered on a state-by-state basis, and many states have imposed stricter guidelines for dog breeding operations, plus greater penalties for cruelty to animals. Sadly, others only offer the bare minimum of protection as dictated by the federal government.
I would never have found out about puppy mills if I hadn't adopted a dog from a rescue society.
My little Yorkshire Terrier, Purdy was rescued together with more than 100 other dogs from a puppy mill in Arkansas.
When the number of dogs rescued is too great to be accommodated by local rescue facilities, a wonderful organization called Pilots n' Paws flies them to rescue societies in other parts of the country. http://pilotsnpaws.org/
Most members of the public have no knowledge of puppy mills and the extent of the suffering these poor dogs go through. I certainly didn't until I went online and searched for 'puppy mills'.  You can do your own search but I've placed some links at the end of this article. Be warned, if you love dogs this information will bring tears to your eyes.
My beautiful little Purdy was emaciated, suffering from heartworm, filthy, and almost dead when they saved her. Her teeth were falling out because of malnutrition and calcium deficiency. She was also terrified of everything and everyone. The rescuers and their dedicated staff of veterinarians treated her for heartworm and other parasites, spayed her, and pulled the loose teeth. They guessed her age was around 10 to 12, but she was so debilitated she looked more like 14. Now we know she was probably actually only six.
Her health problems, caused by the way she was abused, will never totally end.  She's been diagnosed with a mass on her pancreas, and can never eat fat. We've fed her all sorts of supplements and a special organic diet and her immune system, once non-existent, has slowly begun to recover. It's been a hard seven years; emotionally draining for us, and physically tough for her, but finally, things seem to be turning around for her. She has picked up a half pound in weight, which is a lot for a dog under 10 lbs, and she sometimes goes for long spells without throwing up. I had never heard her bark until a few months ago—she was too timid. She is certainly the most loving dog I've ever owned. She expresses her love by pressing her head into me or by just gazing into my face.
It's hard to imagine how many more Purdy's are out there.  
The Humane Society of the United States http://www.humanesociety.org/ and the ASPCA http://www.aspca.org/ are doing all they can to spread the word and educate people not to purchase puppies from pet stores.
The great thing is, every single person, including you, can make a difference. Here's how:
1.       Spread the word about puppy mills – start by sharing this article on the social networks and with everyone on your mailing list. Even if you don't really care for dogs, great satisfaction often comes from knowing you've done a good deed.
2.       Go to the Humane Society website and sign the pledge. https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=6041&s_src=web_86162527
3.       Educate people –  tell your friends why they shouldn't buy puppies from pet stores. Make sure they are aware that puppies bred in puppy mills are a bad investment because they are often inbred and unhealthy. Suggest to them that before making a commitment, they ask for the name and address of the breeders who supply the puppies, and make a point of checking up on them.
4.       If you live in a rural area and hear a large number of dogs barking from a single location, make it your mission to find out if the owner of the property is licensed to keep dogs and that they have been inspected by the local US Department of Agriculture inspector. While anti-cruelty agencies and organizations work to ferret out illegal puppy mills and close them down, others are brought to justice by the diligent efforts of animal lovers, many of whom place themselves in danger by posing as buyers or puppy brokers so they can gain access to the breeding facilities. (Please do not take this risk. Go to your local authorities.)
5.       Consider getting your next pet from your local animal shelter or a rescue organization. They offer hundreds of pets that may otherwise lose their lives if nobody claims them. If you particularly want a pedigreed dog with papers, look to bona-fide breeders and visit their premises before making a purchase.
6.       Give a donation. No matter how small, it will be put to good use. The veterinary treatment for dogs rescued from puppy mills runs into the hundreds of thousands.
7.       Consider being a dog foster parent. You'll be asked to keep one or more rescued dogs at your home and socialize them to ready them for adoption.
I love all animals, and I try to always incorporate some sort of animal in my writing. In Backwoods Boogie, the third book in my Redneck Series, which is still in the draft stages, redneck P.I. Twila Taunton rescues several dogs from an illegal puppy mill. I'm thrilled to have come up with a way to bring to people's attention the appalling conditions these dogs have to endure.
The book will be published in the fall of 2014, but you can contact me to sign up to pre-order it or ask to be notified when it's available on my website: http://www.trishjax.com

More info about puppy mills: (Get the tissues ready – the first one is really graphic).


(This story first appeared on The Write Room Blog in August, 2013)
http://www.thewriteroomblog.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

The results of the first round picks for the ABNA were posted today and I'm totally thrilled that my novel, Aquarius Addiction,  has qualified.


This portion of the competition was judged solely on the pitch. The judges didn't read any part of the manuscript. Here's mine:

Aquarius Addiction
Anyone who thinks God doesn't have a macabre sense of humor answer this—why did he bring Andre Rossouw into Arlette's life on the same day her doctor told her she was about to die?
Attractive FBI Psychic Arlette Xylander displays all the character traits of her star sign, Aquarius, being feisty, eccentric, freedom-loving, flirtatious, rebellious and unpredictable. She may be only five feet tall, but she epitomizes the old adage that dynamite comes in small packages.
Her emotions rage between denial, anger and tears when her doctor tells her she is suffering from a rare terminal disease.  When hunky Andre Rossouw asks her to help find his sister who has been missing for four years, Arlette makes two decisions. To beat the disease and find a cure, and to have wild and passionate sex with him.
Then she finds out he has a fiancée.
Arlette's country home on the banks of Bayou LeGue was left to her by her mysterious aunt Lucie, whom she never met, and whom her dysfunctional parents have never been willing to discuss. She often wakes in the dark hours of the night to hear ghostly voices downstairs, and wishes she could find out who they are and what they want.
A mysterious letter arrives from her aunt, hinting at a secret in the house, and her friend, Reay, agrees to research her home's recorded archives, while Arlette plans to dig into her family history. She starts by visiting her aunt's grave, where she finds a mysterious woman wearing a hooded cloak, who leaves in a hurry.  Arlette's instincts tell her the woman holds the answers to all her questions, but how can she find her?

 There are five categories and my book is one of 400 finalists in the romance category. In the next round they'll take a look at the synopsis. I have my fingers and toes crossed. I know my book is well-written and different, but luck does come into the mix, because judges are all human and they have their own opinions, likes and dislikes.


***

The second round is judged on 5,000 word excerpt, specifically 
a) Overall Strength of Excerpt, b) Prose/Style,

c) Plot/Hook, d) Originality of Idea. 
The top 100 from each genre will advance to the quarter finals. These excerpts will be posted where Amazon customers can download them, read them, and write a review on them.
                                                                                ***
If anyone is interested, I got this from an ABNA discussion board.
TWITTER PITCH TO AGENTS - On May 25th, 2014, between 8am and 8pm (not sure if that is US Eastern or Pacific time) tweet a blurb for you novel and use #pitmad. Agents will be monitoring the tweets.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

First Page - No Kiss Good-Night

The day of his thirty-ninth birthday, relationship counsellor Gus Adams was completely alone. He was supposed to have a birthday bash, surrounded by friends and coworkers, but everyone cancelled for this reason or that. Gus—left with a silly Staples birthday banner and chilled champagne, sans company—realized he had no one upon whom to depend, no one to love.
With sudden determination, Gus decided to find love—real, substantial love—before his dreaded fortieth birthday. After all, he knows how to make a relationship work. He spent his career listening to other people talk about their relationships. He knew what worked and what didn’t, but Gus hadn’t been in a romantic relationship in over ten years, since a heartless vixen tossed him out on the metaphorical curb.



NO KISS GOOD-NIGHT
Kevin Zdrill



CHAPTER 1


Realizing I was perilously close to executing an Olympic-quality somersault, I stepped back from the fifteenth-floor railing. My second dismal thought was that no one would know if I had gone over. I was alone inside my Winnipeg apartment. On any other day of the year, the silence was an accepted normal, but today it was a defeat. Today I turned thirty-nine, and I'd had a plan to tackle the dreaded experience with a show of force. With focused determination, I'd gained the commitment of my most cherished friends, family and acquaintances to form a protective circle around me as we celebrated the end of my favourite decade, my thirties.

This morning my phone rang at 9:00 a.m., and I dashed toward it with a large grin, preparing to hear the well-wishes of a thoughtful friend. It was my sister, Julia Adams. She was flying in this afternoon from her home in Minneapolis, one of the guaranteed members of my protective birthday circle. Except today was my birthday and Julia's plane ticket was one weekend off. Julia was calling from the airport—ticket, bag and gift in hand—mere hours away from joining my circle. In her zest for supporting her brother she'd given the airline the wrong date for her day of departure. Julia had a heart of gold but her pocketbook wasn't lined with it. The airline wanted $900 to change her flight. End of the line. Julia asked if it would be okay for her to hang on to my gift until I saw her at Christmas when I came to visit. Yes, it would. Strike one from my protective circle.

I thanked Julia for calling. I still had confidence my remaining troops would take up the slack. I spent the rest of the morning getting silly from blowing up a few coloured balloons I'd bought at the Dollar Store. I chose a stack of CDs to play during the party, including my favourites by Streetheart, Loverboy Harlequin and Neil Young; I pulled out my wrinkled Twister mat in case the party got wild and stuck 39 candles into the vanilla cake I'd bought the day before at Safeway.

Lonny Wood rang my phone at 12:30 p.m. He was my best friend, my only friend, a part of my circle, and it looked like he was not going to show up. Lonny had intended to drive in from Brandon today after selling his cell phones to various farming communities. He explained that while he was having breakfast that morning at the Double Decker Restaurant in Brandon, he'd bumped into a "harem" of girls paying their bills at the same time he did. The girls were heading off to a Passion Party one of the women at Double Decker was hosting. Thirty women equaled thirty potential cell phone sales, maybe a phone number or two for Lonny and a free sex toy thrown in by the hostess. "Business is business," he said. Lonny promised to drop off my birthday gift the next time we got together.

After Lonny bailed on my final thirties party, slight panic set in, but I pulled out the two bottles of Barefoot champagne that I had chilling in the fridge and left two champagne glasses in the cupboard. I set the bottles on the kitchen table alongside the remaining three glasses. I liked that odd number. It was lucky.



Monday, March 3, 2014

First Page - Only Love Twice

A Cross-Cultural Romance by Kat Canfield


In the aftermath of 9/11 Americans have largely become suspicious of persons of Saudi heritage. But a fifty-something retired police officer from South Florida takes a chance in meeting a man a bit younger than her who is a Saudi National. Being a businessman who grew up in England as the son of a diplomat, he is used to western ways.

Communicating through the Internet and smartphones, Madison and Saleem become friends and find they share much in common. Madison is a widow of two years whose driving passions are her horse showing and her business. She has no children so her horse is her child. Meanwhile Saleem is an oil company executive, divorced, with four children and a bit of a playboy reputation. To further complicate matters, Madison is Jewish. But she has a curiosity about the Muslim faith and a love of the Middle East in general. Can these two polar opposites find the second love of their lives in a post 9/11 world?
 



Chapter 1

     How the world had changed in a few short years. No one could do anything without a computer, and everyone had a phone in his or her pocket. There was nothing you could not do with a computer and a smartphone. And the technology made it so easy to make money now. Who would have thought you could become a millionaire with a webcam and a domain name? The fifty-something
red-haired wonder had done just that. Madison made her millions selling sex to perverts on the Internet. Well, maybe not all of them were perverts. They were just faceless persons who watched
the women she employed perform for the camera. The girls enjoyed getting paid to perform as solo acts, and they did not have to see the people they performed for. It was a nice combination for them.

     Madison Kelly, though anonymous, made a few friends of the customers. No one saw her face or knew her true name. They just chatted online, told her things they would like to see, and she told the girls what someone wanted to see. They did the work; she did the selling. What was the old saying? A fool and his money are soon parted. That was how her business ran for the past few years.

     She had recently met a person online who captured her attention. The problem with anonymous Internet is you can’t tell about someone just by chatting, but she felt sure this was a man and he interested her. They had been chatting for about eight months. One of the short flicks she had posted showed an Arab woman pleasuring herself. The woman wore a veil so her face could not be seen. He seemed to think that would never happen as Arab men would never let a woman have needs of pleasure without him taking care of those needs. That conversation evolved to a friendship online. Now she thought she would like to take the next step and see the face behind the conversation. She...

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