What Are Yours?

During a recent car trip, my family and I discussed our “favorites,” as in favorite smells, favorite sounds, etc. I found it interesting; a lot of the times, a person’s choices are very much tied in with their past or history. It became a bit of an exercise in self discovery.

And so, I figured I would share a little bit about myself with you – and in return, I would love for you to post back with your own favorites and least-favorites. It would be a chance for you to learn something new about yourself, and share it with others. 🙂

My favorite smells: Rain or fresh wet soil, rubber tires, leather, cooking cracked pepper, tomatoes on the vine, brewing coffee, baking sourdough bread, new car

Smells I hate: Halitosis (bad breath), garlic, grass or hay, wet dog, body odor, blood

Favorite sounds: Thunder, crackling fire in a hearth, rain on a tin roof, a babbling brook, classical guitar or cello expertly played, Harley Davidson V-Twin engines, horses’ hooves on cobblestones, leather soles on hard surfaces, the turning of pages in a quiet space

Sounds I hate: Blaring news or reality TV shows, lawn mowers, buzzing insects, hammering, discordant horns, elevator music over the phone

Your turn. xoxo

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Going for Extremes

I’ve never been a “Happy Medium” kind of girl. I guess I’m a drama queen at heart because my writing has always been the kind to evoke strong emotions in its readers. My words are words of extremes: Either people absolutely love them and want to read more, or they hate them, and consequently hate me.

I have to admit that there have been times when this bothered me. I was of course happy that there were people out there who could appreciate my style, my point of view, and me, in general. But I was confused and somewhat torn by the number of “haters” I seemed to attract.

I don’t sugar coat things. If my bad guy is going to pan out to be a real bad guy, I write him that way. He’ll give you chills, make you sick, and keep you turning pages because you can’t wait until the devil gets his due. If one of my characters is a werewolf afraid he’s going to lose the only chance he has at a meaningful relationship with a woman, I write him the way such a werewolf would behave. Like an animal, determined, fierce, and a little mean. After all, no alpha wolf in the wild would simply nod and step to the side when faced with adversity. No way in hell.
You get the point. I pull my readers into the world and make them feel as if it’s real, and sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes they are certain it isn’t.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about humanity, it’s that it makes absolutely no sense. Despite the fact that our youth are more jaded today than they have ever been in history, our adults appear to retain more delicate sensibilities than ever before as well. It’s highly illogical, to quote a pointy-eared alien, but there it is. I think it’s usually pretend, to be honest. I have a feeling it’s fear of being found out hastily masked by indignation. But whatever it is, it certainly riles people up, especially when they have nothing better to do with their time or lives.

Normally, I look at this one of two ways: 1. Wow, I must be doing something right if I’ve pissed people off this badly, after all “well behaved women rarely make history.” And, 2. Oh, give me a break. *rolls eyes, shakes head*

But today I realized that I should look at this a third way, from an entirely different angle – one that cuts out the negative aspects altogether. A reader wrote to me yesterday, “I don’t care what some reviewers say about The Strip, I feel you wrote Malcolm Cole just for me, and for that I’m eternally grateful.”

I reached someone. I gave them something that no one else dared to give them, and I made them happy. I improved a life, even if it was just a little. In this, I’ve made the world a better place.

So there it is. 3. I’ve made the world a better place.
That’s an extreme I can live with.

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A Day to Wear Those Clothes

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately. I’ve realized that I struggle with something every day. It isn’t always the same something, but it’s always something. I struggle with my career or deadlines or my body or my health or my daughter – every day is a fight. Every once in a while, I naively find myself thinking, “I can’t wait until such and such, when we are so and so, and everything is just right.” All my life, I’ve been thinking this. It’s not always the same such and such, and my definition of “everything” has changed a bit. But I’m always looking forward to it. Always thinking that some day, it will come.
For nearly forty years.

I have a dress in my closet that I never wear. I keep waiting for the right occasion, the right weather, the right place to take it to. It’s beautiful. It’s exactly the kind of thing I want to drape myself in, twirl in, and breathe in. It’s long and white and diaphanous, like the gown of a fairy princess. But I’ve never worn it. Not even once. I keep telling myself, “I’m going to look so beautiful in that when I wear it.” Whenever that is going to be.

My best friend died of ovarian cancer two and a half years ago. A close friend of the family committed suicide last October. My cat died last month. A friend’s young son-in-law suddenly died yesterday, leaving behind three children under the age of ten and a wife in pieces. All of you probably have similar stories, but right now, it begs noticing.

It’s been said a billion times, and I think that because of this, it has unfortunately lost some of its meaning. But the fact is, life is short. So short. We never know how long we have. Today? Tonight? Next week?

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately. But mostly, I’ve been thinking about how it ends. Because it always does. What precious percentage of my life allotment have I spent looking forward to the rest of it? Waiting for such and such so that everything will be just right? Life always ends. And when mine does, I don’t want that to be the day that I am finally seen wearing that dress because that’s what my husband placed me in for my funeral.

Screw that. I’m going to wear it today.

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death.” – William Shakespeare

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YES!! WE DID IT!!! Score one really big point for freedom!!!!

Note from Smashwords founder, Mark Coker:

March 13, 2012

Smashwords author/publisher update: PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship

Great news. Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.

Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.

It’s been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers. You stood up and made your voice known. Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.

Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference. Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated. We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.

I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out. Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention.

I would like to thank our friends at PayPal. They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies.

This is a big, bold move by PayPal. It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction. It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction.

Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors. Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies? Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.

This is a bright day for indie publishing. In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit. Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish. Merit is decided by your readers. Just as it should be.


Mark Coker

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Interlude on the High Seas

A bit of fun writing just for the hell of it.

Interlude on the High Seas (by Heather Killough-Walden)….

She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman Slade had ever laid eyes on. That she had been seated next to the man he hated more than anyone in the nine seas when he’d first seen her had only increased her value to his way of thinking. Captain Jorgen Rose of the Thunderstorm sat beside her, his white-blue eyes ever watchful. She was a treasure who was treasured by his mortal enemy. Which made her priceless.
And then she’d smiled at him and she’d shaken his hand, and he’d felt the stirrings of something… potential beneath her fair, soft skin. She began asking questions about the anti-magic field around the island and her expression was wistful. Naturally, he’d asked whether she was a magic user. Something sparked in the storm gray of her eyes as she said, “yes,” and he knew he had to have her.
So he’d taken her. It worked precisely to plan.
The next day, The Thunderstorm sailed out. While it was out of port, Slade began to do his homework. The Magic Free Zone was a useful port for sailors and pirates who worked devoid of the aid of spells and incantations or the protective and healing powers of clerics and priests. However, beings such as the young Leiah Lenore were not only possessive of such powers – they seemed intrinsically made of them.
It was well known amongst people who had lived on the island for generations that those like miss Lenore more often than not felt bereft in this tiny area of the world. Mages could never truly be happy here. They felt as if some essential part of them were missing, peeled from their spirits like a layer of their soul. The inhabitants of the island even had a name for magic users like this: nalu. Leiah Lenore was nalu… lost.
If her fervent queries into Slade’s sailing schedule and her questions as to whether or not he would ever be sailing out of the Magic Free Zone were any indication, she was desperate to feel whole once more.
Which was exactly how Slade wanted her.
It didn’t take long for the captain to acquire what he needed to see his plan to fruition. The bottles of injectable magic hadn’t come cheap. In fact, the value of his ship’s last three conquests combined had gone into securing enough of the sparkling vials to last him several months. Now all he needed were the veins of one lovely little magic user to inject them into.
When the Thunderstorm returned to port a few days later, Slade kept his distance and remained out of sight, content to watch and wait. It was clear to him that Captain Rose had become ever more enamored with his own charge, despite the other captain’s reserved behavior. Rose never strayed more than two feet from her, he offered her his elbow at every opportunity, and Slade was fairly certain Rose hadn’t taken his eyes off of her for longer than ten seconds since they’d disembarked.
It was grating, of course. Slade felt increasingly irritated as he waited for the right moment to arrive. He hadn’t felt jealous with regards to a woman in a very long time… in fact, never. But he also had to admit to himself that the thought of bringing Captain Rose further pain by taking this woman from him was a profoundly satisfying notion. The more Jorgen Rose cared for Leiah Lenore, the hotter it would burn when she was no longer his.
Slade planned to have the party arrested for quarreling in the street, but he couldn’t have hoped for the blessing of what actually occurred. Apparently he wasn’t the first pirate captain to want Leiah on his ship enough to take her from someone else. The female mage was already officially “missing” because she’d been abducted from a ship called the Rime and Reason. It had been bound for the Land of the North Dragon Kings when the Thunderstorm struck. Rose lifted her, forced her into membership amongst his crew, and absconded with her to the island.
But her people hadn’t given up, obviously, because they showed up on the island not a week later, despite all odds.
The captain of the Rime and Reason was a tall, painfully thin man with a hooked nose and an almost irritating sense of honor. That one of the people depending upon him for safe passage had been abducted while under his captainship had to have been killing him inside. Once the Rime and Reason docked, the captain and his crew, along with an elven warrior and a druid gnome with a shock of orange hair and blue-tinted skin, began moving through the island’s city to look for their lost mage.
Slade saw the opportunity for what it was and planned accordingly. When the elf asked whether Slade had seen a woman to the description he put forth, Slade was incredibly helpful. Why, yes he had. And he showed him exactly where.
Not an hour later, the elven warrior and Captain Rose were battling in the street. Right on schedule, the city’s law enforcement arrived and the fighters were gassed into unconsciousness, along with the young Leiah Lenore, and sequestered in the city’s jails.
The rest was so easy. Slade paid the mage’s bail, making certain that the jailer told her only that “her captain” had done so. Thinking that Captain Rose had paid to have her freed, Leiah left the jail house. As soon as she stepped out into the light of day he and his men made their move.
As Slade carried the struggling woman into his cabin and thrust her into his leather-backed chair, his blood was pumping hot. He wasn’t alone in the cabin. His first mate had accompanied him, as was customary when dealing with prisoners or trouble makers. However, Slade had been very clear that no one was to touch Leiah unless he gave the order.
He wanted that privilege for himself.
Once he had the bag off of her head and she went still in the chair, he let go of her and stepped back, taking her in. Once more, he was struck with her beauty. Her silken brown hair was loose about her shoulders and fell to her waist in thick, shimmering locks. Some of it had fallen before her face during her wild struggle and it now moved with each of her frightened breaths. Her storm gray eyes were the color of almost-born lightning, crackling with unspent electricity. They were wide as she looked from him to the cabin to the giant of a man standing behind her.
She had questions, of course, and he couldn’t help but oblige her with answers. But he had demands of his own. He told her his terms, showing her one of the vials of magic he had procured, and waited for her to do the only thing she had any real option of doing – take an oath to obey him in exchange for not being thrown off of the Neptune’s Crypt. Not that he would have thrown her off of the ship. He had a special pair of manacles just waiting for her wrists in his garment chest against the wall of his cabin.
But it turned out they wouldn’t be necessary.
The oath he forced her to make bade her precious soul to Asmodeus should she disobey her new captain. She naturally hesitated, but swore to it all the same, and the unexpected sense of triumph Slade experienced made him smile. The scar Captain Rose had given him years ago made the smile grim, he knew. Jorgen Rose didn’t care for the way Slade conducted business. Slade was a pirate’s pirate, and nothing was beneath him. He’d run everything from stolen silks to stolen people. Rose, on the other hand, had far too pristine a soul for Slade’s liking.
Slade had once been a very handsome man, and the knife wound he had sustained to his right cheek had not necessarily diminished his appearance in that respect. His thick hair was the color of a beetle’s black carapace, and the clouded jade of his eyes could pierce through the will of any opponent. He’d been born tall and strong, and the confidence of his stance was reinforced by his shrewd mind. He had charisma in spades.
But the scar gave him a hard look, as if he were constantly scheming, almost smirking. And when he smiled, it turned his smile into a blatantly sinistral grin. It gave women chills; he knew from experience since he’d felt the effects of these chills in the warm female bodies he often took to his bed. He didn’t mind them in those moments. But he minded them now, for they did little to put his new prisoner at ease.
Still, the fear and distrust in her stormy gaze was enticing. There was no creature more beguiling to the predator than the prey that ran from him. And so it was with a dark kind of thrill that he ordered his first mate to roll up Leiah’s sleeve and hold her arm.
She struggled just a bit. She was surprised – and scared. The needle was not overly large, however it was a needle all the same. “A brief pain, Leiah,” he assured her as his first mate easily got her under control. “And then you’ll feel much, much better.”
The sound she made as he inserted the needle into her vein was lovely. She gasped, moaned ever so softly, and closed her eyes. He felt transfixed, watching her there as the magic made its way through her body. She slowly relaxed as her skin began to give off a warm glow, and Slade was treated to the sight of what happened when a real magic user was given back her power.
A second later, he nodded for his first mate to release her, and Leiah Lenore did the most extraordinary thing. She smiled. Whatever glow she had possessed as the magic infused her long, lithe form was made brighter by that smile. She opened her eyes once more, and he could see that they had lightened considerably, going from gray to nearly white, as if caught within the column of a lightning bolt. Slowly, she rose from his chair and stared down at her hands.
“I feel whole again,” she whispered, and he could hear the very real happiness lacing her softly spoken words.
And then she looked up at him and he went very still. He wasn’t sure what to expect, so he’d made certain not to give her enough of the elixir to allow her to escape. However, she surprised him anyway by promptly vanishing.
One moment, she was standing there before him – the next, she was gone. It didn’t last long, but it was enough to set his teeth on edge and bring out the emerald of his eyes. He didn’t like it when she wasn’t there. It was an uncomfortably vulnerable realization to make. But there it was.
When she reappeared, she was grinning from ear to ear and the sound of her laughter filled his cabin. A kind of levitation came next, and as she floated up into the air, an unseen wind came from nowhere and whipped through her long, dark mane. She was a vision from a nightmare in that moment. A beautiful, wonderful, highly troubling and deeply alluring nightmare.
But the magic didn’t last long, and as she floated back down and her boots touched the floor boards of his cabin, the signs of her weakness became very quickly evident.
He’d expected as much. The elixir he’d given her returned to a magic user that essential part of themselves that they were missing in the Magic Free Zone. Once reminded of what it felt like to be whole, to lose this aspect of their spirit again was frankly devastating. The magic user would become weak and tired. Even sore and miserable.
He took the opportunity to remind her of her oath and to assure her that she would have the magic when she needed it.
Over the next few days, the captain used his power over Leiah to ensure that she remain beside him. He demanded that she sleep in his cabin at night, well away from the prying eyes – and hands – of his crewmen. Fortunately for her, he was kept busy enough during those long, dark hours that she was allowed to sleep alone.
While on deck, he commanded her to the deck as well and kept a keen eye on her even while he maintained absolute order throughout the ship. He knew he was being followed – by not one ship, but two. And putting space between them and the Neptune’s Crypt took almost all of his concentration.
However, he had but to glance at his striking prisoner to be once more reminded that it was well worth it.
The night of their third day out from port, Slade’s watchmen announced that Captain Rose’s ship was closing in. Slade turned to Leiah, who had clearly heard the news. Her renewed sense of hope was written all over her beautiful face. She looked from the crow’s nest to him, and tried not to allow too much of that hope to show in her features, but she failed miserably.
Slade raised the spy glass in his right hand and peered through it to get a better look at the approaching pirate flag. A skull and crossbones – and a rose. “You will take the magic now and use it against the Thunderstorm and its captain,” he told her frankly. She hadn’t asked for any more of the magic elixir since he’d first injected her with it, and he was secretly very impressed with her willpower. It couldn’t have been easy. She was obviously weaker, and hadn’t once smiled since that night. He’d warned her not to waste it, yes, but he’d rather hoped she would at least desire another taste enough to come to him.
Not that it mattered; she was going to take some from him now whether she liked it or not.
She didn’t answer him, so he lowered the spyglass he’d been peering through and turned a hard gaze upon her. She looked up at him with real apprehension in her lightning storm eyes. “Don’t make me do this,” she pleaded softly.
With stark impatience, Slade grabbed her by the wrist and walked her to his cabin, dragging her inside before slamming his door shut behind them and locking it tight.
“Don’t defy me,” he warned, reminding her of the oath she’d taken the night he’d abducted her. “The consequences are dire indeed.” He left her on one side of his desk and moved around it to the other. “Roll up your sleeve, Leiah,” he instructed, his tone cool and hard as he pulled a vial of elixir from the inner pocket of his vest and took the needle from the top drawer of his desk. He looked up at her where she stood frozen to the spot. She still hadn’t moved.
“And sit down,” he added, trying his best to maintain his composure. He could feel the Thunderstorm bearing down on them; it was like a vibration in his blood. And he had to admit to himself that it troubled him. He had never wanted to lose something less in all his life.
But it wouldn’t do to lose his temper with Leiah. She had no choice in the matter and he only needed to remind himself of that. She wasn’t going anywhere. Not without his permission.
“Leiah, I won’t tell you again,” he said as he came around the desk and stood before her. “Roll up your sleeve and sit down. Now.”
She closed her eyes, and he noted the glint of wetness upon one of her cheeks. But she did as she was told and sat down, using her right hand to roll up her left sleeve as she did. He watched her work, her fingers shaking, her skin pale and luminescent as she bared it for him.
There was a slight bruise on the inside of her elbow, a memoir of the last time they had done this. Slade lowered himself to one knee before her and took her arm in his free hand. He wasn’t sure why – it wasn’t like him – but he made certain to avoid the bruise as he found another vein and hesitated. His eyes went to hers.
She cringed and gritted her teeth, gasping softly as the needle slid in. Very slowly, he injected the elixir into her bloodstream.
He knew that once he was finished, she would possess more power than he could personally fight. There was something about Leiah Lenore that screamed of magic mysteries and might. He expected her to follow his orders to the letter due to the oath she’d taken, but that was the problem. She was smart. He’d been able to tell as much within the first few minutes of meeting her back on the island. If there was a way to twist his words around, if there was any way at all to turn his orders against him, she would find it. Then she would use her magic on him and he would either die outright, or live to never see her again.
It was something he needed to correct right here and now. He could hear his first mate shouting battle ready orders up on deck. There wasn’t much time.
“One more thing, Leiah,” he told her as she began to relax and her skin began to glow. He watched her features soften, her eyes lighten until they were nearly white, and moved with her as she couldn’t help but rest against the back of his chair. Having the magic within her veins once more must have felt like being slightly inebriated. The discomfort faded as she became whole, and there was nothing quite so calming as finally being at an end to pain.
“You will not do anything to bring harm to me or my ship,” he told her. “You will not do anything to escape.”
She stiffened, just slightly, as he emptied the last of the elixir into her and his words hit home. But he held her arm fast and kept her gaze locked within his. “Should you find a way to disobey me, then you’d best kill me outright,” he continued. “Because for every failed attempt you make, I will abduct a child from the island and sell them into slavery.”
She gazed at him with a mixture of emotions ranging from relief to terrible frustration to outright terror. He pulled the needle out of her arm and watched as she flinched. Then he put down the needle and leaned forward, bracing himself with a hand on either side of her head against the back of the chair. “You know the reason Rose and I don’t get along,” he told her, smiling that nasty smile. “You know the kind of cargo I can run.” He shook his head, his gaze sliding over her lovely features. His body suddenly ached for her, despite the sounds of ensuing battle from above. “Don’t think I won’t do it,” he warned, moving in so close that his words could no doubt be felt across her lips. “I’m a hard man to kill, Leiah, and you don’t want that on your conscience.” His grin was back. “So be a good girl.”

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Hello Mr. Orwell

I can’t believe what I’m reading these days. Little by little, our politicians, who have I suppose officially decided they are some kind of gods, are moving us backward along the line of progress rather than forward.
First came the birth control pill debate involving insurance companies. Never mind that very fabric of insurance companies seems to be composed of evil to begin with. This is very clearly an instance of male politicians telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. Whale bone corset anyone?
Then came the censorship deal with Paypal. Why don’t we just go ahead and lock up all of the intelligent writers and save ourselves the lenghty back-slide?
And now in Arizona it’s okay for doctors to withhold critical information concerning a woman’s health if that information might lead to the decision to have an abortion? So it’s okay for the mother to die in favor of the baby? Why is one life worth saving over the other? Why don’t we just go ahead and re-create the Handmaid’s Tale right here and now?
I’m spending more time writing letters to politicians, signing petitions, and using every channel I possess to speak out about the near constant atrocities inflicted upon us by law makers these days than just about anything else.
I think the next time I write a check, I’m going to sign the date 1984.

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Marketing, Information Sciences, Computer Programming Degree Anyone???

All I want to do is write. I have so many ideas and scenes spinning around in my head, I feel as though my spirit is caught in a whirlpool of fantasy, romance, science fiction, and mystery. I want to get it all down on paper and come up for air. I want to bring it to life.

But I can’t.


Because society has decided that writers must also be editors. And they must also be Facebook masters (“Like” buttons html coding? “Permissions???”). And Twitter afficionados. And they must know how to blog and upkeep their websites. Oh, they must also know some programming. They must be able to design book covers and market via a plethora of avenues that would undoubtedly be better traveled by someone with a marketing degree. In a nutshell, they must be proficient in everything but writing.

The obvious answer to this conundrum would be to hire someone else to do all of these other things so that I can actually write. But in case you were wondering, hiring takes money. Moolah. It also takes enough know-how in those twenty other fields that instructions can be given to the new hire about what exactly they are supposed to do. I don’t even know that much.

I feel as though I’m going to have to go back to school and get a degree in computer programming, social networking, and information systems just to learn how to do all of the dozens of other irritating little things that it takes to be a writer.

But not writing.

That’s not really so much a part of it.

No, writing apparently comes second.

Or thirtieth.


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A la Downton Abbey

Like about a billion other people, I love Downton Abbey. I so very badly want Bates and Anna to be happy. I adore the grouchy Mrs. Patmore. I want to ring Thomas’s neck – and dry his tears of frustration. And of course, I can’t resist Matthew Crawley’s blue, blue eyes. But it was Richard’s character that intrigued me most as I watched the second season. Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say this. Power is sexy. It’s memorable.
And so it was with impressive memory acumen and bleary-eyed precision that I rolled over in bed this morning and mumbled to my husband, “I want to be a good wife. But if you don’t bring me some hot and very strong tea right away, I want you to know that I am a writer above all else and I have the means to ruin you.”
Ah, thank you Richard Carlisle. The tea was delicious. 😉

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A Taste of The Phantom King

From The Phantom King, book two in The Kings series….

The metal of the gun slipped in Stephen’s wet grip. It wasn’t supposed to do that. He was never supposed to be in this state, sweating, terrified, without a firm handle on the situation – or his gun.

But when the back window shattered, exploding inward in an eruption of tinkling, foreboding sound, Stephen didn’t rise from where he crouched between the couch and the overturned coffee table. He didn’t stand and face his enemy. Not this time.

He was learning. The lesson was hard and fast and unreal, but Stephen’s mind was that of a trained cop, and despite the impossible nature of what he was facing, it knew what to do: Absorb the information and assimilate.

If he stood up, he was a dead man. If he faced this opponent, he wouldn’t live to see the sun rise. His only hope was to get out of the house and as far away as possible as quickly as possible. Which was to say… there really was no hope at all.

Stephen closed his eyes and swallowed hard when he heard footsteps slowly cross the kitchen tiles. Glass popped and crunched beneath a set of boots, and a trickle of sweat threatened Stephen’s eye. His breaths were harsh in the sudden, threatening silence. He tried to still it in his lungs. He’ll hear me, he thought.

“You’re a plucky little human,” his attacker said, a faint accent and the sound of genuine amusement lacing his words. “I’ll give you that.”

Stephen very carefully wiped the sweat from his brow and cut his gaze to the living room door. It was twenty feet away. Twenty feet between him and possible freedom.

“You’re in my way, detective,” the voice said. He was nearer now, boots casually closing the distance between them. “Have you any idea how many little shits like you have tried to get in my way during my life time?”

Stephen considered his options. He had eleven bullets left in his clip. But the first four had been fired point-blank into his attacker’s chest and had no effect. None whatsoever.
“Thousands,” the voice said. He laughed, the sound ominous and low. It raised the hairs on Stephen’s arms and turned his stomach to lead. “Thousands.”

Stephen tried to ignore the voice. What else did he have? His phone was on the kitchen counter. Worthless. The house was set back from the road and a good half an acre from the nearest neighbor. No one was planning on visiting. He was alone.

“She’s going to come home and find you in a puddle of blood on the living room floor, detective,” his enemy told him as he came flush with the threshold of the living room. “And in her distress, she will be weak.”

Stephen’s heart hammered, his gaze narrowed, and his gut twisted. The voice laughed, sending pain down Stephen’s jaw as his teeth clenched hard enough to crack a molar. “And she’ll be mine.”

All reason, all logic, and everything Stephen had ever learned came together in one split decision then and there.

He wasn’t going to make it out of this alive.

The best he could hope for was to give Siobhan a chance to do what he couldn’t do. Escape.

Stephen rose from behind the couch and turned just as the demon did. They faced each other head to head, eye to eye. The demon’s red gaze flicked to the gun in Stephen’s hand, and recognition passed before his beautiful but oh-so-wrong features. He knew what Stephen was going to do. The detective had learned his lesson the first time.

The demon acted in retaliation just as Stephen raised his arm and pulled the trigger. The detective’s tall form was enveloped in angry, red fire even as he unloaded all eleven of his bullets into his opponent’s face.

Outside on the lawn, a large ginger cat watched the house with big, yellow eyes. His tail twitched as a window exploded and flames licked out to kiss the falling temperatures of night.

The cat made a strange brrreow-like sound and cocked his head slightly to one side just before he raised his chin to watch a stream of red smoke lift from the chimney of the now-burning house and disappear into the night.

A second later, as sirens wailed in the far distance and the house crackled to bright, burning life, the ginger cat turned and bolted, disappearing as well.


Release date for The Phantom King is TBD. Keep up with all of the latest release dates, contests, giveaways, interviews, and news at http://www.facebook.com/killoughwalden and follow Heather on Twitter @killoughwalden !

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My Thoughts on Censorship

As many of you by now know, Paypal recently demanded that Smashwords remove certain genres of books from their stocks by threat of shutting down business with them. This is a most unfortunate and unacceptable act for various reasons.

First of all, Paypal is an incredibly powerful financial institution, a monopoly of sorts, that has so finely woven its business practices with Smashwords’ that for Smashwords to pull out of it now would mean almost certain financial ruin. To this end, Paypal holds all of the cards, far too much power, and can therefore dictate what another company – a company built on the desire to share words – does and does not do. Because of this, they have taken freedom of choice and freedom of speech out of Smashwords’ hands (and all of its authors’ hands as well).

Secondly, Paypal is acting on a double standard of the absolute worst kind. It has required the removal of genres that sometimes feature rape (often consensual), incest, and the like. By this ruling, Paypal ought to be requiring the removal of many mainstream fiction books as well… such as Shakespeare’s works, Flowers in the Attic, Girl with a Dragon Tattoo – and even the Holy Bible. But is Paypal requiring the removal of all books that feature rape or incest? No. It has made a misinformed, high-brow and faulty judgement by choosing to pick on erotica, in which these sub-themes are often carried out by consenting adults (and read by knowing, consenting adults as well).

However, the main reason this “blackmail” is a fallacy is by far the worst reason. And that’s that this is censorship, pure and simple.

There are those out there who could contend that as a business, Paypal possesses the right to buy and sell whatever it chooses. However, let’s look at this through a clearer set of eyes, shall we? What would the free world say if a black man was turned away at the door of a business with a sign advertising that it was “now hiring” simply because of the color of his skin? We might not immediately harken back to the days of slavery. After all, no one is chaining that man up… are they? By the same token, no one is chaining up the authors whose books have had to be removed… right?

But the intelligent mind knows that censorship does not need to originate in the author’s office or at the keyboard of his or her computer. It is not a padlock placed on his or her word processor. It is not a set of bars through which the author must peek. A writer can write whatever he or she wants and has almost always been allowed to do so as long as the ability to write was granted at all. But what good is a set of words if no one can read them? Censorship arises when these words are kept from the reading public through various means: book burnings, threats to TV stations or radio stations, a cutting off of funds through “blackmailing,” and so forth. No one told Theodore that he couldn’t write The Lorax. No one locked him up for penning those words. They simply prevented the entire state of California from getting their hands on the book. This was censorship. And I contend that there is no virtual difference between a book that has never been read – and a book that has never been written.

Censorship in any form is unacceptable. In a free world, it is up to the individual what he or she reads, watches, listens to, and speaks. For a higher power to take this ability out of the hands of the individual is autocratic and dangerous. In the act of book burnings, it is obvious and glamorous and therefore fortunate because it riles people up and calls for counter-actions of an effective degree. But in this act, in what Paypal is doing, it is conniving, underhanded, and dare I say it – it is a gateway wrong. When one entity is allowed to decide for another what he or she will read, it has taken away a fundamental freedom of humanity. The right to choose. If we allow this, we are taking the first slippery step of a backsliding that will see us into the dark ages of government dictated emotion and intelligence – which is, of course, not intelligent at all.

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