Sunday, January 30, 2011

Birdwatching and Cat TV and Big News!

We sit at the window and share binoculars, scanning the area. Covert agents? Peeping toms? Secret mission?

A few of the birdfeeders and
the bluebird house last winter
No. Hero and I love spotting birds from our breakfast room window. Watching our feathered friends eat outside while we eat indoors is one of life's simple pleasures. Our subjects are varied and the list of species is surprisingly long. We have several reference books handy to help us identify our visitors. Although we do have a few favorite species, we actually enjoy watching all types of birds.

Red Tailed
Hawk not as
pretty as ours
The predator birds are beautiful, but we’d prefer they stay far, far away. A giant red-tailed hawk terrorizes our native bunnies. Early in the morning a few days ago, a great horned owl was in one of our trees near a brush pile we preserve for the bunnies and birds. I hope the owl was watching for a mouse for breakfast and not one of the bunnies! Coyotes lurk nearby, so we try to provide safe cover for rabbits and other small creatures. I am always reminded of the Joel Harris stories of Br'er Rabbit, and hope our rabbits are safely snuggled in the briars and brush.

Sebastian resting
We laugh and call our window view “cat TV” because our large cat, Sebastian, stares out the window watching the birds almost as much as we do. He’s learned that when I say, “Birds, Sebastian” that he should go to the window. He has always been an indoor-only pet, so it’s not as if ever chased birds. I believe their movements fascinate him. Certainly he becomes excited when one flies near the window.

Not our birdbath,
but similar, We love
watching the birds bathe
and getting a drink.
Hero and I keep adding to our bird community. We began with only one feeder, but now we have five. We’ve always kept water on the terrace for the critters, but we added a birdbath. The tiny birds had difficulty reaching the water, so Hero added a couple of bricks for the small birds to stand on. When the bird bath water freezes, Hero adds warm water. It quickly freezes again, of course, but it gives the birds a chance to get a drink.

When we learned bluebirds nested in our area, Hero built them a house. For Christmas, Darling Daughter 1 gave us a screech owl house and a purple martin house. We’re waiting until spring to install those in appropriate places. We’ve tried different seed mixes, and currently Hero buys two brands of seed to attract the birds we prefer, Scotts for the small birds and Audubon for the larger birds.

We love the
bunnies, too!
This may seem like an odd post for an author’s blog, but enjoying the birds (and bunnies) who visit our yard is a harmless activity and I wanted to share. I’ve never thought of our watching birds as a hobby, but I guess it qualifies. Relaxing together at mealtime is one of my favorite times of day. In addition to watching birds, we spend time together and talk about a million things. This is one of life's simple pleasures and enriches my day. No wonder I like bird watching.

What kinds of simple pleasures do you enjoy? Do you prefer solitude, or do you like company for your pastimes?

Big News! Each Wednesday in February, a group of authors from The Wild Rose Press have a blog tour with Prizes. Each comment is entered into the drawing. Week 1 prize is $20 in gift certificates; Week 2 is $25; Week 3 is $30; and Week 4 is $35, and the grand prize for the month is $50 in gift certificates and a personal bath set. Please plan to return on Wednesday to participate in this blog tour. Post will follow a theme. Week 1, "The Significance of First Lines;"
Week 2 authors will post on "Where Ideas Come From;"
Week 3 we will post on "How I Met My Husband" (or significant other), and on Week 4 we'll discuss "Developing Unique Characters." 

Friday, January 28, 2011


Vincent Mooney
Please welcome author, speaker, and teacher Vincent Mooney. Vince was trained to be a philosopher and high school history teacher. He wound-up teaching marketing and real estate at colleges and at his own real estate school. He also worked many years in advertising as a copywriter and editor. Vince has written over 100 three-hour real estate continuing education courses, a real estate manual and a real estate exam preparation book for a major publisher. He has conducted 3,000 three-hour workshops and has published many magazine articles. Vince has also been a speech writer and an award winning Toastmaster. Vince has sold comedy over the years and he has written over 1,000 romance novel reviews.
Can you imagine a business that would spend a year or more developing a product without knowing if there was a market for it? And if there was a market for the product, can you imagine them not being concerned with whether or not their product would be competitive with other similar products?

Writers do this all the time. Many authors just write the ‘story of their heart’ and then hope it will sell. This is a shame because even an otherwise good book won’t sell if there is no market for it.

“But,” I can hear authors saying, “there is always a market for a ‘Marriage of Convenience’ story.” That may be true but then there is no shortage of ‘Marriage of Convenience’ stories both on the bookshelves and searching for a publisher.

Why Buy Your Book?
Ask yourself this: “Why is your book better? Why should a publisher risk their money on a story you wrote when they can buy a manuscript from an established author?”

Also consider this: an established author may already have an ‘installed base’ of loyal readers? (Note: it wouldn’t hurt a new author to have an established personal blog with hundreds of followers. This is called building a platform.)

“What have you added to your book that makes it more competitive and thus more marketable than other books that are like it?”

Did you even think of doing this when you were planning your book? Do you think that selling your book is the sole job of the publisher? In reality, promoting your book needs to begin before you write the first word.


There are many things an author can do to make her novel more marketable. However, these things need to be added before the book is written.

Plot Outline & Marketing Plan

In addition to a ‘plot outline’, a serious author (serious about selling books) should also make a ‘marketing plan’. This plan shows what the author is adding to the story to make it more attractive to readers. I call these additions ‘marketing vitamins’!
Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

Real Example: I recently read an historical romance which took place about 100 miles from Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. There was no reason why the book couldn’t have happened near or in the canyon.

As a marketing person, I would have loved to put a picture of the canyon on the cover of that book. Why? Millions of people have visited the canyon (about 300,000 a year). Palo Duro is second in size only to the Grand Canyon. There is also an outdoor play given at the park in the summer that has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors.

All these visitors represent potential customers for that book. People who have been to Palo Duro will have a natural interest in the area. When a picture of the canyon appears on the cover, the book will often command the attention of those readers. Seeing the Palo Duro cover art gives potential readers an additional reason to select the book over other romances. More importantly: the cover art is only one of the ‘marketing vitamins’ the book could employ!

Learning to Think on the Margin.

Marketers often think on the ‘margin’. They know that small differences can spell big increases in sales. For example, all things being equal, if one blood pressure meter has a memory and the other does not, the one with the memory will probably sell instead of the other one. That is, of course, if the marketing people point out this advantage. Each extra benefit, on the margin, can help sell a book rather than another book. (When marginal elements become highly competitive, it is sometimes referred to as a ‘features war’.)

The Importance of Having the ‘Marginal’ Advantage

When a shopper is looking at several romances at Wal-Mart or in her favorite bookstore, and she can only afford to buy two books, a slight advantage may tip the purchase towards a given book. This is especially true when the shopper can’t make up her mind between several books. Now consider this: if the shopper has been to Palo Duro Canyon and enjoyed the experience, then the cover art might well be enough to determine her choice for that book.

This is why marketing people seek ‘vitamins’ for their products! They want to have the features which make their product better – even if it is only a little bit better! An author can greatly help her cause by adding ‘marketing vitamins’ to her story.

Examples of Marketing ‘Vitamins’. (Note: ‘vitamins’ that can appear on a book cover are particularly powerful.)

Vince and Linda Mooney at Machu Picchu,
interesting people, exotic location, Vince's
items 1 and 2
1. Locations of High Interest
a. famous locations
b. historical locations
c. exotic locations
d. hidden, secret locations
f. highly visited locations
g. state and national parks

(Example: see the new Mills and Boon “One Night in” series at: )

Interesting Person, Nora Roberts
 2. Interesting people
a. occupations
b. hobbies
c. sports
d. skills
f. backgrounds

3. Interesting Events
Mardi Gras in New
Orleans is an
interesting event
a. story takes place during Mardi Gras
b. during a regatta
c. Olympics
d. Renascence festivals
f. experimental aircraft fly-ins
g. trade shows
f. Rose Bowl parade
g. Civil War re-enactions

Beautiful Landscape, Utah: bit where are the
handsome guys and beautiful gals?
Items I Like to See On A Book Cover
a. dogs
b. lighthouses
c. sail boats
d. beautiful landscapes
e. beaches, lakes, oceans
f. famous landmarks (Ayres Rock)

The Basic Story Can Stay the Same

‘Marketing vitamins’ can be inserted into almost any story. The basic story need not change; however, sometimes trying to insert 'marketing vitamins' can lead to a better, more engaging plot. This is an added benefit of having a marketing plan.

Books that have strong marketing appeal have a better chance of being sold to a publisher.

Objections: But Don’t Reader’s Want To Read About People Like Them?

No! How many middle-aged, over-weight, heroines do you find in romances? People want to read about people they would like to be like: thin, attractive, younger, desirable, loved and appreciated. Romances particularly attract readers who seek enjoyable vicarious reading experiences.

"But I want to write about a normal woman who works in a roadside diner."

That’s fine, but do you also want to sell your book? If yes, then there are still many ‘vitamins’ you could use in this story.

Is the woman from another country? Is the diner near a national park or an Indian reservation? What kind of interesting people will be regulars at the diner? Does the woman hang-glide in the canyons? Is she a ‘rock hound’? Does she ride dune buggies? Does she aspire to be a nature photographer?

Actually, the same creative skills you use to write a romance can be used to create the ‘marketing plan’.

How Can I Find Out What is Popular?

Look at the covers of romances in book stores. See what themes repeat most often. Then look at the largest magazine displays you can find. What are the magazines about and what is shown on the covers? If there is a magazine dedicated to a topic, then there has to be significant interest in that topic.

What About My WIP?

If your ‘work’ is still in progress, there is still hope of making it more saleable. See where you can add ‘marketing vitamins’. If these additions make the book more interesting to read, it will also be more interesting to write.


Thanks for sharing your expertise with us today, Vince. You hit us with thought-provoking suggestions. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Darling Daughter
One, PhD
Psychologists often speak of affirmations they suggest people place around their home and/or work space. (Darling Daughter 1 has a PhD in psychology, and has been known to remind me that my quotes are basically affirmations.) I collect succinct quotes about life in general and writing in particular. For me, these quotes, mostly by people whom I admire, are--I admit--affirmations to inspire me when I'm feeling in a deep purple funk (that's lower than the blues) and need encouragement. Here are some from writers on writing:

"All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer." Robert Louis Stevenson (Seems to me this would apply to writing and reading as well.)

Lightning or
ligtning bug?
"The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug." Mark Twain

Mel Brooks
"Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him." Mel Brooks

Rosamunde Pilcher
"Writing is work, but it's also a compulsion, and once you get your characters on paper, you can't abandon them. You have to respond to them." Rosamunde Pilcher

"People say, 'You're writing fiction. What do you do research for? Why don't you just make it up?' Well, in a work of fiction, even if it's a modern novel set in Washington, D.C., if you're going to mention the address of the White House, you'd better have that address right. Because if all the basic facts that you put down are as accurate as you can them, it aids readers in suspending their sense of disbelief." Jean M. Auel

"A good writer is basically a storyteller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind." Isaac Singer 1904-1991

Jack London

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Jack London 1896-1916

"What I like about a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers." Logan Pearsall Smith 1865-1946

"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work." Stephen King

"Books aren't written--they're rewritten." Michael Crichton

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov

"There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it." Alfred Hitchcock

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." Richard Bach

"We are as much informed of a writer's genius by what he selects as by what he originates." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mark Twain
"Keep away from small people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." Mark Twain  AMEN!

When asked the difference between fiction and life, Tom Clancy remarked, "That's easy. Fiction has to make sense."

"Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder." Raymond Chandler

Emile Zola

"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work." Emile Zola

"Every scene should have at least one event, however small, that changes the course of the plot." Alicia Rasley

"Persuasive words are never brooded over and merely selected, they are torn from our guts." Unknown. (How true!)

Thanks for indulging my fondness for famous quotes. On Friday, Vincent Mooney will be my guest. Please return to read Vince's great post on writing. 


Monday, January 24, 2011

Fun Prize Plus "What Would Your Characters Do?"

Anna Kathryn Lanier signing
at Boomerang Books
 Please welcome contemporary and historical western romance author, Anna Kathryn Lanier. She started writing while still in high school. Her first novel was a futuristic Armageddon tale with romantic elements. She wrote her first romances in her early twenties, but her only submission was rejected. After putting her writing on hold for nearly two decades to raise two daughters and play housewife, Anna Kathryn picked up the pen again, so to speak--this is the computer age--five years ago. She has completed three romance novels to date. She also enjoys writing short stories. Her first short story was published in 2005. She has since published four more. WHAT WOULD YOUR CHARACTERS DO?

Latest From The Wild Rose Press

I came across this book a few years back and referr to it from time to time. WHAT WOULD YOUR CHARACTER DO by Eric Maisel, PH.D. and Ann Maisel is a great little activity book for getting into the heads of your characters. It has 30 “Personality Quizzes for Analyzing Your Character” and discovering “exactly what makes your character tick.”

The quizzes include such scenarios as: Family Picnic, Poolside Encounter, Blowing the Whistle, Flirting, At the Sex Shop, A Moment of High Drama and the one I’m going to talk about today, New Neighbors.

Best Short Romance 2009
Each scenario has a series of questions with multiple choice answers. After you’ve decided what your character would do, you get to find out what that action/reaction means, as the Maisels give an explanation for each multiple choice answer. The choice reveals something about your character.

In Scenario No. 9: New Neighbors, you are first to think very clearly in your mind what the neighborhood your character lives looks like. “Is it urban, suburban, rural? Is it a small town where Main Street is a fast highway flanked by gas stations and fast food joints? Is it a different country and/or a different time?”

Anna Kathryn on a trail ride at the spring 
Wild Rose Press author retreat at
Silver Spur Ranch, Bandera, Texas
Once you have decided where your character lives—think about the least likely person, couple or family who would move into the neighborhood. Examples from the book: A young couple in a neighborhood of retirees; a biker family moving into an upscale suburban neighborhood.” Once you have the new neighbors clearly in your mind, go over the questions and answers given. I’m only going to go over the first of the six questions the Maisels give for this scenario.
From The Wild Rose Press
Question 1: When your character looks out the window and sees his new neighbors moving in, what are his first thought?

A) “What are they doing here?”
B) “How interesting that they chose this neighborhood!”
C) “I’d like to get to know them.”
D) “I hope they keep to themselves.”
E) “That one looks attractive.”

Now that you’ve picked your character’s reaction to seeing his new neighbor, let’s find out what the reaction tells us about your character.

A) Thinking “What are they doing here?” is consistent with an intellectual character who is genuinely curious about his neighbors’ choice or, alternatively, with a prejudiced character who is territorial, small-minded, and generally critical.

B) Thinking “How interesting that they chose this neighborhood!” is consistent with a character with a sense of humor and a whimsical nature who is amused by life’s oddities, including people making bewildering choices as to where to live.

C) Thinking “I’d like to get to know them,” is consistent with a character who is genuinely open, compassionate, and good-natured, and who might get romantically involved with someone very different from himself.

D) Thinking “I hope they keep to themselves,” is consistent with a close-minded character who may publicly express tolerant beliefs but whose true bigoted attitudes are likely to leak out at the least provocation –or with no provocation at all.

E) Thinking “That one looks attractive,” is consistent with a character who even if prejudiced and close-minded, is nevertheless more interested in sex and romance than in his own biases.

Following this question are five more asking how your character would act/react to: the neighbor knocking on his door; what happens if he invites her into his house; the neighbor makes a reference your character does not understand; the neighbor invites your character over for a visit some evening; your character spots the neighbor in some trouble. There are 5 choices after each question and then the explanations of what those choices mean for your character as exampled above.

Also included in this chapter is a list of situations to consider, such as: the neighbors ask your character for a big favor; the neighbor hides out from the mob in your character’s house; the neighbors let their property run down; or how about, your character is the new neighbor.

The authors also note that in most novels, characters do not move, however in the year 2000, about one in six Americans moved. That equals about 15% of the adult population changing its address annually. Does that reality have a place in your novel?

So, which scenario did you pick for your character?

Oh, I have a special prize for one of today’s commentators. One lucky person will win the 2011 Studs and Spur Calendar, 12 sexy cowboys to help you through the year. So be sure and leave a comment!

Thanks for having me today, Caroline. It was a great excuse to check out this book again!

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Facebook, MySpace
Anna Kathryn, thank you for sharing with us today. I hope readers will pick up your books from The Wild Rose Press. Thanks also for offering a prize to one lucky commenter. Readers, please include your email in your comment in case you're the lucky winner!

Anna Kathryn dressed for
the Beaumonde Ball at
RWA National Conference
Anna Kathryn lives in Texas with her husband and two cats. Her daughters are grown and she now has two grandchildren and another on the way. She is also pursuing a bachelor degree in history at a local college. 

Easy to see she is one busy lady! But there's more: Until this month, she has been President of the Hearts Through History online RWA chapter, as well as active in her home RWA chapter in Houston, Texas. Her SALVATION BRIDE won Best Short Romance of 2009 in the Preditors and Editors Poll. Her brand, "Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats," always makes me smile. I also love the quote by Bud Gardner that Anna Kathryn has on her website and blog, "When you speak, your words echo only across the room or down the hall. But, when you write, your words echo down the ages." Ann Kathryn not only writes many words for The Wild Rose Press, she is active on the blogs Seduced By History and Sweethearts of the West as well as her own blog, "Chatting With Anna Kathryn." She's offering a fun prize to one commenter, so please leave your email in your comment. Here's Anna Kathryn to speak for herself.


Friday, January 21, 2011


Hi. We’re thrilled you joined us. Would you like a glass of champagne or a mug of hot chocolate laced with Peppermint Schnapps? We’re about to toast the release of Sandra’s romantic suspense novel, CAUGHT BY A CLOWN. Accompanying Sandra today are her two main characters, journalist Stacie Monroe and FBI Special Agent David Graham.

“I want to hear how she came up with the title,” one of our guests calls out.

“I want to know why she set it in a nudist camp,” another demands.

Sandra Crowley, Author
Sandra laughs. “The nudist resort came first, so I’ll start with that. Several years ago, I envisioned a shoot-out at an exclusive nudist resort. Although the scene was relocated during the story’s revisions, part of the fun of writing CAUGHT BY A CLOWN was that particular setting. Unfortunately, it couldn’t sustain the whole storyline. That’s when I sent my characters on a chase across the southern United States to capture a crime king’s would-be son-in-law and the satchel stuffed with money he’d stolen.”

“Who are your main characters? Are they nudists?”

Stacie Monroe steps forward. “May I answer that, Sandra?”

“Of course, you may. It is your story.”

A murmur of agreement ripples through the party members.

Stacie smiles. “I arrived at Resort to Nature on a mission of mercy. But, instead of pursuing my quest, I found its owner facing a desperate situation of his own. Mr. Boone‘s receptionist had been out with the flu for days. Phone calls had piled up. Guests were threatening to leave. He needed help. Helping him might help me. It turned out that I only stayed for a day, but what a memorable day!”

The tissue box on her desk shifted. Stacie kept her gaze on the colorful page filling her screen while the tropical scent of sunscreen blended with the faint tang of a citrus and spice after-shave lotion. Oh no, another dangling dandy hung too close for comfort.

A long, slow rasp warned her someone was easing a tissue upward. With a sideways glance, she spotted a man’s blunt, tanned fingers spreading the blue tissue to its widest, highest extent, yet leave it anchored in the box. This man cloaked in secrecy what others at the resort openly displayed. She assessed thick wrists and an athletic build that registered in her drool range. Stacie sat straighter and focused on his hands. No ring bound his finger. No pale circlet of skin betrayed the recent removal of one. Looking up, she saw a square jaw shadowed by dark blond stubble. Thick lashes fringed gray eyes. He wore his blond hair long and pulled back, the complete opposite to her riot of short black curls.

“He can’t be David Graham. I am. Always have been.”

Snapping back to reality, Stacie realized the new hero of her dreams thought her guess about Alan changing identity was wrong. She agreed with him. Seeing David Graham in the flesh, yummy hunky flesh, proved he looked nothing like Alan Walsh.

“Why do you think he’s me?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Concerned she’d upset a legitimate member, she introduced herself and offered a warm smile.

“What does this Alan Walsh look like, Stacie?”

A distinct tan line slashed low across the man’s abdomen, dividing sun-gilded skin from virgin white. A faint alarm sounded in her mind.

“Maybe I’ve seen him and could point you in his direction.”

His fidgeting hands and taut body mirrored her reaction to public exposure. Stacie relaxed. She would have signed using a fake address and name if she’d come as a guest. He probably thought helping her would ease him into this new and daunting experience.

“Alan has cinnamon brown hair. Styled, not cut. The hundred dollar appointment kind instead of the twelve dollar walk-in type.”

Graham’s attention remained intent without a hint of reaction.

“He’s five, maybe seven years younger that your...thirty-three?”

Graham shifted his weight from one foot to the other, but he stayed silent.

“Shorter by several inches than your...what...six-three or four...?”

A tight smile pulled his firm lips. “Some people think I throw a long shadow.”

She figured they should be more worried about the heavy muscles that slabbed his arms, shoulders, and chest. “Where you’re built like a weight-lifter, Alan’s a long distance runner.”

“I know the type.”

David Graham’s flat comment implied it fit Alan’s personality as neatly as it did his body. Goose bumps prickled Stacie’s arms for the second time that day.

She looked at him without attraction fogging her senses. What was an intensely private man doing in a nudist resort? One possibility chilled her. Mick Caputo had sent him.

“Stacie, I love your tattoo.” I resist the urge to lean closer and examine the little clown face with the corkscrew heart hair that decorated the slope of her left breast.

“My family deplores it. Mother says it’s epitomizes my faults.”

“Her mother is wrong,” David blurts, wrapping his arm around Stacie’s shoulders. “It celebrates Stacie’s heart and love of life.”

Her cheeks color. She sips her steaming drink and dabs her lips with a napkin. “Peppermint schnapps really perks up hot chocolate.”
Hot Chocolate
Laced With
Peppermint Schnapps
And With Shaved
Chocolate On Top

“Is there a story behind your tattoo?” I ask. Impish innocence twinkles in Stacie’s dark eyes.

“No,” David declares.

“Don’t be silly. She wasn’t asking about that. She wants to know if I designed it or why I got it.” She looks at me. “Right?”

Curiosity aroused, I nod and wait for an opportunity to delve into their odd responses.

“I earned this quirky little artwork interviewing tattoo artists.” She grins at me. “You can see from the design that the man who created it is a phenomenal artist. It took him hours to finish.”
 David glowers into his steaming mug.

I suspect the green disease. “Share with us what you’re thinking.”

He throws back a slug of his laced chocolate. He grimaces, the hot liquid evidently burning his throat.

Stacie shifts closer to him and entwines her fingers with his. She leans and whispers in his ear.

“I won’t.”

That low voiced explosion is followed by another.

“That’s private.”

“You’re among friends,” I assure him.

Stacie nods. “They just want to get to know us. I don’t mind admitting my stubbornness caused the car wreck that stranded us in the middle of nowhere. We were lucky to stumble across that derelict motel.”

“Stumble is the word.” He pokes her in the chest, his finger a scant inch above the clown’s curly red ‘hair.’ “You were too exhausted to take one more step or I would have insisted we move on. Anything would have been better than that dive.”

“You changed that. Remember? You lit those candles.” She inhales. “I can smell them. Jasmine and ginger. You can, too. I know you can. You invented them.” She rises on tiptoe and whispers in his ear.

To my surprise, a faraway look misted David’s eyes as memory carried him back:

“I have a special place in mind for you,” David said.

“You do?” Stacie replied.

Surprise and pleasure sang in her words and doubled his resolve to reinvent their surroundings. Hopefully, she’d play along with him. He snagged his towel off the door handle while she tucked the condom package under the elastic of her thong, grabbed his pack in her hand, circled her other arm around his neck, and kissed him during the short trip into the main room. When he reached the far wall, he cushioned her back with the folded towel. “Do you like the candles I lit around the room?”

“Candles?” She looked over his shoulder. “What can...? Oh.” She smiled at him. “Thooose candles.”

“Yes,” he whispered, then skimmed his tongue over the rim of her delicate ear. “Thooose candles. The flames have warmed the wax. Do you recognize their scent?”

She inhaled. “Ummmmm, jasmine.”

Stacie tipped her head, exposing the line of her neck. He trailed kisses to her collarbone and relished the sensual aroma of her hair, a promise of hot, humid nights amid tropical flowers. He tucked away the information for later use.

“There’s ginger, too,” he added.

“You like ginger?” She traced her fingertip along his jaw.

“It’s spicy. Like you.” Her stroke brushed across his whiskers and arrowed frissons of excitement to his core.

“That’s good?”

“That’s excellent.” The kiss she initiated sucked his tongue deep and hardened his shaft beyond memory. When she released his mouth, he hauled air into his lungs. It caught there when she pushed his shirt to his armpits and ran her hands over his chest, tweaking his nipples.

“Not fair. I can’t take off your top.”

Imaginary Candles
for Stacie and
“Let me.”

Dim pulses of light seeped through the curtains, illuminating her as she stretched her arms above her head. Her graceful hands trailed down her arms and their slow, teasing descent reminded him of her skin’s luxurious texture. She dipped one shoulder, letting that set of straps escape to curve at her elbow. He hitched her higher, tasting the naked offering. When he drew back, she slipped loose the other set of straps and drew her top below her breasts. Partially concealed by the lace cups of her bra, they beckoned his touch. He wanted to sample their weight, their sensitivity, but he also enjoyed the gradual revelations of her beauty.

David swallowed his impatience and waited for her to continue. She unhooked the front clasp of her bra, spilling them loose in an uninhibited invitation. With a naughty smile and a shake of her twins, she dropped the bra to the floor and slipped her legs from around his waist. The towel that had cushioned her back dropped in a pool of cotton.

“I want to feel your hands on me,” she said.

“My pleasure.” He knew it would be. Her gratification rose more important than his. A difference he hadn’t foreseen, but one that seemed natural.

Palming her full breasts, he flicked her nipples with his thumbs. They peaked under his attention, hardening, pressing into his flesh, acting much like his own body pressed against the prison of his underwear and shorts. He forgot his discomfort in the splendor of her smile and low, tantalizing hum of satisfaction.

She inhaled. Her top caught at her waist. She left it there while she inched from his touch and opened the button closure of her shorts. Tooth by tooth she lowered the zipper, easing one side wide and exposing the sexy thong beneath. He hooked his fingers in the sides of her shorts and edged them over the sensuous curve of her butt. Bending one knee to the floor, he slipped them down her legs, her sexy thong teasing him with the wonder of remaining secrets.

He caressed the backs of her knees and gently blew against her mound. Her fingers dug into his shoulders. He skimmed her thighs and kneaded her firm, rounded cheeks, pressing his mouth to her mound hidden underneath silken material. She trembled within his grasp, her breath rasping in and out as she abandoned herself to the sensations he created in her.

He reveled in her reactions, knowing he controlled their intensity and her release from the tension he built within her. David carried her to the brink and then stopped. He stood and supported her as she sagged into his embrace.

“You sadist,” she whispered. “Will you torture me again?”

David chuckled.


Teasing and laughter had never been a part of his sexual experiences. He liked the difference. He gathered her stretchy top and helped her out of it. She faced him, unabashed, in only her thong with his condom tucked under the strap that arched over her hip.

“Your turn.” She pushed his shirt upward.

He ripped it off and popped the snap of his shorts. She grasped his hands.

“Slower.” She traced the bumps and dips of his knuckles. “You lit tall tapers and pillar candles, not short tea lights.” She released him. “Can you smell the sandalwood?”

Obliging her improvisation, he closed his eyes and inhaled. Although he had no idea what it smelled like, he imagined a woody, earthy fragrance. Her fingers drifted over his arms and chest, following his muscles’ contours. He opened his eyes and watched her expressive face.

“Sandalwood is the base perfume of our candles, the strength that balances the spice of the ginger you like with the aphrodisiac of the jasmine.” She molded her hand to the bulge of his erection.

He held the flare of her hips, spread his stance wide, and locked his knees against the raw desire that swamped him. A secret smile curved her lips as she stared at him and rubbed her hand along his length. She tipped her pelvis in rhythm to her strokes. He clenched his teeth and admired her challenge.

For challenge it was.

Thinking he could hold his release at bay by concentrating on her, he searched for minute details that revealed her susceptibilities. Her eyelids fluttered as she slid her hand down his increasing thickness to his base. Then, at the apex of each upward stroke, she paused. During those pauses, when she lingered at his tip, she flicked her tongue between her lips as if she tasted him. Since his waistband already gapped open, he grasped each corner and flipped up the zipper tongue. “This might help you.” She moved her hand away. He jerked the corners he held. The slide zzzzzzzzzipped to the end.

She sent his shorts on a dive to his feet and, kneeling, rid him of his underwear as he lifted each foot. Taking his erection into her hot, wet mouth, she sucked him, her tongue laving the stiffened length while her hands massaged in magical counterpart. Control became nearly impossible. He urged her to her feet and wrapped her in his arms.

“Talk to me David.” She snuggled against him and placed a hand over his heart.

“You’re beautiful.” He rested his cheek in her silky hair.

“Thank you.”

Disappointment tinged her voice. Ashamed, he admitted, “I know that’s less than you want, than you deserve. I hoped creating a...prettier world than what’s here would show that I...well, you know.”

“That you care?” She met his gaze.

“Yeah.” He took a deep breath. “I care.”

Her kiss suspended time for him until she climbed his body. Contortions freed her from her thong, and laughter rolled as freely as the condom when she sheathed him. With her legs hooked around him and the towel once more cushioning her back from the wall, he entered her heat on a slow push that encased him in wonder.

“Oh, David.” She clutched his shoulders.

He moved inside her while the room brightened with the coming dawn. Laughter morphed into expressions of astonishment, awe, enchantment. He raised her high, teasing her with the tip of his erection while he sucked her nipple into his mouth. A tear dropped from the tattoo clown’s eye. David lost his hold on her breast. He blinked and looked closer at the tat. Nothing unusual.

“Trick of the light.”

“What’d you say?”

“You’re light.”

“Aren’t you sweet?’

“Not as sweet as you.” He took her back into his mouth. The tear dropped again. Each time he drew her deep, the clown cried. Whoever had exhibited his talent must have also known what he lost and created the ingenuous way to taunt his successors.

“David, please.” She squirmed in his hands, trying to work herself farther down on his shaft. “I want to feel all of you.”

Stacie + David = Fireworks!
  I exchange knowing glances with Stacie. “That must be one hell of a memory.”

She laughs and wrinkles her nose at me. “He’s one hell of a man.”

I add an extra splash of schnapps to cool my chocolate. “What about the money?”

Stacie rolled her eyes. “We caught up with my friend’s little brother, Alan, in Sarasota, Florida."

Alan covered his eyes with his hand. His shoulders sagged. “I already let it slip. You’ll take the money away from me eventually.”

Money, Stacie mouthed to David, hoping he was as pleased as she felt. Alan lowered his hand. She schooled her face to imitate David’s blank expression.

“When I left the club, one of Caputo’s bag men was arguing with a whore. I didn’t pay attention except to notice she was yelling and stomping around and his car was a twin to mine. I was rounding the front of my car when he tossed his briefcase over his shoulder, saying something like take care of this. The case landed in the back seat of my convertible. The guy’s idiot driver sat there staring at my back seat. I jumped in and hauled ass while the soon-to-be-dead-man argued with the tail.”

“How much was in the briefcase?”

“Over a hundred grand.”

One hundred thousand dollars, Stacie clarified in her mind.

“Enough to finance my escape at Caputo’s expense. Seemed like poetic justice.”

“Where’s the money?”

“I’m not going to tell you until I get what I want, protection and my story published.”

“That’s fair, isn’t it, David?” She tried to plead with her eyes.

David shrugged. “It can slide for now.”

She beamed at him. Will you uncuff him, too?”

“Absolutely not

The odds are against his staying alive, and he knows it. He might rabbit again.”

She turned back to Alan “How did you get away?” She took another sip of her drink.

“I kept turning north and west, never doubling back. Couldn’t afford to run into them. I saw a bus picking up people and realized I was in a slum area like where I grew up. I ditched the car and jumped on board.”

His eyelids drifted low as if he replayed the scene on their backs.

“Punk hoods started stripping the convertible before I sat down. I changed buses until I found one going out of town. An hour or so later, I saw a sign for an airport. I paid cash for a charger to Phoenix.

Boosted a car there in case they followed me that far and hid at the nudey place.” He fidgeted in his chair.

“How did you find me?”

“The torn page and Deby’s picture.” Stacie remembered the smile displayed in that memento. The excitement, confidence, and hope radiating from it had meshed with similar emotions in her, the original basis for their friendship. One Stacie’s family hadn’t understood, but she’d proudly proclaimed, to the delight of Deby’s foster parents.

Alan nodded. “What about you?” he asked David.

“The charter.”

“No way, man, the pilot didn’t know where I headed.”

“Paying cash tipped him off to the chance of bigger bills later when someone came looking for you. While you slept, he snooped. Your sweaty hand smudged the resort’s ad.”

“Effin’ louse. Everybody’s working a con.”

The information Alan spouted next contained no value to David’s investigation. He checked Alan’s restraint and motioned to Stacie that he was going to leave for a minute.

The hall lay empty but he could hear a conversation between at least three teachers in one of the rooms. David finished his soda and dropped the can in the trash. Better to move to the auditorium as originally planned. He returned to the classroom. Stacie listened attentively to Alan.

“You can finish that in a minute,” David said. “We’re moving to the auditorium.”

“Why?” she asked.

He started to tell her to do what he said, but she deserved to know she had limited time left with Alan. David explained the situation.

“I need more than another twenty-five minutes for a decent interview.”

“I can’t give you more time.”

“Can’t or won’t, David?”

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Thanks for sharing our celebration of CAUGHT BY A CLOWN'S release. Join Sandra on February 4th at for her official release party with Sandra Donovan, Mary Ricksen, Hywela Lyn and, of course, Oliver.