To The Strongest Woman I Know

Mom,

Have I ever told you what a remarkable person you are? I should have said it long before now. You should know how unique and outstanding you truly are. I want you to set aside everything that brings you doubt, and listen to what I have to say. I love you and though you may not see it, you have played a major role in the person I am today. All the parts of me you’re so proud of and endlessly support, you don’t think you had much of a hand in, because we’re so different. But I’m here to tell you that is was YOUR example that paved the way for the adult I turned out to be.

I see you giving me that skeptical look. Just keep reading…


First – and this is for all readers – my tribute of gratitude was inspired by This Amazing Post Right Here – a touching article about tolerance and the fight for equality for ALL humankind. Please take a moment to read it, like it, share it, draw your own inspiration from it, whatever it takes to keep it moving and growing.


Now, you’re wondering how I got from there to here? I’ll explain.

Author Jean M. Cogdell shared a memory with us in her post about the moment her remarkable mother planted the seeds of tolerance within her and I was immediately touched, drawn in by my own upbringing. So, I began to leave a comment and that comment, instead, turned into this post–because I realized that the person I should be saying all of those things to, was the very woman responsible for them: My mom.

Let me tell you about my mom. She’s a force to be reckoned with, wrapped in a genuine hug. A second generation American born to Irish immigrants. She grew up in Chicago during the Civil Rights Movement and Race Riots that tore that city, and too many others, apart. She was verbally and physically attacked for having friends from the ‘wrong’ side of the segregation lines and for refusing to leave their sides. She didn’t care what anyone said, she knew that everything happening around her was WRONG!

There has never been a time my mother has backed down when she’s seen someone being mistreated, and she can’t be cowed into thinking or believing anything less than what she knows in her heart and soul to be right. She has literally taken a fist to her face to protect others – not just once or twice – not just in Chicago – this has been a lifelong stance for her. She will not stand by and watch someone else being abused when she knows she can do something to try to stop it. That is the core of my mother. Her biggest strength is her integrity, her unyielding sense of right and wrong, and the enormous heart she offers to everyone, without prejudice.

My mom never had to use her words (though, let me tell ya, she did!) to teach me about tolerance, to instill her moral compass within me – she led by example. She showed me that every last person on this earth deserves to be treated with respect, kindness, compassion and dignity. That our opinion should be based solely on an individual’s actions, nothing else. Not race, background, beliefs, nothing.

Mom, I know you feel like you’re not doing anything special, nothing someone else wouldn’t do – but you really are, and you always have. It takes courage to stand up for others–for strangers–to never stop being who you are or fighting for what you know is right. You’re the bravest, most true-to-self and strongest person I know. I’m proud to be your daughter. I admire and look up to you, and I thank you for laying down the examples you did for me, that I was able to pass them on to my children. I know they will pass these examples on to their own kids (way, waaaay in the future), and with each new generation, your influence will help tolerance and compassion for the HUMAN race gain more ground – something this world still desperately needs to see happen.

Thank you, Mom.

 Love, your ever-grateful daughter.

Readers, if you comment, I greatly appreciate it! But even if you don’t, I still hope you find some inspiration here or in Jean Cogdell’s post. We’re not helpless or hopeless, and every new generation reveals a larger capacity for tolerance and compassion. Like our parents before us, we have to empower the up and coming, to keep change in progress rather than the massive, violent regression we witnessed this past week. With enough nurturing, we might one day see hate crimes and bigotry become subjects of history, rather than headlines in the news.

#BookBlast ♥ Pride by: Frances Stockton!

Blurb

They have lived for centuries. An ancient, secretive race of were-panthers faced with near extinction. To assure their survival they must conceal their identities and abilities, while protecting mankind from an unimaginable, primordial evil.


Pride: The Abcynians, Book II


Plagued by headaches and memory loss after a life-threatening injury, Rhiannon has spent years confined behind the walls of a decrepit castle. When a loathsome earl attempts to earn her favor with an extravagant painting, she is inexplicably drawn to its depiction of an ancient, mythical race. Believing the Florentine artist could be the key to unlocking her past, she and her maid escape, hoping to enlist his aid. Upon reaching the Piazza della Signoria months later, she is unaware that the handsomest man amongst the lavish merchants is the one she seeks.
Dante Luciano is considered the most renowned artist of his time. His patrons are wealthy and powerful. His charm and prowess with women legendary. Yet, as the adopted son of the king of his kind, he must guard his secrets. For he possesses the heart and soul of a panthera prince, therefore, able to shift into a lion. Taken by the discovery of a rare Abcynian female nearby, he recognizes her as his destined mate. Discovering Rhiannon is stricken with debilitating pain, he takes her home, providing the remedies, protection, and knowledge she needs to survive.
While she heals, they fall in love, beginning to plan a future together. However, when her memory returns, imminent danger looms. It’ll take all of Dante’s abilities and the Abcynians to save Rhiannon from a vicious, beastly foe.

Buy Links

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fG4Ynd

All Others: books2read.com/u/mVZ7AA

About The Author

frances stockton photo

My love for storytelling began in kindergarten when I created my first fictional characters. Though I’d given them simple nicknames, I’d convinced my family that Red Henry and Green Henry were identical twin brothers in my elementary school.

They were mischievous, rarely did their homework, had trouble with math and spelling, experienced heartbreaking losses, and yes, they even had girlfriends!

It wasn’t until the Henry twins mysteriously moved to a different state that my family realized that they were entirely fictitious and my mother suggested I write the stories down.

A few years later, I began to write, completing my first manuscript at age thirteen. I confess the heroine was a cross between Nancy Drew and a contemporary Laura Ingalls Wilder, who happened to be dating one of the Hardy Boys. But when I’d written ‘the end’ on the very last page, I’d known I had more stories to tell. Of course life intervened, but whether I was in high school, becoming part of a local theater and dance company, working as a Veterinary Technician, earning a degree in History and Secondary Education, or teaching, I was always writing and reading romances.

Finally, I met and married the love of my life and moved from Maryland to Massachusetts in 2001. Shortly after, I proudly joined Romance Writers of America and the New England Chapter, and I’ve been writing faithfully ever since. I love to hear from readers, connect with me through Facebook, Twitter or by email.

Presented by http://WLKBookPromotions.com

 

Show Me Your Worst

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Getting comfortable with discomfort is one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a writer, and it’s a work in progress. When I first started writing, I never left my comfort zone for any reason. Which meant, no matter how hard I tried to make my characters as epic as the ones I was reading, it wasn’t happening. I was able to get uncomfortable for my antagonists, because I didn’t have to spend any more time with them than that and I certainly didn’t need them to be likable. A completely different issue for main characters, and it took me awhile to realize that my cozy corner was their biggest enemy. Sometimes, I’m a slow learner. But eventually, I had to face the fact that I was the one robbing my protagonists of the greatness they deserved.

As most writers can attest, the ease in which we’re able to explore the emotional and psychological range of a protagonist, really depends on the character. There are the vibrant personality types that can be completely fleshed out within minutes – and, then there are the characters who aren’t nearly as forthcoming. When we decide to draw our character’s flaws to the surface and pick at them, it starts getting a little uncomfortable, because we love them and we want our readers to love them, too. But a hero or heroine who is flawless is both unrealistic and flat. Not epic. Imagine how forgettable Frodo Baggins would’ve been, if he’d never struggled with and overcame the temptation of the ring’s power.

Show me your worst. I want to see how deep the pit in your soul goes. Or do I?

It’s one thing to tell a writer: “You have to leave your comfort zone to write well.” Quite another for that writer to decide just how far to plunge into the dark unknown. Again, I think this depends a lot on the character. By my guesstimation, there are 3 basic degrees of Bad Guy/Girl protagonists.

1) The circumstantial bad: They’re bad due to horrible circumstances, tragedy, childhood trauma, etc. but really good at heart and easily redeemable.

2) The lost soul bad: They’ve spiraled so far into the darkness of revenge, tragedy, addiction, bad luck, etc. they’re barely hanging onto the edge of no return and it’s going to take more than just a quick genuflection and three Hail Mary’s to pull them out of it.

3) The unapologetic bad: They have fully embraced their dark side and have no qualms using it to their every advantage, yet there’s still a spark of good in them that allows them to love and be loved. They’re not on a quest for redemption, but to find that last missing piece that would make them feel whole.

The thing I try to consider when I’m working with option 1 or 2, is just how much work I can feasibly put into it. The deeper your character’s flaws, the steeper the climb to redemption, and to show one side in great detail without the other getting equal attention is the fastest way to disappoint readers. Sometimes, it’s a natural trajectory and I’m just following the character’s lead and then realize – Oh, snap! Now I have to dig them out of this mess. Ugh! Not just out of the mess, but within the confines of a word-count limit.

This is why I write a lot of series, that’s the naked truth of it. Word count caps and I, we’re not friends. You can laugh, but 100,000 words is rarely enough for this writer. With a series, I can let my characters get into all the messes they want and then dig them out little by little over a few books.

When it comes to option 3, there’s both an easier flow to it and more of a challenge. First, you have to convince (and frequently remind) yourself that your character has no boundaries except the ones you’re placing on them via yourself. The other side of that is figuring out where to draw the lines for your audience’s sake. Knowing your character is 100% okay with being bad frees up moral restrictions and can be extremely fun to take beyond your comfort zone – If you don’t get carried away! It’s not a good idea to make them so outrageously bad that they lack any and all qualities your readers would want to root for – especially, in a typical romance genre.

Last year, I started exploring the realm of Dark Erotica where the rules are completely different and pushing boundaries is not only expected, the lack of it will stir up the wrath of the villagers. I went beyond some of my comfort zones with the Avarice trilogy, but not to the point where I was squirming and sweating in my seat…much. A lot of Dark Erotica fans probably wouldn’t even label those books as such, but since it has triggers in religion, demonology and R.A.C.K. (Risk Awareness Consensual Kink) – which is the sadistic side of BDSM – I wanted to make sure my readers were more targeted and expectant (accepting?) of those kind of situations.

Compared to some of the Dark Erotica novels I’ve read, it’s quite tame. Definitely in the mild end of the spectrum. That just means I should push myself farther away from my comfort zones for the rest of the series. More truthfully, I want to. I want the challenge of it, to see just how far I can go while still writing read-worthy material with characters my readers want to see win in the end. Though, Dark Erotica doesn’t demand a HEA, it is my personal preference.

Writing about things you would never do in real life is not the same as writing outside of your comfort zone. I would never go skydiving, because I’m terrified of open heights. But it wouldn’t stress me in the least to have one of my main characters do it. Actually, that would be kind of fun. One of the joys of both reading and writing is to have adventures, right? But, having your main character do something that makes you feel physically or emotionally drained when your through- that’s writing outside of your comfort zone!

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far, is having an ‘unapologetic bad’ protagonist show up for an established series that’s NOT labeled dark – and by his own admission, he is one sadistic f**k. When he first appeared, I was faced with the choice of either staying true to his character or true to the genre, because I can’t really do both without sacrificing something. This is still a WIP, but I’ve decided to stay true to my character, mainly because I know it can be done. I’ve seen Nora Roberts push this particular envelope more than once and while fame may be on her side, I’m still a big advocate for characters who are purely themselves and not diluted for genre’s sake. What’s your thoughts on that, as both a reader and a writer?

 I’d love to hear more of your take on this subject: How comfortable are you with discomfort? Do you try to challenge yourself with every new novel, or do you have to wait for the right character to come along? Show me your worst, writers! 🙂

“Free, a Novella” by Felicia Denise #ExcerptReveal

Felicia Denise, Author


In this short excerpt, Lenore Porter is reading a letter from her beloved Aunt Diane who recently passed away.


In every area of your life, you always stood out. You never tried to be the center of attention or sought the limelight, but it found you! It always found you! Your beautiful inner light shone like a beacon drawing people to you. You were never a vain or prideful child, but your dignity and grace were evident long before you reached your adult years. Why are you allowing this man to dim your light?

And you are allowing it, Lennie. I don’t for one minute believe that Ranard controls or dominates you in any way. He’s more like an unruly child acting out and you’re the tolerant, long-suffering parent.

That’s not what marriage is about, Lennie.

I’ve watched you both when you weren’t looking. I’ve never seen him hold your…

View original post 570 more words

inFAMOUS Second Son ★ A Review

InfamousSecondSonBanner

Why yes, that is the Space Needle you see in the background, thank you for noticing. Do you know how awesome it is to play a game set in your home territory? Awesome! And long overdue, since Sucker Punch Productions is based in Bellevue, just outside of Seattle. It was also a huge surprise, considering inFAMOUS was set in the fictional Empire City (based on New York), and inFAMOUS 2 was set in the equally fictitious city of New Marais (fashioned after New Orleans). However, the Seattle in Second Son is not the real Seattle, but I won’t spend all post pointing out the differences. Though I was sad not to see the famous red Pike Place Market sign in the game’s skyline, it was still a total blast to play…twice.

Who, What, When, Where and Why?

InfamousKarma

inFAMOUS 2’s Cole MacGrath vs. inFAMOUS Second Son’s Delsin Rowe’s Karma

Just like its predecessors, Second Son is a Karma based game (this is why we play it twice). There is the Infamous (evil) game play and the Hero (good) game play, only Sucker Punch one-upped their own style and added a few more ways your choices affect cut scenes and the way your interactions go with friends and family. That was a nice touch.

The title Second Son seems to apply not only to the fact that we’re now playing a whole new character, but a whole new kind of conduit. It’s also a nod toward the original inFAMOUS, which dealt with the secret society, the First Sons, though this is never referenced or mentioned throughout the entire 3rd installment.

SecondSonDelsin2

Delsin’s first weapon of destruction

Who: Delsin Rowe, a much younger and more carefree protagonist than Cole MacGrath, who was always broody and, albeit hot for a game character, needed to stress less. Delsin is pretty much a juvenile delinquent that likes to tag, has funny comebacks and is a member of the Akomish. Washington has 29 federally recognized Native American Tribes, we’re a state overflowing with tribal culture, traditions, art, namesakes (why no one can pronounce our cities or towns) and not a single one of them is the Akomish. This is a made up name – but, with real tribes like the Snohomish, Suquamish, Samish and Skokomish, I suppose Sucker Punch found it a plausible – if not more phonetically appealing – name, without risking possible legal issues.

SecondSonAugustine
What: Brooke Augustine (referred to only as Augustine) and her government-sanctioned D.U.P. (Department of Unified Protection) idiots.
When: 7 years after Cole’s final chapter in New Marais.
Where: Salmon Bay and Seattle, Washington

SeconSonChoices
Why: Conduits are now labeled as Bio-Terrorists and treated as such by the government and populace with equal prejudice and fear. In short, an escaped convict tries to use Delsin as a human shield, but Delsin ends up leeching his powers just by touching him, thus revealing himself as a conduit…er, bio-terrorist. When Delsin can’t answer any of Augustine’s questions, she reveals herself as an evil conduit and uses her ability to render most of his tribe incurably injured. This happens, regardless if you choose to turn yourself in (good) or sacrifice the tribe (evil). Despite NO conduit ever having the ability to wield more than one power on their own, Delsin has the brilliant idea that he can leech Augustine’s powers, too and save his people. In other words, it was in the script, so we’re off to Seattle…

Highlights

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A lot of the inFAMOUS features we love (just me?) are carried over into Second Son. Again, you’re given the choices between good or evil reactions/actions at just about every turn. A plethora of side missions (colored red for evil, blue for good or yellow for neutral/D.U.P. related) make your trek through an enormous city far less daunting – especially, given there are no grind-wires between rooftops like Cole always got to use. You spend a lot of time chasing down ‘blast shards’ which are now inside of little drone helicopters all over the city, so you can improve your powers and take in the scenery.

SecondSonGraphics

The graphics were amazing, and I was so happy this game was available on the PS4 despite originally coming out for the PS3.

SecondSonDUP

One of my favorite features (psychiatrists will have a field day with this) was the ability to completely destroy most of the D.U.P.’s structures, barricades and walls all over the city. Have I ever mentioned that I’m not a fan of the color yellow? No, you don’t get extra cool points, it’s just fun! Another add-on not featured before was the ability to ‘unlock’ different jackets for Delsin to wear. Whattaya think? I might have to get this one below in my size.

SecondSonSeahawks

The absolute #1, best feature of this 3rd inFAMOUS installment, was the fact that Delsin was right – he is special – and has the ability to leech multiple conduit’s abilities. inFAMOUS 2 kind of introduced this with the “Power Transfer Device” which Cole uses to gain the powers of either Nix or Kuo, depending on if you’re playing evil or good. SP kicked this WAY up a notch, introducing a total of 4 powers Delsin gets to have and switch between by the end of the game. Of course, Delsin’s smoke is going to be the main ability used the longest and upgraded the most. Even after playing the game all the way through twice, I never found any other ability as effective against defeating enemies faster, with less chance of dying, than when using Smoke. But, here’s a look at all 4:

Smoke, is the 1st ability Delsin gets thanks to the escaped bio-terrorist convict, Hank. Hank will play a larger role in the storyline later on, as well.

Neon, is the 2nd ability Delsin gets and the one you’ll use the most outside of smoke, if for nothing more than the ability to run faster than the speed of light through the city. Did I say grind wires between rooftops? Boooorrrriiiinnng! Del gets his neon ability from another escaped bio-terrorist who calls herself Fetch, though her real name is Abigail. First you have to catch and then defeat Fetch, before you can use her powers.

Video, is the 3rd ability Delsin gets and suddenly all of those satellite dishes atop every rooftop makes perfect sense! While it’s a little badass having digital angels and demons come to your rescue and the ability to fly, or feed yourself through the airwaves – it just wasn’t that effective of a power against enemies. Like with Fetch, Delsin has to first find, then defeat Eugene in order to gain his powers.

Concrete, is the final power Delsin gets and it is also at the very end of the game – so, if you finished all of the side missions prior to this, there’s really no reason to keep playing other than to see just how far you can upgrade your new abilities. While I liked the concrete better than the video, it still never became my go-to power when up against a swarm of D.U.P. soldiers and their merciless machine guns.

Downsides

The annoying as hell sidekick: In InFamous, we had the insufferable chatterbox, Zeke, who was like a man-child unable to let go of his glory days, while simultaneously suffering from cock-envy. In InFamous 2, Zeke was far less annoying, but then we got sidled with Nix and Kuo, who were like the angel and devil on Cole’s shoulders – the living embodiments of his good and evil choices – but at least they were passionate and believable in their personalities.

SecondSonReggie

In Second Son, your A.A.H.S. is Delsin’s older brother, Reggie – the sheriff for the Akomish – and about the most prejudiced character I’ve ever had to listen to for that many hours. All of the characters in S.S. were rather flat and didn’t evoke any emotion from me. Delsin at least had witty comebacks and when he goes evil, he doesn’t go halfway. The lack of characterization in this game was further amplified by the pathetic dialogue. There was no depth or even likeability – especially, for Reggie. That was just a bad character all around. I got more emotion out of the conversations we had to find the right signal to eavesdrop on from the faceless, nameless D.U.P. soldiers. Yes, that was another downside. I wish I could’ve made Delsin throw that damn walkie-talkie off the roof a thousand times.

Final Conclusion

Aside from the horrible dialogue and flat sub-characters, inFAMOUS Second Son was still a kick ass game that introduced many more conduit abilities and harder to beat enemies. Hell, even just defeating Fetch and Eugene – who end up becoming your friends – was extremely tough! I loved that the amount of side missions were both plentiful and different than inFAMOUS 1&2. The only one I didn’t care for that much was the tagging. It was just kind of a blahzay thing you had to do to clear the areas.

What did I miss? Believe it or not – I missed the public throwing rocks! LOL In inFAMOUS 1&2, if you were evil, you had to dodge bad guys AND mobs of pedestrians who would throw rocks at you, even as you were scaling buildings. In Second Son, they cheer and crowd around you when you’re good (so irritating when you’re trying to move fast) but they scream and run from you when you’re evil? C’mon, Sucker Punch! Where’s the passion?

With all that said, I’m not sure I would play another inFAMOUS installment, unless the character depth could be reintroduced into the storyline. Second Son was fun. inFAMOUS 1 & 2 were epic. Something got lost in between…

Currently Playing: Rise of a Tomb Raider slowly, but surely. So far, I’m on the fence…it’s bound to be an interesting review when I’m all done. 😉

All images were found on the internet and I do not own any rights to them, the story, game or characters mentioned in this post. No copyright infringement intended.

 

#ThrowbackThursday

 

 

Woe, Be the Spider

Woe, be the spider
Who sits down beside her
This warning I must give
Whispered words, a last lament
From the one who didn’t live:

“Little Miss, what a twist
Weaving lies to pass the day
Flaunt innocent virtue
To hide the real you;
Pander for your prey.

“Little Miss, ’twas one kiss
What a wicked trick to play!
Under deceiving label
The truth proved fatal;
Venom in thy whey.”

~ A.C.M.

originally published April 21, 2014.

#WIP Invasion

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image source: etsy.com

Can we talk for a moment, writer to writer?

Lookit, I can’t be the only one who’ll be happily plugging away at a highly anticipated novel (that’s code for it’s way overdue and readers are jumping ship by the hordes. *snort* You actually thought I had hordes of readers? Awww, that’s sweet) – and all the sudden a NEW book decides to just plop its big, bony ass right down on top of everything else with no intention of moving. A massive blob of scenes and backstory, brooding hunks, damsels in defiance, whips, chains and garden hoses (don’t ask), all reminding me that I have absolutely no willpower!

I’m not alone, right?

How do you deal with this kind of situation? Do you:

a). Ignore the new story until you’re done with the first one, because you’ve got discipline and the memory of an elephant?

b). Take the detour just long enough to frantically jot down everything you can for the new story, because your discipline’s flexible, but your memory’s a toss?

Or

c). Attempt the juggling routine, because you’re fairly sure the 100th time is the charm?

I made the mistake of thinking I could pull off a combination of options b & c….1 week later… Update: Scavenger (Dark Day Isle, Book 2) will be delayed, yet again. I’m sorry. Please refer to the part where I have no willpower.

How many #WIPs are you working on and what’s your favorite strategy for those invading new ideas?