Sunday, August 31, 2014

Some Politics of the Smile, Part I

“Smile! It can’t be that bad.”
"Cheer up!"
“You’d look so much prettier if you smiled.”
 “Turn that frown upside down!”

You’ve heard one or more of these phrases before. They’re a call to lighten the atmosphere, to cheer someone up.

To police their face.

I know, I know: Most people who utter these phrases aren’t trying to deny the emotional
richness of another individual. They’re not trying to invalidate or disrespect. I imagine they think of themselves as happiness fairies, sprinkling light-heartedness, giggle dust, and platitudes to random passers-by. However, they’re also imparting a powerful social message: You owe me happiness, or at least some kind of performance of it.

On a pure, Goffman-esque level, I get that the social sphere is a collection of rituals, performances, and fragile, interactive dances. As Goffman would point out, we are super invested in maintaining the smooth flow of social interactions; otherwise, we’d experience a social breakdown. Anomie! Chaos! Awkwardness! Oh, noes! To do this, we cover for one another’s missteps, gently brush them back into place, and help one another save face.

Yeah, but.

Trying to force someone else into a smile, while perhaps stemming in part from a genuine desire to evoke their happiness, tells them three main things: 1. Your lack of overt cheerfulness is not acceptable, 2. You’re making me uncomfortable with your failure to enact socially expected behavior, and 3. Your face is at least in part public property, which means I feel comfortable controlling its public interface.

I get numbers one and two. Unsmiling people make me uncomfy, too. I never know quite what to do with someone who doesn’t, like me, treat social situations as endless waves we need to surf without falling into deeper waters. Or, using another kinda-metaphor, for this nerdy introvert, casual social situations are landmines of awkward silences and canned laughter. I’m much happier when we make our casual or public engagements brief, lighthearted, cheerful… and did I mention brief? Given all that, yeah, I’d really prefer if the other participants used their smiles as oil in the giant machinery of social engagement. If you’re not my peep, I’d prefer to interact with you as a small variable in what is otherwise a routine enactment of social conventions. The smoother, the better.

When others don’t smile, we feel itchy. Having to acknowledge the other person’s humanity can be frustrating, even maddening. Now we have to think through the implications of our actions rather than just doing them. We might even have to empathize with the other person. That’s a lot of emotional involvement in what should be a casual social engagement, amiright?

But, as much as others’ smilelessness makes me twitchy, and as much as I’d prefer they honor the social contract of making interactions as smooth and mindless as possible, I don’t own these folks. Their smiles might make my experience easier, but they don’t owe it to me.

In every single social situation, approximately 32 tons of social pressure press down on us, urging us to make each social performance a smooth and carefully scripted one. These rituals involve a careful, mincing dance involving action, reaction, response, and so on. One misstep, and we stumble. But we sometimes forget it is individuals, not just actors, who are enacting the dance. Not all of us can or even want to participate ideally and constantly. As uncomfy as that makes the other participants, I just don’t think we have the right to punish them for our discomfort.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday Threads: The Perfect Duke by Dawn Ireland

The Perfect Duke
By Dawn Ireland

Genre: Historical Romance (Late Georgian Era)
Heat Level: Sensual

Back Cover Blurb:

Known as The Marble Duke amongst the Ton, Garret Weston, the Duke of Kendal sets himself
apart from his peers. Nothing will hinder his guilt-driven attempt to become a perfect duke.  Nothing that is, save the alluring and imaginative betrothed he’d thought dead. His intended believes-of all things-that she is a Vicar’s daughter. The “perfect” duke needs a “perfect” duchess, but how was he to discern her suitability? Employing her as a governess to his niece seemed like an ideal solution. But whose “suitability” is being tested? His betrothed refuses to see he is beyond redemption. And most grievous of all, she stirs his blood, making him forget what’s important. 

Cara believes fairy tales really can come true, until she meets the unrelenting and arrogant Duke of Kendal. He looks like a Prince, but acts like a Beast. Why must he challenge her at every turn? Her greatest peril is her attraction to the vulnerable, seductive man behind the title. A match between them would be impossible. But can she show him, without losing her heart that “perfect” is in the eye of the beholder?


“The horse seems to know you.”
“He should. There was a time when I practically lived in the stable. Storm was my favorite.”
“What happened?”
“I became a duke.”
He straightened and forced his features into a mask of indifference. “So, Rachel loves horses.” He turned to face Cara. “I can appreciate my niece’s fondness, but I can not allow her to frequent the stable.”
“Why not?”
“It is not proper for young ladies of her station.”
“Garret, she’s a child.”
It was the first time she’d used his name, and somehow, Rachel visiting the horses didn’t seem like such a large request. “I will only allow it if she uses the passageway. At least I can keep the knowledge of her visits to a minimum. If you come with her, you will need to use the tunnel as well.”
“I can’t.”
“Why not?”
She blushed and turned away. “I’m afraid.” She said it so quietly, he wasn’t sure he heard her.
“Afraid? Of what?”
“Dark, enclosed places. Even as a child, I fell asleep with a candle burning.” She faced him and gave a small smile. “Perhaps I’m afraid that a beast will gobble me up in the dark.”
“There are no beasts at Belcraven, Miss McClure. I would not allow anyone to hurt you.”
“Never.” He started toward her and stopped. Damn, it would be better if he didn’t get close to her. As he left the stable, her whisper followed him.
“Not even you?”


The Perfect Duke

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Soul Mate Authors' Summer Blog Hop

Several of us Soul Mate Publishing authors are hippity-hopping all over the Interwebs in a delicious blog hop. I would like to say I participate in these because I think they help expose me (hee hee) and snag me more reader minions, but we all know it’s because the word “hop” makes me think of froggies. Or maybe bunnies.


First of all, my thanks to Alina K. Field for inviting me to participate in this blog hop. 

All right, now I’m going to dazzle you by answering some questions about me. After your pulse returns to normal, please read below about a couple more Soul Mate authors. I urge you to visit their sites, too, and shamelessly lavish them with attention and love.

So, hop on, my friends!


1. What are you working on right now?

On August 20, a mere four days ago, Soul Mate Publishing released my latest novel, The Tithe. This 94,000-word, post-apocalyptic, “utopian” novel focuses on the plight of seventy townspeople with disabilities after their ten desert towns sacrifice them to their wrathful god, Elovah. I’m currently trying to promote it, something that feels like a full-time job in addition to my, you know, paying full-time job.

Since the beginning of the summer, I’ve also been working on a paranormal romance novel that echoes my own life a little more, including mimicking a road trip my partner and I made when moving my partner from Florida to South Dakota, where we now live. It’s also super animal-centric. Woot!

2. How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I don’t think I follow any of the genre rules. As a feminist, I make sure my sheroes rescue themselves; heck, sometimes they rescue the hero, too. My heroes are never alpha, although sometimes they’re laconic and occasionally a touch surly. My sheroes never, ever stumble and fall into strong arms or have to rely on the grace of an arrogant blackguard or pretend not to feel sexual desire when they really do. Blech.

My characters also look and act like people. My main characters can be fat, have disabilities, be mixed race, and/or not embody traits we think of as conventionally attractive. I refuse to make main characters blond. Lesbian and gay characters permeate my books.

In my latest novel, The Tithe, all of the main characters have disabilities. It was a treat to write a book in which characters with differing physical and mental capacities aren’t either ignored or relegated to the very, very background.

3. Why do you write?

I’m inspired by a need to imagine worlds whose characteristics I tweak and spin, to make order from conceptual chaos, and to capture my versions of reality using the artistic medium of words.

4. What is your writing process?
Sometimes I don my thinking cap.

I start off with a spark, maybe a fully developed, climactic scene. Then, I take myself out to lunch and sit with paper and pen, jotting notes as the overall plot unravels before me. My initial outline is usually two-to-three pages long, and then I write those scenes. Then, when I reach the end, I scribble another two-to-three-page outline and then pen those scenes. I have a vision of these starts and stops as vertebrae, a bunch of discrete hinges that join together to make a flexible whole.

Also, I tend to stop writing for the day in the middle of an exciting scene. It’s super tough to do, but it’s also a great way to pick up the next day. 


Here are two Soul Mate authors whose blogs you should totally check out. 

Madelyn Hill (no relation, although I would be in good company if so).

BioI'm a mom, wife, and writer just living life to the fullest. A Michigan native, I've moved from one Rochester to another Rochester to marry the love of my life. Life is exciting, exhausting, chaotic, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Blog link

Alina K. Field, who inducted me into this blog hop

BioAward-winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but she found her true passion in reading and writing romance. Though her roots are in the Midwest, after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband and a blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

Blog link

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday Threads: Casey's Courage by Neva Brown

By Neva Brown

Genre: Contemporary  
Heat Level: Sensual


When they finally stopped swimming and stood up in the shallow end of the pool, the icy wind of
early fall shocked them both into quick action...he grabbed a huge beach towel and wrapped it round her and hugged her tightly, pressing her body against his own.

Shivering from the cold, Casey snuggled close to Tres. As her shaking eased, she became more aware of his body. He had one arm round her shoulders and the other lower. His hand was on her bottom, pressing her against him from head to toe. He wasn’t cold. His hot, full arousal pulsating against her abdomen fueled a new kind of shiver in her. She leaned into his maleness with primal need. His eyes, bright and feral, devoured her. As she wiggled to step away, he moved his hand from her shoulder to the back of her head. His lips brushed her temple and cheek, trailed down to her neck, then settled gently on her lips that had parted in awe at the sensations she felt. The motion of his mouth against hers sent sparks through her blood. His tongue traced her lips, slipping inside to touch her tongue as he moved his hand to palm her breast and smooth his thumb across the engorged nipple.

The towel slipped to the floor. He gently brushed aside a strap of her swimsuit. As his lips left hers and closed over her exposed breast, her eyes flew open in panic. Jerking her arms from around his waist, not remembering having put them there, she whispered, “Tres, please. I can’t handle this.” She breathed in shallow gasps.

Slowly, he released her breast and raised his head. Pulling the strap up and encasing her throbbing breast, he frowned. “You look like you’ve never been kissed before.”

In awe, she said, “Not like that.”

Tres studied her through a haze of thwarted desire and let her step away from him. His thoughts raced. Has she forgotten that part of her life, or is she telling the truth? 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Tithe is now available!

The time has come, my friends. After two long years, The Tithe is now available as an e-book. Below are the contents of my media kit's info sheet. Enjoy!


The Tithe
Elle Hill

Publication Date: August 20, 2014

Price: $2.99

Word Count: 94,506

Available Format: E-book

Back Blurb:

“Every seven years, seven persons from each of the ten towns must go into the desert, where they will enter into the realm of Elovah, their God.”

No one knows exactly what happens to these seventy Tithes, but everyone knows who:  the “unworkables,” those with differing physical and mental capacities. Joshua Barstow, raised for twenty years among her town’s holy women, is one of these seventy Tithes. She is joined by the effervescent Lynna, the scholarly Avery, and the amoral Blue, a man who has spent most of his life in total solitude.

Each night, an angel swoops down to take one of their numbers. Each night, that is, except the first, when the angel touches Josh… and leaves her. What is so special about Josh? She doesn’t feel special; she feels like a woman trying to survive while finally learning the meanings of friendship, community, and love.

How funny that she had to be sacrificed to find reasons to live.


This is the best book I've read, and not just this year, but for a very long time.
It's fascinating, the story. Post-apocalyptic, southern California, and order has been restored for a while. Well, except for this tithing thing. . . . I'm not going to give away any details, because a lot of this surprised me, but suffice it to say that the plot kept me reading long past when I should have moved on to other things.
And as I read, I laughed, I was entranced, and I cried. I identified with characters who live in pain every single day, like I do, and like so many of us do. In fact, not only did I identify, but in these pages I admired, I hated, I longed, I hoped, and I despaired. I wanted, and I wondered, and I gritted my teeth. This book - - well, it's her best one yet, and if you don't buy it, you'll more than regret it. I promise.
Lauri J Owen, author of “The Ember Series”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Creating the Universe, One Word at a Time

Big Brother. Dweomer. Mockingjay. The Golden Snitch. Ringwraiths. Great A’Tuin. The
shining. You know all, or at least some of these made-up words and phrases. Heck, if you’re anything like me, you’ve extensively pondered the joys of taking second breakfast with a hobbit, maybe after imbibing some butterbeer with Harry and Hermione.

I read fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. There’s just something so intriguing about consuming a story that not only includes the usual drama of everyday living but words and ideas that exist uniquely in the universe the author has created. These fictitious concepts and words fascinate me. Why did the author construct this style of government? What magic system did she or he dismiss before deciding on that one? What do the syllables of these words represent? How much symbolism and ideology can be packed into a single word or phrase?

I write romantic fantasy and sci-fi. At least part of the great joy of penning my stories comes from stretching the known. As a writer of the paranormal, I create new, maybe extranatural (who says they’re “super”?) situations and vernacular. I love the challenge of coming up with new ways of organizing the words and the world.

I set my latest novel, The Tithe, which is due to be released on August 20 (hooray!), a century or more into the future. Humanity has been reduced to a devout, few hundred thousand souls, all of whom live in the desert towns of what we now know as San Bernardino County in Southern California. As such, I tried to balance two conflicting goals: spicing my characters’ lives with words, phrases, and concepts specific to their small, highly regimented, and deeply religious desert lives while also making their values and speech intelligible to my readers.

My main character, Joshua (named after the trees that dot the Mojave’s landscape), is an orphan whom the imrabi raised in one of Barstow’s rab’ris. She attends services, reads the Bitoran, and prays daily to Elovah. To translate, Josh lives among the town’s holy women and reads devotedly their town’s holy book. In creating this new religion, along with its verbiage, ideologies, and rituals, I chose to model it on our modern incarnations of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For example, The Tithe’s god’s name is Elovah, which I devised by combining the various names of the Abrahamic gods: Yahweh, Adonai, Elohim, Jehovah, Allah. Well, and I made Her a woman.

About halfway through The Tithe, Josh officiates two weddings. I researched Jewish, Christian, and Muslim weddings, snagged traditions from each, rendered them a bit more gender egalitarian, and created an interesting and odd amalgamation that includes rings, chalices, and veils for both would-be spouses.

Do I expect “imrabi” and “Bitoran” to become pop cultural buzzwords? Well, maybe not. But that doesn’t stop me from delighting in this new world, with its unique curse words (“Jimson!”), religious dogma (remaining illiterate and attending twice daily services), and arid analogies (“his voice as dry and impersonal as the desert wind”). All this, in its alienness and its familiarity, its highlighting of some modern conventions and dismissal of others, reflects not only my creative processes but also a deeply personal commentary on the political and cultural state of the world.

It’s no wonder I’m so in love with fantasy and sci-fi. In combining the familiar with the fantastic, we paranormal authors create worlds that reflect, explore, and defy the foibles and possibilities of modern life. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Book Hook Plea for Help

A mere year after I submitted it to my editor, The Tithe is coming out on August 20! I only have two more steps before this baby is out of my hands and into the public’s.

The first is proofreading. I got this. The second involves choosing a book hook. This is where you all come in.

In short, HELP! Below are my back cover blurb (the description of The Tithe) and my potential hooks. I’ve written about a thousand, narrowed it down to ten, and just can’t decide on one. In case you’re not sure, a hook is a very brief, pithy, attention-catching summary of the story. Think about movie posters that say stuff like: “Even the end of the world can’t deter him from his quest for the perfect burger” or “They took everything she has. Now she’s taking it back” or “Never before has a bicolor Persian cat saved so many.” Quick, dirty, and intriguing.

Now that you know what it is, would you review all of my hook finalists below and let me know in the comments section which one you think is best? Thank you, thank you!


Back blurb:

“Every seven years, seven persons from each of the ten towns must go into the desert,
where they will enter into the realm of Elovah, their God.”

No one knows exactly what happens to these seventy Tithes, but everyone knows who:  the “unworkables,” those with different physical and mental capacities. Joshua Barstow, raised for twenty years among her town’s holy women, is one of these seventy Tithes. She is joined by the effervescent Lynna, the scholarly Avery, and the amoral Blue, a man who has spent most of his life in total solitude.

Each night, an angel swoops down to take one of their numbers. Each night, that is, except the first, when the angel touches Josh… and leaves her. What is so special about Josh? She doesn’t feel special; she feels like a woman trying to survive while learning what it means to know friendship, community, and love.

How funny that she had to sacrificed to find reasons to live.

Possible hooks:

1. Leadership, friendship, good food, and love: Ironic that after living a holy life, Josh had to be sacrificed to her town’s god to find reasons to live.

2. Ironic that after living a holy life, Josh had to be sacrificed to her town’s god to find reasons to live.

3. An angel takes a sacrifice once every night… except when it’s Josh’s turn. What’s so special about this Tithe?

4. Every seven years, the towns sacrifice their sick and disabled. No one has ever survived the angels’ harvest. Until now.

5. A holy orphan with a disability, along with sixty-nine others, is sent into the desert to die. It is here, surviving murderous angels and humans, that Josh learns to live.

6. Only after being sacrificed to her town’s god and surviving a harvesting from an angel does Josh discover the meaning of friendship, community, and love.

7. In this utopian world, the heroes have disabilities and the angels sport sinister agendas.

8. Every seven years, seventy sick and disabled townspeople are sent into the desert to die. But one of these Tithes might save more than the towns that sacrificed her.

9. In this utopian world, the angels are the villains and heroes come in all sizes and abilities.

10. God destroyed most of humanity in 2012. Many generations later, the remaining humans perform a ritual to appease Her wrath: sacrificing their sick and disabled townspeople.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday Threads: The S.E.R.A. Files, v. II by C.T. Green

The S.E.R.A. Files Volume II
C.T. Green

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Heat Level: Sizzling
This is a collection of short stories featuring the men and women of the Supernatural Entity Recovery Agency.

Will satisfaction be guaranteed?
For Serena Roberts, getting to know her new SERA partner is an uphill task. Simon’s distant and ‘by the book’ demeanor is at odds with his playboy past. Serena believes she’ll never find out the real story behind the torture Simon endured at the hands of a demon nor discover a way past the Fae warrior’s ice-cold reserve.
Simon doesn’t mind his reputation for being hard to please, but when he meets Serena he finds there is something he cares about more than keeping his distance from others. As they hunt for a kidnapper can he trust Serena enough to leave them both satisfied?

Angels and demons don’t mix. Prepare for an apocalypse.
Adar works as a special operative for SERA. He’s a demon who loves the thrill of close calls and blood-pounding action. But no way in hell is he ready to do protection detail for an angel. After all, everyone knows those guys are short tempered and deadly.
Penelope, a messenger angel, is minding her own business when she witnesses a crime. Now she’s under the care of a big, strong SERA agent and she’s determined to go for his heart. When the bad guys catch up with them and Adar is forced to unleash his inner demon, will the angel he’s fallen in love with still want him?

A fire prince always knows how to light a girl’s fire.
Saskia “Sass” Boots has been watching Flame, and he’s every bit as absorbing as his namesake. But as an agent with SERA, she’s determined to keep her mind on the job and off the fire prince’s smokin’ hot body. A pyromaniac’s on the loose and Flame is SERA’s top suspect.
When Sass announces she’s moving in with him, Flame knows it’s going to be hard to resist the girl of his dreams while chasing a murderer. There’s no way Flame is going to let some creep kill innocent people, but when things become heated, the scorching chemistry between him and Sass might prove a fatal distraction.

SERA Agent. Werewolf. Guard Dog. No one said anything about ‘walkies’.
After Sophy Bancroft is blinded by a spell, Torren is determined to protect the human from a killer still at large. But for a werewolf, playing at being a guard dog is tough work. He hates deceiving the woman he’s fallen in love with, but until Sophy’s sight returns there’s no other way to ensure her safety.
Sophy’s delighted to regain her vision. When she discovers her beloved canine companion is a seriously gorgeous werewolf will she be able to trust him not to shed on the furniture, and more importantly, save her from the creature determined to end her life?

Not even Hell itself is going to keep these lovers apart.
Mia Haviland and Avenian of the Fae mourned the loss of Oblivion, the demon prince who bound the three of them together. Now their lover is back and determined to re-take his place in Mia and Aven’s life.
Oblivion endured two years in Hell, imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic killer who escaped SERA’s justice. Now he wants his beloved Fairy and Fae back by his side and his captor’s head on a platter. Can he destroy his nemesis and convince Aven and Mia that neither Hell nor high water will ever keep him from them again?

Find C.T. Green at the following places:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thursday Threads: Son of Thunder by S.C. Mitchell

Son of Thunder
By S.C. Mitchell

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Heat: Sizzling

Hook: The son of the Thunder God, Thor, has a lot to live up to...and no time for love.

The man looked like a god. Then again, he was one. . .

Jord Thorson was a god– the son of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. In his search to find his missing father, Jord seeks out the mortal, Meghan Larson, who is in possession of his only clue–Megingjörð, Thor’s magical belt of power.

But when the belt decides to take matters into its own hands, locking itself around Meghan’s waist, Jord and Meghan are plunged into the middle of a massive conflict that rages across the heavens.

Giants, magical artifacts, and a golden city in the clouds weren’t exactly what Meghan Larson expected when that amazing belt arrived at her museum. Now Megingjörð is stuck around her waist and talking to her in her head. She’s got to be dreaming, but with the wonders around her and hunky Jord Thorson at her side, Meghan’s not sure she wants to wake up.

The rainbow ended on a street that appeared to be paved with silver stones. Jord pulled up to the first building, a tall tower of a structure. As he turned off the cycle Meghan jumped from the seat and swatted his shoulder.
“You might have warned me a bit, about what to expect.” Her heart was still racing, but now that her feet appeared to be on solid ground again she felt herself calming down.
“Be honest.” He smiled at her. “Would you have believed me if I’d told you?”
Had anything that had happened to her lately been believable?
“No,” she admitted.
“Jord!” A husky voice called from the doorway of the building. “Welcome home.”
A large man in blue jeans and a black t-shirt with an ornate sword belt strapped around his waist leaned on the doorpost of the tower entrance. He had short blond hair and a very full beard. The sword at his side had to be almost four feet long. He was smiling and waving.
“Heimie.” Jord went to take his outstretched hand. “Any news of my father?”
“None that I’ve heard,” Heimie replied. “Your grandfather has been looking for you though. Maybe he has some news I haven’t heard.”
“There isn’t anything you haven’t heard, Heimie.” He patted the man on the shoulder.
The man then looked a Meghan, raising one of his eyebrows. “And what do we have here?”
Jord turned to her. “Heimie, meet Meghan Larson. Meghan this is Heimdall, guardian of Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge. He’s kind of like the TSA at airports.”
“Welcome, Meghan Larson,” Heimdall said. “Welcome to Asgaard.”

You can purchase Son of Thunder at: