Beginning January 1, 2013

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Monday, December 31, 2012

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Beginning January 1, 2013 
Stop by and let us know what you think of the new look! Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: RITA BAY

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“Io, Saturnalia” by Rita Bay


Saturnalia was "the best of days," according to the Roman poet Catullus. The ancient and rather wild Roman festival honored the Roman god Saturn, one of the early agricultural gods. This festival of light which led up to the winter solstice was originally celebrated on December 17th and later expanded an additional week to December 23rd. Lighted candles, often given as gifts during the celebration, symbolized the search for knowledge and truth and the approach of the new year. The celebration ended with the exchange of gifts among family, friends, and the slaves.

IO SATURNALIA. Saturnalia was a holiday from all forms of work. Schools were closed, and athletic workouts were suspended. The courts were closed, so no justice was administered, and no declaration of war could be made. In Rome, the festival began with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum and a public banquet which was attended by Saturn’s statue that reclined on one of the couches used for dining. The revelers then took the celebration outside where shouts of "Io Saturnalia" filled the streets. (Io, pronounced "yo," was an expression of elation.)

MASTERS SERVE SLAVES. On December 18th and 19th, Romans continued their celebration in their homes. Those who could afford it sacrificed a suckling pig, a traditional offering for an earth-god, for the feast. The slaves and the masters reversed roles. The masters put aside their togas, donned skimpy outfits with peaked conical caps often traditionally worn by Greeks (and freed slaves), and served the slaves during the banquet.

OK TO BE NAUGHTY. Gambling which was frowned upon at any other time for the citizens and forbidden to the slaves was permitted during Saturnalia. Rampant overeating and drunkenness was the rule. The Stoic philosopher and statesman Seneca (the teacher of Nero who eventually ordered Seneca to commit suicide) wrote "the greatest part of the city is in a bustle. Loose reins are given to public dissipation." In the years of the Roman empire, the Lord of Misrule, the Saturnalicius princeps, presided over the conduct of the holiday. He could give bizarre orders which had to be obeyed. ("Sing naked." or "Toss him in the Tiber. ")

CHRISTIANS STEAL THE DAY. Saturnalia was popular until the 3rd or 4th century AD when it died out with the rise of Christianity. Some elements of the celebration like caroling and the giving of gifts were intentionally carried over into the Christmas celebrations. The Lord of Misrule can also be found in the Italian carnival celebrations.

ABOUT RITA, HER BOOKS, & A GIVEAWAY. Rita Bay is an author of paranormal (Champagne Book Group) and historical (Siren BookStrand) romances. Her blog (http://ritabay.com/) features daily posts on the history and culture of Europe and the United States omitted from the history books AND blurbs and excerpts of her books. Rita’s books are available from Amazon. Leave a comment and your name will be placed in a drawing on December 23rd for an eBook of Rita’s shapeshifter paranormal from Champagne Books, Into the Lyons’ Den.

Happy Holidays, Rita Bay.

Friday, December 21, 2012

STUFF A STOCKING BLOGFEST: LOU SYLVRE

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Outside Looking In: Holiday Stories that Feed Our Need
Lou Sylvre


I was raised in a home and religious community where girls weren’t good enough, gays were Satan’s pawns, and Christmas was never celebrated. Neither did we observe birthdays, Easter, Valentine’s day, or any other holiday, but Christmas and the other winter holidays always seemed to be the ones that mattered to me. No singing in the grade school Christmas concert for me. No secretly shopping and wrapping. Of all the holidays, the ones that brightened the winter night were the hardest to endure from the outside looking in.

As a girl I walked down the street and eyeballed lights—only fat, rounded bulbs back then, no such thing as LED. I silently oohed and aahed house after house, my favorite being the odd one out, with eaves and doors and a bright Star of David all decked out in brilliant blue. The lights were enough to make me feel a little left out, but it was the Christmas trees set up inside, set to be seen through windows, that left me with a hollow kind of loneliness. The trees themselves came in a mystifying variety! In the ‘60s in Los Angeles County—an almost-desert megalopolis with no snow and more palms than pines—some people set up red and blue and even pink artificial trees, with matching garlands and ornaments all one color. I admit I liked the pink ones, even though I thought the idea of a pink pine rather odd.

But sometimes the trees were green and just imperfect enough for me to be sure they were real.

Those, the green ones, were the hardest to pass by. I wanted to run across the yard from the sidewalk to stand in the flower bed and peer inside. The lights on those trees glowed like colorful balls of family love. Their ornaments suggested years of haphazard collecting and maybe romance. Realistic assessment? Probably not, but from the sidewalk, a child looking in, I felt it—felt warmth and chocolate with marshmallows and some lavender-scented grandmother hugging me whether I wanted her to or not. I was sure those homes must have held large, laughing families and pampered pets. They must have been the scene of board games and bedtime stories and a table laden with sweet and savory foods no child should go without.

Oh yes, I’m all grown up (long ago), and I know better now. I did not adopt my parents’ religion once I was old enough to make my own, separate mistakes and, in fact, they stopped practicing that cruel faith about the time I left home. I make Christmas now with and for my children and grandchildren and my remaining parent, for friends and even sometimes for strangers. I know Christmas from the inside out.

But…

Yes, there’s a ‘but.’ I’ve learned something disturbing, and if it isn’t true for everyone, I believe it is true for many. This is it: no matter how wonderful our holiday, there’s a little piece of us, a shadow, that remains outside, gazing in to imagined warmth and light with some combination of bright wonder, dark contempt, loneliness, and love.

For those of us who love books, that shadow might be the part of us that wants stories of holidays, wants characters to live all our conflicting emotions, wants word-built houses, metaphorical trees, and presents that symbolize all the miracles and sorrows in our dark-solstice dreams. Sometimes we want stories of inclusion, stories that feel so good, so sweet. But sometimes we want to also see the darkness. Maybe we are, in whole or in part, outside looking in—lonely or grieving or depressed or hurt or sick or inexplicably afraid. Or maybe we really do feel good, feel included and loved and joyful, but we remember darker days.

Wherever we stand, whatever our need stories fill it, feed it, nourish us.

I write mostly, these days, male/male romance, and I read a lot in the genre because I love it—love the characters and the romance. One holiday story I read some time ago that was particularly nourishing was Isabelle Rowan’s short novella, Twelve Days. I wrote a review of this story for Goodreads back in January 2012. I kept it pretty simple, referring readers to my review of A Note in the Margin, the full-length novel that started the sometimes bittersweet story of David and John, of which Twelve Days is like a coda. Here’s what I said about Twelve Days.
In this forty page holiday story, author Isabelle Rowan continues the well-written narrative, creative story, and interesting, well-realized characters that she introduced in A Note in the Margin. She takes them through the holidays, which, just as in "real life", present both joys and pitfalls for the men. Mostly, they're in for some surprises from people they had relegated to their past. This is well worth a read. Even though Rowan didn't leave me with a feeling that the story was incomplete, I was sorry that it ended.
That brief review doesn’t really do justice, I realize now, for a story that takes Christmas head on, even though it occurs where December is summer. Decorations, homelessness, loss, love, and new chances are all in there. Some lighter seasonal reads I’d recommend in the M/M genre: The Christmas Wager by Jamie Fessenden (historical), A Walk in the Dark by Kate McMurray, and Winter Rescue, by Dawn Kimberly Johnson.

I’m going to close with a Christmas day excerpt from one of my own books, Yes: A Vasquez and James Novella. For those unfamiliar with the story Luki and Sonny, who have been together about six years, are struggling with Luki’s lung cancer, so the holiday is both wonderful shared tradition and scary reminder of everything that isn’t quite right in their world.

The tree stood seven feet tall, stopping just below the ceiling. An angel—clearly male—topped it. Every year, Luki argued that it was no angel at all, but St. Christopher. This year had to be the same; that was important to Luki. “St. Christopher,” he wheezed.

“Gabriel,” Sonny responded, his light-hearted smile catching. “Archangel extraordinaire.”

Sonny had cut and packed the tree from the forest surrounding the house, his own land. Sometimes he looked for a rare spruce, but this time he chose a Douglas fir because it didn’t have the pungent smell that might irritate Luki’s airways. Its branches hung heavy with needles and ornaments and light, and though it didn’t quell Luki’s sadness, it did give him peace. Maybe I don’t mind dying, he thought, knowing how horrified Sonny would be if he said it aloud. Maybe it’s just time… when Christmas is over. We’ll see. He knew, somehow, that if he chose to die he wouldn’t have to take his own life; all he would have to do is let go, and it would happen. Easy.

Josh and Ruthie would be late. They’d gone to pick up Jackie, Luki’s younger nephew, from the airport. Jackie had flown home from New York, where he was studying psychology in order to put his own horrifying experiences—which Luki had rescued him from—to good use. Since they didn’t know how late it would be when they arrived, and they didn’t know how long Luki’d be able to stay up, they went ahead with Christmas, just the three of them.

“Like the three wise men,” Kaholo said, swigging rum punch, and laughing.

“Where?” Luki asked, making the other two laugh. He smiled too. Sonny came over to his chair, stepping around Luki’s ever-present canine companion. He bent low by Luki’s ear, his breath tickling in a way that made Luki very sorry he was sick.

“Luki, that smile made my whole Christmas.” Carefully, he lifted the oxygen tube away and kissed him, very gentle, very sweet. A little more than a friendly peck, a little less than passion.

Luki met his eyes, wondering if the unlikely mixture of emotion he felt—gratitude and longing—could be seen in his own eyes through the glaze of drugs and fatigue. When Sonny took his hand, Luki gave it a squeeze, stronger than either of them expected. “Thank you,” he said, talking about everything.

Kaholo had a smile on his face, handing him a small package sloppily wrapped in paper printed with words in tiny writing, Peace, Love, Joy, over and over again. Luki started to pull the paper loose, but his uncle interrupted.

“Mili, you have to shake the package, see if you can guess! That’s a rule—you know that.”

Luki smiled again and made a show of shaking the package, which didn’t make any noise. “Wild guess: a DVD.” Because of course it was exactly the size and shape for that.

Kaholo said, “Darn!” slapping his thigh and swigging rum, again.

Paper stripped away, Luki found a copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He smiled his appreciation. He and Kaholo had long since decided it qualified as the funniest movie of all time.

Sonny became suddenly shy, or worried, or reluctant, when it came time for him to give Luki his present. “I’m afraid you won’t like it, Luki.”

“It’s a tapestry, right? It’s what you’ve been weaving, these past weeks.”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever woven something I didn’t like?”

“This is different.” But, having said that, he stood up and went to get the hung and weighted weaving. “I just don’t want you to misunderstand.” He turned it around, held it up, and let it unfurl.

As soon as he saw it, Luki knew what it was that worried his husband. Sonny was afraid that Luki would see the way the weaving depicted him and feel angry, think that Sonny had been insensitive. Because Luki hardly looked like that anymore, fit and strong and all but invincible. But he didn’t dwell on that, because both Sonny’s work and the memory it provoked held such perfect grace. “I remember,” he said, and the words brought home the feel of sea breeze, warm, damp sand beneath his feet, and waves rolling in over miles of beach deserted but for birds and Sonny, approaching as if conjured by the sun.

“You were teaching me Tai Chi,” Sonny said.

“Your hair got in my mouth.”

“The wind came up!”

“You kissed me,” Luki said.

“Yes.”

Luki looked into Sonny’s deep, dark eyes, looked so intently that once again he saw that aura, that brilliance that surrounded him, or maybe radiated from inside him. “It’s perfect,” he said. “Thank you.”

He fell asleep with his memories.
Leave a comment to win a copy of Yes: A Vasquez and James Novella. (This is ebook only. If the winner prefers an ebook version of my 2 full length Vasquez and James novels, that can be substituted.)

About the Author:Lou Sylvre hails from Southern California but now lives and writes on the rainy side of Washington State. When she’s not writing, she’s reading—fiction in nearly every genre, romance in all its tints and shades, and the occasional book about history, physics, or police procedure. Her personal assistant is Boudreau, a large cat who never outgrew his kitten meow. She loves her family, her friends, a Chihuahua named Joe, and (in random order) coffee, chocolate, sunshine, and wild roses.

Visit her blogs at http://www.sylvre.com, and http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4873260.Lou_Sylvre/blog, or contact her at lou(dot)sylvre(at)gmail(dot)com.

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: TONYA RAMAGOS

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'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the town,
The fire siren echoed blaring its sound.
The firefighters came running from far and from near,
And raced to the trucks quickly donning their gear.

And I in my bunkers, my boots and my hat,
Jumped to the engine to see where the fire's at.
Down at the corner of Fifth and of Oak,
The dispatcher informed us of a house filled with smoke.

Smoke poured from the sides, from up and from down,
Yet up on the roof there was none to be found.
So up to the rooftop we raised up a ladder,
And climbed to the top to see what was the matter.

I came to the chimney and what did I see,
But a fellow in red stuck past his knees.
Well we tugged and we pulled until he came out,
Then he winked with his eye and said with a shout.

"These darn newfangled chimneys they make them too small,
For a fellow as I, not skinny at all."
With a twitch of his nose he dashed to his sleigh,
and called to his reindeer, "AWAY now, AWAY."

As we rolled up our hoses he flew out of sight,
Saying "God bless our firefighters" and to all a good night!

--Author Unknown


Hi! I’m Tonya Ramagos. As an author of more than 40 books, most of which focus on men and women who serve our country, I often come across true heroes and stories in my research that fill my heart with more gratitude and respect than I can describe. I’ve always loved the above poem. It serves as a gentle reminder to me that there are men and women out there on the job every day putting their lives on the line to rescue and protect those in need, even Santa Clause. :)

As I prepare for the Christmas holiday—decorating the house, buying gifts for my loved ones, planning the celebration feast—the fact that I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it weren’t for the altruism of the service men and women overseas and here on America soil who sacrifice the very things I am enjoying to keep me safe stays in my mind.

So, this holiday season, please remember to say a special thanks to all of our heroes giving up those special things we sometimes take for granted to keep us safe and free. I know I will. :)

As part of the Long and Short Reviews Christmas celebration, Tonya is giving away a .pdf download of her Christmas Cracker story, Stupendously Yours.

Tired of mediocre sex, Zoie Qwin is hot for adventure. When she can't find the excitement she craves in the men around town, she reaches across the world to the one man who's ready and capable if not willing to take her hormones on a fanciful journey to Multiple Orgasmville. Zoie Qwin never managed to snag Lieutenant Commander Nash Beagan's sexually daring heart, but Lady Zest in all her erotically written letters has.

Living out her escapades in a pen and paper relationship with her fantasy man proves to be enough, until Nash, home on a short leave, takes the stage at a male Christmas auction. Lady Zest is ready to break the bank for the Christmas present of the millennium, but Zoie wants the wicked desire in Nash's bedroom-blues all for herself. A snack in the parking lot, a drink at the theatre, and a window feast next to the Christmas tree delivers exactly that, until Zoie realizes her cover's been blown and Nash is out to make her and Lady Zest stupendously his forever.

About the Author:
Tonya Ramagos is a best-selling author of contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and cowboy novels. She spends most of her time in a fictional world dreaming up hot hunks and head-strong heroines. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. Anything from legal and military non-fiction to any genre of romance can be found on her Kindle. Her music tastes are just as varied with favorite artists ranging from Billy Currington to Disturbed. Her idea of relaxing is curling up on the sofa or her back deck with a book and her favorite beverage. Born and raised in Pascagoula, MS, she is now a resident of Chattanooga, TN where she lives with her boyfriend and their five children.

Join Tonya and The Heroes of Silver Springs on Christmas Eve at Siren-BookStrand for the release of Going Under [The Heroes of Silver Springs 9]. And swing by http://tonyaramagos.blogspot.com/ on New Year’s Eve for a FREE Silver Springs short story celebration.

Website: http://www.tonyaramagos.com
Blog: http://tonyaramagos.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tonya.ramagos
Twitter: @tonyaramagos
Buy links: http://www.bookstrand.com/tonya-ramagos

STUFF THE STOCKING BLOGFEST: B.J. McCALL

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Christmas Memories


One of the joys of the Christmas season is a tree twinkling with lights. The trimming of the tree is a wonderful tradition. When the fragrant fir took a prominent place in the living room you knew Christmas was just around the corner. When I was young decorating the tree was an exciting event. Stringing the lights and placing the ornaments while eating popcorn and drinking hot-spiced cider added to the party atmosphere. The angel resting atop the tree was the final touch. The room quieted as the house lights were turned off. Then it happened. The tree lit up the living room in its multi-colored glory. Everyone cheered. Santa was coming.

December is a great month when you’re young. Days when folks went caroling and hot cocoa with marshmallows warmed you up after an afternoon spent playing in the snow. Wrapped presents begin to appear beneath the tree. I recall shaking the packages and trying to peek beneath the bright paper. I was sure each one held a treasure, a wonderful toy that I’d being wanting since Easter. My imagination wouldn’t consider socks or pajamas.

As December days gave way to darkness the Christmas lights would come to life, turning my house and the neighborhood into a magical place ready for Santa’s arrival.

I no longer wait for Santa, but I still love Christmas trees. My house is too small to put one in the living room so I put mine in the backyard. I string it with lights and decorate it with colorful bulbs. I live in California where the temperature is mild, so I can sit outside in the evening, enjoy a glass of wine, and experience the magic of Christmas.

In celebration of this wonderful holiday, I’m offering a prize. If you’d like to win a PDF copy of my werewolf Christmas story, Holiday Moon, please enter by posting a comment.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS
B.J McCall


About the Author: B.J. McCall lives in sunny California. When she needs a break from writing, BJ likes to take a long walk. Four miles later, she’s ready to get back to work.

BJ is multi-published in print and ebooks. She writes paranormal and sci-fi stories on a regular basis for Changeling Press. She’s also published with eRed Sage and Cobblestone Press. 2012 marks a decade of writing for Ellora’s Cave. Her books are available at Amazon, B&N, and AllRomanceEbooks.

WEBSITE www.bjmccall.com

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: LOUISA BACIO

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5 Ways to Get Sexy over the Holiday Season
with Louisa Bacio


Tis the season for stress. If the holidays tend to make you feel overwhelmed, take a few minutes to unwrap these goodies, and keep the sexy going. Here are five off-the-cuff treats to make your holiday season brighter.

5) A Red & Green Bow – Tie it around your favorite part of him, and unwrap the package very slowly.

4) Candy Cane Stripped Thigh Highs – Have you seen these sexy stockings? They’ll make your lover want to slowly strip them off your luscious legs.

3) Red Ruffled Undies – Do these panties make my butt look big? Oh, I hope so. If he catches a peak of these naughty-nice unmentionables, they’ll drive him wild.

2) Candy Cane Lane Massage Candle – The adult store AdamEve.com features some wicked fun. As this vegan candle melts, spreading its delicious scent, use the spoon to scoop out the goodness for personal massage.

1) Holiday Betty – Oh, yes, dare. Have you checked out the specialty hair dye for the most private parts? Betty Beauty even features holiday stencils (http://www.bettybeauty.com) Now that’s a story in the making.

Contest: Got another way to get sexy over the season? Share. Please leave a comment with a valid email address, and the winner will be able to choose one book from my backlist.

Here’s a look at a new release:

The Vampire, The Witch & The Werewolf 4: The Wolfe Pack

Silver Ashe can’t let go of the desire to find her birth father and the urge to join a pack. Against the wishes of her brother, Trevor, and her vampire-lover, Nick, Silver leaves New Orleans for the woods of Louisiana.

As the guard and a dominant member of the Wolfe Pack, Viktor isn’t too sure of the city-dwelling stranger who comes trespassing. With the lack of female werewolves, Viktor soon sees Silver as a potential mate. Too bad she’s already spoken for by a bloodsucker.

Trapped between worlds, Silver’s faced with choosing between the lover she’s known most of her life, and the budding relationship with Viktor, where her future may lay. It’ll take some sweet talking and a whole lot of loving for Silver to find her place within the pack.

Available now via Ravenous Romance, Amazon, Barnes&Noble and other eRetailers.

Hopefully, you will fall in love with Nick and Viktor as much as I did.

Enjoy!

Louisa Bacio
http://www.facebook.com/louisabacio
http://www.twitter.com/louisabacio
http://www.louisabacio.com
http://louisabacio.blogspot.com

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: M. GARNET

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Wow, what a great Christmas Gift. I don’t blog but have always wanted to get started, so a Christmas Party is the best of all ways to get involved. Especially since I can give away a gift. I find one of the best things about the season is the excuse to give gifts. I like to find that special something that will fit each person.

I can remember as a small child, my father had died and we were poorer than Church mice. My sister and I slept in the same small room and went to bed early on Christmas Eve with lots of hopes and wishes. Half asleep I saw a shadow come into our room and watched in mystery as mother picked up our two old dolls. Getting up the next morning, we saw the most beautiful sight, under our small tree. There was our two dolls, totally transformed into glorious Princesses. Mother had spent weeks making clothes from scrapes, sewing on buttons and paste jewelry until we had the most beautiful dolls in the neighborhood.

I learned early from that lovely woman, to know what giving really means. I also learned from the fact that she outlived three husbands and had numerous admirers until she died, that love comes in many disguises. She was never bashful about teaching us about sex and sharing the important things in life with us, such as enjoy it but don’t flaunt it. So the best part about my stories is that my mother would have approved and read with delight. I write Erotic Romance sometimes in comtemporary settings and sometimes in Sci/Fi. But I like a happy ending whether the characters realize it or not.

I think I will enjoy giving away one of my books called TRADING PARTIES. This story has an interesting epilogue. I wrote it first as a Halloween story, one that can be enjoyed any time of the year, but in talking about the story line to a friend, she said, “Wait, you can’t leave her standing alone on the sidewalk.”

She was right, so I wrote the second story, a Christmas story called CELEBRATE A HOLIDAY EVE that brings a happy love story to it’s rightful end. People ask us authors where we get out ideas. Sometimes it is as simple as sitting and talking to a friend.

About the Author:
M. Garnet, or known to her growing family as Muriel, sits comfortably in a custom designed office that contains a wall filled desk that holds her Mac, a PC and a flat screen Sony. Against a large window is a drafting table that is surrounded by her painting needs for the stress relief that she laughs about as she often paints in watercolors.

The window frames the usual that often inspires her, a panorama of Florida, rain or shine, large birds in the sky or heavy damp winds moving the pines and palm fronds. Her favorite companion, Cayo, a King Charles Spaniel, looks up with hopeful eyes waiting for the click of the keys to stop so that they can go out to the large pool in back or a walk in front where the squirrels play. Life is good, and so is her imagination.

You can reach her at her web site www.mgarnet.com you can also find me on the Authors Page at Extasybooks.com