Mar 31, 2014


Today we are happy to introduce Award Winning Author M.J. Bell, from Girls Heart Books Tours. I sure hope you follow along with the tour. This looks like a terrific read to share with your middle grade child or even older. Today we've included a fun character bio, which as a writer I really enjoy, and there's also a giveaway, so make sure you get to the end to include your entry.

Enjoy your look around and don't forget to leave a comment to let us know you were here.

Title - Before the Full Moon Rises

Series- Chronicles of the Secret Prince Book # 1 By- M.J. Bell


Deston Lespérance grew up believing faeries and monsters are just stories told to children at bedtime. However, when his mother mysteriously vanishes and he stumbles into the mystical realm of Tir na-nÓg, he discovers the shocking truth that these beings are not only real, they hold the key to his future. With a new friend, Margaux, and Excalibur’s twin brother sword, Caluvier, at his side, Deston races against time to find his mother and the Light Crystal before the full moon rises on the autumnal equinox. The odds are stacked against them and the obstacles they run into push the limit of what two teenagers can handle: an attack by gremlin-like creatures; captured by 6 foot tall vampire bats; hunted by a giant wolf, and almost lost forever in the mist of Avalon. Yet Deston doesn't give up, for he vowed to do whatever it takes to get his mother back—even if that means fighting the devil himself. The thing is … when he made that pledge he had no idea how close he would have to come to doing just that!


Title- Once Upon a Darker Time

Series- Chronicles of the Secret Prince Book # 2 By- M.J. Bell


Defying the odds, Deston Lespérance defeated Grossard, the Solitary Faerie who kidnapped his mother and father, and delivered the Light Crystal back to Tir na-nÓg in time to secure the Fae’s reign of the high realm. Now at long last, his dream of having a whole family has come to pass. Unfortunately, “happily ever after” doesn’t last forever, for Grossard lives and is more resolved than ever to get his revenge on the Fae—this time teaming up with Mordred to unleash the darkness which has lain dormant since the earth’s creation.

Deston, though still struggling with his newly found powers, sets off with Margaux on another epic adventure to locate and destroy the Shard of Erebus before Grossard and Mordred can find it. He is fully aware the stakes are high, but he has no idea the scope of sacrifices he’ll be required to make. As his world crumbles around him and his friends fall, he holds onto the only glimmer of hope he has left … that the Fae power and strength truly does reside within him and that he still has a chance to become the hero they claim him to be.

Character Bio for: Deston Lespérance

Deston was born in Boston, but grew up in a small town in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania with his mother, Joliet. He’d never met his father and knew nothing about him except for his name and that his mother had met him in France.

Joliet didn’t ever speak of his dad and as far as Deston knew, the only family they had was each other. But Joliet was a great mom, although at times he did feel she smothered him a little with her over protective tendencies. He put up with it most of the time, though; figuring mothers with an only child were probably all like that.Deston excelled in school and at the age of fourteen was already a junior after having skipped two grades. Adults considered that an impressive feat, but the other students just considered him a freak and he was pushed around and bullied on a regular basis until Joliet enrolled him in Kung Fu classes.

To everyone’s amazement (including his own), Deston had a natural ability for Kung Fu and quickly rose through the ranks, giving him the confidence he needed to stand up and put a stop to the harassment. But he never felt comfortable and never fit in with the other kids in his school no matter how hard he tried.

So instead, he spent most of his time alone, exploring the woods that were close to his house. That was about the only place he felt totally contented. His one and only friend, Mark, moved in down the road from him when he was a sophomore. Thought they had very little in common, they hit it off and after Joliet vanished, Deston went to stay with Mark and his family because he had no other place to go.

But the Welfare Department quickly moved him out and placed him into the foster system—‘for his own good.’ Seven months later he was sent to France to live with Joliet’s cousin, NiNi, and the rest is, as you say, history.

About the Author-

MJ Bell's love of reading and everything magical is what motivated her to jump head first into a writing career. Her first novel was honored with a Gold medal in the Mom's Choice Awards' Fantasy category in 2009. From there she has gone on to write the first two books of a new fantasy trilogy, Chronicles of the Secret Prince, and is currently working on the final chapter of Deston's adventure.  MJ grew up in Iowa, but now considers Colorado her home and lives there with her husband, Tim and her dog, Tasha. Her growing family has always been her pride and joy and provides her with a great source of inspiration to write and bring a little more magic into the world. She loves to hear from readers through her FB page at MJ Bell Author. Or visit her website at


56 Delightful Victorian Slang Terms You Should Be Using

Image credit: ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy
In 1909, writing under the pseudonym James Redding Ware, British writer Andrew Forrester published Passing English of the Victorian era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase. "Thousands of words and phrases in existence in 1870 have drifted away, or changed their forms, or been absorbed, while as many have been added or are being added," he writes in the book's introduction. "‘Passing English’ ripples from countless sources, forming a river of new language which has its tide and its ebb, while its current brings down new ideas and carries away those that have dribbled out of fashion." Forrester chronicles many hilarious and delightful words in Passing English; we don't know how these phrases ever fell out of fashion, but we propose bringing them back.

1. Afternoonified

A society word meaning “smart.” Forrester demonstrates the usage: "The goods are not 'afternoonified' enough for me.”

2. Arfarfan'arf

A figure of speech used to describe drunken men. “He’s very arf’arf’an’arf," Forrester writes, "meaning he has had many ‘arfs,’” or half-pints of booze.

3. Back slang it

Thieves used this term to indicate that they wanted “to go out the back way.”

4. Bags o’ Mystery

An 1850 term for sausages, “because no man but the maker knows what is in them. ... The 'bag' refers to the gut which contained the chopped meat.”

5. Bang up to the elephant

This phrase originated in London in 1882, and means “perfect, complete, unapproachable.”

6. Batty-fang

Low London phrase meaning “to thrash thoroughly,” possibly from the French battre a fin.

7. Benjo

Nineteenth century sailor slang for “A riotous holiday, a noisy day in the streets.”

8. Bow wow mutton

A naval term referring to meat so bad “it might be dog flesh.”

9. Bricky

Brave or fearless. “Adroit after the manner of a brick," Forrester writes, "said even of the other sex, 'What a bricky girl she is.'”

10. Bubble Around

A verbal attack, generally made via the press. Forrester cites The Golden Butterfly: "I will back a first-class British subject for bubbling around against all humanity."

11. Butter Upon Bacon

Extravagance. Too much extravagance. “Are you going to put lace over the feather, isn't that rather butter upon bacon?”

12. Cat-lap

A London society term for tea and coffee “used scornfully by drinkers of beer and strong waters ... in club-life is one of the more ignominious names given to champagne by men who prefer stronger liquors.”

13. Church-bell

A talkative woman.

14. Chuckaboo

A nickname given to a close friend.

15. Collie shangles

Quarrels. A term from Queen Victoria’s journal, More Leaves, published in 1884: “At five minutes to eleven rode off with Beatrice, good Sharp going with us, and having occasional collie shangles (a Scottish word for quarrels or rows, but taken from fights between dogs) with collies when we came near cottages.”

16. Cop a Mouse

To get a black eye. “Cop in this sense is to catch or suffer," Forrester writers, "while the colour of the obligation at its worst suggests the colour and size of the innocent animal named.”

17. Daddles

A delightful way to refer to your rather boring hands.

18. Damfino

This creative cuss is a contraction of “damned if I know.”

19. Dizzy Age

A phrase meaning "elderly," because it "makes the spectator giddy to think of the victim's years." The term is usually refers to "a maiden or other woman canvassed by other maiden ladies or others.”

20. Doing the Bear

"Courting that involves hugging."

21. Don’t sell me a dog

Popular until 1870, this phrase meant “Don’t lie to me!” Apparently, people who sold dogs back in the day were prone to trying to pass off mutts as purebreds.

22. Door-knocker

A type of beard "formed by the cheeks and chin being shaved leaving a chain of hair under the chin, and upon each side of mouth forming with moustache something like a door-knocker."

23. Enthuzimuzzy

"Satirical reference to enthusiasm." Created by Braham the terror, whoever that is.

24. Fifteen puzzle

Not the game you might be familiar with, but a term meaning complete and absolute confusion.

25. Fly rink

An 1875 term for a polished bald head.

26. Gal-sneaker

An 1870 term for "a man devoted to seduction.”

27. Gas-Pipes

A term for especially tight pants.

28. Gigglemug

“An habitually smiling face.”

29. Got the morbs

Use of this 1880 phrase indicated temporary melancholy.

30. Half-rats

Partially intoxicated.

31. Jammiest bits of jam

“Absolutely perfect young females,” circa 1883.

32. Kruger-spoof

Lying, from 1896.

33. Mad as Hops


34. Mafficking

An excellent word that means getting rowdy in the streets.

35. Make a stuffed bird laugh

“Absolutely preposterous.”

36. Meater

A street term meaning coward.

37. Mind the Grease

When walking or otherwise getting around, you could ask people to let you pass, please. Or you could ask them to mind the grease, which meant the same thing to Victorians.

38. Mutton Shunter

This 1883 term for a policeman is so much better than "pig."

39. Nanty Narking

A tavern term, popular from 1800 to 1840, that meant great fun.

40. Nose bagger

Someone who takes a day trip to the beach. He brings his own provisions and doesn’t contribute at all to the resort he’s visiting.

41. Not up to Dick

Not well.

42. Orf chump

No appetite.

43. Parish Pick-Axe

A prominent nose.

44. Podsnappery

This term, Forrester writers, describes a person with a “wilful determination to ignore the objectionable or inconvenient, at the same time assuming airs of superior virtue and noble resignation.”

45. Poked Up


46. Powdering Hair

An 18th century tavern term that means “getting drunk.”

47. Rain Napper

An umbrella.

48. Sauce-box

The mouth.

49. Shake a flannin

Why say you're going to fight when you could say you're going to shake a flannin instead?

50. Shoot into the brown

To fail. According to Forrester, "The phrase takes its rise from rifle practice, where the queer shot misses the black and white target altogether, and shoots into the brown i.e., the earth butt."

51. Skilamalink

Secret, shady, doubtful.

52. Smothering a Parrot

Drinking a glass of absinthe neat; named for the green color of the booze.

53. Suggestionize

A legal term from 1889 meaning “to prompt.”

54. Take the Egg

To win.

55. Umble-cum-stumble

According to Forrester, this low class phrase means "thoroughly understood."

56. Whooperups

A term meaning "inferior, noisy singers" that could be used liberally today during karaoke sessions.

ANDROMEDA'S FALL Blog Tour & Giveaway

Having Fun With
I love dialogue. As a reader, I love to see the interaction between characters - especially enjoy a good witty exchange. As a writer, I think it’s one of my favorite portions of a book to write. I honestly think I enjoy writing it so much not because I’m that funny (cause I don’t think I am), but because I can come up with the clever responses that I wish I could think of that fast in real life.

But dialogue isn’t just about being witty, it can be used for so much more than that. Here’s what I like to use dialogue for with some examples from Andromeda’s Fall (my latest release):

Reveal Information

I find it’s more organic and more interesting to reveal information through dialogue. How do we find out new information about other people or situations? Most often it’s through communication of some sort. In the below example, we find out that the heroine is asking for alsylum, that A.J. assumes she’s a nobody, that she’s pretty beat up, and that she’s possibly been ejected from her community. That’s a lot of information in one little exchange.

“And why would we consider giving asylum to a little nobody like you?” A.J. asked. “One who – judging by those cuts, bruises, and I suspect a broken left arm - has been shunned by her own dare?”

Establish a Setting

Long descriptions of settings – while they can be poetically beautiful – can also lose the reader. And you don’t want to describe every room they walk into. Sometimes it’s better to establish the setting with a casual comment.

“Nice room. I like the view of the mountains,” Andie said, as she moved to look through the wide picture window.

Establish a Character/Relationship

This is a big one. Personality often comes out through dialogue. Details about their lives, backstory, looks, etc. also often come out in dialogue. The display and development of relationship can also happen. For example, in the exchange below, we assume the speakers of just met, we find out that Andie (our heroine) is good at breaking and entering, is on the sarcastic side, maybe a bit reckless, is confident, and possibly has something to hide.

“I’m not going to ask how you got in here. Clearly, our security needs reviewing.”

Andie didn’t betray her satisfaction at his comment. “I’m sure it’s fine. Very few measures would work to keep me out. Or in.”

“I found you.”

Andie merely shrugged. “Off night.” In more ways than one.

“What do you want here?” he asked.

“I want to speak with Jaxon Keller.”

His eyebrows shot up, and he crossed his arms over an impressive chest. “About what?”

“None of your damn business.” Andie’s chin tipped up slightly in defiance, but inwardly she cringed. Stop talking, dummy.

Deepen the Conflict/Heighten the Tension

You can use dialogue to introduce new situations, new dilemmas, and make the reader feel the nerves. You can also use it to make a conflict worse. Words can insight others to fight, or maybe your character says something they regret in the heat of the moment.

“Did the storm get worse?”


Andie’s eyes shifted from the window to A.J. “Talk to me. I’m a Commander, not some breakable doll.”

A small smile tugged at his lips. “The storm has passed, and it’s calm out there. It’s possible the weight of the snow took out our power.”

“Or I didn’t put enough gas in the generator when I started it up today.”


“But you don’t think so?”

There are many other uses for dialogue in writing. These are just some of my favorites. When I read, especially if I’m reading fast, I often skip to the dialogue parts because I’ve frequently felt them to be the most interesting and often the most important. What’s your favorite part about dialogue?

The Book

Genre: urban fantasy

Andie Reynolds is being hunted. After witnessing her mother's violent death at the hands of a pack of wolf shifters, Andie has devoted her life to protecting her community of cougar shifters from a similar fate. But now, a greater threat lies within her own dare, and she must run. If she stays, Kyle Carstairs will try to force their Mating, seeking the added power their union would provide.

Andie would rather chew off her own foot than end up with Kyle. Though, knowing him, she won't live long either way. Andie's only hope of survival is to Mate the Alpha of the Keller Dare with which she is seeking asylum. But before she can get to him, Andie must first go through A.J., one of the Alpha's Protectors. The incredibly frustrating shifter insists on challenging her story, her skills, her trust… and her heart.

Andie is running out of options and out of time. But risking the life of someone she loves - just to save herself - goes against every instinct she has.

Buy Link(s):

Andie crouched low in the underbrush, obscured from view, and watched the compound with a quiet patience born of experience. If her calculations were correct, the next patrol of guards would pass by within the minute. Her posture and expression didn’t shift an inch when, seconds later, she was proven correct.

As soon as the sentry passed from sight, Andie moved like a shadow through the stillness of the night. Ignoring the pain in her body, she sprinted across the lawn and was up and over the wall. She dropped to the ground on the other side with a barely audible thud.

Andie found herself on the backside of a manicured garden. She stayed completely still, hunkered down, and took her time observing her location. About a hundred yards ahead, she saw light from the main building in the complex. The glow spilled out from a pair of glass doors and across the trees and plants, creating patches of darkness and light.

Andie moved again, using the pools of shadow and groupings of plants for cover. She didn’t go for the doors. They were too obvious. Besides, they were likely wired for the alarm system and required some kind of code to get through. But on the second floor one of the windows was wide open, allowing in the cool night breeze. With agile grace, Andie swung herself up into the branches of a large tree just outside that window.

She took care to only use her right arm, which slowed her down a bit. But the injuries she’d sustained made her left arm almost unusable. As quickly and as soundlessly as she could, she made her way up to the branch closest to her chosen point of access. She stopped again and observed.

Andie didn’t move for close to thirty minutes. She just watched. When she was satisfied, she leapt with all the power of her feline form. She didn’t shift exactly - she was trying to avoid that right now since it would be seen as a direct threat if anyone caught her - but she used the might of the beast inside her to clear the distance to the window. She sailed through the opening and immediately tucked and rolled as she hit the ground.

She found her feet and returned to her crouch. Using her cat’s hearing, she waited yet again. Someone might’ve heard the sound of her landing. Her injured left arm was messing with her usual finesse. As she listened she turned in a slow circle, making sure the room, which appeared to be a hotel-like bedroom, was as empty as she’d expected it to be. Many minutes later, satisfied that she was alone and that no one was coming for her… yet… Andie moved towards the door.

Cracking it open a hair, she looked down and saw a long stretch of closed doorways in both directions. Based on the layout of the building and where the window had been located, she determined she needed to go to her right.

Andie tensed to open the door all the way and then froze in place when a deep, male voice sounded from directly behind her. “Stop where you are.”

Dammit, Andie thought. How the hell did he find me?

Meet The Author

About Abigail:

Award-winning author, Abigail Owen was born in Greeley, Colorado and raised in Austin, Texas. She now resides in Northern California with her husband and two adorable children who are the center of her universe.

Abigail grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. A fourth generation graduate of Texas A&M University, she attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by obtaining a degree in English Rhetoric/Technical Writing. However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it.


$40 Amazon Gift Cards or PayPal Cash!

Obligatory Reiteration: Writers Write (Or: “Welcome To Write Club”)


The Writer Writes

I wrote some of this on Twitter this morning, but thought I’d place it here, too.
You will do many things as a writer.
Writers think, dream, scream, flail, procrastinate, market, edit, email, caffeinate, plot, scheme.
Writers gnash their teeth and pull their hair.
Writers read books, drink booze, tweet tweets, complain about Facebook redesigns.
Writers share information one minute, then greedily hoard it the next.
Writers research, then forget research, or ignore research.
Writers know that the real question you should ask them isn’t where they get their ideas but rather, holy hell, how do you make the ideas stop?
Writers work alone but travel in packs.
Writers jump the gun and then procrastinate.
Writers make excuses and find reasons and act as their own best friends and worst enemies.
Writers feel frail, powerful, godly, small, frustrated, infinite, limited, bewildered, afraid, uncertain, brave, certain — we’re all wounded ego, surefooted on broken ground, craving respect and needing an audience, introverts who are extroverts who are introverts.
Writers jump out of planes and build our parachutes on the way down.
Writers outline and worldbuild and make spreadsheets and mind-maps.
Writers create and destroy hundreds of characters and thousands of worlds — all before breakfast.
Writers burn themselves with brands and build up platforms that they have to tear back down and they get agents and find publishers or publish themselves and find the audience that will in turn find them and they’ll commune with themselves and their hearts and try to find the words and stories inside them that can’t stay inside any longer.
But above all of it:
Writers write.
They write, and they finish what they begin.
Put differently?
If this is your first night at Write Club, then you have to write.
If this is your second night, or eighth night, or nine-hundredth-and-forty-seventh night?
The first rule of Write Club is you can talk about Write Club all you want, but it’s no substitute for actually hunkering down and doing the work. Writers write. Say it again and again. Tattoo it on your forehead backward so you can read it when you look in the mirror. Writers write. Writers write. Writers rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. Ten words. Or a hundred. Or two thousand. As many as it takes in the order they need to be. Writers write.
So go write, writer. What are you still doing here?

Not LIve for Michael Allan Scott Tour

Title: Dark Side of Sunset

Pointe – a Lance Underphal Mystery
Author Name: Michael Allan

Author Bio:

Born and raised at the edge of the high desert in Kingman, Arizona, Michael Allan Scott resides in Scottsdale with his wife, Cynthia and their hundred-pound Doberman, Otto. In addition to writing mysteries and speculative fiction, his interests include music, photography, art, scuba diving and auto racing. For the latest, please visit

Author Links - The link for any or all of the following...

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter |
Pinterest | Linkedin | Goodreads | Amazon

Book Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Publisher: Telemachus Press
Release Date: 11/19/12
Buy Link(s):

Book Description:

A contemporary mystery/thriller—a
paranormal mystery, to be more precise. For mystery fans, it twists
and turns like a dragon kite in a high wind. Mystery connoisseurs, beware. The Lance Underphal Mystery series will keep you guessing . . .
Lance Underphal was devastated by his wife’s death, and now, the down-and-out crime-scene photographer can’t let her go. He wakes up plagued by premonitions. The double shooting of an Arizona real estate developer and his mistress/bookkeeper immerse Underphal in a world of incomprehensible phenomena.

Frank Salmon, the homicide detective on the case, does his best to blow off Underphal’s “visions.” But the murders keep piling up and the visions are all too real.

Salmon pursues Underphal’s clues from a popular strip club to a failing community bank, adding a blackmailing stripper to the body count.

Underphal struggles mightily with his psychic curse, teetering on the brink of insanity. His only hope for redemption is the voice in his head, the voice of his dead wife. Stumbling through dark vortexes of murderous intrigue, he comes to realize his visions will either kill him or lead to the capture of a killer—maybe more than one.


A blazing sun still high above Phoenix's western horizon. One hundred nine degrees in the shade.

Those with the wherewithal and accumulated vacation time have fled north to the cool pines or west to the balmy California coast weeks ago. Only the dregs of humanity, conscripted company workers and hardcore entrepreneurs are left to bake in the Valley of the Sun’s August heat. Yet beneath the surface layer of superheated atmosphere and social veneers there is another, more subliminal furnace raging—its fumes stoking the fires of Hell.

Just off the intersection of Greenway and Tatum a white stucco box of an office building squats under a clay tile roof, heat rising off the reddish tiles in shimmering sheets. Mounted on the wrought-iron entry gate, the building directory announces the tenants: Suite 101 – Whiting Realty & Development. The office is closed for the day yet the overburdened air conditioning units grind away, sheltering the last remaining occupant from the sweltering heat.

Bloodshot eyes stare at a spreadsheet, the monitor’s image glares with the harsh reality. Too many negative numbers expose an ugly truth. Anxiously perched on the edge of his high-backed leather executive chair, Gary Whiting waits with the phone to his ear. Dreading the final ring, Whiting lets it go to voicemail, again. He needs to talk to his partner, Rodriguez. He loosens the knot in his power tie and hangs up. This time, without leaving a message.

The four Excedrin have knocked his headache down to a dull throbbing at the base of his skull, but his eyes still ache. He’s been crunching numbers for their Sunset Pointe development project, staring at the monitor all damn day. He rubs at the knots in his stomach through his rumpled white dress shirt, thinking maybe he should eat or maybe he should just shoot himself. He taps the return key with a jittery thumb, hitting it too many times, trying to put the numbers out of his mind. His pulse pounds in his temples. Shit! Got to get ahold of that asshole, Rodriguez.

Whiting runs a trembling hand through thinning hair, his scalp hot and moist. They’ve got to do something about these numbers. Short stubble on raw cheeks twitches as he anxiously works his jaws. They could lose the whole damn project. Thirty million! He can’t believe it, he’s bet everything on this project. And with the hard-money loan, they’ve got a bigger nut than ever. Shit! Those hard-money bastards, they’re Rodriguez’s contacts. Of course they had to have the money to finish—all the construction cost overruns. Fucking Rodriguez. His fingers manically drum on the hardwood desktop, their nails ragged, bitten to the quick. They’re in way too deep to quit now.

Chewing his bottom lip, Whiting redials Rodriguez’s cell.

“Damn Gary, whaddaya want?”  Rodriguez sounds out of breath, frustrated.

“Mike, we need to go over some numbers. Ya got a minute?” Rodriguez gives a short chuckle then lowers his voice. “I’m kinda in the middle of somethin’.”

“Yeah, but . . .” Gary hears a thump, then a woman’s muffled words. “Hey, are you at the office? Who’s with you?”

“Yeah, like I said, we’re kinda in he middle of somethin’ here.”

Whiting hears giggling in the background.

“Stop that,” Rodriguez says to Diane. To Gary, he says, “Diane’s never done it on the desk before.”

Whiting can almost hear Rodriguez’s leering grin.

In the background Diane laughs. “Do I get overtime for this?”

Now they’re both laughing.

“Damn . . . Mike, you guys . . . in the office?”

“Hey, don’t sweat it. It’s almost seven, no one’s around, yard gates are locked, lights are off. No one’s gonna know.”

Whiting hears Diane coo . . . more giggling.

Rodriguez speaks closer into the phone. “That is, as long as you keep your mouth shut.”

“Hey, no problem. I don’t care what you do with Diane. She’s your bookkeeper.”

Diane lets out a short yelp. “What was that?”

“Shit,” whispers Rodriguez. “Shit.”

“Mike, what’s going on?”

“Hold on, I think someone’s here.”

Whiting hears grunting, rustling, probably scrambling for clothes, the metallic snap of window blinds.

“Who’s that?” says Rodriguez under his breath. “Get your panties on.”

Whiting hears Diane whine. “I’m trying.”

He hears Rodriguez whispering to himself. “Who is that? Is that . . ? I’ll get that bastard.”

“Gary, hold on, I gotta take a picture with this thing, hold on.”

“Okay.” Whiting hears the blinds clacking.

He hears Rodriguez talking to himself. “Damn, it’s dark . . . but I think I got ‘em.”

“Mike . . . Mike?”

“Yeah, I’m back, hold on. Gotta check this out.”

Whiting clutches the phone in a sweaty hand, pressed hard against his ear. He hears a loud bang. A door slamming the wall? Too weird. He needs a Valium.

Diane screams.

“You, you asshole!" yells Rodriguez. "What the fuck do you want!?!”

Whiting hears POP, POP! Screeching, a low grunt, loud thumps . . . POP, POP, POP! “Uh, uh, uh . . .”

Guttural gasps. A long wail. High-pitched keening, its otherworldly echo raising every hair on goose flesh. Whiting drops the receiver, horrified. The plastic handset bounces off the desktop as it sinks in. They’ve been shot!

Author guest post:

Writing... The Way I Do –
I write the way I write. Granted, it’s different. But then if I wrote like everyone else (or anyone else) what would be the point? Writing is nothing more (and nothing less) than a means—a means to an end.  And while how one gets that "end" varies widely, for me, it's all about storytelling. 
Personally, I appreciate a good story well-told and admire those who do it—inspiring.  I constantly strive to achieve that goal in my work—a good story, well-told.
Keeping It Real –
First and foremost, I strive to fully engage the reader. After all, every story has multiple creators–the writer and the readers. Readers create the story as they go, bringing it to life with their imagination. If it’s not real for the reader, it doesn’t work.
A Crowded House –
Although I've written stories in a variety of genres, I happened to choose mystery novels as my main focus—a mystery writer. Murder mystery novels with a paranormal twist, to be more precise.  And the Mystery, Thriller and Suspense genre is crowded with talent.  A few of my favorite murder mystery writers include:
How dare I get in the ring with such luminaries.   Yet, writing mystery stories is what I know how to do—something I'm good at (and we're all good at something.)  It's vitally important to find something you love to do—something you do well—and go for it.  Do it flat out, whole hog, persist until you get it right.  Then the magic happens—a sense of accomplishment  that sends you soaring. 
Writing, I love it! 
And I hope you enjoy reading it, as well. 
More on my murder mystery novels can be found at

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Michael Allan Scott and a clickable link back to this page.

Monday Musing..."Real" Women in Fiction

So this issue came up again. Yeah, the women thing. The women in fiction thing in particular. And yeah, I've written about this before.

I'm not going to link to the post that prompted my musings in this particular case, because it feels sort of irrelevant, honestly. Suffice it to say, I read a comment on a message board that referenced "real women" as being women who get upset when they break a nail, and some people got upset about it, (I know, I know...someone got MAD on the internets...holy gods, what are the ODDS?).

This certainly isn't to bash or criticize any of those people either, they all made very valid points including some of the ones I'm going to make below about how impossible it is to talk about any type of woman being a "real" one, and how limiting that to old stereotypes probably is not such a great idea, overall, at least for most of us.

Anyway, this REALLY isn't about that particular person's comment, or what she might have meant by it, or the comments' relative merits vis a vis feminist discourse...or really anything remotely that deep or enlightening.

It more got me thinking about characters.

Specifically, it got me thinking about how friggin' HARD we make it, when it comes to writing female characters, and how much we try to pigeon-hole those characters into our conflicting impressions of what it means to be a woman/girl. It seems to me that this argument about fictional characters almost exactly reflects the arguments we have about women in real life, and it's just as reductive, and just as impossible to make mean anything real.

Personally, I find both ends of this spectrum exhausting.

Like, where would you put me, if I was a fictional character?

On the "strong" scale, I've been a martial artist and a ring fighter, I worked intense corporate jobs for over fifteen years, I have a master's degree, I traveled the world, lived abroad (alone in most cases), started my own business, stayed single when it would have been easier to get married. I'm generally a tough negotiator, I speak my mind more often than most, and I'm willing to go to the mat even when I'm in the unpopular position. I've also been in a number of life and death situations where I handled myself (reasonably) well. Well enough to still be alive, anyway.

On the "weak" side, I cry when my feelings get hurt, I've made an utter fool of myself over men, I've had temper tantrums and acted childish, I've been manipulative, petty, gossipy, and I've lied to make myself look good. I've been horribly afraid, including in the life and death situations mentioned above...I've also done incredibly dumb and dangerous things that nearly got me killed. I've thrown whiny fits about bad haircuts and clothes, I obsess on my weight (childishly) and now, increasingly, my age. I've been suckered in by charlatans and cults and con men (and women), and while in India I had a panic attack so severe that I drove my family nuts, positive my face was rotting off when there was absolutely nothing wrong with me

So what kind of character would I be in a book? Would I be a horrible example to femininity? Or some kind of superhero? More likely, I would be neither of those things, because often it feels that we aren't allowed to write characters like me, meaning how women actually are, because if we include too many of the tough things, then anything weak is considered "out of character" or "too stupid to live." And if we include too many of the weak things, then the tough things are either "too masculine" for some people, or "unrealistic."

Sound familiar? It's the lose-lose thing women I know have been facing all of their lives. Meaning what's "assertive" on a man is "bitchy" on a woman, what's "sexy" on a guy is "slutty" on a woman. Women need to be twice as smart and half as emotional to be viewed as equals on the same job as men...and on and on.

Now I'm increasingly seeing the flip side of that too, meaning what used to be considered "feminine" in the condescending, old school model, is increasingly seen as "Too Stupid to Live" or "weak" in characters depicted in current books.

In all cases––however we depict women in books––it seems that a lot of people need to make this into some kind of overarching message about women in general, rather than just a character with a bunch of flaws due to their place and time in history or whatever else, some of those flaws being gendered or related to how they think of themselves as female.

I mean, the truth is, we ARE women raised in a culture that encourages us to be conflicted about our roles, identities, appearances...our friggin' shoes and nails and whether we can cry at work when the male employees can throw temper tantrums when they're upset and no one will roll their eyes and say, "ah, men are just so EMOTIONAL, aren't they?"

I've never heard large groups of people freak out because a particular male character in a book "demeans men" or is horrible for even existing because aspects of that character depict stereotypes about masculinity that don't pertain to a lot of men. No one screams that a male character should never be petty, or childish, or overly concerned with their ego/manhood, since these are considered stereotypes of immature males and will make it seem like ALL MEN are that way.

Well, okay, some people do complain about depictions of men, but it's not very common, comparatively. Generally, the complaints I hear about male characters is that they're "unrealistic" because they are too much a female fantasy or whatever (a charge often levied against romance books)...or the Thelma and Louise thing, where a lot of the men depicted are jerks.

For the most part, however, it seems like men in books, just like men in real life, get to be individuals.

Women in books and other forms of fiction, however, (like most racial minorities and gays and a lot of other "not white mens," I would imagine) not only have to be interesting and compelling and relate-able characters, they are saddled with the additional burden of REPRESENTING ALL WOMEN OF ALL TIME EVER. If they don't do that correctly (i.e., according to certain people's standards), then naturally, they either are derided as "male characters in leather pants and eyeliner" or else they must be killed on the spot, since they are clearly "too stupid to live."

[Note: Related to the above, it also hit me that I've rarely heard male characters described as "TSTL" ("too stupid to live"), at least in the proportions that I hear female characters described this way.]

I mean, as writers, we use stereotypes, right? Some people read because they want to delve into the fantasy that stereotypes or tropes of various kinds provide: the alpha male, the sexy siren, the kick-ass woman in leather...or that hero's journey standby, the ordinary person who grows into someone formidable due to adversity or a magic ring or whatever else.

It also hit me that, despite all of the fury by some folks about Bella as a character in Twilight, she's not actually that different than some real-life teenagers I've come across. As it happens, she's not much like my niece, Maya, who's a champion gymnast and weight-lifter at the ripe old age of thirteen, and who's wanted to be a surgeon since she was about five years old. But she is like some teenaged girls I've known, including when I was a teenager myself.

I guess my concern is that we're making so many rules that we're getting in the way of letting our female characters fully develop as people...which means that we're over-thinking "types" instead of allowing them to be contradictory masses of vulnerabilities and small-mindedness and whatever else. It seems like a lot of writers either embrace those stereotypes wholesale, or else rebel against them wholesale. I find both ends problematic, because if we only give our female characters flaws that are strictly "gender neutral," A) we're kind of feeding the b.s. that these traits are "bad" which hearkens back to them being labeled "feminine" in the first place and B) we're creating unrealistic portrayals of women, since ignoring one's own gender status is more or less impossible in real life, at least if you live in the same world as the rest of us.

Even if our characters have transcended the society in which they live in a lot of ways (as extraordinary people/heroes are wont to do), I think to constantly label any perceived stereotypically feminine trait as "weak" is problematic in a whole other way, and one that won't necessarily send the right message to readers, either.

I guess I wish we could just forget all of that crap and just write PEOPLE.

I mean, one of the things I loved about the character Angel in Joss Whedon's show of the same name was how vain and petty he could be...and how cheap. It was hilarious to see this 200+ year old vampire chuck a cell phone in the trash because he couldn't figure out how to work his voice mail, and whine because people made fun of his hair.

I've ranted about the character of Ripley in the Aliens franchise before, and specifically in James Cameron's Aliens itself, but I still think she's a great example of a female character that isn't trying too hard to "act male" in order to be taken seriously. She's definitely not a gender-neutral character. In the longer version of the movie, she's depicted as a mother grieving her child, and that being a huge part of her emotional life at the time. Throughout all versions, she's also depicted as a person who's clearly afraid of the aliens, having anxiety attacks and nightmares around her experiences, and flat-out refusing to go out there at all, at first. That fear never really abates throughout the movie. She's very clearly afraid as she is going down to find Newt in the sub-basement of the complex at the end...and even her anger in the last fight scene is tempered more in "Damn it, I'm finally going to end this!" versus "snark-snark, I'm not afraid of you! Nyah! Nyah!"

So yeah, she's afraid, out of her mind with fear a lot of the time, but it doesn't paralyze her, and she manages to face those fears right up to the end...which to me made her a much more "real" character, and a much stronger one.

Bottom line for me is, I just want to be able to explore human struggles within ALL kinds of characters, without making some kind of statement about womanhood or whatever else. I guess I'm still yearning for the days when we all just get to be seen as individuals, and the fact that it's still not that way with fictional characters just reflects that we're still not quite there in real life.

I'm also a little tired of anything stereotypically "feminine" still being demeaned. Like crying (yes, men do cry), or admitting vulnerabilities or letting yourself trust or love people, even if it gets you hurt more often than the "badasses" who never risk letting anyone in. At this point, I think I'm a lot more tired of these qualities being seen as "weak" than I am of them being seen as "feminine." Our views of strong vs. weak just strike me as so incredibly superficial and juvenile at times.

That being said, I know some (most) of this is in reaction to years and years of screaming women running through the woods in high heels and complaining about their hair in the middle of a "the world is ending" crisis, so I totally get it.

I guess I'm just waiting for the day when most of our depictions of strength don't come in this somewhat two-dimensional packaging, when we can look deeper and show more nuanced versions of character where vulnerability ("feminine" or not) isn't immediately denounced as "weak."

Sometimes, too, I wonder if this shows a lot more about the fears and weaknesses of our own culture than most of us probably really want to think about...where compassion is increasingly seen as a sucker's game, and any outward show of vulnerability an invitation to attack.

Anyway, I clearly need more I will leave you with that.


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