Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pop the Cork

Happy New Year!  It's time to break out the bubbly...and what better way to start your year with a laugh?  Here are some wine labels sure to get a double take (even if you already have celebratory double vision).  Cheers!








See you next year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday’s Serving – Lilith’s Return



The airline attendant served coffee, and Alex tucked into hers with gratitude.  The night before had been mostly sleepless, even with Colwyn holding her close and feeding on her anxiety.  Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the coming fight with Lilith that had Alex on edge.  She couldn’t shut down her worries over Lena, even though she’d left her daughter safe and sound in Miami.

“She really wanted to come with us.  She hasn’t wanted any part of the Segreto since she was a teenager.”  Alex kept her eyes trained on the brown pool of coffee in a heavy white cup.  She’d told the attendant to keep it full.  More than indulging her huge caffeine addiction, drinking coffee gave her something to do during the two-hour flight.

Colwyn’s big hand on her thigh was welcome weight.  He squeezed gently.  “She wanted to be normal when she was younger.  She wanted to be human.  I don’t blame her for that.”

“She’s had a good life with a lot of friends.  It would have been so much harder on her if she’d been a succubus.” 

Of all the challenges that had faced Lena, Alex was profoundly grateful being a succubus hadn’t been one of them.  The aunt Lena had been named for, Colwyn and Jacob’s younger sister, had been a succubus.  The first Lena had targeted only sexual predators for her deadly feeds, the very worst of the worst.  It hadn’t saved her in the end.  The original Segreto, run by the Catholic Church, had discovered Colwyn’s sister’s existence and murdered her.  She was only a teenager when she died, and Alex’s blood curdled to think of the young woman destroyed so ruthlessly without a hearing.  If that had happened to her own little girl... 

Now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas the Blog Before Christmas

Twas the blog before Christmas
And all through my head
Was the deadline approaching
Of which I felt dread. 

All the subjects of note
Had fled from my brain
I stared at my screen
And sorted in vain 

Through ideas dim-witted
And certain to bore
Recycled and re-used
I’d writ it all before. 

Nothing to make you muse
Nor fit to make you laugh
Though I sweated and labored
And rejected many a draft. 

Coming up empty
I strove for distraction
But the blog to be written
Demanded quick action. 

So I sat at my desk
And faced that blank screen
Ready to write a blog
The best ever seen. 

Peering through the muddle
I felt kind of sick
I just couldn’t conceive
Of an idea that would stick. 

Against the desk surface
Pounding my head in vain
My family scattered
Convinced I’d gone insane. 

A topic!  A title!
Attend me now muse!
A subject!  A hint!
Just one little clue! 

Of something to share
Just one little drop
Of sweet inspiration
That won’t be a flop. 

The cursor, it blinked.
The page, how it mocked
There was no use
I was hopelessly blocked. 

I got out of my chair
And traversed the hall
Showed up in the kitchen
Heeding a primal call. 

There at last, the answer
To my mind so stuck
The Fountain of Good Writes
Awaited my cup. 

I approached with joy
Shouting with delight
The drought was over
Coffee would make it right. 

Caffeine imparted thought
I knew what to do
I ran back to my keyboard
And my fingers flew.

The words came easily
All was again fine
Naught beats coffee notions
(Except perhaps wine)

With the answer at last
A blog was achieved
Caffeine-jittery now
But still quite relieved.
 
I wish all my loved ones
Celebrating far and near
A very Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year.

 

 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday’s Serving – Lilith


 

             “I love to feel how their suffering grows as their strength dies.  Did you hear how he screamed when I took him this morning?”  Naamah rubbed her breasts and shivered. 
            “I only hope the neighbors didn’t hear as well.”  Lilith looked in the pot her daughter stirred.  “Do you really expect me to eat that?”
            “I’m not used to this sort of thing.  I’ve always been the mistress, not the help.  Besides, I thought I’d be guarding you, not cooking for you.” 
            Lilith sneered at the glop bubbling on the stove.  “I would never accuse you of cooking.”
            Naamah brightened.  “Then let me toss this in the garbage.  We weren’t meant to live like this anyway.  The others would laugh if they could see Lilith and Naamah sleeping in a small, plain house and cooking their own meals.  Let’s go to a restaurant, one with young waiters.  I could use fresh meat.  That one’s almost finished.”  She licked her lips as another sob trailed into the room.
            Lilith considered it for a moment.  She was insanely bored, having to be a spectator to the murders she should be committing.  Naamah’s suggestion certainly tempted her, but not so much for toys to fuck and destroy.  Humans had buffet restaurants, where the food sat out in the open, begging to be tampered with.  She’d killed a pharmacist and an exterminator, both of whom had provided her with fun substances fit for such a scenario.  The demoness ached to play.
            But she was so close to killing off the Segreto now.  Just a few more days and she felt sure she’d be powerful enough to destroy its female warrior with barely an effort.  

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Season of Giving

Hello, Christmas.  Here you are again, giving me yet another headache.  Why?  Because the older I and my  gift recipients get, the fewer good presents I can come up with.  It’s to the point where I excitedly peruse all articles with titles like “Gifts for the Person Who has Everything”.  I’m paging through magazines muttering, “Come on, come on, something, anything.”  You know what?  I still come up empty. 

I couldn’t face another year of copping out with the gift cards.  I just couldn’t.  It seems so damned un-Christmas to hand people an envelope instead of a wrapped present.  Where’s the fun in that?  Where’s the delight in seeing their surprise?  Bah humbug on the gift cards. 

So I got super serious about looking at my options this year.  Darn if I didn’t find some fun alternatives to a few dollar bills or a gift card tucked in a Christmas card.  If you’re in the same gift-giving rut I’ve found myself in, maybe this can help.
 

For the Foodies

My hunt for something out of the ordinary brought me to Goldbely (https://www.goldbely.com/).  Do you have someone on your list who loves lobster?  Ship them some straight from Maine.  Got a bacon fiend in the family?  (That would be me.)  The Baconry in NYC will bake you cookies with bacon, along with other amazing items.  Is your hubby curious about Chicago deep-dish pizza?  Mine was, and I had two sent straight from the source for his birthday last week.  You’ll find the best of the best gourmet treats at this site.  Some even feature free shipping.  Bon app├ętit!
 

For the Fashionista

Got someone on your list who loves designer labels but can’t afford the price tag?  Shock them with something straight out of Heidi Klum’s closet at Fashion Project (https://www.fashionproject.com/).  Plus, you’ll be giving to charity, since a portion of the proceeds go to charities like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, One Fund, and many others ... now that’s giving! 

Fashion Project is a site that sells gently used ... and sometimes not used at all (still with price tags!) fashions from the biggest names.  These items come from fashion designers, fashion editors, and celebrities.  Recent contributions of clothes, shoes, and accessories came from the aforementioned Klum, Glenn Close, and Jenna Elfman.  It turns out Jenna and I wear the same size clothing and shoes ... too bad our tastes aren’t similar.  However, I did recently pick up a $1,300 Giorgio Armani suit for only $100:
 
 
 
You’ll also find Vera Wang, Prada, and other big names.  I am in total love with my Taryn Rose Italian shoes, which I snagged for $50:
 
 
Your gift recipient will also be in awe of your amazing taste, and the charities who benefit from your purchase will have lots to be thankful for this season.
 

For the Socially Aware

One of my favorite non-profits in my local area is Morningstar Children and Family Services, (http://morningstarcfs.org) located here in Brunswick, Georgia.  Kids with emotional/behavioral disorders as well as intellectual disabilities find a safe haven at Morningstar.  Providing a therapeutic environment, services, and foster care for these most vulnerable children, Morningstar is always grateful for donations and volunteers.  They are presently in need of a passenger van to take their residents to activities, doctor visits, and other various destinations as required, and are taking donations toward that goal.  Your gift in a loved one’s name will benefit so many people who need it most.  

You can also find some great treasures at their thrift shop The Attic located at the Darien Outlet Mall off I-95’s exit 49.  All proceeds go straight to the helping the kids.   
 

With research, I managed to keep my gift card buying down to one person this year.  That particular person on my nice list is in transition with a major change in his life, so he really was impossible to buy for.  I feel pretty good about my gifting choices this time around.
 
May your gift buying go as well.  Merry Christmas to you all.  I hope you have a safe and happy holiday!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday’s Serving – Willow in the Desert



 

 Jon Stanton, ten years old going on eleven, skulked from shadow to shadow as the sun slid beneath the earth.  He kept a careful eye out for the monsters that had come to Gander’s Gulch. 

He had no idea if his parents lived.  Every scream that rang out made him cringe, thinking perhaps it was one of them being captured and eaten alive as had happened to so many.   Every gunshot made him hope it was them too, fighting off the monsters and surviving to someday find him.

Besides the dying light of sunset, distant fires lit the sky.  He had to be careful, had to keep hidden, or he’d be eaten too.  He was a child born less than five years before the Pyramids and knew all too well that death came for everyone, no matter how young.  Came more often for children in fact, because children had more accidents, got sick more often, and didn’t have all the survival skills their parents did.  And they certainly couldn’t outrun the fanged horrors that had taken over the Gulch.

But Jon knew how to hide and being small made him easy to overlook.  He darted from building to building, his sealed jug of water sloshing softly.  He kept low to the ground, making his slight body as invisible as he could. 

Available from Amazon, Barnes &Noble, and Smashwords. You can get it in paperback too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What’s So Great About Me? I Wish I Could Tell You

I’ve been doing a round of sending queries to agents in hopes of attracting someone to represent my screenplays.  This involves telling strangers with clout about my projects, my background, and how awesome I and my work are.  Check out my book sales!  I’ve won writing awards!  Look at me!  See how amazing I am! 

I can’t begin to explain how nerve-wracking writing these letters and emails are.  They go against everything I was taught as a child.  Parental disapproval was tremendous when I bragged on myself.  “Don’t be a show-off.  No one wants to hear it,” I was told over and over.  Yet when it comes to marketing and selling myself, it’s all about sharing the accolades.   

Maybe that’s why I tend to suck at self-promotion.  It’s a hard thing for me to do.  My entire childhood was composed of a litany of how I should eschew such chest beating and blaring of the accomplishments.  I’m not even that good with receiving gratitude.  If I do something that earns thanks, I’m apt to slink away with an embarrassed look on my face.  I don’t know how to accept appreciation gracefully because it feels like I’m being boastful about something good I’ve done.  So you can just imagine how hard it is for me to shove myself in the spotlight and invite people to look at the things that I can do, the very things that pay the mortgage and buy my groceries. 

My career as a writer is half writing and half marketing and promotion.  Some days it’s all about look-at-me-and-buy-my-product.  I have to convince people I’m great.  I have to show off.  I have to brag.  It’s not enough to list my accomplishments.  I have to be enthusiastic about them so those who can help my career along are inspired to do so.  So here I am, bragging and cringing inside as I do so, feeling like the world’s biggest narcissist.   

That’s part of why I hope to snag an agent.  I’d be much happier with someone else pronouncing my abilities while I sit back, look away with a demure smile, and say “Aw shucks.”  (That reminds me; I need to work on that demure smile thing.  I’ve been told I don’t do demure very well.) 

To attract an agent means I have to trumpet about myself, however.  I have to do the very act I hope to eventually be saved from.  The thing is, I know that I’ve done some really good writing, and it’s been well counterbalanced by the lame-brained crap I’ve committed.  I should be able to talk about my strengths without feeling like the world’s biggest farce.  Yet I can’t do it comfortably.   

So I’m off to write yet another letter to another agent, pronouncing why he/she will be lucky to add me to the client roster.  You can be sure I’m wincing the entire time, imagining that agent reading my letter and saying, “Who does this Tamara Jock think she is?” 

I think I’m a pretty good writer, actually, and an okay person in general.  It’s just super tough for me to tell you that.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday’s Serving – The Willow and the Stone



            “Let me go,” she snarled, spittle dribbling down her chin.
            “Not until you calm down.”
            She started to settle, just for a moment, when her eyes flicked at something behind him.  She redoubled her efforts, screaming, “Stop, you’re hurting me!”
            “GET YOUR HANDS OFF HER!”
            Leo’s hands sprang open, and he jerked away from Geraldine, whirling to confront the three men behind him.  They stood just inside the doorway, hands clenching into fists as shock gave way to anger.  Geraldine ran past him to hide behind them, her smaller body disappearing behind the farmhand bulk of Zach, Willie, and Tom.  Leo couldn’t recall their last names.
            Nevermind their names.  You’re in a world of trouble.
            “I don’t know what happens on the reservation you came from, but you don’t put your hands on women in the real world,” Willie growled.  His sunbleached eyebrows beetled across a sunburned brow.  He and the other two advanced on Leo.
            Leo searched for something to say, but nothing helpful came to mind.  Given the size difference between himself and Geraldine, claiming self defense sounded laughable.  Fuck.
            “Let’s see how he likes it, and then we’ll toss what’s left out for the aliens.”  Tom offered a not-nice smile.  He pounded a fist into his palm for emphasis.
            Leo’s stomach executed a slow somersault.  ‘Out’ was a death sentence.  The aliens might not find you for months, hell, years, but eventually they found you.  Leo caught a glimpse of Geraldine behind the men.  Her smile was one of cold satisfaction.
            “Hold on, boys.”  The smoky voice of Blythe Butler, former movie star, stopped everyone in their tracks.  The striking redhead, an elegant beauty to rival any starlet of the Golden Age of Hollywood, glided with practiced grace into the room from the adjoining kitchen.  “To cop an old saying, ‘this isn’t what it looks like’.” 

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What’s Up, December?

Here we are, at the end of one year and looking toward 2014.  I see my writing plate is overflowing as I contemplate the next 12 months.  So what’s up with my projects?  I’m so glad you asked.

 
The Willow and the Stone got an awesome review recently.  “The writing is crisp and riveting, the plot sometimes shocking, often heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. It reveals the darkest places in the human heart and the most admirable.”  You can see the entire review at http://www.manicreaders.com/index.cfm?disp=bookdetail&bookid=23928.

 
 


It made enough of an impression that the reviewer quickly read the sequel Willow in the Desert.  The review for that one was even more glowing:  “The full-on pace of this continuing story has picked up, giving the reader a jam-packed action-adventure that rates as one of the best I’ve ever read.”  http://www.manicreaders.com/index.cfm?disp=reviews&bookid=33144.  Yeah, I’m pretty stoked about that.

I got quite excited recently when one of the scripts I’d placed on a promotional website caught the eye of a production/management company.  It’s hard to get any attention from Hollywood, especially from a company with the connections this one has.  Not only did they download the synopsis and treatment, but they went for the script itself.  There are scriptwriters out there who would give up an arm just for the chance to pitch to these people...and they’re reading my script.  Of course, it’s not time to break out the champagne yet.  It could be months before I hear from them – if I ever hear from them at all.  That’s how they roll in Hollywood, unfortunately.  It’s still fun to dream. 

Speaking of Tinseltown, I’m in the midst of sending out tons of queries to agents for representation.  I have little anticipation anyone will bite.  It’s all part of the game, and there is always the outside chance someone will get interested in one of my projects.  I’ve been told it’s better to have a bad agent who does nothing for you than no agent at all, simply because studio execs automatically respect writers with agents more.  Maybe I’ll find an up-and-comer to hook up with.  If they’ll let me use their letterhead, I’ll call it good. 

I wrote a few weeks back about planning to produce my own film if no one buys it.  I’m about a quarter through writing the first draft of ‘Lullaby’, a crime thriller that is based here in our neck of the woods.  This thing is the equivalent of a roller coaster with more twists and turns than even I anticipated going into it.  I’m psyched about this story. 

I’m also in the midst of character development for a YA fantasy series.  Tentatively titled ‘Dragonfly’, it takes place in the land of Faerie.   

Busy, busy, busy.  It’s going to be a jam-packed year.  I hope everyone had a wonderful 2013 and will enjoy an even better 2014.  I know I’m looking forward to what comes next!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday's Serving - Lilith's Return




 
For Lena, the next morning came far too quickly.  She and Aunt Marta stood side by side watching the small chartered jet take off, carrying the Segreto away.  Carrying her parents and uncle away.  Perhaps never to return.

The two women had the private airfield’s lounge to themselves once everyone else boarded the aircraft.  The group had left quietly, every face somber.  They realized the potential executions they faced, and the knowledge had been like a pall cast over them. 

As loved ones disappeared into the blameless blue sky, both Lena and Marta blinked unselfconscious tears from their eyes.  Marta caught all of hers in her handkerchief, not allowing her makeup to be smudged or smeared.

The elder woman summed up their shared feelings in a few words.  “Damn it.  I thought they’d never have to deal with that bitch again.”

Lena looked down from her superior seven inches and saw the bald fear in her aunt’s expression.  It ramped up the feeling of dread that had kept her awake all night.  “I should be with them.  Maybe I’m not up on my training, but they need every person they could get.  I shouldn’t have let them talk me out of going.”

She said it despite knowing her aunt would echo her parents’ arguments as to why she shouldn’t be on her way to North Carolina.  Marta surprised her.

“Yeah, I think you should have gone too.  They do need you at their side.  But Alex and Colwyn are one stubborn pair when they think they’re right.”  Marta huffed.  Fright, anger, and hope took turns, chasing across her face.  She abruptly swiveled on her high, patent leather heel and marched out of the waiting area.

Lena followed her aunt out through the TSA gate and towards the just opening airport grill.  Her long legs didn’t take much effort in catching up to her hurrying relative.

She took a sniff as they neared the building’s greasy spoon, just now emitting breakfast smells.  Lena told the other woman, “Man, I need coffee.  An Alex Lasham-sized cup, better known as a silo.”  She inhaled deeply of the fresh-brewed scent.

Marta waved at the grill dismissively.  “Forget this place.  I’ll buy you some good stuff.  Breakfast too.”

“I don’t think I can eat.”  Lena’s stomach churned at the mere thought of food.

“Me neither.”  Marta pasted a big, bright, and utterly fake smile on her pretty face.  “Let’s go shopping instead.  We deserve whole new wardrobes, shoes, and purses.  Hell, we need jewelry.”

Lena managed to laugh at that.  Aunt Marta believed in mall therapy all right.  Uncle Jacob would return home to find his wife’s credit cards maxed out, and maybe his too.

If he comes home at all.  The unwelcome thought took away the brief burst of humor. 

Now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords

 

 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Avoiding the Typecasting Trap

“In TV, film, and theatre, typecasting is the process by which a particular actor becomes strongly identified with a specific character; one or more particular roles; or, characters having the same traits or coming from the same social or ethnic groups. There have been instances in which an actor has been so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for him or her to find work playing other characters.”  --Wikipedia definition 

Typecasting can be a boon or a career-crippler, depending on who you ask.  While the term is most closely associated with acting, I find it can be applied to other fields of creative work:  the visual arts, music, and of course writing.  Once the creative person is associated with one style in their field, their name becomes synonymous with that style.  Andy Warhol had his soup cans.  Dolly Parton sings country music.  Stephen King writes horror. 

Many people are perfectly happy doing their little piece of the magnificent tapestry that is human expression.  They build their little universe and play in it, doing what it is they do best.  We enjoy them doing what we expect of them.   

Ah, but some of us don’t want to keep coloring within the lines.  Sometimes we break out, and the results can be disastrous. 
 
Imagine Bela Lugosi doing anything but Dracula.  It’s not easy, is it?  He was typecast.  Would you accept him if he had played Rhett Butler?  Hamlet?  Nope.  You wouldn't have given him the chance.
 
Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines was counted as a flop ... his fans weren’t having him as anything but a country music singer.  And in her post-Harry Potter writing of Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling is not earning a lot of love, at least not from the reviews I’ve read.  Many readers are moaning, “It’s not Harry Potter.”  Well, duh.  It’s not supposed to be.   

It’s not easy when you’re known for one thing and you wish to stretch your wings and try something different.  I found that out when my alter-ego, who is best known for her sci-fi erotica, decided to write paranormal erotica as well.  The sales of those books are nowhere near the bestselling futuristic stuff, even with Alt-Tamara’s name attached.  It’s too bad because I love writing those books.  I have no right to complain, but it makes me a little sad that they go mostly unnoticed. 

As myself, I write mainstream sci-fi and horror.  That’s what I’m building my reputation on.  However, I recently got the idea of a series geared towards the YA segment of readers.  I’m very excited about it and have begun character sketches of that project, which delves into the world of Faerie.  I’m turning fantasy writer for the adolescent readers. 

Yet there’s the whole typecast thing.  Being the author of the Willow and Lilith books, which are definitely not for younger audiences, could get in the way of this series I plan to write.  Now I face maybe concocting a second Alt-Tam identity to release it under.   

Sheesh, it’s tough being two people.  How am I supposed to handle being three? 

Unlike my erotica writing persona, I won’t be keeping another pseudonym so secret.  It’s mainly an issue of branding, as far as I can tell.  Keeping YA writer me separate from sci-fi/horror writer me can keep people from getting too confused ... I hope.  That way if you buy a Tamara Jock book, you know what you’re getting, and vice versa.  No surprises.  No disappointments because “it’s not a Willow book”. 

So I guess I am looking to be typecast after all.  It’s just different names come with different expectations – and one hell of a case of split personalities.

 

 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday’s Serving – Lilith


 

             “Alex, wait.”
            Colwyn’s hand enveloped her shoulder.  The jolt of sensation nearly jerked her out of her skin.  Her knees buckled, and she fell.  Colwyn gasped; his other arm circled her waist and pulled her against him, stopping her plunge.  Alex cried out as another wave of electricity radiated from him and passed through her, melting her for an instant.  The granite planes of his body pressed against her back.  She felt his strength, his power, and knew her own helplessness against such a creature.
            Alex lunged free with such force that she crashed against the wall.  Pain jarred throughout her body, and she nearly fell again.  Colwyn reached for her, but before he could grab her again she held up her hands and backed away.
            “Don’t.  Touch.  Me.”  Tremors raced through her body. 

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords