Thursday, June 28, 2012

13 Ways Authors Can Stay Stressfree


Stress.
When the world is screaming for your attention it's hard to focus on writing. I had a recent bout of chest pain that landed me in the hospital for a week and forced me to re-examine some priorities. I'm fine now, and the event helped me find something wrong and fix it, but I also discovered a life lesson. Focusing on the important (versus the mundane) is something I had to do. So, I'm sharing thirteen tips with you. I hope they help.

1. Say no to what is not important. How hard is this? Very, if you can not figure out what's important. As a writer, time to write is the top priority. Are you a writer if you don't write? I'm thinking not. Bears some thinking about, doesn't it? When you write, write. When you do other things, do them with all your strength, but don't try to do both at the same time. It will add stress and you won't do either one as well as you could if you focused.
2. Ask for help. You can't do everything. Your kids know this, your spouse knows this, your editor knows this. Why don't you know it? Could it be a little bit of a stubborn streak? The superman/woman complex? Break down and delegate or ask. Get help to do the things that need doing.
3. Do something difficult first thing every day. If you face the hard thing first, the rest of the day will be downhill.
4. Spend some time outside. Sure, you need the BICHOK rule to write (butt in chair, hands on keyboard), but sunshine does wonders for your body. It's a natural source of vitamin D, which is good for bones. Your body can't make it on its own.
5. Don't squint at your screen. Get your eyes tested. You may find you need glasses, or better ones. You'll have fewer headaches and less wrinkles. That's always a good thing.
6. Don't let dust bother you. No one needs a house that's as sanitary as a hospital. Families (and single people, and couples) need a house that's enjoyed and filled with laughter and love. So what if there's dust? Break out the dustcloth half as much, and write twice as much, and see which makes you feel better.
7. Have a girl's night out (or a guy's night out). Hang with your buds once in awhile and blow off steam. You'll feel better and you'll reconnect with your friends. Good writing doesn't always come from sorrow, you know. Sometimes it comes from having inner joy.
8. Have a plan for when things go wrong. This is something I learned recently. If you suddenly end up in the hospital, does your family know who to call? Is there a friend or family member who can be counted on to bring over a hot meal? Pair up with a friend and plan to do this for one another. It can provide a lot of calm in a crisis, if everyone knows someone is there to help.
9. Exercise in a way you enjoy. If you like walking, walk. If you enjoy aerobics, do those. If you like tai chi, practice it. Go bowling. Play ball with the kids. Throw a toy for your dog. But find something you can do and enjoy and then do it on a regular basis. Hopefully, at least three days a week. Five is better.
10. Decide what things you need for your own "self care." A manicure is nice, a pedicure is wonderful. But what about doctor visits and check ups? That's part of taking care of yourself as well. Check your blood pressure and get tested for diabetes. You'd be surprised how many are at risk but don't know it.
Surrender Love
11. On a weeknight, set the table with your best china, set out the pretty napkins, and then serve take out. Your family will think you've flipped -- but tell them this is part of the way you can show them how much you care. You are giving them the finest in your home, and taking time to be with them rather than slaving away in the kitchen. Over dinner, tell each person something about them that you admire. They won't soon forget this night.
12. Set a limit for yourself about how much you'll do, and then stick with it. Rather than keep pushing and pushing... stop. When it's time for bed, go to bed. Don't keep going "just a little more" because you will soon forget what the boundaries are. Once that happens, being a workaholic is right around the corner. No, it's not something to be proud of. It's a problem. Deal with it. (Talking to myself here too.)
13. Final tip -- Don't bottle the emotions. If you have a bad day, let your characters express it in your writing. I saw a button once that said "Writing is cheaper than therapy." Ya know what? There's a lot of truth in that. ;)

Here's to a stressfree life with plenty of joy and laughter. Oh... and more time writing.


Kayelle Allen is an award-winning, multi-published author. Her heroes and heroines include badass immortals, warriors who purr, and agents who find the unfindable--or hide it forever. She is known for unstoppable heroes, uncompromising love, and unforgettable passion.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Power of Love

Love is such a powerful thing. It moves people in so many ways. As a writer of romance I love exploring the various ways that love unfolds. All the paths it takes are fun to explore.

This weekend I watched movies based on love. Each was so different and to see the ways love came and was shown made me think. The great thing was the movies followed families. The love, tribulations and all the things in between. From the beginning of time people have been falling in love. Love can make you crazy, giddy and bring you such hope and joy.

Love has many types - the love between friends and family. The love between lovers. Each has the core of opening yourself to another person and becoming a unit. With friends it is building a close knit relationship that stands through good and bad. The same with family. With family we share and love.

The love between lovers is what I explore in my books. From the start of the initial attraction, the first steps to getting to know each other, the dating and then finally the all encompassing feelings and knowing you belong together. There are of course the ups and downs and the times when you fall in and out of love. But when you find that right someone it is magical, exhilarating and soul moving. Yeah I am a romantic at heart. All the steps to the power of love fascinates me.

Taige Crenshaw
http://www.taigecrenshaw.com/
…increasing the sizzle factor
Blog: http://www.taigecrenshaw.com/blog
Chat Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crenshawcafe
Newsletter: http://www.taigecrenshaw.com/newsletterandgroups.shtml
Free Reads Site: http://www.satinnotes.com/


Wilde Rapture - When a woman ducks into an alcove at a wedding she meets the man who is intriguing and will tempt her.

Buy here at Total-E-Bound.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sexy Summer Solstice Blog Hop ~ ShapeShifter Seductions

Summer Solstice howls and yowls, shapeshifter lovers.

Bring one, bring all! Time to get your 'read' on, and enjoy an eyeful of yummy Linkhotness. Plus, win prizes.

Sexy Summer Solstice Blog Hop

Come join in the Sexy Summery fun at SHAPESHIFTER SEDUCTIONS .

~~~

Savanna

Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

A Look Back: Surrender Love


Surrender Love
I'm working on the sequel to this book, and thought a peek back at Luc getting his first chance alone with Izzorah might be fun. Here's the scene set up: The immortal Luc Saint-Cyr risked everything by donating blood to save the life of Izzorah Ceeow, the drummer of the rock group Kumwhatmay. But from the moment they'd met, he'd been pulled toward him by the peace radiating from the younger man, and the inner joy that Luc had forgotten could exist. Sensing Izzorah might respond out of gratitude, Luc forces himself to stay away, and buries himself in his work.
-----
Lucsondis Entertainment
Luc lifted his fourth cup of coffee only to find it empty. He set it down and scrubbed both hands over his face, picked up the contract he'd been reading and started in again.
Ms. Mead knocked and let herself in, but stayed at the door. "Excuse me, sir. I know you didn't want to be disturbed."
"When has that ever kept you from interrupting?" He kicked back in the chair and smiled, hands folded across his waist. "You're so perfect at everything else, I don't mind dealing with it."
She drew herself up to her full height, more than a foot shorter than Luc. "Why, sir, I do believe in your own irascible way you have paid me a compliment."
He couldn't help but chuckle. "Don't get used to it. What's up?"
"A gentleman is here to see you, but he does not have an appointment."
He sat forward, hands flat on the desk. "And for that you interrupted me?"
"It's Izzorah Ceeow."
Luc stood at once. "Damn it, woman. Stop dallying and show him in!"
She had the gall to smirk. "I knew you'd say that."
While she went to fetch Izzorah, Luc stepped into the adjoining private bathroom and checked his hair and tie before returning.
Izzorah stood inside the door, left arm in a sling, dressed in dark slacks and a white shirt. He broke into a smile that brightened Luc's day. "Thanks for letting me come in. I know you're busy."
"Always time for you." Luc crossed the room to meet him, then took his outstretched hand in both his own. "I'm surprised you're out of the hospital so soon, but you look well." He held his gaze, willing him not to look away, not to be intimidated. Few met his all-black gaze, but the young Kin only smiled. "Izzorah, your eyes absolutely sparkle. I'm so glad you're better. Please, come sit."
Izzorah walked beside him toward the pair of white leather couches. "I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated all the flowers you sent. They made my room smell like home." He smiled up at Luc. "It was like being in my father's garden back on Felidae. The scent took me back to my childhood, playing outside with my cousins on a spring morning. Thank you."
"My pleasure. I'm glad you enjoyed them. I asked for flowers from Felidae, so I'm glad they made you happy. Please, have a seat." Luc took the same couch, sitting beside him. They faced one another, both turned toward the center. "Your color is good. You were pale as this white couch the last time I saw you. How are you feeling?"
"Great!" Izzorah moved his bandaged arm. "The doctor said I'm healing faster than he expected, considering how much damage there was."
You're in for it, old man, if they decide to go testing that blood of yours. He cleared his throat. The desire to hold him made Luc place the tips of his fingers on Izzorah's chin, turning his face this way and that. "Your face escaped even the smallest cut. I'm glad." He folded his hands. "You have the most incredible smile."
Izzorah blushed darkly, bit his lower lip, the tips of his fangs showing. "Thank you."
"I heard the story from Kory when I arrived at the hospital. You were lucky not to have been hurt worse. Mynkoh said you had trouble recalling the incident."
"It all happened so fast. It's fuzzy, you know? Like I dreamed it. I remember people yelling, and that I wanted to sit up and no one would let me. Which turned out to be a good thing, since I was in shock. I could've died if it hadn't been for Kory, Fletch, and you. I owe you my life. I can't thank you enough."
"I can't bear to see anyone suffer when I can help."
Izzorah took a hesitant sniff and then broke into a smile. "You know, when we were doing the holovid for I, Ran, the actor used that same line. 'I can't bear to see anyone suffer when I can help.' It was Ran's way." He tilted his head, ears forward. "You look a lot like him."
Luc swallowed. "The actor?"
"No, sorry. I meant Ran Holding. They showed us the old flatpics they had of him. There was a whole book. You could play him a lot better than Dennis could." He shrugged. "Not that he was bad, but you'd be really impressive dressed up like Ran."
Luc smiled. "Would I, now? I've always thought it might be fun to be a cowboy. Did you ride in the vid?"
"I was the only one they didn't have to teach. My mother raised horses, and she used to strap me onto her back when she rode. Pretty soon, I was in front of her, and by the time I was two, I had my own horse. Mother said I was a natural." Izzorah squinted, glanced away. He passed his right thumb over the back of his other hand. "On Felidae, when someone saves your life, you owe them a debt." He met Luc's gaze. "I want you to know that if you ever need me, I will be there for you."
Throat caught with emotion, Luc blinked away the unexpected tears that sprang to his eyes. Where's this coming from? "Izzorah, believe me, it was my privilege to help you. I'm glad I was there."
His wistful smile pulled Luc under his spell. "So am I." He stood, and Luc joined him. "I won't keep you any longer. I simply had to come by and thank you personally."
Luc Saint-Cyr
"You can be personal with me anytime you like."
Izzorah ducked his head, grinning, ears forward.
"Er -- No. What I meant was…" Luc's cheeks burned. "I…I mean, we're being personal right now, and that's -- uh --" He shook his head, fingertips to brow. "When I'm around you, I seem to open my mouth only to change which foot I stick in it." He coughed politely. "I'll shut up now." Luc clasped both hands behind him.
The serene smile drew Luc forward as if he wore a leash, and he had to clench his hands, not trusting himself. With the least incitement, he'd take the Kin into his arms.
Izzorah turned and took a step toward the door.
"Wait!"
Izzorah flinched and turned back to him.
"Do you have to go so soon?" Get it together, Luc. You sound like a teenager with a crush. Man up! He coughed into a fist. "Are you free for lunch?"
Izzorah bit his lip. "I wish I was, but I promised Aylogee Mynkoh I'd meet her across town." He covered his mouth. "Oh, I'm sorry. Aylogee is aunt. I think in Felis sometimes."
"Te shah Felis."
He blinked. "You speak Felis? I didn't know that."
"We should talk sometime," Luc responded in that language.
Izzorah shivered as if cold. "I would love to." He grimaced. "But I really have to go. I'd love to speak my cradle language. I get hungry for it, you know? I miss home." The sadness in his voice melted Luc's heart.
"I'll take you to dinner and we'll talk about Felidae. I've been there many times. It's a beautiful, lush world. I'm about to build a home there, on the Ruh continent." He walked him to the door. "When are you free?"
Izzorah stood so close Luc could feel the warmth of his body all along his length. "As it happens, my schedule's open every night for two months." His flirty smile drew a grin from Luc. "Since you canceled our tour while I get better."
What is it about you that makes me want to grin like a fool? "Have you ever been to Batchelors Four?"
A look of momentary panic crossed Izzorah's face, chased by one of determination. He lifted his chin higher. "Not yet. But I'd love to go. It's something I've always wanted to do."
"Are you certain? It has quite a reputation. Once you're seen there -- or anywhere -- with me, there will be no hiding. I take it that's something you're used to doing."
"Yes." Izzorah wet his lips, his cheeks pale. "It's time for me to take a step forward. I want to go there. Especially with you." He faced Luc, shoulders back, face tilted up to him like a flower to the sun. Trust, hunger, and fear warred for dominance in his eyes. Hunger won. No innocent looked at Luc Saint-Cyr with such hunger and remained pure for long.
"God help me, Izzorah, I have to warn you. You're not safe with me." He caressed one thumb across the Kin's lower lip, savoring the golden tones of his skin. "I'm not a nice man. I won't hold it against you if you think twice and decide I'm not worth the risk."
Izzorah moved Luc's hand to his cheek and leaned against it as he had in the hospital. "I know what I'm risking. I know what I want."
Luc leaned closer, gaze locked with Izzorah's, willing him to submit, to come to him of his own accord. "Do you?"
The Kin brought both ears forward, his slashed pupils widening. His gaze lingered on Luc's eyes, lowered to his mouth, and returned to his eyes. "Yes." He released Luc's hand. "I do."
"Then you shall have whatever you desire." He stepped back, opened the door, and walked out with Izzorah, stopping at Ms. Mead's desk. "Which night this week am I free for dinner at Batchelors Four?"
She glanced at Izzorah before bringing up a glowing agenda. She chose a few squares and they zoomed in, larger. "You're dining with the new governor of Notidisia tonight, and then escorting her to her fealty ceremony at the palace, but tomorrow night is unscheduled, sir."
"Excellent. Tomorrow it is." Luc accompanied him to the door, past others in the waiting room, and adjusted the Kin's collar.
Izzorah glanced down at his hands, the tip of his tongue showing as he wet his lips.
Luc pulled back. "Your collar was caught under the sling, and it --" Shut up, Luc! You're doing it again.
"Can you really get us into Batchelors Four?" Izzorah smoothed the hang of his sling. "I hear there are always lines at the door."
"Private table. I'm a part owner." He patted his chest. "I can't wait to show up with you on my arm. Every man in the place will be jealous as hell."
Blushing, Izzorah stared up at him with such heat in his emerald eyes it was all Luc could do not to pull him close and kiss it away.
Oh, you've got it bad, old man. Let him go before you take him in your arms and make a spectacle of yourself in your own waiting room. He clasped both hands behind him. "I'll see you tomorrow night. Eight? No, seven. Seven will give us an extra hour of time together. Seven o'clock."
Izzorah treated Luc to one of his gorgeous smiles. "I'll be ready."
Luc could not tear his gaze away until the door shut and Izzorah was no longer in sight.
- - -
Izzorah Ceeow
Surrender Love (a Tarthian Empire Story)
Not rebound, payback, loneliness, or great sex, and far beyond love. This is surrender.
Genre: Erotic Science Fiction Romance, Gay Romance, LGBT, Multicultural
Warning: Contains graphic sex, anal sex, plus extreme cuddling, tenderness, and the seduction of a virgin who knows exactly what -- and who -- he wants.
Loose Id: http://www.loose-id.com/Surrender-Love.aspx
Nook: http://is.gd/surrenderlove_bn
ARe: http://is.gd/surrenderlove_are
Fictionwise: http://is.gd/surrenderlove_fw
Kindle: http://is.gd/surrenderlove_amz
Get an electronic autograph for the Kindle version of this book at Kindlegraph
ISBN: 9781596328747

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sexy Summer Solstice Blog Hop


Join authors for fun and prizes at JustRomance.Me Blog Hop

Grand Prize: Nook Soft Touch GlowLight eReader


Starts Wednesday at 9:00 am EST and ends Sunday at 7:00 pm EST. Winners will be announced Here. 


Happy Summer Solstice, Everyone!


gem

Saturday, June 16, 2012

ShapeShifter Seductions ~ Father's Day Flash Fiction

Originally posted at SHAPESHIFTER SEDUCTIONS. As the shapeshifter world turns...



Louie picked up the picture laying on his desk. His heart skipped one beat, then another. He blinked twice. If he inhaled too deep, his chest ached. How had she found him?

He laid the picture back down. Picking up the envelope he’d recently opened, he glanced toward the office door. Good, it was shut. No one would dare bother him for another thirty minutes. Being the boss had its moments, like taking lunches behind closed doors that none questioned. Well except Bettina, and she didn’t follow protocol unless she made the declaration. Sometimes her queenly ass could be a royal pain. Their nightly strolls down to Miss Elly’s dinner for Red Blood Sundaes had folks talking. Miss Elly’s homemade ice cream topped with her secret chocolate sauce and dark Bing cherries cured many a shifter’s sweet tooth. Bettina’s cravings had cleared out Louie’s baked goods as fast he could make them until he introduce Bettina to Miss Elly. Now sanity reigned most of the time.

Louie turned the envelope over, examining front and back. No return address. A smeared postmark revealed little of the city of origin. The date showed 1974. Thirty years plus. Where had the time gone? His little---no his grown daughter might be a parent herself. Maybe even a grandmother. Easing the card out of the yellowed envelope, Louie stared at the simple lettering stating Happy Father’s Day. His hand shook as he opened the card.

The usual generic verse about Dads and their importance decorated one side of the inside two pages. A handwritten note on the opposite page caught his attention. Louie swallowed hard. He knuckled a tear off his cheek as he read.

Louis,
By the time you receive this, Arisa and I will be gone. There was a time when love would have kept me by your side and our daughter not asking where Daddy is as I tuck her into bed each night. Your choices proved too costly and dangerous for our safety to stay.

No matter how good the money and prestige, working for the mob, especially the supernatural mob, is not worth putting your wife and child at risk. Maybe someday, I’ll tell Arisa the truth about her father. Until then you are as dead as your name. Thank the Gods I never took your name. Nor do you know my real name. There was a time I would have trusted you with that. Not now, probably never will you know who I am.

Why am I even sending this picture to you? Maybe I want you to hurt as much as you’ve hurt me. You’ll never know your daughter’s love or see her grow up. I will and every day I’ll be the center of her world, not you.

Maybe someday you’ll find peace. I doubt shape shifters know the meaning of the word.

Your soon to be ex wife

Louie carefully laid the card down. He pushed away from his desk. He moved toward the window closest to him. Closing the blind, he inhaled. No one would see the tears he needed to shed. He turned and made his way across the office.

Life on the streets in New Jersey taught him many lessons, hard ones and ones that remained with him to this day. Trust never came easily. It was earned and could be taken away just as easily. Lord, how he had that one knocked into his head many life times over. He’d taken risks along the way. Learned that life was given for a reason. He didn’t regret many of the last few choices he’d made. The one big one he did was not finding his daughter before now.

Louie lay down on the couch he kept in the office for late nights and naps. He needed one. Once he woke up, Mooney, Nick, and Penelope’s Aussie Penguin were getting a visit. Somewhere out there a daughter waited for her father to find her. This Father’s Day signified a new beginning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Happy Weekend Gang! Happy Father's Day to all our male readers! I'm glad the warm weather is here without the abundance of a heatwave. What a week! Two nights of power outages. One last Sunday authorities say a raccoon juiced himself on. Last night another two! The joke around the spice homestead is a squirrel or two decided to try jury rigging their power supply. Watch out Gill!

I'm off to enjoy a good book or two with my spice and loves!
Have a great weekend!

SOLARA

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Translating critique-speak


I went to a writers' retreat earlier this year, hoping for the Answer. I knew that my stories didn't sound like real books, that there was something just a little off despite all those shiny commas, but I couldn't figure out what I was missing. Polishing advice wasn't going to get me there: I didn't need to fix a bunch of passive verbs or incorrect semicolons. I needed...what?


At the retreat -- and after probably too many adult beverages -- I whined that critique partners typically handle me too gently. That I'm ready for the hard punches and I wish they'd just tell me, ferharrumphsakes.


Well, the fact is that they were telling me what I need to hear, and I wasn't even listening. Maybe because they were just being too careful not to offend a noob and stunt my development or something. So here's a list, mostly for me, so I can translate crit-speak:


What they say
What they could say
(and it would be all right)
Maybe you could deepen the POV.
This character is behaving like a cardboard cutout: no emotion, no goals, no inner conflict. Give her more to handle.
That's fascinating world-building.
You've infodumped for three pages. When do you plan to start the actual story?
Voice is a little uneven.
Did you even read the thing end-to-end? Are you sure this is the same POV character?
Pacing was a little slow.
What was the point of that scene? Or that paragraph? How much could you yank entirely without affecting the story? Do that.
You're asking the reader to do a lot, linguistically.
Quit trying to wow me with your vocabulary and use of metaphor. It's pretentious.
This is, er, nicely written. Good verbs!
Well, you hit the technical marks, but I have no idea why I should care about this story or this character.


Folks, I know what when offering critique, you're trying to be nice, and so you softball a lot of things. But when somebody asks for it directly, it's okay to be no-frills honest. Promise I won't call it brutal. 




--
Viv is still learning how to be a real writer. You can follow her adventures to that end at her web site

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

5 Surprising Tips to Avoid Burnout

Burnout is a bummer!
5 Surprising Tips to Avoid Burnout, by Kayelle Allen

Burnout: Melt, break, or become otherwise unusable. That's not a great definition when it comes to people. If you've experienced burnout, you know how hard it is on the mind, body, and spirit. No simple process can eliminate it, but even little things can help. Here are five surprising things you might not have considered before.

  1. Put off decisions. Procrastination is a sign of burnout. Did you know that? The mind stops being able to focus, so you put off doing things because you don't have the energy or ability to decide. Listen to your body. Allow yourself the freedom to put off making a decision until you've rested. Rather than say "no" say "I'll think about it." Then write it down, so that your mind isn't busy trying to remember. Come back to it later.
  2. Permit yourself to take a break. Notice that I didn't say "take a break." I said to "permit yourself to do it." One of the reasons we don't fully rest is that we feel guilty for taking time off. When you get away from the computer, or your job, or your family, or whatever is burning you out, let yourself relax. Give yourself mental permission for that break. You'll feel better than if you walk away but then mentally pace until you can get back to your desk.
  3. Pay attention to something insignificant. Pet a kitten and notice the underlying stripes in its fur. Feed a goldfish and watch it swim. Toss a ball for a toddler and watch how their legs move when they run. Unwrap a straw and look at the way the paper is fastened around it. These things are minute details, but each has meaning in its own way. Doing this can give your mind the kind of break it needs to think about other things.
  4. Put things in order. Straighten your desk. Make your bed. Fold the towels and put them away. Sweep the kitchen. Wipe down one shelf of the refrigerator. Doing mundane tasks that make your environment neater, cleaner, and more organized can free your mind for other tasks. When you're folding laundry, your mind isn't focused on the task, yet you are accomplishing something important.
  5. Purchase something you've wanted but normally wouldn't have bought. Not talking about a diamond bracelet, although if you can afford it and want it, then why not? I'm talking about some little thing that you would get as a impulse gift for a friend that you might not indulge in for yourself. I bet when you read that line you thought of something right away. Why not let yourself have it? You deserve a goodie.
Burnout is dangerous. When writers get it, they writers stop writing. Teachers stop teaching. Mothers stop mothering. Wives stop... well, being wifey. Avoid it if possible. If you've got it, deal with it. 

Want another source of ideas on handling burnout? I was inspired recently by a blog called The Freedom Experiment. There were many articles on self care. One of them inspired this post. How do you avoid burnout?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

ShapeShifter Seductions ~ That's Show Biz



Flash Fiction originally posted at SHAPESHIFTER SEDUCTIONS ~

That's Show Biz
by Pat Cunningham

Rare was the day when Merry could be persuaded to take a well-deserved night off. Her foreman, hands and staff could order, argue and wheedle all they liked, for all the good it did. Running a break-even cattle and dude ranch took a firm hand and constant attention. Merry hadn’t been raised a shirker, and saw no point in starting at this late date.

Of course, this was before Dash came to the ranch. A bit of sweet-talk from the persuasive were-stallion and Merry was liable to find herself delegating tasks so she could kick back and relax, usually in Dash’s arms. Or on Dash’s back, or in his bed. Or that one time in the box stall …

But not tonight. Dash had the DVD player fired up in the living room and twin bowls of snacks all prepared—popcorn for Merry, creamed corn for himself. Merry hopped onto the old comfy sofa beside him. With one hand in her popcorn she held up the disk jacket. Her eyes brightened. “Frontier Justice! With Toby Garner as the Rover. I used to watch reruns of this show after school when I was a kid.” She sent a dubious look at Dash. “A little vintage for you, isn’t it?”

“My cousin Rachael sent me this. She knows I know Ed. His grandsire’s in it. She thought I’d get a kick out of it.”

“Ed? The photographer?” Merry said. She knew Mr. Ed had a number of talents. In addition to his photography studio he worked part-time at the Equine Education Center. He was also rumored to provide “riding lessons” to well-built, athletic young men. Merry had learned not to ask too many questions where shifters were concerned. “He’s from a Hollywood family? Well, that explains a lot.”

“I guess.” Dash shrugged. “His grandsire was a contract player for one of the smaller studios. He must’ve made a ton of Westerns back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Let’s see how good an actor he was.” He hit “start” on the remote.

The movie, a compilation of several TV episodes, was a typical 1950s Hollywood Western with all the cliché trimmings: black-hatted bad guys versus an upstanding Texas ranger and his faithful Native American sidekick. The Amerind was a better actor and a much more skillful rider, Merry noted. The plot was as corny and simplistic as she remembered. She snuggled contentedly against Dash, lost in nostalgia.

“There!” Dash sat up so fast he almost spilled his creamed corn. “There he is!”

“Where?” All Merry saw was the Rover galloping over the plains. “Ed�l.

“Did the studio know?” she asked.

“Doubt it. Jordy’s wife Nancy acted as ‘wrangler’ and ‘trainer’ for the studio remuda. Even real horses did what she told ’em. She was a tough little mare. She did a little acting too, when some extra needed a mount. I don’t know if she’s in this one. I think Ed said she was a pinto.”

The bad guys had gathered to discuss their evil plan to drive the peaceful Indians off their gold-rich land. Merry found herself watching their horses. Two in the background kept nudging each other, nickering and laughing. Yes, laughing. There was no mistaking those equine headshakes and whickers. She pointed it out to Dash.

“Yeah, I see ’em. They’re making cracks about the dialogue. The one just said, ‘Who writes these road apples?’ And the other one goes, ‘I’m doing a Civil War movie next week.’ I wonder if Ed’s dad is in this? I know his mom was the palomino in the family. She worked in the commissary. Somebody had to make sure the shifters in the cast got the right kind of food.”

Merry shook her head. “I’ll never be able to look at a Western in the same way again.”

“I know what you mean. I get watching the horses and laughing at their comments and miss half the plot. Not that plot matters much in these things.”

“Did any of them ever meet John Wayne?”

Dash pursed his lips sourly. “Ed told me stories. Wayne was a big guy. Heavy. Nobody wanted him on their back. They always made sure a real horse carried the Duke. At least he could actually ride, so they tell me.” Discovering his bowl of corn was eLinkmpty, Dash shrugged and set it aside. “Too bad Westerns fell out of favor. All that work dried up. The ‘80s were tough on Ed’s family.”

“That’s a shame. Ed’s really handsome in his horse form. I’ll bet he would have been a star.” She nuzzled Dash’s chin. “You too.”

Dash grinned and slid his arm around her. “Don’t need to star in any of that Hollywood hooey. I already got the girl.”

Merry shouldered him playfully. “Watch the movie.”
~~~~~~

Author, Pat Cunningham, can be found at SHAPESHIFTER SEDUCTIONS and TITLE MAGIC.