Sunday, March 29, 2015

Marching To The Beat Of Your Own Drum by Michelle Monkou

Today's guest blogger is the wickedly talented author, Michelle Monkou. Join us at R8 this week as Michelle talks about Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum. Welcome, Michelle.

In my college day, I joined the newly formed Drill Team. We marched in formation where uniformity, smooth transitions, difficulty of choreography, body placement and alignment and so much more mattered. If there was going to be a solo performance, the person did her part and then, fit right back into the formation so we could move as one. The performance was a hit when our peers cheered from the bleachers and then offered a rousing ovation at the end.

And that was probably the last time that I participated in anything where I’d been in step with others, matching my movements with the group, and staying in my lane.
One to Love is released April 1, 2015

You see, from the moment that I can remember my parents and teachers reading to me, they unlocked my imagination to release a creative spirit that would no longer be caged. From the childhood books by Enid Blyton that made me want to head off to boarding school for the fun times, or from the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys series and creepy Alfred Hitchcock series that made me fall in love with suspenseful tales, or the beginning of my love for romance with my high school consumption of Barbara Cartland’s and Harlequin/Mills and Boon’s books, I devoured story after story because it fed my voracious appetite to jump in and stay a while.

That love for books probably decided my college major in English. I can still remember my passion for the Arthurian legends and talking about them in class. Add Dickens, Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Dante to the mix and my reading palette expanded, soaking it all in. After college, the writing bug hovered and zapped me at the right time with a wonderful infectious desire to start writing my own stories.

Once I carved that outlet for my imagination, I knew that being an author was my passion. While people offered advice about the hardships of writing, the odds of success, the difficulty to making a living from writing, and on and on, I still kept at the dream. I’m not going to bash the messengers for accuracy to some of their messages.  I think it’s always necessary to be aware of the realities. But that’s when the drum beat sounds for only me to hear--a beat in rhythm with my steps, my passion and desire to be a writer.

Going on 13 years from the first book, Open Your Heart, published by BET Books, to my upcoming April release, One to Love, with Harlequin Kimani, I have enjoyed this sometimes solitary, offbeat journey marching to the beat of my own drum.

Michelle Monkou is a multi-published author with over 20 books in print and digital. She began her writing career in 2002 with Black Entertainment Television (BET) Books, Arabesque imprint. She writes contemporary romances, paranormal/urban fantasy, and publishes her backlist and original stories on her independent digital platform, Stella Maris Publishing. Her stories speak to the heart and offer that happy-ever-after ending for the romance fiction reader.

Michelle is also an active participant with romance writers’ advocacy efforts. She served on the boards and as president of Washington Romance Writers as well as president of the 10,000-member Romance Writers of America organization. She’s a weekly contributor on USA TODAY’s Happy Ever After Blog providing commentary on romance fiction.

She resides in Maryland writing many more stories to fill the hands and e-readers of romantic bookaholics. Michelle's One to Love is available for purchase this week. Preorder your copy now and catch Michelle's fabulous other titles if you're looking for your next great romance novel to read. 

Find Michelle on Twitter at @MichelleMonkou and on Facebook or visit her at her website to find out about her latest releases.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Private Eye Spy

James Bond.

Napoleon Solo.

Kelly Robinson.

From childhood on, I think I've seen every film and television episode featuring those fictional super-spy guys at least a dozen times. And as a grown-up, I still love to catch them when I can. But you know what? Even in childhood, I wondered why should guy spies get all the fun?

That question, and my grown-up answer, is how I came to write The Kill Shot (Random House Alibi), Book #2 in the Jamie Sinclair series, which hits the virtual shelves this week!

The Kill Shot stars Jamie Sinclair, a private-investigator-turned-security-specialist who was raised by her tough-as-nails father. Of course, after an upbringing like hers, Jamie's no shrinking violet. Still, she has a soft spot in her heart for stray dogs and a particular military police officer named Adam Barrett.

So when Jamie travels to London to safeguard a State Department courier at the insistence of her demanding father, she can handle an ambush or two...until a would-be assassin opens fire on her on the cobblestone streets of Covent Garden. Worse yet, someone takes down the assailant with a single kill shot and Jamie could swear the face of the shooter belongs to Barrett himself. Except Barrett is supposed to be 3,000 miles away.

So who's lying?

And who's spying?

Jamie must find out when that single kill shot plunges her into an international game of cat-and-mouse.

You can pick-up your very own copy of The Kill Shot here or anywhere e-books are sold. And I hope you will. Because with Jamie on the case, those guy spies really don't get all the fun!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Better Late Than Never

So... guess who was afflicted with a near terminal case of Spring Fever, compounded by Spring Forward brain fog, and forgot it was her turn to blog?

Yes, that's right, it was me. Sigh. Cue the "wah-wah" music.

To pay tribute to the force which bested me this weekend, here are three of my favorite quotes about the evil genius known as Time.

Douglas Adams

In addition to being the drop-dead funny writer of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and other books, Adams was apparently a notorious scofflaw when it came to deadlines. Looks like I'm in good company!

Groucho Marx

Famous for his cigar, his heavy greasepaint eyebrows and mustache, and his razor-sharp wit, Groucho and his brothers overcame an impoverished childhood to become one of the biggest comedy acts of the early 20th Century. Whenever I get stressed about time, I try to remember this quote. It kind of translates to: You can't control everything. Just go with it.

Lao Tzu

It's not surprising that the man whose writings are the foundation of the Taoist philosophy has a lot of impressive things to say about life! I actually find this quote kind of intimidating, but it's also inspiring. I would love to have this kind of deliberate and conscious attitude toward time! Gives me something to work toward.

So, do you have any advice for me on coping with deadlines? And how have you been dealing with the time change?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rock Stars & Love

Keith Urban
So who doesn't love rock stars? In this day and age, they come in all genres of music. Whether it's pop music, country music, rap, hip hop, new age, etc. What draws us to rock stars?

They're larger than life. They are the best at what they do. And they're usually sexy as all get out. Well, at least my favorites are sexy. There's something about their voice and their story-telling ability that draws us in and hooks us. The songs they sing touch us, they move us, they tell us something about ourselves and our culture. They are the poets of our time and the chroniclers or our present state. Through them we see ourselves and our generation reflected in the lyrics and music they write. We can tap into emotion through music and the songs we hear. We visit the past and are pulled back to memories evoked by the music of the rock stars of our childhood and teenage years. We've been formed and shaped by the music and words of artists we've internalized. Words that lull us, teach us, challenge us, heal us, recharge and energize us.
Katy Perry in Vogue Magazine

I'm fascinated and drawn to rock stars, as many readers are these days. I love the larger than life status. The expertise and hard work they pour into their creative careers to achieve their goals. They inspire me.

As you can see by at least two of my photos, a few of the artists who inspire me are Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Imagine Dragons, John Legend, Blake Shelton, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, and many many others.

In my new contemporary romance release, Every Heart Sings, which is out on March 4, 2015, I explore what happens when a rock star loses his way and needs to re-find his voice when he has creative differences with his manager. By going back to his musical roots and helping to mentor a young teenage boy, Josh Nicodemus becomes the artist he needs to be and discovers what it is that has helped form him along the way. Of course his interaction with heroine Jordan Drake pushes Josh to face the fissure in his past with his grandfather--the primary relationship that formed him creatively. 

Josh has his own work cut out for him because Jordan Drake allows the fear of her own past as a former childhood actress to trap her on Serenity Island, a dying island community, and she refuses to support her nephew, Tony, who wants nothing more than to become the next big rock star. In Every Heart Sings, rock star Josh Nicodemus finds his true voice and true love when he helps former actress Jordan Drake break out of the self-imposed prison she’s created for herself in Serenity and at The Down Dog CafĂ©.

A whole island of quirky characters comes together to meddle, forcing Josh and Jordan to admit their love for each other and help expose the injustice done to Jordan’s sixteen-year-old nephew, who is more than a little music crazy and a huge fan-boy of Josh Nicodemus.
Find my hot contemporary romance at Amazon.

Stop by and let me know a few of your favorite rock stars. And why you love them. I'd love to know.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snow Day!

This blog is being cancelled on account of snow. And contest entries that I have to judge and return with comments. Also known as procrastination...

This isn't Boston, that's for certain, but my shoulders don't know that--having shoveled the walk, the steps, and two entire parking spaces.

And now, after a good dose of ibuprofen, I'm off to get the judging done...

Have a good week, everybody. Stay warm!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Popular Culture: Some Like It Hot

My erotic romance novella, The Dom of My Heart, comes out in the erotic romance anthology Hot Encounters released by Soul Mate Publishing on February 26, and I couldn't be more excited. I read an excerpt from chapter one last night at Lady Jane’s Salon - SilverSpring.

Normally, I write hot contemporary romance. And in most of my stories, I toe that line between steamy sex scenes and erotic romance. This time, I boldly stepped over the line. Why, you might ask? Mostly, because I like my romance hot and, this time, I wanted to explore the concept of power dynamics between two characters. I love writing sex scenes. I've never been one to shy away from writing them. I don’t like the bedroom door closed in the romance I read and write because, for me, it’s all about the emotional and physical connection between two people. Romance and love is tightly intertwined with the mating ritual of sex. Period. For years, women have been ridiculed and put down for reading trash or mommy porn if they read romance or erotic romance novels. And romance writers, of all genre writers, often bear the brunt of sly, back-handed compliments and snikers about the smut they write or they experience out-right sexual harassment because they celebrate women who are sensual creatures--those characters who are not afraid to discuss and explore sexuality and the dynamics of sensuality between them and their lovers.
Mackenzie Lucas reading at LJS

Romance is primarily a genre written by women for women. Erotic romance celebrates the beautiful sensuality at the core of the mating ritual. It is a genre where women get to define and redefine what it means to be sexy, smart, strong, beautiful, and powerful for themselves. So the next time someone ridicules you for reading or writing romance, give them that knowing smile and tell them you’re redefining hot. Because what you do when you read or write romance is tap into the human condition and celebrate the most beautiful connection in the Universe. And that’s a pretty awesome.

Later this week (Feb. 10 & 11) I’m attending and also coordinating Washington Romance Writers volunteers at the Library of Congress’s What is Love? Romance in the Digital Age conference--an event that’s free to the public. At the conference, they’ll be screening The Popular Romance Project’s documentary, Love Between the Covers. I’m excited about this event because panel after panel is filled with educated, articulate women who write, study, and read romance novels. I’ll be interested to see what they have to say about the state of the romance novel, erotic romance, and the peek the romance genre gives us into our popular culture and the human condition. I have a feeling they’ll say romance is thriving.

Sunday, February 1, 2015



I recently spent a weekend sorting through my fabric bins. Grays in one pile, purple in another, low volume over there, blue over here, with sub-categories of turquoise, aqua, navy, periwinkle, and, well, blue. Same with the greens. Chartreuse, lime, emerald, mint, grass. Purples (lavender, fuchsia, grape, raspberry sorbet). Oranges that look so fabulous with blues and greens. Finally, red was divided into pinks and red. That's it. No other sub-categories. No brick and cherry and pomegranate and merlot. Just a very small pile. Obviously, I don't own a lot of red fabric. I don't tend to gravitate towards it in stores, I'm not sure I own any red clothes - well, a tee-shirt, maybe. Not much else.

When I think of the colours that I normally surround myself with, it is generally blues and greens of varying shades. Colours of the beach, of the Ireland, of the forest, of wine bottles, of leafy green vegetables, blue cheese and even Fresca. I wear green and blue almost every day from my jewelry to my reading glasses to my clothes. It makes me calm and at home, like browsing in a bookstore or sitting on the couch with my dog. Cool as a cucumber.

It is one thing to be aware of a preference or like. To know that I prefer a house that alludes more to a beach than a Victorian front parlor. But being risk adverse and in a rut can be mistaken for remaining calm and even tempered. I reached the end of last year and wondered was I any different than I had been in January? Had I gone anywhere? Tried anything new? Umm. No.

I have a strong memory of me as a child, maybe 4 years old, during show-and-tell at school. I wanted everyone to know I'd got new shoes. Red maryjanes. There's photo of me at about 2 in a blue corduroy dress, and yes, red lace up shoes. I was not always RED-adverse. I was joyful and wanted to go forward into the fun that only RED shoes could take me.

And that's why this year I am going RED. RED isn't calm. It isn't subtle or tranquil or peaceful. Don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of those things. But I am finding that action is needed in my life. Emotion. Risk. Not just to breathe but to gasp. And perhaps, like the child I was, it is time for me to put on my red shoes and go forward into whatever 2015 has for me.