Some Write It Hot

December 31, 2010

Time Flies by Ellie Heller

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
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Does it seem like the end of the year is coming more quickly at you than usual this year? I am amazed at how fast this year has seemed to have gone by.

Curious about my sense that time was flying by I began looking up information and I ran across several articles talking about perceptions of time. Basically I found out that as we get older how we experience time changes. Looking further, I found there have been many studies done on perceptions of time but these sentences, from an summary article on Suite101, get to the gist on current thoughts on perception of time:

The theoretical and most widely advanced answer for the subjective acceleration of time with aging says that subjective time is relative to a person’s lifetime. To a 5-year-old, for example, a year seems like a long time, specifically 1/5 of a lifetime. To someone 65 years old, however, a year is 1/65 of a lifetime and seems to pass so quickly as to be hardly noticeable.

Read more at Suite101: Why Does Time Speed Up as One Gets Older?

I’m certain I’m not the only one who can remember traveling as a child and sometimes it seemed like it took forever! to get places. Of course, in hindsight, given the amount of time I had already experienced, it *did* take forever.

Well then, that explained things. Time certainly was flying by at a faster rate than it had before.

As a writer, though, I think about this sense of the passage of time as I write, and even more when I read. Particularly when I come across a paranormal character who has lived for a hundred years (or more!). Part of me simply cannot imagine how these characters experience time.

Given what I’ve experienced, and what I’ve learned about perceptions of time, there seems to be a conundrum of how you would have a character who has lived for many, many years in the mortal world, particularly if they were once mortal, be able to relate to the sense of time a mortal experiences. How does someone, who has supposedly lived for three or four times as long as I have, deal with mere mortals?

Think about it, if the character has supposedly lived two hundred years, a day is 1/73,000 of their life experience. If, as the author above notes, a year is hardly noticeable to someone at sixty five, day to a 200 yr old is a blink of an eye. How can they function and live, even be effective among the necessary time constraints mortals have (and writers place!) on their time?

Of course, then I start thinking solutions, because otherwise my disbelief is no longer suspended and I can’t go on with the story. Given the amount of paranormal stories I read (and write!) I have to come up with some solution to deal with this odd conflict I’ve raised on my own.

One thing which might happen, then, is perhaps their perception of time at whatever age they became paranormal simply halts. Simple and elegant, however there are instances, say waiting interminably in a line, when I’m glad my sense of time has changed. And, personally, I can’t reconcile how someone could experience all those years and not have their sense of time affected. Plus, think about it, there’d be some radical changes in attitude with teenage vamps complaining ‘are we there yet?’

No, for me, personally, that didn’t work.

Hmm, an elegant solution is found in High Fantasy. In most stories long lived characters reside in the mortal world, but their sense of how time runs is influenced by an external world, one which their rhythms are in sync with. In this scenario the long lived paranormal character is both living the days faster (say a month in mortal time is equal to a week of their time, then day is experienced as if it were one quarter of a day) and slower (using the same parameters as above, during one year in the mortal world they will only age three months).

Examples of this are stories of characters who have only lived a season in ‘Elf havens’ coming back home to find years have passed in the mortal world. For me, this then becomes easier to understand that an ‘immortal’, in this situation, experiences time at different pace than mortals do, in part because their ‘clock’ runs at the pace this external location does.

But when you remove this external location, as is frequently (but not always) the case in contemporary paranormal literature, and have former mortals living in a mortal world for hundreds of years, I can’t jive things at all.

For now, I’ve simply let myself agree to suspend my disbelief, but in the back of my mind I still mull it over. Clearly there is no one ‘right’ or correct solution to this, and I’m not sure that anyone but me thinks there needs to be one. It’s just the way my mind works.

On the other hand, those hours long, all night sex sessions some authors include? Well, they make a lot more sense to me now. 🙂

December 29, 2010

All Things Being Equal by DH Starr

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
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With so many options out there, it can become daunting to decide where to buy your books. Amazon.com is like a huge conglomerate and tends to be the first place people think of. For those of us in the romance community, places like allromanceebooks.com and a few other places are huge resellers. It seems, in all of the different venues where you can purchase books, the one place that gets marginalized is the actual publishing houses themselves.

Here’s a little information from an author’s perspective just to help you when deciding where to buy your books. Please keep in mind that I subscribe to purchasing books at the best deal. We are in hard economic times and you should be able to spend less to get what you want, so if a book costs less in one place rather than another, definitely go for the less expensive copy. From time to time, various publishers and resellers offer deals or discounts which will help you to get a greater value for the money your spend. But, with all things being equal, it is better for the authors and the publishers if you buy at the publishing house.

Take a book that costs $8 and a royalty contract that splits 50-50 between the author and the publisher. That 50-50 ratio is applied based on profit to the publishing house. If you buy through the publisher, all of the money is profit. When publishing houses sell their books through other venues like amazon.com (these are called resellers), the reseller keeps a percentage of the sales. Let’s say a reseller keeps 25% of the sales and pays 75% to the publishing house. The profit earned on an $8 book is reduced to $6 which means that the publisher makes $3 and the author makes $3 for that sale instead of $4 each.

As you compare the prices of the books you purchase, consider where your money is going. First and foremost, find the best deal for yourself, but with all things being equal, buying at the publishing houses helps authors and publishers more.

December 27, 2010

Trademark Laws and Book Titles

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
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Note:
This article is copyrighted. Expressed permission has been requested and granted for the posting of this article to DA Kentner’s blog site as well as the Some Write It Hot blog site. No other permission has been provided. No copying of this article in toto or in part is authorized without the express written permission of the author, Lloyd J. Jassin.
The original article may be viewed at http://www.copylaw.com/new_articles/titles.html
I want to thank Mr. Jassin for allowing the posting of this informative article.

How to Use Trademark Law to Create Multiple Passive Income Streams & Avert Legal Battles

By Lloyd J. Jassin

A great title can contribute tremendously to a book’s success. It can also create opportunities for multiple passive income streams from licensing the sale of book-related merchandise and paraphernalia. In this article, I will share with you valuable tips on how to determine the availability of a title, secure its ownership, and develop passive revenue streams through trademark licensing. I will also explain how to protect against unauthorized use of your title by intellectual property pirates.

What is a Trademark?

Searching for the correct titles is like searching for hidden gold. Properly selected and maintained, your book’s title can be your most valuable intellectual property asset. As I discuss below, under trademark law, some titles are more worthy of trademark protection than others. Trademark law protects words, slogans, logos and even designs that identify the source of goods or services. It also prohibits people from trying to pass off their goods and services using the goodwill associated with an established brand. For example, trademark and unfair competition law are the foundations upon which the best selling Chicken Soup for the Soul, Dummies and Hardy Boys series franchises are based. All three, of course, are federally registered trademarks.

What Are the Benefits of Trademark Registration?

Federal registration is not required. In the United States rights arise from actual use of a mark. Generally, the first to either affix the mark to goods (or display it in connection with services) or file an “intent to use” application with the Patent and Trademark Office has the right to use and registration. The benefits to trademark registration include:

Constructive notice nationwide of the trademark owner’s claim.

Evidence of ownership of the trademark.

Jurisdiction of federal courts may be invoked.

Registration can be used as a basis for obtaining registration in foreign countries.

Registration may be filed with U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

Brand It! Own It!

If you are an author, it is helpful to think of your book as the headwaters of your very own intellectual property Nile. Best selling author, Robert G. Allen refers to it as “infopreneuring.” As an info-prenueur, the goal is to create multiple merchandise licensing revenue streams that flow from your book (and book title). Your focus is not just creating a best selling book, but best selling book byproducts. Lucrative speaking careers – which can dwarf the royalties your book generates — often start out as books. From books flow distance learning courses, income generating websites, subscription newsletters, audio products, film and television and other opportunities.

Trademarks & Book Contracts

If you aspire to be a published author, or, if you have been offered a book contract, remember, you, not your publisher should retain trademark licensing rights to the title of your work. Merchandising rights — which is a category of rights a publisher will seek — includes the right to license the title of your book, and the characters contained in it, for games, toys, clothing, household goods, as well as innumerable other goods and services. To be clear, “licensing” is where the owner of a trademark gives another party the right to use that mark in exchange for payment of a royalty.

Regrettably, many start-up (and even seasoned) info-preneurs ignore the “grant of rights” clause of their publishing agreement. After signing away their rights, a form of seller’s regret sets in. Contracts clauses are malleable, not words set in stone. The reason publishers have contracts department is because contracts are negotiable. Be respectful of your publisher. Know what to ask for, or hire someone that does. That someone can be a knowledgeable agent or a publishing attorney, or both. Or both? Attorneys in the entertainment industry often play a kind of “central command role,” assisting agents in negotiating publishing and merchandise agreements.

Agent vs. Attorney

Entrusting your career solely to an agent is not quite leaving the fox to watch the hen house, but, as your career develops, the issues that relate to your IP assets, inlcuding image and literary works, becomes increasingly complicated. While most agents are good and honorable people, unlike an agent, an attorney owes his duty of loyalty to the client. Find the right people to help you. No single person, whether agent or attorney, can handle all aspects of your career. And, by having a team (i.e., attorney and agent) you create a true system of checks and balances. Agents, as their name suggests, procure publishers. Attorneys advise and counsel, and negotiate contracts. Both seasoned agents and literary attorneys are also likely to have long-term industry relationships that can be leveraged for your good.

A Copyright is Not a Trademark

Before providing you with the tools you need to select and protect the title of your book, it’s important to note that copyright law does not protect book titles. If you go to Amazon.com or the online Copyright Office records (www.copyright.gov), you will see countless examples of duplicate titles. Under copyright law, copyright protection only covers “original works of authorship.” To the chagrin of many, the courts and the Copyright Office have made a bright-line policy determination that titles, names (including pen names), short phrases and mere listings of ingredients (as in recipes), no matter how clever, do not possess enough original expression to warrant copyright protection. Fortunately, there is another way to protect the commercial magnetism of your title and to cash in on it.

Look Before You Leap: Trademark Availability Searches

Trademark and unfair competition law protects against confusingly similar usage of source identifying words and designs (including book jacket design) by another. If you wish to publish a book, or launch a series of books, you run the risk that someone may have already obtained rights to a confusingly similar title. Like any business, as you prepare to launch your book, you want to select an appropriate title that is unique to you, and, if your book is an extension of your business, a title capable of identifying whatever your business offers – or, intends to offer as you expand your brand into multiple, diverse industries or product categories. Since trademark rights are granted on a ”first come” basis, it’s important to determine if anyone is using your title in a trademark sense. This is accomplished by doing a screening search. A screening search will help uncover how a trademark is being used in the marketplace. If it’s unlikely people seeing your book will be confused about the source or sponsorship of your book, there’s no trademark infringement. For example, when Al Franken borrowed Fox Broadcastings “Fair and Balanced” slogan for his book entitled “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right ,” no likelihood of confusion was found.

A trademark search, and a working knowledge of this nuanced area of the law, is how you determine whether you can use the title you have selected. When selecting a title an author must take into consideration both registered and unregistered marks. Failure to perform a proper search can result in threat of a lawsuit from someone who believes you are a competing with them unfairly. If during the selection process, you discover a confusingly similar title, used for similar goods, or even related services, it may not be available for use or trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (http://www.uspto.gov/). Bear in mind, the science of searching and determining if a proposed title is available for use is not always a straight forward proposition.

The timing of your search is critical. Unless you file an intent-to-use (ITU) federal trademark application, you should begin using your mark very soon after determining your mark’s availability. Trademark rights are awarded are on first to use /first to file basis. An ITU application is an application for a mark that is not yet being used commercially. Like fresh milk, the shelf life of a search is measured in hours or days, not weeks. After a short while, the relevancy of a search diminishes because new, confusingly similar products and services may have entered the stream of commerce.

What is Trademark Infringement?

In any trademark infringement case, the key issues are “Who used it first?” and “Was it used on confusingly similar goods or services?” Recalling a published book after threat of litigation will cause both financial loss and professional embarrassment. While the cost of doing a full search can be daunting if you are working on a tight budget, there’s no excuse not to do an internet search. While not foolproof, an internet search can weed out obvious conflicts. If you identify marks – including best selling titles — that are similar in appearance, sound or meaning, and are used for similar or competitive goods or services, you may have found a potentially conflicting mark. When in doubt, engage a trademark specialist to review your findings. As assessment by a trademark attorney who can decode trademark search results may give you the courage to move forward with your title, or caution you against doing so.

Merely descriptive marks are not entitled to exclusive protection without establishing secondary meaning. By secondary meaning, I mean well-known marks that call to mind a particular publisher, producer or manufacturer. Many claims of exclusive ownership turn out to be bare assertions of rights over non distinctive marks phrases for which there is little likelihood of confusion. If you receive a cease and desist letter don’t panic. Take a deep breath. Consult a trademark attorney who can assess the level of the threat. Sometimes a well-written letter, drafted by counsel (or with the help of counsel), explaining why you believe they have a weak claim and are attempting to unfairly silence you, will get them to stand down. For example, on investigation your attorney may advise you that they don’t have a valid trademark. Or, perhaps, you are using the word or phrase in its “classic” or “descriptive” sense in your narrative, not on the cover to suggest endorsement or an association with the trademark user.

Tip! Keep in mind that both identical and confusingly similar marks for related goods and service may be entitled to trademark protection, and that a trademark owner need not register their mark federally to enjoy trademark protection.

Now that we’ve reviewed the basics, it’s time to focus on which titles enjoy trademark protection, and which don’t. Bear in mind, there’s a large body of law which addresses what is registrable and what’s not, so this, is at best, a simplification of the rules. When in doubt, seek out the advice of a seasoned trademark attorney.

a. Trademark Friendly Title: Series Titles Enjoy Trademark Protection

Generally, titles of works that are part of an ongoing series are protected under trademark and unfair competition law. Once a series title such as Chicken Soup for the Soul becomes identified in the public’s mind with a particular author or publisher, unfair competition law kicks in to protect against consumer confusion, enforcing a kind of commercial morality on the marketplace of ideas. Once a series has been established, each work in the series reinforces that it comes from the same source as the others. Being a series author or publisher, is one of the secrets of successful publishing.

Without trademark law, consumers might otherwise be deprived of their ability to distinguish among competing forms of entertainment and information. Likewise, producers and publishers would be denied valuable sequel and adaptation rights in best selling books and hit movies. While some might argue that a world without TWILIGHT 3 is a good thing, trademark law allows us to cash in on the goodwill and commercial magnetism of a best selling series title.

TIP! When selecting a “series” title, try to select a title which is coined, arbitrary or suggestive – not one that is highly descriptive of your book’s contents. Arbitrary or suggestive words make better trademark candidates than highly descriptive titles. Highly descriptive series titles are not given automatic trademark status, although, marketing people tend to prefer descriptive titles for obvious reasons. Over time, descriptive titles must develop secondary meaning to enjoy protection. Secondary meaning is the connection in the mind of a consumer between a mark and the provider of those services.

b. Not All Titles Can Are Protected by Trademark Law.

Unlike series titles, titles of a single work, whether a book, periodical, song, movie, or television program, normally, will not be protected under either trademark or unfair competition law. This is one of the quirks of trademark law. To quote the USPTO, “Regardless of the actual relation of the title to the book,” courts treat all single title works as “inherently descriptive” at best and “inherently generic” at worst – unless the single title has had “wide promotion and great success.”

Tip! If today’s single title is likely to grow into a series of books tomorrow, consider filing an “intent to use” application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. An “ITU” application allows you to file a “Statement of Use” within 36-months of official approval of your application. By filing an intent to use application, you benefit from the earlier filing date. In trademark law, who came first counts for a lot!

CASE & COMMENT: When McGraw-Hill, publishers of the best selling PT-109: JOHN KENNEDY IN WORLD WAR II , moved to enjoin Random House from using the title JOHN F. KENNEDY & PT-109 on a competing book, the court found that two terms in plaintiff’s title — “PT-109” and “John F. Kennedy” — were descriptive or generic terms, and therefore unprotectable. Noting the inherent weakness of plaintiff’s title, the court commented that the words chosen by Random House were an apt description of its book, and therefore in the public domain. Rejecting plaintiff’s unfair competition claim, the court further noted that because of the weakness of plaintiff’s title, combined with the differences in the overall look and feel of the two books (including Random House’s prominent use of its distinctive logo on the spine and back jacket) there was no likelihood of confusion. McGraw-Hill Book Company v. Random House, Inc., 32 Misc. 2nd 704, 225 N.Y.S.2d 646, 132 U.S.P.Q. 530 (1962).

As the McGraw-Hill case shows, neither priority in time, nor significant sales alone will determine whether the title of a book has achieved secondary meaning. Secondary meaning comes gradually and can be defeated altogether when the words chosen are merely descriptive of the contents of the work. Similarly, secondary meaning can be lost through extended periods of non-use (after two years of non-use there’s a presumption of abandonment), or diluted by permitting third-parties to use similar titles.

c. Parody Titles Sometimes Protected

As long as anyone can remember, parody has been an acceptable form of social criticism. However, sometimes poking fun can is no laughing matter; at least as far as some courts are concerned.

The problem with parodies in general is that there is no bright-line test to determine what constitutes a permissible parody, which drives home the point that trademark law is complex. Humor is not an ironclad legal defense to either copyright or trademark infringement — or for that matter libel. For instance, while a florist’s use of the slogan THIS BUD’S FOR YOU in an ad for fresh flowers was held by one court not to infringe plaintiff’s well-known beer slogan (Anheuser-Busch v. Florists Assn. of Greater Cleveland, 603 F. Supp. 35 (ND Oh 1984)), the use of the phrase WHERE THERE’S LIFE . . . THERE’S BUGS for a combination floor wax/insecticide, was determined by another court to infringe the very same trademark. Chemical Corp. of America v. Anheuser-Busch, 306 F2d 433 (5th Cir. 1962).

Although commercial identity confusion is the most common form of trademark infringement, a noncompetitive mark can also violate a famous owner’s trademark by diluting the distinctiveness of the owner’s trademark. Thus, Barbie’s Playhouse for the title of a pornographic website was held to tarnish Mattel’s Barbie for toy dolls. Mattel Inc. v. Jcom Inc., WL 766711 (S.D. N.Y. 1998) . Just to confuse matters, in Lucasfilm Ltd. v. Media Market Group, Ltd., 182 F. Supp. 2d 897 (N.D. Cal. 2002), the court held that a pornographic movie entitled STARBALLZ was a permissible parody of Star Wars, and not barred under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act.

Fortunately for literary authors, the courts have placed some First Amendment limits on the rights of trademark owners. For example, in General Mills, Inc. v. Henry Regnery Co. (421 F.Supp. 359 (N.D.IL. 1976)), the owners of the “Betty Crocker” trademark sued a well-known comedian over a spoof entitled MOREY AMSTERDAM’S BETTY COOKER CROCK BOOK FOR DRUNKS. The book, which featured the “Betty Crocker” trademark on its cover, also had a photo of comedian Morey Amsterdam pouring alcohol over a salad. Since the test of trademark infringement is likelihood of confusion, the case turned on whether the public would believe that plaintiff, rather than defendant, was the source of defendant’s book. While noting that both plaintiff and defendant published books (a fact tending to support a finding of likelihood of confusion), the court held there was no confusing similarity because the comedian’s name appeared prominently in the title, and his photo on the cover, serving as a prominent disclaimer. The takeaway from this case, is that the clear, bold, and prominent use of your own title (or in this case, name and likeness) can diminish the likelihood of confusion to acceptable levels.

Similarly, in Cliff Notes, Inc. v. Bantam, Doubleday, Dell Publishing (866 F2d 490 (2nd Cir. 1989)), a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected an argument that a “Spy Notes’ ” parody of “Cliff Notes” study aids was confusingly similar to “Cliff Notes”” the well-known study aids. Aside from adopting a cover, title and format similar to the “Cliff Notes” format, “Spy Notes” lampooned a number of contemporary titles and authors in “Cliff Notes” form. Despite defendant’s profit motive, the court classified the parody as “artistic expression” worthy of constitutional protection.

Margaret Domin, in a law review article, perhaps, said it best, “A non-infringing parody is merely amusing, not confusing. A “true” parody will be so obvious that a clear distinction is preserved between the source of the target and the source of the parody.”

d. Use of Famous Names in Titles

Unauthorized Biographies: The First Amendment is the patron saint and protector of unauthorized biographies. Consequently, a well-known person cannot stop the use of his or her name in the title of an unauthorized biographical work solely on trademark precepts. The protection of the right of free expression is so important that even where a right of publicity is recognized (the right to commercial uses of one’s name and image), the public’s right to know what prominent people have done or what has happened to them is generally indulged.

However, authors do not have the unbound freedom to make use a famous person’s name or likeness in a title for commercial purposes. For instance, while an unauthorized bio of the late film star Keith Leger entitled “Keith Ledger: The Unauthorized Biography” is permissible, you can’t publish a “Keith Ledger Cookbook” without the permission of late star’s estate. The general rule is that as long as use of the celebrity’s name is a literary or expressive use (i.e., primarily editorial), and not a disguised advertisement for the sale of goods or services (e.g., cookbooks), permission is not required.

Caution! While the use of a celebrity’s name in the title of an unauthorized biography is generally not considered a violation of that individual’s right of publicity, or trademark rights, authors need to be aware that in the U.S. (and elsewhere) false statements of facts, the result of shoddy journalism, can give rise to false light and libel claims.

Artistically Relevant Use of Celebrity Names: Provided a celebrity’s name has some reasonable “artistic” relationship to the content of the work, and is neither “explicitly” misleading, nor a thinly veiled commercial advertisement, the slight risk that the celebrity’s name might implicitly suggest endorsement or sponsorship, may be outweighed by the public interest in free expression. For instance, the song “Bette Davis Eyes,” and the film “Garbo Talks,” are good examples of protected uses of well-known individual’s names used in an “artistic” manner.

CASE & COMMENT: Eminent filmmaker Federico Fellini’s 1986 satire, GINGER AND FRED, concerned two retired small-time dancers who were known as “Ginger and Fred” because they used to imitate well-known dance duo of Rogers and Astaire. When Ginger Rogers learned of the film, she claimed her right of publicity had been violated, and that the movie falsely implied she endorsed the film — a violation of Section 43(a) of the Trademark Act. Affirming the trial court, the Second Circuit Court appeals held that where the title of a film is related to the content of the film, and is not a commercial advertisement for goods and services, the First Amendment’s interest in freedom of expression will outweigh a well-known individual’s right of publicity. The court further held that where a celebrity’s name has at least some artistic relevance to the work and is not “explicitly” misleading, freedom of expression concerns will generally outweigh the likelihood of public confusion over the source of the work. Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989).

The Rogers’ case acknowledges that books and movies are hybrid by nature — a combination of art and commerce. While consumers have a right not to be misled, the “expressive element” of a title may make it predominantly noncommercial, and thus deserving of more protection.

How to Avoid Costly Trademark Battles

Look before your leap! It’s always been sound advice. Prior to launching a new series or publishing company, conduct a preliminary search to ascertain if your mark is in conflict with someone else’s mark. Bear in mind, marks do not have to be exactly the like in sight or sound to be cause trademark confusion. Sometimes referred to as “knock out” search, a screening search should include a review of state and federal trademark databases, industry directories and, of course, the internet. Similar marks used for closely related goods or services are what you need to consider. If there are no clear conflicts, retain a trademark attorney who will order a professional search report. The trademark attorney will then provide you with an availability opinion. Failure to do a thorough search, or to properly evaluate a search report, puts you at great risk. The consequences of not searching, could include a court order demanding the destruction of inventory, monetary damages, and, general business disruption.

Trademark Licensing Rights: Optimizing Non-Book Income Streams

If you are an author, before signing your book contract, ask yourself whether your book has commercial licensing potential? As a matter of course, most publishers will seek merchandise licensing rights, but very few will fight you if you wish to retain these valuable rights. If you are represented by a literary agent, and the contract he or she has obtained for you contains a grant of merchandise licensing rights, likely, you are not well represented. Can you rely on your literary agent to guide you properly? It all depends. There are many honest, contract savvy agents out there. However, be vigilant. Once you move beyond the AAR certified agents, you enter a pool of author representatives that includes both stellar agents and predatory practitioners. Read and understand what’s put in front of you. Ideally, hire an attorney to review both your agency agreement and publishing agreement. Unlike agents, attorneys are licensed, and have an undivided loyalty to the client. Are there bad attorneys? Of course. Buyer beware.

Summary

Step 1: Check the availability of the mark you wish to adopt.

Step 2: Have an attorney conduct a full trademark search.

Step 3. Apply for federal (and state) trademark protection.

(c) 2010. Lloyd J. Jassin

DISCLAIMER: This article discusses general legal issues of interest and is not designed to give any specific legal advice pertaining to any specific circumstances. It is important that professional legal advice be obtained before acting upon any of the information contained in this article.

© 1998-2010 The Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin. All rights reserved. Copylaw is a trademark of The Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin

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Co-author of The Copyright Permission & Libel Handbook (John Wiley & Sons)

Lloyd J. Jassin provides counseling to book publishing, television, theater, new media, arts and entertainment clients on contract, licensing, copyright, trademark, unfair competition, libel, right of privacy and general corporate law matters. His practice includes drafting and negotiating publishing and entertainment industry contracts, intellectual property due diligence, trademark prosecution, dispute resolution and litigation. His expertise in intellectual property and organizing business entities, has enabled him to represent clients throughout their growth cycle. Besides individual and corporate clients, he also represents trade and industry groups such as the Audio Publishers Association (APA) and Publishers Marketing Association (PMA). Mr. Jassin has achieved national prominence with his book, The Copyright Permission and Libel Handbook (John Wiley & Sons), coauthored with Steven C. Schechter.

More information about the author may be viewed at http://www.copylaw.com/aboutus.html

December 24, 2010

An Aussie Christmas by Lillian Grant

Filed under: Who we are — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
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As the only blog contributor not freezing my way through a winter ice age, I thought it would be interesting to share what it’s like to have Christmas in the summer.

Until the age of 22 I lived in the UK so Christmas was a major event that broke up the seemingly endless months of cold, rain, ice, fog and misery that is a British winter. The long dark evenings were brightened by the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the corner of the room and the big heavy Christmas meal sat well in a body rigid with cold.

Even though I have lived in Oz for many years I still hold on to the traditions of an English Christmas. I am not alone. The rest of the world may think, compliments of Paul Hogan, that the day is spent tossing another shrimp on the barbie or surfing at the beach but in reality, for most people, the day is spent at home sharing the traditions of your ancestors, where ever they came from. You will find many revelers on Bondi beach but they are mostly European backpackers living the Aussie dream.

For those of us with a British heritage the meal is traditionally turkey with way too many roast potatoes and vegetables, followed up with a heavy Christmas pudding made with brandy and lots of dried fruit served with brandy butter and custard then to top it off sweet mince pies. If the day is hot, which looks not to be the case this year, then the house becomes unbearable and your appetite wanes as you lose your body weigh in sweat, but still you stuff yourself to blotation before declaring next year you’ll do something different.

When we lived in Melbourne we would spend the day with an Aunt and Uncle. After dinner we would play volleyball in their swimming pool to work off the calories. This being the only concession to the fact it was summer.

Even though we celebrate a traditional English Christmas it never has the magic it did in winter. The sun sets far too late for the tree to ever truly look good and it doesn’t hold the excitement of a mid winter celebration heralding the turn toward spring and summer.

For me Christmas is a stark reminder of my status as an immigrant transplanted in a foreign land where the seasons are turned on their head.

Find out what else Lillian is up to at her website

December 22, 2010

Holiday Eating Tips by Lauren Fraser

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
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Christmas isn’t even here yet and already I’m feeling like I need to hit the treadmill and hit it hard. Yikes it could be grim. So when I saw this post on another group it seemed absolutely perfect. I know what you are thinking, stop making excuses, but come on it, it’s Christmas and that’s what New Year’s resolutions are all about. *grin* I would love to claim credit for the holiday eating tips but I completely stole it from someone else, unfortunately I don’t know who the original author is but whoever you are. Damn, you are bang on. LOL

So in case you are feeling a little like me about the dreaded holiday binge, here you go.

HOLIDAY EATING TIPS

Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door where they’re serving rum balls.

Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It’s rare… You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!

If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people’s food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying that
10-pound plate of food and vat of eggnog.

If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three.

Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention. Re-read tips and start over; but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to slide in sideways, chocolate in one hand and wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, but screaming, ‘woo hoo, what a ride!'”

Enjoy the Christmas season!!

All the best,

Lauren Fraser

http://www.laurenfraser.com

December 20, 2010

Free Read: Gato Negro by Ali Katz Chapter 2

Filed under: Free read — practicalkatz @ 04:00
Tags: , , ,

The continuing saga, Gato Negro Chapter Two, as promised. I hope you’re enjoying the read. If you need to catch up, you can read Chapter 1 on my blog.

Of course, if you just can’t wait for the next installment, Gato Negro is available for Kindle at Amazon.com and for other readers, in .epub format, at Goodreads.   You can always download the book, and the beautiful cover art by Stella Price. Sorry, they wouldn’t let me price it any lower than ninety-nine cents.

Dos

Despite his intention to avoid the woman, Carlos’s gaze settled on her the moment he crossed the tree line into the compound.

Six sat at the table–two women, four men, all young–eating breakfast and talking softly, their voices barely audible over the constant, annoying hum of the generator doing battle with the birds. Only the fairest of the men paid her special attention, casting moony-eyed glances her way. Carlos found himself taking the blond’s measure as a low growl formed. The growl died in his throat. The boy represented no threat. Off in her own world, his hummingbird didn’t appear to care he existed.

Perhaps coming here this morning was more mistake than he feared if his self-control teetered so precariously.

Seeing her in the flesh, the pull grew undeniable. Enough light filtered into the clearing to allow his human eyes a clearer picture of her earthy beauty. Her hair wasn’t black, as the cat had perceived, but the color of rich, dark chocolate. She wore it free this morning. Out of the braid, it hung almost to her hips, thick and wavy, inviting fingers to play. Her eyes shone as black as he anticipated, beautiful and mysterious beneath her dark brows. Right now, they focused on some faraway place, perhaps a land of fantasy where lovers came in many shapes.

More likely thoughts of a lover left behind inspired the scent that drifted across the yard to fill his head.

She smelled of arousal. The dream came to mind in a flash no less vivid than the dream itself. If he hadn’t awakened this morning in a puddle of semen, he might have sworn some demon had brought them together. At all costs, he must take care to hide his response in her presence, to avoid recalling her sweet taste on his tongue.

“Elizandro, my God, man. Where the hell have you been?” Carter, the station’s manager and expert on epiphytes, came out of the main building trailed by his wife and Antonio Alvarez, the resident local ecologist. Seeing Antonio, some of Carlos’s anxiety over his long absence dissolved. As a native, Antonio understood the complex ecosystems in the preserve far better than any outsider did. He was a strong defender of the forest, and Carlos trusted him implicitly.

“South, working a new territory,” Carlos said. His mind bent around the task of choosing unpracticed words while keeping his answers vague. He tried to keep his comings and goings as understated as possible. “Has it been so long?”

“Must be three years,” Antonio said, coming up to grab his shoulders in an intimate gesture of friendship. “¿Como estás, amigo?

Bueno, Tony. Muy bueno. How is your family?”

“Growing,” Carter answered for him with a grin. “His third is on the way–which makes your arrival perfectly timed. Are you looking for work, man? We could use you for a couple of months. We’ve got six new grad students and he wants paternity leave.”

“Congratulations.” Apparently, human men had grown a new interest in their progeny. Or Antonio wanted time off. His gaze drifted again to the woman. She listened to something her friend said, then glanced his way, studying him with apparent interest.

“I’ve got some time,” he said without a thought to the caution he’d promised himself.

“Join us for breakfast. I’ll introduce you and then we can talk.”

* * * *

“Beth, are you paying any attention?” Kate poked at her arm, bringing Beth out of her reverie.

The graphic dream had left her dazed. She’d actually checked under her hammock this morning for evidence of her dream lover. Thank God she found none.

“What’s up?” she asked, somewhat annoyed at the intrusion.

Kate nodded her head in the direction of the main building. Carter and Antonio stood talking to a stranger.

“He keeps checking you out,” Kate said.

“And?”

“And, look again. The man belongs on the cover of a romance novel.”

On closer inspection, Beth agreed; he was checking her out. The discovery inspired a rush of interest. Dark-haired, broad-shouldered, tall, his shadowed brow hid his eyes from this distance, but the chiseled angle of his jaw, the prominent cheekbones, exuded masculinity. The dream came to mind. Heat rose to her face. She had to turn away, hoping he didn’t notice.

“They’re coming this way,” Kate whispered.

Beth busied herself with her breakfast to avoid looking at the three men as they settled at the other end of the long table. Mrs. Carter came out balancing three plates of food and a second pot of coffee. Once the men were served, Carter clinked a fork against the side of his coffee cup to get their attention.

“Kids, this is Carlos Elizandro, the ranger in this part of the forest. He’s pretty autonomous since he covers a huge territory. We haven’t seen him in a few years, so he’s going to make up for his neglect by giving us a couple of months. He’ll be your guide until Antonio gets back. Introduce yourselves when you get a chance. Beth, Kate, Richard, Sam, I’m hoping to send you out to do some collecting as soon as Carlos and I get everything settled–maybe as early as tomorrow.”

At last, Beth had a legitimate reason to look. When he turned his gaze in her direction, the breath caught in her throat. She’d expected dark eyes, but his were light, hazel, almost golden. Her heart skipped a beat.

“This is Beth,” Kate said boldly. “I’m Kate. Richard, Sam, David, Jean-Paul, all accounted for. We’re glad to have you, Carlos.”

Carlos smiled shyly at them all. Beth put his age at about thirty–young to be responsible for what amounted to a section of wilderness half the size of Rhode Island, most accessible only on foot.

“How well do you know the area?” Beth asked. He couldn’t have been at the job long.

“Well enough,” he said, eyeing his plate as if he hadn’t eaten in a week.

Avoiding me? Of course, he might just be very shy. Which has its own appeal, she thought, lips curled into a grin.

“No worry, Beth,” Antonio said. “Carlos knows this jungle better than anyone. I wouldn’t leave you in any but the most capable hands. Carlos, Beth had an encounter with a jaguar the other day at Rio Sardinal.”

Carlos glanced up, expectantly. The hazel eyes were disconcerting on someone so dark.

“Melanistic,” she said, ill at ease, “young, watching from the tree line.” Antonio would bring up the cat.

His scrutiny made her squirm. “I know this cat. He is shy of people–not dangerous. Still, fortunate for you he wasn’t hungry.”

Beth nodded, praying he didn’t question her further. She couldn’t take much more of that intense regard without melting to her seat.

Sitting back with her coffee, she held her other questions and left them alone to eat their now-cold breakfast. Her gaze kept returning to Carlos. More often than not, he was glancing her way out of the corners of his eyes while savoring each bite as though it was fois gras and truffles instead of eggs and bacon.

When his tongue slid out to clean a bit of egg from the corner of his mouth, her eyes fixed on his movement, hypnotized by the act of bringing food to his lips, pausing to smell, sliding the fork between his teeth slowly, relishing every morsel. And with each bite, it seemed, he glanced her way. Until, after one of those bites, his gaze lingered and the expression on his face made her feel like his next.

Her dream lover’s hungry kisses stared back at her. Embarrassed to have been caught gawking, Beth picked up her tray and left.

* * * *

The following morning, they all met at the Jeep after an early breakfast. The faded light of dawn had just begun to seep through the canopy.

“You have all brought something for getting wet?” Carlos reminded them. Carter told him these four had arrived only two weeks ago and had not traveled as far from the compound as he had in mind. Many things needed to be taken into account when hiking a jungle trail. The unremitting dampness was one they’d have to get used to, but this morning’s trip included a soaking. “There is no electric dryer where we are going.”

Each nodded his assent as they piled into the Jeep. The one called Kate brazenly opened her shirt to show him the swimsuit she had on beneath, then laughed at his surprise.

He returned her smile. He was not so out of his element that he’d misinterpret a bit of playfulness. The disorientation he’d lived with since walking into the compound yesterday had begun to fade–except around Beth.

Carlos slid behind the wheel and paused, staring at the unfamiliar configuration on the dash. “What is all this?” he muttered, already unsure his foot would remember how to use a clutch after so long. He didn’t need all these dials and gauges.

Beth leaned over him from the back seat and started naming them all.

“All you need to worry about is RPMs and fuel,” she said. Her hand gently gripped his shoulder. One supple breast grazed his upper arm. Hot breath brushed his cheek. When he turned to her, she met his eyes with a smile. “You do know how to drive, don’t you?”

The scent of vanilla and heat wafted over him. He swallowed and turned back to the wheel.

“Sure.” How could he resist a woman as willing as this? He couldn’t quite remember why he should want to.

The Jeep slipped into gear with little effort and took off with only a few lurches, then smoothed out. Now all he had to accomplish was to stay on the road. He could handle that.

Even in the half-light of dawn, her presence in his peripheral vision distracted him. Every time her gaze fell on him, its heat seared the back of his neck. And she watched him constantly, as she had all day yesterday.

Last night, her scent had carried to him across the compound. With his man’s intellect, Carlos resisted the temptation to cross to her room and take what he wanted, but the cat–well, the cat had his own thoughts on the matter. Carlos dreamed of her again, but woke unsatisfied and restless this morning.

Even now that scent tore at his mind as all the blood rushed to his groin. Better not to look, but knowing her eyes were on him, and knowing her scrutiny to be the source of her heat, made looking unnecessary. She wanted him, and unless she did something to change his mind, he would not be able to resist her for long.

Perhaps he should take what she offered and hope in the end only his heart suffered.

The road ended two hours from the camp. They proceeded on foot. The four were not quiet walkers. Though they kept their voices low, the constant chatter drowned the peaceful sounds of the jungle and raised the raucous cries of angry howlers.

They reached the ford by ten as planned.

Catch Chapter 3 next time.

Thanks for reading.
ali
www.a-katz.com
http://practicalkatz.blogspot.com

Purchase

For Kindle @ Amazon.com

For other readers (.epub) @ Goodreads

and, oh, if you’ve already read, a couple stars would be appreciated. Better yet, stars and a review 🙂



December 17, 2010

Stick To Your Guns by DH Starr

Filed under: New Release — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
Tags: , , ,

When I wrote Meant For Each Other, I had this story to tell about two kids who figured out they were in love at the last possible moment before one of them moved across the country. They reunite 15 years later, both in unhappy relationships and both still pining for one another.

As I wrote the story, I was exploring my own ideas of fidelity, true love, the pain of admitting when a long-term relationship is over…in short, the very real and painful experiences that we, as humans, go through despite gender or sexuality. At the same time, I celebrated the joys of finding the right person, the one who makes your world brighter and more colorful.

Once I finished writing, I was convinced that I had a story which was emotionally poignant albeit a bit angsty…but angst is a normal part of human relationships as well. I submitted it to several of the bigger name publishing houses and received several positive and specific rejections stating that the story was relationship heavy and plot light. They made many suggestions on how I might be able to beef up the plot to make the storyline more compelling (which I translated into more standard). While I have written stories that have strong action-oriented plots (in fact I have one coming out soon), this particular story I didn’t want to change.

That’s when I came across Ai Press, a new publishing house. Sedonia Guillone saw the promise of my story and contracted it. Together we honed the story. As a seasoned author, she was able to guide me to maintain the focus on relationships and how they evolve while also maintaining a strong story element as well. What has resulted is a book which, to my great pleasure and surprise, has turned out to be quite popular, receiving many wonderful reviews and, so I am told, pretty good sales.

It’s not that sales that I was going for, it was the story that I wanted to tell. I could have altered it and had it contracted much sooner by a publishing house that is well established, but in this case, I didn’t want to change the story. By sticking to my guns and remaining loyal to Craig and Jeremy, I am proud of the product and thrilled that there are plenty of people out there who have enjoyed the journey.

There is an author in my crit group who has embodied this philosophy, remaining true to her characters and stories. When a publishing company finally smartens up and contracts her works, he erotic romance reading community is in for a real treat.

My advice to authors is don’t compromise your vision for a story unless a new vision sits well with you. To everyone I share this story as a valuable lesson. While many times we may believe in something that we have done or produced but others do not see the value that we see, every once in a while, you find that connection with the right person or place who sees the magnificence of what you have to offer. The feeling is worth the anxiety of the wait.

Below is a snapshot of the book I have written about above. I hope the blurb and excerpt interest you and, if you choose to purchase the book, that you can relate to the experiences of the main characters.

Thanks for taking the time to read this posting.

DH Starr
http://www.dhstarr.com

Meant For Each Other

A contemporary erotic romance

Buy Link

Blurb

Sometimes your first love is the one that was meant to be.

Craig Harper and Jeremy Finn were best friends growing up. They attended the same school, spent all of their time together, and hung out with the same group of people. It wasn’t until the day before Jeremy and his family moved across the country that they discovered their attraction to one another.

Fifteen years later, they reunite by chance in New York City. Both are in relationships and have established a routine in their lives. But routines and relationships are shaken as they begin to spend time together once again. Old feelings and connections are still strong and the passion that pulls them together is a powerful, soul-searing call neither man can deny.

As each deals with the issues in their own relationships, they begin to question whether the comfort of what they know is more powerful than the pull of what they could have been…and what they might become. Struggling to find the answer, only their hearts can reveal if they are meant for each other.

Excerpt – Rated R

Craig spent the rest of the day walking around the room, helping kids with their work. Finally, at dismissal, when the last kid had been picked up, Jeremy took Craig back inside. “You have a natural way with the kids. They adore you.”

Happiness flooded Craig at the compliment. “Well, they’re kind of hard not to love. They’re so cute and damn if they aren’t smart as hell too.” I can’t believe how a simple compliment from him causes my heart to race. “So, we have a couple of hours to kill before we’re supposed to meet the boys downtown at The Bulls and Bears.”

Jeremy walked over to the far corner of the room and stood in front of a bulletin board covered with student work. Craig followed him. “Are these the stories your kids wrote?”

“Yeah. I’ve left spaces next to each one for their pictures.” Jeremy kept his eyes focused on the board as he spoke. “I’ve never had anyone take an interest in my class before. No one. I mean my parents ask about school and Andrew listens to my stories, but you really care about the kids.”

Craig watched Jeremy as he continued to inspect the wall, surprised to find the flush had moved from his neck to his cheeks. When Jeremy turned to face him, two smoldering eyes caught him in a lust-filled gaze. Before he had a chance to speak, Jeremy grabbed him and gave him a fierce kiss. Unable to resist, not wanting to, Craig wrapped his arms around Jeremy and kissed him back, opening his mouth to Jeremy’s invading tongue.

They remained together for several minutes, gripping each other as the intensity of their kiss increased and their straining erections pressed against each other through the fabric of their pants.

The wall connected with Craig’s back and Jeremy leaned his body even tighter, to create more pressure and friction. Craig allowed him to take charge, his own hands carelessly running along lateral muscles and resting on Jeremy’s waist.

Jeremy’s hands were far from gentle. He wrapped one hand behind Craig’s neck and pulled him close, sealing their lips together in a fervent kiss. His other hand worked its way inside Craig’s shirt, lightly pinching the sensitive nipple, rolling the nub of flesh between his thumb and forefinger and leaving Craig helpless to do anything but enjoy.

When Jeremy ended the kiss, they both stood panting for a moment, simply staring at each other.

Craig was the first to speak. “Jesus, Jeremy. What if someone saw us?”

Jeremy laughed. “They couldn’t. See, the door is on this wall and we’re standing in the corner here. They would have to come into the room to catch us and no one ever comes in once school lets out.”

“But—”

“I know. I’m sorry. I just can’t help myself when I’m around you. And watching you interact with my kids and the way you understand me and what I do…it’s a huge turn on. You have no idea how good it makes me feel to know you appreciate what I do.” Jeremy’s lips were red and swollen from their kisses, making them appear even more pouty and kissable. Since it was obvious that his cock was tenting his pants, Craig didn’t bother hiding as he reached into the front and readjusted himself. Jeremy laughed and did the same.

“Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy kissing you, but you’re with Andrew and I’m with Robert.”

Jeremy finished tucking his shirt back into his pants, his skin returning to a normal pallor. “I know. We’re going to have to work harder at controlling ourselves. Let’s say we’re even. You pulled me into a kiss the other day. I initiated this one.”

Craig had to work to suppress a laugh, the thought of them competing to see who could trap the other in the most compromising kiss caused all his work at readjusting himself to be undone. “This isn’t a competition, Jeremy.”

Jeremy shuffled from foot to foot. “I like kissing you.”

Four words, four very dangerous words which could make the difference between a lasting friendship, or losing one forever. Craig held Jeremy’s gaze. “Maybe we should grab a bite to eat before meeting the guys.”

Jeremy nodded, grabbed his things, and led Craig outside. The fresh air helped to dissipate the heat between them and made regular conversation easier. “Do you like Thai food?” Jeremy’s voice had returned to its normal cheerful tone.

December 15, 2010

Furbabies and Writers by Cherise Sinclair

Filed under: Writing life — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
Tags: , , , ,

Why your human writers should include pets in their stories

–an instructional article for fellow felines by the Calico – aka She Who Rules

I’ve been supervising my human’s reading material recently. I’m distressed at how many stories lack the most important characters of all–the pets. Yes, I realize that animals should be charitable toward their human’s short-sighted natures–after all, they can’t even see in the dark–nonetheless, a book should reflect the world, and in America, over sixty percent of American households contain a pet.

So why have I found books where none of the major characters own a cat or even–if they must display such poor taste–a dog? Truly, humans do need direction.

Being of a literary nature, I have assisted my human with this simple task. She tends to start off a story with boring humans…the hero, the heroine, and various two-legged friends. Bleah. If she continues with her narrow-minded plotting too long, I put my paw down. Usually no more is needed. Remember to show patience; use claws only if your human ignores to ignore a mild admonition. Disembowelment for a first offense is excessive. (yes, I’m talking about you, Mittens)

Below, I will list several ways in which an animal brings a story to life, so you can instruct your human. As kittens learn best by watching it done correctly, I will also provide examples for you.

To enhance a personality: Have you even noticed how two-dimensional some humans *cough* I mean, characters–can be? As I’ve shown Cherise, having a hero own a pet adds another, very appealing dimension. For example, in Club Shadowlands, Master Z appears like this:

Smooth black hair, silvering at the temples, just touching his collar. Dark gray eyes with laugh lines at the corners. A lean, hard face with the shadow of a beard adding a hint of roughness. He wore tailored black slacks and a black silk shirt that outlined hard muscles underneath. If Ben was a Rottweiler, this guy was a jaguar, sleek and deadly.”

[As an aside, I rather liked the above comparison–Cherise thought of it all by herself. I was quite proud and brought her a wonderful helping of nice, warm mouse guts to reward her. Please note that it’s almost as important to reward a two-legger as it is to reprimand her. ]

So, we now have a rich, good-looking human. Nice enough writing, but we can do better. Add in a feline to give him a history and a soft heart:

“Ah, about time. I was wondering if you were going to make an appearance,” Sir said to the cat, kneeling to pet it. He looked up. “May I introduce Galahad?”

“Galahad?” she said in disbelief. That had to be the biggest and ugliest cat she’d ever seen, and she’d seen some monsters at the shelter.

“He’s a very chivalrous fellow.”

Jessica knelt on the floor and held out a finger to be delicately sniffed. In approval, the cat nudged her hand, curveted closer to be petted. “You must be quite a fighter.” She frowned at the chewed-on ears and scarred nose.

“He’s been with me about five years, ever since I found him raiding the garbage cans. He was big then, has grown even more since.”

She would never have picked him as a person who would adopt a stray cat. She didn’t know him at all, did she?

To liven up a thinking scene: How often are there tedious scenes where the characters are simply sitting and thinking? Not even grooming–appalling, isn’t it? It’s much more interesting if the heroine has a pet to give her some advice since, face it, humans are notoriously lacking in common sense.

Even if Jake had come, she wasn’t going to roll over like an idiot dog who’d love a person no matter how badly he treated it. She stopped beside Mufasa. “I’m no dog—I’m a cat. Kick me and I’ll walk away, right, Mufasa?”

A furry head butted her leg in agreement.

To improve descriptions: Do the descriptions of hero or heroine lack a certain oomph? Comparing an animal to a human can be revealing. I fear the human usually comes off less appealing than the pet, but, as I’ve said before, stories should be based on reality.

Here’s Logan from Master of the Mountain:

“Right.” She forced her feet forward, one hard-won step after another. Where was the dog? As the man behind the desk shook hands with Matt, Rebecca checked the floor. There. Standing beside the man, it looked huge, with dark brown fur and a darker muzzle. It stared at her, and she heard another rumble.

“Thor,” the man said, his low voice almost a match for the dog’s. “Down.”

The dog flattened to the floor. It never stopped looking at her, though.

“Rebecca, eyes on me, not the dog.” The deep, rough voice broke her free, and she turned to the owner. He looked as mean as his dog, with steel blue eyes in a deeply tanned face—a ruthless face decorated with a day-old beard and a white scar below his left cheekbone. After handing her a pen, he tapped the paper in front of him. “Name and address. Signature on the release.”

My human does struggle sometimes against my gentle direction. For example, she’d planned a simple Dom finds sub in his private dungeon-type story. Very straight-forward–can we say boring? I pointed out that the plot needed a reason for the rich Dominant to have a middle-class submissive in his home. After a little prodding and effort on my part (tail-lashings, ignoring her presence, hacking up hairballs) Cherise gave in. She came up with a rather brilliant reason: to take care of the owner’s dog. I did feel it was a shame she used a dog, but logical–no self-respecting feline would need a babysitter.

So the heroine became a veterinarian, and that led to a fine parade of animals through the story. I did have to throw a hissy fit to get a feline added. Really, a cat can enhance the showing of a character’s problems and back story far better than any drooling canine. Here’s Mac and Alex in The Dom’s Dungeon:

To top off the wreck of her day, she heard footsteps. Alex was home.

And this wasn’t her home. What was I thinking?

Her stomach sank. He’d probably order her right out of his house. The clawing worry in her stomach duplicated the tiny claws digging into her forearm. The kitten had seen Butler.

“Easy, kitling,” she murmured. “I don’t think he eats cats.” But she didn’t know, now did she? “Butler,” she said firmly. “Behave.” She turned so the cat was out of the dog’s sight and vice versa.

Alex walked around the corner with that easy grace and power, and her heart did that funny dip like it did every time she saw him. Maybe she had a heart condition.

“How did the day go?” he asked; then his eyes narrowed, and he moved forward. “What’s wrong, little vet?”

Caught. Caught dead to rights. When she was a kid, she’d rescued a half-starved puppy and brought it to the foster home. Arlene had thrown it out. “This is my home, not yours.” That night, Mac had sneaked out and found the puppy still in the front yard. So little. All bones and big eyes. She’d carried him across town to the animal rescue and cried all the way back. You would think she’d have learned.

Of course, Alex liked animals. Maybe… Her stomach tightened, and she looked down. Anything to avoid his eyes. This was Alex’s home. Not hers. If he liked cats, he’d have one.

He huffed a laugh, and she looked up in time to get a firm kiss on her lips. “I’m not sure which of you is shaking harder,” he murmured, disengaging the kitten’s claws with an easy competence. “Butler, lie down,” he ordered absently when the dog’s approach triggered a tiny hiss.

“I’m sorry,” Mac whispered, looking at the antique furnishings. “It’s just for tonight, and then I’ll try to find him a home. He was in the middle of Mercer Street, and I couldn’t leave him. If you don’t want him in the house, then…” Maybe she could sneak him into a motel.

He gave her a puzzled look. “MacKensie, if you could have left a kitten in the middle of the road, then you aren’t the woman I thought you were.”

See? Now didn’t that add a lot to MacKensie’s and Alex’s characters?

Finally, a word of warning. If and when pets get added into stories, do NOT let your human forget them. All too often an appealing pet appears in a story, but, as the idiotic author gets wrapped up in the romance, the animal disappears. Excuse my hissing, but that’s as disgusting as when a two-legger forgets mealtimes.

I realize the sacrifice I’m asking you all to make, but my friends, it’s imperative to keep an eye on your human writers. For example, Cherise once tried to write a story without consulting me, and obviously needed closer supervision. So I now spend my days warming my paws on her lap. She’s learned to type with one arm pinned under my body–even old humans can be taught new tricks–and if she doesn’t remember to pet me in repayment for my dedication to duty, I flick my tail against the screen. (Have you ever noticed how effective a tail is when used on the tailless? Be sure to teach this to your kittens.)

Well, if you’ll excuse us, I believe this article can come to an end. And I need to reward my human for her dedication to duty. Hmm. Perhaps I’ll let her feed me some of that chicken she cooked last night.

For the latest on what Cherise is up to visit her website

December 13, 2010

Tom’s Story Continued–Chapter Five by Debbie Vaughan

Filed under: New Release — dangerouslysexy @ 04:00
Tags: , , , ,

Just in case you need to catch up click on

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four

I had never seen Mariska panic. She paced from wardrobe to valise, packing my meager garments with care.

Having come to her with only the tattered shirt on my back, I never thought to ask where the remainder of my clothing had originated. I could probably have come to some conclusions on my own, but I chose not to dwell of it, then or now. I caught her arm as she passed. “Hold. I have to be able to close the bag, sweetheart– and the horse to carry it.”

She paused to stare at the case as if only seeing it for the first time, closed her eyes and shook her head. Continuing to fold the shirt in her hands, she sat on the bed next to me. “I only delay our conversation Thomas, which is wrong of me. But I will miss you so.”

“Then come with me.” I watched her eyes for a sign and saw only resolution. Whatever had been plaguing her mind since the general’s visit, she had come to a decision.

“I cannot Thomas, for more reasons than we have time for me to explain.” She took my hand in both of hers then, gazed deeply into my eyes. “I would beg a pledge from you, but be warned; the vow will be hard to keep.”

“Anything,” I answered without reservation or thought. She smiled.

“Do not make another.” She placed a finger on my lips. “It sounds simple, but as your life runs on, you will be tempted. Do not give in. Find love where you can. Human life is precious and fleeting, but by turning them you will almost certainly extinguish the very thing you love, their humanity. Do you understand?”

“No, I don’t. I love you and you aren’t human and yet are more so than most people I have known. If you had not told me different, I would never have believed we were the same as those others. Surely there are more– can be more– like us?”

She caressed my cheek, a sad smile on her lips. “Oh, Thomas, you love me yes, but not in the way a man should love the woman of his heart. I understand because I feel the same. You are a strong, passionate man. You will find your true love, perhaps many times. I will give my heart to only one, but he has always been enough.” Her hand clutched the rosary around her neck.

“You talk as if I won’t be back. This mission will take at best, three months and most of that on the seas.”

I was to travel to Istanbul and find a certain gentleman in power and remove him. He was an Englishman selling British secrets to the Turks. My orders were to bring him over or to kill him. He was a spy, why would they want him a vampire? Dead he would no longer be a threat and the vow I was about to make to Mariska would hold.

“Just to be clear, these missions they send me on– no matter my orders– I should kill rather than turn them vampire?”

She squared her shoulders and her eyes met mine. “Yes, Thomas, that is exactly what I ask, but, if you find them other than you have been told and can save them, do so. You cannot trust your superiors as you well know. Can you promise me this?”

I sort of enjoyed the idea of disobeying that pompous ass of a general as well as making my own determination as to who was worthy to live or doomed to die. “I swear it.”

She breathed a heavy sigh, relief evident in her face. “Thank you Thomas.”

My chest tightened and eyes grew moist as I looked down at her.

“You have but eight hours of darkness remaining. You should leave now.” She brushed her lips on mine.

I crushed her to me, turned and walked to the door before the blood fell from my eyes. I paused on the threshold without turning, then blurted, “That ass was joshing about the rats?”

“Blood is life to us Thomas—any blood, from a living vessel. If a rat keeps you from revealing what you are or taking a human life, that is good, yes?”

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December 10, 2010

Sex, Sin and Surf by Lauren Fraser

Available today from Ellora’s Cave. Sex, Sin and Surf by Lauren Fraser

Blurb

Holidays are all about relaxation. And what better way to relax than with a hot holiday fling?

On vacation in Mexico with her two best friends, forty-one-year-old Celeste Kopp vows to break out of her middle-aged rut and live life to the fullest. Taking surf lessons is on the top of her to do list. However, when she meets sexy surf instructor Ben, the idea of a holiday fling with a younger man becomes the only thing on her list.

Ben is more than willing to live out Celeste’s fantasies as well as a few of his own. But their holiday romance turns out to be more than either of them bargained for when the connection between them deepens. Being with Celeste forces Ben to deal with his own baggage in a way he never expected.

As the vacation draws to a close, Celeste realizes she wants so much more from Ben than a holiday fling, but can she convince him that their future together is worth the risk?

Excerpt

“I don’t think you should kick his ass,” he told her. His husky, lightly accented voice slid over her body, caressing her with its sexy cadence.

Surfer god stepped around the counter and shot the kid a fierce look before he eased the boy out of the way. “Sorry about him. What can I help you with? You ladies interested in learning to surf?”

“Well…” Nancy grumbled.

“Which is easier to learn, surfing or paddle boarding?” Celeste asked before her friends could change their minds.

“That depends really. A lot of people find the paddleboard a bit easier because they have something to hold onto for balance.”

Celeste stared at him, unable to speak. His English was flawless, with almost an American rhythm to it, but everything about his body language said Latin American.

Realizing she was staring at him like an idiot, she smiled. “Okay, well maybe we’ll start with that.”

She turned to glance at her friends. Focused on the surf god in front of them, it hadn’t registered on the two women that Celeste had turned around. Celeste bit back a laugh. God, they were like a bunch of dirty old ladies ogling the man. He was just a baby, probably not much older than his early twenties. “Any chance you guys have lessons or something since we’ve never done this before?”

“We can certainly help you out. When did you want to go out?”

“Tomorrow sometime?”

He pulled out a day-planner from under the counter and flipped it open to the next day. “Do you have a preference if your instructor is a male or a female?”

Hell, if they were going to humiliate themselves, they could at least enjoy the view while they did so. Celeste rested her elbows on the counter. “Any chance you could give us a lesson?”

She couldn’t be sure which one of her friends gasped. But if forced to guess, odds were the outraged noise had to have come from Nancy. Screw it. This was her holiday, and she was going to enjoy it

His gaze flickered over her shoulder, amusement lingered in his eyes before he turned his attention back to Celeste. The look on his face quickly changed, a slow sexy smile eased across his face. He rested his elbows on the counter, his face inches from hers. “I could probably teach you a few things tomorrow afternoon.”

Her nipples beaded tightly beneath her bathing suit. Without breaking eye contact, she licked her lips. “That sounds perfect. What time works for you?”

A strong nudge to her hip forced her to look away from the man and toward her friends. Nancy glared down at her. Celeste wrinkled her eyebrows and mouthed, “What?” Nancy’s jaw clenched tightly as she stared back at her. Clearly, Nancy wasn’t on board with the whole relaxation and trying something new experience yet. Rolling her eyes, Celeste stood up. “Right, so what time tomorrow for our lesson?”

He laughed. “You’re on vacation, ladies, Mexican time. We’re a little more relaxed here on the beach. Do you plan to take a siesta during the day?”

“Not that I know of.”

“All right, well, the waves are pretty tame mid-day so why don’t you come down after you finish your lunch, maybe around one p.m.? I’ll take you out then.”

Nancy stepped closer to the counter and asked, “So our appointment is for one p.m.?”

Surfer god laughed. “Around then, yes.”

Nancy growled, which made Celeste and Sarah laugh until she turned her glaring stare to them. Celeste coughed to cover her amusement. “Sorry, Nance. Tomorrow around one-ish works just fine for us.”

“But…” Nancy stammered. Not giving her a chance to speak, Sarah pushed Nancy toward the door of the shop.

“What’s your name?” Surfer god asked.

“Celeste.”

He grinned and wrote her name in the book. “Celeste. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He nodded his head toward her friends. “Your friend needs to have a couple more margaritas to get her in the holiday spirit.”

Celeste laughed. “She already did.”

He snorted and shook his head. “I’m Ben by the way.” He grabbed a business card from the counter. “Call if you need to make any changes to the lessons.”

“Oh, I won’t.”

“I didn’t think you would, but I imagine your friends might.”

“Nope, they’ll be here too.”

“All right then, I will see all three of you tomorrow.”

“Great, sounds good,” Celeste said. Turning, she herded her friends toward the entrance.

Celeste walked by a rack of t-shirts and glanced back. Ben was watching her ass as she left. She turned back around, a smile on her face. She still had it. She added a little extra sway to her hips as she left the store.

Once she stepped onto the beach, she kicked off her shoes and strolled down to the water. Her friends immediately joined her. “What were you thinking flirting with that guy?” Nancy demanded.

“What do you mean? I thought we were on holidays. Weren’t you the one who said a little holiday romance would be good for me?”

“I did, but he’s so young.”

“He might be young, but he sure seemed interested in Celeste,” Sarah piped in. “And damn, if a man who looked like that even glanced my way, I would be all over him in a heartbeat.”

Celeste glanced back over her shoulder to the shop. “He was damn sexy, wasn’t he? Mmm.”

Nancy shook her head. “Just don’t make a fool of yourself.”

“Oh relax, Mom, I’m not going to do anything stupid.”

Sarah hip bumped Nancy. “Drop it, let’s just move on. We’re here to relax and have fun. Think of it like Vegas. What happens in Sayulita stays in Sayulita.”

“Sounds good to me,” Celeste said. “Let’s go explore the beach.”

A shell caught her eye and she bent down to pick it up. Celeste trailed her finger over the beautiful pink swirls before sticking the shell in her purse. Glancing down the beach, she spotted a cute little restaurant.

“Let’s get some drinks,” she said to her friends and plopped down onto a lounge chair in front of one of the many beachfront restaurants. This holiday was all about relaxation and enjoyment and if she stood a chance with Ben, she planned to make the most of it.

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