Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday Musings and Mumblings

This is my birthday week. One day during the next week, I'll turn 68. A young 68, you understand. On my birthday, I'll be seeing a lazic surgeon about removal of a cataract. One of those old-age things. Pffftttt.

Instead of dwelling, I'd like to impart a lesson I've learned on those younger than I. If you have a dream, make it happen. Now! Now while you're in your younger years. Don't wait until your sixties like I did. We all know the saying, "Follow your dreams." I don't really like it. I'd followed mine for nearly fifty years...a lot of good that did me.

No, instead, I say "State your dreams, then live your life so bodaciously that they have to work like hell to keep up with you."

My first published book was in 2011. Since then, I've published nine more books plus six novellas. I've moved from a smaller publisher to one of the Big Five. I'm preparing to self-publish books I've gotten rights back to. I have other goals. Goals I'm almost embarrassed to share for they make me seem better than I really am. It's just I'm living my life bodaciously...at least until my dreams catch up.

One does have to maintain a degree of practicality when stating his or her dreams. For example, I'd enjoy being an obstetrician, bringing new babies into the world. But since I can't handle the sight of a knife cutting flesh, I could never perform Caesarians. Poof. There goes that dream or any thought of being a surgeon. I don't have the natural inclination. I was born with a queasy stomach. I could never be a rocket scientist since looking at a math formula freezes my brain quicker than a large bowl of ice cream. I lack that natural inclination.

So, what are your dreams? The thing in the secret part of your soul you feel you MUST do to be truly happy? Is it a practical one for you and your natural inclinations? Forget whether an expert says you have talent or not. How many experts have been proven wrong? Sometimes we just have to listen to the outcries of our soul. What it longs to do. What it requires to flourish.

Don't put it off. Don't allow other's opinions or expectations of what you should be doing instead stand in your way. Live your life bodaciously, work hard so your dreams have to scramble to keep up.

You might be surprised with what you can achieve.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday's Fantasies

Most romance writers find pictures of their hero and heroine that closely resemble how they mentally see them. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't. You get this picture in your head  while you write the book of how your hero will look.

In HERS TO HEAL, book two of my "Black Eagle Ops" series, my hero wore a prosthesis to replace his arm blown off below his bicep. He was six foot three, ripped, hazel eyes and a light brown mane of hair like a lion that he sometimes wore in a man bun. He had facial hair. And a tattoo which had a dual meaning--one Greek and one more personal. Internally, he was a complex man of many layers.

That's what I fantasized, anyhow. Here's what my publisher gave me...


My publisher  hasn't written a blurb yet. The book doesn't release until November 21st. But I will share the opening scene of the book...Chapter One....
Reece Browning hated everything.
He hated that he was no longer a SEAL in Team 5, that he only had one arm, and that he’d mentally changed into a person he barely recognized.  He hated wearing a prosthetic arm, which was why he kept throwing it away. And he positively hated how his physical therapist kept carrying the damned arm back in, cleaning it up, and standing over him like a mouthy Marine drill sergeant until Reece reattached it.
What he really detested was that she was a former Marine—a willowy, blonde, brown-eyed, opinionated, ballsy ex-Marine by the name of Gina Wilson. Who, right at this moment, had her powerful hands on his bare ass, giving his wounded muscles and resulting scars one hellacious massage.
Okay, so maybe he didn’t hate this part so much.
“This should take care of some of the pain in your sciatic nerve. Once I’m through, I’ll put an ice pack on it. Keep it there for twenty minutes.”
He grunted in response.
“A word of warning: If I come here tomorrow and you’re not wearing that arm, I’m going to shove it up your ass, Reece. Our goal is to make you as functional as you were before you lost your real arm. Yes, it'll take some time and hard work, but the benefits will far outweigh the efforts. You're not afraid of pushing yourself, are you?”
"Hell no!" Hadn't he pushed himself through every hellish day of BUD/S, placing twenty-sixth in a group of two-hundred and nine who'd earned their Tridents? Initially, there had been a thousand hopeful sailors who'd embarked on the intense six-month training program to become SEALs. He knew more about pushing himself than this physical therapist ever would. 

Refusing to give her anything more to harp about, he mentally turned her off and stared at the green wall of his room. His mind drifted. Early in the mornings, in the soft sunlight, the green reminded him of a stalk of celery in a strong, spicy Bloody Mary—his late mother’s favorite drink. Wasn’t it strange as hell how his mind now worked? His mom’s dying words as pancreatic cancer consumed her were, “God, I could use a Bloody Mary.” He hoped they had an open bar in heaven. She’d be drunk as hell if she could see him now.
“Either that or I’m going to program your arm so the fingers clamp onto your penis if you try to remove the prosthesis before nine at night.”
Gina’s persistent yapping invaded his earlier thoughts of losing his mother. Tomorrow would be two years since she’d gotten her angel wings.
“It’s been you and me every day for three weeks, and I’ve had to do all the talking. Three weeks of listening to myself breaking the silence. I gotta tell ya, you have a very limited vocabulary…a male grunt, ‘no,’ and ‘hell no.’ Oh, and let’s not forget your favorite, ‘fuck you.’ You know, just to see if you’d verbally react, I’d say you have a nice ass,” her fingertips lightly caressed his flesh, instantly making him harder than the barrel of an M-4 Carbine, “but then you’re all ass.”
She was goading him. 

And, hell, he hated being goaded.
“Now I know why your SEAL brothers nicknamed you Steelhead. Damned if you aren’t the most stubborn man I’ve ever met.”
He smiled into the white sheet on the king-sized bed.
“Guess what my nickname was in the Corps?” She slapped his ass and his eyes popped open. “Just guess!”
Motor Mouth? Lip smacker? Talk-n-Plenty?
She began making small circles on his butt cheeks with her thumbs for a deep tissue massage. God, he did not like this part at all. Her first few rotations forced him to suck air and tense his legs.
“Can’t think of an answer?” She leaned over so her breasts pressed against his t-shirt. “Thumbs of Bitchin’ Steel. Tobs, for short,” she whispered in his ear and then straightened to press harder with her steely thumbs.
Kee-ryst! No fake.
When his former Commander Zane Quinlan known simply as ZQ, started talking to Reece about coming to Eagle Ridge Ranch to heal in peace and quiet, away from the noise and nonsense of the world’s fast pace, he’d eventually acquiesced. He hadn’t counted on Gina…Motor Mouth…Bitchin’ whatever. He sneered into the bed. He loved this ranch. Her, not so much. No matter how physically attracted he was to her. And wasn’t that a bitch?
Part of his decision to come to the Hill Country of Texas rested on former team members staying on or near ZQ’s twenty-two-thousand acre ranch and the camaraderie they still shared. That, and his love of horses.
Dust, their team’s sniper, was living in Warrior Falls, a small town nearby, with his new wife Kelcee. Dustin Franks had lost part of his leg in Raqqa, Syria.
JJ had been the team’s demolition’s expert, assistant corpsman, and dog handler. Now that Jerryl Jacoby was a civilian, he’d been able to adopt the team’s German shepherd, Ordnance—or Nance, for short. JJ and Nance were both living and working on the ranch.
The team’s beloved service dog had her ear shot off as they’d fought their way through Al Hasakah in Eastern Syria. That’s where Reece had lost his arm above the elbow in one hellacious explosion that pushed the ground away from his boots before it snapped back and bit him in the ass. As he crumpled to the ground, dazed and disoriented by the bomb, radical forces had dashed out of the buildings like armed roaches and taken him prisoner.
For three days, he’d been damn near beaten and tortured to death for information. He’d kept quiet. A SEAL lived to protect his team, his mission, and his country. Every scream, every shudder of pain he’d internalized into a shatterproof reinforcement of the oath he’d taken after BUD/S.
No matter how many times he’d been slashed with knives, whipped with chains, or electrocuted, he hadn’t talked. He’d survived waterboarding in gasping, panicked silence, convinced death was only a waterlogged heartbeat away. His sheer willpower had won against those bastards.
For Nance’s ear, for Dust’s leg, for his arm and the fine line he now walked between sanity and insanity, and for all the women and children Reece had seen beheaded, he hated ISIS with a passion.
His mother had raised him not to hate, to forgive with understanding. Now, hate seemed to plague his soul.
Where there was once light, darkness reigned.
“You’re extra tense today, Reece. Want to talk about it? I’m a good listener.”
He grunted, Gina’s words pulled him back from the edge.
She snapped a chemical ice pack, taped it to his ass, and covered him with a sheet. The bed dipped as she lay beside him. He tensed from his hair tips to his toenails. What the hell is she doing?
“Reece, look at me” Her hand sifted through his hair, an intimate stroke he craved like he craved the rest of his arm, which scared the bejesus out of him. He didn’t want to be attracted, but her silky voice was like a sensual magnet.
She exhaled a long sigh. “Be honest. Is it me you dislike? I want to help you get better and I can’t if you begrudge every word of instruction I give. Do you want me to get you another physical therapist? Because I will. Just say the word.”
He stared at the wall, watched an imaginary crack form and black snakes, with blood red eyes, slither from the crack in vile orange goo. It had taken him months to realize this repetitive horrific sight was all a deranged specter, a part of his PTSD. Now, it barely increased his pulse. While having Gina lying next to him had his heart hammering like machine gun rounds.
What the hell was she thinking getting in bed with him? He was strong enough to overpower her, to assault her. Hell, he was still a man, even with most of an arm gone.
He’d never hurt her on purpose. How could he when her treatments were the high point of his days? His mania fueled by his PTSD was another factor—unpredictable and uncontrollable. Because he could never ignore that unsolicited part of his psyche, he struggled to keep his fascination for her under emotional lock and key.
“Reece.” She tugged on his hair. “Do you want me to quit working with you?”
He inhaled a deep breath and allowed the truth to quietly exhale. “No.” The woman would never know how much that one whispered word of honesty had cost him.

~~ You can pre-order at https://amzn.com/B01CBM44Q0

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Mumblings and Musings

When you're wondering if your writing is up to par, there's nothing like entering a contest to see how you rank. I submitted book two of my "Highlander's Beloved" series--A HIGHLANDER'S PASSION in the paranormal category of the HOLT Medallion Contest. Word of the finalists went out today. And my bear-shifter romance was among them. I was thrilled. Validated. Dancing the happy writer's dance.

Folks, I was feeling my oats, as the old expression goes.

Then I noticed a new review for the book. A two-star did-not-finish review. And there was a wind storm in Lynchburg as the air whooshed out of my ego balloon. I think it was a wake-up call. You're still not writing good enough to please readers. You need to work harder. So, it's back to the drawing board for me.


But we won't dwell on that. I was able to rank in the top few. For that, I'm grateful.

The winner will be notified on June 11th, the day my granddaughter gets married, so I won't be able to attend the luncheon. Just as well. I don't expect to win. I'm just thrilled I finaled.

The really neat thing? Two of my Vixens--my Street Team--finaled, too. And in the SAME category! What are the chances of that? I'm always bragging that I have the most talented Street Team--and I do. I'm surrounded by supportive people. Especially Calvin.

My problem? I'm in a blue mood. I want to try new things but that old rascal self-doubt moved in a couple weeks ago with a three-piece set of luggage. And it doesn't look as if the bugger is moving out anytime soon. I'm beginning to wonder if once this contract is over and my old books are self-published if it won't be time for me to turn off my laptop and call it a day.

I'll be 68 in a week and a half. I'm tired. Writing trends are changing. Reviewers are getting more cruel. My writing career isn't moving forward at the pace I'd hoped. Maybe it's time to make my goals more realistic....and maybe in a few days I'll feel completely different. Who knows? But for right now, my emotions are swinging. I need a vacation, wine, and a girl's time out--and not necessarily in that order.

Write on, my lovelies.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wednesday Writerly Wisdom

I feel rather sanctimonious doling out writing advice. I doubt I have much more to offer than anyone else. What works for one writer might not work for another. After all, our minds all work differently.

I'm finishing up my fourth three-book series. So I thought I'd talk  a little about building and keeping facts straight within a series.

First, let me define what I mean by a series. To me, it's the same as a trilogy. Three books with a similar theme, typically set in the same area, and characters that flow from one book to the other even though each book has a different romantic couple. Each concludes with an HEA. There are no cliff-hangers.

So here are my series.

I've written The Red Hand Conspiracy, romantic suspense set mainly in Paris, dealing with a terrorist group called The Red Hand. This series is off the market right now as I revamp them to self-publish this year--time permitting.

The Wild Heat Series, romantic suspense with dollops of humor set in Clearwater, Florida, dealing with Fire and Marine Rescue Personnel of a top-notch fire station.

The Highlander Beloved Series, paranormal books with hunks in kilts that shift into bears.

Black Eagle Ops Series, set in a small town in the Hill Country of Texas. One of the main characters lives  on Eagle Ridge Ranch and is a former SEALs recuperating from the ravages of fighting ISIS in Syria.

For each series I do the typical thing, open a file named for the series. In it I put all my research in case my editor questions me on something I've written about. For each book, I make up a character list. This also goes into the series file.

The character list includes name, age, education, background, personal habits or dislikes, favorite sayings, and physical description. For minor characters that only appear once or are mentioned a few times, I keep this brief. You'd be surprised how a main character in book one with curly blonde hair has straight brunette hair in book three as a more minor character. Yup, I forget. I have a character list for each book and, for ease, copy and paste what I have for book one into book two and three. Why not use the same list, you might ask. Because I might not use all the characters in every book, everyone ages, plus I'll be introducing more people with each consecutive book.

Originally, I'd put this information into a spreadsheet format. But I found it too time consuming. Now I list each character in order of appearance in the book. My point of view characters names are in red to keep me straight in that department. I list the person's name and info something like this:
REECE MORGAN BROWNING-“STEELHEAD”—28, Light brown  straight hair, almost to shoulders, hazel eyes, 6’1”, one arm missing below bicep, scars on back, doesn’t like to interact with people, and has nightmares and day visions due to PTSD. Mother deceased. Close relationship with dad. Twin, but estranged from brother due to brother’s drug use…has taken over roll of father to his niece in brother’s absence. Two years of college. Loves Greek plays and poetry. Loves working with horses. Likes his Jack Daniels. Enjoys dirty talk during sex. Lives up to his promises. Sings very well.
For a minor character, I keep the description brief.
DR. JUAN RAYMOND—Psychiatrist, expert in PTSD. Wears oblong gold-rimmed glasses.
I also make up a Place and Business List. This is a master list for each series. It includes restaurants, beauty shops, clothing stores, hotels, doctors, schools...whatever my characters might visit or use. By using the same doctor or drug store in each book, it builds consistency and makes the reader feel comfortable with the area. In my Black Eagle Ops series, for example, there is Tillie's Homemade Taffies and Chocolates, known to locals as the house of sin. 

And, of course, the series file contains the manuscript for each book and subsequent edits, blurbs, and tag lines.

When I'm writing, I have three documents open. The manuscript, obviously, the character sheet for the book I'm writing, and my series place and business list. I can easily check things in an instant. My books remain consistent with the small details. Simple organization that pays off during promo when bloggers ask you questions. All your answers will be in one spot.

Do you write series? What tips can you share?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday's Mumblings and Musings

A lot of my writing revolves around my dreams. I suppose sleep time is the only time my ego steps out of the way and allows my mind to work. My edits for book two of "Black Eagle Ops" were done except for inserting chapter one of book three into the back as enticement. No biggie. I was halfway through chapter three and in love with the book so far.

Then my editor called.

We talked about several things. One of which was changing the story of book three from the romance of ZQ, the commander of Black Eagle Ops, and a romance writer to the romance I'd slowly been building for a bi-racial couple. I'd planned JJ and Ashley's romance to develop at a snail's pace since she'd been brutalized by ISIS radicals. Poor Ashley had a lot of healing to do. My goal had been for a happy-for-now ending for them. More than a friendship, but nothing sexual. Now, she's to be the focal point of a romance I feel she's not emotionally strong enough for. Oh goodness, what to do, what to do?

I restarted the book several times. Nothing worked. Last night I was pretty bummed when I went to bed. I'd had a weak start that would work, but nothing fabulous. Early this morning, I woke up from a dream of reading a review..."I don't care what Vonnie Davis writes as long as she starts her story in the middle of the action." I groaned something like "lots of luck with that" and rolled over. At six-thirty I woke up and the beginning to the book, HER FOREVER HERO, was right there ...
Ashley Vogel wasn’t sure which one had swooped down on her too aggressive date first—the Black Angel of Death or his trained war dog. But the man who’d been too stupid to understand the word “No” from her lips suddenly understood “get the hell away from her” when it growled its way up the back of former SEAL Jerryl Jacoby’s throat.


In fact, Ordinance, the service dog better known to members of SEAL Team 5 as Nance, still had an iron-clad jaw grip on John Harris’s ass as he sprinted for his beat up truck. Hell, the man yelled like a sissy just because a German shepherd was teaching him some manners.

Have a great Monday, everyone. My first chapter is done and rewritten twice and off to the editor. There's nothing like allowing your subconscious to work for you.