Galloping Gooses, and I Don’t Mean the Bikers

My daughter and son-in-law are doing a sales circuit in the Northern states, and seeing some beautiful country in the process. Rachel called from Idaho so excited over seeing her first bald eagle in the wild. Deer so different from those in Mississippi while she was in New York. Other fauna and flora exclusive to whichever state they’re in. She even experienced snow in half-dollar sized, feathery flakes. Her latest communication came this morning from Indianapolis, a little bit gripe-y.

When they left here it was supposed to be summer. Being from Michigan myself, I did warn her the term ‘summer’ is relative to each area. She considers 40’s a hard freeze requiring long johns and multiple layers, but after months of 12 to 20 degrees, to some folks 40’s can seem downright balmy. Unless you’re from the South.

The short of this explanation? She’d packed no outer wear for this trip. Needless to say, she had to go jacket shopping. The department store hadn’t opened yet when she drove into town, so she decided to eat breakfast somewhere while she waited.

She settled on a local establishment called The Original Pancake House that advertised crepes. She entertained the wait staff with her enthusiasm for her breakfast, and sent me a shot of her plate, saying she hadn’t had crepes that good since she was a kid and I made them for her from scratch. But the picture of her crepes served a dual purpose.

To prove to me it was worth what she braved to gain the interior of the restaurant.

When she pulled in there were a few Canadian Geese wandering the lot. Never having seen them in the wild, she was as thrilled over them as the bald eagles. She’d never realized just how large they are and clicked a pic or two through the windshield with her phone. When she got out of her car, a few started walking back and forth along the store front as if they owned it. She thought they were adorable, “marching like little soldiers on patrol”. She admitted this new activity made her a little nervous, but since there were people clearly visible through the windows, and they’d braved these same geese to get in there, how bad could it be?

She stepped out of her vehicle, and though they showed a marked–and collective– interest in her activities, they couldn’t be called aggressive. Feeling reasonably confident, she moved to the sidewalk in front of the car. Things went well up right up to the point she hit the button on her keys to set her car alarm.

Her exact words?

“Mama, all I can figure is that high-pitched, double mweep-mweep is ‘f**k you’ in goose! All I know is one second things were fine, and then the next they charged me! All honking and hissing and moving their necks like snakes, chests poked out with their wings flapping and big orange feet slapping the pavement. Mama, those things were chest high on me! Geese ran at me from all directions, and I had no idea where they even came from! It was like they materialized from thin air. I wanted to get back in my car and leave but there were too many of them between me and my door. Then I realized the restaurant door was closer.  Mama, I didn’t care what anybody thought. I ran, screeching for them to get away the whole way!”

Her descriptions had me laughing so hard I was crying. “But those crepes were so worth it, Mama! I’m going to bring Will back there with me for more.” She hesitated the tiniest fraction of time before adding, “But I’m going to make him get out first! If those geese are busy chasing him down, I can get inside un-accosted.”

She made it back to her car after her meal.

She was wise enough to use the key itself to quietly unlock the door. But she is her mother’s daughter, and the alarm was too much to resist completely. Call it an experiment in objectivity.

I can picture that little black sports Mercedes shooting out of the parking lot to disappear down the highway, chased by an angry flock of Canadian Geese flying tight on its tail.

Seems ‘mweep-mweep‘ does mean ‘eff you’ in goose!

Until next time,


PS: Don’t forget tomorrow is our GCCRWA meeting. We welcome visitors, and Patrick is presenting a techie program for us! I’m planning to learn everything I can from him. Hope to see some new faces there. ~R~

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Performing His and Hers Toilettes

Wow. Another week gone already? Silken Sands Writers Conference is coming up fast! March 16-18 will be here before you know it. So just in case you haven’t registered, here’s the link again: .

It’s been an adventurous week here in Runere Land. (That moniker was granted by Jeff Salter, a blog buddy, who has his first book—“The Overnighter’s Secrets”— coming out in April from Astraea Press. Go, Jeff!) Hubby and I have been getting things together for my conference workshop, while having a herd of the grandchildren over. And I use the term ‘herd’ politely. It’s fun, but when they head home I’m left feeling trampled! lol

For starters, instead of echo location, the four year old has candy location radar. Seems I’d dropped a few little wisps of foil while peeling Hershey’s Kisses in my office. And I do mean wisps, because when she said “There’s all kind of candy wrappers over there” (which with her New Orleans accent sounded like “Theah’s awl kinda cyandy wrappahs ovah deah”, and yes, it was so cute I made her repeat it), I looked. Carefully. Nothing. She promptly laid three minute foil flakes in the palm of her hand and shoved them under my nose. Well, huh. They did come from candy wrappers. And I hid the rest of the bag.

Meal time rolled around and I fixed them all plates so they could eat in the living room. Radar Girl looked it over, fixed me with a cool stare, and asked, “What’s for dessert?” I told her, and she immediately pointed to everything on her plate in quick succession, saying, “That’s nasty. That’s nasty. That’s nasty. And that’s nasty. I can’t eat it. Can I have my dessert now?” We butted heads for a few seconds there, me lecturing that dessert does not qualify as a nutritious meal, and she had to empty her plate before she could have any. Tried the ‘you hurt Mawmaw’s feelings’ routine, but got nowhere with it. Finally told her point blank that Mawmaw does not cook nasty food. Had her look around at the others plowing their way through their heaped plates. The only thing that ended our prolonged standoff was her brother trying to stab and steal the pork roast on her plate. I learned defensiveness must improve the flavor of food, because she cleaned her plate!

We shared stories too. Mine was about a friend who’s a rocket scientist. Literally. He and his wife had come for a visit one afternoon, and he went to the bathroom. It wasn’t the length of time he spent in there that was odd; it was the muffled bursts of laughter at twenty second intervals that got to me. He finally poked his head out the door, grinning.

“Hey, it started out I was just trying to be polite,” he began, “but when I nudged the seat down, it drifted down in slow motion. I’ve never seen a toilet seat with a braking system before!” He raised it, and started it on its downward trip, avidly following its turtle mode progress to ‘female usage position’, another burst of hysterical laughter rolling out of him. I was forced to explain we have grandsons in the majority, and when a little guy stumbles in half asleep and forgets to keep a grip on the seat to hold it up, I end up shuddering through a blood-curdling screech an instant after being woken by a loud bang. I’ll admit I’ve gotten pretty good at handing off ice packs one handed, the other covering my eyes so the poor little guy can maintain the illusion of privacy as he ices his whacked weenie. Dignity went out the window with his hopping around howling with ‘things’ in a two-handed hold. (I keep telling those boys to retain full possession of the thing and don’t drape it over the porcelain edge, but do they listen? Nooo.)

Anyway, after one too many icepacks, I went in search of something safer for them and found it in Tylertown at a bath specialty shop. It’s better for me too. All my consideration when I don’t turn on a light so I won’t disturb anyone is for naught; particularly if I’m half asleep. There’s that millisecond of time that extends forever in the sleep-fuzzed brain. You know the one. It’s that twinkling instant between knowing you should have landed, realizing you haven’t, and falling in. But physics rule, gravity is all-powerful, and there’s nothing you can do to stop the splash landing.

I end up yelling loud enough from the pure shock of ending folded in half in cold porcelain and icy water to drown out almost everything else, but I’m pretty sure it’s the older boys who booby trapped the thing. There’s way too much muffled hooting and snorting into pillows, and laughing shouts of “Hey, Poppa, does Maw know how to swim?” Or “Quick! Somebody find the shoehorn!” Or “Should we fish her out now? She sounds pretty mad; maybe we should just leave her there to cool off  ‘til we need her to cook breakfast.”

Yes, I had a lengthy, invigorating 3AM bath to remedy the aftermath. Didn’t even try to be quiet about it. But it wasn’t all bad. Since I was already awake, I did get some writing in!

Good writing! I’ll be looking for you at the beach! Pensacola style!

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Silken Sands Self-Published Star Contest Finalists!

I’m currently sitting here pondering which manuscript to pitch at Silken Sands Writers Conference. It’s coming up very soon and I (*dither, dither, dither*) need to make up my mind.
And I’m throwing it out there that there are still some respectable places on the pitch roster available. Not many, but a few. So if you feel your project is ready (or can be readied!) to present to an acquiring editor or agent by March 16-18th, I urge you to hurry and register to save your spot!

I still need a little help deciding. I love the Paranormal venue. It’s my deepest love. I have more MSS with Paranormal aspects. But I also write contemporary. Those come so easily they scare me. Anything that quick and easy has to be wrong, right? But then maybe they flow due to the articles I’ve written as a magazine staff writer. I loved taking a current event and throwing a fun or funny spin on it. Contemporary seems to be an extension of that, so maybe I’m just more at home with it. Frustrated sigh. *kicks rocks*

So what am I going to do? I’m going to . . .
. . . take this opportunity to tell you about a few authors who don’t presently have that dilemma!

Glad to say the finalists in the Silken Sands Self-Published Star Contest have been announced. Congratulations to eighteen great ladies in six categories of Romance! I mention them here because I’m so proud of every one of them.  Read more about the contest and the entry and judging procedure here:



2012 Silken Sands Self-Published Star Contest Finalists

Short Story:
Gaea’s Chosen: The Mayday Directive by Cara Michaels
New Money & Old Trouble by Jane Carver
Dragon In The Mist by Nancy Lee Badger

All’s Fair In Love & Seduction by Beverley Kendall
Loving or Nothing by Cara Marsi
Deceive Her With Desire by Nina Pierce

Single Title Contemporary:
Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee
For the Love of a Woman by Christina James
Hardball by V.K. Sykes

Single Title Paranormal:
Bayou Legend by Janet Breakfield
Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christiana Miller
Love by Accident by Michelle Beattie

Single Title Historical:
This Heart For Hire by Elysa Hendricks
Another Chance by Michelle Beattie
Her Secondhand Groom by Rose Gordon

Young Adult:
Pride’s Run by Catherine Verge
Freaks of Greenfield High by Maree Anderson
The Boyfriend Thief by Shanna Norris

Winners will be announced at the Silken Sands Writers’ Conference in Pensacola, Florida, on March 17, 2012.

My Sizzler Sisters and I will be presenting these authors a bit more in depth, and providing web site and buy links for their entries. So be sure to check in often, and look for more fun ahead!

My final suggestion for today is one made by another member of our writing chapter, Jamie, and it’s a good one indeed.

If you’ve never read a Romance eBook, this list of authors is a great place to start!

Good writing, everyone! See you at the beach at Silken Sands!

Visit Runere at    Friend her on FB @ Runere McLain    Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

Silken Sands Writers Conference! See You at the Beach!

Writers conferences. A matter of hot debate, the question asked most frequently “Is a conference worth the time and money you spend to attend one?”

IF you’ve done your research, IMHO, yes, they are worth it! You can find sources in writer’s publications, local writers groups, and on line. One quick warning; there are as many types of conferences as there are genres, so research until you find one benefitting your genre, level of experience, and budget. You can find single subject conferences (characters, dialogue, marketing, etc.) that last a few hours or a single day. Weekend conferences with pitch sessions, meet and greet, and craft workshops. There are week-long retreats as well. Conferences have sprung up not for writers, but for readers. Many of your favorite authors have conferences to meet their fans, held in cities or on sea cruises. But for this blog, we’re dealing with writers!

First, choose a conference in your genre. If you write Mystery, don’t attend a Paranormal conference. Seems ridiculous to mention that, but one Romance conference I attended had a lone male there. Talked to him a bit and it turned out he was looking for help with Westerns. He was one lost puppy. But we put our heads together over the workshops, and craft is craft, so it wasn’t a total bust for him. Pointed out if he’d substitute ‘six gun’ for ‘stilettos’ in certain aspects, he’d do fine. Plus he loved the attention he got from all those ladies when word of his dilemma got around. Made me feel good he went away smiling.

I write paranormal romance. I’m attending Silken Sands Writers Conference in Pensacola, Florida this March 16-18 because of the sheer diversity of romance genres represented there. (If you need info, click here: .) Barbara Vey from Publishers Weekly is the Kickoff Speaker, a mighty presence with her personal blog there. Yet I’ve never met a more unpretentious woman. She has one of those smiles that has you opening up to her without being aware you’ve done so. Knowing she’s with us . . . Please excuse the strange woman doing the disjointed wiggle dance in the corner; I’m trying to stay to the shadows, but I’m super excited! And multi-published Historical Romance author Beverly Kendall is our Keynote Speaker. Can’t wait to hear what she has to say!

Speakers provide more than group entertainment. They’re head cheerleaders for every one there. The Keynote speaker is the individual held up as a success story, proof the dream can be accomplished. I’ve heard Keynote Speakers who tore at your heart with what they endured to achieve that dream. Sherrilyn Kenyon is one. She’d just started using her MacGregor moniker for a series, and we chatted about ancestors. She didn’t know me from Adam, yet was interested enough in the subject to ask how far back I’d tracked mine. I responded with a rousing “Clan MacClaine o’ Loch Buie, Scotland”, complete with hacked consonants and swallowed vowels. She started laughing. “How do you do that?” she wanted to know. “I still can’t get it right!” (Helps if you have family who never lost their accent. Imitation comes naturally to a child, and I guess I’ve never grown up.)

At another conference Romantic Suspense author Karen Rose talked about her writing journey, then brought home how ordinary individuals comprise writers’ ranks. Turns out she’s terrified of snakes. I’ll never forget her pot and spoon story, holding up the very items she bangs away on to scare off serpents every time she walks her dog. Even after a family member told her snakes have no ears, she refuses to budge off her stance her system works. After all, she’s never encountered a snake!

How many? And why? I try to attend three conferences a year. Why? Because there’s no better place to stay abreast of changes in the field. And with the financial crash of major publishing houses that left their long-term authors unpaid, the mass charge to ePub and Indie Pub, the change in royalty percentages and house expenses charged to the author, they’re changing often and quickly. Attending every four months or so to put your finger on the pulse is not unreasonable; in fact it’s good business. But even one a year will recharge you. Every conference has panels of experts, those knowledgeable of current facts, not just rumor and hearsay circulating the Twitterverse, loops, and email. They also have the most current list of author loops and organizations to choose from. Unfortunately there are scam artists out there. It’s comforting you can rest assured everyone at an RWA conference has been vetted by the chapter putting it on.

Throw in the opportunity to pitch a project one-on-one, directly to an acquiring editor or agent, and they become an unbeatable prospect. Being able to write “Requested Material” on an envelope or in a subject line lifts you out of the slush pile of thousands.

What Can You Expect At Conference?
Initially, a bad case of nerves. But then you look around and see quite a few others in the same condition. Nerves turn to excitement. Only another writer can truly understand a writer, and it’s a giddy moment when you realize you’re in an entire herd of them. Speaking with others at every level of the field gives you a good sense of what you’ll need to do to accomplish your goals.

Workshops at conference are varied, and set up to appeal to writers at almost every level. What do you need help most with? POV problems? Dialogue? World building questions? Where to start your book? Perfecting your pitch to that editor or agent? Organizing your space or writing to be your most productive? Finding that cotton pickin’ Muse who heartlessly abandons you when you finally have an hour to write? By going over the workshop descriptions, you can pick the best ones that specifically help you improve your craft.

But it’s the friendships you form, the networks you enlarge that stand out the most. The encouragement you get from someone who has been where you are. The inner glow you feel when you help someone who’s where you’ve been.

So come join me at Silken Sands. I need a few more friends who write. We’ll learn. We’ll teach. We’ll commiserate. We’ll cheer. We’ll laugh. We’ll stay up too late. We’ll share.

And at least once, we’ll take time to walk to the water’s edge and play in the waves and push our toes into the sand.

I promise!

See you on the beach!
Visit her at      Friend her on Facebook @ Runere McLain     Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

Peacocks and Happy Ever Afters

Just looked out the back door in the dark to check on the peacocks, and in the distance their pen has the glow of a thousand candles. Funny how light in the night has such a different feel to it.

That glow is a little muted by the construction sheeting stapled around the pen, but the heat lamps Hubby put in to keep our birds frost-free are throwing off an impressive warmth. Those birds will appreciate it tonight for sure. Hubby even made sure their perches were still wide and flat. Turns out peacocks are prone to frost bite, and it’s better to use a flat 2X4 plank for a perch so their feet stay flat and their bodies fully cover them as they settle on the roost. Better insulation that way. If they curl their very long toes around round perches, the exposed ends freeze and, well . . . gangrenous toes don’t do well.

Got to thinking (I know, scary) and found an odd correlation. Writing is a bit like that cold-wrapped peacock pen. Like construction mishmash, you set unrelated things in place one at a time to create a particular result. You sheath the pen in careful layers to block out the winds the way you layer elements in a story to shield and strengthen the story line. You set staples at critical points to secure it tightly against the frame, much the way you use key incidents and dialogue to ensure your reader stays with you. You add heat lamps to create comfort in a hostile atmosphere, the same way you add pieces of written illumination to your characters’ surroundings.

But you can’t just toss those lamps in or haphazardly prop them up on something. Too far away from the roost and they aren’t effective, much like a vague plot provides no interest. Too close, and they become a danger. A haphazardly built story runs the risk of it collapsing under the weight of too much confusion. So like the positioning of those little heat lamps is critical, you think and plan where to use your high points and black moments for best effect. Test your reasoning and make adjustments. You have to secure those lamps to something solid so they won’t fall if bumped or jostled. The same goes for your story; your research has to stand up to scrutiny, your time and plot lines solid. Each scene has to serve a purpose, with every scene ending securely locked with the next opening one, or things collapse around your characters and they become lost in a sea of broken pieces.

But without a power supply those lamps won’t shine. All your efforts for naught.

The power supply is imagination. Your muse. That driving demand that a story be told. And like that supply source, it runs in a straight line to its conclusion, insulated against outside elements.

I sat here shaking my head just now, wondering how on earth I got off on a tangent comparing peacock survival to writing. Then it hit me.

Those peacocks are the characters of any story told. If you write strong characters – and by strong I don’t mean just alpha males or kick-ass females – I mean characters that connect deeply with readers on an elemental level. Characters that face the same emotional dilemmas as the rest of the world and find ways to overcome them, characters that hurt yet continue on despite that pain, characters that face crises or impossible odds yet keep going one step at a time. As long as you create believable characters you can modify their setting and maintain a habitable atmosphere, like we did with that peacock pen, and those characters will carry on.

It seems like a lot of work just to take care of a few birds.

But then they fan, catching you off guard with the unexpected display. You can’t help but stare, awed, your senses so involved in the moment everything else drops away. You’re lost in time, entranced by all that shimmering iridescence and the sheer volume of rare beauty. It’s the same feeling you get when all those different writing elements, diligent application of technique, and determined sticking to the building blocks of good writing culminate in that perfect sentence, phrase, scene or chapter. That HEA or HFN ending is when your story fans its tail. Those few moments when everything is right and equitable in the written world and that feeling transfers to the reader.

That’s when you’re glad you went to all the effort.

That light in the darkness is the one you feel in your soul, because it does glow like a thousand candles.

Keep writing, and don’t forget Silken Sands Writers Conference is only a little over two months away! If you haven’t registered yet, you need to do so. Check out the workshops lined up, and see which agents and editors will be in attendance Sign up for pitch sessions to present your work one-on-one to them. I’ve included the link to make it easier.


Silken Sands Writers Conference
March 16-18, 2012
Pensacola Beach, Florida



Visit Runere at  Friend her on Facebook at Runere McLain  Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

The New Year Off To a Good Start Despite the *#/%%!! Hackers!

Of Special Note: A quick reminder the Silken Sands Self-Published Star Contest deadline has been extended. Due to scum sucking hackers, our website was down for two days. Sooo . . . now that we have a new host, we want to make sure things are fair for everyone. Entries will be accepted until January 7, 2012. You still have time to get your entry in! Here’s the link:

It’s the New Year, and I’m happy to say mine started off on an unexpected yet promising note. Who would have thought the very first Monday of the year (and you know how we all feel about Mondays!) I would have signed a contract for another anthology?  Puts me in the frame of mind that 2012 may be the breakout year in my writing career!

Shush. I can dream! lol A strong imagination is a writer’s greatest tool!

But that happy surprise in my inbox seriously bumped up my enthusiasm. I’d allotted more time to writing every day, and now I feel justified in doing so. Also, I’m getting things organized for a workshop at our Silken Sands Writers Conference in March, assisted by the lovely Gothicdweller! It’s titled: “Of a Paranormal Persuasion: Using Fact to Create a Believable Paranormal World”. Hope you can come spend that hour with us, and the rest of the weekend taking advantage of the many other helpful workshops being offered, the agent and editor pitches, and great new friends you make at these affairs. Goth and I are both excited about the many new people, the pitches and fun!  Check it out at or

I love the paranormal. I can’t help it. I also love my Celtic heritage. A chance combining of the two has opened a whole new writing endeavor for me. One involving Cailleach Bheur of the Highlands. The supernatural remnant of the Celtic Goddess of Winter, Cailleach Bheur is a lean, blue-faced hag reborn every Halloween, and doesn’t return to stone until Beltane’s Eve, April 30th. In the story I’m currently writing, for some reason she’s been picking on a particular clan for centuries. A clan who has trouble finding lasting love because of her shenanigans. Hope I manage to effectively blend some interesting Celtic legends, history, people, and a twist on the paranormal in a way that draws a reader in to Winter’s Witch. We’ll see. But I can tell you the spark of that idea caught flame while I going over some photographs of old statuary I’d taken. Funny how items from completely separate areas can meld together. Rather like love and the way it combines unlikely individuals, don’t you think? In fact, I’ll share my inspiration with you today. One of the pics is a slash job. Sorry. But if you half close your eyes and allow it to blur a little you can see where he’d cause some concern if glimpsed climbing up the side of a castle or among the rocks!

The intricacies carved in the Celtic cross depict many things; family lineage, Holy oaths . . . and protection from things that can't be explained.

The blue-skinned Caillech Bheur of the Highlands is released from her stone state between Samhain and Beltane's Eve, plenty of time to wreak havoc.

Spirits pay visit deep in the night . . .

But do they come to harm or protect?

Happy writing, everyone! Keep those fingers flying over the keyboard!


Visit Runere at  Friend her on Facebook@RunereMcLain  Follow her on  Twitter@RunereMcLain

Casey Crow- Special Badurday Guest


JILLIAN: Today’s guest is a fellow Gulf Coast Chapter RWA member and she has her first book coming out on December 6. We are all so happy for her. She’s here to tell us the best things about what she thinks are the best things about the South.  Take it away, Casey.

CASEY:  Best Things about the South

By: Casey Crow

Thank you, Southern Sizzlers, for having me today! I’m so excited about all the recent success and releases you’ve been having! I’m excited, too, to share my debut CAN’T FAKE THIS which comes out Dec. 6th with Loose, id. On that day, I’m having a blog party at Casey Crow where twelve authors are doing twelve give-aways to go along with the Twelve Days of Christmas theme in the story. Mark your calendar to win some great books by best sellers from all genres!

CAN’T FAKE THIS is about a divorcee ready to reenter the dating world. Anna Ryan is determined to be the best “product on the market,” which requires a lot more experience so she propositions sexy police officer Chase Harris to teach her how to make hot, passionate love as opposed to just having sex. He takes it a step further, instructing each lesson based on The Twelve Days of Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…temptation in a hot package. For more, check out the book trailer and excerpt!

The story definitely has my “Sexy, Sassy & Southern” trademark. Speaking of the South (and what’s more appropriate to talk about at the Southern Sizzlers?), I’ve put together my list of Top 10 Favorite Things about the South.

1. Sweet tea and sweeter accents    

2. Macaroni & cheese is a vegetable and pecan pie is a staple 

3. Y’all is a proper noun  

4. Smocked dresses and hairbows as big as a little girl’s head

5. Front porches are wide and words are long  

6. Sultry summer nights that start in April   

7. Mardi Gras   

8. SEC football

9. Pageants are serious business  

10. Everything is darlin’ and someone’s heart is always blessed

So what are your favorite things about where you live? I hope you’ll take advantage of the uniqueness of your area and enjoy it, no matter where you hail.

Casey Crow is a Summa Cum Laude graduate from the University of Alabama with degrees in Business Management and Dance.  She received her Master of Business Administration from the University of Mobile.  Casey resides in Mobile where she stays busy with her two young children.  She also works as a dance choreographer, pageant coach, professional emcee and model, and certified Miss America preliminary judge.  In fact, she is a former Miss University of Alabama.  Casey writes erotic and spicy contemporary romances with the tagline “Sexy, Southern & Sassy.”  Visit her at  Follow her on Twitter – caseyecrow and Facebook – Casey Crow.

A Self-Published Romance Author Contest!! And Winners are READER’S CHOICE!

What, you say? A contest for self-published romance authors? With category winners covers in a Romance Writers Report advertisement? (RWR being the nationally distributed magazine of Romance Writers of America.) A contest judged by readers and not other writers?

What self-pubbed author wouldn’t love the opportunity to gain that type of national exposure?  (Plus, the Sizzlers have their heads together, working on a few other benefits for finalists and winners, so keep checking back!)

Many readers know some awesome self-pubbed works out there; authors with distinctive voices, a flare for plot, true story-tellers. All they need to succeed on a grand scale is exposure. So if you readers following the Sizzlers know of such an author, please point them our way because GCCRWA genius, Jamie (so glad she’s a chapter member!), suggested we do a self-pubbed contest and the idea took off. Since RWA recognizes self-published authors, and there’s an indie chapter trying to form, it’s the perfect way to honor these writers.

Even better it will be judged by AVID READERS of romantic fiction! (*Any reader interested in volunteering to judge, the requirements will be posted at within the next few days. We would love to have you.)

Yes, you read correctly; this contest is A Reader’s Choice Award! I’ll hush now and give you the deets!



Silken Sands Self-Published Star Contest

. . . was created to recognize excellence in self-published, romantic fiction. Contest judges are avid readers of romance. Entries will be accepted for this contest from November 15, 2011 to January 5, 2012.

Following categories are included:

Short Story — (containing between 5,000 and 19,999 words.)

Novella —  (a word count between 20,000 and 40,000.)

Single Title Contemporary

Single Title Paranormal

Single Title Romantic Suspense

Single Title Historical

Single Title Inspirational

Young Adult

*Please note: This is a romance genre contest, so all entries must have strong romantic elements/plot lines. All heat levels are accepted in each category.

Eligibility and Entry Requirements

The Silken Sands Self-Published Star Contest is open to members of RWA as well as non-members.

Entrants must be 18 years of age by December 31, 2011.

Completed entry forms and appropriate fees must be received by GCCRWA no later than 5p.m. CT, on January 5, 2012. All forms and fees received after the deadline will be returned to the entrant.

Entrants are required to check a box on the entry form indicating their acceptance of contest terms.

Entries to the 2011 contest must be original works of fiction that were released between Jan. 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011. Works that have been previously released may no be submitted.

After 200 entries are received registration will be closed, so please get your submission in as soon as possible! Finalists will be announced February 15, 2012, and winners from each category named at the 2012 Silken Sands Writers Conference. (Didn’t know about the conference? Check it out here )The awards ceremony will be held on the evening of Saturday, March 17, 2012.

Entry Fees
$20 per entry for RWA members; $25 per entry for non-RWA members.

There are a few more guidelines concerning multiple entries, so be sure to read the Rules when you check out the contest. Enter here

If you have any further questions, please email them to

So, what do you think? Are you as excited as I am? Entries started arriving within hours of the contest being announced, so getting your entry in soon is important! Maybe it will be your cover featured in an RWR contest winners ad!


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Phantasy Friday: Author Catherine Mann, and A Tale of Crazy Neighbors

There are people who leave indelible impressions, and I’d like to share a quick story about one. While celebrating Southern Sizzle’s month-long,  one year anniversary, I’d left comments for each of our daily guests as encouragement for visitors to lose their shyness and leave comments of their own. For the most part it worked, and I met and made some lasting online friends over the course of those weeks.

Prizes were graciously awarded by each blog guest to randomly chosen commenters, with winners announced the following day. Somehow, my name was selected and announced online as the recipient of two autographed books.  A chapter member protested–quite justifiably–that in the spirit of fairness and group image, it didn’t look right if one of our own members won prizes.

I realized I’d flat-out woopsied, folks. But because I’ve always made a point of donating anything I win in contests to a local Senior Center that lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, I, regrettably, hadn’t considered how my winning something could be misconstrued. Embarrassed, I contacted the author with my error and the request to select another commenter, but her extremely efficient staff had already mailed the books. I returned them upon receipt with a written apology, explaining that though I was a (rabid) fan and appreciated them beyond measure, my fellow member was right and I didn’t feel comfortable accepting them. The author contacted me, concerned, and I explained the situation. I also explained the member who had protested felt horrible for doing so without talking to me first, going so far as to tell me she’d never have said anything if she’d known about the Senior Center donations. I was just relieved the author understood.

Do you know what that author did then? She shipped an entire box of large print editions to the Senior Center! I was so touched by her heart and depth of generosity that I cried.

That author was Catherine Mann—

and I am proud to say she will soon be guest speaker at one of our Chapter meetings. It had been planned for tomorrow, but scheduling conflicts (and her daughter finaling at a track meet!) have altered arrangements. Press releases inviting the public may expound her talent and success; notes and invitations to the writing community may laud one of their ranks. But none of them tell what a kind, conscientious, caring person Catherine truly is.  So, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share. If you can make the meeting when it’s rescheduled, I urge you to do so.  It’s an experience you won’t regret!

Since you’re here, I have a second story for you, and need you to post your determination: Did this happen, or did I make it up?


An aggravated “Don’t know if I should call the cops or not, Mom,” greeted me as soon as I fumbled the phone to my ear.

Relief washed over me. This child was alive at least, even if her voice carried that why-the-hell-was-I-woken-in-the-middle-of-the-night croak. She’s a grown child, but my mantra is I don’t care if you’re 32; get back in your crib where it’s safe!  I panic when the phone rings at 2am. I can’t help it. I’m paranoid.  I always expect someone to be wrapped around a telephone pole, upside down in a ditch, or kidnapped by terrorists.

Burglars I don’t worry about. Any that try her house would be classified as suicidal. She has two pit bulls who live to protect their mama. Even from the rare roach that may get into the shower. Screeching daughter once exited the cubicle so fast the  shower curtain fluttered perfectly horizontal, straining the rings on the rod.  Mako dove to her rescue, chomping, pouncing, snarling; splashing water everywhere as he annihilated the threat to his Mama. If the water spraying from the shower head made the bent, wingless, one-legged corpse circle the drain he killed it again.  All with Rachel sproinging up and down, then jumping from floor to toilet to floor and back, yelling encouragement, then sproinging some more, looking for all the world like an epileptic praying mantis as she tried to maintain enough towel coverage for modesty.

Back to the phone call. I could hear Deuce and Mako barking in the background. “What’s going on?” I asked her. I heard her stumble across the floor. She croaked, “Listen!” She must have thrust her arm out the door because the dogs faded and I heard a woman’s voice faintly wail, “You gotta help me! Help me!”

Her neighbor is a single guy with a rousing and varied love life, their houses separated by a lot with trees. But the neighbor’s is an older wood-floored home built on short pilings. You could hear two distinct sets of footsteps thundering back and forth through the house. “Dammit! Quit running! You gotta hold still!” a masculine voice panted. More thundering steps.

The dogs got loud again. Rachel says, “See?”

“No, actually I can’t. I can only hear it!” I snapped. “Are they fighting?”

“No. There’s no hitting or punching sounds, no angry exchanges, just her howling about it hurts and him chasing her. How am I supposed to sleep with that going on?” she griped. “Oh, wait! The front door just banged open! They’re in the yard now. I’m going onto the porch.”

The voices got clearer. “It burns! It burns!” was a feminine screech. Footsteps thudded in the grass now. A masculine warning sounded. “Stop running before you hit a tr– (audible thud). Aw, hell!” was a disgusted growl.

“You hit me! I can’t believe you hit me!” The shrill accusation dug into my ear even through the phone. I recognized the slur of alcohol.

“Well, unless I’m five feet thick, covered in bark and little green leaves, it wasn’t me!” the guy retorted. “Why do you keep running when you can’t see a thing?”

Did he hit her, Rachel?” I asked, worried.

“No. She ran full speed into that big oak. He’s helping her up now, being real careful with her. Carried her to the side of the house. What is he doing?”  A flood of sobbing, high-pitched curses filled the air. Rachel started snorting with laughter. “He’s squirting her with the garden hose! Spraying her down like she’s on fire. Oops! She got away again. He just slipped down in a puddle. You should see this!” (Wish I could. I wouldn’t feel so confused.) “There she goes, smack up in the middle of that azalea bush. He’s not even hurrying now. Just limping after her.”

The woman’s shrieks and curses suddenly muffled, I had to ask. “What’s going on now?”

“He has his hand over her mouth and is carrying her back inside.” There went the thundering footsteps again, fading to the far side of the house. “Hang on,” Rachel whispered. “I’m going to the other side of the porch.” Her report continued after brief rustlings. “He’s in the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator door.”

“What are you, a voyeur?” It just popped out.

“Mom. Really? Was that necessary?” (With that haughty tone I’m feeling defensive all of a sudden.) “He’s got something. A gallon of milk? What’s he doing with milk?” Footsteps pounding louder heralded their nearing the door. “She’s off the porch again. Oof! Bet that hurt. Dumb ass didn’t use the steps. Just ran off into thin air! There she goes, taking off across the yard again! He’s right on her heels . . . getting closer . . . getting closer . . . Caught up with her! What the hell? He’s pouring milk over her head!”

I could hear the woman crying now. “Stop it! Please, stop it!” sounded pathetic, and a little gargled.

Guess the guy ran completely out of patience because all but snarled, “You pepper sprayed yourself! I have to do this! Bet the next time I tell your drunk ass not to play with something, you listen!”

I heard Rachel try to smother a burst of laughter. I knew when she made it back inside. The dogs went up in volume again. Rachel was snorting laughing now. “My guess is his new girlfriend was messing with that pepper spray canister he keeps on the counter. Sorry I called you, Mom. I’m okay. You can go back to bed.”

I said the obligatory ‘I love you’s’ and hung up. Turned off the bedside lamp and laid down. Closed my eyes.

I opened my eyes and glared at the ceiling. Who am I kidding. After that, I’ll never be able to go back to sleep!

Hope someone gets some writing out of this!


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Phantasy Friday: New Orleans Voodoo; Requests and Tributes to Marie Laveau

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau's Tomb in St. Louis Cemetery #1

Halloween is the time when everyone’s thoughts turn to the occult. Maybe only in the form of scary costumes for children, maybe a few remembered snatches of hushed family conversation about an unusual–and unexplainable–incident, maybe throwing a worried look over your shoulder in the dark, no matter how determined you are not to do so.

It’s possible something deep in the human psyche renders Halloween a time you’re more susceptible to something oppressive in the room, or a misplaced cold draft that caresses the skin to produce a fine shiver. The sensation of being watched by the unseen. Or maybe it’s the way the hairs on the back of your neck prickle for no observable reason. Candles and cobwebs. Ghosts and goblins. Tricks and treats. Samhain (pronounced Sowen), the night the veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest, and spirits are reputed to walk freely upon the earth.

Ooooo! Shivers! I love Halloween!

I promised today would be Voodoo info day for Phantasy Friday. And lucky I am to live so close to New Orleans, Louisiana. After all, who’s better known than Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau? Or the fact New Orleans herself  is touted as one of the most haunted cities in America, the City of Spirits. And yes, the ‘spirit’ part can be taken two ways, because Bourbon Street is definitely Party Central! I understand some of the girls from the writers group are planning a trip to New Orleans in the near future. So this is for them. Just in case they decide to stop for a visit with Marie Laveau. C’mon, Sayde Grace! Ask Marie for her blessings on your new book VOODOO, I DO. I dare you!

Okay, playful poking at friends is over. Down to business.

Have you ever wondered how to –properly– make a request of Marie Laveau? Well, I’ve got a couple of quick etiquette tips if you’re planning a visit to her crypt in St. Louis Cemetery #1. Especially propitious right now, since the Halloween season is considered one of her most receptive times.

One way is to knock three times on her tomb before making your request. But be warned; once that request is granted, according to folklore you must return to her crypt and mark three X’s, side by side (and totally against the law!) on its surface in chalk or with a red brick chip. Or you may also leave her a money gift (coins only!), candles in powerful Voodoo colors of white, red or black, cigars, alcoholic beverages, fruit, flowers, or hand-made items that will please her.

Gifts and tributes left to Marie Laveau and Marie Laveau II at her tomb.

Pennies stacked in payment for Marie's services, and the obligatory three X's marked side by side on her crypt (totally against the law!) in chalk or with a red brick chip during a return trip to acknowledge a request granted.

Another way, if you feel inclined to ask for her help with a problem — making money, finding love, or hurting an enemy — is to make your request to her aloud, and stack three pennies on her tomb as payment for her services.








But I’d offer a word of caution though.

Be very, very careful what you wish for  —-

—– the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau is always listening.


Here’s to haunting you all month, folks!



Visit Runere at or friend her on Facebook @ Runere McLain. Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

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