Posts by Lauren

New Release: Tied Together by ZB Heller

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Diva Promotions | 0 comments

New Release: Tied Together by ZB Heller

Ryan Keller has it all: a great supportive family, friends, and no limit to his self-confidence. Coming out of the closet was not as traumatic as he would have thought. In fact, it was glitter, unicorns, and rainbows. Navigating through life isn’t easy for any man, let alone a gay one. Rest assured that Ryan has it handled. Brandon Ford comes from the wrong side of the tracks. With a dark past, he doesn’t have much going for him, no money, no friends, definitely no charisma, and his family makes people on Jerry Springer look like total winners. Life can’t be worse—until it becomes unbearable. When Ryan helps Brandon out of a bad situation, chemistry sparks between them. Only Brandon has one problem: He’s hiding in the closet with no way of finding his way out. After years apart, Ryan runs into Brandon as he has his head between his friend’s lady business to deliver her baby. This spells emotional turmoil for both Ryan and Brandon. Can years of resentment and bad feelings pull them apart or force them to work on their relationship so they can end up Tied Together. No Amazonian Hybrid Anaconda Turtles were harmed in the making of this book. I was outed by accident when I was seventeen years old. I had a whole elaborate plan how I was going to tell my parents I was gay. I was going to decorate my family’s living room with rainbow-colored flags, cook up some rainbow Jell-O, and have a Cher CD playing. I didn’t even like Cher, but from what I heard, she was a gay idol. My outing was going to be the baddest bitch of a coming-out party known to man. Even though I had the elaborate plan in my head, the other part of my mind had horrible images of my parents sobbing on the couch, holding each other for support. They would ask themselves what they did wrong in raising me to make me want to stick my dick up another guy’s pooper. I imagined my baby sister, Cara, would point and laugh at me, asking if I wanted to wear her high heels to homecoming. The answer would be no, I was a flats only kind of guy. Just because I was gay didn’t mean I dressed in drag. My folks would then throw me out of the house, and I would be forced to live on the streets and turn tricks for some pimp named Rocco with diamond-studded grills. I was in my father’s woodshed making out with Peter Collins. We were both seniors but went to different high schools. Peter was the definition of California Valley girl—but the male counterpoint. He was hot, sexy, blond, and built, but as bright as a broken light bulb. His lack of brain cells worked in my favor because, unfortunately, I was a complete moron when it came to anything that had to do with sex. The only relationship my dick had was with my hand and a bunch of gay porn sites. For some miraculous reason, there I was, sticking my tongue down Peter’s throat. I would never forget the conversation we had in that shed. “You have the sweetest lips,” I said. I tried to sound as romantic as I possibly could because what does one say when one is lying on dirt and concrete. I was also trying to distract Peter with my lack of sexual experience by whispering sweet nothings in his ear. “Peter, I love the way you smell.” Or: “Peter, you have such beautiful eyes; they’re the color of a blooming iris.” And my favorite: “Peter your breath smells so minty sweet. What toothpaste do you use?” I didn’t get much of a reaction. “I could kiss you all day.” I was going with the sweet nothings and threw in some dreamy eye action for good measure. I watched a lot of gay porn. Sometimes the actors would say romantic stuff like that to further the mood. Okay, that’s a lie. I had no idea if they...

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Five Things Every Antagonist Needs

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Featured Articles | 1 comment

Five Things Every Antagonist Needs

What makes up a good antagonist? There are a variety of aspects that make a antagonist great. Incorporating certain key factors you’ll read about below can help develop your “bad guy” into a believable and workable villain. Just as in my article “Five Things Every Protagonist Needs,” I’ll explain what you can do to motivate and make your villain credible. Some other good articles to reference are “25 Things You Should Know About Antagonists” by Chuck Wendig and “6 Ways To Better Bad Guys” by Laura Disilverio. Both have comprehensive lists that are helpful for any writer. Here is my take, so let’s begin! 1. Every Villain Is Human Both Wendig and Disilverio both start off their articles with this very important factor: Bad guys are people too. I couldn’t agree more. If you thought a villain never had hurt feelings, you’re sadly mistaken. Most antagonists are bad because of something so catastrophic happened to them that it led them to become the villain they are. They have feelings, cares, wants, desires, and dreams just like a protagonist. The difference is how they perceive and handle things that sets them apart from their better counterparts. It’s their choices that led them down their destined character path. Whether it’s a jealous cheerleader, an evil stepmonster, a sinister warlord or a possessed demon, the humanity of the antagonist should always be present in some form to allow the reader to identity with their struggle. 2. No Wimps Allowed How fun is it to read about a super awesome protag who can scale mountains, rescue damsels, and cook a 10-course meal without an antagonist that can rival his greatness? Not too much fun, I tell you. I want a rival that can hold a candle to any good guy for the duration of the story I’m reading. If the villain is wimpy, there is essentially no struggle since the protag can overcome anything the antag throws at them. Make sure while writing your bad guy that they are a clear competitor to your good guy. 3. A Sense Of Boundaries Writing a villain can be really fun. But don’t let your antag go to overboard. I’m talking about reining in their badness when the situation applies. Okay, true, some bad guys can be over the top devilish. They are bad guys, after all. The finesse is knowing how bad they can truly be to make it work in your story. For instance a mustache twirling, muhahahahaha-laughing, black hat wearing killer isn’t going to carry the proper tone in a modern-day suspense than it would in, say, a campy crime drama. It just doesn’t fit. Make sure your bad guy fits the tone of your story. 4. Knowing When To Shut Up I know you’ve all read one of these books where the villain spills the beans in a massive verbal dump around the arc of the story and explains everything they did and why they did it to the reader. Sigh. So boring. It reminds me of Scooby-Doo when the bad guy either explains why they kidnapped Old Man Clemens or lets one of the gang do it for them. It’s the “I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids” speech that writers seem to like to insert into their work. I like the method of using bread crumbs to lead the reader to the reasons villains act the way they do. Meaning, bits and pieces of the story come together as the arc draws to a crest. Don’t tell the reader, let them figure it out. 5. Give Them A Break Even bad guys need a little redemption. It can be big or small, but the reader needs to feel for the villain, no matter how bad they are. Call it a moment of clarity for the antag that the reader gets to witness. It’s important because it lets the reader know that the villain can fall—not just by the protagonist’s doing, but by their own faults—and they can see it for themselves. And hand in hand...

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Five Things Every Protagonist Needs

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Featured Articles | 4 comments

Five Things Every Protagonist Needs

You’re writing a book, and you have a main character you love. You take this character on a journey, and you think your plot is solid. All the hard work shows as you reread your story and give yourself a pat on the back. When you send your manuscript to beta readers or a critique group, you get feedback you weren’t expecting: Your protagonist is weak. The horror! How could this possibly be? It could be reasonable that you are missing some key points when developing a strong main character. I’m here to break down five things every protagonist needs to help keep your main character on point. 1. Comfort Is your character comfortable? In other words, are you writing a character the reader will be comfortable getting to know? Is your character likable or interesting? A dull main character is not going to engage your reader if you don’t make him or her favorable enough to carry the book. Make sure that your MC has qualities that will let the reader cheer for them when faced with difficult situations or empathize with them when they don’t achieve their goals. Your MC needs to be your reader’s “friend.” 2. Clear Goals The protag isn’t worth a lick if they don’t have a clear goal. Make sure to set the stage for a dream or goal the main character wants to fulfill. Whether it be small or big, they have to have some kind of motivation to move the plot of the book forward. Or else they are left spinning their wheels. 3. Reality You must create a character that is real. This goes hand and hand with comfort. Show your character’s weaknesses, their downfalls, personality flaws, and little things that set them apart from the rest. Nobody is perfect, or you’ll have a Mary Sue or Marty Stu on your hands. If you have an MC who looks like an Adonis but has a chipped front tooth, that’s realistic. Give your character a workable personality so your readers view him as a hero and a real person at the same time. Mr. or Mrs. Perfect can get old very fast. 4. Conflict is Key If everything is hunky-dory in your story, what’s the point of reading it? You need conflict to keep the reader interested and willing to see how your protagonist will overcome it. Everyone wants to root for their hero, so give them a reason to. Conflict can happen because of the choices your characters make or something they can’t prevent from happening. I like to label them as motivated conflict and unmotivated conflict. Motivated conflict is based on a character’s personal weakness that could be preventable. For instance, your protagonist is an arrogant star quarterback who expects to win the big game, but conflict happens when said character misses a key play, letting down his whole team and losing his scholarship in the process.  Unmotivated conflict is when your main character is happy; just landed the perfect job, has the perfect house, the perfect significant other. Everything is great for them. Until they find out they lost their job, their spouse leaves them, and the bank threatens to foreclose on their house. This is something the character has no control over happening. 5. Growth This is the most vital aspect a protagonist needs in any book. If your main character doesn’t exhibit some kind of growth—whether it’s learning from their weaknesses or overcoming their earlier conflict—the reader will be left unsatisfied. It’s like eating a large, delicious meal but being left starving afterward. Show your characters overcoming their obstacles and emotionally growing as they do. I hope this helps. Please share with us what you think of this article....

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What’s Killing Your Writing Dreams?

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 4 comments

What’s Killing Your Writing Dreams?

If any of you follow my articles, you know by now that I’m an editor and a struggling writer. And let me tell you, I struggle. A lot. I don’t know why I can’t get past my hump. Let me rethink what I just wrote. I do know what it is killing my writing dreams—excuses. I get hung up on so many things like self-doubt; it’s a constant battle in my head when I sit down to my computer. I know I’m not alone. There are so many people out there that I’ve spoken with, met, or wrote with who struggle just as much, if not more, as I do. So I ask this question to you all: What’s killing your writing dreams? Here’s some of mine. The Dreaded Chapter Five I have written about ten stories all the way up to chapter five and then fall on my face. What is up with that? The stories themselves are perfectly fine. I’ve retweaked them about a bajillion times, I’ve edited and reedited them another bajillion, and I let some friends read the chapters for critique. But why do I get to only chapter five? The answer is easy: I’m over thinking my work too soon. Do you find that this kills your mojo just as bad as it does mine? I focus too much on the start of my book, and I fail to look at the big picture or even down the road. My perfectionism is misplaced. I tell myself not to focus on the first five so much, just to let the words flow, but man, it’s hard. Time, Oh, Blessed Time Another thing I don’t give myself is time. What the heck is that, right? And it’s not like I don’t have time, I do. I have oodles sometimes. It’s making the time just for writing that I have no idea how to do. There are too many excuses we face that make it so easy for us to bail on our writing dreams. Mine usually include: I want to read, I’ll write later, I’m tired, it’s Friday, or whatever else I fool myself into thinking. I’m constantly putting it off. I told myself at the beginning of summer that I would finish my short story before the kids go back to school. Guess where I’m at? Chapter five. The Grass Is Always Greener I tell you what, I will see authors pump out book after book, have critical acclaim, land a deal, get national attention, or whatever it is, and I get in a pissy mood. It should be me by now, right? Why is looking at someone else’s achievements holding me back? It’s author envy. It sucks, and I haven’t realized that it’s holding me back until recently. So there’s that… My Husband Is So Darn Cute Oh, I’m so going there. I’ll be the first to admit that he’s bad for my writing. Not that he knows it. In fact, he thinks he’s like my writing cheerleader. To him I can write a 700-page book in two days. He doesn’t understand why I haven’t done it already. Well, that stud muffin is so unaware of how stinking cute he is when he’s being all supportive. It’s so distracting. Work Will Happen If I Ikea What? Really? Am I’m going to blame Ikea? Yup. I can’t work because I don’t have a perfect office supplied by Ikea. I found this cool office set up on Pinterest. I’ve convinced myself that I write more productively when my office is organized. And only then. Do I clean my office and hippety-hop to Ikea? Nope. When I look at my office I hyperventilate. Summer Vacay Isn’t Really A Vacay Last but not least, it’s summer. Which would be totes awesome for any other writer but to this gal it’s totes not. I love my kids, I really do, but they suck every last drop of my energy and creative juices. From the time school ended I promised myself I would work around my kiddos. That didn’t happen. Trips to the pool or the zoo...

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Diva Spotlight: Priest by Sierra Simone

Posted by on Jul 15, 2015 in Diva Spotlight | 0 comments

Diva Spotlight: Priest by Sierra Simone

“Yowza! Priest by Sierra Simone is one taboo but highly addicting read.” –Diva Lauren Yep, I just quoted myself. I finished this book and literally said, “Yowza!” Priest by Sierra Simone is the hot book circulating in the indie world right now. Promotion was all over the place on my Facebook for a good week before it released. Since I’m a fan of the forbidden love thing, I took a chance.  I have to say that being Catholic, it was hard to read in places. Well, many places. If you can think of a place in a church a priest could have sex, then it was done in this book. But there is a true love story underneath it all which appealed to me. Without further ado, congrats to Sierra Simone, you’re the Diva Spotlight. *jumpy claps by myself* Summary: There are many rules a priest can’t break.  A priest cannot marry. A priest cannot abandon his flock. A priest cannot forsake his God. I’ve always been good at following rules.  Until she came.  My name is Tyler Anselm Bell. I’m twenty-nine years old. Six months ago, I broke my vow of celibacy on the altar of my own church, and God help me, I would do it again.  I am a priest and this is my confession. Yowza again, amirite? So this book isn’t for the faint of heart. If you can stand a priest doing some erotic and very hot things to one of his parishioners, this book is for you. If you can’t, well, don’t read it. Sometimes I like to read books that make me uncomfortable. It gets boring while reading the same kind of romance again and again. Priest isn’t  your run-of-the-mill romance. Father Bell struggles with his devotion to his church, his family, and to Poppy. It’s almost like God sent her to him. His forbidden fruit. The way he navigates through his passion for God and his passion for Poppy is well done even if it does make you a little squeamish. Granted, this book is an erotic romance, and true to form we get that, but there is a heart to the book that really comes to the forefront. Father Bell is human. We see men and women of God as infallible far too often—almost as if they aren’t real people. In Priest, we see that Father Bell is as human and as male as they come. It’s nice to read that a man like him isn’t perfect, he’s tempted with many things in life. Whether it be his love of The Walking Dead or working out, he’s very human and very vulnerable. It makes him identifiable for the reader, which I would think would be hard to do considering your main character is a priest. Ninety-nine percent won’t identify with him based on that fact alone, but with this character you see him, the real man behind the collar. Poppy, on the other hand, is a hard nut to crack. What makes her tick? I wasn’t so sure for a long time in this book. The story is told from Father Bell’s point of view, but we get snippets of her confessions in her point of view, which gives us a little insight to her mentality. Is she sent from God to be with Father Bell or is she sent from Satan as a way to make him fall? It’s all about the what-ifs, the taboo. She too struggles with her faith and her role in Father Bell’s life. I love that you saw her find her faith in this story. That aspect is something I can appreciate and understand. Simone paints the scene so well of Poppy standing at the altar, looking and talking to Christ on the Cross. I love that even though this book is very sexual, it’s very spiritual as well. Father Bell is always giving advice to her and she’s learning from him. The growth of the characters is very well done. What is great about this book is that it appears to be accurate. Although, there were...

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