Friday, September 29, 2006

Excuse me, my neophyte is showing.

I dedicate a portion of my day to professional development. This is when I seek out writer-to-writer articles, blogs, etc. This is a throwback to my days as a research assistant. I want to learn my craft and I know I have a lot to learn. When I go to bed, I want to have learned something new or in at least one way improved during the day.

Sometimes, I find tidbits of information and make me raise an eyebrow. I've been a long-standing proponent of: Tradition isn't necessarily the best way to do something. It is, merely, the way something has always been done.

I've also always bought into the idea of (please allow me to quote one of my old history professors) "You can be a PhD and a SOB at the same time." Thus experience does not equate to someone being correct.

In the wee hours of this morning I worked on my professional development instead of typing the synopsis for Full Circle. What? You're not accusing me of procrastinating, are you?

"While working on my craft," indignation dripped from her voice, "I discovered a few articles that made me raise an eyebrow."

Here's my disclaimer. These writers might be correct. I might be wrong. Far be it for me to question the words of seasoned, popular and experienced writers. I'm still going to question their words, but I know I shouldn't. (End disclaimer)
This article states:

One of the many virtues of the romance genre is the certainty of a satisfying ending. All problems and difficulties will be resolved by the last page of the book; decency, determination, courage, and love will prevail. The romance novel allows us to feel vicariously in control of a positive outcome. In today's world, the guarantee of a happy ending is no small thing.

This article states:

But with it, we get the happy ending that is essential to a romance, paranormal or not. And even though providing that happy ending is often tricky for the author, it's our responsibility to find a way. If we don't, we're disappointing our readers.

That's it. I'm screwed.

No one told me that romance novels must have happy endings. The only thing that I promise my readers is a good story. A reader once told me, "I like your stories, because you surprise me. You might kill a character, break up the couple or allow the hero to fail. I don't know what to expect with you."

I didn't know that in the world of romance writing all stories had to have a happy ending. What if a happy ending doesn’t fit the story? What is a happy ending anyway? Could someone define that for me?

If a happy ending means every piece of conflict is solved in favor for the hero and the couple stays together to ride off into the sunset. Then, I need to hang up my keyboard now. Sometimes my heroes fail. Sometimes my couples don't stay together or fail to get together. I have one story where I don't think the reader is going to want them to stay together. No, no, I'm not glorifying domestic violence or anything, but it's not a healthy relationship. Or is it?

In Tainted Past, the relationship is normal, healthy, and supportive. The kind of thing we all want and warms our hearts. The triad of men is cute, funny and they do honestly and openly care for each other. Isn't that just so freaking sweet it rots your teeth? Well, I'm writing this so we know there must be more.

The problem is that it's built upon a lie and the person lying doesn't know he's lying. Is the "guaranteed" happy ending the triad staying together even with it being twisted or is the happy ending the deceiver finding out his true nature and leaving everyone heartbroken? If he finds out what happened to him, it's ass-whooping time not hugs and kisses time.

Also, why do we have to promise happy endings? Why does everything have to work out in the end? Why can't the hero fail?

Who fell down on the job and let our hands get tied like this? I've not been writing that long, I know it's not my fault.

Needless to say, at this point, I was getting pretty nervous about my writing career. There's nothing wrong with happy endings per se, but the concept of guaranteeing one is terribly limiting. Could it be that these writers don't write my most recent genre of romance?

With renewed hope that I wasn't screwed, I looked for and found an article about vampires.
This article state:

The main thing to remember in writing about a vampire hero is that he must be sympathetic and romantic. Dark and tortured by what he is, separated from the rest of humanity by a secret he cannot share, he still yearns for love. He craves that one woman who can see past the monster to the man inside.

Aw, crap.

My vampires in Full Circle break that mold. Yes, they're sympathetic, romantic ( Shush, Tami! They're romantic in their own way.) and sexy. Some are "dark and tortured" and some aren't. The rest of that…well…I'm screwed.

At this point my stubbornness kicked in and I came to a conclusion. I'm going to write my stories the way they want to be written. I'm not going to hammer in a sex scene if it doesn't fit. I'm not going to force a happy ending if it doesn't serve the story. I'm going to use double negatives if I think it makes my point better. (snicker)

I'm not alone. Nearly all the writers I've met break these molds in some way shape or form.

Come, my convention rejecting friends, let us be screwed together.

Today's "Word of the Post" comes from The Phrontistery again.

agraphia -- inability to write

Minutes become hours. The cursor blinked at her teasing her with hidden promises and taunted her by constantly showing her void of productivity.




No words found their way onto the screen. Thoughts slipped through her mental fingers the moment she noticed them. She feared that she'd become

Sorry, writer's block. That's all I have. Agraphia strikes again.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Got "got"?

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Bolling, was a kind and wonderful being. (I say was, because I'm assuming she's dead now. She'd be well over 100.) She inadvertently helped me learn the left handed hook, made sure "please" and "thank you" were so ingrained in me that I use them at the drive through, and taught me that "ain't" and "got" weren't words.

Yeah, "got" is not a word according to Mrs. Ruble Bolling. You wouldn't dare argue with Mrs. Ruble Bolling the greatest first grade teacher in the history of first grade teachers (next to my mother of course), would you?

Well, I would. I didn't at the time, but I do now. "Got" is a word, but it is a weak word. It's a meager way of saying "have" (among other things) and sometimes it feels downright redundant.

"You've got mail."

I'm of the camp that thinks this should be: "You have mail."

"Got milk?"

In my mind, I would use: "Have milk?" (Although some of the power might be lost.)

When you understand something do you "get" it? Or comprehend it?

I'm trying to think of an example where "got" is used and it couldn't be substituted for a better word. Don't get me wrong, "got" gets into my writing. (Hmm…let's change that. Before we misunderstand each other or I'm thrown into the category of hypocrite, let me state that I have been known to use the word "got" in my writing.)

As writers we carefully manipulate the weight of words to evoke emotions in the reader. I can't remember where I read it, but somewhere someone said, "The shorter the statement the more power it has."

[Paraphrased from memory] A single word has more weight than a phrase. A phrase has more weight than a sentence. A sentence has more weight than a paragraph. A paragraph has more weight than a page.

Or something like that. It feels true, but it might be wrong. I wonder if the same thing holds true for words.

I struggled with a line in "Full Circle". This is probably one of the lines where my editor, Tami Parrington, won't notice my fight. This sentence contains the word "got". It's a dah-dumm-insert-dramatic-music-oh-shit-oh-no moment in the story at least I hope the reader sees it that way.

I'm going to change it (make it vague) for this post. I don't want to spoil anything in the story.

"He just got his [something really bad]."

(I can hear Tami checking the last line in chapter five right now.)

This sentence commits two crimes – just and got. By all means, Mrs. Bolling would like for me to change this sentence to: "He recently received his [something really bad]." I tried rewording this sentence to eliminate "just" and "got", but I felt it lost power with each revision. "Recently received" sounds like getting (there's got again) a pleasant gift. I think the shorter words "just" and "got" add umph to the sentence that "recently" and "received" don't provide.

I'm willing to bet that 95% of the time "got" is used a more powerful word would serve the piece better.

So, do you get "got"? Or has "got" gotten a bad rep from Mrs. Bolling?

Everything in this post aside, I'm pretty sure Tami would appreciate me devoting more thought to my abuse of passive voice as opposed to the word "got."

Warning: The "Word of the Post" is rated M and is for adults only. Reader discretion is advised. It's probably "R" rated, but I want to err on the side of a caution.

For today's "Word of the Post" I'm using Poeminister's Archaic & Poetical Dictionary

Darkling – in the dark; mysterious

Hey Mark, dear, how's your back? (This one is an extension of the previous snippet. I'm not sure how long I'll continue this particular set of characterizations. Let's just relax and have fun with this, shall we?)


Mark hissed as he sank into the tub. The cool water felt particularly cold against his back. With a wad of cloth behind his neck, he relaxed and started to soak. His wrists bore bruises from his punishment and ached, but his mind was the most unsettled.

Why did he like enjoy it? What kind of perverse man was he?

With his predilection toward other men, he was accustomed to society seeing him as some kind of twisted and tainted beast. He hadn't battled confusion in himself over his own desires since he shared his first homosexual kiss.

He enjoyed being whipped. How sick was that? Perhaps demons had possessed him.

The water stung his striped flesh. He'd spent his life thinking pain was pain. The bite in his back now was very different than the heat he felt before. The sensation before did hurt in a way, but it was a different kind of hurt.

Mark groaned and whispered to the crickets, "This makes no sense." He couldn't deny how he felt during the punishment. At one point, it was as if he was beside himself. His mind blurred the sensations from the whip with carnal desires. He felt numb and yet very present.

A fluke -- that's all it was. He closed his eyes and let the water cradle him.

Something slid against his forehead quickly covering his eyes. He jerked up renewing the agony in his back. A firm hand gripped his shoulders. "Sh, I'm not here to hurt you."

Fingers caressed Mark's neck and the blindfold tightened around his head. He didn't know that voice, but the touch was gentle enough. Perhaps this intruder wasn't a threat. As long as he had his hands free he could still defend himself and grant a little leeway for curiosity. "What do you want with me?"

"Let's get you out of the water." The stranger touched Mark's biceps and helped him stand. The night air sent a shiver through his body and chill bumps spread across his skin. "Step out. Careful now."

By the time Mark was guided toward his home, he was shaking too much to stand without the support of the stranger.

"Getting into cold water was the worst thing you could have done."

Mark felt the heat from his hearth against his body. His teeth chattered nearly drowning out all other sounds. A gust of warm air brushed his legs and the stranger spoke again, "I need you on your stomach. On your knees first."

Mark used the stranger's arms to help himself kneel. When he explored the floor, he discovered a blanket. He crawled over the blanket and lay down. Warmth from the fire radiated over his body. "I-I-I can't stop shaking." He winced when he bit his tongue.

"Breathe deeply and try to relax." The stranger straddled Mark's hips.

The skin on skin contact made Mark gasp. "I th-th-think you have me mist—" The stranger hushed him with a kiss against the back of his neck.

"I know your choices. You can't lie to me."

He felt the man on his back shift to the side.

"This might sting, but it will help."

The stranger smeared some kind of salve on one of Mark's cuts. At first it did sting, but the soothing nature of the medicine pushed away any lingering pain. The man tended to Mark's wounds with a mixture of tender touches and gentle kisses. The fire warmed his body, the ointment quieted his pain and the caresses excited him. Mark found himself quite comfortable under the stranger's careful attention. He knitted his brow and wondered: Who was this darkling lover?

The man lifted one of Mark's arms and kissed a bruise. "Lesson number one: only the one who gives the pain can soothe it."

Mark knew now.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fluff or Angst?

Fluff or angst? That's the question on my mind today.

By fluff I don't mean poorly written, chick lit wannabe, decoration only stories. I mean sweet romance full of "aww moments". (I'm not saying all "chick lit" is bad.)

I have come to terms with being an angst writer. I can hear you groaning. I admit sometimes I go a little overboard and there have been times I've wanted to slit my characters' wrists for them. I like to hurt my boys. I like to make the reader cry.

Don't look at me like I'm heartless. I give them time to lick their wounds and I give the reader "aww moments", because I think those things are needed. I think the angst makes the "aww moments" more powerful.

Nearly every character I create has some kind of issue that will never be solved. There are plenty of things that will be solved in the story; however, we all have psychological damage that will haunt us for the rest of our lives and I think fictional characters should mimic that.

As an erotica writer, one particularly devilish thing I like to do is give a character a sexual hang-up. (I also give them fetishes, but that's for another post.) In "Full Circle" there is a character with heavy sexual hang-ups, but he's one of my UST (unresolved sexual tension) characters. "Full Circle" didn't lend itself to making him squirm and I'm not going to hammer something into a story simply because I want to see it there.

My favorite sexual hang-up to write is shame. I love characters whose backgrounds make them fight their natural needs. Then, I pair them with someone they can't resist. I use the sex to help work away from the shame. They'll never become full-blown exhibitionists, but they'll be damn sexy as they squirm.

Forbidden desires are particularly hot to me. Perhaps that's due to my own background. They way I see it is – as long as I write, I don't need a therapist. Snicker.

My question for those of you who write is: do you write fluff or angst and why? Does this match what you prefer to read?

For those of us who don't write, but contribute to the world of literature by being precious readers – which do you prefer to read and why?

Warning: Today's "Post of the Day" is rated M for mature. Reader discretion is advised.

The "Word of the Post" comes from the Grandiloquent Dictionary and should be of particular interest to kink writers *cough*Kay*cough*

vapulate - ( )
To beat with a whip

Oh, Mark, dear….


Mark twisted his wrists and the restraining leather creaked. The crack of the whip sliced his ears. Sting pierced his skin leaving a pulsing heat behind. The crowd gasped both in sympathy and condemnation. Already vapulated until his skin was broken and blood trickled down his sundered back, he knew his punishment wasn't over. He had a few more lashes to go.

He didn't wonder why he was tied to this post in town square. Seducing the lord's son came with a heavy price. The question foremost in Mark's mind was a personal one. Why was this turning him on?

The next lash unleashed something inside him. His mind went blank. A blinding whiteness claimed his vision. His seed spread between his body and his pants. He now had a new question: what was his punisher's name and could they do this in a more private setting?

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Power of Two is out! (also contains a Word of the Post)

The Power of Two by Mychael Black & Shayne Carmichael As a vampire Master, Dominic has been eyeing his old friend, Griffith for quite a well. But being a Master in his own right, Grif resisted the notion of Dominic controlling him in any way. With startling skill, Dominic sets out to change that refusal. He has his own deep interest in him, born of watching Grif's submission at the hand of another Master. Even though Dominic can't help but toy with his old friend, in truth, he wants him only an an equal. But how to convince Grif without letting his guard down is Dominic's biggest issue.

Aware of some of that interest but not the reason for it, Grif has his own secret. His trust had been violated by his own vampire Master, and since that night, he's refused to let another dominate him. And he'd swore to himself that no one ever would.

Get your copy of The Power of Two at Phaze today!

Today's "Word of the Post" comes from

The Phrontistery: Obscure Words and Vocabulary Resources. (main page)

This resource is especially useful for scrabble players, because there is a three-letter word listing. This site lists the words by topic. Even if you don't like cruising dictionaries, you may be able to glean some goodies. (page with this word)

Medicaster -- quack; charlatan

(sounds like a great classification for a fantasy healer mage, doesn't it? Nonetheless, I'll try to use the word correctly.)

Mark and James, you're up!


Mark folded his hands over his coffee cup. "Surgery?" He knew he didn't just hear that out of James's mouth.

"Yeah, that's what the doctor said. He said the pain was due to a fracture of some bone I can't pronounce." He picked up the diagnosis sheet from the doctor's office and pointed at the recommended treatment section. "And he wants me to schedule surgery, because the bone has partially healed."

"They're going to rebreak your toe?" This made no sense. He grabbed the yellow diagnosis sheet and shook his head. "You're getting a second opinion. This doesn't make any sense."

James shrugged. "Maybe surgery isn't really the right word, but I'm going to be doped up and stuff. To me that's surgery. I don't want to be alert when they break my toe."

This was the craziest thing Mark had ever heard. "What kind of medicaster did you go to? You obviously have in ingrown toenail and the guy wants to break your toe?" He stood up from the table and jerked his hands in the air, "No! That guy isn't touching you. I'm calling you a real doctor. One who didn't get through med school on a C-minus."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

POV and me – What a difference a day makes

Tami Parrington (see links on the side) being the sweet, intelligent, patience-of-Job person she is, helped me see source of my confusion.

I had a flawed understanding of what third person omni was.

She probably read it in my writing and wanted to trample me with one of her miniature horses.

Let's go back to one of the sites I used last time.

The story is told by the author, using the third person, and his knowledge and prerogatives are unlimited. He can interpret the behavior of his characters; he can comment, if he wishes, on the significance of the story he is telling. (emphasis added)

I took that to mean EVERYTHING was fair game – including thoughts and feelings. Essentially, I was taking third person limited and third person omni smushing them together and making a mess of things.

Not a problem when the scene is three paragraphs long like in the "Word of the Post" section. This is a problem when the scene is several pages long.

Third person omni is really a detached view of things. It's like you are sitting in a theatre watching a movie. You can see and hear everything that's going on. You can see the bad guy sneaking up behind the good guy, but you can't know what either of them is thinking or feeling.

(Why it is this way, I'll never understand.)

Sucks to be me doing something I thought was making my writing better when I was actually muddling the works.

This reminds me of the "No Purple Prose" section. (see links on the side). They said…

It becomes headhopping when you switch MORE than once in a scene.

Do you agree or disagree? Do you think one POV switch in a scene is acceptable?

I think that is acceptable. Sometimes the meat of the scene has to be set up with one character, but the zinger is with the other character (like the example in yesterday's "Word of the Post" section.) Is it possible to set up the tenderness of the scene via Mark? I'm not so sure. I think the moment his shirt comes off he'd start being nervous about his scar. I think that would give it away before I want to give it away. I can see the rest of that scene being played out via Mark's POV and not needing to go back to James POV.

Today's "Word of the Post" is a word I discovered yesterday and comes from a common dictionary "Merriam Webster".

Main Entry: chan·cel
Pronunciation: 'chan(t)-s&l
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin cancellus lattice, from Latin cancelli; from the latticework enclosing it -- more at CANCEL
: the part of a church containing the altar and seats for the clergy and choir

Instead of using my stock characters Mark and James, I'm going to use two of my boys from "Full Circle" – Josiah and Kendrick.

This is not in the manuscript and takes place before the story begins (and hopefully not written as a bastardization of third person limited and third person omni).


The state of the sanctuary mirrored the condition of the world. Crumbling pews, strewn hymnals and Bibles, and broken glass stood testament to the shattered world around them. However, hope resided in this room as well as in the world. The cross above the chancel, albeit crooked, still clung to the wall. A few panes of stained glass refused to fall as a casualty of war.

Josiah sighed as he walked through the sanctuary.

The largest glimmer of hope resided in Kendrick, but the light was fading fast. The bedraggled vampire was a bastion of faith and perseverance, but Byron's absence was taking a heavy toll. Depression, a vile and evil beast, ate away at its captives slowly devouring them until they were too weak to resist.

Josiah stepped up into chancel and knelt beside Kendrick. Praying always praying. Centuries wasted pleading with a seemingly deaf God. What had those prayers yielded? Nothing. Not a damn thing. He whispered, "You can't fight this much longer, Kendrick."

Kendrick lifted his head from his folded hands. "We're in the same country now. Bob and Phineas think they may have spotted him. I can't stop fighting this close."

Josiah gritted his teeth. "It's been centuries since he left. You don't even know if he remembers you. And you better hope he doesn't, because if he does and he hasn't found you by now, then he's left you for good." He didn't want to be a bearer of bad news, but Kendrick needed to face facts. Byron was gone and he wasn't coming back.

"If he doesn't remember me, he'll feel our connection the moment he sees me. I'm certain of it."

Josiah rolled his eyes. At times Kendrick seemed like a naïve child. What did Kendrick expect? To lock eyes with Byron and – presto – all would be right with the world? It was ludicrous! When Byron's spontaneous epiphany didn't happen where would that leave them? Where would that leave Kendrick? Would Kendrick still fight for a runaway lover? "Damn it, Kendrick, your stubbornness is killing you."

"And your lack of faith pains me."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

POV and me -- I'm so confused.

Warning: the "Word of the Post" section is for mature readers only. It's not graphic sex, but it is for adults.

I'm fairly new to the world of professional writing. Scratch that. I'm very new. At times I may come across naïve, ignorant and, probably more times than I care to recognize, stupid.

I'm currently involved with several discussions about POV in fiction. As these discussions go on, I get more and more confused. I've recently learned that I am not alone.

Third-person omnipresent (aka unlimited) seems to be experiencing some rejection. I see people referring to what I would consider third person omni as "head hopping" and this is, apparently, a bad thing.

Why is it a bad thing?

Is it really that confusing for the reader? Does it really lack that much power and umph?

I can understand not wanting to write nor read the tedium of every characters' feelings. Unless it is pertinent to the story, I don't think the reader wants to know that the newspaper delivery guy thinks his car is going to break down if the guy who just got his paper is reading a front page story about his own death.

The power of that scene is obviously with the freaked out soon-to-be dead guy.

Sometimes a scene needs one POV to covey its full power. Sometimes one POV for a whole story serves best even if it is written in third person. POV is a powerful tool to build suspense and slowly reveal something to the reader.

Everyone has POV's they don't particularly like. I can't stand reading second person stories and I have a real hard time reading first person stories. I'm not sure why. Every time I read something in first person I keep asking myself, if you don't know how it ended why do you think it is important enough to start telling me? Is this some kind of blog or journal entry?

When I try to write this POV, I keep asking myself WHY is the character telling me this? Am I reading a diary? Is this some letter to Penthouse or something? Oddly enough, I don't have these hang-ups when it is first person present tense only first-person past tense. Yet, present tense third person leaves me with a headache.

Other people must be seeing something that I'm missing. Other people can't stand third person omni and love first person. The first thing I did was brush up on my understanding of POV. This site spells it out pretty clearly.

Here’s the key, I think, to third person omni.

"Used skillfully, it enables the author to achieve simultaneous breadth and depth."

Used skillfully.

Perhaps, that is where my confusion is. Perhaps, I'm not using it skillfully. Perhaps, the people who don't like this POV and label it "head hopping" are referring to other writers who didn't use it skillfully, but wouldn't mind it written otherwise.

Could this be a response to a lack of skill?

How can we, as writers, help each other foster this skill? Or should third person omni be tossed out like yesterday's newspaper once soon-to-be dead guy feels his fate?

In another site (Oh! This is a blogspot person. Cool!)

This is said about "head hopping".

"HEADHOPPING:Another common mistake in POV is incorrectly writing POV aka headhopping. Headhopping is switching POV several times per scene. Headhopping is not defined by line by line switching as the example below but can go on as long as several paragraphs. It becomes headhopping when you switch MORE than once in a scene."

In today's "Word of the Post" I shall attempt to use third person omni skillfully. Watch and laugh as I fall on my face. Mistakes made in front of world – for the win!

Today's word comes from Luciferous Logolepsy

naevus n. - small mark on skin; birthmark; tumour of small blood vessel. naevoid, n. like this.

(Your guess is a good as mine about what that last bit "like this" is supposed to tell us.)

Stock characters, James and Mark, you're on cue!


James fanned his fingers out against Mark's back. They had way too few moments like this. Moments where the world could fade away and it was just them. Life's little intimate moments were way too sparse. Touching a lover even in an innocent way was a very powerful thing.

There was a fine line between intimacy and sex. Both sides of the line had their purpose and power, but intimacy carried a softer beauty that sex could never understand.

As his thumb slid along Mark's flesh, James noticed a small pink naevus to the left of his lover's spine. Was it a birthmark or a scar of some kind? It was shaped like a melting crescent moon. James tilted his head to the side and studied the pink skin. A curved squash? Whatever it was shaped like, it was getting a kiss.

Mark's eyes popped open. His stomach flipped. Yes, yes, he had a scar. Did they have to acknowledge it? He silently pleaded for James to move and act like it's not there. The longer James kissed the more self-conscious and insecure Mark felt. Tears threatened his eyes as he remembered his mother's screeching and the pain. Oh God the pain. Please, no questions. He'd lie. He'd lie his ass off if only to preserve sweetness of this moment with James.


To me that's third person omni. I'm not sure if it was "skillfully done", "head hopping" or not, but if that scene were only told with what James knew and not what Mark knew something would be lost. On the flip side, IMHO, if we didn't have James's inner thoughts, we'd miss out on a lot of tenderness.

I suspect I'm going to be a lot more confused before I understand this.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Due to the probing and arm-twisting of my friend Tami Parrington ( ) I have now set up a blog here. Perhaps, I may eventually learn enough to post neat links.

Ah, listen to those crickets.

I suppose I should take a moment to introduce myself to … the empty chairs.

I am an erotica writer for Lady Aibell Print (a division of Chippewa Publishing). My debut e-book "Full Circle" will be out… some time.

As a way to encourage myself to update this blog on a regular basis, I will be providing a "Word of the Post". I'm head over heels in love with obscure words. Yes, yes, I know they never get to be used, the poor dears, but I still cherish them. I shall search over some of my e-dictionaries and report on a word. I'll also try to write it into a short scene.

I'm probably being too ambitious here, but let's try.

Today's Word of the Post comes from Grandiloquent Dictionary…

cacestogenous - ( )
Caused by an unfavourable home life

This dictionary doesn't give the type of speech for the word.


James barreled past Mark.

Mark stumbled needing a few steps to regain his footing. He looked up in enough time to have the door slam in his face. Once his long red hair settled back on his shoulders, he rolled his eyes. What had caused this particular conniption fit?

Maybe the towels weren't folded properly. Perhaps the canned vegetables were out of alphabetical order. It could be that the dishes weren't stacked just so. Or could it be that one of the party guests dared to disagree with The Great James?

One might be inclined to suspect James's short temper to be cacestogenous. That would be incorrect. Mark had met James's family and they were wonderful and caring people. James was a self-made control freak and asshole extraordinaire.

Whatever the cause of this particular outburst, Mark had some serious work to do to salvage this party. With a practiced winning smile on his face, he headed for the rec room.