Monday, July 21, 2014

The Name Game

by HL Carpenter

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography /

Character names are important. After all, a hero should sound like a hero and a strong name equals a strong character. Right? Right...but there’s still room for fun, which is a good thing, because we like to have fun with names.

For example, our first speculative fiction novella, Taxing Pecksniffery, is set in the year 2176, and tells the story of Ichann Count. Ike’s an expert at accounting warfare. She spends her days crunching numbers at the Etherworld Tax Bureau and crushing on her really cute co-worker.

Ichann—pronounced EYE-con—isn’t a name you’ll find in a baby-name list. We made it up based on phonetics. “Ichann Count” is the way we hear “I Can Count.” We call her Ike for short. The fact that “Ike” is the nickname of an American general is part of the fun.

Oh, and the really cute co-worker Ike crushes on? His name is Fifo Ventry. That’s a phonetic mash-up of an accounting term: FIFO Inventory. (In accounting, FIFO stands for first-in, first-out.)

We figured other authors may be are less odd than we are. To test our theory, we asked two fellow Musans how they arrived at the perfect name for their main character.

Here’s how they played the name game.

Actually, the name of the main character for my swamp legend series, Nikki (Nicole) Landry, came to me even before I began to write about her. I chose the name Landry because it is as common as Smith in the bayous of Louisiana, and goes back to my first ancestor that was forced to leave his home in Nova Scotia back in 1755. But that's another story.

Since Nikki represents me in the series, maybe I secretly always wanted to be called Nikki. Who knows. But it's like after you name your child, the name fits. In The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, she lets you know right off that she's tough, adventurous, and a tomboy (but don't call her that). I can't imagine her being named anything else.

Considering my latest release is a Regency, there was a limited number of names I could use. No Tanias or Dirks or Moppetts or Brads. The main names in that era were plain, royal sounding ones such as Anne or Edward, with all their derivatives.

My heroine is Annis, which is a contraction of Agnes. I first heard the name in Georgette Heyer’s Lady of Quality.

How do YOU play the name game? Please leave a comment sharing how you came up with the name for your main character.

HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter writing team. Their latest work is the speculative fiction novella Taxing Pecksniffery, the story of Ichann Count, an expert at accounting warfare. The year is 2176, a rebellion is brewing, and the boss wants a recon report. Ichann Count is all wet as a spy, but she plunges into the fray. Will she emerge with her memory banks intact? Learn more about Taxing Pecksniffery on HL Carpenter’s website. Stay connected on Google+.

To read an excerpts from all the books written by HL Carpenter click a vendor name.
Musa Publishing

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Neanderthal Cuisine at Its Finest

by Charles Suddeth

I consulted archeological and historical periodicals to assemble these recipes and show what life 50,000 years ago might have been like. Yes, in real life they probably didn’t eat on our schedule, but they got hungry just like we do. Warning, I am not a cook. For safety’s sake (and your taste buds’ sake) consult a food expert before attempting these recipes.

Neanderthal Breakfast (Neanderthal Porridge)
Handful of wild barley
Handful of emmer wheat (AKA farrow), a wild wheat
Handful of einkorn wheat, another wild wheat
Handful of sorghum seed
Handful of pistachios or chestnuts
Handful of dates (Neanderthals in colder climes might have used cherries)

Heat water in a birch bark tray, be careful to keep it out of direct flames to avoid a fire.

Mash wild barley, emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, and sorghum seed; add to the boiling water.

Hull and crumble nuts, then add to boiling mixture.

Pit dates or cherries and add to the boiling mixture to sweeten.

Boil until the porridge is soft

Neanderthal Lunch (Neanderthal cattail soup)
Half dozen of cattail flowers, pollen, & roots
Handful of chicory leaves & roots
Handful of dandelion leaves
Wild lentils with husks

Heat water in a birch bark tray, being careful to keep it out of direct flames to avoid afire.

Add wild lentils with husks to water, allow husks to dissolve and release the lentils.

Peel and pound cattail roots, remove the fibers. Add chicory roots, cattail roots, chicory leaves, and dandelion leaves to boiling water.

Finally add cattail flowers and pollen to boiling water.

If meat is necessary (Neanderthals ate what they had), add small animals or birds

My novel takes place in the present, so you might call this an old (very old) family recipe. And aren't you glad you live now with excellent restaurants and diverse markets to indulge your appetite?

Here's a brief intro to Neanderthal Protocol. I think you'll enjoy it more than the recipes above.

After cold-fusion physicist Greg Anderson’s DNA test marks him as Neanderthal, he is forced to live like an animal. Rachel helps him search for the organization trying to destroy him.

Greg Anderson is a physicist working on Project Cold Sun, which will generate electricity via hydrogen fusion. After a DNA test exposes him as a Neanderthal, he lives on the streets like a wild animal. Near death, he meets Rachel Waters.

After Greg’s former boss is murdered, the police blame Greg. She helps Greg search for the killers. Can Rachel and Greg find the people who are trying to destroy Project Cold Sun before the police charge Greg with murder and execute him?

To read an excerpt from Neanderthal Protocol please click a vendor name. Musa Publishing - Amazon

Charles Suddeth was born in Indiana, grew up Michigan, and has spent his adult life in Kentucky. He now lives in Louisville with two cats and likes to spend his days hiking and writing in nearby Tom Sawyer State Park. Charles is a graduate of Michigan State University. He belongs to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and Green River Writers. His first book, Halloween Kentucky Style, was published in 2010.

Learn more about Charles Suddeth on his website. Stay connected on Twitter.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Musa Publishing is excited to announce All Roads Lead to Lucca, a FREE erotic romance by award-winning author Sloane Taylor, is now available.

Roads less traveled often hold the greatest rewards.

CEO Julia Dickenson is no longer consumed by the past. She is now eager to move forward and embrace the future. To celebrate her monumental decisions, Julia is on a short holiday in Italy when fate knocks her off balance and into the arms of a Roman god.

Letting go is difficult for Lucca Albanese, even though he wants to be happy again. He struggles daily with the inept employees at his tour company, the loneliness that rules his life, and his adult children who give him no peace.

Lucca’s headaches go on holiday when a disastrous tour throws him together with a fiery woman who is determined to enjoy life to the fullest, no matter what road she travels.

"I do not want to leave, Julia.” Lucca stepped back. “But are you sure this is what you want?”

“More than anything.”

The doors silently slid apart, and they stepped inside the cage.

“No regrets in the morning?” His worried face reflected in the marbled glass.

She wrapped her arm around his waist and murmured, “Lucca, this is everything I want right now. Let’s make the most of my short stay.”

The elevator stopped, and they walked to her room in silence with their arms twined around each other. At her door, Julia fished in her purse for the keycard. Lucca shuffled from foot to foot.

“Are you as nervous as I am?” She handed him the card.

Lucca flashed a sheepish grin. “A long time has passed since I have been drawn to a woman, let alone in her bedroom.”

The door popped open, and they entered the dimly lit room. Julia dropped her purse on a chair and propped her treasured painting against the dresser mirror. She glanced up. Her eyes met his, and they held.

Lucca turned her in his arms. He cupped her face in his large hands and tilted her to him. A century of longing passed before he gently touched her lips with his. He tasted of rich foods and expensive wine, and she couldn’t get enough. She licked his lips, anxious for the dessert soon to come.

He skimmed his hand along her cheek and down to her throat. She wanted to tell him how much this meant to her, but words were impossible. Her heart stuttered, and breath caught in her throat. Moisture pooled between her clenched thighs. More than anything, she needed this amazing man’s bare skin next to hers. To feel him enter her. Pumping in and out. A shiver of desire arrowed to her clit.

She raised her arms. He skimmed her top up and off, and then her skirt floated into a puddle at her feet. Her breasts grew heavy. Her nipples tight and hard. He traced the swell of her right breast before he popped open the front closure clip of her bra. In an instant, the lace joined her other clothes. He glided his hands along her torso and ignited streaks of fire in their path. He dropped to his knees before he whisked her panties down her legs. She placed her hands on his shoulders and stepped clear of her scant lingerie. She stood before him wearing just her espadrilles.

Lucca pressed his hot cheek against her abdomen and murmured a string of sweet-sounding words. She ran her fingers through his silky hair and held him close. He pulled back and gazed up at her. His dark eyes were shiny and black. The skin pulled taut over his chiseled face.

“You are a beautiful woman, cara,” His voice came out raspy, almost harsh, as if he had gone for days without a sip of water. “A man must not hurry pleasuring a woman. He must savor every moment. I believe a woman is born to be cherished. Treasured, like priceless art or an exquisite day you must never forget.”

His palms followed the sweep of her hips as he pressed tender kisses along her pubic line. Her body trembled with longing. He inched her thighs apart and breathed deep. The musky aroma of her sex perfumed the air. He spread her legs wider as he lowered his head. The sight of his dark head between her thighs…

Claim your FREE download HERE.

To read excerpts from the erotic romances by Sloane Taylor, please click here or here.

Award-winning author Sloane Taylor believes humor and sex are healthy aspects of our everyday lives and carries that philosophy into her books. She writes sexually explicit romances that take you right into the bedroom. Being a true romantic, all her stories have a happy ever after.

Her books are set in Europe where the men are all male and the North American women they encounter are both feminine and strong. They also bring more than lust to their men’s lives.

Learn more about Sloane Taylor on her website, and her blog for easy recipes. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Musa Publishing is excited to announce In Claw's Catacombs, Episode 12 of Spire City: Season One Infected, by Daniel Ausema is now available for purchase.

What can you do when a steampunk mad genius targets you with a deadly serum? Fight back.

Spire City is home to mighty machines of steam power and clockwork, and giant beetles pull picturesque carriages over cobbled streets, but there is a darker secret behind these wonders. A deadly infection, created by a mad scientist, is spreading through the city, targeting the poor and powerless, turning them slowly into animals. A group of those infected by the serum join together to survive, to trick the wealthy out of their money, and to fight back.

Trying to protect the Weave and keep watch is stretching Marrel's band thin. They need more members, but where can they go to find them? At Williver's prompting they journey underground to seek out Claw, if he still lives. What they find is not at all what they were expecting.

Claw said, over the protests of their group, “What they want, what everyone who comes down here really wants, is safety. We have that. Safety is not comfort. Is not excitement or justice. There is a certain solidarity though, I guess. We’re all down here together.”

The new doors revealed an uneven hallway. Halfway to the first dim light bulb the left-hand wall buckled alarmingly. From farther down the hall came the sounds of people going about their tasks, ordinary sounds like they might have heard down in the Weave’s basements. Williver couldn’t see the people.

“We have food and places to sleep. And what more does an almost-animal need?”

Williver tried to keep his confidence, even as he sidled backward, toward the first door. “Would any of them choose to leave that safety? We offer uncertainty and danger, no doubt, but the surface too. The city, its good and its bad, for anyone who chooses to come up with us.”

“And you misunderstand again. Those who come down here do not return to the surface. To allow that would undermine our safety.”

Williver tried another blind step toward the closed door and bumped against the guard there. He shoved Williver away toward the open doorway. When Williver looked at him, he saw the steam pistol leveled at him and the gear gun in the other hand.


To read excerpts from the other episodes of Spire City or Daniel's other work, please click HERE.

Daniel Ausema is the creator of the Spire City serial fiction project. His short stories and poems have appeared in Penumbra, Daily Science Fiction, The Journal of Unlikely Stories, and many other places. He has worked as a journalist and educator and is currently a stay-at-home dad. He lives in Colorado, where May blizzards, September floods, and summer wildfires engage in a never-ending war.

Learn more about Dan on his website Twigs and Brambles.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Now is the Time, BUT is it the Place?

Chapter Setting
by Sloane Taylor

What the hell is that and where does this woman come up with these phrases?

Well, this woman has been around the block more times than anyone and will tell you what it’s not. The chapter is not endless pages of a well written book that don’t allow the reader to rest. The setting is not the quaint coffee shop where you display all your grace and charm as you lay your manuscript into yet another unsuspecting friend’s hands.

Chapter Setting is where you break the chapter with a cliffhanger and determine its best location within your manuscript.

As you well know, every book has chapters. You, the author, get to decide how many there will be, how they begin and end, and the placement of each. You, the writer, have to create such an impact on your reader that they want to turn the page.

I had one chapter in my first book that had 8,843 good, edited, words. My critique partners listened patiently as I read every single one of those words. Did I mention their eyes glazed over about half way through the diatribe?

“Too long?” asked I.
“Aahh,” they muttered between yawns and stretches.

I didn’t need Beth Anderson’s infamous 2x4 to get the hint.

We went through that longer than life chapter, line by line, scene by scene, to determine the best point to end it and create a new one. The best place was a logical scene where the chapter went from one point of view to another. Simple enough, but there’s more to chapter setting.

Every chapter ending must make the reader want to continue. You must excite them enough to want to find out what happens to your hero and heroine.

Here’s a little sample;
Gina was tormented with indecision. She tossed and turned, twisting the sheets into a knot, until she finally rolled over and fell asleep.

Make you want to turn the page? Not hardly. Why should your reader go any further? Gina slept. End of story. The reader will probably toss your hard work against the wall and bitch about the $5.00 they wasted. Will they buy another book written by you? Not likely.

End every chapter with a cliff-hanger. You can’t? You’re going to let chapter fifteen slide? Guess you don’t want to be published, let alone aim for the best seller list.

How about a slight alteration to our example?
Gina was tormented with indecision. She tossed and turned, twisting the sheets into knots.

Better, not great, but at least it’s headed in the right direction.

In my humble opinion, the best ending is;
Gina tossed and turned, twisting the sheets into knots, tormented with indecision.

Now your reader wants to find out what the indecision is and how Gina handled it. Tease your reader. They’ll flip the page with the hope of discovering the resolution.

Surprise! You’ve taunted them again by inserting a chapter that doesn’t give the conclusion. Instead they have a new chapter, in another character’s point of view, about a totally different phase of the book. The reader may have to continue for another forty pages to discover Gina’s outcome. And they’ll love you for it.

You must withhold the information from the reader. Remember the old carrot and horse thing? You can’t let go of the carrot until the timing is right.

This is the time in your novel writing to go through your manuscript and make sure;
• chapters are ended in the correct spot
• each chapter is a cliff-hanger
• chapter placement is timely to your story

Don't allow yourself to get down. You can do this. Soon chapter setting will become second nature.

Award-Winning author Sloane Taylor believes humor and sex are healthy aspects of our everyday lives and carries that philosophy into her books. She writes sexually explicit romances that take you right into the bedroom. Being a true romantic, all her stories have a happy ever after.

Her books are set in Europe where the men are all male and the North American women they encounter are both feminine and strong. They also bring more than lust to their men’s lives.

To read excerpts from the erotic romances by Sloane Taylor, please click HERE.

Learn more about Sloane Taylor on her website, and her blog for easy recipes. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


by Philippa Lodge

Now, I don’t want to weigh anyone down or anything, but the American university paradigm is broken.

Let’s back up: I grew up the daughter of a university math professor in a town/small city where the major industry is the university. I went to college (not at the university where I grew up), though not all my siblings did. I even went and got a Master’s in French after my BA. I struggled to focus enough to get decent grades in the last semester of my second year, but I got the degree. I was so burned out that I hardly read anything at all for a few years, even though reading had always been my favorite pastime.

So I’m not in academia, but I have some knowledge of it. I have friends who are professors. I have an abiding interest in what happens in colleges, especially as my kids get closer to the age to go to college.

Annabelle, the heroine in my Winter/Christmas/Ghost novella, “Christmas Spirit", is completing her first semester in her first tenure-track job at a tiny liberal arts college in Ohio. She spent a few years after getting her doctorate moving from university to university, working as an adjunct and applying for every math professor job in North America. Now, she has a future. Tentatively. She just needs to keep her job for a few years, get her students and co-professors to like her, publish or perish, and get tenure, then she’s set for life. No pressure or anything…

With her parents’ help, she’s bought her ancestors’ old farm house, where her great-grandmother’s ghost is still in residence. And her ghost seems to have ghosts—memories of her friends, enemies, and family, and especially of her children.

But the ghost seems harmless, and her history-professor neighbor is hot and has a goofy dog. It’s not all bad. Annabelle just has to keep the ghost a secret.

It seems like a good teacher, smart, personable, in the top of her PhD program, etc. should be able to get hired easily, right?

Well, even though college tuition prices and student loan debt are shooting up, that money is not going to the actual professors who are teaching students. Administration is bloating both in numbers and salaries. Many universities’ investments crashed with the stock market. Federal, state, and local funding is disappearing. Classes get larger. The total number of tenured and tenure-track professors is dropping.

So who’s teaching the students? Adjuncts are professionals with degrees and experience and yet are often paid below minimum wage, once the hours they put in are figured. They are hired easily and unemployed suddenly. There are anecdotal stories of adjunct professors who are sleeping on their parents’ couch, living in their car, and working multiple jobs just to get by. There are so many of these stories that it’s hard to think that they are just exceptions to the rule. They aren’t.

Part of the problem is a glut in the labor pool of people with doctorates who want to teach or research at the university level. I mean, why hire a full-time professor who will be there forever and get a pension at the end, when you can hire two part-timers for less than half of the salary?

But the adjuncts are organizing. They’re forming unions.

My novella is lighthearted: my heroine has beaten the odds and found a tenure-track position. And yet, as a first-year assistant professor, her job is still tentative. She’s stressed out about keeping the job, which is her last chance at the career she wants. Then she starts having weird dreams and seeing ghosts.

You’d be worried, too.

So get your Christmas in July!

Numbers make perfect sense to Annabelle. Ghosts? Not so much.

She's new to her tenure-track position as a math professor at the small college where her ancestor taught over a century ago. Since she moved into her ancestral home, intense ghostly dreams are plaguing her. When her handsome history professor neighbor, Chris, returns from sabbatical, the ghost invites all her memories and throws a Christmas party in the living room.

With her agoraphobic great-great-grandmother rocking in an antique chair, Annabelle needs Chris to help convince a pushy would-be suitor and her department chair that she's not crazy or lying. If Annabelle and Chris can track down her other descendants, they might be able to ease the ghost's pain in time to ring in the New Year together.

To read an excerpt from Christmas Spirit please click a vendor name.
Musa Publishing

Philippa Lodge has been an avid reader since she asked her mother to point out where it said “Ma” in Little House in the Big Woods. She read everything she could get her hands on, with an emphasis on mysteries, until grad school in French Studies where the emphasis turned to the seventeenth century. About then Philippa lost her reading mojo. Only through the twin discoveries of Harry Potter and romance has she gotten her groove back.

She turned to writing paranormal romances with action and suspense. Toss in some French historicals, set in the time of Louis XIV and she covers everything.

Philippa lives in the suburbs of Sacramento, CA with her husband, three children, and a head full of werewolves and courtesans (ooh la la!). She does the editing and layout of the bi-monthly newsletter for her local chapter of Romance Writers of America.

Learn more about Philippa Lodge on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Delightful Way to End Your Meal

from Vonnie Hughes

This dessert serves 4 people and has only 3 ingredients:

Strawberry Marshmallow Delight

1 punnet (or carton) of strawberries
1 packet of small marshmallows
4 oz of thick whipped cream flavored with a couple of drops of vanilla

Wash and hull the strawberries. Sort into four equal quantities

Place in glass dishes like parfait dishes.

Very carefully melt 16-18 marshmallows and cool slightly.

Fold the whipped cream into the marshmallow mix and pour it all over the strawberries.

Easy, cheap and quick.

Here is a little from Vonnie's latest Regency.

A kidnapper makes a grave mistake and faces a revenge he never expected.

Annis's new husband investigates crimes, and Caroline's new husband is a capable ex-Army officer. When their ladies are kidnapped in an effort to suppress the evidence of pilfering and murder, Giles and Fort fight their way through all the lies and subterfuge to not only rescue them, but also to avenge them.

Fort approached the person on the seat. “Mr. Young, we’ve been looking for you.”

If that was Mr. Young, why was he listing to one side like a ship at sea?

“Is he injured? Has John hurt him?” She hurried towards them.


Fort’s peremptory order stopped her in her tracks. She watched as Fort examined Mr. Young’s head and neck. He lifted Mr. Young’s hand. It dropped laxly.

“He’s dead,” Fort said, turning towards Caroline. “Sweetheart, do you know your way out of the maze? I must stay here with the body. There’s been enough moving of evidence already.”


Fort gesticulated with a finger across his throat.

“Oh! I’ll fetch Giles. Sir William Harding will have to be notified too.” Caroline cast her husband an anxious look. “Please be careful, Giles, in case John comes back.”

“You be careful too, my love. Walk slowly and listen for footsteps on the other side of the hedge. And if you meet anyone—anyone at all, man or woman—scream. Scream loudly.”

Caroline nodded and plunged back along the gravel paths surrounded by greenery. To her great relief she met nobody, although she was so rattled by events that she took a wrong turning and had to retrace her steps. “Hurry,” she told herself. “Fort is alone there and John is on the loose.”


All of Vonnie’s books are available on Musa Publishing and Amazon.

Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.