Apr 18

Amazon and the Attack of the Zombie Scammers

It’s a day just like any other. The sun is shining, birds are singing. A neighbor calls a cheerful greeting as Mom and Dad see the kids off to school. Then, from across the street, a scream splits the air.

Pulp-O-Mizer_Amazon_ImageA young mother flings her phone away and presses her children back from the menace on the screen. A teenage boy yells, his phone clattering to the sidewalk as he scrambles away. From the windows of homes all up and down the street come cries of horror at the foul abominations leering through computer screens.

Zombie scammers are shambling through Amazon’s Kindle store!!!

Meanwhile, in a dusty attic room, a writer hunches over her laptop, a pencil clenched in her teeth. The screen’s blue glow bathes her determined face, illuminates her tangled hair and rumpled clothes as she pursues the hideous truth through the darkest catacombs of the internet . . .

The once-green gardens of the Kindle store have been blighted with scam books. Lured by promises of free Kindles and Amazon gift cards, innocent readers are ensnared, their precious time devoured by blank pages, lists of numbers, Google translations of vile prose. The books of hard-working writers are terrifyingly, gruesomely buried alive under page after page of BBW Paranormal Pregnancy Billionaire Alpha Bear Shifter Satisfies Girls Every Desire Menage Romance.

What can be the purpose of the scammers’ perverted plot?

MONEY! Truckloads of money leached from the blood, sweat and tears of honest writers. Money squeezed from precious minutes of leisure time of unsuspecting readers. For each time they click a CLICK HERE! message, pure, gleaming gold flows into the scammers’ greedy pockets.

It can’t be! you say. But it is. Read the words of the famous, well-respected watchdog of indie publishing, David Gaughran.

Oh! you say. But surely it can’t work. But the scammers are diabolically clever in their relentless search for ill-gotten gains. Read author Ann Christie’s step-by-step breakdown of how they do it.

As the money continues to flow, the scammers grow ever more cunning, overrunning the Kindle store. Amazon tried to stop them, but they only rose again, more hideous and malignant than ever. Authors have reported them, but still they come, an endless, disgusting tide.

What will they do next? What horrors will they perpetrate in their insatiable lust for lucre? Will they be defeated before they drain the life from every real book?

Stay tuned…

Apr 14

Cover Confusion

You might notice two different covers for Could It Be Magic, the latest book in The Land of Enchantment series.

This one, with the photo of Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains in the background…
Could It Be Magic cover5

…and this one.Could It Be Magic cover3

I’m doing some A/B testing to see which cover readers prefer. What are your thoughts?

Mar 21

Pinterest Popular Pins

I signed up for Pinterest a while back so I could post images from The Land of Enchantment books. New Mexico is a unique place, full of things not found in other parts of the county, so I thought it might be helpful to readers to be able to see some of the things I talk about in the books.

One of the things Pinterest does is show you which images people are “repinning,” in other words, adding to their own collection of images. What’s fascinating is seeing which images become popular.

The image of Amethyst’s eye is the clear winner. In Familiar Magic, I describe Amethyst’s eyes as violet. This image is pretty much how I pictured them.

Violet eye

The other one surprised me. It’s a stained glass piece by Teresa Seaton, but I’m amazed that it gets repinned at least once a day and has been for quite some time now. In Could It Be Magic, Amethyst is working on a stained glass panel depicting fall aspens, and this image looks much like how I imagined her piece.

Stained glass aspens

A lot of the pins, like those from my Reylo board, aren’t surprising, since they’re images from the popular consciousness. But otherwise, I suspect popularity is pretty random. It’s fun to watch.

Feb 01

Jas and Amethyst

I found a cute illustration on Pinterest that’s almost perfect for Jas and Amethyst after the party in in Chapter 6 of Could It Be Magic. Except Jas has black eyes, not blue.The artist’s name is Reena, who goes by the handle rejoboart on Tumblr.

Jas n Amethyst

Amethyst made herself let him go, put her hands on his chest. Jas shifted his grip, too, resting his hands on her waist. His eyes were closed, his chest rising and falling under her touch.

Jan 30

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 15

Could It Be Magic is now available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N and other major ebook retailers. I hope you enjoy the book!

Snow Day

It shouldn’t have been obvious. But watching Melodie’s gaze travel around the living room, Amethyst was afraid it was. The tablet that wasn’t hers, sitting on the round maple table by Jas’ chair. The coaster he’d set his glass on last night after dinner… Every little thing seemed to have flashing neon arrows that said, ‘Jas is staying here!’

Then again, it could be just her guilty conscience.

“I booked the one o’clock snowboarding lesson,” Jas said, crossed to the coat closet and took out their coats—both their coats. “Give the day a chance to warm up.”

Melodie shot Amethyst a look, her brows giving an upward twitch.

Nope. It wasn’t just Amethyst’s guilty conscience. Melodie knew. Amethyst met her look and gave a ghost of a shrug.

Jas, holding her coat, noticed the interchange. Most guys never picked up on subtle female communications. But of course Jas would be the one who did. She shrugged at him, too, and slipped into her coat, her puffy, rich purple cold-weather one.

Marl, Melodie’s husband, certainly seemed oblivious, chatting about what a perfect day it was and how they’d hardly need coats. Or it might just be that he was laboring to keep the atmosphere light. So far, Melodie was keeping her promise to be civil. But she wasn’t making an effort to be friendly, either. Amethyst was surprised to find herself a little squirmy about it. And they still had a 45-minute drive up to the ski area.

She drove her Subaru, Jas beside her, Melodie and Marl in the back. The city gave way to sparsely-vegetated granite slopes, then to low-rise woods of piñon and juniper, and those to towering pines as they climbed. Snow appeared, first only in the shade, then as a white blanket.

Amethyst had to admire Jas’ composure. The mood, while not hostile, was definitely cool. But Jas stayed as pleasant and friendly as if Marl and Melodie were a couple he looked forward to getting to know.

The Sandia Peak ski lodge rose from the parking lot above its bright red double staircases. Skiers in equally bright gear trooped up and down the stairs, moved across the snowy landscape, rode the lift to the top of the ski trails.

As soon as they’d unloaded, Melodie grabbed Amethyst’s arm.

“Let’s go check it out,” she said. “We’ll see you guys up there.”

Amethyst didn’t have a chance to read the look on Jas’ face before Melodie tugged her away across the snowy parking lot. Sighing, Amethyst let herself be towed up the stairs, into the lodge and through a door onto a side deck.

Melodie found a relatively private corner and rounded on her. “Tell me Jas Harker isn’t living with you.”

Amethyst raised her chin and crossed her arms. “Jas Harker isn’t living with me.”

“Amethyst, I’m your best friend. Do not lie to me.”

When Melodie used her real name, Amethyst knew she was serious. “I’m not lying. He’s not living with me. He’s staying with me.”

Melodie shook her head. “Ah, semantics. You gotta love ’em.”

“It’s the truth.”

“Look,” Melodie said. “I don’t want to cause trouble—”

“Not much.”

“—but a week ago you wanted to throw the man under the bus. Now he’s living—excuse me—staying with you.”

“You were the one who told me I’d better think twice before I shut him down.”

“And I’m feeling a little uncomfortable about that now.”

Ah-ha, Amethyst thought. She took Melodie’s hand. “Don’t feel guilty, Mel. It’s not like you think.” Yet. “We’re having wizard problems. We discussed it, and decided this was the best way to handle them.”

Melodie held up a hand. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wizard problems. What kind of wizard problems?”

Amethyst sighed. “Hopefully not the kind that put me in the hospital again. So you see why Jas doesn’t want leave me on my own.”

Melodie put knuckle to lip and studied her a long moment. “You know, every time I want to think the worst of him, he turns around and does something like that.”

Amethyst grinned. “I know, huh? Leave that gorgeous place of his up in the foothills to camp out in my guest bedroom, help with the dishes and everything. He even gave ol’ Heather the brush-off when she fired up the charm.”

Melodie made a face. “And we all know how hard that is. So these wizard problems—”

“It’s just some guy who keeps showing up. He’s probably harmless, but I’m not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

“Okay. So…” She gave Amethyst a worried look. “Are you okay with it? The close quarters and all?”

Amethyst gave a rueful laugh. “I’m hopelessly confused. I don’t think I can expect any better than that.”

“Well, I guess I’ll get to see up close and personal today if Jas is worth all the agony.”

Amethyst hadn’t thought about it that way. “I know it sounds crazy,” she said slowly, “but I’m beginning to think he might be.”

Melodie studied her again as if trying to decide if she really was crazy, then sighed. “He’d better be, for his sake.”

Amethyst hugged her. “Thanks. You’re the best kind of friend. There aren’t many who’ll ask if you’re being stupid.”

“Hey, you know me,” Melodie said. “Anytime.”

Amethyst laughed and went back inside, Melodie following.

Continue reading

Jan 21

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 14

Second Thoughts

Jas wasn’t coming back. Amethyst was sure of it now.

She sat by herself at the dining room table eating a stuffed baked potato for dinner and pretending the realization didn’t make her stomach upset. It just meant she could have the other potato, the one in the fridge, tomorrow.

She looked at the bite of potato and cottage cheese and salsa and zucchini on her fork and realized it had been hanging there a good minute. The steam that had risen from the potato after she took it out of the oven was gone, along with the savory smell. She took the bite. It was barely lukewarm.

Idiot, she told herself. Stupid, boneheaded moron. You can’t keep rejecting a man and not expect him to eventually take it to heart.

He hadn’t even called to tell her. Not that she probably didn’t deserve a brush-off that cold, but…

She really hadn’t expected that from Jas.

You’d better hang onto that one, Heather had said. Oh, well. Too late now.

Caramela, lying beside her, stood up and whined at the laundry room door. Her heart suddenly beating hard, Amethyst put down her fork, listening.

The sound of a car’s engine came from the garage. She leapt to her feet, her heart galloping now.

“Okay, be cool,” she told herself.

The engine fell silent. Seconds ticked past in more silence. Amethyst made herself sit back down and pick up her mug. On the other side of the closed laundry room door, she heard the sound of the door to the garage opening. She stood again, carried the mug into the kitchen.

Jas opened the door and came in.

It was like the first time she’d seen him, black hair stylishly mussed, the little quirk to one brow, good-looking enough to make her stupid. His tie was loosened, pale green dress shirt rumpled, his suit jacket draped over one arm, distressed leather satchel in the other hand.

She took a sip of tepid tea to hide her agitation. “’Honey, I’m home,’” she said, deadpan.

He put his satchel on the chair and draped his jacket over the back. “Don’t worry. I won’t kiss you.”

Kiss me, she thought. The way she felt right now, that was so not a good idea. Or maybe it was a great idea. She couldn’t begin to say.

Continue reading

Jan 14

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 13

One Step Forward…

“Jas,” Amethyst said, “you can’t work from home forever.”

He sat at his end-of-the-dining-room-table workstation, sipping from the coffee mug in one hand, clicking and scrolling with the mouse in the other. Today he wore a black sweatshirt that announced Bezos is my Dark Lord in menacing, crackly white letters with a red Eye of Sauron over the Amazon smile.

He lowered his coffee. “Only three days, and you’re already tired of me.”

“Trust me,” she said. “I’m not tired of you.”

Heaven save her, anything but.

“That’s very…” He let the pause draw out to suggestive proportions. “…promising.”

Rolling her eyes, she took eggs out of the fridge, cracked them into a bowl and whipped them. “What’s with the shirt?  Please, please tell me Jeff Bezos isn’t another wizard.”

He got up and came into the kitchen. “Jeff Bezos isn’t a wizard. Unless he’s as far undercover as I am. I just admire his business acumen.”

She put a pan on the stove and chopped some green chile. “Lucky for him, he’s not a competitor.”

“True.” Jas came up behind her and slipped an arm around her waist. “Good morning, Amethyst.” He kissed her.

Amethyst, stirring the green chile into the eggs, let her spoon hang above the pan and leaned into the kiss. Jas’ other arm slid around her and the kiss became rather more than a morning greeting. Her own arms went around him and she melted into him.

His lips, warm and insistent, coaxed her mouth open. His tongue teased hers. She made a noise somewhere between a whimper and a sigh and ran her hands into his hair, still damp from the shower, pulling him down to her. Her nipples became two knots of excruciating sensation. His kiss became more eager, devouring, then he broke away and nibbled his way down her neck. She tipped back her head, eyes closed, breaths moving fast between her lips.

Why not? whispered into her mind. She wanted to, God knew. There were two perfectly good beds at the other end of the house. No reason not to, really. Was there?

There must’ve been, or they’d already be waking up in bed together. But she couldn’t think what it was. Some reason…important enough…

Continue reading

Jan 12

Reylo Trash

I learned a new slang term this week: trash. As in, “I am Reylo trash,” a crazy fan. I would be, except….

Well, there is no Reylo. At least, not yet, there isn’t.

Reylo on Tumblr

“Reylo” is the couple name for Rey and Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’ve been seeing fan art all over Pinterest with romantic images of the two, so I was really looking forward to see a “thing” between wielders of the Dark and Light sides of the Force.

But…there was no “thing.” Some interest on Kylo Ren’s side, and antagonism on Rey’s, and good sexual tension, but that was it.

Well, damn.

The dark + light trope is one of my favorite romantic themes. And I have to admit, dark heroes, antiheroes and villains really appeal to me. I have a special soft spot for dark lords. They often manage to find their way into my own books. Blackthorne is a former dark lord. Jen in Shadowbound is an up-and-coming dark lord (or lady, in this case). Hadis, in Springtime in Hades, is a reluctant dark lord.

I heart dark lords

Okay, I don’t like Sauron, the original dark lord. He’s just a faceless force of evil. Same with Darth Sidious (Emperor Palpatine). Ick. No layers at all, nothing interesting. Darth Vader, on the other hand, at least had the cool factor going for him.

A good dark lord, besides the oozing the requisite power, has to have a few chinks in his evil black armor. There has to be a human being underneath all that villainy. He can’t be bad just for the sake of being bad. He has to have reasons for being bad, and there has to be a glimpse, however small, of something better.

Kylo Ren makes an appealing dark lord-in-training. He’s not totally evil yet, although he’s doing his damndest to extinguish his better qualities. But the struggle torments him.

The Force Awakens leaves enough loose ends dangling that things between Kylo Ren and Rey could go in all sorts of directions. Will there be a romance after all? A reluctant alliance for the greater good? A tug-of-war, where Kylo Ren tries to seduce Rey to the Dark Side while she tries to bring him to the Light? Then again, it could be nothing but old-fashioned antagonism. Snore.

But since I’m a writer, I can make up my own story to satisfy my bad guy + good girl cravings. Fated Magic is my take on Reylo.

Update: Now that I’ve seen The Last Jedi, I’ve written a new post on Reylo.

Jan 07

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 12

Drives Me Crazy

Amethyst woke to Caramela’s soft boof. Early light filtered through the shades, painting the comforter and bedroom furniture in shades of lavender and blue. Ears up, head raised, the dog faced the bedroom door. For an instant, Amethyst wondered why the door was closed. The sound of the water running in the hall bath came, and she remembered.

Jas. That was him in the bathroom. She thought of him in the shower, water sluicing over the muscles of his shoulders and back, slicking down the black hair on his chest and belly and—

“No, no, no,” she told herself, rapping her head to drive out the image. “You already have enough trouble. You don’t need more.”

She lay staring up at the ceiling, waiting for the throbbing down low to subside and trying to decide which was more dangerous: dealing with Balgaire on her own, or having Jas sleeping and showering a few feet beyond her bedroom door.

She sighed. Well, if nothing else, the kind of danger she faced from Jas would be more pleasant. At least in the short term.

She nudged Caramela out of bed, rolled out after her and, in her pajamas, padded into the kitchen to let the dog out, put on a pot of coffee and turn on the hall furnace so Jas wouldn’t freeze in the bathroom. It was cold this morning.

The coffeepot gurgling away, Amethyst stood looking out the patio door. The backyard was a well of blue light. With the granite-and-juniper wall of the Sandia Mountains rising no more than five miles away to the east, it would be a while before the sun broke the crest. Now, frost rimmed the blades of grass and Caramela’s breath plumed on the air as she snuffled her way across the yard.

After Caramela finished her business, Amethyst returned to the bedroom to begin her own morning routine. And, incidentally, avoid any chance encounters in the hallway with a possibly towel-clad Jas, his hair damp and unruly, his pale skin gleaming—

And, dammit! She was thinking about it again!

She made up the bed, ruthlessly throttling any fantasies involving it. There were several. When she didn’t hear any more noises from the hall bath or the guest bedroom, she decided it was safe to venture out.

The humidity from the shower and the scent of Jas’ aftershave wafted from the bathroom as she passed it. The aroma of coffee replaced it as she neared the kitchen. A quiet pleasure washed over her at the smells, so different from every other morning.

Jas had set up a nice little workstation at one end of the dining room table. Sitting open in front of him was a laptop about the thickness of a menu from fancy restaurant. A portable printer/‌scanner sat to one side. To the other lay an ominous, matte-black cube bearing the Magus logo, a stylized ‘M’ resting on a green starburst.

Amethyst stopped in the doorway and pointed at the cube. “What,” she said, “is that?”

“That,” Jas said, “is a hyper-secure wireless modem.”

She went on into the kitchen, got down a mug and, from the pantry, a bag of chocolate granules. “How come I don’t get a hyper-secure Internet connection so I can work from home?”

He took a sip of the coffee she’d made earlier. “Because then I wouldn’t see you as often.”

Her mug hit the microwave turntable with a clink. “You are the most scheming—”

“You already knew that,” he interrupted. “But doesn’t admitting it count for something?”

She started the microwave, leaned back against the counter and thought about it. “I guess it does.”

He closed the laptop screen and stood, coffee in hand. “Good. I was hoping it would.”

A laugh unexpectedly bubbled up. She coughed to cover it. “Just for that, you can fix your own breakfast. You’d better get in here if you want to find out where everything is.”

Only one night, and it no longer felt strange to have him here, eating meals with her, cleaning up afterwards, settling down in front of his computer to do whatever it was slumming CEO’s did with their days.

How would it feel when they’d dealt with Balgaire, and Jas went back to his own house? She ignored the anticipating twinge of regret in her middle and carried her mug of hot chocolate back into her own workroom.

Continue reading

Jan 05

Snow Day

In Chapter 15 of Could It Be Magic, Amethyst, Jas, Melodie and Marl go snowboarding at the Sandia Peak Ski Area. I’ve been up on the mountain numerous times for hiking and such, but not being a winter sports* enthusiast, never in the winter. When our first big snow of the season came right after Christmas, I decided it was time to correct that oversight.

What’s interesting about Sandia Ski is that it’s basically in Albuquerque’s backyard, as the Sandia Mountains mark the eastern border of Albuquerque. If you want to ski, you can either take the Sandia Peak Tramway to the top of the mountain, or drive around the mountain through Tijeras Canyon and up Highway 14, the scenic Turquoise Trail.

Here are the photos from my visit.

Sandia Peak day lodge

The Sandia Peak day lodge from the parking lot


*Note to self: Snowboarding doesn’t look easy

Boards and skis