Sunday, January 18, 2009

How to survive Mercury retrograde

If you follow astrology -- and even if you don’t -- we’re in a period of Mercury retrograde. This means the planet Mercury appears to be moving “backwards.” It usually happens about three times a year. This one runs 01/11/09 - 01/31/09.

Mercury rules communication and commerce. These retros are often associated with mechanical and electronic failures, travel snafus, and miscommunications (like accidentally sending a confidential email to the wrong person or having the computer eat the email so it never arrives at all.)

Mine got off to a roaring start this time. The washing machine died and my vehicle started making strange noises. (I can only hope the bookmarks I sent to Australia for an upcoming reader/writer conference are actually on their way there instead of someplace else like, say, Timbuktu.)

What to do? Check these DOs and DON’Ts so you can sail right through retro without having a stress meltdown and even take advantage of its benefits.

-Buy any electronic or expensive item unless you’re replacing a broken one. You’ll probably end up returning it because it’s a lemon or some other reason.
-Sign any important contracts. There might be trouble or information that changes everything later.
-Fire off correspondence in the heat of the moment.
-Assume everything will “work out.”

Be aware that the “bookend dates”, beginning and ending of retro, are when Merc is at its craziest, so especially don’t do the DON’Ts on those days. In fact, if you want to be really technical about it, wait until Mercury makes up its degrees (gets back to where it was in the sky when it turned retrograde). If you’re really into this, buy yourself a handy-dandy ephemeris to see what all the planets are doing.

-Check and double check the details, especially if you’re traveling.
-Schedule extra time to deal with unexpected messes.
-Communicate clearly to avoid misinterpretations.
-Computer backups and preventive maintenance for everything else.

-Anything starting with RE:
-REvive an unfinished manuscript

Writers, this means you. It just so happens I’m polishing up a rough draft. Perfect timing! A bonus of retrograde is it’s a great time to catch up with an old friend, REflect on your goals, or just RElax. Do you have big plans? Use retro to plan your strategy and gather information. It’ll pay off later.

I hope by the time this retro is done my manuscript will be too and all the better for the RE- work I put into it.

Afton Locke

Friday, January 9, 2009

LUST -- path to love or one of the 7 deadly sins?

The History Channel has started the new year off with a lot of gloom and doom. Blogs are hopping with discussions of the Armageddon series, which says life as we know it will end in 2012. The other series it ran was 7 Deadly Sins week. At times, I’ve lusted, envied others, been stingy, pigged out, procrastinated, lost my temper, and even been proud. Does this mean I’m doomed? (According to the prophecies, I have less than 4 years to figure it out.) Since I write erotic romance, I need to explore Sin #1 -- Lust.

Physical attraction is a natural human instinct. So are most of the other sins. We all eat and get angry occasionally. These things are hard-wired into us to help us survive. Lust obviously ensures procreation. So maybe it’s just the excess that’s bad. (Such as, anger is okay if it motivates us to right a wrong but not if we kill somebody.) If lust causes a married person to cheat and ruin their children’s lives through divorce, that’s bad. So does obsessing over sex to the exclusion of everything else.

Yet lust makes us feel alive, healthy, and happy. It also helps us connect and form deep relationships. In fact, scientists say it’s hard to draw the line between lust (caused by testosterone in both sexes) and bonding (caused by dopamine) because they usually occur together. This means there’s no such thing as “casual sex.”

Some ancient cultures celebrated lust but the recent past has been full of suppression. I’ve never understood while some people think it’s perfectly okay to watch gruesome, hateful violence (complete with splattered blood) on T.V. -- and even let young kids watch it -- yet cringe in horror at a little exposed skin.

I say as long as it’s in moderation and between two consenting adults (or three), lust is good. In fact, initial attraction is about a lot more than physical lust. A whole person is much more arousing than a picture of an isolated body part. Why? Because a person’s physical appearance already signals a ton of information about their background, personality, and values. We all have a “type” that pushes our hot buttons while others -- even people considered extremely attractive by others -- leave us cold.

For me, cowboys or other rugged men, preferably with facial hair, push my buttons whereas a neatly-groomed CEO doesn’t. This is probably because I like down-to-earth men who work and play hard and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Also, the West symbolizes freedom, open spaces, solitude, and the outdoors -- all stuff I love. You get the idea. (When I went to Wyoming a few years ago, I had a serious attack of lust when I saw all those gorgeous cowboys. If I go again, I’ll need a drool bib for sure.)

Lust is pretty sophisticated after all, don’t you think? So do you think lust is evil?

Afton Locke

Friday, January 2, 2009

latest Druid book from Jean Hart Stewart

I love anything Celtic and magic, so Jean Hart Stewart’s books definitely caught my attention. Her latest book, Druid in Flight, will be released January 22. It's the eighth in the series, Garland of Druids, available at Cerridwen Press. From reading the blurb and excerpt below, you can see it promises to be a very intense and spell-binding read.

Although this is probably the last druid book for the series, she has started a new series about mages. (You'll probably have to look that word up as nobody seems to know what it means. But as a hint, Merlin was a mage.) Book one in the series, Damien's Destiny, is accepted but not edited yet. She just finished book two, as yet unnamed... she’s considering the title Something Delicious. Any comments on that title will be appreciated.

Oh, and did I mention Druid Triumphant is a nominee for best all round book of 2008 from Love Romances Café? All the more reason to put this series in your TBR pile.

Visit her web site,, to see excerpts and reviews of all books in the series. Book one and two of the Druid series, Druid Desires, can be bought at Amazon.

Other Druid books include:

Druid's Daughter
My Darling Druid
Song of a Druid Princess
Kiss of a Druid Bard
Druid Redeemed
Druid Triumphant
Druid Disdained

Druid in Flight - Blurb:

Triona is forced to go into hiding, along with her younger brother. She’s going to need more than her Druid powers to save them both if the villain finds them. Especially when her lecherous brother-in-law wants to find and ravish her, and then kill her. Can Aidan, the man she grows to love, finally admit to himself his love is too strong to ignore? He has his own problems which convince him he’s not worthy to pursue her. Will he come to her rescue and help her overcome the evil stalking her? And then will they find the happiness they both think impossible? Triona knows being a Druid is a big advantage, but will it be enough?


Run. Run now.

The words pounding in her head were unmistakable.

She must run. She had to flee this house of pain and danger, and soon. She laid aside her book and sat as quietly as she could force herself. If Conor weren’t asleep she’d be tempted to leave immediately. Fear of Fergus ate at her mind and her body, and being his sister-in-law offered no protection. None at all. The menace loomed so dark as to be almost tangible to her Druid sensitivities.

She’d heard of the dark scent of fear. She could not only smell it, she could feel the dread trying to invade her and immobilize her.

She’d warned Ellen against marrying Fergus the very day the two met. He’d stopped them with some specious excuse as they walked together in Hyde Park. His aura, a muddy brown streaked with grey, betrayed his viciousness to her. She had no doubt of his evil character although Ellen refused to listen to her sister’s warnings. They married almost immediately, and he’d taken her to Scotland. He discouraged any visits until three weeks ago when Ellen’s illness made him relent and invite Catriona and Conor to help take care of her.

Conor at almost thirteen had held up manfully through the funeral services. He’d cried a little this evening and Triona stayed with him until he fell asleep.

She’d responded to people at the service today automatically.

No, she couldn’t stay long. She’d only come to help Ellen.

Yes, Ellen had been a beautiful girl.

Yes, it was a terrible shame.

Thank you so much for coming.

She picked up the book again, but images of Ellen, emaciated, bruised over her entire body and weakened from her last miscarriage, were hard to suppress. Fergus proved even worse than she’d suspected. The first week of their stay he’d entered her sister’s room every night, dismissing Triona with a flick of the hand. Even in her room Triona couldn’t blot out the sound of her sister’s moans as Fergus exerted his conjugal rights on Ellen’s emaciated body. Thank the goddess he’d left her alone the last two weeks. Evidently even monsters no longer desired dying women.

Merciful Merlin but she could hardly wait to leave. Perhaps she’d go to her room and start packing.

She started to rise. The door flung open, and Fergus stood blocking her exit. He slammed the door shut behind him.

“Going someplace, little sister? Or dare I hope you were waiting for my company?”

She swallowed her revulsion and answered.

“I intend to go to bed, Fergus. Right now.”

“Not alone, I hope, little sister? Not when I’m anxious to join you. Ellen was always a pitiful wife for a virile man like me. I’ve been unsatisfied for some time. I think we both need a loving bedmate. Only to console ourselves, of course.”

This time she couldn’t repress her shudder as she cast him a glance of complete disgust.

“Let me pass,” she said quietly.

He put out his arms to further block the doorway. His lewd sneer gave her little hope he’d move.
“I think not. I’ve wanted you since the day you were bridesmaid to your sister. Your shining hair and those huge pansy eyes. Now I’ll have you, Catriona. I let the housekeeper have the night off, and we’re delightfully alone. You can do nothing but hope you please me. I might even keep you here in Dublin for a while, if you satisfy me enough.”

She tried to think what to do. Her Druid mind could easily shrink the erection already pushing at his trousers, but she didn’t want him to become violent. She must concentrate on Conor.

He might as well be reading her mind.

“Don’t make me force you, Catriona. If you reject me with any success I’ll turn to Conor. You can’t always guard him. Boys don’t usually interest me, but Conor’s a handsome child and I intend to be satisfied tonight, one way or another.”

As she stared at him in horror, the door crashed open again and Conor stood there, his face white and his eyes wild and flashing. She had little doubt her young brother had heard everything. Whether he understood it all she didn’t know, but she thought so. Conor brandished a poker.

Check back for more authors and books.

Afton Locke