Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Tale Of Two Reading Hats

Over Coffee will take a break the holiday weekend and resume June 1st. 

My guest is debut author, Anita Clenny. Anita writes paranormal and suspense.  She's the author of a new paranormal romance series about Highland Warriors.  

Anita says when she's deep into the "middle of a heated battle with warriors and demons" she tends to forget "that people in the real world have to eat dinner and that dishes don't wash themselves."

I just read that the pink ribbon hat Princess Beatrice wore for the royal wedding sold on eBay for over $131,000. The only good thing I can say about that hat is that the proceeds of its sale raised money for charity. Quite a bizarre fashion statement, but it got me to thinking about hats; in this case, metaphorical hats. For most writers, our love of stories began as readers. When I was young, I was fascinated by the worlds I found between the pages of a book. I still am. It never occurred to me that I might write one myself until a few years ago. I had been on a reading jaunt that was about as insane as that hat the Princess wore, when it occurred to me that I could write a story. Or so I thought. I found out that writing a good story wasn’t as easy as I’d expected. But I learned and I persevered and here I am, with a Scottish paranormal series about Secret Warriors, Ancient Evil, and Destined Love.

When reading for pleasure, I can completely lose myself in a story. Nothing matters but those characters and that plot. I’m not picky about those little technicalities that drive writers and editors crazy. I’m there, living the characters’ joys and their woes. If I put on my author hat and read, it becomes an entirely different thing. I start seeing the creation of the story, the way the author strung the words together to build the plot, to create the characters, paint the setting. Are there too many adverbs, not enough sentence variation, too much telling – not enough showing? Is the writing just not engaging enough? Or did the author do something that was so brilliant it made me gasp in awe and feel the bite of envy?

But sometimes that author’s hat gets in the way. Instead of just enjoying a movie, I’m busy analyzing the plot, because as a writer I know where the story should go to get the most bang out of the plot. It can take away from the enjoyment of books or movies if you’re not careful. But if you’ve hit a wall, that hat can come in handy.
A few times as I was writing Awaken the Highland Warrior, either my warriors weren’t behaving, or my writing just seemed to dry up. I think I needed to step away and look at the story fresh. If I had that luxury, I took it, but if I was pushed for time, I grabbed a book, put on my author hat and read a few paragraphs, and I was back in the game. So I love both my hats, and I think there’s a time and place for each.
  • If you’re a writer, do you have two hats?
  • If you’re a reader, do you find yourself at times not enjoying the story because you’re analyzing it?

If so, there might be a writer lurking inside you.


A Man From Another Time…

Faelan is from an ancient clan of Scottish Highland warriors, charged with shielding humanity from demonic forces. Betrayed and locked in a time vault, he has been sleeping for nearly two centuries when spunky historian Bree Kirkland inadvertently wakes him. She’s more fearsome than the demon trying to kill him, and if he’s not careful, she’ll uncover the secrets his clan has bled and died to protect…

Could Be the Treasure She’s Been Seeking All her Life…

When Bree inherits an old treasure map, she discovers a warrior buried in her backyard. But the warrior isn’t dead. Bree shocks Faelan with her modern dress and her boldness, and he infuriates Bree every time he tries to protect her.

With demons suddenly on the move, Bree discovers that Faelan’s duty as protector is in his blood, and that her part in this fight was destined before she was born. But nothing is ever what it seems… Excerpt


Anita Clenney writes paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Before giving herself over to the writing bug, she worked in a pickle factory, at a preschool, booked shows for Aztec Fire Dancers, and was a secretary, executive assistant, and a realtor. She lives with her husband and two children in suburban Virginia where she is working on her next book, Embrace the Highland Warrior, which will be in stores in November 2011. For more information, please visit and


Monday, May 23, 2011

Cicadas Shouting For Hot Sex

There’s a soft buzz around my house and within the week it will increase in volume. No, it’s not the business of doing spring and early summer chores, but of the insect variety.

The invasion has started. Cue the music but you better play it loud.

You see Cicada Brood XIX is emerging from the ground in the millions. This group is a periodical cicada with a thirteen-year cycle. The last time we heard this was in 1998. I had just moved back to Missouri from California and well remember the volume of their song. Holy cow was it loud. Part of the noise was due to the emergence of the Seventeen-year cicada at the same time. The last time that happened, according to Missouri Conservation Department, was in 1777. So the two emerging at the same time happens approximately every 221 years.

We get cicadas every year, and from July to September, you’ll hear them sing. These are called Dog day cicadas. They’re a bit larger. But these are not what are emerging from the ground this week.

I first noticed them this past week. A weird looking bugs on my patio—they were cicada nymphs ( I just knew they were ¾’s of inch and ugly). The next day when I was mowing the lawn before the rain I noticed a few exoskeletons on grass blades and on my huge oak in the front yard. By the following day there were literally hundreds of them on my Hostas and other shrubbery surrounding the tree (that’s not counting the other trees in the yard, this was just my old man oak). As I mowed I found holes in the ground—like a kid went through and percolated my lawn with a sharp round stick. The holes are about the width of my index finger.

Needless to say, I’m feeling a bit invaded and they haven’t even started sing very loud at this point. That’s due to the fact that ground temps need to be around 65 degrees for them to dig their way out of the ground and molt. To sing in chorus and fly they need to have a body temp between 70 and 72 degrees. The fact that temperatures have been unseasonably cool with lots of rain has delayed the cycle.

Brittle exoskeletons are everywhere! 
Before its final molt to the adult stage, the nymph will emerge from the ground and climb up the trunk of a tree, fence post or side of a house, tall grass, and attach itself with its claws. The exoskeleton will split down the middle of the back and the adult will gradually pull itself free, leaving the brown and brittle exoskeleton still attached to where ever it stopped. It takes two or three days for the adult cicadas to dry their wings and harden up their bodies enough to start the hunt for a mate. Then there will be a two-month, above ground, mating frenzy. Even though the adults can live from five to six weeks, emergence happens over a space of about a week or two and that means two months of the males shouting out ‘a come have sex with me’ chorus.

If you want to see (unless you're squamish about bugs) a nice video with David Attenborough click here. He's speaking of the 17 year Cicada, but it applies to the 13 year as well.

Because it was such a healthy population when it emerged in 1998, Brood 19 is expected to be quite large as it emerges again, promising a noisy spring across most of Missouri. So noisy those planning outdoor weddings are told to consider having them indoors. Yep, we’re talking really loud—mating calls can hit up to 85 decibels in places where the insects are most concentrated.

The good news is, they tend to sing from sunrise to sunset and are quiet during the night.

Did you know that one-acre of prime bottomland forest can produce 1.5 million periodical cicadas? The sheer volume of these insects is amazing but the volume is such that predators can't eat them all.

Cicada Killer
 Speaking of predators, I’ve seen squirrels eat cicadas—mice, rats, frogs, and lizards, too. They’re very high in protein. My cats have a grand old time chasing them; my dogs also will eat them. I haven’t noticed the horses doing so, unless the insects are on the grass the horses eat. I wouldn’t be surprised. I have several bird feeders in the yard and I’ve seen blue jays, cardinals, and quite a few other birds eating the cicadas. I do know from personal experience cicadas make fabulous bate for fishing.

There is one nasty looking wasp that eats them, called a Cicada Killer. These are out in record numbers too. Supply and demand, I suppose.

So there is going to be a loud, shrill, and incessant chorus through the end of June. Once they die—and lordy they stink when they do—we should have normal insect singing again.

Well, until the end of July when the annual Dog Day Cicadas make their appearance.

At least there is not as many of them.