Tonight could lead to my biggest giveaway ever!

UFC champion Ronda Rousey fight's Canada's Alexis Davis tonight at UFC 175. While I don't have favorites, I gotta cheer for the hometown girl, and I hope my fans will, too.

So here's the deal: if Alexis Davis wins tonight, I will give away 10 copies of IN HER CORNER to anyone who posts a comment on this blog entry!

For now, though, enter to win one signed copy on my Rafflecopter giveaway: it's on my Contests page, too.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And check out the UFC's Countdown to UFC 175: Ronda Rousey vs Alexis Davis:



In Her Corner CoverIt's my book birthday! IN HER CORNER should be in stores today and should remain on shelves till the end of the month! Pick up your copy before they're all sold out -OR- order online from your favorite bookseller!

Discussion questions for your book club will be up soon! Keep and eye on the Books page! | | | | |

One quick happy note: an endorsement from the inspiration and my hoped-to-be model, Tahmoh Penikett, in Tweet form:

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 2.00.05 PM


Also check out my blog at SuperAuthors today for a chance to win a copy!

First: The title and release date of my third Superromance has been announced!

In Her Corner, about a female MMA fighter Bella Fiore training with Her Son's Hero alum Kyle Peters, will be released March 2014 from Harlequin Superromance. Watch for more updates on the Books page. The campaign to get actor Tahmoh Penikett on my cover continues, too, so please, tell your friends to sign the petition!

Second: I've signed with an agent! The fabulous Courtney Miller-Callihan of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates will be shopping around my Western-set fantasy and handling my romance writing career, too. I love telling people I'm with the same agency that represents Dan Brown. 8 )

It's been an exciting week!


agent-paul-ballard_326x347May 20th is Canadian actor and super swell guy Tahmoh Penikett's birthday!

As you may know, I am still working tirelessly to get Tahmoh to pose as the model for my next book cover in the role of Olympic-medal-winning wrestler Kyle Peters.

Tahmoh's already said he'd like to do it, and Harlequin has contacted him...but we still need to show our love and make sure this happens!

So far, the petition has 139 signatures, which is great, but just a splash in the pool of 5000 I'd love to get.

So if you haven't already, visit my Tahmoh for Harlequin page, and help me get Tahmoh to Toronto for the photo shoot.



It's no secret that I have a wee crush on Tahmoh Penikett. Okay, maybe it is, considering how much time I spend drooling over Jeremy Renner.

So this story is to make up for neglecting that other celeb crush of mine. <3 you, Tahmoh. See you on my book cover soon...?


That time Battlestar Galactica/Dollhouse hottie @TahmohPenikett agreed to be my cover model

If actor @TahmohPenikett is going to be on a @HarlequinBooks cover, he has one demand...

Storified by Vicki Essex· Mon, Apr 15 2013 19:16:18

The coolness factor of a celebrity is directly proportional to their tweets to fans. @JeriLRyan and @NathanFillion know this. @TahmohPenikett already won me over with his performances in Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse, but he had me at "Interesting."
GUYS. @TahmohPenikett is now verified and active on Twitter! Did I mention he's the inspiration for the hero in my next #MMA romance? <3Vicki Essex
@VickiEssex Interesting.Tahmoh Penikett
This was about where I lost my s#it and squeed. But it got better....
@VickiEssex @TahmohPenikett When will it come out? I'll definitely need to read it!Nichole Stark
@nichole5988 @TahmohPenikett Maybe sometime in 2014? I'll let y'all know when I have a release date!Vicki Essex
@VickiEssex @nichole5988 Want to hear more.Tahmoh Penikett
.@TahmohPenikett @nichole5988 Former Olympic gold wrestler trains female MMA fighter struggling against her family's disapproval. 1/2Vicki Essex
.@TahmohPenikett @nichole5988 2/2 Their chemistry on and off the mats sizzles, but he's holding back. Can she break down his defenses? #MMAVicki Essex
Hey, @TahmohPenikett ever wanted to model for Harlequin? I can hook you up... @nichole5988Vicki Essex
I tried this once with @GeorgesStPierre when I was working on Her Son's Hero. He doesn't handle his own twitter, though, so I didn't get a response.
Now I'm demanding @HarlequinBooks get @TahmohPenikett as the cover model for my next book. Whaddya think, Tahmoh? #MMA #romance #sosayweallVicki Essex
Tahmoh is just that much cooler.
@VickiEssex @HarlequinBooks Why not?! Can i have Fabio hair?!Tahmoh Penikett
Hear that? He'll do it! RT @TahmohPenikett @HarlequinBooks Why not?! Can i have Fabio hair?!Vicki Essex
@TahmohPenikett Tahmoh, you can be on one of my covers anytime. @vickiessex @harlequinbooksDonna Alward
If you score that I'll die of jealousy! RT @vickiessex: Tahmoh Penikett said yes! No take-backsies! @HarlequinBooks Alward
Back off, ladies. He's mine... Although I'd love to be there for the shoot if he were doing multiple covers. *hint hint @HarlequinBooks*
.@DonnaAlward @HarlequinBooks @TahmohPenikett I think he'd make a great cowboy. Or billionaire CEO. How would you feel about a kilt, Tahmoh?Vicki Essex
@VickiEssex @donnaalward @harlequinbooks @tahmohpenikett I second the kilt!Nichole Stark
@VickiEssex @DonnaAlward @HarlequinBooks Listen, i'm game for a lot of things, but i'm not budging on the Fabio hair.Tahmoh Penikett
@TahmohPenikett @vickiessex @harlequinbooks And he definitely needs to be holding a baby. Hey, just so happens I have a photogenic baby...Margot Mallinson

I hope so hard that @HarlequinBooks will respond. And that Tahmoh will do this. And meet me. And hug me... Did I mention I'm a fan?

Your move, Harlequin.

UFC 157: Ronda Rousey, left, versus Liz Caramouche

UFC 157 will be the first time women will be competing in the Octagon, and as I am writing a romance based on this exact idea (tentatively titled What Defines Her, not yet scheduled for Harlequin Superromance), I thought it warranted some discussion.

Women's MMA is nothing new. Women have been competing in MMA events for years through other fight promoters, many of which have sadly folded or been bought up by the UFC. The significance of women fighting in the UFC, however, is in the scale. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the world's largest promoter of mixed martial arts bouts, and tens of thousands (if not a million or more) viewers will be tuning in to this fight between Ronda Rousey and Liz Caramouche. Considering that UFC president Dana White once infamously said he would never allow women to fight in the league, this about-face is significant.

Mixed martial arts isn't without its critics, of course. It has been likened to human dog-fighting, a brutal blood sport pitching two testosterone-fueled muscle heads in what some people believe is a glorified bar brawl. It's nothing like that. MMA requires years of training and discipline, and the men and women who do it are some of the best athletes in the world. I touched on this in Her Son's Hero. 

Despite the hard climb MMA has had to make to legitimize itself, some people still think that because of the violent nature of the sport, women shouldn't fight. Dozens of reporters and critics have had their say and will say it more eloquently than I can. (I recommend this article by Tamos Rios) My beef lies in a few simple facts. (WARNING: rant ahead.)

The media has traditionally treated female competitors in male-dominated sports as novelties, and fans often criticize them much more harshly than they would men. Twice the amount of pressure and expectation is placed on them to be both good at their sport and conform to society's standards of femininity. If they are too beautiful, they are dismissed as being nothing more than eye candy; not beautiful enough and they are mocked mercilessly. There is no pleasing the armchair misogynist whose most hateful words often only emerge anonymously on the internet. And there's no telling the make-me-a-sandwich-rape-joke-making asshats that they are wrong because the armchair misogynist will support their backwards beliefs...just as long as they don't have to leave their keyboards to do so.

Now, I'm not the biggest fan of MMA in the world. I enjoy the occasional match, but I don't watch every single fight. I couldn't tell you the difference between all the submission holds, and I don't practice martial arts. Some would say that I am not worth listening to since I obviously don't understand the subtle complexities of the sport. (I call this the Sarkeesian effect, but that's a rant for another day.) But does a lack of nitty-gritty knowledge automatically disqualify a person from having a vested interest?

I started writing What Defines Her late last year knowing that the heroine would be confronting exactly these issues and a lot more besides. Professional athletes face a lot of challenges as public figures. And I'll admit that I can only scratch the surface of what Rousey and Caramouche have faced in the lead up to this match. (I highly recommend watching the three-part UFC 157 Primetime series on my Pinterest board.)

Rousey vs. Caramouche shouldn't have to be a big deal, but it is. As long as we cling to predefined gender roles, women doing extraordinary things will continue to surprise and fascinate and threaten and terrify those who cannot accept change, versatility or plurality.

Good luck to Ronda and Liz tonight. I'll be watching and rooting you both on!

Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows
Directed by Guy Ritchie

Holmes faces off against his nemesis Professor Moriarty in this sequel starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Jared Harris as Moriarty. The plot is relatively simple with its various Doylesian twists, and the actors deftly portray the world's most famous detective and his sidekick. Though the aesthetic is bang on, the high-def motion capture cinematography pretty to look at and refreshing in that thank-god-this-isn't-Michael-Bay way, I wasn't absolutely enthralled. In the end, though, everything is nice to look at, and there's enough action and story to keep you awake. A good matinee flick for everyone.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

This Cold-War espionage flick based on a John le Carré novel stars a whole bunch of terrific actors, including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, and a bunch more. Oldman plays a veteran MI6 agent forced out of retirement to track down a mole within MI6's ranks. It's a long, slow, plodding kind of movie—you won't find any fast-paced chase scenes or heart-thudding action, but it suits the hold-your-breath mood of the period, and the film's crescendo pays off.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Ever since I heard that former women's MMA champion Gina Carano would be starring in this flick alongside Channing Tatum, Ewan MacGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas, I was stoked to see what she could do. Carano's character, Mallory Kane, is a secret agent on the run after being set up by her former employer for the murder of a Chinese dissident. With the focus on her, it leaves the heavy hitters with very little to do, but that's the magic of this movie. With so many stars, Carano has her work cut out for her. But you root for her because she is a strong and capable woman surrounded by men conspiring to beat her down. She is the instant underdog who doesn't need to prove anything, but is going to anyway because—and here's the tagline—they left her no choice. If anyone else had played Mallory, this flick would have flopped.

Carano is brutal, unrelenting, and completely physical in this film. Every fight scene is genuine, with long shots and unflinching hits with plenty of nods to her Muay Thai and MMA training. It's very satisfying to see a woman who is strong and beautiful without being plastic or glamorous kick serious ass. I applaud Soderbergh for making this movie. Not once do you see Mallory pose, boobs and ass sticking out, wearing skimpy outfits or using her sexuality to get what she wants. She is smart, efficient, and goes after what she wants. No TSTL moments here. I would have liked to see more from the male characters (who doesn't want to see more Michael Fassbender?) and there isn't a lot in the way of character arcs or dialogue, but otherwise I enjoyed this film thoroughly.

Here's a great article about Carano.


From the Toronto Star:

Councillor Doug Ford’s office has suggested Toronto schools look into a community service program backed by the violent mixed martial arts league, Ultimate Fighting Championship.

In an email obtained by the Star, Ford’s constituency assistant, Anna Vescio, asked a Toronto District School Board trustee to circulate a brochure touting an initiative called UFC Community Works.

According to the brochure, the program promotes “the development of discipline, respect, teamwork, honesty, time management and physical fitness” through mixed martial arts training and meetings with UFC fighters.

The email was sent Thursday, one day after Premier Dalton McGuinty announced bold new anti-bullying legislation that seeks to curb aggressive behaviour in Ontario schools. Some TDSB trustees were left questioning the sense of proposing a program backed by UFC.

“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Pamela Gough, TDSB trustee for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. “Schools are all about peacemaking right now . . . we don’t want to promote violence, we don’t want to promote fighting.”

Read the rest here.

Now, I'm two ways about this. I explored the issues of kids learning martial arts for self-defense and self-confidence in Her Son's Hero, and while I admire many UFC fighters and appreciate what the organization has done for the sport of mixed martial arts, I can't really promote the UFC being in schools at this time for several reasons.

It takes years under a good teacher in a good school to develop real martial arts discipline and skill. Most of the UFC fighters have been training for years, since they were children in some cases, to get to the level of competition they're at. Encouraging kids to this goal is great--I don't argue that. And having someone like, say, Georges St-Pierre come and talk about his experiences being bullied and learning martial arts as a way to gain confidence would be a real asset to other children facing similar experiences.

However, one assembly with a star fighter does not a complete program make. If the goal is to get kids into UFC-sponsored martial arts classes, then it might get a tiny percentage of respondents who can afford it. But what about the rest? What will the student body overall learn from a one-hour talk from a fighter they may or may not know? Unless the program involved real professional advice on how to stop bullying and how to protect yourself without resorting to violence, it's kind of hard to say how effective this program would be.

I've never had a real issue with corporate sponsors in the schools because kids are smart consumers and are exposed to advertising and corporate messages everywhere anyhow. Unfortunately, the UFC brand is not exactly a female friendly one. The league has yet to sponsor any female fights, and Dana White has explicitly said he will not welcome them into the Octagon. The only real role models for girls appear to be the Octagon girls, who are all fit and intelligent women, but whose roles are reduced to strutting around in bikinis between bouts and blowing kisses to the camera. Unfortunately, the organization's fan base hasn't proved itself any more intelligent on the subject of women--or gays  or anyone else, for that matter--when it comes to commenting on the internet. (Dear world: not all UFC fans are this moronic. Some of us are nice!)

Dana White himself is not the man I would choose as a children's role model, either. I suppose the Brothers Ford might admire the uncensored, straight-from-the-hip, pejorative, swearword-laden rants Mr. White is famous for. But a mouth unused to politics, and one that wishes to speak to generations of children about violence, bullying, self-defense, discipline, fitness and RESPECT should not be sounding off so frequently without a filter.

There are other ways we can bring martial arts and MMA into the schools without involving the UFC. As much as they could bring to the table, I can't really tell what level of involvement they'd have with the students. They need more than just an afternoon assembly and a handful of stickers, brochures and T-shirts to take home.

I'm not saying that we should entirely shut out the idea the UFC's presented here. Martial arts and MMA are still great programs to introduce into schools. I've seen presentations by karate and kung-fu schools that have been terrific at teaching kids to avoid violence. Why not have instructors teach a gym unit of martial arts as part of the phys-ed curriculum? I think I'd prefer that to dodgeball, myself.

As for resolving conflict nonviolently, I understand the Board's stance on fighting and their gut reaction to the UFC. But I've received tons of in-school conflict resolution training, and I can tell you for a fact that if it comes to blows, all the words in the world are not going to keep a fist from flying into your face. Kids aren't always in control of their emotions--that's what makes them children. Providing them a safe place to learn how to focus their energies and control their baser emotions--as well as an outlet for violent impulses--might better serve their specific needs than trying to get them to articulate their feelings.

I applaud you for trying, UFC, and I am sorry, Board of Ed, that we can't come to a middle ground just yet. There are a lot of parental ideas and philosophies that need to be challenged still when it comes to learning about martial arts, and the school may not be the place for them. Not yet, anyhow.


A very fair and nice review of Her Son's Hero from a fellow MMA fan, Asia Morela. She makes some very interesting points about self-defense, self-control, MMA and violence. Your thoughts?




Woo hoo! The Globe and Mail has an article about me and Her Son's Hero!

An excerpt:

A bronzed, shirtless Adonis with chiselled abs and his willowy, full-bosomed lover are locked in a passionate embrace: It’s a book cover image that’s classic Harlequin, and various incarnations of this coupling blanket the main wall of the Toronto-based publishing company’s ninth-floor lobby. 

But one stands out: On a book called Her Son’s Hero, the hero in question is wearing a black belt and karate uniform.

In an unlikely combination merging mixed-martial arts (MMA) and romance, Her Son’s Hero tells the story of Dominic Payette, an MMA fighter who falls in love with single mother Fiona MacAvery. But Fiona has an aversion to violence that stems from her desire to protect her son, a victim of schoolyard bullying, and she initially resists Dominic’s advances.

Written by Toronto writer Vicki So under the pseudonym Vicki Essex (“You can’t spell my name without sex,” she says), Her Son’s Hero is a classic tale of opposites attracting – but wrapped in an unorthodox package.

Yay! I hope anyone who spots this article and who's come to my website will think of getting their own copy by clicking on the link in the right-hand sidebar...