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Friday, August 01, 2014

Bec McMaster: Of Silk and Steam


Edits have just arrived on Of Silk And Steam, the fifth book in my London steampunk series, and I can't wait to dive back into this story!

Though it's not the end of the series, it's the final book in this story arc, and there was so much to wrap up in terms of plot. Add to that a complicated hero, a heroine with a heart of ice and a cast of secondary characters who threatened to steal the show (Blade, the hero of my first book, Kiss of Steel), and it was probably the toughest book I've written - though definitely the most fun.

One of the problems I have with editing is when the story sucks you back in. I deliberately set aside the book once I've written it and don't dive back in until edits arrive, but the other day I couldn't help myself... and found myself reading all the way through when I knew I should be writing!

I know that's probably a good sign - or maybe it's just that I enjoy this romance so much. Frigid ice princess? An alpha hero? Enemies? Just a few of my favorite romance tropes.

Here's an excerpt:

The first time Leo Barrons saw her, she’d just run a man through with her sword.
Peter Duvall gave a little gasp. Bluish blood dripped down his chest; the color that gave the blue bloods of the Echelon their name.
The young woman stepped back, jerking the tip of her rapier from Duvall’s chest. It had gone straight through the heart, the only way to kill a blue blood. The duel had been serious then, or else they’d have used pistols, far less lethal in these circumstances. A blue blood could only be killed by decapitation or severe damage to the heart; a shot had to be true.
Leo Barrons clapped a little as Duvall fell, echoing the rest of the crowd of young bucks, though he could barely take his eyes off her. He’d arrived late at the Field of Blood in Hyde Park, near Constitution Hill, evening caressing the skyline of London. Just in time to catch the end of the matter.
Who was she?
Tall and slender, the woman had the proud bearing of a queen, but that wasn’t what stirred the blood in his veins. The head-to-toe black of her tight velvet coat, the steel manica protecting her sword arm, and long leather leggings only highlighted the shining garnet red of her hair. Caught in a chignon at the nape of her neck, wisps of it clung to her serious face. The setting sun caught it on fire. Thick dark lashes shuttered her eyes as she plucked a handkerchief from her second - a young lad, more boy than man - and with considerable aplomb wiped the blood from her blade.
She might have been standing alone in that clearing, deftly ignoring the excited chatter of the assorted young men congratulating her. There was a sense of aloofness to her, as if she existed outside this world and could never be touched.
 And she’d just managed to defeat a blue blood in a duel, which was a talent in itself. Blue bloods were faster and stronger than humans, the craving virus that afflicted them giving them exceptional capabilities. How the devil had she managed it? Duvall was... had been no slouch with a blade, though he was hardly a master.
One look. That was all it took. Leo wanted her.
“Who is she?” Leo murmured to the Duke of Malloryn’s heir, Auvry Cavill, without taking his eyes off her.
The faintest of smiles touched Auvry’s mouth. They’d been friends since Eton. “Why don’t you ask her? I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.”
A dare. “So I shall.”
He strode through the crowd, ignoring the young bucks of the aristocratic Echelon as much as she did. They were unimportant. She was all that mattered, all that he could see.
Some sense of wariness must have alerted her to him, for she looked up, brandy-brown eyes locking on him and piercing him straight through the chest. Or lower.
Handing her second the bloodied rag, she dismissed Leo with a glance and vanished into the grove of trees behind the field of grass.
If she thought that was the end of it, she was wrong. His steps accelerated and he knew she heard autumn leaves crackling beneath his heels as he followed her. A glance over her shoulder and she stilled, as if realizing he had no intentions of giving up.
“You’ve come to congratulate me?” A mocking tilt of her perfectly defined brow. She wore disdain almost as well as she did aloofness. No doubt she was well-used to men’s flattery. With that face and figure, she’d have to be.
“Congratulate you?” he asked. “Perhaps. You were lucky to win that with your form.”
Those eyes flashed fire, and shock pierced her expression. Just for a moment. “Lucky?”
He smiled on the inside. If he wanted to capture her attention he had to be different than all the others who, no doubt, fawned at her feet. “You drop your shoulder too low on the lunge,” he said, gesturing to the offending body part, his gloved fingers brushing the puffed velvet sleeve of her coat. “It creates an opening, if your opponent is aware of it.”
She stared at him, then looked down to where his fingers stirred against her sleeve. “Fair warning. I shall take it into consideration if you’re ever my opponent.”
“I doubt we’ll be opponents.”
“Do you?” A slight challenge to the soft words.
This was not quite going the way he’d planned. “Perhaps I should introduce myself. Leo Barrons, the Duke of Caine’s heir.”
“I know who you are.” Cool, expressionless eyes. “Your arrogance precedes you. If you’ll excuse me?”
The moment she brushed past him, he turned. “Have I done something to insult you?”
That slim figure froze, her spine stiffening. She glanced over her shoulder at him, one hand resting lightly on the sword at her hip. “You have no idea who I am, do you?”
Evidently. Leo frowned. He rarely paid attention to the young women that formed society. As a man of nineteen, he’d been gifted with two thralls for his eighteenth birthday; he didn’t need any others. Their blood sustained him and he had not the keeping for more. And then, of course: “I’ve only recently returned from my Grand Tour of the Continent. And I doubt I would have forgotten you.”
“I shall take mercy on you this once, my lord,” she said, stepping closer and staring him in the eye with a defiance that stirred his blood. “Your father killed mine. You are the last man alive I would ever wish to converse with, let alone...whatever puts that gleam in your eye.”
“My father’s killed a lot of men.” Caine was utterly ruthless when he wished to be. Especially to his wife's bastard son, though few people knew the truth of Leo’s birth. “You’ll have to be more specific.”
The woman leaned forward on her toes, her breath whispering against his skin. “Perhaps this will help?” The irises of her eyes bled to black, heated anger gleaming in their depths.
She was a blue blood. “That’s impossible.”
Only the sons of certain blue bloods were allowed the Blood Rites when they turned fifteen. The Council of Dukes would never allow a female to be considered, which made her a rogue blue blood, infected by chance.
“I assure you it’s not.” She leaned away from him again, smiling. There was no warmth in that smile. “My name is Aramina Duvall.”
Another blow; a fist to the abdomen this time. Auvry had known exactly who she was, the bastard.
“I see you know it,” she murmured.
The Duke of Casavian’s only daughter. The man had died but a month ago, leaving his affairs in disarray. Leo’s gaze shot to Peter Duvall’s bloodied form, through the slender trunks of the beech trees. No doubt this had been a duel to settle, once and for all, who was heir to the duchy.
That makes me the Duchess of Casavian,” she said. “Your father’s mortal enemy.”
Boldness stole over him. Leo caught her fingers as she turned to leave. “I don’t care.” Lifting them to his own, he pressed his lips against the inside of her wrist, a shockingly bold deed, signaling his interest in her as a potential thrall.
“You should.” She tugged her hand free, furious heat stealing into her cheeks. Her eyes were black again, revealing the depths of her emotions. She must have been newly made a blue blood; it took years to master one’s emotions and control the depth of the predator within. “After all, I’m going to destroy you and your father. And if you ever touch me again, I shall remove the offending digit.”
Then she turned on her heel and strode away. Leaving him slightly breathless, but no less determined.


So what are your favourite romance tropes? Enemies-to-lovers? Friends-to-lovers? Something else?


OF SILK AND STEAM (Available March 2015)

When her father was assassinated, Lady Aramina swore revenge against the Duke of Caine. Leo Barrons, the Duke's heir, has long been her nemesis, and when she discovers he's illegitimate, she finally has leverage against the one man who troubles her heart and tempts her body.

Sentenced to death for his duplicity, Leo escapes by holding Aramina captive. A woman of mystery, she's long driven him crazy with glimpses of a fiery passion that lurks beneath her icy veneer. He knows she's hiding something; he doesn't know it's the key to saving his life.



Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. Read more about her at www.becmcmaster.com or follow her on Twitter, @BecMcMaster.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nancy Robards Thompson: The Romance of First Kisses

One of the things I love most about writing romance is the hero and heroine's first kiss. It's fun to write the scenes leading up to that big moment where they finally acknowledge that they're more than just friends, but they haven't quite figured out exactly where their relationship is going.

Of course, I can't write those scenes without remembering my own first kiss. I was 14, and it happened at a roller skating rink, of all places. That doesn't sound very romantic, but what made it memorable was the anticipation. I liked this boy so much.

His name was Mike, and he was my first real boyfriend. I’d had fleeting crushes on unattainable boys, but none returned my feelings… until Mike. It was a long, slow process leading up to that momentous first … months of shy flirting and “chance meetings” orchestrated by my best friend Millie. Then, like kids graduating from trikes to training wheels to two-wheelers, Mike and I were off and rolling on our own. Literally, since we were on roller skates.  That sounds awkward, and it probably was. We were, after all, two geeky, gawky clueless fourteen year olds. But that's not what I remember when I think of my first kiss. What rises to the surface is the rush of liking and being liked, the sweet, clumsy hand holding, and the anticipation of that perfect moment that ended in our first kiss. In my memory, it really was perfect, and it still makes me all warm inside remembering it. 

In BEAUTY AND THE COWBOY, Charlotte and Jesse grew up next door to each other. They were good friends and that friendship eventually turned to attraction. Unfortunately, he was too busy training for the rodeo and she was always unavailable. In fact, most recently, Charlotte was engaged - or almost engaged; the status of her relationship is pretty murky until her maybe-fiancé takes himself out of the picture altogether. When that happens, Jesse and Charlotte finally get to share that long-overdue, much-anticipated first kiss. After that, they discover they have the potential to be so much more than friends.  As long as ghosts of kisses past don't get in the way...

What do you remember about your first kiss?  One person who posts will win a prize package that includes an e-copy of BEAUTY AND THE COWBOY,  a couple of books from my backlist, a Tule Publishing tote bag, a Montana Born luggage tag and other goodies.

I had such fun writing BEAUTY AND THE COWBOY.  I hope you love it as much as I do.  I can't wait to hear your first kiss stories!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Melissa McClone: An Island Honeymoon by Melissa McClone

My latest novella The Honeymoon Prize was released earlier this month. The story combines two of my favorite tropes—marriage of convenience and friends to lovers. But I must admit the setting, a luxurious island resort in Fiji, was my absolute favorite thing. Why?

Writing the story reminded me of my own tropical-island honeymoon nineteen years ago.

My husband and I were married In New York where he grew up. I was a west coast girl living in San Francisco at the time, but a family illness made an east coast wedding a must. The location played into our choice for a honeymoon. We decided on two weeks in the Caribbean, some place I'd never been. I did a little research, and we came up with two islands to visit—Antigua and Grenada. My then-fiancé was really into sailing and loved to race so this helped narrow down our choices.

In Antigua, we stayed at Galley Bay in one of their Gauguin Cottage. Imagine two thatched huts connected by a breezeway. One was the bedroom, the other the bathroom. Romantic, yes. Ad in a beautiful beach, and we only went into "town" once. Who needed to leave paradise? We had plenty of activities to keep us busy or just take down time to relax. While my husband wanted to keep sailing or swimming, I could take a break on the beach, read and sip from a fruity drink with a paper umbrella sticking out.

I called upon those memories as I wrote The Honeymoon Prize. Though I also relied on the Internet to show me accommodations and offerings from resorts in the South Pacific. After the first thirty-minutes of research, I was ready to pack my suitcase and take a second honeymoon! Unfortunately I could only travel there in my imagination. But I still had fun!

This is how Addie describes seeing Starfish Island for the first time:

The seaplane made a pass around Starfish Island, giving her a bird’s eye view of her vacation home for the next ten days. She stared in wonder at the gorgeous sights below: white beaches, several hidden among rocky coves, lush greenery and rolling hills on the island’s interior and clear, blue water all around. “This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I need to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.”

Nick leaned over her shoulder, as if wanting a better look himself. They were the only two passengers on the small plane. “Welcome to paradise, Addie. This vacation is going to be good for you.”

And once she arrives:

The pilot cut the engine. “Enjoy your stay on Starfish Island. We locals like to think of this place as a tiny slice of heaven on earth."

Addie would agree. The plane’s small door opened. They stepped outside. A fresh breeze blew across her skin and played with the ends of her hair. Waves lapped against the dock, a sound she knew well but held a different echo here, like the air was lighter. Music played on the beach. Two men strummed guitars surrounded by colorfully dressed singers.

Warmth pooled in her head and heart. Who was she kidding? She felt warm all over.
The hours of travel had transported Addie to another world, to a place where she could escape reality and relax. The problems and troubles of the past no longer mattered. Her entire body felt as if it were smiling. “Wow! We’re not in San Diego any longer.”

I remember feeling the same way Addie felt when we arrived at Galley Bay. Newly married (though ours was for real, not convenience) and so excited to start this new chapter of our lives together. Though I wish spa services would have been more popular back then. I would have loved a couple's hot rock massage like Addie and Nick had together! I'm sure my hubby would have, too. But no complaints about the wonderful honeymoon we shared together! I wish we could do it all over again. Maybe someday.

Have you ever taken a vacation in a tropical paradise? If so, where? If not, where would you want to go if you could? One commenter will be chosen randomly to win a $10 Amazon gift card.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Erika Marks: Romances - We've Got You Covered

A show of hands, my friends: Who remembers Fabio covers?

Okay, good.

Now those of you who said yes, do you have a favorite?

I’ll go first—I do! And while I can’t recall the title of the romance, I can still see the image in my mind and there’s no question that cover made me pick up the book—and dig in before I was even out of the library.

Romance covers can be tricky business. And for me, as a reader and a writer, more important than having the physical features of my hero and heroine represented according to the story is that the relationship between them—and the mood of the love story—is accurately depicted on the cover.

Believe me when I say, this is easier said than done.

Which is why I am very, very fortunate that my publisher at Tule understands that a romance cover isn’t just a frame of reference for a potential reader—it’s THE frame of reference. It says everything about the love story inside—Is it fierce and passionate? Is it playful and tender? Is it both?

Take for example the gorgeous cover of my recent novella, PICK ME…

Tell me you don’t want to feed this man a strawberry! Now I’m not just talking about how handsome he is—I’m talking about THAT SMILE. There is a connection between these two people and the reader can see that without even reading the story’s summary. Calder and Thea clearly enjoy each other—but there’s a sense of testing the waters in their pose. Thea offering him the strawberry (which, spoiler alert, she does in the story—and no, I won’t give anymore away than that;)) and he reaching it to take it is a perfect representation of their sexy, playful romance. Years earlier, Calder was the sexy bad boy that every good girl at Thea’s high school lusted after—now, he’s her new neighbor. Think the temperature this summer just got a little hotter in Magnolia Bay? And where there are strawberries, you can be there’ll be plenty of sweet to go along with the spice.

Now tell me that cover doesn’t make you want to know everything about these two and their fun? (Not to mention, make you want to pick up a pint of fresh strawberries and eat them all in one sitting!)

Happy summer, friends! May your season be filled with sweetness and spice—and lots of covers just waiting to be opened!

Erika Marks is a native New Englander who now makes her home in North Carolina with her husband and their two little mermaids.  In addition to writing women’s fiction novels for NAL, she also writes Southern-set romantic novellas for Tule Publishing’s Southern Born imprint—and she will always be a hopeless romantic. You can catch up with her at her website at www.erikamarksauthor.com or through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ErikaMarksAuthor



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Amy Andrews: Join Hands and Hearts and Voice…..

Hands up who’s seen Dirty Dancing? Or maybe I should be asking how many times have you seen DD? Honestly – I reckon I’ve seen it about 30 times. So when it came to me writing a duo with Ally Blake last year set in a tropical resort I knew instantly the kind of vibe I wanted. An old-fashioned family resort of Kellerman fame. A throw back to a bygone era where families actually did organised activities together when they holidayed. Back before everyone owned a television and waaaaay before the internet and iPhones. When hula hoops were the in thing and taking a rumba lesson or entering the talent quest was the highlight of your day.

A little daggy (as we say here in Oz) by today’s standards but everyone left with a smile on their face vowing to come back next year.

And that’s why Ally and I created the Tropicana Nights for our Those Summer Nights duo. Both her book, Her Hottest Summer Yet and my book, The Heat of the Night is set in this fictitious far north Queensland resort where lush tropical gardens meet pristine white sand. Sure, it’s a little battered around the edges and is hopelessly, unapologetically old-fashioned but it’s a perennial family favourite with a proud tradition that Claudia, my heroine is determined to honour when the resort becomes hers.

Of course, Luke, her co-owner isn’t so keen. He sees it as a white elephant, an Albatross around their necks that he’d rather sell to some slick hotel chain so he can go back to his hot-shot advertising executive life in London. But when the resort is flattened by a category 5 cyclone, these two old friends (and recent enemies) have to pitch in to rebuild. 


And that’s when the sultry ambience of a tropical resort weaves its magic…..



For a chance to win a paper copy of the Those Summer Nights duet tell me, did your family have a favourite holiday spot they returned to time and again when you were growing up?  (open worldwide)

***Amy's winner is Laurie G!  Please email totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing details!***

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Beth Williamson: History buffs unite!

History teaches us many things, not the least of which is that studying history is a way to understand ourselves, our culture and our future. I am a true blue history nut and simply love to read about, hear about and experience history as much as I can.

So as a writer, how can I not love to craft historicals?

There are many popular genres of romance novels, and I’m proud to say that many of the long-standing ones are historical. Yes indeedy, westerns, regencies and medieval (my three favs) are still popular. Why is that, you might wonder? Well for the very reason that people (like me) love history.

It transports us to another place and time, perhaps another country or hemisphere. It allows us to dive into a deep pool of something we will never experience in our lives. Each word, each phrase, and each setting cocoons us, gives us a banquet on which to feast.

Once we’re comfortable, then we can become someone else. Reading a book is like taking a journey through someone else’s eyes. What better person than a woman from another era? Yes, it might have been messy and not so glamorous to be a woman in 1250, 1805 or 1870 but that doesn’t matter a whit.
Magic, pure magic, puts us into her mind, her body and her heart. We experience each tear, laugh and passionate moment right along with her. That, ladies and gents, is romance at its purest form.

Historical romances will never go out of style. No siree, never. Have we ever stopped reading about the Egyptians or ancient Greece? Hell no. It’s the very fact that we can become someone who will never be again and live their lives—that’s the draw.

My next release, THE JEWEL, from Samhain Publishing, transports you back to the 1840s, to the Oregon Trail and the wild, wild west. Life was hard for the pioneers, much harder than any of us can imagine. It’s real, it’s historical, it’s gritty and emotional.  This is the third prequel in the Malloy family series – the family that has defined my writing career.

Exactly where I want to be as a reader and an author.

I love to play the game of “What if” with myself and imagine who I could be if I had a wish. I think, and for those of you who know me don’t fall off your chair, I’d love to be in the wild west. Westerns and the raw, untamed wilderness of the American West call to my soul. Perhaps I was there in a former life, and I had loved deeply enough to draw me back.

*sigh*

Yep, that’s pure romance y’all. So, now everyone else play along with the “what if” game. If you could be anyone and anywhere in history, who and where would you choose?


Post a comment and one lucky person wins a download of choice from my Malloy series, including book 11, THE JEWEL, releasing August 12!

***Beth's winner is Alina P!  Please email totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing details!***

Friday, July 25, 2014

Anita Hughes: Making Time For Writing


I have written five books and I have five children. These two things may not seem to have much in common but the latter dictates the former - My children's needs affect how I approach my writing. My debut novel, MONARCH BEACH, was released in June 2012 by St. Martin's Press, followed by MARKET STREET and LAKE COMO in 2013. FRENCH COAST and ROME IN LOVE will be released in 2015.

Before I started writing seriously, I imagined that I would set aside time on my computer - when the children were at school or tennis or swimming - and try to make a daily word count. While that is part of it - and I adore sitting at my computer and transporting myself to Rome or Cannes or Lake Como where my books are set - I have discovered one of the most important parts of writing is doing absolutely nothing - a hard feat to accomplish when you have children.

The majority of my writing is done when I just let my mind be still. I think up plot points, write dialogue in my head, visualize scenes and locations. None of this can be done at the computer and it is very difficult to accomplish if you have children asking where is there tennis racquet or to please sign something for school.


So I have developed a routine that works well. I walk forty minutes every day. I don't listen to music or talk on the phone, I just let my mind focus on the story and characters. I go to the grocery store daily - I find doing the same thing every day allows me to spend more time in my head. (As long as I don't have to purchase something from an aisle I don't usually visit). And I take the time driving to and from various school activities to immerse myself in my story. (My children are at the age that they spend most of our car trips plugged into headphones or on Instagram).

The last thing I do is try to stop writing whenever a child needs me. The story will always be there but the children will grow up (a few of them already have) and then I will miss the interruptions to look at a book report or make a school lunch.

I feel very lucky to have my children and my writing and making time for both is a wonderful challenge.  What kinds of challenges do you face to make time for the things you love to do?  Leave a comment for a chance to win one of my books!

***Anita's winner is Petite!  Please email totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing details!***

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Boone Brux: I'm Taking a Break


I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m taking a break. Yep, as of this week I’m on a six month sabbatical from writing.

Saying I’m on a six month writing break conjures images of relaxation, sleeping in, actually reading a book. But I’ll be honest, my sabbatical looks nothing like this. I still have books to write and a few deadlines to meet, but instead of grueling deadlines, sometimes a book a month, I’ve given myself permission to do all the tasks that have slipped by me over the past three and half years. My house is reaching toxic levels. I think something is living in my refrigerator. Don’t get me started on the thirty pounds I’ve gained since signing my first publishing contract. We’re going to Hawaii this fall and if I don’t get moving the beachcombers are going to try and roll me back in the water. I can’t remember the last time I plucked my eyebrows, shaved my legs, or got a pedicure. My dog hasn’t been walked in a year and a half and don’t get me started on my kids.


Even though giving myself permission to cut back on the writing and everything that goes with it was damn near impossible, it was also a gift to myself. My dream or maybe delusion is to accomplish 75% of the tasks that fill my project note book. If I can develop good habits and maintain them when I go back to writing means less internal stress for me. A less stressed Boone means everybody is happier.

So my six month break from writing will be anything but relaxing and I can’t wait. So here’s to a great six months. I’ll be recounting my journey on my blog so please pop by www.boonebrux.blogspot.com.

I know I’m not the only woman out there who feels overwhelmed. I’d love to hear what you do or have done for yourself and how it helped. I’ll be giving away an e-copy of any of my titles to a random commenter and a winner will be picked in approximately a week.

Don’t miss out on the awesome multi-author bundle I’m in, Nine by Night, releasing August 3rd. If you love kickass heroines, you’ll love this bundle.

I’d love to hear from you. Please find me at:


Or sign up for my newsletter and don’t miss any of my release announcements, contests for newsletter subscribers, or insider reads at http://bit.ly/NLBoone

***Boone's winner is Lil!  Please email totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing details!***

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ally Blake: A Man And His Dog

As a reader I'm such a sucker for a hero with a dog.

Kristan Higgins does them so well.  Marion Lennox always has a fluffy - or feathered, or scaled  - critter in her books.  The way a character treats their animal friends says so much about who they are.

I was halfway through writing HER HOTTEST SUMMER YET when Hull bounded onto the page.  I was editing an earlier scene when Jonah - the hero - looked down and there he was.  A dog.

It went just like this:  And from nowhere a huge dog joined him—shaggy and mottled with deep liquid eyes that glanced back at her a moment, before turning back into the sun.

I never meant for Hull to appear.  Never plotted out a character arc for a dog.  Never thought my lone wolf hero needed one.  But then Hull…just…was.

I loved Jonah before Hull was in his life.  I mean, the man’s gorgeous.  He’s a big, buff, gruff Aussie bloke who works with his hands.  He’s fit, athletic, sun-browned, and basically heaven sent.  So says the heroine at first glance:  What with that handsome brown face all covered in stubble. And those shoulders—so big, so broad. Those tight dark curls that made a girl want to reach out and touch. And the chest she’d had her hands all over when he’d pulled her out of the ocean, all muscle and golden skin and more dark curling hair. In fact there was plenty about him that made a girl want to touch….
Yum, right?

Add a dog - and not just any dog but a big wolf dog Jonah had found washed up on the beach as a teeny tiny little puppy, likely the lone survivor of a litter left to drown - and I was smitten.  Gooey.  Gone.

And when Hull – deathly afraid of the water, and wouldn’t you be if you’d been left there to die? – decided that Jonah was his person, that he’d follow him to the edges of the ocean itself he adored the man that much, well then that was the end of me.

My hero now has a dog.  And his name is Hull.  And I love him.

Ally (#TeamHull)

In Ally's next book - RESISTING THE MUSICIAN (out July 28) - the hero has two dogs!  Huskies.  Brothers.  Scene-stealers.

Do you love four-legged characters in books?  Do you have a favourite?  Comment below for the chance to win an ebook copy of another Ally Blake beach read - a book in which all the scene stealers are over sixty and human - SECOND CHANCE HONEYMOON!

***Ally's winner is dstoutholcomb !  Please email totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing details!***

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Scarlet Wilson: YA Endgame Earth: Storm’s Quest

Trying something new can be scary.  Trying something new can be downright terrifying!  I’ve written medical romances and romances for the last three years.  But as the mother of two young sons, I’ve always wanted to write something that they could read. 

It can be difficult to engage boys in reading.  There is good evidence that children that read for pleasure do better at school – reason enough to find something that they’ll engage with.

When I asked my sons what they wanted to read it was simple.  Dinosaurs.  Jurassic Park.  Indiana Jones.  Lara Croft.  The Hunger Games.  – Note, all from films, not from books.

So, that’s what I’ve tried to do.  Endgame Earth is Jurassic Park meets the Hunger Games!

One of the things I struggled with was picking a new pseudonym.  I like Scarlet Wilson but some of my books are a little adult for a younger audience.  It was important to keep the two separate.  I still liked Scarlet but the surname?  It was suggested by a friend.  Dr Richard Owen was the man who first called these ancient creatures dinosaurs.  So, the name Scarlet Owen is in tribute to him.

I’ve learned a whole host of fascinating facts on dinosaurs over the last few months.  Not least that pteradactyls never actually existed and the terrifying creatures in Jurassic Park known as velociraptors were actually the size of chickens!  Thank goodness I write fiction and can take a little creative licence. 

Want to give YA fiction a try?  Apparently there is huge percentage of adult readers. 

Here’s the blurb:

ENDGAME EARTH: STORM’S QUEST
Two continents.  One with humans.  One with dinosaurs.  Who will win the battle of the planet?
For Lincoln Kreft everything is at stake.  His sister is sick.  On an over-populated planet the only way to get access to healthcare is to become a Trialist – one of 100 people who visit the dinosaur continent each year in search of new resources.  Few return.
Stormchaser Knux doesn’t have a family to care about.  She’s been on her own for the last five years.  But she does have a conscience.  Having her life saved by one of the plesiosaurs living in the nearby loch gives her a new perspective on the propaganda about dinosaurs.  She doesn’t believe they are all ferocious beasts.  But can she prove it?
Staying alive on the dinosaur continent becomes their top priority.
But will dinosaurs really be their biggest threat – particularly when one friend will betray another?



Monday, July 21, 2014

I Should Stick to Writing by Jenny Gardiner

            I hate that I'm an arts ignoramus. I wish I were that person who could steep myself in a classical music concert and not want to flee for the exit doors (although in truth, I get tired of even a normal concert after an hour or so and want to be done with that as well).  Or trot out to the ballet and really absorb the beauty before my eyes, rather than fidgeting or clock-watching. But try as I might, I just don't tend to gravitate toward fine art. I guess I'm a déclassé slob.
            I'm ashamed to admit the extent of my fine arts education (or at least that which imprinted in the haze of my brain) sprung from dubious sources. For painting, the board game Masterpiece was my instructor. Yep, my grasp of the Dutch Masters ran to the famed Rembrandt rendering of an old man who looks like an old woman with a feather in his/her cap. American classics? That celebrated all-night diner oil painting by Edward Hopper. I was particularly proud of myself when I recently recognized a spoof of Hopper's painting in the window of an alternative art gallery in Philadelphia. And to think I owe it all to Masterpiece creators, Parker Brothers!
            My appreciation of classical music and opera begins and ends pretty much at the Barber of Seville (make that Rabbit of Seville; thanks, Bugs Bunny). To be fair, I could throw in Elmer Fudd's Wagnerian masterpiece, "Kill the Wabbit!", just to put a finer point on that bonanza of childhood musical education. Likely my aversion toward classical music was further enhanced by my mother and her husband bombarding us with Pachebel's Canon till our ears practically bled. Gimme Bugs Bunny any day over that! In the immortal words of boxer Roberto Durán, no mas!
            The first time I traveled to Italy we hired a tour guide to show us around Florence for a few hours. The guide, an American ex-pat, had majored in Art History during college in the States, and immersed herself in glorious Renaissance art while studying abroad, loving the culture so much she stayed. I was amazed at the breadth of her knowledge and even more so the depth of her passion for the subject matter a double whammy of art and history zeal. Damn! When I was 18 years old, it would not have dawned on me to consider studying art. I thought I needed to pursue an area of study that would lead to a steady income (though recognize in hindsight that journalism didn't made so much sense in that endeavor). But art? I can't even doodle well! Why would I bother?
            Yes, I admit it: I'm a cultural troglodyte.
            I don't doubt that the manner in which history and art are taught contribute to one's ability to ingest it. I had a peculiar professor in a mandatory European history class during college who felt compelled to act out the high (or low) points of a thousand years of Europe, taking on often many roles in each class. I suppose there are those who were on board with it; I just thought it was a weird distraction.
            Yet when I've toured historical venues over the years, I find it most interesting to learn about day-to-day life from so long ago in some way I can better relate to that versus what Charlemagne was up to on his horse. Perhaps if I had approached the study of history and art from a plebian perspective, it would have struck a more familiar nerve, instead of merely ringing hollow. Better yet, perhaps an historical People Magazine-style education would have done it: celebrity gossip from the Middle Ages! Who's cheating on whom! What's popular this week in illuminated manuscripts and Gregorian Chants!
            Drats. Where my interest thrives in useless pop culture, it plummets when it comes to cultured culture.
            One thing I think would have helped immensely is emphasizing the whole notion of history being doomed to repeat itself. The older I get the more I see this again and again, and from this perspective it is ingrained into my brain more readily. It seems not a day goes by when that adage isn't reinforced in the news (Soviets invade Afghanistan; Soviets fail in Afghanistan. America invades Iraq; well, you know the drill.)
            Perhaps I'm taking baby steps toward acquiring some cultural enlightenment. Ish. Making a foray into a classier classicism, if you could dare call it that (granted it was by accident, but whatever works). Several weeks ago we purchased tickets to see Ben Folds in concert at Wolf Trap Farm Park. Folds is a musical genius whose earlier foray into contemporary music featured profanity-laced lyrics that are largely unprintable. He's since evolved, even launching the popular a capella show Sing Off, with nary an f-bomb.
            Too late I realized Folds was performing with the National Symphony Orchestra, which I figured meant I'd be asleep in ten minutes once under the influence of the dulcet strains of the violin section. One person in our group perhaps influenced by an upbringing devoid of musical culture (my bad!) — didn't care for the symphonic component of the program, But most unexpectedly, I was quite mesmerized by the merging of disparate musical genres in such a beautiful way. And when he impulsively composed an orchestral piece on the spot, teaching each part section by section, well, wow. It helped me to really appreciate how disparate instruments (and their masters) get along for the greater good of the group. It gives you a sense of comfort in this sometimes very dark world that ultimately people can work together to achieve something bigger than themselves as individuals.
            Maybe it's never too late to start with this newfound appreciation for the arts. Perhaps in addition to doing a bike or walking tour in the next city I visit, I'll venture into the museum as well. Certainly if they have air conditioning. And maybe a lovely little café. Baby steps, people.

  Sleeping with Ward Cleaver










Slim to None













Anywhere But Here
















Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me










Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)


















Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)



















I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I'm a contributor)



















And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions


















The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F's Rhymes with Duck


















Naked Man On Main Street
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 find me on my website

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Midsummer Past-times

Isle of Palms SC

Well, we're into the thick of summer now and in southern NJ where I live I do mean thick -- the heat and humidity can be overwhelming! Temps reach into the 90s and so does the humidity levels. Most of us seek relief in air-conditioned places or pools or the sacred place that we South Jerseyans call 'the shore'. 

(And please do not mistake the REAL Jersey shore for that mess you see on MTV!)

I'm fortunate to live about 45 minutes from some of the best beaches, so day-trips are a favorite past-time -- both when I was a kid and when my kids were little. And some of my favorite vacations were spending a week down there, enjoying the sand and water during the day and then going on the boardwalk at night to play arcade games or miniature golf. 

For me though, I lived in anticipation of true joy -- sitting on the beach with something cold to drink and a book to read. I would slather on the sunscreen, put on the big sunglasses (sadly, now prescription ones! LOL!) and read away. My hubby and I had an agreement that I would get some non-supervisory time on the beach when we went with the boys. 

And the first thing planned and packed was my ample supply of books! 

My boys grew up knowing that if Mom began making a pile of books (and magazines), there was a trip coming. During the heyday of my reading (aka before I began writing romance novels), I would take no fewer than 10 books and 10 magazines for a week-long trip that would include reading time. 

Maui - 2012
 The boys have grown now and we haven't had a shore  vacation in a while, but I was lucky enough to go to Hawaii in 2012 and my goal was a simple one -- to read on a different beach every day of the trip. And I did, since there is beautiful beach after beautiful beach all around the islands. Can you say: ahhhhhhhhhh-loha!?                                                                                                                 So, what kind of summer pasttimes do you look forward to each year? How has your summer been so far this year? What are your plans for the rest of it? No matter what it is, I hope you have time for some reading! 


Speaking of summer activities - I'll be heading off to the Romance Writers of America's Annual Conference in San Antonio TX next week. If you're in the area, I hope you'll come to the Marriott Rivercenter on 7/23 at 5:30pm for the open-to-the-public Book Signing for Literacy party. There will be over 500 romance authors signing and raising money for Literacy projects both locally and nationally. I'll be signing my current book - YIELD TO THE HIGHLANDER! And visit my website or FB page for lots more info about my upcoming books and events! 
Happy Summer everyone! 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Susan Stephens: The End Of A Series


Coming to the end of a four book series leaves me with mixed feelings. I am happy for the characters I've nurtured and cared about, laughed with, and been anxious for, to leave the nest, but I will miss them. After all, Britt, Eva, Leila and Tyr, have been a big part of my life for over a year now.


I have to confess that Tyr holds a special place in my heart. As each of the Skavanga sisters' stories unfurled on my screen, I knew I was coming closer to writing Tyr's story, and I knew it would be exciting for me to write, because I had seen Tyr through his sisters' eyes, and of course, I finally saw Tyr through the eyes of his childhood friend, Jazz.

We all change as we go through life, some more than others, and when a carefree youth goes through war as a serving soldier, he's likely to change more than most. This was Tyr's fate, and we soon discover that in the years Tyr and Princess Jasmina of Kareshi have been apart, things have changed radically for both of them. Jasmina is no longer the tomboy Jazz, Tyr remembers from his youth, but a highly protected princess who believes her duty lies in serving her country, and that her own happiness counts for nothing. And as for Tyr... Tyr has grown dark and distant, and, on the surface at least, he appears to be practically unrecognisable from the youth he once was.


I love it when a heroine is big enough to accept she might have been wrong, as Jazz discovers when she reviews her life to date. But she doesn't sit back and do nothing about it. Oh, no. Jazz regroups and starts to fight back. There's no chance Jazz is going to wait for a hero to ride to her rescue - though in this book, it could be argued that Tyr is the character most in need of rescuing, so I hope you find this strong heroine equal to the task. I certainly did. I love Jazz, and firmly believe that I found my damaged hero the perfect soulmate to help him heal and go forward.

If you would like to read a little extra about my Skavanga Diamond series and how I came up with the idea to combine the elements of ice and fire, you can visit the special dedicated pages on my web site at http://www.susanstephens.com/skavanga/index.html where you can find the images I have chosen to represent my characters, plus their bios and background information, as well as lots of personal photographs.
Happy hunting!

And because it wouldn't be a Susan Stephens blog without a giveaway, I would love you to share some special friendship you have experienced with us. Make us laugh, make us cry, the essence is in sharing, and there will be a signed copy of one of my books, together with some other small gifts, for one contributor selected at random.

As always, it is a real pleasure for me to be able to connect with my readers, so GOOD LUCK everyone!

With my warmest good wishes to you all,

Susan

***Susan's winner is Penney!  Please email totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your mailing details!***

Friday, July 18, 2014

Maggie Jaimeson: What Shall I Be When I Grow Up?

Today is my 60th birthday. Yes, I have actually been on this earth that long, though I think in my mind I’m still about 28. My body begs disagree, but it is my mind that counts.  When I look back on my life I have been pretty blessed. I’ve enjoyed at least three careers—computer programming and IT management, teacher and academic executive, and now full time author. I love learning and I’ve done it through education and travel and lots and lots of reading—both fiction and non-fiction.

One of the great benefits of being an author is that I am always learning—learning about my characters, learning about the craft of writing, and learning about the people and places and cultures and decisions that impact my characters and their stories. I get to vicariously live many lives through my characters, and most important I get to control the final outcome to be what I want it to be. I get to create a happily ever after no matter what tortuous journey my characters have undertaken.


All of my stories are some reflection of me. I can’t help but do that. It doesn’t mean I’ve personally lived those lives, but I believe our human experiences of grief and joy and discernment are universal no matter the country, the culture, or even a different world than earth. Often the lives of my characters are ones that I dreamed I could have for myself, but never had the guts or the time or funds to pursue them. For example, in my Sweetwater Canyon series I follow five women in an Americana band. I played piano and violin as a child and into high school and college. I had dreams of being in a band, but I never pursued it as a career. I couldn’t imagine supporting myself as a musician even though I often dreamed of it.


In my Forest People fantasy series, my young adult heroine not only has to figure out who she is and what her gifts are, but she has to save not one world but two. And she is only sixteen! I can remember being a teenager and feeling like the world was on my shoulders. I was bound and determine to make a difference and to do the right thing. Figuring out how to do that is really the journey of moving from young adult to adulthood.  I’ve learned that most of us re-evaluate that journey at every decade in our life. My path at 25 was not the same as my path at 40, and now at 60 there is even more that I want to accomplish in my life.

In my new romantic suspense Shadow Finders series, my Marine Corps buddies are backed up by the women who love them. They take on truly evil people, corporations, or governments to save those who are forgotten or lost. Though I grew up at a time when women in combat or as police officers or other typical male roles was not at all common, I still fantasized about being a big hero—whether that was as an EMT or a mercenary or my version of superman as a woman. Yes women can kick butt too, but I would do it with less violence and more thoughtful and permanent changes. Shadow Finders allows me to explore the tension between violence and peace and change while still believing that love conquers all.


What were your dreams for your future? Do you still have some of those dreams? Have your dreams changed over the years? If so, in what way?

Because this is an important birthday for me, I’m giving away a free fiction ebook of your choice. Anyone who answers my question about your dreams for your future can choose any ONE of my currently available fiction titles in the ebook format you desire.

Go to http://maggielynch.com to read more about each of my books. Choose one that appeals to you. Complete this form and I’ll send you the book of your choice.

Happy Reading!

After more than 30 years in careers including software development and training, distance learning, and executive leadership in academic computing, Maggie decided to follow her first love and pursue writing full time. She writes adult fiction in romance and SF under the name Maggie Jaimeson, young adult fiction under the name Maggie Faire, and non-fiction under the name Maggie Lynch. You can find all of her books at http://maggielynch.com