Saturday, March 31, 2012

The way things work...

Thanks, Lee, for inviting me to blog here at AUTHOR SOUND RELATIONS. I really appreciate the forum you’ve offered, especially since I’ve got a new book coming out April 1!

CrystalFire is the final story in my DemonSlayers series, and since I finished writing the story a year ago, I’m going through the process of putting myself back into that world so that I can recall the details when people ask questions, but that’s the way things work in this business. And since it’s something that readers don’t always know, I thought I’d talk about it a bit.

The best part of being an author is writing the books. The worst part of being an author is writing the books. Go figure, but it’s true. There’s such an amazing element of discovery each day when I sit down to see what my characters are up to, and at the same time, there’s always the fear in the back of my mind that maybe they’re not going to tell me. It’s like, if they don’t let me in on the secret, I’m screwed! So far, they’ve not kept me out of the loop, and all the books I’ve been working on have managed to get themselves written.

But once the story is done and sent off to my editor, it’s on to the next book, and then the next. I had to go back and look at my schedule, but since I turned in the final CrystalFire manuscript last year, I’ve written two novels for my new Dream Catchers series, Dream Unbound and Dream Unchained, four novellas for my self-published Demon Lovers series: Unbalanced, Unbound, Unmasked and now Unleashed, have edited and prepared two of my older titles, 68 & Climbing and Cowboy in My Pocket for self-publishing, wrote numerous blog posts and a gazillion emails and have started another new series. Point being, I’ve not read or been thinking about the book that’s actually coming out, which means I’ve had to go back and reread it to even remember the story!

Hopefully, that will explain the “deer in the headlights” look I sometimes get when a reader asks me about a point in one of my books. My mind is always wrapped around the current project, which, for me right now, is my brand new series, Spirit Wild. This is one I’ve been so anxious to get to—it’s my second generation series about the Chanku, stories that take place twenty-five years after Wolf Tales 12. I’m three chapters into Lily’s story, To Love a Dark Wolf, and I’m having the time of my life discovering Lily as a young woman...but, I really need to talk about CrystalFire and what THIS book is about! Like I said, it’s the way things work.

CrystalFire is nothing like I imagined it would be and everything I hoped for a final book to a series. It’s got unlikely heroes, a horrible threat to mankind (and Lemurian-kind!) and two secondary stories that weren’t even on the radar when I started writing.

But again, that’s the way these things work, and I think you’ll understand what I mean when you read the book. I do have something I’d love an opinion on—you’ll notice is that I write in a lot of different genres. Wolf Tales is erotic paranormal, Dream Catchers is erotic science fiction, DemonSlayers is paranormal, Cowboy in My Pocket is contemporary western humor, 68 & Climbing is contemporary romance and Demon Lovers is erotic urban fantasy. I do them all as me—they’re all written by Kate Douglas. We’re having a discussion on an author list right now about using pseudonyms—what’s your thought on that? Do you want an author to keep one name for all their genres, or would you prefer a different name? Or should it be a different name linked to the original, the some authors do: Joe Blow writing as Betsy Smith? I’d love to take your answers back to my list and let the authors know what you think. AND, for allowing me to pick your brains, three winners will be chosen from those who leave a comment. I’m giving away your choice of a copy of StarFire or the new book, CrystalFire.

***Kate's winners are Denise Z, TinaMaire and Maria E!! Please email with your full name an mailing address asap! Thanks!***

Friday, March 30, 2012

A scary place to live…

On of the questions authors are always asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” This isn’t always easy to answer because most writers have very active imaginations, and scenes non-writers see take on a whole new visual when you look at it from the writer’s perspective. For me, ideas come from all over—song lyrics, movies, sometimes even documentaries. But by and large, my ideas come from every day life. Today is a perfect example.

At the moment, I’m sitting in my dad’s pool house, watching my kids (AKA…Gremlins) jumping around in his outdoor hot tub. We’re in Washington and it’s spring break, which means it’s cloudy and rainy and COLD, and to say you couldn’t pay me enough to get out there and soak with them is an understatement. But from the confines of the little pool house my dad built, I have a safe perspective to view the festivities. Or terror…depending on what you see.

There is, of course, yelling (muffled, thankfully, by the pool house walls), screaming, splashing, dunking (even though I told them not to). Most parents would be concerned about safety and their kids damaging something, but not me. No, the writer in me is envisioning Greek myth monsters swimming under the surface, shooting out of the water and releasing a steady stream of fire across the unsuspecting inhabitants on the shore in their cozy little houses. (Yes, that would be me in the pool house!)

I know, that sounds a little psychotic, doesn’t it? But a writer’s brain is often a scary place to exist. When we’re in the car and I’m staring out the window, my husband will often ask me if I’m okay. It’s not uncommon for me to spend hours staring out at nothing, but in my head everything is happening even though from the outside it looks like I’m zoning out. Characters are talking, scenes are taking shape, normal everyday events are twisting and morphing until what’s I see isn’t what’s really there but is what I’ve created in my mind instead.

Sometimes I wish there was a cure for this. My brain is constantly working whether I want it to be or not. But most of the time, seeing the world from a whole different perspective lends itself to exciting stories and unique scenes. And at the end of the day, for a writer, that’s a pretty cool thing. Even if it means a simple, relaxing hot tub becomes a boiling lake of acid and lava. (Yes, that scene is morphing even as I type!)

My latest book is ENRAPTURED, the fourth book in my Eternal Guardians series, releases on April 3rd and was recently named as one of the Top Ten Romances of 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly. To celebrate the book’s release, my publisher is giving away a copy to one lucky commenter. Ask me anything to enter!

A former junior high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton traded in her red pen and test tube set for a laptop and research books. She now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her work has been nominated for numerous awards, including the prestigious RITA® awards by Romance Writers of America, the Australian Romance Reader Awards, the Golden Leaf and the Golden Heart. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ballpark or dreaming up new and exciting adventures. Visit her on the web at

***Elisabeth's winner is Dina!!  Congratulations!  Please email your full name and mailing address to  Thanks!***

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Year in the Life of an Author - March

This is the time of year--three months into the year--where I start to say to myself, "Good heavens, where has the year gone?" That and I start panicking about school letting out in about two and a half months. Yikes.

If you haven't been following this series, I am writing a monthly blog here at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs, giving you an inside look at the working year of an author. My first two recaps can be found here:

March revolved around two things: writing as many pages as I could and going to Philadelphia for the Public Library Association Conference (PLA). Like most trips, especially when you are going from one coast to another, you lose days just in travel--but I try to make my flights count. I spent the time doing the final read through of an e-pub version of a short story I wrote several years back for the Mammoth Book of Regency Romance.

The nice part about being an author is that a lot of your work is portable. I take notebooks with me everywhere for scene planning, and with the short story, I had it loaded on my ereader. Two cross-country flights gave me the focused time to get Cynders and Ashe ready for publication and I am happy to say it is now available on Kindle and Smashwords. Nook should be available this week.

So it was off to Philadelphia--where I spent a whirlwind day speaking and signing. Three different signings--giving away advanced copies of Along Came a Duke (lucky dang librarians!) and Lord Langley is Back in Town. So you are thinking--two full days of travel crossing the continent for one day of work? Yeah, I know. Crazy. But really fun. The librarians I met were a kick in the pants and I fell in love with Philadelphia. Loved it! What's not to love about a city that embraces its history on every corner. Loved, loved, loved the place. Blogged about my visit here.

And in between all this jet setting, I was writing. Full on, get your pages running, writing. I am now past my difficult part--every writer has their difficult part to a book, whether it be starting, editing or finishing. Mine is the first seven chapters--and from here on out it is a dead run to the end. By the end of Chapter 7, I find that I finally really know my characters and stories. Instead of having the story trickle out, it becomes a river of words rushing toward the ocean. In the late afternoon and evening, I map out with a paper and pen my scenes for the next day, and the next morning, I lay out my notes and just start story telling. I love this part of the book.

After months and months of writing, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and the first draft should be done in about two or three more weeks. And then comes April. But we'll talk about that next month.

Oh, hey! If you are bummed that you aren't a librarian and didn't return from PLA with an extra suitcase of books and ARCs, Mondays find me giving away books over on my blog, and if you are looking for a great deal on my new book, Along Came a Duke, the e-version is currently $4.99 on preorders.

See you at the end of April!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back to TEXAS! by Linda Conrad

I’m thrilled about the start of my brand new series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense called Chance, Texas. The series features rugged Texas men. My all time favorite.

The first book in the series is on shelves in print now (April 1 on Kindle and B&N) Called TEXAS BABY SANCTUARY, the hero is Sam Chance, the oldest brother in the large ranching family. A strong, quiet man of the United States Secret Service, Sam’s job is to guard witnesses in the protection and security program. The one witness that gets to him, running from his protection and changing his life, is Grace Brown. Hiding from the Mexican drug king who kidnapped her, killed her parents and then made her his mistress, Grace wants to become self-sufficient enough to protect her baby son. But she discovers she must also learn to trust Sam.

Finding unique plots and interesting characters is always a challenge. Yet I know those are the very things that make readers happiest. I know because that’s what makes me happiest as a reader and a writer. My favorite settings are in Texas. The romance of the great American West stirs a passion in my soul. I’ve told many of my stories from a western perspective because I think it’s so romantic for a hero and heroine to face challenges from mother nature along with challenges of the heart.

You may not think of Texas as the wild west anymore. Most of it isn’t. But today there are still thousands of acres of ranch land and many wild spots along the border of Texas and Mexico. Chance, Texas takes place on a huge modern ranch and in a small town in isolated west Texas.

I know Texas may not be as chic or sophisticated as a European capital. Nor does it seem as much fun as a place like New Orleans. But there is just something about Texas that fits like a favorite pair of old shoes.

Paraphrasing the state’s travel guide: Texas is so big it feels like a whole other country! Yes, the state does have fabulous sand beaches and big city sights. But what makes it still Texas to me are the gorgeous mountains and rugged desert. The water-carved canyons and bluebonnet-strewn rolling ranchlands. The still isolated and wooly feel of the land bordering the Rio Grande. And the great range lands that somehow feel like they make up the nation’s history.

If it weren’t for Texas where would all the cowboys go? Gotta love those hunky cowboys with broad shoulders and rippling muscles, honed from wrangling all that cattle and riding all those horses.

The contemporary romantic cowboy is more of a mindset than an actual person. He must be tough and hard working, but he must also be kind and honest to a fault. A cowboy is always the good guy. Americans need books about cowboys to remind them that the country is large, but never so large that its people can’t stop and enjoy the world around them the way a cowboy does on horseback.

Of course, real cowboys don’t ride on horseback much anymore. They use SUV’s and helicopters to ride the herds. But the cowboy still stands for all that is pure and true. He’s never on the wrong side. He knows that a job must be done and he’s the guy who can do it. He can stay up all night to finish a job (or make love to his woman) the same way his counterparts did a hundred years ago on the trail. A cowboy never looks for trouble. He’s the man who will take on the bad guys in a heartbeat, but will also go twenty miles out of his way to take a sick dog to the vet. They defend good people who cannot defend themselves. They are honest and polite. And they know how to treat a woman.

Modern cowboys are not all molded alike. They each have their own style, and that style is uniquely suited for romance novels.

In TEXAS BABY SANCTUARY, Sam Chance must go back home to Texas in order to protect his witness and her child. Sam has stayed away from the Chance ranch deliberately, to avoid seeing his own guilt reflected in the eyes of his brothers. But his heart belongs to Texas and that’s where he feels at home. It’s up to him to make Grace see the value in Texas and want to stay there too.

Here’s a small excerpt of the beginning when Sam first catches up to Grace:

Stinging cold rain ran off the brim of his hat and dripped down the back of U.S. Marshal Sam Chance’s neck.
Shrugging deeper into his lambskin coat, Sam felt chilled through and bone-weary. So flipping bone-weary, in fact, that he figured sleeping for a hundred years would make a great way to spend his next time off—whenever that might happen.
But as he stood on the pavement in the rough March drizzle staring through the smudged front window of a run-down highway café, his body got a shot of much needed adrenaline. And suddenly, he had no need for sleep anytime soon.
She was there. Bending over to wipe down an empty table. After searching for the last six weeks, he’d finally found his woman.
The information he obtained from those truck drivers a few days ago had been the key to finding her. They’d said she was working as a waitress in this dingy joint. And there she was.
But look at how fragile she seemed from this distance. He’d never known her to be so thin. And she’d changed her hair color again. He had grown rather partial to the bright red, but he supposed honey-blond was not all bad—if what you needed the most from your hair color was a temporary disguise.
Where was her baby? Did she bring him to work with her? Was the child in the backroom of the café?
Wanting to go to her, to hear her voice again, he fisted his hands at his sides instead and tried to clear his mind.
But he didn’t move. He didn’t as much as blink an eyelash. Focusing his eyes past the left-over Christmas decorations on the window, that were by now looking pretty ratty, he simply gazed at her.
He shouldn’t be here. Never should have started this quest to find her in the first place. He’d taken a leave from his job in order to begin the search. But now that he’d found her, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. That she was still well and breathing free air felt like such a relief he could barely think. …..

There you go! Just a little taste of Sam’s journey. From here the story takes a fast turn and becomes a grand adventure right to the end. I think you’re going to love meeting Sam and Grace and her baby. I know I loved writing their story.

So what do you think of books about Texas and ranchers? Like them or hate them? If not cowboys, what’s your favorite hero do today? Leave a comment and three people will win a drawing for autographed copies of the first two books in the Chance, Texas series: TEXAS BABY SANCTUARY and TEXAS MANHUNT!

You can find out more about Linda and sign up for her newsletter at: or catch up with her on facebook and twitter.!/LindaConrad

***Linda's winners are : Laney4, Shelley B and Eli Yanti!!  Congrats, ladies!  Please email with your full name and mailing address!***

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Doomsday Preppers

Have you seen the show? It's oddly fascinating, all about survivalists who are building and stocking bunkers to see them through the Mayan Doomsday, the zombie apocalypse, or whatever other catastrophe might be on our horizon. Some of them have supplies enough for a few months, some for upwards of a year.

While I shudder at the thought of being stuck in a small underground space for very long, I'll confess to liking that my DH is a low-level prepper, stashing antibiotics, ammo and equipment that should up our chances should a Big Bad happen. Since DH is outwardly a laid-back shop manager, I find his inner Bear Grylls pretty darn sexy.

Because my Nightkeeper series is about the magical warriors prophecized to protect us from the Mayan Doomsday, I get asked a lot whether I think the world is going to end on 12/21/2012. The answer is, “Nope.” However, I do think that when we look back on it, we'll see that lots of things changed during this period (which is how some people have interpreted the Mayan calendar's end).

We're in the middle of those changes right now, and it's not always easy to feel secure. So I say we should do what it takes to make us feel safe (okay, within reason!), whether that's building a bunker or just having some trail mix and bottled water tucked away. What do you think?

If you'd like to learn a bit more about the Mayan doomsday and the brave, sexy men and women tasked with protecting us, check out and the Nightkeeper books, including my upcoming release, MAGIC UNCHAINED (Signet, April 3, 2012).

In the meantime, tell me ... what's in your bunker? Me, I've got chocolate, books by Linnea Sinclair and Lois McMaster Bujold, and Diet Coke. Everyone who posts will be entered to win a random drawing for a signed copy of MAGIC UNCHAINED ;-)


***Jessica's winner is Maureen!!  Congratulations! Please email your mailing info to as soon as possible!  Thanks.  :) ***

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome to Jubilee

It’s spring in my native Texas. Actually, this year, spring showed up two months ago and it’s already hit the eighty-degree mark in my neck of the woods. We have short sweet cotton-candy springs, interminable oven-hot summers, nostalgia tepid autumns and a single sharp snap of winter. 

But right now, it’s spring. The peach trees are flush with delicate pink blooms. Yellow daffodils push up from the brown earth. Bluebonnets propagate across my lawn along with dandelions and clover. Bees buzz. Crane flies float. Thin mosquitoes hunt for blood. Redbirds shower in the fountain, flipping their wet heads like shampoo models, proud in their scarlet glory. Mockingbirds call from the lavender crepe myrtle, trilling their cache of stolen songs until long after midnight. Mama and Papa Buzzard build a nest in the elm tree.

I step outside and breath deep the scent of hyacinth and trumpet vines that smell like Bit-o-Honey.  My Aussie shepherds tussle, showing out for me. Buff Orpington hens chase bugs in the flowerbeds. Angus cattle graze in the field behind my house, their chewing rhythmly hypnotic. A dual axel pickup truck, known around here as a dually, pulling a gooseneck horse trailer rumbles by on the road. The cowboy behind the wheel smiles and waves. I wave back.

This is home.

THE COWBOY TAKES A BRIDE is the first book in a new series, featuring Jubilee, Texas. Jubilee is a fictional town, but it’s based on my hometown of Weatherford, Texas, which is the Cutting Horse Capital of the World. We are also the Peach Capital of Texas. Peaches and cutting horses and a friendly hometown atmosphere. That’s what we do best.

With this new series, I’m letting you into my home and into my heart.  Many things in this book are fictionalized versions of things that have happened to me. I’ve met people like the characters in this book. They are as real to me as my next-door neighbors. Welcome to Jubilee. I’m so happy you could join us.

Tell me a little bit about your hometown. Do you still live there? What’s the weather like? What does your town/city do better than any other place on earth? Post a comment for a chance to win a $25.00 gift card to Amazon. I'll pick a winner tomorrow afternoon, March 27th, on release day.


***Lori's winner is Runner10!!  Congrats!  Please email with your details!  Thanks.***

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grandma and the Prince - Part 34

<--Mona in shocking pink; my
mom in emerald green; Aunt Dede (Grandma El's
sister) in pale blue -- taken at my
wedding reception

Jack was tall, lean, dazzlingly blond. One of those "golden boys" you read about but never see in real life. He had an equally dazzling dog, a Weimaraner named Ursic, and the kind of career that used to exist only in Jackie Collins's novels.

He was a photographer who worked with the legendary Francesco Scavullo in Manhattan at the dawn of the 1960s and he was my Aunt Mona's first post-quickie-marriage-and-annulment romance.

And what a romance it was! It isn't often that a girl of my era gets a front row seat to something so adult and exciting, but the summer I turned ten I definitely got lucky.

I've said before that Mona was definitely her mother's daughter. (If Grandma El been born two generations later, she could have ruled the world.) She had guts and ambition and a fearlessness that sometimes got her into trouble. She also fell in love fast and hard and when she did, all of that "I am woman, hear me roar" power suddenly morphed into American Geisha. But that's for another story on another day.

Anyway, it's the summer of 1960 and Mona and her friend Helen are about to open their own real estate agency on Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens. It's a relatively daring venture for two women in their early 30s. (Women in business was still a disconcerting concept for many people.) Sounds great, doesn't it? Only problem was, Mona and Helen decided to open their business directly across the street from the real estate office of Henry C. Reilly . . . the man they'd worked for until three weeks before their Grand Opening.

But nobody was thinking about Henry at the Grand Opening. There was champagne and balloons and music courtesy of the small record player in the corner of the room. Grandma El was there and Aunt Dede, my parents and I, Helen's friends and family, and Jack.

Now this was the first time I'd laid eyes on him and let's just say I was totally smitten. Goggle-eyed, tongue-tied, head-over-heels smitten by every single thing about him. Even his dog seemed more golden and glamorous than normal dogs. To be honest, I can't remember a single word he uttered but if I close my eyes I can still see his lazy smile, the twinkle in his blazing blue eyes . . . and the way my aunt turned downright kittenish when he was around.

Let me tell you, this budding romance writer was totally enthralled. Which probably explains why I stalked them that afternoon. I didn't miss a thing. The way they looked at each other, the furtive glances, the quick touches. I took it all in, tucking the details away for future reference.

Which is how I ended up seeing my first real life, deeply romantic, they're-not-my-parents Hollywood kiss.

The party was winding down. Grandma El was starting to pick apart the paint job and we all knew it was only a matter of time until the serious criticizing kicked in. My parents were ready to leave but I needed to use the bathroom before we did.

Except that was a lie. I'd noticed that Mona and Jack had disappeared into the storeroom a few moments ago and the storeroom was adjacent to the bathroom and . . . well, you get the picture. I cautiously, slowly let myself into the storeroom and there they were. My tiny dark-haired aunt and her tall golden-haired lover were wrapped in each others' arms looking for all the world like the hero and heroine of one of the romance novels I was still twenty years away from writing. It was a full-on Hollywood moment. She was on tiptoe, her arms wrapped around his neck. He was bent low, one large hand splayed across the small of her back, the other thrust deep into her dark, shiny curls.

I stood there, unable to move or think or even breathe. I swear to you I could almost hear bells going off somewhere in the distance although, given the fact that we were located next to the bus station, it was probably the B-52. They had no idea they were being watched. (They probably had no idea they were still on this planet, to be honest.) This was really happening and I was the lucky audience.

It wasn't a movie. It wasn't a TV show. It wasn't a Broadway play. This was real, grown-up life in all its glittering, glamorous, thrilling glory and I was totally captivated by the possibilities.

I was only ten years old but I knew that when I grew up, I wouldn't settle for anything less. I wanted sparks. I wanted electricity. I wanted love and romance and all the excitement that came with the package.

And I also wanted the happy ending that eluded Mona right up until the end.

To be continued. . .

* * *

Leave a comment and you'll have a chance to win a signed book! Winner to be announced next month.

Congratulations to my five winners from last month's post. Please email me at barbarabretton AT gmail DOT com with your mailing info and I'll ship out your signed book ASAP.

  1. marybelle
  2. Pat Cochran
  3. chris bails
  4. Kaelee
  5. franalokas

* * *

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton and you can find me here and here. And don't forget Twitter and Facebook, too. If you're looking for a couple of short, inexpensive e-reads, please check out my novellas, THE MARRYING MAN and I DO, I DO . . . AGAIN. They're both from my Harlequin backlist and currently available at Amazon for 99 cents each. Check them out if you have a moment. I think you'll like them.

Building a heroine...

To write their story you will have to know your characters intimately. For this, you need to do more than fill out a character worksheet with all their physical characteristics, their birth sign, their place in the family hierarchy, the names of their siblings. — from Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance

My new book, started at the beginning of the year, has a ready-made heroine (always a help!) Sorrel is the younger sister of Elle Amery – the heroine of Tempted By Trouble – so I know quite a lot about her before I start. She’s tall, willowy, with dark red hair and a wicked sense of humour that she does her best to keep strapped down.

She’s totally focussed on her career, determined to be a success and to never have to rely on anyone else. To never be poor. (She’s been there, done that…) She was a student when we last met her, taking a business management degree and determined to make her first million by the time she’s twenty-five.

Her sister’s creation of Scoop!, an ice-cream events business, gave her big ideas and by the time Elle is ready to take a back seat and concentrate on being a mother, she is ready to take over the management of the business and propel it out of the local, small business category and into the big time.

But it takes more than a driving ambition to make a heroine. She has to be someone your reader can empathise with, someone with those little failings, weaknesses that we all have. She has to be human.

Sorrel has always had style — she’s an expert at spotting classic bargains in charity shops and wearing them like a model. The budget isn’t as tight as it once was, but she’d still rather hunt down a great “previously owned” find in the local Oxfam shop, or on eBay than shop in the local high street (one of the suits she finds gets her into trouble from the word go). For clothes, that is. 

Shoes are something else and the minute I saw this pair of gorgeous Mui Mui sandals, I knew she would live on bread and water for a month in order to have them.

What heroine weakness would make her your natural best friend? 

What would you give up your lunchtime chocolate bar, your double skinny latte, for?

I’ll put all the comments in a hat and draw one on Monday. The winner will get the book of her choice from my backlist.

Friday, March 23, 2012

To eRead Or Not To eRead, That Is The Question

I have to admit that I’m a little hesitant to try authors who are new to me if I don’t have a recommendation from a friend first.

So you can imagine how hesitant I am to try out a new way of reading. Yep, I’m talking about ereaders. When ereaders first came out, I was convinced I’d never need the things.  I already had a computer, laptop, and smart phone.  My job (writing) requires that I put an awful lot of time into staring at a screen. Why would I want to stare at a screen when I read for fun?  I do understand the draw of an ereader: it’s light, it carries hundreds of books, and you can adjust the text size for those tired-eyes days.

But really?  I’m a paper-in-the-hands kind of gal, and I disliked the idea of my book running out of batteries, or breaking and costing me big bucks to replace.  I’ve had friends and family let me hold their Kindles, fondle their Nooks, and stroke their iPads (this is starting to sound naughty!)  So I do think the gadgets are really cool and I love that the book reads like a book.  Still, I wasn’t convinced I needed an ereader.

Then someone off-handedly remarked, “Oh, and when I’ve finished the book in the middle of the night and want to read the next right away, I touch a button and the book appears in my hands.”

Whoa, Nelly. Cue the lights and bells and angels singing!  No waiting. No having to make an extra trip to the store, or order on-line and hope the post office doesn’t leave the package in the rain. I could have any book I wanted, literally, at my fingertips, at any time of day or night. And if I was looking for a new author to try, I could sample their work before buying.  Hello, heaven.

Now this is the part of the story where I tell you I ran right out and bought an ereader. Um....yeah...I didn’t. Remember how I said I’m hesitant to try a new author without a recommendation? Apparently, that’s also how I feel about ereaders too! While I do love the idea of having one (and will probably buy one) I am still, for the moment, a paper-in-the-hands girl.

How about you?  Are you an ebook reader, or a paper book reader, or both?  Have you tried a new author lately that you like to recommend to friends?  And if you do recommend an author do you share by giving an ecopy or paper copy of the book?

Today I’d like to share my urban fantasy series set in Portland, Oregon, by doing a fun giveaway!  If you’ve never read the Allie Beckstrom series and you win, I will send you the first three books of the series, signed (that’s MAGIC TO THE BONE, MAGIC IN THE BLOOD and MAGIC IN THE SHADOWS).  If you have read the Allie Beckstrom series and you win, I will send you the last three books in the series, signed (that’s MAGIC ON THE HUNT, MAGIC ON THE LINE and MAGIC WITHOUT MERCY--which won't even be in stores until April.) I’ll mail international.

Just leave a comment here about a favorite book you recommend or whether or not you like  ereaders or paper, and the winner will be chosen (and posted) Tuesday, March 27th.

Oh, and I suppose I should mention something about the books!  Here’s the back cover description from the first book, MAGIC TO THE BONE.  If you want to check out the other books or read excerpts you can find them on my page at

Using magic means it uses you back, and every spell exacts a price from its user. But some people get out of it by Offloading the cost of magic onto an innocent. Then it’s Allison Beckstrom’s job to identify the spell-caster. Allie would rather live a hand-to-mouth existence than accept the family fortune—and the strings that come with it. But when she finds a boy dying from a magical Offload that has her father’s signature all over it, Allie is thrown back into his world of black magic. And the forces she calls on in her quest for the truth will make her capable of things that some will do anything to control…

***Devon's winner is Mary Anne Landers!  Congratulations!  Please send your details to!! Thanks***

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Pin is Worth a Thousand Words

I just discovered Pinterest and I am totally hooked!

So what is Pinterest?  It’s a social media site where users primarily share images rather than text like on Facebook and Twitter.  Every Pinterest user has a set of virtual bulletin boards where they can electronically pin images.  When you first sign up, you are provided with a set of themed bulletin boards to get you started, but you can totally customize your set of boards by renaming them, adding new ones, and deleting ones you don’t want.  They even start you off with a set of people to follow based on your interests.

The nice thing about Pinterest is that each image links back to the site the image was pinned from.  I try to pin pictures that are from websites rather than places like Tumblr, so that the image owner is credited and the information about the image is passed on, too.  When I click on an image, I want to find out more about it and I assume my followers do, too.

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I started up.  As an author, I had gone into this with the idea of pinning images of my books and hoping to reach new readers that way. When I went into Pinterest and was presented with a wide array of images, however, I soon became totally absorbed in clicking on images that captivated my attention.  There were pictures of beautiful places, inspiring or funny quotations, fancy cocktails (like cake batter martinis-yum!), fun party treats (like vodka soaked gummy bears and cupcakes that look like tea cups), healthy (and not so healthy, but yummy) recipes, fashion (I love the dress that looks like a Monarch butterfly), useful tips for the house—and yes, there were book covers, too.

I set up boards for my books—a different board for my contemporary erotic books, for my other erotic books (futuristic, fantasy, shorter fiction, etc.) and my steamy (rather than erotic) romances.  I also set up a page for special offers I have available.  Since I have a lot of friends who write books, I started a board with books by my friends (like Julianne MacLean, Sharon Page, Vanessa Kelly, and new author, Coreene Callahan) and I’m still building that board.

It was fun watching the repins start, and soon people started following me.   Someone started repinning my book covers.  Every repin and every new follower was exciting.  I started looking around at other author’s boards.  Some authors set up boards for the research they’re doing on books, which seems like a great idea.  (I haven’t done that yet.)

Once I was all set up, I let myself just enjoy being on Pinterest and following what interests me.  I’m a little surprised to find that I seemed to focus on fingernails and polish.  I’ve always been a bit funky when it comes to nails and hair.  When my oldest son was in Kindergarten I started dying my hair fuscia, than later purple, sometimes blue, and more recently, vivid red.  (My son is just graduating from university now, so you can see I’ve been doing that for a while.)  I’ve always tended to play around with different nail colours.  It used to be really hard to find colours like blue in nail polish, and even black, but I’d manage and I’d use several colours or layers (especially with glitter).
On Pinterest, I noticed some nice pictures of nails and I repinned them, then explored the boards they were pinned from.  I kept finding more and more beautiful nails, and fabulous nail polishes.  The great thing about Pinterest is that the pictures link to the original site where they’re posted, so I wound up on blogs where I explored even more pictures and how-to videos and retail sources.
Okay, so now I have to worry that I might be going overboard, but it’s fun and I find it’s feeding my creative side, which is always good.  Also, I found that the pictures of nails I pinned started being repinned a lot!  One went to over 40 pins within an hour.  Clearly, other people like pretty nails, too!

The pictures I’ve included here are some of my most repinned pictures.  The first three are from (I really love her blog!), the fourth is from (she has some great how-to videos), and the last is from

Now I’m toying with the idea of doing a manicure to match each of my books and posting them on a board on Pinterest.  I had hoped to have one ready for my new story, Virtual Love, which was released a few days ago, but things went awry.  So feel free to follow me on Pinterest to see what I come up with!

And speaking about virtual boards, what if you could live out your fantasies in virtual reality?  That’s what my story, Virtual Love is about.  (Okay, I had to get a reference to my new story in here somehow!)

Control is what Jerette seeks when she enters virtual reality … until she is pursued by a mysterious stranger who infiltrates her sessions, turning her deepest desires into reality.

I had a hard time deciding whether to publish this as Opal Carew or under my pseudonym, Amber Carew, which I use for my stories that are not erotic.  In the end, I chose Amber because although it is very steamy, it’s not quite as explicit as my Opal stories.

For those of you on Pinterest, please share with us what you like to follow, what types of things you typically repin, and maybe what kind of boards you’ve set up.  If you aren’t on Pinterest, what do you think you’d be most likely to repin?

One lucky person who leaves a comment will win a free copy of Virtual Love (ebook).  Also, I am giving away an on-line jigsaw puzzle featuring the Virtual Love cover to everyone who leaves a comment.  (Bonus: when you complete the puzzle, you get a code for 50% off the cover price of Virtual Love at  After you respond, please send me your email and the username you used for your comment to OpalCarewFreeStuff @ with the subject: “March Totebags Blog”.)

If you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, click here: 
Thanks for reading,

Links for pictures:

Cake batter martini

Teacup cupcake
Butterfly dress
Nails – black with green rays
Black with two-tone flowers
Black and blue – matte finish
Black with silver starburst
Black, red, white

***Opal's winner for the copy of Virtual Love is Vanessa D!!  Congratulations!  Please email your mailing info to  Thank you!!***

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Different Kind of Angel

Ideas about angels vary widely throughout mythology, religious doctrine, and popular media. The Bible (in its many versions) describes everything from the winged variety (six wings each, to be exact) to fantastical beings that look like wheels with eyes embedded all around their rims. In artistic works, angels are essentially depicted as winged humans. In literature and the movies (or on television), they run the gamut from robed and white-winged, residing in a celestial paradise, to wingless and ever-present among humans. So what is the common factor? Is there a common factor?

In most instances, angels are portrayed as having been sent to aid humans in some way, whether it’s to protect us against an imminent threat (the movies Legend and Constantine) or as messengers sent to help us see the error of our ways (movies Michael, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story). Essentially, angels – with the exception of the fallen ones – have existed solely to lend a helping hand and there has always been a clear delineation between the “good” ones and the “bad” ones.

It’s right about here that my dark urban fantasy series The Grigori Legacy veers from the norm.

I did a tremendous amount of research into angel mythology while building the world for Sins of the Angels and Sins of the Son, and the same four questions kept recurring in my writerly brain. (1) What if angels were never supposed to interact with our world at all, except to maintain some kind of status quo where the fallen angels were concerned? (2) If the line between good and bad can become blurred for humans, why not in angels, too? (4) What if they had free will? And (3), if humans had been created in the image of God and we turned out to be less than perfect, who was to say angels weren’t equally so?

Ultimately this translated into one lovely, potential-filled question: What if you took imperfect angels, forced their interaction in a world that was never supposed to know of their existence, returned their free will to them, and then placed impossible choices in their paths? For one Toronto homicide detective, the answer is the unraveling of her entire life…and a race to prevent Armageddon itself.

I do so love what if questions… :)


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dipping My Toes into the Steamy Waters of Romance by Jenny Gardiner

My friend, author Maggie Marr, recently invited me to help launch the release of her romance novel Can’t Buy Me Love by celebrating romance on her blog. I had to laugh when Maggie asked me to be featured as part of her “Spring Into Romance” theme, because I’ve found myself as a novelist to be at times adrift somewhere in that multiple-personality world that straddles commercial women’s fiction, chick lit and romance. Often times women's fiction doesn't fit in a particular category, which makes it harder to find a home for the book. And while my novels sometimes have been slotted as romance, I don’t regard myself as a straight-out romance writer in the same way that someone who writes category romances, for instance, does, perhaps because I don’t exactly write uber super steamy romance scenes (I’m too much of a weenie, because I think my teen kids would about kill me if I did). My nomadic genre-straddling was a problem for me when I published books with New York publishing houses-- I think the conundrum of where to shelve my books in a bookstore occasionally confounded the powers that be.

Over the past two years I’ve been able to enjoy a career as an indie author, publishing my work digitally direct to Kindle, Barnes and Noble, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and such, and have grown to love the freedom this provides me. For instance, there was a time when you really had to focus on one specific genre to “brand” yourself, which makes sense on many levels--find readers who like you as an author of historical romances, for instance, and they’ll follow you far and wide and buy/read all of your historical romances. But I tended to be all over the map, with non-fiction memoir, creative non-fiction, women’s fiction, chick lit, I even pitched a self-help book to my agent which I was told I could only sell to a New York house if I had a profile on a national level as an expert in that field. Natch. Oh well. And yeah, lurking in my laptop were a couple of straight-out romances as well, books I figured at some point I’d publish but only once I’d gotten my brand established enough to be able to veer away from it and not leave the “professionals” in New York to wonder what to do with my books.

But with indie publishing, I’ve been able to publish my novels and get them to readers. With the beauty of digital, I can categorize them to reach various audiences, and leave it up to the reader to decide if they like this book enough, maybe they’d like to try another of my novels as well. So that meant I was able to dust off those lurking romances and bring them out into the light of day (and, um, er, yeah, my kids might not be too thrilled, but more on that in a minute). And the thing about my romances is they’re a little too edgy usually to fit in the normal traditional publishing confines of “romance”, so all the better that I can publish them myself and let my audience figure it out! The first romance I published, ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, is a lighthearted story of a woman tired of waiting for Mr. Right to come along. She wants kids, so she takes matters into her own hands (turkey baster, anyone?!). Unbeknownst to her, she’s then hired to be the photographer for her “donor’s” high society wedding. Mayhem ensues, etc.

My next romance, COMPROMISING POSITIONS, could almost be accused of being romantic suspense, but not really. It’s about a woman determined to get hired for a public relations job on Capitol Hill despite rampant sexism working against her. When she lands her dream job against her boss, the press secretary’s, wishes, it’s only because her other boss, a Viagra-sated Senator, wants to add her as another notch on his bed board. Sparks fly as my heroine falls fast for her press secretary (yeah, he falls for her as well) while having to dodge the aggressive moves of the horny Senator. Embezzlement, corruption and yet more mayhem ensue ;-). Oh, and those steamy sex scenes? Yep, I sucked it up and tried my hand at it (I’d originally written this book to enter into a contest sponsored by a New York Times bestselling author in which hot sex scenes were a must). I just decided to not tell my kids it’s out there. Oh, and I published these two novels under the pseudonym Erin Delany. Well, sort of. Jenny Gardiner writing as Erin Delany is more like it. Everyone asks me why I did it this way and I figured it made sense. Readers of women’s fiction are not always interested in migrating to romance, so I didn’t want to confuse those readers into thinking these were straight-out women’s fiction, but romance readers are often happy to straddle those lines, so I wanted them to be able to find my other books if they enjoyed these two romances. Make sense?

Anyhow, so I guess I am a romance writer. Well, sort of, at least sometimes. I like to say I'm a varied author. Whatever it is, I am definitely still a crazy mixed-up kid in publishing. But the great thing nowadays is that this confusion can work in my favor, rather than being a detriment. I hope you’ll go check out these books, as well as my others: #1 Kindle Bestseller SLIM TO NONE, American Title III winner SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, WHERE THE HEART IS, ANYWHERE BUT HERE, WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO’S DETERMINED TO KILL ME, and I’M NOT THE BIGGEST BITCH IN THIS RELATIONSHIP (a humorous anthology of dog stories in which I’m a contributor).

Oh, and to show you how I love to jump all over the place, writing-wise, I'll be publishing a collection of humorous essays in the next week or so. Here's a preview of the cover:

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Unconventional Wedding - by Natalie Anderson

Wedding Accessories image by Rosen Georgiev,
I had the great privilege of going to a wedding in the weekend. I love going to weddings - such happy, fun, exciting occasions! It is such an honour to be there and celebrate with the happy couple :)

I'm always fascinated and delighted to see how people stamp their individuality on their weddings. Some might have a very original wedding dress - the most unusual, and frankly gorgeous, wedding frock I've seen was a purple one - a big full skirt in a luscious purple with flowers hand-painted around the bottom of it. It was stunning!

Others, like the wedding in the weekend, have a bridesman instead of a bridesmaid (and a groomsmaid instead of a groomsman); they might have music that reflects their taste, or the bride might make her entrance in the side-car of a motorcyle...

Then there's the venues - from church to garden to sports stadium to tropical-island-beach. I know couples who've gone to Vegas and given that I live in New Zealand, this wasn't a 'spur-of-the-moment' decision! Others have gotten hitched on the top of a mountain having been helicoptered in.

Wedding Cake image by Rosen Georgiev.
When I got married I was a traditionalist - it was the old stone church, big white dress and Rolls Royce to ride in for me. I loved it. But I confess I had a few moments of a 'beach elopement' fantasy going!

Now, as a romance writer, I ADORE getting to dream up the weddings for my heroes and heroines. Not that many of my books end up with a marriage - often its an engagement, or a declaration of commitment, but that doesn't stop me from envisioning what their wedding might be like. So much fun! In one book where I did describe the wedding, I had it as a surprise - the hero carts the heroine off for a weekend and it turns out he's organised the whole wedding (and it's actually a fairly traditional one) - and she's thrilled because she's always done all the 'organising' for everyone else, and she's very happy in this case she didn't have to! She could just enjoy it.

But I do love to gawp at weddings - if I'm out on the weekend and spot a ribboned car, then I'm rubbernecking to try to catch a glimpse of the bride! And I love it when you see something unique, or a twist on convention that reflects something about the happy couple...

So, to be in the draw to win a copy of FIRST TIME LUCKY? comment below and let me know some of the most unique or unconventional things you've seen at weddings!

EDITED TO ADD: the draw is now closed and the winner is Chrisbails! Thanks so much for sharing wedding stories with me everyone! :)

I'll draw a random winner from the commenters on Wednesday 21 March and edit the post to let you know!

USA TODAY bestseller Natalie Anderson writes fun, frisky, feels-good contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon and Entangled. With twenty books published, she’s also been a Romantic Times Award nominee & a finalist for the R*BY (Romantic Book of the Year). She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband, four children and what feels like a million ducks.

Find out more at her website - and be sure to sign up to her newsletter while there, as she has subscirber only treats on offer! She's also on Twitter and Facebook.