Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Year in the Life of an Author - February

This is my second installment in my year long series here in what happens in an author's working life over the course of a year. I suppose that is sort of self-evident in the title, but you never know. LOL. If you are interested, my January post can be found here.

February was a working mom's nightmare. Two words: sick kids. For two full weeks. I think they went through the entire litany of flu, ear aches, and finally settled on bronchitis. Then came the double-whammy of four snow days--of course when the kids were healthy. I watched in frustration as my writing schedule and goals evaporated into thin air to the sound of hacking coughs.

To write, I really need a block of uninterrupted time. To dive in and just live in the story. Unfortunately, I saw little of that, so my page goals are rather in ruins. I have high hopes for March, where I have (fingers crossed) four full weeks (counting this one) of uncommitted time to write. I'll still be behind, but if I can stick with catching up, I won't be SO far behind.

My other project for February met with a little more success: the re-release of my first three books, BRAZEN ANGEL, BRAZEN HEIRESS and BRAZEN TEMPTRESS, as digital books. Hurrah for ebooks, they are giving new life to stories long out of print. Not only did I bring out all three individually, but they can also be had in a boxed set edition. You can find these on Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. The iBook edition is coming.

Bringing out a book on your own makes you realize all the steps that go into publishing behind the scenes and make you thankful for your publisher. I've had to learn the ins and outs of epubbing, formats, ISBNs, and jump through all the hoops of the various vendors. I've spent a lot of late nights filling out forms and uploading files to get it all to fall into place.

Last but not least, February was rounded out with a quick trip down to Huntington Beach, California, where I spoke at a Reader's Tea for the Friends of the Huntington Beach Library. Lovely group of women, truly delightful company and tea! Okay, I am such a sucker for a tea. But it was a chance to get some sunshine--Seattle winters are GRAY and DARK--and meet some lovely readers. And I have to admit, I love speaking to groups. After spending most of my time working alone, the chance to get out and talk to real live people who are not in my head keeps me from living in my sweats and muttering too much to myself.

And so ends February. Off to March and writing. Fingers crossed for a ton of pages and a fun trip to PLA in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What is it About Vampires, Anyway?

I’ve loved romance all my life. A story that focuses on two people falling in love and living happily ever after—that’s what I want. Real life is full of uncertainty, but romance novels are required to end happily. They’re a port in the storm for me. An escape. Still, it wasn’t until I discovered the paranormal genre—vampires in particular—that I was inspired to write romance.

And why is that?

At first, I really had no idea. I just loved vampires so much. When King of Darkness was released though, I was asked so many times I had to give the matter some real thought. Turns out the fascination had always been there. I can go back to childhood and Beauty and the Beast, and remember how interesting it was that a monster could fall in love.

Fast forward a few years to The Lost Boys and Interview with a Vampire. Because yeah, even undead, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise were totally hot. These were more like horror movies with a touch of romance, but it was the gateway for me to seeing vampires in a sensual and romantic light. For what would later become seeing vampires as heroes rather than villains.

I’ve talked to readers about some of the reasons they like vampires: the fangs, the muscles, the primal alpha male-ness, and the fact that they literally growl. I agree wholeheartedly with all of it. As a writer I also like the extra challenges and dimensions you can add to your story with the supernatural elements that vampires bring to the table. They need their love interest’s blood to survive! They’re immortal, or nearly-so, depending on the rules of your world (my vampires are alive rather than undead so they live for a long time but not forever). Maybe they have super-strength.  These days, your vampire can come in any shape or size.

The possibilities are endless.

So what about you? Do you enjoy paranormal? Not everyone does, and that’s okay too. If you do, what’s your favorite paranormal creature, and why? Leave a comment to let me know, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of King of Darkness.

About King of Darkness:

Scorned by the vampire community for her lack of power, Isabel Anthony lives a carefree existence masquerading as human--although drifting through the debauched human nightlife, she prefers the patrons' blood to other indulgences. But when she meets the sexy, arrogant king of the vampires, this party-girl's life turns dark and dangerous.

Dead-set on finding the prophesied mate who will unlock his fiery powers, Thad Morgan must find his queen before their race is destroyed. Their enemies are gaining ground, and Thad needs his powers to unite his subjects. But when his search leads him to the defiant Isabel, he wonders if fate had gotten it seriously wrong...
King of Darkness is available NOW:  Amazon : Barnes and Noble : IndieBound

Elisabeth Staab lives in Northern Virginia with her hero and soul mate. She has been a telemarketer, a web page editor, a software developer, a reader for the blind, a technical trainer, a coffee shop barista, a tutor, a homemaker, a government project manager, a graphic designer, and a professional ebayer. Finally, she's landed on being a writer - which is what her high school guidance counselor originally suggested anyway.

Elisabeth believes that all kinds of safe, sane, and consensual love should be celebrated--but she loves the fantasy-filled realm of paranormal romance the best. Find out more at

***Elisabeth's winner is Megan!  Congratulations!!  Please email with your full name and mailing address and we'll get the prize in the mail to you!!***

Monday, February 27, 2012

Typewriter Love

I started writing when I was still in elementary school, on a manual typewriter that weighed more than I did and had been bought for me by my mother at a garage sale.  I think she paid five dollars for it.  I know she regretted her purchase after I finished teaching myself to type and started writing stories at three o’clock in the morning.  Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal in our modern world of nearly silent keyboards and computers, but a manual typewriter is LOUD.  Especially when it’s being used by a seven-year-old whose mode of typing is better described as “hunt and peck assault at ninety words a minute.”  It was like gunfire in my bedroom every night, and it’s probably a miracle that my mother didn’t smash either me or my typewriter with a hammer.

(I still hunt and peck, just like I did back then.  Only now I hunt and peck at a hundred and twenty words a minute, once I really get going.  This is because practice makes perfect, and I practice a LOT.)

Starting on a typewriter meant that when I made changes, I had to re-type the entire page.  Since I’m a compulsive reviser, I got into the habit of typing everything out three or four times before it could be called “finished.”  It was time-consuming and probably killed a lot of trees, but it was also very useful, because it taught me about discipline.  If I was going to write, I needed to approach it seriously and with the understanding that even a sentence could be an hour-long commitment.  I wrote light, silly, frivolous things, just like any kid, but I did it understanding that I was going to do a lot of work before I was finished.

These days, I write on a laptop computer more powerful than anything NASA owned the year I got my first typewriter (and no, I’m not that old; I grew up in the 1980s).  My keystrokes are still a little harder than they need to be, which I find comforting, even as I wear out a lot of keyboards; somewhere in my head, there is the quiet knowledge that typing should always sound like fighting a battle against the whiteness of the page.  Totally silent keyboards creep me out a little bit.  And I’m still deeply disciplined about it.  I re-type sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters until they begin falling together the way that I want them to.  I write out timelines and scribble connection charts on sheets of notebook paper, making notes that mean absolutely no one to anyone who isn’t me.  And it all falls together.

I think I was always going to be a research nerd and a rewriter, but the typewriter solidified it.  The typewriter made me become the kind of writer I am today.  I wish I still had it.  I would give it a place of honor on a desk of its own.

And maybe a hug.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Duchess Diaries

Hello everyone!  Thank you for inviting me to be your guest today.  I hope that wherever you are, spring is showing up a little early as it is here in California.  My daffodils and hyacinths are poking their heads through the cold soil, and my wisteria vines are sprouting velvet buds that will soon blossom.  As you might have guessed, gardening is what I enjoy doing when I'm not writing.

I've published twenty-three historical romances and one novella.  Writing can be like bungee jumping—one minute you're up, the next you're hurtling down, and then you’re back up again.  The journey I’ve traveled since publication has been a climb.  The thrill and fear I felt when I first started aren't quite as intense, but I've made an effort to keep myself balanced to avoid burning out.  My advice to aspiring writers is to remain focused on your goals, read as widely as you can, work hard, and write even when you feel uninspired.  Self- doubt sabotages you.  Fight it.  And don't give up.  I know it's hard.  But you can't publish what you haven’t written.

The book I'm currently writing is Sir Colin Boscastle's story.  Colin is Gabriel and Sebastian's older brother, one of the main family's country cousins.  He has returned to England for revenge against the man he believes killed his father.  Before he fulfills his quest, however, he finds romance in an unlikely place, a son he had not known existed, and the first woman he loved in the bed of his mortal enemy.

The following excerpt is from my current book, The Duchess Diaries.  The story opens on the night of the annual graduation ball honoring the Scarfield Academy for Young Ladies in London.  Miss Charlotte Boscastle, the lead schoolmistress, is proud of the academy's success and wistful at turns.

Success means marriage.  One of Charlotte’s graduates receives a marriage proposal at the ball, but Charlotte's own prospects seem to diminish with each season that passes.  It isn't that she is immune to romance.  She is secretly infatuated with the Duke of Wynfield, perhaps the last man on earth a lady should desire.

It isn't as if Charlotte’s impending spinsterhood is a secret, however.  Her entire family reminds her that marriage is eluding her moment by moment.  Her brothers have even rallied to the cause and are racing to London with an unsuitable suitor to save her.

In the following scene, Charlotte's cousin, Devon Boscastle, a reformed and happily married rake, is doing his best to convince the Duke of Wynfield to dance with Charlotte.  Devin is unaware that Gideon is the duke of Charlotte's dreams, and that his good deed will end that evening in social disaster.

The Duchess Diaries
    ©Jillian Hunter (Signet Select, February 2012)

Devon walked Gideon around the ballroom, inundating him with so many last-minute instructions that he wasn’t surprised Charlotte lacked admirers. Who would be brave enough to break the Boscastle guard to approach her? Who could remember the endless rules?
    “One more word,” he muttered. “One more warning, and I am going to do you a violent injury.”
    “You are trustworthy, Wynfield, aren’t you?”
    “I’m a man.”
    “What does that mean?”
    “It means that I am human. I have failings like any other man. If you’re afraid that I will do or say anything to dishonor your cousin, then come out and say it. Or do not introduce us.”
    “The thought never entered my mind,” Devon said, then hesitated. “Did it enter yours?”
    Gideon laughed.
    Devon scrutinized him in silence. “On second thought, maybe this isn’t one of my brighter ideas. I’ll find someone harmless, instead. There might be an earl hiding in here somewhere who isn’t a walking scandal.”
    Devon held up a hand. “It’s all right. I understand. You don’t want to do me the only favor I have ever asked of you in the all years of our friendship.”
    Gideon glanced at Charlotte’s willowy figure. From where he stood she looked as if she were captured in the candlelight prisms. “Oh, hell, fine. I suppose it won’t kill me. But if this is one of your pranks, I promise you, I will pay you back in spades.”
    “Me, a model of dignity and reform? Would I play a trick on a duke who has studied under a swordmaster such as Fenton?”
    “What do you expect me to say to her?”
    “Haven’t you paid court to enough women to write a book on the subject?”
    “Only when I was hoping for something in return.”
    Devon’s eyes darkened. “Can I give you one suggestion?”
    “Damn you.”
    “Try not to use language like that in front of the young ladies or you’re liable to be slapped witless by a dozen or so fans.”
    Charlotte’s throat constricted. She couldn’t swallow as she observed the swath the duke cut through the ballroom. She glanced about, seeking a reasonable means of escape, a group of guests to hide her, any excuse not to face the man whom her cousin had clearly sent to bedevil her.
    And yet she waited. She hoped. What would she do for the chance to know him as she had imagined in her diary? What if when he reached her he announced in a masterful voice, “This ball is a waste of our time. You belong with me. Alone. In my arms. I am taking you again, and this time I will not let you elude me.”
    She shivered with forbidden, foolish anticipation. How wicked she could be in her thoughts. Then, suddenly, the duke stood before her. She lifted her gaze.
    Thought ceased to matter.
    Her mind went into anarchy.
    Sensation reigned, wild and undisciplined.
    She’d only caught a few glimpses of him about town. His profile in a passing carriage. A stolen look at his broad-shouldered figure at an exhibition. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to stare down the duke in the emporium. Heaven forbid that one of his strumpets had made a snide remark that the younger girls of the academy had overheard.
    Or that Charlotte herself had broken her perfect record of propriety and given the tart a piece of her mind. One glance at him that day had been sufficient to confirm her prior beliefs. He was an insufferably attractive man who radiated the charm of an authentic rogue.
    And she was only asking for trouble by allowing her infatuation to grow.
    Perhaps this meeting would dampen her interest in him once and for all. Perhaps he would reveal how crude and conceited he was at heart. She would be content to prove to herself that he was handsome on the outside and hollow within.
    “May I introduce myself?” he asked.
    She nodded her head in the affirmative.
    He said something.
    For the life of her she could not force her mind to function.
    Had he just asked her to dance?
    “I’m sorry. I can’t.”
    Good for her. Her manners, her good sense, came to her rescue when it seemed mayhem had won.
    “Are you enjoying the party, Your Grace?”
    His dark saturnine smile swept her into another panic. “Not particularly.”
    “I’m glad to hear—”
    What had he said?
    This initial meeting was not unfolding as it had in her fantasies. She wasn’t supposed to become tongue-tied in his presence. She was supposed to charm him with her wit, with the dialogue that flowed effortlessly when written, but words abandoned her now that she needed to voice them.
    This was humiliation.
    How awful of Devon, leaning against the wall to watch her embarrassment deepen.
    The duke did not appear pleased about the situation, either.
    He stood beside her as they made a few more attempts at polite conversation until finally something inside her gave up. The Duke of Wynfield might be the man of her dreams, but it was obvious he had been dragged unwillingly into her company. And that he did not share her hope for a romance between them.
    Unfortunately that dismal fact did not subdue her attraction to him at all. Under different circumstances she could have stared at his beautifully sculpted face for hours. But she couldn’t keep chattering on forever.
    “Devon made you ask me to dance, didn’t he?” she asked, refusing to embarrass either of them any longer. “I understand. He’s done this before.”
    “Not to me.” His dark eyes suddenly connected with hers, and she felt her heart give a wistful flutter for what might have been.
    But there wasn’t a reason to keep pretending that he had any romantic motives in mind.
    “I saw your handsome heads together. I know you were discussing me. And I know Devon and his antics too.”
    “Nonsense,” Gideon said firmly. “We were talking about political events.”
    “Such as?”
    “Nothing I could repeat in refined company. Distressful subjects and . . . such.”
    “I see.” What she really saw was that he wielded a charm as deftly as she did her fan. “I never knew that Devon took an interest in politics.”
    “He might not have wanted to offend delicate ears with . . .”
    “Distressful subjects and such?”
    “Exactly.” And then to her surprise he edged in a little closer to her instead of running off gratefully into the night as he had every right to do. “I’m curious about something. Do you typically put other gentlemen through a grueling interrogation before you agree to a dance?”
    “Only the ones I suspect are paying me court because my cousins have talked them into it.”
    “Don’t you want to dance with me?” he asked with a disarming smile.
    She smiled back, stealing another look at him over her laced-edged fan. “Are you trying to corrupt me?
    “No. Corruption comes after the dance, which will apparently be over before this conversation is.”
    She closed her fan, sighing deeply. “I think I should pay attention to the young ladies who are graduating. This is their night, not mine.”
    He bowed. “Then I am disappointed.”
    “You are not disappointed, and we both know it. It’s a relief. Tell Devon you did your duty, and I released you from it. He can be quite persuasive.”
    “So can I when given the chance.”
    “I hope he didn’t hold some dire threat over your head. If so, I apologize. He’s incorrigible.”
    “I beg your pardon, Miss Boscastle, but I never do anything unless it pleases me. If you knew more about me, you would understand that.”
    And if you knew more about me, Charlotte thought, you would understand that—that what? That she was infatuated with a man who had to be threatened into talking to her? She turned her face toward the dancers weaving like ribbons across the floor. Why did he have to be so persistent? Why didn’t he leave her alone to feel sorry for herself? The diabolical man was determined to wear her down.
    “Will you—?”
    “No, I’m dreadfully sorry. I have to keep my eye on my girls.”
    “It must be a difficult job.”
    “It is,” she replied in a clipped voice, not looking at him. “Especially at times like this.”
    “Why are they called the ‘Lionesses of London’ after they graduate?” he asked, and she could feel him staring through her skin. “Do you teach them to catch gentlemen between their jaws?”
    She glanced up at him again, caught unaware by the unbridled sensuality of his smile. “The reference has nothing to do with our predatory skills.”
    “Oh. What a shame.”
    “It refers to the academy’s original foundress, Viscountess Lyons.”
    “So there’s no truth at all to the nickname?” he asked in an undertone.
    “If there was,” she said, biting off each word, “this would certainly be the time to prove it.”
    “Are you—”
    She swung around. “The dance is over, you— It is intermission, Your Grace.” she managed in a dignified voice.
    He looked up. “Well, so it is.” He gave her a gallant nod. “I was so engrossed in our conversation I didn’t notice.”
    Charlotte groaned inwardly, too exhausted to argue. She could only imagine how difficult he would be to resist in a private setting. Or if he truly had his heart set on seduction.
    Not that she would ever have to worry about such a scandalous fate befalling her. They were complete opposites. He was a raging bonfire to her timid flame. A devil-may-care challenge to her conscientious soul. It wasn’t his fault that she’d built a romance between them that had never existed. Or that he was so gorgeous she could weep on his wonderfully masculine chest.
    But at least he had tried to be kind. Charlotte had to admire him for that, even if she was going to pinch Devon’s head off for making her an object of pity.
    “Miss Boscastle?” the duke said in a deep, irresistible voice. “Am I forgiven?”
    She stirred. “For what?”
    He looked at her for a long time. “I was rather obvious, wasn’t I?”
    “Painfully so.”
    “Well, now that the truth is out, would you give me the next dance?”
    She shook her head. “No.”
    “Perhaps in the future?”
    “Yes, yes, yes.” She forced herself to turn away.
    She felt him withdraw a step. And not a moment too soon. From the corner of her eye she glimpsed two of her students drifting toward the French doors. Three young gentlemen were following in their wake. She gripped her rose-scented fan, steeling herself to thwart a scandal in the making. Duke of her secret desires or not, she would not tolerate any mischief under her guard. Nor would she give Lady Clipstone any tidbits to feed the gossipmongers.
    “Another time, Your Grace,” she murmured, dismissing him with finality.
    “I look forward to it.”
    He bowed again. She gave him credit for hiding his relief. She had no doubt he would forget her the moment they parted company. And she would force herself to forget him too, until the moment she sat at her desk and poured out her thoughts in her diary.
    She decided that it would be the last reference she ever made about the duke. Her imaginary affair with him had to come to an end . . . even if he were more desirable in person than she had dreamed.
    One night alone in his company would ruin her forever. Would the memories be worth disgrace? She was afraid to admit to herself that they might be. And that was sufficient evidence that she had allowed herself to go too far with the silly fantasies about the charismatic duke. Still, any chance of a romance between them seemed as remote as the planet Venus.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grandma and the Prince - Part 33

<--Mona at age 16

My aunt Mona was a lot like her mother, my Grandma El. They both loved men and the men loved them right back. The air around them swirled with love and romance right into old age.

I guess it wouldn't surprise you if I told you that neither woman was a stranger to whirlwind romances. Grandma El had more than her share but when it came to wild, crazy, romance-novel-worthy adventures, Mona was the undisputed champion. I was eight or nine years old when I first became aware that my very own aunt was a better source of heartstopping love stories than any Hollywood movie or sneakily-stolen-from-my-mother's-nightstand novel I had yet stumbled upon.

The year was 1958. Mona was maybe thirty at the time, a sexy, successful Manhattan career woman with a fabulous social life when she and her BFF, Justine, went down to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for a week in the sun. One night over cocktails and dinner on the beach she met a tall, blond, blue-eyed rocket scientist (you just can't make this stuff up!) who worked at (hold on!) Cape Canaveral for NASA. Mona, who was petite with dark hair and eyes, had always been a sucker for tall, blond, blue-eyed men and she fell hard for Jim. Very hard. So hard that when her vacation was over, she flew back home, quit her job, then flew back to St. Thomas where she and Jim married!

Yes! Quicker than Kim Kardashian, my aunt Mona met and married a gorgeous, brilliant scientist she barely knew. She waved goodbye to all of us and moved to Cocoa Beach to be a NASA wife. It was the most drop dead romantic thing my little girl heart had ever fluttered over. I loved her postcards from Cocoa Beach. Her newsy letters filled with talk of astronauts and rocket launches, all of which were a far cry from anything going on back home in Queens. Even better, we had an open invitation to visit any time we wanted. I mean, could it get any more perfect than that?

<--Mona at 40 with my mother

That was in June. Cut to Labor Day weekend when a white Chevy with Florida plates screeched to a stop in front of our house and my aunt Mona tumbled out in a flood of tears and empty paper coffee cups.

It was over. The romance. The fantasy. The marriage. O. V. E. R. Ninety days from start to finish. I remember her sitting on the foot stool in my parents' living room, spilling a story I was probably still too young to understand, then toppling over to the floor in a dead faint from a combination of exhaustion and high emotion.

Over the years I heard two versions of the story of her marriage and to this day I'm not sure either one is the true story. One version said Jim slapped her in the face during an argument and she took the car keys and walked out, never to return. The other version said he surprised her when he said he didn't want children and she took the car keys and walked out. Which one is the real deal? Your guess is as good as mine. Mona never remarried.

The funny thing, though, is they stayed in touch through the years until Jim (who never remarried either) died in the late 1980s. They even rendezvoused a few times in St. Thomas over the decades. Was it love? Friendship? Red-hot chemistry that defied reason? Oh, how I wish I knew.

I'm a romance writer. Happy endings are in my blood. In a way maybe Mona and Jim managed to create one for themselves after all, one that didn't look the way I had expected it to. I hope so.

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton and if you'd like to win a signed copy of one of my books, just leave a comment and I'll announce 5 winners next month! Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Casting Call: What Book? Which Stars?

Whenever I write a book, I always “cast” it. I pull images from magazines that I think look like my hero and heroine, and I paste them up around my computer screen for inspiration. I usually choose film stars for this, but that’s not because I dream of movie rights (okay, yeah, I DO dream of movie rights, but still, that’s not my main reason). I like to use movie stars as the visual representations of my characters because that way, I have plenty of images from which to choose . In my latest book, Trouble at the Wedding, the third book of my Abandoned at the Altar Series, I used images of Henry Cavill and Alicia Witt as my inspirations because they just looked like my characters. Other times, I’ve chosen movie stars not only because of their appearance, but also because films they’ve been in have inspired me. Colin Firth, for example, has been the image for several of my heroes, including Anthony from Guilty Pleasures and Phillip from Secret Desires of a Gentleman, all because of his quintessential role as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. To me, there is no other Mr. Darcy but Colin Firth, and there never will be. I know, I know, I can hear those of you who prefer Matthew MacFadyen screaming at me through the blogosphere, but that’s just the way I feel about it.

I know we all have our own idea of which movie stars look like the characters in our favorite books, so today, I’m going to ask you to be movie producers and casting directors for your favorite romance novels. Tell me which romance novel you’d most like to see made into a movie (and no, it doesn’t have to be one of mine) and also tell me which stars you’d cast as the hero and heroine, and you could win copies of the first two books of my Abandoned at the Altar Series, Wedding of the Season and Scandal of the Year. Oh, and which Mr. Darcy do you prefer: Colin Firth or Matthew MacFadyen?


***Laura's winner is BookBunny68!!  Congratulations!  Please email with your full name and address so Laura can get the prize in the mail to you!***

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Doughnuts and Expectations

Have you ever built something up in your mind that there’s no way it can possibly live up to your expectations? A couple years ago I moved to a very cute, coastal town in the South. We only get a few months of wonderfully chilly winters (which is a heck of a lot better than when I lived in Florida and had like two weeks of winter), practically everyone drinks sweet tea (ahem, not me) and everyone says hi to everyone on the street, which is pretty cool.

There’s this locally owned doughnut shop in the middle of downtown that almost everyone I’ve come in contact with says has THE BEST doughnuts in the world. Like literally. People are so quick to sing praises about this shop and the near obsession is scary. Due to timing it took me about six months to finally make it to the shop.

But one weekend there was a huge art festival downtown and there was a line out the door of the shop so we (I dragged my husband with me) decided to bite the bullet and buy one of these freaking doughnuts. Instead of buying one each we decided to buy a box and try all their samples. I was so excited, imagining that first creamy bite and how amazingly awesome it would be. Sadly…major disappointment. I can’t even tell you the utter dejection that surged through me after that bite. Don’t get me wrong, the doughnut I tried was good (it is a doughnut after all) but it tasted like a regular Krispy Kreme. There was nothing cosmic about it. I didn’t hear angels singing and it sure didn’t taste like an orgasm in my mouth (as some people swore it would). And it was the same with the rest of the samples…most of which we ended up tossing. Even though I was disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations, I think in a way it’s probably a good thing my taste buds weren’t bowled over by them because otherwise, I’d be visiting their shop every week.

Thanks so much for letting me visit with you today! One reader who comments on today’s blog will be randomly selected to win a print copy of Alpha Instinct (hopefully it won’t be a disappointment to anyone like those dang doughnuts). US eligible only for giveaway. Please leave your email address in the comments section. Good luck and thanks so much for stopping by!

Alpha Instinct official blurb:

Fear has a scent. So does desire…

Ana Cordona has been a strong leader for the lupine shifters who survived after all the males and most of the females in her pack were mysteriously poisoned. As tough as she is, with no Alpha male, the pack is vulnerable to the devious shifter Taggart, who wants to claim both their ranch and Ana as his own. When Connor Armstrong comes back into her life, promising protection, it’s almost enough to make Ana forget how he walked out on her before—and reluctantly accept his offer to mate.

The minute Connor sees Ana again, it reawakens a raw hunger. He must have her for his bondmate—his wolf cries out for it. But his human side knows he must proceed with caution because of their complicated past. If he is to truly have her body and soul, he must go beyond his burning desire and win back her heart. Whatever it takes, he is determined not to leave her side again.

But Taggart and his rival pack are not their only enemies. A human element in town is targeting shifters. Their plan not only threatens Ana and Connor’s future, but the lives of the entire pack…

A little about me: I’ve been reading romance from a young age—ever since I discovered my mom’s hidden stash. Luckily the addiction stayed with me into adulthood. I write paranormal romance and sexy romantic suspense for Carina Press, Harlequin Nocturne, and NAL/Signet Eclipse. To learn more about me please visit my website, my blog, facebook or find me on twitter @katiereus.

***Katie's winner is ShelleyB!!  Congrats, Shelley!  Please send an email to with your full name and mailing address by March 5 so Katie can get the prize in the mail to you!  Thanks!***

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Heating Up Your February!

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Ottawa, Canada it’s cold outside!  In February, a lot of people like to head to warmer climates and enjoy some much needed sunshine.  Not everyone can get away, however, but luckily, we can always pick up a good book to enjoy some heat!  ;-)  With my new book, Insatiable, released on Valentine’s Day, the heat is two-fold.   It’s hot and sexy, like all my books, and it takes place in the beautiful, tropical Cayman Islands.

My working title for the book was Honeymoon for Three.  It starts off on Crystal’s disastrous wedding day when the best man confesses he loves her and the groom doesn’t show up.  Crystal’s sister, who believes there is a spark between Crystal and Evan, the best man, convinces her to go on her honeymoon with him.  After they arrive at the villa in the Caymans and start to explore their relationship, the groom shows up determined to win her back.

The time I spent on research for Insatiable was mostly about this lovely honeymoon location.  The book starts in California where the wedding takes place, but then moves to the Caymans, so I did a lot of research to find out about the islands.  For instance, what kind of vacation villas are available there, what the beaches are like, the temperature and color of the water, and the types of tourist activities that exist.

I was intrigued by the fact that a popular tourist activity is feeding the stingrays.  People go out to a specific sandbar where they can go into the shallow water and stingrays will swim around them, even brushing against them.  I found videos on YouTube of people actually doing it.  I included this activity in a scene in the book.  It’s only a very short scene, but I did a lot of research to ensure it rings true.  I just wish I could have gone to the Cayman Islands to do it first hand!

Here are a couple of those videos:

Another way to heat up your February is with some Red Hot Fantasies!  In December, I started a series of short stories, called Red Hot Fantasies.  The second short story, THE STRANGER, came out in mid-January, and the third should be out this spring.  You can find more information about these and my other books on my website:

What do you like to do to heat up the winter months?  Are you planning a vacation, or a short getaway?  Do you spend cold winters nights in front of a fire reading a book?  Or maybe you prefer to get out and enjoy the cold weather by skiing, skating, or simply enjoying a walk in the cold, crisp weather?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  If you leave a comment, you will be entered into a draw for a print copy of Insatiable.  Also, everyone who responds will receive a copy of The Male Stripper, the first story in my Red Hot Fantasies series.  (After you respond, please send me your email and the username you used for your comment to OpalCarewFreeStory @ with the subject: “February Totebags Blog”.)

Thanks for reading,

***Opal's winner is Limecello!! Congratulations!  Please email with your mailing info so we can get a print copy of Insatiable in the mail to you!!***

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Revenge. It Sounds Good.

Have you ever had someone dump you?  And when that person dumped you, did you plot the many ways you would get even?  Boy, I have.  Years ago, there was one “guy” in particular.  Another word comes to mind, but you know...  Anyway, he told me I was special.  He said all kinds of flattering, sweet things to me, but he didn’t mean a single word he said. As it turned out, he was a Lying Sack of Trash.  When his coldhearted dumping of me was fresh in my heart, I spent hours—hours!—plotting my revenge in my head.  Because I am generally a polite girl, I started in polite girl mode, in which, in my fantasy, I told him off in front of a large group of people.  But that gave me no satisfaction whatsoever, so I moved onto mean girl mode and began to think of things that would make him uncomfortable.  Like brownies doctored with laxatives, or sand in the gas tank.  But those ideas only made me thirst for more, so I began to fantasize about the full-bore, kick-to-the-curb, stiletto-to-the-neck, make-him-beg-for-me revenge.

That was fun.

Unfortunately, in real life, revenge always sounds better than it actually is.  If I had done any of those things, I probably would have been charged with some form of domestic violence, or worse, gotten myself hurt.  In The Revenge of Lord Eberlin, a young man (Eberlin) returns to the town where his father died for revenge.  It’s sort of a twist on Wuthering Heights—he’s made himself a rich man, and he lives, breathes, and eats his desire for revenge.  He holds one person responsible—the girl who placed her father at the scene of the crime for which he hanged.  But that girl, Lily, is now a woman, and she’s alluring in a way he didn’t expect.  Eberlin tells Lily that he wants revenge, and he will have it by destroying her livelihood or taking her virtue—her choice. 

What a great revenge fantasy!  But of course it doesn’t go down like that.  First, Lily is not a shrinking violet.  And it’s far more complicated than Eberlin ever dreamed.  There are plenty of unanswered questions, and well, the woman he means to ruin becomes the woman he can’t live without.

I guess in a way Eberlin ultimately gets his revenge, but it’s not as good as the revenge fantasy.  It never is. 

Have you ever had a revenge fantasy?  Have you ever sought revenge, or do you know anyone who has gone for it?  I read an article years ago about some women who didn’t have the “this isn’t practical” filter and went for it. 

Look for The Revenge of Lord Eberlin, on sale today!  I am offering three lucky commenters signed copies of the first book in the Secrets of Hadley Green series, The Year of Living Scandalously.  And look for the third book, The Seduction of Lady X, in stores March 27. 

Monday, February 20, 2012


Good morning!
I wanted to let you all know that my novel WHERE THE HEART IS is available for free on Amazon for the holiday weekend (actually till Wednesday!) so please grab a copy of it and while you're at it spread the word to others! And if you like it (I hope you do!) please do post a [5-star ;-) ] review on Amazon--it helps a LOT to get more good reviews posted on Amazon--the more reviews for books the more Amazon algorithms promote the authors books.
So please do go check it out!

And check out the other books I've got out!

and others I have with other publishing houses:

and coming very soon:

and please come visit me on twitter and Facebook here and here

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Principal's Office and Revenge Sex by Jasmine Haynes

It’s been a long time since I visited with you here on Tote Bags ’n’ Blogs.

I have two new releases I wanted to tell you about, but first let me tell you a bit about how they compare to each other. The Principal’s Office, Book 3 in my DeKnight trilogy, harks back to stories like The Fortune Hunter and Somebody’s Lover. It’s still very sexy, but this time I stuck with one couple, no multiple partners (okay, there’s a bit of voyeurism and exhibitionism, but I had that in The Fortune Hunter, too). It was nice getting back to my roots, so to speak! But for the other book, I pulled out all the stops. Revenge Sex actually has two heroines, but they don’t both get what they want. It’s a fun little romp, and it’s extremely kinky, with lots of fun bed hopping. But, as with my other books, there’s still tons of emotion and heart break. What’s a romance without that! So let me give you a little blurb about each book.

The Principal’s Office
A DeKnight Novel, Book 3

Desire is in session …

Rachel Delaney, divorced mother with two boys, isn’t complaining. Her life is fine. Really. There is one thing that could make it better, though: a strong, warm, male body to help her make it through the occasional lonely night. No strings, and no relationship, thanks. Just a little fun with a perfect stranger. And there’s no more perfect a stranger than Rand.

He’s tall, blond, unattached, smokin’ hot, and looking for the same thing Rachel is: wild, abandoned sex with no limits, no last names, and no complications—until Rachel’s eldest son gets in trouble in class.

Only then does Rachel discover that her down-and–dirty, dangerously sexy mystery lover is also the new school principal. They’re not exactly the ideal role models for a troubled student acting out his own frustrations. With Rachel’s life turned upside down, Rand’s the only one who can make it right—by maybe taking their hot-bodied hook-ups into a warm-hearted new direction…

Revenge Sex
West Coast Series, Book 1, a
brand new series about sexy hotwives and the men who love them.
A man, the hotwife he can’t control...and the woman who wants to fix what’s wrong with him.

Tough, autocratic CFO Clay Blackwell strikes both fear and loyalty into the hearts of his employees. But he’s got one quirk no one at West Coast Manufacturing knows; he loves the idea of his live-in girlfriend Ruby being with another man...then coming home to him for the best sex of his life as she describes every naughty detail. He’s only got three stipulations: no sex with anyone from work, no sex with another man in their own home, and she always has to tell him when she has a date. The problem? What to do with a “hotwife” who has all the freedom any woman could want, but still can’t follow three simple rules.

Jessica Murphy has the utmost respect and admiration for her CFO. She also has wild sex fantasies about Clay every night. Not that she’d ever tell anyone. Until she walks in on Clay’s girlfriend Ruby screwing Bradley the financial analyst right on Clay’s desk.
All bets are off and a little revenge sex is the name of the game. Ruby thinks she’ll placate Clay by telling him to have sex with another woman to pay her back for all her rule-breaking. When Jessica learns about that, she makes up her mind to seduce her boss for keeps, not just one night of revenge.

But can she become the more-than-one-man woman Clay Blackwell wants? Or will his desires tear them apart?

As you can see, they’re two totally different kinds of books, but I enjoyed writing both. You can read excerpts on my website: The Principal's Office and Revenge Sex. I hope you’ll visit my blog, for a list of websites on my blog tour.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

In the beginning

“Where do you get your ideas?”

This is the question I am asked most as a writer.  And I inevitably respond, “The ideas are the easy part.  It’s writing the whole book that’s hard.”

This statement is definitely the truth—at least for me.  But it doesn’t quite answer the question.  The direct answer is simple--and complicated. 

My ideas come from everywhere: newspaper stories, obituaries, observations about daily life, hobbies, travels and conversations—to name a few.  All these factors provide kindling for creating characters, situations and locales.  They set off that mysterious creative spark that all writers’ crave.

Most of the time when I begin a miniseries, such as my “School Ties” miniseries for Superromance, I have a theme in mind—in this case, college reunions.  Since I live in a university town, these annual alumni pilgrimages are common events to me.  But thinking about these common events start to spark questions in my writer’s brain.  Who comes back?  Why?  What do they expect?  Are these expectations always met?  And what about memories?  Are they true or false or somewhere in between?

These abstract questions are fascinating, but in a romance, they come to life only in the context of great characters.  As a reader and writer, I’m interested in empathizing with complex characters.  I want to learn how their interactions with other characters, in new situations and under pressure, help to mold and evolve their thinking and, most importantly for a romance, their feelings.  The happy ending is a must, but the beginning of the journey—the spark--is what draws me along the twisting and, hopefully, satisfying road.

What’s the most important thing for you when you pick up a book?  What are you looking for?  I’d love to hear from you.

Tracy Kelleher

Friday, February 17, 2012

Donovan's Bed: How The West Was Written

One of the questions authors get all the time is, “How do you get your ideas?” Well, I’m about to tell you a story about exactly that. Now you need to know from the start that this sort of thing doesn’t happen often (though a lot more writers would be thrilled if it did), which is why it’s so special. Sometimes authors angst over what their next book is about, and I’ve done that plenty in my twenty years of writing. But this is the story of a different kind of book, a magic book. Because the idea just came to me—poof!—like magic.

It was 1999, and I had just sold my first book to Avon. My editor wanted me to tell her what my next book was going to be about. I was still giddy from the news that my ONCE A MISTRESS, was going to be published. The notion of writing a new book hadn’t even entered my mind yet. After all, it had taken six years to perfect the first one!

Needless to say, I wasn’t going to get six years to write the second one. In fact, they wanted a proposal pretty darned quick. So one rainy afternoon when my baby was down for a nap, I sat down to tackle an idea that had been tickling my mind. It wasn’t so much an idea as it was an image and a phrase.

The image: a buckboard wagon trundling through the middle of a western town, the sun gleaming off the polished wood of a giant, four-poster bed. And the phrase:

Everyone watched the bed come through town.

That is the first line of my book, DONOVAN’S BED. It’s a Western historical, it’s funny, and on that rainy afternoon, I sat down at my word processor and wrote the entire ten page synopsis for the book before the baby woke up, straight through. The characters seemed to come to life, and I felt as if I’d lived in the town of Burr forever.

You have to understand, that doesn’t happen very often for most writers. When a book comes to you so clearly and practically writes itself, it’s like a gift from the universe. That book ended up being nominated for a RITA, a prestigious award given by Romance Writers of America, and it’s still one of my favorites, fourteen books later.

So what’s it about? DONOVAN’S BED takes place in a small town called Burr in Wyoming Territory. The hero is named Jack Donovan, and he’s new to town. Donovan has a whole pile of money, a secret, and not a lot of social polish. He takes all that money and proceeds to build a ranch outside town. Our heroine is Sarah Calhoun, born and raised in Burr. She’s the newspaper editor—the entire staff, actually—and she’s trying to live down a scandal. These two meet, and sparks fly.

Donovan has this fantasy about marrying a traditional woman who will cook and clean and have his babies. This, in his mind, is not Sarah, who seems to care more about her newspaper than she would ever care for a man. But he’s really attracted to her and tells her so—with the caveat that while he really wants to take her to bed, she’s not the type of girl he would marry. He then proceeds to list all his requirements in a wife—similar to what a man would need in a horse because hey, not much difference, right? Being somewhat out of touch socially, he has no idea he’s just insulted Sarah.

Sarah, on the other hand, suspected all along that Jack Donovan has some kind of secret past. He’s managed to wiggle out of telling her about it up until now, but this latest remark of his has got her temper flaming. So she does what any passionate writer would do—she puts an article in the newspaper about Donovan’s search for a wife and where any interested ladies might find him.

Now at first Donovan is pleased. He figures this is going to make the wife hunting so much easier (I mentioned the lack of social polish, right?). But it’s not long before he’s a hunted man—literally hunted by young ladies and widows and spinsters and even some brothers with shotguns and their sister. But even though he now has a whole bunch of women to choose from, he still can’t forget Sarah.

I’m not going to spoil the rest of it, but there’s a whole lot more going on. There’s the terrible scandal Sarah was involved in years ago, which the town gossips won’t let her forget. There’s the escaped convict and the U.S. Marshal chasing him. There’s Sarah’s drop-dead gorgeous sister Susannah, who arrives at the most inopportune time. And there’s Donovan judging the pie contest at the Founders Day Festival, which gets a little…hot.

DONOVAN’S BED is available this month in digital format from Samhain’s Retro Romance line. And watch for the story of Sarah’s sister, Susannah, and the U.S. Marshal in THE LAWMAN’S SURRENDER, out in April.

For anyone who wants to spend the night in Donovan’s bed, just leave a comment to be put in a drawing for a free copy for one lucky winner!