Monday, April 30, 2012

Blurring Lines and Breaking Rules: UF vs. PNR

I once read that you could differentiate an urban fantasy from a paranormal romance book by whether the heroine a) slayed or b) fell in love the monsters. Really? I honestly don't think this has ever really been true, because even in the early days of UF, when Laurell K. Hamilton was the only big player on the block, Anita Blake was falling in love with monsters. And most of the PNRs I've read feature strong heroines who do their fair share of slaying.

That's not the only so-called yardstick by which to measure the sub-genres. Problem is, many of the other standard guidelines don't work, either. For example, this one: all paranormals have happily-ever-after endings. What about Yasmine Galenorn? She writes steamy love stories, but doesn't guarantee a HEA. Here's another: PNRs have sex scenes. What about Karen Moning's Fever series? Every bookstore I've been in shelves it in the romance section, but the first few books have zero sex scenes. Zilch! And to contrast that, most of the UFs I read have at least a little smexy-time.

Maybe it's not sex, but love. Urban fantasies only feature flings or crushes that eventually fade. The heroine moves from one man to the next throughout the series, which is in contrast to PNRs that feature one soulmate couple per book—the next book in the series moves on to the next couple. Then how do you explain the Night Huntress books by Jeaniene Frost? Cat and Bones are soulmates who star in multiple books, shelved as PNR. Same with Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series—several books feature one couple. On the other side of the fence, Stacia Kane's UF Downside series features a heroine, Chess, who is clearly in love with Terrible throughout the series.

The be-all, end-all sub-genre identifier seems to be this: if you strip away the romance from a book, does the story still stand on its own? (If no, it's romance, natch!) I've tried to apply this measurement to my own series, Arcadia Bell. At its core, the series is a story about an occult magician, Arcadia "Cady" Bell, who runs a demon-friendly tiki bar in Northern California. She has a special sight that allows her to identify Earthbound demons—who, to the average person, look like humans. Each of my books features a supernatural mystery that Cady must solve and fight her way out of. But they also feature a strong, soulmate romance between Cady and an Earthbound demon she falls in love with. There are sex scenes, teasing banter, and romantic adventure. If you stripped away Cady and Lon's relationship from the books, the mystery would stand on its own, I suppose, but it wouldn't be half as interesting. And the first two books have HEAs of sorts—hopeful endings in which the couple is together. As far as slaying goes, Cady and Lon both fight the bad guys, usually together. But Lon is demon, so Cady's definitely in love with the monster.

Arcadia Bell has strong, unique world-building and is shelved in urban fantasy, even though a lot of paranormal readers have picked it up for the romance. But in the end, like many other series that cross the line between these two genres, I think people will continue to read it because it doesn't strictly belong in one place or the other. Because sometimes, breaking the rules can be extraordinarily exciting.

Do you have a favorite series that crosses genre lines?

Jenn Bennett

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Year in the Life of an Author - April

If you've been following my posts (January, February and March), you'll know I've been working towards finishing the draft of my next book, traveling more than usual, and trying to keep up with business. April was no exception, 'cept that it whirled by! I did finally get the draft done. After 5 solid months of writing, the draft for the 2nd book in my new Rhymes with Love series is done.

Tentatively titled, And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake, I really like this book. Love the characters and it has been a fun book to write. Not all books are like that, but this one has--thank goodness! However, as it always is with my drafts--it looks like swiss cheese right now. Missing scenes, no love scenes, and a lot of XXXs where I need to insert . . . something!

On top of finishing the draft, I added into the mix, the kids Spring Break. We headed off to Hawaii to stay with my dear and wonderful friend, Jane Porter and spent an idyllic week on the beach. And that is where is I got the draft done. If you think the writer's life sounds perfect, know this: we always have work hanging over our heads and it goes with us everywhere.

No rest for the wicked.

After returning from vacation, I've had to immediately start prepping for the Washington Romance Writers Retreat, where I am the opening speaker and giving a workshop. These things take time to write and prepare, so the life of a writer is also about being able to shift gears from one thing to another and back to the first. So as I write this, I am once again packing, gathering pages to bring with me to work on, and of course a couple of books to read.

Now one thing of note happened in April that I must share: my upcoming book, Along Came a Duke got a starred review in PW. I couldn't be more proud. This is one of those moments where you take a deep breath and look at the email twice and then say, "Shut the Front Door!"

Here's the link, and for those of you who love digital reads, Along Came a Duke is being offered for pre-sale at $4.99 from Kindle and Barnes & Noble and most every online purveyor of ebooks. See you May 29th!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Food for Love by Natalie Anderson

There's an old adage that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach... whether it's true or not I don't know, but I can say that for me, food is one of life's great pleasures - yes, we women are allowed to enjoy our food every bit as much as men, right?! ;)
And being the chief cook and bottle washer in a family of six, having someone else cook a delicious dinner for me is such a treat - it's more than a meal, it's a gift.

Roxie, the heroine in my May US release FIRST TIME LUCKY?, has been the chief cook and bottle washer for years. For her food has been medicinal more than pleasurable as she tried to help her Grandfather through his illness. And she didn't just cook the food - she grew it. It became a lifestyle and a part of her identity. But now she's about to embark on a new phase in her life - she has a six point checklist and and airplane ticket... But first, there's something she wants from her new neighbour. Only he, Gabe, wants a few things himself... and one night he pushes to make Roxie see that he's more than just another item for her 'to do'.

Roxie eats veggie, so she knows that for Gabe to have made her a meal from scratch has taken real time and effort. It's the kind of effort that thrills her, but also scares her...

“Wow,’ she said, taking in the laden plates on the outdoor dining table. “Not sure the Bolly is good enough for this.”                       

“Don’t get too effusive, it’s only burger and chips.”            

“Not your average burger and chips.” They were home-made bean patties, ripped-from-the-plant salad and freshly dug new potatoes cooked then crisped up something yummy. Her mouth watered, her appetite suddenly screaming. “You cooked all this?”  

“I’m a single man, living alone,” he drawled. “You didn’t think I could cook?”             

“But it’s...”             

“Veggie, I know. Not bad for a beef farm boy, huh?” He popped the cork and poured the champagne into two glasses – frowning when that was enough to empty the bottle.             

She picked up her fork and took a bite of the patty poking out from the toasted roll. Oh, wow. “You really made this from scratch?”             

“Your amazement is insulting.”             

She chuckled, a trickle of warmth flowing back into her chilled body. “I’ve never met anyone who makes veggie burgers like these. From scratch. Not even me.”             

He pulled his phone from his pocket and swiped the screen a few times. “Okay, I got the recipe online. Here.”             

She angled her head to read the page he’d pulled up. “The Heganator?” She didn’t just giggle, she squealed. “Hegan?”             

“Yeah, cool recipes for the hot vegan male,” he turned the phone back to study it oh, so intently. Then he peered over the top of the phone, eyes twinkling. “I think it’s really written by a woman. Apparently hegans like burgers and barbecues.”             

“You’re hot but you’re not a hegan,” she said, almost all her old flirt tone back.             

“But I can cook like one on occasion.”             

“It is amazing. I mean that in a good way,” she looked at him and her teasing smile died. “Thank you.”             

Her heart was beating too hard. She couldn’t remember when someone else had cooked dinner for her. When someone had gone to so much trouble and thought. Someone who bothered to understand what she preferred to eat and not eat. Certainly not her lame ex-boyfriend. The joke died from his eyes too – leaving them warm and gentle and so deep...             

She dropped her knife so she had the excuse to break away from that acute, wordless communication. Surely she was reading the wrong messages. It wasn’t caring she was supposed to see in him, it was supposed to be all carnal. But for a weird second there everything had gone upside down and inside out.

If you had a handsome hero on hand to prepare a lavish feast just for you, what would you have him make?!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Discipline, Dedication, and Very Old TV Shows

Writer’s Block: It happens. It’s happening right now. I’m halfway into book four in my Underworld Detection Agency series and a mere three weeks away from deadline. Technically, the book should have been done two weeks ago, but I was afforded a lucky reprieve because my editor has (thankfully) extended his European vacation. And before you think “extra-long European vacation?! Writers and book people must make tons of money!” Let me just mention that my last vacation? Involved a tent, sixteen pounds of DEET, and an air mattress with a slow leak. Not that I’m complaining. Except I am.

Anyway, my thought was that I would wake up this morning and, just before settling down to hammer out a good chunk of the as-yet untitled Under-Something, I would drop in here and impart the kind of deep, thought-provoking prose I read from authors I loved just as I was starting out. Something like Anne Lamott’s invaluable (and inspiring) bits in Bird by Bird. Or maybe I’d offer some of those fabulous character studies I love so much from Janet Evanovich’s How I Write. I used to love sitting down with those books, knowing that those authors woke up fresh faced and sat at a clean desk, just recording genius as it flowed from their collective brains. Easy, I thought then, and elegant.

I still believe in their ease and genius and clean desks, even as I sit here, trying to finagle five inches of couch space from my cat who, like water, can randomly spread her body to fit (read: take over) any space she wishes. While I watch a decade old repeat of Boy Meets World on mute. And think about pancakes and how I don’t want to go to the gym this morning because it might interfere with my lunch plans. Genius, right! Creative tidbits! Thought-provoking prose and prompts! Ummm…

Here’s the thing: I love my job. I love it more than donuts, Johnny Depp, and an Army Wives marathon. I might love it even more than me, nibbling on a donut-covered Johnny Depp while watching an Army Wives marathon. And that’s saying a lot, because those are all things I love and things that would likely make up my perfect last day on earth. But just because I love my job doesn’t mean it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s not a struggle or that sometimes, I don’t spend full days staring at a near blank screen, certain that the blinking cursor is a mocking ploy by Microsoft to get me to off myself. I love it, but my job is a job and when people say “I admire your discipline!” or “how do you get yourself to keep going?” my answer is always this: how many days have you dragged yourself out of bed, slogged your way to work, only to stare at the clock, willing it to be time to go home? Probably more often than you can count. But do you still get up the next morning and do it again? So do I.  Some days I love to write. Some days I think I’ve just sat down and when I look up, hours have passed and Sophie Lawson has gone from being smiley and chocolate-mouthed to eyebrow deep in danger and zombie parts. Other days… well, other days, I try desperately to stay relevant while watching old TV and bargaining for couch space with the cat. It’s about discipline, and dedication, and your editor’s travel schedule. It’s about doing what you love when you don’t always love it. It might not be as elegant as Anne Lamott or Janet Evanovich but if you want to write – if you want to do anything – the key isn’t to throwing yourself full boar into it when you want to, it’s doing it even when you don’t.

Especially if you have nowhere to sit.

Do you have tips and tricks to get yourself motivated or favorite books that help? Whether it’s to write, to exercise, or just to get out of bed, I’d love to hear them!  One lucky commenter will win an autographed copy of Under Suspicion. US and Canada only, please. Winner will be drawn randomly from all entries. Good luck!

Visit Hannah at or Tweet me @Hannah_Jayne! Like the Hannah Jayne author page for more fun giveaways!

As always, thank you for reading and I’m sorry my book covers don’t match the content (Sophie doesn't like leather!). Seriously, I have nothing to do with cover choices...

***Hannah's winner is Ev!  Ev, please email me at with your mailing info.  Thank you!***

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Julianne MacLean on Plot Twists and Exasperating Spoilers

(And a gift card giveaway!)

Have you ever wanted to kick someone for giving away a plot twist in a book or movie?  I’m the type of person who shuts her eyes and covers her ears during long movie trailers that go too far into the plot elements of a film.  I like the teaser trailers best.

The same goes for books.  I just want to know the set up… the high concept event that throws the characters into conflict and sets the story in motion.  I don’t want to know what happens beyond the first few chapters because I prefer to discover that for myself, and I want the suspense of not knowing what’s going to happen next.

Even in a romance novel--when it’s safe to assume there will be a happy ending--I want to be surprised along the way.  As a writer I always try to steer away from the predictable.  I like to lead my readers down a certain garden path, then take a sharp, unexpected left turn along the way and maybe dash into a bed of ferns or a thick grove of junipers.

I love it best when a reader writes to me and says, “Wow - I didn’t see that coming!”  But I also enjoy hearing from readers who do figure out a plot twist before it happens.  I like to know that they were on their toes while reading, and that they enjoyed the experience of putting the puzzle pieces together.

Sadly it’s become an epidemic online where reviewers write a full synopsis of the storyline before they reveal how they liked or didn’t like the book.  It takes great skill to write a review that presents just the right amount of information to intrigue a reader without giving too much away.  It’s a delicate balance that I see tipping over and spilling onto desktops far too often in reviews.

As an author, when I release a new book, I always brace myself for the spoiler reviews and hope that not too many people will stumble across them before reading the story.  Remember the movie The Sixth Sense?  It had a spectacular plot twist and I was always amazed and impressed by how very few people gave it away in the media.  Radio personalities talked about it on the air but were careful to keep the twist under wraps, and most audience members were blown away by it in the theater.  Those who figured it out beforehand could pat themselves on the back for being so insightful and observant…that is, if no one had told them about it beforehand.

For the most part, I’ve been pleased with the majority of reviewers who have NOT given away some of my best twists.  CAPTURED BY THE HIGHLANDER and THE COLOR OF HEAVEN both had some drastic hairpin turns, and there were only a few readers who blabbed about them.  I often want to write to the conscientious reviewers to thank them for being so careful.
As of this moment, there are only two reviews up on Amazon for my new release BE MY PRINCE and both have handled the situation like true pros.  I’m sure that won’t last long, however.  There will probably be more reviews by the time you are reading this blog, and someone will have given everything away, no doubt.  So if you’re like me and don’t like spoilers, stick to the back cover blurb and don’t scroll down.

So tell me - how do you feel about spoilers?  Feel free to vent about them - especially if you’re an author who has seen your book retold in such detail, there was no reason left for the reader to buy it.  I’ll be giving away a $25 gift card to Amazon or B&N - winner’s choice.

And here’s the set up for my new book - with no spoilers, I promise:

What would you do for a royal romance?

From bestselling author Julianne MacLean comes a new series brimming with the lavish romance of the Regency period—and the dangerous passions of royals in love …

Attention one and all. His Royal Highness, Prince Randolph of Petersbourg, will set sail for London in early June and reside at St. James’s Palace for one full month…Some say the true motive for the prince’s visit to our fair country is to seek and marry his future queen. I will therefore pose the question to our devoted and reflective readers: Who among us will be the chosen one? —From the London Ballroom Society Pages

Lady Alexandra Monroe has been told in no uncertain terms that she must set her sights on a proposal from Prince Randolph to better her family’s situation. Instead, she finds herself falling for his charming but dangerous younger brother Nicholas, a man whose passionate nature—and irresistible good looks—makes it impossible to remember her duty. But while she is torn between ambition and desire, a wicked scandal brews, shocking secrets are revealed, and soon she begins to wonder: can true love really conquer all?

***Julianne's winner is Wendy!  Wendy, please email me at with your mailing info.  Thank you!***

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Grandma & the Prince - Part 35

Mona at 16
Now here's where my Aunt Mona's story get weird.

Last month I told you about her romance with Jack the photographer and the moment when I first saw real, live, grown-up romance on the day Mona and her friend Helen opened their own real estate office.

I can almost hear why you're thinking. Wow! Early 1960s and she was living the Gloria Steinem/Betty Friedan dream. Mona was smart, sexy,and independent. She thought nothing of jumping behind the wheel of her gigantic, snow white, Chevy Biscayne and driving across the country alone to San Diego, just because she could. Well into her seventies, she was driving the Florida-to-New York trail twice a year. She was five-foot-two and weighed maybe one hundred and ten pounds but the woman was fearless. Except for her brief marriage, she lived alone her entire life and loved it. She walked city streets at night and didn't blink. She was probably one of the strongest human beings, both physically and mentally, that I have ever known.

  But I found out much later that when it came to love, my sassy and ambitious aunt was  a geisha at heart. Love makes us all a little crazy. That's a given, isn't it? When you're wildly in love, you're not thinking clearly. In fact, you're lucky if you're thinking at all. The same woman who had a cleaning service come into her apartment twice a week, the same woman had her laundry done by professionals, the same woman who didn't take orders from anyone, cleaned her boyfriend Jack's apartment twice a week, ran over to walk his dog every afternoon, and made sure he had a nutritious meal waiting either on the stove or in the fridge when he came home each night. Or early morning, depending on what he'd been up to. You see, Jack liked Mona but he didn't love her and no matter how many dishes she washed or how many dog-walking miles she racked up, nothing was going to change that fact.

A few years into their relationship, he told her he was in love with someone else.  And Mona continued to clean his apartment. Then he told her he was engaged to marry that someone else. And Mona continued to walk his dog. Finally he said the wedding was next week and maybe it was time she gave back his key. And she did.

Jack's marriage didn't last but his friendship (and maybe more) with my aunt Mona did. Same as her friendship with her ex-husband.

And the dentist who lived with his sister Tillie. But I'll tell you about him next month.

P.S. My name is Barbara Bretton and you can find me here  and here and here.

P.P.S. I apologize for taking so long to send out last month's prizes. I promise you they'll go out this week.

P.P.S. I'm giving away e-books this month. Ten commenters will each receive a copy of The Marrying Man for their Kindles.

P.P.P.S. Barbara E., you are my March winner. Please drop me an email at barbarabretton AT gmail DOT com with your full name and mailing address and I PROMISE I'll send out your prize ASAP.

P.P.P.P.S. Here's what I've been up to.

The first time they met, his dog trashed her car.
The second time they met, she set fire to her bathroom.
The third time they met, they fell in love.

Annie Galloway isn't looking to fall in love again. Sam Butler doesn't want a home and family of his own.

Too bad fate has other plans . . .

A SOFT PLACE TO FALL is a 100,000 word contemporary romance, previously published by Berkley Books.Available now for the first time as an e-book.

Click here to read the first chapter.

The Edge of Forever, an award-winning Harlequin American, available for the first time in e-book form.


But can a night of passion turn into a love that lasts forever?

Meg Lindstrom is a struggling photographer who drives a limo to make ends meet.

Joe Alessio is a best-selling author of fiery historical romances who hasn’t written a word in months.

They don't have a thing in common until Meg falls at his feet one sunny October afternoon and Joe realizes he’s finally met the woman of his dreams.

But first Joe will have to convince Meg that her dreams really can come true . . .

Click here to read an excerpt on Amazon.

Monday, April 23, 2012

So there’s a naked man in the kitchen…

What would you do if you showed up for work one day and the guy you’re supposed to be working for shows up naked? And no, please don’t imagine your current boss naked. That would just be wrong. Unless your boss looks like the cover of my newest release, Beauty and The Best. Then, by all means, go ahead and imagine it.

And never ever quit that job.

But if this happened to you, what would you do? How would you react? What would you call him? Big guy?

It’s a question the heroine, personal chef Jolie Gardener, has to address when she’s preparing breakfast for Todd Best, her new boss. Considering Todd does look like the cover of the book, it’s no surprise that a few things start burning…

Here’s a sneak peek at that scene:

The thought registered just as the terse, “Who the hell are you?” had Jolie Gardener spinning around faster than a figure skater on speed.
He had the nerve to ask this? He of the broad shoulders, six-pack abs, and other, nice, um, parts... 
Really. A naked man. In her kitchen.
Well, technically, she was in a naked man’s kitchen. Even more technically, she was in a naked Todd Best’s kitchen—and there wasn’t one hint of self-consciousness or embarrassment on his part. Of course with that body, there shouldn’t be. The guy should flaunt his nudity for the world to see. Which, at present, consisted of one single, solitary person: Jolie Gardener, aspiring writer and personal chef extraordinaire.
“Well?” His hands slammed to his hips.
“You’re naked,” she squeaked, which, really, was the only way to state that kind of obvious.
“I’m what?” Mr. Six-Pack Abs glanced down.
Jolie tried not to—so unsuccessfully it was pitiful.
“Shit,” he muttered. “I am. I, uh, fell asleep last night…”
As butter sizzled in the new super-slick omelet pan on the top-of-the-line range, Jolie’s gaze alternated between some rock-hard abs and a scruffy eight a.m. shadow while her fingers danced along the speckled granite countertop in search of a napkin, placemat, oven mitt… something.
Mercifully, they scooped up a thick dishtowel that, in her world, would constitute a very plush, very luxurious hand towel from The Ritz or The Four Seasons, but which, here, apparently, was used to soak up water from designer flatware. She dangled it in the direction of Mr. Au Naturel. “Here.”
He placed an empty bottle of Jim Beam on the island countertop with a clink, then took the towel with a grunt. “So, who are you, what are you doing in my kitchen, and would you mind turning around?”
She turned. “I’m the new girl the agency sent over.”
“Hell. There better be some aspirin left,” he muttered beside her, his bare (of course) feet making no sound on the limestone floor.
She peeked over at him.
His eyebrow soared skyward.
### © 2012 Judi Fennell

Sadly, no naked hot guy has ever shown up on my first day on the job. No, I get the jobs where the office manager rents out the choicest office to her father for 1/5th of the rent, among other bad business decisions that drive the company into bankruptcy. Or the boss who had perjured himself on the stand for another corporate executive who then said to him, “You’ll never have to worry about a job ever again.” So true; the guy showed up at the office and did nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’d ask him who we should have as a speaker or what event we should do at the corporate meeting and all I’d get in response was a shrug while holding his palms up. Seriously. And he wonders why I couldn’t stand him.

Then there’s the job where I found out that the so-called “owner” isn’t really named John Q. Public * (*name changed to protect me from lawsuits). No, this guy’s name is John K. Publick and the reason he’s using the misspelled name is because, um, he doesn’t want anyone to google him and find his jail term sentencing for insider training. Or the one for fraud.

I kid you not.

So, yeah, I’d say a naked man in the kitchen would be a welcome change after some of the stuff I’ve seen through the years in the “real” world. Someday I’ll write that book. And you know what? No one will believe it. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

So, what’s your Day Job horror story? Worst horror story will win an PDF copy of  Beauty and The Best. I’ll pick the winner after 5 pm eastern on the 26th to be announced on the 27th. Be sure to leave your email with your horror story so we can get in touch with you if you win.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy Todd and Jolie’s Once-Upon-A-Time Romance!

Beauty and The Best is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords and is currently on sale for $2.99. But hurry; this price won’t last much longer.

PRISM Award and Golden Leaf Award-winning author, Judi Fennell, has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to “get outside!” instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did—right into Dad’s hammock with her Nancy Drew books.
These days she’s more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite writing spot, but she’s still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends’ books.
Author of “fairy tales with a twist,” pun-filled, tongue-in-cheek, contemporary paranormal romances, starting with the Tritone Trilogy about Mermen and the Humans who love them, her Bottled Magic Series about genies and magic and falling in love, and now her Once-Upon-A-Time Romances, those twisted fairy tales that were the inspiration for her tagline.
Dive into the romance on her website,, for excerpts, deleted scenes, reviews, contests, and pictures from reader and writer conferences

***Judi's winner is Kathleen! Kathleen, please email me at with your mailing info.  Thank you!***

Sunday, April 22, 2012

BDSM in the Mainstream

If you haven’t heard, an erotica book about BDSM is topping the bestseller charts and the author has even sold the movie rights to Universal Pictures and Focus Features.  Apparently there were ten different studios bidding for those rights.  Of course, I’m talking about Fifty Shades of Grey.

It was interesting to see the reader reviews on sites like Amazon say things like “I couldn’t stand the hero, but I couldn’t put the book down.”  To me, that means the author drew them into the story and evoked strong emotional reactions.

It is also interesting to see the controversy around these books.  A friend of mine sent me an email one day in shock because she’d just heard that Dr. Drew was doing a segment on erotic romance and the teaser line was “Erotic romance: fantasy or violence?”  Wow.  Here’s a link to that segment if you’d like to check it out:

I’ve been writing BDSM for years.  In my books, it’s part of fantasy role playing my characters are involved in.  When my book SECRET TIES came out in 2009, I was a little nervous about what people’s reactions would be.  I was delighted when Amara, a reviewer at Publisher’s Weekly, said ” It’s fun to read erotica with a believable and engaging plot. As a feminist, I appreciate the fact that Summer and Max directly approach and then satisfactorily resolve the question of whether it’s politically correct to engage in S & M in an era of gender equality.”

So why would a strong, modern woman partake in a Dominant-submissive role?  Summer, my heroine in Secret Ties, asks exactly that.

“Are we making you uncomfortable, Summer?” Tanya asked.
Summer’s gaze jerked to her friend’s face.  “Uh… no, I just… don’t really get it.”
As much as the discussion triggered thoughts of hot illicit sex with Max, she was sure that was more because of his strong masculine aura.
“Why would any woman want to be submissive to a man when we’ve fought so long to be recognized as strong and independent? 
“Summer, come here.”
At Max’s tone, Summer’s gaze flew to his face.  His dark eyes cut through her uncertainty as he spoke again.  “Stand up and come over here.”
His commanding tone was totally irresistible.  She stood up and stepped toward him before she realized what she was doing.
She stopped in front of him, feeling a bit foolish, yet a part of her wanted to obey him.  He seemed so utterly masculine and that thrilled her.
“Fill my glass with champagne.”
She drew in a deep breath, realizing she’d been worried—yet excited at the prospect—that he would order her to do something… illicit… even if just a kiss.
She turned toward the table and picked up the cold, black bottle and filled Max’s glass.”
“Now Tanya’s,” Max commanded.
She filled it, then stood there holding the bottle.
“Now put the bottle down and return to your seat.”
She replaced the bottle on the table.  Why had she waited for him to tell her to do that?  She’d stood there holding it like a mindless idiot.  It was as if she’d gone into a mode where she just waited for his commands, with no mind of her own.
She returned to her seat.
“You were just a submissive,” Max said.
She nodded, not risking saying anything, afraid her voice would quaver.
“The Dominant-submissive relationship is all about the exchange of power.  The submissive chooses to be controlled by the Dominant.  The Dominant does not take away the rights of the submissive, she gives them freely.
“A submissive never has to do anything she doesn’t want to do.  You could have chosen at any time not to follow my commands.”

If your interest in BDSM has been piqued, I have a few books, shown here, you could try.

What do you think about BDSM?  Does the idea of a big strong man taking control get your heart thumping?  Or would you prefer to be the one in control?  Do you prefer BDSM in books rather than the bedroom?  Or would you prefer to avoid it altogether?  Share your thoughts.

Three lucky commenters will win a copy of either Slaves of Love or Virtual Love, their choice.  (Both are ebook format only.)  Good luck! 

***Opal's winners are - Anne, Shelley B., and Chrisbails!  Ladies, please email me at with your mailing info.  Thank you!***

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Joys of a Sunday Drive - Annie West

Recently I rediscovered one of my favourite pleasures. Not chocolates or fantastic romance novels or movies or chatting with friends. I'm talking about the simple Sunday drive. The chance to escape from the normal routine and get out somewhere different and picturesque.

I know it doesn't sound thrilling or exotic but I realised recently how hectic my life has become. Even weekends seem fully booked with a range of commitments, including writing, and taking a whole afternoon off just to enjoy myself is a real treat.

I grew up in a family who loved getting out in the bush to walk, camp, picnic or just drive and find out what was around the next curve on some quiet dirt road in the country. I always loved the sense of exploration, of being somewhere tantalisingly new, and still have memories stored of forgotten valleys and homesteads glimpsed on a weekend jaunt, which seemed romantic and alluring in the late afternoon sun.

Recently a dear friend, Anna Campbell, came to visit from interstate and we spent a Sunday afternoon driving up to the Hunter Valley of New South Wales (Eastern Australia for those not familiar with it). It was a perfect autumn afternoon and we were pleased with ourselves as we'd worked hard over the weekend and felt we deserved the treat of an afternoon escape.

The Hunter Valley is renowned for its vineyards, its coal and its horse breeding. We focused on the vineyards but no, we didn't stagger from vineyard to vineyard, tasting all afternoon. We were far too busy soaking up the gorgeous day and the terrific scenery. These top two pictures are the view from Tyrell's Vineyard towards the Brokenback Range and then from the Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard, not far away.

We managed to fit in a scrumptious late lunch at a local cafe, and it was wonderful not to cook or clean up afterwards (one of my fave things about a country drive). After all, if you're having the afternoon relaxing from the usual range of chores, time in the kitchen can't be a priority. Isn't this a lovely setting for a meal? Needless to say, we didn't want to move.

One of the things I enjoyed about our drive was the chance to see some of my fave places in the area. We only tried the wine at one vineyard and I chose Tyrrells. It's impossible to choose one 'best' as there are so many terrific producers in the area. But from here there are marvellous views and I've got a soft spot for the old vineyard, one of the oldest in the area. Instead of being all polished and new, the buildings are old and weathered. When you enter the area where the vats and barrels are stored you walk on old hard-packed dirt floor. It's unpretentious and down to earth and about the reality of wine-producing, not just the glamour.

To finish the afternoon we drove to the sleepy hamlet of Wollombi, one of the oldest in the area. We drove along a scenic river valley, past the cave where ages ago a bushranger (outlaw) had hidden from the police. There's not much of
Wollombi to see but the old buildings are worth a look and so is the gorgeous, peaceful old cemetery where some of the first European settlers to the area are buried.

Returning home very late in the day we were tired but satisfied and best of all, someone else did the cooking! Wonderful. We got fresh air, terrific scenery, some delicious wine, great conversation and a glimpse into the past in some wonderfully peaceful valleys. We felt refreshed and ready to tackle the work of another week.

How about you? Do you enjoy the pleasures of a Sunday drive? Are you a picnicker? Camper? Do you seek out markets or craft stores or antique shops? Or do you prefer to stay at home to relax? What is your favourite place to escape on a weekend?

This month my new release UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH is released in the UK (Australia in May and North America in June). To celebrate I'll give away a copy of UNDONE to one person who leaves a comment. You can read about it or read an excerpt on my website or here at Amazon.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Naked Man on Main Street!!! (Story at Eleven ;-)

I wanted to give you a little preview of my soon-to-be released collection of essays, titled NAKED MAN ON MAIN STREET. Hoping I'll have it available on Amazon and and iBookstore within the next week or so so please look for it!

Years ago when I worked as a publicist on Capitol Hill, my overlords were always blathering on about how, as an assistant press secretary to a United States Senator, I was one of an elite group of only one hundred such people in the world — as if to impress upon me the gravity of my position (when in fact I think it was more like they were rationalizing why the pay sucked so much, as in: “There are a lot of people in line for your job, sister, so stop bugging us for a living wage!”).

This is how I’m choosing to view my experience witnessing a stark naked dude quite literally on Main Street, bent over nonchalantly trying to tie his beat-up Converse chucks: I’m among the elite few ever to have been granted such a unique opportunity. I mean how many people have actually found themselves in this bizarre position (shy of someone living on an obscure island in the South Pacific where everyone might wander around naked)?

As a writer I’m an obsessive observer. Some might just chalk this up to ADD, as I’m perpetually distracted from the probably-more-important by whatever far-more-irrelevant is happening around me: quirky behavior, peculiar mode of dress, and other generally weird stuff. My family mantra as it refers to me is: Look! A butterfly! Usually said in my direction accompanied by a pronounced eye roll. No one thinks I’m paying attention; I am, just maybe not to what I should be. So perhaps I’m just more likely to notice the naked man while I’m driving, rather then the car in front of me (though in my defense, the bus blocking my way inevitably led me to gaze off to my right just in time for that perfect epiphanic moment), but I seem to encounter this sort of weirdness in my life more often than others, and frankly I can’t help but write about them. Material, as they say.

So…Naked man on Main Street. Really? This really happened?, you ask. Yep, it did. One of those strange but true things I’ve stumbled upon over the years, something so bizarrely unexpected, I couldn’t help but write about it. Because that’s what I do. I write about stuff. I don’t write epic narratives about great men. I don’t write compendiums of literary discourse that will issue Pen-Faulkner awards my way. I write about nothing. And why not? It worked for Jerry Seinfeld.

I’ve always found that nothing makes the most interesting subject matter. The stuff we all deal with, the day-to-day experiences that have a universality to them that make them fun to share and to empathize with and to just feel better knowing others have dealt with that same nonsense as well. Not that you’ve all encountered a naked man bent over tying his sneakers at ten in the morning while tooling along a city road as I was so lucky to have done, but still.

Once at a writers’ conference I shared a panel with two illustrious literary fiction writers. Their books had received rave reviews from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a host of other highbrow vetters of all things important in the world of letters. My novel was titled Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. You can imagine how many such publications chose not to review my book. A reader in the audience asked a question about our choosing to write on the panel’s particular subject matter, marriage. I responded that I like to write on themes of universality and like to share this with others, thus I presume (hopefully not wrongly) that others like to share their experiences and impressions as well. One of my fellow panelists, an MFA professor at an elite private university, scoffed at writing to the universal, making a point of saying that he teaches his students not to do this.
Meh…whatever. It works for me.

So about that nude dude. I’d left a morning meeting and was headed home. The little local university bus was virtually parked smack in front of me on the main road. I couldn’t drive around him illegally to the left without risking powering into oncoming cars. I’d hoped to slip to his right but a parked car blocked my egress. So instead I sat in the road cooling my heels, wanting to get home and not wanting to suck in exhaust from the idling bus before me. Out of boredom I glanced over to the sidewalk. It was then that I saw him: pasty white beer gut and other appendages just out there for all to not admire. I wrestled with whether or not to continue seeing him: it’s sort of creepy to stare at a person without any clothes under such circumstances (then again, when isn’t it creepy to stare at a naked person, really?!). But stare I did. While wrestling with whether to whip out my iPhone and snap a picture and immediately upload it to Twitter and Facebook. I didn’t. But I chose, however, lock my car doors, stuck as I was right there, a mere ten feet away from the guy. I sort of regretted not having captured the image for posterity (his posterior! For posterity!); it would’ve been great for a laugh over drinks with friends. But out of respect for the mentally ill, which I presumed he was (because who else would drop trou like that? Granted I live in a college town, and maybe at three in the morning after a wild weekend you might see a thoroughly snookered frat boy doing something so stupid, but aside from that, nada). But oh, the amusing conversations I didn’t get to capitalize on via Twitter and Facebook with that one.

But I did sorta stare. Well, more like peek. How could you not? If you think I might stare a little longer at a dreadlocked guy at the gym contorting himself into bizarre bodily poses dressed in street clothes covered with paint (yes, he’s a regular), or at a woman whose entire visible part of her body is tattooed right up to her chin, well, you can rest assured I couldn’t easily remove my eyes from naked man, if only for the shock factor. Besides, the bus driver hadn’t taken it upon himself to get a move on either; likely he and his passengers were equally transfixed. But I looked around me and realized that only the riders of that bus and me were witnesses to this event, so I figured I might just wanna keep an eye on things, just in case…

Nudey stood tall, a middle-aged man with straggly mouse-brown curly hair (and here you thought my gaze was fixed downward!). He sort of wandered in a circle as if doing the hokey pokey, right in front of a closed restaurant. It was like he didn’t know what to do now that he’d denuded himself of his exterior layer. But then it came to him — his aha! moment: tie your shoes. So he bent down to do just that, mooning me to my chagrin, while he better affixed his ratty black hightops to his feet. As if at that point adorning any part of his body with protection and/or adornment mattered. Once securely fastened to his feet, he stood and paced like an expectant father waiting for the verdict on the sex of his child.

I wondered if I should call the police. But assumed surely the bus driver must’ve already done so — why else would he be stuck in park right there? I wanted to share my weird experience with someone, but how do you do that without actually videotaping it? I wanted to be sure he didn’t have a gun (and felt relief in realizing he had nowhere to hide it under the circumstances). But then I wanted to leave. Because there is only so much you can do when an unstable middle-aged man decides that the best thing to do on a Tuesday morning is to be unclothed in public. So when the bus finally started moving onward, I had no choice but to follow suit. By then someone who’d come out of a nearby bakery was coercing the guy to don his garb.

I tried to imagine how the arresting police officer would handle this: being particularly careful of where he grabbed the guy as he tried to cuff him. Did he line the back seat of the police car with a blanket, protecting the sanitary integrity of the thing? Or did he have to actually dress the guy, down on this knees, front and center, zipping him up like you would a small child? It made me especially glad I wasn’t a cop. Or someone tasked with talking a naked man off the ledge, figuratively. Life’s complicated enough without adding that into the mix.

I hope as you read these selected essays you’ll get a few laughs, find something interesting, maybe even something that reminds you of your own life experiences. Enjoy!

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Deserving of His Diamonds?

Have you ever made a terrible error of judgment about someone? Have you ever made a mistake you desperately wish you could undo?

I think we all live with the odd regret. There are always things we would do differently if we had our time again. I think it would be an unusual person indeed (or a very lucky or blessed one) who didn’t have something in their past they wish they had done differently or better.

One of my favourite books is Atonement by Ian McEwan. It’s a powerfully moving story about a young girl who makes a mistake that has costly outcomes for others. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t read it, but McEwan skillfully poses the question of whether or not you can atone for mistakes made in the past.

But I’m not here to talk about Ian McEwan’s fabulous book. I’m here to tell you about mine! Deserving of His Diamonds? is a tale of love lost due to a mistake made in the past.

Emilio Andreoni cut his bride-to-be Gisele Carter from his life just days before their wedding when a sex tape scandal erupts with her at the centre of it.

Gisele had always claimed her innocence even though the girl in the tape looked and sounded exactly the same as her.

When the truth finally comes out that Gisele has a long lost identical twin she has never met before now, Emilio has some serious apologising to do!

But is a simple apology going to be enough? How can he right the wrongs and return to the relationship they had before their break up?

A lot has happened to Gisele in the two years since they broke up. But she hasn’t told Emilio all the heart-wrenching details. When she finally reveals just what his lack of trust has done to her, will there be any hope of finding happiness together?

I hope you enjoy reading my take on the atonement issue. I found this to be one of the most emotionally charged books I have written so far. I guess there are some things in life for which sorry is never going to be enough, even when it is heartfelt and genuine.

Let’s hope you and I don’t have to learn that the hard way as Emilio does.

Best wishes,
Melanie Milburne

p.s. Stay tuned for Gisele’s twin’s sister Sienna’s story coming soon!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Laura Griffin: Twisted

I’m thrilled to announce the release of TWISTED! It is the fifth book in my Tracers series, which focuses on an elite team of forensic scientists who help homicide cops and cold case detectives solve the most unsolvable crimes.

TWISTED is the story of detective Allison Doyle, who is brand-new to the job when she gets the case that will make her career… if it doesn’t get her killed first. And as if Allison doesn’t have enough to handle, she finds herself falling for the FBI agent who arrives in town to help with the investigation.

Here is a glimpse of TWISTED:

Motive, opportunity, and no alibi—it seems close to a slam-dunk. But while rookie detective Allison Doyle’s department has ID’d a suspect in a young woman’s vicious murder, she is uneasy. Then legendary FBI profiler Mark Wolfe shows up with a startling theory: if he’s right, the real murderer is an elusive psychopath just days away from another kill.

Using Allison’s contacts at the Delphi Center crime lab, Wolfe is finally in striking distance of the monster he’s pursued for ten years. Except that as they work together, Wolfe finds the ambitious, stubborn woman a tempting distraction. And with this brutal predator, every thread of evidence can make the difference between being the hunter . . . and the prey.

As I reader, I know it’s not fun to jump into a series and feel lost, so I wrote each Tracers story with a stand-alone mystery plot. Also, each story focuses on a different romantic couple. So feel free to dive right into the series!

I’ve been so happy with early reviews for TWISTED, including a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews.

I’m giving away a signed copy of TWISTED. Comment here for a chance to win!

***Laura's winner is Dina!  Dina, please email me at with your mailing info.  Thank you!***

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What is it about Secret Identities?

I have to confess something:  I have a weakness for secret identities.  I’m not kidding – any book featuring the Scarlet Pimpernel, any Batman movie (even the Val Kilmer one) any TV show about CIA agents that can’t tell their families what they do for a living, and I will consume it with total rapt adoration.  Is it any wonder that my affinity for secret identities has led me to put one into my books?
The Blue Raven in the mysterious British spy known for his exploits for King and Country during the Peninsular War.  He first popped up in Revealed, hell bent on taking down a French rival that survived Napoleon’s defeat.  But he’s been pretty quiet since then.  That is of, course until If I Fall.
In If I Fall, the Blue Raven is an object of fascination to the heroine, and has been since she was a child.  He was her crush, her idol, the stories in the papers of his acts of derring-do fueled her young imagination.  Is it any wonder that when she meets with him in a darkened cupboard, she accepts his kisses without hesitation?

Sarah’s complete and total worship of the Blue Raven got me thinking about secret identities, and why they hold such appeal, such sway over me… er, I mean us?  And I think I’ve nailed it down to two material points.

1.     They are SECRET.

Who doesn’t like to be in on a secret?  To know what no one else knows, to have this morsel of information that can change the course of history?  We all want to be singled out as special enough to have this knowledge.  To be trusted with it, be in the know.  To be in on the secret gives you a intimacy with the one with the secret… even if you have never met them before.

When Sarah Forrester meets the Blue Raven, it is in a darkened cupboard.  She knows instantly it is him by his signature black feather.  Even though she does not know who he is under the mask, just that bush with him, his existence, sets her off on a quest to find out everything about him

2.     They are IDENTITIES.

Identities are the very essence of ourselves.  They are the core of our being.  So, this isn’t some little secret, about how you forgot to lock the car, or how you sometimes sneak into movie theaters.  (not that I’ve ever done either of these things).  This secret is for all the marbles.  It is the making and undoing of the one who holds it.  If Gotham found out that Bruce Wayne was Batman, he could never be Bruce Wayne again, if not worse.  If the Scarlet Pimpernel was ever found out, well… it would have been much worse. 

It the Blue Raven is ever found out by Sarah Forrester, he could lose he most important thing of all – he could lose her.  For you see, the Blue Raven that met with Sarah in a crowded cupboard, is actually not the Blue Raven at all – instead, it is her lifelong friend, Lieutenant Jackson Fletcher, recently returned from sea.  If she ever found out he was posing as the Blue Raven – and if she ever found out why – it would be the end of their friendship.  And lord knows, Jack feels more than friendship for Sarah.  But Sarah… she feels more than friendship for only the Blue Raven.

Perhaps these reasons seem like an over-simplification as to why Secret Identities are such a lure in our literature and culture.  But maybe it really is that simple.  Maybe we all wish we were in on the secret, the biggest secret of all.  Heck, maybe sometimes, we wish the secret was ours, and that we had this whole other side to ourselves, a side filled with mystery and adventure, and walking the tightrope between the ordinary and the extraordinary.  But for whatever reason, the Secret Identity is here to stay.

So, you tell me!  Do you love a good secret identity story, and if so, why? 


Monday, April 16, 2012

Lisa Dale: April Showers

This year has seen one of the driest springs on record. Last week, fires were breaking out all over New Jersey. One fire, in the meadowlands, set the fragmites on fire like piles of crumpled paper and sent huge black plumes into the sky.

It's very odd for spring to be so rainless. The flowers are blooming. The trees are working hard to turn green...but where's the rain?

Here's a Langston Hughes poem that felt particularly relevant:

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

Langston Hughes
Wishing you a happy April.
Lisa Dale
P.S. A bit of good news... I'm honored this year to be among the RITA nominees! Slow Dancing on Price's Pier is up for best single title contemporary. Talk about thrilling!