Friday, November 29, 2013

Rosalie Lario: The Lure of Forbidden Love

What is it about forbidden love that is so spellbinding? About finding that one person you just can’t forget, even if you can’t have them? Storylines detailing forbidden love have always been my favorite. Give the hero and heroine a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, something that threatens to keep them apart, and I’m there.

Forbidden love is a common theme in my Demons of Infernum series. The stories feature four brothers who are interdimensional bounty hunters. Set in modern-day New York City, it contains a world very much like our own...with one exception. Supernatural beings roam the streets, undetected by most humans. They aren’t the stuff of horror stories—at least not in the traditional sense. They’re species from other dimensions who have traveled to Earth via portals. Most are law-abiding citizens, but every now and again a fugitive goes on the loose...and that’s where our heroes come in.

Bred to be genetically superior by their demon father, Keegan, Taeg, Ronin, and Dagan are hybrids. Each bears unique genetic makeup, yet the four are similar in their loyalty for one another. But as the brothers battle a growing evil, they will each meet their perfect match. They will find their loyalty—and love—put to the ultimate test. 

TOUCH OF THE ANGEL is the third book in the Demons of Infernum series. This story features Ronin and a love interest who most definitely falls in the forbidden category. See, Amara is a succubus, and her touch is deadly to Ronin. In fact, she nearly kills him the first time they meet. But even though their love is forbidden, they can’t help but fall for each other. Amara is enslaved to an evil incubus, and Ronin is desperate to free her. The two will have to overcome all odds in order to find their happy ending.

To hear more about Ronin and Amara’s love story, be sure to check out TOUCH OF THE ANGEL.

After months of no work, interdimensional bounty hunter Ronin Meyers jumps at the chance to locate an incubus who’s using succubi as murder weapons. Faced with deportation to hellish Infernum if he fails, Ronin will stop at nothing to take out the incubus and anyone else involved. Even the beautiful succubus who stole his heart—and nearly his life—during the most mind-blowing hour of his existence.

Night after night, Amara and her fellow succubi are forced to extract special abilities from the strongest Otherworlders for their psychotic master’s growing collection. When the gorgeous angel-demon hybrid she believed to be dead captures her, Amara is both stunned and elated.
But the happily-ever-after Amara’s dreamed about will have to wait. Before she and Ronin can find salvation, they must bring down the madman hell-bent on destroying everything—and everyone—they love. And Ronin and Amara are at the top of his list.

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Rosalie Lario is the award-winning, paranormal romance author of the Demons of Infernum and the Fallen Warriors series. Rosalie double majored in Anthropology and Classics as an undergraduate student, and briefly considered becoming an archaeologist before realizing they don't actually live the life of Indiana Jones. So what was a classical geek armed with a lot of useless knowledge to do? Become a lawyer, of course!

After attending law school in Florida, she practiced real estate law for several years before finally admitting to herself that negotiating contracts wasn't nearly as fun as dreaming up stories. She never imagined all the mythology she'd learned throughout her undergraduate education might actually come in handy, but it makes perfect fodder for the paranormal romance stories she now dreams up.

When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children in their home state of Florida. You can visit Rosalie at her website:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nina Croft: The Order of the World

This month, Bittersweet Magic, book 2 in my Order series released, so I thought I’d talk a little about the world of the Order.

I write all sorts of romance, but usually with elements of paranormal or science fiction and sometimes with both. And I’ve come to realize that one of the things I love about writing speculative fiction is that absolutely anything can happen—as long as you make it believable.

And that’s where the world-building comes in.

For me one of the pleasures of reading is to suspend reality for the duration of the book. I need to believe that vampires are real and other worlds exist. The last thing I want is to be pulled out of my new world by something that can’t possibly happen. So the world-building has to be consistent and convincing.

But whereas I’m a total plotter—I spend ages getting to know my characters and I outline my novel scene by scene—I’m going to admit that I only do the bare minimum of world-building before I start to write. That minimum usually includes just the where and the when. Most of my world-building is done as I go along or even after I’ve finished the first draft. Often, I find I have to go back and change facets of my world throughout the story so that things don’t seem contrived or worse—impossible.

The Order series takes place mainly London, a city I lived and worked in for a number of years. I think it can give a real sense of authenticity to write about places you know well. Then all you have to do is give them a little twist to create an alternate reality.

When I started Bittersweet Blood, the first book in the series, I had the urge to write a vampire story, but I also wanted the book to be part of a series and I didn’t want to limit myself to vampires only. So my world had to include a whole range of supernatural creatures to give me lots to choose from in later books. But London might have gotten a little chaotic with all those paranormal races battling it out and so The Order of The Shadow Accords came into being. The Order is the organization that polices the supernatural world and makes sure the other races, mainly demons and the fae, don’t misbehave too badly and bring attention to themselves or destruction to mankind. The Order is run by vampires but they’re willing to employ a few other things as well, witches, warlocks, werewolves…

So I guess my world-building process is; I decide what I want to do, who I want to do it with and then I build a world that enables me to do it.

What do you think should come first—characters or world? Let me know for a chance to win an ecopy of Bittersweet Blood.

Bittersweet Magic – Blurb
Roz has been indebted to the demon Asmodai for five hundred years, and her freedom is just around the corner. All she has to do is complete one last task for him—obtain a key that had been hidden in a church centuries ago.
Piers, the Head of the Order and an ancient vampire, is intrigued by the woman who comes to him for help. She’s beautiful and seemingly kind, but she’s hiding something. And he’ll find out who she is and what she really wants once he uses his power to get inside her head. But Piers has no idea that Roz is immune to his mind-control...or that he is simply a pawn in her dangerous mission for freedom.

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia, which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.  Nina writes all sorts of romance often mixing in elements of the paranormal and science fiction.
Find Nina at: Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Day Before Thanksgiving by Fiona Lowe

It's the day before Thanksgiving and I wonder how many of you are reading this? It's always a busy day. Some of you are travelling across the country to visit with family. I remember a road trip we took one year from Wisconsin to Virginia to visit dear friends, our previous neighbours, who'd moved to Virginia. Originally from Texas, Libbey couldn't stand the Wisconsin weather so she found her husband a job in a place she was prepared to live and they moved. I missed her desperately but the flip side was, I got to visit Virginia.
We drove through Indiana, Ohio, then Louisville and blue grass country, over the Appalachians in West Virginia to Richmond.  Fortunately, we had an enjoyable trip and it wasn't anything like the movie, Trains, Planes and Automobiles!

Is it cooked?
Some of you are working and planning to hit the grocery store on the way home. Yikes! It's always frantic. I hope you have your Zen on to survive the parking lot and the long lines. I talk to people in the lines and ask them what they've planning to serve. It passes the time and breaks the tension.

Some of you are hosting your very first Thanksgiving and stressing about cooking 'the bird'.  That pop-up thingie doesn't always work! I find everything goes a lot more smoothly if I have a glass of wine whilst cooking ;-)

Some of you are looking forward to spending the day with extended family and others of you are not. My Thanksgivings were always spent with friends because we didn't have family within 10,000 miles. Living in a university town meant there were lots of 'strays' and some of our best parties were Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends.

Some of you are spending the day planning with military precision how you are going to hit the mall on Black Friday and pick up the bargains of the year. Good luck to you! I envy you because the idea of shopping on Black Friday has me curling up in fetal position.

So however you are planning on spending your Thanksgiving weekend, I wish you a happy time and hope somewhere in those four days you can find some time to read!

My novel, Boomerang Bride starts at Thanksgiving and ends at
Christmas so it's perfect holiday reading. You can grab it at a book store in mass market paperback or buy it online at all eBook retailers

My next release is Runaway Groom, book 3 in the Wedding Fever trilogy, following Saved by the Bride and Picture Perfect Wedding. If you're planning your Christmas shopping, you can pre-order it now at Amazon, Nook, and all other eBook retailers. All links are HERE.

I'd love to hear what you're doing for Thanksgiving this year!  Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving weekend!
Fiona xx

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Paula Altenburg: Navigating a Fictional World

Thanks so much for having me here today. I thought I’d share with you all how difficult I find it to get setting details accurate.

It’s a joke in my family that I have absolutely no sense of direction. I can’t find my way back to my hotel in a strange city. My oldest son worried about that when he went off to college: “Mom’s going to be lost without me.”

It’s true. From the time he was five he’s been telling me where to go.  

I was once on a business trip in the US with one of the VPs of the Canadian company I was working for at the time. He handed me a map. “I’ll drive. You be the navigator,” VP said.

“Ummm...” (Bit of silence on my part.) “I can’t read a map.”

(Incredulous blinking of eyes on his.) “You’re kidding me. Who in this day and age can’t read a map?”
Me, as it turns out. I once got lost in the woods during orienteering in high school. The teacher spent an hour trying to find me. “I don’t understand how you got lost in the woods,” she kept saying. “The woods weren’t even on the map.”

I ended up holding the road map steady while VP read it at red lights. When we finally reached our destination, he was completely frazzled. Fortunately, he had a good sense of humor.

So why, as an Atlantic Canadian, I decided to set a story in the American West is a mystery even to me. I blame Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour.

Here’s the world I know:

Here’s the world I’m writing about in Black Widow Demon (Book 2 in the Demon Outlaws series):

I thought, “I have Google. How hard can it be?”

You’d be surprised. And I’ve actually been to Nevada. Several times.

To play it safe I decided I’d better make my story a dystopian demon western so there would be some leeway with regard to actual fact. It’s a good thing I did. When my editor came back with a description of the world for the cover, and mentioned a couple of place names for the artist, I discovered I had my world completely upside down and backward. One set of characters had gone off in a totally wrong direction.  That made my life difficult in the third book, Demon Creed (May 214).

So if anyone would like to have a little fun, you can leave review comments about Black Widow Demon that say “Good book but would have been better if author could read a map.” I won’t take it personally.
Is there anyone else amongst you with a terrible sense of direction? And out of curiosity—has anyone ever read anything that led them to believe the author hadn’t looked at a map?

No need to name names. A yes or no will suffice. J

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Reading - Part I

Last year, I did a series of blog posts on my own blog and elsewhere with suggested holiday romance for reading, gift giving, etc. and they went over so well, I've decided to make it a tradition.  I'm kicking off my series for this year here on Tote Bags 'n' Blogs.

Who doesn't love a holiday romance?  Okay...there are a few of you out there, but I'm an unashamed fan of sentiment and schmaltz.  Wrap it in a package with a stellar romance and you've got me hooked.  I've written a few myself and they often top my list of personal faves.  Does that make me just one shade too sentimental?  Maybe, but it's not something I can help.  I love, love, love a good holiday romance!

I'm really delighted readers seem to find this year's book Million Dollar Christmas Proposal (Presents Nov 2013) every bit as warm and romantic as I do (though the love scenes are described as hot). :)

I've asked my publishers, readers and friends to suggest some fantastic reading, books to meet our craving for that extra bit of emotional oomph that comes from reading a holiday themed romance.

Suggested Holiday Reading:

CHRISTMAS BREAK by Jami Davenport
Seattle Lumberjacks—The Rookies Series

As a college football star and a waitress stave off cold loneliness through one hot holiday break, a passion begins that will carry them both all the way into the NFL.

I read another novel by the author, Jami Davenport, and I was anxious to see if she could create the same level of heat and emotional depth in novella format. And....she did!!! It was a great read. My heart broke for Aubrey and I was cheering for Braxton. I can't wait to read more of their story.--Cocktails and Books (5 stars)

SUGAR COOKIE SWEETHEART SWAP by Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell, Kimberly Kincaid

USA Today bestselling author Donna Kauffman, bestselling author Kate Angell, and talented newcomer Kimberly Kincaid dish up a sweet and sexy holiday romance centered on a Christmas cookie swap.

“Who’d have thought that December could get so steamy in the Blue Ridge Mountains?...this trio of deliciously sensual novellas from two veteran authors and one newcomer practically melt the snow from the Pine Mountain rooftops and are the perfect reward for readers who like their holiday treats with a hefty helping of spice.” – Library Journal

Heartwarming family values combine with Dailey's trademark sparkling romance to make a holiday treat as magical as the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Originally released in hardcover, now out in mass market paperback and eBook.

While new stories are always intriguing and can make for new faves, we can't ignore some of the more tantalizing and memorable books from years gone by.

One of my personal favorites is All I Want for Christmas by Lori Foster, Kinley MacGregor (Sherrilyn Kenyon), Dee Holmes & Eileen Wilkes.

Suggested movie to watch while wrapping gifts: 

For pure schmaltz - It's a Wonderful Life and for something more recent - Love Actually.

Some of the top suggested books to give as gifts by my readers:

The Wallflower Series by Lisa Kleypas.

Paris in Love - a Memoir by Eloisa James

Little Women and the follow on books by Louisa May Alcott (I still re-read Little Women almost yearly and have given this book as a gift numerous times.)

Look for more wonderful holiday reads in my upcoming posts here, on Writerspace and my own blog.

Hugs and happy reading,

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Yvonne Lindsay: What Price a Secret?

Hi everyone. 

First, I’d like to say a huge thanks to Lee for inviting me here to talk about my upcoming release, THE HIGH PRICE OF SECRETS. I absolutely love this book; in fact, I love the entire series it’s a part of.

The idea for The Master Vintners series came while I was visiting the amazing Trish Morey in Adelaide, South Australia, a few years back. Not far from where she lives is a burned out stone Gothic mansion, Marble Hill. When I first heard about the ruin, which was originally a summer residence for the Governor of South Australia, I was intrigued. I love old buildings and ruins and I adore imagining the secrets they hold about the families who have lived there. Marble Hill was built in 1879 but was destroyed in massive bush fires in 1955. It got me to thinking about what it would be like for a family who had lived in such a place for generations to lose everything in a devastating fire. It didn’t take long to dream up a backstory for this imaginary family and for the tendrils to then develop further out past the Adelaide hills and surrounds out to New Zealand. Creating a dynasty of vintners has been a whole lot of fun, but not without its challenges, of course. I feel as if I’ve lived with these people in my head for so long now, that they’ve become like friends. 

In THE HIGH PRICE OF SECRETS, Tamsyn Masters is on a quest. She’s determined to find the mother she grew up believing was dead and who, she and her brother discovered (in ONE SECRET NIGHT Desire, March 2013,) has been very much alive all these years. After another devastating let down, Tamsyn decides it’s time to take her life into her own hands and her quest takes her to her mother’s last known address in New Zealand. But when she arrives, determined to find answers, she meets Finn Gallagher, and discovers he’s the one man on earth equally as determined to prevent her from meeting her mother.

Each book in The Master Vintners series stands as one that can be read alone but if the family’s dynamic grabs you, you can still order the e-versions of the previous books in the series. You can visit my website and click on the books page for more titles. 

Or, you could comment below to go into the draw for one lucky winner to receive signed copies of each of the previous three Master Vintner stories! So, how about it? Do you like family sagas and enjoy seeing their secrets unraveled? Or maybe you, like me, love old buildings and imagining the lives that were lived there in past times.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Laura Resnick: Soup Dumplings and Lion Dancers: Researching The Misfortune Cookie in Chinatown

One of the pleasures of my work is that I get to visit New York to do on-site research for my Esther Diamond fantasy series.

Esther Diamond is a struggling actress who gets involved in mystical misadventures while pursuing her career, befriending various eccentric New Yorkers, falling in love with a skeptical cop, and saving her city from Evil. Each novel in the series focuses on a different supernatural subject (doppelgangers, vampires, zombies) and a different aspect of the city (Little Italy, Harlem, the West Village, New York's subterranean tunnels).

The series' sixth book, The Misfortune Cookie, was released a couple of weeks ago. It's set in New York's Chinatown during Chinese New Year, which is the most important traditional holiday in Chinese culture. The traditional Chinese calendar is lunar, which is why the date changes every year (in terms of our solar calendar); the event typically occurs in January or February. Although we tend to think of it as taking place on the day of the famous Chinatown parades in New York and San Francisco, it's actually a two week holiday with several major events. For various reasons, I decided to visit New York a week before the parade so that I could attend the Firecracker Festival, which is held on the first day of the lunar new year.

A friend and I arrived in Chinatown a few days before New Year and kicked off our activities by visiting the Eldridge Street Synagogue, built in 1887, which is now a beautifully restored historic landmark and museum (and also still a functioning synagogue, though the congregation is very small). In the late 19th century, this building was in the middle of lower Manhattan's densely-populated neighborhood of Jewish immigrants. Now, however, it sits in the heart of Chinatown—as does the formerly Irish (and then later Italian) Church of the Transfiguration, which offers daily Mass in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Chinatown has grown over the past century from a couple of streets to an area which now includes much of what was once Five Points, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side. I highly recommend the excellent guided tours at the Eldridge Street Synagogue—which hosts the Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival every June, celebrating the Jewish and Chinese communities that have contributed so much to New York City's culture.

My editor and publisher, Betsy Wollheim of DAW Books, joined us for a three-hour food tour of Chinatown hosted by the Enthusiastic Gourmet aka Susan Rosenbaum, a culinary professional and licensed NYC tour guide. This outing was very useful in terms of research, and also tremendous fun. In addition to being engaging and (as titled) enthusiastic, Rosenbaum knows her subject matter and the neighborhood well, and so we learned a lot about Chinatown's customs, culture, and characters through learning about its food (via visiting a butcher, a bakery, a produce market, a tofu factory, a sweets shop, and so on).

The only downside of this venture was that I accidentally ate dried cuttlefish, which is not something I will ever do again—ever. Eating a shrimp's head was less disturbing, though it's a gustatory experience that might not suit everyone. And take my advice: never go near a fruit (or any food made thereof) called "durian." I would describe the smell and flavor as a combination of raw sewage, spoiled milk, and a chemistry lab accident.

On the other hand, I fell madly in love with delicately yellow egg custards, steaming fresh bowls of tofu with the consistency of clotted cream, and, in particular, soup dumplings—which are Chinese dumplings filled with flavorful hot broth.

(Needless to say, a fair bit of The Misfortune Cookie wound up focusing on food...)

After I spent several more days exploring Chinatown in ankle-deep ice and slush, the new year kicked off with the Firecracker Festival. Due to city ordinances, real firecrackers (the dangerous kind) can only be used during the festival under controlled circumstances and must be handled by professionals. But I was delighted with the "fake" firecrackers used throughout Chinatown all day long, which make a faint popping noise and shoot out bursts of colorful confetti that gently shower down on the streets and the dense crowds.

Lion dancers are a major part of the Firecracker Festival, and their story encompasses history, customs, and training that are complex and fascinating. They're enormous, colorful, exotic creatures which we might easily mistake for dragons. The elaborate lion costume is shared by two dancers; one wears the massive head, and the other brings up the rear (and also does the navigating when a lion exits a shop or building).

On the first day of the New Year, a few dozen of these lions romp madly through the streets of Chinatown, in pairs and trios, accompanied by their percussionists. They go into all the businesses, where the shopkeepers give them red envelopes of money—and cabbage (yes, cabbage), which the lion "chews up" and "spits out." Being showered by flying bits of cabbage symbolizes abundance in the coming year. Lions meet in the street and jam together, they come into restaurants and greet people like dogs, and they battle fan dancers while firecrackers go off and confetti showers everyone.

As you may have guessed, lion dancers also wound up playing a role in The Misfortune Cookie.

Touring the Big Apple's neighborhoods with local guides, learning about the city's history and culture in person, eating exotic foods, dawdling in neighborhood landmarks and museums, poking around interesting shops and local parks... Well, yes, it's a dirty job—but someone's got to do it! And my dedication to my craft knows no bounds.


Laura Resnick's The Misfortune Cookie is currently available, as are the first five novels in the Esther Diamond series: Disappearing Nightly, Doppelgangster, Unsympathetic Magic, Vamparazzi, and Polterheist. You can find her on the Web at

Friday, November 22, 2013

Melissa McClone: Christmas Decor

I go all out on decorating for Christmas. Decking the halls, so to speak, usually takes me a day or two, not counting decorating the tree. I used to be an engineer and have created my own method or process for getting it all done.

First, I take down pictures from the wall and pack away everything that's on our built-in shelves and windowsills. Then I pull out our Christmas decorations, books and DVDs. We have boxes and boxes of them. I start with the Advent wreath then hang garland on the banister and fireplace mantle and swags on all the windows. Dept. 56 villages used to go on the windowsills until we got a kitten that thought they were her play toys. Now she must content herself with the tree, which we leave up for a least a week with no garland (wood cranberry beads) or ornaments so she can climb and nap in the branches to her hearts content before we decorate it. Advent calendars are hung upstairs and downstairs. Besides a tree upstairs, the kids each have a small one in their bedrooms.  We have lots of shelf sitters, stuffed animals, snowmen, snow globes, Nativity sets and other knickknacks. My kids also know if something isn't where it was the year before!  

Of all the decorations, I love Nativity scenes the most. They are my favorite because Jesus' birth is the reason we celebrate Christmas. I'm always on the lookout for Nativity sets no matter what time of year. I like to have at least one in each room. We have several—a snow globe Nativity, a small fountain and several ornament ones for the tree. We've kept a Fisher Price set even though my youngest is now ten because the plastic pieces are pretty much dog and cat proof. That's the Nativity scene we place under the Christmas tree. Though pieces have made their way all over the house thanks to a couple of our four-footed fur babies. In my novella Home For Christmas, there is a Nativity crèche and figures under the Christmas tree at the Bar V5. I took that straight from my tree! -Place- Favorite place to be during the holidays? Home or traveling?
Home is my favorite place to be for the holidays. I believe what I wrote in my novella that home is where our loved ones are, but for us that includes our dogs and cats. They are part of our family.  We have travelled before, but now that we have more animals taking all of them with us isn't an option so we stick close to home at Christmastime.

Each dog and cat has a stocking that Santa stuffs with little toys and treats. He often leaves them special gift such as a dog pillow or a cat tree. A couple of them, Miss Mousie, Beauty and Chaos, really get into Christmas presents, but the others are more into the treats.

We've gotten good about having a stay-cation, vacation at home, during the Christmas break. The Portland area has lots of holiday happenings the month of December. Our favorite things to do are visit the various light displays. We never miss The Festival of Lights at The Grotto where you can walk through a light display, watch a puppet show, visit a petting zoo and listen to concerts by local musicians and groups. We also like going to ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo. I'm sure the animals don't care about the lights, but they are really beautiful and seeing the Zoo at night, all lit up, is neat. Another is the Winter Wonderland at the Portland International Raceway. You get to drive the track while listening to a CD they provide and see tons of displays, including one about the Twelve Days of Christmas. 

How do you decorate for Christmas?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Katherine Garbera: My favorite place to be for the Holidays

For me Christmas is about family and having everyone in the same place.  Some years we have everyone to our house in the UK and then other years we all go home to Christmas but I’m not happy unless I can see and talk to everyone on Christmas morning.  And to be fair if we go home, it’s Florida. Sort of the best of both worlds by being home and at a vacation spot.

Some of our traditions involve going to Walt Disney World and seeing the Candlelight Processional.  When I was in high school I was part of the mass choir when the used to process up Main Street in the Magic Kingdom.  And when I worked at Disney I was part of the Cast Choir and stood on a platform above the train station to sing. 

We’ve never vacationed any where at Christmas and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I used to dream of going to a snowy ski lodge every year but then I wouldn’t be able to cook and bake with my family.  And as much as I like the thought of a white Christmas I guess I’m used to sunshine and shorts. 

I also like sitting in the living room cuddled up next to my hubby with just the lights of the Christmas tree on and talking quietly about the holiday and how everyone loved the gifts we got them.  We usually have a glass of Baileys on ice while we do it and a fire in our fireplace.

When we are at my parents’ house for Christmas they join us and the kids who are teenagers now often pick some new blockbuster movie for us to watch.  It’s just nice to have that time together without trying to cram in extra things like I’d want to do during a vacation.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cross My Heart and Hope to D'Oh! by Jenny Gardiner

I luuuuuvvvvvvv a good secret.
I’m addicted to the intrigue of secrets, mostly. Secrets are so fun to be in on, yet so hard to, uh, keep secret. Not that I spread things; no way. If someone tells me something in confidence, I absolutely maintain that confidence. But then there are other times where I’ve been told something, not quite realized the gravity of the information, and then sort of spilled the beans, purely by happenstance.
Take for instance the spy episode…
Okay, somewhere out there, I know some people who have some spying background. Leave it at that. See! I’m keeping my secrets. So in the course of my knowing some people with some spying background, I learned some things, about covert versus overt, about "need to know basis" and generally about keeping your big mouth shut. That sort of thing.
So one night we were at dinner with those distant espionage-ish people and another couple (I didn’t even know they were secret agent types!) who were talking with great pride about their son, Donny. Their son, who lived in some obscure pocket of the world involving guerillas (and I don't mean the cute hairy kind that swing in trees), sharpshooters, warring factions, and a very complex language that one doesn’t know but for on a, um, "need to know basis."
Seemed Donny — who worked in “imports/exports” — got a promotion, and was headed off to another embattled nation with yet more guerillas, warring factions and an even more complex and arcane language that no one, but no one, knows. I don’t even think the people who live there know it. It’s that unknown. Upon learning this, even I was able to deduce that Donny’s job entailed far more than ensuring the safe shipping of Barbie dolls and melamine-tainted pet food from far away Asian ports. No one becomes fluent in two bizarre languages without really good reason that has nothing to do with giant shipping containers.
So at the dinner table that night, conversation was rolling merrily along, as we sipped our wine and exchanged jovial banter. But chatter ground to a screeching halt — I’m talking cars stuck in a Bangkok rush hour screeching halt — when I said: “Oh, so Donny’s working 'imports/exports?'”
With a hyperbolic wink — one where my right eye squeezed shut really hard and the side of my lip raised up dramatically, forcing my cheek to scrunch up toward my forehead. You know the kind. The “hey, we’re all in on the big secret!” wink.
Suddenly a hostile silence embalmed the room as nine sets of squinting eyes glared at me, the dingbat who unwittingly broke the unspoken code of Need to Know.
Now, to backtrack. I sorta knew about the Need to Know. Like if you don’t need to know, you don’t. But I also thought that if you’re amongst everyone who Knew, then you didn’t quite have to tap dance around the inevitable. I mean, everyone at that table knew! But I didn’t know till then that that was the whole point. Everyone knew we weren’t supposed to let on that we knew. It’s sort of the Omerta of the cloak-and-dagger world, I guess, minus the contract killings.
Thank goodness my lapse of tight lips happened in the land of the free and the brave. Sheesh, had I been sipping a macchiato in a cafe bar off a lovely little piazza in Sicily, or worse yet dining on Borscht served up by a matronly hostess with long chin hairs in frigid Minsk, my transgression could well have rewarded me with a bullethole between the eyes. And I would hate for my last supper to have centered around beets. I hate beets!
Now, just to prove to you that I can keep secrets, I’ll tell you one. You remember that woman, Valerie Plame? The one whose covert spy history was exposed by vengeful conservative war hawk operatives in the Bush White House? Well, I knew — I knew! — for the past twenty-plus years that Val was a spy. And I didn’t tell a soul. Not a soul! Because I knew it was a "Need to Know" kind of thing. But now that everyone knows, well, the cat’s out of that bag. And if you try to get out of me how I knew that information long before it was a glimmer in Karl Rove's evil eye, well, now, that I can’t tell you.
Then again, I suppose I could…But I’d have to kill you. And you wouldn’t want that.

Slim to None

Anywhere But Here

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

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

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

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

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

Naked Man On Main Street
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I love to write. There's no doubt about that. Rarely do I go a day without putting words on the page, whether it be on my current work in progress, edits or social media like Facebook or Twitter, or plotting my next story,  A day without writing to me is like Willy Wonka without chocolate.  

But sometimes for an author like this writing junkie, it's a case of being careful what you wish for. When I was just starting out, my drive and ambition was so strong, I wanted to be published almost more than my next breath.  I could taste it.  I could feel it in my bones.  This is what I was meant to do. 

Well...guess what?  After many years of publication, hitting the USA Today Bestseller list and establishing myself as a historical and contemporary western writer...I have some issues that I must confess. 

Confesssion #1- REVIEWS

I put my heart and soul into every book.  I really do. I don't write fast. I don't write slow. I write at the speed that it takes to make my stories shine.  If I get a great review, it makes my day.  I am happy that the reader/reviewer got the story and understood the character's motivations.  

November release on Amazon and all other booksellers! 

The Secret Heir of Sunset Ranch was an intriguing read. Kat and Justin were both realistically portrayed with the same flaws and issues many of us have. The plot was well played and kept your interest, while the chemistry between Kat and Justin was explosive. A master storyteller, Charlene Sands comes through with another captivating tale, The Secret Heir of Sunset Ranch, a story guaranteed to touch your heart and tug at your emotions.  Debby at Cataromance. 

But I will confess, bad reviews hurt.  Why?  Not for the reason you might think.  Sometimes, there's an inkling of truth in a bad review.  And as a writer, we are always more sensitive to what we did wrong, rather than what we did right.  One negative word, can overshadow, one hundred positive ones.  Isn't that the truth? I'm not happy that the review revealed a weakness in my story, but you can by darn sure, I would never make that mistake again.  

I do hate insensitive and cruel-worded reviews. Luckily, I haven't had any of those, but they are out there and it sickens my heart to see it.  Internet anonymity doesn't mean readers get to unleash their verbal wrath on an author.  I often wonder, would they be so bold as to say those personal, awful things to a writer's face?   Moving on....

Confession # 2 - ARE WE THERE YET?

I get this question A Lot from my non-writer friends and family. So, are you done? Is the book finished?  Can you take a break from writing now?  

I confess I get frustrated at times, because I'm never really done. Writers are in a constant state of perpetual motion.  It's true, if I wanted to write one book every two years, I could do that, but that doesn't a career make.  Writing isn't a Bon-Bon eating, sexy- lingerie wearing, glamorous lifestyle.  Not by a longshot.  Every successful writer I know, is a great juggler of time and resources. We get up early, go to bed late, eat meals at our desk and have to juggle our personal lives, kids, housework, sometimes a day job, in order to get our stories told.  Almost every day, I'm fighting the clock. Even if the story is told, I'm doing edits, revisions, cover art sheets, plotting my next book, going to meetings, promoting my releases....the list is endless.  

Is it the life I chose?  Yes.  Did I know how hard it would be? No way.      

Confession #3 -- I SUCK AT PLOTTING

I do.  I do.  I confess.  Plot is a four letter word to me. Plotting a story is my major weakness. Do I have stories drifting around in my head?  Sometimes.  But do I know where they are going and how I am going to make it all fit? Not necessarily.  I am not a good chess player.  I can't see two moves ahead of me.  When I get an idea, I usually know who the characters are, and how my book is going to end.  But there's fifty thousand words of the in-between, I need to figure out too.  And I dread it. Enter: My fabulous plot group.  Leanne Banks, Jules Bennett, Lynne Marshall, Janice Maynard and myself.  We get together monthly on a conference call or more if there's a story emergency and work out our plotting problems. Five heads are better than one. YES! 

I confess, I need these women. They are friends, writers, plotters and life-savers.      
Leanne Banks, Jules Bennett and me, obviously not plotting at the moment! 

Confession #4 -- FREE BOOKS MAKE ME CRAZY!

I know. I know.  In this economy, you say, it's nice every so often to get a book free.  I agree.  I always hold contests, giveaways, and drawings on my blogs and social media sites.  I feel I'm generous to my readers. I run exclusive newsletter contests all the time. I love giving away freebies. 

But that's different than an author or pub house pricing a book at $0.00 on Amazon or other online venues.  It's a loss leader concept, that has worked well for some authors, the strategy being to build readership by enticing with a free book and then hoping the reader buys the other books in the series or more of the authors works.

What I see is hours, days, months (for me, it's 3 to 5 months) of hard work, dedication and struggle to write a really good book and see it sell for zero. I confess, that hurts.  Why?  It's almost the norm now, the market is glutted with free books. I've heard people say, why should I buy a book, I can get them for free now?   

I'm hoping that's not the case.  I'm hoping that for most of those free books, readers do go buy the others in the series. I'm hoping that being Free doesn't devalue the author or the work.   It's hard for a writer to know what works and how they can build a readership so they can stay in business and continue to write.  I confess, it all makes me crazy!!  

Confession #5 - LOST WORLD 

Writing can be a lonely existence.  I'm at the computer for hours at a time.  Some days I don't see the light of day (I'm trying to be better about this) where sunshine will turn to dusk before I step a foot outside.   
My buds from LARA (LA Chapter of Romance Writers of America) Picnic Time! 

I confess that I would be lost without the writing community at large (that's you LARA AND OCC) and my fellow writing friends close at hand.  Why is that so important? Because writers "get" other writers. Writers know the complexity and simplicity of loving the craft of writing. They get, how hard, joyful, frustrating, beneficial, heartbreaking it all can be. They get the hours glued in the chair, the distractions, the juggling, the blocked story, the joy of writing THE END, the inner structure of traditional publishing and newfound successes of Indie publishing.  My writer friends can finish my sentences.  We are passionate people. We know deadline hell.  We bitch and moan and share joys and triumphs.  We support each other.  Day in and day out. That's pretty special.  I truly would be lost without them.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my honesty.  What do you think of my confessions?  Do you have confessions of your own?  Do you read reviews and cringe when you see a harsh one?   I'm giving away two books today.  Post a comment and be entered in a random drawing for either a FREE print copy of the first book in The Slades of Sunset Ranch series Sunset Surrender (US only)and an ebook (US or international )copy of The Cowboy Contract 

Sign up for my newsletter HERE  

My thanks to Lee Hyat for inviting me to blog today!! 

***The winner is Janine! Please email with your mailing info!***

Monday, November 18, 2013

Julie Miller: Celebration Time

Thanks to Lee Hyat for inviting me to be a guest on her blog today!

November 19th marks the release of my 50th book, YULETIDE PROTECTOR.  The holidays seem like an appropriate time for the story to come out because I’m already in a celebrating mood.  As a treat, I’m sharing some pictures that inspired the setting of the story, including the beautiful lights on the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri—as well as my own Christmas tree, with its mix of handmade and collectible ornaments.

As you can see, I love the lights of Christmastime.  In YULETIDE PROTECTOR, Detective Spencer Montgomery needs some light in his life to erase the darkness in his soul.  The witness he’s assigned to protect is Bailey Austin, a woman whose sunny beauty, unflinching bravery and determination to celebrate the holidays crack open his hardened heart.  Here’s a teaser from the back cover:

As the lone surviving victim who can put her attacker away in prison, heiress Bailey Austin becomes the key to the D.A.'s case against a notorious criminal. As lead detective, Spencer Montgomery must prep her for trial. But he becomes her personal protector when she starts receiving terrifying "gifts" meant to scare her away from testifying.

Spencer is a cop on the fast track to making captain one day, if he can keep his emotions in check. But as the stalker's threats escalate, he can't deny that Bailey has thawed his icy heart. Her courage touches him in ways no other woman has, and reminds him that she's more important to him than any investigation.

While in hiding, Bailey decorates a fern in Spencer’s apartment with those cut-out paper snowflakes many of us made as kids.  There’s a relentless action scene that takes place on the Plaza in Kansas City, amidst the holiday shoppers and extravagant Christmas lights and décor.  Then there’s a sweet scene with some family heirloom ornaments.  So I’ve managed to incorporate some of my favorite holiday decorations amidst the driving suspense and terrifying action of this intense love story.

Here’s what RT Book Reviews had to say about my 50th book:

4 1/2 stars, Top Pick! - "Miller's conclusion to the intriguing Rose Red Rapist storyline is picture perfect as she neatly wraps up multiple plotlines and brings justice to all the rapist's victims in this viscerally compelling tale."  Thanks, RT!

Until the book is released tomorrow, you can read an excerpt from YULETIDE PROTECTOR at

So what are your favorite holiday decorations?  Handmade treasures?  A certain collectible?  Lights?  Yard sculptures?  Big tree or small?  Real pine or artificial?  Are you more Clark Griswold and Tim the Tool Man Taylor when it comes to decorating for the holidays?  Or do you favor a simpler, more traditional decor?

Celebrate book #50 and the holidays with me.  Share your favorite holiday decorations from whatever holiday you celebrate.  I’ll give away a copy of YULETIDE PROTECTOR to one lucky poster. 

Thank you to all my readers!

Julie Miller

***LilSis is the winner for this contest! Please email with your mailing info!***

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Christina Hollis: Monkey See, Monkey Do, Choux...

Last week I had a real eureka moment, courtesy of the internet.
By Andrew Knowles
I learned to cook by watching my grandmother. In her day, women didn't work outside the home after marriage, so she went from creating dishes for aristocrats to catering for her own family on a fraction of the budget. When I was little, if I wanted to try making a recipe from one of her old books, it had to be something economical. One thing I always wanted to try but never did was choux pastry. Not only does it contain butter and eggs, it then gets filled with Chantilly cream or crème pâtissière and topped with  chocolate ganache. That was several extravagant steps too far for Gran!

Years later, once I’d left home, I tried making choux pastry.  It was an inedible disaster. I never got as far as experimenting with any classy fillings or toppings. Then the Great British Bake-Off started on TV and I decided to try again. I used the basic choux recipe from this Bake-Off challenge (I wasn’t mad enough to think I could construct religieuse, I just wanted to get the pastry part right!). The result was at least edible, but as DD said, they looked like “fried pinwheels”.  I adjusted the oven temperature, in case my oven wasn’t hot enough. Batch two was better, but still heavy and close textured so I gave up. Then OH reminded me that my home-made bread improved enormously after I watched Daniel Stevens baking on TV. Before that, I'd been following recipes to the letter but the texture of perfect dough was something I needed to see before I could get it exactly right. 

That sent me straight to YouTube, where I found this 101 on choux pastry...
and yes, there's a world of difference between following written instructions and actually watching someone work. I didn't use the quantities in the film, it was the consistency of the paste while cooking and when ready for piping that I needed to see. My next batch of choux pastry turned out perfectly, and was filled with crème pâtissière and topped with shiny chocolate ganache (though I still didn’t bother turning them into religieuse).  If only I’d been able to see Gran working with the right consistency of choux dough years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort.  

What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned online? There’s a signed book from my backlist for a comment drawn at random on Monday, 18th November.