Sunday, March 31, 2013

Madelyn Porter: Let the Wild Out (with contest)

Let the Wild Out is a paranormal erotic ménage contemporary romance. Heroine Rachel Dunne has a secret. One that will ensure her a seat on the shifter throne—a position of power she doesn’t want and a headache she doesn’t need. Thinking she’s safe from the shifter politics of the Old Country by living in America, she’s not expecting to come face to face with one of the clan chiefs in search of a mate. Only, with shifter royalty there’s a catch—one queen to two opposing clan chiefs. It’s hard enough fighting off the advances of one sizzling hot piece of alpha shifter man-flesh, but can she possibly resist two?

In this world, shifters naturally mate for life…usually just with one person. However, in an effort to maintain peace between the two shifter clans, a law was enacted that the two chiefs would share one queen equally. This sacrifice must be made or all ties between the clans would cease and war could again overtake them.

Overall, I love the way these three people make it work. It’s not just about the erotic (though that is fun and plenty in the book) but it’s about the relationships and making an impossible royal custom work in a modern day romance. Sharing goes against shifter nature, but that is what these two heroes are forced to do.

CONTEST: For a chance to win a copy of my first ebook, Warrior Women: Rite of Passion, comment on this blog post and tell me: Could you share your soul mate if it meant guaranteed world peace?

To learn more about me:

Friday, March 29, 2013

Kristina Douglas: The Fallen

So I’ve always loved paranormal romances.  One of the all time great ones, RESTOREE by Anne McCaffrey, sits on my keeper shelf in its original, dog-eared, seventy-five cent retail glory, along with a couple of later reprints just to make sure I never lose it.  (Same with her first two romantic suspense novels, but that’s a different story).  Her first dragon books were killer romances, and there were other classic ones, like THE SERPENT by Jane Gaskell, and … well, my brain fails me.  For a while gothics (which was the only alternative to very pure Harlequin boss-secretary, nurse-doctor romances) went a little paranormal, with devils turning up as the love interest (very tricky to carry off) but mostly we had time-travel as the only available paranormal romance.

Time-travel died a swift death, but then we got the new, angsty vampires and the bewitching shape-shifters.  (I used to dislike werewolves because it seemed kind of like fucking your dog until I realized you only did it when you were both the same species. Kelley Armstrong’s BITTEN changed my mind forever).  And I kept saying “let me write vampires.” The answer was always “no.”

Vampires were over.  I’d been told vampires were over for ten years until finally my agent said “vampires aren’t over – wanna try one?”

And man, did I ever.  By that time so many people had done them brilliantly I was hesitant, but I’d always had a thing for fallen angels, and I combined the two, thinking I was being brilliantly original, not knowing such things were in the universe, waiting to be born (like Sandra Hill’s Viking angel vampires, etc.)

There are great paranormal writers out there whom I strongly recommend.  My personal favorites are: Nalini Singh, Jeaniene Frost, Deborah Harkness, Kelley Armstrong, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Mollie Harper, Darynda Jones, and maybe half a dozen more.  I even love JR Ward despite her spelling issues.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been surrounded by such a richness of writers I’m dying to read.

I’m just hoping the tales of the Fallen can make the cut for you.

The final one, REBEL, is now out, and it’s somewhat of a departure from the others.  The first three had historically (or at least mythically) famous characters:  Raziel and Azazel from the first of the two hundred fallen angels according to the Book of Enoch, and the archangel Michael.  This time around it’s a rebel angel, an outcast among outcasts.  Cain has never played by the rules, no matter whose rules they were; he has a hidden agenda and more secrets than any human could possibly have.  He’s also angelically handsome and devilishly sexy.  His poor heroine, the uptight, widowed, erratically-psychic Martha, doesn’t stand a chance against him.  We have blistering dream sex, bone-melting real sex (I have a fondness for sex), lies and counter-lies until we come to a decent resolution: redemption and a happy ending for all those who deserve it.

In the meantime, enjoy Cain the rebel, the trickster, the sexiest blood-drinking angel who can break all the rules and find himself a reluctant hero anyway.  Martha’s a very good influence on him.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Louise Allen: Time Travelling to Regency London

I love writing historical romances (45 and counting!) and I love London and its history, so sending my characters to the city is my way of time travelling. I don't always set novels in London, or even England - I've been to India, Malta, the Caribbean, France, Italy and Spain in fiction - but somehow I keep coming back.

Some of the places my characters go to have long vanished. You have to listen hard to hear the faint echoes of the music and laughter floating out from Almack's Assembly Rooms as you walk past a Post-Modern office block on King Street. Shopping in Marks & Spencer's smaller Oxford Street branch it is hard to imagine you are on the same site as the Pantheon, home to the Cyprian's Balls, and the nearest you can get to Carlton House, the Prince Regent's fabulous London home, is to touch the pillars that were salvaged from it to form part of the front of the National Gallery.

Even so, there are parts of London where it is easy to sense the physical.

The St James's area is one of the best to begin exercising a time-travelling imagination. The Tudor palace at the bottom of St James's Street looks just as it does in a print I have of it 1815 and the street is lined with shops that go back two hundred years or more, some of them still in the same premises.

You can buy wine while admiring the scales Byron, Lady Hamilton and Beau Brummell were weighed on in Berry Bros. & Rudd, you can see the original order book for Lord Nelson's famous hat with its eye shade (Lock's the hatters) and dab authentic 19thc flower waters behind your ears in Roteley Harris's chemist shop.

As you stroll up St James's Street passing White's, Brook's and Boodle's clubs and you are within a few yards of Almack's, the location of Jane Austen's brother's bank and the lodging house where Beau Brummell's grandfather started the family on their social rise.

Jermyn Street runs off St James's Street and it was here, amongst the luxurious shops, that I located the Cabinet of Curiosity, a shop owned by the heroine of my next novel, due in May, Tarnished Amongst the Ton (Harlequin  Mills & Boon). Phyllida Hurst has a shady past and lives with her brother just around the corner in Great Ryder Street. (I'm not sure how I escape being reported to the police as a suspicious character as I poke about studying likely houses and making notes to make certain I have just the right locations!) Ashe Herriard, Viscount Clere, has just reached England from India and resides in fashionable Mayfair and I enjoyed finding them locations to meet, from the squalor of the London riverside just past St Paul's to elegant Green Park, on the western side of St James's. The print is from Ackermann's Repository and shows Green Park in 1810, looking towards the towers of Westminster Abbey. The reservoir or 'Bason' in the foreground has long been filled in.

From my researches and explorations I have produced two books of Walks - Walks Through Regency London  and Walking Jane Austen's London, which is out in July from Shire Publications. I also blog about late Georgian and Regency London at

I'm giving away a copy of Walks Through Regency London plus one of Tarnished Amongst the Ton - I'd love to hear where you would like to time-travel to in Regency London!

***Louise's winner is Beth Elliott!  Please contact with your mailing address!***

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Sizzle and Snap of Anticipation by Fiona Lowe

Oh, the sizzle and snap of anticipation! I love it. So much of the enjoyment of an event is in the anticipation. Right now I'm planning a vacation in France and oh, the bubbles of anticipation as we discuss where we might go and what we might see and do, and where we will stay. So far we've planned six nights in Paris and one week cycling tour in  Midi-Pyrénées commencing in Toulouse.

Easter is around the corner and tonight both my sons will be back home for a week. Am I excited about that? You bet! I'm planning their favourite meals, trips to the comedy festival and all sorts of fun things.

Carina Press just ramped up my anticipation and excitement about my Wedding Fever trilogy series by releasing this book trailer. Dare I confess to you how many times I have watched this baby? I get the jitters every time I see it.

Some early reviews for Saved By The Bride are very positive, adding to my anticipation about it's launch on April 15th.

Do you have the snap, crackle and pop of anticipation for anything at the moment? I'd love to hear about it!

Fiona Lowe is a RITA® and R*BY award-winning, multi-published author with Harlequin and Carina Press. Whether her books are set in outback Australia or in the mid-west of the USA, they feature small towns with big hearts, and warm, likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she's not writing stories, she's a weekend wife, mother of two 'ginger' teenage boys, guardian of 80 rose bushes and often found collapsed on the couch with wine. You can find her at her websitefacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Amanda Bonilla: The Cartoon Learning Curve

Thanks so much to Tote Bags ‘n Blogs for having me as a guest today!

My sixteen year-old never ceases to amaze me. He’s one of those kids who, when he puts his mind to something, he does it. When he was around five years old, I dubbed his can-do attitude, The Cartoon Learning Curve. Do you remember the Looney Tunes cartoons with the roadrunner and coyote? He’d take off, full tilt after that damned bird (who, for the record, I find infuriating) and end up running right off the edge of a cliff. And he’d just keep going until he looked down and realized that he wasn’t on solid ground anymore. This was inevitably followed up with an epic fall for thousands of feet, and a lovely mushroom cloud of dust. Poor Coyote. If he hadn’t looked down, he might have just kept on running until he reached the other side of the canyon, thereby saving himself a nasty fall.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the teen… When he was five years old, we took him to a local hot springs. The pool started off around three feet deep and was somewhere around 15 feet at the deep end. He’d wade around in the shallow water, watching as his sister swam off toward the deeper water. “Mom, do you think I could swim?” he asked. “I don’t know, kiddo,” I answered. What do you think?” He thought it over for a bit and said, “Well, I’ve never tried before.” He took a deep breath, dove under the water and swam off. No joke. He didn’t once entertain the idea that he couldn’t swim, therefore, it wasn’t an option. He swam all over the pool that night without a single lesson. The kid can swim like a fish.

See? Cartoon Learning Curve. He didn’t look down, so he didn’t realize there was no longer solid ground beneath his feet. Over the years, he’s taught himself to ride a bike, ice skate, break dance, and play piano. He also dabbles in parkour and I’ve cringed a few times as I’ve watched him run up walls or perch on top of our shed. No doubt. No fear.

Whereas the teen possesses a very dangerous sense of confidence that, honestly, makes me wonder how we’ve avoided the emergency room all of these years, doubt is an essential element in any story arc. Doubt is a very powerful thing. It causes us to hesitate, to look down, to falter for that one pivotal moment. Doubt is the story element that pushes our heroes and heroines toward a bad decision. It’s what shakes up the story line, throws a monkey wrench into well-thought out plans, and disrupts the course of a blooming romance. Without doubt, there’d be no obstacles to overcome, no trust to be gained, and no happy ending to be achieved.

 This overconfidence, while dangerous, is a quality we look for in not just a hero and heroine, but in a protagonist or villain as well. The bad guy is always overconfident. He has no doubt that his nefarious plans will come to fruition, and so he runs right of the edge of that cliff with no thought to the laws of gravity. The villain’s utter conviction is what propels the story, keeps the conflict going at a steady pace, and engages the hero to become that monkey wrench that causes the villain to look down and find himself standing on thin air.
I often wonder what the world would be like if we all used the Cartoon Learning Curve. What if we went into every situation with the absolute belief that we’d be successful simply because there was no other option? I’d like to think that we’d all run on thin air, across the canyon, to the other side.

What do you think? Do you like overconfidence in a hero or heroine, or do you like for them to doubt? What about your villains? Do you enjoy watching them run off the edge of the cliff without ever doubting they’ll make it to the other side? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Crave the Darkness (USA & Canada residents only!).

***Amanda's winner is Barbara E!  Please email with your mailing details!***

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wendy Wax: Immediate Gratification and Downton Abbey

Like more than seven million other Americans I’m in love with the wildly popular BBC/PBS drama Downton Abbey. Because of it I only left my house on Sunday nights under duress during the season and learned how to master my DVR for those rare occasions when I had no choice. I own all three seasons on DVD and have been known to ‘retire’ to the TV room for the occasional fix. So it’s probably not all that surprising that the series – and especially its fans -- found their way into my writing.

WHILE WE WERE WATCHING DOWNTON ABBEY, out on April 2nd is a story about four strangers – three women and their historic building’s British concierge --who are brought together by Downton Abbey viewing parties and who forge unexpected bonds of friendship that see them through some of life’s hardest moments. 

The book is dedicated to Julian Fellowes with thanks for creating such an incredible show, though I haven’t completely forgiven him for all the tears I shed this season. The writing, acting, costumes and magnificent setting always leave me wanting more.

One day it dawned on me that as unbelievably sumptuous as everything at Downton during the Edwardian era seems, it’s probably a good thing that I’m viewing it on a television screen. Living in that place and time could be painful for someone as into immediate gratification as I am and could, in fact, require way more patience than most of us possess.

Upstairs in your elegant boudoir when you realize you’re thirsty you would have to pull on a  cord and wait for someone below stairs to respond to a bell that is well, downstairs.

Once it’s heard and the correct servant located, that servant would start making their way up numerous floors to see what it is you might require. There is no intercom to let them know what to bring with them, and I’m fairly certain that shouting your request down multiple flights of stairs would be frowned upon. Once the servant reaches you and you tell them that you would like something to drink, you’d have to wait for them to go below stairs to retrieve it. This could take a while.

Communicating with people outside of Downton wouldn’t be that easy either.

The telephone was invented in the late 1870s. On Downton Abbey one is installed at the end of season one (roughly 1914) and it’s possible that Carson, the butler, is still practicing how best to answer the newfangled device.

By my reckoning, and math is not my strong suit, the series will have to span another eighty years or so before the cell phone, which most of us are not at all interested in living without, comes into regular use. If you’re living in or visiting Downton before then, you would not be texting the housekeeper Mrs. Hughes that you’d like a spot of tea. Or instant messaging Daisy to come up and stoke your fire. Nor would you be pinning photos of the clothing, furnishings and objet d’arts to Pinterest.

You would be ringing the bell I mentioned earlier. The one that someone will have to hear and then respond to. The one that’s, well, below stairs.

There are a lot of things that you would do less often and wait for longer.

For example, it’s unlikely that you’d be popping down to the kitchens to raid the refrigerator whenever you felt a bit peckish, which could, of course, be good for the waistline. And dinner! Sitting down for dinner with the family might not work out so well for those of us who would rather hit a drive-through than assemble in the formal dining room for the elaborate meals cooked and then served to us by the staff.  

Ready to retire? You’ll have to wait for someone to help you undress.

Want to bathe? Ring the bell. Then wait for someone to come up and draw your bath for you. (And just hope it’s not O’Brien with an axe to grind.)

Would you like breakfast in bed?  At Downton, if you’re a woman of this era, you’ll have to get married first. Based on the episodes I’ve seen so far this could take a while. Especially if you’re Lady Mary or Lady Edith -- though for very different reasons.

As much as I’m looking forward to getting my Downton on again on Sunday nights, I no longer think I have the patience required to actually live in that slower, more elegant time. I’m not even completely positive that I can wait for season 4 to air here next January without succumbing to reading the spoilers that seem to be all over the Internet. At least not until I get a little better at delayed gratification!

Note: If you’re a Downton Abbey fan like I am and would like to ‘go back’ for just a visit, go to  to enter for a chance to win a trip to England and a tour of Highclere Castle (where you will not be required to turn in your cell phone or ring bells for attention.)    

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Erica Hayes: The Voice of 'Hell Yeah!'

Thanks for inviting me back to Tote Bags 'n' Blogs. It's always lovely to come here!

Last time I posted, I spoke about the Voice of Doubt. You know, that person inside your head who tells you no. Who scares you away from chasing your dreams, because it's hard or risky or you might offend someone!

Well, today I'd like to talk about the Voice of Hell Yeah! Usually not an inner voice, mind you. I'm kind of my own worst motivational enemy. No, this voice often pops up in the shape of other people. The ones who encourage me, support me, tell me, yes, you can do it!

My husband is one. Actually, he's more like the Voice of I Told You So. He has so much faith in me it's ridiculous. He's Mr. Confused when I express surprise that something went well. "Well, of course you succeeded!" he'll say, looking at me like I've got three heads. "What else did you think would happen?"

My writing critique partners, too. They know me well enough not to butter me up – if my story has a problem, they'll say so, or it'll be DOOM for them, bwahaha! – but they are embarrassingly confident of my success. And they're always available for a quick 'you're awesome' when I need it. I hope I do the same for them. It's important to have an honest cheer squad.

Supportive characters are fun to write, too! As romance authors, we're all about putting our heroes and heroines through the wringer. So the least we can do is give them a best buddy, who can talk them down from the edge when the going gets unbearable.

I think that's one reason why the 'band of brothers' is such a popular trope in romance series, like my Seven Signs books. It gives our tough, gorgeous heroes someone to just hang out with. Japheth, my fallen angel hero in Redemption, has a 'best friend' in his fellow angel warrior Dashiel. Dash cheers him up when he's down, makes fun of him when he's taking himself too seriously, and – most importantly – calls him on his self-denial. Because, y'know. Japheth's a frosty fallen angel warrior with a fiery heart, who's trying to be sinless. He's positively drowning in self-denial.

Lastly, but by no means least: some of my best Voices of Hell Yeah! are readers. You guys are great. Many times I've received an impromptu cyberhug from someone who messaged me to say 'loved your book!' – and it always seems to happen right when I need it most.

These are priceless moments. We should treasure them, wrap them carefully, store them away to remember on those days when it all seems too hard.

Thanks for having me on Tote Bags 'n' Blogs! I'm giving away a paperback copy of Redemption. You can check it out on my website, and read an excerpt:

For a chance to win, leave a comment here and tell me: Who are the people in your life who encourage and support you?

Erica Hayes was a law student, an air force officer, an editorial assistant and a musician, before finally landing her dream job: fantasy and romance writer.
She writes dark paranormal and urban fantasy romance, and her books feature tough, smart heroines and colourful heroes with dark secrets. She hails from Australia, where she drifts from city to city, leaving a trail of chaos behind her. Currently, she's terrorizing the wilds of Northumberland.

***Erica's winner is Pat Cochran!  Please email with your mailing details.***

Friday, March 22, 2013

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Another year another book signing tour.

I look upon these tours as a mixed blessing. I love meeting readers, I love traveling -- and this year my husband is coming with me which makes everything better. It's just that the meeting readers and the traveling is very . . . concentrated. By the last stop (happily a local stop) I'll be barely coherent and having difficulty remembering how to spell my name.

But it means that Frost Burned is out. I am very happy with this book (I am always happy with my book or it wouldn't be coming out). This is my thriller story -- a thriller with werewolves and vampires. There are some new people in Frost Burned and some familiar friends (and enemies) who haven't been on the menu for a while. We find out a little more about how Mercy's powers work and some things that she won't ever try again. I also got to write two chapters from Adam's point of view--which was way fun.

Hopefully you'll enjoy my little tale, and after I get back from the tour I'll be hard at it, playing with my imaginary friends.

Good reading,
Patty (Patricia) Briggs

Frost Burned
Mercy Thompson returns in the seventh novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.
Mercy Thompson’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman—the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack—has made her a stepmother to his daughter Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more…
After an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.
Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related—and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Paula Altenburg: Perks of Being A Writer

People often ask me what it’s like to be a writer, and I always tell them it’s not much different than any other job I’ve had.  I have office hours I try to maintain, deadlines I have to meet, and paperwork that has to be done. There are tasks I hate and ones I love. Even though I now manage a staff of one, motivation is still an issue. There are days I don’t want to go to work either, but the very act of dragging myself to the computer and forcing me to sit there almost always results in something being accomplished. I set daily and weekly goals, just as I did when I went to work for someone else.

But there are perks to self employment and being a writer.

1. As well as writing I also do the bookkeeping for my husband’s business, and this is tax time. I love how it coincides with the release date for The Demon’s Daughter.  There’s nothing that can suck the joy out of a sense of creative accomplishment like preparing year end financial statements and giving away hard-earned money.
I’m sure you’re wondering why that’s a perk.  Yesterday, I fed a Revenue Canada tax auditor and three elected, money-wasting government officials to demons.  Their deaths were messy, horrifying, and immensely satisfying, but also fictional and in no way personal.  I’m a writer, not a sociopath—although the line can be a fine one some days.

2. I can work anywhere. We live on a major river in rural Nova Scotia and my husband made me a fabulous place to work in our backyard.  
My outdoor office
Now I can sit in my outdoor office in the summer and watch eagles flying overhead. The deer come right to our deck. I’m not as crazy about the coyotes, but they’re still fun to see.
In the winter I can sit in my indoor office or take my laptop and a warm blanket to the living room and put my feet up.
I also spent three weeks in the Turks and Caicos in November with my sister, who was living there. I wrote for two weeks and then took one week for vacation. Not a bad deal at all, considering that gave me three full weeks of evenings in the Caribbean.
And evenings in the Caribbean are sweet. 
Me on the left, with my sister
I would never have been able to take advantage of that opportunity when I worked in an office for someone else.

3. I can work in my pajamas, or even in bed. This is both a perk and a downside. I have a terrible preoccupation with deadlines and commitment. If I’ve told somebody I’m going to deliver something on a certain day, I’m going to deliver it. When I went to an office I always felt horribly guilty about sick days. Now I can get work done even when I don’t feel well, and that makes me feel better. On the downside, it doesn’t take much to convince me I don’t feel well enough to get out of my pajamas.
*Cough, cough.*

4. For the most part, I set my own goals. Writers need phenomenal time management skills because they usually have several projects on the go, with a number of different tasks attached to them. When I sign a contract, I negotiate delivery dates based on what I believe I can realistically achieve, not on what I see other people achieving. There needs to be a bit of a challenge to it, though. Nothing helps me meet a deadline better than unadulterated panic.

5. I’m not sure everyone who isn’t a writer realizes this, but writing is hard work! I love the sense of achievement I get from doing the work myself, particularly when it’s not something I’m especially good at. The harder it is for me to do, the more I enjoy it when it’s done. I volunteer to do workshops for my local RWA chapter when I have a problem with my writing. Presenting it as a workshop forces me to look at every aspect of the problem and analyze it, then put together a coherent solution that sticks with me better.

6. I really enjoy the teamwork.  This may seem kind of odd considering I’m talking about the perks of self employment and writing, but I’m delivering a product. I work with other writers who are often first readers, and they’re the first point of contact for social media marketing efforts. I work with an agent, editors, and the publishers’ publicity departments. Understanding that everyone has a viewpoint that needs to be respected is important. While I own responsibility for my product, and the biggest reason to see it succeed, no one wants it to fail. My editors don’t spend hours going over my manuscripts and offering constructive advice so they can have a laugh over the terrible reviews later.  Writers (and publicists) don’t want to share links to my books so their own readers (and clients) can question their taste.

I especially enjoyed all the teamwork involved in writing The Demon’s Daughter, the first book in the Demon Outlaws trilogy, coming March 26th from Entangled Publishing. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.

So I guess I can add “excited anticipation” as one of the perks.

I’m curious to hear about other people’s work. Life is short. We should all get personal satisfaction from it. Are you a writer? Something else? Do you love it, whatever it is?

Paula Altenburg lives in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and two sons. Once a manager in the aerospace industry, she now enjoys the freedom of working from home and writing fulltime. Paula also co-authors paranormal romance under the pseudonym Taylor Keating.  Visit her at, on Twitter @PaulaAltenburg, and on Facebook

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Follow Your Nose! by Jenny Gardiner

Things are getting pretty ripe around our household, and not necessarily in a bad way. At least not yet; talk to me come July when the neighbors start banging on my door in protest and I might have to rethink that supposition.

But for now, what's ripening is our brand new compost pile.

Now, my all-about-sustainability locavore-embracing son has been working on persuading us to compost for ages. But I've been decidedly compost-averse with good reasons, including stench, snakes and fruit flies…

The stench concept seems obvious. Ask any mortician: decomposition usually doesn't smell pleasing. Enough said. Though my son argues that if managed correctly a compost pile will not smell offensive. Alas, failing to obtain a degree in chemical engineering leaves me at a distinct disadvantage in trying to avoid said stench.

And the snakes? Well, I learned once of a friend's compost pile housing a nest of copperheads, which was enough to convince me composting wasn't going to be high on my to-do list. I'd rather not have do-gooding land me in the hospital, thanks. And I think you all know about my war with fruit flies that triggered an obsessive-compulsive need to kill about a thousand of the things a day a few years back. After that experience, I've worked assiduously to avoid any lifestyle behaviors that might invite the pests back unwittingly.

I suspect the biggest obstacle to my embracing composting was my introduction to it, a quarter century ago, when we visited distant relatives in Seattle. Of course Seattle has long been ahead of the curve with all sorts of great things (Starbucks, Microsoft or Amazon ring a bell?), and it's always been a very green area of the world (quite literally, thanks to a ubiquitous drizzly mist for three-quarters of the year).

It was early September, and our host (we'll call her Jane) — wife of a retired military officer and regimented to a fault — insisted we dump much of our leftovers (and there shouldn't have been any, as we oughtn't have wasted a thing!) into a countertop Chock Full of Nuts coffee can dedicated to collection of such spoils, bound for a compost mound out back. It's likely my aversion to composting was tied to the fact that Jane didn't cotton to food waste. The stale donut and overripe banana I failed to ingest for breakfast one morning made a command performance appearance on my plate the following day. I soon learned to hide (and not compost) what inedible food I wasn't planning to eat.

Now Jane was an award-winning gardener — she even had azaleas named after her — and she knew of good soil. So composting no doubt was second nature for her. And her garden was spectacular, so I could appreciate the cause and effect on some level.

But the sum total of my experience with her compost was a smelly tin can with a swarm of fruit flies that when not lingering by the rank vat of rotting garbage, swarmed our heads instead. I was unimpressed. And took note that even they had no interest in my stale donut with the bite taken out of it from the previous day's breakfast. Suffice it to say I wasn't sold on the glories of composting after that trip.

However my family recently undertook a vegan juice fast (sadly I lasted all of 12 hours, though the rest toughed it out for days), and we were shocked at the waste generated by juicing vegetables. Honestly the aroma of vegetable pulp soon churned my stomach and scarred me for life, being that I'm not a veggie lover to begin with.

Nevertheless, it made imminent sense to do something useful with all this green-and-orange muck spewing out of the juicer all day and night. Cue my son, fresh out of four years of college focusing on sustainability and green living and ultimately as the director of sustainability for the student government at a major university.

He was all over the idea of composting and had tried once before to get us to green-up a bit, but we didn't have it set up properly to manage the system. But this time he was prepared to construct a compost bin and figure out the best way to ensure the organic matter broke down properly. He spent a week building an impressively-designed segmented structure into which compost is dumped, and then ostensibly shifted during various stages of decomposition (I have yet to see that happen).

Where to put the unsightly plywood bin was a challenge: we didn't want it to be too close to the neighbors, but also it couldn't be so far away to make it impractical to use it. We opted for an area to the side of the house that sees little activity, in the hopes the thing will remain unnoticed.

Now I do get that it's winter. And come summer, there might be a stench of week-old cadavers wafting from our spiffy new composting bin. We might have neighbors converging on our home with torches and pitchforks (and not to make off with rich compost for their gardens). And I know the fruit flies have gone south for the winter (or whatever it is those things do when they're not annoying the hell out of me). So we may abandon this great green venture come a drastic uptick in temperature.

I did, however, discover a flaw in the system — no lid — when I found the remains of a very old apple that had been dumped into the bin last week, with cute little evenly-spaced teeth marks rounding the circumference of the fruit. It appears possums, or raccoons, or some type of critter, have found the pile and are oblivious to its disgustingness. Must figure out how to keep them from having a field day in there.

But for now, it's pretty amazing how much we've cut back our trash — I'd say by 75%. That's incredible, if you ask me. Imagine how much less full our landfills could be were more people to compost. Right now, it seems relatively easy to do. I'll get back to you in four months, though. But for now, I'm not minding this green effort too much.

Next on my son's agenda? A chicken coop, with an accompanying brood of chickens. The good news is I'm pretty sure chickens are verboten around my neighborhood. As much as I appreciate a freshly-laid egg, I can barely keep up with the compost pile; I can only imagine trying to keep those things alive and fed. But looking on the bright side, at least they wouldn't come with a ready-made copperhead nest.

Jenny Gardiner is hoping you won't soon be able to follow your nose to her home. You can find her digital home at
Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Slim to None

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

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

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

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

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

Naked Man On Main Street
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 find me on my website

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shana Galen: Celebrate!

My first book, When Dashing Met Danger, was published in 2005. That day was everything I thought it would be. My then-boyfriend (now husband) took me to dinner, brought me flowers, and accompanied me to the bookstore to see it on the shelves. My friends and family called and emailed to congratulate me, and I basically spent the day basking in the glow of my accomplishment.

My thirteenth book, If You Give a Rake a Ruby, released this month, and the experience was a little different. My husband did take me to dinner, but my three-year-old daughter came along and whined throughout the meal because we didn’t go to Souper Salad, which is her favorite restaurant. I didn’t get any congratulatory phone calls from friends or family, although plenty of readers on Twitter and Facebook sent me “happy book birthday” messages. We didn’t have Twitter and Facebook back in 2005, but even if we had, I don’t think anyone but my mom and my BFF would have friended me!

Oh, and the biggest difference between my first release and number thirteen is that I did not do any basking. I did laundry, dishes, cooked, took my daughter to Transportation Day at her pre-school, and convinced her to watch “Dinosaur Train” for an hour so I could work on the book due April 1.

What happened????

I guess every author reaches this point in their career—the point where everyone just expects you to have a new book out. It’s still exciting and novel to me, but to friends and family, it’s a job. And maybe that’s the real thing to celebrate. Because back when I celebrated the release of my first book, I wasn’t celebrating the debut of one book, but the debut of what I hoped would be a career.

That said, I am excited about If You Give a Rake a Ruby. You can read an excerpt and find out more information here []. I’m giving away a copy of the first book in the Jewels of the Ton series, When You Give a Duke a Diamond. Let me know what you celebrated recently or maybe what celebrations you have coming.

***Shana's winner is TashNZ!  Please email with your mailing address!***

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tina Leonard: Falling In Love

Falling in love--either the most wonderful thing or the most heart-breaking thing you ever experienced--or both.  You're never sure which way it's going to go, and therein lies the story.  There's no good road map for falling in love--right time, right person--it's a random procession of mental and emotional encounters that exhilarate and scare both sides.  Sometimes it's so easy; other times the romance is harder than hard.

It's not any easier in a romance novel, except that the happy ending is guaranteed--after all the jarring, exasperating potholes in the road!   

For Sugar Cassavechia, the happy endings have not been forthcoming lately.  Nothing seems to be working out for Sugar, her mother, Maggie, and her younger sister, Lucy.  Now they're throwing caution to the wind, and starting over in Texas selling pecans online.  The problem is that the treasured family recipe has been lost, though mother Maggie is doing her best to remember it.  They picked up a stray dog who was down on her luck in Opelousas, Louisiana, and worse, the house they rented in Texas is a hot mess of sexual allure, a love shack straight from the pages of bygone Hollywood.

Maybe, just maybe, the road Sugar and her family are traveling isn't paved with gold but Charlie Brown-style rocks and potholes.  And then Jake "J.T." Bentley, the landlord who leased them the love shack over the internet, shows up to meet the new tenants, and for the first time, Sugar wonders if sex in a small town might be exactly what's needed to change her luck.  

HOTTER THAN TEXAS excerpt, Tina Leonard, e-book Release Date 3/19/13, Available for Pre-Order Now!

Twenty minutes later, Jake had driven by his house, grabbed a six pack of beer and a bag of chocolate chip cookies—comfort food—and headed down the road to the creek. He had to think, and the only place he could think in peace and quiet without Kel’s issues or his mother’s fixation with the Hot Nuts, or Averie wanting to relive their relationship, was his private hideaway.
He passed Sugar and Paris walking down the road, looking like she might be heading into town. “Don’t do this,” he told himself and backed up his truck.
“Hey,” he said, and she smiled at him.
Just her smile made his muscles relax. He hadn’t realized how tense he was until he breathed out at the sight of her. “Where are you two ladies off to?” “We’re heading into town. We’re going to get a new dog bowl and a bag of dog treats.”
He looked at Paris, the world’s most spoiled dog now, and her beautiful red-haired mother. Paris had on an autumn-leaf-themed kerchief around her neck. Sugar wore capri jeans and a green top that showed just a bit of her waist, and he wanted to sit and stare at her all afternoon.
“Where are you going?” Sugar asked.
“Just going to head off for a bit.”
“Oh.” Sugar smiled. “Have fun.” She started walking again, and he watched her fanny move from side to side in the tight jeans, and groaned.
She was dynamite in his world, capable of blowing his heart to bits. He knew that now, but he wasn’t entirely sure it mattered.
He pulled his truck up beside her, and she and Paris stopped again. Sugar looked at him, a question in her eyes.
“I’m going to take the canoe out.”
She nodded. “Good.”
“You know, I—”
“Jake. I get it. You don’t have to explain anything to me. This is one of those times where you need to get away. You have your ways, just like Lassiter.”
He looked at her. “I guess so. Never thought about it that way before, but—” “Anyway, you don’t have to tell me every time you breathe, Jake.” Sugar
smiled at him, and his heart dropped. “I’ve got to go. I promised Paris treats, and I keep my word.”
He nodded, and she went on down the road.
He let the truck idle, a feeling of discontentment stirring inside him. The problem was, he shouldn’t have told her—anyone—he was going to his private hangout. It sort of ruined the effect of going off to work things out.
What had really ruined it was Sugar saying she understood that he had his ways. He hadn’t known he had “a way” until she’d said that.
He wasn’t really like Lassiter. He didn’t do private benders. Just a six pack alone with his thoughts.
He didn’t really want to be alone with his thoughts. He wanted to be alone with her.
“Hey,” he said, pulling up alongside Sugar again, “would Paris consider a trip to the creek a treat?”
Sugar looked at him but didn’t stop walking, forcing him to slowly edge the truck forward to keep up with her. “She probably would. But she has to decline your invitation. She has social calls in town to make.”
“The invitation was for both of you.”
Sugar smiled. “Thank you. But we have other engagements.” She peeked over the window at his stash. “Is that your picnic?”
“Yeah. Beer and chocolate chip cookies.”
“Ew.” Sugar resumed walking. “Whatever floats your boat.”
Sugar rewarded him with a smile.
“Get in,” he said, “both of you.”
“No,” she said, “I’m not the kind of girl to intrude on a man’s cave time. And Paris definitely isn’t. Well, she is, she’s an attention drain, but I’m bribing her with treats so she says maybe another time, thanks.”
He grinned listening to her create a story for Paris. Sugar could not be the horrible person his mother’s investigator seemed to think she was. He knew it wasn’t possible, because until he’d met Sugar, he hadn’t known how happy he could be with a woman.
Jake got out of the truck and stood in the road. Sugar turned around. “What are you doing?”
“Either you go with me, or I’m going with you.”
“But what about your ways?”
He walked up to her, kissing her until she rose up on her toes and put her arms around his neck. “I’m trying to find a new way,” Jake said against her lips. “You coming?”
“I have to take Paris back home.” “Why can’t she come?”
“In your canoe?”
She looked adorably concerned. “Yeah,” Jake said. “And we’ll stop in town first to get her treat, because if there’s one thing I can’t bear, it’s doggie disappointment. We’ll also pick up something for you to toss in the cooler that goes better with beer.”
“If you’re sure.”
He led her to the truck. Paris got in the middle with a big doggie grin, and Sugar laughed, making him smile.
He’d never been more sure of anything in his life. 

I'm giving away a $25 Amazon e-certificate to one winner who posts on the blog!

***Tina's winner is April!  Please email with your mailing address!***