Week #12 of Medieval Monday: Ashley York’s The Gentle Knight

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Today’s final feature of Medieval Monday spotlights Ashley York’s The Gentle Knight. Can a knight who’s sworn off love escort a lovely Irish maiden to a nunnery, where she’s to begin her new life as a nun? Or will this couple choose to rewrite their destiny . . . together?

Ashley York cover

BLURB: A medieval soldier returns home to find his lover died in childbirth just as his own mother had. Believing he is cursed, Peter of Normandy turns from love. When he must give escort to an Irish princess more noble than many knights, he struggles with his decision to live a solitary life. Can he take the chance that his love won’t be a death sentence and possibly make them stronger?

Padraig MacNaughton’s death bed decree rips his daughter, Brighit, from the shelter of her protective clan in Ireland. Forced to take vows at a Priory in England, she finds herself in the hands of lecherous mercenaries with their own agendas. Dare she trust the Norman knight to see her safely to her new life as a nun? Even when she finds in him the fulfillment of all she’s ever wanted?

Or will honor and duty eclipse their one chance for happiness?

EXCERPT:

She had dreamed of him! All at once it came to her. He had taken her into his strong arms and held her tight against that hard body. Every muscle pressing into her. Then the touch of his warm lips sliding along her cheek to meet her mouth with a hungry kiss. Brighit had actually felt his lips on hers and that same heat swirled through her now.

She sighed. Yes. It was a very nice dream.

The shock of cold air accompanied with the sound of the curtain being dragged back had her eyes flying open. There in front of her was the man from the lake… the one in her very real dream. In the flash of a second, his eyes changed from wide with shock to a look she’d swear spoke of pleasure.

“And what is this?” He tipped his chin toward her, a knowing smile gracing his pleasing face.

Brighit covered herself. One arm across her breasts and one hand over her private parts. She felt like Eve posing in the Garden of Eden.

The sudden silence stole her breath away. She refused to confirm it but knew all eyes were on her.

“Do you mind?” Ivan’s voice cut through the awkward moment as he stood next to the carriage. He yanked the curtain from the fine-looking man’s hand, dropping it back in place. Brighit was again cocooned in darkness.

“Yours?” The man’s voice was low, resonating through her core. It was as appealing as his body.

She took a steadying breath, trying to calm her nerves enough to cover herself. She couldn’t have done a better job of calling attention to herself if she’d tried.

Just how many men were out there? How many men had seen her without so much as a stitch of clothing? She yanked the chemise down but it refused to cooperate. The sopping material bunched at her hips. She grabbed at her gown, her hands shaking with the rage coursing inside her.

That now familiar sound of fist-against-flesh cut through the silence.

An unfamiliar laugh. His laugh. A slight tremor responded through her insides.

“Mort,” the handsome man called to someone.

The indistinct image of a shorter man with a gaping mouth came to mind. “Yes, my lord?”

“I believe this man was about to take a terrible misstep with his fist. Does it seem to you these men have a certain…lack of knowledge?” he asked.

What arrogance!

Ivan’s angry face came to mind. She shivered. The handsome man did not know who he was dealing with.

“I would say that it does.” The shorter man was closer now.

“Mayhap some learning is required?”

“Do you believe it’s possible, my lord? Are they trainable?”

“They have a naked woman in a carriage while they fight out here over who will get her.”

She gasped, a soundless intake of air. Like a standard being dropped, the men talked at once. Tears threatened and a few leaked down her cheek. She wiped them away. She was only trying to clean herself not be fought over. Who was he to say such cruel things about her?

The morning had started out so promising. They’d had a nice time breaking their fast with very little interaction at all. Cole’s offer of extra water had come as a surprise but not one she wanted to miss.

Sudden silence. Brighit held her breath.

“And what would your name be?”

“I am called Ivan.”

“And this…young lady?”

This was just getting worse and worse. His words fairly dripped derision.

“Brighit.” She answered for herself albeit through a clenched jaw from within the carriage.

“Ireland? You’ve taken her from Ireland?”

Brighit was surprised at his ability to name where she’d come from. She wished she were still there… any place but here. This was infuriating. She could not go out there now. They may have imagined her naked and their occasional lustful glances assured her that they did. But to have them actually see her was beyond embarrassment. Embarrassment only increased by the fact that at least two of them weren’t even known to her.

“That I have.” Ivan’s smug voice drifted to her.

Whoreson!

“Please clothe yourself forthwith.”

He must be facing her now for he sounded very close. A warmth tingled up her spine. No! His voice may be low and quiet but there was nothing intimate about this situation. She struggled with the ties up the front of her dress.

“It’s what I’ve been trying to do.” Her irritation came through in her tone of voice. Good!

“And I wonder why you have not been successful thus far.” He had the nerve to sound irritated? “Just do it… and be quick about it.”

Arrogance oozed from the man!

“Yes, my lord.” She clipped her words, struggling with her wimple, and hoped her sarcasm carried through the curtain.

“Hurry up.”

“I am hurrying!” Her thick hair refused to cooperate but she was not about to go out there with so much as a single strand visible.

The man cleared his throat. Brighit would like to take a knife to it. He may be pleasant to look at but his manners lacked even the slightest courtesy.

***

Buy links:   Apple    Kobo    Amazon    Barnes and Noble

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Week #11 of Medieval Monday: Cathy MacRae’s The Highlander’s Outlaw Bride

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A strong woman who stands up for her family. A man who’s been robbed and betrayed by his own family. Can these two find happiness—and love—together? Today’s Medieval Monday feature is Cathy MacRae’s The Highlander’s Outlaw Bride.

Cathy Macrae cover

Blurb:

Thrust into the role of laird upon his father’s unexpected death, Connor MacLaurey returns home to find his cousin has usurped his lands and title. Furthermore, his betrothed–a lass he barely knows and certainly did not agree to marry–is hunted by the sheriff, accused of stealing cattle. His plan is to petition the king for clemency for the foolish chit, break the betrothal, and take his castle back from his treacherous cousin. Marriage is not in his plans.

Brianna Douglas has no desire for marriage. Widowed young, berated daily for failing to give her first husband a child, and sent home in subsequent disgrace, she devotes her life to holding her family’s land for her young brother as their sotted father drowns his sorrow in whisky over her mother’s death. Raiders have hit her clan hard, and to save them, she finds herself betrothed to Laird MacLaurey’s absent son to seal a pact of protection with the MacLaurey clan.

Forced into a marriage neither wants, it will take a king’s edict and sacrifice from both to discover what love means. But can they accept their losses and learn from their mistakes before Brianna marries another?

Excerpt:

Her step quickened and she fled the room to the stairway leading to her chamber. An iron grip on her arm yanked her to a stop and she whirled to face him, his expression black with fury.

“Let go of me!” she hissed angrily.

Conn released her arm, but did not move away. “What do ye think ye are about? Are ye dead set on being hanged?”

“The king pardoned me.”

“Aye, for reiving. Disobedience to the king is treason and will also get ye hanged.”

Brianna eyed him narrowly, unable to quell her toe as it tapped the stone floor impatiently. “I dinnae want to marry.”

“Well, there will be none to wed ye from the gallows.” He loomed over her, his expression darker still. “And I could have refused ye for yer lack of respect.”

“Lack of respect? I said naught that is not on any other’s tongue, m’laird.”

“Ye know naught of me or my past year in France.”

“Enough to know I dinnae want to be shackled to a skirt-chaser like yerself. I dinnae want such disrespect in my marriage, either!”

Conn exhaled a long breath. “Why are ye so against this marriage?”

“Are ye daft? What is there to recommend it?”

“The reivers—“

“Have stripped my clan of their wealth.”

“Yer dowry is of no importance to me. However, I do find myself in need of an heir.”

Furious, Brianna tossed her head. “Ye would do better to find a woman ye know will give ye one. I have no desire to be that woman.”

“Is that so?” The soft tone of his voice did not match the fire she saw in his eyes. She shook off the frisson of longing before it woke the passion his voice ignited in her, and did not flinch as she spoke the lie.

“Aye.”

Buy link: http://www.amzn.com/B00UD9JMBQ

 

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Week #10 of Medieval Monday: Bambi Lynn’s Camulus: Gods of the Highlands

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Sometimes revenge can come at a high price. In Bambi Lynn’s Camulus: Gods of the Highlands, my Medieval Monday feature today, will revenge be worth taking the life of the one you love? Here’s a sneak peek:

Bambi Lynn cover 

BLURB:

Camulus Vass wants a simple life, absent the power and responsibility that can consume a man. But being laird of a clan as large as the Munro does not offer such luxury. Always under the domineering heel of his uncle, Cam has allowed himself to become a pawn. But the arrival of a mysterious newcomer awakens a beast within him that will not be tamed.

Màili has been given the task of rooting out the spawn of an ancient god. It’s the only way to take her revenge against the man who betrayed her. But getting what she wants means taking the life of the man she loves. Will her hunger for a mortal man wreak further havoc on her already bleak future?

***

EXCERPT:

Cam pulled the linen from his shaggy, ebony mane and locked his rich brown eyes, glistening with excitement, on hers. He stepped out of the tub, dropping the linen to the floor. “Come to me, woman.” Cam wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her against him. He claimed her mouth with his, prying her lips open and invading her with the sweetest tasting tongue she had ever known.

Màili lost herself in that kiss. The power of it sent jolts of pleasure to every pore in her body. She tingled all over, her senses melding until she could no longer remember anything other than the man before her. She kissed him back with all the self–pity of a woman who had been betrayed by love and yearned to get even a piece of herself back.

The power of her desire for Cam surprised her. Màili was certainly no stranger to the ways of men and women. She had learned a lot over the centuries. This was the first time she had found anyone she thought could teach her anything. A nagging possibility tickled the edge of her thoughts, but she pushed it aside.

Màili dragged her mouth from his, nibbling along his jaw and across the pulse at his throat. With her hands on his chest, she urged him back toward the bed all the while trailing her lips, her tongue down his body. He tasted like nectar and all Màili could think of was more, more, more.

***

BUY LINKS:

Amazon

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Week #9 of Medieval Monday: Mary Morgan’s Dragon Knights Medallion

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A first kiss is always a fun scene to create. I’m sure this kiss in Mary Morgan’s Dragon Knight’s Medallion, this Medieval Monday feature, was pure bliss to write!

Mary Morgan Cover

Blurb:

To right a wrong, two souls are brought together only to shatter when they are torn apart by the deeds of an evil druid.

Dragon Knight, Stephen MacKay’s powers are altered after the death of his sister. Now he is plagued with visions that threaten to destroy his soul. When Aileen Kerrigan falls through a time tunnel, he vows to keep her safe, despite the fact the beautiful but head-strong half-blooded fae could be the death of him.

When Aileen finds out her dad is a Fenian Warrior, she flees to a nearby ruin. Armed with the medallion her mother gave her, and a matching one belonging to a long dead knight, she is flung into the past and finds a handsome but surly warrior who is on a quest. Now it seems her future could be entwined with his, if she doesn’t kill him first.

Excerpt:

Stephen was gathering some food, which Betha had prepared for him understanding he would be away all night. She and Donal had pleaded with him to join in the feasting, but he waved them off rather rudely. He wanted no part of the festivities.

Almost colliding with a couple, he swore softly. Placing the food across Grian, he shifted hesitantly. It was then he spotted…her.

His hand froze on the leather sack. Sweet Mother! What was she doing? And dressed like that? She was a Goddess of the flame. He watched as she was swung up into the air by none other than Brian. Then he dared to slide her down against him.

Dark fury burst somewhere deep inside Stephen. “I’m going to kill him,” he rasped out.

The blood roared in his head, as he stormed across the open field, never hearing those who greeted him in passing—one hand held firm against his sword.

Stephen waited as any warrior would. Let the enemy show himself, he thought.

When their dancing brought them nearer to him, he darted in front blocking their path.

They never saw him coming.

Aileen’s back slammed into his chest, and his arms grasped her instantly in a firm grip. “Hey, ouch!” She tried to move, but he held her solid against his body.

Brian skidded to a halt. “Greetings, Sir Stephen.”

He went to grab for Aileen’s hand, when Stephen let out a growl of warning.

“What is your problem? Did you just growl?” demanded Aileen. She tried to pry herself loose, but he continued to hold her firm.

“Mine,” he snarled.

Instantly, Brian’s face went white.

“Thank ye for the dance, Lady Aileen,” Brian clipped out. Giving Stephen a curt nod, he stormed away.

“Bloody. God. Damn. Hell,” Aileen snapped.

Stephen released her, only spinning her around to face him. Something primal within him tore loose. He tried to reason with himself that this was insanity, though his mind and body would not yield. His gaze dropped to those lips—lips he had fantasized about for weeks.

Aileen,” he choked out before his mouth took hers in a plundering kiss. His lips moved over hers devouring their softness. The kiss became urgent, pleading in its need. His tongue sought hers, and the dance of desire seared their bodies. Raw passion took over his anger, and she opened fully, drawing him against her body. She took her hands and wrapped them around his head, threading her fingers in his locks and pulling him in deeper. Never in all of his life had he felt so right in someone’s arms.

When he broke from the kiss, his breathing was labored. Her eyes were dark with desire for him, and he shook with such need, it frightened him.

“By the hounds,” he uttered hoarsely. In one swift move, he picked her up. Carrying her to his horse, he ignored the hoots, and remarks coming from the crowd. Placing her on Grian, he swung around in back, taking off through a large group of oak trees with only one clear thought in mind.

***

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Knights-Medallion-Order-Book-ebook/dp/B00P81C0EA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1416961134&sr=1-1&keywords=dragon+knight%27s+medallion&pebp=1416961207418

The Wild Rose Press: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=195&products_id=5960

Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dragon-knights-medallion-mary-morgan/1120854028?ean=2940149959259

APPLE

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dragon-knights-medallion/id946798386?mt=11

KOBO

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/dragon-knight-s-medallion

 

 

 

 

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Cars, restaurants, and showers – how two co-authors keep their world together

I read lots of book series. Some of my favorite characters from novels–Jack Reacher, Stone Barrington, Cotton Malone, and the men of the Camel Club–are part of a series. I’ve never written a series, and I’d often wondered how authors keep everything straight, from names to eye color to habits to events in previous novels.

My author friends Catherine and Donald are deep in the midst of a series called the Turning Stone Chronicles. Not only do they write as a team, they’ve figured out a system to keep track of things over the many books they’ve written and still plan to write.

To celebrate today’s release of Book #3 in the series, Son of the Moonless Night, I’m letting them explain how they work their magic!

CD1 When we first planned the Turning Stone Chronicles series there were six books. Then in 2013, we thought we only had a five book series. Now in 2015 it’s back to six books, but not the original six we envisioned. So how do two co-authors keep a morphing series storyline together?

In cars, we keep track of our world with pen and paper, smart phones, and voice notes. We plot on travel trips. Catherine takes copious notes in a little composition notebook like we used in grade school. All the notes from the various mediums are collected in the computer. Sometimes if we get an idea on a short trip when we don’t have a notebook Catherine uses her phone or a voice recorder to take notes. After a mobile brain storming session, Donald arranges the notes into a plot chart.

In restaurants, we often discuss our books. Sometimes we get strange looks from other patrons or the server when they hear us discussing how to kill a character, what poisons work fast and undetectable or when planning a terrorist plot for our rogue shifters.

Sometimes when proofing a book we’ll come across a characteristic that we haven’t added to a character’s sheet. So, we’ll cut and paste the information into a computer file for future reference.

In the shower (bet you’ve been waiting for this one) apparently the ion spray clears up ideas. Donald often comes to the breakfast table after showering and begins a spontaneous conversation about plot points, character traits, scene setting, or research. Then Catherine runs for the world book where we keep our characters sheets, world rules, and plot lines for the various books. Once confirmation is made that nothing conflicts, then the idea can be used in the book that is being drafted, or added to the future book section of the world book.

Throughout the car, restaurant, and shower process, we are constantly referring to the Turning Stone Chronicles series world book. Does this character have auric reading abilities, and, if so, what is the auric color for a particular emotion? What was the shape shifting rule we set up in book one? Have we broken it or are we about to break it? If so, how can we fix it? Is a character’s eye color or hair or mannerism the same in book one as in book three? We also have a character who is fond of making points by using Scottish proverbs. Catherine has a list we check off so we don’t use the same proverb repeatedly.

When you have written over three hundred thousand words over three books, keeping track of all the details can be overwhelming. Thank goodness for the Turning Stone Chronicles series world book.

Book number three in the series, Son of the Moonless Night, is out today, and we used all of the above to help keep the world turning smoothly, or not depending on the character’s view point.

Here is a sample of what to expect:

A crash in the alley stopped Katrina Romanovski mid-stride. Like the October mist swirling in off the lake, her gypsy blood stirred sending her intuition into high gear. Something unnatural was happening.

Go see what’s wrong. She heard her father’s voice as clearly as if he stood next to her.

On the heels of his words came her mother’s pragmatic warning in clipped British tones. You know what curiosity killed. Katrina pushed the ever-present warning aside. Mom never approved of Dad’s supernatural hunts and even less of his drawing her into them.

Pulling the oversized cross she always wore out from under her shirt, Kat looked around for a weapon. Please, not a vampire. I hate vampires! A piece of wood sticking out of the trashcan at the front of the alley caught her eye.

Grabbing it, she broke the end off into a sharp point. The mist-filled air filtered the light from the single bulb over one of the alley doorways. The wind swirled the loose trash around making a quiet approach difficult. Sidestepping the paper, with the stake in one hand and holding the gun she took from her purse in the other hand, she crept into the alley.

A roar echoed against the buildings, the sound nearly sending her running. That roar wasn’t a vampire. It sounded more like an animal. Kat inched closer. In the yellow pool of light from the back door of the building, a black bear, over seven feet tall, reared on its back legs and swung its paw at the man standing at the edge of the light. He crashed to the ground, shirt torn open from the slashing claws. Blood covered the fabric, and he clasped his left hand over his shoulder to stem the flow. The bear bent toward him, teeth bared in a smile. A wicked smile.

Kat aimed her gun, but before she could pull the trigger, a shot rang out. The flash of gunpowder lit the face of the injured man. The blast reverberated against the buildings. With an enraged bellow, the bear staggered backward against the wall. Shaking his head, the animal dropped to all four paws. Weaving like a drunk, he lumbered toward his attacker. The man took aim again, shooting the animal between the eyes. Animal and human collapsed on the dirty, littered pavement.

As she started to move forward, Kat’s gypsy senses crawled over her skin like angry red ants. As she slipped back into the shadows, the bear shed fur. Changing size. Then, finally, turning into a man.

Shape shifters. Her stake wasn’t any good against them, and her bullets weren’t silver. This one appeared dead anyway. Had the wounded man seen the shift? Tossing the stake aside, she paused by the shifter and quickly moved to the wounded man. Out cold. Still human.

When she touched him, his eyelids fluttered open. “Did I get it?”

“What?”

“The bear.”

Title – Son of the Moonless Night, The Turning Stone Chronicles, book three

Author – C.D. Hersh

Genre – Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Suspense Romance

Heat Level – Sensual

Release Date: May 27th, 2015

HOOK

Thrust back into the world of paranormal huntress, Deputy Coroner Katrina Romanovski must unravel a string of murders she believes are vampire attacks. When she discovers the shape shifter she’s in love with is the murderer, she must reconcile her feelings for him, examine her life of violence against paranormals, and justify deceiving him in order to bring him to justice.

BLURB

Owen Todd Jordan Riley has a secret. He’s a shape shifter who has been hunting and killing his own kind. To him the only good shifter is a dead shifter. Revenge for the death of a friend motivates him, and nothing stands in his way . . . except Katrina Romanovski, the woman he is falling in love with.

Deputy coroner Katrina Romanovski has a secret, too. She hunts and kills paranormal beings like Owen. At least she did. When she rescues Owen from an attack by a werebear she is thrust back into the world she thought she’d left. Determined to find out what Owen knows about the bear, she begins a relationship meant to collect information. What she gets is something quite different-love with a man she suspects of murder. Can she reconcile his deception and murderous revenge spree and find a way to redeem him? Or will she condemn him for the same things she has done and walk away from love?

Amazon buy links:

The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1):

eBook: http://amzn.com/B00DUMODKI

paperback: http://amzn.com/1619353504

Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 2):

eBook: http://amzn.com/B00OVNFC8W

paperback: http://amzn.com/1619358271

Son of the Moonless Night (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 3):

eBook: http://amzn.com/B00XK3E172

CD2 Bio:

Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after.

Together they have co-authored a number of dramas, six which have been produced in Ohio, where they live. Their interactive Christmas production had five seasonal runs in their hometown and has been sold in Virginia, California, and Ohio. Their most recent collaborative writing efforts have been focused on romance. The first two books of their paranormal romance series entitled The Turning Stone Chronicles are available on Amazon. The third book in the series Son of the Moonless Night will be released May 27th by Soul Mate Publishing.

Where you can find CD:

Website: http://cdhersh.wordpress.com/

Blog: http://cdhersh.wordpress.com/blog-2/

Soul Mate Publishing: http://smpauthors.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cdhershauthor

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/C.-D.-Hersh/e/B00DV5L7ZI

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorCDHersh

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/CDHersh

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Week #8 of Medieval Monday: Carmen Stefanescu’s Shadows of the Past

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I always like movies that mix up genres, and books are no different. In today’s Medieval Monday Spring spotlight, author Carmen Stefanescu blends light romance, horror, and the historical with a splash of paranormal thrown in! Welcome to Shadows of the Past.

Carmen Stefanescu cover

Blurb:

Anne’s relationship with her boyfriend Neil has disintegrated. After a two-year separation, they pack for a week vacation in hopes of reconciling. But fate has other plans for them.

The discovery of a bejeweled cross and ancient human bones opens a door to a new and frightening world–one where the ghost of a medieval nun named Genevieve will not let Anne rest. This new world threatens not only to ruin Anne and Neil’s vacation but to end all hopes of reconciliation as Anne feels compelled to help free Genevieve’s soul from its torment.

Can Anne save her relationship and help Genevieve find her eternal rest?

A touching, compelling story of tragedy, loss and the power of endless love and good magic.

The twists and turns in this paranormal tale keep the reader guessing up to the end and weave themselves together into a quest to rekindle love.

Excerpt:

Andrew pulled her to his chest. “Do you regret you’ve come with me?”

Passion smothered Genevieve’s doubt and guilt. “Never,” she answered, aware of her body’s response to his touch, and she succumbed to his embrace.

The moonlight bathed his face in silver light. Andrew lowered her wimple, and his fingers threaded into her curls. She swayed, enveloped by the dizzy sensation of drowning in the tumultuous ocean of his gaze. The tenderness of his touch raised in her the wish they had lived in another time and been simple, ordinary people. She longed to feel the warmth of his lips on hers. How much she’d have liked to live the rest of her life beside him and bear his children. A dream not likely to ever come true for her. Why not let the feeling lurking in the pit of her stomach take over and consume her whole being?

Aware of the track of her thoughts, she shifted uneasily, a hot flush warmed her cheeks. Drawing in a deep breath in spite of herself, calming the gnawing unease in her mind and the thought of Sister Dominica guessing she was the dough of a sinner, Genevieve repeated, “Never.”

With her eyes closed and their bodies touching she became, for the very first time, simply a woman. She melted in his embrace in spite of the invisible vicious threat breathing around them. Aware they might never be alone again, she fought hard to silence the voice of conscience berating her.

“Oh, God. Please forgive me,” Andrew muttered under his breath when he bowed his head to kiss her. Their lips met in a passionate first kiss.

. . . . . . . . .

Far in the forest, the sprightly stream’s clear waters sang their ancient song down the moss-covered banks. Reaching an old, crooked oak tree, bearing the seal of recent lightning damage, the waters trembled, turned muddy and the pale, distorted face of a woman emerged. Her raven black hair floated around her head, the long black tresses writhing and coiling on the waves, like snakes trying to pry free and attack. Her eyes flew open and a hideous grin stretched her lips. She blinked several times and gurgled a hoarse threat to someone known only to her, “You imagine you thwarted my plans even from beyond the grave, but you’re wrong. You shall hear from me. You shall all hear from me! Soon.”

Little by little, the waters of the river became an ugly shade of green, covered the ghastly face, and continued down to the green pastures in the valley while an ominous silence, harbinger of the woman’s spiteful threat, settled over the rugged mountain and its mysterious forest.

Buy Links:

http://www.wildchildpublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=84&products_id=410

http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-of-the-Past-ebook/dp/B00AK2D9I8/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354874514&sr=1-15&keywords=shadows+of+the+past

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-of-the-past-carmen-stefanescu/1113910162?ean=2940015715026

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Carmen Stefanescu’s SHADOWS OF THE PAST

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I always like movies that mix genres, and books are no different. In today’s Medieval Monday Spring spotlight, author Carmen Stefanescu blends light romance, horror, and the historical with a splash of paranormal thrown in! Welcome to Shadows of the Past.

Carmen Stefanescu cover

Blurb:

Anne’s relationship with her boyfriend Neil has disintegrated. After a two-year separation, they pack for a week vacation in hopes of reconciling. But fate has other plans for them.

The discovery of a bejeweled cross and ancient human bones opens a door to a new and frightening world–one where the ghost of a medieval nun named Genevieve will not let Anne rest. This new world threatens not only to ruin Anne and Neil’s vacation but to end all hopes of reconciliation as Anne feels compelled to help free Genevieve’s soul from its torment.

Can Anne save her relationship and help Genevieve find her eternal rest?

A touching, compelling story of tragedy, loss and the power of endless love and good magic.

The twists and turns in this paranormal tale keep the reader guessing up to the end and weave themselves together into a quest to rekindle love.

Excerpt:

Andrew pulled her to his chest. “Do you regret you’ve come with me?”

Passion smothered Genevieve’s doubt and guilt. “Never,” she answered, aware of her body’s response to his touch, and she succumbed to his embrace.

The moonlight bathed his face in silver light. Andrew lowered her wimple, and his fingers threaded into her curls. She swayed, enveloped by the dizzy sensation of drowning in the tumultuous ocean of his gaze. The tenderness of his touch raised in her the wish they had lived in another time and been simple, ordinary people. She longed to feel the warmth of his lips on hers. How much she’d have liked to live the rest of her life beside him and bear his children. A dream not likely to ever come true for her. Why not let the feeling lurking in the pit of her stomach take over and consume her whole being?

Aware of the track of her thoughts, she shifted uneasily, a hot flush warmed her cheeks. Drawing in a deep breath in spite of herself, calming the gnawing unease in her mind and the thought of Sister Dominica guessing she was the dough of a sinner, Genevieve repeated, “Never.”

With her eyes closed and their bodies touching she became, for the very first time, simply a woman. She melted in his embrace in spite of the invisible vicious threat breathing around them. Aware they might never be alone again, she fought hard to silence the voice of conscience berating her.

“Oh, God. Please forgive me,” Andrew muttered under his breath when he bowed his head to kiss her. Their lips met in a passionate first kiss.

. . . . . . . . .

Far in the forest, the sprightly stream’s clear waters sang their ancient song down the moss-covered banks. Reaching an old, crooked oak tree, bearing the seal of recent lightning damage, the waters trembled, turned muddy and the pale, distorted face of a woman emerged. Her raven black hair floated around her head, the long black tresses writhing and coiling on the waves, like snakes trying to pry free and attack. Her eyes flew open and a hideous grin stretched her lips. She blinked several times and gurgled a hoarse threat to someone known only to her, “You imagine you thwarted my plans even from beyond the grave, but you’re wrong. You shall hear from me. You shall all hear from me! Soon.”

Little by little, the waters of the river became an ugly shade of green, covered the ghastly face, and continued down to the green pastures in the valley while an ominous silence, harbinger of the woman’s spiteful threat, settled over the rugged mountain and its mysterious forest.

Buy Links:

http://www.wildchildpublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=84&products_id=410

http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-of-the-Past-ebook/dp/B00AK2D9I8/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354874514&sr=1-15&keywords=shadows+of+the+past

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-of-the-past-carmen-stefanescu/1113910162?ean=2940015715026

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End of an Era

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Back in May 1992, I spent a couple of nights in tears. No one had died. I hadn’t lost my job. I wasn’t trying to sell a house in a slow market.

I was teary over Johnny Carson leaving the air.

Johnny had been such a part of my growing up. My parents watched him. Naturally, I started watching him. Johnny was sophisticated and debonair and yet still boyish and Midwestern. He was a master interviewer. He didn’t tolerate fools. And I adored him. When 10:30 rolled around, I knew it was time to cleanse the face, slip into PJs, and tune in to Johnny.

02

The appearance of his last guest, Bette Midler, pretty much tore me up. His last show had no guests—just Johnny doing a little reminiscing. And then he was gone.

01

David Letterman had been his heir apparent. Johnny loved Dave, really and truly loved him. All comedians knew a guest spot on Carson could be the key to future success. Dave’s star soared high after appearing with Johnny. Here a quirky Midwestern former weather guy rose through the ranks and seemed destined to take over The Tonight Show.

He didn’t. I won’t bore you with the long (stupid on NBC’s part) story. Suffice it to say that CBS snapped Dave up. After following Johnny’s show for over a decade with his own late night gabfest, Dave now played in the big leagues.

And play he did.

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I don’t know anyone more childlike and acerbic than Letterman. The Late Show with David Letterman went on to be nominated 26 times for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series. It won 6 times. Johnny even sent Dave jokes for his opening monologue till his death.

I have laughed with Dave so many times over the years. The Top 10 List. Stupid Pet Tricks. Stagehand Pat Farmer throwing things off the roof of The Ed Sullivan Theater. Dave spraying water on unsuspecting passersby.

I enjoyed when Dave took the cameras out to meet his neighbors. Gift shop owners Mujibur & Sirajul cracked me up, but it was deadpan Rupert Jee of Hello Deli that stole my heart. The things Dave got Rupert to say and do astound me to this day.

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I loved when Dave sent people on the road. Stage manager Biff Henderson has gone to numerous sporting events and interviewed many famous—and not so famous—people. Best of all was Dave’s mom. Not only did we get to guess what pies she was making for Thanksgiving, but her reporting at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer was a highlight for viewers.

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Dave proved to be a skilled interviewer and made people look good. He blushed when Drew Barrymore performed a dance for his birthday. He flirted outrageously with Julia Roberts. He treated Oprah like a queen.

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His segments with Jack Hanna were some of my favorite. Dave was great when things went well on the show, but he rose to genius-level when things went wrong. Times when Jack’s animals did outrageous things proved to be some of the funniest material he had to work with.

05

Dave could also move me. After he underwent quintuple bypass surgery, his recognition and salute to his doctors and nurses had me in tears. The same thing occurred when he returned to the airwaves after the terrifying events of September 11, 2001. The New York Daily News hailed that show as “one of the purest, most honest and important moments in TV history.”

Halloween won’t be the same this year without Dave answering the door to trick-or-treaters. Christmas won’t be the same without the ham on top of the tree. I’ll miss Paul Shaffer’s outrageous suits. The music of the CBS Orchestra—especially bassist Will Lee and guitarist Felicia Collins.

03

His first late night guest, Bill Murray, will be his last. I look forward to their last public conversation together, as Bill has provided some of the best comedic moments of the show’s history.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve dialed over and watched the 2 Jimmys when they’ve had a guest I want to see. I taped all of Kimmel’s shows in Austin. I love Fallon’s lip syncing competitions. These 2 men—and others—will pick up the late night TV torch and continue the marathon.

But after having to say goodbye to Johnny Carson all those years ago, it doesn’t seem right that I’m having to do a farewell again. Dave, I’ll miss you. Thanks for the memories.

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Medieval Monday Week #7: Jenna Jaxon’s Beloveds

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Can a woman be in love with two men at the same time? Maybe. But what if one of them is dead? That’s the question in Jenna Jaxon’s Beloveds.

BLURB: Passion never dies.

Lady Alyse Braedon frets over her renewed passion for Sir Geoffrey Longford, her first love. They have pledged their hearts to one another, despite the fact that both are recently widowed. Alyse worries that she has not properly mourned Thomas and cannot think herself as true wife to Geoffrey until she puts her feelings for her first husband to rest.

And then Thomas unaccountably appears in her bedroom. She is stunned and confused. When he begins to make love to her, however, she joyfully surrenders herself to his familiar caresses and expert ministrations…until Geoffrey arrives.

Faced with the dilemma of wanting two lovers, Alyse simply cannot choose–until Thomas suggests she doesn’t have to.  Instead he and Geoffrey will share her. The scandalous proposition awakens new hungers within her. Can she allow herself to abandon all she’s been taught a proper woman should resist, and find pleasure with both her beloveds?

EXCERPT:  Alyse struggled to open her eyes, though the heavy lids fought against her.

The bed dipped as someone sat beside her. Good. Thank goodness. Geoffrey had returned. Although she would swear it had not been he who had spoken.

A soft hand cupped her face, and she pressed her cheek against it, luxuriating in its warmth. She smiled and her eyes fluttered open at last.

The man seated on the bed had shoulder-length honey-blond hair and warm, beguiling brown eyes. He also defied fashion and wore a thin mustache and beard. His eyes brightened when he noticed she was awake and his mouth turned up in the lazy smile she had come to know so very well.

“Thomas.” The name came out a croak. Holy Father, had she conjured him with her guilt and longing? She shrank back into the pillows.

His smile widened and he caressed her, running one long finger along her jaw. “Aye, sweet Alyse. ’Tis I. Do you feel better now, my love?”

“Better?” She must be dying to see such an apparition. Or mayhap she was already dead and in heaven.

“Aye. You do not shiver as you did a moment ago. I hoped that meant you felt warmer.” He picked up her hand and kissed the knuckles.

Warmth flowed through her, soothing her, making her body tingle with that single touch of his lips.

“Is it really you?” Strength welled within her and she struggled to sit up.

“As ever I was.” He smiled, his gaze sweeping down her body. His eyes darkened with the desire she remembered well.

“Oh, Thomas.” She threw her arms around him, sighing when they embraced the hard-muscled chest she had lain upon so often. “I thought you dead, my love. Did I but dream?”

“Shhh, my sweet. I am here now.” He stroked her head then pulled it back to peer into her face. “I will always be with you, love.” He sank his mouth onto hers, and she melted at the touch of his insistent lips.

Like coming home.

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Medieval Monday Spring & Jenna Jaxon’s Beloveds

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Sometimes people think about that first, sweet love from long ago. Lady Alyse Braedon is reunited with hers once she’s widowed. But . . . it’s not smooth sailing . . . thanks to a dead husband! Jenna Jaxon tries to solve this problem in BELOVEDS.

Jenna-Beloveds-banner_200x300-200x300

BLURB:

Passion never dies.

Lady Alyse Braedon frets over her renewed passion for Sir Geoffrey Longford, her first love. They have pledged their hearts to one another, despite the fact that both are recently widowed. Alyse worries that she has not properly mourned Thomas and cannot think herself as true wife to Geoffrey until she puts her feelings for her first husband to rest.

And then Thomas unaccountably appears in her bedroom. She is stunned and confused. When he begins to make love to her, however, she joyfully surrenders herself to his familiar caresses and expert ministrations…until Geoffrey arrives.

Faced with the dilemma of wanting two lovers, Alyse simply cannot choose–until Thomas suggests she doesn’t have to. Instead he and Geoffrey will share her. The scandalous proposition awakens new hungers within her. Can she allow herself to abandon all she’s been taught a proper woman should resist, and find pleasure with both her beloveds?

EXCERPT:

“Alyse.”

The familiar voice tugged at the edges of wakefulness. Had Geoffrey returned so soon? The sound did not have his deep tone. Yet ’twas a voice she knew well, rich and sensual.

“Do not fret, sweet. ’Twill be all right.”

Alyse struggled to open her eyes, though the heavy lids fought against her.

The bed dipped as someone sat beside her. . Good. Thank the Lord. Geoffrey had returned. Although she would swear it had not been he who had spoken.

A soft hand cupped her face, and she pressed her cheek against it, luxuriating in its warmth. She smiled and her eyes fluttered open at last.

The man seated on the bed had shoulder-length honey-blond hair and warm, beguiling brown eyes. He also defied fashion and wore a thin mustache and beard. His eyes brightened when he noticed she was awake and his mouth turned up in the lazy smile she had come to know so very well.

“Thomas.” The name came out a croak. Holy Father, had she conjured him with her guilt and longing? She shrank back into the pillows.

His smile widened and he caressed her, running one long finger along her jaw. “Aye, sweet Alyse. ’Tis I. Do you feel better now, my love?”

“Better?” She must be dying to see such an apparition. Or mayhap she was already dead and in heaven.

“Aye. You do not shiver as you did a moment ago. I hoped that meant you felt warmer.” He picked up her hand and kissed the knuckles.

Warmth flowed through her, soothing her, making her body tingle with that single touch of his lips.

“Is it really you?” Strength welled within her and she struggled to sit up.

“As ever I was.” He smiled, his gaze sweeping down her body. His eyes darkened with the desire she remembered well.

“Oh, Thomas.” She threw her arms around him, sighing when they embraced the hard-muscled chest she had lain upon so often. “I thought you dead, my love. Did I but dream?”

“Shhh, my sweet. I am here now.” He stroked her head then pulled it back to peer into her face. “I will always be with you, love.” He sank his mouth onto hers, and she melted at the touch of his insistent lips.

Like coming home.

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Week #6 of Medieval Monday: Kim Headlee’s King Arthur’s Sister in Washington’s Court

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Today’s Medieval Monday Spring features Kim Headlee’s time travel, King Arthur’s Sister in Washington’s Court. Kim spins a tale of the infamous Morgan le Fay and how she winds up trying to rebuild her kingdom in none other than Washington, D.C.—in 2079!

Kim Headlee Cover

Blurb:

Morgan le Fay, 6th-century Queen of Gore and the only major character not killed off by Mark Twain in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, vows revenge upon the Yankee Hank Morgan. She casts a spell to take her to 1879 Connecticut so she may waylay Sir Boss before he can travel back in time to destroy her world. But the spell misses by 300 miles and 200 years, landing her in the Washington, D.C., of 2079, replete with flying limousines, hovering office buildings, virtual-reality television, and sundry other technological marvels.

Whatever is a time-displaced queen of magic and minions to do? Why, rebuild her kingdom, of course—two kingdoms, in fact: as Campaign Boss for the reelection of American President Malory Beckham Hinton, and as owner of the London Knights world-champion baseball franchise.

Written as though by the old master himself, King Arthur’s Sister in Washington’s Court by Mark Twain as channeled by Kim Iverson Headlee offers laughs, love, and a candid look at American society, popular culture, politics, baseball…and the human heart.

EXCERPT: (from Chapter XIV: Defend the Banner!) The wench’s smile looked indulgent, if a bit saddened. “Queen Morgan, may I offer an observation?”
“Pray, proceed, Darla, as I seem to have paid for it.” “This is about a man—the dishy one you’re always coming in here with.” “Brilliant. Yes, the dishy one. Dishy, and treacherous.” I took a long pull of bitters. “Lor’ love ye, madame; but all men are treacherous! If you’re lucky, that’s all he is.” I reflected, through another draught, upon this spot of rough wisdom. Of all the men I had ever known, biblically or not, in this century or any other, the only man I could not label as “treacherous” was Sir Galahad, and we all know what happened to him. For the couple of you who might not be privy to the story: in brief, Sir Galahad drank from the Holy Grail and fell down dead, reportedly because his soul was so pure that Our Lord God bustled him straightaway to heaven. The fact that Sir Galahad had always acted so damned self-righteous that his Grail-hunting companions had wearied of his holier-than-thou ways probably had nothing whatever to do with his demise. I said:

“I have treachery aplenty in my life, Darla.” Free agents, not-free agents, other players, managers, coaches… the list seemed endless. “I do not need more from Sandy Carter.” “But you do need his love.” I shook my head. “With love like that…” She was not listening, but had looked toward the line of tall windows fronting the street, across which arched the words “nnI dleiftuO” and, in a revolving pattern of white, blue, and red tube-lights, “NEPO.” I would have taken umbrage at the offense—the server’s, not the fact that the words in the windows appeared backward to my vantage—but I had imbibed too much beer to care. Darla said, “You need his love… and he needs yours. Look.”

BUY LINKS:

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Week #5 of Medieval Monday: Barbara Bettis’ The Heart of the Phoenix

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Have you ever wondered what happened to your childhood love? If he came back into your life—what might happen? Evie’s playmate rejected her long ago, but in today’s Medieval Monday Spring feature, Barbara Bettis’ The Heart of the Phoenix, war brings these two together as adults. Have the embers of love survived? Let’s see . . .

Barbara cover

Blurb:

Some call him a ruthless mercenary; she calls him the knight of her heart Memories  Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.  Can be cruel

Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge, he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.  And deadly

When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason. Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.

Excerpt:

“I don’t believe you heard me, Sir Stephen.” Evie’s words dripped honey. “I’m going home on orders of my brother. If the travelers Davy were to join haven’t appeared, then he can accompany me.” She shot a glance toward the youth, deep in conversation with the maid.

The back of Stephen’s neck tingled, and he clenched his hands. God’s blood, she made him so angry he longed to grab those soft arms and shake some sense into her.

“You are not remaining at the monastery, and you are not traveling to England.” His words came out in a growl. He stepped forward, and she tilted back her head to meet him eye to eye. “Must I tie you to that horse?”

She leaned in. “Just you try, Sir Stephen-the-Bully.”

He glared and crossed his arms against his chest, daring her to continue.

“Do as you think you must.” She echoed his stance, her crossed arms pushing her plump breasts higher.

Not that he noticed, blast her.

“I vow I will return the moment I’m free,” she added. “You have no authority over my movements, for you are no relative of mine.”

“And I thank God for it. How Henry has put up with you all these years I do not know. A more troublesome, contentious wi…woman I’ve never seen.”

“Did you call me a witch?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buy Link: http://amzn.to/1vSZgLF

 

 

 

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Week #4 of Medieval Monday: Sandra Jones’ His Captive Princess

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A feisty, widowed princess finds herself faced with an enemy knight with hyptonizing eyes . . . and a magical prophecy. How are they connected? Give Sandra Jones’s His Captive Princess a whirl, today’s feature on Medieval Monday Spring, and you’ll find out!

Sandra Jones cover

Blurb:

Earned respect is sweet…but deserved revenge is sweeter.

Warren de Tracy was assured the Welsh village of Dinefwr would be an easy conquest, as would the widow of its fallen prince. Wedding her will appease the locals and win the respect of his liege, the usurper King Stephen.

Instead, Warren is ambushed, taken prisoner by a hooded Welshwoman with skin that glows like moonlight. If he must die at her hands, at least his honorable death will silence the whispers of disloyalty hanging over his name.

Princess Eleri has never seen a knight as stoic—and as eager to die—as Warren. She’d love to oblige the bastard, but something in his ocean-blue eyes stays her hand. Plus, suspicion nags at her, for the arrows that wounded him and killed his men are Norman, not Welsh.

A ghostly prophecy portends danger that thrusts the enemies closer together, where hate explodes into passion that won’t allow Eleri to surrender Warren to her vengeful clan. But returning him to his king breaks more than it mends…and for Warren, retaliation will be sweet, indeed.

Product Warnings:

Contains a Norman warrior with a thirst for justice, a Welsh rebel princess with second sight and a steady bow hand, magical prophecies, and a plot of royal proportions.

Excerpt:

“‘Your Highness’?” Warren jerked in astonishment, pulling against his bonds. The ropes chafed his raw skin, sending a fresh wave of pain down his arms. “You’re of royal blood?”

She leaned over him, reaching for his bonds. “Hush! In addition to your arrow wound, I trow your tongue has healed as well these past days. It would behoove you to use it less and just be grateful you’re alive.”

Her breasts hovered inches above his face. In fact, if he lifted his head, he could bury his face between them. What would she do, this spirited wench, if he chose to do so? He would’ve enjoyed finding out if circumstances had been different. “I’d rather be dead than be a prisoner. But first…I’ll kiss your feet if you’d scratch my nose.”

She made a choking noise in her throat that almost sounded like amusement.

He felt a tug at his ropes and the friction of a knife. By the saints, she was freeing him. He couldn’t allow it.

Air stung his raw skin as soon as one of his wrists came loose. With his one arm still useless in its restraints, he shot out his free hand and clutched her forearm. Using all his strength, he turned her over beneath him, wedging her between his torso and the bed. Nose to nose, he could make out her eyes gone wide with shock in the darkness. “No!” he growled. “Do not let me leave here alive.”

Suddenly, her warrior was upon him and his knife back against Warren’s throat. “Get off the princess, you cur!”

The woman’s blade touched his chest plate. She could dispatch him with ease. Her arms were strong and lean. Her body was far from frail, and he recalled her skillful defeat of his conroi. She twisted beneath his pelvis defensively, and the grinding of her soft mound awoke his sex. Shame heated his cheeks at his sudden need and dark desires. This one time, he would allow himself to speak his mind. “If you release me, Princess, I’ll go to Kidwelly and inform my commanders what has befallen my five men at the hands of you and your people. The king will strike at the subjects of Cantref Mawr with vengeance such as you’ve never known.”

Her expression shifted from stark panic to slow derision as her saucy lips curved up at one corner. “You think I don’t know what you’re capable of?” Her eyes flashed downward meaningfully, and he knew she’d noted the turn of his wicked thoughts. “You want to have your way with me. To tear my clothing from my body and part my legs. But you know nothing of my people, Norman. You haven’t even bothered to learn the language—” she broke off, slurring in Welsh at her vassal.

The burly guard grabbed Warren’s bandaged shoulder, twisting it back until bile climbed in his throat. “Umpff!” While he convulsed in pain, the woman slipped loose and turned him on his back, pinning his groin beneath two very sharp knees. He hissed through his teeth, “Par les saints!”

If he’d been successful in his mission, this devil-wench would’ve been his bride?

“You are my prisoner, knight.” She planted the flat of her hand against his neck, leaving no doubt of her desire for domination as her angry pulse drummed against his skin. “I am the Princess of Deheubarth, widow of Prince Owain ap Daffyd, murdered by your Norman peers. It will be my pleasure keeping you alive. We’re taking you to those who will do with you what they will. I care not. Until then, you are my dog. My captive. My slave. And you will obey!”

***

Buy Links:

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5407/his-captive-princess

http://www.amazon.com/His-Captive-Princess-Sandra-Jones-ebook/dp/B00TLIGB14/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/his-captive-princess-sandra-jones/1121228851?ean=9781619224452

https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-hiscaptiveprincess-1748538-161.html

 

 

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Shonda Blew Up the Twitter Universe…and My World, Too

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I am a Shonda Rimes fan. She creates deeply layered, flawed, interesting, incredible passionate characters and tells a mean story. When I tuned in for the first-ever Grey’s Anatomy in March of 2005, the racially diverse characters and unique plot lines mesmerized me. Over the years, the show has won Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG, and GLAAD awards. While ratings have slipped in recent years, I have never missed an episode.

Shonda also turned me into a Gladiator. I’ve been fascinated by Scandal and all of its twists and turns. Last week, she knocked my socks off and KILLED JAKE! KILLED HIM! Until this week, when the show started with Jake a bloody mess and in critical condition, everyone at home and on the show hoping and praying he wouldn’t die. Happy that he might have a chance to live.

But I digress . . . and need to head back to what hashurt my heart the last 12 hours.

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Derek Shepherd is dead.

Now my heart has hurt during other seasons of Grey’s. I know actors sometimes throw caution to the wind and give up that steady gig of a weekly show. They move on to new challenges. And that means they have to be written off somehow. Just asked disillusioned Downton Abbey fans. We still haven’t recovered from Matthew’s death from a few seasons back. Thankfully the writers have allowed Lady Mary grieve and not rush into another relationship (BTW—Mary actually has my blessing now to find another man to marry in this upcoming final season. See? I can be a reasonable viewer and fan!).

FOGs (Fans of Grey’s) have suffered over the past decade. In simple 1-hour episodes, we have become invested in patients that have dropped into our little world of Seattle Grace (or Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital—more on that later). We hang onto hope. We cheer when they live. We’re sad when they die. And that’s just the patients who come into our households for a single episode.

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If you ask a FOG about death on the show (up until last night), one of the first names that would come up is George O’Malley. A sweet resident who delivered Bailey’s baby, George finally decided to enlist the army, inspired by Owen Hunt’s experiences. Before he can announce this news, George sacrifices himself and prevents a stranger from being hit by a bus. Brought in to the very hospital he formerly worked at, he’s such a mess that the staff in ER don’t even know who he is. When they realize it’s George they’re working on—and they can’t save him—it was a seminal moment in TV history. Viewers felt as if a piece of them had died with George.

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But Shonda was just getting warmed up. Other FOGs would choke up over losing Denny Duquette, the soul mate of resident Dr. Izzy Stevens. Denny had a bad heart and a multiple episode story arc, but in the end Denny was toast and Izzy never was the same.

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Some FOGs actually stopped watching the show after the Season 9 premiere when Dr. Mark Sloan (aka McSteamy) died from injuries sustained in a plane crash. He’d spent the season finale of Season 8 telling a fellow plane crash victim, Dr. Lexi “Little” Grey, that he loved her and always would. Those final moments of Mark holding Lexi’s hand and talking about their future were gut-wrenching. The plane crash led to a lawsuit, lots of money, and a new name for our favorite Seattle hospital.

But all these major cast deaths can’t hold a candle to the passing of Dr. McDreamy. Derek was there from the beginning, always a part of Meredith’s story as she grew personally and professionally into the strong woman, brilliant surgeon, and compassionate mom that she is today. Derek had already been shot before. He’d almost lost his ability to operate as a neurosurgeon due to his hand injury from the plane crash. He and Meredith had been to hell and back . . . and finally they were in a good place. A great place. They had their dream jobs. Built their dream house. Had two adorable kids. And love. They totally, absolutely, 110% had love together.

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And Shonda Rimes just ripped their (our) world apart.

Derek died after saving 4 car crash victims, doing extraordinary things and also taking care of a young girl emotionally. I fell in love with him all over again in these moments. But he’s hit by a semi and brought to the same facility where those he saved were transported. We hear Derek’s thoughts as the doctors struggle to save him, knowing they’re doing the wrong things, knowing he won’t make it. He dies of a head injury that occurred when the semi hit him. His brain shuts down first, but the machines are keeping him alive. And Meredith? She has to let. Him. Go.

Just as when Denny died, Show Patrol’s Chasing Cars played in the background, the poignant lyrics tearing my heart out. I’ll never hear that song again in the same way. As I think on this, fresh tears are spilling down my cheeks.

As a writer, I want to tell great stories. I want readers to be invested in my characters, wrapped up in what happens to them. I want to make readers laugh and cry and hurt and cheer.

Just like Shonda does . . .

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Week #3 of Medieval Monday: Andrea Cooper’s Viking Flame

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I feel lucky that I don’t live in an age of arranged marriages. When I met my husband, I knew he was the one—and was happy to flirt and get to know one another.

But what if you had agreed to sign a wedding contract . . . and then found The One? That happens in today’s Medieval Monday Spring feature, Andrea R. Cooper’s Viking Flame, a prequel to Viking Fire.

Andrea Cooper cover

Blurb:

Bram has agreed to marry an Irish nobleman’s daughter in exchange for land and his services fighting with the Laird Liannon’s clan against rival Irishmen. However, Bram’s intended does not stir his heart. Not like the Laird’s daughter, Kaireen.  Somehow, he must not only convince the Laird to amend his marriage contract, but win the heart of the stubborn feisty Kaireen.

Excerpt:

Near the beach, the man quit rowing and yanked out a knife.

Bram didn’t move. “You go against your Captain’s orders t—”

“You made it to shore. That’s all we’s promised.” He spat at Bram’s boots. “No one said anything about you living afterwards.” When he dove forward, Bram ducked to the side and snatched the sailor’s arm, pinning it to his side. When the sailor slung with his free arm, Bram increased the pressure until the man was on his knees.

“Cease, or I will break your arm.” If it wasn’t for his pledge to Morga, he’d have snapped the man’s arm already. Once his contract was signed with the Laird, then he’d be free to fight in Ireland—or at least against other Vikings and rival Irishmen. The man continued to struggle, “Or perhaps a leg as well? What will your Captain say if you return without your weapon and injured? Will he be merciful and allow you to recover or throw you to the sharks?”

“Heathen scum!” He twisted his body to escape Bram’s grip.

As he did, Bram snapped the man’s wrist backward and the first mate let out a howl before the blade came closer to Bram’s chest.

“Now, hand me the knife.” When the man glared at him, he increased pressure on the bent wrist. “Or this heathen might do worse so that not even the sharks would want you.”

The first mate gulped and released his hold of the knife.

Bram broke his hold and snatched the blade out of the air before it hit the water. “Tell your Captain, I will not forget his hospitality nor will any of my eight brothers.”

The man paled. “What brings you to our island? To rape our women and pillage our churches?”

“No.” Bram rose and tucked the small blade into his boot. “To find my bride.”

***

Buy Link: http://amzn.com/B00U1OLDQU

 

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Celebrating my RONE Nominees!

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I wasn’t much of an athlete growing up, so I don’t have a collection of trophies and ribbons from days of running track or playing soccer. I did win some academic awards, though, and I was named Most Likely to Succeed by my senior class.

As I continued on my journey through adulthood, I felt fortunate to be honored by my peers when I was recognized as Teacher of the Year at two different high schools where I taught. I also beamed with pride anytime a student asked me to the Top 5% Banquet, which honored the students with the highest GPAs in the district. They were allowed to invite a teacher who had influenced their lives in a positive manner, and I cherish each time I got to attend with one of my amazing students.

Now I’m a writer—and with over 3 million new titles released on Kindle last year? Let’s just say I’m not hitting the New York Times best seller list. But I am pleased to be honored by InD’Tale Magazine, landing 3 nominations for a RONE Award. This award honors the best books in indie & small publishing. They are ones who achieved high ratings by InD’Tale reviewers in order to be eligible. The public is then allowed to vote from the list of nominees, with the highest number of votes allowing a novel to progress to the finals. The finalists get a read by a group of industry professionals, and the book with the top score will win the RONE in each category.

A Game of Chance small cover

My western historical romances A Game of Chance and Written in the Cards are my entries in the American Historical category this year.

WrittenintheCards_400x600Since a voter can only vote once, as the “mom” of these books, it’s hard to choose which of my “babies” should get my vote! Both novels are the stories of a gambler who comes to find love in an unusual way. You can vote for either book from April 13-17 here:

http://indtale.com/2015-rone-awards-week-one

A Bit of Heaven on Earth 400x600

In the Pre-Medieval category, my novel A Bit of Heaven on Earth can receive votes May 11-17 at:

http://indtale.com/2015-rone-awards-week-five

InD’Tale Magazine is a huge supporter of romance authors. I’m happy that several of my fellow Soul Mate Publishing authors are also up for a RONE, including my critique partner, Aven Ellis. Here sweet contemporary, Waiting for Prince Harry, should get your vote next week. It’s a terrific story and the first in her Dallas Demons hockey series, with the second book, The Definition of Icing, coming out next month.

So take a minute if you can and head over to vote – thanks!

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Week #2 of Medieval Monday: Ruth A. Casie’s KNIGHT OF RAPTURE

MedMonsmaller

I read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander when it first came out in 1991 and totally fell in love with its hero, Jamie Fraser. I think every woman hopes to find a love that will stretch across space and time.

For Week #2 of Medieval Monday Spring, I’m featuring Ruth Casie’s Knight of Rapture. Like Outlander, it is a story of lovers separated by centuries and how they try to reunite.

Ruth Casie Cover

Blurb:

He crossed the centuries to find her…

For months Lord Arik has been trying to find the right combination of runes to create the precise spell to rescue his wife, Rebeka, but the druid knight will soon discover that reaching her four hundred years in the future is only the beginning of his quest. He arrives in the 21st century to find her memory of him erased, his legacy on the brink of destruction, and traces of dark magick at every turn.

A threat has followed…

Bran, the dark druid, is more determined than ever to get his revenge. His evil has spread across the centuries. Arik will lose all. Time is his weapon, and he’s made sure his plan leaves no one dear to Arik, in past or present, safe from the destruction.

But their enemy has overlooked the strongest magick of all…

Professor Rebeka Tyler is dealing with more than just a faulty memory. Ownership of Fayne Manor, her home, has been called into question. Convenient accidents begin happening putting those she cares for in the line of fire. And then there’s the unexpected arrival of a strange man dressed like he belonged in a medieval fair—a man who somehow is always around when needed, and always on her mind. She doesn’t know who to trust. But one thing is certain. Her family line and manor have survived for over eleven centuries. She won’t let them fall, not on her watch… in any century.

Excerpt:

She took another step and past the stone marker.

The air chilled and the sky turned an array of colors. Everything around her began to swirl. She realized her mistake too late. The portal, she was in the portal.

Arik. Close to him now, she reached for him but her hand passed through the form. She examined her hand turning it over then spotted the shadow of the man.

An illusion?

The shadow turned towards her. She watched as the wind washed over his face and it changed. “Bran,” she whispered in disbelief. Her head swiveled while she searched for something, anything to grab on to. The portal had one use and she had no intention of leaving.

Get out, her brain shouted.

His lips twisted into a cynical sneer. He tilted his head in jaunty satisfaction, snapped his fingers and vanished.

“No,” she yelled. “Arik,” she closed her eyes and screamed in her head trying to mind touch him while the wind tore at her.

“Beka,” he boomed.

Her eyes snapped open. She shielded them from the dust and debris and stared at Arik on the other side of the opening. He stood at the high plateau, miles away. His hands were braced on the opening’s edges, which were nothing more than solid streams of whirling wind. He struggled to keep the portal from closing.

“Come.” His voice didn’t allow for any argument.

The wind whipped at her, pushed her back. She tried again. “I can’t. The wind. Keeps. Pushing. Me. Away.” She shoved her staff in front of her and anchored it in the ground. Against the gusting wind, pulled herself towards him.

“A little more, Beka.” He gripped the edge of the portal with one hand and stretched the other out to her. She shoved her hand towards him as far as she could. The tips of their fingers brushed. In a burst of effort he caught the top of her hand, a precarious hold. With a tight grasp she wrapped her fingers around his thumb.

Safe, she wasn’t far now.

She concentrated on his face. The corners of his mouth turned up as he pulled her towards safety. The wind grew stronger buffeting around them then changed its path.

Before she could brace herself for the new direction, the gust blasted them. Without a firm grip, her hand began to slip. She pushed through the building panic. His smile slipped. The expression on his face turned to determination. Again her hand slipped until he held her by her fingertips.

He held them fast—crushing them but that didn’t matter. He had to hold on to her. Every muscle strained. Inch by inch he brought her closer to him. She tried to help him the best way she could. Anchored to the edge of the portal, Arik encouraged her on. But his alternatives were limited. The closer she got to him, the stronger the gale blew. Just a little closer, that’s all she needed for Arik to grab her and get her out of the portal.

The wind exploded from another direction.

The blasting gale pushed her staff away from the opening, across the dirt, cutting an ugly scar in the ground and dragging her away with her staff.

Away from Arik.

***

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1CtC7ad

BN: http://bit.ly/1McK4oC

KOBO: http://bit.ly/1NaqW7Q

iBook: http://apple.co/1M5o92x

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Really? Napkin Folds Are That Important?

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Wedding plans are humming along for my daughter’s July wedding. We met this week with her wedding coordinator, which her venue provides free of charge (a HUGE deal, which this MOB—Mother of the Bride—found out when she researched venues back in October). Her fiancé came along for the ride, just to see what was going on, and insert a male contribution to the process.

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One reason I liked this venue (not only because it’s beautiful, as you can see) was that they do a live web broadcast of the ceremony (AND video the entire wedding and provide a DVD as part of their package—another HUGE thing since this can be outrageously expensive). Since we have several out of state and/or elderly relatives and friends who won’t be able to make the trip to Texas, being able to sign on and watch the wedding is a huge plus. We received directions on how to do this, and they are easy-peasy!

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We discussed the actual ceremony next, deciding how to line the attendants up (by height), giving the okay on candles (yes, we like lots of them!), and selecting the music. Daughter & I had already listened to You Tube clips and had chosen songs for the guests to be seated, for the parents to be seated, for the bridesmaids to walk to, and for the wedding party to head back up the aisle after the ceremony. We also had back-ups in hand, just in case. Laura, our coordinator, will select a few versions of our choices (strings vs. piano, etc.) and let us hear these at the rehearsal to see which tickle our fancy. It’ll be open seating, so no bride or groom sides—so get there early for the best seat!

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Food was a huge topic of the meeting. While the newly married couple will have a bazillion pictures taken, the guests will be sipping lemonade or white sangria (great choices for a hot July in Texas) and munching on appetizers (won’t give those away). After pictures are snapped, everyone heads to the reception hall, which is what we did. They’d already decided their meal choices from a booklet of about thirty pages (the groom contributed wanting garlic mashed potatoes vs. regular—woo-hoo—way to go getting in that male perspective!), but the venue will let them sit down in a couple of weeks to taste all their appetizers and the meal itself, along with a few of the wines to be served. This way, they’ll actually get to eat everything (since they’ll miss out on apps during photographs and they might be interrupted or too giddy to enjoy their dinner that actual night). They can make any changes in their menu at that time if they desire.

Choosing the centerpiece for the tables became another topic of discussion. I liked one where the candle and hurricane glass were lower. Maybe because I’m short and can’t see over centerpieces sometimes, but I do enjoy seeing and speaking with everyone at my table. Daughter let me have my say (She is SO easy-going through this whole process!), and we went with the shorter design. Other than reserving a few tables for family & the bridal party, everyone can sit where they choose, same as the ceremony. I like that idea much better. Assigned seating doesn’t always make for a great party if you’re separated from your friends. And if a few chairs get moved around, so much the better!

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Laura showed us different lighting and shades of color within that, and we settled on something lovely. As RSVPs come in, we’ll discuss final placement of the tables. I’m sure we’ll take one out near the ever-popular photo booth and bar so people will have elbow room. I’ll be curious to see what props are provided in the photo booth. Maybe that’s something I’ll put on my “ask” list. We looked at the actual placement of items on the table—different colored chargers, the plates, silverware, and glasses from the iced tea to the champagne flutes for the bridal toast.

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 I got tickled when talk rolled around to napkins. Laura said we could get on Pinterest and study different folds, but I advised Daughter not to waste a couple of hours doing that—just go with one of the choices then and there. One less thing to decide on down the line. Her fiancé seemed baffled. He knew he wanted napkins but had no idea the fold was so important. We explained to him that some Bridezillas fret about every detail, down to whether that dang napkin is in a fan or waterfall. Suffice it to say, a napkin fold was chosen—another check off the list!

We reviewed the schedule, from welcoming guests and introducing the bridal party to when the various special dances will occur to cake cutting and more. Daughter is deciding now whether to put together a slide slow for before the ceremony and/or during the reception. I liked the fact that they’ll round up the guests and herd us outside, where we’ll be given bubbles to blow as the happy couple departs. While that’s being accomplished, the newlyweds will have a last, private dance together in the empty reception hall.

imagesWDY1M07C14

 More decisions will be made, but we knocked out a ton at this meeting. I’m looking forward to what’s still coming up . . . and the actual ceremony & celebration itself.

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Round 2 of Medieval Monday

MedMonsmaller

I had so much fun this winter meeting fellow medieval historical romance authors through our Medieval Monday exchange. When I asked was asked to participate again, I leapt at the opportunity!

So on this first day of Round 2 of Medieval Monday, I get to spotlight my very own book. Music For My Soul was my debut novel released in May 2013, and stories have poured from me ever since. Besides Music For My Soul, I’ve released another medieval, A Bit of Heaven on Earth, which was featured in Round 1 of Medieval Monday. I’ve also had four western historical romances come out, the latest last week when Ballad Beauty was released.

While I’ll always write historical romances set in the medieval or frontier eras, I’m also branching out into romantic suspense. I’m excited that my first in this genre is Leave Yesterday Behind, which will be on sale in June. My goal is to alternate historicals with suspense titles, so this fall another medieval, A Knight for Kallen, will be published. Then in early 2016 another suspense, Illusions of Death, will follow.

Thanks for following me on this writing journey. I love sharing my “people” with readers and hope to entertain you for many years to come. So without further adieu, let me get Medieval Monday rolling with Madeleine & Garrett’s love story—Music For My Soul.

Music_for_my_Soul_cover_550x825

Blurb:

As the third wife of an abusive French vineyard owner, Madeleine Bouchard hasn’t produced the expected heir after three years of marriage. Fearing he plans to kill her, she flees during a trip to England. Unable to make her way home, she joins a troupe of traveling mummers and reinvents herself as the only woman troubadour in the land, captivating audiences with both song and story.

Nobleman Garrett Montayne’s fascination with Madeleine causes him to pay the troupe to bypass their next stop in order to journey to his estate. Though he suspects Madeleine of being a thief with dark secrets, love blossoms between them under the magical moon of summer solstice.

But Madeleine’s past is about to catch up with her, as her husband is set to arrive to conduct business with Garrett. Madeleine determines to free herself from her loveless marriage and make a new life with Garrett, no matter what the cost.

Excerpt:

Garrett peered into the angry face of the woman who haunted his dreams by night and left him absent-minded by day. Their encounter had been brief, but he doubted he had ever met a more remarkable woman. Not even his petite Lynnette had brought such a sweet longing to his loins as did the bewitching creature before him.

Her honeyed hair, loosened from its intricate braid, curled around her shoulders. Tiny beads of sweat had formed just above her upper lip. Without thinking, Garrett reached his thumb towards her and wiped it away. She flinched slightly, her dark, amethyst eyes glowering at him.

Garrett smiled in spite of himself, offering her a hand to pull her to her feet. He had forgotten how very tall she was as she stared at him, her cheeks flushed with anger.

“Perhaps we could arrange a trade?” he suggested.

She eyed him suspiciously. “I’m not sure if I could trust you, my lord,” she countered.

“Trust me?” he sputtered. “This, from the woman who traipsed about the countryside claiming to be my wife?”

She shrugged nonchalantly, an almost Gallic air about her. She didn’t sound French, but there was an unmistakable manner to her movement. Garrett spent enough time in France to recognize the behavior. However, when she spoke, he quickly put it from his mind.

“I chose a bloody awful name to scare away anyone who accosted me on the road! How was I to know I’d run into you?” She snorted in an unladylike fashion. “I had heard tales of the wicked Lord Montayne, how he frightened old and young alike and gobbled up babes for his dinner. Why, the very mention of his name would cause grown men to plead for their lives and their loved ones. Oh, no, my lord, I was an honest liar. You were the one who resorted to trickery and hid your true identity from me.”

Her accusation so startled Garrett his jaw flew open. No sound came out for a moment. The woman lifted her chin high and turned on her heel. That brought Garrett into motion.

He grabbed her elbow and pulled her around to face him. “Not so fast, my lady.” He studied her a second. Her eyes narrowed at him, but she remained silent. Finally faced with her visage square in front of him, Garrett was at a loss of what to do. His emotions swirled out of control as he spoke.

“’Tis curiosity,” he sputtered.

She looked puzzled. “Curiosity?” she echoed.

He nodded, his words spilling forth rapidly. “I know not who you are, nor where you come from. I’ve dreamed of you since that night only to awaken to an emptiness.” His voice became low and tinged with sadness. “I don’t even know your name.”

***

(Each week as you’re introduced to new authors and medieval historical romances, the buy links will be available after the blurb and excerpt. Hope you find you’re exposed to some wonderful books through this blog exchange!)

Buy Link:

Amazon e-book copy: http://www.amazon.com/Music-For-My-Soul-ebook/dp/B00CSC14SA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1368759384&sr=1-1&keywords=music+for+my+soul

Amazon print copy: http://www.amazon.com/Music-My-Soul-Lauren-Linwood/dp/1619354411/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1368759384&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble print copy: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/music-for-my-soul-lauren-linwood/1119639140?ean=9781619354418

Posted in blog exchange, Lauren Linwood, medieval author exchange, medieval England, Music For My Soul, woman troubadour | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Medieval Monday and Berengaria Brown’s Restoring Garnet’s Heart

MedMonsmaller

Today wraps up the 12 magical weeks of Medieval Mondays. I’ve met some wonderful fellow authors through this exchange, and I hope I’ve introduced you to some new books from the medieval era.

This last blog features Book 3 of the Elinor’s Stronghold series, Restoring Garnet’s Heart.

Blurb:

Tragically widowed, Garnet is loved by two men. If a noble lady can have two men, why can’t a mere sewing woman? Garnet decides she’ll marry them both! Then she adopts two orphaned, starving little girls.

Garnet, Byram, and Carlysle are sent to repair the demesne. Can they achieve this huge task before the harvest is gathered in? First a high stone wall needs to be built to protect them from attackers. The buildings must be cleaned and repaired, the crops sown, weeded, cared for, and hopefully reaped. Is it possible to complete such a huge undertaking before the next vicious winter arrives? Will the peasants help them?

Meanwhile Lady Elinor gives birth to the heir of the stronghold, and Lord Rhys and Lady Rhyannon, with Alistair and Lord Devon, go to court to sort out her inheritance. And what about Garnet’s threesome relationship? Will that be successful?

Berengaria Cover use this

Excerpt:

Lady Elinor stared at the two children in front of her. One, a girl, looked to be about six years old and dragged a cooking pot with a few possessions inside it. Her arms and legs were stick-thin, her hair was falling out in clumps, and her belly was swollen.
The child had been eating bark and leaves to try to stem her hunger, and her belly was full of air, assumed Garnet, who was standing beside Lady Elinor among the other sewing women of the castle.
The younger child, which could be either a girl or boy, and was maybe three years old, clutched the older one’s tunic in one hand, and sucked hard on its other thumb. It, too, was painfully thin, though less bloated by starvation.
“You wish to become my slave?” Lady Elinor’s voice was even and mild, but Garnet knew she was shocked. Peasant men from the smallest of uncaring Lord Jeffrey’s hamlets had begged to become slaves of the castle in return for food during this terrible winter, but few females, and no one as young as this little child.
“Yes, Lady Elinor. I can scare birds from the crops when they’re planted, and clean for you. Ysabel will stay with me. I’ve always looked after her since Ma died, and she won’t touch the seedlings. She’s a good girl, and no trouble at all. And I will grow big, and learn to fight for you and Lord Rhys, and then I’ll kill the men who murdered our Pa and took all our hamlet’s food,” the child finished fiercely, almost in a shout.
Garnet felt her eyebrows rise and forced her face not to break into a grin. It was plain this tiny, starved child had the heart of a warrior indeed.
Lady Elinor rested her hand on her huge belly. It was almost time for the heir to the stronghold to be born.
“Well then, Nerida is already learning warrior skills, and if the heir to the stronghold is a girl, she will be a warrior, too. I see no reason why you can’t also be a warrior, if that is your desire. What is your name, and where are the other people from your hamlet?”
“I’m Ava, lady, and I promise to serve you forever. Most of the people left after the soldiers came raiding. Some have tried to help Ysabel and me, but I’d rather work for my food.”

Garnet watched Ava’s thin, little shoulders straighten as she spoke. At her age, Garnet would never have dared to approach the Lady of the Castle, and Garnet had never been a shy child. But this girl was truly a warrior born. She was that rare being who combined the ability to think of a solution to a problem with the courage to step outside any rules of society and do it, no matter what the consequences may turn out to be.
Without stopping to think, Garnet moved to stand where Lady Elinor could see her. “The two girls may share my room, lady, and I will supervise their activities.”
“It is decided then, Ava. You and Ysabel may join the stronghold. We will feed you, and you will work. You will obey Garnet in all things. Do you understand?”
“Yes, lady, thank you.”
Ava dropped to her knees and pressed her face to Lady Elinor’s feet. Ysabel copied her.
Garnet’s eyes flooded with tears. Peasants always died when there was trouble in the land, especially the very old and the very young. They weren’t strong enough to fight back or fast enough to run away. But this child deserved to live.
Garnet’s husband, Roldan, had been one of Lord Rhys’s soldiers, and was killed in the battle that took the lives of Lady Elinor’s father and brothers and caused Lord Rhys to lose his demesne to Lord Jeffrey. They had been married only six months, not long enough for her to worry about not getting pregnant, but now he was dead, the parents of these children were dead, and Ava was a daughter any woman would be proud to call her own.

***

Buy link: http://www.bookstrand.com/restoring-garnets-heart

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Whether the Weather Will Make Up Its Mind

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Texas is known for its crazy weather. Like a mood-swinging, hormonal teenager or pregnant mom-to-be, our weather changes contantly. There’s a saying in Texas—if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes. Sometimes even five will do the trick.

I remember a Thanksgiving where there was ice and snow on the ground. We had to be so careful heading out to visit relatives an hour away because the roads were downright dangerous. 16 Then I remember having to turn on the A/C on Thanksgiving Day once because it was so darn hot!

March has been pretty cray-cray this year. Already, school has been canceled three different days for snow and ice. I’ve gone walking and already been hot one day, then had to bundle up the next when I put my miles in. It’s also rained, which you’d expect since spring is supposedly on its way. Every day—and within a day—seems to bring a new forecast. Most of which are wrong, BTW.

Right now, my downstairs unit is still on heat. Just today, dark and gloomy, the house was chilled when I got home, so I heated it up a bit. Yet for the past couple of nights, it’s been so hot upstairs that we’ve run the A/C up there just so we could get a good night’s sleep. The flannel sheets are still on, but I know the minute I take them off, an arctic blast will probably come through!

This weather is not conducive for women. We have certain rituals that help us get ready for spring. A pedicure is mandatory after months of enclosing toes in socks and boots. 17Right now, mine look pitiful—so even if it turns almost 80 again (as it did 2 days ago), I can’t show them. If I did, people would take one look at my feet and run screaming for the hills.

I also will need to start shaving my legs on a more regular basis. During the winter, the tiny hairs on my legs don’t grow as fast, so I can get away with once-a-week shaving. But come spring, I need to pick up the pace. And be more careful. In cold weather, who cares if I miss a little spot? It’s winter, and my legs are encased in jeans and sweats and flannel pajamas!

Spring also means I need to at least make an attempt at spring cleaning. That means attacking my closet. What do I like and want to keep? What should be given away? What actually fits after I’ve stored my share of winter fat? What have I not worn in 5 years that really needs to go? These are all big decisions, and they’ll take the better part of an afternoon as I try on various shirts, pants, skirts, and even shoes. As far as deep cleaning? Don’t even go there.

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So whether the weather cooperates or not, I need to be thinking about ways to get ready for spring. Lighter meals. Less clothing. Painted toes and scrubbed heels. Oh, and stocking up on allergy meds. For even though I love spring, with its warmer weather and greening up of lawns and trees and abundant colors of flowers everywhere, I know I’ll have watering eyes and a constant drip down my throat and tissues in every pocket.

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Off to schedule that pedicure and look for coupons for stocking up on my OTC allergy meds!

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Medieval Monday and Carmen Stefanescu’s Shadows of the Past

MedMonsmaller

Week #11 of Medieval Monday finds us with the most intriguing genre description I’ve ever seen for a book. Author Carmen Stefanescu labels her book Shadows of the Past as a

paranormal / light romance / light historical / light horror. That sure grabbed my attention! I’ll bet this tidbit she shares will grab yours, too.

Carmen cover

Blurb:

Anne’s relationship with her boyfriend Neil has disintegrated. After a two-year separation, they pack for a week vacation in hopes of reconciling. But fate has other plans for them.

The discovery of a bejeweled cross and ancient human bones opens a door to a new and frightening world–one where the ghost of a medieval nun named Genevieve will not let Anne rest. This new world threatens not only to ruin Anne and Neil’s vacation but to end all hopes of reconciliation as Anne feels compelled to help free Genevieve’s soul from its torment.

Can Anne save her relationship and help Genevieve find her eternal rest?

A touching, compelling story of tragedy, loss and the power of endless love and good magic.

The twists and turns in this paranormal tale keep the reader guessing up to the end and weave themselves together into a quest to rekindle love.

 

Excerpt:

“Come, we should leave at once,” she said and glanced nervously over her shoulder. “Something terrible happened after you left for town. I think the Abbess found out about us. Our meeting in Uncle Ryan’s cabin is no longer a secret. We have been overheard. For all I know someone spies on us even as we speak. I think the Abbess, or one of her ‘friends,’ is hovering somewhere nearby and listening to every word.”

Andrew pulled Genevieve to his chest. “Do you regret you’ve come with me?”

Passion smothered Genevieve’s doubt and guilt. “Never,” she answered, aware of her body’s response to his touch, and she succumbed to his embrace.

Calming the gnawing unease in her mind and the thought of Sister Dominica guessing she was the dough of a sinner, Genevieve repeated, “Never.”

With her eyes closed and their bodies touching she became, for the very first time, simply a woman. She melted in his embrace in spite of the invisible vicious threat breathing around them. Aware they might never be alone again, she fought hard to silence the voice of conscience berating her.

“Oh, God. Please forgive me,” Andrew muttered under his breath when he bowed his head to kiss her. Their lips met in a passionate first kiss.

Genevieve’s spirits fell and her heart skipped a beat when, a couple of seconds later, she opened her eyes and her gaze fell on a knot strangers.

… . . .

Tears welled in Anne’s eyes, blurring her vision. She couldn’t explain them, or the sudden sadness seeping into her heart. This should’ve been a moment of happiness or, at least, contentment. She was with Neil again, and the outcome of their trip together should, very likely, bring their reconciliation. Why then did she seem detached from where she stood?

Anne shivered. Why the deep feeling of having seen this place, this forest before? And why the eerie sensation of being present here only in the body, while her mind was far away?

Away from the forest.

Away from Neil, the man who’d betrayed her trust and her love.

An onrush of sensations unfamiliar to her followed. Dizziness and a malevolent feeling of unreality suffocated her.

Anne edged cautiously closer to the rim of the bare cliff. Her foot tapped the edge. It seemed solid. She stared into the darkness of the abyss at her feet. It echoed the shadows in her heart. An unusual curiosity took hold of her. Should she step ahead? What was down there? Other human bones? Another mystery? The presence of evil, creeping up and enveloping her, became almost palpable. The vines of fog folded around her, dragging her to the depth. Her throat turned dry, and she gasped for air.

Megan’s face contorted, the voice no longer pleasant. A hoarse gurgle, spluttering distorted words, “Yes, come… I’m waiting… I’ve been waiting for you for such a long time…”

You can find Shadows of the Past at:

 

Wild Child Publishing

http://www.wildchildpublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=84&products_id=410

http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-of-the-Past-ebook/dp/B00AK2D9I8/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354874514&sr=1-15&keywords=shadows+of+the+past

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadows-of-the-past-carmen-stefanescu/1113910162?ean=2940015715026

 

 

 

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Medieval Monday and Victoria Zak’s Highland Burn

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Here we are at Week #10 of Medieval Monday, and we’re focusing on Scotland today. If you saw Braveheart, you met Robert the Bruce. But author Victoria Zak’s book Highland Burn will introduce you to Robert’s daughter!

Victoria Cover Use

Blurb:

Will Love’s Flame Quench the Dragon’s Fire? …

The past never stays in the past, it rears its ugly head eventually. James the Black Douglas knows this all too well. With a past that has left him vengeful and his dragon blood thirsty, his reputation as a ruthless warrior haunts his enemies in their sleep. As his allegiance stands with Robert Bruce, the King of Scotland, he must now repay a debt to the king and agrees to marry his daughter, Abigale Bruce. The problem is he doesn’t want a wife. When flames start to burn out of control between him and the auburn-haired lass, he must decide to either kindle the flames of passion or shelter her from the truth and set her free.

It’s What Shines in the Dark That Brings Forth Your True Light…

Determined to keep his daughter safe and out of the hands of the English, Robert hides Abigale behind the safe walls of a nunnery. After eight long years of living her life in seclusion, Abigale is finally set free. But her new found freedom comes to an abrupt halt when she learns of her betrothal to the infamous Bogeyman – James the Black Douglas. She soon finds herself falling in love with the uncontainable and haunted man. Is her love enough to soften his hardened heart?

 

Excerpt:

     Late summer of 1314

Medieval Scotland

 

The unsettled nature of Scotland had left Abigale hardened. She’d seen firsthand the aftermath of battles fought; mended wounds, prayed over dead bodies, and even buried the dead. The nunnery where she grew up would set up tents to aid those wounded in battle. Abigale would assist in surgery and her passion grew for healing the sick and mending wounds. Life was to be valued, not destroyed.

In a way she blamed Lady Scotland for her misfortunes. Her father’s growing need to fight for Scotland had caused her to stay hidden, conceal her true identity, and grow up without a family. Her whole family had been affected by the battles fought for Scotland and the greed of claiming the crown. Though it was true she had long forgiven the Lady; she could not forget.

The Highlander seemed far away in thought, because he took a while to answer. “Some would say I’m a Highlander.” He approached Abigale. “May I?” The beautiful stranger reached for a piece of hair that was stuck to her face and tucked it behind her ear. He brushed a callused finger down her cheek to her slender neck leaving a fiery path trailing behind.

He held her stare and captivated her to the point that she could not form a coherent thought. Her body was no longer hers to control, her heart dropped, and desire pooled in her core setting her body on fire. This Highlander was so close to her she could feel his breath on her skin, she could smell his masculine scent and soon she wanted to taste his lips.

***

Buy Links: Amazon: http://amzn.to/1qUrh7n

 

Posted in History, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Life Lessons from . . . Proofing a Book?

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One of the best things that has ever happened to me is becoming a published author. I love getting to share all the people inside my head with the people outside my head. I enjoy creating characters, inventing plotlines, throwing in a few twists, and seeing a book to completion.

Of course, in the writing process, completing a book doesn’t mean it’s finished. It’s only the start!

As I write a novel, I share chapters with my critique partners and get their feedback. Is it believable? Does the plot make sense? Are the characters multi-dimensional? Is the conflict strong enough? Based on their suggestions, I tweak as I go along. Finally, the day comes when I’ve “finished” the book.

The first thing I do? Put it away. Let it ferment like wine. Don’t think about. Start something new. Then a few months later, I take it out and read it from start to finish. It’s easier to find discrepancies that way. Once I’ve re-read the manuscript and polished it to perfection, it goes off to my editor.

Then the real fun begins.

First, if I’m lucky, she offers me a contract (Woo-Hoo!). Then comes the editing process where she makes suggestions for me to implement to make it the strongest book possible. I think about the dedication. Work with my cover artist. Finally, I receive the final version which I need to proofread before signing off on it.

That’s the part I can’t stand.

I’ve always been a fast reader. In elementary school, I would finish reading assignments long before my classmates did. While my husband pours over the sports section, I’m able to read the entire Sunday paper. I’m fortunate that I comprehend what I read at a quick rate. It helped me immensely during college.

But to proofread a manuscript, I have to SLOW DOWN!

I know you’ve received one of those emails or seen one of those items on Facebook. At a glance, it looks like gibberish. Then you start reading it, and you actually can read it. It might be missing every vowel, or it might have words that only have a few letters—yet your eyes flow over the material and not only do you read it, but it makes sense.

That’s because our brains are programmed to fill in what’s missing. It’s one of the cool things about being a human being. But it’s absolutely awful when you’re trying to proof a lengthy novel!!!

Recently, I received the final versions of two of my Soul Mate Publishing books. Though they are being released three months apart, both of them wound up being at the proofreading stage right around the same time. I spent two days reading through one and another two days reading through another. And I mean SLOWLY—like molasses dripping—reading. Sure enough, if you read aloud, you can catch when an “a” or a “to” has been omitted. But to me, it was like gnashing teeth. I felt like a racehorse reined in, only allowed to trot along instead being given my head and running all-out.

Yet I know this final step of the process is important because it helps put the best version of my product out there for my readers.

It got me to thinking of other things that I do in fast-forward. Walking. Reading. Watching TV. Eating. Sometimes I’m moving so fast through something, I don’t enjoy it as much as I could—or should. So this “slow down and proof” lesson can be applied other places, as well. I tried it on my morning walk recently. I still walked fast. After all, I’m walking for my health, so I don’t want to go at a snail’s pace. But I took time to stop and take a couple of pictures and enjoy things a little more along the way.

I tried it with the next book I read. Oh, I still read quickly, but I took time to go back and re-read a few passages that moved me. I enjoyed them all over again!

I can’t do it with every meal, but I do think we Americans could learn from our overseas counterparts and take a little more time to savor what we’re putting in our mouths when we eat. Since the brain can’t signal that the stomach is full until 20 minutes after it is full, maybe this would help us from being such over-eaters.

Maybe there is something, after all, to the old saying: Stop and smell the roses. So not only will I continue to slow down when I proof a final version of a manuscript, I just might linger over other things in life, too!

(Here’s a sneak peek of the covers for the two books I recently proofed.)

BalladBeauty600

LeaveYesterdayBehind600

 

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Medieval Monday and Bambi Lynn’s Marek

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It’s seems it’s another Medieval Monday!

In Week #9, I’m featuring Marek, the 1st book in The Knights of Stonebridge series. If you haven’t read a time travel romance in a while, then this might be the book for you.

Bambi Cover

           Blurb:

Boring accountant, Kitty Petty, struggles to get through each day one at a time since the brutal murder of her husband. She spends every free moment caring for her young daughter, until the night she wakes to find her bed on fire.

Kitty doesn’t know how she got to the year 1196, much less how to get back. But if she doesn’t, her daughter will be institutionalized. Having failed to save her child from the clutches of a madman, Kitty vows to protect her future. But going back to her time means risking her own life and separating her from the knight she has grown to love.

Marek Stone wants to protect his wife from the people of Stonebridge. Katherine has been declared a demon after her miraculous rise from the funeral pyre, and the villagers want justice.

EXCERPT:

Marek jerked the laces free at the waist of his chausses, tugged them off and, naked, padded across to the tub. Stepping over the side, he sank into the steaming water. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, resting his head back against the rim.

The look of ecstasy on his face made Kitty want to rip off her own clothes and jump in with him. She realized she’d never known lust until that moment. She tried to deny it, but the pulse at her core could not be ignored, nor could the moisture that pooled between her thighs. Slowly she tiptoed over until she stood next to the tub, gazing down at him.

He did not open his eyes, but spoke so quietly he must have known she stood next to him. “If you have had a change of heart towards Bria, I am pleased. I would not deny her the affections of her mother. I have often told you not to toy with me, now I demand the same consideration of her. I would not have her disappointed in any way.”

She nodded vaguely, her gaze riveted to the water line just beneath his chest.

When she did not answer, he looked up at her. “Wife,” he snapped. Kitty jumped, having been caught gawking at his nudity, barely hidden beneath the water. “Continue to stare at me thus and you’ll find yourself possessed of me for the first time in years.”

Kitty could think of nothing more pleasant that being ‘possessed’ of this man.

He settled himself once again, but continued to look up at her. “I have not concerned myself with your whoring for some time. But I would like nothing more than for Bria to know the love of a happy family. You are a mistress of deceit. If you can make her believe she has that, I would be…grateful.” His expression softened.

Kitty fairly melted. He loved that child. All he wanted was for her to be happy. She knew in that moment that this man would never allow harm to come to his daughter, much less harm her himself. He wasn’t like Jake. She reached out, traced the tip of her finger along the scar that trailed into his wet hair.

The touch was like an electric shock. The downy hairs on the back of her neck prickled. A shiver racked her whole body.

He must have felt it, too. Marek grabbed her wrist and, before she could say anything to stop him, pulled her over the side and into his lap. Water sloshed onto the floor.

Her first thought, that he was ruining Bria’s favorite gown, evaporated as he pulled her against his chest, crushing his lips to hers.

Kitty knew she should resist. She couldn’t breathe. The frantic, almost desperate movement of his mouth on hers seared her. She kissed him back with all the pent up passion and loneliness she’d felt in recent months.

God! He was a good kisser. His lips were full and seemed to devour her. She opened her mouth wider, taking his tongue inside her. Her hands grasped his shoulders. Oh, but she could get used to this.

And her daughter would perish.

Available At: Amazon, B&N, Apple

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Medieval Monday and Mary Morgan’s Dragon Knight’s Medallion

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Welcome to Week #8 of Medieval Monday 2015, where I’m featuring books written by various authors of medieval historical romance for twelve weeks.

The spotlight this Monday is on Mary Morgan, author of the Dragon Knight series, which kicked off with Dragon Knight’s Sword.  Today I’ll be featuring the second book in the series, Dragon Knight’s Medallion.

Mary Cover

Blurb:

To right a wrong, two souls are brought together only to shatter when they are torn apart by the deeds of an evil druid.

Dragon Knight, Stephen MacKay’s powers are altered after the death of his sister. Now he is plagued with visions that threaten to destroy his soul. When Aileen Kerrigan falls through a time tunnel, he vows to keep her safe, despite the fact the beautiful but head-strong half-blooded fae could be the death of him.

When Aileen finds out her dad is a Fenian Warrior, she flees to a nearby ruin. Armed with the medallion her mother gave her, and a matching one belonging to a long dead knight, she is flung into the past and finds a handsome but surly warrior who is on a quest. Now it seems her future could be entwined with his, if she doesn’t kill him first.

Excerpt:

Full shock registered inside her brain as she realized where she’d seen this man. Her body started to quake, and she clutched her hands to her chest.

“No, th…this cannot be,” she choked out. “Tell me who you are. I demand to know your name!”

Are all the fae so dumb and beautiful, he thought. “Ye ken who I am.” Stephen’s head caught a glimpse of the fae, as she started to take a few hesitant steps backwards. What the bloody hell was wrong with her? She was standing too close to the edge. If she was not careful, she would slip on over.

Why did he care? She could just vanish, right? Stephen rubbed his face, the remnants of a headache still behind his eyes. Sweet Bridget! Now the fae was yelling at him.

She waved her hands, all the time shaking her lovely head. “You are not him!”

He had to put a stop to this, or she would fall. Perhaps, she was a daft fae. He certainly did not know their ways, nor did he want to find out. However, this creature was becoming more agitated, and for some unfathomable reason, he did not want her to come to any harm.

“Och, fae healer, stop your babbling,” he dismounted with a groan.

“No, no, no!” Pointing a finger at him, she continued to walk backwards. Stumbling, her foot twisted among some tree roots, causing her to lose her balance.

Stephen swore as he lunged for her, grasping her arm and crushing her against his chest. “Are ye truly daft?”

Buy Links:

Amazon Barnes & Noble     The Wild Rose Press

Posted in History, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Fresh Approach

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I love little getaways. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a fan of taking a week (or more) to vacation. My family’s done a terrific 2-week vacation to Spain, Italy, and France. Another fav was a 10-day swing driving through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.WeI’ve spent a week at Disneyworld, combining seeing the parks and doing their 3-day cruise. So yes, I do enjoy going somewhere and spending a nice chunk of time there.

But nothing recharges my batteries more than a quick trip for a couple of days.

I recently escaped to San Antonio, which has some of the best food in Texas. The River Walk that runs through downtown (and the nearby Alamo) is a treat, with restaurants and shops galore. It’s fun to grab a table by the river, order some queso and margaritas, and simply people watch. *BTW—it works with ice cream, too!

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Part of the trip included a stop at the oldest bakery in Texas (located in New Braunfels) and attending the San Antonio indoor rodeo, which has been voted best indoor rodeo 10 years in a row. Frankly, I don’t see how those cowboys stay on those buckin’ bulls & broncos as long as they do. Just watching them being tossed about made MY insides feel scrambled! The fact that they could even walk after an experience like that makes me admire them—and think they must be some of the biggest risk-takers on the planet.

2

A real treat was the concert after the rodeo. Pentatonix is a 5-member a cappella group that recently won a Grammy. They cover existing songs and are moving toward doing more original material. They’re all very young, and they’ve used social media brilliantly to further their careers, even creating their own You Tube channel. They’re currently on tour in the US and will continue to European venues, as well as appear in the upcoming Pitch Perfect 2

27.

Not only are they immensely talented, their sound is unique and innovative. The arrangements they come up with truly give them ownership of the songs they perform. I love the strong presence of Ari’s low bass vocals, and how Kevin is a true vocal percussionist. Their sound blends seamlessly into rich harmonies.

Hearing them and their fresh, original sound made me realize there’s really nobody out there now that sounds like them. That inspires me, as a writer. It’s said there are only about 20 themes or stories authors can tell (stories of love, revenge, etc.)—but it’s the way you tell your story that can make all the difference with an audience. I write romance, so my readers know there’s always going to be an HEA by the tale’s end. I’ve focused on historical romances, but now I’m trying to grow as a writer. I’m exploring the romantic suspense genre and have sold two of those to my editor. I’m working on a third now.

So as I continue on this writing journey, with its highs/lows/meanderings, I hope that I can keep my characters as fresh and innovative as the music of Pentatonix. Oh, and celebrate with a margarita every now and then when a book comes out!

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P.S. Here’s a cut from the recent Pentatonix Christmas album. Check out these amazing harmonies:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifCWN5pJGIE

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Medieval Monday and Ashley York’s The Bruised Thistle

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We’ve finished the 1st half of our 12 Medieval Monday group of books, and today for Week #7? I’m pleased to spotlight my new friend Ashley York and the first novel in her Order of the Scottish Thistle Series—The Bruised Thistle.

As a former history teacher, I appreciate Ashley’s attention to detail as she describes events such as the Second Crusade, which her hero returns from as a broken man. The love of a good heroine solves that, and Seumas & Iseabail make for a wonderful couple!

Ashley Cover

Blurb: Iseabail MacNaughton, the orphaned daughter of a Scottish laird, is forced to flee her home and seek assistance against her lecherous uncle who has usurped her family’s land. When she meets Seumas, a strong and valiant mercenary, she cannot help wondering if he could be the one to stand with her again her uncle. But with a price on her head and enemies on all sides, her trust is not something she can afford to give lightly…

Seumas MacDonell is a man wounded in body and soul, driven by guilt. When he rescues Iseabail from one of his own men, he cannot deny the attraction he feels for her, despite the wound that left him unable to act on it. In the hope of finding redemption for his sins, he agrees to help Iseabail…but will his feeling for her prove to be the ultimate obstacle to his salvation?

EXCERPT:

“Methinks ye wish to place a curse on me with that look of yers… What is yer name?”

Though she jumped at the sound of his voice, she could not help watching as he poured water from a pitcher to a bowl sitting on the table beside the fire. Mesmerized by the motion and the play of firelight over his expansive chest, she did not notice right away when he stopped his movements. She met his eyes. Her heart beat faster and that strange heat centered in her belly again.

He quirked a brow. “I asked ye a question and I expect an answer…or do ye not know how to act with yer betters?”

Her better? Though she seethed inside, Iseabail bit her tongue before she gave herself away. If he but knew how much land her clan called their own…

Nay, Iseabail. Remember the part you play here.

Lowering her eyes, she quietly answered him. “Forgive me, m’lord. I forget myself.” Unsure what else the charade called for, she curtseyed slightly.

“Yer name?” He still didn’t move. His brows were raised in expectation yet again.

“My name is Iseabail.”

He nodded, apparently appeased. “And my name is Seumas.”

His face settled into a slight smile and he continued with his washing. His muscles flexed as he rubbed across his chest and down his arms, scrubbing the soap into lather then rinsing it clean until his skin glistened. When he finished, he reached for the cloth beside him but turned his face to her.

She exhaled slowly.

“Come here, Iseabail.”

His tone was coaxing, as if speaking to a newly harnessed foal. She took the few steps toward him. When he reached for her face, she tensed and her mouth went dry. He was no better than her uncle, after all, and disappointment washed over her. She glanced down, steeling herself for the imminent assault, before facing him. His hand stopped just short of her face. Their eyes met and she could tell he was insulted by his tight lips and furrowed brow.

He wiped her cheek with a wet finger. “Ye’re filthy,” he said with disgust. “Make use of my water and be quick about it.” Seumas walked away, rubbing his hands dry.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple

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Binge-Watching Made Easy–Thanks, Roku!

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For Christmas this year, my daughter and her fiancé got us a Roku Streaming Player—Roku, for short. It’s a device that receives data via a Wi-Fi connection to an Internet router and then outputs it over an HDMI cable.

That sounds really complicated, but it’s made my binge-watching life much easier!

I joined Amazon Prime a few years ago. Not only do I get free shipping on orders (Woo-Hoo!), but I can see all kinds of movies and TV shows as part of the membership. It’s a great way to catch up on new movies that I’ve missed and entire seasons of TV shows that I never watched. I started viewing things on my laptop. With only me, that was fine. Having my husband try to watch something with me? Not so good.

Then, through the magic of Roku, we can now receive all our Prime choices through our big-screen TV! It made my viewing of the first two seasons of The Americans much more pleasant.

Our latest TV show that we put on our watch list and are now binging on is the very funny Alpha House, about four Republican senators who share a rent house. It was inspired by real-life Democratic congressmen who share a row house in Washington, D.C. The senators are involved in re-election campaigns, trips to visit our soldiers in the Middle East, and all kinds of political backstabbing and shenanigans. It’s had cameos from Stephen Colbert, Tom Brokaw, and John McCain to Bill Murray and Kelly Ripa (whose  husband Mark is one of the four senators).12

I usually prefer dramas on TV, but I’ve enjoyed the humor and political satire of Alpha House. With no commercials, an episode is usually 24-26 minutes, so it goes by fast and is full of fun, especially John Goodman’s performance as Senator Gil John Biggs.

Next up on my watch list? All those heartbreaking seasons of Parenthood!

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Medieval Monday and Barbara Bettis’ The Heart of the Phoenix

 

MedMonsmaller

For Week #6 of Medieval Monday, I’m featuring Barbara Bettis’ The Heart of the Phoenix. It’s a real treat because it follows two characters first introduced in Silverhawk!

Barbara cover

Blurb:

Some call him a ruthless mercenary; she calls him the knight of her heart.  Memories Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.

Can be cruel Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge, he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite. 

And deadly  When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason. Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.
Excerpt:

At first, Evie thought it was the thud of her headache. Then the pounding came again, louder. She groaned and turned over. Opening her eyes told nothing; the blackness in the cabin was impenetrable.

“Marie?” Her voice rasped in a dry throat. Blasted tears.

No one answered. The girl must still be on deck. Evie might as well have left Marie behind, for all the assistance the maid provided. With a groan, she swung her feet over the side of the bunk and felt her way along the wall toward the sound of another insistent knock.

“A moment,” she called. “I’m coming.” Who had the nerve to wake her in what must be the middle of the night? Hah. Need she even wonder? Her toe collided with something, and she yelped as she landed on her knees on the wood plank floor. Just what she needed. A broken foot.

The door burst open, bringing with it a dim light. “What’s wrong?” Stephen’s deep voice filled the room. “Where’s the damned lantern?”

“If I knew, I would have lighted it.” Blasted man. Did he think she enjoyed stumbling around in the dark? He acted as if she did so just to plague him.

Holding a shielded ship’s lantern high, he stepped toward the desk. “Here it is. Where’s that lightskirt who’s supposed to be your companion?”

“Leave Marie alone. I wanted privacy and gave her permission go above.” Never mind that Evie had just complained about the same thing. He had no right to do so.

“What do you want?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”

“A little late to ask that, isn’t it?” He bent to coax the cabin lantern to flame.

“Oh, for the love of heaven. Stop plaguing me. Why are you here?”

“I thought you’d like to know the identity of our fellow passenger.”

“At this hour? Could you not have waited until morning?” Sweet Mary, preserve her patience. He was the most maddening man alive.

Light flared in the cabin’s shuttered lantern, throwing a shadow across his face, reminding Evie of another reason he should not be here. Her body instantly throbbed to life.

She pressed her palms against her stomach and inhaled. Calm. She needed calm. He was not the most beautiful man she’d ever beheld. He did not possess the power to heat her blood to boiling.

He did not care that she thought of him night and day.

That much was true, for certain.

“I have news that will make the rest of your trip joyful.”

His words centered her whirling mind, and Evie eyed him warily. What news could possible make her happy right now?

She ventured a guess. “You are leaving? Your second in command, the delightful Sir Macsen, will accompany me the rest of the way home?”

“Much better.”

Evie could tell Stephen was angry now by the way he glowered and roared in that whispery sort of way no one else could hear, but left her with no doubt of his displeasure.

“Your betrothed.” He bent and scooped her off the floor.

“What? What about him?”

“That’s the identity of the illustrious lord who’s sharing passage with us.”

“You’re drunk. And put me down. I’m perfectly capable of getting up on my own.”

“Be quiet. You have blood on your leg.”

“Of course I do. I tripped and fell trying to answer your pounding when you could easily have opened—” His words finally penetrated her throbbing head. “I’m bleeding?”

Oh, blast. The contents of her—empty—stomach churned. She attended the villagers’ hurts, bound the cuts and scrapes of servants and their children. The sight of their blood bothered her not a whit. But her own? Black spots danced at the corners of her vision, becoming larger and larger until she heard Stephen’s voice.

“Evie, Evie. What the hell?”

His voice echoed so far away. If she didn’t know better, she’d vow he sounded alarmed. Perhaps she’d close her eyes for a moment. As the ringing in her ears crescendoed, she recalled his words. Betrothed.

Her betrothed was on board?

Dear Lord, just let me die.

***

You can purchase The Heart of the Phoenix at: http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Phoenix-Brotherhood-Book-ebook/dp/B00N26QSUA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1421960778

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Medieval Monday and Cathy MacRae’s The Highlander’s Tempestuous Bride

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It’s Week #5 of Medieval Monday, and today’s feature is from my fellow author at Soul Mate Publishing, historical romance writer Cathy MacRae.

The Highlander’s Tempestuous Bride is the 3rd romance in her Highlander series, with another new one coming in March. Gotta love those men in kilts!

Cathy Cover

The Highlander’s Tempestuous Bride

What happens when the sixteen-year-old daughter of the laird, destined to dutifully marry to benefit the clan, falls in love with the wrong lad? In Medieval times, punishments ranged from forced marriage to the man chosen by the laird, to imprisonment, life in a nunnery, or even death.

Gilda does not set out to defy her parents, but when she falls in love with the son of the laird of a neighboring clan that has been at war with hers for years, things are bound to go wrong.

Blurb:

Returning home after a ten-year absence, Ryan Macraig falls for a fiery, red-haired lass from the wrong side of the firth. He can’t ignore his need to see her again, even knowing she must be a hated Macrory.

Gilda Macrory trespasses Macraig land, but haunting memories of the young man she once met there draw her to the forbidden place. Learning he is Laird Macraig’s son threatens her dreams, for her father would never agree to a marriage between his daughter and their enemy’s son.

With pirates raiding the coast, bad blood between the Macraig and Macrory clans could cost Ryan and Gilda their love—and their lives.

* * *

Excerpt:

“Are ye sure . . .” A quick stride took him back to her side.

Gilda jerked the knot at her waist and the skirt fell free, but not before Ryan got a glimpse of slender ankles. She settled an arch look on him and it was all he could do to keep from laughing at the regal air she portrayed.

“I am fine. I am also certain I will not meet ye here again?” Though couched as a question, her tone indicated she’d rather see anyone other than him the next time she ventured out to pick berries.

Ryan shrugged. “I think the berries are about finished for the year. Mayhap the Macraig cook will send a lad out to pick the rest. We like sweets like jams and pastries at Ard Castle, too, ye know.”

“Goodness knows the men at Ard Castle need sweetening,” Gilda shot back, her cheeks pinking as she clearly regretted her quick retort.

“A kiss from a pretty lass would help sweeten this Macraig’s disposition.” Ryan marveled at the swirling colors changing Gilda’s eyes from silver to stormy gray.

Though a well-trained young warrior, Ryan was not quick enough to dodge the palm of Gilda’s hand as it made stinging contact with his cheek. He rubbed his jaw ruefully. He should have remembered though the lass had fascinating gray eyes, she also possessed fiery red hair and a temper to match.

He opened his mouth to apologize, but Gilda had already spun , her back ramrod straight as she marched away, the handle of her basket gripped tight in one hand. The other hand clenched and opened, possibly to relieve the answering sting he felt on his cheek, perhaps echoing a desire to encircle his neck.

Ryan grinned. He would have regretted the apology, anyway.

* * *

Amazon buy link

 

 

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It’s All About Balance (and you thought it was All About That Bass)

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It’s All About Balance (and you thought it was All About That Bass)

I’m a firm believer in balance. After all, all work and no play didn’t go so well for The Shining’s Jack Torrance!

I’ve always had a strong work ethic, but I think it’s important to play a little bit, too. I try to do something just for me every day to keep things in perspective. I walk almost daily (which keeps me sane). I enjoy reading (just finished Karen Robard’s latest), and I have several TV shows I tune in to see (My gosh—after this week’s Suit’s premiere—can I despise Louis Litt anymore???).

Yesterday, I took advantage of our great weather to take a break and be a kid again. Apologies to my Northern friends who are battling snow drifts. The weather gods of Texas also believe in balance in winter. We had a cold snap, followed by temps in the 60s & 70s, and are back in the 40s this morning. But I digress . . .

Thursday, I did one of my favorite activities that I so enjoyed as a kid—I went to the zoo. It was a sunny day. A bit breezy. But sometimes you just have to get out and do something kid-like to celebrate life. I’m in good health and can walk a large place such as a zoo with no discomfort. And what I fun couple of hours it was!

The elephant herd had two precious babies in it.

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The lions, rhinos, and meerkats lounged in the sun, making me miss Meerkat Manor all over again. (RIP, Flower)

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A ram gobbled a pole. Hope he didn’t swallow any splinters!

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A kangaroo came this close and let us talk to him as he cocked his head and listened politely.

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The tiger paced.

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And the flamingos squawked so loudly that I almost needed earplugs!

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I think it’s important to take these kinds of timeouts in life. Today, I feel my batteries are recharged, and I hope I’ll get a ton of writing done today and this weekend . . . you know, when the weather goes so cold that I’ll be staying inside to write by the fire. Gotta love Texas!

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Medieval Monday & Jenna Jaxon’s BELEAGUERED

Jenna Cover

For the 4th Medieval Monday, I’m hosting author Jenna Jaxon and her romance Beleaguered, which is Book 3 in her Time Enough to Love series. Set against the backdrop of the Black Death, it’s the story of a woman torn between two men. Decisions, decisions!

Blurb:

When death holds sway in the world, can even the greatest love survive?

Finally in France, Alyse and Thomas return to their roles as courtiers to Princess Joanna. Their passion for one another continues to smolder hot and deep—until one fateful encounter changes everything.

During a formal banquet, Alyse must share an intimate dance with Geoffrey, her first love. His searing touch proves Alyse’s love and desire for him is as strong as when they first met. Tormented by this revelation, Alyse is bitterly torn between the love of her life and her love for her husband.

Into this agonizing situation, the disaster of the Black Death rears its head, decimating the princess’s retinue and threatening all their lives. Alyse, Thomas and Geoffrey must try to save the princess from the ravening disease but at a dire cost to themselves. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both of the men she loves. But which love will survive?

Excerpt:

Geoffrey hurried on with a suggestion. “’Twould be the work of a few moments for me to teach it you, my lady.”

It would have to serve. She shot a look over her shoulder at her husband, who nodded and laughed with the princess though his eyes were trained on her. Best get on with it then. The sooner ’twas done, the better.

“Your skill at dancing is such that you would certainly learn the steps with but slight instruction from me.” Geoffrey leaned so close his voice, against her ear made her jump and recall herself. She stepped back and looked at him.

His practiced courtier’s smile flickered at her, and she caught something deeper shining in his eyes that she fought not to see. Her heart stuttered a beat. Her body flushed with the anticipation of dancing with him again even as misgivings swirled in her mind. No good would come of this dance, but Thomas watched closely to see that she acted cordially to Geoffrey. Would that it was an act.

With a sense of heavy foreboding, she extended her hand to him. “Very well, Sir Geoffrey. What must I do first?”

He placed her hand atop his arm and led her to their place in the circle of dancers then grasped her hand to pull her around to face him.

The moment his hand touched her skin, a streak of fire shot through her. Her mouth went dry, and her gaze flew to his face. Surely he felt that as well?

He stared back, his eyes mirroring all too clearly the blaze that coursed up her arm.

Damn Geoffrey Longford.

In a daze, she looked around at the other dancers, expecting them to stare accusingly at her. As if they could see this sinful feeling that tore at her soul. At a loss for how to act, she raised her gaze to beseech Geoffrey. “What do we do now?”

’Twas an apt question for, God forgive her, at the touch of Geoffrey’s hand, all thought of her husband had fled. She was back on the deck of the Phillipa, facing him once more. Loving him once more.

Geoffrey cleared his throat, his face flushed, and said simply, “Follow me.”

Then they were twirling around the circle, hands clasped, arms touching intimately, He seemed to brand her wherever he touched. The figure reversed, and her other side was scorched as if a red-hot blade seared her. Her gaze locked onto Geoffrey’s, and the music, the dancers, the Great Hall and all its inhabitants melted away until all that was left was the whisper of his breath in her ear and the heat of his body pressed close against her.

He leaned in closer to whisper, “I must lift you now.”

Before she could grasp that staggering news, his arm went around her waist and he lifted her, twirling them around full circle. She panted, blood pounding in her temples, roaring in her ears.

They continued to dance, but she moved as though she were a doll made of rags, her legs barely able to stand. Her world narrowed to the single source of light and life that was the man who held her in his arms again. The man whose love she could no longer deny. Despite the agony of the betrayal, in the core of her being she knew neither the vows she had spoken to Thomas nor the passion they had enjoyed in his bed would ever match the intensity of love and belonging she shared with Geoffrey. As soon compare a candle’s flame to the sun.

***

Buy link for Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beleaguered-Book-Time-Enough-Love-ebook/dp/B00LR5WDKC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1420515726&sr=1-1&keywords=beleaguered

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Getting My Sally Field Moment

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Everyone likes a little recognition every now and then. It might be a simple compliment from your boss, thanking you for your hard work on a difficult project or your husband showing his appreciation for making his cup of coffee every morning. It could be larger, and you receive an award in your field, such as being recognized as the top sales manager of the month or being named your school’s teacher of the year.

People don’t have to receive recognition to survive—but it does help them to thrive. As a former teacher, my high school encouraged graduating seniors to write a letter of thanks to a teacher who’d meant something to them. I can’t tell you how much reading one of those handwritten notes did for me. I was like a wilting flower at the end of the year, barely hanging on, and then reading a few treasured lines of praise would perk me up and make me bloom like there was no tomorrow.

I’ve always been a huge fan of watching the Oscars, and I remember the year Sally Field won her 2nd Best Actress award for Places in the Heart. She’d started on TV and had been typecast as The Girl Next Door. It had taken years to break away from that image and be offered meatier roles. She’d won her 1st Oscar in 1979 for Norma Rae, and then in 1984 the second followed. In her speech, she said:

Oh, Benton, what you did for me; you changed my life, truly. This means so much more to me this time. I don’t know why. I think the first time I hardly felt it because it was all so new. I owe a lot to the cast, to my players, to Lindsay and John and Danny and Ed and Amy and my little friends Gennie and Yankton. I owe a lot to my family for holding me together and loving me and having patience with this obsession of me. But I want to say thank you to you. I haven’t had an orthodox career and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it. And I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me! Thank you.

Sally really got razzed over the “you like me” part—but I understand where she was coming from. She was excited to be acknowledged for her work. She was in a room of her peers and had just been recognized for her performance over acting stalwarts such as Jane Fonda and Jill Clayburgh. It was a moment to shine and take in the appreciation for a job well done.

I’m about to have one of those moments—albeit on a much smaller scale. As an author, I realize I’ll never be next to John Grisham on the New York Times best seller list. I’m fine with that. I just want to tell my stories and hope that I connect with a few readers out there who are touched by what I write and enjoy the time they spend with the characters I’ve created.

So what’s the “big” moment in my little author universe?

My book club chose MY book to read & discuss in February! My friend Jet, who’s been a huge supporter of my career, selected my 3rd book, A Game of Chance, for the Bookworms to dissect. We read everything from non-fiction (The Glass Castle) to fiction (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to Love in the Time of Cholera). I’m honored and excited to chat about my book with this group of funny, intelligent women. I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s okay. I haven’t always liked every selection we’ve read, but I’ve gone to the group and truly enjoyed the discussion we’ve had.

A Game of Chance - smaller version

Who knows what they’ll ask me? Maybe they’ll want to know where I got the idea for the plot or if I based the characters on people I know. Maybe they’ll ask about my research (the book is set in the 1870s in San Francisco). Maybe we’ll simply talk about how certain events are circular in nature and of character growth and relationships.

Whatever we discuss will be thrilling to me. I’m looking at this as a joyful celebration of one of my historical romances. So here’s to a great discussion come February 11th!

And here’s Jet with me at a book signing at our local women’s club holiday luncheon this past December. Special shout-out to Jet for all her support!

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Medieval Monday & H K Carlton’s The Devil Take Her

MedMonsmaller

For the 3rd Medieval Monday, I’m featuring H K Carlton’s The Devil Take You at Write Up My Alley.

H K is multi-published in a variety of genres from historical to contemporary to paranormal and beyond. Her hero Gard is a man bent on revenge until he’s knocked off course by a Scottish lass named Braelynn!

HK Cover

Blurb:

Scotland – 1307 – During the Scottish Wars of Independence

Gard Marschand will stop at nothing in his pursuit to regain what is lost. Concealing his true identity, he will associate with his enemies, kill his own countrymen, even sell his soul to the devil if all else fails. He will lie, cheat, steal, rape and siege his way across two countries gaining power and reputation in his malevolent wake. His determination all consuming, until King Edward commands Gard to lay siege on Ross-shire holding, where Braelynn Galbraith obliterates his single-minded purpose.

Braelynn Galbraith wants peace for her beloved Scotland, marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Callum, and a house full of children. In that order. But evil incarnate in the form of Gard Marschand, turns her life inside out and destroys all hope of a decent marriage.

Can Gard abandon his deep-seated need of revenge for a love that might just save his soul, or will he succumb to the demons that hound him and surrender to the devil within?

Excerpt:

She stood on wobbly legs, feeling nauseous. Her limbs trembling and weak, she stumbled between the men. One tried to help her but she swatted his hands away. He had not come to her rescue when she needed it, she denied his assistance now.

Her thigh throbbed painfully as she put one foot in front of the other. Warmth trickled down her leg every other step. Where would she go? Home. She would go home. And as soon as she thought the word fresh tears streamed. Home. Sanctuary. Safety. Father.

Brae blindly staggered past the burned out armoury. Where was Ross, their overlord? How could this have happened? They’d been attacked. Again. What of her parents? Had they sought the shelter of the holding? Was it safe to go home? She didn’t have a choice, needed to stop the bleeding. She grew weaker, not only from the attack but the blood loss.

The croft was empty when she reached it. Her father would have joined the men to fight the fire if he was able, and her mother would have gone to help the injured. But she was injured and could use some attention herself.

Brae lifted the basin of water from beside the door and tried not to spill it as she picked her way gingerly to her room. She stripped out of her ruined clothing. The bodice was torn and she hadn’t even realized it. Her skirt felt heavy with the amount of blood it had soaked up.

The bloodstains on her legs had begun to dry, but blood still flowed from the wound. Wetting a rough cloth she cleansed the red streaks from her flesh. When she’d finally managed to clean enough to inspect the wound, the basin of water ran red. The jagged gash marred the upper part of her thigh. When she closed her legs, the cut met with the other leg. The location of the wound and the friction of her walking home must have helped keep it open with every step. The flap of skin resembled a crescent moon. It would need to be stitched or it would never stop bleeding. She needed a physician. But he would have escaped to the holding as well for protection or to help with the casualties.

Her mind went back to Marschand. The man. The demon had spared her for a reason. And for some inexplicable rationale she felt obligated to keep this wound a secret, to protect him as he had done for her.

Brae pulled a fresh chemise over her head, holding onto the bedpost for support. Her stomach lurched. Her peripheral vision blurred as she groped along to find her mother’s sewing kit and her father’s whiskey.

She sat on the edge of the bed with the needle threaded and poised to plunge into her skin, but she couldn’t do it. There was no way she was going to be able to stitch her own flesh together.

Brae took a long drink of the brown liquor. It burned her raw throat, causing her to sputter and cough. She poured some over the thread and needle, as she’d seen her mother do countless times when sewing her father’s wounds, and waited for the numbness to settle into her limbs. But by the time she began to feel it, her fingertips and eyesight were affected as well.

She pinched the puckered lip of skin closed and took a deep breath. She pierced the tip of the needle through the deepest section of the C shape, yelping at the pain. “One stitch. Please jus’ one stitch.” She prayed for help.

Brae pulled the thread through her flesh. It burned like fire, pain worse than the cut, flaming worse than the nettle she’d gotten into as a child. She breathed shallowly in and out through her teeth and forced the needle into the other part of her leg. Brae made one round stitch in a loop, gathering the two sides together pulling the string tight. She quickly knotted it, cut it, and promptly passed out.

***

You can purchase The Devil Take Her at:

Amazon Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/The-Devil-Take-You-ebook/dp/B00D3T1P8Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1369974520&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Devil+Take+YOu

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Devil-Take-You-H-K-Carlton-ebook/dp/B00D3T1P8Q/ref=sr_1_7?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1421615338&sr=1-7&keywords=hk+carlton

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Devil-Take-You-H-K-Carlton-ebook/dp/B00D3T1P8Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421615434&sr=1-1&keywords=h+k+carlton

Muse It Up Publishing: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/component/virtuemart/new-releases/the-devil-take-you-detail?Itemid=0

 

 

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Blast from the Past

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Years ago, my daughter and I were enchanted with Beauty and the Beast. We saw the Disney movie in the theater and bought it the minute it went on sale. Sometimes, I would even have trouble going to sleep at night because my brain would be singing, We can sing, we can dance, after all this is France!—over and over and over again.

One Christmas, Santa left us a ticket in our stockings to see the Broadway touring show of the musical at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. It was a special occasion, and I loved watching the production almost as much as I loved watching my daughter’s eyes light up seeing the Beast and Belle RIGHT THERE on the stage!!!

Fast forward many years later to this past Christmas. When I opened my present from my daughter, I had to smile. Two tickets for us to go see (again at Bass) the NETworks Broadway touring production featuring our favorite Disney heroine. One of her bridesmaids for her July wedding was also mad for Belle, and so she and her mother joined us for a girls’ evening out.

We shared appetizers and entrees at a wonderful place with an attentive waiter and terrific food and drinks before we trekked over to see the live production. We spotted two precious little girls wearing their golden Belle ball gowns, having their pictures made as they stood side by side. It was a fun night together, bonding again over something special from her childhood.

Conveniently, the invitations for her upcoming wedding had arrived just before I walked out the door, so I took that box along and we opened it on the drive over. I looked at the two young women in the back seat as they poured over the invitations, RSVP cards, and thank you notes—and for a moment, I saw them again as the friends they’d become back in kindergarten. I’m happy they’ve remained friends all these years and could share this outing with their moms.

And yes, last night, as I closed my eyes to go to sleep? Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test echoed in my ears!

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Medieval Monday & Ruth A. Casie’s Knight of Runes

MedMonsmaller

Week #2 of Medieval Monday is here, and I’m featuring author Ruth A. Casie’s time travel romance Knight of Runes. It’s available through Amazon & Nook.

I can’t imagine being a modern woman thrust back into medieval times! I think I’d miss my microwave, central heat & air, and smart phone. But . . . if I met a hot knight such as Arik? I might just change my mind!

Here is the blurb and an excerpt from Ruth’s terrific book:

Ruth Cover

When Lord Arik, a druid knight, finds Rebeka Tyler wandering his lands without protection, he swears to keep her safe. But Rebeka can take care of herself. When Arik sees her clash with a group of attackers using a strange fighting style, he’s intrigued.

Rebeka is no ordinary seventeenth-century woman—she’s travelled back from the year 2011, and she desperately wants to return to her own time. She poses as a scholar sent by the king to find out what’s killing Arik’s land. But as she works to decode the ancient runes that are the key to solving this mystery and sending her home, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic and powerful Arik.

As Arik and Rebeka fall in love, someone in Arik’s household schemes to keep them apart, and a dark druid with a grudge prepares his revenge. Soon Rebeka will have to decide whether to return to the future or trust Arik with the secret of her time travel and her heart.

Available at Amazon (http://amzn.to/14jMXOy)   Nook  (http://bit.ly/19FnJwr)

Excerpt

England ~ May, 1605

I should not have stayed away from the Manor so long. Something stirs. Lord Arik’s eyes swept the surrounding area as he and his three riders escorted the wagon with the old tinker and the woman. They sped through the forest as fast as the rain-slicked trail would allow. Unable to shake the ominous feeling of being watched, Arik remained alert. At length, the horses winded, he slowed the pace as they neared the Stone River.

“The forest is flooded. I suspect the Stone will be as well. Willem, ride on ahead and let me know what we face at the crossing.”

Willem did his lord’s bidding and quickly returned with his report. “The river ahead runs fast, m’lord. The bridge is in disrepair and cannot be crossed.”

Arik raised his hand and brought the group to a halt. “Doward,” he said to the old tinker. “We must make repairs. There’s no room for the wagon at the river’s edge. You and the woman stay here and set up camp. Be ready to join us at the bridge when I send word.”

Logan, Arik’s brother, spoke up. “I’ll keep watch here and help Doward and Rebeka.”

Arik nodded and, with the others, continued the half mile to the bridge.

“I am not pleased with this new delay.”

“It can’t be helped, m’lord. We would make better time without the wagon,” said Simon.

“I’ll not leave Doward and the woman unescorted through the forest, not with what we’ve heard lately. We’ll have to drive hard to make up the lost time.”

The frame of the bridge stood solid, the planks scattered everywhere, clogging the banks and shallows. Arik leaped from his horse onto the frame to begin the repairs.

“Hand me that planking.” Arik pointed to the nearest board.

Simon grabbed the plank and examined it. “Sir, these boards have been deliberately removed.”

Arik took the board and lifted it before him. An arrow whooshed out of the trees, and slammed into the plank’s edge. Willem pulled his axe from his belt as Arik and Simon drew their swords. In a fluid, practiced movement, Willem spun and found his mark. He sent his axe flying. The archer fell into the river and was swept downstream, Willem’s axe still lodged in his forehead. A dozen or more attackers broke through the stand of trees.

Arik tossed the board into the river and readied his sword. The enemy was poorly dressed carrying clubs and knives. There was only one sword among them. The leader. Arik’s target.

“They plan to pin us here at the river’s edge. Come, we’ll take the offensive before they form up.” They moved forward, driving a wedge through the enemy’s ragged line, forcing what little formation they had to scatter and fight, each man for himself.

A man, club in hand, rushed at Arik. Before the attacker could bring his weapon into play, Arik pivoted around him. He raised his sword high, and slammed the hilt’s steel pommel squarely on the man’s head. Arik moved on before the man’s lifeless body dropped to the ground.

Willem and Simon, on either side of Arik, advanced through the melee. Their swift continuous swordplay moved smoothly from one stroke to the next, whipping through the air. They slashed on the downswing and again on the backswing, sweeping their weapons back into position to repeat the killing sequence. The knight and his soldiers steadily advanced, punishing any man who dared to come near them.

“For Honor!” Logan’s war cry carried from the small camp to Arik’s ears.

Arik stiffened. Both camps were now under attack. He pulled his blade from an attacker’s chest. The body crumpled to the blood-soaked ground. Arik breathed deeply, the coppery taste of blood in the air. “For Honor!” he bellowed in answer. His men echoed his call, arms thrown wide, muscles quivering, the berserker’s rage overtaking them.

The remaining attackers paled and fled headlong into the forest.

Motioning to his men to follow, Arik raced toward the camp. He could hear the shouts, and cursed himself for not seeing the danger. He crested the hill and came to an abrupt halt.

Logan’s sword ripped through the air as he protected Doward. The tinker drew his short blade and did as much damage as he could. But it was the woman Arik noticed. Her skirt hiked up, she twirled her walking stick like a weapon with an expertise that left him slack-jawed. She dispatched the attackers, one by one, in a deadly well-practiced dance. A man rushed toward her, knife in hand. The sneer on his face didn’t match the fear in his eyes. She stepped out of his line of attack, extended her stick to her side, and holding it with both hands swept the weapon forward, striking the attacker across the bridge of his nose. Blood exploded from his face in an arc of fine spray as his head snapped back. Droplets dusted her face creating an illusion of bright red freckles. As he fell, she reversed her swing and caught him hard behind his knees. He went down on his back, spread-eagled. She swung her stick over her head and landed a precise and disabling blow to his forehead that knocked him unconscious.

As she spun to face the next threat her eyes captured Arik’s and held. In the space of an instant, time slowed to a crawl. Her hair slowly loosened from its pins and swirled out around her. His breath caught and his heartbeat quickened as a rapturous surge raced through his body. Something eternal and familiar, with a sense of longing, unsettled him. In the next heartbeat, she tore her eyes away, leaving him empty. Time resumed its normal pace. Another attacker lay at her feet.

Arik joined the fight.

 

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Save the Dates, Invitations, and Food . . . Oh, My!

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As we’ve moved into 2015, I’m happy to report that wedding plans are still running smoothly (knock on wood), and we’re crossing off more and more on the To-Do List.

Save the Date cards have officially gone out. Choices included text only or including a picture of the engaged couple with the information about the wedding day. While the words-only ones seemed nice, nothing beats a picture—especially of a couple in love. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the happiness on my daughter’s face as she gazed at her fiancé. They had the photographer shoot their engagement series of photos at a local park, and I think the outdoor pictures add such a nice element vs. in-studio portraits.

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Once those went out, we turned to designing the wedding invitation. Things have certainly changed from my day. When my husband and I married, our invitation was worded in the traditional manner (Mr. & Mrs. So & So request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter, etc.). I thought I was being quite bold with moving away from the standard black script on ivory paper when I tossed in my bridal party colors of pale yellow sunshine and periwinkle blue on the invite.

Nowadays, you create everything on-line first to see how it will appear (much like snapping pix with my iPhone and deleting those that don’t live up to what I like). We played with colors (mostly shades of purple since that’s the wedding color). Different fonts were available, and the suggestion wording could be used or altered in many ways. My daughter ordered samples, and we could see these in person, feel the weight of the paper, and flip through the different types of envelopes and peruse color charts. Finally, she made her decision. The invitation is colorful, elegant, and a little bit fun and flirty, all rolled into one.

The next mission—and this is one I accepted with much delight—was a menu sampling at the open house of the venue. The in-house catering menu is close to thirty pages of items, so anything that would help us narrow down appetizer and entrée choices would be more than helpful. We’d already sampled four different appetizers at a previous open house that included vendors (especially loved the meatballs and dates wrapped in bacon), and they had eight more to add to what we’d already tried.

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The variety impressed me. Servers circulated with trays of wings, crab dip in endive, pork pot stickers, chicken fingers, prosciutto, beef wellington, and crostinis that ranged from beef to salmon to vegetarian. The entrees included chicken, filet mignon, and salmon, with each so tender and seasoned so incredibly well that even Gordon Ramsay would have put his stamp of approval on them. Salads with various dressings, rolls, and sides of rice pilaf and fingerling potatoes also were quite tasty. The champagne that will be used to toast the bride and groom was light, crisp, and tangy. They did have a hot chocolate bar (with baby marshmallows and shaved dark chocolate to drop in your demitasse cup) and while we sampled it, I think for our summer wedding in Texas we’ll have to take a pass on this. Hey, it was in the 30s last night, so a hot beverage hit the spot for me!

Of course, we still have a myriad of things to do, but things are shaping up nicely. I’ve heard from other frazzled MOBs (mothers of the brides) that they were relieved when the wedding was over. Frankly, I’m savoring each of these steps along the way and don’t mind the work going into it because I know it will produce a lovely end result. So at least for  now, I’ll continue to enjoy the journey!

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Revisiting the Classics

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I’m a Bookworm—a member of my women’s book club. Every month we read a hodgepodge of novels, with a little non-fiction thrown in. Through this group of amazing women, I’ve read books that I never would have thought to pick up (such as The Glass Castle—if you haven’t read it, you should).

I’ve also joined another book club which reads classic literature. We’ve read books that I either read so long ago that I can barely remember them or ones that I’ve always heard of but never picked up (or had assigned to me back in my student days!).

Our inaugural book choice was The Scarlett Letter. I was one of those freaky few who actually enjoyed reading it back in high school, amidst the groans of my AP classmates. I found the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale to be a tragic, romantic figure. Of course, I think it’s a requisite for teenage girls to be attracted to tragic, romantic men. I agonized over how he and Hester Prynne couldn’t be together and raged on about how life just wasn’t fair.

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Fast-forward to years later, and I HATED ARTHUR DIMMESDALE!!!! I thought he was a wuss for not standing up and being a man and taking responsibility. All the onus was on silent, stoic Hester. SHE was the one ostracized; HE was the one beloved by all. I walked away from this second reading knowing he was a jerk with no backbone who let a lovely woman and her (his!) child suffer at the hands of an ultra-rigid society. I wanted his all-consuming guilt to eat him alive . . . and then I would’ve shot him in his teeny-tiny heart, just to be sure he was deader than dead.

It’s funny how an adult perspective can change the way you read a novel.

We’ve revisited books I adore, such as Pride and Prejudice and To Kill A Mockingbird. We went on a Steinbeck kick and read several of his works (Tortilla Flat, East of Eden, Travels with Charley). I discovered the amazing Willa Cather, an author I’d never been exposed to before, and after reading the group’s selection of My Antonia had to delve more into her writing.

One of our favorite discussions came from revisiting Gone with the Wind, the Margaret Mitchell classic that most people are familiar with because of the film. I found it ironic that Mitchell and Mockingbird’s author Harper Lee never published another novel. As a writer, I can’t imagine the pressure of having written a book that became not only a best-seller, but a monster best-seller adored by generations. How many times did these ladies sit down with pen and paper or their typewriters and try to come up with something worthy, something equal to their first novel’s automatic beloved, classic status? Neither ever released a second novel. I find that very sad. I’m sure they had more stories to tell, but more than likely the fear of failure and harsh judgment kept them from sharing these tales with the world.

I have new books to look forward to as we continue re-reading the classics. We have a Sinclair Lewis coming up; the controversial Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel that was said to start our own American Civil War; Little Women; and a modern classic—In Cold Blood.

So here’s looking forward to future hours of reading in 2015 and the wonderful discussions this lively, educated group of women will have. Cheers!

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MedMonsmaller

Today I’m participating in something new & exciting with several of my fellow historical romance authors. It’s called the Medieval Monday Author Exchange.

Every Monday for the next 12 weeks, my blog will feature a different author’s book cover, a blurb describing the story, a brief excerpt, & buy links. It’s a fun way to become familiar with new books by a variety of authors, and I’m happy to be included in this opportunity.

To get this event rolling, each author will spotlight one of her own books on this first Monday. I’m sharing my December 2014 release, A Bit of Heaven on Earth.

A Bit of Heaven on Earth high res

Blurb:

When Gavin of Ashgrove and his closest friend are captured in a fierce battle during the Hundred Years’ War, their captors demand a hefty ransom from their fathers for their return. Robert is quickly set free, but Gavin’s father refuses to pay for his son’s release, leaving him to rot in a squalid French prison. Aided by a sympathetic priest, he escapes and returns home to England, only to find he has been proclaimed a bastard and disinherited.

With nowhere to turn Gavin journeys to Kentwood, where he fostered as a boy, hoping Lord Aldred will take him on as a knight in his guard. The old warrior is close to death, but he soon realizes Gavin is his son. Aldred plots to have Gavin inherit Kentwood and marry his much younger wife, Elizabeth, a famed and opinionated beauty who remains a virgin after a decade of marriage.

Will the king recognize Lord Aldred’s first request of a marriage between Elizabeth and Robert, uniting Robert’s estate with Kentwood—or will the temperamental Edward reward Aldred’s years of service and honor a dying man’s final request?

***

Excerpt:

Fear struck Elizabeth as Gavin’s lips met hers. A kiss! What was he thinking? She could not kiss him. She didn’t kiss anyone. Aldred’s feeble attempts over the years flittered into her mind. She stiffened in his arms.

Her hesitation did not stop him. His lips slowly brushed against hers. The sensation was most pleasant. A ripple of heat ran through her. His hand stroked her hair. Her scalp tingled. Her body relaxed.

Panic set in suddenly. She tensed again. She didn’t know what to do, how to respond. Yet respond she did, as if her body were no longer her own. Her knees grew watery. She gripped Gavin’s shoulders for support. He pulled her closer still. His arms wrapped firmly around her, drawing her into a muscled chest.

And still his lips worked their magic, now nipping her lower one, teasing her. He licked the corner of her mouth and trailed kisses along her jaw. Her head fell back. A shudder rushed up her spine.

This is heaven.

His kisses continued along her exposed throat. She began to throb everywhere. Her fingers kneaded his shoulder. She heard a noise that sounded like a satisfied growl come from him.

Then his lips were gone. A shiver passed through her as the gentle breeze blew. She opened her eyes, only to meet his gazing down at her. He brushed a kiss against her temple, another one on her cheek. The slow play of his mouth began again as he caressed her. The throbbing built within her, starting an ache that clamored for a satisfaction she didn’t know how to satisfy.

Elizabeth opened her mouth to speak, to ask what was happening. Gavin’s hand, tangled in her curls, caught them and pulled slightly, forcing her head back. His eyes glowed, a heat in them that frightened and excited her at the same time.

Then his mouth was upon hers, gentle no longer. She clung to him. His tongue demanded to mate with hers, taking, taking. Again and again he took from her, even her very breath, till she no longer knew where she ended and he began. His arms pinned her against him. Her breasts ached. Her bones melted. A dizziness swept across her. She wanted this to go on. Forever.

A rooster crowed in the distance. It brought her to her senses. She broke their embrace.

***

You can purchase A Bit of Heaven on Earth for $2.99 at Amazon:

http://amzn.com/B00QHMH0IU

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My New Project? Watching The Wire!

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I’ve written a blog about binge-watching before, and I’ve embarked upon another marathon. This time, my choice is The Wire. Although it never won any major TV awards (a la The Sopranos or Breaking Bad) and it pulled only so-so ratings, I’ve seen it appear over and over again on critics’ Top TV Shows EVER Lists.

The series aired from 2002-2008, and I wasn’t watching much TV at that time. I remember a few friends talking about it—how it rang with authenticity and great plotting and incredible acting.. I Googled and found it was created and most of the shows were written by an author who was a former police reporter, David Simon. That interested me quite a bit. I’d also discovered actor Idris Elba in Luther and knew he was in it, so I put watching The Wire on my rather lengthy To Do List.

Then HBO decided to make it simple for me. Starting Christmas Day, it aired all 5 seasons—1 season a day, 5 days in a row. So my DVR had 60 hours stacked up on it in the blink of an eye. I figured this was a good time of year to start since so many repeats are on at the moment.

I’d heard each season features a different aspect of Baltimore, and Season 1 focused on the illegal drug trade. I’ll admit it was confusing at first. The cast is huge (think Game of Thrones), and the viewer is dropped into the middle of things with little explanation. Many of the actors are character actors whom you don’t recognize, so it’s not like you can keep track and think, “Oh, the big drug lord is Johnny Depp and the corrupt cop is Denzel Washington and the ADA is Julia Roberts.” Nope, you have to stick with it.

I found it to be like peeling layers of an onion. It was so complex, so compelling.

And I was hooked.

I’ve finished the 12 episodes of Season 1. Characters I liked were killed off or transferred. I’m curious as to which ones will survive in the coming seasons (that revolve around Baltimore’s seaport system and their school system). I also found that Lance Reddick from my Fringe-watching days and The Affair’s Dominc West were major players and enjoyed their work tremendously.

I’m ready to sink my teeth into Season 2-5 now. That is, until I got my Amazon Prime email yesterday. I binged on the first season of The Americans and loved it. I’ve been waiting for the second season to come on Prime, especially since the third season starts in a few weeks on FX. Wouldn’t you know it? They finally put Season 2 up. So my new mission in life? Get that 2nd season watched ASAP.

Then I can go back and savor The Wire.

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Year-End Gratitude

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I always like to take stock as a year draws to a close, just to see where my journey in life has led me during the past year. Some years are quiet ones; others have seen huge milestones.

2014 started off with me being apart from my husband. In all our years together, we’d never been separated as a New Year began. We wound up a huge distance apart as we both attended our college team’s bowl games. He was in Atlanta at the Chick-fil-A Bowl, while I was in Phoenix at the Fiesta Bowl. It seemed weird not ringing out the old year and seeing a new one in together.

Boy, did that change, as we spent a huge amount of time together—for a very unexpected reason.

Five weeks into 2014, he suffered a huge health crisis. He was hospitalized a week, transferred to live-in rehab for another, and then went through another six weeks of rehab on an out-patient basis. We spent a lot of time together, and I believe it strengthened our relationship in ways we’re still discovering. He’s come out on the other side now—healthier, stronger—and I couldn’t be more proud of all his accomplishments in this very difficult year. I don’t think either of us will ever take for granted something as seemingly small as our good health that allows us to enjoy life in a way so many people can’t.

Another huge event in our family was the engagement of our daughter. As an only child who’s marrying an only child, I feel we now have the son we never had. Her fiancé spoke to us of their relationship and the great love they have for one another, and I know she will be very happy with him in the years to come. Marriage is a lot of hard work, but they have a firm basis of friendship that is wrapped in layers of love. Planning the wedding has been a blast. Many moms dread something like this, but I’m savoring every step of the way.

For me, this has been a year of personal satisfaction with my writing career. Publishing a novel had always been a goal of mine for a number of years. In 2013, I saw my first “baby” released in May, and another followed in October. I wanted 2014’s production to match that output, and it actually surpassed it! The year was a week old when A Game of Chance came out. May saw the release of Written in the Cards. I closed December out when A Bit of Heaven on Earth saw publication. As a writer, seeing three books come out in a single calendar year brought a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I really enjoy creating characters and telling their stories, hoping somewhere along the way that I’m entertaining readers out there.

Some of the best advice I ever received came from my dad long ago. He told me every night to think of five things to give thanks for. It could be big things that occurred that day—a promotion at work or buying a new car. But it could also be the small things—the nice weather that day; being able to take an hour-long walk; getting to sink my teeth into a grilled cheese sandwich; hearing a song on the radio that brought back sweet memories.

I still do this every night, and I think it helps me enjoy each day—and month—and year—even more. And as I think back on 2014, it is the little things that have meant so much. The small, sweet moments that all added up to be the year that’s almost now complete.

Thank you, 2014, for showing me all you did. Here’s to 2015!

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Don’t Break out the Champagne Too Soon!

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As a writer, I live inside my head a lot. And when I’m writing one of my romance novels, I’m literally eating, breathing, sleeping, and talking to my people all the time! And yes, there are times when they talk back to me as willful children . . . but that’s another story.

My hero and heroine become so real to me, it’s as if they are close friends of mine. I enjoy the time spent hanging out with them. I’m on the roller coaster ride with these two, through their ups and down. I create awful situations for them to be involved in, and yet I love throwing them a life jacket and helping them save themselves at the last moment. I’ve even wept tears of joy when they’ve discovered love together, and I finally give them their deserved Happily Ever After.

One of the worst things about a writer’s journey is actually finishing a novel. I liken it to a great book I’m reading. The better the book, the more quickly I begin reading until I’m racing through it. Then, suddenly, I slam on the brakes when I only have a couple of more chapters to go. I don’t want the story to end! I turn the pages slowly, savoring each moment, and while I usually am happy with how the book turns out, I deflate a bit, knowing I’ll never read these characters again.

(My latest solution? I’m hooked on series and get to read about the same people over and over again!)

As I writer, I feel this pain magnified hundred times over once I finish the last scene of my book. These are my babies! I created them from scratch. I imagined their looks, their back story, their personalities. I gave them a place to live. Family and friends. I mixed in conflicts and emotions. And darn it, I brought this couple together! They found the love of their life because of me!

So finishing their love story is hard because after living with my hero and heroine for weeks and months, I have to let them go. That is very depressing.

But . . . you don’t want to do this too quickly. Too many authors, upon finishing a manuscript, want to break out the champagne and ship that puppy off to their editors.

Not a good idea.

I’ve found that when I finish up a manuscript, I’m still too caught up in my characters’ story to be objective. I’m way too close to their relationship and the action. I’ve learned the best thing to do when completing a novel is to sit on it. Yes, put it away. Get over these people. Move on with my life. Start a new book. Create new people and new settings and situations.

And after a couple of months, I pull out the completed manuscript and read it straight through with fresh eyes. Because I’ve divorced myself from my emotional closeness to these characters and their story, I’m able to be calm and objective. I’m not so sensitive to changing things around. Cutting a scene. Adding something new. Most of all, I can catch inconsistencies that are now glaring, screaming at me to be fixed.

Once I make all these finishing touches, THEN is the time to email that manuscript off to my editor, hoping she’ll fall in love with these characters and their story as much as I did.

All of this happened with my December release, A Bit of Heaven on Earth. I finished it and put it aside for a good long while and worked on other projects. When I came back to it, it was as if it were a new story again. Sure, I fixed a few bumps—but I also fell in love all over again with Elizabeth and Gavin (and Aldred and Robert and countless other characters at Kentwood).

I feel by letting the manuscript sit for a bit, it fermented like fine wine, and the distance allowed me to make it the best possible story before sending it to my editor. So now is the time, with its publication this week, to break out my bubbly and toast my living creation. Here’s to Gavin & Elizabeth and A Bit of Heaven on Earth! A Bit of Heaven on Earth high res

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A Year With Geno (via my author friend Annette Drake)

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On this writing journey, I’ve met all kinds of wonderful people. In particular, I’ve come to know authors in many different genres. Annette Drake is one of these authors, and she has a terrific, sweet contemporary romance with a single mom and hot military man that I wanted to share with you. Enjoying a sample of A Year with Geno!

***

Blurb:

Single-mom Caroline Taylor wants nothing more than to make a home for her two young sons in Eagle River, Alaska. The only problem: an eviction notice.

When the perfect rental falls through again, she and her boys move in with Air Force Sgt. Geno D’Antoni and his two teenage sons. It’s only for a year, so she can polish her credit rating and save a down payment to buy a home. It’s a perfect plan.

Or not. When Geno stands up to Caroline’s bully of an ex-husband, he retaliates by suing for full custody. Then Geno’s ex-wife, spurned by her fiancé, moves back in. She wants Caroline out.

Now.

The tiny spark of passion between Caroline and Geno sputters and dies. Or does it? Maybe they had no chance with the chaos from their pasts eclipsing their future. So why does Caroline rush home to share all the details of her day with him? Why does Geno dream about her? And when exactly does your best friend become your future?

One thing’s for sure: it’s gonna be a heck of a year!

Cover art

Excerpt:

After her shift ended, she picked Charlie and Bobby up from school, and they drove to the address. The sun was setting, but there was just enough light for Caroline to make out the house. The driveway hadn’t been plowed, so she parked her car on the street.

She tried to hide her disappointment from her boys. Discarded hubcaps, tires and a broken chair were heaped on the front porch. The front door looked as though only the frost held it in place. A car on blocks occupied most of the driveway.

Leaving the motor running, she told the boys to stay inside where it was warm, and she climbed out to go peek in the windows. She stepped lightly on the hard-packed snow. Climbing the three steps to the front porch, she saw no lights on in the house, but she knocked on the front door anyway. When she did, a hound bayed at the house next door.

When she peered through the dirty windows, any sliver of optimism died. Caroline saw overflowing black trash bags, a pile of clothes and more broken furniture in the living room. One of the ceiling panels hung at a precarious angle.

“Wow. What a dump,” she said aloud.

“Can I help you?” a tall, dark-haired man asked.

Caroline screamed. “Oh, my God! You scared me!”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Well, you did!” she yelled at him. Her rapid breathing made plumes of vapor in the cold air. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to sneak up on people?”

“I’m sorry. I’m leery when people stop at this house, with all the trouble we’ve had from these neighbors. I’m sorry.”

He extended his hand, and Caroline looked into his brown eyes. She saw his apology was sincere. She thought she was tall at two inches shy of 6 feet, but he towered above her.

“I’m Geno D’Antoni. I live in the house next door. I heard my dog barking, and I was afraid these folks came back.”

“Caroline Taylor,” she said, shaking his hand. “I was considering leasing this house, but it looks so run down.”

“It is run down. So, they’re trying to rent it now, huh? I think the city might have a problem with that, considering how clogged-up the septic tank is.”

Geno stepped off the porch to the bottom of the short stairwell. Caroline turned her back on the house and slowly stepped off the cluttered porch, her hands extended as though to balance herself on the slippery wood. She reached for the wrought iron banister but it was shakier than she was.

“Can I help you?” he asked, offering his hand.

“No, I made it up here, I can make it down.”

She stepped onto the top step, and her right foot shot out from under her. She fell down the steps and landed on top of Geno, knocking them both into the snow.

“Oof!” he cried.

Caroline stood up as quickly as she could. “I’m so sorry. Let me help you up.”

She reached for him, and he gave her his hand. She helped to pull him up.

“Oh my God, you’re heavy,” she said, starting to laugh.

“You’re not exactly a petite flower yourself, missy.”

“I’m so sorry,” she mumbled before she doubled up with laughter. Finally, she stood and said, “I’m sorry. I’m just having the worst week.”

“It’s okay. Is there anything I can do?” he asked.

“No. No, but thanks for the warning about the house.”

She turned and faced the sagging front porch. “I’m an optimist by nature, but not even I could find much to be hopeful about with this place, especially if the septic tank isn’t up to code.”

“That’s just one of many problems. The last tenants tore this house up pretty good. You can do better. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine. Thank you.”

He walked to her car and opened her door.

“Is it nice inside, Mom?” Charlie asked.

“Does it have a fireplace?” Bobby asked.

“I’ll tell you guys all about it,” she said, climbing into the car. “Thanks, again,” she said to Geno, looking up into his brown eyes. He shut her door. Driving away, Caroline glanced in her rearview mirror. She saw Geno wave as she drove away.

***

You can purchase the Kindle edition of A Year With Geno for only 99 cents November 24-30 at Amazon:  

http://www.amazon.com/Year-Geno-Annette-Drake-ebook/dp/B00L5XKU92/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1416693809&sr=1-1&keywords=a+year+with+geno

annette-drake

*And here’s a word from Annette on the background of writing this wonderful romance:

I started writing A Year with Geno back in November of 2005. It was one of those books I typed away at fast and furiously and then slogged along on until I finally ran out of steam.

When my debut novel, Celebration House, was published, the question became, well, what am I going to write next? I found my answer when I stumbled onto one of my journal entries. This one was dated Jan. 9, 2006:

“To begin with, I feel a certain amount of doubt that I will ever finish this novel. It’s not the novel in itself that I doubt; it’s my own ability to actually finish what I start…”

Energized by those words, I began rewriting the chapters I wrote eight years prior. I shared scene after scene with the members of my weekly critique group and was pleasantly surprised at how well the pages were received.

But the true inspiration to finish this book came from one of the main characters: Geno.

Before this novel, I always wrote from the woman’s perspective because, uh, I’m a woman. But when I opened my heart and heard Geno’s voice? Wow! That was a gift. I don’t think I would have finished the book without it. I’m so grateful to that character, to Geno, for speaking to me, for giving me the answers to the puzzles I couldn’t solve armed with only Caroline’s perspective.

And some of the characters in this book are so funny. Or at least I hope they are. There are a few scenes I wrote and man, I felt so intensely happy when I wrote them. It was like a drug. Only legal. And free.

So, I hope A Year with Geno finds a home in the hearts of those who read it. I hope readers hum Neil Diamond songs and add “Visit Alaska to climb Mt. Baldy” to their bucket list. I hope they reread it every Thanksgiving holiday.

That’s what Geno and I both hope.

Happy Thanksgiving Day and God bless.

Annette

Bio:

Annette Drake is a multi-genre author whose work is character-driven and celebrates the law of unintended consequences.

A Year with Geno, her contemporary romance set in Eagle River, Alaska, was released on summer solstice, June 21st.

Annette’s second novel, Bone Girl, premiered in March from Baskethound Books and is available in ebook, print and audiobook. Her debut novel, Celebration House, was published last August by Tirgearr Publishing.

Now, Annette turns her attention to regaining her sanity and writing the two sequels to Celebration House. Both books are slated for publication in 2015.

She left high school after two years to obtain her GED and attend Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, where she earned a degree in journalism. Annette worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Missouri and Kansas from 1987 to 1993. After earning a bachelor of science in nursing in 1994, she worked in hospitals in Missouri, Alaska and Washington before returning her focus to writing.

Annette makes her home in Spokane, Washington. A member of the Inland Northwest Writers Guild and Spokane Authors & Self Publishers, she loves libraries, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp. Much.

Stay in touch with Annette via:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnetteDrakeBooks?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annettedrake13

Website: http://annettedrake.com/

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Cupcakes for Breakfast?

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There’s nothing I like better than a slice of cake—unless it’s a cupcake!

Yesterday, I ate cupcakes for breakfast. Yes, you read that right. Of course, there was a point to doing something like that.

It’s all about the wedding planning.

Suffice it to say, I’m enjoying everything that’s going into planning my daughter’s wedding for next summer. I had a blast visiting different venues where we’ll hold the ceremony and reception. Being me, I took a bazillion pix on my iPhone, organizing each venue into its own folder. Trying to retain my crown as Queen of Organization, I also wrote up notes about each spot and made a Pro/Con list.

Wedding dress shopping was a terrific day, and the dress will arrive in mid-February. The happy couple found a photographer and did their engagement photos outside, thankfully the weekend before cold weather in the 30s with chilly winds hit Texas. They’ve hired a DJ. Compiled their guest list and are working on the registry. We have a place for the rehearsal dinner and know who will cater it. So many checks are done on our To-Do List!

But then came . . . cake tasting. Of which I deem myself an expert.

We went to an open house at their wedding venue and tasted several vendors’ samples. The mini-cupcake reigned supreme, so you know I was in hog heaven. One place stood out, and we booked a cake tasting there. As usual, I did my homework, so I knew about how much a slice of wedding cake should go for, that if you had the same baker do the wedding cake he/she should give you a discount on the groom’s cake, and all about how much fees are to transport said cakes to the reception. Needless to say, I like being prepared and making informed decisions.

Susan, our baker, had everything laid out for us—the bride, groom, hubby, and me. We talked about flavors and sampled. While the Italian cream cake with French vanilla filling and toasted coconut and pecans was a strong contender, in the long run they selected a wedding cake of white almond with dark chocolate filling. Having chocolate inside a wedding cake is a nice little twist (this chocoholic was cheering on the inside at their selection). And if people don’t like chocolate? Heck, just eat around it because the cake and buttercream icing were delish.

The groom’s cake, you ask? It’ll be a chocolate fudge cake with cream cheese filling, which was sweet but not too sweet, and a nice balance that complimented the moist cake.

Then we got to look at a gallery of Susan’s creations for both types of cakes. The happy couple narrowed down the wedding cake to not square but round, 3 tiers (with a 4th on the bottom to give the cake height, but it won’t be edible), and real flowers vs. sugar ones. Shades of purple will be reflected but not dominant the cake. The groom’s cake will be something centering around OU since they met there and are rabid fans. They now have about 8 weeks to study pix on Pinterest before they return for their design session and create the perfect look for each cake.

On top of sampling tasty treats, I got to head to Waco yesterday for a game featuring my beloved Bears. Of course, no trip to Waco is complete without a visit to George’s, where I feasted on chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and mac & cheese, along with melt in your mouth rolls.

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So what was my first mission this morning? Walking off some of those calories!

 

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You Never Know What You’ll See On A Walk

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I’m a walker from way back. Pretty much every morning, despite the heat or cold, I go for a lengthy walk.

I walk for several reasons. It’s a great way to burn calories. It’s terrific for relieving stress. It’s plain fun to be in the outdoors, breathing fresh air and enjoying nature. I can think, pray, and especially now that I’m a writer—I can plot to my heart’s desire.

I take pictures on some of my walks. In the spring and through the summer, I like to grab pictures of the beautiful flowers that I pass by each day.

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During the fall when the leaves start to change, I enjoy finding colorful trees and taking a picture of my Tree of the Day.

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Sometimes I’m able to capture a cooperative squirrel. Not often, because they like to scamper away. It’s the rare squirrel that will hang around and pose for a snapshot. My favorite shots of animals involve rabbits. I see them rarely, but they make for a great photo.

rabbits

Today, though, I saw something I’ve never seen on a morning walk.

Two horses.

Yes, you read that right. HORSES—TWO OF THEM!

I live in a town with a leash law, yet sometimes I run into people whose dogs are off-leash. They’ll turn a corner and oftentimes run over to me. Last week, I saw a friend walking her two dogs (on a leash). One got away from her, dragging his leash behind him. He came over, greeted me, and after loving on him a bit and telling him how wonderful he was, I ordered him back across the street—and he went.

So this morning, walking with the hubby, we looked up—and rounding the corner was a horse. It was like seeing a dog off his leash, except jumbo-sized, as he clopped along with joy. Moments later, another horse turned the corner, just as happy, and following his friend. It was one of the most unusual sights I’ve seen on a walk.

I have a knack of finding loose dogs when I’m walking. I can think of 4 that I’ve found who’ve gotten out of their back yards, through digging or via an open gate. I’ll snatch them up, find their person’s cell number on their tag, and make a call. The owners have always come right away and been grateful to me.

But you know what? Horses don’t wear collars with their owner’s info!

By this time, a concerned citizen had called the police and animal control (Can you imagine being on the receiving end of THAT call!), and soon help showed up. I hope the horses are now reunited with their people.

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And I can’t wait what I might see on tomorrow morning’s adventure . . .

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Wrong Numbers . . . and Spinning New Stories

01Back in the answering machine days, I’ll admit that I sometimes used mine to screen calls. Then Caller ID came along, and I really liked seeing the name pop up on my phone screen before I answered a call.

I use Caller ID to decide if I’m going to answer a call or not. If it’s someone plugged into my phone’s directory and the name comes up, then I take the call. If it doesn’t have a name and only identifies a number, I figure that my time is my time—so I let it go to voicemail. I only want to talk to the people I know. Not individuals or companies that want to sell me things, tell me how to vote, or want my opinion. Hey, I give that opinion all the time on my blog!

Last night while the hubby and I were watching TV, my phone rang. Now this is pretty unique to begin with because my phone never rings. Well, hardly ever. I am a serial texter. You want to get in touch with me? Text me. The rare times I get a call are when my dentist’s office calls to confirm my upcoming appointment (unlike my salon and doctors, who all text or send me an email) or if my mom returns a call I’ve made to her. My cell rings maybe twice a month.

So even hearing the ringtone surprises me when it occurs. I slipped my phone from my pocket and saw it was a local area code with no name. My rule stands. I don’t answer calls from people I don’t know. Most don’t even leave a voicemail anyway.

But this one did.

His message went something like this: “Hey, Jennifer. Just sitting at the office. Hoping that you were going to call. I’ll still be here a little while. Hope to hear from you.” All this in what sounded like a middle-aged man trying to sound sexy as he left a message.

First off the bat? I’m not Jennifer. Immediately, my writer’s brain sprain into action. Jennifer had met this guy at a bar. He pressured her for her phone number. She really didn’t want to give it to him, so she made one up. Now I’ve never done that before . . . but I know women who have because they don’t want the confrontation/explanation of why they refuse to give away their digits.

I didn’t call him back. Sometimes I will if I believe the other party has reached me in error. I returned calls to collection agencies for over 8 years when they kept calling for Gannu Long. He must’ve left town owing everyone in sight. I’d politely explain I owned this number and had no idea who Mr. Long was or how to locate him. Once I had someone leave a message regarding the time for a funeral. I called back and informed them that they hadn’t reached the correct party. They asked if they’d dialed “7856.” I let them know it was “7896.” They thanked me and hopefully got in touch with the person that needed to attend that funeral.

But I didn’t do that with this call. And after 8, about an hour later, he called again. This time he must’ve left the office because the area code was a cell phone exchange. “Jennifer (not sounding quite as sexy this time, just weary). I’m disappointed that you didn’t call. I (long pause) just don’t think this is going to work out.” No names. No goodbye. Just a click.

Part of me wanted to call Mystery Man back. But if she really had given him a fake number because she didn’t want to talk to him, then I didn’t want to rub it in and make him feel even worse than he did, thinking a stranger was laughing at him over the whole situation.

Yet when I went to bed, my writer’s mind wouldn’t turn off. Had he written the number down wrong? Was I ending a great romance before it got off the ground? Would he think maybe she’d had an car accident and was in a coma in a hospital, and that’s why she didn’t return his two calls? Or did he give off a stalker vibe and she was terrified and just made up a number to give him? My mind raced with all kinds of possibilities. Who knows? I might be able to get a story out of this one day.

And if Phone Guy calls again, a 3rd time? I think I’ll answer and let him know that he has a wrong number and there’s no Jennifer here. Then the ball will be in his court.

Meantime . . . what if he was a gun for hire? Jennifer’s husband suspected her of having an affair (or worse, had proof of it) and paid for this guy to cozy up to—and then off—her? Or what if she really liked Phone Guy and was so nervous that when she gave him her digits, she reversed a few? Or what if she’s dyslexic and wrote it down wrong when she gave it to him? Or . . .

You see what I mean? Writers can mine stories out of practically anything!

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Celebrating the Release of Blood Brothers

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As I’ve been on my writing journey, I’ve met all sorts of interesting people, especially fellow authors at my Soul Mate Publishing house. One author has been very kind to me—or is that really two authors?

C.D. Hersh is the pen name for a romance writing couple, Catherine & Donald. I think it’s terrific that they collaborate on both novels and plays. They have a new book that’s just been released, and I’m turning my blog over to this wonderful pair today so you can get to know a bit about them and Blood Brothers. Take it away, you two!

Road Trips of All Sorts

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Lauren, thank you so much for allowing us to be the first authors to guest on your blog. We thought we’d tell your readers a little bit about ourselves and relate an interesting story that occurred with the writing of our newly released book, Blood Brothers.

We love to travel. So much that one year, while Donald was working, we’ve traveled at least one week out of every month. Usually, we have at least two big trips a year. Last year while writing Blood Brothers, Catherine wanted to go to Cleveland, Ohio where the book is set. We combined that trip with a conference trip, two for the gas price of one kind of thing. Which was a good, since gas was expensive last year. Anyway, we took a day to drive around downtown Cleveland and the surrounding areas where our book’s characters roam. Catherine took copious notes in her black speckled composition book she always carries when we travel, so she can dash down notes about plots, characters, surroundings and whatever else comes into our heads. As a side note we should mention that we conceived the idea for the Turning Stone Series during the year-long road trips we mentioned earlier.

When we got home she set aside the books, and after a couple of months we actually started working on the story. One afternoon she came into Donald’s office and said, “We need to take another road trip to Cleveland. I can’t remember what some of the places look like.”

Ever the budget-wise husband, Donald said “Let’s get on the internet and Google it.” And so we did. We spent an entire day roaming the streets of downtown Cleveland, including the Warehouse District and the Flats so we could solve a scene logistics problem.

That December Catherine wrote our Christmas letter, which always includes a run-down of our trips. We had traveled that year to Columbus, OH; Gatlinburg, TN; the Biltmore in NC; Williamsburg, VA; Manassas, VA; Traverse City, MI; Springfield, MO; Cleveland, OH; Marlborough, MA; and Iselin, NJ. When Donald proofed the Christmas letter, he came into Catherine’s office laughing out loud.

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When she asked what was so funny, he said, “We didn’t go to Cleveland twice.”

“Sure we did,” Catherine said. “Remember we went the second time a month or two after the conference?”

By this time Donald was practically rolling on the floor with laughter. “We only went once, hon,” he said.

“No. Twice,” Catherine insisted. “The second time we saw those railroad tracks and those buildings where we set one of the last scenes of the book.”

Barely able to contain himself, Donald said between guffaws, “The second time was on the computer via Google.”

It took several minutes for Catherine to realize Donald was right, and then she laughed so hard she cried. Always willing to enjoy a good laugh, even if it’s at her own expense, Catherine included the story of her imaginary trip to Cleveland in the Christmas letter. The recipients loved it.

There is one thing you will always find in our household, and that’s laughter.

We don’t have a funny excerpt from our newest book, Blood Brothers, but here is a short blurb and an excerpt we like:

CD Cover

Hook:

Shape shifter Delaney Ramsey’s daughter is missing, and she is bound by honor to protect the man she suspects of the deed. To bring him to justice, she must go against her code, the leader of the secret shifter society, and the police captain she is falling for.

Excerpt from Blood Brothers:

Pushing open the precinct door, she headed for Captain Williams’ office. At her light rap, the captain waved her in.

“Remember me?” Delaney asked. “We met in ER visiting Alexi?”

Wearing a broad smile, he rose and reached across the desk to shake her hand. “Yeah. Delaney, right? Delaney Ramsey.” He motioned to the chair opposite his. “How is Alexi?”

“Fine. Itching to get back to work, though. But that’s not why I’m here.”

He relaxed in his chair. “Didn’t think so. What can I do for you, Ms. Ramsey?”

She opened her notebook and pushed a file folder across his desk. “I understand Homeland Security thinks you’ve got some terrorist activity brewing in your area.”

“So I’ve been told by Ms. Riley.” When he said Sylvia’s name a scowl lined his forehead like jail bars.

Obviously, he had some issues with her. He’d probably hate having another fed in his office.

“I’m willing to cooperate with them,” Harry said, “but I don’t think a few unsolved homicides and burglaries points to terrorist activity.”

“Well, my boss does, and I’m here to make sure Ms. Riley gets her job done. My papers are in the file. I think you’ll find everything in order.”

He opened the file and reviewed her transfer papers. Under tense fingers, he crumpled the corner of each page, jutting his jaw out defiantly. She’d read him right.

“I understand how hard it is to relinquish jurisdiction,” she said, searching for something to soften his anger. “But we all want the same thing here. Find the bad guys and return things to normal. I promise you, I’ll try to wrap this up as quickly as possible and get out of your office.”

“I’m getting close to retirement, Ms. Ramsey, and I don’t want anything to go wrong to jeopardize my long, illustrious career. I’ll cooperate with you. Won’t like it, but I’ll do it.” He slapped the file folder closed and shoved it toward her. “What do you need?”

“A private office.”

“I’ve got the only one here.”

“I need something with a door. I’ll be discussing classified issues.” And secret society things.

“I’ll move out.”

“I wouldn’t dream of asking you.” That would put him off for sure.

“Then I’ll move in another desk and vacate whenever you need privacy. Will that work?”

“Are you sure that’s okay with you?”

“I’m absolutely freaking sure.”

She couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not. She scanned his aura. A soft blue with tints of muddy red and bright lemon yellow. He was sincere, irritated, but struggling to maintain control. “All right. We can work that out. I also need access to everything you’ve given Ms. Riley, copies of all the unsolved crimes the precinct has had in the past sixty days, and detectives Temple, and Jordan, when she returns.”

In a flash, his aura colors shifted to angry shades of red, and his lip curled into a sneer. “You want a latte with skim milk every morning, too?”

His impudence hit her like a slap, and she lost her temper. “That was uncalled for, Captain Williams. I’m here to help, and I don’t have to take your insulting behavior. If you want a gold pin at retirement, I suggest you cooperate to the fullest with me, which includes keeping a cap on your cheeky insolence.” She scolded him as if he were a schoolboy who’d been caught yanking pigtails.

He had the good grace to appear shamed. “I’m sorry, Ms. Ramsey. I have a bit of a temper. That and my dedication to my job seem to get me in trouble with women, especially the good-looking ones.”

Did he think her good-looking? Her cheeks heated at the idea then she discarded it. She’d pushed all his hot buttons. Invaded his territory. Rising from her chair, she tried to compose herself. “I’m sorry also, but it may get quite fiery in here at times because I’ve got a temper, too.”

He chuckled.

“Did you find something I said funny?”

“Refreshing, Ms. Ramsey. Not funny.”

***

You can purchase Blood Brothers through Amazon at: http://www.amzn.com/B00OVNFC8W

Bio:

CD author pic

Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in laughter, true love, and happily ever after.

Together they have co-authored a number of dramas, six which have been produced in Ohio, where they live. Their interactive Christmas production had five seasonal runs in their hometown and has been sold in Virginia, California, and Ohio. Their most recent collaborative writing efforts have been focused on romance. The first book of their paranormal romance series entitled The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles) is available on Amazon. The second book in the series Blood Brothers was released in October 2014 from Soul Mate Publishing.

Where you can find CD:

Website: http://cdhersh.wordpress.com/

Soul Mate Publishing: http://smpauthors.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cdhershauthor

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/C.-D.-Hersh/e/B00DV5L7ZI

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorCDHersh

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One Hope? #WineNot?

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I recently got to do a mom/daughter trip that coincided with my Halloween birthday. We went to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Yes, that’s right—I got to spend my birthday at the happiest place on earth with my only child (who’s now an adult—and much easier to see the parks with than a 6-year-old!). The getaway was a blast. We went to Magic Kingdom and rode everything from Space Mountain to Haunted Mansion to the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train multiple times.

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Our real goal was to attend the Food & Wine Festival held every fall at Epcot. We spent two days eating our way around the world. I sampled grilled shrimp & lamb, escargot, Belgian waffles, rib eye & shrimp tacos, pierogi, scallops, crisp pork belly w/black beans, bouef bourguignon, crème brulee, and all kinds of beers, wines, & ciders. Just as in Europe, we walked. A LOT! Happily, I came back weighing the same as I did when I left, which was a nice bonus.

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We were able to go to culinary demos and taste food made by famous chefs which was paired with wines that brought out the best in both.

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One wine tasting, though, has stayed with me. I knew I had to share what I learned at it.

No, I’m not going to tell you how to sniff or swirl or taste—even though our wine experts shared all those tips. I’m not going to enlighten you on the difference between a pinot grigio and a pinot noir.

Instead, I want to share info about One Hope Wines. Because not only was their product terrific, their mission statement made a lasting impression on me.

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One Hope started 5 years ago with 8 friends in their 20s who came together to develop a product to help a friend who’d been diagnosed with cancer. At the beginning, they sold wine out of their trunks to individuals and small restaurants. They took the idea even further, wanting to create a quality wine and be able to give back, year-round, to a plethora of worthy causes.

And that is what they do. Half their profits—yes, you read that right—HALF—go to worthwhile causes. They don’t do this during a particular month or a certain time of year; they do it every day with every bottle & case sold.

They partnered with Rob Mondavi, Jr., and they developed 7 wines that are connected to notable causes. Since women’s #1 wine choice is chardonnay, those bottles sold see 50% of the profits going toward breast cancer research. Paws for Pinot is the catch-phrase that sees pinot profits earmarked for the ASPCA. The variety of causes range from supporting our troops & veterans to ending child hunger to helping children with autism and searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s. Saving the planet? Check. Funding clean water? Yup.

One Hope Wines believe that a quality product can be created and delivered to socially conscious consumers. Together, creator and consumer can make an impact on the world we live in.

The One Hope Wines we tasted were terrific and reasonably priced. The fact that they have committed 50% of their profits for every single bottle they sell to non-profit organizations gives me hope that other companies might follow their lead.

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So stop by Whole Foods or check wherever you buy wine and see if One Hope Wines are available. Just like your vote can make a difference, so can the products you choose to purchase.

Their slogan is Indulge. Do Good. #WineNot?

 Give One Hope Wines a chance! http://www.onehopewine.com/

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Wedding Planning . . . and Planning for My New Novel

3My daughter recently became engaged, and everything at our house now is a whirlwind of activity. We studied venues online, and she chose 5 she liked (with 1 as a back-up because she’s my kid!). My commission was to scout out the places and report back. She hoped my legwork would narrow it down to 1 or 2 places to choose from to celebrate this magical day.

Being my organized self, I visited each place, using my trusty iPhone to take tons of pictures. I gathered brochures. I got price lists. I asked questions. I wrote up a page on each venue, listing its pros & cons. In the end, that 1 special place stood apart from the pack. They paid attention to so many small details that other venues never considered. It became a no-brainer. We visited the site, and it was perfect.

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So the happy couple picked a date, booked the venue, and my husband and I put down the 1st payment (ouch!) of several over the next few months.

Wedding dress shopping went much the same way. She had Columbus Day off from teaching, so she booked a few places, grabbed a bridesmaid who also had the day off, and we hustled from one end of town to the next. She limited her shopping to 3 places and tried on about 10 wedding gowns in each shop. I shot pictures from the front, back, and sides and we studied how she looked in person and how well each dress photgraphed. We considered all kinds of silhouettes, and in the end, one dress didn’t just speak to all of us—it sang loudly from the heights Meredith Grey’s famous words to McDreamy: Pick me. Choose me. Love me.

Needless to say, that dress became The Dress (just like Der chose Mer).

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Those are the biggest checks off the massive To-Do List—date, place, and dress. Everything after this will take time, from looking for a photographer to finding a DJ and designing that just-right bridal bouquet. We’ll tackle each project, do our research, and book things accordingly.

All this wedding business got me to thinking about when I first start writing a new book. I put a lot of time and effort into each novel before I ever type “Chapter 1” on my computer screen.

Yes, I’m organized in this aspect of my life, too, and do a lot of up-front planning. I will spend hours (seriously!) on finding the oh-so-perfect names for my hero & heroine. I’ll look at lists of popular names during that era. Play with first and last name combinations. Put the hero and heroine’s names together, side-by-side, just seeing how they rest next to one another.

Once I land upon their character names, I start seeing a mental picture of their physical appearance. I create a person, top-to-bottom. I know skin tone, hair color and texture, body frame, and height. I choose eye color and size of feet and see their posture and hair style so clearly.

Then I develop their backgrounds. Family. Where they grew up. If they had pets. Education. Religion. If they hum along while they do a task or bite their fingernails. All of that helps lead me to their personalities and characteristics. Are they timid? Intelligent? Stubborn? Happy-go-lucky? Do they make snap judgments or see the glass as half-empty or half-full? Can they be patient, or do they get irritable when bogged down with menial tasks?

All that hard work helps cement my characters in my mind. And like the importance of wedding planning, my characters are everything. Once I see them and hear them and know how they’ll react, then I know eventually that the plot and conflicts will come, just like getting that date/place/dress has gotten the whole ball rolling for my daughter’s wedding.

I’m on the cusp of starting a new book now. I’m beginning to see my people and form their personalities. I’d say 90% of this background stuff never makes the book—but I know it about them, and it will influence the course of the story and their relationship.

So here’s to my daughter and her fiancé . . . and I also raise a glass to the new couple who will come to dominate my life over the next months. May they all find everlasting happiness together!

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