Saturday, June 30, 2012

One of those wonderful, rare books... by Natalie Anderson

One of my stories is getting another outing this month and I'm so thrilled that it is this particular one.

For me writing a novel is usually a long rollercoaster ride. Sometimes it feels like the words won't ever come, some days it flows. And then, very occasionally, there's a book that just pours out.

Lorenzo and Sophy's story was the fourth (and final) book in my contract for that year - so the story idea had been percolating in the back of my mind for several months. But then I had a deadline crunch - a BIG crunch. I had half the story down, but needed to get the rest written asap. Fortunately, my husband swung into action and took a couple of days off work to mind the kids and give me an extra long weekend to try to get it down.

I spent all four of those days locked in our bedroom at the far end of the house - sitting up in bed with my laptop, drinking far too many caffeine laced energy drinks and generally going feral. Hubby and the kids would throw food in every now and then, sometimes come in for a hug but for the most part knew to stay far, far away. But by some miracle, I just wrote and wrote and wrote - finishing the story in that long weekend. And loving it. It was all just there - and all I had to do was write it down.

To make things even more miraculous, that's the only book I've had go through without any revisions/edits whatsoever :)

In the UK, Australia and New Zealand Lorenzo and Sophy's story was sold as UNBUTTONED BY HER MAVERICK BOSS while in North America it was sold as REBEL WITH A CAUSE. And in July it is available again in Australia and New Zealand as part of the Bestselling Authors Collection - that also features stories by Trish Morey, Day LeClaire, Brenda Jackson and Ann Voss Peterson. So if you missed out first time, you can get the whole collection! You can get it from Amazon too (I'm not sure if UK and North American readers can buy it online - but fingers crossed!).

I hope you enjoy reading this one as much as I loved writing it.

Best wishes,

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Year in the Life of an Author: June

June is a blur. Deadline month. So much so, that I didn't realize it was the 29th and my blogging day until this morning and I happened to glance down at my calendar.

Crikey! Where did the month go?
At SeaTac during a four hour delay. (Reading!)

I'll tell you: into my first real book tour for Along Came A Duke, (Tulsa, Chicago and Dallas) and then getting home and planting myself in front of my computer to get caught up. It was sort of the pinnacle of a writer's life and the hell that is deadline.

Deadline means all you do is work. Truly. Ask my family. I came out of my office the other day and had to reintroduce myself amidst cries of "stranger danger." Well, it's not that bad, but it is close. Let's just say having a book coming out and a book due in the same month is like having the earthquake and then the tsunami. My life hasn't' fallen down, but it feels like it is being washed out to sea. You are tugged in every direction and none of it is given your full attention. 

Good Morning Tulsa!
The highlight of the month truly was the book tour, which was so much fun--and made more so by the inclusion of Rachel Gibson, Julia Quinn and Pamela Palmer.  Lots of laughter and jokes, dinners out and odd cab rides.

Rachel and I were on Good Morning Tulsa, which was my first TV appearance as an author. I suppose the JP Patches show when I was six does not count.

The events were all packed--full of lots of fun people, some coming to our events in Chicago twice!

And please, if you come to a group author event, don't ask the sex question. If it is the end of the tour two things may happen:

The first time I saw one of my books in the airport
1) The authors will have placed a wager on what time the question will come up and you'll make one author happy and the rest annoyed with you.


2) You'll just annoy the authors to no end. And you'll get our now stock answer: The Nature Channel.

There are so many great questions to ask. That is not one of them.

Now back to finishing my book. I am in the part where I am so buried in revising and plugging up scenes, I go to bed every night with a headache from juggling so many layers.

Next month, I'll talk about the post-book assessment I always do to decide what worked and what didn't on the book. And all the parts that come after you turn in a book: edits, copy edits and page proofs. See you in July!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Michelle Willingham: Tormented Heroes in Romance

I love to challenge myself with every book I write. Whether it's delving into research for medieval Scotland or writing stories about broken heroes or heroines—I relish the thrill of creating a story that hasn't been done before. But while writing Tempted by the Highland Warrior, I seriously wondered if I'd lost my mind.

A silent hero? A man who has lost his ability to speak? How in the world was I going to pull this one off? At the time it sounded like a fun idea. My wounded hero was traumatized by his torture as a prisoner-of-war during the first War of Independence between Scotland and England. Although his brothers rescued him, he was bordering on madness. The only thing that grounded him and held him steady was his love for Marguerite, the woman who found him.

As I wrote the book, it transformed from a Robin Hood story between a scarred archer and the daughter of a duke . . . into a Romeo and Juliet story. My challenge was to convey the thoughts and emotions of Callum MacKinloch, though he couldn't speak a single word. There were days when I wanted to knock my head against the wall for coming up with this idea—and days when Callum came alive for me, a man imprisoned within his own skin, unable to speak to the woman he loved.

I've always adored tormented heroes, and this one challenged me beyond all others. Some of my favorite wounded men in romance include the Duke of Jervaulx (Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale), Sebastian Ballister (Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase), Zsadist (Lover Awakened by JR Ward), and John Matthew (first introduced in Lover Eternal by JR Ward and then with his own book in Lover Mine). There's something about a strong hero with a dark past that appeals to me, both as a reader and an author.

What about you? Who are some of your favorite tormented heroes? Tell me the book title, and you'll be entered in my drawing to win a signed copy of book one in the MacKinloch series, Claimed by the Highland Warrior (Nominated for a 2012 Bookseller's Best Award).

You can read an excerpt of Tempted by the Highland Warrior at my website. I also love chatting with readers on Facebook or on Twitter

***Michelle's winner is fichen1!  Please email with your mailing info.  Thanks!***

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kate Angell: Goals

GOALS: I have many, and try to achieve each one. Sometimes I falter or fail. Other times I grab the brass ring. Always I persist, breathing new life into all that's important to me. Never-say-die has always been my mantra. 

I knew from a young age I would someday become a published author. I had no idea 'when' that might  happen, but I believed nonetheless. There were days, weeks, months, years when my life took a far different course than writing. I groomed dogs, was a social worker, managed my family's fast food restaurant, and worked in the public school system. I had many wonderful and eye-opening experiences. I met a lot of interesting people; a few later became character sketches in my books.

It took me twenty years to sell my first book. I received so many rejection letters, I started a scrapbook. Declines motivated me. I saw rejection as editorial selection. I had yet to write the book an editor would buy. I waited for that right book, right editor, right time.  

I would write each day, even if it was only a paragraph or one page. I tried every genre imaginable: historicals, paranormals, suspense, women's fiction, category romance. Not until I set my mind to romantic comedies did I truly find my niche. I'm very happy writing light, sexy, contemporary novels. When life is hard, a happy ending appeals to me.

Push forward in life, whatever your goals. May success be yours!

I hope readers will enjoy my fifth baseball romance Sweet Spot (May) and my first beach, boardwalk romance, No Tan Lines (June).

Sweet Spot: A hot male athlete is tamed by a quirky, passionate woman. Star second baseman James “Law” Lawless and ambitious financial adviser Cat May have a memorable sexual encounter while in costumes and masks at a night club. He spends much of the book trying to identify “Wonder Woman” while she tries to pretend the incident never happened. Meanwhile, as affluent investor, Law meets Cat in her professional role and is wowed by her business acumen. Fans of the Richmond Rogues will enjoy cameo appearances from the whole team and their sweethearts

No Tan Lines: The Capulets and Montagues had nothing on the Cates and Saunders families, who own opposite sides of a Florida boardwalk town and live in cold disdain of their neighbors. Shaye Cates is a natural beauty, happiest in shorts and flip-flops, who runs her family’s faltering businesses from the beach on the Barefoot William side of town. Handsome Trace Saunders is rarely seen without a suit as he manages a dignified and profitable real estate empire in a traditional office. A volleyball tournament that straddles both sides of the beach forces them to work together, and instant sizzle leads to inevitable romance, despite disapproval from both families.

Question: Do you set goals? Short-term or long-range?

Post a comment for the giveaway: $25.00 Amazon digital gift card to a winner drawn at random. I will also give a copy of Sweet Spot as a second place gift. And a copy of No Tan Lines to a third winner.

Happy Reading!
Kate Angell

***Kate's winners are: Megblod, Na, and Lil!  Please email with your mailing info!  Thanks!***

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Carrie Lofty: Rough Posh

Actor Damian Lewis has played turn-of-the-century control freak Soames Forsythe in The Forsythe Saga, national hero Capt. Dick Winters in Band of Brothers, a regular guy possessed by a Stephen King monster in Dreamcatcher, and most recently, in the TV series Homeland, an ex-captive suspected of being a Muslim terrorist mole.

Why do I mention Mr. Lewis, other than how much I adore him? He mentioned in an interview that he knew, as a British actor with formal Shakespearean training, he fought early to keep from being pigeonholed in period pieces. He admitted that he was posh, but that he was working toward “rough posh.”

Fabulous phrase.

For STARLIGHT, I needed Alex Christie to rough posh. He’s an intellectual and a would-be businessman. A father and steadfast family man. An all-around straight shooter. Yet he has much to fight for, including an inheritance large enough to save his son from his evil father-in-law. In other words, the man was in desperate want of sharp edges and a couple mean fists.

Polly had expected some equivalent of a desk clerk, stooped and thin. Or just the opposite—a fat man with heavy jowls and a pocket watch worth more than her parents’ tenement flat. Instead, Mr. Christie was the worst sort of challenge. He had caught her off guard.
Where was his coat? And his neckcloth? She couldn’t remember the last time she had seen a gentleman so informally dressed—if ever. The shock of finding a hint of chest hair poking out from the collar of such a fine, expensive shirt was dangerously distracting. The contrast of wild and civilized was as pronounced as the stark white cloth lying against his tanned neck.
And despite her indignant temper, she had to admit that Agnes was right: he was a man born of Calton stock. Tall and broad-shouldered, he had a hard jaw designed to absorb life’s toughest punches.
Alex also turned out to be very creative about how to use a walking stick. Who knew?

So aside from Damian Lewis, I decided to spend a few lovely, lovely minutes contemplating a list of actors who fit the bill. And I hope commenters will add their recommendations! Here goes:

Daniel Craig: He wears a tuxedo while carrying a machine gun. He is Bond. So much win.

Michael Fassbender: Dapper and darkly magnetic in X-Men: First Class and Inglourious Basterds, then stripped, bloody and fighting for his life in Centurion, Fassy can put on a villain cape or fur cloak and still be mesmerizing.

Christian Bale: From American Psycho to playboy Bruce Wayne, he has more faces than a deck of cards. The man is scarily chameleonic.

Hugh Jackman: Sure he played Wolverine. Very, very well. I noticed him first, however, as Leo in Kate & Leopold, where his charm and manners were absolutely adorable. Hard to pick a favorite when  a guy can do both so well.

Richard Armitage: Most in Romacelandia know RA from North & South, but he also starred in the British spy drama Spooks. As did his tattoos.

And then there’s the man who inspired Alex. (I’m not revealing who he is, because I hate to spoil reader expectations!) Let’s just say he’s not an actor at all, but a professional soccer player…who also happens to wear the heck out of a tuxedo and model outrageously expensive watches. Rough posh!

To write STARLIGHT, I needed a bit of both. Am I complaining? Oh, no no no…

What’s next for me:

After RT BookReviews 4½ Star Top Pick  STARLIGHT hits the shelves, I'll be looking forward to the release of HIS VERY OWN GIRL, a historical romance set in World War II. It's not women's fiction. It's not literary fiction. It's a genuine romance, complete with sexy times and a happy ending. Look for it September 4th as a Pocket Star digital original novel. I cannot wait to see how readers respond!

I'll also be launching a new co-written pseudonym, Katie Porter, with my long-time friend and critique partner, Lorelie Brown. Our "Vegas Top Guns" series of contemporary erotic romances will launch from Samhain on July 31 with the release of DOUBLE DOWN, which is also a RT BookReviews 4½ Star Top Pick. Two more from the series, INSIDE BET and HOLD 'EM, will follow in August and September. You can learn more about these and future books at our website

Where to find me:  /  Twitter: @carrielofty

I'd like to give away a copy of STARLIGHT, and I'll ship anywhere. Just answer the question: Rough posh…does it work for you? And more importantly, any recs?? Either books or movies, lay them on me. I’d love to add to my collection!

Thanks again for having me!

***Carrie's winner is Rosie Hong!  Please email with your mailing info. Thank you!***

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Take Your Pleasure by Jasmine Haynes

With Fifty Shades of Grey being all the rage, I’m reissuing my little bondage e-book, Take Your Pleasure. I’ve got a fun new cover, and in editing it again, I enjoyed the read. Here’s a little blurb (copyright Jasmine Haynes) to whet your appetites.

A naughty little story with a bit of bondage, ménage, and a very good spanking!

Natalie Beaumonde’s life turns upside down the day she walks in on her boyfriend, Van, playing submissive to a beautiful dominatrix. Not only has she been betrayed, but Natalie loses her belief in herself as a desirable woman. And when she starts making mistakes at work, her career being the one thing she’s always excelled at, she’s in danger of losing her self-worth and her job, too.

Lincoln Masters isn’t like most bosses. Instead of issuing a reprimand, he decides his sexy executive assistant needs a good spanking, something he’s been dying to deliver for almost a year. And afterward, he hatches a plan to help Natalie rebuild her self-confidence and show her wandering man the error of his ways: become the sexy dominatrix her boyfriend is looking for. Being a Master himself, Lincoln’s the perfect dom to help her execute the delectable punishment.

Lincoln’s terms for helping her? He wants a piece of Natalie, too. Suddenly, Natalie finds herself developing a growing fascination with her boss and all the exciting, deliciously naughty things he can do for her. When Van’s punishment is complete, can she go back to being just Mr. Masters’ assistant?

You can read an excerpt of Take Your Pleasure on my website. It’s currently available in e-book format on Amazon, Smashwords, and ARe. Soon to be available from B&N, Apple, and Sony.

But back to Fifty Shades. I’m interested in the phenomenon. Why has it become so huge? Why is everyone buying it? It’s not merely the subject matter, because there’s been plenty of good BDSM romance books out there. If you’ve read the book, what did you think? Loved it, hated it? If you haven’t read it, why not, genre doesn’t interest you, the hype turns you off? I'm really interested in your comments, so let's talk it up!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Haven’t Got You, Babe by Darlene Gardner

I might be too much of a romantic.

It’s a helpful quality for a romance writer but not so much in day-to-day life.

I actually gasped aloud when I read earlier this week that Johnny Depp was separating from French singer/actress Vanessa Paradis after fourteen years and two children. Never mind that I’d count neither celebrity as one of my favorites.

Break-ups pain me. Obviously they don’t even need to involve people I know personally.
I’ve suffered from this affliction since 1974 when Sonny and Cher divorced. I used to love how they ended every episode of their variety show by singing I Got You Babe. My father laughed when I told him how cute the couple was together, how devoted. “They’ll be divorced before long,” he said.

“Never!” I cried.

 My father turned out to be right. Sniff.

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker tops the list of my least favorite NBA players after he and actress Eva Longoria divorced after three years of marriage. I’d seen the couple on the Oprah show when they were engaged and she’d seemed so in love with him. So, naturally, I assumed the divorce shattered her.

“She’s an actress,” my husband replied when I told him this. “You don’t know how she really felt about him.’

Yes, I do.

I must admit, however, that I’ve been duped by a lot of couples I thought would live happily ever after. Tipper and Al Gore, divorced after forty years of marriage and four children. Supermodel Heidi Klum and singer Seal, divorced after seven years and three kids. And Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, the parents of two sons who were together for twenty-three years. Sarandon told a London newspaper that fans would stop her on the street after they split and say they wept when they heard the news.

I can relate.

Thankfully, there are also Hollywood success stories. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. Will and Jada Pinkett Smith (say the rumors of Splitsville aren’t so!)

Love is so vital to happiness I want everyone to have it, even celebrities. And I never want love to end. How about you? Has any celebrity break-up affected you? Please tell me I’m not alone in this.

Darlene Gardner is the author of more than thirty books ranging from emotionally charged family dramas to romantic comedies. She’s currently writing for Harlequin Superromance and self publishing eBooks from her backlist. She’ll have a September release from Superromance titled The Truth About Tara. Visit Darlene on the web at

Friday, June 22, 2012

Opal Carew on Developing Characters

I believe we all have challenges in our lives to overcome.  We want to grow and thrive, but situations from our past—traumas that have left us fearful of certain situations—can hold us back.  Just like the characters in books, if we want to achieve our goals, we need to push past these fears.

Whenever I find myself striving to achieve something and making no headway, I look at what I’m doing and how I might be self-sabotaging.  I sit down and think about what might be holding me back.  It could be from a basic fear of success (or failure), from a belief I don’t deserve the goal, a fear that I’m too weak, that I don’t work hard enough, that I’m not smart enough, etc.

Once I determine what it might be, I go to a list of possible methods to help counteract the fear.  Meditation, left-hand writing (a technique to activate the right brain to draw out the subconscious beliefs), talking to someone who knows me well and knows about energy healing, affirmations, and many others.  I have taken many workshops and worked with a holistic healer for many years to help release blocks to my success and happiness.

I think this is why I love writing so much.  I take my characters through the growth they need to make in order to find love.  They make that growth by having to face something about themselves or the person they’re falling in love with, in order to make the relationship work.  Since I write erotic romance, a major part of that path is healing attitudes about sexuality.  Even in my Amber Carew books, which aren’t explicitly erotic, often the growth occurs through the vulnerability of intimate moments together.

This is certainly true in my story MAN OF HER DREAMS (formerly VIRTUAL LOVE), where she must grow past her fear of letting go of control by giving herself totally to a man she has grown to love, but still does not know his name or what he looks like.

MAN OF HER DREAMS will be on Amazon for free starting on Sunday (3 days only), then will appear for sale on Barnes & Noble and other on-line stores towards the end of the month.  If you have a Nook and would like a free copy, simply email me at OpalCarew @ and I will email you an Epub copy.

You can learn more about me at:

Also, please join me on Facebook:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Devon Monk's Age of Steam Steampunk Series

HANG FIRE is a steampunk short story set in late 1800's America. It takes place between the Age of Steam book #1, DEAD IRON and book #2 TIN SWIFT. The story is broken into 20 "chapters" and posted, one chapter at a time, on 20 awesome blogs. To read the whole story, start at chapter 1 at and follow the "read the next chapter" links at the end of the post. chapter 2 at: Fiction Vixen

HANG FIRE - Chapter 3

Cedar Hunt knew better than to argue with the woman. It didn’t keep him from it, though. “You’ll be safer if you stay with the Madders. I don’t want to lose you.”
Mae Lindson’s eyes narrowed a bit and Cedar held his breath, hoping she hadn’t heard the need behind his words. There was no time for those kind of feelings–not on this trail with winter on the way.
The beast within him turned and pressed, wanting him to say more. Wanting him to take Mae as his own. Cedar pushed back against the Pawnee curse. He still had a man’s mind, and he wasn’t about to lose it to the beast.
“I won’t stay behind,” Mae finally said. “Arguing with me, Mr. Hunt, only wastes time. Ours and Rose’s.”
Logic. For all that Mae’s mind drifted from the coven calling her home, she had not yet lost hold of her reason.
“Show me where you last saw Rose.”
Mae turned her mule toward the river.
Cedar glanced over at the Madder brothers. Each of them dark-bearded and built like bear, but the youngest, Cadoc, had a knit cap on his wooly head, and the middle brother, Bryn, wore a brass monocle over his ruined left eye. They rode alongside the bulky wagon that the eldest brother, Alun, drove behind the big draft horses.
“We’re seeing to Rose,” Cedar called. “She’s gone missing.”
Alun, in the driver’s seat, raised his hand in acknowledgment, then dug the pouch at his belt for tobacco and pipe. “I’m sure she’s fine,” he said.
Cedar did not share his confidence.
Wil, Cedar’s brother, slipped through brush to follow Mae with the silence and speed particular to a wolf. He, too, carried the Pawnee curse, but only wore the skin of a man during the dark moon, whereas Cedar only wore a wolf’s skin each full moon.
“Up river just a bit more,” Mae said. “By the shallows.”
She pushed the brim of her bonnet back and stopped her mule just short of the bank, so she could scan the narrow strip of water. “She was there by those standing stones. Said she saw something move. Thought it was metal and went to go see. You know how she is.”
“Feet that can’t stay still and more curiosity than a pack of cats.” Cedar pulled his goggles up from around his neck, setting them in place over his eyes and thumbing through the various lenses.
No horse, no movement, no trace of Rose–not even a wet footprint on the opposite bank. Even the stand of trees beyond didn’t hint to a rustle of life. The forest was silent, as if suddenly all living things had found a need to cower.
And then a scream broke the air. chapter 4 at: The Qwillery

Devon's giving away a copy of TIN SWIFT plus a magnet and signed, handmade bookmark to one lucky reader so leave a comment for a chance to win!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Multitasking Envy by Jenny Gardiner

Moms are amazing people. I know this from having kept company with some incredible ones over the years. Moms are best at improvising, encountering a problem and coming up with a great solution. Like the gal I saw at Whole Foods recently. She was serene, too serene, frankly, for a mom with a demanding toddler in her grocery cart and a newborn in a sling pressed up to her chest. Just meandering through the store without an apparent care in the world, testing papayas for ripeness in the produce section, scooping bulk rice into her little baggie. I admit I instantly felt a pang of mom-envy, knowing that when my kids were that young, I was never quite so calm. But I was impressed nonetheless. And then I noticed she'd undertaken the up-till-then impossible. Back when my kids were little and it seemed as if I was nursing babies for about a decade straight, I kept thinking I could get my act together if only I could figure out how to multitask while nursing. To a degree you can when some of the kids are older -- it's a great time for storybook reading, stationary Lego-building, anything while seated and not moving beyond the reach of your arm. But it's nigh impossible to keep up on daily life-tasks like laundry, dishes, cooking, and cleaning when you're devoting hours a day to nursing. (Note to hypocritical self: not exactly mindful to focus on the have-to's while feeding your beloved child, during which time you should be enjoying the mother/child bonding). God forbid I ever clean back then. But then this whippersnapper grocery store woman had achieved the impossible and thrown down the gauntlet to moms everywhere: she was nursing her baby while grocery shopping. Not only was that baby slung up against her chest, freeing up her hands, it was conveniently latched on for feeding time. Wow. Now that's some serious Grade-A multitasking. I've long prided myself on being the queen of multitasking, so I took it as a challenge to my primacy as I watched her one-up the hell out of me. Sure, I realize I'm well past the stage at which I need concern myself regularly with doing ten things at once, but sheesh, how much time I could've saved if I'd have been able to knock off all those tasks in one small feat! Back in the day I could lug a kid in each arm, squat down (before my knees abandoned me) and pick up dirty laundry or strewn toys off the floor with my feet, flinging things wherever they needed to be flung. I could pretty much slice and dice and julienne potatoes one-handed with my eyes blindfolded if need be. I simply couldn't clean. Or at least I like to believe that. That evening, I recounted the Super Mom story to my husband, telling him how I could've done all those unpleasant housework things that I fell out of the habit of doing thanks to enforced idleness of nursing, had I only had a handy-dandy baby sling and some street savvy. "Are you freaking kidding me?" he laughed. Clearly he's not of the belief that child-rearing knocked the cleaning gene right out of me. Oh well, it's my story and I'm sticking to it. Alas, my skills with foot-borne pick up -- aside from harking back to my chimpanzee ancestry -- were never exactly applicable in life, only the product of time-relevant necessity. But I do give myself double props for sticktuitiveness. Not many moms who'd go that extra mile. Probably because they were too busy actually cleaning their houses. I find that I only end up really cleaning my place, really trying hard to spruce it up, when I have houseguests on the way (or when I get flour bugs in the food pantry, or something leaks under the sink, or the basement floods, but that's for another day). Disasters, inconveniences and houseguests are ready-made events to help you get your act together. That's the dilemma du jour in the Gardiner household: graduation this weekend, which means a slew of folks arriving for a party plus overnight guests, which means "oh Lord, we need a miracle." The landscaping out front? No longer Charlottesville-chic, it has come to more resemble George-of-the-Jungle. An encounter with a nearby baby copperhead ground the weeding job to a complete halt. I'm of the mind that our company would prefer us alive and snakebite-free with a really ugly front yard than on an IV at the hospital with an infusion of anti-venom flowing through our veins. As a mom, I'm a pragmatist. Moms drop everything (and pick it up with their feet, if need be) for our kids on a moments notice (not exactly helpful when trying to meet work deadlines, I might add). I met a mom recently who lamented that she gave up her dreams of working in law enforcement in order to stay home with her children. Now an empty-nester, she fantasizes about the career she now can't choose and instead temps at a preschool and TiVo's reruns of Law and Order, a far cry from the heat-packing mama she dreamed of being. She's now rendered a cop-wannabe for life, because nobody wants a 50-year old female rookie on the force (particularly in times of budget cuts). A mom friend had a huge scare with a child recently when they learned her daughter had a massive internal growth that needed to be removed immediately (which meant waiting five grueling days for surgery, natch). A near week-long vigil over the health of your child is great for your waistline, not so much for your mental state. I told her she needed the coping tool of moms that I'd discovered a year earlier from another mom I knew, to whom I'd complained about the inability to sleep, waking as I did all night with have-to's on my brain. "You have to get the drug tea," I told her. "I swear you'll sleep like a newborn." Truly I'm amazed this Sleepytime tea I told her about isn't prescription-only, it's so effective. Sure enough, my friend called me a few days later. "I owe you, big time. That stuff works wonders. I'm sleeping better than I have in years." No doubt helped by her daughters health being fine. Nonetheless, mothers have each other's backs, even if it means helping each other get a reasonable nights sleep. Sometimes we moms might seem freakish, like the dancing bear in the circus. But I can assure you we are not. Well, not usually, anyhow. And at least we don't bite. Well, not usually, anyhow. We can, however, work wonders with our feet, if push comes to shove. And now? Well, the sky's the limit when you can nurse-on-the-run. Hope it's okay with the baby.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Enemies at the Altar- Melanie Milburne

Have you ever hated someone only to change your mind about them later? Or loved them passionately only to end up positively loathing them? How close to hate is love? Are they really two sides of the same coin?

Socrates said: “From the deepest desires often comes the deadliest hate.”

That’s exactly the starting point for my upcoming Presents release- Enemies at the Altar. Andreas Ferrante and Sienna Baker are archenemies. They positively loathe each other. For years they have assiduously avoided any contact but on Andreas’s father’s death he is outraged to find he must marry Sienna in order to secure his inheritance.

Sienna is the wild child daughter of the housekeeper who destroyed his parent’s marriage. Andreas can think of no one on the planet he would like to marry less! But marry her he must, otherwise he stands to lose what is rightfully his.

Sienna is equally outraged. As far as she is concerned Andreas is a spoilt, filthy rich playboy who has serious control issues. But if she agrees to marry him, at the end of six months she will receive a massive payout.

Tempting? You bet.

And so begins a battle of wills between two polar opposites. I can’t think of a book I’ve enjoyed writing more than this one. Andreas and Sienna were alive to me from the moment I put my fingers on the keyboard. They were vibrant and witty, determined and passionate all the way to the end. I was smiling as I wrote the last scene where Andreas comes storming down a deserted windswept beach in order to tell Sienna he loved her. He was shouting all the way!

This quote from French writer Marcel Jouhandeau sums up perfectly the heart of Andreas and Sienna’s story:  “To really know someone is to have loved and hated them in turn.”

I hope you enjoy Enemies at the Altar which is the sister book to Deserving of His Diamonds.

Warmest wishes,
 Melanie Milburne

Monday, June 18, 2012

Looking Back While Looking Forward...

My daughter will soon be home for the holidays. It only seems five minutes ago that we were bringing her home from hospital as a tiny baby.  Now she's about to start her final year at university.  She's studying Archaeology, which means the summer is her busiest time. This year, she'll be spending some of her  time working at a Roman site in the south of England, where last season she found all sorts of beautiful and poignant things, from beads to babies. Archaeology is a bit of a cinderella discipline. They also serve who only stand and sift spoil heaps, so I thought it was about time the "trowel jockeys" got their very own heroine! Josie is a dedicated academic who gets the chance of a lifetime in The Count's Prize, my July release for Harlequin Mills and Boon which you can find at Josie wants to develop a course based on the beautiful di Sirena estate, but its notorious owner Count Dario is a volatile character. He can't resist the challenge of a woman so wrapped up in her work that she spends her days in shapeless working clothes, turning pink in the sun and getting covered in dust. Unlike the other women in his life,  Josie is no pushover. She knows what she wants, so when her best friend finally tempts her into attending a glamorous party thrown by Dario she transforms herself into a woman who has an unexpected effect on him. She revives feelings that have remained buried deep within him after a tragedy hardened his heart. 

With one hand, Dario lifted a glass of champagne from a nearby tray then stuck the other hand into his trouser pocket and sauntered casually to the edge of her group.
He spoke, and she smiled.
Dario took that as his cue to advance and stand beside her. Instead of lifting her fingers to his lips as he had done the first time they'd met, his hand went straight to her waist as he kissed her lightly on the cheek. She didn't flinch from either gesture, he noticed with a delicious kick of pleasure.
'How are you enjoying the party?'
'I didn't think you'd recognise me,' she said apprehensively.
'I would know you anywhere,' he said, and it was true. She was so lovely, he couldn't bear to leave her alone for a moment. No one knew more than he did how every single second in the company of a beautiful woman should be cherished. One wrong word, one thoughtless gesture and happiness could be snatched away for ever. Nothing could have persuaded him to risk going through the pain he'd endured in losing Arietta - but he wasn't prepared to see Josie fall prey to one of his guests. The idea of a treasure like her in the clutches of another man was unthinkable...  
 ...she was looking at the woman he had abandoned when he'd blazed a trail around the room to her.
'Oh, that's just Tamara,' Dario said casually, stepping back.
On the other side of the room, the blonde raised one hand and blew him a kiss.
'Hmm. It doesn't look as though she's saying"Oh, that's just Dario," to those other people,' Josie said stiffly.
Dario felt a surge of purely male satisfaction. She was jealous - tonight she was as good as his.

Copyright Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd, 2012.

That's what Dario thinks - but Josie has very definite ideas about the way she wants to be treated and loyalty is top of her list. Commitment equals pain for Dario - so when Josie walks away he has to face the past he's sworn to forget, or face losing her forever...

The Count's Prize was an absorbing book to write. I could let myself go on the warm, exotic locations I love so much. We're experiencing some dreadful weather here in England at the moment, so distraction is a good thing. I hope it's blowing itself out ahead of some good weather in time for my darling daughter's stint on that Roman excavation!  

Where's your favourite destination when you want to get away from it all? It can be real or fictional, and there's a signed copy of The Count's Prize for a comment picked at random.

Christina Hollis writes Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd, when she isn't  working in the garden, with her bees or daydreaming about resuming her abandoned Classical Studies. You can catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.com on Facebook and on Twitter, where she tweets as @christinabooks.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nautical Muse

This is my yard. My husband and I live aboard a sailing catamaran on Puget Sound. Cheapest waterfront property we may ever own. It’s hard to beat the view, even if the living quarters are a bit small. There’s nothing like having a disagreement with someone and being stuck together in 300 square feet while it’s raining sideways outside.
Here are a few of my neighbors. we get harbor seals fishing beneath our boat. Occasionally, otters climb the swim steps in order to lunch on my deck. Oh, yes. This means finding blood and severed fish heads all over the boat. The first time that happened, I got up in the morning, opened the back door and nearly had a heart attack because there was blood everywhere. We counted the cats to make sure we still had the full crew compliment onboard. With everyone present and accounted for, we examined the evidence and realized we’d been left some kind of message from the God Otter. We’re still trying to work out the exact threat.

Over Memorial Day weekend, we had a plague of jelly fish, little dime-sized guys. They were thick enough that as they swam, the water looked like it was boiling. No kidding. The entire marina population spent the weekend commenting on how creepy it was. I was fascinated and delighted because I’m a complete geek. Jelly fish showed up in my second book, retooled as alien life forms clinging to the insides of space stations. They dangled a lure of stinging cells to stun and catch their prey. In contrast, most of the jelly fish we seen in Puget Sound are harmless – the odd [Lion’s Mane jelly] notwithstanding. Honestly, have a look at jellyfish and tell me they don’t look like aliens who should be totally dangerous.

Life aboard a boat figured into the first novel in the series, too. Did you know that there are no bathrooms aboard a boat? They’re called ‘heads’ as in ‘hitting the head’. Theory has it that the term comes from old sailing vessels which placed the bathroom facilities at the front of the ship near the figurehead. The term is still used aboard most boats today, including military vessels – the notable exceptions are aboard cruise ships and other pleasure craft serving a lot of customers who may not be familiar with nautical slang. My point is that I used ‘head’ rather than ‘bathroom’ or ‘toilet’ in my first book when the hero and heroine are aboard a spaceship. It came up in edits. Turns out my land-based publishing team didn’t know nautical slang, either. It did spark an interesting debate about whether space-going military forces would follow a naval model or be based on an air force.

No one won that debate. What’s your thought? Are space militaries naval in nature – like the submarine service (my argument), like a big naval carrier? Or are they more like the men and women who fly into the wild blue yonder?

I’ll give a copy of either novel (your choice) to one commenter chosen at random.

***Marcella's winner is Marybelle!  Please email me at with your full name and mailing info!***

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Have You Ever Wanted A Twin? By Caitlin Crews

Growing up, I was always fascinated by the idea of an identical cousin or sister.  What would it be like to see another person walking around with my face? What if she could pretend to be me?  I remember being astonished when a twin I knew pointed to a picture of her and her sister as babies and said she had no idea who was who.  I read Lois Duncan’s Stranger With My Face at an impressionable age.  I also read a lot of Sweet Valley High.  I really, really wanted to know what it would be like if you could pass for someone else—if you could try on someone else’s life for a while.  (This is what I loved about the recent, sadly-canceled TV show, Ringer.)

I started to wonder, what would it be like if your twin or doppelganger wasn’t your beloved sister who you knew as well as you knew yourself?  What if you had to figure out someone else’s life from the inside out?  What would happen if somehow you were smacked down into an identical stranger’s life and forced to pretend to be her?

This is what happens to my heroine, Becca Whitney, in my June release, The Replacement Wife

Becca is the illegitimate daughter of a disgraced heiress to the Whitney Media empire, and she’s grown up with a bit of a chip on her shoulder about the Whitney family.  The Whitneys threw her mother out when she was pregnant with Becca, and were no kinder to Becca the one and only time she choked down her pride to a for hekp—for her younger half-sister.  She wouldn’t care if they all disappeared from the face of the earth.

But then Theo Markou Garcia, CEO of Whitney Media and commanding, disastrously compelling fiancé to Becca’s cousin—who is in a coma and who Becca seems to spookily resemble—makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

Becca finds herself masquerading as the cousin she’s always hated from afar.  And smack in the middle of the very New York High Society that chewed up her poor mother and spit her out.  She has to figure out how to convince people who know her cousin intimately that she’s the famous—infamous—Larissa Whitney instead of the poor relation no one’s ever heard of. 
And worst of all, she finds herself entirely too drawn to Theo…

I hope you’ll enjoy this book, that my editor called “Mr. Rochester meets Gossip Girl.”  I had a lot of fun writing it and the second book about the Whitney heiresses—Larissa’s story!—Heiress Behind the Headlines coming out in October.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Engaging with German Readers at the Loveletter Conference by Michelle Styles

Spandau Zitadelle where the gala dinner was held
On 2-3 June I went to Berlin or more specifically to Spandau and the first Loveletter magazine conference. I was so right to be excited . The conference was far better than I dreamt. The European readers (people came from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Scandinavia) were big hearted and exuded warmth. It was just wonderful being surrounded by like-minded people.

My 2nd blind date
The thing I was most worried about – the blind dates turned out to be my favourite bit. Luckily they had set up several tables where English was spoken. And ladies at my tables were just lovely.  They loved books and chatting about books. I made the mistake of starting The Hunger Games on the Saturday night as a way to relax before the gala dinner. I ended up staying late to finish it and then I couldn’t get the wireless on my kindle to work. The ladies in the second blind date who had read the series also refused to give me spoilers.  Once I arrived at the airport, I downloaded the other 2 books and devoured them. I cried at the end which the ladies had sworn I’d do.

doing a reading
The panels  I participated in were very interesting. I learnt that the German market is far more geared towards unusual historical time periods, in particular medieval (including Viking!). The American west which is so popular in the US does not have the same resonance. This is also true in series, South American, Mediterranean and sheik heroes are preferred. Cowboys just don’t sell well.  Paranormal has peaked in Germany (something that has also happened in the US). This does not mean paranormal is going away, simply that it is not expanding at the rate it once was. Trends are like that. It is why when you are writing a book, your heart has to be in the genre.

during the break, posing  for an editor
The true trend is writing a book that really engages the reader. It is all about engaging the reader’s emotions (particularly if it is a jaded editor or agent) and making them stay up far too late or nearly miss meetings.

Part of the dessert spread at dinner
The gala dinner was great, if a bit noisy. The trouble with a castle’s cellar is that it is wonderfully atmospheric but the noise echoes. The food was sublime. I really enjoyed the starters, the poached salmon for the main and the desserts. I like tiramisu.

After the signing with some of the lovely ladies I met
I am looking forward to going the next time and will brush up on my German so that I can say a few more words...
If you ever get a chance to go to a reader's conference, go! They are just so much fun and you get to meet such pleasant people.

In Other News

The Harlequin Historical Authors are doing a Summer Beachbag giveaway with the grand prize of a kindle fire (or top rated kindle the winner’s country). My day is 27th June, but there are plenty of opportunities still left to win goodies.

If you like to live vicariously, check out Carole Mortimer’s blog on her meeting with the Queen of England. Carole recently went to the Queen’s Garden Party. She was invited because of services to literature. Carole has written 180 books for Harlequin. She is also  a super person.

My latest His Unsuitable Viscountess will be published in August, so next month I will do a giveaway for Tote Bags readers. (I am waiting for my copies to arrive!)

 Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance. His Unsuitable Viscountess will be published in August 2012. Visit for more details.