Friday, August 31, 2012

Maggie Shayne: The Truest Love

Writing this trilogy (The Portal Series) about magic, religion, and what it means to be human took me on a far deeper exploration of those things than I had undertaken before. And that’s saying a lot, as I’ve studied these things all my life. But this book really did give me a lot of those “Aha! moments” Oprah talks about, and I’d like to share one of them with you.

I was thinking about my character, Indira (“Indy”) Simon from MARK OF THE WITCH, and about how much I love her. She’s got this biting sarcastic wit that makes me laugh. I love her hip sense of style and her hairstyle and I love the way she talks. I also love how deep she is, and how spiritual she really is, down deep, though she denies it.

And it occurred to me that we ought to look at ourselves the way we look at our characters. Imagine yourself, rising up out of your body, and looking down at yourself from “above.” Try to remember that this is pretty much what you did, before you were born. You looked at physical and you wanted that experience and you turned your focus toward that notion, and literally became it. You (the spirit) created you (the body) with the purity of your wish, your desire. That body, then, the one you’re living in right now, can’t be anything less than perfect for you, because the spirit of you didn’t just fill that body, it literally became that body. Your body is the only one that this particular unique bit of spirit could become. So it’s perfect for you in every way.
Everything about you is, your attitude, your walk, your voice, your talents, your quirks. It’s all perfectly made by you to be your physical mirror. Your avatar. If your spirit became human, this is what it would look like, because it did, and it is.

So for just a minute, stand back. Imagine yourself stepping backward out of your body and then just look at it. That body of yours. Walk around it, and praise it like it’s your favorite character.

“I love her. She’s so sassy! And she makes me laugh all the time. No one makes me laugh like she does. She’s brave, and I love the flamboyant way she likes to dress. She shines around people, drawing them in like moths to bright light. I love how she does that. She can love, man, she can love like nobody can love. And damn, that girl can write! I just love her.”

If you can do this exercise and really feel it, really mean it, you can heal a lifetime of wounds. All the yearning and longing for validation from someone or something outside yourself, the parents, the friends, the lovers, the career, that desperate need for validation just evaporates, because the love you were really yearning for was this, your own love for your best character ever. You.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read or heard the advice to learn to love yourself, to be happy just the way your are, but I this is the first time I’ve really understood it. Look at yourself as if the bigger YOU were the writer and this physical you is the character YOU created, the perfect character to live the story of your life. The only one who could.

I believe coming to this understanding can heal all our childhood wounds, fill all our empty places, satisfy our deepest yearnings and will, in turn, lead us to experience more and more love in every aspect of our lives, both from within us and from others.

That blog wasn’t really about the book or the series. But in a way, this series is very much about this sort of spiritual exploring. Maybe it’ll take you on a journey of your own!

The Portal Series by Maggie Shayne
MARK OF THE WITCH: September 18th in print, October 1 in ebook
DAUGHTER OF THE SPELLCASTER: November 20th in print, December 1 in ebook
BLOOD OF THE SORCERESS: January 20th in print, February 1 in ebook.
Excerpts, video trailers, free trading cards, and more at:
LEGACY of the WITCH (e-only, FREE on Sept 1!)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Erica O'Rourke: My Five Writing Essentials

One of the author-type questions I am most often asked is, “What’s your daily writing routine like?” I suspect people are envisioning me meditating. Perhaps taking a nature walk or performing an invocation to the muse of kissing scenes. A strong cup of coffee. And then…a sudden wellspring of inspiration that transforms my ideas, through writerly alchemy, into luminous and heartbreaking prose.

Alas, that is not my routine. Except for the coffee part. That’s key.

My daily routine has very little to do with inspiration and invocations, or an iron-clad schedule. Instead, I have a series of cues that my brain recognizes as, “Time to write.”

I am embarrassed to admit that, in this regard, I am much like my cats. Their cues are pretty simple:
  • Middle kid comes home from school; wake up.
  • Youngest kid comes home from school; sprawl underfoot and look pathetic.
  • Oldest kid comes home from school; pace in front of food bowl & yowl.
  • FOOD!
Now, my cats’ brains are the size of walnuts. They can’t tell the difference between a weekday and a weekend, so any time all three girls walk in the door, they think it’s time to eat. I am not suggesting that your brain is the size of a walnut, or that you can’t differentiate between days.  But if you train your body and brain to recognize writing time, when you sit down at your chair, your attention is focused on the words, not the surroundings – or the distractions.

So when people ask me what my routine is, I preface my answer by telling them that they’re welcome to copy it – but they’d do better to figure out exactly what they need in order to write – and then make it happen.

When I stripped my routine down to the basics, I ended up with five must-haves.

A soundtrack: I don’t need silence, but I do need to have something blocking out external noise. Most often, I create a soundtrack for the book I’m working on, because it puts me in mind of specific characters or scenes, so I can return to the world of my story as quickly as possible.

Privacy: I don’t like the sensation of someone looking over my shoulder as I write, even if it’s just a passer-by. When I’m home, I shut the door to my office. When I’m in public, I sit with my back to the wall. Often, my friends and I will have a writing date, where we all go to a coffeeshop and work – but I still need to angle my screen away from everyone.

Coffee: Homemade, takeout, Panera. I don’t care. Even if it’s cold and untouched, I need to know that there is caffeine close by. (When I’m on deadline, I tend to order my coffee “black-eyed,” which means they add two shots of espresso to the cup. I would not recommend this as a long-term strategy, but in a crunch, it makes a genuine difference in my word count.)

Lack of internet: At home, I hide my iPhone and use MacFreedom, which turns off my internet access for a specified period of time. (There’s a Windows version, too.) When I go out, I don’t connect to networks. It’s easier to avoid checking your email every five minutes if you can’t get to it in the first place. Usually I let myself check email and Twitter once in the morning, over lunch, and after I’ve finished writing for the day.

My notes: I am an outliner, so I usually have a good idea of where my story is going. And when I finish writing for the day, I jot down a few sentences describing what needs to happen in the next scene, so I don’t waste time wondering what I should write.

Here’s what I DON’T need:

A specific snack. Mostly because all snacks make me happy.
A specific mug for my coffee. I don’t care how the coffee gets to my mouth, as long as it gets there.
My desk arranged “just so.” I am not that neat. This also allows me flexibility about where I work.
A specific pen: I do most of my work on the computer, but even when I’m working longhand, I try not to get attached to one writing utensil over another. What if the pen runs out? What if you leave the pencil sharpener at home? Save yourself the heartache and use whatever’s nearby.
Inspiration/A muse/A writing “mood.” When I was unpublished, I wrote when I felt like it, which allowed me to take all sorts of naps, make complicated meals from scratch, watch a lot of television and knit entire dresses for my kids. Then I got serious and wrote or revised every day, even if I didn’t feel like it. Not coincidentally, I sold my first book shortly afterwards. I’m not saying inspiration doesn’t hit, but usually I need to warm up with a few hundred words before the ideas really start to flow.

The benefit of a routine like this is that it’s infinitely more flexible. I can write anywhere, at any time of day, as long as I have my necessities. (I might have preferences, obviously. But when I’m on deadline, preferences don’t matter. Only the wordcount matters.) I can write in my basement, a coffeeshop, my mother-in-law’s house, Science Olympiad meets, the car, a train. Once I get my cues in place, my brain knows it’s time to work – no excuses or rationalizations.

Maybe you prefer silence in the background. Maybe you need Mountain Dew. Maybe you need periodic check-ins with friends. That’s okay – there are many roads to Oz, my friends – and it begs the question – what are your must-haves when writing?

Giveaway: Leave a comment telling me one of your essentials for writing, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for your choice of the Torn Trilogy – either TORN, TANGLED, or BOUND – plus swag. The giveaway is international! One entry per person, please.

***Erica's winner is Tammy Sparks!  Please email with your mailing info!***

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Year in the Life of an Author: August

Here is where life intersects expectantly. I turned my book in the first part of July and then looked ahead to a few weeks of vacation, catching up around the house and generally enjoying summer. After working 7 days a week for seven months, I was so looking forward to a few weeks off.

None of that was meant to be.

In a moment where I was feeling on top of the world, I stepped off a curb and changed everything. An hour later I was in the emergency room with two sprained ankles, and a sprain on one side that reached all the way up to my knee.

So my vacation got cancelled (literally, the family vacation was a no-go), I read a lot of books, directed the family from the couch and knit. I missed the only good gardening, biking, swimming, hiking, good weather we've had all year here in Seattle.

Finally after nearly 8 weeks, I am walking again, but it has left me feeling a bit robbed. Because now it is time to get back to work and already Summer is packing up her bags and waving goodbye.

The novel I sent in the first part of July, And The Miss Ran Away with the Rake, is back from my editor--revision time. She wants me to trim a bit--the entire story came in a bit long in the tooth and the middle could use some tightening. I agree. It could also stand to have the "ST" (sexual tension) amped up a bit. That I also agree. So I am clipping and tucking and telling my hero and heroine to, in the words of the immortal Marvin Gaye, "Get it on."


All in all, the revisions are rather standard, the entire process will take me about two weeks and involve re-reading the entire manuscript, making copious and necessary changes with a red pencil and getting it all into the computer and back to my editor.

Then it's time to make one more pass through the proposal for Book Three in the Rhymes with Love series, and get it in. Then start working on it. But that's for September's column.

Ah, yes, the glamorous life.

But one good thing: Avon currently has Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress on sale for $1.99! Get your digital deal from:

· Kindle from Amazon
· Nook from Barnes and Noble
· Kobo e-readers
· Sony e-readers

As as always, read the  excerpt for free! Have a great September!

Best, Elizabeth

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Winning the Gold - with Natalie Anderson

FLIRTING TO WIN is my novella anthology that released last week with Entangled publishing. This trilogy was such fun to write.  It’s all about the game of love—how we can meet the ‘one’ when and where we least expect it (or perhaps even want it!).

There are three stories in the collection—Bargain in Bronze, Seduction in Silver and Gamble in Gold.

As you can see, the trilogy titles are a play on prize medals—bronze, silver and gold. I once read somewhere that a study had been done and researchers discovered that bronze medallists were actually happier with their medals than silver medallists—that the silver medallists had that ‘if only I’d pushed that bit harder I could have gotten gold’ feeling, whereas the bronze medallists were more ‘I’m so glad I came third and actually got a medal, because I could have gotten fourth!’

Really, winning a medal of any colour is an amazing achievement. And the heroines in my three stories are most definitely winners! Because Jack, Eduardo and Luke—the three heroes, are all very fit, fine and fun!

Here’s the blurb to Seduction in Silver

A limited engagement...

For two weeks Nina Breslin had passed an enticing stranger when catching the Baker Street Tube to go to work. So utterly sexy, and enticingly foreign, she figures he's eons out of her league--until the day he makes an outrageous proposal.

Dr. Eduardo Ruiz needs a break from the heart-breaking reality of his job. So when he finally introduces himself to the vivacious woman he's been admiring, he quickly realizes they could help each other with their sticky situations...and have great fun in the process.

They agree to an outrageous plan. For one night only, she'll masquerade as his girlfriend to appease his overzealous family members, and he'll accompany her to meet with her ex-fiancé's friends, pretending to be her attentive lover. Can they play by their own rules, or will they succumb to the pull of seduction?

 Bargain in Bronze is available separately for only 99c, or you can scoop up all three novellas in the one FLIRTING TO WIN anthology for 2.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I’d love to give away a copy of the full anthology to one commenter today—just let me know, have you ever won any kind of medal? If so, for what? And yes, medals awarded in kindergarten definitely count!

(Entries are open to anyone in the world, the prize is an ebook via Amazon and will be drawn on Friday August 31. Please check back to this post to see if you won!)

EDITED TO ADD: The giveaway is now closed. Thanks so much for all your comments - the winner drawn is yadkny - please email me, natalie(at)natalie-anderson(dot) com so I can send you your prize!

With very best wishes!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Beth Yarnall: Are YOU the Match?

If you’re expecting a post on writing or books I’m going to disappoint you. Hopefully your disappointment will quickly morph into curiosity then into action. You see I’m going to talk about bone marrow donation. Did you know that as many as 3,000 people die each year waiting for a bone marrow transplant? And only 2% of the American population is on the national bone marrow registry. It’s not as simple as a blood match. Bone marrow donors must match on a deep genetic level, making it difficult to find matches for minorities and people of mixed race.

I’m sure you’ve heard, as I had, that donating bone marrow is a painful, dangerous process. Not true. I’m here to give you the facts from the Be the Match Registry (formerly known as the National Marrow Donor Program) and try to dispel some of those myths. From the Be the Match website:

MYTH: All bone marrow donations involve surgery.
FACT:  The majority of donations do not involve surgery. Today, the patient's doctor most often requests a peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation, which is non-surgical.
The second way of donating is marrow donation, which is a surgical procedure.
In each case, donors typically go home the same day they donate.

MYTH: Donating is painful and involves a long recovery.
FACT:  There can be uncomfortable but short-lived side effects of donating PBSC. Due to taking a drug called filgrastim for five days leading up to donation, PBSC donors may have headaches, joint or muscle aches, or fatigue. PBSC donors are typically back to their normal routine in one to two days.
Those donating marrow receive general or regional anesthesia, so they feel no pain during donation. Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for one to two weeks afterward. Most marrow donors are back to their normal activities in two to seven days.

MYTH: Donating is dangerous and weakens the donor.
FACT:  Though no medical procedure is without risk, there are rarely any long-term side effects. Be The Match® carefully prescreens all donors to ensure they are healthy and the procedure is safe for them. We also provide support and information every step of the way.
Because only five percent or less of a donor's marrow is needed to save the patient's life, the donor's immune system stays strong and the cells replace themselves within four to six weeks.

MYTH: In bone marrow donation, pieces of bone are removed from the donor.
FACT:  No pieces of bone are taken during marrow donation. Only the liquid marrow found inside the pelvic bone is needed to save the patient's life.

MYTH: Donors have to pay to donate.
FACT:  Donors never pay to donate. We reimburse travel costs and may reimburse other costs on a case-by-case basis.

And the initial test is EASY. Just four swabs in your cheeks. The kit is free and you can do the test at home. It even includes postage. So how do you know if you’re eligible to be on the registry?
-Are you between the ages of 18 and 60?
-Are you in overall good health and meet medical guidelines (see the website)?
-Are you willing to donate to any patient in need?
-Do you understand the donation process?
-Do you live in the United States or Puerto Rico?
-Are you currently not in the U.S. military?

If you answered yes to the above questions, then you meet the basic requirements to join the Be the Match registry. So what are you waiting for? Go on. Order your test today. You could save a life.

Still Have Questions about testing and donation?
Check out the Be the Match website at –
or call 1-(800) MARROW-2 (1-800-627-7692).

And now I have a question for you that actually is book related… If you could recommend one romance novel of any sub-genre to someone who’s never read romance, which novel would you recommend and why?

Rush~Book One in the Pleasure at Home Series
Someone is stalking Miyuki Price-Jones.
As the host of a very successful home shopping TV show that sells adult toys, Mi has become the object of an ex-con’s obsession, requiring the services of ex-Navy SEAL turned bodyguard, Lucas Vega. As the attraction between Lucas and Mi grows, Lucas has a difficult time keeping his feelings for Mi separate from his mission to keep her safe. A mission that is more challenging than anyone could have predicted. 
    Damaged by their pasts, Lucas and Mi find more in common then they could have imagined and secrets they thought would tear them apart could be the ties that bind them together forever. But with the stalker growing bolder, Lucas and Mi must learn to trust each other or risk losing more than their hearts. 
One of them could lose their life.

Beth Yarnall writes romantic suspense, mysteries and the occasional hilarious blog post. Beth lives deep in the heart of `The O.C.' California with her husband, two sons, and their dog where she is hard at work on her next novel. For more information about Beth and her stories please visit her website-

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Riva is back...

After a long summer, when those of us in the UK have had to endure the coldest, wettest season in history (probably), we have also been deprived of our favourite Riva reads - fun, sexy, flirty, romantic - while Mills and Boon gave it a cover makeover.

With the kids about to go back to school the relaunch couldn't be better timed. Wave them off in the school bus, or drop them at the gates, make a cup of coffee and put your feet up for a blissful break with one of books in the relaunch package.

There will be fifteen books available in this first tranch.

It's a sort of test run, to see which covers grab the passing reader's attention. They'll be exclusive to W H Smith in the retail sector, but will be available to download, too, from Mills and Boon and from Amazon.

Some of them are books that have been released before. You'll find my RNA Rose Award shortlisted romance Flirting With Italian in there, so if you didn't catch the first time round, now's your chance.

There's a brand new author Leah Ashton who is getting fabulous reviews, and fan favourite Kelly Hunter.

There will be books by Nina Harrington, Jessica Hart, Kimberly Lang and Ally Blake.

So, what do you think of the new look?

Don't hold back - the whole purpose of this exercise is engage with the reader, get feedback. Enquiring minds wants to know!

And for those of you in the US who want some of this new series/new cover action, the Riva titles will be available in a new series called KISS in the Spring!

Meanwhile, The Last Woman He'd Ever Date (to be released in Riva next year) is on sale now in the US, along with the reissue of Eloping with Emmy as an ebook - there are excerpts on my website.

Enjoy the last week of summer. See you in the autumn!

Love, Liz

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Anita Hughes - Why I write

Since MONARCH BEACH was released two months ago, I have been asked why I write. I have given various answers: because I have always loved to read and writing is even more enjoyable, because stories fill my head and I have to put them down on paper. Today I added another reply.

My daughter left for college yesterday and I was devastated. I have been preparing for her departure for months. I happily researched colleges with her, attended parent night at the high school, shared her excitement as the acceptances rolled in.

I sat proudly at her high school graduation, attended goodbye parties for her friends, but her own departure was still in the hazy future. Yesterday, after a flurry of purchases at Bed, Bath and Beyond, she moved into her dorm. The bedroom she has slept in for the last six years is empty. The pile of laundry that I sifted through every day is missing. Certain foods only she liked are gone.

I sat on the love seat in my bedroom, feeling sad and empty. I knew the feeling would pass eventually but I wasn’t sure how to get through it. Finally I opened my laptop and began to write.

I returned to the characters in the book I am working on. I immersed myself in their problems. I laughed and cried with them. By the time I looked up, hours had passed and I was smiling.

I revised the day’s work, made dinner for the children that remain at home, and wrote a few more pages in the evening. When I called my daughter to see how she was settling in, I was calm and mature, not the hysterical mess I had been hours earlier.

So if you asked me today why I write, I would say to fill some of the spaces in my heart. One should never expect other people, even members of your own family, to make you happy. We need to do that for ourselves.

Writing gives me joy. I am excited to slip into another world, to create characters and friends. And I am thrilled when readers say I have given them a story they can relate it. Making other people happy is the biggest bonus of what I do.

When you need a lift, what do you do? I’d love to know!  Leave a comment to win one free copy of MONARCH BEACH.


***Anita's winner is Maureen!  Please email with your mailing details!***

Friday, August 24, 2012

Emma Lang: Dark Secrets or Embarrassing Truths

Many guest blog posts are about books, writing, heroes, heroines, etc. Today I’m going to step away from that and tell y’all some dark secrets… or embarrassing truths.

You know we go through life with a face we show the world. It might be a happy face, an angry face, a cynical face or perhaps even an apathetic face. I’d like to think I have an optimistic face, whether or not I have reason to be optimistic. 

However, I have the normal stresses in life, but I also battle with myself. Therein lies my dark secret.

My self-confidence sucks.  *sigh* I’ve always struggled with it, since I was a kid really. It was lost in the shuffle of marriage, having kids in my twenties, and then a job to stay afloat in the tough world of reality. I finally got a boost up with my first book publication, which promptly took a nose dive when I found out I sold 26 copies. LOL.

It’s a long hard road to believe in yourself, m’dears. I know that for a fact. I’ve been on the mountain of loose dirt for a long time. With each foot I climb up, I’ll slide back a bit. Hanging on gets really hard some days but with help from my friends and family, I continue to climb.

What?? You might be shocked to think I struggle with self-confidence, or you might be nodding your head in agreement, stuck in the same boat. I envy people who are so amazingly self-confident they can forge ahead and climb the mountain without any safety gear. I’m so wrapped up in harnesses, ropes and carabiners, I can feel the weight of them.

Now that I've published almost two dozen novels, I have gained strength. I can see the top of the mountain, still not quite in reach, but achievable.

What’s life without hoping and dreaming for something? That’s why we read and write romance right? I always hope, always dream, and always hang onto the slope. Someday I’m gonna reach the top.

Leave a comment and you can have an ebook copy of choice from my backlist. Cowboys for all! Yeehaw!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kylie Griffin - Who loves a tortured hero?

Who can resist the appeal of a tortured hero? I certainly can't.

Every time I read a book with one of these characters it usually ends up as a keeper on my bookshelf. Why? Because there's something unbelievably attractive about a man who overcomes incredible obstacles to find himself, a soul mate and love.

Take Bren, the hero from Christina Phillips' book, CAPTIVE. With the rape and murder of his wife at the hands Dunmacos, a Roman leader with a sadistic reputation, he's wracked by survivor guilt and torn apart with hatred for the Celtic Druids whom he believes should have saved her instead of him.

To avenge his loss, he hunts down and massacres Dunmacos then disguises himself as the soldier in order to spy on the Roman army for the Briton king. He spends three years in this role, taking on the reviled persona of the feared leader, killing anyone who ever knew Dunmacos to avoid being exposed and does what he can to sabotage Rome's efforts to conquer Britain.

With only his skills at deception and subterfuge, killing in the name of his king, and haunted by his failure to save his wife, he doesn't see himself as worth anything or having anything to offer a woman who might love him.

Irredeemable? Maybe. Tortured? Hell, yes. Irresistable. Oh, yeah...

Let's take a look at another tormented hero. Zsadist - from LOVER AWAKENED by J.R.Ward. I've worn out the spine on this book and need to get a new one, that's how many times I've reread it.

This vampire warrior is the ultimate tortured hero. The guy bears some serious, serious issues involving intimacy and any sexual relationship with a woman thanks to being kidnapped, raped and used as a blood slave when he was a young man.

His reputation as a Black Dagger Brotherhood warrior is legendary, friends and foe alike fear his anger, and his sinister deeds strike terror into them.

This is a powerful, heart-wrenching story of Zsadist's journey to come to terms with what was done to him and how he discovers that he can love and be loved. I don't know how many times I cried for Zsadist, over what was done to him and the destructive perceptions he had of himself.

Tortured character? He's at the top of the list.

So it's no surprise that I also like writing about these sorts of heroes. Varian, the hero in ALLIANCE FORGED, my newest release from Berkley, is one such character. He's a half human, half demon warrior who's inherited the incredible strength and enhanced senses of his demon heritage. With these traits augmented during battle, they help him protect his people but every time he lets his demon side loose it leaves him open to battle-rush, an insatiable hunger to take a life, the thrill of the kill. An that addiction that could one day overwhelm him and turn him into a mindless beast who is unable to tell friend from foe. And having spent most of his life honing and using these abilities, he's finding it harder and harder to control that side of him. 

Is it any wonder then that he isolates himself from those around him and doesn't allow anyone to get close to him? Imagine knowing that you're capable of hurting or even killing someone you love, all because you lost control of yourself? Would you ever be able to forgive yourself?

How can you not empathise with Bren, Zsadist or Varian and understand why they behave as they do? But how can they possibly redeem themselves?

Certainly not through their own self-destructive actions, but how about the love of a good woman? Could that help? Oh, yeah, you betcha.

How does Kymora help Varian, especially when he's so determined not to accept her friendship? Well, I guess you'll just have to read ALLIANCE FORGED to find out. :-)

Varian has such a long way to travel but the end reward is well worth the angst, the tears, the resistant transformation. The struggle and journey they both go through makes his redemption all the more satisfying.

You've just got to love tortured heroes. They make for one heck of a good read. For that matter, a good dozen re-reads!!! I really hope you enjoy Varian and Kymora's story in ALLIANCE FORGED. In the meantime, here's the back cover blurb and a link to an excerpt of the book, just to whet your appetite:

(Book #2 of the Light Blade series)
There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not purebred is virtually powerless. Until a blind priestess lays claim to a half-breed warrior, body and soul…
Hunted and marked for death by Na’Reish demons for their half-blood heritage, the Na’Chi are searching for a new home—something an alliance offered by the human leader could provide. With both races divided by prejudice, when Light Blade rebels brutally attack the Na’Chi, the alliance seems doomed to fail.
Varian, leader of the Na’Chi, a hybrid race of gifted warriors, is cursed with the darker impulses of his demon heritage. Controlling the part of himself that craves the high of the battle is a struggle he’s afraid he’ll lose—until he meets Kymora Tayn, a priestess driven to serve her deity. While he’s unwilling to trust anyone outside his people, he finds himself drawn to Kymora’s strength and passionate nature, and discovers she has the power to calm the darkness inside him.
When the Na’Reish raid human territory for blood-slaves and kickstart a war, the key to the survival of both races—Na’Chi and human— is an alliance. However, when Kymora is kidnapped, pitting human against human, Varian realizes he must embrace his darker half, not only to save the alliance…but also the woman he loves.

So, do you have a favourite tortured hero? And care to share? I'm always looking for another good book to add to my To Be Read pile!  Share your recommendations for a chance to win an Alliance Forged Swag Pack!!

***Kylie's winner is HankLover!  Please email your full name and mailing address to  Thanks!***

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Opal Carew: Choices

It's an exciting time in the publishing industry right now. With the availability of inexpensive eBook readers, the ability to read eBooks on devices like your cell phone or iPad, and the wide availability of eBooks, there are many more choices available, for both readers and authors.

Authors no longer have to write their books within the relatively limited genre definitions that the large publishers require to stay profitable. Don’t get me wrong, big houses do take chances and they do offer a large variety of books, but to stay profitable, they only buy books they feel will sell enough copies to justify a reasonable print run.  If they didn’t do that, they wouldn’t be able to stay in business.  Now, however, authors can choose to write something a little different and sell their books to smaller publishers who specialize in eBooks, which allow those publishers to take a chance on niche books that the big publishers can't afford to do. Also, self-publishing is now a viable option.  In fact, it is allowing more authors to make a living at writing than ever before.

What does this mean for readers? Again, choice. You can buy traditional print books, you can buy those same books in digital form for your Kindle, Nook, or other favorite reading device, and you can buy books published solely in digital form. The latter might be any length, from an individual short story, to a novella, to a full length novel.

Also, publishers and authors are experimenting with price. An author needs to earn money, but a lot of authors are thinking that selling at a lower price might cause more sales while building a larger audience. Two popular price points for self-published authors are .99 and $2.99. There are no rules, so you'll find every price (even free) and every length.  With the large number of new authors taking advantage of the possibilities now available with self-publishing, readers have an explosion of new choices.

As for the content of the stories, as I mentioned above, authors have the freedom to experiment with whatever type of story they want to write, and that's a great thing. After all, the more passionate an author is about the story, the better the story will be.

I'm very lucky that I have found a big publisher that wants to publish my contemporary erotic romance novels. I write three books a year for St. Martin's Press and I'm loving it. Every now and again, however, I like to write something a little different. Like a futuristic novella with hunky alien men. Or a short story that's just fun and sexy.

My first step into the self-publishing world was in April 2011 with a short story called THREE that I’d written for fun a couple of years earlier.  Why for fun?  Because at that time, it was difficult to sell a story under about 25,000 words.  Since then, this 8,000 word short story has earned me as much as my first full-length novel with St. Martin’s.  (For a while it was #15 on Barnes and Noble, which means it was the 15th top selling book.)

Available now for $1.29
Published by: Opal Carew
Have you ever seen a sexy stranger on a bus or across a subway station and you just couldn't get him out of your mind? That's what happens to Lori in THREE, and for the next few weeks, she finds herself obsessing about him. When she's invited to her best friend's cabin to meet her new husband and his brothers, Lori comes face-to-face with Mr. Hottie himself. And it turns out his brothers are just as hot as he is!

Now I have twelve self-published eBooks for sale.  Three of those are original stories (including THREE) and the others are backlist books.

So what is your view of this exploding digital market?  Do you think it’s a good thing because it will offer so many wonderful choices for your reading pleasure or do you think it will flood the market and make it more difficult to choose?  How do you think you’ll find the books you want to read on-line, especially if you’re interested in new and different types of stories?

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Edesia, My Secret Muse... and win a free ebook!

You don't know who she is, right?

Thought not. She's pretty obscure.
Edesia is the Roman goddess of feasting and good food.  Food has often been an inspiration for my books, or a key ingredient in them. In almost all of my romance novels, there'll be a picnic or the hero and heroine cooking together in a warm, bright kitchen, or a really special meal out.  Food can be so sensual, and so evocative. Think about your favorite childhood foods. To this day, the smell of fresh mandarin oranges takes me instantly back to my cousins' house, where they had trees groaning with citrus fruit, and where I spent countless happy hours.  Are there certain food smells that take you back that way?  Certain recipes you turn to for comfort, because you loved them as a child?

I use food research as an inspiration, especially when I'm setting a story in another part of the world. Sister Swap which was publishing in Silhouette Romance several years ago and is set in Tuscany, gave me a great excuse to buy a new Italian cookbook, one that was filled with lush photos and descriptions of the Italian countryside. My women's fiction novel Cafe du Jour uses coffee as a theme reflecting the narrator's feelings all through the book.

Finding the right foods to inspire and enrich the story in Saving Gerda was a challenge. Saving Gerda  has a historical setting and tells the story of the growing connection between two families just before Europe caught fire in 1939. Count Christian Von Kolhausen, his wife Kitty and daughter Gerda are enormously privileged, and can still afford lavish meals at a time when many ordinary people were struggling. French cookbooks gave me the inspiration for the way they ate. At the opposite end of the social and cultural spectrum, the Davidsohn family is struggling. They're Jewish, and this is Berlin in 1938.  I was lucky enough to find a fascinating memoir of this period called Memoirs of a 1000-Year-Old Woman by Gisela McBride, which offers rich detail on the creative ways people scraped together a meal from cabbage and bread. It gave such a great insight into the constant struggle to feed a family, to make basic and repetitive ingredients appealing, and just to put anything on the table at all.

I could feel Sophie Davidsohn's daily desperation, in which household tasks that we take for granted become huge problems. My family wasn't all that happy on the nights we decided to eat as if all we had was cabbage and dried fish...

So how about you? Whether you're a writer or a reader, which tastes and smells and flavors most evoke a strong mood for you?

Commenters will go in the draw for a free ebook copy of Saving Gerda. I'd love to hear from you!

Lilian Darcy

Sunday, August 19, 2012

T (shirt) for Two (thousand) by Jenny Gardiner

            Since being terrified after spending time in a relative's hoarder home earlier in the summer, I've been relishing the purge mode we're in at our house, getting rid of the excessive volume of crapola that we simply don't need, and untangling the ties that bind from having so much junk cluttering up our lives.
            But in the process I have been struck by the abundance — make that wretched excess — of t-shirts in which we are collectively in possession. I don't doubt that between the five of us we own close to a thousand t-shirts, enough to clothe a small third-world nation, if given the chance. The thing is, I am sure we are not alone with this unnecessary clothing glut: I suspect the globe is in danger of being overrun with a dearth of unneeded stretch knits. I'm waiting for a worldwide cave-in straight out of that hoarder house I visited.
            What makes tees so hard to unload? Imbued in most t-shirts is complicated sentimentality, since often they are the inexpensive/free memento we collect along the way as we celebrate important events in life. Starting early on in childhood, from pre-school to sports teams, championships, special school events, concerts, weddings, family reunions, and countless other life happenings in which we are invested with our time and passion, t-shirts are a de facto part of them and ultimately what remains, aside from our memories. So who can throw them out? It's like pushing your kid out the door and locking it behind him. (Proof: I still have a t-shirt I bought at a Bruce Springsteen concert in 1977. Of course it hasn't fit for two decades).
            A while back quilters got the right idea: salvage the main part of the design, pitch the moth-eaten remainders, and stitch up a quilt memorializing all those sentimental events. Though quilting with stretch fabric is no fun, it's a great idea. Except when you have hundreds of sentimental T's with which you simply cannot part. We'd be mighty hot around here with the hundreds of t-shirt quilts we'd have to make to maximize use of our vast stockpile. And that's of the "valuable" ones, not even the ones now in the discard pile.
            Instead, we agonize about what to get rid of, these shirts we do not need. Worst are the ones you get for free that are plastered with meaningless sponsorships, like the freebies you get from the bank for signing up for a credit card on your first day of college: as if anyone will ever even wear the t-shirt that says "Garden State Bank & Trust welcomes you to Jersey U".  Well, you know what I mean.
            Years ago while traveling in Africa we happened upon a destitute local villager wearing a New York Jets t-shirt, another with one promo'ing the Minnesota Vikings. Clearly one man's trash is another's treasure. At least that's what I'm counting on as we lug bagfuls of the stuff to donation sites, hoping these washed-up threads find new and happy homes.
            T-shirts do have an awkward downside: I'm always terribly curious to read people's shirts, but you can't do it without staring at someone's chest, a huge space violation. If you insist on gaping, you clearly run the risk of being considered a t-shirt stalker, which is slightly creepy. But there are compelling messages on t-shirts. One of my favorites reads: "I take aspirin for the headache caused by the Zyrtec I take for the hayfever I got from Relenza for the uneasy stomach from the Ritalin I take for the short attention span caused by the Scopederm Ts I take for the motion sickness I got from the Lomotil I take for the diarrhea caused by the Zenikal I take for the uncontrollable weight gain from the Paxil I take for the anxiety from Zocor I take for my high cholesterol because exercise, a good diet, and regular chiropractic care are just too much trouble." See, there are compelling life lessons in those t-shirt messages.
            My problem is I also get this way with tattoos as well: I really want to see precisely what someone has such powerful convictions about that they're willing to ink it into their flesh for life. But it's awfully rude to stare, darn it. Don't even get me started on ogling folks with bad plastic surgery or Botox. Oy.
            The other morning we were at breakfast and one person at our table having trouble choosing what to order turned completely around and stared at the meals just served to the neighboring table, trying to discern what looked most tempting. Unfortunately, once the food's been placed in front of the diner, it's impolite to gawk at it, even for legitimate reasons. But how can you not, with that delicious food just calling out to you? All these times when staring is called for, yet practically verboten at the same time: it seems unfair.
            Last week we were on a motorboat on a lake. Now staring is a given while boating: every boater has some degree of boat envy and you can't help but gape at what the other guy is tooling around in. If not that, you're wondering why the guy wore that suit, in light of how small it is/how it's falling off his behind/how his overflowing belly obscures it. Or why any granny over the age of 70 would choose to wear a bikini, anyhow. So as you motor about the water, you stare at the passing boats. Everyone does it. And then you wave. It's a "Hey, we're not staring at you, we're just passing by, neighbor" wave. Even though everyone knows it's really more a "we want to know how you can afford that boat and dress that badly" kind of wave.
            Which leads me back to being thrilled just to be purging at our house. Because I sure as hell don't want to be the crazed hoarder everyone is staring at when my stockpile of junk collapses around me and the earth mover is required to save me. Now that would be worth staring at; even I would have no choice but to fix my gaze.
Jenny Gardiner spends most of her time staring at her computer, which thankfully is not insulted by this rude habit. You can find her at

Please check out my books that have been published!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Slim to None

Anywhere But Here

Where the Heart Is

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

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

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

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

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

Naked Man on Main Street (a collection of essays)

find me on Facebook: fan page
 find me on twitter here
 find me on my website

Image Versus Imagination

At the start of my current work in progress, Spirit, I had a bright idea. Instead of just gathering together photographs and objects on my desk to inspire me, I’d create a Pinterest board. Then everyone could see what was in my mind while I was developing the story, and I wouldn’t amass a load of what my OH calls "rubbish". It’s a big ask to expect a virtual collection to reduce the amount of clutter on my desk, but I live in hope!
Setting up an account with Pinterest was the easy part, although there are so many Pinners sharing my name, I’ve had to register as HollisRomance. Then I began browsing, and my problems started. Be warned - looking through other people’s collections is highly addictive. It’s a wonderful way to lose track of hours of working time. It’s easy enough to get distracted by other entries when looking up a word in a dictionary, or researching in the library. Pinterest has the added snares of beautiful images, which makes it ten times harder to resist. It could well be another example of technology making life easier in some ways, but more challenging in others. It will take all the legwork out of things like house makeovers, for one thing. Instead of traipsing around town gathering swatches and paint charts, images of everything can be collected together, compared and contrasted at the click of a mouse. If you are looking for inspiration for that next holiday, there are pictures and mementoes on display from just about everywhere. You can check them all out from the comfort of your chair. Want to see how the other half lives? Clicking through the thousands of pages on offer is a wonderful way to see the Harlequin Presents way of life in living colour. 
There’s no doubt Pinterest is an amazing visual tool, although when it came to making up my own board I hit a big snag. I had very definite ideas in mind for Spirit. The major plot revolves around a beautiful necklace. As this exists only in my mind, not surprisingly it’s been impossible to find a suitable image to post. And another thing - everyone who sees the “Brackenridge Wonder”, as the necklace is called, is completely blown away by it. That’s easy to write, but one person’s Wonder is someone else’s Tacky Bling.
Then there is The Cake, which is a feature of Spirit’s first chapter. My downtrodden heroine Ruth takes refuge in comfort-eating her way through the most intricate, irresistible cake my chocolate-loving mind could devise - so once again there are no on-line pictures available. I face bringing it to life in my own kitchen for the sake of taking a photograph. At least the result will be edible, so it won’t be wasted. If the finished cake isn’t photogenic, we’ll simply have to eat the evidence and try again until I produce a confection that does the job. It’ll be tough, but someone has to do it (!) If I want to show you the image in my head, that’s the only way it’s going to get on Pinterest.
They say “The pictures are better on radio” because they come from your imagination and aren’t fed to you ready made, as they are with TV. Do you think the same goes for reading and images on the web? Would being able to see The Brackenridge Wonder or Ruth’s cake add to your enjoyment, or do you prefer to escape with your own ideas of Paradise when you read? 

There’s a signed copy of my latest Harlequin Mills and Boon Modern Romance The Count’s Prize on offer for a comment picked at random.

Christina Hollis writes both Contemporary and Historical fiction - when she isn’t cooking, gardening or beekeeping.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tate Hallaway: How Blurry is the Line Between Real Life and Fiction?

Here’s something scary that I bet you didn’t want to know – in some states it takes almost no qualifications to become the coroner or medical examiner.

Yep, it’s true.

Go ahead, Google it.  I’ll wait.

Did you read this bit on Wikipedia?  “As of 2004, of the 2,342 death investigation offices in the United States, 1,590 are coroners offices. Of those, only 82 serve jurisdictions of more than 250,000 people.  Qualifications for coroners are set by individual states and counties in the U.S. and vary widely. In many jurisdictions, little or no training is required, even though a coroner may overrule a forensic pathologist in naming a cause of death. A coroner may be elected or appointed. Some coroners hold office by virtue of holding another office: in Nebraska, the county district attorney is the coroner; in many counties in Texas, the Justice of the Peace may be in charge of death investigation; in other places, the sheriff is the coroner.”

It’s a little spooky, isn’t it?  However, it was this bit of information that inspired me to create Alex Connor.  She’s a troubled medical school dropout in desperate need of employment.  A chance comes up for her to run for the office of coroner in Pierre, South Dakota, and she ends up with the job.

For Alex, the other “exciting” part of the job is that almost no one dies of suspicious death in Pierre, South Dakota.  In the last two years, their homicide rate was zero.  (Another bit of truth in my fiction.  Go ahead, check it out.)

But, of course, what fun would an urban fantasy novel be if it was entirely based on truth??!  That’s where the zombies come in, the magical tattoo, and… the hottie dragon.  Yeah, just wait until you meet him.  What Alex doesn’t know is that she already has, and that her life as always been full of magic… not just truth and real life.

What are some of your favorite moments where “truth” intersects fiction?  Share your thoughts here in the comments section and Five winners will each receive a copy of Precinct 13!!

Tate Hallaway
PRECINCT 13 (forthcoming!)

***Tate's winners are: Eli Yanti, Lory Lee, Na, Megblog and Laney4! Please email with your full name and mailing info.  Thanks!***