Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Marie Force: Some Frequently Asked Questions About the Fatal Series

It’s a big week around here with LONGING FOR LOVE, book 7 in my McCarthys of Gansett Island Series, releasing widely after 30 days as a Kindle exclusive, and I’m looking forward to the launch of FATAL DECEPTION, book 5 in my Fatal Series.

I’d like to take this opportunity to talk a little about the Fatal Series and answer some of the most commonly asked questions about that series. One of the things I’m most often asked if I know going into a book who the murderer is. The answer to that is a big, fat NO. I like to let Sam’s investigation lead me to the culprit. I believe not knowing keeps me engaged in the story and gives me an experience similar to that of the reader who learns “who done it” at the same time Sam does. I was about halfway through Deception when I asked myself, “Where in the hell are you going with this?” I had no idea! Then one day on the treadmill at the gym, the whole thing presented itself to me the way it often does in my twisted mind, and there was my culprit and my ending rolled out before me like a red carpet. I sped home and wrote 10,000 words that day. Those are the days writers live for! The end result is that Deception is my favorite Fatal book yet, and I hope readers will agree. Here’s what you can expect to find in Deception:

The wife of the White House deputy chief of staff has been beaten to death, and their one-year-old daughter is missing. D.C. Police Lieutenant Sam Holland is in charge of the murder investigation, but she's forced to collaborate with Special Victims Unit detectives as well as thorn-in-her-side FBI Special Agent Avery Hill. Then, a cold case of her father's resurrects old hurts—a distraction Sam cannot afford.

As Sam's investigation heats up, so does Nick's political career—and the heat carries over to their bedroom. Will Sam put the pieces together in time to catch a killer and find the baby, or will ambition, greed and lies prove fatal?

Here are some other questions I’m often asked about the Fatal Series:

What is the order of the books:
FATAL AFFAIR (free for the month of November at all e-book retailers), FATAL JUSTICE, FATAL CONSEQUENCES, FATAL DESTINY, FATAL FLAW and FATAL DECEPTION, with FATAL MISTAKE coming in June 2013.

How many books do you plan to write?
Just like with my popular McCarthys of Gansett Island Series, I give the same answer to this question for the Fatal Series—as long as readers are enjoying the series and it’s still fun for me, I will continue to write it.

Will Sam ever have a baby?
I’m not sure yet. Like the readers, I’d love to grant her fondest desire, but I have to be realistic that giving her a newborn would change her life—and Nick’s—dramatically enough to impact the pace of the series. So IF there’s a baby, and right now that is a big IF, it would happen much later in the series. I have a number of other plans that will impact Sam and Nick’s family and help to fill the void in the meantime.

Will Nick run for president?
Maybe. Maybe not. Can you see Sam as First Lady? Neither can I, but how fun would it be to force our square peg into that round hole? Very fun indeed! We’ll see where life takes them!

Will Sam and Nick adopt Scotty?
More on this in Deception!

Will we ever find out who shot Skip?
I hope so, but sometimes in life we never know why certain things happened. That could be true here, too. I continue to wait for that information to present itself to Sam—and to me. If it does, we’ll find out. If it doesn’t, we may never know. I think Sam is starting to make peace with the possibility that she may never know. I have some fun plans for Skip’s character in upcoming books. I’m looking forward to writing that! We find out more about the mysterious Fitzgerald case in Deception, and this leads to an unusual rift between father and daughter.

Do you have other questions about the series I haven’t answered here? Feel free to ask away! If I have answers, I’ll be happy to provide them—or I’ll check with Sam to see what she has to say. J

We’re giving away an e-book copy of, FATAL DECEPTION (available to winner after November 12). To be entered in the drawing, tell me which element of romantic suspense you like best—the romance or the suspense—and why.

Thanks so much for reading, and if you’re interested in checking out the Fatal Series, book 1, FATAL AFFAIR, will be free for the month of November everywhere e-books are sold!

***Marie's winner is Karen B!  Please drop an email to with your mailing information!***

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lori Wilde: Choosing Your Cowboy Boots

A Cowboy for Christmas is the last book in my Jubilee, Texas series, but I’m not done with cowboys. Not by a long shot. Today, I thought it might be fun to look at cowboy boots and how to choose your first pair.

When you think of cowboys, three images usually pop up—Stetson, Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots. The cowboy “uniform” seems fairly straight forward, doesn’t it? But buying that first pair of cowboy boots is more complicated than you might think.

Size matters.
Your shoe size that is. Cowboy boots aren’t like other shoes. Don’t buy them expecting them to stretch or “break in”. They should fit like they were made especially for your foot. How they feel when you first put them on is how they’re going to feel. Cowboy boots are expensive so make sure they fit before you plunk down your money.

How shapely are you?
Cowboy boots come in pointy, round and square-toed styles. Because you will own this footwear for many years to come, don’t select the shape on current trends, but on the toe shape that suits you.

Color me excited
Cowboy boots come in as many colors and design as you can imagine. Black or brown go with anything. Red are classic attention getters. Look for a color and design that makes a statement about your personality.

The heel
There’s two basic kinds of heels on cowboy boots (although there are several variations of the two types.) There’s the “roper” heels—flatter and squarer. And the “riding” heels—slanted. The roper heel is more for working. The riding heel is to hold your foot in the stirrups of your saddle. Even though I don’t ride often, I prefer the slant of the riding heel to the roper heel.

To tuck or not to tuck
Unless you are working horses or cattle, do not tuck your jeans into your boots. Yes, you might want to show off your new boots, but you’ll signal you’re a cowboy boot-wearing amateur if you tuck your jeans into your boots if you’re not actively working livestock.

And there you have it. A quick boot tutorial. Have you every owned a pair of cowboy boots? Which cowboy would you most like to find wearing a pair of boots and nothing else underneath your Christmas tree?

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Year in the Life of an Author: October

This is my 10th post in this series, looking back each month on what happens in a writer's life. So far, I've finished a book, edited it, and now I've been doing a couple of things as I move from one project to the next. Let's take a look.

I had written a proposal for the next book (If Wishes Were Earls) back in September and sent it in. My editor approved it, but she had some concerns. Now I had the idea for this plot firmly fixed in my head and had been working out a lot of the details over the last year. Yes, I like to mull around ideas for about a year before I sit down and write them.

Then I started writing it.

Yikes! I hate it when my editor is right. Well, I don't hate it. Actually I adore her for her insights and foresight. Because her points were spot on. The problem? For a romance, my characters spent too much time in the book apart. See author slap her head in a big "Doh!"

Okay, so that plot wasn't going to work as brilliantly as I'd assumed. So I had to go back to the starting board. Not my favorite place to be. With a new deadline looming, it sort of becomes that Hail Mary play no one wants to toss out there, but there it is. So I tossed and this time her concerns were, most happily, easily fixed. At least that is what I am telling myself.

And of course, just as I started writing in earnest on this next book, my copy edits for And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake arrived. Walk up behind an unsuspecting author and say "copy edits" and she'll probably pass out. They are not fun. For one thing, you've read your book so many times that you have that inward groan of "not again."

If you want to try an experiment, take a book you like and read it from front to back about 8-10 times in the next 6 months. Yeah, by about the 7th time, you'll be groaning as well.

But add to that points of contention in the margins that you have to answer, make sense of, and respond to without saying, "...and the horse you road in on." But they are a necessary evil, and when the copy editor catches something truly important that you've missed in the last 8 passes and your editor has missed in her 2-3 reads, you say a little prayer for that CE.

And then to top it all off, I went to a writers' conference. The Surrey International Writers' Conference to be exact. It is held each year up in Surrey, British Columbia and I consider it one of the best writing conferences out there. I love going, I love seeing and hearing all about all the writing projects have and bring with them and I just love the open and accepting nature of all the writers there. Truly exciting and reinvigorating.

And so I returned from Canada, ready to write. Which is good, because that is what I need to hunker down and do.

Until next month,

Elizabeth Boyle

P.S. If you are in the Dallas area, I will be there November 9th-11th for the Readers n Ritas conference. If you can make it, it looks like it will be a grand time.

Further P.S. (It seems I am full of psss this month, LOL) If you would like to see the cover of And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake, check out my Facebook page.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Present Time Already?! by Natalie Anderson

Christmas Bauble byJannoon028,
I don't know about your part of the world, but where I am the Christmas stuff is already everywhere in the stores. The advent calendars have been in the supermarkets for a while (that chocolate is going to be OLD come December, right?). Now I'm a Christmas fan - I love the decorations and the festive atmosphere and every year I tell myself I'm going to get organised. But every year it happens the same--frantic trips to an insanely chaotic mall on Christmas Eve for those last minute, mad purchases.
But still, I'm going to TRY again this year to make it that bit smoother. I've already got a Christmas card list going (aiming to send them by the end of November) and I'm planning the kid's things - but really, it's slow going.
In New Zealand it is Spring and that means it's A&P season (Agricultural and Pastoral fairs) - we're talking sheep and cow judging and horse events, Highland Dancing, Ghost Train rides and Ferris Wheels. Not to mention Candy Floss (I think you guys might call that 'cotton candy'). It's a lot of fun. I've been to two shows in the last week - one a traditional A&P show and one a 'Christmas Country Fete' - it was pretty posh and the purpose of the fete is to enable you to 'do all your Christmas shopping in one day' - it's on a school day so there are no kids hanging about and there isn't a Ferris Wheel. It was a gorgeous Fete - fabulous produce and artisan products. I found myself a lovely skirt and some delicious Turkish Delight--but I didn't buy any Christmas presents for anyone else! I think I'm going to have to try a little harder really!!!

So what about you - have you started writing Christmas cards already? Are you one of those incredibly organised people who got all the Christmas presents in the mid-year sales!? If you have any great tips on getting ready for the fun season - please do share them!

And don't forget to pick up a present for yourself from Amazon right now - my novella BARGAIN IN BRONZE (the first of the FLIRTING TO WIN trilogy) is available for free there right now!

Happy Christmas planning!!!

Best wishes,

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Amanda Stevens: Ghost Hunting in Houston

I write about cemeteries and ghosts and so I tell my husband we need to go on a little graveyard expedition in order for me to truly get into the spirit (ha!) of my stories.  Having been a long-time Art Bell/Coast to Coast devotee, this request does not faze him.  We plan our first excursion—Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.  I do a little research and learn that 1) the caretaker’s murder in 1977 remains an unsolved mystery to this day 2) the local paranormal society found significant EMF anomalies near the memorial of two children 3) the cemetery closes at five so orb-spotting will be difficult and 4) we should watch out for muggers and fire ants.

Off to Glenwood we go…

We enter the cemetery and discover it’s huge and awesome and beautifully doom and gloom with heavy curtains of Spanish moss hanging from hundred-year-old live oaks, tentacles of ivy curling around headstones and more Goth angels than you can shake a stick at.  It must be said here that we don’t own any ghost-hunting equipment.  We did, however, come armed with cell phones and mosquito repellant.  Locating the aforementioned memorial, we check for cold spots.  Neither of us experiences anything out of the ordinary and I don’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved.  The DH snaps a few shots on the off chance we might catch an orb or two and we move on.  

That’s when I see it…

Not an apparition or an orb or an entity of any kind, but a statue—The Weeping Angel—exactly like the one on the cover of The Restorer (Book One in my Graveyard Queen series).  Okay, so it’s not as cool as conjuring a spirit or raising the dead, but I’m easily excitable.  We take a picture and head for the exit, having been scorned by the ghosts of Glenwood Cemetery.

Our second excursion takes us to the Bear Creek Park area in northwest Houston.  There is an old graveyard hidden somewhere in the park nicknamed Blue Light Cemetery because of the eerie glow that emanates from the graves.  Legend has it that a nearby bridge on Patterson Road is haunted by the restless souls of Blue Light Cemetery.  If you park on the bridge and turn off the ignition and headlights, you will eventually hear a tapping on the windows, as if something wants in.  Maybe because it’s dark—well after midnight—and maybe because we’re sitting on a freakin’ bridge with our lights out, but this place already seems a million times creepier than Glenwood.  And maybe it’s only my imagination, but I do sense something…restless.  But that’s it.  No tapping on windows.  No swirling mist.  Nothing.

We call it a night and start home.  Less than a half mile from the bridge, the car suddenly fills with the scent of cherry pipe tobacco.  So strong it’s as if someone is smoking in the backseat.  An uninvited passenger that neither of us can see.  For a moment, the scent is overpowering and then slowly fades. 

I look at my husband.  “Did you—” 

“Yeah.  How weird was that?”

Very weird.

In honor of Halloween, my favorite holiday, I would love, love, love to hear about your graveyard excursions and ghostly encounters.  Or even your favorite scary movie.  Me?  I never miss Jeepers Creepers.  We’ll select one participant randomly to win a signed copy of the book of your choice in The Graveyard Queen series.

For more information on The Graveyard Queen or my new young adult series—Soul Jumpers—please visit my website at

***Amanda's winner is DonnaS!  Congrats!  Please email with your mailing details!***

Friday, October 26, 2012

Katherine Garbera: Calling All The Shots

Some books are born from a character that just won't leave me alone; others come from television shows I'm watching that make me wonder what if...?  Calling All The Shots (Harlequin Desire Nov. 2012) is one of those stories that combine both. 

I auditioned for a reality TV show called Four Weddings.  So at the forefront of my mind was the thought of sharing something significant in my life with television viewers.  I didn't make it on the show and was relieved to hear it! But my mind was already working on a way to use that experience in a book or in this case a series of books called Matchmakers, Inc. about a reality TV matchmaking show called Sexy & Single.
Willow Stead is the character that came to me first and who I wanted to write the entire time.  She's someone who doesn't let things go and can hold a grudge until she feels justice has been served.  And since most of us have thought one day I'm going to show them or get even, it was a natural jumping off point for me.  Also given the fact that this year was a significant high school reunion for me I was thinking about how when you're 18 everything feels so important.  So Willow was born with a heart-breaking back-story and a desire for revenge.

My hero had to be strong enough to be a match for her and Jack Crown is just that man.  He is someone who has had to start over more times than he can remember and is well adjusted simply because he doesn't look back.  Unlike Willow who keeps the past close to fuel her drive for the future, Jack shuts it away, pretends it never happened and moves on. 

I'm more like Jack.  I just don't care to worry over the past since I have no way to change it.  Once something happens I put it away and try to never think about it again.

What about you?  One randomly selected blog participant will receive some Matchmakers, Inc. swag, and autographed copies of the entire three-book series.

***Katherine's winner is Cara Bristol!  Please email with your mailing details!***

Thursday, October 25, 2012

News from Sandra Marton

People disagree on lots of things. Politics. Religion. The weather.  But there are some things many of us can agree on,  especially those of us who are women.

Chocolate is good.  So are expensive (sigh) shoes.  Dieting sucks.  Bad hair days are pure misery.

As for men… Brad Pitt is gorgeous. Remember the first time you saw him, in Thelma and Louise? Mmm mmm mmm, what a sight. Nacho Rodriques is spectacular.  Those Polo ads stop me every time, and not because I'm a fan of Polo or of polo, for that matter.  It's the guy that does it.

 And Alpha heroes are… can you say 'addictive'?  Scientific surveys say that 99.9%  of us prefer our romance heroes to be Alphas.

Okay. Sorry.   I made that up. The scientific survey part—but judging by the readers who email me, the fans who talk to me at conferences, the writers I know, the second part of that statement is absolutely true. 

Alpha heroes are sexy and exciting, and the strong, independent-minded women who steal their hearts are the women we would surely be if it we could just stop working and taking care of our kids and cleaning the house long enough to escape  the pressures of our everyday lives.

I almost always have an Alpha hero  in my head.  If I weren't a writer, that might be a bad thing but  I am  a writer, so this is a good thing… unless more than one such guy takes up residence at the same time.  What do you do then?  Here are your choices.   You (a) check yourself into a quiet place for a much-needed rest, or (b) you write the story each of them wants to tell.

I don't have the time or inclination to hang out in a quiet place, so I decided to go with choice (b).

In other words,  I thought of four sexy heroes… and decided to write all four of their stories.  Jacob, Caleb and Travis Wilde are brothers;  Sheikh Khan of Altara is their pal.  And, over the next few months, you're going to meet them all.

Khan's story is first, and will be available in early November.   I admit, I love sheikh fantasies, as a writer and as a reader, and my guy this time is… well, the title of my book is THE PRINCE OF PLEASURE, and that pretty much says it all.  Khan  is  powerful, wealthy, exciting and ohmygod sexy!  He's not interested in a serious relationship. Women? Yes. Settling down? No.  Not until he must take a wife, and he will, eventually, because it will be his duty.  Right now, Khan had time only for  the difficult task of taking his ancient kingdom out of the past and into the 21st century.  In fact, that's why he's in Dallas..   He's there on business and it's at a business event that he meets Laurel Cruz.

Well, not quite.

He doesn't so much meet Laurel as he is confronted by her.   Unlike other women, Laurel doesn't see Khan as sexy. She sees him as a  cold-hearted dictator but then, Laurel's life has given her a cause: the  protection of women from male domination.  The problem? Khan's kind of 'domination'  is hot, sexy and dangerous…  and before either of them is ready for it, the anger between them t turns to flame.

My second November release is  THE DANGEROUS JACOB WILDE.  It's Book One in my brand new series for Presents, The Wilde Brothers.  Jake's  a sexy, ruggedly handsome billionaire, a risk-taker who flies   combat  helicopters In Afghanistan… at least, he flew them  until an act of  bravery leaves him badly wounded, physically and emotionally. But  Jake doesn't see what he did as brave. If anything, he's  haunted by the memory of what happened that fateful day.  When he returns to the Wilde ranch, it's only because he's promised his brothers and sisters that he'll stop there on his way to… well, to wherever. Jake doesn't know where he's going, only that he's not ready to stay in one place. 

Those plans change when, on his first night home, he meets Addison McDowell. 

Addison is a sophisticated New Yorker,  in Dallas  on personal business.  It's  business Jake misinterprets.  He makes the mistake of taking her on at his welcome-home party. When he realizes he made a mistake, he goes after her but their confrontation on a dark, lonely road escalates from apology to anger to an affair so hot and explosive that it threatens to consume them both. 

You'll be able to find  THE PRINCE OF PLEASURE at Kindle, at Nook, at  Smashword, and at iTunes for your iPhone and your iPad in just a few days. For now, go to  for more information.   Digital publishing is an exciting new venture for me.  I love this brave new world!

 THE DANGEROUS JACOB WILDE will be available in both print and e-format, at Amazon and Harlequin and all the places where you usually buy my Presents novels . Until it is (in mid-November) please  go to  for more information.

While you're at my website, why not sign up for my newsletter? That way, you'll be the first to know about my  new, thrilling plans for 2013. A hint:  the  other two Wilde brothers are going to have their time in the sun… and after that, I'll introduce you to the Wilde sisters and the men who will steal their hearts.

Sandra Marton

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Melissa Mayhue: Write What You Know – Universal Emotions

New authors are given all sorts of advice, from every corner of the writing community.   Some of it is excellent and should be followed.  Some of it is simply tired old ‘writing rules,’ best to be ignored.  One of the most often heard is to write what you know.  

When I began my writing career,  that was the first piece of advice I opted not to follow.  Write what I know?  What fun would that be… to write or to read?  Did my favorite authors at the time write only what they knew?  I couldn’t imagine that rule applying to my favorite authors.  Had Christina Skye ever met a ghost?   Had Douglas Adams cavorted with Norse gods?  Had Sherrilyn Kenyon tangled with vampires?  Did Diana Gabaldon actually travel through time?  Or Karen Marie Moning?  Or Flora Speer?  Or Janet Chapman?  Or Terri Brisbin?

I don’t think so!

Instead I chose to chase my fantasies and delve into my imagination and the wonderful world of research  to fill in the blank spots.  And readers [thank goodness!] seemed to like my books.  So much for the old writing what you know rule.

Or was it?

I was a couple of books into my Daughters of the Glen series before I realized that, in spite of my early decision, in many ways, I was writing what I knew.  And in all my favorite books, I had been reading what I knew, too.

It wasn’t the location or the time setting or the mythical creatures.  It was the characters.  More specifically, it was the emotions the characters experienced.  Not only was I pulling on emotions I’ve experienced as I wrote, I realized that in all my favorite books, the authors had been filling their stories with emotions I [as the reader] had felt myself.   So the old rule I’d discarded was there all along, just hiding in plain sight.

Write what you feel… because emotions are universal.

The heroine in my latest release, WARRIOR REBORN, is a perfect example.  Christiana MacDowylt, like so many women I know, feels she is responsible for the well-being and happiness of everyone who’s dear to her.   So much so that she doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice her own happiness – and even safety! – to guarantee the same for others.  The one time she acts on her own behalf leaves her choked with guilt over having considered her needs over those of another.

I’m willing to bet you’ve seen that woman in your own life.  A mother, a sister… maybe even you!  It’s such a common feeling for women that we see her all around us.

This was brought home to me this past weekend as I sat at a Romance Readers’ Tea.  They young woman sitting next to me was on her first solo outing since her daughter had been born.  Dad was home with their ten-month old and Mom was getting regular texts – with photos! – to update her on how Dad and Baby Girl were doing.  Naptime [or, more precisely, lack thereof] was the issue.

Mom really wanted to be at that tea.  And she knew that not only was Dad going to do just fine with Baby Girl, it was a good experience for both of them to spend the afternoon together to work on building their relationship.   Intellectually, she knew that.  Emotionally?  You could see the guilt in her eyes, each time she got a new update and shared the photos with those of us at her table.

In the end, Baby Girl did nap.  Dad texted news of his success and Mom was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.  But in those moments before things straightened themselves out?  Mom suffered the same guilt of responsibility that Christiana suffers through in WARRIOR REBORN. 
Universal emotions.  We can all identify.  We’ve all experienced them.  When we read them on the page, we can feel them.  And THAT is a powerful experience, both for the writer and for the reader.

What about you?  Have you read a book where the emotions of the character resonated with you strongly because they were emotions you could just feel as you read the story?  Please share what character or what book touched your emotions in that way.  I’m always looking for another book to add to my TBR pile!!  We’ll even choose one entry from among those who comment to receive an autographed copy of WARRIOR REBORN!

You can see all of Melissa’s books, or contact her directly, at her website –  

***Melissa's winner is Leah Weller!  Please email with your mailing information!***

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Susan Crandall: What Happens at the Beach House…

…luckily for our readers, does not stay at the beach house, despite our pledge to the contrary.  I just came home from my annual writer’s retreat with Karen White (SEA CHANGE and THE BEACH TREES) and Wendy Wax (OCEAN BEACH and TEN BEACH ROAD).  You see the trend here, I’m the only one not writing about a beach, but they let me come anyway.

I look forward to this week every year and yet have little photographic evidence of it, due to our pledge that our retreat is a camera-free zone.  All of those days spent makeup-less and messy-haired, wearing our favorite ratty writing wear while we brainstorm, talk through revisions and meet frantic deadlines—and yes, share a few bottles of wine.  Throughout the year, we do have three-way telephone conversations to work on the details of our novels (sometime while drinking a glass of wine).  But there’s nothing like getting up the instant I have a plot or characterization problem that has no solution in the known universe and wandering in from the screened porch to interrupt another writer who is thrilled to stop dead in the middle of her work and focus on solving my problem, the answer to which is instantly and brilliantly clear.  Amazingly the reverse is also true, I always can shoot right to the heart of the issues with which they’re struggling.  Forest and trees, I believe.  And more valuable than gold.

The stark fact is, no matter how great and amazing a book turns out, there’s a whole lot of head banging that goes on in order to get it there.  My agent said the book I just turned in (WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD, Gallery Books / Simon & Schuster, June 2013) read as if I’d simply sat down on my screened porch one afternoon and spun this seamless tale.  I wish!  The main characters in this book had been speaking to me for months before I began to write.  The writing itself took just over a full year.  And once I started, the book did not become the one of my vision—it became so much more.  I’m so glad I allowed myself to ride this wave, rather than wrestle and hammer this story into what I’d originally planned.  The support and encouragement of my critique partners gave me the courage to take that leap into the unknown.

WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD began as a child-in-jeopardy story, but evolved into a coming of age adventure set against the backdrop of the segregated South in 1963. A broken and downtrodden woman, Eula, and my feisty nine-year-old heroine, Starla, discover truths about themselves, as well as the world around them as they make a risky journey to find Starla’s mother.  The choices I made while writing this book were difficult and deliberate—and in the end very rewarding.  Writing this book in Starla’s nine-going-on-ten-year-old point of view made for some challenges, but also offered for the purity of a child’s perspective as she opens her eyes to the realities of not only her world, but of the larger world around her.  It also offered plenty of opportunities for humor, as well as deeply poignant scenes.   In the end, this turned out to be a truly special book, not only in the finished product, but because it brought back to me why I love writing…the process.

This will be my tenth published novel.  To veer away from what’s been working thus far can be dangerous to a career – or it could launch it to the heavens.  Thanks to those folks who gave me the nudge when I needed it, to those who pointed out the uniqueness and the potential of this story, to those (including Karen and Wendy) who encouraged me to follow the creative road that presented itself, no matter where it led.

I think we all need “cheerleaders” in our lives, as well as our creative processes.  Those to assure us that without risk, mediocrity might reign, brilliance might go undiscovered, and special joys might never be found.  I’m trying to take this lesson into my life, to take the time to explore when it would be more prudent to keep pushing forward; to prescribe to the idea that the journey is truly more important than the destination.

What is your philosophy: destination, or journey?  Risk or steady reward?
Do you have “cheerleaders” who bolster your bravery, encourage you to follow that vision in your heart? 
Leave a comment for a chance to win.  I’ll be giving away two books to a single winner: SLEEP NO MORE (paperback) and ON BLUE FALLS POND (hardcover). 

Susan Crandall

***Susan's winner is Lory Lee!  Please email with your mailing information!***

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jennifer Ashley: Creativity and Writer's Panic

I've been thinking a lot about creativity lately, especially as it relates to book writing. I'm a fairly prolific writer, but there are days (not a few), when I sit down in front of the computer, stare at the blank screen, and say "I got nothin'."

It's happened after I've given my publisher a proposal for a book, the contract is signed. I sit down to start the book and say, "What was I thinking?"

How do I get out of this and make it to a publishable book? It ain't easy. Here are some of my methods:

1. I throw away my notes. If the original concept is all wrong, I'm not afraid to chuck it out and start over. (I keep to what I agreed to in the contract--e.g., a hot paranormal romance--but the details might completely change.)

2. I let the characters inspire me. I explore every facet of the characters, set them on their feet, and give them a push. I watch what they do and write it down.

3. I let excellent books, movies, and music inspire me. I might find a single sentence or a piece of throwaway dialog, or something in the setting that makes me grab onto it and say "What if, instead... we did this...?"

4. I rewrite and revise extensively. This is the "bloody hard work" part. My story grows and changes as it takes life (especially if I started with nothing). I go back through it and make it consistent and coherent, and take out all the junk that doesn't need to be there, especially at the beginning.

These methods work for me, if they're not the most comfortable and low-stress way to write books. But I've started books with "I got nothin' " that ended up with them selling well and winning multiple awards.

That's my solution to writer's panic. What do you think of it, and writers, what do you do?

I’ll be giving away a copy of my latest book, Mate Claimed, which happily wasn’t written in as much of a panic. It’s a paranormal romance that made two of the New York Times bestseller’s lists and the USA Today top 50!

Leave a comment either on my topic, or simply say hi, to win!

Jennifer Ashley

***Jennifer's winner is Juanita Decuir!  Please email with your mailing info!***

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Romantic Fiction That Was Paris...

By Benh LIEU SONG (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Although I'd travelled widely in my native England, I was eighteen before I set foot outside of the UK. My first serious boyfriend arranged a romantic week for three in Paris. That's right - three. Now, before you get carried away with ideas of athletic high jinks in the land of the menage a trois, you should know something that I didn't when I signed up for this trip of my (then) short lifetime. I was booked in to share a room with his  mother. She came along to keep an eye on him - not me. It served me right for dating an early manifestation of The Big Bang Theory's Howard Wolowitz!

The Mrs W template and I had a wonderful time sightseeing, doing all the usual touristy things and ganging up on my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. I chalked up another first on that trip when I visited a supermarket - in those days, we didn't have them where I came from. Imagine it! You can tell how long ago it was - Carrefour seemed like a fairy palace. I'd never seen so much stuff for sale in one place before.

It was all a far cry from the Paris I'd been led to expect from Paul Gallico's Flowers For Mrs Harris. I can never hear Humphrey Bogart say "We'll always have Paris..." in Casablanca without remembering my unintentionally hilarious visit, although it did sow the seed that eventually became my Harlequin Historical novel, Lady Rascal. This was originally published back in the 1990's, long before the arrival of ereaders, so I've just brought out an ebook version.  Here's a taste of it -

Finding herself in a Parisian dressmaker's shop, poverty-stricken Madeleine has grabbed the chance to dress up in the glamorous accessories and impractical shoes she has only been able to dream about until now...

 Madeleine suddenly saw something she couldn’t live without a moment longer. Picking up one of the candles, she took three wobbling steps out from behind the safety of the counter. Balancing precariously in front of a long mirror, she took down the wisp of gossamer that hung beside it.
It was a shift of some description, needing only the hem to be finished. But what a shift! Almost transparent, the fine fabric rippled through Madeleine’s gloved fingers like water. It was all she needed to complete her outfit.
In a moment her work dress of coarse brown stuff had been cast aside. It took her a few minutes to work out how to get into the shift, which had no fastenings but pulled on over her head. At last she managed, arranging the folds of fabric about her painfully thin body.
It clung to her like pale mist, flowing with every movement and making graceful her stumbling steps in the borrowed shoes. She was entranced, and so beguiled that the running footsteps outside went unnoticed. Only when a foreign voice called out very close at hand did she jump out of her dream.
Then panic turned her to water. To be found here, dressed like this would be certain death. Like an idiot she had not thought to douse the candles, and now it was too late.
The door flew and a large shadow rippled through the shop towards her.
With a scream Madeleine dropped the candle she held...
I’d love to hear what you think of Lady Rascal, and whether you have ever looked forward to a romantic moment only to have it turn out very differently?  There's a signed copy from my backlist for a comment picked at random.
Christina Hollis has written both Historical fiction and Modern Romance/Presents for Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd. She loves to hear from readers - you can contact her through her website.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Susannah Sandlin: The Sci-Fi-Paranormal-Apocalyptic-Vampire-Urban-Fantasy Romance

“What’s your genre?” Chances are, if you are published or trying to get there, you’ve had to answer that question a time or three. “Genre” is a topic dear to agents and editors and publishers and booksellers. How should the book be marketed? Where will it get shelved in a bookstore? Is it urban fantasy or paranormal romance? Where does it get categorized with online booksellers? Which book reviewers should it be sent to?

They need a clear definition, an easy fit.

For authors, sometimes—maybe a lot of the time—the stories we want to write aren’t an easy fit. Sometimes they straddle two categories, or more.

When I first wrote Redemption and Absolution, the first two books in my Penton Vampire Legacy series, they sat firmly on the fence between paranormal romance and urban fantasy.

A global pandemic has led to the development of a vaccine that caused a slight change in human blood chemistry—which has made the blood of a vaccinated human deadly to vampires. Suddenly, vampires are starving, fighting over unvaccinated humans, fanning into rural areas in search of feeders, threatening a civil war.

Sounds like urban fantasy, right? Maybe with a science-fiction twist? Maybe a little apocalyptic (at least for the vampires)?

Well, except that each book is told from the viewpoint of a vampire who finds his or her perfect mate in the midst of chaos and rebellion. In Redemption, Aidan Murphy has avoided relationships because of something that happened to his human wife and child in Ireland back in 1601—something that comes back to haunt him in the form of his murderous brother. He meets Krys, a human doctor who shows him how to accept his past, forgive himself for his own bad decisions, and look to the future.

In the new book, Absolution, former mercenary Mirren Kincaid has known nothing but killing since his training as a gallowglass warrior in 16th-century Scotland and Ireland. He carries an ancient sword, and knows how to use it—thus his nickname, spoken in fear, of the Slayer. But Mirren’s tired of killing, and punishes himself for every life taken. Until a woman he’s charged with keeping safe burrows under his armor and shows him the man he could be.

Uh…sounds like paranormal romance, right?

You see the issue with the Sci-Fi-Paranormal-Apocalyptic-Vampire-Urban-Fantasy Romance. Do your favorite books fit neatly into a category? Leave a comment to win a signed print copy of either Redemption or Absolution—winner’s choice. Open internationally through October 23.

Blurb for Absolution:
Following a worldwide pandemic whose vaccine left human blood deadly to vampires, the vampire community is on the verge of starvation and panic. Some have fanned into rural areas, where the vaccine was less prevalent, and are taking unsuspecting humans as blood slaves. Others are simply starving, which for a vampire is worse than death—a raging hunger in a creature too weak to feed.
            Immune to these struggles—at first—is Penton, a tiny community in rural Chambers County, Alabama, an abandoned cotton mill town that has been repopulated by charismatic vampire Aidan Murphy, his scathe of 50 vampires, and their willingly bonded humans.
            Aidan’s second-in-command, Mirren Kincaid once served the tribunal as their most creative and ruthless executioner—a time when he was known as the Slayer. But when assigned a killing he found questionable, Mirren abandoned the tribunal’s political machinations and disappeared—only to resurface two centuries later as the protector and second-in-command of Penton. Now the tribunal wants him back on their side. 
            To break their rogue agent, they capture Glory Cummings, the descendant of a shaman, and send her to restore Mirren’s bloodthirsty nature. But instead of a monster, Glory sees a man burdened by the weight of his past. Could her magic touch—meant by the tribunal to bring out a violent killer—actually help Mirren break his bonds and discover the love he doesn’t believe he deserves?

Susannah Sandlin is the author of paranormal romance set in the Deep South, where there are always things that go bump in the night. A journalist by day, Susannah grew up in Alabama reading the gothic novels of Susan Howatch and the horror fantasy of Stephen King. (Um…it is fantasy, right?) The combination of Howatch and King probably explains a lot. Suzanne lives in Auburn, Alabama, about thirty miles from Penton and its vampires.

***Susannah's winner is Molly Frenzel!  Please email with your mailing details!***

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Erica Hayes: Who says I can't?

You know that doubting voice in your head? The insidious, snaky one who whispers, 'you can't do that' or 'you're not good enough' or 'what will people think of you?' We all have to face her, in our personal and family lives as well as professionally. And being an author is no exception.

When I first thought about writing a paranormal romance series centered on the biblical apocalypse, I was so excited. It's high concept! It's scary! It's sexy! What could go wrong?

But the Voice of Doubt – yeah, you all know her, right? – whispered, 'dude, you can't do that.'

Me: Why not? It'll be cool! Plagues of wrath, cities being destroyed, zombies, vampires, curses, the dead rising, oh my…

Voice of Doubt: But you'll have to write about angels, and faith, and stuff like that. You might offend someone!

Me: Not gonna happen. These angels aren't the 'real' angels, see? They're fictional. Pretend ones. It's a romance! Hot hunky warrior heroes with feathers and swords… mmm…

Voice of Doubt: But…

Me: Shut up. Who says I can't?

And so my Seven Signs series was born. First and foremost, it's a paranormal romance series, with aforementioned hot hunky warrior heroes and strong heroines who aren't afraid to fight for their lives. If you enjoy romances by Heather Killough-Walden, Nalini Singh or Kristina Douglas, or urban fantasy by Linda Poitevin (I love her books!), this series is for you!

But it's also a fictional take on what might happen in Manhattan when the Apocalypse comes. REVELATION is a fun fantasy, packed with action as well as romance. It has hungry zombies and snarky demon princes and an unhinged archangel with less-than-pure motives. If you believe in angels, that's great – but these aren't those angels. They're the paranormal romance kind. They have earthly lives and human troubles, and they fall in love.

And kill zombies. Don't forget the zombies. Like I said: it's fantasy. I had a wild, fun time writing it, and I hope you enjoy it too!

P.S. If you like you, can check it out (and read an excerpt) at my website:
And I'd love you to visit me on Facebook:

Let's do a giveaway! For the chance to win a Kindle copy of my vampire short story HUNTER'S BLOOD, answer me this: What does the Voice of Doubt say to you, and how do you silence it?

***Erica's winner is Yadkny!  Please email your mailing information to***

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jeanne Adams: Leopard Print, Bubble Gum, and the Art of Characterization…

Have you ever seen the movie, Grease?  The bouffant hairdos, the poodle skirts, leopard print and the gum-snapping pink ladies are all caricatures of 1950s rebel-girl glam.  What about Breakfast at Tiffanys, or Sixteen Candles?  Those movies have their stereotypes too – the glamour girl, the misfit teen.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons 
One of the great things about being a writer is that you can use those “types” to instantly identify a character in the mind of the reader.  If I tell you a girl went from glasses and pigtails to contacts, a prom dress and an up-do, you get the Cinderella Story immediately.  Or, if I tell you the hoodlum wore slouchy jeans and a hoodie, you know the “type” don’t you?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Now, let’s play!  As a writer, I love to turn those stereotypes on their heads, and have the gum-snapping “old-fashioned secretary” with her graying bouffant, and tatty leopard handbag be an international spy.  Or make the hoodlum be an MBA from Harvard, caught out in the rain in his younger brother’s hoodie, and getting shot by the police because they too believed the “type.”

I love putting the character in the mind of the reader one way – the stereotype – then showing how both the reader and heroine/hero realize and uncover the “real” person underneath.  For example, in my forthcoming book, Deadly Charms, Sheriff Reece Bowen has to work with a woman he considers to be a hoity-toity New Yorker because she has, as he puts it, “styled hair and wears leopard print.” 

He has her pegged, or so he thinks. 

Suzanne Packe relocated to rural Virginia, because she’s recovering from a devastating life experience.  I won’t tell you what, but suffice to say, it’s important!  She IS from New York –upstate New York – and yes, she made her fortune in high-end, custom jewelry in the wilds of Manhattan. 

That doesn’t make her a city slicker, or stupid when it comes to murder.  In Deadly Charms, Reece and Suzanne have to dismiss the stereotypes and find the real person underneath the “city slicker” and the “Southern sheriff” they each see.  Suzanne saw someone dump a woman in the woods, and saved her life.  The woman’s only identification is a charm bracelet.  They have to use Suzanne’s expertise in jewelry to identify their Jane Doe, because someone really, really, REALLY wants her dead.  And since she helped save Jane Doe, that same someone wants Suzanne, and her gorgeous Michael Kors leopard print shoes, dead too.  (You’ll have to download Deadly Charms at the end of this month to get the WHOLE story!)

Thing is, I’ve got a problem.  It’s the leopard print.  It used to be that if you described someone as wearing spandex and leopard print (picture that for me!), then you were talking “cheap trailer trash”, a hooker, an exercise junkie on the way to the gym, or someone in a Halloween costume.  C’mon now, you ALL know what I mean!  And I use that to the maximum with Reece in his impression of Suzanne.

However, as you probably have already know, animal prints are “it” in fashion.  They’re everywhere.  Purses, dresses, scarves, and shoes.  Ev-Re-Where.  And trust me, some of those animal prints will make your charge card screeeeeeeam for mercy – those Michael Kors shoes, for instance! 

Can you think of a recent book you’ve read where the character leaped into your mind, full blown, because of the way the author described his or her clothes and style?

Let’s talk fashion!  Do you own a jacket, dress or other item with an animal print?  I happen to love, love, love animal prints, so I have a LOT of it – and yes, I do my best NOT to look like a hooker OR a Halloween junkie.  (Even though I AM a Halloween Junkie!)
And one last question….What are you going to be for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bec McMaster: Fancy a bite?

Vampires are in, right? Everybody knows that. They’re hot, they’re dangerous, they’re sparkly. The ultimate alpha, they’re obsessive and protective and basically, they’re the bad-boy redemption story we readers just can’t resist. Can any woman (or man) save them from the darkness within them? It’s easy to see why everyone loves a good vampire.

When it came to writing Kiss of Steel, the first in my London Steampunk series, I knew vampires were going to be involved. I had this idea about a virus from the Far-East turning the British aristocracy into blood-drinkers, but one of the things I wanted to do was give the vampire myth a twist. Blame it on the fact I’d recently been watching a lot of horror (30 Days of Night etc.), but I didn’t want my vampires to be the heroes. They’re the horror in the dark, a blood-thirsty predator that is almost mindless with the craving.

Stricken by the craving virus, the Echelon (the aristocracy) refer to themselves as blue bloods. Stronger, faster, almost immortal, with only the blood craving to hold them back as they rule London with an iron fist. What isn’t spoken of in polite company, is what the virus makes them evolve into.

My blue bloods are slowly turning into the very thing they despise, though it might take decades. It’s their ultimate fear. To lose control, to develop, to evolve… They might be predators already, but they’re predators dressed in silk waistcoats and carrying blades. To become little more than a monster, mindless, consumed by the craving, well it’s not to be born.

In Georgian times, a spate of vampires drove the city to mad riots and cost over ten thousand lives. So now, law dictates that the blue blood’s monitor their virus levels and when they hit dangerous heights, they’re executed.
But what happens when there is no cure? And when you’re standing dangerously close to that line where you’re no longer human? That’s the question my hero, Blade, asks himself every day when he stares in the mirror. Every day he measures his craving virus levels and every day the answer fills him with dread. Once his levels hit 80 %, he’s asked his verwulfen lieutenant, Will, to execute him before he slaughters them all.

One of the themes I wanted to explore in Kiss of Steel was fear and facing it. My heroine has her own fears to confront, but as for Blade, his are seemingly impossible to overcome. Or are they? There has to be a happy ending of course, as this is romance. I’ll let you find out how though.

So what’s your worst fear? I’ll be honest, mine are sharks (hey, I live in Australia), but I have this insane urge to learn to dive. I look at pictures of the Great Barrier Reef or shipwrecks and I desperately, desperately want to learn. I also have this hankering to cage-dive with the Great White Shark’s off Cape Town in South Africa. Call me a sucker for punishment.

So do you run from your fears, or do you confront them?  One lucky commenter will go into the draw to win Kiss of Steel (open to international entries)


A brilliantly creative debut where vampires, werewolves, and clockwork creatures roam the mist–shrouded streets of London…
When Nowhere is Safe…
Most people avoid the dreaded Whitechapel district. For Honoria Todd, it's the last safe haven. But at what price?
Blade is known as the master of the rookeries—no one dares cross him. It's been said he faced down the Echelon's army single–handedly, that ever since being infected by the blood–craving he's been quicker, stronger, and almost immortal.
When Honoria shows up at his door, his tenuous control comes close to snapping. She's so…innocent. He doesn't see her backbone of steel—or that she could be the very salvation he's been seeking.

“Kiss of Steel is an enthralling debut with rich steampunk and vampire elements, and a leading man as wicked as he is irresistible. McMaster has crafted a hero and heroine who are intellectual and emotional equals; their love affair is heart-wrenching, redemptive and stirringly passionate. Expertly rounded out by pulse-pounding adventure, dastardly villains and complex secondary characters, this is a series opener to be read and savoured.” – RT Book Reviews

Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. For more information, please visit or follow her on Twitter, @BecMcMaster.

***Bec's winner is Stefanie! Please email with your mailing details!***

Monday, October 15, 2012

All the fun of the fair plus giveaway by Michelle Styles

My latest book Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match originated in part because I happened to read about the Stagshaw Bank Fair. In its time, the Stagshaw Bank Fair was the largest one day fair in England and it was always held on the 4th of July. It was included a huge stock sale as well as various traders brought their goods from around England to sell to the local populace. The Stagshaw Bank Fair is has also been immortalised in several folk tunes. This is one rendition done with the Northumbrian (as opposed to the Scottish) bagpipes.

Fairs and their possibilities always intrigue me. When I was a young girl we used to go to the Calavaras County Jumping Frog contest. I also super enjoyed Charlotte's Web which has its climax  at the fair. But there are not so many fairs in historical romance these days, even though the fair or show was a large part of rural life.
Fairs could be happy and joyous times but they could also be fraught with danger. I clearly remember driving through Angel's Camp, the day before the Jumping Frog contest started and seeing all the policemen on the rooftops. We had not realised until we got to the fair but the fair had become a huge gathering point for the Hell's Angels and other motorcyclists. My father was friendly with the sheriff who said that year, they ended up using every spare cell, including the black as night one from the 1850s where the outlaw Black Bart had ended up.
The Stagshaw Bank shortly before the Regency period was notorious for people snatching and press gangs preying on the farmhands and the like. Apparently, many of them were snatched and sent to work on the sugar plantation in the West Indies. Unfortunately, I could not find out enough information to write a credible story and it is not my time period but the story intrigued me.
Anyway, I had a lot of fun writing Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match. The back cover reads:


In the eyes of the ton Hattie Wilkinson is a respectable widow, content with her safe, if somewhat modest life.

On the other hand Sir Christopher Foxton prides himself on being regarded as one of London’s most notorious rakes, with a particularly mischievous streak!

Upon their first meeting Kit threatens to shatter Hattie’s well-ordered peace—and her reputation!—if only she’ll allow herself to succumb to his playful advances. This time they’ve both finally met their match…

Set in June/July 1816 Tyne Valley
You can read an excerpt here.

UPDATE on Totebags Giveaway: Barbara was the first name out of the hat this morning so she wins a signed copy of Hattie.

You can also enter the giveaway I'm doing with Good Reads.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match by Michelle Styles

Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match

by Michelle Styles

Giveaway ends November 01, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide variety of time periods. her latest Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match will be published 1 November in both the US and the UK. She is currently working on her next Viking.You can learn more about Michelle's books at