Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bec McMaster: Dear Halloween

Dear Halloween,

I think you're officially the only international holiday I would want Australians to steal. I can see plastic pumpkins, lollies (ah, candy to the US folks?) and costumes creeping onto the shelves at Safeway, but I would definitely be down with some creepy costume hijinks and some trick or treating of my own. In fact, this has probably come about twenty years too late, but my inner child could still go for it. 

The problem? I live in a small country town in Southern Australia. And whilst I'd love to dress up, kick back at a party or take my little niece and nephew trick or treating, I think most people would probably open their doors and stare at us, asking what we want. Halloween's not a big thing in Oz, though it's growing more prevalent. I know last year I had some poor kid and his mum knock on the door and I had nothing. Apples maybe?

The costume idea is definitely the main appeal (though I'm certainly not going to say no to lollies!). I write steampunk romance, and whilst it's all very good to spend 90% of my writing life in my pink dressing gown in front of the computer, getting the opportunity to dress up sounds awesome. True confession: I have never been steampunked up.

Granted, there's not a lot of opportunity in small country towns to dress up. And I can't sew, so creating something myself is... maybe a bit of a stretch. But I like the idea. I want a sexy corset and some seriously-cool goggles to wear. I'm thinking airship captain or sky pirate. I just need the opportunity.

So, I'm all keen on this new influx of pumpkin flavoured whatever's into our grocery stores. And next October I might just throw my own costume party.

As for this year, I'm buying lollies, just in case.

Bec McMaster

Want to win a signed copy of My Lady Quicksilver, my latest release, to find out what this steampunk thing's all about? (Hint: sexy corsets, seriously cool inventions and some steamy... automatons). Just let me know in the comments which holiday (international or not) is your favourite and why. Open internationally.



He will find her no matter what. As a blue-blooded captain of the Nighthawk Guard, his senses are keener than most. Some think he’s indestructible. But once he finds the elusive Mercury, what will he do with her? 

It’s his duty to turn her in—she’s a notorious spy and traitor. But after one stolen moment, he can’t forget the feel of her in his arms, the taste of her, or the sharp sting of betrayal as she slipped off into the night. Little does Mercury know, no one hunts better than the Nighthawk. And his greatest revenge will be to leave her begging for his touch…


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. Read more about her at or follow her on Twitter, @BecMcMaster.

To purchase My Lady Quicksilver:

***Laurie G, congratulations! You're the winner.  Please email with your mailing info.***

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dianne Duvall: Character Interview With Sean


Thank you for joining me!  And thank you, Lee, for letting me visit Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs again!  I’m here today to celebrate the release of DARKNESS RISES, the fourth book in my Immortal Guardians paranormal romance series.  If you like powerful preternatural heroes and strong heroines, danger mixed with humor, action and intensity interspersed with soft, tender moments, and — of course — steamy romance, then this book is for you.  ;-)  After barely surviving a vicious vampire attack, mortal Krysta Linz has dedicated her life to slaying every blood-sucking, psychotic vampire she can find.  She does an excellent job of it, too . . . until Immortal Guardian Étienne d’Alençon sees her take on four vampires by herself and is instantly captivated.  Sparks soon fly as he endeavors to learn more of her and Krysta discovers that not everyone with fangs and glowing eyes is the enemy. 

I thought I would have a little fun and give readers a glimpse of some of DARKNESS RISES’ characters in a series of character interviews.  Today the heroine’s brother, Sean, will be interviewed by Sheldon, a notoriously green Second, or human guard:

Sheldon:  Hey, Sean.  Thanks for doing this.

Sean:  No problem.  I’m actually not really sure why you’re interested in interviewing me.

Sheldon:  You’re new to the the Immortal Guardians world, yet you’ve been hunting vampires for six years.  Everyone wants to know more.

Sean:  Then everyone should interview Krysta.  She’s the one who risked her life night after night, hunting vampires and engaging them in hand-to-hand, or rather blade-to-blade combat.

Sheldon:  Something she couldn’t have done without you.

Sean:  *shrugs*

Sheldon:  I’ve seen you spar with her.  You’re very skilled, both in martial arts and the use of a wide variety of weapons.  Did it bother you that you couldn’t fight by her side?

Sean:  Absolutely. 

Sheldon:  But I don’t sense any bitterness or resentment.

Sean:  Because there isn’t any.  We each played a role.  And we each risked our lives. 

Sheldon:  And you thought it worth the risk?

Sean:  *muscle jumping in his cheek*  Krysta barely survived a vampire attack seven years ago.  Someone she loved didn’t.  I saw what that did to her, knew the same was happening to other humans being preyed upon by those monsters, and shared her desire to do whatever we could to stop it.

Sheldon:  So the two of you set out to—

Sean:  Kill every maddened vampire we could find.

Sheldon:  Well, congratulations.  You did a damned fine job of it.

Sean:  *shakes his head*  We didn’t even make a dent. 

Sheldon:  Yes, you did.  And you would have noticed it if all hell hadn’t broken loose around here and caused the vampire population to explode.  What did you think of Étienne the first time you saw him?

Sean:  I thought he was a vampire and wanted him dead.

Sheldon:  That’s what I’d heard.  What about after that?  I think the second time you saw him was . . .

Sean:  The night we saved his life.  And I didn’t know WHAT to think.  Every vampire my sister and I had encountered up to that point had been a psychotic killer.  Suddenly one not only didn’t try to kill Krysta, but actually tried to protect her?  It was . . . unfathomable.  I thought he must be playing some kind of sick, twisted game.

Sheldon:  But, once you learned he was an Immortal Guardian and not a vampire, you were okay with him?

Sean:  Nnnno.  Not really.  I mean, I was intrigued by the whole vampirism-being-caused-by-a-virus notion.  I was a med student at Duke and . . .  I REALLY wanted to get a look at the advanced DNA that protects immortals from the brain damage and madness the virus causes in humans. 

Sheldon:  Did you? 

Sean:  Yes.  Dr. Lipton showed me and explained everything in fascinating detail.

Sheldon:  So what was the problem?

Sean:  Étienne’s telepathic.  I was afraid he was messing with Krysta’s head, making her believe what he wanted her to believe.  I thought if he could READ her thoughts, then he could probably alter them as well.

Sheldon:  I don’t think it works that way for younger immortals.  And he’s only a couple of hundred years old.

Sean:  *shrugs and offers a wry smile*  What can I say?  She’s my sister.  I love her and want to keep her safe.  And, seeing her fall so swiftly for Étienne . . .  I was afraid it wasn’t real and didn’t want to see her get hurt again.

Sheldon:  I hear ya.  You’re okay with him now, though, right?

Sean:  Yeah.  He’s a good guy and makes her happy.

Sheldon:  So what do you think of the werewolves?

Sean:  *stares*  The what?

Sheldon:  The werewolves.  Haven’t you met them yet?

Sean:  Wait.  Are you saying . . . ?  Werewolves exist, too?  There are werewolves?

Étienne:  *calls from another room*  No.  He’s just messing with you, Sean.

Sean:  *glares*  So they DON’T exist?

Sheldon:  *grins*  No.  I was just messing with you.  But Seth and David can both shape-shift, so technically they CAN become wolves.  I wouldn’t ask them to do it, though.  They tend to not respond well when you do.

Étienne:  *agains calls from another room*  It isn’t a parlor trick, Sheldon.

Sheldon:  *frowns in direction of Étienne’s voice*  Shouldn’t you be ogling Krysta or copping a feel or something?

Étienne:  I am.  Some of us are multifunctional. 

Sean:  *mumbles*  I didn’t need to hear that.

Krysta:  *laughs in the other room*  He isn’t copping a feel, Sean.  Étienne’s messing with you, too.  We’re just watching a movie.

Étienne:  Sheldon, shouldn’t you be calling Marcus and landing him in an ambush?

Sheldon:  Dude!  That was ONE time!  ONE mistake!  When are you guys gonna to let it go?

Étienne and Krysta:  *laugh*

Sean:  *eyes Sheldon’s scowling face*  Want to ditch the interview and go see what movie they’re watching?

Sheldon:  *sighs*  Sure. 

Krysta:  Bring snacks!

So what fictional character would you like to interview?  Let me know for a chance to win a signed copy of DARKNESS RISES + Immortal Guardians swag.

Krysta is used to getting the drop on vampires.  Her "special abilities" aren't much, but the plan is simple—she plays helpless pretty young thing to lure them in.  Then her shoto swords come out and it's bye-bye, bloodsucker. Until one night she finds herself with an unexpected ally.  He's a vampire, all right, but different.  Mysterious.  Handsome.  And more interested in saving her skin than draining it.

Étienne has been an Immortal Guardian for two hundred years—long enough to know that Krysta is special.  He can't stop thinking about her long legs, even more than her short swords.  Then he discovers the vamps she's exterminating have friends in high places, and the Guardians are in danger too.  He'll have to accept Krysta's help to save them.  The stakes for a mortal are high.  But the cost to his heart might be higher. . .

Barnes & Noble —
Audible —
Walmart —

Dianne Duvall is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Immortal Guardians paranormal romance series.  Her debut novel, Darkness Dawns, was nominated for the RT Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Vampire Romance by RT Book Reviews and for Best Paranormal Romance—Vampire by The Romance Reviews.  Ensuing books in the series — Night Reigns, Phantom Shadows, and Predatory — have all been deemed Top Picks by RT Book Reviews, The Romance Reviews, and/or Night Owl Reviews.  Her latest release, Darkness Rises, has also been chosen as a Night Owl Reviews’ Top Pick. 
Dianne loves all things creative.  When she isn't writing, Dianne is active in the independent film industry and once even appeared onscreen as a machete-wielding maniac not unlike the vampires in her novels.

***Congrats, Doodlebug! Your name was picked as the winner.  Please email with your mailing details.***

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Isabel Sharpe: But Is There Meaning in Gold Lamé?

At a recent cocktail party, a woman approached me, probably early sixties, but, you know, with work done, wearing tight gold lamé pants tucked into knee-high black boots, short spiky hair dyed dark, gold jewelry dangling everywhere.  She was clutching a large glass of wine and stood so close you could smell the alcohol on her.

Oh baby.

The inevitable happened, she found out I was a writer.  Ohhhh!  She’d always wanted to write a book!  Because wow, had she ever lived a life worth telling about!  Though when I told her I write romance, she immediately shook her head, “Oh, no, no, I’d write something with meaning.”

Well, then.

People sneer at romance.  Whatever.  If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing.  But this was a new level of dismissal.  (Granted, I dismissed her, too, but at least I interacted with her first—she’d never read a romance.)

I wanted to tell her about the letter I got from a woman who’d spent all night in the hospital worrying about a loved one, and how my book (a comedy) made the long wait bearable.  Or the letter from the therapist in Tennessee who handed out my romances to female clients as examples of strong women getting their needs met.  Or, more personally, how reading romance helped me come to terms with what was missing from my first marriage.

Mostly, I wanted to tell her about the story I just finished* for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Foundation, about a woman starting life over after escaping a violent relationship.  Print copies will be distributed to women’s shelters and the e-novella will be available for free, to spread the word about the Foundation’s Give Back a Smile program, which enlists dentists to repair women’s teeth damaged by an abusive partner without charge.  No meaning?  Come on.

Okay, I wanted to tell her a few other things too, but I was raised to be polite.

So there’s a beginning list.  I’m curious to hear your additions.  What has the romance genre meant to you? 
My favorite answer wins a copy of Back in Service, one of the Harlequin Blaze Uniformly Hot miniseries, about men and women serving in the military.  Check out this cover.  I have to fan myself every time I see it.

Look forward to hearing from you!


* The e-novella, For One of Your Smiles . . . will be available in early 2014.  Check my website later in the year for details,  A really good cause and a free book!  And while you’re at it, take time in the remaining days of October to think about National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and help a friend if she needs it.

***Erin is the winner! Please email with your mailing details.***

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jana DeLeon: Write What You Know

One of the first things you hear when you attempt to write a novel is to “write what you know.” That doesn’t mean that if you’re an accountant (which I am, by the way) that you’re stuck writing novels about the IRS. Thank Heavens! It just means that you should draw upon your own emotional well to create three-dimensional characters that readers can relate to.

But I take that to an entirely different level. With all of my books set in the Louisiana bayous, I draw from my experience living there to create realistic settings and characters, which can lead to a lot of questions. Like “do you really know those people you write about?”

Sure, I know them all. In my mind. Well, except for the drunken Father Thomas in UNLUCKY. I used to golf with him when I was a teenager, but that’s a whole other story.

When I’m writing and especially when I go back to read a rough draft, I always think “these are people I’d like to see in action.” Mind you, I’m fairly positive I wouldn’t want to be “in” most of the action, but if I could have a bleacher seat with popcorn and maybe a frito pie, that would be stellar. If I could have a beer with them afterwards, then that would be even better.

As a reader, my favorite books are the ones that I put down and wonder what the characters are doing until I can get back to it. They are the books that when I get to the end, I wish I could spend more time with the people I’ve grown to know and love. The first writer that I can remember who really drew me in that way was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her depiction of her childhood in one of the roughest areas of the US is nothing short of incredible.

What writer makes you want to leap through the pages and go “on screen” with their characters? Can you remember the first time it happened? Or the last?

If you can, post your answer. One lucky poster will win a $25 Amazon egift card.

***Congrats, Eli Yanti - you won!  Please email!***

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Re-entering Reality by Fiona Lowe

I've just got back fro 19 days in France! C'est tres fantastique! You have to hand it to the French; they have style and, man, can they cook! From the top end restaurants in Paris to the small family-run brasseries in the provinces, the food was phenomenal. I have waddled home, sadly to my own cooking!

Re-entering real life post vacation is always a challenge. We travelled light so the bags are unpacked and the laundry is under control but my brain is still in France. Here are a few of the photos so you understand.

The Canal du Midi between Castlenaudary & Carrcassonne

Cookies & Chocolates in Montemarte
Saint Cecile Cathedrral in Albi..the Cathars Crusade

Renaissance buildings in Albi 
Chaud Chocolat in style!

I could go on (my husband took 1300 photos in 19 days) but I'll stop! As you can imagine, my mind keeps wandering back to these adventures rather than the prosaic of real life!  However, I am a person for looking forward, not backwards and November is coming. My eldest son is returning home from university/college next week and November means books are being released!

My next Harlequin medical romance is out on November 1st! This is the third book in the Gold Coast Angel's series and I
had a lot of angst as well as fun writing Bundle of Trouble. Married to his long time girlfriend and dad to baby Amber, Luke Stanley was at the top of his field as a plastic surgeon. Life was good and he never expected it to change in a heartbeat. But life can do that to you and suddenly,  Luke's adrift and it's only his daughter that is keeping him going. 

Writing about grief is emotionally draining but the flip side to it is giving people hope. Not just my characters but perhaps readers who are struggling. I hope you enjoy Luke and Chloe's story as they both learn life can give you second chances at happiness if you're open to taking the risk. Set on the beautiful Gold Coast in Queenland, Australia, it's filled with sun-drenched beaches and glorious, lush rainforests. It's available at Harlequin and all other eBook retailers.

For those of you looking for a short-story, the perfect length before turning out the light, then On The Road Again is just the thing. It's a reunion story. Can two people forgive and move beyond past hurts? Set on a 9 day cycling vacation (yes, I used the ride as inspiration) it also features a hot doc, a high-powered motor cycle and lots of fun.
You can grab it at Smashwords and Amazon and soon all other ebook retailers.

Of course I have a my Wedding Fever trilogy for fun and laughs and the occasional tears in Saved By The Bride and Picture Perfect Wedding. It's the perfect time to grab them in preparation for the final book, Runaway Groom which is out in January!

Meanwhile, anyone been to France? I'd love to hear your favourite French stories to help me ease into real life again!

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Doranna Durgin: Defying Reality

Reality says you can’t do it all.

So I’m clearly insane to be working frontlist (Claimed by the Demon, and the hero is NOT a demon), backlist (fantasy, mystery, and romantic suspense), running a service for authors with similar backlist efforts (Backlist eBooks), and working on my own original productions through Book View Café.

I guess the thing is, I want it all.  For one thing, having my early books out where readers can find them again?  Priceless.  Add into that the utter excitement of writing the stories I’ve ached to write and wow!  That is utterly the best feeling ever. 

The independent work also strips away the concerns that have intensified over the years within the publishing industry--the time lags, the scheduling, the late payments.   It means a production team that works with me, and not one that has a primary responsibility to the publisher.  In my case, that team will consist of other career professionals from Book View Café, where members have worked in every aspect of publishing over the years. 

None of which takes away the thrill of seeing publisher frontlist books out on the shelves.  Or holding the author copies for the first time, or seeing the cover art and design, know.  Holding the book up close and sniffing the scent of freshly printed pages.  (Come on.  You know you do it sometimes...)
And let’s  not even talk about physical life, where the Lipizzan keeps me busy with his Lipizzan ways and the Beagles demand their daily training and on the very best weekends, to go out and compete in agility, rally, obedience, and tracking trials.  There’s no way I’m not doing those things!

So take THAT, reality!  I haven’t given up yet!  I’ve opted out of sleep, of eating, of having the house and office quite as organized and clean as it is in my best intentions, but when it comes to my writing, the cover art I enjoy so much, or my animals, it’s time to get fierce, don’t you think?

Have you ever wanted to do it all?  Better yet, have you ever gotten to do it all?

(If you want to win it all, give it a shot!  We’ll blindly stab a finger at the monitor to choose a winner, who’ll receive a title from my precious out-of-print box.  There are Bombshells and Nocturne Sentinels to choose from!)

***Pat Cochran, you won! Please email***

Friday, October 25, 2013

Emmie Dark: Travel tales

My newly released book, “Dance With Me” is a bit of a travelogue—it’s set in Australia, the US and Guatemala. Luckily enough I was able to base my research on these places from my own experience—I’ve been lucky to travel quite a bit in the past few years.

The trip I did through Mexico and Guatemala was one of the most memorable travel experiences I’ve ever had. As a self-admitted “princess” (I’ll go camping the day they invent a tent with an ensuite) I had to adjust my expectations. Our hotels were two-star, at the very best, and our transport ranged from jolting around in a minibus through to hanging on for dear life in the back of a ute (pick up truck)!

This is me on some of the scary Mayan steps!
I made the person taking the photo make sure that you couldn’t really
tell that I’m only about two steps off the ground! 

But all that was worth it for the amazing, spectacular scenery. Mayan temples, thousands of years old, built with an unbelievable precision! There was one temple where all the walls and surfaces were built to amplify the human voice—a whisper from the top could be heard throughout the courtyard in front.

Unfortunately I also discovered a strange fear of heights. I don’t mind being on the tallest building, or going for a ride in a cable car, and I loved my trip on the London Eye. But walking up the steps of the building—each one at least knee-height or above—for some reason was beyond me. No, scratch that, walking up wasn’t the problem, it was the getting down again that I hated!

Are you more of a creature comforts “princess” when it comes to travelling, or are you all for embracing the wilds of nature? Let me know your preference and I’ll chose one random comment to win a copy of Dance With Me.

Dance With Me is available now on Amazon:

About Dance With Me:
Polly’s life isn’t turning out the way she thought—and so she’s embarked on the trip of a lifetime. In Guatemala she meets Josh and they have a fling that is supposed to be short-lived, but instead starts them on a journey that takes them through three countries, two emergency room visits, one incredible dance lesson, and a huge amount of vino tinto. It’s a sassy, sexy, romantic tale about finding your way back to your true self.

Emmie on the web:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kathie DeNosky: Where Do All Those Stories Come From?

I’m often asked by readers where I get my story ideas.  When I tell them everywhere, I’m not just giving them a nice neat little answer.  I really do get inspiration for my books from everything around me.  For example, in the early days of my writing career, I was watching television with my family and a commercial came on for a gynecology clinic in my area.  That started me thinking.  What if a doctor delivered a baby and then realized that he had just delivered his own son?  Several cups of coffee and a couple of days I had worked out the plot for my third book, HIS BABY SURPRISE.

Another time, I was on the phone for a late night conversation with my good friend and fellow author, Kristi Gold.  When my weather radio came on to announce a tornado warning, we joked about me being blown over the rainbow into the land of Oz.  After a good laugh, I started thinking about the possibilities  and once again my imagination took over.  That moment of humor spawned a three book series based very loosely on The Wizard of Oz.  In my stories, instead of a scarecrow without a brain, my hero was a man without a college education, the cowardly lion was a man who as a teenager had run away from trouble with the law, and the tin man without a heart was a man who had closed off his heart to ever loving again. 

For my newest mini-series, The Good, The Bad and The Texan, it wasn’t something that I saw or joked about that gave me the idea for the six books.  It was something I heard.  I had listened to Tim McGraw’s song, “Real Good Man”, for years and always liked it.  But one day when that song came on the radio one line seemed to reach out and grab me.  The line that inspired the entire six book series was “I can be a real bad boy, but baby I’m a real good man.”  Let’s face it, we all like “bad boys” and we all love the notion that deep down they are good men.  After a little thought, I came up with the idea of six men who finished growing up on the Last Chance Ranch—a home for boys that the foster care system had given up on as lost causes.

No matter if it’s television commercial, a moment of joking around with a good friend or listening to the lyrics of a song, inspiration is all around us.  But I’ve often wondered if the books authors write inspire you in some way.  I once read a book about an overweight heroine and the tips she used to lose her extra weight.  I tried the tips and guess what?  I lost twenty-five pounds.  LOL 

So my question is, have you ever read a book that inspired you to try something you wouldn’t otherwise have thought to do, go somewhere you’ve never been or maybe change yourself in some way?  I’d love to hear how the books you read inspire you and carry over into your everyday lives.  Can’t wait to hear from everyone.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CJ Carmichael: Why Do We Love Montana?

The reality of life on a ranch in Montana is a lot of hard why is this setting so appealing for lovers of romance and family sagas?

I’ve thought about this question a lot. Having grown up on a farm in Saskatchewan I know that country life is easy to idealize—for those who haven’t lived it. But the benefits are undeniable: the beauty of the land, the fortitude of the people, the resilience of the communities.

One of my favorite books about life on a Montana ranch is: “Sketches from the Ranch, A Montana Memoir” by Dan Aadland. Aadland is a combination rancher/poet/philosopher. He’s very down-to-earth as he describes his day to day responsibilities as a modern day “cowboy,” but always with a eye for beauty and truth, such as in this small sample:

“Spring on a Montana ranch is not only calving cows. It is also the crocus, the brave flower that picks its way, sometimes through snow, to decorate the still-brown grass of the dryland hills. It is a small boy with a bouquet of pussy willows in one hand, the other hand thrust into his mother’s palm as they come up from the woods late in the afternoon. It is the return of the meadowlark and the sandhill crane.”
Writers aren’t the only ones who love Montana. Paradise Valley (the setting for my fictional Carrigans of the Circle C) was inspiration, title and solace to John Mayer as he was crafting the music for his new album of the same name.

Many movie stars, famously Robert Redford, own property in Montana and some of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen (A River Runs Through It, The Horse Whisperer) have been filmed here.

If Montana were a song, it might be the Eagle’s, “A Peaceful Easy Feeling.”

It might also be a place to call home, a land where the people are real and true, a place where you can believe in love and forever, and even dare to put them in the same sentence.

If you also love Montana, especially stories with that setting, tell me why and I’ll send you an autographed book from Big Sky Country!


Sage Carrigan never meant to be the other woman. Unfortunately, bronco rider Dawson O’Dell neglected to mention he was married the night he invited her to his bed after they’d both placed first in their rodeo events. When his wife walked in on them – Sage was deeply hurt and humiliated. After an accident in the ring the next day, Sage decides she’s quitting the rodeo–and cowboys—to become a chocolatier in her hometown ranching community, Marietta, Montana. She’s doing just fine, but then Dawson shows up —five years later, with a little girl in tow. He’s here for the Copper Mountain Rodeo hoping to win big. But he’s also got plans of settling down with his daughter and buying a house—the very same one that Sage has been dreaming about. He says he’s here for her and he’s making lots of promises. But can he keep them?

***Congrats, Emily Baucom, you won! Please email***

Monday, October 21, 2013

Rachel Bailey: Wish Upon A Star

Have you ever seen a shooting star? Wished upon one?

I’ve seen one a few times, but each time I’ve been so caught up in moving to see it more clearly, or deciding if it really was a shooting star, I haven’t thought to make a wish. And the ones I’ve seen have been so quick – one second they’re there, leaving a little trail, and the next they’re gone.

Wikipedia tells me that, “Shooting star is a common name for the visible path of a meteoroid as it enters the atmosphere, becoming a meteor.” Which doesn’t sound particularly magical or romantic, does it? But I’m still keen to do a bit of shooting star-watching.

If you’re keen to catch a shooting star, or at least to see one, here’s some advice from NASA – keep an eye out during a meteor shower.

"Usually, the first couple of nights of a meteor shower have light activity," said Yeomans. "Then, the number of meteors can increase dramatically as Earth approaches the densest portion of the stream. After peaking for anywhere from a few hours to a few nights, it decreases back down to a level where you couldn't distinguish it from a normal night's meteor activity.
Good advice – I’m going to keep an eye out for news of a meteor shower, and this time I’ll be ready to make a wish!

Of course, in a book I have a bit more time to think about reactions so in Countering His Claim, when Luke and Della see a shooting star one night from the top deck of a cruise ship, here’s what happened:

He looked up to the stars and a flash of movement caught his attention. Within an instant he was beside Della, one arm around her waist, pointing skywards. “Shooting star.”
“Oh,” she said on a long breath, her gaze following his finger.
The feel of her against him was mesmerizing. Absorbed in the moment, she’d forgotten to be on her guard and allowed her soft curves to meld into his side, her head resting back on his shoulder as she tracked the star’s path.
“Make a wish,” he murmured beside her ear.
A kiss. In this moment, all he wanted was to turn her to face him, to lean down and touch her sweet lips with his. It was wrong, he knew it was wrong, but the blood in his veins thundered and a delicious heat began to rise.
The star faded and the night sky again grew still, the only movement the ship’s steady forward progress and the gentle breeze that danced in Della’s hair. But she didn’t move away. Part of him dared not move and break the spell, but the larger, rebellious part of him—surrounded by the scent of vanilla and woman—risked inclining his head down to hers, and was rewarded when she shivered.
“Like to know what I wished for?” he said, voice low.
Her eyes drifted shut. “You’re not supposed to tell. It won’t come true if you do.”
“Maybe,” he said, his mouth so close to her ear that his lips brushed her lobe as he spoke. “But if you knew what the wish was, perhaps you’d grant it.”

I though asking for a kiss from the person you were madly attracted to was a great use for a wish. J

I’d love to know if you’ve ever seen a shooting star, and if so, have you been clever enough to make a wish? If you haven’t, what would you wish for if you had the chance? I’ve got a copy of Countering His Claim here for one person who leaves a comment.

My website:
Countering His Claim:

Passion sets sail in USA TODAY bestselling author Rachel Bailey's tale of high-stakes inheritance 
Never be distracted by a woman is hotel magnate Luke Marlow's golden rule, especially when the woman just inherited half his late uncle's luxury cruise liner. But ship's doctor Della Walsh is the exception. Her dignified beauty ignites Luke's desire despite his suspicions. Even so, he will gain full control of the ship at all costs. 
For Della, the ship has been a sanctuary. Now she has just three weeks to change Luke's mind and save the ship—until passion comes along and steers them off course….

***Lory Lee is the winner.  Please email***

Saturday, October 19, 2013

PUT UP YOUR DUKES by Jenny Gardiner

I think I owe an apology to my fellow pugilists in boxing class at the gym. My Type A mentality appears to have seeped into the otherwise collegial group and launched a lamentable trend (though I could argue where better for Type A behavior to infiltrate than in an aggressive pursuit like boxing?). It wasn't on purpose. Or I should say it wasn't overtly intentional. Mostly it arose from a purely maternal instinct, if one can have maternal instincts when it comes to hitting something with your fists, even if it is with hot pink gloves. You see, before I got all territorial in boxing, no one ever claimed a bag. People would show up and mill about the room, chatting while wrapping their hands. After warm-up, they'd migrate to a bag, depending on who was in the class. But then I came along. And persuaded my daughter to start boxing too. But she was often late to class, coming right from work, and I wanted to share a bag with her, so I had the brilliant idea to just drop our gloves when I got to class in front of one of the bags, which would indicate that two people would be on that bag. I suppose the fact that the gloves were pink automatically sent the men running to a separate bag. I'm fairly certain the idea of anything but traditional black boxing gloves is anathema to any man worth his salt. Dirty secret: this certainly worked to our advantage, because it's actually harder to punch on a bag with a guy who is pounding the thing with far more power. So pink gloves meant the guys would seek out another bag to reserve. Honestly, I didn't claim the bag in order to be territorial. I just wanted to ensure that she and I could box together. How would I know that people would pick up on the trend and start dropping their gloves first thing on their own bag of choice? For that matter, who knew there even were bags of choice? But now, when the doors open for class, people beeline to the spots where the bags aren't even out yet, at the ready, staking their home for the next 60 minutes, marking their territory, like a good fighter should. So maybe I've done them all a favor. Perhaps I was somehow answering that call of the wild that is deep down in us all, that need to have that fire hydrant with which you can do whatever you damn well please. Damn that reptilian part of my brain! And I'll try not to flinch at the irony of my staking out a bag so that my daughter and I could punch together. Talk about genteel familial bonding! It would probably be wiser to bond over shopping, though that too can become an aggressive pursuit, if a sale is especially good (think Thanksgiving night at WalMart). Now one might argue that this spot-saving thing is rooted in a childhood in which I had to stake my claim or not get it. Growing up with three brothers, well, I'd have been much better off with a nice set of (pink) boxing gloves, frankly. Then I could have put those boys in their place from the get-go, ensuring never having to fend for myself. It's a shame that rears its ugly head in the most unexpected of places. Though it's a little fitting to create a potential battleground in a boxing class full of pugilist wannabes. I can only hope it doesn't come down to fisticuffs to determine primacy on the bag at some point. At least we're armed with the right equipment. For that matter, at least I didn't do this in yoga. Though, come to think of it, attendees can get pretty jabby with the elbows when the yoga doors open, all clamoring to get their mat in just that perfect spot. Maybe I need to bring my hot pink gloves next time I'm in yoga, just in case… I'm just hoping my spot on the bag isn't eclipsed by some young turk who's taken advantage of my absence from the class while I'm away this month. After all, while I've developed a pretty mean right hook in that class, I'd rather not have to actually use it.

  Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Slim to None

Anywhere But Here

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

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

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

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

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

Naked Man On Main Street
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Christina Hollis...My All-Action Hero

My father Ned was an inspiration to many people young and old, so here's a little taster of his life – in more ways than one.

The second of four children, Dad was a star pupil at his local school. He left at fourteen to become apprentice gardener on a private estate, earning just ten shillings (50 pence, or 81 cents) a week. Signing up for World War Two at the age of nineteen, his army career was uneventful until he was involved in protecting the factories of Coventry. On 14th November 1940, a notorious bombardment reduced the city to rubbleIn June 1944, Dad was part of the D-Day landings.  All his life, he was a  real “people person” and his experiences abroad meant he brought back loads of great stories. As he worked his way through occupied territory, he developed a love for the Dutch in particular.  The winter of 1944/45 was foul, and all the locals were starving. Despite that, they went out of their way to make Dad and his mates welcome. 

Dad was nearly 73 by the time his last child flew the nest.  That gave him plenty of time to run errands and do odd jobs for those he called "the old folk". Even into his eighties, he said he still only felt middle aged! Dad always had a huge appetite (yet stayed as slim as a whip, grrr...) so when we left home it meant he soon learned to cook because Mum never did that sort of thingOne of his most successful recipes is just right for this season of mist and rain. Here’s "Ned Beeton's Receipt", exactly as he proudly wrote it down for me.  We added the "Beeton" when we found out what a star he was in the kitchen.

By diekatrin [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Diekatrin
You'll need:

1lb braising steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon flour
three-quarters of a pint of beef stock (from a cube is fine)
6 oz small onions or shallots, peeled.
8oz potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice.
4oz carrots, sliced
3 sticks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
1 big teaspoon made mustard
salt & pepper
chopped parsley

Heat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F

Brown the meat in the oil, then sprinkle the flour over the contents of the pan. Cook, stirring, until everything is light brown.
Gradually stir in the stock. Add all the other ingredients and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring continuously.
Place the stew in a casserole dish, cover it with a lid and cook until the meat is tender, which can be up to two hours.
Garnish with chopped parsley.
By Man vyi
Dad was a mad-keen gardener, and always enjoyed a good laugh. One year, he grew a monster pumpkin. Carving it in secret in his shed, he had the bright idea of trying it out for size. Guess what? Once he put it on his head, he couldn’t get it off again! The eye-holes weren’t in the right place, so he couldn't see a thing. He had to feel his way out of the shed, and back to the house. Extracting him from his vegetable prison took a very long time, because we were all laughing so much! 

Has any member of your family ever done anything outrageous?

For more recipes and to see a complete list of Christina's published books, visit