Friday, February 28, 2014

Kim Boykin: The Perfect Man

So what make the perfect man? Let’s examine gorgeous, restaurateur, Beck Hartnett, the hero in my latest novella, STEAL ME, COWBOY. And don’t worry, Beck, we’ll be gentle.

I don’t know about you, but I like my hero’s tall, and to be honest, I’ve yet to read a romance that began, “He was incredibly short…” Of course there are scads of lovely short men in real life, but we are talking fiction here.

I don’t have a preference for body type, but I like ‘em as “lean and muscled” as the next girl. As both a reader and a writer, I like to know how my hero’s jeans fit, where they hang on his hips, and again, we’re going for the lean hips. I have to believe if men read more romance novels, relaxed fit jeans would be a thing of the past. And would that really be such a bad thing?

Hair’s important in romance and says a lot about our hero. I’m a sucker for long hair and Beck pulls it off with hot cowboy look when he wears his down. And, Lord, have mercy, when it’s pulled back, you know he’s getting ready to woo his woman, Rainey Brown, with otherworldly food and wine.

I like my heroes to have a healthy attitude about their heroine’s eating habits. I haven’t read a romance yet that said, “He looked at her plate and said, “You’re not really going to eat all of that, are you?” No, our perfect man wants to meet all of our heroine’s needs, and always seems to understand the true meaning of comfort food.

Last but not least, one of the things I love most about Beck Hartnett is his sense of humor. Funny is sexy. Smart. And Beck has that in spades. So, what’s your idea of the perfect man? Do you like ‘em dark and brooding?  Is a rich hero in a story more interesting to you than a guy with a good job and a 401K? Do you like ‘em outdoorsy? Tough? Suave and refined?

***Kim's winner is Sherry Lilly! Please email with your mailing details. Thanks!***

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lacey Baker: There’s No Place Like Home

Whenever I leave for vacation, no matter where I go or how long or short the vacation turns out to be, I am always in a hurry to return home. It’s weird because I know instantly when I need to get away and plan all sorts of fun trips for me and my family. We countdown the days until we leave and are extremely excited when we get to wherever our destination is. Then I begin another countdown—the one to go home.

            I’ve always wondered why that is and the simple answer is, there’s no place like home. So when my editor approached me about writing a small town series where siblings return to their hometown after their grandmother’s death, I immediately gravitated to the idea. Usually, I like to formulate story ideas on my own, but family is such a huge deal for me that this one clicked instantly.

            Sweetland, Maryland is a fictional town, built on very real elements, such as a quaint Eastern Shore community and a family rooted in love and tradition. The Cantrells, like so many families, have had their issues to deal with over time—the perfect son marries a not-so-perfect woman who is anything but maternal and actually despises the town and the family she’s built there. As a result the children are also in a hurry to leave Sweetland once they’re old enough. Before she knows it the grandmother is left in Sweetland, alone. Coming home for each of the six siblings is hard, but necessary. Facing the demons that they’ve carried with them all these years is another matter entirely.

            It can be hard to believe that a place could make facing fears, healing from old wounds, and simply moving forward in life possible, but there it is. Pliny the Elder said, “Home is where the heart is.” How true that is. How many times have you had an awful day at work and the hours seemed to drag on and on, and then it’s finally time to leave and you head home? There may be problems to deal with there as well, but you’re infinitely more comfortable, more at ease and all those problems and even the bad day you had suddenly doesn’t seem that awful. Isn’t it wonderful to have a place like that to return to?

            The Cantrell men—Quinn (Homecoming, Now Available), Preston (Just Like Heaven, Now Available) and Parker (Summer’s Moon, August 2014)—have all come home. They’ve made their peace with their past and are now focused on their futures. Without the foundation laid by Mary Janet Cantrell, their grandmother, there would not have been a home for them to come back to and making their way through their obstacles may have been just a little harder. I for one, am very pleased, that they had the town of Sweetland with all its quirky citizens and lessons to be learned to fall back on. Now, we’ll just have to see if the Cantrell sisters—Raine, Savannah and Michelle—will also use their homecoming to find love and happiness in their future.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lainey Reese: Innocence Defied / Before The Dawn


Instead of trying to come up with some big fancy introduction, how about I just say that I am so thrilled to have been invited here. I hope that we can have a lively and intense discussion on all things romance-not just my books-but ALL books.

In my books the steam level is volcanic. The hotter the better as far as what I'm writing and what I'm reading. But, there has got to be a plot that puts heart and soul behind all the steam. I think that distinction that is why I have a problem with people calling romance smut. Or porn.

Porn is just sex. Emotionless, dry and cold. About as erotic as a pap-smear. Now, there are some erotic films I've seen that blow me away and what every one of them have in common is that the emotions come through. The passion is warm and alive rather than cold and anatomical.

So? What are your thoughts when someone calls the book you are reading porn or tries to condemn you for
reading it? Are you one of those bold and bright ladies that smirks because you know what you like and the heck with what anyone else thinks?

Or do you get defensive and want to educate their narrow mindedness with the full beauty and depth that a good romance can deliver?

People's reactions are all over the board when they are confronted with romance prejudice and I would love to hear your thoughts on this because it is a topic that hits oh so close to my heart.

Excerpt from Before The Dawn, (upcoming release):

Chapter One

October, seven years ago, Washington State University
"Oh.  My.  God!" Ziporah squealed as only an eighteen year old college freshman on date night could squeal.  "Cami you look so freakin' hot!  You are going to knock this guys socks off."
Cami turned a lovely pink and smiled at her as she executed a quick turn. She was dressed in a white linen dress that sported a delicate floral pattern, fluttery cap sleeves and complimented the curvy blondes figure beautifully.  She was soft and round in all the right places and Ziporah, who was normally perfectly happy with her own svelte figure, allowed herself a sigh of envy.  "Honestly, Cami, what I wouldn't give for a rack like that."
The rack in question was partially on display and flushed a becoming pink at the comment.  "Wow, Z," Cami stammered, covering her chest with hands that shook just a little.  "Should I wear a sweater?  Do you think it's too low?"
Z laughed, "No.  You idiot.  It's not too low and if you try to hide under one of those god awful bulky sweaters I swear I'm going to burn them all."
Ziporah walked up to Cami and turned her to face the mirror they had hung on the back of the bathroom door in their dorm room.  She slid her fingers through the thick honey hued curls before resting her chin on her rommies shoulder.  "You are stunning.  You are Aphrodite and Venus and Marilyn Monroe and every other sex goddess there is.  And you don't have to hide.  You're beautiful and smart and funny and if this guy has half a red blood cell in his body he's going to be on his knees and following you around like a puppy dog for the rest of his life."  Her slender tan arms wrapped around Cami from behind and gave her a big squeeze.
The two had only been roommates since the end of August right before registration.  Even so, before the first box had been unpacked they were friends.  They had made an instant and deep connection that neither of them had even tried to slow down or deny. 
They were complete opposites.  Ziporah was pre law, while Cami was studying music.  Cami was a soft, round, blond from a small town and shy to the point of phobic.
Ziporah was a tall, slender, brunette raised in wealth and privilege.  She had what her half Jewish grandmother had called chutzpah, and she had it in spades.
The differences in each other delighted and drew the other and the two of them were inseparable from day one.  They squabbled over little things like Z's messiness and Cami's need of a minimum of twelve hours sleep. They text during their classes, took all their meals together and never questioned the bond that they felt would last for the rest of their lives.
"I still can't believe I'm going on a date.  I'm so nervous I think I'm gonna boot."  Cami's hand fluttered to her tummy and held there.
"Don't you dare." Z admonished with a scowl.  She knew from firsthand experience that was no empty threat.  Cami's shyness and nerves shown themselves in just such a revolting way more than once in these last months.  "You got nothing to worry about.  This guys is H. O. T. and he looks at you like you were made of candy. "
Z gave her a wicked smile, "Speaking of which...are you gonna let him have a lick?  Or a bite?"
Cami's blush got brighter and she shoved away from Z with a grunt and an exasperated smile.
"Hey, just because you're a ho-bag don't try to make me one too." She grumbled without bite.
"At least I'm not a dried up old spinster at only eighteen."  When Z, who had lost her virginity to the captain of the football team behind the bleachers at sixteen the way all good cheerleaders should, found out that Cami had been so shy she'd barely let boys kiss her, she made it her mission in life to get her friend laid. 
Just as Cami opened her mouth to retort, there was a knock at the door and her mouth closed with an audible pop. 
Z gave her hair a final fluff and a wink to bolster her then turned to open the door.  Mark Wahlberg stood on the other side.  Not as cute as the movie star he shared the name with, but definitely cute. Blond way hair.  Blue eyes.  A perfect melt your heart smile with straight white teeth and since he was here on a wrestling scholarship, covered in muscles that made both teenage girls hearts flutter. 
Z cocked her hip and put a hand on it for show as she sighed, "Oh the babies you two would make."
"Z!" Cami turned fire engine red and smacked her nearest and dearest in the arm so hard she almost toppled over.  Z laughed and rubbed her arm.  "Just sayin'.  Sheesh."
Mark laughed quietly.  "She doesn't bother me, Cami.  You look great."  He smiled slow at her and sent her an equally slow wink.  Z snickered as she watched the effect it had on her friend.  She seemed to melt where she stood then smoothed her skirt and headed toward the door.  Z laughed like a loon when Cami whispered, "Maybe just one bite." as she passed her on the way.

Twelve thirty at night and Ziporah had gone beyond worried to scared.  Mark had picked her up at six sharp.  They were only going to dinner; nothing else had been planed since they both had classes the next day.  Maybe she was just being a mother hen, but the Cami she knew was no night owl and wilted after ten o'clock.  She also would never, under any circumstances go all the way on a first date no matter how cute the boy was, so the late hour was really bugging her.  Z picked up her cell and sent off  the fifth text of the evening.  It's super late C.  U gotta call or at least txt. Worried about you grl.

Two  A.M. rolled around and Ziporah was frantic.  And pissed.  She was going to kick the crap out of someone.  Whether it was Mark or Cami had yet to be seen, but someone was getting an ass whooping.  She was just shrugging into her jacket, having no clue where she was going to go to look for them but needing to look anyway, when the door finally opened.
"It's about fu..." Her words tailed off in shock at the sight in front of her.  Z's mouth just hung open while her brain tried to make sense out of what she saw.
A mess of a girl stood silhouetted in the doorway.  Hair that had been shiny and full of bouncing curls, was muddy and hung in limp clumps.  The bright and blushing face that had smiled as she walked out of this room was bloody, bruised and swollen beyond recognition.  Her lovely dress was as muddy as her hair and looked as though it had been fed through a shredder.  Even Cami's legs were destroyed, covered in bloody scratches, skinned knees and bare filthy feet.
All this registered in seconds but those seconds seemed to last a lifetime for them as Z brought her horrified eyes back to meet Cami's devastated stare. 

"He hurt me Z." 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Debra Kayn: Why Do I Write Bikers?

The big question from everyone is, "Why do I write bikers?"  

I usually smile, because I've always known bikers. Readers always seem surprised to find out that my life was cool even before Sons of Anarchy showed up as a weekly television show.

I learned to ride my first motorcycle at four years of age. My dad and all my brothers rode, and being the only girl didn't stop me from wanting to ride too. So, at four years old, I decided to twist the throttle and leave my dad (who was walking beside me while I sat on the bike) behind as I rode his motorcycle down the street by myself. Then I met my husband, and bikes have always been a part of our lives. It's normal to have a motorcycle in the basement or in our living room, instead of the garage. It doesn't hit me that it might not be normal, until I have company over.

As for writing about bikers, I wrote my first biker romance series back in 2008. I was a new author, bending to the influence of what was popular, and wrote what everyone expected in a biker series. It's adorable, romantic, and very mainstream. The series has seen two publishers and still available today.

But, I had reached a point in my career where I had gained a lot of readers, published over 20 books, and decided that I needed to write what I love, what is a part of my everyday life. That's how the Bantorus MC series came about. I let my fictional bikers be the men I know in real life,  who talk the way bikers talk, act the way bikers act, love the woman in their life the way I've seen and experienced, and though they might be too alpha, too strong, too stubborn, and a little bad…club and family is about real life. It's about my life.

In Debra Kayn's newest biker romance novel, Torque Kendler, Sergeant at Arms of Bantorus MC fights to keep his past hidden, while protecting the one woman who's capable of bringing chaos down on Pitnam out of desperation and love.

Torque Kendler, Sergeant at Arms of the Bantorus Motorcycle club, tenaciously safeguards his marked past. Shot twice by Los Li and nearly killed last year, he wants to hold on to the familiar and retain his freedom. However, there are too many changes happening in Pitnam for him to trust anyone…especially the new chick managing the bar that's giving him attitude and consuming his thoughts.

Sent by Los Li to work at a biker bar called Cactus Cove, Brandy Haas expects to get the information she came for and save her dad from the Mexican mafia. Worried about her dad, struggling at her job, and scared of failing again, she adds to her problems by lusting after the most dangerous biker in the MC. One biker, one hothead, one wonderful gift Torque unknowingly gives her could destroy everything she's trying to protect.

Top Selling Romance Author, Debra Kayn, lives with her family at the foot of the Bitterroot Mountains in beautiful Idaho. She enjoys riding motorcycles, playing tennis, fishing, and creating chaos for the men in the garage. 
Her love of family ties and laughter makes her a natural to write heartwarming contemporary stories to the delight of her readers. Oh, let's cut to the chase. She loves to write about REAL MEN and the WOMEN who love them.
When Debra was nineteen years old, a man kissed her without introducing himself. When they finally came up for air, the first words out of his mouth were…will you have my babies? Considering Debra's weakness for a sexy, badass man, who is strong enough to survive her attitude, she said yes. A quick wedding at the House of Amour and four babies later, she's living her own unbelievable romance book.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Help! I've Forgotten and I Can't Recall! by Jenny Gardiner

            Yeah, I know, sort of a lame take on the iconic 1990's television commercial featuring an elderly gal with a medical emergency who urgently needed assistance with her feeble self. Thanks to "Life Call," she had someone who was able to prop her up, and all was well.
            So far I'm not in need of Life Call to rescue me from a frail bone-related fall, but I am in dire need of some sort of life call to save me from an increasingly enfeebled brain. They say the mind is the first to go, and my memory--which until recently I'd successfully prodded into action with a regular machine-gunning of reminder alerts on my iCal each day--has taken a day at the beach and decided it doesn't want to return just yet, if ever.
Thus, I have placed practically my entire memory in the evidently disabled hands of my MacBook's iCal, which it seems has aged in dog years itself and is failing in its own wretched memory to remind me of all that I can't help but forget. Two operating systems ago, my iCal reminders worked regularly, even though I overloaded the application with unrealistic demands: most every function of my day popped up to remind me to do it, short of basic hygiene functions such as "remember to brush teeth." So many demands that while it reliably reminded me, it also crashed constantly. So I upgraded to a new operating system and the failures became rampant. My reminders would pop up for one event, but not for the next. But I'd not remember to check my calendar to see what it was forgetting to remember. The next upgrade failed me even more. I'm a victim of the memory of both me and my fail-safe computer, failing all over the place.
Since my calendar can't even remember to remember, I'm holding out hope they soon come out with helper dogs for failing memories.
I felt a little relieved after chatting with my friend Tana the other day on the phone while she was preparing to leave for the gym. As she was talking on speakerphone, I heard water running in the background.
            "Don't worry, I'm not going to the bathroom," she said. "I'm just filling up my water bottle."
Well, of course any woman with good girlfriends knows that occasionally we all happen to race into the loo while on the phone—it's a hazard of friendship. So I just laughed and told her it wouldn't have mattered regardless. We talked for a minute more when suddenly Tana stopped.
"Oh, crap. Where's my water bottle?" she asked.
As if defining my dilemma for my own affirmation, she did what I regularly do: forgot the simplest of things in the shortest period of time imaginable. It's what we do best. All day long. And fight it with the meager tools at our disposal to keep us from having to purchase ear horns and walkers and resign ourselves to our dwindling age and capabilities.
The other day I suffered the hat trick of memory shortcomings. First, I lost my reading glasses in the time it took to swap out shirts. A few minutes later, I became vexed because I couldn't find the enormous pile of tax information it had taken me an entire day to find, which I'd then put somewhere I'd know where to find it. Shortly thereafter, I needed to recall the brand of car I'd rented a few days earlier, as I wanted to be sure we didn't consider it while shopping for a new car. I'd made a point of remembering the brand. To no avail.
And that's the thing. I'm always putting things where I know I'll remember them. And rarely do. I walk to a food cabinet while fixing dinner, forgetting in six short steps what I'd gone there to retrieve. I wake at 3 a.m. with brilliant ideas, but don't want to wake completely to write them down, certain I'll recall by dawn. Never do. Yet then I wake up in the middle of the night over mundane things, like forgetting to soak black beans for dinner, only to not be able to sleep, recalling everything I need to remember to do that I haven't done and worry that I won't remember to do it. I leave notes everywhere, only to not know where the notes are. I record reminders on my phone. Only to forget to listen to them later.
Maybe life's pressing needs are actually squeezing my brains dry. Sounds like I could use a good vacation.
A conversation between me and Tana these days goes something like this:
"Did you hear about, oh, what's her name? Long brown hair, lives up that narrow mountain road."
"Yeah, the gal with six kids?"
"Exactly. And that dog that smells like death. Her husband played in a band when he was in college—"
"Oh, what is her name? It begins with a P, doesn't it?"
"It rhymes with my mother's middle name, I think."
"What's your mother's middle name?"
"Nothing rhymes with Amanda. But anyhow, we'll think of her name. But did you hear--they're getting a divorce."
"No! I always knew he was up to no good."
"Who? Her husband?"
"Yeah. What's his name?"
Well, you get the idea. We have all the minutiae committed to memory but the barebones facts have evaporated from our gray matter, by some brain-fog that has settled over our memories, doomed to cloak our thinking and force us into some Sherlock Holmesian effort to recall. Our trail of deduction requires mental bloodhounds, and it seems as if our dogs have got up and went.

"Between the two of us we have a brain," Tana said. And she's right. Which makes me think maybe I need to simply be paired up with someone, 24/7, from here on out. Because clearly at this point two heads must be better than one.

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

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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Title Game

       I was recently interviewed by our regional newspaper in preparation for a library event that was featuring 3 romance authors talking about our books, writing and all things romance and publishing. The journalist, who also covers very hard-hitting stories like political corruption, seemed to be having a fun time during the interview which made me very nervous about the outcome. He did have a great sense of humor as the article showed, but he was very surprised about one thing in romance novel publishing -- that authors have little or no control over coverart and TITLES. 

      And I know that readers are sometimes surprised by that, too. Most long-time readers are aware of that, but it's hard for most people to imagine that the person who creates the work has little or nothing to do with what it's called or how it's presented to the public. 

     It was a hard fact of writing-and-publishing life that I had to learn. . . and learn quickly! 
     I started out keeping my first title - A Love Through Time - but not my second one. Kept the third and fourth and then it went downhill from there! My 50% keeper rate continues to drop steadily.... DISHONORED-FORBIDDEN - BETRAYED became The Dumont Bride, The Norman's Bride and The Countess Bride. (Bride titled books sell really really well among Harlequins - LOL!)  Taming The Beast became Taming The Highlander, Tempting the Viking became Surrender to the Highlander and The Peacemaker's Bride (LOL) became Possessed by the Highlander. (Highlanders sell really, really, really well everywhere!) 

  So now, I simply call my books by a working title -- like MacLeries - Book 3 or Warriors of Destiny - book 1. And yes, it did backfire on me once -- I was calling my work-in-progress by the honorary title of the heroine who was the eldest daughter of the MacDougal clan -- she was and is referred to as 'The Maid of Lorne'. My editors liked that one and it stuck when I was expecting to have to change it...actually planning to! 

  And it hasn't only been with my Harlequin titles -- my Kensington STORM series all were changed...and the last one changed several times...ending with Mistress of the Storm...and then they had to change to cover to match the title...! LOL! 

   Really, the bottomline about titles (and covers) is that their purpose is to attract a potential reader's attention and drag them over to browse the book - whether in a store or online. Sometimes, they match the story perfectly and other times, well, not so much. So the next time you think a title or cover doesn't match or doesn't work, remember, the author may have been the only one not involved in it! 

    BTW - There is an exception -- now that many authors are self-publishing, they ARE in charge -- for good or bad! Everything is under their control...including titles and covers. I recently republished my first time travel romances with new covers -- so the first book went from this:                                                      
 To this:

  What do you think? 

   Did you know that authors don't always choose their titles or covers? Do you like the newer, longer titles that seem to be out there now, or do you prefer shorter ones? Any titles that are your favorites? 

Terri is now working on the first book in her WARRIORS OF DESTINY series for NAL and is thrilled that her May book (print release April 17th) YIELD TO THE HIGHLANDER will be a FEATURED AUTHOR edition at many retailers!  Stop by her website or watch her FB profile or page for lots more info! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cynthia Eden - Controlling the Muse

Hello, everyone! It’s a pleasure to be chatting with you today (a big thanks to Lee for inviting me over!). Today, I want to talk about one of the most important aspects of the writing life—managing the “muse”.  By muse…well, I’m talking about that powerful burst of inspiration that is supposed to strike while you write. The source of your ideas. The driving power behind those written words. 

Inspiration…creativity…the muse.

I’m going to be very blunt now…in order to be a successful writer, I cannot wait for inspiration to strike. I can’t just go about my daily life, hoping the muse will be friendly and perky and give me good ideas.

I have to make my muse work. Every single day, I have to sit in front of my computer and type.  I have deadlines to meet. Stories waiting. I can’t indulge a muse who wants to be temperamental. I have to control my inspiration. I have to control my own stories.

So how do I handle a fickle muse? How do I beat writer’s block so that I can get down to the fun business of writing? Well, here are a few tips that have helped me over the years:

1.       Switching POV. If I’m writing a scene, and that scene just is NOT working, then something is wrong (obviously!). But often, the “wrong” part is that I’m trying to show the story from the wrong character’s POV. By switching to a different character, I’m able to open up a whole new writing aspect—and I can get my muse moving.

2.       Store up ideas! Okay, I often think of this as my “Saving for a Rainy Day” plan.  Sometimes, story ideas come to me—one right after the other. But I can’t always stop what I’m doing and launch into a new story. So I write down bare-bones outlines of those story plans. I save them in a Word file, and, when I am stumped for a new story…I just open up that file and get to work. Instant ideas. 

3.       Different scenes, different times.  I’ve found that my muse can be particularly stubborn when I first begin a new book. It’s as if she is uncertain…(okay, I’m uncertain!). To deal with this situation, I often write a few alternative scenes—different openings as I test the waters. When I get an opening scene that flows—I mean those words are coming like crazy!—then I stick with that story.  I write until I have a smoking keyboard. ;)

I’m sure we all have ways of dealing with a stubborn muse, and if you want to share your tips, I’d love to hear them!  I’ll giveaway one autographed copy of BURN FOR ME to a random commenter.    For the non-writers who might be checking out this post…you can enter the giveaway, too!!  Just leave a comment or a question, and you’ll be entered in the giveaway. 

In the end, I think it comes down to this…if you want to write, then you HAVE to sit down, start typing, and you must take control of your muse.  Good luck with your stories!

Cynthia Eden

BURN FOR ME – Available now from Kensington Publishing 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lexi Blake: Writing Brit

Anyone who has read my Masters and Mercenaries series knows that I have a thing for Bond. Yes, as in Bond, James Bond. When I began the series in 2011 with The Dom Who Loved Me, I set out to marry two genres of entertainment I dearly love—romance and Bond films.

In some ways, Dungeon Royale is the absolute pinnacle of what I set out to do. The main character, Damon Knight, is an actual MI6 (or SIS as he would call himself) 00 agent. I’ve previously set other Masters and Mercenaries books in exotic locales like London and Russia and India, but Dungeon Royale is the first time I have two British leads. Liam O’Donnell from A Dom is Forever is Irish, but he’s spent the majority of his adult life in the states, so he doesn’t count. I wanted to bring Damon Knight and his heroine, Penelope Cash, to life in a realistic way when it came to their language.

That proved to be a challenge because Brits might speak English, but not the way we do.

I’ve spent a bit of time in England, but I rapidly discovered that writing like a Brit is harder than it sounds. Cursing is very different and requires intent as well as proper words. Brits use words differently than we do and figuring out the differences between arse, ass and bum was a spectacular challenge. I won’t even go into what happened when I tried to use the word fanny pack. Fanny doesn’t even enter into the aforementioned backside challenge of words. Fanny apparently means girl parts and I was told not to put a pack over those.

It got even worse when I brought in an Aussie. I found a book of Aussie slang and thought I had it made. My favorite Aussie phrase? Go put hot cocky cack in your eye. No idea what it meant, but it sounded so fun to me. It did not sound fun to my Aussie writer friend who stared at me and asked where I’d dredged up something like that. She also vetoed “You’ve got a few loose ‘roos in your upper chamber, mate.” Again, the Fiona stare and then the question. “You do know that Crocodile Dundee was back in the eighties, luv? Right?”

So it was back to the drawing board.

All in all I deeply enjoyed my foray into Brit speak. I hope I captured the flavor, the precise sexiness a James Bond character should have. I have to thank all my friends from across the pond and down under.

Dungeon Royale releases on February 18th.

Please comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of any of Lexi’s books – either e-book or paperback. Two winners will be chosen at random.

Lexi Blake writes contemporary romantic suspense and her latest novel, Dungeon Royale, releases today at Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Got ghosts? By Cat Devon

After writing about ghosts in my latest vampire romance, LOVE YOUR ENTITY (out now), I’m often asked if I believe they really exist.  The answer isn’t a simple yes or no for me. I do think spirits exist and that there are instances that can’t be explained.

The next question I get is usually, have I ever seen a ghost. Not exactly. I’ve been on a Chicago area ghost tour and found the stories intriguing. We visited several locations including a cemetery. But I didn’t sense anything out of the ordinary.

However when I visited Tintern Abbey in Wales, I could feel the spirits there even though the only thing left were a few walls and no roof. King Henry VIII had destroyed the abbey. I had the sense there was something present. If only the walls could talk…

The same has happened at other historic places like Savannah, Georgia where the portrait of a woman in a historic house stopped me. It was as if I knew her. And then there was the Oak Alley plantation where I sensed something in the mansion and also on the grounds where we stayed overnight. Spooky stuff, hmm?

 My top three ghosts in the entertainment world are these:

3) THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR – love his accent and her spunkiness.

2) Annie in the BBC version of BEING HUMAN. She loves making tea even if she can’t drink it herself and she’s very protective of the vampire and werewolf who share the house with her.

1) Patrick Swayze in GHOST. That pottery making scene, their hands intertwined, the sound of UNCHAINED MELODY playing. Sigh.

I had such fun writing about Ruby the ghost in my book LOVE YOUR ENTITY. While she said some great lines, there were also emotional moments and I actually cried while writing the final scene with her.  
What about you?  Do you believe in ghosts or spirits?  Yes, no or maybe?  Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of my new book!

Love Your Entity:
All Sierra Brennan has to do to inherit her great-uncle’s house is reside on the premises for thirty consecutive days.  A piece of cake, even with the rumors the house is haunted. After all, as a ghost whisperer Sierra is no stranger to ghostly presences. However, Sierra wasn’t prepared for vampire Ronan McCoy.

Ronan spent the past century as an indentured vampire, and now that his freedom has been achieved he’s returned to his family home to free his sister from the curse put on her by Ronan’s sire. When Sierra walks through the door and refuses to leave, Ronan finds himself stuck with an unexpected complication.

Both Sierra and Ronan are far from pleased about the prospect of sharing the house, until the ghosts haunting it turn out to be both more than Sierra bargained for and the key to freeing Ronan’s sister from her curse. Sierra needs Ronan’s protection from the ghosts. Ronan needs Sierra’s help to save his sister. And then there's the sexual attraction between Sierra and Ronan...

Can a ghost whisperer find happiness with a vampire, or will their worlds collide and destroy them both?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Christina Brooke: Becoming a Hero the Hard Way

Hello everyone! Thank you very much to Lee for having me here today.

I'd like to chat today about what makes a hero. The title of this blog is taken from the wonderful children's series by Cressida Cowell, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

I'm talking about the books, not the movie, fun though the movie is.

Hiccup is a weakling amid a tribe of giant Vikings, where strength and physical courage are the only things his society values. His father loves him but he holds him in contempt, too. Physically, Hiccup is completely outclassed by everyone around him, particularly his cousin, Snotlout.

Hiccup is the son of the chief of the tribe, however, and there's a prophecy he has to fulfill-a Herculean labor-to unite all of the tribes as their king. So Hiccup becomes a hero the hard way, which is to say, he uses his brains to win the day. He makes hard choices that make him unpopular but he always does the right thing, even when he pays a heavy price.

So without any of the traditional trappings of physical strength, good looks or charm, Hiccup shows what being a true hero is all about.

This is such a rich, textured series, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Without in any way preaching, it shows children how to be good people and to stand up for what they believe in, even at great personal cost.

Now, of course we love our romance heroes big and strapping and handsome, but when I write about a hero, it's not those qualities alone that set him apart from the rest.

Honour and integrity are essential in any hero of mine. Marcus, Earl of Beckenham, in THE GREATEST LOVER EVER is big and muscular and gravely handsome-everything we love in our heroes! But he is also the kind of man who always does the right thing when the chips are down. During the story, his deep, almost obsessive love for my heroine Georgie tests his honour and he has to make a tough choice toward the end of the novel:

"Beckenham stood also, braced his hands on the table and leaned in. "Oh, yes. I'm cast as the noble fool in all our family dramas, am I not? The sort of prig who'd sacrifice everything, everyone he loves, for his honor."

Lydgate flung out a hand. "No one else shoved you in that role, Becks. You carved it out yourself, through sheer will and a deep-seated goodness that few of us can even pretend to. Look what you came from! Even that upbringing couldn't bend you or make you less than you were. Don't let her do this to you."

But Lydgate had it all wrong. Georgie would be just as horrified as Lydgate if she knew what he was about to do. The thought made him hesitate, but only for a second. Once he had eliminated Pearce's threat, they could be happy."

I'm pleased to say that Beckenham makes the honorable choice when it comes to the crunch, but the temptation to take what he wants no matter the consequences tests him sorely.

And what are heroes if not men who face the ultimate challenge and overcome?

Who is your idea of a great hero from fiction, movies or television? What qualities do you most admire in heroes?  I'm giving away a copy of THE GREATEST LOVER EVER to a commenter today! (USA and Australia only) 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Vikings: Life and Legend exhibit by Michelle Styles

As I love the Viking period, I am totally excited about the Viking exhibit which opens at the British Museum next month. I’ve booked my ticket and am really looking forward to seeing all the objects. That was even before my husband brought home the book of the exhibition which combines some of the latest research and thinking on the Vikings  -- Vikings: life and Legend ed. Gareth Williams.
The exhibit is the largest mounted  for the past 30 years and will be shown at the British Museum, the Museum of Berlin and the Danish National Museum. No word on if it will travel to the US. Among other things, it includes Roskilde 6 which is the largest Viking ship yet recovered. The tale of how the fragments were conserved was breath-taking. It took 15 years and included 48 months of vaccum freeze-drying in nine processes and more than 8,000 working hours so that it can be displayed in a way which makes sense. The conserved wood is mounted on a specially engineered steel frame so the sheer scale of the ship can be experienced. It is thought that Roskilde 6 was a royal ship and very brightly coloured when it was new. This ship was discovered when they were excavating for a new Viking Ship museum.
One of the more interesting facts from the book was about how some Vikings (predominantly in the East) not only sported tattoos  but also filed their teeth. The mere thought makes me wince.   There are reasons why the practice died out.
Teeth feature in much of the recent research because advances in isotype analysis allow archaeologists to discover where someone grew up. It is possible to tell  a bit more about what was actually happening and looking over large populations of skulls and skeletons to determine trends in the general population.
One of the big things that has happened is that Russia and the East have opened up. Under the Soviets, the Viking contribution to Russia was suppressed as  it was all supposed to be Slavic. The word Russia comes from Rus which is a word meaning from Scandinavia, primarily Sweden.  It is now clear that the Vikings did play a significant part in the development of Russia and some of the hordes and other objects are displayed in the exhibit for the first time in the West.
The other interesting bit that I learnt was about the current thinking about the Viking religion. Although some of the major gods and goddesses like Thor, Odin and Loki are familiar names, the actual religion is hugely opaque. Scholars are currently divided on whether or not the writing of the Eddas were an attempt to codify (and potentially discredit) the religion or not.  Much of what we know is contradictory.  It is now thought that the Norse religion might have been much looser and more localised. In other words, it is not like any of today’s world religions and was much more based on social behaviour and tradition.
One interesting aspect is the whole concept of  hamr and hugr or the Viking concept of the soul. There was a widespread belief about the ability to shape shift and that the outer human form or hamr was simply a vessel or shell for carrying the essence of hugr. They also believed that everyone had a fylgur or a follower spirit who would appear in dreams to warn of impending danger. They were inherited in families. Some of these aspects of Viking spirituality can still be found in Iceland. The conversion to Christianity was at time very violent and very political.
Anyway, the exhibit looks very exciting. There will be television programmes etc about the exhibition. You can learn more at the website but there will a live presentation of the exhibit  at cinemas across Britain (no idea about elsewhere) with Micheal Wood narrating on 24 April 2014

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods, including Viking. Her next novel Return of the Viking Warrior will be published in May 2014. You can read more about Michelle and her books on

Friday, February 14, 2014

Christina Hollis: It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year...
By Boston long as you're part of a couple. In England, they say that birds choose their mates on Valentine's Day, although our bird tables have been as busy as eHarmony for weeks now.  The  woman in this illustration looks as though she fancies giving the day a miss this year. Maybe it's got something to do with being left holding the babies!

Romance authors spend their time dreaming up ways of bringing fictional people together, despite all the odds. Considering the twists and turns in the original Valentine's story, today really ought to be a celebration of romance writers, too. Since Pope Galasius declared February 14th 496AD the first official Valentine's Day, there have been arguments over which of three possible candidates called Valentine he was honouring. As one of them was executed for performing marriages and fell in love with his jailer's daughter, the other two have been forgotten.  As "our" Valentine sent his girl a final love letter signed "from your Valentine", he became a posthumous winner in the romance stakes (not that it did the poor guy any good at the time).

I can still remember how it felt when a girl at school showed off the fist-full of cards she'd received.  Later, we found out she'd sent them all to herself. That made the rest of us feel a bit better but the fact is, not everyone who wants a card will get one. That doesn't bother the retailers, who make vast profits from it. Around a billion Valentine's Day cards are sent each year. That makes it the second biggest annual card-sending occasion, behind Christmas.

Coming soon...
So if your Valentine doesn't come up with the goods today, maybe they're waiting to make a spectacular gesture at a less commercial time. But just in case, lay in a supply of your comfort food of choice. Then you can retire to bed with the cookie dough/ice cream/chocolate until they get the message...

How will you be spoiling yourself, or one you love,  today? I'm offering a signed book from my backlist for your ideas. The winner will be a comment drawn at random on Tuesday, 18th February 2014.

Christina Hollis writes both contemporary and historical fiction - when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. You can catch up with her at, on Twitter and Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at