Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guest Bloggers Anah Crow and Dianne Fox - A “Walking Tour” of TATTERDEMALION


TRAMMEL, our brand new release from Samhain, is the second book in our Foundations of Magic series. (Check out the bottom of this post to find out how to enter for a chance to win a copy of TRAMMEL!) In talking about what readers might want to know about TATTERDEMALION before picking up TRAMMEL, we hit upon the idea of a “walking tour” of the places Lindsay and Dane go in TATTERDEMALION.

Like many other authors, even in our fantasy worlds, we do a lot of research so we can set our stories in real-world places. Foundations of Magic is urban fantasy, which makes that research even more important, as the world Dane and Lindsay live in is the real world, but with a twist.

So, without further ado, please join us as we give you the nickel tour!

When we meet Lindsay, he’s trapped in a place he calls “the Institute”. Dr Kennedy Moore has been performing horrible experiments on Lindsay for two years in her secret government laboratory. While there are (probably!) no magical experiments going on there, Lindsay’s “Institute” is, in fact, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C.

Later, after he escapes and meets Dane, Lindsay goes to Washington Square Park in New York City to practice his magic. He sits on the edge of the fountain and watches the NYU students wandering around. It’s a beautiful place, but things don’t go as planned.

When it becomes clear that Dr Moore’s experiments on Lindsay have had adverse affects on his magic, he and Dane are sent to Germany, to a reclusive mage who will help heal him.

Dane and Lindsay hike through the Black Forest for several days, coping with deep snowdrifts and deeper danger as a mage sent by Dr Moore is on their trail, intent on returning Lindsay to her.

After Germany, they head to Mexico, following the information they get from the mage in the Black Forest. In the dark back alleys of Cholula, as they hunt down what they need to help Lindsay, they run into a new threat. They barely escape in one piece and have to keep moving before Dr Moore picks up their trail.


Near the end of the adventure, Lindsay and Dane return home to New York, but before they can even get out of the airport, their enemies arrive to take Lindsay captive again...and this time they take Dane, too.

Their destination is Moore’s new laboratory, hidden in the basement of a military base right there in New York City. While we don’t name it explicitly in the book, that base is the Fighting 69th battalion of the Army National Guard.

Of course, they eventually find their way out...

Which leads to our new book, TRAMMEL. Here’s a sneak peak at one of the locations where Dane and Lindsay get up to trouble in their new story:

If you’re interested in winning a free copy of TRAMMEL, just comment below. We’ll choose one winner at random and post the name in the comments OF THIS POST on Thursday, June 2. Check back—if you’re the winner, we’ll need your email address to send you your new book!

Anah Crow and Dianne Fox have been writing together for years, in a variety of genres. You can find them at www.anahcrow.com, www.foxwrites.com, as well as anahcrow.livejournal.com and diannefox.livejournal.com. You can also find them on Twitter as @anahcrow and @diannefox, or sign up for their newsletter at http://www.foxwrites.com/newsletter.

Picture Credits:

Washington Square Park by Ed Schipul

Black Forest by David Blackwell

Cholula by Russ Bowling

Steel Pier by Holly Brown

Monday, May 30, 2011

Movie Madness: The Curse of the 3-D



This weekend, the DH and I were planning to take the kids to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It was a relatively free weekend, with only a few baseball/fastpitch practices scheduled and no tournaments or games. (Yes, our lives revolve around spring sports for a few months each year.)



So we figured we could take the kids to the early show, have a fun family outing, and be done in time for all-star tryouts in the late afternoon.



(Did I mention spring sports = no life? Yeah.)



Then I checked the movie listings. The first 2-D screening of the movie isn't scheduled until almost 2 pm, far too late for us to go. In fact, there are twice as many screenings of the 3-D version as the regular version.



I understand why the theaters push the 3-D version. Its the latest greatest, the new big deal, the shiny distracting thing. It's also the moneymaker, since they can charge more for tickets. Unfortunately, it's also losing its shine with the moviegoing public. Word is that more than 60% of ticket sales for POTC 4 were for the non-3-D version.



Personally, I can't do 3-D. I've tried, and every time I leave the theater nauseated and with a massive headache. And most of the time, I haven't been overwhelmed by the 3-D experience itself.



So we're skipping the movie, sad to say, and hoping we can squeeze it in another day before it leaves theaters altogether.



Do you have a preference when it comes to 3-D vs non-3-D? What's your take?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Juniper's Birthday Winner

Thank you so much to everyone who came to my birthday party and celebrated with me! My little nephew picked the winner ... who is ... *drumroll* ...

StacieDM!

Stacie, I'll be emailing you. I hope you enjoy Restraining the Receptionist!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Juniper's Birthday Party Giveaway





So today's my birthday. I'm turning *ahem* years old (sorry, got a little cough right now.) I'd like to invite you all to my party. It's going to be fabulous! I hope you'll join me at this private tropical beach...


Please help yourself to some cake ...















And a glass (or several) of champagne...












Enjoy a quick game of pop the balloon...


And then it's time for presents! Not for me, I'm too *ahem* old. But for you! All you have to do is wish me Happy Birthday, and you'll be in the running for an ARC of Restraining the Receptionist, which doesn't come out until June 14.


I'm tired of waiting, I want someone to read the darn thing, so the hell with it, it's my birthday, I'll give one away if I want to!

Happy Birthday to Me! And thanks for coming to my party!

Love, Juniper



Thursday, May 26, 2011

Love's Savage Whiplash Chapter Three: The Dread Highwayman...Colin?

Wherein a Highwayman loses his ferret and discovers ladies, Avon, and venison.


***

Even highwaymen needed vacations, decided the exhausted Dread Highwayman Westley. Especially when the days ran so close upon the feet of a loved one's death. He threw a rock into the stream, as he'd done on his first eve with Roberts. The highwayman had taught him everything he now knew—robbing carriages, saving damsels, even giving to the poor when the occasion warranted—and though the Dread Highwayman was loathe to admit such emotion, he missed the old chap.

“It's just you and me now, Brigid,” he said to his ferret. She chortled from upon his shoulder as he recalled happier times, of the long nights spent with a wench of the same name up on the coast of Ireland. He let his head sink down on his shoulder, sure none of the passing fishmongers or townspeople would notice a man in black keeping to himself by the riverside. Roberts had told him, “There's no crying in highway robbery,” but he felt tears prick his eyes nonetheless.

Brigid nuzzled his ear and then jumped into her basket, looking up at him with wet doe eyes. “Ah, Brigid, you're the only woman for me.” He scratched her delicate chin and almost laughed away his sorrows when she nibbled his little finger.

They had been traveling by horse night and day since Robert's funeral three days past. Something had drawn him to stay in this small town of...well, he wasn't sure where, Shropshire? Leeds? though he could not reckon why. But it was long past time for him to be off. Before he could gather up Brigid’s basket and mount, three men surrounded him, cutting off all avenues of escape.

Calm and collected, for he'd been in more dire circumstances before, Westley drew his sword.
“I don't think that will be necessary,” an oily voice said from behind the largest man, the one standing between him and his horse. And that was exactly where Westley pointed his sword.
A small, bald man appeared from behind the blackguard, holding Brigid's basket. And a knife to his dear ferret's throat. Fear choked him, but a highwayman never let it show. He put up his sword. “How may I be of assistance, good sir?”

A crooked smile curled the bald man's lips, evoking images of a gassy babe. “Now that we understand each other, I'd like to offer you employment.”

Westley straightened. “Do you oft do business at sword point?” His highwayman morals were offended at the thought.

“Why yes, I've found it quite efficient for having my way.” The man snapped his fingers and his brutes backed off. But his hand did not budge from poor Brigid, who was as still as could be. Westley knew she understood the gravity of the situation. “I am Willoughby Wickham the fourteenth and for your services, I can promise you riches beyond a,” he looked at Westley's patched getup with disdain, “a bandit's best dreams.”

Westley nodded for him to continue, too intrigued to be offended. He'd bet his best bandit's eye mask—the one that smelled of lavender, even—that if he followed this man's nefarious plot, there might be a damsel to save, and treasures to loot. “I shall assent, so long as no harm comes to my ferret.”

Mr. Wickham looked down at the basket with a sneer and removed the dagger. “For now. But she stays with my henchman until you can no longer make trouble. Come, into my carriage and I will tell you all about it on the way to Netherloin.”

***

For a man under duress, Westley enjoyed Wickham's proposition. Play the part of his dead nephew, marry a beautiful and wealthy woman, and live as the Duke of Earl. And all he had to do was split the wench's dowry 60-40. He'd gladly take 40% for Brigid, a woman, and a title. Imagine, a Bandit-Duke. Something from his murky past surfaced, its eyes poking up like the crocodiles of which Robert had told him, before sinking down into the depths.

He let the man talk of his intended's beauties, her dark hair, luscious bosoms, overflowing chests of gold, but Westley tuned him out, instead marveling at the simplicity of the countryside. He'd spent little time away from the cities in his tenure as apprentice to Robert, so the quaint charm truly was a novelty.

At last they reached the manor of Netherloin, into which he was hustled before getting a good look at it. Mr. Wickham brought him to a dank, dim room with one window high upon the wall. Brigid was taken elsewhere. One of the henchmen returned with haste, bearing a gilt-framed portrait of a young man. Wickham held it next to Westley's face, looking back and forth between the two.

“Well, he's not quite as handsome as the Duke, and he will need a haircut, but he'll pass,” Wickham said to the man standing guard at the door. He turned to Westley and continued, “You shall have free run of the property once we get you cleaned up. Your rat will stay with me until your obedience is assured.”

Westley jerked at the rat comment, but held his tongue. Anything to keep Brigid safe.
Wickham continued without a care. “You will have dinner tonight with your betrothed. Clothes will be brought to you, and though you are nothing more than a highwayman, I expect you to be on your best behaviour.” With a flourish, Wickham and his man left, leaving the portrait by the now-locked door.

Westley sat and stared at the likeness for hours on end, shocked to see his childhood face looking back at him. When his gaoler unlocked the door and gave him a change of clothes, he was too intrigued to try an escape. He now needed to see this through to the finish. Maybe it would lead to more information about his own youth, which he could not remember. Robert blamed it on his almost drowning, or having hit his head on a river rock. Either way, Westley, for the first time in two decades, felt the stirring need for answers.

***

Had he known that morning the true details of his betrothed, Westley may have run the other way. Lady Chastity Feelsgood would not stop touching him with her unctuous hands, not stop sniffing him and saying, “My Duke, you smell so rich.” She even once paused, soup spoon halfway to her mouth, to inquire whether she'd just seen his skin sparkle.

Mystified by her flighty words and hands, Westley—correction, now Colin—let his mind wander elsewhere. Though they were on the fourth course, it seemed as if dinner would never end. Especially when his Uncle Wickham was slurping his soup so and glaring at him between spoonfuls.

Chastity laid a hand upon his arm, and he looked to her once more. She had odd smudges around her eyes. “My lady,” he asked, trying for utmost delicacy, “whatever have you done to your eyes?” He reached a tentative hand out to touch the sooty skin.

She cooed and said, “Oh, do you like it? A Lady from Avon—we must live in Avon, I suppose, for she had not traveled far—brought these magical new beautifiers to sell.” She batted her eyes. “I wore them especially for you, my Duke.”

He smeared the grey powder between his fingers and delicately leaned back. “Well, I believe I'm ready for the next course.” He signaled the man standing in the corner, as he imagined a Duke would do. To his satisfaction, the man ducked through the kitchen door. Moments later, a serving woman appeared bearing a tray piled high with meaty delicacies.

Before he could enjoy his next course, a woman ran into the room. It was like the sun rising from behind clouds of venison. Westley—now Colin—could not help but notice how delicate and slim her feet were. How fine her figure. How beautiful her face! Combined with the heady smell of roasted meat, it was enough to make a man, Duke or robber, swoon.

She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever beheld. Golden hair cascaded down her back and sea green eyes boldly met his gaze. She had a smear of soot on her nose and he wondered if she bought the same product as Lady Chastity.

Regardless, he knew in that moment that nothing would satisfy his appetite except to have her as his wife.

“Miss Fitzgerald, why are you not with Ward?” his uncle snapped.

The lady curtsied and apologized. “I simply had a question about—”

“Do not bother me with that boy right now! Off you go. Shoo!” One hand full of knife and the other full of forked meat, his uncle waved the goddess out of the room.

He looked to the platter. For now, he would settle for venison. But not for long.

***

A Word to you, Our Dear and Gentle Readers: If you enjoyed this small offering, please do us the honor of returning to grace our humble blog with your presence one week hence, when we shall be delighted to bring to you the next installment of our little saga, which is to be entitled, Chapter Four: The Ninja, The Pirate, her Katana, and His...Urges?

And please partake of our Love’s Savage Contest. Leave a comment here or go to our Facebook page (link in the column on the right) and quote your favorite line from this week’s episode to be entered in a monthly drawing for a giftcard at the bookstore of your choice and a grand finale drawing for a signed e-reader cover.
Cordially,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summer in Small Towns






I grew up in a town of 600 people. And no stop lights. And only one of each business (ie, lumber yard, drug store, grocery store, hair salon... except that it had three bars-- oh, and four churches!)




And this is typical of small towns in Nebraska. My husband grew up in an even smaller town. (But they still had two bars. Right next to each other. And both did (still do) a great business. And three churches... I figure we're good as long as churches outnumber bars, right?).



But I digress... I love small towns and I write about them a lot. Only two of my currently published books are set in small towns (Just My Type and Anything You Want) but all of my most recent and current projects are.



I love small towns. I live in one now. It's twice the size of my hometown :) but I'm sure it still qualifies as small on pretty much anyone's scale. (and, yes, it has two bars-- 'cuz I know you were wondering).



I especially love summer in small towns. The kids outside playing back and forth between the connected yards, baseball games where all the kids in my son's class play on the same team, grilling out with our friends, margaritas on the deck with our neighbors (in spite of having more than enough bars), and, above all else, the annual town festival...


Ah, I'm so ready for summer to really start! My kids are out of school *today*-- so now it will be "official" for us! *G*



So what are some of your favorite summer activities or memories? Who here is also from a small town (now or in the past)? What do you love (or hate) about small town living? :)

And recently I wrote a short story that I based in a small Nebraska town and included a town festival (imagine that!). You can check it out here!


Happy summer everyone!


Erin

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Guest Blogger Leah Braemel - Deliberate Deceptions


*waves to Meg, Kelly, Kinsey, Skylar, Erin…oh heck, all the Nine Naughties* thanks to them all for inviting me to play in their sandbox. (Hmm, I originally typed that as “to play with them” but that has a whole different meaning for us erotica authors, doesn’t it?)

When I started writing Deliberate Deceptions, I knew my hero Chad was getting back together with his ex-wife Lauren. I also knew Lauren was just as kick-ass as he was—she had to be, she was a former FBI agent too. As I wrote the first draft, I found myself watching certain movies because their heroines had the type of qualities I wanted for my heroine. One movie was Mr. and Mrs. Smith, especially my favourite scene where Angelina Jolie (as Jane) is battling Brad Pitt (as John) and destroying their house in the meantime. (I love how they don’t have Brad’s character pulling any punches and fighting as down and dirty as Angelina’s character fights.) If you’ve watched the movie you’ll know that of the two characters, Jane is really the stronger of the two characters. She’s killed way more people (300+ to his 50), and where he fell in love with her right off the mark, she saw him as a mark. She’s a cool character, very calculating. I wanted some of that composure for Lauren.

There’s a line in Mr. and Mrs. Smith that stuck with me too:

Jane Smith: There's this huge space between us, and it just keeps filling up with everything that we *don't* say to each other. What's that called?
Marriage Counselor: Marriage. (I copied the quote from IMDB)

Since Lauren and Chad were once married, they’re intimately familiar with that huge space. That “what they don’t say to each other” is exactly what caused their marriage to fracture years before. In the first scene you discover Chad thinks everything is great. It’s not. Lauren isn’t telling him something she should have (for understandable reasons) and he soon does something that he doesn’t discuss with her first…from there it’s all downhill. Getting them to decide if that hill called marriage was worth climbing again was a hoot to write. I even wrote a scene (several actually) where they fight the way John and Jane do. Though Chad doesn’t end up with a knife in his thigh. *VBG*

The other movie that inspired me was Double Jeopardy, where Ashley Judd plays a woman wrongly convicted of murdering her husband. (The dirtbag set her up, took their son and disappeared, along with a ton of money he’d embezzled.) Ashley’s character has to survive years of prison and then sets out to find the dirtbag, prove her innocence and reclaim her son. I loved the scene where she realizes her husband is alive but cannot prove her innocence so she sets out to survive the rest of her years in prison and starts training both mentally and physically for every eventuality.

Though Lauren was drummed out of the FBI thanks to one of Chad’s decision, she’s stayed in the business. She’s always stayed in good physical shape, but the battle she faces to win Chad back is one requiring emotional strength. And that’s where Ashley’s character in Double Jeopardy was a fantastic influence. How many people could stay that mentally strong against the odds stacked against them like that?

It wasn’t an easy road for any of us – Lauren, Chad or even me as we tried to find a way to heal the ten years of miscommunication and deceptions that had kept them apart. But I think I managed. Thanks to Angelina and Ashley.

Blurb:
Chad Miller once had the perfect life—a beautiful baby daughter, a loving wife, a promising career with the FBI. Within a year, he’d lost everything. Making Hauberk Protection a success salvaged his career, but he’s never managed to get over the one fateful decision that spelled the end of his marriage. And the death of his child.

For eight years, grief and guilt have haunted Lauren Miller’s climb up the ranks of the Light Brigade, a secret international hostage rescue team. Now she’s the target of a vengeful ex-Brigade operative who’ll stop at nothing to take her down. Even if it means taking out everyone she cares about. Including Chad. Getting him to accept her as his bodyguard? It’ll take some fast talking—and faster hands.

Trapped in a remote safe house with Lauren is the last place Chad ever wanted to be. He may finally have the chance to get some answers about why she ran, but with his hard-won defenses crumbling, he’s having trouble remembering the questions. In the heat of their rekindled passion, Lauren struggles to keep her professional focus…and keep the secrets that could break his heart all over again.

Excerpt:
He hauled her to her feet, sliding one arm beneath her knee. He kissed her—there was nothing gentle about it. It was hard, demanding. The way she loved. His tongue thrust into her mouth, claiming every inch of her. He broke it off, moving instead to the side of her neck, finding the spot that had her sucking in her breath. She dropped her own mouth to the tender spot where his neck met his shoulder, nipping with her teeth, sucking, leaving her own mark on him, somewhere that would be hidden by his collar. Somewhere no one else would see, but she’d know it was there.

The smooth head of his cock slid between her folds. It brushed over her clit, and withdrew, teasing her until her toes curled against the floor and she couldn’t take it anymore. She slipped a hand between them and guided his cock to her entrance.

With a ferocity he’d never shown before, he thrust deep then stayed motionless until his body vibrated with the need to continue. “Do you want this?”

She tilted her hips, closing her eyes at the delicious friction of him filling her. She loved it when he let his aggressive side loose, commanding. Powerful. God, she’d missed this. Missed him. “I want you. I’ve only ever wanted you, Chad.”

His whole body stiffened, the only warning before he withdrew from her. “Bullshit. You divorced me, remember?”

With a cry, she reached out to catch him when he lifted his pants and refastened his fly. He snatched up her shirt and threw it at her. “You even changed your goddamned name back to Patrick as soon as the divorce went through.”

She straightened her shoulders. He deserved the truth. “I couldn’t stay with you—”

“You were very clear about that. You couldn’t be associated with me. What woman wants a man who is more concerned with his sister’s life than his wife’s career?”

Is that what he thought? Had she really given him that impression? No, more likely Thalia had. “That’s not why I left.”

“Maybe that wasn’t the final straw that drove you out, but it was a big part of it, wasn’t it? You never understood why I went against orders, did you?”

“I understood. I still don’t agree with your decision to send people in undercover, though I understood why you did it.” She deliberately didn’t name Sam. “But that’s not why I went to England.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore. Our marriage is over. You got what you wanted. You don’t get what you want this time.” He released her and opened the door between their rooms. He stopped on the threshold and spoke over his shoulder. “I’ll make sure you’re protected from this Harris asshole. But once he’s neutralized? I don’t want to see you again.”

Once the door closed behind him, Lauren walked up to it, pressed her forehead against the cool panel and whispered, “I’m not going let you walk away until you’ve listened to me. Until you believe I left you because I loved you. Not because I didn’t.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eating Allergen-Free

Oh gods of carby goodness, I love bread. And pasta. And naan. And pita...and, and...

I can't eat it anymore. Yep, I've got a gluten intolerance (crafty little protein bugger, that gluten).

Rice? Ok. Potatoes? Sure! I can even have quinoa and other obscure grains.

As if that weren't bad enough, dairy might be next to go.

So help a girl out! Give me your best recipes and foods that don't have gluten or dairy. Please!

On that note, an allergen-free bakery just opened up in my area (kind of) and they are amazing. Cookies, brownies, cake, bread...all gluten, egg, dairy, and soy free, and they taste like the real thing!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Love's Savage Whiplash Chapter Two: Pirate versus Ninja

Wherein the Duke encounters a Mysterious Opponent in his first pirate attack.


Colin sat on the wooden deck of the Motley Crew gazing out over the undulating turquoise waters of the Caribbean, listening to the pirates sing songs and tell bawdy jokes. The ship sat anchored off a tiny island of white sand and palm trees. The sun beat down on him, warming his body through his loose shirt and breeches, the ship bobbing on the waves in a rhythmic rocking motion that had him pleasantly relaxed and soporific. Which was exceedingly better than the dry heaving and puking he’d done in the first weeks at sea.
“Batten down the hatches!” squawked Pemberley. Colin ignored him. The cork-brained bird.  There was nary in cloud in sight and certainly no need for battening of any hatches.
After a month at sea and not a single looting or pillaging under his belt, he was ready for some action. Neither Captain Keelhaul nor his crew wore sashes stuffed with pistols and daggers. Nor did they have lit fuses in their long hair. Although Sam the Rum-Swiller did have braids in his beard, which Colin greatly admired. He stroked the scruff on his chin.

Thus far his pirate life hadn’t turned out to be the thrilling life of adventure he’d hoped for.

“Avast!” This time one of the crew shouted.

Colin’s eyes flew open and he leaped to his feet.

“Avast, ye! Ship ahoy!”

Excitement coursed through his veins as he raced to the rails where the crew had gathered.  “Is it…?”

“Aye.” Sam the Rum-Swiller stared across the azure expanse, the sun illuminating the sails of the other ship a sparkling white.

 “Are we going to attack?” Colin asked, excitement mingling with dread in the pit of his stomach. Much as he’d wanted to see some pirate action, now it was actually upon him, apprehension tightened his muscles and his fingers curled tighter around the rail.

“Aye.”

“All hands on deck!” Captain Keelhaul barked. “Weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen!” Everyone hastened to do his bidding to prepare to attack the schooner.

***

Quinn Fitzgerald entered the captain’s cabin of La Mѐche de Fouet looking for the ship’s log as her men secured the ship. Boarding the vessel had been easy, not even a challenge for her Ninjutsu trained crew. They would soon have the slaves quartered below moved to their own craft, The Mizigumo. They would return control of the ship to the captain and crew, then sail to Cuba to release the slaves.

The boom of a cannon had her head jerking up. What the…?? She froze as more noises reached her ears—the pounding of booted feet running across the deck, shouts, the crack of gunfire.

“By the goddess O-Wata-Tsumi,” she whispered. “What is happening?”

Thudding footsteps came closer.

She quickly looked around the cabin, training and reflexes coming to the fore. She reached for her grappling hook on her belt and flung it upwards. With a few agile moves, she was up clinging to the ceiling in the shadows of the dim cabin.

The door burst open and a man rushed in. He paused at seeing the empty cabin.

She blinked. A bandana covered his hair. Dark whiskers shadowed his deeply-tanned face and square jaw. Was this one of the crew who had escaped her men?

Then his eyes fell on the chest against one wall and he moved toward it with masculine grace, his legs long and muscular. More muscles in his arms and broad shoulders flexed beneath his loose white shirt as he lifted the lid.

He was going to steal the captain’s treasure chest! Was he a pirate? Her eyes narrowed. He wore no eye patch, had no peg leg, nor did he reek of rum. Yet she was almost certain he was a pirate.

Pirate versus ninja.     

This could not happen. She was a ninja. She could remove a man’s spleen with one swift motion. She could run a hundred miles on her hands. She could make her shadow disappear. No pirate could ever triumph over a ninja.

She glanced upward to the poop deck. What was happening above? Were her men defending themselves and protecting the lives of the slaves and the crew of La Mѐche de Fouet? She had every confidence in her crew against a band of ruthless murdering buccaneers who cared naught about the lives of others, unlike her own ninja crew whose mission was to help those too weak and vulnerable to defend themselves.

As the man raised the lid of the trunk, gold and multi-colored jewels glinted and sparkled in the dim light of the cabin and she heard his sharply indrawn breath.  “Booty,” he murmured.

At that moment a strange fluttering, flapping noise drew Quinn’s gaze from the man to a bird flying into the cabin. It perched atop one of the posts of the four poster bed and regarded her with shiny dark eyes. It tipped its head to one side and squawked, “Avast, me proud beauty!”

Quinn glared at the bird, a putrid purple color. A parrot.

“Shut up, Pemberley,” the man said, without looking up from the booty he’d discovered.

Bloody hell. The parrot belonged to the man! He was a pirate!

She clung tighter to the ceiling, blending into the shadows.

The man began to drag the chest toward the door. No! This could not be allowed! She eyed him, preparing herself, every sense alert, her body poised, waiting for the right…moment…yes.

Silently she dropped from the ceiling and landed on the man’s back, taking him to the floor. His cry of surprise was echoed by the parrot’s, “Awk! Shiver me timbers!”

She curled one arm around his throat as she reached behind her for her katana.

***

Colin’s breath left him on a whoosh at the impact. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! On the floor with a weight on top of him and something pressing against his windpipe, his heart slammed into his ribs and his breath froze in his throat. He’d never been good at wrestling, he’d fared much better at fencing, and he needed to get to his sword. He was not going to let his first pirate attack end in humiliation. He’d anticipated the pleased reaction of the captain and the crew when they saw what he’d discovered there, and nobody was going to take away his one chance to prove himself on the high seas. Nobody would call him landlubber again. With all his strength, he rolled.

He wrestled with his attacker, a small but fierce and astonishingly strong individual. Who or what was this creature? With a grunt, he dodged a knee aimed at his bollocks, adrenaline rushing through his veins and giving him the strength to finally throw the attacker off.

They both leaped to their feet and stood there, facing each other, chests heaving. His attacker held a sword, an oddly shaped sword, and he whipped out his own weapon. They stepped lightly around each other, assessing, planning.  He focused on the creature, garbed all in black—soft black breeches, a black shirt and a black hood covering its head and most of its face. A belt around the waist held an arsenal of tools and weapons. Ninja.

His eyes met those of his attacker—aquamarine as clear and sparkling as the Caribbean, framed with long, thick lashes. He sucked in a breath. His momentary lapse cost him the advantage and the ninja lunged with his weapon. At the last second Colin was able to deflect the blow and they parried, swords clanging. A thrill raced through him, heating his veins.

His opponent’s skill with the sword met his own, and sweat stung his eyes and rolled down his back beneath his shirt as they dueled. The ninja seemed unaffected, fighting on until, with a lunge, Colin disarmed him. The unusual sword crashed into the wall. Ha! He had the blackguard now.

Then something whizzed by his ear. Thunk. He turned his head, his eyes locking onto something embedded in the wall behind him. Shuriken. As his attacker reached for another throwing star, Colin lunged toward him.

With blinding swiftness, the creature spun and kicked, knocking Colin’s sword out of his hands. The ninja launched at him, again taking him to the floor and they wrestled, rolling around the floor of the cabin, knocking into the desk, then a cabinet, a decanter of spirits crashing beside their heads.

“Blow me down!” Pemberly squawked, wings flapping above them. “Blow me down!”

No. He was not going to be humiliated. Landlubber.  He was not going to let down his captain and the crew fighting above. Though things on the poop deck above had gone strangely quiet.

Colin closed his hand around soft black fabric. He yanked. The hood came off in his hand, his small but strong attacker now pinned beneath him on the floor.

Golden waves of silky hair spilled out from beneath the hood, framing a face that was pure perfection. Those limpid aqua eyes gazed back at him in shock, lush lips parted slightly. Her hair gleamed like fine Puerto Rican gold, like Jamaican rum...like the ocean at sunset.

A woman.

They lay there, staring at each other, bodies pressed together, and he became aware of the softness of the curves beneath him.

“Governess!” Pemberly squeaked. Colin ignored the daft bird as his body hardened. A month at sea listening to bawdy pirate talk had him as randy as a three-balled tomcat and he moved against her soft bosom.

“That is some treasure chest you have there,” he murmured.

Her eyes widened.

And then with more of that astonishing strength, she flipped him onto his back with a quick move. In seconds she had a length of rope out and his hands bound in front of him.

Blasted with double barrels!

“Hempen jig! Hempen jig!” Pemberly cried, wings flapping wildly.

Colin lay helpless on the floor staring up at her.

“Pirate versus ninja,” she said, rising before him. Her golden hair curled riotously down her slender back and her turquoise eyes flashed with triumph. “You will never win. Now you are mine.”

***


A Word to you, Our Dear and Gentle Readers: If you enjoyed this small offering, please do us the honor of returning to grace our humble blog with your presence one week hence, when we shall be delighted to bring to you the next installment of our little saga, which is to be entitled, Chapter Three: The Dread Highwayman ...Colin?
And please partake of our Love’s Savage Contest. Leave a comment here or go to our Facebook page (link in the column on the right) and quote your favorite line from this week’s episode to be entered in a monthly drawing for a giftcard at the bookstore of your choice and a grand finale drawing for a signed e-reader cover.

Cordially,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stop Me if You've Heard this One Before...

When I got up this morning I knew exactly what I was going to write for this blog post. And then I mentioned it to my daughter, who said, "Didn't you already write a blog post like that?"
It's very possible. After all, this is a subject--my heroes and their many flaws-- that I've thought about quite a bit over the past few years. Plus, said heroes are holding up far better than my memory is these days, but that could be its own (albeit horribly uninteresting) blog post. 
"Yes, yes," I told her. "Very probably, but this one will be different."
"Different how?" she wanted to know. 
 "Well," I replied. "I'm pretty sure Meg just recently wrote a blog post about her heroes, who, as it happens, are really nice guys. And while I like her heroes immensely, I also like mine who aren't so nice. So, I thought it would be very timely post, plus I could link to her post, which would make it even more interesting."  Especially, I thought, for readers like my daughter who obviously have already heard all they cared to about my heroes and their flaws.
My daughter sighed. It was a very pained sigh. "I think you did that with the last one too," she eventually replied.
Now, I'm not altogether certain she's right about that. And, to further complicate matters, I can't find Meg's blog post that I'm sure I read recently either. But I still like the topic. Sooo, as I said at the top of the page, stop me if you've heard this one before...
 It's recently been brought to my attention, by a reader (who was not complaining about this fact, btw. I think it's important to mention that!) that my heroes aren't always very nice, that sometimes they can even be (and I'm quoting here, so I hope she doesn't mind) cruel and devious and self-centered.
Why, yes. Yes, they can. 
 As I mentioned above, I think about this a lot. My heroes frequently lie. They bend the rules. They make mistakes. They lose their tempers. Sometimes they act on impulse, without thinking things through. Frequently they say things--apparently without thinking at all! Occasionally (by which I mean only once or twice...or okay, maybe three or four times, now that I think about it) they even kill someone or beat-to-within-an-inch-of-their-life someone, or attack someone with a dog or maybe even a couple of dogs. 
Really, who's counting?
But you know what? I'm okay with all of that. Because, while we don't all get to act like that in real life (and it's a very good thing we don't!) I think we can all relate to the urge to do so; even a pacifist like myself--someone who's never thrown so much as a single punch in her life and who cries when she has to kill a mouse. Just ask my daughter, if you don't believe me. She'll vouch for the mouse thing.
The point is, my heroes--all my characters, really--tend to be larger than life. I like that. Their actions are adequately motivated (I hope) which is very important to me, if only because it makes the suspension of disbelief all the easier to achieve. Overall, they also tend to be very tormented, emotionally scarred and wounded individuals. And, yeah, in case you haven't been paying attention, I really like that! 
I like it not out of an excess of sadism (well, not just for that, anyway...um, I don't think) but because I believe it adds poignancy to their struggles to achieve normalcy, to find the happiness or peace or lasting love, or whatever it is they're searching for, or to simply just keep getting up every morning. 
 I like it because it means I get to play around with the concept of "man against himself" as well as "man against man" and occasionally "man against nature" as well. 
 And I also like it because it makes their actions, even the not-so-pretty ones, heroic--in the most classic sense of the word.
Now, don't get me wrong. As a reader, I love reading about nice characters; the kinds of characters you wish you knew in real life, the kinds of characters you'd actually want to hang around with. I like watching their stories unfold, rooting for them, cheering them on. I like knowing that, even though there are tears and heartbreak and the inevitable dark moment, things will all turn out well for them and, in the end, they'll be so very happy for the rest of their lives. As a writer, however...I just don't think my mind works that way. At least not all the time.
 And I don't even know why that is. In real life, I'm not a big fan of bad boys.  I'm pretty clear on the fact that happy is good. That well adjusted, basically decent people who have their shit together (if you'll pardon the expression) are the bomb. That if you want drama, you should get yourself a teenager...or marry an actor, I guess. But, if you want contentment and a love that actually might stand a chance of lasting a lifetime--by which I do not mean a love that's so turbulent and angst-ridden that you die young from the sheer exhaustion of having to deal with it all the time--give me a nice guy every time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guest Blogger MacKenzie McKade - The Perfect Place


If you could imagine a perfect place to live where would it be? What would the scenery, the weather, and the housing look like? What would the people be like? What types of occupations would flourish?

When Cathryn Fox and Nikki Duncan asked me participate in an anthology we asked ourselves some of the above questions. It was Cathryn who introduced us to the small coastal town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. If you would like to see a couple pictures of this beautiful town visit Cathryn’s blog right here on Nine Naughty Novelists’ site at http://ninenaughtynovelists.blogspot.com/2011/04/guest-blogger-cathryn-fox-beautiful.html

Speaking for myself, I immediately fell in love with the location. Born and raised in the deserts of Arizona, I have always had a fascination with water. Whispering Cove, although make-believe, was the perfect place for me to let my imagination go.

It was easy to envision the type of people who would live in this seaport village—a place where the community’s livelihood lies in the arms of the ocean, its embrace sometimes serene and sometimes turbulent. While some folks wish only to escape, others grasp tightly to their childhood roots. You’ll find that Whispering Cove is a place where history and character is revealed in each of the townspeople and where the ocean calls those who have strayed to return.

From three crotchety, conniving old grandfathers who only want their grandchildren home and happy, and will stop at nothing to have their way, to each of the heroines/heroes struggling with past memories, Whispering Cove has all the warmth and charm you can ask for.

In Wild in Whispering Cove Andrea Adair is one who has strayed, not from seeking greener pastures, but to run away from a memory too daunting to face. Finding her way back isn’t a piece of cake. Cake?

And what would a town be without its cuisine?

During one of Andie’s and Brody’s scenes they feast on Lobster Rolls, a delicacy which I have never had the opportunity to taste until I visited Florida. Oh yum! The bread was so soft, the lobster so sweet and succulent. While entrenched in their story I even found myself wanting to make some garlic fingers and chowder, even though I don’t much care for clams.

I think this is a great lead in to Cathryn Fox’s Wet in Whispering Cove where her heroine is a chef, and she is cooking up a lot more than clam chowder in her kitchen. Also, you won’t want to miss Wicked in Whispering Cove by Nikki Duncan. Naughty boys are as much fun as Nine Naughty Novelists.

Below I’ve include a Blurb of Wild…In Whispering Cove. Thanks so much in allowing me to visit with you. And, as always, happy reading!

Mackenzie McKade

Wild…in Whispering Cove

Haunting memories made her run--family forced her return--can love make her stay?

Ten years ago a tragic accident forced Andrea “Andie” Adair from Whispering Cove, leaving behind her family, friends, and fiancé. A dark secret keeps her away from the sleepy seaport village, until she receives an ambiguous telephone from her grandfather. He’s in the hospital. Desperate to cling to her only living relative she races back home and straight into the arms of the one man she can’t bear to face.

Sheriff, Brody McGrath, built his life without the woman of his dreams, but when he catches Andie, thinking she’s a prowler, he isn’t prepared for the onslaught of emotions—grief, regret, heartache, and love.

There is no denying the old spark between them still burns brightly, but can love defeat the demons of Andie’s past and allow her to live again?

Purchase at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Borders

A taste of the erotic, a measure of daring and a hint of laughter describe Mackenzie McKade’s novels. She sizzles the pages with scorching sex, fantasy and deep emotion that will touch you and keep you immersed until the end. Whether her stories are contemporaries, futuristics or fantasies, this Arizona native thrives on giving you the ultimate erotic adventure.

When not traveling through her vivid imagination, she’s spending time with three beautiful daughters, three devilishly handsome grandsons, and the man of her dreams. She loves to write, enjoys reading and can’t wait ’til summer. Boating and jet skiing are top on her list of activities. Add to that laughter and if mischief is in order—Mackenzie’s your gal!

To learn more about Mackenzie, please visit www.mackenziemckade.com. Send an email to Mackenzie at mackenzie@mackenziemckade.com or sign onto her Yahoo! group to join in the fun with other readers and authors as well as Mackenzie. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wicked_writers/.

www.mackenziemckade.com

A taste of the erotic…A measure of daring…A dash of laughter…

WILD…IN WHIPSPERING COVER – Amazon, Smashwords, Now Available

A LITTLE WHITE LIE – Samhain Publishing, Now Available

MERRY CHRISTMAS, PAIGE – Samhain Publishing, Now Available

BOUND BY DESIRE – Samhain Publishing, Now Available in Print

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gift Season


We’re now approaching June, which others know as the first month of summer, but which I know as the Season Of Frustration and Despair, otherwise known as Gifts For My DH. Our anniversary, the hub’s birthday, and Father’s Day all come in a row in June, and as usual, I’m sweating blood.

The problem is that my DH is a Man Who Has Everything mainly because he’s a Man Who Never Throws Anything Away. One birthday past, I attempted to give him a sports watch that would actually take his pulse rate while he was working out. I thought it was really neat. He tried to be enthusiastic, but you could tell he wasn’t really. Why? He had an ancient Timex sports watch that Still Worked Okay. He wasn’t about to retire it for something else, even if it was something better.

The same rules apply to clothes. Each year I give him a couple of knit shirts (because I know he’ll wear them—eventually). These new knit shirts go into the rotation—eventually. First he has to wear his current knit shirts into the ground, almost literally. Slowly but surely they disintegrate from use, but he won’t give them up until they have so many holes they look sort of like crocheted doilies. He wears some shirts that are so disreputable I refuse to be seen with him if he decides to wear them to the grocery store. At that point he shrugs and says “Still good for yard work,” and back they go into the rotation.

How do you buy for a man like this? What do you buy for him anyway? Power tools? He’s got just about everything he could use and he only uses them sporadically. Jewelry? The only thing he wears is a watch, which I gave to him several years ago (hey, it’s still good). Clothes? For a while I did Hawaiian shirts because we found this terrific Hawaiian shirt place in Austin (Moondog Shirt Company), but although he loves them, he doesn’t wear them often enough to wear them out so he now has a pretty complete wardrobe. Electronic gadgets? He’s one of the few men in existence who doesn’t really enjoy them, maybe because he works with a lot of sophisticated instrumentation daily.

Socks? Yes, I am desperate enough to buy them (and I know the only brand he uses), but he really doesn’t need any.

I finally found a way to finesse the anniversary present problem by going for a weekend vacation as our gift to each other (this year, Steamboat Springs). And I’m ducking Father’s Day by saying it’s up to our sons to take care of it. But that leaves his birthday, and as usual, I’m comin’ up dry. I hate to admit it, but it’s looking more and more like a couple more knit shirts for the Great Shirt Rotation.

So how about a little help here? Any suggestions for male-appropriate gifts that actually don’t get tucked away in the back corner of the closet? What gifts have you given that were real winners (or real losers for that matter)?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Who Wants to Ride the Bandwagon?

The self-publishing bandwagon, that is. I’m sorely tempted to do it, just to see what happens. The steampunk I’m working on feels really good (I have no idea if it actually is), and I’m thinking I might publish it myself. An author friend who’s also a very talented graphic artist has offered to do the cover for free. I have someone who’ll edit it for story (I don’t need it for grammar and syntax). I have proofreaders. All that’s stopping me now is nerves. Or rather, a lack of nerve.

It’s amazing to contemplate how fast the publishing industry has changed in the last year or two. For hundreds of years, publishers owned the only distribution channel. If they didn’t deign to buy your manuscript, you’d never be anything more than an aspiring author. There have always been small or indie presses, and some of them succeeded, but most failed. And there have always been people who wanted to see their words printed and bound so badly that they’d pay for it themselves. But self-published authors have always been objects of pity and scorn, never taken seriously.

Until the advent of ebooks and, I think, the economic implosion. The economy socked it to the old print publishers at the same time that the ebook market exploded. Two years ago the president of RWA was very public in her contempt for e-publishing, and a lot of established authors agreed with her. Today, NY authors are signing contracts with epub houses. Two years ago, a lot of writers who signed with epublishers intended to make ebooks a stepping stone to print. Today, a lot of those same authors look at the economic state of print publishers—and bookstores—and are quite happy to stick with electronic publishing.

Two years ago, even e-pubbed authors would’ve been aghast at the idea of self-publishing. Today all the cool kids are doing it.

If you’re an author, I know you’ve thought about it. Come on, admit it—you’ve read about Bella Andre, and Amanda Hocking, and Joe Konrath, and you’ve thought—okay, yeah, it’s just a tiny, tiny fraction of self-published authors who make those kinds of figures but hey, why couldn’t I be one of them? (The “gold rush” metaphor used in the Bella Andre article is particularly apt. In real gold rushes, a horde pours into the gold field, but only a handful end up striking it rich.)

Bella Andrea and Joe Konrath were already traditionally (i.e., print) published authors. I think if you’ve already been published, whether in print or in pixel, you stand a better chance of selling your self-published work. It’s not just that you already have a readership, although that will certainly give you a higher profile on the retail sites.

It’s also that you’ve already been through the editing process—you know how important editing is, you know your first draft is only that, you have a better feel for what makes a story ready for publication. There are a lot of crap books being self-published, and it’s usually because first time authors have never had their work reviewed and critiqued by somebody else. They don’t know how much better their book could be.

Unlike some people, though, I don’t think that the whole concept of self-publishing is tainted just because ninety percent of the books are crap. Ninety percent of most anything is crap—television, movies, music, fashion and, yes, books.

If you’re a reader, I’d be interested in your comments. Have you ever purchased a self-published book and, if so, what did you think of it?