Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nine Nights in New Orleans - Ghost of a Chance


Ghost of a Chance

by
Sydney Somers


It didn’t look like a haunted house.
Holly Clarke stared at the three-story house between swipes of the wiper blades across the windshield of her rental car.
Less than five minutes after her plane touched down in Louisiana, the heavy gray skies had erupted in torrential downpours. Although it had taken over an hour to find Beau Arbor House—nearly three times longer than her GPS had originally promised—she was still drenched from her mad dash to pick up her rental.
“Turn left in .2 miles.”
Tempted to toss the useless GPS out the window, Holly settled for silencing it with a stab of her finger. She would have ended up in a bayou had she taken the next left.
Following a car-shaking boom of thunder, she turned off the vehicle and threw open the door. Her earlier discomfort at being back in New Orleans, the last stop on her story assignment, had nearly faded. Driving the dark, rainy streets hadn’t brought back nearly as many memories of Sam as she’d feared when her editor added the Most Haunted City in America to her assignment itinerary.
Beau Arbor House had merited barely half a dozen hits by the almighty Google when Holly had researched the place two days ago. With dozens of haunted houses catering to Big Easy tourists, she couldn’t imagine why this one warranted a mention in her article.
Arguing that point with her editor—and best friend Lena—would be pointless. Holly could be done her assignment and on a plane bound for home before she’d ever sway Lena once her mind was made up. She trusted her friend’s judgment, though, except when it came to Holly’s love life. The last time she took Lena’s advice on that front she’d ended up with a broken heart.
Grabbing her bags from the passenger seat, Holly bolted from the car, slamming the door behind her. It took only seconds to sprint past moss-covered trees and up the curved stone staircase to the covered front porch, but the rain still managed to soak her all over again.
Shivering, she set her bags down and wiped the rain from her face.
In front of her, the door swung inward with a heart-jarring creak.
Stumbling back a step on instinct, Holly then swore under her breath at the over reaction, blaming the goose bumps that raced across her skin on her wet clothes. Beau Arbor wasn’t any more haunted than the five other bed and breakfasts she’d visited already. The food and eccentric staff had proven far spookier than any of the sightings and unexplained sounds the other B&B’s were supposedly famous for.
She was batting 0 for 5 in the haunting department and even accounting for dark, rainy nights and hinges in need of oiling, she didn’t see that changing any time soon.
“Ms. Clarke?” A soft Cajun accent preceded the middle-aged woman who appeared in the doorway. Barely taller than Holly’s shoulder, the woman cocked her head, her otherwise flawless caramel face undermined by an unexpected scowl.
Holly opened her mouth.
“I’m Charlotte,” the woman interrupted, her intimidating gaze openly sizing Holly up.
Caught off guard by the scrutiny, she shifted in place. “Sorry for the late arrival—”
“You best hurry inside. I don’t have much time. It’s nearly nine o’clock.” The woman spun away from the door, her long pleated skirt twirling up in a black wave of fabric tamed only by the thick braid falling down the middle of her back.
Dressing for the part? That was new.
“I’m in mourning,” Charlotte clarified, though Holly hadn’t said a word aloud.
Left to close the door, Holly finally grabbed her bags and stepped inside. Another shiver crawled up her spine at the thought of Charlotte seeming to read her mind. She shrugged it off, along with the sensation that she might be better off putting her fate in the hands of a malfunctioning GPS.
Charlotte was already halfway up an ornate mahogany staircase to the left of the main parlor and showed no sign of checking to see if Holly followed. Darting a quick glance overhead at the impressive stained-glass chandelier hanging overhead, she trailed after the housekeeper who definitely scored points on the creepiness scale.
If nothing else, Holly would be picking her next assignment for Lena’s travel website, and sun, sand and tropical drinks were at the top of her list. She’d heard enough ghost stories in the couple of weeks to last a phantom’s lifetime. Strangely enough, Charlotte seemed to be in too much of a hurry to fill her in on Beau Arbor’s history.
Every other B&B owner had barely given her time to turn the car off before they were filling her in on each place’s haunting details. While Holly knew Beau Arbor House was supposedly haunted by two brothers who’d both loved and lost the same woman near the end of the Civil War, she’d anticipated a more detailed recounting when she’d arrived.  
From somewhere below the music of a fiddle drifted up, and Holly looked over the rail in search of the source.
“Ms. Clarke?” All but tapping her toes, Charlotte waited at the top of the second floor.
She hurried to join her. “What happens at nine?”
“I leave.” With another head-to-toe survey that barely masked her skepticism, Charlotte carried on down the hall.
Wondering what she’d done to annoy the other woman, Holly followed. “I’m sorry if waiting for me made you late for something. My GPS—”
“The spirits don’t care about your GPS.”
“Spirits,” Holly echoed. The Beau Arbor staff may have skipped the history lesson, but certainly didn’t waste any time playing up the ghost angle.
The fiddle music grew louder, and Holly glanced over her shoulder, hoping to catch a peek at the person playing. “They won’t be playing all night, will they?”
The woman arched a brow. “Depends on William’s mood.” She checked her watch and pulled a key from a pocket in her skirt before opening the door. “Oscar is the louder one.”
“Another guest,” Holly guessed.
“Hardly. Though our resident vampire is the one most likely to keep you awake.”
“Hope he’s not hungry.” If Charlotte was pulling out all the stops, Holly didn’t mind playing along.
Charlotte didn’t appreciate the humor. She didn’t even crack a smile.
Tough crowd.
To Read More... click below

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Monthly Round Up





There's a lot happening around here over the next month or so.  First up, in case you missed them, the first three fabulous stories in our upcoming group anthology, Nine Nights in New Orleans debuted here this month (with another coming up tomorrow). If you missed them, check them out HERE, HERE and HERE.

Next, huge congrats to all our authors who had January releases!

With Strings Attached, the first book in Kelly Jamieson's new trilogy, San Amaro Singles, released January 22th.

The melting point is where it all comes together…or makes a big mess.

Corey Fenwick keeps her bitter past as hidden as the sweet centers inside the handmade chocolates she sells to a growing list of upscale customers. Experience has taught her the only person she can rely on is herself, so her best-friends-with-benefits relationship with Matt is perfect—no strings attached.

After his last girlfriend deemed him “boring”, Matt Ferber watched her ride off on the back of a Harley with a rock musician. Figuring he’s doomed to “let’s just be friends” with the women he cares about, the arrangement with Corey suits him fine too. Until his old friend Dylan Schell rolls into town to hang out while recovering from a surfing injury.

The sexy bad boy makes Corey’s mouth water, and she figures a harmless fling won’t hurt, especially when Dylan suggests she come between him and Matt—in bed.

It’s a win-win-win situation…until somehow there are strings attached. And too late they realize they’re getting all tangled up.

Product Warnings
This book contains an independent woman, two hot guys, some trash talking, a little jealousy, a few beers, chocolate body paint and scary stuff like falling in love.

Catch Kelly on tour at any of these blogs: 

January 30 -  Belle's Book Bag -http://bellesbookbag.blogspot.com/

February 3 -  Scorching Book Reviews -http://scorchingbookreviews.blogspot.com/

February 5 - Harlie's Books -http://www.harliesbooks.com/

Skylar Kade's short story "Edge" was released this month as part of the Cleis Press anthology, Only You

Only You
Erotic Romance for Women

The Love We Make
Only You is full of tenderness, raw passion, love, longing, and the many emotions that kindle true romance. The couples in Only Youtest the boundaries of their love to make their relationships stronger. These lovers don't just go along for the ride—they want to take control and see how daring they can be. New parents rediscover their hunger for each other at a hotel in Lolita Lopez's "Mom's Night Out" while first class passengers get creative with ice cubes (and each other) in Catherine Paulssen's "In-Flight Entertainment." Kristina Wright's quarreling couple ends up having the hottest make-up sex imaginable in "The Love We Make." Whether it's a woman wanting to surprise her husband with cuffs and a blindfold, cooks exploring the sensual possibilities in the kitchen, or young artists who simply can't keep their hands off each other, Only You showcases twenty stories that are as loving as they are lusty.

And January also saw a new release for Jennifer Bernard (Juniper Bell's alter ego)  with Sex and the Single Fireman (A Bachelor Fireman Novel).

RT rated it a Top Pick citing its  "Quick wit and sizzling love scenes"

There's a hardnosed new training officer in town, and that's bad news for the Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel . . . But great news for firefighter Sabina Jones . . . maybe. The toughest captain on the East Coast, single father Rick Roman has come thousands of miles to San Gabriel to put an end to the "Bachelor Firemen" media hype. But when a stunning woman he nearly hooked up with in Reno turns out to be a firefighter from his new station, Roman realizes it's going to be tough keeping the tabloids at bay. But there's even more Sabina isn't telling him. Before dedicating herself to battling blazes, Sabina led a very different life, one that made her famous. The last thing she wants is to have her secret exposed. The papers, bloggers, and TV gossips will have a field day with that—especially when they sense the obvious sexual heat between Sabina and Chief Roman, who's torn between firing her . . . and falling in love with her!

Also this month, PG Forte is on tour right now, talking about  last month's release Finders Keepers. Check out dates HERE.

Moving on, we have several February new releases to crow about as well. February 19th is a big day for Meg Benjamin. It's the release date for Medium Well, the first book in her Medium trilogy with Berkeley Intermix. 

Real estate agent Danny Ramos has always had a knack for selling homes, but when his boss saddles him with a neglected carriage house, Danny discovers that his abilities are more than simple intuition...
On his first visit to the house, Danny is confronted with visions of a violent murder. His assistant, Biddy Gunter, doesn’t seem affected, and Danny starts to think he’s going crazy—until he gets a visit from his mother, who suggests that Danny’s uncanny talent to sell old houses may stem from his family inheritance: psychic empathy.
When Biddy reveals to Danny her own strange dream about the carriage house ghosts, they team up to investigate and discover both the house’s dark history and their own unexpected attraction. But as the hauntings turn from unsettling to downright dangerous, Danny and Biddy need to figure out how to rid the house of its ghostly inhabitants, before their budding romance meets an untimely end…   

For more information on this title, check back here to read her post on February 18th!

Also releasing on February 19th is Just What I Need, Erin Nicholas' eagerly awaited epilogue to her Bradford series (yes, it's really the end...or is it just another beginning?). 

Expect the unexpected…especially when a Bradford is expecting.

The Epilogue
A Bradford novella.

As family and friends gather to see Dooley and Morgan get married, anticipation is high—but no one saw this much excitement coming. A wedding that doubles as a baby shower, a limo that doubles as an ambulance, a hospital room that doubles as a honeymoon suite… sure, why not? It’s a Bradford wedding, after all.

Dani’s in labor, Sam’s in a daze, Ben’s taking charge, Sara’s crying, Jessica’s got a secret, Dooley’s missing his honeymoon— in other words, things are crazy. As usual. But through it all they’ve got each other. As always.

 Warning: An epilogue to the Bradford series featuring all the couples, a wedding, a baby— or two—and donuts. Because you have to have donuts. 

One week later, on February 26th, Now Comes the Night (the third book in PG Forte's Children of Night series) also releases.

Home is where the heart bleeds.

Growing up, vampire-born twins Julie and Marc Fischer were taught one simple fact of life: you can choose your food, but not your family. Six months after moving to San Francisco, though, the new challenges and choices each are facing are a Gordian knot of complicated.

Marc must decide whether to stay with Conrad and Damian, the only family he’s ever known, or embrace his destiny and the unexpected family—the ferals—that comes along with it. Meanwhile, Julie is forced to deal with the unpleasant realization that the man she loves isn’t necessarily the man who’s best for her.

For Conrad and Damian, the holiday season is stirring up bittersweet memories, and neither can keep from revisiting past passion and pain. 

Faced with new mysteries to solve, new alliances to forge, new secrets to keep, and old relationships to rebuild, it’s no wonder the Fischer-Quintano vampires long for the good old days—when food was food and family was all that mattered. 

Product Warnings
If you’ve previously suffered from Disco Fever, this book could precipitate a relapse. Extreme care is recommended for anyone with a pronounced weakness for mistletoe, fang play or pretty young men of either species. Contains alpha-male vampire single dads, and graphic scenes of manlove involving said vampires--with and without the aforementioned pretty young menMay also contain trace amounts of polyester.


In other news, we have several new contracts--and even more new covers--yay!--to announce. 


Juniper Bell has recently signed a contract with Ellora's Cave for My Three Masters, the sequel to My Three Lords.  Release date TBA.


This fall, Skylar Kade's sexy contemporary romance "A Love Worth Living" releases from Samhain Publishing.


And Kate Davis is excited to announce that The Girls Most Likely To have official release dates! 




Kate's new high school reunion novella trilogy kicks off on March 25 with Most Likely To Succeed, followed by Cutest Couple on April 29, and Life of the Party on May 31. All three titles coming from Carina Press.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Guest Blogger Chandra Ryan - Life, Love and the Art of Balance

I don’t want to sound like a commercial for a yoga studio or anything here, but isn’t it amazing how much smoother everything goes when we managed to balance the important areas of our life? My days go remarkably better when I schedule the time to not only get my writing and the chores done, but also find the time for me to do things for myself—like workout or sit down and read a good book.

The same can be said for my marriage. When my husband and I get the give and take, the work and the reward right (‘cause let’s face it, every marriage takes work and should provide rewards) we’re just happier people in general.

So whenever I start a new book, I always look for that balance. Who is giving and when will it be their turn to take? What is being taken and when will it be given back? In Ravenborne, for example, Sara lost everything at the hand of the king. Balance was found when the king, inadvertently as the case was, gave back everything he had taken. In Ink in the Blood, Jacob was the expert and put his life on the line to protect Izzy until they were sucked into a world he knew nothing about. Then it was Izzy’s turn to protect Jacob and guide him through the shadows of her childhood. But when I started writing Bond Betrayed, I knew that balance was going to be different, harder.

The idea of a blood bond, to bond someone with their blood so that they had to do whatever you ordered them to do, hit me from the beginning of the story. And I wondered, would a relationship, would balance, be possible under that kind of weight? The saying goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but is it a truth or just a warning? Is there a hero who could stand true to his morals with that large a temptation? Would it be possible to be completely at someone’s mercy and yet still hold the power to balance out the relationship? If there were even a hope, the heroine would have to be just as strong as the hero. She would have to be his North Star in the darkness and she would have to be willing to lose herself to save him.

So who is this heroine? I’d like to you meet Nikki Rathe, seductress extraordinaire.


Fury burned in the pit of her stomach. And she welcomed it. Its heat dulled the sharp hunger that’d been buried deep in her core since she’d woken up. How could she still want him? He’d specifically put her into a vulnerable state just to betray her. That wasn’t the kind of guy a girl wastes fantasies over.

And yet, she was.

It only pissed her off more. But if she had to be pissed off and sexually frustrated, the least she could do was share the misery. And if the look on his face was anything to go by, she was succeeding marvelously.

“What’s happened to me?” he asked as soon as the door closed.

She probably should feel some guilt at the sound of confusion mixed with pain in his voice. Should, but didn’t. “You drank seductress blood,” she answered simply. “How does it feel?” Stepping close to him once more, she ran the tip of one finger down the front of his chest. “Is it a roaring fire burning what little is left of your soul to ash, or is it an icy dullness reminding you that you’ll never be whole if I’m not there?” For her, it was ice. She needed the warmth of his body on her, against her, in her so badly she hurt with it.

“Fire. God, how do I make it stop?” Turning his back to the wall, he leaned against its strength as if his whole world had just been shaken.

“I wouldn’t know. I’ve had the stuff running through my veins longer than I can remember.”

“But you shouldn’t be able to use your magic against me. The bond—”

“This has nothing to do with the bond and I’m not using my magic against you.” Needing the space as much as he did, she took a step away from him. He reached out to her but quickly caught himself, snatching his hand back to his side. “You drank my blood. I’m a seductress, what did you think my magic would feel like? Rainbows, unicorns and fairy dust?”

***

So did it work? Did I get the balance I was looking for? Honestly, I don’t know. I hope I did, but that’s really a question for the readers to answer.

If you’d like to read more about Nikki and Isaac you can find the blurb and another excerpt on my author site and the Ellora’s Cave website:

www.ChandraRyan.com

http://www.ellorascave.com/bond-betrayed.html

and on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Bond-Betrayed-ebook/dp/B00A4E7FYQ



Author Bio: Being from a rather nomadic family, Chandra Ryan loves to travel and meet people. But she’s found that sometimes, like when you’re stuck inside because of a good old-fashioned Southwestern heat wave, you have to make do. Fortunately for her and her loving family, who don’t like seeing her suffer from cabin fever, she’s found creating new people and places equally as fascinating. Also, you’re a lot less likely to spill your ice tea.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Downton Abbey and Character Flaws

***NO Spoiler Alert***

Now that the third season on Downton Abbey has started, I can indulge in my tear-through of season two. In returning to my favorite now-wartime drama, I was immediately drawn back to two of my favorite characters: Mr. Bates and Lady Sybil Crawley.

Phin watched the first two episodes of season two last night--his first ever of the series--and in explaining all the backstory, the machinations, I realized that few of the most interesting characters are without deep character flaws. Mr. Bates and Lady Sybil, however, share their deepest motivation--idealism--even as this flaw has so far led them in separate directions.

John Bates's idealism stems from his deeply-held belief that doing the Right Thing (notice the caps there?) is always the best decision. This has served him well enough through the first season--his detractors may have won skirmishes against him, but Bates won the war--but I have my suspicions that the second season will be much rockier for this gentlemanly valet. His idealism has come at a much higher cost than Lady Sybil's, so far.

Initially, I had Lady Sybil pegged at one of the more flawless characters; however, she's far too interesting to be such a flat character. Idealism is the one thread that motivates her actions in season one, though in her case it is to the benefit of those around her. Even season two, when she breaks with tradition to help the war effort, her idealism has not (yet) led her astray. So yes, it might be a stretch characterizing her idealism as a "flaw", but who knows how long her luck will last. When her hopefulness leads her one step too far, her fall may very well be spectacularly painful. For her sake, I hope not--but we've seen where that kind of idealism has led John and those who love him.


Who is your favorite Downton Abbey character? Do you like them in spite of, or because of, their flaws?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Flirty Friday - Cutest Couple

Welcome to Flirty Friday! This new addition to our monthly rotation will bring you a fun picture and an excerpt to go with it.

Kate Davies will go first, with an excerpt from her work-in-progress Cutest Couple. The hero is a soldier returning to his hometown for his ten year high school reunion, which is why the picture fits so well! Hope you enjoy.

(c) messycupcakes, licensed under Creative Commons.
 
 
It was supposed to be just a little kiss. A brush of lips, a gentle pressure before lifting away. Nothing sexual or passionate about it.

But his mouth touched hers and all his good intentions disappeared.

He tugged her closer, wrapping his free arm around her back, and teased her mouth open with his tongue. She didn’t respond, not at first, but right as he was about to pull away, she whimpered softly and kissed him back.

It had been ten years since he’d tasted her, ten years during which he should have forgotten her mouth, her tongue, her white teeth nipping at his lower lip. It was an intoxicating mix of the familiar and the new, and he delved in again, wanting more, wanting it all.

Her hands, caught between their bodies, clenched the fabric of his shirt as she held on. Their feet were tangled together, the two of them caught up in an embrace that had been ten years waiting.



Cutest Couple, coming from Carina Press on April 29!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nine Nights In New Orleans - Ash Wednesday

Maggie Beaulieu got out of the cab at Magazine and Canal. For the fifth time, she checked to make sure she had the tote bag. Last night, she dreamed she left it at a Seven Eleven near the airport by accident.

Wish fulfillment, Maggie?

No. Definitely not. This might not be the most pleasant task she’d ever undertaken, but she’d do it and she’d do it right. Uncle Claude was depending on her to take care of things. He’d chosen her over all the other cousins. She’d show him he’d made the right decision.

Not that any of the other cousins had been all that eager to do it. On the other hand, they hadn’t been all that enthusiastic about Maggie doing it either.

You sure about this, honey? It’s a lot of responsibility. Don’t you think maybe we should do something a little more normal?

Maggie sighed. She’d have loved normal herself, but that wasn’t what she’d been asked to do. No, if Uncle Claude wanted normal, he would have said he wanted normal. Instead, he’d said he wanted Maggie. She took a deep breath and blew it out, probably the first of many deep breaths she’d be taking over the course of the evening. With any luck, after tonight, everyone else would agree that Claude had made the right decision after all. Or if not exactly the right decision, at least not the wrong one.

She started a brisk stroll down Decatur Street, doing her best to look like someone just out for a evening’s walk along the riverside. If nothing else, maybe after she’d done what she’d set out to do she could go to the French Market for a couple of beignets and coffee.

Oh yeah, Maggie. Let’s pretend this is just like any other delivery. Maybe you could go over to Royal and have a Hurricane.

She hugged the tote bag closer to her side. Okay, so maybe this evening’s adventure wasn’t typical. But she’d try to behave as if it were. Couples walked past her arm-in-arm, most of them smiling blissfully. Music echoed from some of the clubs, saxophones and guitars. A humid breeze slid over her cheek, smelling faintly of decay and the river.

The river. Time to move toward the riverside.

A group of women careened up the street, tottering on stiletto heels, their pastel sun dresses slightly wilted from the heat. Three of them had stacks of multi-colored metallic beads around their necks. The fourth wore a plastic crown with the number thirty at the peak. All of them carried paper cups.

Maggie detoured around them a little wistfully. She’d love to have a birthday party in New Orleans herself, tottering through the French Market with a glass of Voodoo Juice. Actually, she’d love to be doing just about anything other than what she was actually doing.

You could have said no. Nobody would have blamed you.

They wouldn’t have blamed her, but they wouldn’t have done it themselves either. And somebody had to do it. They owed it to Uncle Claude.

She did the deep breath thing again. Time to move on. It wasn’t like she had all night.

She headed up St. Louis toward Woldenberg Park. She sort of remembered walking along the sidewalk above the river there with her mother. Not that they’d ever gotten close to the water, even when they went to the park. She’d have to try to figure out her strategy once she got down there.

She sighed again. “Listen Uncle Claude,” she murmured. “I really do appreciate your having faith in me and all, but are you absolutely sure you wouldn’t like to just go back to Houston?”

#### 

Derek Bartel stuffed the collection of coins and folding money into his pocket before sliding his fiddle back into the velvet-lined case. The money wasn’t as much as he’d hoped, but it wasn’t bad for a weeknight.

Around him, tourists still strolled across Jackson Square, pausing to take pictures in front of St. Louis Cathedral. The metal-painted man who imitated statues stood frozen in place as a pair of children giggled in front of him.

Dolan had found a prime spot for their trio tonight on Chartres. People walking by could pause to listen for a few minutes before moving on, hopefully after dropping a couple of bucks into Derek’s fiddle case.

Dolan, the keyboard man, was breaking down his equipment. He’d already split the take from Derek’s case, probably raking off a little extra for himself when he did it. But since Dolan was the one who organized the group and found the spot for them to set up, Derek figured he deserved a little more for his trouble.

The bass guitarist, Peebo, didn’t feel the same way. “C’mon man, hand it over. I got rent to pay, same as you.”

Dolan grimaced, then handed him another couple of bills. “Take was thin tonight.”

Peebo shrugged. “Better than nothing.” He hoisted his case to his shoulder and turned up Chartres. “Later, dudes.”

Derek picked up his own case, watching Dolan fold up the tablecloth he’d spread in front of them to catch any overflow from the donations. “We doing this again tomorrow?”

Dolan shrugged. “Could be. Come on down anyway. If Peebo don’t show up, you and me can try doing some stuff on our own.”

Which meant he probably wouldn’t pass the news on to Peebo. Looked like they were about to become a duet. Oh well. Derek didn’t like confrontations. He wasn’t somebody who sought out trouble. He thought of himself mostly as a live and let live type. Mostly. “Good enough.”

He tucked his case under his arm and headed down St. Peter toward the river. It was a fair hike to his apartment, but the evening was clear and fairly cool, and walking saved bus fare. He only used his car for trips outside the city these days, whenever he could pick up a gig. Good for the environment. Also good for his own chronically thin wallet.

The street lights cast glowing pools along the sidewalk, leaving shadows in the doorways of the closed shops and caf├ęs. He could still hear music from the clubs along Decatur, soft echoes of saxophones and guitars.

A block away, the cast iron lamps of the Moonwalk and Woldenberg Park glowed enticingly. Great place to go strolling with somebody, as several couples seemed to have discovered that evening. On an impulse, he crossed the street and climbed the steps to the raised walkway along the riverside. Might as well enjoy the cool evening air as long as he could.

Ahead of him, he saw another solo walker, female, carrying a canvas tote at her side. She wandered slowly along the river, gazing out across the water, her dark hair catching reflected gleams as she passed the light posts. Something about her made him pause.

So slow. So sad. Just like Juliette.

He closed his eyes for a moment. He hadn’t thought about Juliette in years—it wasn’t like she was always on his mind. Still, now that he had thought of her, he started watching the woman with the tote bag a little more carefully. He slowed his own steps to stay behind her, hoping she wouldn’t decide he was a particularly inept mugger. She seemed to be looking down at the dark river water beyond the high bank, her steps slowing even more, her shoulders rounding with fatigue.

Don’t bother her. Not every sad person is looking to hurt herself. Live and let live, remember?

But even saying that to himself started a train of thought he couldn’t seem to stop. What if she’s looking for a good place to jump, a place where no one will see her? The thought drifted through his mind as she paused for a moment, gazing toward the far bank. Maybe a place like the very spot where she was currently standing. And if she decides to do something like jump, I’m the only one here. I’m the only one who can talk her out of it.

Well, crap.
CLICK BELOW TO CONTINUE

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Long Road Home


Once upon a time I was a prolific writer. My boys were 2.5 and under but slept good enough that between nap time and night time, I got quite a bit of writing done. Flash forward a few years later, life, my daughter's arrival and other changes have slowed my writing down. Too much, some might say. Okay, I say. :) But the one thing that's been consistent about my writing process is my desire to write by hand. Huge parts of every book I've written (with the exception of Call Me Cupid I think) have been done longhand.

Unfortunately, writers can sometimes get hung up on their writing process. Ever since I started writing I've been extremely curious about how other writers get the words on the page, so much so that along the way I've lost hours to researching that, hunting for tips and tricks to improve my own productivity.

If you're a writing newbie or just frequent your favorite author's websites, then you've probably heard most of them say "What works for me, won't necessarily work for you". But how often does that stop you from switching things up to see if their process might help you streamline your own? I've tried just about every process out there at one time or another. In the beginning I favored index cards, lots and lots of index cards. Then I dabbled with skipping the plotting in advance and just writing by the seat of my pants ( which didn't work well for me at all). I've tried programs like Scrivener (which if I wasn't such a pen and paper junkie, I would probably use more) and WriteWay Pro. I've used Write or Die and tried writing sprints like 1k1hr via Twitter.

But the one thing that has always been consistently part of my process is writing by hand at some point, whether it's drafting the scene I'm going to write in advance or actually putting the words down on paper exactly how they're playing out in my head. The worse part though is when I write a scene or two by hand, then tell myself I should type it and try to continue writing on my laptop, only to reach for a notebook again and again and again.

The problem is that because of my on again-off again obsession with my writing process, I always give myself a hard time about writing by hand: it's too slow, doubles my work load, involves a ton of typing at the end, I could be way more prolific if I didn't, most of my writing friends don't need to write by hand so why should I?

Because it all comes back to that author point about doing what works for you.

I'm done arguing with myself about which way is faster, which way is more productive or works for my friends. Writing my first draft by hand works for me, and the moment I accepted that, believe it or not my daily word count actually increased. And here's why:

- I spend less time staring at the blank page. Writing by hand opens my creative side more easily and it takes a lot less time for the words to start flowing.

- I can write for longer periods of time. Without a little word count button to hit, I stay more focused on the scene and characters than how many words I've written so far.

- I don't have to worry about extended periods of glare from laptop screen triggering migraines, which has been a recurring issue for me.

- My posture is better. I have a bad habit of slouching slightly when I'm at the keyboard (not to mention occasional flare-ups of carpal tunnel) so my shoulder muscles are less aggravated when I'm writing by hand.

- Writing a little slower (versus typing which I can do more quickly) gives me just a little more time to think through an action/dialogue/plot point to know if it works. I cross out far less by hand than when I'm typing and use the delete key. My solid first drafts by hand take far less editing and revising.

For the writers out there: Have you had periods where you obsessed about your writing process? How does your writing process work? Do you write by hand, use things like #1k1hr to help you get the words down?

For the readers: Do you visit your favorite author's website, curious about how they write their books? Or are you tempted to dig out your voodoo dolls to keep an author properly motivated to finish the books you're already dying to read?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guest Blogger Cornelia Amiri - Dancing Vampires

The vampire heroines of my Dancing Vampire series with Ellora’s Cave are pretty unusual. They’re not vampires at all. They are creatures of Scottish folklore, Celtic Vampiric fey, the baobhan sith. They roam the Scottish highlands in packs and all of them are women, no men. Voluptuous and enticing, these beauties are always wear green gowns. Also, they have talons. No fangs. Like other vampires, they drink human blood and fry in the sunlight. In some tales they have hooves for feet.

Often referred to as dancing vampires, they target young men coming from pubs at night. The baobhan sith dance with them until the men grow exhausted. Then the vampiric temptresses transform their long nails into talons and rake them across the men’s backs. Clawing at their victim’s skin, draining their blood, then drinking it. So the baobhan sith are always female and their victims are always men.

For a modern take on the baobhan sith, enter Ellora’s cave and step Underhill to visit these dark fey in my Dancing Vampire series, the tales of five of seven baobhan sith sisters. The first two quickies, Dance Of The Vampires and Vampire Highland Fling are available now, and Ever So Bonnie A Vampire is coming in mid April.

Blurb, Dance Of The Vampires:

One of Ian’s six brothers kicks over the stones of an ancient cairn, unknowingly freeing Sorcha and her six sisters from Underhill. The seven handsome Scots are enchanted by the voluptuous temptresses until they turn on the men. Ian captures Sorcha, giving his brothers a chance to escape. With the dark fey woman still in his grasp, Ian is saved by the rising sun.

Her sisters vanish with the light of dawn and Sorcha is trapped in the mortal realm. The seductress can’t resist Ian’s attentions as he stirs throbbing urges she’s never felt before. Ian is bewitched by the wild delights offered by this vampire siren. He can’t get enough of her. Still, her wicked sisters and his highland brothers want nothing more than to attack and kill each other. Will Sorcha and Ian’s sizzling passion prove strong enough to overcome the differences between the dark fey and humans?

Blurb, Vampire Highland Fling:

Murdina, a dark vampiric fey, hunts the Scottish Highlands for a man, but not for blood—Murdina wants love. She spots Cameron playing the bagpipes, and when a strong wind lifts his kilt, she takes a good look and decides he’s the one.

When Cameron meets a beautiful, mysterious woman who dances the Highland fling for him, his blood boils for her. Soon Murdina and Cameron are doing more than dancing. Wrapped in each other’s arms, they discover true love, but their time together is limited before Murdina’s fey sisters cross the portal to steal her back and probably kill him. Is their love strong enough to overcome the threat her sisters pose to Murdina’s heart and to Cameron’s life?

Blurb, Ever So Bonnie A Vampire:

Calin has had fantasies about the vampiric fey, Ever’s, warm, curvaceous body ever since they danced a year ago. When they meet again he waste no time in claiming and capturing her. Once the sun rises, Ever can’t leave the earthly realm and is bound by fey lore to the human, Calin. Though he has saved her from the sun, things get pretty hot in his arms. Thrust into the mortal realm, his love making excites her like no fey man’s ever has but she’s consumed with the vow she made to her sisters to not leave them for a mortal man. She fights her feelings for Calin and seeks help from goddess Morrigan.

The goddess has feelings of her own for the tall, muscular mortal so she frees Ever to return Underhill. It isn’t until Ever’s back with her sisters that she realizes her heart is still held captive by Calin. When Calin spurns Morrigan’s attentions, the goddess’s lust turns to vengeance. With Ever out of his reach, Underhill, and a goddess shape shifting into different beasts to hunt and kill him, Calin McDuff must risk his life and fight all odds to be with the woman he loves.

I am having a contest to giveaway two PDF Ebooks, one for Dance Of The Vampires and one for Vampire Highland Fling, just comment below to enter. Also please visit me at my website, http://CelticRomanceQueen.com

Drawing on her love of a happy ending, Cornelia Amiri is the author of 16 published romances, including Steampunk books she writes under the name of Maeve Alpin. Cornelia is inspired by her muse Severus the cat, who always lounges beside her as she works.













Monday, January 21, 2013

Being the Crazy Lady

I stumbled across Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen sort of by accident at my local library—it was an attractive coffee table book, and I wanted something to leaf through. Once I opened the book, though, I was hooked. It’s based on Cohen’s Advanced Style Web site, which he devotes to pictures of stylish women and men of a certain age, that age frequently being somewhere in their eighties. Some of these individuals dress a lot like they probably dressed when they were younger—Chanel suits, stylish hats, fashionable shoes that don’t look like they’d kill you if you wore them for an hour. But some of them are obviously individuals—lots of colors and textures, wild combinations of jewelry, and in at least one case false eyelashes so long you wonder how she can see.

They were wonderful, and I was enchanted.

Part of my enchantment came from having just started Amanda MacKenzie Stuart’s biography of Diana Vreeland. In case you’re not familiar with her, Vreeland was a legendary editor of Vogue in the sixties and seventies. Unlike the present editor, Anna Wintour, Vreeland was never considered a beauty. Her own mother told he she was ugly and others agreed, although many pointed out that her ugliness seemed to disappear once she began to speak. By all accounts, Vreeland gave up early on trying to achieve the conventional idea of beauty. Instead, she went for interesting, which the popular press sometimes equates with crazy. In her sixties and seventies, she wore her black hair in a blunt bob that set off her very white skin (which she sometimes made whiter with powder). Instead of blush, she wore two slashes of rouge across her cheeks, extending to and covering her ears. She wore brilliantly colored clothes that sometimes looked like costumes. And she put Vaseline on her eyelids. Bizarre it might have been, but she carried it off. And nobody could deny that she was one memorable woman.

I think the women in Cohen’s book are similar in a lot of ways. They’ve reached the age where conventional beauty is pretty much beyond them. In a way, we expect them to be invisible—like those elderly women in the grocery store who seem to disappear in the cereal aisle. But these women have chosen a different route, defying expectations and doing their own thing.

And maybe there’s a lesson there. Being beautiful is pretty much a crap shoot, after all, a matter of genetics, iron discipline, and maybe a more-than-passing acquaintance with Photoshop. Those of us who don’t make the cut can either try to come as close as possible or do what Cohen’s ladies have done—say screw it, and go for crazy instead. Wear that wild-looking scarlet kimono jacket. Buy that turquoise scarf with the bangles. Get those crystal earrings that dangle to your shoulders.

What’s the worst that can happen, after all? People may look at you funny, but at least they’re looking. You won’t disappear.

I’m sort of taking the whole crazy lady thing to heart, although crazy in romance land sometimes translates to routine. So check me out at the RT Booklovers Convention. I’ll be the one in the bright yellow ruana with the round Harry Potter glasses. Who knows, I may even Vaseline my eyelids. Couldn’t hurt, right?

So what about you? What’s your wildest fashion indulgence? And do you go for beautiful or crazy?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

First Lines... and more!

Thanks to authors  
Sydney Somers, Maia Strong and Cari Quinn
for  loaning us their first lines yesterday!

Here’s more about these three awesome books!  Check them out!



Line #1: “What are you going to do, fire me?”



Blurb:  
Primal Hunger (Pendragon Gargoyles, Book 1)

When the sun goes down, passion is unleashed.

Kennedy Beaumont loves her bartending job, even if her spirited nature sometimes gets her in trouble. Like threatening to hose down one of Pendragon’s co-owners. When it comes to Tristan, she could use a good hosing down herself—maybe it’ll help her stop casting him as the star of her wickedest dreams. Since he goes out of his way to avoid her, it ought to be easy to put him out of her head—until he reluctantly offers her a ride home.

Gargoyle shape-shifter Tristan Callaghan hasn’t had time for anything other than recovering the mystical dagger that was used to permanently lock his brother in a prison of stone. The cat inside him should have stopped craving Kennedy’s touch long ago, but now that she’s sitting next to him in his car, his very human need for her is sharper than ever.

The distraction is costly. In a split second, Kennedy finds herself thrust into a dangerous, millennia-old hunt for Excalibur. A hunt that marks her for death—and leaves Tristan with a painful choice—sacrifice his family, his quest…or the one woman meant to be his.


Buy it here!




Line #2:   It was the kind of day that poets never write about


Blurb:  
New lover.  New city.  New dangers.
 
  Wand’ring Minstrel Jimothy Redwing is used to life on the road, living by the words and music that are his stock in trade. While he’s comfortable finding his way alone, he’s always amenable to a friendly stranger who knows the lay of the land. Ricky Lennox is smart, funny, handsome, and very amenable.

 With a place to stay, a sexy new lover, and some local contacts, Jimothy looks forward to delivering the letters in his care—including a message for the local ruler—and earning a little money with his music before moving on.

Ricky’s declaration that he’s interested in more than just a one-night tryst starts Jimothy thinking about settling into a life of perfect harmony. But things hit a sour note when he learns his lover’s true identity—and exactly what’s in the epistle to Kanbec’s ruler.

Jimothy’s journey turns out to be far more complicated than he could have dreamed, and as dangerous as any epic ballad. For himself—and for Ricky.


Buy it here!




Line #3: His nuts were going to freeze

Blurb:   

To Justin Norton, an impending blizzard is the perfect time to push the limits. The last thing he expects to encounter on the trail is a dazed woman next to her overturned snowmobile--especially since that woman is his former lover Kylie Fisher, the bartender he’s been slowly rebuilding a friendship with over a shared love of basketball and lager. He's had some pretty kinky fantasies about her and now that they're alone, he's having a hard time keeping his hands off. But she's weak and hurting...isn't she?

Walking in on her long-term boyfriend with three naked women isn’t the way Kylie intended to celebrate the holidays. Flying on fury, she recklessly hits the trail on her brand new snowmobile. Luckily Justin, her seemingly easygoing knight in flannel and denim, saves her from herself, but does he have the moves to back up the sexy looks he’s flung her way for months? Because if he can’t make her melt, she’s damn sure going to find a man who can. But is she really ready for everything that comes with Justin Norton?


 Buy it here!