Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nine Nights In New Orleans - Blame it on the Voodoo

Blame it on the Voodoo
 PG Forte

         “It’s getting to where you can’t swing a dead chicken around here anymore without it smacking into one damn psychic or another.”
Zirondelle Doucette couldn’t help the grin that spread across her face as she listened to her Aunt Serafina’s complaints. Her aunt stood at the window of their family’s shop, staring out at the street, and Zee didn’t have to guess too hard to figure out the cause for her discontent. Another “damn” psychic had recently put out her shingle in the previously vacant storefront directly across from their own.
“And if it’s not a psychic it’s a card reader,” the other woman continued, grumbling crossly. “Or a palm reader. Or tea-leaf reader—”
“Or a purveyor of Voodoo essentials?” Zee suggested, holding up the little gris-gris bag she’d just finished assembling.
Serafina turned her head to glare at her niece. “Don’t sass me, Zee. You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“Yes, Ma’am, I do.” Ducking her head, Zee started in on the next charm. She knew it wasn’t psychics per se with whom her aunt had a problem. Serafina was a tolerant soul, not the kind who’d ever take a stand against anyone else’s religion or spellcraft or spiritual beliefs.  It was the idea of all those make-believe mystics making a mockery of their family’s calling that was trying the older woman’s temper, and not without cause. The Doucette family had owned and operated their establishment in the self-same Royal Street location for several generations, dealing in authentic rituals, in candles and jujus, talismans and spells.  It was hard not to take it personally when your way of life was turned into a kind of circus act by greedy imposters. But as Zee and her aunt both knew, the charlatans did in fact have a place and a purpose in the grand scheme of things.
Oh, how the tourists loved them. They ate up their acts and purchased their trinkets as eagerly as they did the beignets at the CafĂ© du Monde. Or jazz on Frenchmen Street. Or hurricanes in Pat O’s Courtyard. It was all part of the Crescent City mystique, like po-boys and crawfish, pralines and beads.  In an odd way, they kept things safe. They kept the merely curious from straying into dangerous territory.
“Oh, Lawd.” Aunt Serafina’s sudden gasp caught Zee’s attention. She glanced up in surprise.
“Auntie, what’s wrong?”
“It’s him.”  Serafina scurried back behind the counter where her niece was working, babbling nonsensically. “He’s back. He’s coming this way. What should we do? What does he want this time?” 
“Do about what?” Zee asked, feeling mystified and mildly exasperated. “Who’s back?” She loved Serafina; truly she did. Her aunt had taken Zee in after her parents passed without question or hesitation—the only member of their somewhat eccentric family who seemed to have any idea about what to do with a bewildered little girl who’d suddenly been orphaned. Zee would never forget the older woman’s kindness but, all the same, there were times, like now, when dealing with her aunt seriously tried Zee’s patience.
The Doucette family had a certain reputation; they were known for being fierce and fearless. They prided themselves on it, in fact. But Serafina had always been unusually timid for a Doucette. Right now, her pale eyes, also unusual in a Doucette, were wide with fear, the pupils dilated; her voice was but a whisper. “Monsieur Boudreaux.”  
Boudreaux. The name itself meant very little.  It was as common as dishwater around those parts. But between the look on her aunt’s face and the singing certainty in her own heart, Zee knew exactly which Monsieur Boudreaux Serafina meant. She meant Rene Alcide Boudreaux. Zirondelle’s Monsieur Boudreaux. Dominant. Vampire. Master.
But not her master. No, not yet.
As the door to the shop swung open, Zee trembled inside. She couldn’t even raise her eyes to gaze upon the shadow that she knew must be filling the entryway. Odd, considering that shadow contained the very thing for which she’d been longing.  
“Good evening, Madame Doucette, Mademoiselle.” Rene glided into the shop with his usual, preternatural grace. He had a way of moving that Zee found mesmerizing. And his voice! That subtle growl, as dark and seductive as midnight, left Zee wanting to fall to her knees at his feet and declare her submission right then and there. She dared not, however. Not with her aunt looking on. Not when she hadn’t yet been granted the right. 
“Monsieur Boudreaux,” Serafina’s voice shook a little as she returned his greeting. “What a surprise. We weren’t expecting you.”
“Weren’t you?”  
“Well, yes. I mean…no! It-it’s so soon after Monsieur’s last visit.”
That was sadly true, Zee reflected. Although he’d once been a regular customer, stopping by every few weeks, things had changed in the last decade. Nowadays it was not unusual for a year or more to pass between encounters. Rene’s last visit to the shop had been three months ago. The occasion was burned into Zee’s memory because it was then she decided that enough was enough. It was time to take matters into her own hands, to go after what she wanted, to stop waiting, hoping or dreaming that Rene might someday recall her existence. She could be dead by the time that happened!
“Indeed,” Rene agreed. “However, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that circumstances have made it necessary that I return sooner rather than later. I’m here because of the spell that’s been placed upon me—the curse, if you will.”
 “A curse!” Serafina gasped in alarm. “Oh, surely Monsieur is mistaken.”
“I assure you, Madame, the mistake is not mine. It would, in fact, be rather impossible for me to be mistaken about such a thing. You see, if there’s one thing we vampires are very familiar with, it’s curses. Centuries of people wishing one dead or ill tends to naturally have that effect.”
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Letting My Geek Show

Anyone who reads my books (at least the shape-shifter and demon slayer ones) knows I've got a bit of geek in me. Okay, a whole lot of geek. I love books and movies that border on the edge of the unknown, that take us on an adventure far away from real life, some more than others.

But geek always had such a negative label, one placed on me way back in Junior High by thoughtless kids who didn't have themselves figured out, let alone me. Being a geek was akin to being a social outcast in school and I was nowhere close to that.

I was absolutely sure they had to be wrong. It wasn't like I talked about Star Wars or that watching my dad got me hooked on my first computer game. There was no way those kids (the ones who weren't even my friends) knew I loved superheroes or that I'd had been convinced as a child that I'd grow up to be Wonder Woman.

Because geek had such a negative connotation, I refused to believe it. But far worse than that, I let those kids make me think it wasn't okay to be myself. I spent a long time hiding little things about myself that I was conditioned in junior high to believe made me uncool, less likeable, or just plain weird.

But I'm not that same self-conscious, uncertain, people-pleasing girl I once was (unless I'm having a bad writing day, but that's an entirely different post). I know now that being a "geek" only has a negative label if I let it.

And to truly let me geek show, I'm going share my wee addiction to video games. I'm not just talking about playing Super Mario Bros, like where you start out playing against your kids and then catch yourself turning the Wii on when you kids aren't there or even home. No, I'm talking about more hardcore gaming, like running around shooting everything that moves with a clueless "spray and pray" approach of winning on Black Ops II. At least that’s the game currently feeding my addiction.

It started out with killing zombies in Black Ops (what? doesn't everyone want to get in on the action after watching The Walking Dead?) and then with Master Chef’s encouragement, I moved onto the regular online gaming scene. Forget carpal tunnel from typing. Do you know how sore your hands can get from trying (and failing) for the tenth, hundredth, thousandth time in a row to kick your significant other’s ass at a video game?

What about you guys? What’s your geeky little secret?  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Guest Blogger Lily Harlem - New Releases

Thanks so much for inviting me to 9 Naughty Novelists today it’s wonderful to be here. Actually the title of your blog matches the title of one of my new releases, Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse published by Mischief at Harper Collins.

When scalpels are set down, the ward lights turned off and the patients asleep, there is always time for Mischief …

I guess you could call me a jack-of-all-trades nurse. I find work satisfaction in whichever department the hospital needs me most, as long as it’s through the darkest hours. Needless to say I’ve seen it all over the years, been there and done that, what’s left to shock me isn’t worth knowing. But it’s so often the quieter nighttime where the real high jinx abound.

Yes, the nocturnal life is the one for me. With a weakness for sexy guys wearing white coats and dangling stethoscopes, my fantasies are often realised and I’m adept at finding relief from the hospital grind in shadowy corners and cozy linen cupboards.

Of course my dedication to patient comfort is paramount. What kind of nurse would I be if it wasn’t? But when one act of extreme, albeit highly inappropriate, kindness forced me to become the hospital director’s snitch, the length I went to in order to keep my job satisfied my desires and found me the love that had always evaded me. A love that made me push even my not-so-professional boundaries to the extreme.

Before I picked up a pen, or rather opened a laptop and started writing, I worked as a trauma nurse in London, England. The work was adrenaline-inducing, the long shifts exhausting and the never ending stream of patients have proven to be an endless well of characters for me to draw on in recent years. I realized, as I wrote, how much I missed my nursing days - not that I'm about to jump back into it, I don't miss it that much! But what really tugged my heartstrings was realizing how much I missed being part of a team - working and playing with a group of women (mainly) who all know each other well, have a Carpe Diem attitude (you get that in trauma) and a terribly wicked sense of humor!

Nurses have this wonderful way of supporting each other and it's very rare to come across a lazy nurse (well it was in a London A&E anyway) and that was what gelled everyone. When the going got tough the tough got going, if you couldn't cope, then you didn't hang around. Things could get pretty high octane, the pace was fast, and things happened most people never witness or are part of. Again that cements a team, the shared experience of the highs and the lows. The hospital social club was where debriefs happened over a few alcoholic beverages!

Naturally there are always a whole pile of real-life love stories going on, between doctors and nurses (obviously), nurses and patients, patients and doctors, cleaners and consultants - I kid you not - radiographers and secretaries, porters (the biggest players in my opinion - lol) and well, anyone! Whatever combination works seemed to occur, and in fact I met Mr Harlem at work!

The night duties could be gruelling and not my favourite shifts at all - my body just doesn't cope without sleep - but when I sat down to write Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse, it was this blanket of night, the privacy from the prying eyes of the day that meant I could really let Sharon run riot. She doesn't mean too, well maybe a little bit, but things just seem to happen to her and before she knows it she's in deeper than she thought, not just with the studly Javier but also sweet Carl and the witch they call Iceberg!

Sharon has a higher libido than most, she also has a history of a broken heart, and when a patient - a gorgeous fireman with burnt hands needs a hand with er, something, she can't resist helping him out, it's her caring nature you see, even if it is above and beyond her job description! Oh, yes, this book was fun, some of the things in it are drawn from real experiences but most are made up. Mmm, I suppose you want me to tell you which are real, well you'll just have to read it and see if you can guess :-)

Many buy links For Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse can be found at Mischief Also now available at ARe

Another new release of mine is Dangerous to Know at Ellora’s Cave. This novella isn't my usual romance story, in fact there's no romance in it at all, that's why it's in the Exotika line at Ellora's Cave. Dangerous to Know is dark and dirty and follows New Yorker Karen as she explores a dangerous whore fantasy with a man she really should have stayed well away from.

For too many years I’ve hidden a sinful, erotic craving in the darkest corner of my soul. Within this deeply buried sliver, shameful fantasies rule and images—seedy, degrading, filthy images—burn through the dark of the night and hold my dreams hostage.

Luckily, the center of my whore obsession is keen to play my slutty game. I know nothing about him, other than his taste, touch and smell, but that’s how I want it, because the one thing I’m certain of is this man is dangerous to know. But despite the risks, in the very heart of New York, in open view, I’ll tempt him with my wares, show him my skills and prove I’m up for the job.

Buy Links For Dangerous to Know

Ellora’s Cave

Amazon US

Amazon UK


Some of you may have seen on the international news last summer that Total-E-Bound were publishing classic novels (copyright in the public domain) with the previous unwritten raunchy scenes included. A whole host of authors were involved and stories such as Wuthering Heights, Sherlock Holmes, A Christmas Carol and Pride and Predjudice were given the smokin’ hot treatment! Well, lucky old me, I only went and grabbed myself a hot jungle man didn’t I!! Tarzan of the Apes by myself and Edgar Rice Burroughs is now available in ebook and print (18th Feb) and has all those sexy Tarzan and Jane scenes readers previously had to use their imagination for included.

The Classics Exposed…

A wild man with primitive desires, will anyone be able to tame him? 

A handsome English aristocrat raised in the jungle by apes, self-sufficient, thriving on danger and with a head full of unanswered questions. Where is he from? Why is he different? What will satisfy the hunger that eats away at the very core of his being and finally feed his appetite for something other than food and shelter?

A delicate American woman, expected to be the best she can be and marry well, but with a craving for adventure and exploration as well as a hope in her heart to find true love with a man who can sweep her off her feet.

When the two very different souls collide, in deepest, darkest Africa, only one thing can happen, and it’s raw and feral. Lust a common language, satisfaction the ultimate goal. But will the gentleman outshine the savage-man? Is virtue to be honoured? And when faced with a civilised decision, can Tarzan do the right thing?

Reader Advisory: This book contains one scene of dubious consent.

Buy links for Tarzan of the Apes can be found on my dedicated website page or direct from the publisher Total-E-Bound -

Thanks so much for reading, I hope one or all of my new 2013 releases appeal to the naughty side of you and you can find the time to take a break and immerse yourself in some erotic fiction.

Have a great day
Lily Harlem

Lily Harlem is a multi-published, award-winning author of contemporary erotic romance. She lives in the UK with her husband and a bunch of animals, all rescued, and loves to spend her days immersed in imagination.

 Her books are a mixture of full length novels and short stories, some are one offs, some are sequels or part of a series (all can be enjoyed as stand-alone reads).

Follow, friend, read or pin with Lily Harlem by clicking these links.





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Monday, February 25, 2013

Morning Pages: cheap therapy

***As with any kind of writing advice/therapy, this is one individual experience and is NOT a necessarily something that may work for anyone else in the same way***

Over the past two years, since learning about The Artist's Way (TAW), I've done a "creative reboot" at least twice. Each time, I enjoy working through the 12 week program, gaining insights about my creative process and myself.

However, it's really time intensive! And right now, between the EDJ and my own health and writing time commitments, it's not as feasible. I'm hoping to do another full TAW work-through this year, but not right now. So, instead of doing the whole thing, I have made a return to Morning Pages.

For those of you unfamiliar with TAW, one of the "required" assignments is to sit down first thing every morning and spew out three longhand pages. The first few days feel very "Dear Diary, today the boy I like in math class looked at me!" but if you can tell your inner critic to STFU, and let all those random thoughts flow, it can provide wonderful insights--or at the very least, cheap therapy.

I've struggled with depression for over a decade, and of all the "treatments" I've been prescribed, one of the single most effective was talk therapy. I used to refer to my therapist as "the friend my parents bought me," but there was just something about having a sounding board to whom you could vomit all your negative thoughts that was terribly cathartic.

I have to tell you...pen and paper is a lot less expensive, and I don't have to deal with an insurance company to get it. For me, at this point, morning pages have been a wonderful outlet for all the stresses, negative thoughts, and doubts that normally would fester in my head to the point of distraction.

What I didn't expect was the side benefits of morning pages. I wake up earlier, which was a struggle the first week, but now means my a.m. is less rushed. I have time to enjoy breakfast at home, let myself wake up, before commuting to work. During the day, I've noticed fewer "whirling thoughts", i.e. those times when you've got so much crap fighting for attention in your brain that you can't actually stop to make sense of anything. And at night, I have fewer anxious dreams. Finally, having a routine, something I do every day with or without work, is beneficial. Morning Pages are the first significant thing I do in the morning,  and it signals to my body that the day is beginning. No going back to sleep, no lounging around all day--my mind is in gear, and it wants something to do. I've found that, on the weekends, once I do my morning pages, I'm much more ready to write.

For less than 30 minutes of my day, morning pages pack a powerful punch!

Have you ever done morning pages, or something like it?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Flirty Friday - Medium Well

This excerpt is from Medium Well, Berkley InterMix, which was released last Tuesday. My hero and heroine work together (he’s the boss, she’s the assistant), and he’s been resisting her charms on ethical grounds. But even the most ethical guy can only resist for so long! And yes, I was thinking of Jensen Ackles when I described him.

Her grin faded as she stared. God, he was gorgeous! But she already knew that. His shoulders, his chest with the fine spray of golden hair, the tight muscles of his stomach. She knew he’d look like this. She’d always known.
“Gosh,” she whispered.

Oh, wonderful, Biddy! Gosh and golly, gee willikers, some pecs you got there, handsome!

His teeth flashed in the moonlight. “Just what I was thinking.”

She wet her lips, staring up at him. He was absolutely ready, judging by his arousal. Was she? What if she wasn’t right? What if he didn’t like having sex with her? What if? . . .

He leaned over her, pushing her down on the bed, the heat from his body radiating against her skin. "Biddy, if you change your mind now, I’m a dead man.”

From Medium Well, Berkley InterMix

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nine Nights in New Orleans--Bourbon Street Blues

Bourbon Street Blues
Skylar Kade

Drinking a hurricane on Bourbon Street her first night in New Orleans made absolutely no sense, which was exactly why Alexa Huston was doing it. It was a Wednesday night, but enough tourists and local college kids lined the street to give her an idea of just how overwhelming—and scandalous—her new neighborhood would probably be on the weekends. Though her new apartment was a few streets away, she was still in the French Quarter, or, as her mother had taken to calling it, “Sin by the Mississippi.”
Looking at the Hustler store and the myriad strip joints, she hated to admit that her mother wasn’t all too wrong. Still, whether it was the long day flying from Wyoming to Louis Armstrong Airport or the half-serving of alcohol she’d already imbibed, Bourbon Street actually seemed kind of charming. It was certainly not a sensible place for her to be, which only increased its appeal.
While she scanned the street, taking in the tourists throwing beads from second-story balconies and the young men high-fiving each other as they exited strip clubs, her stomach rumbled in a not-so-subtle reminder that she hadn’t eaten in a while.
On the corner, the words Bourbon House glowed from a sign, beckoning her in to eat. It seemed as good a place as any, if a little upscale, but Alexa figured after her hellish day, she deserved a little luxury for dinner. After all, who knew when her suitcases would miraculously show up at the airport? She could be stuck in these clothes for days until the moving van arrived. She needed to enjoy herself while she was still presentable. The last sips of her hurricane bubbled through the straw and she chucked the empty souvenir cup into her tote before heading for the corner.
She entered the nearly empty restaurant and claimed a seat at the bar. A quick scan of the menu revealed all the delicious native dishes she’d discovered in her thorough research of the town. The bartender sauntered over, an open smile on her young face. “What can I get you?”
Alexa rubbed her hands together in glee. “I’ll start with the alligator boudin, then have a bowl of the seafood gumbo, and a half dozen oysters Bienville.”
The bartender arched her eyebrow. “Hungry?”
A huge grin broke across her face. “Starving. And it’s my first night in New Orleans, so I feel a distinct urge to try everything.”
The woman leaned on the bar. “Then you must have a Sazerac with your meal. It’s a local drink with bourbon, absinthe, and bitters. I definitely think you can handle it.”
“Done!” Alexa could feel her hurricane buzz lapping at the tension in her shoulders. A drink with dinner sounded like a perfectly good idea.
While she waited for her meal, she whipped out her smartphone and delved back into her favorite gothic romance. She couldn’t get enough of Wuthering Heights, and she imagined such a turbulent romance would be right at home in her new city. New Orleans had that tragic, romantic vibe down perfectly. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Characters In My Head

I'm not a particularly visual person; I think in words and sentences, not pictures. I can't conjure physical images of people based on descriptions, and I can't imagine faces that don't exist. No matter how thoroughly an author describes a character's physical appearance (and honestly, I get annoyed if it's too detailed), the heroine and hero end up looking like a movie/TV star or someone I know. The same thing happens to me when I'm writing a book.

If I don't have a specific person in mind when I start a book, that person will sooner or later show up, whether I want them to or not. And once they show up, I can't get them out of my head. That person's image becomes a character in my head.

So I've started a book about a chick who's been playing professional fiddle since she was a teenager, and now she's almost 30. I don't have anyone to play her in my head, yet. I'm sure she'll show up.

The hero is a thirty-five year old guitarist who was once in the world's most infamous rock and roll band. He's been sober and on his own for four years now. This one was easy. The coolest rock star of all time, in my opinion, is one many people have never heard of: Izzy Stradlin. Sure, everyone knows Slash. Everyone knows Axl. What many people don't know is that Guns n Roses started falling apart the day Izzy walked away. Also, he wrote or co-wrote the best songs.

Izzy circa 1991

He had great hair

Then he got dreadlocks, which  I wasn't wild about

He still looks good at 50. Dig the threads. I always loved the way he dressed.

Funny thing is, as I write the story, Izzy's not talking and walking the part of the hero - which is fine. He's a reserved guy of guy. Long as I know what the hero looks like I'm fine.

The heroine's cousin is turning out to be a much stronger character than I originally imagined, and she looks, sounds, and acts exactly like Kaley Cuoco's character on Big Bang Theory, only a lot brainier. Not that Penny's dumb, but she's not a deep thinker. This character, though, is an actual geek. I love this picture of Cuoco, including the glasses and the expression, because the cousin is very sassy.

I think this is a sassy picture

Now, the fact that the cousin's character is walking and talking and gesturing just like Penny on BBT is not a problem. It's a popular show, but Penny isn't a uniquely memorable character with instantly recognizable quirks and habits and speech patterns, right?

Well, my problem is the heroine's uncle, who raised her since she was a child. His name is Jeffrey Diego Duncan but he looks a hell of a lot like this guy:

I think he's still married to Mindy. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're young.

In my head, Uncle Jeff's walking around with scotch in a coffee mug, slapping his dumbass sons up the back of the head, and spouting all kinds of rules about life. I'm not letting all that get into the manuscript but I'm not gonna lie - it's been hard.

On the one hand, I've based the character of the hero partly on Izzy, and the history of his band largely on GnR; on the other hand, I've taken authorial liberty and besides, GnR broke up in the mid 90s and I don't expect a lot of readers to catch the echoes. (And no - Axl Rose's backing band is not Guns n Roses.) A whole lot of people watch NCIS and if I incorporated Jethro Leroy Gibbs' characteristics into Jeff Duncan, that would be lazy and hackish and, I don't know - plagiaristic? Is that a word? Blogger says it's not, but whatever...

So I'm working to give Jeff his own character. One thing he does share with Leroy--he's catnip for the ladies. Especially the younger ones. He gives in to them a lot more often than Leroy does, though.

Hey look y'all! I'm writing again. Weird.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Guest Blogger Mari Carr - Winter's Thaw

I want to say a big thank you to the Naughty Nine for allowing me to celebrate with them! Today marks the release of the first book in the new Compass series Jayne Rylon and I are writing. Winter's Thaw hits the virtual bookshelves today and I'm so excited, I can hardly stand myself! When Jayne and I finished Western Ties, we tried to let go of Compton Pass, but it was impossible. I couldn't help feeling there were more stories to tell. So I begged and pleaded and twisted Jayne's arm (actually she said HELL YEAH immediately) to write more! The result is the Compass Girls. It's Compton Pass--the Next Generation (cue the Star Trek music--lol). We tried to think figure out what would be the one thing that would terrify our hunky brave Compass Brothers and the first thing that came to mind was...DAUGHTERS. In Winter's Thaw, Seth's daughter, Sienna struggles with an overprotective father, a broken heart and some pretty hardcore lustful feelings for the new ranch hand, Daniel Lennon. Let the games commence!

Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes it’s better.

Compass Girls, Book 1

Sienna Compton has it all figured out. Her life’s goals are set and it is all systems go. At least, it was. Until her long-time boyfriend Josh threw a ringer into the master plan, requesting a “break” from their relationship. Now she’s left alone during the long, cold Wyoming winter, questioning what her heart has always believed to be true love.

Daniel Lennon is facing an uncertain future. When a tragic accident leaves him unable to pursue his career as a professional bull rider, he finds himself at Compass Ranch, working to help Sienna’s father, Seth, build his horse breeding business. One look at Sienna has Daniel envisioning things he never imagined wanting—a permanent home, love, marriage—and he’s willing to use all the red-hot tricks in his sexual arsenal to melt the ice surrounding Sienna’s broken heart.

When lust turns to genuine emotion, can Daniel convince Sienna to take a chance on something different and unexpected? Can he persuade her to consider a new path, one that will lead her directly to his arms…forever?

Product Warnings

Roping and riding, past and future, cold winter and fiery desire, lust and love all come together in this new Compass series. Saddle up and hang on. The Comptons are back!


Daniel lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. He refused to look at his clock again. At last check—no more than five minutes earlier—it had been midnight. He’d ticked off every hour since he’d crawled into bed at nine and he was still no closer to finding sleep.

Eventually, sheer exhaustion was going to have to win out. God knew he couldn’t keep going at this rate. It had been a week since he’d kissed Sienna in the stable. He would have tried to steal more than a few heated kisses from her, but Sienna pulled away when they’d heard someone enter the stable.

Daniel shuddered to think how close Seth had come to catching them. Even though they were standing a proper distance away from each other when Seth approached, he still sensed his boss was suspicious. For one thing, Sienna’s face had been flushed, her gaze roaming everywhere to avoid her father’s questioning stare. She may as well have stamped the word guilty on her forehead.

Since then, Seth had kept a very close eye on where he was and who he was with. Not that Seth had needed to be on his guard. Sienna was doing a good enough job staying away from him without her father’s interference. He hadn’t caught more than a glimpse of her when she came home from work each day. She’d stopped eating dinner with the family and even eschewed riding her beloved mare, Maria.

According to Doug, Sienna was depressed over Josh. Daniel knew that reaction was natural, but it didn’t stop him from wishing she’d open her eyes and see him as a suitable replacement.

“Screw that,” he muttered. He didn’t intend to replace Josh. He wanted to erase him from Sienna’s thoughts forever. He wasn’t sure when his intentions had changed, but somewhere along the way, he’d stopped hoping to just get into Sienna’s pants. Lately, he’d been thinking it might be nice to find a way into her life, but that didn’t seem possible.

For one thing, she’d just gotten out of a relationship. There was no way she was ready to hop right back into one. And secondly, he’d heard her conversation with Josh. They hadn’t broken up—not officially. They’d just taken a timeout. Daniel didn’t think Sienna would let the idiot come back, but, well, dammit, he wasn’t sure.

He released an annoyed breath and forced his eyes shut. He’d never fall asleep at this rate. He tried to clear his mind of Sienna Compton completely.

A knock sounded on his door.

“What the hell?”

He listened again, wondering if he’d imagined it or if it was the cold winter wind knocking a branch against the trailer.

Another knock. Someone was definitely outside.

He rose and slipped on a pair of sweatpants. Opening the door slowly, he was surprised to find Sienna, wrapped in a coat and shivering.

“Sienna? Get in here. It’s freezing out there.”

She quickly climbed the three stairs, passing him as he closed the door.

“Is something wrong?” He couldn’t imagine there was anything—short of bad news—that would bring her to his trailer at this time of night.

She shook her head. “N-no. Everything’s fine.”

“Okay. That’s good.”

She didn’t bother to explain more. Instead, she shrugged off her coat. Underneath she was dressed in a little slip of a nightgown. He hadn’t realized until that moment that her legs were bare. She’d walked all the way over here in a bit of silk and slippers. Obviously she was paying for the decision, given her uncontrollable shivering.

“Jesus, Sienna. What the hell are you wearing? Or not wearing? You’ll be lucky if you don’t get frostbite.”

She rubbed her hands together, blowing on them for heat. “This was a lot s-sexier when my cousins and I p-planned it from the warmth of my bedroom.”

“Sexy?” Her words hit him like a sledgehammer to the forehead. “Did you come over here to sleep with me?”

Her cheeks were red from the cold, but even so, her blush enhanced the color. “If you h-have to ask, then it’s s-safe to say I’m not doing s-so well.”

He laughed. He couldn’t help it. She was here because she wanted to have sex with him? He’d never been offered such a delectable frozen treat. Unfortunately, she mistook his response.

She reached for her coat, intent on putting it back on. “This was a mistake.”

“Oh, hell no. No mistake.” He pulled the coat away from her and tossed it onto his couch. Then he tugged her into his embrace, trying to infuse her trembling form with some of his own body heat. He rubbed her back lightly.

“You’re warm,” she murmured against his chest.

“And your hands are like ice cubes.”

“Sorry.” She tried to step away, but he stopped her, gripping her wrists. He placed her palms on his chest, holding them there.

“Don’t pull away. Let me warm you up.”

They stared at each other for a few hushed moments, as Daniel allowed his gaze to travel over her silky nightie.

“Say something,” she whispered.

He shook his head. “No. You first. Ask me, Sienna. Ask me to touch you, to take you. I promised I wouldn’t do that until—”

“Touch me,” she interrupted.

Daniel didn’t wait for her to say more.

Winter's Thaw is available at Samhain, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Medium Well and the Fear Factor

I’m a newbie in the paranormal romance game. Paranormal romances work with a different set of emotions from, say, contemporary romance (where I’ve hung out up until now). Vampires can be scary but also very sexy (just ask PG Forte). Werewolves can evoke that primal dread of being attacked by an animal (Kinsey Holley is your authority on that). Zombies don’t do much for me in the romance department, but they’re really good at evoking horror. The same is true for the wide range of other paranormals, from Eve Silver’s Egyptian demi-gods to Laurell K. Hamilton’s fairy kingdom.

And then there are ghosts. For me, ghosts have a pretty straight-forward effect. They’re all about fear. If you think about classic ghost stories, the old-dark-house-in-a-thunderstorm type, it’s all about what happens on the periphery. The feeling of being watched, of sharing space with something or someone you can’t really see. Until, of course, you turn the corner and…gotcha!

I’ve always been fascinated by ghost stories, and I toyed with the idea of doing one of my own for a long time before I finally got around to it with Medium Well, coming from Berkley InterMix February 19. My setting is the King William District of San Antonio, one of the most historic parts of the city. If a ghost is going to hang out anywhere in the San Antonio area, I’d say King William is the most likely spot.

My hero is a real estate whiz, Danny Ramos, who has a real knack for selling historic houses. But Danny doesn’t realize he’s actually the descendant of a long line of mediums—his sales ability stems from his empathy for the remnants of the people who lived in the houses over the years. This cozy relationship with the past comes to a screeching halt when Danny is assigned to sell a carriage house in King William that turns out to be haunted in a very different way.

Once I had the fear factor set up, I had to figure out how to work in the romance part of things. My heroine, Biddy Gunter, is Danny’s assistant. Like Danny she can feel the creepy ambiance at the carriage house, and she becomes his accomplice in finding out what happened there. Sharing a secret is sexy, as it turns out—at least in this case. Doing a ghost romance was a lot of fun, sort of alternating between both senses of gotcha. But it’s also tricky because both of those senses have to be there—you can’t lose the scary for the romance and you can’t lose the romance for the scary. Still, I enjoyed myself a lot while I was writing, and I hope you’ll enjoy Medium Well too.

Here's the blurb:

Love At Second Sight 

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…

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

And here's a taste of one sense of gotcha (for the other sense, you can read a scarier excerpt here):

He gave himself a quick mental kick. At this point he was supposed to be wise, sophisticated, urbane, all that stuff. Unfortunately, his urbanity seemed to be taking the night off. He felt like a sixteen-year-old coming home from the junior prom, hoping he’d get to first base at least.

First base?

Danny closed his eyes. He was a lunatic. That much had been clearly established by the events at the carriage house. But he wasn’t a stupid lunatic. He was not—repeat, not—going to put any moves on Biddy Gunter.

“Danny?” Her voice sounded anxious. “Are you okay?”

“Super.” He managed to come up with a smile that seemed halfway authentic, although he’d never used the word super before, outside of the McDonald’s drive-through line.

“Well . . .” She didn’t sound entirely convinced, but she produced a slightly shaky smile of her own.

And then he did something absolutely boneheaded—he leaned close enough to smell her faint scent of performance sweat and gardenias, the mixture of sweetness and musk, the essence of woman that clung to her skin. Immediately, he was a goner. Almost before he knew what had happened, he leaned further and pressed his lips to hers.

Her mouth was warm and soft and faintly startled. Or maybe it was her eyes that were startled. He tried his best to pull back, not to lose it completely. But pulling back suddenly didn’t seem to be an option.

His logical half screamed at him. Get the hell back. Make it quick. Say something clever and move on. Do not—do not—get involved with Biddy Gunter. Your assistant. The manager’s sister. The one who’s watched you becoming a first-class nutcase day by ghastly day.

And then Biddy’s arms looped shyly around his neck, almost as if this was her first kiss, yet when her mouth moved against his, he knew it was far from her first. He pressed his hands along her sides and gently pulled her closer, feeling the warmth and softness of her breasts pressed against him. His logical half shrugged its metaphorical shoulders and took a hike, while other parts of his body began to clamor for attention.

For a few moments, he let himself feel the heat, the clenching in his chest, the rush of need in his groin, and then he pulled back, slowly, to rest his forehead against hers. “Holy crap, Biddy,” he whispered. “What was that? What just happened here?”

A millisecond later he wished mightily that he’d confined himself to a simple Wow.

She stared up, her forehead furrowed.

“That was . . .” He fumbled through the meager stock of adjectives his numb brain could supply. “. . . very terrific. Very, very terrific.”

Okay, the results were official. He was both a lunatic and a moron.

Her brow had furrowed even more. Of course it had. He was obviously certifiable and an idiot to boot.

“Terrific,” she said, slowly. “Very, very terrific.”

Her lips trembled, and, for one agonizing moment, he thought she might cry. Then he realized she was more likely to giggle.

He closed his eyes again. Once upon a time, he’d been able to handle a simple kiss without making his partner crack up. Of course, it hadn’t been exactly simple, had it?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

First Lines... and more!

Thanks to authors  
Skylar Kade, Cara Bristol and Daisy Harris
for  loaning us their first lines yesterday!

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

First line #1:  Hope O’Shea thought she’d never set foot in The Sunset Strip ever again.

Blurb:  After two grueling years caring for her terminally ill mother, Hope O’Shea is eager to start fresh. Except her first interior-decorating job is for a popular BDSM club—part of her kinky past she misses, but had to leave behind.

Worse, she somehow ends up in the arms of her ex-Dom, Gabriel Cassidy. The one man who could strip her emotions bare, so bare that rather than reveal her painful history, she ran.

Gabriel never understood why Hope left without even a goodbye. Determined to get answers, he entices her to Maison Domine for a weekend on the promise of meeting the owner for another decorating job. Except being with her again reminds him why he loved her in the first place—and why she shouldn’t trust him as her Dom.

As their attraction reignites, Hope is transported back to the sub-space bliss she felt only with Gabe. Then a nightmare from her past shows up at the club, and with no other safe place to turn, she has no choice but to trust Gabe with her shame. Leaving Gabe with a devastating choice—reveal his last secret…or lose his Hope.

Product Warnings: This book contains a feisty interior decorator, a dominating leather worker, heart-wrenching sex and redemption.

Buy it here!

First line #2:  That’s her. The instant the leggy beauty entered the bar, the urge arose to leap from his chair and hustle her to safety, away from the prying eyes and itchy palms of the other tops.

Feminist Stephanie Gordon knows the instant she meets blind date Mark DeLuca it’s going to be a wasted evening. Sure the deputy chief of police is criminally sexy, but he’s arrogant, domineering and sexist. Thank goodness after the date ends, she’ll never have to see him again. A member of the Rod and Cane Society, an organization of men who discipline their women by spanking, Mark DeLuca is attracted to Stephanie like a paddle to a well-rounded ass. He sees beneath the shield of feminist militancy to the soft, sensitive woman she tries to hide. When she storms away in a snit, the chase is on. Can a man who spanks convince a diehard feminist her true strength lies in submission?

Buy it here!

First Line #3:  "They say a guy can never be too big."

They say a guy can never be too hung. Well, Harold Jacobs doesn’t know who they are, but they’re wrong. Socially awkward for as long as he can remember, Harold feels his enormous package is just one more thing to be embarrassed about. Especially once hunky and popular Owen McKenzie notices it in the showers. Owen knows he’s bi, but he keeps that secret close to his chest. He likes Harold, and wants to help him shed his dorky image and maybe even find a boyfriend. Still, Owen can’t stop obsessing about Harold’s equipment. And as much as he doesn’t want to flip-flop on his sexuality, Owen does want to test-drive what Harold has between his legs. Their friendship erupts into full-blown lust. But can Owen accept the loss of his golden-child status and be Harold’s boyfriend? And can Harold outgrow his insecurity in time to keep the man he loves? 

Buy it here!

Friday, February 15, 2013

First Line Friday!

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." – J.K. Rolwing, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997)

Welcome to
First Line Friday!

Here's how it works:

We'll post the first lines from three books, some written by us, some by author friends.
Then you will all be asked to vote for your favorite, without knowing who wrote it or what book it comes from-- until Saturday!

On Saturday, the lines along with their book cover, blurb and author will be listed so you can check them out! 

ALL voters, no matter who you choose or which line wins, will be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift certificate.

Easy and fun, for all of us!  We hope you'll play along!

And now, here's First Line Friday!

The lines:

#1: Hope O’Shea thought she’d never set foot in The Sunset Strip ever again.

#2: That’s her. The instant the leggy beauty entered the bar, the urge arose to leap from his chair and hustle her to safety, away from the prying eyes and itchy palms of the other tops.

#3:  "They say a guy can never be too big."

Okay... make your choice!  List your favorite by number or by quoting the line in the comments!  All votes up until midnight will be counted.  And don't forget to check back tomorrow to see who wrote which line and how to check out the rest of the books!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nine Nights in New Orleans - Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler


 Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler
Juniper Bell

“Laaaaiiiiissssezzz les boooonnnnnn …” A cat in heat, that’s what it sounded like to Arrietta. A wild, rutting, howling cat on a hot tin roof. Except this caterwauling demon was strutting across a stage, not a roof, and that stage happened to be in the bar next door on Frenchmen’s Street. Which wouldn’t be a problem except that she was trying to sing too. Her rendition of “Blue Collar Boogie” kept getting drowned out by the ridiculous screeching next door, and her overflow crowd of twenty – make that eighteen – seemed to be overflowing right out the door.

She sang louder. “Some say work is good for the soul …” Her voice cracked. Josh, on  standup bass, made a face at her. She flared her nostrils at him. He crinkled his forehead in a way that gave her a funny little twinge and made her stumble over the next word. “… but I see … say … I sold my soul forty hours a week.” She shot Josh a glare, only to be deafened by another blast of sound from next door.

“…roulllleeeerrr! Yow!!! Come on, pretty mama!”

“You’ve got to be kidding!” With a squeal of feedback, Arrietta yanked the mike out of its stand. “Can’t someone do something?”

Josh and Mackie D, her drummer, stumbled to a stop, the music crashing around them like a building in mid-demolition. With a quizzical look, Josh tilted his derby hat further back on his head. Mackie D just stared at her, his big black bulk solid as a mountain behind his drum set. They’d been playing together as Miss Jess for two years in Brooklyn, and were just starting to get some notice. Arrietta had slaved for this day. She’d gone into debt, she’d lived in shithole apartments her entire adult life, done all her shopping at Goodwill. She’d worked as a waitress, a psychic hotline operator, even a secretarial temp to pay the bills. She’d sacrificed everything – friendships, romances, financial security -- for her music.

Sure, sometimes she wished she could just let it rip, like that loudmouth good ol’ boy next door. Forget technique, forget lessons and scales. But she’d hadn’t spent all those years mastering her craft to let Miss Jess’s all-important first gig in New Orleans—on Valentine’s Day, no less--get ruined by a jackass.

She leaned back into the mike and breathed, “We’ll be back in five.” With one more annoyed look at her do-nothing bandmates, she stalked off the stage.

Blank, astonished faces watched her progress through Hurricane City and out the door. No one seemed too concerned about the racket next door. Maybe they were used to this in New Orleans -- one group completely drowning out another. Well, Arrietta hadn’t paid her dues in the Brooklyn music scene for nothing. Maybe other singers didn’t mind straining their vocal chords to be heard over a screeching banshee, but she wasn’t going to put up with it for one more second.

The bar next door was called “Chez le Voodoo”. It had an annoyingly vintage New Orleans look about it, with ornate gold lettering and a dim interior that seemed to be lit by gas lamps. An impassive man sat on a stool outside the front door. He looked her up and down, then back up, then back down.

She thought she looked pretty good, with her hair in pink, marcelled waves, like a fifties pin-up. In honor of Valentine’s Day, she’d added a fascinator with a sparkly heart. Her onstage style was tongue-in-cheek retro, with a poodle skirt that had been altered to feature a wildcat rather than a poodle, and a halter top that showed off the tattoo of an eyelash-batting kitten on her upper back. But the bouncer didn’t seem impressed. He held out his hand, palm up.

 “I’m not staying,” she told him. “I’m singing next door and I need to talk to someone about the sound level.”

When he didn’t lower his hand, she rolled her eyes and reached into her cleavage. With a quick glance to make sure it wasn’t one of her twenties, she slapped it into his hand. He grunted and waved her in.

Bedlam, that’s what it was. As she stepped into Chez le Voodoo, an absolutely wild scene unfurled before her. The walls were black, as if decades of smoke had infused every crack in the wood. Every few feet, flames danced and leaped inside glass wall sconces. The place was so packed, Arrietta couldn’t even make out where the bar was. Couples were romping and whooping; some were executing tight spins and dips and whirls. Fragrant cigarette smoke curled through the air as if the place were an opium den. Arrietta tossed her head, ignoring the seductive pull of all that wild abandon. Talk about old skool. A lot of bars didn’t even allow smoking anymore. 

But clearly, Chez le Voodoo followed its own rules.

Indecent exposure, for example.

She peered into the smoky crowd. The flickering gas lamps acted as a sort of old-fashioned strobe light, so she could see only in flashes. But she was pretty sure … yes, practically positive … that some of the women were dancing topless.

Well, it was New Orleans, after all. But she’d thought that sort of thing was saved for the tourists down on Bourbon Street. This was Frenchmen’s Street, where all the serious music lovers went. And she was a Serious Musician -- on a mission.

She swung her gaze to the stage, where she spotted the cause of her outrage.

There he was, the devil who’d been ruining her set. He stood with legs apart, hands gripping a saxophone, lips wrapped around the mouthpiece. At least he wasn’t singing at the moment, but his sax playing was just as bad. The man had no technique whatsoever. He just threw notes out there as if they were cheap Mardi Gras beads. Fast and raw, the notes scampered up and down the scale. The dancing crowd gyrated right along with the madman, faster and faster, as if they’d all die if they stopped – or even slowed down.

Then he pulled the sax out of his mouth and yanked the mike to his lips. And Arrietta came close to fainting. The man was … what were the right words? He was like some kind of god -- the pagan kind. He had black hair, thick as blackstrap molasses, with a shiver of black stubble on his jaw. His eyes glittered like midnight swamp water, like alligators sidling alongside bayou skiffs, like wild Southern belles throwing tossing up their skirts on a hot summer night. Every naughty thought, every dangerous, spontaneous impulse gleamed in those eyes. And every woman in the place knew it.

“Laiiiiiissssezzzz les ….”

And those broad shoulders, hunched over the mike as if he was making sweet, sweet love to it. His lean hips thrust in time to the beat. Tendons stood out in his neck. Sweat dripped down his face. The man was sex. Pure sex on a mike stand.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sweet Nothings

I'm getting nothing for Valentine's Day.

I can state this as an absolute fact, because my husband and I have a standing agreement. No gifts, no cards, no hoopla at all.

I'm not a huge fan of the day, which may be surprising coming from a romance author. But to me, it always feels like a big push to be "romantic" on one day, thereby giving everyone a free pass for the rest of the year. Send those flowers, and you're good until next February!

But me, I'd rather get flowers on a random Tuesday, just because it was raining out and he thought the house would look nice with a fresh bouquet. Or hear "Let's go out to dinner tonight, you've had a long week and shouldn't have to cook."

This weekend, I came down with norovirus (aka, stomach flu) and was flat on my back for 36 hours. So what did my husband do?

The laundry.
The grocery shopping.
Made sure Midkid had a ride to practice.
Kept the kids occupied so I could be miserable in peace.
And, midway through the day, came home with a freestanding jewelry armoire just because he knew I'd wanted one for a while but would never spend the money on it myself.

So no, I'm getting nothing for Valentine's Day. But that's just the way I like it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Guest Blogger A. Catherine Noon - Get In Mah Belleh!

Like many voracious readers and writers, I’m stationary a large part of the time. I work in an office, for one thing, and I write books, which isn’t exactly something I can do while riding a bike or jogging. (Though I’m tempted to try and use my laptop on the stationary bike, but I think that’s just to prove a point that it can be done.) I have used many ways of being physical over the years, from swimming to hiking, dogsledding, yoga, and martial arts. But my newest obsession?

Belly dance.

Yup. I started to dance and I’m not a kid. Yikes!
My teacher came to the dance late too, so she understands what it’s like. I’ve tried belly dance before, but haven’t had nearly as much fun – nor learned as much – as I have with my current school. But that’s not why I’m sharing this with you – ‘cuz it ain’t all about me, right? Right. What I am going to share with you is some research material.

My instructor compiled a list of her favorite dancers and I figured I’d share some of the highlights, complete with video clips so you can watch and listen. (Needless to say, if you’re reading this somewhere that loud Middle Eastern music would not be appropriate, you might wait until you get somewhere more conducive or put in earphones.)

First, a little information: there are many kinds of belly dance. The one I’m learning is Egyptian, called Raks Sharki. Contrary to what I assumed, the so-called Golden Age of Belly Dance is the 1940’s and 1950’s (I assumed it would either be now or a long time ago, not essentially pre- and post-WWII). These are a lot of fun to watch. Check it out! 

Samia Gamal 

Tahia Carioca

Naima Akef


What is your favorite physical art form? Tell me in the comments; I’d love to know!

Write on!
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

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Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.

Check out "Taking a Chance", part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books. Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.