Archive for July, 2013

Serial Short Story: Awakenings Part 3

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Hey all! I’m behind on putting up the story. Sorry about that! I also decided it would help you if I told you each week what part you were about to read. This is part 3. 🙂 Enjoy!

 

Cullen froze under her fingertips, but didn’t pull away. She didn’t prepare him or hold back. “Your sister’s name was Elaine. You have another sibling. A brother.”

“Yes. That’s all correct,” Cullen said, his voice hushed and surprised.

She didn’t look at him, but at a spot on the wall across the rotunda, keeping her concentration on what she saw. “Elaine had long blond hair. “She was petite. Much shorter than I. Delicate features and sad blue eyes. She looks like your mother.”

“Yes.” Cullen’s voice was strained. “All of that is right.”

She dared glance up at him, saw the grief transforming his features, and she snatched her hand away.

“You could feel that even with a glove on?” Cullen asked, his eyes haunted with shadows.

“Yes.” Edie said. She knew what she must do for him and his sister. She turned to her grandfather. “I need to talk to Cullen alone.”

Her grandfather twisted his gray mustache and puffed out his chest a little. His mouth tightened with disapproval. “I hardly think that’s appropriate.”

Edie didn’t have time for her grandfather’s usual overprotectiveness. “It’s all right. Mr. Moynahan is clearly a gentleman.”

At least Grandfather trusted her insights enough not to argue, and with a last look, he nodded and headed for the door. “I’ll be outside when you’re finished.”

She turned back to Cullen and smiled. “We need somewhere we can talk. Alone.”

He drew in a deep breath. “As you wish.”

“Why don’t we go outside and take a walk?”

A smile brightened his face. “Let’s walk toward the graveyard, if that’s all right with you.”

“After you.” She walked along with him as he headed toward the back of the building.

They exited from the back door, and when they stepped into the fresh air, she breathed a deep sigh of relief. Just ahead another large building stood alone, and they continued their walk toward the woods beyond that building.

He stopped halfway to the graveyard and turned toward her. “Forgive me, Miss Jones. What I know about mediums could fill a thimble. I guess you could say I’m like everyone else in my ignorance. My parents think this whole idea is a flimflam.”

“They think mediums are a humbug?”

He gave a half-hearted smile. “Yes. My father said maybe I was the one going insane now that my sister is dead.”

“I’m sorry you’re facing that attitude. I’m used to people thinking I’m a charlatan. What made you contact me?”

“I’ve always believed in science, Miss Jones. But I also know there is more out there we can’t explain. You seemed the most legitimate medium I could find.”

Gratified, she nodded. “I’m glad. That I can help, I mean.”

Now that they’d stopped walking, she craned her neck to see him. Irritated by the hat, she removed the hatpins and slipped the huge disk off her head.

“There.” She patted her pompadour and held on to the big hat with her other hand. “Much better. I hate these ridiculous fashions. Pretty soon the hats will be as large as dirigibles.”

He chuckled, and the laughter banished the sadness in his eyes. “I agree. It’s not too sunny for your skin?”

She glanced up at the bright day. “Not yet. Come on, let’s enter that graveyard.”

As they reached the gravestones, he came to a halt, as if reluctant to go further. “I can’t thank you enough for coming to Tranquil View Asylum.”

She lifted one eyebrow. “You’re welcome.”

“I’ve had some strange experiences here at the asylum. I’ve seen ghosts.”

“You’re a man of science you said.”

“Yes. I’m an architect in Denver.”

“Then it is very extraordinary that you’re admitting to seeing phantoms.” She paused and then said, “My grandfather said your father worked here.”

“Yes. He is a doctor. He left his position here after my sister ….” He drifted off, the sadness in his eyes back again. “A few of the staff here tried to tell my father that they saw my sister here. Her ghost after she died.”

“You believed others when they said they saw her?”

“I wasn’t sure. I want to believe she’s here somewhere. On the other hand, I don’t want her to suffer. I don’t want her to linger if she could be in heaven.”

Concern almost made her reach out for him again, but she refrained. She said, “She was a dear young woman. Kind to everyone despite all she suffered here at the asylum.”

“That’s right.” A light breeze ruffled his hair, and he jammed his fingers through it. “I tried to convince my parents not to send her here in the first place.”

“May I ask what was wrong with her?”

“She was rebellious. My parents didn’t like it. Father convinced my mother they needed to break her of it and put her in here.”

“Oh, my God.” She put one hand to her mouth and closed her eyes for a moment. “How terrible. You didn’t approve and tried to get her released. You visited her as often as you could.”

His eyes were moist with unshed tears, and the sight of such grief on such a strong man made her want to weep herself.

“I visited at least twice a month. She was my baby sister. Ten years younger than me. She would have been twenty-one this year.”

Agony resided inside this man, and if she could give him peace, she would. She’d never felt this drawn to a man before on short acquaintance.

* *

Coming up next week is part 4.

 

Guest Author: JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Today my guest is historical romance author JoAnn Smith Ainsworth. JoAnn creates some truly fascinating worlds with her historicals.

JoAnn, welcome to my blog. It’s a delight to have you here.

I’m delighted you invited me, Denise.  I love having an opportunity to interact with readers.

Let’s start with that question every author is asked in an interview. When did you first start writing?

As I approached retirement age, I looked for a way to supplement my social security income. Since I have my B.A. and M.A.T. in English and my MBA studies, I decided to go into the business of writing novels. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with my characters and with the process. What started as a business is now a passion. I’d keep writing even if I never sold another novel.

I noted that you advise aspiring novelists to stay true to themselves. How do you define staying true?

We all have unique writing styles. There will always be someone with an opposite opinion from ours on how to write and structure a novel. We have to stick to our own uniqueness. Our particular slants on our characters and their problems are what bring our stories to life. While we should listen to valid criticism and learn from feedback, in the end it’s up to us to decide what is valid for our stories and what will not work.

I also see that you’re definitely a plotter. Have you always had that writing process?

MATILDAS SONG was my first novel. I started writing “seat-of-the-pants.” The result was a rambling series of events without dramatic tension. For me, I learned I must think ahead about structure and the interaction of characters to make my novels the easy-to-read, entertaining and suspenseful stories I envision.

I love historical romances that are different, and from our time together at Samhain Publishing, I’ve had the opportunity to see that you’re one of those authors who loves to create rich worlds. What do you feel draws you to writing historical novels above other subgenres within romance?

I love a lyrical, descriptive writing style, even while striving to keep the storytelling easy-to-read and fast-paced. Historicals are best suited to my voice.

I‘d already decided to write in historical settings when I decided to write novels, but I didn’t know where I’d begin. When staring at the blank page, the idea for an Anglo-Saxon-Norman setting came because of the Anglo-Saxon name of Ainsworth, meaning the property of Ains. The roots of the Ainsworth family are in 900 A.D.  Britain.

I needed a time period when women had a certain amount of freedom to choose their husbands. After research, I learned that 900 A.D. wouldn’t work. The first generation after the Norman Conquest gave me the right blend of social conflict with the diminishing of Saxon laws, religion and healing practices while the Norman culture was gaining a toehold—but with relative political calm and no war.

Tell us a little about OUT OF THE DARK and MATILDA’S SONG and what you feel makes these historicals different than the average historical romance.

In MATILDA’S SONG, Matilda is an Anglo-Saxon woman with a life-threatening secret that is revealed when she falls in love with the Norman baron. Her life is threatened – more than one.

I write stories about ordinary folk faced with extraordinary circumstances. A reviewer for Paranormal Romance says about MATILDA’S SONG:  “One thing I really liked about this story is the fact it isn’t about lords and ladies, instead it tells a tale of a common born woman.”

In OUT OF THE DARK, I wanted the challenge of writing a physically impaired heroine. I took the model for Lady Lynett from real life. Early in my working career, I worked with a woman who was totally blind and who ran the Department for the Handicapped at a community college. I admired how much she could accomplish in a day with only one reader to help her.

I wasn’t long into the novel before I discovered it was too difficult to write a heroine who was totally blind in a Norman castle with no disabled accommodations. I restored some of her sight so that she could see movement, grayed shadows and outlines. In some cases, neither I nor my visually-impaired consultant, a retired instructor for the blind, could get Lady Lynett out of certain circumstances, I brought in a “touch” of paranormal by inserting a ghostly grandmother who tells her what to do next.

A reader review on Barnes & Noble says: “Having a blind relative, I especially appreciated reading a story in which the leading lady is blind.”

You’re an optimistic person, but did you ever encounter a point in your writing career where you just wanted to chuck it all and do something else?

Besides being optimistic (which I learned from my paternal grandmother who always looked for the silver lining), I’m from pioneering stock. We don’t let anything stop us. I may be down for a day or two from a rejection letter, but it’s not long before I’m back at the keyboard.

I enjoy what I do.  I expect to do it for the rest of my life. It’s become my passion.

What’s coming up next for you? 

I recently sold a paranormal where the U.S. government hires five psychics to search for Nazi spies on the East Coast during World War II.  EXPECT TROUBLE is an emotional journey through paranormal realms of fast-paced suspense and supernatural battles as U.S. psychics pit themselves against their Nazi counterparts.

The heroine is a U.S. WAVE based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Livvy is a clairvoyant who grew up hiding her talent because she feared being socially ostracized. The U.S. Navy (in the form of Commander Drew, her high school heartthrob) coaxes her out of the shadows. When she learns Hitler’s occult practitioners are trying to influence the war through mind control, she rallies her team and jumps into the psychic battleground with both feet.

Thanks so much for stopping by to talk with us today, and we’ll see you again September 3 when we’ll talk about your two-book western historical romance novels. 

JoAnn S. Ainsworth

MATILDA’S SONG (ISBN:  978-1-60504-195-7)

OUT OF THE DARK (ISBN:  978-1-60504-277-0)

     POLITE ENEMIES (ebook ISBN:  978-1-61160-636-2) release Sept. 2013

     THE FARMER AND THE WOOD NYMPH (ebook ISBN:  978-1-61160-660-7) release Dec. 2013

     EXPECT TROUBLE release 2014

Buy them online and in bookstores.

http://www.joannsmithainsworth.com/

     Visit “JoAnnAinsworth” on Facebook or Twitter to learn about her author life.

     Visit “JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page” on Facebook

     and follow “JoAnn Paranormal” on Twitter for

     paranormal and WWII news.

 

 

 

Blog Hop: A Midsummer Night’s Dream Man!

Friday, July 19th, 2013

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream-Man – A JustRomance.me Bloghop

 

I’m happy to participate with other authors in this great blog hop! I could show you a dozen dream men, the kind I try to create every time I write a hero for a novel. I went back and forth trying to decide which hero to show you. I’m showing you a bit of Zane Spinella, the hero of PRIMORDIAL. PRIMORDIAL is my Romantic Times Review 4 ½ Stars TOP PICK. PRIMORDIAL has also received an eCataromance.com reviewer award for 2004 and a JERR Gold Star Award in 2004.  Primordial is only one of the books in Special Investigations Agency series at Ellora’s Cave www.ellorascave.com  You can find more information on PRIMORDIAL and all my books at my webpage.  If you click on the link under the banner you’ll be taken on the blog hop. Warning, the excerpt below is explicit. Jump right in there and read about Zane!

Comment on the excerpt and you could win a free ebook of one of my titles!

*

Some forces are too primal to contain… Some attractions too hazardous to acknowledge…

When archaeologist Keira Jessop and her grandfather are accused of stealing an artifact with paranormal powers, the Special Investigations Agency demands she trek into a remote rainforest to locate the strange object. When she learns cocky, handsome special agent Zane Spinella will be her protector on this perilous assignment, she can’t help but be wary of him even if he is heart-stopping sexy and once saved her life. Zane doesn’t trust easily, least of all a woman who may be a criminal and makes his most primitive cravings boil.  She has never encountered a more enticing or maddening male in her life.  As they encounter a mysterious people and battle a twisted enemy who also wants the artifact for his own, they will discover sexual ecstasy and dark secrets are not the only dangers hidden in the dark and dangerous jungle.

Prologue

Cairo, Egypt

Zane Spinella watched the bustling market square, taking in the sights and sounds like a predator stalking his next meal. A woman’s beautiful singing voice undulated on the stifling air, lulling the senses with sensual promise. But he couldn’t afford to relax, to take pleasure in the haunting sound as it drifted around him with seductive allure.

Sequestered near an alcove, he observed the comings and goings with anticipation. Sweat rolled down the back of his neck and into the collar of his desert khaki camp shirt. A shiver passed over his body despite the stifling heat. He knew what the sensation meant. The telltale quiver forewarned of trouble.

His sixth sense never lied. Yeah, trouble in spades and then some.

He squinted in the hot sun. Even his wrap around sunglasses couldn’t cut this burning light. Nothing like being baked alive. He took two deep swallows of his bottled water and returned it to the loop on his belt. At the very least he should be prepared, because if Aloysius Makepeace showed up this time, he would act fast.

Zane had prowled Cairo for two days and not a sign of his quarry. Maybe the intelligence he’d received from his contacts in Egypt and the message traffic from SIA didn’t jive. As he raised the digital camera and adjusted the telescopic lens, he sucked in a deep breath and regretted it. The alcove stunk to high heaven of dog feces and urine. He could handle it, and it didn’t distract him from his primary focus; capturing damaging photographs of old man Makepeace with international artifact thief and terrorist Darren Hollister was more important.

There he is.

Aloysius moved into position in the square, the noonday sun glaring down on his tall body. Like clockwork a shorter, well-built blond man stepped up to him. Dressed in a short-sleeved green polo shirt and brown dress pants, Hollister looked so out of place it should be laughable. Sunburned and Nordic as hell with his thick, straight long blond hair, Hollister drew attention to himself in this country.

Makepeace moved forward, smiling and shaking Hollister’s hand. Prove me wrong, old man. Don’t do it.

Zane snapped a few shots, pausing between each frame. The sophisticated device, which Zane once heard described as the secret squirrel camera, zeroed in on the two men, ready to capture damning evidence.

With his sun-weathered, wrinkled face and prominent features, Aloysius blended with the locals. Zane knew the robe hid the skinny body of an eighty-year-old. No one would ever suspect him of being a criminal. A linguistics scholar like old man Makepeace, with a genius IQ, should have more brains than this, but Zane had seen it happen before. Greed could drive a man to do horrible things.

Zane’s heartbeat quickened, his breathing coming fast as the thought of bringing down the enemy sent adrenaline surging into his body. He’d done surveillance like this so many times it should be boring as shit. Instead, he thrilled to the chase, the knowledge he would obtain the verification required to destroy an international terrorist and his cohort.

Before Makepeace could move again, a woman came into view. Dressed in a high-collared off-white tunic and gauzy navy blue pants, her head was shaded by a matching blue scarf. Zane could see her face and a little of her honey brown hair. When she turned from profile to full on, everything outside and within him seemed to stand still.

His breath hitched in his throat and his body took instant notice.

Jesus.

Golden brown eyes looked right in his direction, and for a second he panicked. Could she see him? No, he’d placed himself far enough away that even a camera pointed in their direction shouldn’t cause suspicion.

Zane surveyed her like a starving man. Spaced in proportion to a slim, small nose and lush mouth, her eyes held a strange sadness he felt down deep where he didn’t want to feel. Long, beautiful dark eyelashes fanned to her cheeks as she blinked. Her face held strong angles, her jaw a little square. It gave her face instant strength and matched with the vulnerability he sensed within her. Arousal stirred in his groin and startled him. He didn’t have time to become interested in a woman with questionable connections. Hell, he hadn’t had time for any exciting female contact in the last several months. The job demanded everything he could give; everything else could wait.

Realizing that he’d been gawking at the woman without taking photos, he snapped a series of pictures sure to damn both Makepeace and his companions. The woman shook hands with the big blond, and when Makepeace put his arm around the woman, Zane captured the image. Did Makepeace have a woman on the side? The old bastard had been married fifty years, but maybe that didn’t mean anything to him.

Again, as if she sensed something wrong, the woman glanced his way. Another flash of those intriguing eyes and the air in his lungs sluiced in and out with difficulty. She reminded him of a jungle creature peeking out behind lush flora, watching and waiting. For what?

As Makepeace and the woman talked with Hollister, Zane wished he could read lips. Makepeace reached in his burnoose and brought out a small envelope. He handed it to Hollister and then stepped back. Rapidly snapping off the pictures, Zane took satisfaction in collecting the damning evidence.

He moved closer, inch by inch. Not long after, he realized the conversation between Makepeace, the woman and Hollister seemed to be ending. Maybe, if he worked this right, he could also pick up some of their conversation. He reached into his shirt pocket and extracted a cigarette packet. He left the camera hanging around his neck while he tapped the packet so the end of a cigarette popped out.

Not that he’d ever smoked in his life, nor did he plan to start. He shoved the cigarette pack back in his pocket, as if he’d gone for a smoke and then decided against it. He smiled with satisfaction. The packet would record everything Makepeace and his cohorts said; the microphone should be powerful enough to record their voices.

Zane neared the small group and propped against a wall, making sure he looked everywhere but the group so they wouldn’t suspect him.

As the camera whirred with shot after shot, Zane felt unusual stirrings of worry for the woman. She looked innocent, unprotected. As his gut clenched, he realized he’d allowed his sympathy to get out of hand. She couldn’t be trusted.

“This isn’t good enough. Haan will not be happy,” Hollister said, his American accent coming through loud and clear.

“You have to tell him this is impossible. I need more time to deliver the item,” Makepeace said, his Queen’s English upper crust accent soft but firm. A thin line of desperation tinged the old man’s voice.

“You don’t have a choice, old man.” The blond bruiser nodded toward the woman. “What happened to your wife could happen to her.”

Alarm slid through Zane’s blood. Something ugly lingered in the air like a bad stench. His instincts told him to be ready for anything.

“Damn you to hell, sir. You are not a gentleman,” Makepeace said, a growl in his voice that almost altered his polite veneer.

“Grandfather.” The woman’s voice came to Zane’s ears, as distinguished as her grandfather’s but with an American accent. “Please.”

He should have known. He hadn’t seen a picture of Makepeace’s granddaughter before, but Mac Tudor, his Section Chief at SIA, had told him about her. Keira Marie Jessop, an archaeologist and criminal. Intriguing combination, and probably damned deadly. It disgusted him when a woman this talented and beautiful threw her life away by consorting with vermin like Hollister.

Zane took the chance and glanced at the group. The woman held her grandfather’s arm. Hollister’s expression held clear contempt for Makepeace and the woman.

Come on, Blondie. Say something nice and incriminating. Open that big mouth of yours and just say what I wanna hear.

“Remember, old man,” Hollister said, putting his hands on his hips. “You give Haan what he wants, or it’s hell to pay.”

The blond started to stalk away and left the old man talking with the woman. They moved a little father away.

“Shit,” Zane murmured when he realized he couldn’t hear what they said anymore.

Zane almost took the chance and walked into the middle of the square and toward a cart where he knew he could fake looking at merchandise. He stowed his camera in the small over-the-shoulder camera case nestled at his left hip.

Shifting away from Makepeace’s sheltering arm, the woman gestured with her hand. Anger crossed her smooth features, her eyes flashing. Makepeace held up his hands and frowned, his gaze intense with warning. She shook her head. The old man appeared to plead with her. Seconds later he stalked away, major displeasure written in every line on his face.

So the old bastard would leave his granddaughter standing out here alone? Zane’s protective instincts fired to life. His gaze snagged on Hollister returning to the square and heading straight for Keira. What the fuck—?

In his peripheral vision Zane saw movement, swift and deadly. Around a corner, the long nose of an M-16 appeared and pointed right toward Keira and Hollister.

Zane hurdled into action and ran toward Keira. “Get down!”

She whirled, her eyes wide with shock as he dashed toward her. Zane grabbed the woman and yanked her into an alcove. Her gasp of outrage stifled against him as he flattened her against unforgiving wall just as gunfire erupted in the plaza.

People scattered, women and children screaming, and men shouting. Display carts tipped over as chaos erupted.

He reached for the small weapon strapped to his ankle. One swift movement and he gathered the gun in his right hand.

More automatic gunfire made Zane edge her deeper into the niche until they couldn’t go any further. He pressed her head against his shoulder to shelter her face, making sure not to smother her.

“Let me go!” Keira struggled against him, her voice muffled against his shirt.

“Stop it.” She started to bring up her knee and he pressed her harder against the wall. “Don’t even think about it.”

Another spate of bullets peppered the wall near the recess and he stiffened, hoping to hell the bullets didn’t ricochet. Her entire body shivered against him, as if fear made its way into her mind. Daring to peer around the alcove wall, he kept his weapon at the ready. If someone intended to kill her, he needed to find a safe way out of here. Screaming and shouting echoed against the walls and in the distance a siren wailed. At first he didn’t see anyone hit by the spate of bullets. No bodies or blood. Then he saw Hollister lying face down not far from the entrance to an alley. Bullet wound damage to the back of his head assured no medical assistance would help him. An eerie silence, punctuated by a woman’s weeping, settled over the market.

Another scan of the area showed no sign of the assassin.

Taking a clarifying breath, he glared down into her amber eyes and drank in her female scent with one deep breath.

Her eyes betrayed anger and confusion. “Get off me.”

“Damn it, stop squirming.” Leaning down a little so he could align his gaze with hers, he conveyed the truth. “Those bullets may have been meant for you. If you want to live, stop fighting me.”

Warm and curved, Keira’s body felt vulnerable under his weight, but the alcove didn’t afford enough room for him to move back without making his back a target. For the first time he saw fear in her eyes. She shivered and the little movement made him too aware of soft, full breasts and slim body concealed by layers of cloth. Primal male inside him reared up and took notice in a big way.

His cock didn’t care that he’d just survived a dangerous situation that might not be over yet. All it cared about was the woman glued to every inch of him. Her eyes widened as she realized that he sported a growing erection. Damn it all to hell. She probably though he was a rapist. Self-preservation said something must give.

He eased up on her a little and cupped her face with his left hand. He didn’t see any blood on her, but concern still made him ask, “Were you hit?”

“What?” she asked a bit breathlessly.

“Are you hurt?”

“No. No. Who are you?”

Nope. He couldn’t tell her. Not now, if ever. “We need to get you to safety.”

She pressed her hands against his chest and the feeling of warm, small hands against his pecs made his cock grow harder. Her mouth opened as if she couldn’t decide to tell him to go screw himself or if she wanted a kiss. God, those lips looked soft and like they might taste so fucking delicious. He started down at her like an idiot, a man who had the stupidity to think about sex after getting shot at.

On the other hand, he knew that reaction often came with the territory. Many of the male agents he knew maintained they felt horny as hell after danger passed.

“Don’t,” she said, her voice quavering the slightest bit.

“Don’t what?”

She didn’t answer, her gaze locked with his in a moment that seemed to hang on to eternity.

He couldn’t help but drink in those big, gorgeous eyes and that made-for-sex mouth. A wild-assed vision of her sucking him with that mouth made him want to groan. She overwhelmed his senses, his body going into riot. He’d always been a sitting duck for a damsel in distress and it didn’t seem to matter right now if she was the criminal he’d been tracking since she entered Cairo. She appeared young and innocent, but he knew she couldn’t be.

She shook her head. “Please.”

Please what? Please kiss you, honey?

“Release her immediately,” a stern English male voice said.

Her eyes widened as she looked passed him, and Zane whirled. Using his body to shelter her, he pointed his weapon right at the man.

 

Serial Short Story: Awakenings

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Morning everyone. Here’s your next installment of Awakenings. Hope you enjoy!

Tranquil View Asylum

Simple, Colorado

June, 1912

His bushy white eyebrows went up, and he stroked his mustache in a nervous gesture he’d performed since she was knee high to a toad.

“Evil?” His voice was tainted with doubt. “Well, I suppose it could be. It’s filled with insane people.”

She wanted to roll her eyes, but decided against making a face. Instead she tilted her head down far enough that the huge brim of her hat shaded her true expression. “Most insane people are not evil, Grandfather.”

He glanced at his pocket watch. He grunted and gestured toward the towering front door. “Let’s go then. Mr. Moynahan is waiting.” He tucked the watch back into his vest pocket. “We’re already late.”

She slipped her gloved hand through the crook of his elbow and allowed him to help her up the steps. After they went through the heavy wooden doors, they stopped in the towering two-story rotunda entry. She glanced upward, entranced by the combination of coldness and beauty. Before she could absorb more of the building’s atmosphere, footsteps echoed from in front of them.

Impressions flew at Edie as a man came toward them from offices in the back. He was a rough-looking man, and over six feet tall. He wore a conventional dark suit, but it couldn’t hide the breadth of his shoulders and his physical strength. She got a sense of raw power and determined personality. Unruly black hair fell in waves around his face and curled around his collar. A short-trimmed mustache and beard didn’t obscure his handsome, even features. He was about thirty years old, perhaps a bit younger. Sharp attraction speared her, and it threw Edie off guard. She’d always maintained a distance from men, and in her twenty-four years hadn’t allowed them to throw off her equilibrium.

“Mr. Jones, Miss Jones?” The man’s voice rumbled deep, a husky, warm sound that sent tingles through her.

Before she could speak, her grandfather stepped forward. “Mr. Moynahan, I’m Benedict Jones. This is my granddaughter, Edie Jones.”

“Very pleased to meet you both.” Cullen Moynahan shook hands with her grandfather, and then with her. His grip on her hand was firm, but not too firm, and a sharp sensation of comfort filled her. She usually shielded herself from other’s emotions, but his cut through her like a blade. Inside him she sensed desperation, concern and—oh.

An instant attraction for her flickered in his eyes, in the way he looked at her. Shocked, she snatched her hand back quickly. Even with gloved hands, she had sensed his heat.

A smile touched his mouth. “I’m pleased you could make it. I can’t thank you enough for coming here to help me.”

Grandfather cleared his throat. “There are some rules Mr. Moynahan.”

“Please, call me Cullen.” Cullen looked at her rather than Grandfather. “I’ll follow whatever rules Miss Jones specifies.”

She liked his attitude and appreciated that he spoke as much to her as to Grandfather.

Grandfather cleared his throat yet again, a nervous habit he’d always had. “My granddaughter won’t be exposed to the … insane. It would be dangerous for her. I’m not even sure why you wanted her here in the first place.”

Cullen shifted on his feet and planted his hands on his hips. Discomfort entered his dark eyes. “My sister once lived here.” He rubbed a hand over his jaw. “She was institutionalized by my mother and father from the time she was ten until the doctors declared her sane a year ago.” He winced as if in physical pain. “She was on the Titanic when it sank last month.”

“Oh, my heavens,” she said. “Was she alone?”

“No. With a man.”

On impulse, she clasped Cullen’s forearm. An impression flew at her, then another and another, pictures that moved so quickly she almost couldn’t keep them in her thoughts long enough for an impression.

**

Next Installment: Thursday, July 18

Guest Author: N.J. Walters

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

A warm welcome to fellow author N.J. Walters. N.J. and I have known each other a long time, and she’s one nice lady! Today I’m interviewing her about writing her writing life.

Let’s start with that question every author is asked in an interview. When did you first start writing?

I always played around with poetry when I was a teenager, but never did any serious writing until I was in my early thirties. I wrote two books between 1995-1997. I tried to find a publisher for them but wasn’t successful. I put the books away and didn’t start writing again until fall of 2003. I wrote a story as part of an online contest. I didn’t place in the contest, but I finished the book. Then I submitted to a newer ePublisher I’d read about. Ellora’s Cave accepted my submission and Annabelle Lee was published in October 2004. As for those first two books I wrote…after many rewrites, they eventually found a home with Samhain Publishing. Discovering Dani and The Way Home are the first two books of the Jamesville series.

I often tell aspiring novelists to stay true to themselves. How do you define staying true?

I think you have to write what you love, what you are driven to write. If you’re not completely invested in the story then your readers won’t be either. You can’t simply follow the trends of the marketplace. Those come and go and eventually cycle around again.

Do you define yourself as a plotter, pantser or a combo?

I’m mostly a pantser with a small bit of plotter. I use file cards for my character outlines and add to them as I write. I’m not one of those people who knows everything about my characters before I begin writing, but I know the basics. I find they often surprise me during the course of a book. I usually have some ideas for scenes and a general idea of the plot. Once I have the first scene set in my head, I sit down and start writing. Everything else flows from there.

What draws you to writing in certain subgenres of romance?

Mostly they’re genres I love to read myself. I’m a big fan of contemporary and paranormal romance and that’s primarily what I write. I have written futuristic, a historical, and some time-travel as well. The characters dictate the story. Depends on if the character who pops into my head demanding a story is a hunky werewolf, a hot handyman or an escapee from a futuristic laboratory. Whoever it is, that’s the story I tell.

Tell us about your latest releases.

Strands of Love is the 7th book in the Tapestries series. This is one smokin’ hot time-travel/ménage a trois. When Samantha Calloway finds two strangers on her land she doesn’t believe their stories of magic tapestries and other worlds. But when she suddenly finds herself in Javara, she doesn’t know what to believe. And when the tapestry transports them all back to her farm, Sam has a choice. She must decide if she will be true to her family and their legacy or if she will abandon it all for a chance at love.

Mark of the Bear is the 2nd book in the Hades’ Carnival series. Hollywood scream queen Kellsie Morris takes on the role of her career—the story of an immortal, shape-shifting warrior trapped in a carnival run by the Devil’s minions. It takes her a while to realize all of it is real. Marko has waited an eternity for the chance to free his goddess, the Lady of the Beasts, and his fellow warriors from an ancient curse. But once he lays eyes on Kellsie, he knows to the bottom of his soul that his purpose is to protect her life.

Have ever encounter a point in your writing career where you just wanted to chuck it all and do something else?

No, I can’t say I have. Sure I get frustrated sometimes. Any job, no matter how much you love it, can reach a point where you want to close your eyes and scream. But those moments are rare. I love telling stories and know how lucky I am to be making a living doing what I love. I’ll keep writing as long as readers keep buying my books.

What’s coming up next for you?

The next two books in my Hades’ Carnival series are due out later this year—Pride of the Lion on July 16th and Howl of the Wolf on October 8th. The next Legacy book—Craig’s Heart—will has been contracted. No release date yet, but I expect it will be early 2014. Also, watch for Double or Nothing, a hot western ménage a trois from Ellora’s Cave. No date yet, but I expect to have one soon.

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N.J. has always been a voracious reader, and now she spends her days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smoldering good looks—all vie for her attention. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it.

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Serial Short Story: Awakenings

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Hey everyone, good to have you here. Today I’m starting an experiment. Over the next several weeks I’ll have bi-weekly installments (snippets really) of short stories related to the world I created in my Asylum paranormal romance trilogy (Shadows Wait, Shadows Rise, Shadows Fall). This first short story, Awakenings, is set in 1912. If you’ve read my Asylum Trilogy already, you’ll recognize the creepy atmosphere of Tranquil View Asylum. If you haven’t read my Asylum trilogy yet, I hope you’ll read the short stories coming up (there are three in all) and want to read the full-length novels. It’s not Halloween yet, but I hope the atmosphere makes you look over your shoulder. Happy reading!

Awakenings

Before Lilly Luna and Morgan Healy have their adventures at Tranquil View Asylum in Asylum I: Shadows Wait, medium Edie Jones and Cullen Moynahan discover a connection fostered by the dead.

Simple, Colorado

June, 1912

“This is a mistake,” Benedict Jones said to his granddaughter as she stepped out of his car in front of Tranquil View Asylum.

Edie Jones sighed as she touched the wide brim of her mauve hat. The thing was so huge, she had to tilt her head at a ridiculous angle to see anything. She wished now she’d ignored her grandmother’s insistence that she wear her most ostentatious daywear. The flowing mauve and cream dress was a concoction almost as elaborate and fancy as a wedding cake. It reached to just above her ankles and came to a tight circle that threatened to trip her. The cream-colored leather shoes seemed impractical for a trip into the mountains.

A cool breeze fluttered through the pines, and sun blazed down from a cloudless sky and reminded Edie she had this one last job to do and then no more. After today she was no longer Edie Jones, famous medium. Worse than buckling to her grandmother’s idea of a proper dress for this outing had been agreeing to Cullen Moynahan’s request that she meet him at Tranquil View Asylum.

“Edie.” Her grandfather’s voice almost seemed to echo in the forest.

She perused the huge structure in front of her, overwhelmed by its size and the whispers of the dead. No, she wasn’t receiving a vision, but the dead talked to her, just as they always did. The voices came from all sides, in a rush. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

“Help me.” The voice was a young, young woman. “They buried me down here. Please.”

“Please,” another voice said with an imploring tone from somewhere nearby. “I can’t find my brother. I can’t find anyone in my family. I don’t know why.”

Edie heard the voices clear as day, but didn’t see anyone. Eyes still closed, she imagined a white light around herself. In her mind she asked them to stay away. Not now. I can’t. I’m not here for you. I can’t help you.

“Edie, are you all right?” Grandfather asked. “Are you having visions again?”

“No,” she said. “No visions. But ….”

“But?” He slammed the driver’s side door and adjusted his own hat as a stiff breeze threatened to snatch it away.

She glanced around, conscious of a disturbance in the air. She didn’t know what to say. She’d learned long ago how to shield herself from the dead, to make certain if she didn’t want to speak with them, they couldn’t speak with her. That didn’t mean places couldn’t talk to her.

“This place is …” She drifted off, uncertain how to explain what she meant without sounding dramatic. “Evil.”

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Stop by July 11 for the next snippet of Awakenings.

 

Guest Author: Vanessa Kelly/V.K. Sykes

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Welcome to my blog Vanessa! It’s a delight to have you here. Let’s start with that question every author is asked in an interview. When did you first start writing?

I’ve been writing most of my life, first as an English major in undergrad and grad school, and then as  a researcher for a public sector union.  But I didn’t try my hand at fiction until 2008, when I decided to do something I always wanted to do—write a romance novel.  The research background came in handy since I started with historical romance.

Have you always known you wanted to write as a career?

No—there were lots of other things I wanted to do first.  For a while, I was determined to be a marine biologist.  That ended when I realized how badly I sucked at math.  Then I wanted to be an English prof, a researcher for a museum, a trade union activist…I definitely had a winding road to get where I am today!

Do you see yourself as a plotter or a pantser or something in between?

I’m a full-on plotter:  plot boards, synopsis, outlines, character bios, goal and motivation charts.  You name it, I’ve tried it.  But once I start writing I usually just give the story its head.

How do your ideas for plots or characters come to you?

I often get the germ of an idea from reading history, or from taking a plot point from a movie or TV show and standing it on its head.  Then I brain storm with my hubby or critique partner to see if the idea has any legs.

Tell us about your latest novels.

I write historical romance as Vanessa Kelly and contemporary romance with my husband as V. K. Sykes.  My latest book is one of my contemporary romances.  It’s called Curveball, which is book four in our USA Today bestselling series about a pro baseball team called The Philadelphia Patriots.  All our heroes are sexy, alpha dog athletes who have hearts of gold under their tough exteriors.  As for my Vanessa Kelly Regency historicals, I have a new series starting in December called The Renegade Royals.  The heroes are the illegitimate sons of the British royal princes.  They have lots of adventures and fall in love, all while claiming their rightful places in society.  I just got my first covers for those books—the cover for Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard is my absolute favorite!

Have you ever encountered a point in your writing career where you just wanted to chuck it all in the bin and do something else?

I think it’s all too new for me to even think about it as a career, per se.  Mostly, it’s just been a lot of fun, despite the craziness that is the publishing industry.

What’s the hardest thing about writing for you?

Starting a new book.  Once I’ve got the first 25% or so under my belt, things get easier.

What’s coming up next in your writing world?

Hubby and I will be publishing our first romantic suspense in October, and I’m also working on Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom, book 2 in my new historical series.

Thanks so much for stopping by to talk with us today, and we hope to see you back very soon.

Curveball

Ebook

Book Four in the USA Today Bestselling Philadelphia Patriots Series

May, 2013

Blurb:

Taylor Page never wanted anything but a career in major league baseball.  Through talent and guts, she’s finally landed a position as Assistant General Manager of the Philadelphia Patriots.  The only problem is that most men in baseball still don’t take a woman exec seriously, especially a thirty-year old blonde with no on-field experience.  She needs to do something big to convince her bosses she has what it takes to run a team.

Veteran Pittsburgh outfielder Ryan Locke’s career is in jeopardy when a suddenly unreliable throwing arm comes on top of rehab from a major injury.  A single parent with a troubled daughter and an alcoholic mother to provide for, retirement is out of the question. Ryan’s best hope is for a trade to an American League team as a designated hitter, allowing him several more years of play.

When Taylor needs to find a replacement for an injured first baseman, she comes up with an innovative but risky idea:  convince her boss to make a trade for Ryan Locke, and then convince the still talented slugger to play first base for the Patriots.  With Ryan dead-set against that plan and both their careers on the line, neither Taylor nor Ryan can afford the explosive physical attraction between them.  But despite Taylor’s best efforts to resist Ryan’s campaign of seduction, she’s not sure she’s got the willpower to keep from playing along.

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Vanessa Kelly writes award-winning, Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra.  She also writes USA Today Bestselling romance with her husband, under the pen name of V. K. Sykes.  You can find her on the web at www.vanessakellyauthor.com, www.vksykes.com, and on facebook and Twitter.

Guest Author: Lynne Connolly

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Another interview with a wonderful historical romance writer! Please welcome Lynne Connolly!

Welcome to my blog Lynne! It’s a delight to have you here. Let’s start with that question every author is asked in an interview. When did you first start writing?

I’ve always had characters running around in my head, and so I’ve always written. That is, from the age of seven. Our teacher at school read us the first part of the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. She stopped when Sir Gawain reached the walls of the castle and told us to finish it ourselves! I was dying to know what happened, so I wrote my own version!

Have you always known you wanted to write as a career?

Not as a career. I wrote for years, for my own amusement. Really, to keep myself sane.

Do you see yourself as a plotter or a pantser or something in between?

Yes. I don’t know if plotters and pantsers are that different. Just that pantsers do longer outlines! I do an outline, and I will send that to my editor, if I think they’ll be interested. However, the story can change a great deal between that and the finished story. As I learn the characters, sometimes the aims and methods change, and I’d far rather go with character than with plot.

How do your ideas for plots or characters come to you?

Everywhere. Music, the news, my travels—everywhere. Very often it’s snippets. A passing mention, a little information about something. Recently, on a visit to Washington, it was a brief mention by the tour guide of the 6th Avenue Lobbyists. Without my intending it, the story part of my brain started clicking, and now I have a proposal for a three-part STORM series set in Washington in with my editor!

Your historicals feature different time periods and places than we often see in today’s historical romances.  You have a large set of different series all in the Georgian era, Regency time period and so many more! You also writing a huge variety of contemporary, erotic and paranormal romance. What drives you to write in so many different arenas when most other writers write in one or two subgenres of romance?

I write about issues and people, so when I want to explore something in more detail, the setting names itself. It’s hard to describe, really. But I think I’d go stale if I wrote in just one subgenre.

Have you ever encountered a point in your writing career where you just wanted to chuck it all in the bin and do something else?

Every week. Writing doesn’t pay well, and it’s very hard work. I’ve stopped a few times. But I always get the itch to write, and I can’t not do it.

What’s the hardest thing about writing for you?

The promotion. I find it hard to trumpet “buy my book.” But the writing process—overwhelmingly it’s the beginning. My beginnings rarely make it to the printed page. I will delete them, or alter them drastically, like telling the same scene from a different point of view. I’ve learned to just write, and then go back to it later, otherwise I’d never finish.

What’s coming up next in your writing world?

There are four more books in the Nightstar series to come out. Three are written, and in with my editor. The next is “Fascinating Rhythm,” about the Swedish drummer with the band, and his reconnection with the girl he left behind. There’s also a standalone STORM book, “Last Enchantment,” which was one of those books that had to be written.

I have two proposals in to my editors at two publishing houses. Both are paranormal. One is a STORM trilogy set in Washington, DC, where people are aware that paranormals like vampires and shape-shifters exist, and one is a new venture, set in the Department 57 world, where people are unaware that paranormal beings are living amongst them. Each setting has its own problems and rewards.

I have also written the first of a new historical series set in Georgian Britain. This is about a family whose parents called them after Roman emperors and empresses. They’re a powerful family, but they have an unseen enemy, a rival family who want to destroy them. This is a realistic concept in the era of the “oligarchy,” when great families ruled the country. The first book only hints at the identity of the other family. It’s being shopped around right now.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the popularity of my backlist Regency romances, “Laura,” “Vanessa” and “Noblesse Oblige” now I’ve republished them. Because of that, I’ve written a new Regency, which is going straight to self-pub, something I never saw myself doing a few years ago. I don’t have a title for it yet, but it’s about a Regency widow who turns out not to be a widow after all! It’s being edited now, so I’m hoping it will be available soon!

Thanks so much for stopping by to talk with us today, and I hope to see you back very soon.