Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why did I change the RELICS OF MERLIN SERIES with EVERLASTING ENCHANTMENT? By Kathryne Kennedy

As summer approaches along with the desert heat here in Arizona, it’s a pleasure to stay inside in the air-conditioning and write. This also includes promoting my current releases. In the Relics of Merlin series, Double Enchantment was just released last month, and I have the brand-new book, Everlasting Enchantment, scheduled for release in December. I have a new contest on my website to win a garnet necklace for Double Enchantment (you can check it out at http://www.kathrynekennedy.com/contest.html), and I will be launching many more jewelry contests for Everlasting Enchantment, so if you haven’t joined my newsletter yet, now is a great time.
Although I’m excited for the release of Everlasting Enchantment, I’m also wondering how my readers will react to this new book. In all three previous books, the shape-changer was always my hero. My heroines were magic-users and despite how this alters power in my magical world, they were still constrained by the values of the Victorian era. Women were given a place, and few had the stamina to fight against their roles. In order to be true to the time period of the era, the personalities of my heroines reflected how they were raised. Although they were the unusual ones who fought against the mores of the era, I still wondered what it would be like to change up the scenario.

What if my heroine was the shape-shifter, and she was raised in the Underground, where little regard was given to the social strictures of the London above. Millicent would be tough. Maybe too tough, especially if she was a were-panther. And therein lay my biggest problem. How would I ever find a hero tough enough for her, and yet with a kind enough heart to break through her rough exterior?

He had to be very special, this hero. And really, really good at seducing a woman. But it would still be a hard task…so what if they were both thrown into a situation where their survival depended on them making love? And so a cursed Knight of the Round Table was born. Sir Gareth has been trapped in a relic for centuries, doomed to imprisonment until he finds his one true love…or so he thinks. And the relic he’s cursed inside finds its way on my heroine’s wrist, and the only way it’s coming off is if Millicent makes love to the Knight.

But obstacles stand in their way, of course, along with a were-vamp named Selena and a were-lion named Sir Harcourt…and the entire court of the Master of the Hall of Mages. But there will be others who will help them find their Happily-Ever-After. An old were-firebird named Nell, a little house hobgoblin called Parsnip, a were-bear and a were-flamingo…and the Queen of England, herself.

I’m looking forward to what my readers think about this change in the series. And today I’m giving you all a sneak-peek at the fabulous cover Sourcebooks created for Everlasting Enchantment.

Isn’t it, well, enchanting?

Until Next Time,
My Magical Best,

Monday, April 29, 2013

Not your typical April... by Cheryl Brooks

April has been an interesting month for me. To start off, I made an unscheduled trip to the Florida Keys with my pal Suzie. She goes camping at the Bahia Honda State Park every year, but this year, she didn't have any takers to go with her. Since she's been recently diagnosed and started treatment for a rather nasty autoimmune disease, she didn't know until the last minute whether her doctor would let her make the trip, and I wasn't about to let her go by herself. I'd never made the Florida trip with her before, mainly because she's usually gone for more than two weeks and I don't like leaving my guys for that long. Needless to say, they didn't like it, either!

But Suzie and I had a great time, despite the fact that the Internet hotspot on my handy-dandy new smartphone didn't work out there in the boonies where I had a minimal signal. I wound up posting to my blog from the McDonald's in Marathon. Now, if you've ever visited my blog, Cheryl Brooks Erotic Blogspot, you'll understand why I'd prefer not to sit in a very public place to post. As it was, an interesting thing happened. I was sitting across the table from Suzie, posting pictures of naked men, when a lady came over and asked if we were together. Oblivious to the implication, I'm like, "Yeah." Then she proceeds to had me a card about some lesbian event taking place in the near future. I laughed and told her we weren't together that way. The conversation continued and it turned out that she also writes erotica. Suzie whipped out one of my Wildcat cards and gave it to her. You just never know where you'll be when you make a sale.*;) winking

While we were there, our campsite was visited by an iguana,

an ibis who didn't seem the least bit shy, but didn't consider whole wheat crackers to be food,

and a hermit crab in a whelk shell.

We spent entire days on the beach, which is a natural beach, complete with dried seaweed and anything else that washes up from the sea.

We were entertained by a kite surfer, who was damn good at it! He took off, surfed halfway to Cuba, and disappeared up around the bend. He was out there for a couple of hours and then came back and landed that kite in precisely the same spot he took off from. Amazing!

We spent a day in Key West, took a tour of the city, and watched the sunset from Mallory Square Park.

After a few more days on the beach, we came home and I self-published Unbridled, the first book in my erotic contemporary romance series, Unlikely Lovers.

On the very next day, I got an email from our dear editor that reminded me why self-publishing can be such a joy. They'd changed the title of my next Cat Star book from Rascal to Renegade and moved the release date from February 2014 to July 2014. This wouldn't have bothered me nearly as much if Renegade hadn't been the original title for Virgin. When you've been doing a lot of pre-promotion with a certain title, it inevitably causes confusion when that title is changed, particularly when it was a title that was previously considered for another book! I sent in more suggestions for the title, which they're supposed to review, but will that push the release date back even further? Who knows?

At any rate, my next two self-pubbed books, Uninhibited and Undeniable, are formatted and ready to go. I could put them up now, but I'm waiting at least a month between them. Self publishing requires a lot of tedious work, but having complete control is awesome, as many other authors are discovering--not to mention the fact that many self-pubbed authors have also been able to give up the day job as a result of the added income. I did it the other way around, giving up the night job in the ICU in order to write full-time. Here's hoping this series will justify that decision! Then maybe I can go to Florida again next year! *:D big grin

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Kansas City, Here we Come!

Next week hundreds of romance authors and readers will beheading to Kansas City for the annual Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. If you're a reader or writer of romance and you've never been, you really have to go. (Just FYI, next year we'll be in New Orleans).

This is a really fun convention because it's all about readers and writers meeting and mixing. Lots of authors on the Casablanca blog will be there, waiting to meet readers! I'm participating in several fun events.

The first is Wednesday afternoon. It's UNDRESSING THE HERO.

Whether they wear cravats, kilts, or cowboy boots, a hero is a hero--and when you meet one, you just know. We'll play an interactive game, where readers undress a life-size hero, piece by tantalizing piece. 

Sounds fun, huh?

Then I run off to join my friend Deeanne Gist for her workshop, BOTTOMS UP: VICTORIAN WOMEN'S CLOTHING FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

I get to play lady's maid and help Deeanne dress layer by layer. Still have to work with her a bit on the corset!

Unfortunately, while I play lady's maid, I'll miss the Sourcebooks publicists' presentation on HOW TO WORK WITH YOUR PUBLISHER FOR PUBLICITY AND MARKETING. If you're not interested in Victorian dress, head over to that one.

That evening I get to be one of the hosts of a fabulous party. Mary Wine and Mia Marlowe from this blog will be there, along with Victoria Alexander, Monica Burns, Elizabeth Essex, Heather Graham, Sabrina Jeffries, Kieran Kramer and more! It's the ROSIE GULCH GALS' GET-TOGETHER. We'll have food, drinks, and lots and lots of swag!

Thursday I'm excited to attend the Sourcebooks spotlight. Every year I've been they've asked for audience input on real book covers, and they always have lots of giveaways.

Saturday there's a huge book signing. I mean, huge. I'm going to have to sneak away from my table to get books signed from some of my favorite authors. The best part is that even if you can't go to the convention, you can go to the book signing. It's open to the public, and I think the fee to get in is $5.

Finally, I get to schmooze with librarians and booksellers at the NO PLACE LIKE CASA event. It's always fun to talk with both groups.

Are you going? If so, what events do you have on your agenda? If not, what sounds good to you?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Jaguar Hunt and More!

Sometimes beginning a story is easy. Sometimes it isn't. I had an idea for the beginning, then tried to come up with something different, but when I reread the opening, I liked it...so I'm off and...running with it!!!

1969 Jaguar Series II E-type roadster

1969 Jaguar XKE Roadster for sale
I kept thinking I wanted one of my jaguars to have a jaguar car, so this is it. Don't you love it??? :)

Tammy Anderson, Maya and Connor's cousin, is getting to know David Patterson, Wade Patterson's brother, and already they are totally at odds.

I also learned that Jaguar Hunt and the next Highland wolf story, A Hero of a Highland Wolf are coming out next spring! Woohoo! With Silence of the Wolf coming out in Feb, that makes 3. But that's not all! Mistletoe, Mayhem, and the Highland Wolf is scheduled for Oct. So another 4 books next year! Which means 3 that I have to write. :) 

And in just a few days, A Highland Werewolf Wedding will be released, 2nd of the 4 books to be released this year!

Here's where I'll be for the tour. :)

5/1    Vampire Romance Books
5/2    Long and Short Reviews
5/3    Simple Love of Reading
5/6    Casablanca Authors and History Undressed
5/7    Tea and Books
5/8    Proserpine Craving Books
5/9    Fresh Fiction
5/10    Open
5/13    Star-Crossed Romance
5/14    Book Lovin’ Mamas
5/15    Open
5/16    Manga Maniac CafĂ©
5/17    SOS Aloha
5/20    Romancing the Book
5/21    Literary Escapism
5/22    Kristina's Books and More
5/23    Open
5/24    Under the Covers
5/27    Open
5/28    The Qwillery
5/29    Open
5/30    RomFan

Life is too much fun... I'm off to make things worse for Tammy and David. You know what they say--all work and no play....

These too aren't playing nicely together at all though...

Here is my daughter and son-in-law's Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy--9 weeks old, Sir Rilo, trying to get a picture of him and the spring clover flowering. I was puppy sitting for two weeks to help housebreak him. Here he's chewing on his dog tag. Nothing cuter than puppies, don't you think???

I have an autographed copy of A HIGHLAND WEREWOLF WEDDING for one lucky commenter!

If you had a choice of Highland wolfish hero, would you prefer a castle vacation in Scotland during the filming of a medieval movie, maybe even a part in it as the heroine? A trip to Grand Cayman island to cavort with a Highland wolf in the aqua waters? A visit to castle ruins in Scotland, a wedding, or two where you get to see dozens of Highland men in kilts?

Or...could you choose?

Have a super great TGIF!!!

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality!"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Something to Think About When Naming Characters

(from your editor who loves you)

by Deb Werksman
Editorial Manager
Sourcebooks Casablanca

I’m noticing lately that variations on the same or similar names for two different characters (Hal and Henry, Elyne and Eileen, Greg and Eric).
These names are both visually similar and evocatively similar, which causes reader confusion even when the characters are distinct. The human eye “fills in” the letters, so that we read words in chunks. In addition, we’re often “reading aloud” to ourselves in our head (silently). When two names pop off the page (or into the eye and the mind) alike, the reader has to slow down to think about what she’s reading, and that pulls her out of the story.
So, here are some guidelines:
  1. Use a distinct name for every character
  2. Start every name in the book with a different letter 
  3. Make sure names are not variables or derivatives of the same name
  4. Try for names that are different lengths/syllable counts/vowel sounds
  5. Make sure names with the same number of letters or syllables do not also share the same vowel sound
Recommended resource (if I may be so bold): THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BABY NAMES

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Music to My Ears

by Olivia Cunning

I'm super excited that my Sinners on Tour series are now on audio book! So excited that I bought them all so I could add them to my "I love me" shelf.

I've heard great things about the narrator of the series, Justine O'Keef. Listeners say she does a great job. She gives each rock star in the Sinners band a distinguishable voice and although reading "Sed said" aloud is a bit of humor I didn't intend (why did I name the band's vocalist Sed?), she also portrays the humor of the books well.

I guess I'll have to take the listeners' word on it. I'm afraid to listen to them.

That's right. I bought them and haven't listened because I'm afraid I'll spend the entire time criticizing the inflection. As an author, I "hear" my books a certain way when I write them and I "hear" them the exact same way every time I read them. So if something is off in the inflection of the narrator's voice, it's going to drive me nuts. I just know it. I'm terrible about this when I watch a movie that's based on a book I've read. I'm all, "That's not how it happened in the book!" So my audio book collection increases, but I still haven't listened to them. Maybe someday soon I'll have the courage to take off the shrink wrap! I know they're unabridged and the story is complete, so I'm probably freaking out over nothing. I need to get over my scaredy-cattedness (alert Merriam and Webster, there's a new word!) and listen to them.

Or maybe you can listen for me and tell me if they sound exactly as they sound in my head. You're all mind readers, right?

I'm giving away a complete (so far) set of Sinners on Tour audio books today. And I will have to take the shrink wrap off so I can autograph them for you.

The winner will receive complete CD sets of Backstage Pass, Rock Hard, Hot Ticket, and Double Time all autographed by me. To enter just leave a comment here, on my facebook article, or @oliviacunning on twitter. Make sure I can figure out how to get in touch with you if you win! I'll pick a winner at noon tomorrow (Thursday April 24th). Even though the postage fees might make my wallet cry, this giveaway is open worldwide.

Eric's audio book, Wicked Beat, isn't out yet. It will be available, as will the book, in August. Here's an early version of the book cover. I haven't seen the audio book cover yet.

Speaking of Wicked Beat, there are really fun gifts you can get just for pre-ordering either the paperback or the ebook. All you need is proof of purchase and you can get a cool Sinners temporary tattoo and guitar pick. Here are the details!

The last installment of the Sinners on Tour series will be here in no time! To celebrate, we are offering another pre-order offer!
If you pre-order Wicked Beat, we will send you an exclusive Sinners logo tattoo and one sexy Sinners hot pink guitar pick! But you have to hurry because we only have 500 of them available! You have until August 5th or until quantities run out! Here is what you do:

1.         Pre-order the book (print or eBook) through any retailer (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, BAM, etc.)
2.         Email your proof of purchase (receipt or picture of the receipt) to wickedbeat@sourcebooks.com. Don’t forget to include your home address (US & Canada only please) so we can send you the tattoo and guitar pick! Yes, if you’ve already pre-ordered it months ago, that counts, you just have to show your receipt.
3.         You will get an email back confirming when the items have been sent out.  If you were not one of the first 500 people, you will also be alerted.
4.         Enjoy Wicked Beat when you receive it in August!

 Good luck everyone!

I have a question for you:

How often do you listen to audio books? Sometimes I listen to them on long road trips. They really make the time go by quickly!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Discounts and Contests and Giveaways...OH, MY!

by Macy Beckett

Happy Tuesday, readers and bargain-hunters! If you love cheap ebooks and awesome contests, I have some links to share with you today! Let's start with...


"Fun and flirty with characters you'll love page after page." -NYT Bestselling Author Christie Craig

Enter to win an autographed advance copy of the third book in the Sultry Springs series, SURRENDER TO SULTRY, which releases August 5th from Sourcebooks Casablanca. Giveaway LINK

"A perfect blend of sizzling romance, action, and suspense." - #1 NYT Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout

Enter to win an autographed advance copy of the first book in my brand-new young adult series, ALIENATED, which releases February 4th from Disney-Hyperion. Giveaway LINK

Go forth and enter...best of luck!

Next I'd like to share some special...


 "Witty and fun, warm and endearing, Macy Beckett will tug your heartstrings!" -NYT Bestselling Author Carly Phillips

"Hilarious, heartwarming, sexy and real. You'll fall in love, guaranteed!" -NYT Bestselling Author Lori Foster

For a limited time, most ebook versions of SULTRY WITH A TWIST, (book 1 in my Sultry Springs series), are deeply discounted to $1.99! If you've been waiting to try my hot & humorous small-town romances, now's the time.

Purchase links:      KINDLE    NOOK    KOBO

And to help spread the word about my ebook sale, I'm running a...


Win one of (2) $25 gift certificates to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble or one of (2) autographed advance copies of SURRENDER TO SULTRY! (US only, please) Enter the rafflecopter form below. You get one free entry just for being awesome, and you can earn more points by helping me share the news about my Sultry with a Twist ebook sale!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for helping me get the word out, and GOOD LUCK!

Macy Beckett writes hot & humorous small-town romances set in Sultry Springs, Texas, where first loves find second chances. Her debut novel, SULTRY WITH A TWIST, released in October from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionIndie Bound . Book 2 in the series, A SHOT OF SULTRY, is now available. Macy loves to keep in touch with readers on Facebook and Twitter, so stop by and say hello! Additionally, she writes YA sci-fi under the name Melissa Landers.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tarnished Knight

Last year I set myself a challenge. I've always written full-length novels and I find it no problem to write 100,000 words. But late last year I decided to write a little novella spin-off in my London Steampunk series, as a Christmas gift to my readers and as a little something to tide them over in the intervening months between Kiss of Steel's release in September and the upcoming release of Heart of Iron (May).

This is easier said than done.

Writing a novella is so much fun - but completely different to writing full-length. I love weaving complex plots together but in a novella you can't do that. There's limited word space, so everything has to be tight, focused and based on one plot element. And the challenge of creating a complete romance in 35,000 words? Complete with the smexy scenes, fully fleshed back stories and emotional character arc? Hoo-boy.

That's how Tarnished Knight came into being.

Of course, it helped that this particular couple just wouldn't leave me alone. Rip and Esme were secondary characters from Kiss of Steel, both loyal to their master, Blade, and living beneath the same roof. At the end of Kiss of Steel, Rip had just contracted the craving virus that turns a man into a blue blood - and forces him to survive on blood alone - and Esme was devastated at how close she'd come to losing her best friend and the man she secretly loves. There was a story there, lurking beneath their tense exchanges and stolen glances, and it haunted me until I wrote it.

So I'm pleased to present to you Tarnished Knight, a sexy little read about a scarred man who's afraid to be close to the one woman who drives him beyond all control and Esme, who refuses to let him go. It's got a friends-to-lovers theme and best of all it's available for free download for a limited time. The perfect way to get a sneak peek at my London Steampunk series!


In the steam-fuelled world of Victorian London, vampires, werewolves and slasher gangs stalk the night and a man made partly of metal is about to discover just how far he’ll go to protect the woman he loves…

After a vicious vampire attack left him struggling to leash the dark urges of the craving virus, John ‘Rip’ Doolan, thinks he’s finally starting to master the darkness within. The only thing that threatens to shatter his hard-won control is Esme, his closest friend and the only woman he’s ever wanted. If the stubborn beauty ever realized precisely what was going through his mind, their friendship would be ruined…

For six months Esme has waited for Rip to recover and take her as his thrall, not daring to hope for more. Too afraid to put her heart on the line, she is devastated when Rip reveals that he never had any intentions of making her his.

But when a savage gang of Slashers start causing havoc in Whitechapel, Rip and Esme have no choice. They must face up to the depth of the passion that burns between them and forge a new relationship… or risk losing each other forever.

Here's a little excerpt in which our hero has refused to take Esme as his thrall and is getting his blood from other sources. Let's just say she's not very happy about it, and he's not quite sure why:

Gathering her breath, Esme strode out into the narrow lane… and directly into a warm, hard surface. Hands locked around her upper arms as she tripped, the scent of heated male curling through her nostrils. Panic flared as she instantly recognized whom it was. She’d washed his shirts for years; she’d recognise that distinct, slightly spicy scent of his cologne anywhere.
Of all the people she didn’t wish to see this morning…
“Rip,” she blurted, tipping her head back to stare up at him. “What are you doing out?”
“Ain’t been in,” Rip muttered, staring down at her with an unreadable expression in his green eyes. Faint lines feathered the corners as his eyes narrowed. “So it still ain’t ‘John’?”
It wouldn’t be John again. It couldn’t. Not until she’d managed to heal the gaping wound inside her – or distance herself from it at least. “You’ll be looking for your bed then,” she said, sidestepping him and tucking her basket against her abdomen. “If you’ll excuse me? I have errands to run.”
The soft shuffle of his heavier footsteps echoed hers and a hot wash of tears threatened to spill down her cheeks. Why wouldn’t he leave her alone?
“The boiler’s running hot water. You’ll be wanting a wash, I believe,” she threw back over her shoulder.
Two long steps and he caught up to her, his hands shoved deep into his pockets and his collar pulled high against the drift of snowflakes. Canny green eyes raked over her. Rip had never been a fool, though most people dismissed him as merely muscle.
“Know when a woman’s tryin’ to give me the ‘eave-‘o, Esme.” He stared straight ahead. “I’d ask why, but I think it’s got ought to do with what ‘appened yesterday.”
Silence was a sudden, awkward wall between them.
“I was trying to be considerate,” she replied stiffly. “You’ll be tired.”
“Stop tellin’ me what I feel and what I ought to be wantin’,” he snapped. “You know you can tell me anythin’, don’t you?”
“Of course.”
When she said nothing else, his lips thinned. The soft dawn light softened the harsh slant of his brow and the jagged break in his nose, but he would never be considered handsome. Still… For a moment, her heart twisted in her chest as she stared at his familiar profile. So strong. So stubborn. She’d stared at that face for years, wondering what thoughts he entertained behind those beautiful green eyes.
Jerking her gaze away, she focused on the street. Theirs were the only footsteps marring the pristine white. It made her feel terribly alone with him, her body prickling with dangerous awareness. And that only made her furious with herself.
“You’re still angry with me,” he said gruffly.
“I shouldn’t think why.” Esme strode ahead, desperately wanting to avoid this conversation.
A steely hand caught her upper arm and when she spun, he was staring down at her with those far-too-clever eyes. “We can dance in circles all day, Esme, but the ‘onest truth is I ain’t got a bloody clue why you’re so upset.” He rubbed his forehead, fingertips leaving white marks in his swarthy skin. Frustration edged his voice. “I spent ‘alf the night thinkin’ ‘bout it.”
“Let me go,” she said quietly.
“Damn you, J—Rip!” She threw all of her weight against his grip and felt his hand slip on the fabric of her sleeves.
He held them up in surrender and she fell back a few steps. The thin rigid spars of his right hand reflected the morning light. As if sensing where her gaze was drawn he jerked it low, shoving it in his pocket, a flush of heat turning his cheeks ruddy. “So I’m thinkin’ right, ‘bout what you said yesterday, and I’m thinkin’ this ‘as got nothin’ to do with me so-called lie.”
Esme swallowed. “I see.”
Those wicked eyes narrowed at her non-committal answer. “You’re angry with me,” he said slowly. “Because I were drinkin’ me blood from someone else? Because you thought you’d be me thrall? I should ‘ave told you I wouldn’t ‘old you accountable to that. You don’t need to be me thrall – you don’t need to be anyone’s thrall.”
Esme shook her head, trying to step around him. How to tell him she’d wanted to be his so desperately? Especially when he’d made it clear he didn’t think of her in that way. “It doesn’t matter--”
He grabbed her again. “Damn it, Esme. I’m tryin’ to work this out.” Hard fingers – metal and flesh – dug into her upper arms as he stared down at her. “I’m tryin’. Please. Tell me what’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong?” Suddenly she couldn’t hold it in any longer. It was either this or burst into tears. She shoved past. “I—I have my pride, John Doolan. I do! I won’t beg you, damn it. You don’t want me and I won’t--”
He danced in front of her and Esme staggered into him, hands pushing at his broad chest.
“I don’t want you?” he demanded. “I don’t want your blood?” A dark glint came into his eyes. “That’s it, ain’t it? That’s what this is ‘bout? Because I don’t want your bloody blood?”
Something hot slid down her cheek and she dashed the tear away, hoping he wouldn’t see it. “Leave me alone,” she said hoarsely.
The wall of his chest stiffened. “Esme?” he asked. “Are you cryin’?”
Suddenly his hand cupped her jaw, the cool steel of his right one slick against her skin. Esme shut her eyes as he tilted her face up to his, one last tear sliding silently down her cheek. She didn’t want him to see it but the firm grip gave her no choice.
A roughened thumb traced the tear’s path. “Bloody 'ell,” he said in a breathless, bewildered tone. “Christ, luv. Don’t cry. Please don’t cry. I ain’t worth that.”
“Yes, you are,” she whispered. “I won’t have you belittle yourself.” Everyone else did enough of that.
As dangerous as sin, the whores on the street whispered. Oh yes, she’d heard it and knew he had too. But in her heart, sin wasn’t unattractive at all. It was the faint brush of his hard body against hers as they passed in the kitchen or the slow, dangerous smile he gave her when they were alone and he was stealing batter from her cake mix. Only she got to see what no one else did when he dropped his guard and let himself be just a man, instead of forcing his reputation and his scowling menace down people’s throats.
“Fine, luv. Fine. Won’t say it.”
His hard body seemed to surround her, fingertips caressing her jaw so lightly she could have escaped if she’d wanted to.
He still didn’t understand what the problem was. She could walk away now, knowing that their friendship would remain as it always had, that her nights would be spent in a torture of thwarted desire whilst he lay on the other side of the wall, no doubt oblivious to her true feelings.
She could pull away. She should.
It was the sensible thing to do. The Esme thing.
 If she wanted to
Her fingers loosened from their tight fist and flexed wide, hovering an inch away from his abdomen. Esme couldn’t believe what she was suddenly thinking. She was so damned tired of waiting for him to notice her feelings. Of being too afraid to voice them.
She didn’t want to be sensible anymore.
“Do you want to know why I’m so upset?” Esme whispered, forcing the words through trembling lips. If she couldn’t say this now, then she never would.
“Aye,” he said gruffly, tilting his face lower as if to find the answers in her eyes.
“Because I wanted it to be me,” she whispered, sinking her fist into the collar of his shirt and lifting onto her toes to press her lips to his.

Want to see what the London Steampunk world is all about? Tarnished Knight is available as a free downloadable ebook for a limited time at http://www.becmcmaster.com/books/tarnished-knight/#more-404

Also, keep an eye out for Heart of Iron, which is due out in May 2013. Featuring one mighty stubborn verwulfen hero with a brutal past and a flirtatious heroine who's about to twist him around her little finger, it's full of explosive action and steamy interludes...

I'd love to know what you think about novellas. Perfect for an afternoon read, or preferable over something full-length? If you're a writer, have you ever tried your hand at one? Easier or more difficult to write than a full-length novel?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Big Sister, Best Friend

When I was a kid, my big sister and I didn't get along. I mean, AT ALL. To the extent that it's kind of a miracle that we both reached adulthood.

We had a lot in common, but for some reason we chose to ignore that. Neither of us wanted to be ANYTHING like the other one. My sister was musical, smart (better grades than me) and computer-savvy. I was loud, boy crazy, and into depressing poetry. 

My poor sister got the "honor" (read-incredibly miserable task) of chaperoning me on a few dates. Needless to say, this was another point of contention in our already-strained relationship. We're pretty close in age, only 23 months apart. She had much more interest in going to college and making a career for herself than chasing after boys, something I scoffed at then. Of course, I know how stupid I was now, but hey, we all learn as we grow, right?

When I was a teenager, I remember having some kind of stupid argument with my sister. I was complaining to my Nana about her, how she didn't understand me at all. My Nana just smiled at me, and told me about the time when she and her sister were young.

They'd get into fights, scream at one another. My great-aunt Maddy would sit on my Nana's back and pull her hair as hard as she could. They hated one another, so much that it seemed impossible that they'd let each other survive until adulthood. 

Until they grew up. And then? Somehow they became best friends. And my Nana swore that my sister and I would have the same thing happen to us.

I laughed at it then. MY sister? No way. She'd never like me, and the feeling was quite mutual, thank you very much.

But then, know what? Something weird happened. 

She grew up. And I wasn't far behind. And somehow, we found ourselves spending more time together. On purpose, even. Without being forced to. And then we started going to one another for advice. A shoulder to cry on. Sending lols, and sharing movies, and generally behaving civilly, to the point of actual friendship. More than friendship. Best friendship.

I'm just telling you this story because my sister means a lot to me. Without her, I don't know that I'd do. She's truly my best mate, one of my bestest beta readers, and I love her dearly. 

Do you have a friend that's like a sister to you? Or a sister who's your very best friend? Did you HATE each other, like my sis and I did? Let me know in the comments. I like to hear I'm not the only one who barely escaped being murdered in my preteen years :) 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Old Books, Old Friends by Pamela Sherwood

"Find The Stars Look Down not quite soothing enough for a bed book--will fall back on Through the Looking Glass."

            --Dowager Duchess of Denver in Busman’s Honeymoon

The last six weeks or so have been an intense time, full of transitions from the old to the new--a new month, a new season, and a new schedule (thanks to Daylight Savings Time). Some of us may be starting new jobs, moving to new locations, planning or promoting new projects . . . but I would hazard a guess that all of us are extremely busy with one thing or another!

At unsettled times like this, when I’m not writing, I find myself reaching for my stash of tried-and-true comfort reads. The books that feel like that favorite old sweater or broken-in pair of slippers. The books that you can sink into like an armchair or a warm bath.  The books in which you know exactly what you’re getting, and the experience never disappoints.

What makes a comfort read? Well, mileage may vary. But here are some things that the books I tend to reread in stressful times have in common.

1. Sympathetic characters: I have to like the protagonists. Or at least feel interest in them and sympathy with their aims. Which doesn’t mean there can’t be antagonists or even villains, over whom I can root for the hero or heroine to triumph. The better developed the antagonist, the more completely I relish the hero’s victory. Some of my favorite comfort reads feature main characters up against their controlling, domineering families, such as Valancy Stirling in L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. Or up against a whole repressive social order, like Miles Vorkosigan in Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign.

2. Humor: Some readers like a good cry in their comfort reads, and they’d be in good company. (I remember Jo March retiring to her garret with a plate of russets to have an enjoyable weep over The Heir of Redclyffe.) I don’t mind occasional teary scenes, but I must have something to laugh at too. Witty dialogue, absurd situations, events that snowball into a hilarious climax . . . some of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, such as The Unknown Ajax and The Grand Sophy, provide all of the above. And even her quieter ones have enough humor to satisfy. Most of Heyer’s works, in fact, make excellent comfort reads.

Prince Edward Island near Cavendish, Photo by Chensiyuan

3. Setting: Whenever I open a book, I hope to lose myself in the world the author created. That’s especially true of a comfort read, because I’m seeking a respite from my own world. And the more vividly realized that fictional setting is, the happier I am as a reader, whether it’s based on a real place, like Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables) and 18th-century Cornwall (Poldark), Victorian Egypt (The Amelia Peabody mysteries), or one that exists only in the author’s imagination, like Barrayar and Hogwarts. One of my most recent comfort reads was Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Falcons of Montabard, set in Jerusalem during the First Crusade. My knee-jerk reaction to the setting was less than enthusiastic: “Oh. Heat. Dust. Disease. Religious Fanatics. Battles. Fun--Not.” While the novel certainly contains those things, it’s also a moving story about a beautiful, dangerous country (often called Outremer, the land beyond the sea), its fascinating diverse culture, and the hardy pilgrims and adventurers who find new life and purpose there. Cracking good romance too.

 4. A Sense of Community: Characters forming connections, which can be as basic as two solitary people falling in love and becoming a couple (Eve and Roarke of the In Death series), or, alternately, a group of people forming ties and learning to work together towards a shared goal (the English-Egyptian excavation team in the Amelia Peabody mysteries, or the seven stage-struck children in The Swish of the Curtain, who discover a vocation, along with a fledgling acting company, when they convert an abandoned chapel into a theater.)

5. Happy Ending: Another absolute must in a comfort read! Not that everything has to be rainbows and kittens, and I don’t mind ambiguous or bittersweet tones if they’re in keeping with what’s gone before, but a comfort read must never end with “Rocks fall. Everybody dies.” The happy ending could be the lovers, who have worked through all their issues, sharing a passionate kiss (Peter and Harriet in Gaudy Night); the team of oddballs coming together in the final competition to defeat their heavily favored rivals (The View from Saturday); the tortured hero unlocking the riddle of his past and finding lasting love and peace at journey’s end (The Lymond Chronicles); the heroine breaking the spell that has trapped the hero in the body of a beast (Robin McKinley’s Beauty, though there are other lovely versions of the tale too).  

What are some of your favorite comfort reads? And what makes a comfort read for you?

(Traveling this week, so I may be late responding to comments. But I look forward to reading them when I'm home again.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring is in the Air

My uncle took the fabulous picture above. He takes awesome pictures. He should! He used to be the White House photographer. I don't know about you, but the spring bug hit me hard. And nothing says spring like spring cleaning.
I know what you're thinking, but there were some things just bugging me. You know the feeling. I couldn't stand it any longer. How much longer could I possibly ignore my dusty drapes? Ugh. Believe me, I've tried.

After dry cleaning all of my drapes at home (which look 100% better-Dryel works wonders), another project I tackled was my great-grandmother's hutch.

My mom told me when she gave me this beautiful piece of furniture that the hutch was the only thing in our family that survived the Vandergrift flood of 1936. I love antiques with a story behind them. I also love the fact that when it's time for my daughter to have the hutch, she'll know the tale to pass down to her daughter. How cool to actually have something passed down from her great-great-grandmother?

My other grandmother collected decorative plates. When she broke up housekeeping many years ago, I was fortunate to get a few of them. They now hang proudly displayed on my dining room wall. But I was thrilled when I actually managed to snag my favorite plate of all. It may not look like much, but the darned thing holds more memories for me than anything.

When my sister and I used to stay overnight at my grandmother's house, every morning she served us breakfast on these plates. I would stare at this particular plate all the time. The picture always reminded me of the streets of England. When I see the plate now, it floods me with nothing but fond memories of those times.
Is there anything that you hold sentimental in your household?
Victoria Roberts writes Scottish historical romances about kilted heroes and warriors from the past. She was named by RT Book Reviews as "one of the most promising debut authors across the genres" and was also a 2012 Reviewers Choice nominee for Best First Historical for Temptation in a Kilt.
X Marks the Scot (Bad Boys of the Highlands #2) was awarded a TOP PICK from Night Owl Reviews, and To Wed a Wicked Highlander (Bad Boys of the Highlands #3) is scheduled for release September 3, 2013. The first of Victoria’s new Royal Rebellion series is scheduled for release spring 2014.