Thursday, March 31, 2016

Celebrate Spring with a Free Book!

by Cheryl Brooks

I went out with my camera on Easter Sunday to take a few pictures of one of the prettiest displays of flowering trees in my back yard in recent years.

In the foreground is a tulip magnolia, which is a purple, later-blooming variety than the pink ones that get really big, but also tend to get blasted by a late freeze. On the right is my only surviving nectarine tree. No matter how much I spray it,  the fruit always rots, but the blossoms are gorgeous!

I picked a few flowers for the table for our Easter dinner and took a picture of them before bringing them inside.

This next picture represents my 2016 springtime success story. For the past two years, the weeping cherry that I planted about 25 years ago has been suffering from a fungal infection that causes brown spots on the leaves in late summer, after which the leaves turn yellow and fall prematurely. Needless to say, when springtime rolled around, I hardly saw any blooms at all. Summer before last, I decided to take action. Since tree surgeons wouldn't come to my house (yeah, I live out in the middle of nowhere), I tried spraying, which didn't help a bit. Then last summer, I used a rose fertilizer that contained a systemic fungicide. While I wouldn't use it on anything that actually bears fruit, this weeping cherry is purely ornamental, so I figured I would be safe using it. I sprinkled the granules along the drip line twice last summer, and this spring, the tree surpassed all expectations. You can bet I'll be doing the same thing again this year!

My son and his girlfriend came down for the weekend, and they wanted to dye Easter eggs. I boiled the eggs and they took over from there. Using concentrated dye and toothpicks, they created some designs that were almost too pretty to eat!

On Monday morning, my UPS man delivered this wonderful box of goodies. If anything could beat flowers and Easter eggs, this would be it! I've been waiting for these even longer than I've been waiting on spring!

What do you say we give away a signed copy? Post a comment below or use the Rafflecopter for your chance to win! US residents only, please! Contest closes on April 1st at 4PM EDT.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Irish Dragons? Leprechauns? Perfect for light paranormal romance!

On my Facebook fan page, I joked that I should go to Ireland (for research, of course,) because I was writing a series about Irish Dragons.
 Thanks to all the positive peer pressure, I mentioned it to my dear daughter and she exclaimed, "That's next on my bucket list!" Our last mother-daughter trip was to Colorado when she was 12. We were long past due for another, and it wasn't long before we had picked dates, booked airline tickets, and started working with the Irish Tourism Board to plan the perfect self-tour.

We began our adventure in Dublin. This is a picture of the library at Trinity College. (Do you think they have enough books?) I hadn't expected to like Dublin, because this former city girl really loves the fresh air and elbow room of the country now. Well, what a surprise...I LOVE DUBLIN! We went everywhere...including an Irish pub, even though neither of us drinks alcohol. We chose the Boar's Head...oldest pub in the country, dating back to the 1100's, because they had an Irish Storyteller upstairs. We heard ancient legends of fairies and little people and then were serenaded by folk singers. What a fabulous night.  

A couple of days later, we drove across the country to Galway. If you ever find yourself there, you can't miss Trad on the Prom. Irish Step Dancing and professional Irish music at it's best! We had to go, because my cousin recommended it and she's friends with the performers. They were wonderful!
Just like most of the Irish people... SO friendly and accessible--sending their love to my cousin, her husband, and even their dog! 

After leaving Galway, we visited the Cliffs of Moher. This is the one spot I had to see! My dragons lived in caves after St. Patrick thought he'd driven them all out...(Oops. He missed a spot!) And later the dragon king built a castle right on the cliffs. My dragons are descended from that king. The series expounds upon this twist more than I can here. 

This is Blarney Castle. The actual legend is that kissing the Blarney stone imparts the gift of eloquence...not what we now think of as 'Blarney'. Of course this writer kissed the stone! Who doesn't need more eloquence? 

There were castles everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE! We saw one in a farmer's field. He'd had to post a sign asking people not to trespass, because they'd trample his crops. 

I won't bore you with all my vacation pics, because we saw so much! The Aran Islands, Dingle Peninsula, the Medieval mile in Kilkenny, Waterford Crystal factory... I wish we had another week, although I don't know if I could have survived another week of the harrowing roads! 
Thank goodness my daughter did the driving. She kept us on the correct side of the road and managed not to crumple a fender or run us into a ditch when we came upon livestock in the road, sharp turns with stone walls on either side, or another vehicle coming straight for us on a one-lane road. With high hedges, hiding anything that was just around the bend, I don't know why we didn't see dozens of accidents!  If you decide to visit beautiful Ireland, do yourselves a favor... Go on a tour bus! 

So...what's next on your bucket list?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spring has Sprung!

close up of blue and silver wind chimes sunset 001 (640x427)
I'm in my new house, spring has sprung, and I have a blank backyard. So I'm having a blast with turning it into a whimsical fairy garden. And for the first time ever, I'm growing chives, curly parsley, bell peppers, and for the first time in a very long time, tomatoes. :) I already have 3!

Added some wind chimes with glass baubles and a blue glass bottle for some interest. A sparrow jumped on the wind chimes, scared himself and jumped on the feeder while a house finch watched him. The fairy wind chimes didn’t scare them off. And then goldfinches arrived.

close up of blue and silver wind chimes sunset 002 (640x427)
These are the copper ones on the other bird feeder.
tomato plants and a frog (640x427)
The frog is protecting the 3 little tomatoes.

fairies in the garden 001 (640x427)
And the fairies are watching over the chives.
fairies in the garden 003 (640x427)fairies in the garden 012 (640x427)While Max is watching over the rose and lavender garden fairy. I’d forgotten all about my fairies, still waiting to be unpacked and find a home here too.

I couldn’t decide, have everything blend in or be bright and colorful and whimsical? The fairy garden won out. :)
Lavender and roses! I ran out of stones, and I'm still removing some of the grass. But it's shaping up!
And added more flowering plants to the front bed.
So if spring hasn't come to your neck of the woods, it will soon! It's already hot here!

A Very Jaguar Christmas cover was approved! And I'm sure as the heat stays and it no longer cools down at night, I'll be wishing I was in his arms in the snow in Minnesota on a cold winter's night.
Wouldn't you like to get him for a Christmas present??? :)

Have a great day!!!
“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy is reality.”
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Wilde & Woolly Bears

Saturday, March 26, 2016

From Slush Pile to Double RITA Finalist! by Asa Maria Bradley

Once upon a time a young writer started querying her finished novel to publishers and agents. She finished two more novels, and queried those projects too. Although she got many full requests and very helpful feedback, all the rewrites in the world didn’t what she she so wanted—someone who loved her stories as much as she did. Someone who would help her make it shine bright and deliver it to the world's readers. And then one day, her dream came true!

Okay so she wasn’t all that young, but the rest of the story is totally true! ;-)

The person who loved my book as much as I did is fabulous editor Cat Clyne. She picked me out of the slush pile and saw something in my immortal Vikings that made her want to shape my story into a proper novel. The book had been rejected 47 times by then. I had rewritten it several times using the feedback I’d gotten from some of those rejections, but that input was very limited compared to what Cat sent me. She included a broad overview of how to shape the story better and a detailed list of how to focus the plot and sharpen the characters. Do this, she said, and send it to me again. I immediately set to work. Fast forward a few months and a Golden Heart nomination and Sourcebooks offered me a three book contract. (If you want the details of those months, I blogged about it on my site a while back and included animated gifs. J)

That summer at the Romance Writers of America’s national conference, I met Cat for the first time, some of the rest of the Sourcebooks team, and a bunch of their authors. Even though the ink on my contract was only a month dry, everyone was super welcoming and wonderfully helpful. After the Sourcebooks author dinner, we traveled back to the hotel in horse drawn pumpkins. No really, we did! I’m not making this up! That whole conference, I felt like Cinderella and the pumpkins on wheels just confirmed that I was finally invited to dance at the ball.

Yesterday my debut novel, VIKING WARRIOR RISING, became a finalist in both the Best First Book and the Paranormal RITA categories. The romance community did what it always does, celebrated the triumphs of the finalists and shared in the joy by supplying endless congratulations and much love. The Sourcebooks authors and publishing team was no different. There are five Sourcebooks finalists this year, spanning five categories: Romantic Suspense, Historical Long, Historical Short, Paranormal, and Best First Book. And the whole company and its authors went nuts on social media. I’m still trying to catch my breath.

So thank you all you romance lovers: other authors, publishing professionals, and all the readers. Thank you for loving my immortal Vikings and Valkyries as much as I do. No words can describe how humbled and grateful I am for this honor.

Love always,


Friday, March 25, 2016

Bucket List or Bust!

So for as long as I've known my husband, the only place he ever talks about wanting to see is the Grand Canyon.  Seriously, every time we try to plan a vacation, that's where he wants to go.  And for 27 years, we haven't.  It's not that I don't WANT to see it, I just don't want to see it the way that HE wants to see it.

Bad wife.  I know.

Next month we are going to the RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas.  That's right...we.  I'm bringing my husband with me - it's sort of close to our 25th wedding anniversary - and while we're there we are going to cross the number one thing off of his bucket list and go to the Grand Canyon.  Did I cave on riding a donkey down into the canyon?  No.  Am I camping in the canyon?  No.  Am I standing on that clear bridge that just the thought of makes me queasy?  No.  I decided to go big or go home and we are taking a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon!

Kid. You. Not.

Neither of us is big on flying.  We've never been in a helicopter.  This could all end very badly for both of us - something along the lines of having to land before ever SEEING the Grand Canyon because we're both screaming and crying out of fear.  But I still say go big or go home!

The tour group we picked will come to our hotel and pick us up in a limo, take us to the airfield, take us up in the helicopter and then land it IN the Grand Canyon where we will have lunch.  If we don't scream and cry or get sick and get thrown out of the helicopter, this totally has potential to be an amazing experience!  I'll keep you posted.

And for me - because really, if we're crossing something off of his bucket list, we should do one of mine too - we are zip lining.  While that may sound tame to some of you thrill-seekers, this is zip lining between two buildings in Vegas 50+ stories off of the ground.  I've never zip lined in any capacity so I figured it was a good way to just jump right in and check it out.  If nothing else, there will be another sick-in-mid-air-story to share when we get home.

So what about you?  Do you have a bucket list?  Have you crossed anything off of it recently?  This will be our first ones and I'm kind of excited about it.  But I promise to post pictures when we get home and let you know how we both fared!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Vegans in the Old West? by Linda Broday

With difficult times and food as scarce as it was on the American frontier, being a vegan probably was pretty rare. Still…given people’s phobias, I have a hard time believing they suddenly developed in the 1900s. People are people no matter what century in which they live.

Carnophobia is the fear of meat.

And it’s not limited to vegans. It can apply to anyone who stopped eating meat because it wasn’t prepared well and made them sick.

Rayna Harper in my new book—FOREVER HIS TEXAS BRIDE—is a carnophobic.

She stopped eating meat for a very horrific reason and it makes perfect sense. The only thing is, Brett Liberty has a hard time understanding at first. He’s definitely a meat eater. Game is plentiful and provides critical protein that gives a man energy so it seems odd to him that someone stops eating it.

I’m not going to say what Rayna’s reason is because it’ll give away too much of the story, buy she finds a true champion in Brett.

Once he learns of her phobia, he makes sure to have plenty of vegetables, fruits and eggs available for every meal.

No one understands inner pain more profoundly than Brett. When he sees hers, he folds his arms around her, vowing to protect her to the last breath.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Romantic Times gave a 4 star review, saying this:
“Broday’s Westerns always captivate with realistic settings, rugged cowboys and feisty heroines. Broday ends her Bachelors of Battle Creek trilogy with a bone-chilling thrill. Two lonely hearts came together against vigilantes determined to destroy all they hold dear.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The book completes my Bachelors of Battle Creek series. They're all available online and in bookstores everywhere. 

Here's the Amazon link to the series:

You can visit me at:


Wednesday, March 23, 2016


In our imaginary world of Regency romance novels, there appears to be a rake and a duke on every street corner.
Our affection for dukes seems obvious, but why do we love rakes so?
Below, I’ve listed a few possible reasons and then added a quote from George, the hero of my latest release, TO CATCH A RAKE.

  1. Rakes are usually handsome and arrogant. Needless to say, that arrogance will be brought to heel by the love of a good woman.
“Forgive me, Mrs. Russell, but you are obviously not acquainted with all of womankind. Most ladies are not affronted in the least.”
“Do you mean to tell me that you have taken a survey of all of womankind about their feelings in regard to your field guide?”
The wicked smile beamed from his handsome, lean face. “Indeed, I have made some effort to…survey all of womankind.”

  1. Rakes instinctively know how to charm a lady and sweep her off her feet.
“You see, the secret to pleasuring a woman requires many traits unique to engineers.” His wholly wicked smile appeared on a pleased countenance. “There are steps to consider for maximum satisfaction. It’s like building a bridge: first you must find the right site. In this case”—he locked the door—“the site needs to be secured.”
  1. A rake is usually the bad boy in a novel—dangerous, aloof, or forbidden.
In her dreams, she saw him in many different forms. George as the proverbial knight in shining armor slaying the dragon, George as a steely Viking at the prow of his longboat, or George as a red-coated general leading his men into battle. But those were just silly dreams. Dreams paled in comparison to reality. In real life, he was George, the man building modern Britain, a far more significant accomplishment than a typical hero in a novel.
  1. Rakes are exciting and seldom boring.
“If I penned a field guide, I’d include you under the category of bear. Bear because you’re big and black.”
“And bite.”
“Yes, I’m sure you bite.”
He leaned close enough to whisper in her ear. “Bears do not bite ladies, madam, they nibble.”
  1. Rakes possess command of the room and their confidence makes them hard to ignore.
“You wish to be considered a Happy Goer?”
She held her breath. His question was followed by the wickedest smile Meta had ever seen given by a gentleman. Wicked because it revealed an intimate knowledge of Happy Goers. Wicked because it contained a veiled challenge for her to retaliate in kind. And wicked because, regardless of her response, he possessed complete confidence in his ultimate victory.

  1. But the most important reason is that we can forgive a young rake, because there is always the possibility of reform. And when a rake falls in love—they fall hard.

I won’t provide George's moment here, because it would contain spoilers.  ;)
To find out if George’s rakish ways are ever reformed, check out TO CATCH A RAKE!

Me? I think I'd prefer a Regency nerd. I wonder who that would be?

Happy reading!

Sally Orr
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Test Drive--An #Excerpt

Since I'm posting this the night before my trip to Las Vegas, my mind is on flashy, shiny things. Thus...Johnny. *smile*  Johnny Devlin is the hero in Test Drive, book one of the Body Shop Bad Boys series coming to you in less than three more months!  June 7th, to be precise.

Johnny, Foley, Sam, and Lou are the rough and tumble mechanics of Webster's Garage. These reformed bad boys are used to living fast, but it's the women in their lives who take them from zero to sixty in a heartbeat.

Here's a teaser for you... Johnny and Lara accidentally meeting up for a run in the rain. Enjoy!


They ran in silence for a while, until Lara saw the end in sight. Then she put on a burst of speed and left Johnny behind. When he caught up to her, he had a smug grin on his face.
“What are you smiling at? I won.” She bent over to catch her breath.
“I’m thinking I’m the real winner here. I got to watch you from behind.” He whistled. “You have the finest form.”
“Shut up.” Her face heated.
“So about this jealous thing you have going on with Del and her man…”
“Where do you get your ideas?” She straightened and poked him in the chest, now as wet as he was. What a typical Seattle day. “I’m thrilled Del found a good guy. Mike is perfect for her. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of all the losers my sister has dated and married and wondered if she’ll ever find a good guy.”
“Oh, sure.”
Oddly, he looked…relieved?
“Were you invited to the wedding?” A pause as she twisted the knife. “Or is there a restraining order banning you from a church? You know, considering it’s a holy place and all.”
He laughed and tugged her wet ponytail. “Funny and sexy. The walls might shake, but I think I have heaven snowed. They’ll let me in before they realize I don’t belong there.”
“Ha. You said it.”
He leaned closer, and she froze. “But I’m thinking you don’t belong there either. For someone so damn pretty and sweet, there’s a part of you that wants what I can give you.” His breath whispered over her lips, and man oh man, her entire body felt like one giant exposed nerve. “A run for your money.”
Then he slid a finger over her chin and up her cheek. “So damn pretty.” He blew out a breath and moved back, turned on his heel, and took off in the rain.
Drenched, aroused, and annoyed she’d lost a grip on herself dealing with Johnny, she stalked to her car, not surprised when it failed to start.
The words she said would have filled Del’s swear jar to the brim.
A knock on the window startled her, and she turned to see Johnny.
Rolling down the window, because of course she had nothing as fancy as automatic anything in her car, she barked, “What?”
“Need a jump?” he asked in the politest voice.
“Yeah, I do.”
“You need a jump,” he reiterated, trying to hold back a grin.
She swore under her breath. “Just do it, okay?”
He walked away snickering, but he did help her with the car, then refused to accept any mention of payment.
“All in the line of duty, ma’am.” He bowed, completely soaked.
She forced herself not to notice how impressive he looked in his clingy jogging shorts. “Still trying to get into heaven, eh?”
He winked. “You know it. See you next week at Ray’s.”
Not if I see you first. She drove off. Oh, who am I kidding? That man is catnip, and I’m a scraggly mouser. Time to talk to Kristin and be put off men again…forever.

Test Drive coming to Sourcebooks June 7th

Monday, March 21, 2016

Queen of the Road

The double-decker buses in London are among my favorite English things. The front seats on the top level offer a panoramic view. I don't even mind traffic jams much, there's so much to see. I've taken the 38 to Victoria Station to catch the train to Brighton.

The 24 carried me up to Hampstead Heath, starting to flower at this time of year. On the 73 I cruised through Islington, past Angel Station and quirky shops.

I confess that I've ridden London buses to the end of their routes, and then come right back again, just for the pleasure of moving along high above the streets and observing. Sometimes the end of the line is a nice surprise, sometimes a prosaic spot with an exotic name. But the fun is in the journey.

Happy spring!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

I Got Box of Style (so you don't have to)

You've seen them, those monthly subscription boxes. They have them for everything now. Makeup, Clothes, International Foods, Dog Toys, Snacks, Wine... My daughter got me a six month subscription to Birchbox, and I enjoyed it. Every month, I got 4-6 cool samples of new hair, perfume, or makeup products. And it was fairly affordable.

But it ran out. Instead of renewing mine, I returned the favor and got six months of Birchbox for her. And then I moved on to the big guns. I saw that Celebrity Stylist Rachel Zoe had a Box of Style and I wanted in.

At her webpage, you can see that past Boxes of Style contained some high end cosmetics plus designer label accessories. Each Box of Style, Zoe boasts, contains over $300 worth of merchandise. Box of Style costs $100 a shipment or $350 for four boxes. They are seasonal.

I bought the whole year's worth. My first box, the spring box, came a few weeks ago. And according to Rachel Zoe, the spring box has already sold out! Let's examine my Box of Style.

It comes like a big present! I love presents. Happy Spring, Me! And you open it up and find everything wrapped in black inside. What is all this great stuff? I could not wait to open each parcel. Yes, it comes with a booklet that describes each item but I did not look until I opened everything (more fun that way).

The first item is the biggie, what Rachel Zoe calls "the Hero item." This time, it's a caramel leather bucket bag from Shaffer LA, with a retail value of $150. Along with the bag, you get a code inviting you to shop more from Shaffer for 25% off.

Next, a Jouer Creme Eyeshadow Crayon, The Shimmer. Retail value, $24. Also with an offer for 20% off at the Jouer site. They shipped multiple shades at random. I got a dark smoky gray.

And then, the Not So Heavy Metal pave bar and stone cuff bracelet from Jules Smith (and yes, a code for 30% off at Jules's site). Bracelet retail value, $45.

Maybe my favorite item is LSTN Sound Co. Wembley Earbuds. They're very cool earbuds with nubby wooden bases that fit comfortably and sound great. Retail value, $100. Plus 20% orders at LSTN Sound Co.

Zoe rounds out the box with a full size bottle of Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk that Zoe claims to love (plus 20% off at Klorane) and a pack of Hollywood Fashion Secrets Oil Blotters (and 15% off at the site) with retail values of $20 and $5 respectively. Not mentioned in the catalog or priced is a sample of La Mer.

Total value of my Box of Style (if I went with strict retail value on all items, and I'm sure you might find some on sale eventually) is $344. Now, consider, would I choose some of these items if left on my own? The bucket bag is nice, but not normally my style. But for $100 a box (or less if you buy the four a year), it's a fun box of luxurious treats.

Join me on Facebook and Twitter on Sundays, when I have my Sunday Style events to discuss style through the ages.