Monday, April 30, 2018

Four podcast recs, plus WANTED & WIRED out on audiobook


I’ve always been an audiophile -- music, theta-wave binaural beats, sound machines with weird nature noises, and... podcastery! A recent  request for recommendations with which to fill my ears met with oh so much goodness, I just gotta share. 

For what’s going on in romance...

The Wicked Wallflowers Club  – You know how folks always tell you to research what’s going on in your genre? Well, here you go: what’s going on in romance. Billed as “a podcast for empowered readers and writers of romance,” this show interviews hot authors, discusses new releases, and isn’t afraid to confront issues affecting the genre. Their recent episode about representation was timely.  Apple | Twitter @WckdWallflowers

Magi Romance is another romance-genre podcast, but it explores some of the less well-known nooks and sub-genres. I loved their recent interview with Veronica Scott, who discussed science fiction romance as well as more personal stuff like her process and her background working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.  Apple | Twitter @MagiRomance

For thirst (and inspiration)...

Thirst Aid Kit. Make sure you use headphones for this one. And maybe a closet, if you’re worried about folks seeing you blush. Each episode starts off with a [usually redacted] flash fic featuring whomever the hosts are thirsting after, and folks, it can get warm in here. Note that thirst in this context is defined as, “unabashed, guilt-free desire for a person” (per Buzzfeed). The Thirst Aid Kit podcast is a voyeur-in-your-ear ogle at all the, ahem, desirables, including Chris Evans, Mahershala Ali, Oscar Isaac, Tom Hiddleston, and on. Little something for all of us, right? (This is my new favorite podcast. Thank you, Julia Lee, for suggesting it.) Apple | Twitter @ThirstAidKit

For writing craft...

Writing Excuses has been my go-to craft podcast since before I had a phone that could even play podcasts. I’ve learned so much from these guys over the years and even go back sometimes and listen to old casts on specific topics. If you’re interested in writing craft, no matter which genre you prefer (side note: Season 11 breaks down elemental genres way better than book store shelf labels do), you need to check out Writing Excuses. Oh! And Season 10 is specifically a master class in writing a story, from idea generation to revision. So much to learn here. 

And finally, if all that isn’t enough to fill up your ear-holes...

My sci-fi romance thrill-ride 
Wanted and Wired came out in audio a couple weeks ago. It’s read by the lovely and talented Johanna Parker, who also voiced Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books and is generally, you know, awesome. 

Perfect Gravity coming June 5th.




Friday, April 20, 2018

A Beach Vacation!


For the last four years I've worked solid, only taking trips to writer's conferences or autographings. Never for my own enjoyment.

But....next month I'm going to the beach! My sister and I have rented a beach house for a whole week.

I'm pinching myself, wondering if this is real.

Yep, it is. It's located on Bolivar Island in the Gulf of Mexico. You have to take a ferry from Galveston, TX to get to it. The pirate Jean LaFitte used to have a home on the island and for a time used it for a base of operations.

Maybe I'll look for buried treasure!

There also used to be a fort here in the early 1800s called Fort Las Casas. The "Mother of Texas" Jane Long wintered in the abandoned fort with her toddler, a maid, and her dog. Jane gave birth to a second child. Their food was running out and she only had a rusty cannon for defense. To make the Indians think the fort was still inhabited, she fired the cannon each morning and raised a red petticoat up the flagpole. Her efforts kept them away.



No, I won't be doing any of that stuff. I'm going to lie on the beach, soaking up some sun, listening to the waves. Dreaming up a new story.

Pure heaven!

Relax and Renew will be my motto. Come and join me. We can all use some lazy time.

Where do you go when you need to push the pause button? 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hooray for Hot Water!


I’ve been doing some research on bathing in the Regency period. Did you know that they actually had showers that early on? It was quite the innovation. 


There were some drawbacks, however. First of all, the water was not heated. That might have been pleasant in the summer, but in any other English season it was probably beyond bracing. 

Second, the shower used the same water over and over. A pump took water from the lower basin (around your feet?) to a cistern at the top. Repeatedly. And for successive showerers, I guess. That doesn’t sound too appealing. 

I wonder if the person had to pump for himself? Or did a servant stand there and do it? Bathers choice, I suppose.

Having seen this, I’m filled with gratitude every time I turn the tap and get lots of hot water for my shower.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Every Deep Desire and Chocolate Brownies: A Perfect Combination!




Ever since reading Twice Loved by Lavyrle Spence, I've always loved reunion stories. So when I started writing Every Deep Desire, I was so happy when I realized that ex-Green Beret Rafe Montfort and Juliet Capel (the hero and heroine) had not only once been married but they'd grown up together on a remote sea island off the Georgia coast known as the Isle of Grace. 

This fact allowed me to weave in memories of their childhood adventures and show how, despite living in rural poverty, Rafe and Juliet were able to find happiness in their isolation. They spent hours watching the constellations trail across the night sky, picnicking in the Back Meadow, fishing barefoot in the creeks, and canoeing through the tidal estuaries that snaked across Juliet's land. And every time they met, Rafe carried contraband--a napkin holding his mother's brownies he'd stolen from her trailer's kitchen. 

Rafe and Juliet spent hours lying in the grass, beneath the hot sun, eating melted chocolate and dreaming about their future. Unfortunately, their young marriage died a brutal death, leaving them both broken-hearted. 

Now, eight years after disappearing form Juliet's life, Rafe returns to Savannah, GA. He's been released from prison and need's Juliet's help if he's to save everyone he loves--including his wife.

But as they learn to trust and love each other again, they have their memories to remind them of the joy they once shared, usually while eating brownies. 

So here's the recipe for Tess Montfort's brownies. The recipe is adapted from a 1963 Good Housekeeping Cookbook and they're the best brownies I've ever had. 

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash.

Tess Montfort's Brownies

Ingredients: 
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter
2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon flour
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
Heat oven to 325 degrees. 
Grease an 11" x 7" x 1 1/2" baking pan.
In a large bowl, use an electric mix to blend eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
In a double-boiler, melt chocolate and butter. Cool for five minutes and add to the egg mixture. Beat with the electric mixer until blended.
Add the flour to the egg/chocolate mixture. Mix well. 
Pour batter into the pan, top with nuts and chocolate chips. 
Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (depending on how hot your oven runs, you may want to start checking for doneness between 20-25 minutes) 
Cool in pan. Cut. Makes 24 squares.

(This recipe is adapted from a recipe in the 1963 Good Housekeeping Cookbook, edited by Dorothy B. Marsh.)

-------------------------
Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare's greatest love stories.

Sharon loves to interact on her website www.sharonwray.com as well as on most social media platforms! 

Monday, April 9, 2018

An excerpt from Play for Keeps by Maggie Wells

In Maggie Wells' newest release, a basketball coach knee-deep in scandal needs a PR miracle and fast. When Millie arrives to save the day—and his reputation—their chemistry is instant. But can these two high-powered professionals come together without starting a new scandal of their own?

Read on for an excerpt from Play for Keeps by Maggie Wells.


He pounced on the hint of vulnerability. “Are you telling me you have feelings?”

“Good Lord, Ty,” she blurted, exasperation overcoming her. “Of course I have feelings. I’m not a robot.”

“For me.”

He skirted the end of the table and came to a stop beside her chair. He stood unmoving, waiting for her to expound, but she didn’t. He was a ballplayer, used to intimidating opponents with his superior height and strength, but he didn’t scare her. She found him…breathtaking.

“Do you have feelings for me?” he asked, enunciating each word with precision. Before she could suck in a little oxygen, he leaned down, effectively caging her in with one hand planted on the table, the other gripping the back of her chair. “And if so, what are those feelings? Specifically?”

The intensity of his stare held her in thrall. She didn’t try to bolt or slither from the seat. The truth was, she didn’t want to elude him or them or what they might be able to carve out together. The only part she wanted to avoid was the bit where her heart ended up broken into a million pieces. She’d spent years reinventing herself after her marriage fell apart. If she Humpty Dumptied again, there might not be enough horses, men, or superglue to make her whole once more.

She started to shake her head but stopped when he leaned in closer. “You know,” she whispered at last, taking the coward’s way out.

“Tell me.”

But she couldn’t. Verbalizing her feelings would make them actual information. Information was knowledge. Knowledge equaled power. This man had enough power over her already. She couldn’t give him carte blanche. So she’d start with a few basic truths. Maybe those would be enough to placate him.

“I don’t want Mari to be pregnant with your baby.” He stiffened enough to tell her this was not the confession he wanted or expected. She needed to give him a little more. Enough to let him infer but not enough to confirm. “I wish you’d never slept with her, but given the circumstances, pretending would be fairly ridiculous.”

His eyes narrowed. “Is this a feeling?”

“Jealousy,” she replied with a jerky nod. “I’m jealous.” When his brows rose, Millie felt the need to spin the confession. “Not ‘I’m gonna put sugar in your gas tank’ jealous, but yes, jealous.”

Ty nodded, compressing his mouth into a thin line as he digested. “Jealous is a good start. What else?”

“Angry.”

An emotion easy to own. She’d been pissed off since this whole mess started. Pissed at Ty for marrying the nitwit. At the nitwit for being too blind to know what she had. At Dante Harris’s ingratitude and the vicious glee the press exhibited in taking what should have been a private matter and whipping it into a story concocted for consumption. She couldn’t even think about the morons who sat like lumps in front of their computer and television screens gobbling personal pain like handfuls of mixed nuts.

She was angry he kissed like he did. Sweet, sensual, drugging kisses that burned hotter than one of those fire-starter logs. The feel of his big, rough hands on her body stoked the flames higher and higher. She didn’t want to love him. Never asked him to love her. But now that she’d had him, she didn’t want to share one bit of him with anyone else. Not even a baby.

“You’re angry?” he clarified.

“Yes.” She bit the word off hard, incensed that he seemed to be questioning her right to feeling this way. “Yes, I’m angry.” She tipped her chin up a notch. “What of it?”

Ty smiled as he pushed away and rose to his full height. But not a happy smile. The gleam of it glinted with a steely, sharp edge. “Nothing. I’m glad I’m not the only one.”

Once she had some breathing room, Millie sucked in a deep hit and went straight to the heart of the matter. “When was the last time you slept with Mari?” He blinked, then started to recover, but before he could say a word, she held up a hand to stop him. “Not slept, had sex. The kind of sex that gets a woman knocked up.”

“A perverse part of me loves it when you get explicit.”

She acknowledged the comment but didn’t let the playful gambit deter her. “Great. We’ll get to perversions later, but right now, we’re talking about the probability of baby making.”

“A week or so before she left.” He raised a hand in a gesture of futility, then let it fall away. “I don’t remember exactly. I thought about what went wrong a lot…after. I can’t pin it on any trouble in bed, but I let a lot of other things go. Things I didn’t want to admit to seeing.”

Millie wet her lips, her mind clicking through various options as she tried to figure out how best to approach her next question. “And before you discovered the affair with Dante, did you suspect anything?”

He shook his head a split second too early for his denial to be anything but a knee-jerk reaction. “Ty, anything?”


Something must have pinged, because he stopped on a dime. “Why? What did you hear?”

###


Title: Play for Keeps
Author: Maggie Wells
Series: Love Games, #2
Pub Date: April 3, 2018
Genre: Contemporary

Mixing business and pleasure is a dangerous game…

Tyrell Ransom, the new men’s basketball coach, is ready to whip his team into shape and start winning some games. But when compromising photos of his soon-to-be-ex-wife with one of his players go viral, everything comes crashing down. With reporters thick on the ground, Ty and his team need some serious damage control—now.

When public relations guru Millie Jenkins arrives in her leopard-print cape to save the day, things really heat up... Soon they’re going to have to work double time to keep their white-hot chemistry out of the headlines.


By day, Maggie Wells is buried in spreadsheets. At night she pens tales of people tangling up the sheets. The product of a charming rogue and a shameless flirt, you only have to scratch the surface of this mild-mannered married lady to find a naughty streak a mile wide. She has a passion for college football, processed cheese foods, and happy endings. Not necessarily in that order. She lives in Arkansas.

Find Maggie Online:

Friday, April 6, 2018

An excerpt from Fearless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell

If you haven't yet experienced the authentic, gritty world of Kari Lynn Dell's Texas Rodeo series, her latest installment should definitely be on your to-be-read list!

Want to give Kari a try? Read on for excerpt from Fearless in Texas, available now.




Melanie polished off the last bite of her cold-cut combo and stood to brush the crumbs off her sweatshirt before pulling on her coat. As Wyatt had predicted, the air had cooled quickly, although the breeze had also died to a mere rustle in the knee-high bunches of grass. Beyond the broad north-south valley that held the main highway, the sun hung low over a smaller range of hills that would lie north and west of Pendleton. If she remembered correctly from her map, the massive Columbia River must be just beyond that rise, flowing east through the Tri-Cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland, Washington, then making a sweeping U-turn back to the west, forming the border between the states on its way to the Pacific.
Mentally adding the Columbia Gorge to her must-see list, Melanie slung her pack over her shoulder and, drawn by what sounded like a small waterfall, picked her way down through the trees on the sheltered side of the ridge, only to be brought up short by one of the thick bands of lava rock. The cliff wasn’t high—ten or fifteen feet—but it extended as far as she could see in either direction. The splash of water seemed to be directly below her, so she eased as close as she dared and peered over the crumbling edge of the cliff.
“Be careful,” Wyatt said, practically in her ear.
She squeaked, startled, and jumped back, colliding with a hard male body. Her elbow caught him in the ribs. He grunted and sidestepped—directly onto one of the loose rocks. His leg buckled, and he stumbled. For a heart-stopping instant, he teetered at the edge of the cliff. Just as Melanie made a grab for him, the unstable rock gave way.
She caught nothing but thin air as he fell. With a curse and a clatter, he was gone.
Melanie listened in horror to a thud, another curse, and the unmistakable sound of a body hitting something solid. And then there was silence.
“Wyatt?” She dropped to her belly to peer over the edge, but couldn’t see past the trees and shadows. “Wyatt!
The second was on the verge of a shriek as panic clamped an icy hand on her throat. Oh God, oh God, oh God. She scooted along the cliff, squinting into the trees, but in his faded jeans and gray sweatshirt, he was invisible in the shadows beneath the trees.
“Wyatt!” she shouted again. She heard what might have been a groan—or the wind through the trees. No other sound or movement. She scrambled to her feet, glancing first up the hill, then over the cliff. Did she run back to the car and race into town for help? No. Wait. Wyatt had the keys. She clawed her phone out of her pocket. No signal, of course.
There was only one option. She had to get down there. He could be bleeding. He could be…
Melanie shook off that thought and crab-walked along the edge, looking for a likely set of hand- and footholds. A few feet from where Wyatt had gone over, a large pine grew on the edge, its roots extending down the cliff. Below, the rock face was pocked with holes and jagged points. She lowered onto her belly, took a deep breath, then grabbed the root and swung her legs over the edge. For a terrifying moment she dangled, legs flailing. Then her feet found purchase.
Slowly—too slow, dammit—she lowered herself, the rough bark of the root digging into her palms. Her descent was an agonizing crawl, fear and adrenaline pounding through her veins and accelerating her heart rate into the red zone. She had to fight the urge to rush. She’d be no good to Wyatt if she fell, too. The muscles in her toes cramped from grasping at the slippery footholds, testing each before trusting it with her weight.
And wondering—damn her self-centered mind—if Tori knew a good defense attorney, too, because no one was going to believe she’d done this by accident.
She was over halfway down when she heard another groan. Her heart leapt—and her foot slipped. For an instant she hung, cursing as her toes scratched desperately for purchase. Her shoe caught on a lip of rock. She clasped the root to her chest and flattened against the cliff face, panting from terror and exertion.
“Mel—” This groan was louder, but distinctly her name. Wyatt was alive and conscious. Relief blasted through her.
“I’m coming! I’ll be there in just a minute.”
“No, don’t—”
She eased down another step…and the rock beneath her foot gave way. She dropped, hitched for an instant, then the force of her weight snapped the root. There was an instant of Oh shit, this is gonna hurt before her butt hit the ground. The impact jarred every molecule in her body and made stars burst behind her eyes. Her legs bounced, flipping her backward down the steep incline. She threw her arms up to cushion the back of her head against rocks and branches, twisting sideways just as she crashed into a huge fallen log—and something that grunted in pain.
She lay on her stomach, eyes squeezed shut, braced for the searing pain of a broken bone. It didn’t come. As the universe slowly righted itself, she took inventory. She felt the deep throb of bruises, the burn of scrapes, but when she inhaled, her rib cage expanded right on cue. She let the breath out in a rush and opened her eyes to discover that the log under her cheek was actually a hard, denim-clad thigh.
“Melanie?” Her name was a harsh wheeze.
She lifted her head to meet his gaze. Wyatt was sprawled on his back, struggling to take in air—and her nose was buried in his crotch.
And damn his eternal soul, those blue eyes were laughing.

###


Title: Fearless in Texas
Series: Texas Rodeo #4
Author: Kari Lynn Dell
Pub Date: April 3, 2018

He’d step in front of a bull to save a life
But even he’s no match for a girl this Texas tough

Rodeo bullfighter Wyatt Darrington’s got it all figured out. The perfect car, the perfect job, the perfect looks—the perfect lie. He may be on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, but he knows he’ll always be an outsider to people like Melanie Brookman. Texas-born and bred, with the arena in her blood, Melanie’s come to see Wyatt as her personal enemy, and that suits him just fine—this way, she’ll never realize the truth.

He’s been crazy in love with her for years.

Melanie’s always been a fighter. Fiercely independent and tough as nails, she’s stood up to everything that got in her way—including Wyatt. But now her infamous temper’s got her on the ropes, and there’s nowhere left to run but toward the man she swore she’d never trust…and this time, there’s no denying just how hot he makes her burn.


KARI LYNN DELL brings a lifetime of personal experience to writing western romance. She is a third generation rancher and rodeo competitor existing in a perpetual state of horse-induced poverty on the Blackfeet Nation of northern Montana, along with her husband, son and Max the Cowdog.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

An excerpt from Sit, Stay, Love by Debbie Burns

Are you an animal lover? Then you won't want to miss the next book in Debbie Burns' phenomenal Rescue Me series! In Sit, Stay, Love, an ex-military dog handler and a shelter worker find themselves working together—and before long, they can't help feeling a little puppy love!

Read on for an excerpt from the book.



By the time Kurt stepped back into the shop, Kelsey was picking up their coffees from the barista. A flash of lightning lit the western sky.
“Seems like we’re going to get hit with another round. Want to make a break for it? It’s about a half a mile from here, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Probably closer to three-quarters.” She was still working to ignore the impression that his arm had left against her body. “Let’s step outside and check it out. There are awning-covered shops for the next quarter mile. We could get closer at least.”
“I hate to break it to you, but I don’t think awnings offer much protection from lightning.”
They stepped out into the dark, quiet street. On the way to the restaurant, the area had been bustling with people. Now, everyone seemed to have taken heed and headed home.
“So, may I ask what I’m about to have the pleasure of drinking?”
“Sure. I couldn’t decide, so I asked the barista, and she thought it was best to go with a basic mocha with whipped cream. And honestly, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t enjoy a mocha. However, if you want, we can switch. I chose the rosemary–brown sugar tonight.”
“Here I thought for sure you’d pick pumpkin spice for yourself. And this is good.”
They walked in silence at a clipped pace. Kelsey missed his arm around her, but with the coffees and the speed they were walking, it wasn’t warranted. They’d reached the end of the shop-lined street and were about to turn onto a residential one when a flash of lightning lit up the entire sky and thunder boomed all around. Before it quieted, large splashes of rain began to fall.
Kurt grabbed her hand and started to backtrack. “It’s too close. That covered bus stop a hundred feet back is the safest thing around.”
Kelsey nodded, needing no convincing after that flash. The individual splashes became a downpour twenty feet before they reached the bus stop. “Holy crap, this rain is so cold!”
She felt lost when they made it inside and he let go of her hand. The rain was coming in at an angle, so they huddled as close to the back wall as possible in the narrow space next to the bench.
Using his thumb, Kurt brushed a drop of water off her cheek. As much from his touch as from the run, Kelsey’s heart pounded louder than the rain.
“Are you cold?”
She shook her head. “No, not anymore.”
He was staring at her, not the rain. Thunderstorms are on the top of his list. He should be watching the storm, she thought.
How long had it been since he’d been with someone? she wondered. He might have been on active duty, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t had opportunities. But he didn’t seem like the type to get laid just to get laid.
Her mind was racing. She needed to focus, but he was staring at her as though he couldn’t see anything else. Say something, Kelsey. “Want to try mine? It’s not quite as sweet.” Seriously? That was the best you could do?
“Yes.” He sat his cup on the bench and reached for hers. Their fingers brushed, and a jolt of electricity raced up her arm.
She blinked in confusion as he set her cup next to his. When he turned toward her, his gaze was on her lips. He slipped one hand into her hair, gently cupping the back of her head above her neck. With his other hand, he traced her lips. She wanted to keep her eyes open, to know when the kiss was coming, but they closed involuntarily as his fingers moved lower, tracing her neck and sternum. Her lips must have parted because she felt his thumb return to her mouth, brushing over her lips and connecting with her teeth.
Then he shifted and his lips pressed against hers softly, as if seeking permission. She opened her mouth in reply, and the kiss intensified. It was like nothing she’d ever felt, the sweetness of his mouth against hers. His lips were firm, and he tasted so damn good. His hand left her neck and slipped underneath her sweater, caressing the skin at the small of her back.
Kelsey’s knees were turning to jelly. She draped her arms over his shoulders, lost her fingers in his hair. Please don’t ever let him stop. The kiss deepened, and his tongue met hers. Their bodies pulled together like magnets.
She was getting lost even further when he pulled away abruptly, stepping back just far enough to break the magnetic connection. “You’re wrong,” he said, his voice thick and husky. “It’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted.”
Then he started kissing her again, and Kelsey was fairly certain nothing would ever be the same.

###

Title: Sit, Stay, Love

Author: Debbie Burns
Series: Rescue Me, #2
Pub Date: April 3, 2018
Genre: Contemporary

These dogs aren’t the only ones in need of rescue

For devoted no-kill shelter worker Kelsey Sutton, rehabbing a group of rescue dogs is a welcome challenge. Working with a sexy ex-military dog handler who needs some TLC himself? That’s a different story.

Kurt Crawford keeps his heart locked away from everyone. Well, everyone except the dogs who need his help…and always have his back. But as Kurt gets to know the compassionate, beautiful woman he's been assigned to work with, he can't help but feel a little puppy love…


Debbie Burns lives in St. Louis with her family, two phenomenal rescue dogs, and a somewhat tetchy Maine coon cat who everyone loves anyway. Her hobbies include hiking, gardening, and daydreaming, which, of course, always leads to new story ideas.

Find Debbie Online: