Thursday, April 18, 2019

Keep on Reading

This is what I'm going for as I age. Happy reading to you.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Happy National Tartan Day! by Alyson McLayne


Happy National Tartan Day! 

Nope, I didn’t make that up, and yes, it’s a real thing! I even got reminders about the day that popped up on my screen when I was working. It’s the perfect holiday for me because—guess what?—I write about brawny Highlanders!! 

So, in honor of the day, I should tweet, post, pin, and write about kilts, right?

Well… yes and no.

Would you be surprised to know that historians believe the Scots didn’t wear kilts until the 1500's at the earliest? Before that they were thought to dress in a similar fashion to other Europeans, wearing long shirts called léines over hosen or braies (tights and baggy shorts!). And those bright tartan colors? Not happening. Everything was drab earth tones.

But, Alyson, all your books are set in the 1450’s and your heroes all wear kilts?

Yup. Here’s the thing… technically I never say "kilt" in my books. I refer to the kilt the men wear as a “plaid”, which in Gaelic means blanket. So it’s a perfect word because it brings to mind the tartan material, but technically it’s not a kilt.

This was a big discussion with my editor because really… who wants to read a Highlander romance with a hero who doesn’t wear a kilt? That’s not to say it doesn’t happen—it does—and I take my hats off to those authors who break with tradition! But to me, it’s no different than watching Braveheart—I want to see Mel Gibson looking wild and sexy in a kilt whether it’s historically accurate or not.

So, in honor of National Tartan Day, here are four brawny heroes in kilts to brighten your day!! (I said it was National Tartan Day, not National Shirt Day. ;) )























Grab Your Copies Today In Honor Of National Tartan Day!!


~~~~~~~

Alyson McLayne is a mom of twins and an award-winning writer of contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance. She’s also a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the West Coast of Canada where she worked in film for several years and met her Prop Master husband.

She and her family reside in Vancouver with their sweet but troublesome chocolate lab named Jasper.

Please catch up with Alyson on social media. She loves chatting with her readers! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Highland April Fools' Day! by Alyson McLayne


It’s April Fools' Day today and my twin seven-years-olds have been busy creating all kinds of gags to try and trick me. Full disclosure: I’m not really tricked. However… I do a damn good job of pretending to be! There have been whoops of surprise, screams of terror, and lots of, “You tricked me!” heard in my house today.

I have been instructed not to go into the art room, aka the kitchen, as they are creating their tricky masterpieces to fool me. My son just completed a six-legged spider (despite the unit on arachnids he just finished at school—and aced!). He taped it onto the wall beside my writing chair. Then there was the cellophane tape placed across the bottom of the bathroom and bedroom doorways that I guess I was supposed to stick to when I walked through. The fact that my daughter made flowers on popsicle sticks and stuck them to her tape kind of made them impossible not to see. She said they were creepy flowers. “Ooooh, scary!”

Lastly, there was lots of jumping out from behind doors and saying, “Boo!” Or pretending to see a spider or wasp hovering behind them and shouting, “Run!” Um, yeah…that was me. And I got them good!


So then I started thinking about the history behind April Fools Day and whether it’s something my characters in my Highlander historical series The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod might do. 

According to Wikipedia, the holiday can be traced back to the 1500s in the UK. In Scotland, they celebrated April Fools Day this way:

“In Scotland, April Fools' Day was traditionally called 'Huntigowk Day',[12] although this name has fallen into disuse.[citation needed] The name is a corruption of 'Hunt the Gowk', "gowk" being Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person; alternative terms in Gaelic would be Là na Gocaireachd, 'gowking day', or Là Ruith na Cuthaige, 'the day of running the cuckoo'. The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message that supposedly requests help of some sort. In fact, the message reads "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile." The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this next person with an identical message, with the same result.[12]

While I don’t have this fun scene in one of my books, it occurred to me that I definitely have a trickster in my series—Isobel MacKinnon. She is Gavin’s younger sister and Kerr’s beloved, although he has a lot of work to do before he wins her over. Isobel is referenced early on in the series, but she finally appears as a secondary character in my July 2019 release HIGHLAND CAPTIVE. And then she and Kerr finally get their own love story in the last book of the series, HIGHLAND THIEF, which I’m currently writing.

So… how is Isobel a trickster? Well, she plays pranks/tricks on people in her clan who deserve it. They haven’t committed a crime that needs their laird’s judgment, but they’ve done something else that has created discord amongst the clan—a scorned woman, a bullied man, a child made to feel like an outcast—and Isobel is the judge, jury, and executioner…of one of her “traps”. 

As Kerr says of Isobel in HIGHLAND THIEF:

“Have you seen how the clan looks to her to right a wrong? It may be too small an offence to warrant their laird’s intervention, but they hope it has caught their lady’s eye.”

Or as Isobel says to Deirdre when talking about why she devises elaborate traps for her clan:

“I let them know in some way that their behavior has been noted and found wanting.”
“So…a public shaming of sorts?”
“Perhaps.” She leaned toward Deirdre. “Doona you see? It balances the scales. Restores power to the person who has been maltreated and maintains the equilibrium of the clan. If ’tis a serious crime like theft or murder, I leave that to Gavin. But in this case,” she indicated the parchment spread over the desk in front of her, “the offender was Gavin. He treated you terribly and has to pay for it….I am declaring, on behalf of the clan, that I saw what he did to you and I’ve condemned it.”

And what kind of traps does Isobel set? Well, something that will cause inconvenience, indignity, and embarrassment to the censored person, but not something that will cause serious harm. It may involve things like prickle bushes, or ants, or buckets of honey. Or maybe I should say, ants AND a bucket of honey.

While I don't dive into all of Isobel's trickster ways until HIGHLAND THIEF, I do have a scene in book 4, HIGHLAND CAPTIVE, where Isobel declares to her brother Gavin that he is officially on her "shite" list for the way he treated Deirdre when he first met her. Without giving away too many spoilers, Gavin's son, Ewan, was kidnapped over two years ago, and Gavin never stopped searching for him. When he finally finds Ewan with Deirdre, he's filled with an anger that he can't let go, and she becomes an easy target—when all she did was love and cherish a boy in need of a mother.

Excerpt from HIGHLAND CAPTIVE (Out July 30/19):

Deirdre sat on the edge of the dais and waited, Isobel sitting down beside her.
“Are you mad at him?” Isobel asked.
“Lewis?”
“Aye, Lewis. For not being there to protect you when Gavin and Kerr stormed your keep. For not demanding your return earlier.”
Deirdre thought about it and felt a surprising niggle of resentment in her breast. Had that always been there? “I’m sure he had his reasons. He did ask about me.”
“Aye, and then he reminisced with Kerr about their hunting adventures together as lads.”
“Well, by then he knew I was safe. And if he’d been at the keep when Gavin arrived, he could have been killed.”
“Where was he? Do you know?”
Deirdre shrugged, feeling the usual tinge of embarrassment when she thought about that side of her marriage. And something more, too. It shocked her to realize she was angry.
The last time she’d seen Lewis had been at the gathering where she’d first met Gavin. Before that, she hadn’t seen a trace of him for over two months. He’d even missed Yuletide. “He did try to get me back before his father arrived. Thank goodness Gavin changed his mind about handing me over.”
Isobel glowered at her brother, who was now pacing across the stone floor. “Handing you over—like you were livestock rather than a person. When all this is o’er, I’m going to plan an unpleasant surprise for my dear brother.”
Deirdre’s eyes widened. “Verily?”
“Aye. I’m good at revenge. And at holding a grudge.”
Deirdre didn’t know whether to be more amused or appalled by Isobel’s declaration. “But I was his prisoner.”
Isobel made a dismissive sound in the back of her throat. “I’d take revenge on your father and brother too, if I could. I didn’t like your brother’s tone when he spoke about you, or the demands he made. And your husband too, even though you say he saved you. There’s more to the story than you’ve told me, I’m sure.”
Deirdre stared at her friend, a lump growing in her throat. Aye. She had been treated unfairly, been hurt by people who were supposed to have had her best interests at heart—her brother, her father, her husband. Her mother and sisters too. And she’d just pushed the feelings aside, just accepted their behavior as normal.
Now someone was telling her it was not normal, that she’d been mistreated. That they were in the wrong and deserved to be punished for it.
She pressed a hand to her mouth as anger bubbled up. I’m not a pawn on a chessboard to be pushed around! Not anymore.
“Furthermore,” Isobel continued, oblivious to the effect her words were having on Deirdre, “’tis not just the way you’ve been treated since you were a lass—tossed from clan to clan, your feelings, your personhood, ne’er taken into consideration. But now that you plan to be with my brother—and I can see in your eyes that you do—you will face judgment. You’ll finally stand up for yourself and take something that you want, and some arsehole people will condemn you for it.”
“Isobel!”
“What? Are you offended that I’ve compared them to arseholes? You’re right. ’Tis not fair to the arsehole.”
“God’s blood, I doona know whether to embrace you or…or…” Deirdre sighed. “There is no alternative, is there?” She pulled Isobel into a tight hug and whispered into her ear, “Thank you.”
“Thank me after I’ve extracted our revenge. Although I think Gavin will have his revenge first. It may be that he’ll be the only survivor around for me to punish.” She spotted her brother. “Gavin!” she called across the great hall.
He looked over from where he was talking to Clyde, who looked even more grim than usual. “Aye?”
“Fair warning, Brother. You’re on my bad side.”
His brow rose. “What did I do?”
“’Tis for when you sent Kerr and me to the loch with Ewan and almost took Deirdre back to Lewis!”
Kerr whistled his approval.
“I brought her back,” Gavin said. “And I apologized.”
“I’ll take that into consideration when I make my plans. I’ve let things slide since Ewan was taken. Doona expect leniency anymore.”
He scowled at her. “You do realize we’re about to go to war?”
She shrugged. “When you return, then. Just so you know it’s coming. You willna know when, or where, or how, but it’s coming.”
“And you know that if anyone gets hurt or something gets broken because of your actions, there will be consequences.”
Deirdre’s gaze jumped back and forth between them, as did everyone else’s in the room. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing and hearing. Isobel had flat-out told her brother to expect trouble from her, and no one had batted an eye. Not one of them yelled or threatened or raised a hand to frighten her.
The queen had spoken—for Isobel was a queen, and not a pawn like Deirdre—and they’d all heard her and planned accordingly.
* * *

She'd saved his son. Could she save him as well?

Laird Gavin MacKinnon is a changed man—and not for the better. Ever since his young son, Ewan, disappeared two years ago, Gavin has grown callous and bitter. Scouring the countryside, his search leads him to a mysterious woman who maintains the boy is hers. He decides to take them both and ask questions later.

Deirdre MacIntyre will go with the brooding laird if it will keep her son safe. Gavin has to admit that the beautiful lass has a bond with Ewan, and things aren't adding up. When Deirdre's clan comes to claim her under threat of war, Gavin has a choice to make: fight for her or let her go.


~~~~~~~

Alyson McLayne is a mom of twins and an award-winning writer of contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance. She’s also a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the West Coast of Canada where she worked in film for several years and met her Prop Master husband.

She and her family reside in Vancouver with their sweet but troublesome chocolate lab named Jasper.

Please catch up with Alyson on social media. She loves chatting with her readers! 





Monday, April 1, 2019

Love Letters: May we all be Secretaries of Juliet.

The importance of writing love letters.

It’s now April, but recently I wrote about why the romantic comedy Letters to Juliet is my favorite February movie. Since this weekend was horrible weather-wise, and my revisions for the third book in my Deadly Force series were going slowly, I decided to rewatch the movie to cheer myself up. Then I decided to edit and repost the article here.



Letters to Juliet is about a young American woman who discovers a long-lost love letter in the wall in Juliet’s courtyard in Verona, Italy. This wall, where people over the last century have left letters to lost lovers, is cared for by a group of woman known as the Secretaries of Juliet.

When the heroine finds the heart-sick letter, she goes on a quest to reunite the lovers. In the process she learns what true love really means.

I’m not normally a fan of romcoms, but I love this movie. Maybe it’s because, beside being a planner girl, I'm an avid letter writer myself. Or maybe because I’ve been to Juliet’s courtyard in Verona, Italy and to the countryside where the movie was filmed. Or maybe it’s because I’m a huge fan of not just Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet” but also of one of the original source materials titled “Giulietta e Romeo” by Luigi da Porto in 1524. So much a fan that my debut novel EVERY DEEP DESIRE is a romantic suspense Romeo and Juliet retelling.


Statue of Juliet in her courtyard in Verona, Italy.
Love letters have existed, in different forms, since people first started expressing in words the human concept of raw, unadulterated passion. Love letters can be traced through history with examples appearing on ancient papyrus scrolls all the way to our current-day Hallmark cards and text emojis. The Song of Solomon (in the Bible) is an example of God’s love for the individual. The Roman statesmen, Cicero and Pliny, wrote love letters to their wives. In 269 AD a bishop named Valentinus, on the night before he was martyred, wrote a letter to a young woman whom he’d converted to Christianity and signed it “From Your Valentine.”



Years later, in the late medieval/early Renaissance periods, love letters appeared during the Age of Chivalry. This was also the advent of Irish and Welsh cycles of poetry which included mythical stories of The Fianna, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. All of these stories told tales of romantic missives sent from far-away soldiers to their lady-loves. As these stories spread and grew in popularity, those who could read and write began sending their own love letters. These letters were passionate-yet-chaste letters of courtly love. Filled with compliments and self-doubt, these letters drove both the sender and the receiver to the outer edges of romantic tension.



This concept of courtly-yet-unrequited love continued up through the Eighteenth Century. Love letters found during this time are more personal, yet still chaste and pure, including letters between President John Adams and his wife Abigail. In the early eighteen-hundreds, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his Immortal Beloved letters to an unknown woman. To say they’re passionate would be an understatement. 


It’s not until the later nineteenth-century that love letters became more . . . erotic. Some say it was in response to the proprieties enforced during the Victorian Era, others believe it was due to the desperation caused by industrialization and the growing number of violent conflicts around the world.



Regardless of why, as time progressed into the Twentieth Century, love letters became more personal and more interesting. In 1952, computer scientists at Manchester University built their Mark One computer not to crunch numbers but to write love letters including this gem, “My lust tempts your fond ardour. My liking ardently cares for your hunger.” 

Now, in the Twenty-First Century, we have text emojis and screen swipes. Yet in spite of the technology, last year a record number of Valentine’s Day cards were bought and sent. And even the sales of personal stationary rose. 



And that gives me hope. As I re-watch Letters to Juliet, I like to think that the art of writing letters, especially love letters, hasn’t died. Although technology adapts, people don’t change. We crave intimacy, not just through physical touch, but from the profound emotions found only in well-written words. May we all be Secretaries of Juliet, even if the words are crunched out by a love-sick computer in Manchester, England.
---------------------


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 meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

 EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

And adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Lord Apart is out!

Did you ever wonder how hot water pipes worked in the early 1800s? The second book in my Way to a Lord's Heart series features pair of Regency nerds who work together getting a bathtub installed in his country house. And then make use of it together!

After his parents’ sudden death, Daniel Frith, Viscount Whitfield, is struggling to unravel a web of chaotic family records. He is astonished to learn that his father’s will contains a mysterious legacy: a house left to a complete stranger. He knows nothing about the beautiful Penelope Pendleton, and he’s not sure he wants to…until she turns out to be a whiz at all those nasty tasks involved in estate administration.

Penelope has no idea why Rose Cottage was left to her. But it’s a godsend after her brother’s reckless actions disgraced her family. She had planned to stay out of Viscount Whitfield’s way, not grow ever closer to him. But when they discover how entwined their families really are, Daniel and Penelope must collaborate to avoid a scandal that reaches much higher than either could have guessed.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

It's here!!!

http://books2read/APhoenixisForever

The third and final book in the Phoenix Brothers series is releasing today! March 26th. I've been so busy moving I was afraid I might forget!

We downsized to a place half the size of our old house, and it wasn't as painful as I feared. We digitized special photos, gave a lot of things to Goodwill, and shipped a few boxes. One of those boxes contains my author copies of the brand new A Phoenix is Forever! Then we cleaned the house until it looked brand new and packed the SUV. We hired a nice Canadian guy to drive it from NH to Florida while we flew down with our two cats. He met us at the airport, said the drive went well.

I wish we could say the same about flying with cats! Our black cat is a sweetheart. A 'go with the flow' type. He hardly made a peep. The other one is a little hellion anyway, and the sedative didn't seem to touch him. He meowed the whole way! He is fine now, but the poor little guys have been confused for days.

So, here we are, finally living our dreams. Mr. Amazing always wanted to live in a highrise. I wanted to live at the beach. We're so fortunate to have found a place we love that is the best of both worlds. A top floor condo right on one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. (It was recently rated 3rd best.) I think it should be first, but I'm biased.

This picture was actually taken one morning when our unit was above the clouds! (The beach is down there, I promise.

So, back to the book! It's in Mass Market paperback on the new release tower at all Barnes and Nobles! How exciting is that? I no longer live near a B&N store, so I asked my assistant to take a picture for me. If you follow me on Facebook, you're sure to see it soon.

So, here's the short blurb:
Dawn Forrest is a psychic and an ex-gang girl. She may have misused her gift in the past to protect the gang’s illicit activities, but she’s ready to change all that. 

Phoenix shifter Luca Fierro is a rookie cop with something to prove. The last person he should get involved with is a woman in a gang—for both their sakes. But when he realizes this psychic can help find a missing child, and the detectives assigned to the case just scoff, what is he supposed to do? 

To Luca’s supernatural family, a psychic is normal…as long as she’s not a fraud, and her early predictions prove she isn’t. Why does she have to be so cute? Maybe he should have become a firefighter like the rest of his brothers.   


I hope you enjoy the book, and because I want readers to enjoy it, I'll have a contest. Pleas e leave a comment here and I'll choose a random winner for a paperback copy. I hope you're all having a great spring!


Sunday, March 10, 2019

A Highland Warrior Woman by Alyson McLayne


In honor of International Women's Day!

An excerpt from HIGHLAND BETRAYAL. Not only is Maggie a strong Highland lass, she's a warrior woman…

“How much farther today?” she asked as she craned her neck to look up the mountain.
He pointed to the top in the distance, over rocks and shale, which could be dangerous to both them and the horses. “A few more hours to the ridge—that’ll be hard going—then we’ll have several more hours to the cave where we’ll camp tonight. The incline will not be so bad once we’re on the ridge, but the path will be rough. And the lads willna be able to help you once we reach the shale. They’ll need to steady the horses.”
She nodded, but he could see her eyes had dimmed.
Then she sighed heavily and struggled to her feet. “’Tis best we shoot now, then. I doona want my arms shaking so badly I canna aim straight. You’d win by default—the only way, for sure.”
He let her have her fun. Although truth be told, it might not be a jest. He suspected he would beat Maggie only if she allowed him to.
And he'd take it.
Aye, Maggie letting him win would be as good as telling him she would marry him. Until then, he would fight for her hand with everything he had.
“Choose a spot, then, and I’ll go first. I wouldnae want to be accused of following your arrow’s path again.”
She smiled, obviously enjoying herself now as she pulled out her daggers. “Not to worry. We’ll use knives instead. And maybe a moving target.”
The other men had also risen.
“What did you have in mind?” Finn asked, his boyish face alight with excitement.
“I’ll show you,” she said. “You doona mind helping, do you?”
Finn’s smile faded, and he swallowed nervously. “If you think ’twill be safe.”
“Well, I willna miss. But you may want to jump back when it’s Callum’s turn.”
The corners of his mouth dipped down, and Callum took pity on the lad. “We willna aim at you, Finn. Maggie would ne’er risk your life that way. I’m sure she means to have you throw a target in the air.”
“Aye,” Maggie said, her lips twitching. “If Callum’s scared he’ll miss and hit you instead, we’ll do it his way.” She searched the ground, then picked up two flat rocks, both about the size of her palm, and held them out to him. “Choose your target.”
He did, after making a show of looking them over carefully. He just liked being able to hold her hand, his fingers gliding over her soft skin, until she shivered.
And if it threw off her concentration, all the better.
“I’ll take this one,” he said and passed it to Finnian. He reached for his dagger as Maggie passed Finn her target, and the young man hopped across the mountain like a young goat until she whistled.
He stopped. “Right here?” he yelled.
“Aye, lad. We’ll let you know when we’re ready—and keep an eye out for the daggers when they fall!” Callum said.
He turned and saw Maggie flipping her dagger in her hand—almost a ritualistic movement to help her focus. She never once looked at her blade. Instead, she stared above Finn’s head in the distance, no doubt envisioning the shot in her mind’s eye.
Fortunately, the wind was calm, and it would simply be a matter of anticipating and hitting the target.
“Do you want to see him toss it first?” he asked.
“Nay. Let’s just do it.”
His stomach tightened with anticipation—with nerves, even—and he took a deep breath to relax his muscles. The weight of what was riding on this competition sat heavily on him. He was a good shot and would pit his skills against anyone, but he was afraid Maggie might prove his better.
And this was a contest he could not afford to lose.
“I’ll go first,” he said. He adjusted his position, then whistled at Finn. The lad tossed Callum’s target in the air. In a single motion, Callum pulled his arm back over his shoulder and loosed his dagger. It hit the rock seconds later, before the target reached the top of its arc, and the men sent up a cheer.
Callum resisted punching his fist in the air as he switched spots with Maggie, his heart conflicted. Aye, he wanted to win, but he also didn’t want her to feel the shame of missing her shot.
He wondered if she felt the same.
She was grinning from ear to ear when she yelled at Finn, “Now!”
Finnian tossed her target high in the air. Callum expected Maggie to pull her arm back and loose immediately, as he had, but she waited until the target was on its way down. 
The men yelled out with concern, but she waited until the very last moment. Only then did she throw the dagger, hitting the target just before it reached the ground a few feet from Finnian.
The men erupted with loud shouts of astonishment and revelry, and this time Callum couldn’t stop himself from punching the air and yelling along with them. His shot had been precise; hers had been a thing of beauty.
He looked over just as she gave the men a deep curtsy. When she straightened, she looked up the mountain, hands on her hips, and blew out a heavy puff of air. “If only this mountain were so easy to beat!”
His pleasure turned to indignation. “You did not beat me!”
“Tell that to the men,” she replied with a saucy grin, then cupped her hands over her mouth. “Finnian, bring my dagger. And somebody help me up this great, bloody rock!”
* * *

To keep her safe, he betrayed his promise.

Laird Callum MacLean vowed to marry Maggie MacDonnell. But when his father's apparent suicide makes him laird of his clan, Callum must unmask his father's killer before bringing Maggie into his dangerous home.

She's a strong Highland Lass. She can save herself.

Maggie's home isn't any safer. When Callum fails to return, Maggie does what any resourceful Highland lass would do. She escapes—and find's herself toe-to-toe with Callum, who's determined to fulfill his promise. Maggie can't bring herself to trust him with her heart again. But with a traitor still at large, they must rely on each other in every way, or their clans—and their love—will be destroyed.


~~~~~~~

Alyson McLayne is a mom of twins and an award-winning writer of contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance. She’s also a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the West Coast of Canada where she worked in film for several years and met her Prop Master husband.

She and her family reside in Vancouver with their sweet but troublesome chocolate lab named Jasper.

Please catch up with Alyson on social media. She loves chatting with her readers!