Contest, Guest Blog

The book girl is very happy to have Marie Force guest blogging today. I absolutely love her new release, FATAL AFFAIR and can’t wait for the next book in the Fatal series. Marie has been nice enough to offer up a copy of FATAL AFFAIR to one lucky commenter. She will be answering questions all day today. Believe me you want to read this book!! Thank you so much, Marie!

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Frequently Asked Questions

By: Marie Force

Thanks for having me over to talk about the release of my new book, FATAL AFFAIR, which hit the digital book shelves this past Monday. In honor of the release of FATAL AFFAIR, I thought I’d share some of the questions I’m most often asked as an author.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: I used to be afraid I’d eventually run out of ideas. I don’t worry about that anymore. I’ve found that once you open your mind to the sea of possibilities that surround you daily, the ideas come faster and more furiously than I could ever write them.

Q: Are your characters based on real people?

In some cases, real people inspire my characters, but most of them are figments of my imagination—with one exception. I once wrote about a cast of senior citizens, who were loosely based on my dad and his friends. When you have characters like that in your real life, why would you ever try to make up better ones?

Q: How do you research your love scenes?
A: I love this question! I tell people all the time that I research my love scenes the same way Steven King researches his murders. 🙂 Seriously, I don’t spend a lot of time “researching” love scenes. I just write them, and I suspect most authors would say the same thing. I used to get really wound up about having to write the juicy bits. Now it’s just another day in the office. LOL!

Q: Do you know ahead of time what’s going to happen in your books?

A: Nope! I am what is known in the writing world as a “pantser.” In other words, I write by the seat of my pants and don’t follow an outline. However, when writing FATAL JUSTICE, book 2 of the Fatal Series, I discovered I really need to do more plotting when writing romantic suspense. When following the details of a murder mystery, it’s just too much to keep straight in my head. I’ve already written a synopsis for book 3, tentatively called FATAL CONSEQUENCES, so I’m hoping that one will be easier to write than book 2 was!

Do you have other questions? I’m here all day and happy to chat. I’ll give a copy of FATAL AFFAIR to one respondent. Thanks again for having me, and I hope you’ll enjoy FATAL AFFAIR. Buy it here! (http://ebooks.carinapress.com)

About the book:

On the morning of the most important vote of Senator John O’Connor’s career he is late—again. His best friend andfatal_affair_final_smchief of staff, Nick Cappuano sets off to O’Connor’s apartment expecting to roust him from bed and hoping he is alone. But what Nick finds is that O’Connor, the handsome, amiable Senator from Virginia, has been brutally murdered, and Nick’s world comes crashing down around him. Complicating the disaster, the detective assigned to the case is none other than Sam Holland, Nick’s one-night stand from six years earlier, the woman who broke his heart and haunts his dreams. With six years worth of unfinished business hanging between them and more than a few scores to settle personally and professionally, Nick and Sam set out to find the senator’s killer while trying—and failing—to resist the overwhelming attraction between them that seems to have only grown over the years.

It soon becomes clear that the senator’s past holds secrets that not only led to his death but now endanger Nick and Sam as well. Working together to find a killer and to rediscover the love they thought they lost long ago, they must put the past behind them and build a future that offers a world of new opportunities for both of them—including an offer from the Virginia Democrats for Nick to finish the last year of John’s term.

About Me:

Marie Force’s first romantic suspense, FATAL AFFAIR, will be out June 21, 2010 from Carina Press. Book 2 in the Fatal Series, FATAL JUSTICE, is coming soon from Carina. She is also the author of LINE OF SCRIMMAGE and LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT. Of LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, Booklist said, “With its humor and endearing characters, Force’s charming novel will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, reaching far beyond sports fans.” Wild on Books said, “LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT by Marie Force is most definitely a keeper. It is an astounding book. I loved every single word!” A third contemporary, EVERYBODY LOVES A HERO, is due out Feb. 1, 2011. Since 1996, Marie has been the communications director for a national organization similar to the Romance Writers of America. She is a member of RWA’s New England, From the Heart and Published Author Special Interest Chapters. While her husband was in the Navy, Marie lived in Spain, Maryland and Florida, and is now settled in her home state of Rhode Island. She is the mother of two children and a feisty dog named Brandy. Find her at www.mariesullivanforce.com, on her blog at http://mariesullivanforce.blogspot.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Marie-Force/248130827909 and on Twitter at twitter.com/MarieForce. Marie loves to hear from readers. Contact her at marie@marieforce.com.

Contest, Guest Blog

the book girl is happy to have Bill Surie, the author of Holly’s Inbox, as our guest blogger today. After reading the blog make sure to enter the contest for your own copy of Holly’s Inbox.

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hollys-inbox-cover-2 I always knew I’d be Batman. As a young boy however I understood life was full of surprises so if I didn’t turn out to be batman then I’d definitely be a Secret Agent, or (begrudgingly) a famous racing car driver. I don’t remember ever thinks :but what I really really want, is to sit down and write under a woman’s name.

I do though, my name is “Holly” and my book is called Holly’s Inbox and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.

The way it all happened was rather curious. Having failed in many many other ventures which ranged from stand-up comedy (I wasn’t funny) to selling frozen food door-to-door in French Canada (I couldn’t speak French) whilst trying to find a publisher or agent for a truly brilliant book I thought I’d written (an edge of your seat action comedy thriller slasher-romantic-horror) I finally began a career as a recruitment consultant. I married a wonderful woman and shortly afterwards we began our  own recruitment agency specialising in Receptionists.

The idea for the site came when we had to search through a previous ex-employees work email account. The woman in question was single, extremely flirtatious and had always loved us to bits. We discovered she was marries with four children, and couldn’t stand the sight of us. The life she was leading was so full of mystery, intrigue, romance (and many many lies) that it made me wonder what it would be life to read a story told in this way.

I began writing about a receptionist who nervously begins her new job in a large corporate investment bank in the City – she’s nervous of course because her first guest smells of dung and is carrying a putrefying head covered in blood and human excrement. Around this point my wife pointed out that this office romance could be do with more bitchy co-workers and less scenes involving hammers, and that some bosses were just as scary as talking corpses but less pungent.

I gave in, and having put together a short story I was quite pleased with, I commissioned a fantastic website developer and together we began working out a way of getting a story across by way of emails. The initial idea for the site was just a way of attracting more candidates wishing to find work as receptionists, nothing else.

An email went out to 90,000 people telling them NOT to visit Hollysinbox.com because unscrupulous IT hacks had posted a live email account of a fellow employee onto the web in total disregard of our privacy laws.

We said – if she was working for your company it was essential you let her know NOW! Before the world discovered what she really thought about her co-workers.

The site went into melt down.

The plot had around two email exchanges a day and we launched www.HollysInbox.com. The site’s popularity spurred me on, but it soon became obvious I had grossly underestimated the amount of emails I needed each day to keep people on the site…so I began writing in real-time.

We built a forum into the site and to initial horror people began going there to give me instant feedback. When a writer receives criticism it’s not usually that quick…I was getting min sometimes before I’d even finished the sentence…If it wasn’t funny, they would say so (and the emails miraculously disappeared), if it was too weird I’d make it less-weird, to slow and I’d make it faster…as much as I hated getting bad feedback..it was helping me to write. I will be eternally grateful to the fantastic forum fans. Holly still keeps in touch with them on Facebook and twitter.

As the story reached it’s climax I began to panic. The site would be over and I had no idea what I was going to do next, so I began emailing as many agents as possible the web link; without knowing what I wanted from them. At last a wonderful fabulous woman replied and told me it would work in a book…and it did. Holly’s Inbox has now been translated into 6 different languages but the one place I had always dreamed about being published was of course the USA, and Sourcebooks have at last let me achieve this dream!!!!

The site has been re-launched and www.hollysinbox.com is now live with emails being sent and received by Holly Denham, I hope you like it.

I have now a daughter and some of my hopes and dreams have been passed along, I now know I will never be Batman, however I know in my heart of hearts, my daughter will always be Super-girl. No I’m not being wet, I’m totally serious…I’m getting her trained on an island by mutant ninjas…uh-oh I can hear my wife coming, got to go before I get in trouble.

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To enter for your own copy of Holly’s Inbox leave a comment on this post and check back on Saturday to see if you are the lucky winner.

(US and Canadian residents only. You must check back to see if you have won. The winner will have 7 days to claim their prize or a new winner will be picked)

Also, don’t forget the book girl contest for a copy of Jennifer Haymore’s A Little Bit Wicked – click here to enter!

Contest, Guest Blog

the book girl is happy to have Judi Fennell guest blogging with us today! In Over Her Head is a very fun read. At the bottom of the blog will be what you need to do win your own copy of In Over Her Head!!

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jf_photo-2Thanks so much for having me!

My debut novel, In Over Her Head, makes its splash on June 1 and I’m really excited, both because it’s my first book and because I can’t wait to hear what readers think.

Before my editor saw In Over Her Head, I entered it in an only contest, similar to American Idol. Gather.com and Pocket Books teamed up with Borders to host the First Chapters Romance Contest and this story made the Top 5 Finalists.

In Over Her Head is the story of Erica Peck, on terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner. When she finds herself at the bottom of the sea conversing with a Mer man named Reel, she thinks she’s died and gone to her own version of Hell. When the Oceanic Council demands she and Reel retrieve a lost cache of diamonds from the resident sea monster in return for their lives, she knows she’s died and gone to Hell.

When they escape the monster and end up on a deserted island, she amends her opinion – she’s died and gone to Heaven.

But when Reel sacrifices himself to allow her to return to her world, she realizes that, Heaven or Hell, with Reel, she’s In Over Her Head.

One of the highlights of the contest was seeing what readers thought of the story. Another highlight – an unexpected one – was the puns. They had a blast coming up with fish puns and I laughed myself silly. Here are a few of my favorites:

“You’ve “reeled” me in on this wonderful romance.”

“From the first line, I took the bait and enjoyed the ride.”

“A whale of a tale, a fintastic splash!”

“I’m hooked!”

“I jumped in with both feet, and now you’ve wet my appetite for more from your fabulous characters splashed with deep emotions and a premise flooded with humor.”

“You hooked me with the opening line and reeled me in oh so slowly with each scene.”

In Over Her Head is a very finny, oops, I mean funny, aquatic (that should have said romantic) tail, no, darn it,  I mean tale, of love in a most unlikely setting! Shunning the shallower end of the romance pool, Judi has cast her net into deeper waters and reeled in a tasty new dish. The fresh catch of the day is her hero, Reel Tritone, a merman!”

“Ms. Fennell baited her opening hook with an intrepid, sassy heroine.”

“I swallowed this delightful romance hook, line, and sinker, and can’t wait to land this fish tale and mount it on my bookshelf.”

“It looks like Erica has gotten herself in “reel” trouble.”

“It flows quite well!”

“I love this tale (tail?).”

“I love the current…I mean flow.”

If you come up with others after reading the story, please drop by my website www.JudiFennell.com and click on the Contact link to let me know. While you’re there, don’t forget to register to win one of the three romantic beach getaways to celebrate the release of each of the three stories in my Mer series. In Over Her Head releases June 2, Wild Blue Under is November 3, and Catch of a Lifetime is February 2.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Judi Fennell has had her nos in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to “get outside!” instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did – right into Dad’s hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she’s more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she’s still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends’ books.

A three-time finalist in online contests, Judi has enjoyed the reader feedback she’s received and wold love to hear what you think about her Mer series. Check out her website at www.JudiFennell.com for excerpts, reviews and fun pictures from reader and writer conferences, and the chance to “dive in” to her stories.

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InOverHerHeadCVR.inddTo win your very own copy of Judi’s book, In Over Her Head, leave a comment on this post and make sure to check back Saturday when I announce the winner!*

Contest open to US residents only. Must email me your address within 7 days of winning or I’ll pick someone else. Winners will not be notified by email so make sure to check the site to see if you’ve won!

Guest Blog

kaye_author-photo-2The book girl is happy to have Robin Kaye guest blogging today. I LOVE both Romeo, Romeo and Too Hot to Handle and cannot wait for Breakfast in Bed. Thank you, Robin!

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I’m Robin Kaye and I’m the author of three boos, Too Hot to Handle and Romeo, Romeo are available now and Breakfast in Bed will be released in December.

I’m thrilled with my career and with all the great reviews I’ve been getting about I’ve been getting about both books. It’s really a dream come true, but everything has a down side. For me, it’s gaining weight.

thth-cover-21I love to write and believe me, I feel as if I’ve spent the last few years of my life sitting in front of a computer. When I’m not working, I drive my ballerina daughter an hour and a half each way 4 or 5 days a week to her pre-professional dance school or I do the teaching part of home schooling her so that she can dance 30 hours a week. That doesn’t give me much time for exercise or anything else for that matter. Unfortunately, my lack of movement has had an effect  on my waistline. It also doesn’t help that while Twinkle Toes dance, I sit at my favorite Starbucks writing and drinking soy lattes. I’ve decided to change that – not the soy lattes, just the lack of movement. I need to get off my butt.

I’ve always been a little strange when it comes to how I work. For years, I’ve sat on an exercise ball instead of a desk chair. For me it’s all about not throwing out my back and taking special care of that slightly inflamed vertebra in my neck. It forces me to sit up straight which helps keep my back and neck from getting sore, it allows me to bounce around when I get bored. I’m told that sitting and bouncing helps to strengthen the core muscles – not that I’ve seen any evidence of that personally. But, I have found bouncing can be hazardous to my health if I’m not careful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost lost my balance, and come close to breaking something. For the sake of argument, let’s go with the strengthening of core muscles reason for sitting on an exercise ball instead of the fun of bouncing. It makes me sound so much more enlightened.treaddesk7-2

Last summer I was in the Chicago area, meeting with my publisher and visiting my cousins, one of whom happens to be a leading cardiologist. We were talking about my inability to lose weight and my cousin, the doctor told me about the treadmill desk. What an amazing idea! She said people were actually able to walk and work at the same time. Since people were originally nomadic, we were built to walk 8 to 10 hours a day at a slow pace, now we sit on our butts for 8 to 10 hours a day and then kill ourselves at the gym for an hour a few times a week. She told me that my genes have good memory and that the problem isn’t eating too much, it’s not moving enough. She explained that for people like me, working out for an hour at the gym isn’t going to cut it. Since that’s what I did for a few years, I know this to be true. I decided it made sense and I went out a bought a tread desk.

treaddesk2-2 It’s a treadmill with a platform built around it and the desk legs themselves are hydraulic so they can be raised to walking height or lowered to sitting height with the press of a button. I’ve been walking whenever I’m working at home and I’m able to comfortable walk 1.3 miles per hour while working. I try to get about 4 miles a day in at home before taking off with Twinkle toes. I’d like to say I’ve lost weight, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been too busy to even check the scale. I’ve decided that’s going to change. I’m making my revisions for Breakfast in Bed and once that’s finished, my plan is to see how many miles it takes to write a book. I’m going to keep track of my mileage on the 4th book in my Domestic Gods series and with any luck, lose some weight.

You can follow my journey on my website RobinKayeWrites.com. I think it would be a great way to keep me walking my way toward The End and my goal weight.

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Thank you, Robin, for sharing with us. I totally want one of those desks! To order Robin’s book click on the following links:

Romeo, Romeo

Too Hot to Handle

Breakfast in Bed

Guest Blog

The book girl is excited to have Laurie Brown, the author of What Would Jane Austen Do?, guest blogging today on what it takes to be a writer. Thank you, Laurie, for giving us a peek into what it’s like for you.

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It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and yet here I am inside at my computer as usual. Why? Because weekends and evenings are my writing time. More authors than you might think still work full-time jobs and eke out computer time late at night or early in the morning, and on weekends.

When I first started writing I heard a speech by a multi-published author who asked, “How much do you want to be a writer? Enough to spend hours at the computer when you’re inspired to write? Enough to drive to writer’s meetings in bad weather? Good, you’re on your way.

“Now how much do you want to be a published writer? Are you willing to give up your favorite TV program, dinner with friends, and lazy weekends? Are you willing to ask your family and friends for understanding and help? Are you disciplined enough to write every day, to keep writing until you’ve reached a specific page goal? Even if you’re not feeling particularly inspired? (That’s why they invented re-writing.) Are you willing to stay at your computer even though your back hurts and your computer even though your back hurts and your fingers ache? I wanted it enough to give up Wednesday night bingo, to ask my husband and children to do more chores (and they agreed!), and I gave up Saturday morning coffee and shopping at the mall with friends (really hard to do). I made a writing schedule and I’ve stuck to it to this day. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights I write 3-5 pages. Saturday and Sunday I write 15-20 pages. One weekend off per month which can be split. Saturday last week, Sunday this week. (btw Happy Mother’s Day to everyone.)

When the writing is going well, I’m not even conscious of my fingers moving or words on the screen. The story just seems to flow as the action happens all around me. Eventually, I come back to reality and realize that hours have passed, I’m hungry, and I have to go to the bathroom when I read what I wrote, I don’t remember typing the individual words, and yet the feeling is kinda euphoric. The first time that happened to me, I thought I’d gone off the deep end. Then I found out it has a name, creative flow. Cool. Since that meant I wasn’t crazy, I wanted more. So I keep writing. Unfortunately, I can’t get into flow on a schedule. Writing isn’t always easy and staring at a blank screen is terrifying.

So why do I keep doing it? Because when I see the completed book and actually hold it in my hands, I know it’s worth whatever I had to go through to get there. That’s why so many authors compare writing a book to childbirth. The painful stuff seems to fade from memory as I reward my supportive family with plates of lasagna and other homemade favorites, and celebrate with friends I haven’t seen for awhile.

Okay, I confess I also make a trip to the bookstore to see my new book on the shelf. I still get a thrill from it. In my latest release What Would Jane Austen Do? a modern heroine goes back in time to 1814 to meet the real Jane Austen. Eleanor also attends a ball, prevents a duel, helps solve a mystery for two ghosts, and meets the sexy Regency rake, Lord Shermont.

And last week when I went to the bookstore in the mall with my shopping pals, there it was. On the shelf. My beautiful book. Chills I tell you. Absolutely worth whatever it takes.

Happy Reading,

Laurie Brown

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To find What Would Jane Austen Do? Click on one of the following links!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

Guest Blog

amelia-grey-photoJudging a Book By It’s Cover

by Amelia Grey

Was someone talking about covers? Oh, maybe it was me. As a devoted romance reader I freely admit that I have bought romances just because I LOVED the cover. I meant it when I said I was devoted. I know some of you are probably thinking that is silly, but I say, “Just call me Silly, ” because I have done it and will probably do it again. And yes, call me guilty again because I’ve kept books just because I loved the cover. See, I told you I was devoted.

As an author, I have shouted with joy over some of my covers because I’ve thought they were absolutely perfect for the book, and then there have been times I’ve winced in anguish over some of my covers. And guilty again, I have had many bouts of envy as well when I’ve seen covers that I absolutely coveted and wished I had been given. And there have been too many times to count when I have commiserated with author friends who were given covers from hell.

Through the years as a romance reader I have enjoyed the sweet-looking covers of the early Harlequins, the risque, bodice-ripper historical covers, and all the flowers and prop covers that were so popular a few years ago. Call me old fashioned, call me out of touch with the times, but I still love seeing the hero and heroine on the cover of romance books.9781402217678-21

The main focus of covers today seems to be the type of fabulous cover I have for my latest book A Duke To Die For. The kind where you only see half of the hero and heroine’s face! Years ago I thought that kind of cover would never appear on a book. But it has and it works. I think they are not only suggestive but also very intriguing.

But as a devoted romance reader, do I have a favorite cover of all time? All right, I was afraid you were going to ask me that. I could easily come up with a top ten list, but I’ll be kind and only give you two of my favorites. Take a look at Arnette Lamb’s Chieftain and Border Lord. YUM! And who could forget Elizabeth Kary’s inside cover for Love, Honor and Betray? Covers don’t get any hotter than that one. Now, I’d love to hear from some of you as to your favorites.

Guest Blog

Keeping it Real

Hi, I’m Donna Lea Simpson, and I eavesdrop… kind of. I listen to readers. I drop in on conversations on the internet, and join in on occasion. One recurring topic I hear discussed among readers, particularly readers of historical romance fiction, is chatter about reality in historical romance; how much ‘reality’ is appropriate, the pernicious ‘wallpaper’ historical, and loads of criticism of characters who act out of keeping with the times.

I have strong opinions, but rarely voice them. I’m going to step up today and talk about what I think about reality in historical fiction. I do believe in realism, but I think that some people are misguided about what real life was, when they look back in history at the role of women.

First, a little about why I have a stake in the conversation about reality in historical romance. Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, my April release from Sourcebooks Casablanca, is a historical romance mystery set in the late Georgian era, 1786, to be exact, in Yorkshire. Lady Anne Addison, the heroine, is that kind of character that some readers love and some loathe. She is strong-minded, independent, and unmarried. How true is that to the times, to have a woman who is fearless and strong-minded? After all, everyone knows women couldn’t do anything until after they were married in that era.

Well, yes and no. It is absolutely true that once a woman married she both gained and lost valuable freedoms. Though she legally became a part of her husband, and thus subject to his command, in reality many women gained freedom from marrying the right kind of man, one who either looked the other way while she did whatever she wanted, or the few who actively encouraged their intelligent wives to write, travel and even paint or perform.

But that depended upon marrying the right kind of fellow, and Lady Anne is understandably worried, given that her suitor, Lord Anthony Darkefell is commanding and convinced he is right most of the time. He would certainly not do for an independent minded woman.

But was her goal of staying unmarried and independent feasible, given the strictures placed on unmarried women in the Georgian era? Did any women of the time actually keep their independence, though unmarried? Consider the case of the authoress, Maria Edgeworth. I’ve read a couple of her books, and they’re very good. Not Jane Austen good, but good. Castle Rackrent and The Absentee are two worthy novels, very readable. Maria not only never married, she managed her father’s estate and had a long career as a an author.

Consider also, the even earlier independent and unmarried woman, Mary Astell. In Some Reflections on Marriage, she asks, “If all Men are born free, how is it that all Women are born Slaves?” A visionary, she is considered by many the first feminist writer, for she advocated education for women and broader career opportunities.

My heroine, Lady Anne Addison is, then, cut from the same cloth as these female free-thinkers, ladies who would not submit easily to the yoke of marriage. And yet many readers insist, when a woman character does something bold, that a woman would never do such a thing ‘back then’. Bosh. A little research is all it takes to discover many women who were willing to challenge the patriarchal society in which they were born. Sometimes they suffered for their headstrong ways, but more often than you would suspect they managed to do everything they wanted, and all without the support of a husband.

So, what is ‘keeping it real’ in historical fiction? Can a writer do anything with their characters? Can you have a woman openly living with a man, say? Well, no, not unless you show her suffering the consequences of her actions. That is where the reality comes in. For every unorthodox choice you have your female character make in historical fiction, you have to follow through and have her accept the consequences.

Lady Anne Addison, the heroine of my new series, beginning with Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, is one such intrepid woman on the cusp of deciding what to do with her life. She wants her life to have meaning, but isn’t sure how to accomplish that. Having escaped what would have been a disastrous marriage by the death of her fiancé, Anne now values her independence. I like her a lot, and sympathize with her fear of losing what independence she has.

Here’s a little about the novel:

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark

England, 1786
Lady Anne, a smart, stubborn, and skeptical spinster, travels north to Yorkshire at the request of a newly married friend to try to figure out what is going on.  A wolf—or werewolf—is roaming the countryside near Darkefell Castle, terrorizing the populace and harassing the sheep herds.  The hour she arrives in Yorkshire she stumbles across a body, and her outraged sensibility demands she discover who committed such a foul deed.

With a bewildering love/hate relationship developing between her and the master of Darkefell Castle, the Marquess of Darkefell—he happens to also be her friend’s new brother-in-law—Anne investigates, digging into the family history.  Confused by the marquess’s passionate pursuit of her and skeptical of the claims of a werewolf on the loose, Lady Anne manages to triumph, uncovering the reality of a very human murderer, a bitter enemy of the family, just in time to keep from becoming his next victim.

I hope you’ll all enjoy this historical romance/mystery, and the next two in the Lady Anne Series, Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge (August 2009) and Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse (November 2009). And I hope you like my spirited heroine, Lady Anne Addison, as much as I do!

Visit me at http://donnaleasimpson.com to read excerpts, sign up for my newsletter, and read about my other books!

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Contest, Guest Blog

The Making of a Character Quirk

by Jeri Smith-Ready

When we think of “quirky characters,” the first who come to mind are the secondary folks – the heroine’s best friend with a Doritos addiction, or the hero’s uncle who builds a shrine to his old bowling trophies.

The quirky characters are often the best-loved or best-remembered. They provide comic relief. They make the hero or heroine look well-balanced by comparison. They round out the cast and bring color to the created world.

Rarely do the hero or heroine possess many quirks. They’re supposed to be the “normal” ones, after all, the ones the readers can relate to. By definition, a quirk is a trait or idiosyncrasy unique to one person (or at least within that story).

Despite that, I decided to give my vampire hero, Shane McAllister, an odd little quirk. Or rather, an odd big quirk. See, he has a thing about the alphabet.

Wait, let me back up.

There’s an old Eastern European legend that says that vampires are what we would now call obsessive-compulsive. In Poland they used to say that to keep vamps away from your door, you should scatter rice grains on your walkway, and the vampire would stop to count them. (Is that where Jim Henson got his idea for the Count from Sesame Street, or was it just a play on the word “count”? Or both?)

The vampires of Wicked Game and Bad to the Bone are “stuck in time” – culturally and psychologically frozen in the era in which they were made. It makes them great DJs, because who better to deliver the music of a time better than someone who lived in it, who lives in it still?

But they sometimes have trouble living in the current wold, and that tension brings up some, er, odd traits. Each of the vampire DJs manifests a particular compulsive behavior. For Regina, the punk/Goth DJ, it’s counting, and for Shane, it’s sorting. It’s the only way for them to feel sane.

For instance, the moment Shane enters the bedroom of our heroine Ciara, he gets distracted by her out-of-order CDs. He sits on her floor and starts soring them, much to her dismay. But being a relatively young vampire, he retains enough normalcy to know how weird it seems:

(from Wicked Game)

“You think I’m crazy,” he says quietly, not looking at me

“No, I think you’re funny. But honestly, the joke is getting a little old.”

“I don’t blame you for not believing I’m a vampire.” The last word comes out stilted, the way someone might pronounce a foreign phrase. “It sounds insane.”

“Hey, I know: I’ll tie you to my bedpost until sunrise. If you burst into flames, it’ll prove you’re not kidding.”

He jerks his head toward me, and I swear for a moment I see genuine fear. Then he blinks and turns back to the CDs. “Give me a hand here?”

I sigh and slide off the bed. “Sure, what better way to spend a Friday night?”

“There’s four stacks.” He taps each one in turn. “A through G, H through N, O through T, and the rest.”

“Is that a statistical thing based on the probability of band names, so that the piles end up exactly even?”

He looks at me with awe. “No, but that’s a great idea.”

I take a handful and start sorting. “So what system is it? It can’t be the same number of letters, because four doesn’t go evenly into twenty-six.”

He hesitates. “It’s stupid.”

“Tell me.”

“No, you’ll laugh.”

“I promise I won’t.”

HE straightens out the CDs I just tossed onto the H-N pile so that their edges line up. “When I was a kid I had a magnetic play desk, Fisher-Price or some s*** like that. The letters were in four rows, in different colors. I still see the alphabet in my head that way.” He looks at me. “In case you had any doubt I was a freak.”

Later in the scene, Ciara takes things into her own hands.

I lean past him for more CDs. This time I brush against him on purpose, and not just my arm. I risk a glance at his face.

Shane looks at me, then at the CDs, then at me again, and so on. Something’s stuck. I keep watching him. The rhythm of his breath turns uneven.

“Let me help you choose.” I seize his shirt collar and pull him to kiss me.

Our mouths meet, and his shyness dissolves. His arms snap me tights against him like a trap. The combination of his hands, lips, and tongue sends an urgent heat rippling through me, obliterating all thoughts but “must have” and “now.”

So while Shane’s compulsion is pretty powerful, it’s not all-powerful. The struggle between his innate vampire nature and his feeling for Ciara are part of what make him “human,” sympathetic, and three-dimensional (at least I hope he comes across that way). Ciara makes it her personal quest to keep him planted in the present so that he never loses his humanity.

Who are some of your favorite quirky characters in books, TV, and movies? Are they usually supporting characters? What about main characters? Does having a quirk make a character more or less believable?

One lucky commenter will win their choice between a signed copy of Wicked Game and an Advance Review Copy of the sequel, Bad to the Bone (coming May 19).

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Thank you, Jeri, for guest blogging today! The contest will run through Sunday at midnight. The winner will be announced on Monday. (If your comment doesn’t show up immediately don’t worry – I have to approve some and I’ll be on the road till after 4 today)

wicked-gamebad-to-the-bone

Guest Blog

PemberleyManor_QC.inddPemberly Manor by Kathryn L. Nelson

Caroline Bingley knows she’s down for the count, and Jane Austen leave us with the suggestion that her behavior materially improves once she has accepted her loss of Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet. I wonder…

Pemberley Manor was Reviewed by Natasha Zwick for JASNA SW:

“Lesson-wise, a primary theme comes from the mouth of Jane Bennet, but accurately reflects the philosophy of both Bennet sisters – and, I’d argue, all happy people; “Happiness,” she tells Caroline, “is a choice we make for ourselves.” Nelson shows us that even with the right man, a woman must daily choose happiness in order to secure it.

“I recommend that you choose happiness – by reading this book.”

Those of you who are fans of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will agree, I’m sure, that Caroline Bingley is a character you love to hate. She is everything a villainess should be – conniving, conceited, haughty and very smart. I freely admit that the obsession that led to me writing Pemberley Manor had initially to do with Fitzwilliam Darcy and his bride Elizabeth Bennett. But no self-respecting Jane Austen sequel should be without its malevolent foil, and Caroline Bingley serves the purpose.

Romance is about connections, bridges between people that seem unlikely at first sight. I envisioned Caroline Bingley’s role in my book as a study in comeuppances and wrong-headed intentions. After her diligence in rying to prevent her brother from marrying Jane Bennett, and her obvious and all too public expectation of snaring Darcy herself, Caroline was left by Jane Austen with a very bitter pill to swallow when both Bennett sisters got their men.

And so, in Pemberley Manor, when the Darcys needed some rest after a very tumultuous wedding  night. I turned to Caroline to see how she might be handling her frustration. With such a temperament as hers, I couldn’t imagine that she would allow herself any public display of disappointment. No, scathing wit must be her weapon. and when the opportunity presented itself, she would not be above a bit of malicious meddling.

I confess this is one of the things I love most about Jane Austen: characters like Caroline Bingley. Her treatment of even the most conniving and self-centered of them contains a kernel of benevolence. Her “bad” characters make themselves miserable enough with their own meanness or stupidity, and we are meant to offer them at least a crumb of pity. I ultimately allowed the Bennett sisters to play the forgiving angels – an easy role to imagine for them since Jane Austen had made them  the victors in their battle with Caroline – but not before Elizabeth has a little fun with her.

Caroline finds herself trapped in a carriage with the Darcys and decided to have a little sport. When she can’t get a rise out of Darcy, she turns her attention to Elizabeth:

“When do you go to London? I suppose you shall want to shop for the summer,” she said, with an amused glance at Mrs Darcy’s simple frock.

As Elizabeth leaned forward attentively, Darcy saw with amused anticipation that her keen sense of the ridiculous had been aroused… Lizzie addressed herself to Miss Bingley in a conspiratorial style.

“You know, I have so little experience of the delights of London, I confess I am a bit reluctant to venture into society there. I am afraid Mr Darcy’s friends will find me quite naive and countrified.” She added softly. “I am sensible that some may even see me as quite an unsuitable wife for a man in his position. I hope I will be able to avail myself of your kindness, for I am sure that an introduction from someone in your position would open doors that otherwise might be close to me.” She settled back against the bench wearing a smile of contentment, and Darcy found that he required the aide of a rather violent atack of coughing to control the laughter that was threatening to undo his composure.

Elizabeth finishes with a one-two punch:

“Mr Darcy has been kind enough not to criticise my wardrobe, and in fact I think at times he barely notices what I am wearing,” she said, patting his arm, “but I am sure you must appreciate that a woman in my position cannot be too careful about her attire. I fear that people are often all too willing to judge a person by their appearance.”

She paused, allowing Miss Bingley time to regret nearly every moment of the last few minutes, and loosed her final arrow: “Would it be too presumptuous of me to ask that you recommend me to your own tailor, Miss Bingley, for you are always so exquisitely dressed.”

Even Miss Bingley begins to understand that she has met her match. but ultimately, when a misguided plot of Caroline’s threatens to spin out of control, Elizabeth and Jane turn a tender and compassionate hand to her plight. The question then becomes, what effect will their kindness have on her behavior?

Forgiveness and the lack of it are at the core of Pemberley Manor. It’s relatively easy to work out the result with a fictional character, but real life is rarely as simple. Does forgiving necessarily involve forgetting? Is revenge what we really yearn for? Thanks for the invitation to ramble on – I look forward to hearing your comments.

Guest Blog

mary-margret-daughtridge-2Who’s the alpha-ist of them all?

by Mary Margret Daughtride

http://marymargretdaughtridge.com/

I love alpha heroes. Love ’em. Even the ones who make me so mad I want to give them a good, hard thump.

Unfortunately, my heroine of SEALed With a Promise, Emmi Caddington, PhD, has very little use for alpha males. She calls them jocks.

She’s a lowly biology instructor who has to teach the science for non-majors elective, Understanding Ecology. Even though most of her students aren’t there by choice, she tires hard to make it interesting and relevant.

But those jocks. Secure that their place in the universe has guaranteed them the top of the heap, they shove their well-muscled bodies through the classroom door, talking in too-loud voices. They’re oblivious to how they violate other students’ space.They’re not being deliberately rude. They think all the space is theirs – or at least that they get first pick.

First pick of all the girls too. To their way of thinking, a woman who isn’t beautiful is beneath contempt. She’s watched their lips curl with disdain for her plainness and heard the names they call her – while making lewd speculations about her.

They think, having put themselves out to show up, she should be honored that they have added to the luster of her class by attending. And she should show her appreciation by giving them a grade good enough to keep them playingsealed-with-a-promise_ whatever sport is underwriting their education.

As if.

Oh yes, she’s familiar with jocks.

True, Chief Petty Officer Caleb Dulaude isn’t a college athlete, he’s a member of a military unit with an animal name. But really. Miami Dolphins, Navy SEALs – what’s the difference? She knows the type. All of a sudden he’s turned on the charm? Hah! She’s learned the best way to deal with them is to let them know she’s in charge, and never give them an inch.

I think Emmie is a little harsh in her judgment, but her experience is limited – she’s basing her opinion of alphas on eighteen to twenty-four-year-olds.

But there’s no doubt that, despite being born to win, an alpha male has some serious shortcomings. An alpha’s greatest strength is his rock-steady self-assurance. Fundamentally believing only his opinion matters can also be his greatest weakness. Alphas can end up emotionally marooned, never realizing that they are alone in their world until it’s too late.

Emmie’s not completely wrong. SEALs are alpha males with remarkable athletic ability. What Emmie hasn’t reckoned with is that a jock with SEAL training becomes something else.

SEAL training is the ultimate school of hard knocks. Recruits are stripped of any belief that they are cock of the walk, and the world is their oyster. Everyday is hard, and there are no starts. SEAL training is so harsh partly because while ratcheting alpha traits like competitiveness and aggressiveness to the nth degree, the recruit is also being forced to learn to cooperate. Cooperation is not natural to an alpha and it doesn’t come easy.

SEALs must work together, so their training pounds in the notion that all must pay the price for anyone’s failure. Any carelessness or inattention that causes another’s injury is severely punished. They must learn to be aware of the other men and to care for their well-being as they do their own.

They wouldn’t put it this way but I’m going to: They’re not allowed to kill each other; their nature won’t let them submit; so there’s nothing left to do but love each other.

A SEAL can some on as the most alpha guy you ever saw. Every natural alpha quality has been honed to the nth degree and the biggest alpha weakness has been somewhat neutralized. He has become a sort of super-alpha.

He is smart. He is driven to accomplish his objective and nothing will stop him. He has sublime self-assurance, and he doesn’t think “the rules” apply to him. He can be extremely irritating – which, of course, he doesn’t care if he is. But he’s also able to listen. He can be tender, caring and sensitive.

That’s Caleb, all right. It’s true Emmie might never have appeared on Caleb’s radar if he hadn’t seen a way the extremely well-connected academic could help him get inside the perimeter of Senator Teague Calhoun – with whom Caleb has an old score to settle.

But he’s not planning to do her any harm. To his way of thinking, he’ll probably do her some good. No woman who dresses as she does is likely to be getting much masculine attention. She is on his radar now, and that means he responsible for her.

Emmie thinks she understands the kind of man he is. There’s only one problem. He keeps taking care of her. And listening to her. And treating her with respect. And making her life easier. To her, it’s all very confusing.

There are all kinds of alphas. Which ones make you mad? Which ones are irresistible to you?