Author Speed Dating – C.K. Brooke

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: C.K. Brooke

 

15 Questions

1. Name the best New Year’s Resolution you have ever broken, and how quickly did you fall off the wagon?

Once I made a New Year’s Resolution not to put pressure on myself by making a New Year’s Resolution…whoops.

2. Hottest “The Avengers” actor: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlet Johansson (Black Widow) or Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye)?

Hey, how come Tom Hiddleston (Loki) isn’t on here??

3. What are the highest and lowest moments you’ve had as a writer?

Highest = my first-ever offer letter in 2014! Lowest = the 164 rejection letters that came before that!

4. Please let us in on a few of your writing plans for the brand new year 2018. Any new books in the pipeline?

THE EMPEROR’S DAUGHTERS, the 4th book in my Jordinia series (Fantasy), is coming in 2018, along with an e-box set of the entire series.

5. If you could only have one type of candy for the rest of your life, what treat would be satisfying your sweet tooth?

Don’t know about my tooth, but I’d gladly let Sour Patch Kids burn a hole through my tongue.

6. Which is your preferred writing location: home office with favorite music, coffee shop with white noise or library in total silence?

Home office with spa soundtrack…unless my husband and son are home!

7. What’s the worst piece of advice your mother ever gave you?

I can honestly say the woman has never given me bad advice. (That’s the correct answer, right?) 😉

8. In which sub-genres are you published, and what does the wide or narrow focus say about you?

 The romance sub-genres under which I’m published currently include fantasy and historical. I reckon it says I like to escape far beyond the here & now…and I like to take my readers with me!

9. Name two of your favorite authors, one living and one no longer with us. How have their books impacted your writing?

Marion Zimmer Bradley taught me the joy of epic historical fantasy. J.K. Rowling taught me that you’re never too old for adventure. Both lessons translate into my writing of romantic adventures, be they historical or fantasy, every day.

10. When you are starting a new book, what are some of the activities you do to get know your characters and develop your plot?

Outline, outline, outline! I usually create an outline of at least 25 single-spaced pages, hashing out the plot and all the characters, before writing the first word of the story.

11. Preferred winter activities: ice skating, ice fishing and anything involving snow or Couch Potato Olympics?

Anything indoors – snow gives me the blues!

12. Which character from one of your books is most like or most radically different from your significant other?

The character of Orion in my YA fantasy romance, SECRETS OF ARTEMIS, is most like my husband – a gentle giant.

13. What is your most ridiculous fear?

Birds. The way their wings flap… *shudder*

14. What is your favorite social-media activity: watching cat or dog videos on Facebook, Tweeting #amwriting when you’re not or Snapchatting your face with kitty whiskers?

Reposting “Stranger Things” memes. I seriously need a Chief Hopper intervention!

15. Who were some of the other authors who helped you on your writer’s journey, and how did they make a difference for you?

I wouldn’t have had the courage to become a published author if not for Michele DeLuca, NY journalist and author of FOREVER MORE: A LOVE STORY FROM THE EDGE OF ETERNITY. Her constant support, readership, and belief in me has carried me farther than I can express. Thank you endlessly, Michele! And thank YOU, Dana, for this fantastic interview! Wishing you all a vibrant and prosperous 2018!

 

***

 

 

 

Commanding His Heart

By C.K. Brooke

 

They stopped in front of an unassuming door, and Commander Redding pulled the handle.

The first word that came to Em’s mind when she stepped inside was minimal. Not that the room was so small. But it was simple, tidy—virtually empty. A wooden bureau stood to the left, its surface clean but for a dimly-lit oil lamp. And to the right sat a single cot dressed in plain, fading linens. A cabin trunk completed the picture, and that was all. The walls and floor were old and unadorned.

Commander Redding closed the door, shutting them in.

Although he hadn’t yet granted his permission, Em assumed it safe to speak. “This isn’t a place you occupy regularly, is it?” It was more of an observation than a question.

“No, it isn’t.” The jovial manner he’d performed upstairs was gone entirely. He stood before her, a full head taller, his expression uncharacteristically stern. “Miss…Winthrop, is it?”

Em nodded. It felt strange that the man who had behaved so familiarly with her just moments ago wasn’t even certain of her name.

He opened his mouth, then closed it again. Sighing, he pinched the bridge of his nose. Em was reminded of the way it had tickled when he’d brushed it across hers above deck. She shoved the mortifying recollection aside.

“I’m at a loss,” he confessed at last.

“You want to know what I’m doing here,” she surmised.

“Yes, and why! And how you found me—!” He stopped, taking a breath to collect himself. Although he was understandably flustered, it appeared he was the sort of man who kept his temper in check. Em found she liked that.

“Sorry, but I had to leave Jamestown.” She met his eyes, and was unexpectedly transfixed by the hue of the ocean in them, visible even in the low lantern light. “You were my only way out. I…trusted you.”

His eyebrows came together. “You don’t know me.”

“Well,” Em hugged herself, “given your title and disposition, I’d deemed you trustworthy. And up there,” she cocked her chin, “you rescued me, did you not? Are you saying I’ve misjudged you?”

His tone was gentler as he studied her face. “You haven’t.”

She pursed her lips, her case made.

“But you’ve misjudged the situation. You never should have come here.” He began to pace, his features wrought with anxiety. “This is no place for a young lady. It isn’t safe.”

A laugh loosed from her. “But Commander, why ever would I be unsafe with my own country’s navy?”

He stopped in his tracks as though she’d thrown something at him. “Miss Winthrop, this is not a naval vessel. It is a pirate ship!”

***

COMMANDING HIS HEART,  a September 2017 release from Limitless Publishing and Book 2 in the American Pirate Romances series, may be purchased through these retailers: Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

***

About C.K.

C.K. Brooke is an award-winning author of over a dozen romance and fantasy novels and novellas. Her debut novel, THE DUCHESS QUEST, was selected by Shelf Unbound Magazine as a Top 100 Notable Indie Book of 2015, and her self-published YA novel, SECRETS OF ARTEMIS, received the Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Award in 2017. She is also the author of THE WRONG PRINCE (48fourteen, 2016), a Global EBook Award Honorable Mention title, as well as the historical romance, CAPTURING THE CAPTAIN (Limitless, 2016), which was a 2017 RONE Award Nominee and a Finalist in the Mid-Michigan RWA Best Banter Contest. She lives in Washington, Michigan, with her husband and son. Visit her at www.CKBrooke.com and subscribe for a free eBook! Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

               

Author Speed Dating – Carolyn Hector

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Carolyn Hector

15 Questions

1. Name the best New Year’s Resolution you have ever broken, and how quickly did you fall off the wagon?

It depends on when the New Year’s Day begins because my Go-To resolution is to lose weight. Like if it’s on a Monday, I’m good for a week. If it falls pretty much any other day of the week I’m like, “I’ll start it Monday”.  

2. Hottest “The Avengers” actor: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlet Johansson (Black Widow) or Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye)?

Actor… Chris Hemsworth. Hottest Avenger…from this list… The Hulk. 1- he’s technically a POC… (green is a color) and 2- he’s smart.

3. What are the highest and lowest moments you’ve had as a writer?

The highest moment for me would be getting “the call” from my acquiring editor. I remember sitting in my office for an extra hour trying to fix my face after crying from excitement.

The lowest has been finding out that my line, Harlequin Kimani, is going to be dissolved in the next year. This is my home.

4. Please let us in on a few of your writing plans for the brand new year 2018. Any new books in the pipeline?

This year I’m still crowning my heroines with my Once Upon a Tiara series. June you will be able to read TEMPTING THE BEAUTY QUEEN and this winter I’m coming out with HER MISTLETOE BACHELOR.

5. If you could only have one type of candy for the rest of your life, what treat would be satisfying your sweet tooth?

TAKE 5. This candy bar hits all my cravings for salty, crunchy, peanut buttery, and chocolatey. 

6. Which is your preferred writing location: home office with favorite music, coffee shop with white noise or library in total silence?

I prefer to write at home, in recliner, with pillows propped up under my elbows and on my lap. I honestly write best with the television station on something that I have no interest in (usually when my husband is watching football) and I have my headphones on, listening to music.

7. What’s the worst piece of advice your mother ever gave you?

1st—I have 3 moms… and they’ve all given horrible advice/wisdom/words of comfort.

Adopted mother- You’ll get along better in life if you accept the fact the world doesn’t revolved around you.

Step-mom – he’s just picking on you because he likes you.

Bio-mom—sorry about your curves, you’re Italian and we’re just naturally big people.

8. In which sub-genres are you published, and what does the wide or narrow focus say about you?

I am published in/with contemporary romances. I like to write action-adventure kick-ass women romances, but so far I only have one book published in that area (Check out MR. AND MRS. ROSSI). I like to dabble with historical romances. I have one written, but it’s sitting on my digital shelf. All this says about me is I’m chicken @#^$^* to put myself out there in the world.

9. Name two of your favorite authors, one living and one no longer with us. How have their books impacted your writing?

My living favorite author… geez… I can’t pick just one. Can I cheat? First name—BrendaBeverlyRochelle—last name—JacksonJenkinsAlers. [Editor’s Note: For those who need a key, the answers would be Brenda Jackson, Beverly Jenkins and Rochelle Alers. :)]

No longer with us, Francis Ray.

I wouldn’t be published if it weren’t for these ladies. Back in the ’90s, I was so excited to find books with familiar faces on the cover. I mean, I’d been writing for years basically for myself (and my Barbies, but that’s a whole ‘nother story), but seeing them meant there was a demand for stories with POC (people of color… in case anyone wondered).

10. When you are starting a new book, what are some of the activities you do to get know your characters and develop your plot?

So for me… I have to cast my characters. Usually by the time I have story in my head, I’ve already seen the characters. If they’re an actor/actress or a model… I do the typical stalking research on them. I’ll follow them on IG or Twitter or binge watch everything they’ve acted in to get certain mannerisms. 

11. Preferred winter activities: ice skating, ice fishing and anything involving snow or Couch Potato Olympics?

I’m more of a gold medal Couch Potato. I take that back. I love to bake and cook when it’s cold.

12. Which character from one of your books is most like or most radically different from your significant other?

Most of my books are about beauty queens and the drama/non-drama between them. I’ve never been a beauty queen, but I would have to say I’m most like Waverly Leverve. Sometime my big mouth gets me in trouble.

13. What is your most ridiculous fear?

I fear that if I drive around with the windows rolled down, a bird is going to fly into my car and attack me.

14. What is your favorite social-media activity: watching cat or dog videos on Facebook, Tweeting #amwriting when you’re not or Snapchatting your face with kitty whiskers?

Promise not to judge me? I am still playing Candy Crush. I am years invested in this game. As of this date I am on level 2142. I have yet to break out my wallet for anything. It’s a habit for me…part of my writing routine when I am trying to work out a scene.

15. Who were some of the other authors who helped you on your writer’s journey, and how did they make a difference for you?

Brenda Jackson, Beverly Jenkins, and Rochelle Alers. Picture it, Romance Slam Jam-2001. I’d just won 2nd and 1st place for their aspiring writers contest. Brenda’s family told me to always keep writing no matter what. Beverly’s book saved my marriage (I just knew my husband never paid attention to me and he surprised me with her book… and this was way before going on line to Amazon and ordering a book. He made a big effort). Rochelle once told me to never make a story line out of a situation that could have easily been solved by a conversation… and that gave me the Ah-ha moment …plus, she impacted my life by writing my favorite hero… I loved him so much that I named my son after him (check out VOWS).

 

 ***

 

 

 

A Tiara Under the Tree

By Carolyn Hector

 

“Dominic Crowne?” Waverly breathed the man’s name and hoped to slow down the quickening pulse zipping through her veins. Since she’d seen him last, he’d shed the tailored suit and replaced it with jeans—a pair of well-fitted jeans—and a T-shirt. Tattoos covered his forearms. She tried not to stare too hard. He might as well have come with a neon sign that read DANGER. Excitement coursed through her veins.

Dominic leaned against the door frame with a pizza box propped within the crook of his arm and against his hip. A dangerous smile, accompanied with a quick wiggle of his brow, crossed his face. “You’re not Lexi.”

“This is her place,” Waverly explained. “Lexi is letting me crash here for a while.”

“Crash here for a while?” He frowned. “Is your place being painted or something?”

Waverly shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Are you volunteering or something?”

“Maybe the ‘something’ part,” Dominic licked his lips, and Waverly forgot about the howling in her stomach from a few minutes ago before pizza arrived. She stepped backward into the foyer of her apartment and caught a glimpse of her pink-tinted cheeks in the large, gold-framed mirror by the door.

Waverly cleared her throat. “So, do you normally walk the halls with pizzas?”

“Oh, my bad.” He shoved the pizza toward her. “You haven’t looked at yours yet, have you?”

“I was about to sit down.”

“Right after the crowning?” Dominic asked and pointed toward the top of her head.

Heat filled her cheeks. She cocked her head to the side, untangled the combs holding her tiara in place and released her unruly hair. “Sorry, I was just…”

Dominic held up his free hand. “It’s okay. You had that second cupcake today—it was worth celebrating, I understand.”

Waverly decided not to expose her greed and tell him she’d eaten a total of three cupcakes today. “Thanks.” She laughed lightly. “You said something about a pizza?”

As if remembering the food in his arms, Dominic blinked and inhaled deeply while he nodded. “The delivery guy mixed up the apartment numbers. My sister lives across the courtyard and she’s going to kill me if I don’t leave her any leftovers. She only bought the one, even after I’m here to do a favor for her.”

With widened eyes, Waverly bobbed her head from side to side. She took a step forward into the hallway and peered into the steaming-hot box for a peek of a double pepperoni pie. “I wonder what I got. What other pizza could there be?”

“Jesus, now more than ever I need to know your name,” Dominic groaned, pressing his hand against his chest. “At least I need to know your first name. Your last name isn’t necessary.”

She cocked her hand on her hip and laughed. “Why is my last name not necessary?”

“Because it’s about to change to mine.”

 

***

A TIARA UNDER THE TREE, part of the Once Upon a Tiara series and an October release from Harlequin Kimani Romance, may be purchased through these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, KOBO, Harlequin, Google PlayiTunes, Walmart, IndieBound and Target.

 

 

***

 

About Carolyn

Carolyn Hector was destined to become a writer when she wrote scripts for her Barbies and passed them out to her friends prior to play dates. In 7th grade she wrote–what is now considered fan-fiction–story based on her disappointment of the ending to “Streets of Fire.” When she later watched “Romancing the Stone,” she finally knew what she wanted to be when she grew up–a Romance Writer!

She currently lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where there’s never a dull moment of college sports, politics, and Southern heat… aka… #BookFodder. A fan of ’80s Pop Culture, you can find Carolyn around town at a football/soccer/track/basketball game or PTO meeting for her five boys with her headphones on and a notebook hand.

Catch Carolyn on her blog, carolynhector.com, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

                             

Author Speed Dating – Holly Mayes

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Holly Mayes

16 Questions

1. If you celebrate, name a holiday food you would eat your weight in if you could do it guilt-free.

Not sure if it falls under the category of a holiday, but white wedding cake. All other foods pale in comparison.

2. Give the title of the first manuscript you ever wrote. How many years ago did you pen this masterpiece, and whatever happened to it?

I wish I could remember the title of it; unfortunately, I don’t. I was in elementary school, and it had to do with two girls and one loved square dancing. I won a young author’s award and got to visit an author at MSU.

3. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

This gives me anxiety. I can’t even imagine not being able to bring all my favorites. My book would be my very first novel, GEMS. I’m proud I was able to finish a full-length book. The other book would be any of the series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They’re classics, and I grew up reading them.

4. In the winter, would you rather be zipping through powdery snow on skis or a snowmobile or escaping to a sandy beach? Now how do you really spend most of your winter?

Sandy beach. All the way. But how I really spend my winter is cussing and shoveling snow away from my vehicle on the back roads we live on after I get stuck in snow drifts.

5. Which character in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is your favorite, and what does that say about you?

I didn’t grow up believing in Christmas, but I do remember watching it. I guess I’d have to say Rudolph, although I feel like he’s the obvious choice. I don’t recall many other characters in the story. Wasn’t there an abominable snowman or something, too?

6. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which others do you plan to add to the list in the next two years?

My first book is a speculative fiction YA novel. My second novel is a contemporary romance. My third book (just released) is the follow up to the first novel. I’ll be working on more fiction in the future, but I’m also interested in memoir. I feel like I’m all over the place when it comes to my writing.

7. If you could visit the studio and hang out with any visual artist, past or present, whose creative space would you be invading? Why?

Annie Leibovitz. Definitely. She’s iconic and has been pushing the limits for years. I used to study photography in school. Her work has always mesmerized me.

8. Do you listen to music when you’re writing? If so, name some of the artists whose work you use to get you creative juices flowing.

I can’t listen to music with words. It throws me off. I listen to Shakuhachi Sakano (Bamboo Flute Music, Japanese Flute), or the Relaxing Music Orchestra or Classical Piano stations on Amazon Prime.

9. What are you reading now, and what is the best book you’ve read in a long time?

I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing so I can “fill the well” again by reading. I just finished THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey. Great read, couldn’t put it down. The best book I’ve read in a long time would probably have to be ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman

10. What is your strategy for writing over the holidays?

I don’t. Haha. I know better than to stress myself out like that. Writing is hard enough as it is.

11. Name three things that are in your purse or pockets right now.

My jack knife my Uncle David gave me, a notebook for writing down thoughts or notes, and about a million stupid cards to every different store I go to that always end up hiding from me at the cash register when there’s 5 people lined up behind me rolling their eyes and saying “c’mon already” under their breath. 

12. Do you write a synopsis before you write a book, and, if so, does your finished product look anything like that road map?

I’ve never written a synopsis. That’s probably what scares me away from traditional publishing. How the devil do I know what’s going to happen until my characters tell me?

13. Are you a fan of reality TV, or could the current Bachelor marry every contestant on Cake Boss and then sing his lungs out on The Voice for all you care?

I usually don’t get stuck on TV, but it is the holidays, and I’m not in the middle of writing so, yeah, I kind of got attached to The Voice. Because Adam Levine…omg… (insert drooling image here). Except for recently he had some pervy pornstar mustache thing going on, and no. Just no.

14. What is your biggest dream for your writing career? The New York Times bestseller list? A movie deal? Your own island in the Caribbean? All of the above?

I guess it’d be nice to think about hitting it big with a novel. But at the same time I think that could be stressful. I’m getting more introverted the older I get, and I don’t like people enough to be recognizable. The people who do follow me and enjoy my books make me happy with their encouragement. That’s enough for now.

15. What is your biggest hope for a reader when she opens one of your books?

That I was able to transport them to the world that was shown to me by my characters and my setting. If they can forget real life for a moment, my job is done. If it lingers after they’re done reading, then double bonus.

16. Are you more a Times Square-ringing-in-the-New Year-type on New Year’s Eve, or will we find you at home, tucked into bed by nine o’clock.

Home tucked in bed. I wake up super early.

 

***

 

 

GEMS

By H. J. Mayes

 

 

 

My head is cradled between my hands as I crouch on the floor. The only sound is my own voice screaming the word “no”, echoing in the walls of my mind. Bits of dust and plaster make my mouth bitter and force me to cough.

There seems to be damage to the hearing in my left ear, but sounds register around me. My hearing picks up the sound of sirens, howling in the distance above ground and coming closer. Coughs and moans rise from the dust near me.

My blurry vision sharpens as I wipe my shirtsleeve across my eyes. The explosion has not affected my legs or arms; they’re intact and moving with little pain.

The door to the break room is thrown open; it’s actually off the frame and tilted in the hallway. Lights flicker on and off, there are wires swinging from the ceiling.

As I stagger to my feet, that’s when I see them. My breath catches and panic makes my chest feel tight.

The leader of the group is slumped over the overturned table in the corner. The other man is buckled on the floor by the door; his head tilted and blood trickling from his mouth. The canvas bag still in his hand. Neither of them is moving. The third one is on the floor by my feet, the needle tossed off to the side.

Bile rises in my throat.

What did I do? Where’s Jack?

Someone with dark hair—maybe Jack’s hair—is unconscious in the hallway by the door. I rush over to him and lean down, gently pulling him back to see his face. It isn’t Jack, but someone else. His face is bloody and some of his teeth are missing, possibly from the door hitting him in the explosion. I pull back, gasping in shock.

The main leader inside the room groans and struggles to sit up. He rubs the dust from his eyes, shaking his head as he stands. When he makes eye contact with me, he slowly reaches for a gun lying near him on the ground.

I stumble backward further into the hallway and trip over someone else. It’s Joe. He’s not moving either. His leg is twisted backward at the knee.

My scream echoes through the hallway.

The lights in the ceiling begin to pop, one by one. As the emergency lights flicker on, the man with the gun appears in the break room doorway. He’s holding his arms up to protect himself from the breaking bulbs raining down on him.

I’m not sure who these people are, but they knew my name and they weren’t worried about my abilities. That’s not what I would consider a normal reaction if people find out who, or what, I am.

 

***

GEMS, Book 1 in the GEMS Series, may be purchased through Amazon.

 

***

About Holly

Holly Mayes is a native of Michigan and enjoys reading, writing, photography and spending time with her two daughters, husband, cat and dog.

She has been published for her short stories in the Lansing Community College Washington Square Review, the women’s online journal When Women Waken, and the Rescued Pets Anthology by Splattered Ink Press.

GEMS is her first full-length, speculative fiction novel about a group of teens with super powers. The second book in the GEMS Series (GEMS-LOST) was released October, 2017.

Her romance FADE TO BLACK, the first in the Love in Bloom series, is currently available on Amazon.

Connect with Holly on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

Author Speed Dating – Shae Ross

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Shae Ross

 

16 Questions

1. If you celebrate, name a holiday food you would eat your weight in if you could do it guilt-free.

Green bean casserole. My brother and I used to hide the leftovers from each other in the back of the fridge!

2. Give the title of the first manuscript you ever wrote. How many years ago did you pen this masterpiece, and whatever happened to it?

CRUSADE. I wrote the first scenes of CRUSADE the summer between college and law school, which is to say, a long time ago! When I left my job to pursue writing, I had intended to publish CRUSADE, but in 2015 the new adult sub-genre was much more popular than medieval historical. Rather than finish CRUSADE, I let myself get distracted by Jett Trebuchet and Ryan Rose. I wrote their story in, PRETTY SMART GIRLS, LACE UP and sold it on my first pitch. I still plan to publish CRUSADE, someday soon. 

3. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

Gosh, what a question! It makes me sweat to think of only having two books. I would pick my third book, RUSH, because characters from my first two books appear in RUSH—that way I’d kind of have them all with me, right? As for the other title, it’s a tie between PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, by Jane Austen, and OUTLANDER, by Diana Gabaldon. (I’d give up at least one pair of shoes to add in a third book though!)

4. In the winter, would you rather be zipping through powdery snow on skis or a snowmobile or escaping to a sandy beach? Now how do you really spend most of your winter?

Hmmm. I’m not crazy about either. Cold weather sports set off warning signals in my mind. I like the beach, but I don’t like to sit still that long. My idea of dream land is wandering through a city that has historical sites to explore, great cafes, and shopping markets!

5. Which character in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”  is your favorite, and what does that say about you?

I haven’t watch RTRNR in so long, I can’t remember the personalities. If there’s a reindeer who’s slightly rebellious and bossy in a non-offensive sort of way (usually), who likes to sing and dress fancy, that’s me! 🙂

6. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which others do you plan to add to the list in the next two years?

I’m published in Contemporary, New Adult and Romantic Suspense. I’ll publish another Romantic Suspense next, then likely another New Adult. After that I’d like to publish my Historical and a Women’s Fiction book with strong romantic elements. I have all of these books in progress at various stages. It’s just a matter finding the time to finish!

7. If you could visit the studio and hang out with any visual artist, past or present, whose creative space would you be invading? Why?

I’d love to hang out with Nora Roberts for a day and see what her writing process is like.

8. Do you listen to music when you’re writing? If so, name some of the artists whose work you use to get you creative juices flowing.

YES! Music inspires me, and I love listening to music almost as much as I love reading and writing. I make playlists on Spotify and listen to mixes on Pandora. I’m more of a genre listener than a specific artist listener. Some of my favorites include Miranda Lambert, The Band Perry, Carla Bruni, Melody Gardot, and Madeleine Peyroux.

9. What are you reading now, and what is the best book you’ve read in a long time?

I’m reading MOLLY’S GAME, by Molly Bloom, and NO EXCUSES, by Brian Tracy. One of my favorite recent romance reads is BLUE-EYED DEVIL, by Lisa Kleypas.

10. What is your strategy for writing over the holidays?

On busy days, I still try to squeeze in three hours of writing. I like to write every day, and I’m incredibly irritated with myself when I don’t. I look at the week ahead and try to time block out writing sessions.

11. Name three things that are in your purse or pockets right now.

Biofreeze, for neck and shoulder relief, a permission slip for my son’s next field trip, and a can of cherry vanilla soda.

12. Do you write a synopsis before you write a book, and, if so, does your finished product look anything like that road map?

I do write a synopsis. The finished product follows the synopsis, but has a lot more twists and turns in the road.

 13. Are you a fan of reality TV, or could the current Bachelor marry every contestant on Cake Boss and then sing his lungs out on The Voice for all you care?

Yeah, not really a fan.  I much prefer drama, especially if there’s a romantic element or historical setting. Right now, I am loving, Good Behavior on TNT, The Crown on Netflix, and Knightfall, which just began on the History Channel.

14. What is your biggest dream for your writing career? The New York Times bestseller list? A movie deal? Your own island in the Caribbean? All of the above?

My biggest dream is to keep writing and continue to balance my other priorities effectively—time with my husband, kids, extended family and friends. The above mentioned honors would be thrilling, but none would feel like success unless the people I’ve signed up to  love, honor, and cherish are with me and they know that I’m with them. So far, so good!

15. What is your biggest hope for a reader when she opens one of your books?

I hope my readers experience what I want to experience when I read a book. I want to feel the characters’ emotions. I want to laugh, cry, think, learn something I didn’t know, be captivated by the hero and completely immersed in the story. Oh, and of course, I want the happy ending. Always.

16. Are you more a Times Square-ringing-in-the-New Year-type on New Year’s Eve, or will we find you at home, tucked into bed by nine o’clock?

My husband and I are pretty social. We enjoy going out as much as we love chilling with our neighbor pals at home, but we’ve never been big on going out on New Year’s Eve. We’ll be home.

 

***

 

 

 

 

Bottom of the Sky

By Shae Ross

 

 

He stops and flips upright in the middle of the moonlit river. His hands hold my waist as our feet cycle. “Why are we stopping?” I ask.

“So you can kiss me.”

His hands catch my ribcage lifting me as he tows me in.

My palms flatten against his slick, hard chest. “I make the rules, right?”

He shakes his head, and a wicked smile sprouts from the perfectly shaped lips. “This is no man’s land…the river is ruled by nature.”

His grin widens, ripping something open in my heart, and I think maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. He obviously needs the distraction and so do I.

I meet his kiss. His head slants over mine, and I open for him, sucking him in. Our bodies bob from the force of his treading feet, keeping both of us afloat. His hand slides to my back, slinging me in flush to his body. My breath jams in my throat when I feel him, thick and hard against my stomach, teasing the nerves gathered low in my belly.

“John…” I break the kiss and gasp a short breath. “I need to conserve some energy if I’m going to make it to the other side.”

He chuckles softly, twirling our bodies until we’re in the current again, but when I stroke to swim beside him, he glides underneath me, looping one of my hands over his shoulder and the other under his chest. I surf his back as he swims, resting my cheek on the wet strands of his hair, feeling the muscles of his chest moving under my fingertips with each stroke. Weightless and languid, water floods my limbs, caressing my bones. I’m floating through the Sky as if I’m on my way to heaven..

After several moments, John’s body shifts and his arm contracts. He’s caught the ladder to his dock, supporting our weight with one hand. He dips a shoulder and swings me in front of him. I point my toe and find a slippery rung. The ladder sinks as he steps onto the rung below mine, brushing my back with wet skin, gripping the rails and cocooning me with warmth.

Everything about this moment makes me want to stop and take it in.

I sway into him feeling his cheek brush my temple. He curves around me, dropping a hand to my stomach. I arch as it travels up and his knuckles graze my cleavage, prickling the sensitive skin. A voice inside echoes this isn’t me as his fingers continue upward, sliding to the side of my neck, but this is me with John.

“If you don’t want this, Gianna…” his voice sounds almost tortured. “Climb up.”

My toes curl, standing firm on the rung, submerged like anchors. His mouth lowers to the side of my neck, and I tilt giving him full access.

“If you don’t climb up now, I’ll keep touching you…”

 

***

BOTTOM OF THE SKY, a March 2017 release, may be purchased from Amazon.

 

***

About Shae

Shae Ross grew up in Ferndale, Michigan. She attended Michigan State University and continued her education at Detroit College of Law. Prior to 2014, she spent the majority of her career practicing corporate law and engaged in entrepreneurial ventures.

After having too many stressful days at the office, Shae began to pursue her dream of writing and signed a contract with Entangled Publishing. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes who deliver stories filled with sass, smarts and sizzle.

Learn more about Shae through her websites, www.shaeross.com, or through her Amazon Author Page or Goodreads. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, and join her newsletter here.

 

Author Speed Dating – Diana Stout

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Diana Stout

 

16 Questions

1. If you celebrate, name a holiday food you would eat your weight in if you could do it guilt-free.

 Halloween candy pumpkins.

2. Give the title of the first manuscript you ever wrote. How many years ago did you pen this masterpiece, and whatever happened to it?

“Choose for Happiness,” a non-fiction how-to article that I wrote and sold in 1979 for $52.

3. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

GRENDEL’S MOTHER (I wrote) and POWER VS. FORCE, written by David Hawkins.  GRENDEL’S MOTHER because it’s a book about survival and being true to yourself. POWER VS. FORCE because it shows why one needs to live in peace without stress; example, “Force is arrogance; power is characterized by humility….Power serves others…force is self-serving.”

4. In the winter, would you rather be zipping through powdery snow on skis or a snowmobile or escaping to a sandy beach? Now how do you really spend most of your winter?

Snowmobile, only because I hate the heat and I don’t ski, don’t want to.  In truth, I’m a house plant in all seasons. I’m writing, reading, or watching movies.

5. Which character in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is your favorite, and what does that say about you?

The narrator snowman, Burl Ives. I loved his roles.

6. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which others do you plan to add to the list in the next two years?

Contemporary romance (novel, novella, short story & play).  Epic fantasy (GRENDEL’S MOTHER).  I’ll be adding screenplays of romance/suspense, family/Christmas romance (definitely a Hallmark movie!), and romance/comedy.

7. If you could visit the studio and hang out with any visual artist, past or present, whose creative space would you be invading? Why?

Claude Monet for landscapes or Norman Rockwell for the stories told.

8. Do you listen to music when you’re writing? If so, name some of the artists whose work you use to get you creative juices flowing.

Sometimes. Movie soundtracks, nature sounds, Dean Martin, Lionel Ritchie, Barbra Streisand, Lou Christie, plus I have a playlist I put together of various favorite singles that include the Barry Manilow, Bee Gees, Bing Crosby, The [Canadian] Tenors, Il Divo, Chad & Jeremy, Jefferson Airplane, Rod McKuen, Shania Twain, and Kenny G.

9. What are you reading now, and what is the best book you’ve read in a long time?

Best book in a long time, hands down was THE MARTIAN, by Andy Weir. Read in a single sitting. I rarely finish books unless they’re really good. Currently reading Dan Brown’s, ORIGIN, and THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES by Peter Wohlleben (nonfiction).  Plus a couple more. I’m always reading several books at the same time.

10. What is your strategy for writing over the holidays?

Because my girls and their families spend time with in-laws or other relatives, I’m home alone…writing, reading, going to a movie theater or watching on TV. People feel sorry for me, but I enjoy it! Usually eat pizza or some other fun food.

11. Name three things that are in your purse or pockets right now.

Kleenex tissues, money, lip gloss.

12. Do you write a synopsis before you write a book, and, if so, does your finished product look anything like that road map?

I’m a plotter. I create an outline that’s anywhere from 5-25 pages long. Yes, my book generally follows that road map. I do a lot of character journal writing while I’m plotting. By the time I’m done, I know a lot about my characters that has nothing to do with physicality and everything to do with wounds, secrets, and emotions.

13. Are you a fan of reality TV, or could the current Bachelor marry every contestant on Cake Boss and then sing his lungs out on The Voice for all you care?

Do survivors lose weight? Huge fan of reality TV. I so wish they’d do a Bachelor or Bachelorette for seniors!!!!  I don’t dare list all the shows I watch.

14. What is your biggest dream for your writing career? The New York Times bestseller list? A movie deal? Your own island in the Caribbean? All of the above?

To win an Oscar for best original screenplay. To have Hollywood producers and actors beating down my door wanting me to write for them.

15. What is your biggest hope for a reader when she opens one of your books?

That they can’t put it down and that they didn’t want it to end. I do hear it, and I never get tired of hearing that.

16. Are you more a Times Square-ringing-in-the-New Year-type on New Year’s Eve, or will we find you at home, tucked into bed by nine o’clock?

I don’t like large crowds, so it’ll be the latter. Even though I’m up late, I rarely see the ball drop. I’m usually watching a movie or catching up on my DVR recordings.

 

***

 

 

 

 

Grendel’s Mother

By Diana Stout

 

All journeys begin with a single step. I could say my journey began when I was made dead, a no-name ghost in the woods. Or when I first met the dragon when I was too young to be afraid. Or maybe my journey began when the pains started, soon after the last thread of light disappeared in a horizontal sliver crushed between dark ominous clouds fast filling the sky and the earthly boundaries of both my chains and comfort as deemed by the gods:  the raw wilderness. Was it only less than a year ago that I was a naïve child, believing that the life ahead of me was mine to choose? So innocent. So lost in my own little world of supposed freedom.  Self-centered as only a child knows at the time. What a difference a year makes.

At the moment, I am working within my wilderness, attempting to catch a wild pig. The temperature has dropped, with late, major winter storm clouds moving in too quickly. I need major sustenance for the next couple days, if not weeks, and this yearling can satisfy that need. My spear is ready. I hold my breath, waiting. Now all I need is for the pig to turn parallel to me, so that I have a broader target, where I can hit a major organ.

I’m cold and don’t relish hunting in the dark but I have no choice. I let go of my discomfort. Up until now, I’ve been able to ignore the pains, the tightening of my mid-section. Thankfully, the clouds aren’t covering the full moon high in the sky…yet. The moon provides enough light for me to hunt. My hands, face, and any other exposed skin are blackened with mud, and I wear enough fur that I smell like the forest and the animals within.

The pig turns. I throw my spear. It hits right where I aimed—its heart. It squeals loudly, takes a couple steps, and drops. I get up from my kneeling position, where I was hidden in the tall grass, moving far slower than I want. My huge belly makes me awkward and slower than I like. I gasp as my belly tightens, again. Mentally, I count. Finally, the muscles relax. I need to hurry.

***

GRENDEL’S MOTHER, an epic fantasy, can be purchased through Amazon. To learn about its creation, read Part I – Grendel’s Mother: Its Genesis and Development and then Part II.

 

***

About Diana

An award-winning writer, Diana Stout has written in multiple genres, fiction long & short, non-fiction for adults & children, as a playwright, columnist, blogger, author, and screenwriter. She’s served as an academic reviewer, contest judge for multiple writing organizations, and is a former English professor. Today, she’s returned to her creative writing roots and invites you to learn more through her Sharpened Pencils Productions website. Current projects include romance novellas, reprints of novel romances, publishing screenplays (thriller/suspense, Christmas, and drama), a writing how-to series of books, and a historical based on a true story. Learn more about Diana through her blogs –  Only for the Brave writing blogInto the Core intuitive blog and Behind the Scenes  – and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads and Instagram. Subscribe to her newsletter here.

***

A Note from Diana

Thanks for much for asking me to speed date with you, Dana! Happy Holidays to everyone and a prosperous new year.

Author Speed Dating – Katharine Ashe

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Katharine Ashe

 

 

 

16 Questions

1. If you celebrate, name a holiday food you would eat your weight in if you could do it guilt-free.

Homemade ginger bread (with hot chocolate on the side!).

2. Give the title of the first manuscript you ever wrote. How many years ago did you pen this masterpiece, and whatever happened to it?

Teen Girl Lusts After Hot Landscaping Guy Who Turns Out to Be Heir to a Fortune. Seriously! I don’t remember the actual title, but that was the gist of it. Eventually I started writing historical romance, but I still write hot heroes with secret identities.

3. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

I CAN’T!!! I love too many books to choose one, so here’s my latest favorite, which I found doing research for my next novel: THE LOVE OF STRANGERS: WHAT SIX MUSLIMS STUDENTS LEARNED IN JANE AUSTEN’S LONDON by Nile Green. It’s a look at English Regency-era history that most of us lovers of historical romance have never seen, and it’s all about friendship and love. I adored it. Among my novels, I would tuck THE EARL  in the suitcase. Enemies from childhood, the hero and heroine are fleeing together through the Scottish countryside from an angry mob, and they have turn to each other for survival. I adored writing how the scales fell from their eyes as they learned and grew and fell in love. And it makes me laugh.

4. In the winter, would you rather be zipping through powdery snow on skis or a snowmobile or escaping to a sandy beach? Now how do you really spend most of your winter?

Always the beach! But I love snow too. 🙂 My fave winter treat is curling up on the couch before a crackling fire and reading or writing.

5. Which character in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is your favorite, and what does that say about you?

Rudolph! I’ve never really fit in. That said, I have yet to pull a sleigh — but, you know, I’m hopeful someday… 😉

6. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which others do you plan to add to the list in the next two years?

I mostly write big, epic, emotional love stories set in the early nineteenth-century British Empire. I’ve written a time-travel novella, a Regency ghost novel, and a contemporary novella too, and I have a series set in the Regency period with a special fantasy twist to each novel.

7. If you could visit the studio and hang out with any visual artist, past or present, whose creative space would you be invading? Why?

Oh oh oh, please!!! Sir Thomas Lawrence, the brilliant British portrait artist. The hero I’m writing now (in THE PRINCE) is a portraitist, and I’ve modeled his style on Lawrence’s.

8. Do you listen to music when you’re writing? If so, name some of the artists whose work you use to get you creative juices flowing.

Not usually while I’m writing. But for each book I do make a playlist—my own personal soundtracks that inspire characters and scenes, and that I play when I’m driving, walking the dog, running, or doing errands. Depending on the novel, the music runs the gamut from Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne to The Heyday and Breaking Benjamin. The soundtrack for my latest novel, THE DUKE, includes a lot of Scottish traditional music and epic movie soundtracks.

9. What are you reading now, and what is the best book you’ve read in a long time?

Today I read two fascinating history articles: one on Mary Shelley’s revolutionary novels and the other on medieval smugglers between Spain and North Africa—and both of them gave me ten different ideas for novels! I love history. It’s full of fantastic story ideas. 🙂 For best book, see #3 above. And I also just read Kate Claybourn’s debut contemporary romance BEGINNER’S LUCK, which was pure adorable small town pleasure.

10. What is your strategy for writing over the holidays?

Revise revise revise! I have a January 2nd book deadline. 🙂

11. Name three things that are in your purse or pockets right now.

A Sharpie pen (for signing books), a little notebook bound in Black Watch tartan, and a tiny Advent daily prayer book.

12. Do you write a synopsis before you write a book, and, if so, does your finished product look anything like that road map?

I don’t write a synopsis. I usually plot on a big whiteboard (using Alexandra Sokoloff’s totally brilliant system). Sometimes the novel even comes out looking like what’s on the whiteboard! 🙂

13. Are you a fan of reality TV, or could the current Bachelor marry every contestant on Cake Boss and then sing his lungs out on The Voice for all you care?

Binge watcher here. I tend to like historical mysteries, love stories, light modern comedy, and Superhero® shows. So, not a reality TV fan, but I never say never. 🙂

14. What is your biggest dream for your writing career? The New York Times bestseller list? A movie deal? Your own island in the Caribbean? All of the above?

Honestly, to make enough money each year to be able to keep doing this for a living. I simply adore writing love stories and sharing them. That’s my dream. (Although, you know, an amazing sports car and a neat little flat in—say—Verona, Italy, would be swell too.)

15. What is your biggest hope for a reader when she opens one of your books?

That she will laugh and sigh and cry and fall in love and read the final page with a big happy smile of pure joy and satisfaction.

16. Are you more a Times Square-ringing-in-the-New Year-type on New Year’s Eve, or will we find you at home, tucked into bed by nine o’clock?

Tucked in bed (after eating every flaky pastry appetizer available in my grocery store freezer section, natch).

 

***

 

The Duke

By Katharine Ashe

 

“You do not frighten me.” She snipped the syllables to hide the quaver.

His gaze that was black in the dim light scanned her face—her cheeks and hair and lips and chin.

“Then you are unique among women,” he rumbled. “Now remove that key from your bodice and open the door.”

“Why won’t you speak with me?” This was frankly terrifying. She had not anticipated this or planned for any scenario like this. She had imagined that when she finally cornered him he would act like a regular person and converse. Unwisely, she realized belatedly. He had never been anything like a regular person, after all.

“Five and a half years, yet not even a little small talk?” she said. “Come now. Let us give it a try. I will start. I hear you have become a duke. And an abductor of innocent maidens. And possibly a practitioner of the dark arts. How do you find all of that?”

“Lass.” The word was a warning shift of tectonic plates. “Open the door now or I’ll be taking that key.”

“You cannot deter me, Urisk.” Now her words quivered quite obviously. “Either you will sit down here now and answer my questions until I have asked them all, or you will in fact be obliged to take the key from me.”

In the darkness, the gleam in his eyes was like a knife’s blade.

“As you wish,” he said as though he whispered in her ear.

Her heart slammed into her lungs.

His hand surrounded her hip.

She gasped.

He was not smiling. Large and strong, his five fingers and broad palm took complete possession of her flesh.

“The key now,” he said very deeply. His fingers moved on her. Not painfully. Rather, stroking, kneading as though she were bread dough.

She swallowed over the shock clogging her throat.

“No,” she croaked.

He bent his head and in the murky silence in which the gay music of the ball was only a distant echo, she could hear his breathing, each inhale and exhale a perfectly controlled statement of composure.

“You are certain?” he said as calmly as though he were asking if she preferred tea to coffee.

“Yes.”

His hand slid up her side and wrapped around her waist.

“What are you doing?” she rasped.

His thumb stroked along the ridge of her lowest rib and a cascade of pleasure descended.

“Getting closer to that key,” he said.

***

THE DUKE, a Devil’s Duke novel and a September 2017 release from Avon Romance, may be purchased from these and other retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

***

About Katharine

Katharine Ashe is the USA Today bestselling author of historical romances that reviewers call “intensely lush” and “sensationally intelligent,” including her latest novel, THE DUKE, which won starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and an RT Book Reviews Top Pick!, and is on Amazon’s list of the Best Romances of 2017. Katharine lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her beloved husband, son, dog, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of history, she writes romance because she thinks modern readers deserve grand adventures and breathtaking sensuality too. For more about Katharine’s books, please visit www.KatharineAshe.com.

Katharine is also Dr. Katharine Brophy Dubois, Lecturing Fellow in the departments of History and Religious Studies at Duke University where she teaches courses on history and popular culture, and organizes the UNSUITABLE Speakers Series about women, fiction and popular culture.

***

A Note From Katharine

Thanks for inviting me to speed date, Dana! Happy New Year’s, everybody! xoxo


Author Speed Dating – Lonz Cook

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Lonz Cook

 

 

 

 

 

15 Questions

1. Are there any traditional Thanksgiving dishes that you can easily resist or dishes you refuse to even sample during your family’s holiday meal?

Well, a bean casserole will push me to any corner of the room. It’s simply because you never know what was added, and its dependent upon who made it. So not to be disrespectful, I run for the hills avoiding that dish.  

2. As a reader, name a few of your favorite books of all time. How have these books influenced your writing?

MILK IN MY COFFEE by Eric Jerome Dickey, RED STORM RISING by Tom Clancy and books by James Patterson, as well as books focused on social issues, have all influenced me.

I love how these authors tell a compelling story, grabbing you from the initial paragraph and capturing the imagination along the story. Then there’s the detail in suspense, Clancy and Patterson do this with a unique stroke of the pen. Both authors show enough before telling to ensure you’re a part of the scene and not simply an observer.

Dickey took me into relationships that I either experienced or was a bystander. He impressed me so much that I took pen to paper and became confident to do the same – share a true story through fiction.

3.Which Scooby Doo character are you most like? Bonus: How are you at solving mysteries?

I’d guess Shaggy [Rogers], the clumsy discoverer. I tend to focus on other things and slip upon key elements in solving mysteries. Or simply put, a fluke is my norm.

4. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which was the hardest and easiest to write?

Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense. I had no idea I wrote in the genre when GOOD GUYS FINISH LAST was published. To me, it was a realistic and pure story of character and behavior. The love relationships in the story were essential, but the connection between family and friends were detrimental to the story. This was the easiest book because I had no idea what I was doing, and simply wrote what’s in my heart to share.

The most difficult book to write was CROSSED EXPECTATIONS. I had to dig deep into an area I didn’t like to explore nor remember. It’s a story of military challenges I endured, but not to the extent of mirrored events, just edges where you feel the agony of death through the journey. It was the memories I visited, the pains I shared, and the carnage I saw while in the Marines. Yet, it seems I put together a good novel.

5. If you could serve as a roadie for any band, past or present, for which group would be you be schlepping speakers and testing audio equipment?

I think I’m torn on this question. I’d think for R & B I’d consider The Commodores and yet for Jazz, I’d love to be with the Jazz Crusaders.

Both bands have a unique sound, and what an influence for music lovers around the world. It would have been a life-changing experience if I were fortunate enough to do so. 

6. If someone has never read one of your books, which title would you recommend she read first?

For the story line, I’d suggest my first novel, GOOD GUYS FINISH LAST because the story is raw, and it’s unfiltered. I get many readers coming back saying how pure and touching it is.

Besides, GOOD GUYS FINISH LAST is the first in the Sisters and Romance Series, followed by WHEN LOVE EVOLVES and CROSSED EXPECTATIONS.

7. As a shoe shopper, are you all about the shoe warehouse where more is better, a discriminating shopper of only designer brands or a devotee of comfort with little concern for fashion?

You know, men (some men) are just as particular about shoes. However, in my case, I choose comfort and style over designer brand.

My lesson was attending a formal event and having Italian made fashion shoes for 20 hours. Oh my goodness, that was worse than working in boots as a Marine during 96 hours of operation.

Comfort any day 😊!

8. Favorite octogenarian actor: Robert Redford, Judi Dench, Diahann Carroll or Morgan Freeman?

Morgan Freeman – Class act and impressive with his story to fame.

9. Which one of your own fictional heroes would you have taken home if you could?

Not home, but surely to hang out as a best friend. Rodney the Marketing Genius!

10. What would you choose as your super power, and what would you do with it?

I’d have to choose anything that impacts the mind. I think reading minds and influencing decisions would be the super power I’d love having. Let’s say I’d at least increase human understanding and encourage love across all humankind.

11. In 10 words or less, give your best advice to aspiring writers.

Study the craft and write your heart’s desire. Be unique.

12. Sitcom in reruns: Seinfeld or Friends?

Seinfeld – it addressed lot of social issues.

13. What would you consider your strengths and weaknesses as a writer? What have you done to become a better storyteller?

My strength is creating characters who are common in behavior, where readers get to acknowledge similar actions that they either perform or know someone who has.

My weakness is finding the right balance in show and tell. There are times I tell too much and not show enough or show more than needed before telling the story.

Improving is understanding how to get the point across when telling enough to include the imagination of the reader. I’m advancing on that combination with each book I author.

14. Preferred activity in the fall: outside at the apple orchard or a leaf tour while inside a warm car?

I love watching football. I’m a sports fan of the game and enjoy attending professional and college-level events.

I grew up in the game especially when being younger. Emerson Boozer (NFL running back for NY Jets) was from my neighborhood and would play with us kids when he was home. That got me hooked. I’ve played, coached, and supported the game ever since.

15. Name your favorite compliment you ever received from a reader or reviewer.

You are as good a writer as those who inspire you. Keep writing and don’t stop using your voice.  It’s a matter of time before you’re discovered.

***

 

A Cyber Affair

By Lonz Cook

 

Chapter 1

Though she had held video chats with Manny over the span of three months, Tiffany wasn’t certain if they would be physically attracted to each other. She realized that looks could be deceiving: what’s viewed on screen isn’t always what appears in person. She wanted the excitement, the candlelight dinners, the slow dance amongst a disappearing crowd, and to feel her heart race at his gentle touch on her lower back. Tiffany imagined every moment Manny as they had been described in their many conversations.

It was a male passenger’s voice two seats over, the rolling tongue and spicy mellow tone of his soft delivery, which caressed her ears and reminded her of Manny. Her imagination walked the runway of sensuality over the fantasy about Latin lovers. Thoughts about them managed to sweep her into a frenzy: of how their passion and focus could raise a woman’s awareness with every affectionate touch, of their rhythmic movements and suave demeanors, and of their romantic language, designed to match the pace of their victim’s heart with a cadence of mystical influences. The thought of Manny made her soul quiver.

She stared out of the window at the ground as the plane taxied to the runway and leaned back for the takeoff. Tiffany thought about her reasons for going and how she had arrived to this point of no return.

She reached for her backpack and pulled out her computer. Tiffany looked out of the window again before she opened the laptop, booted up, and scanned Manny’s very first email. He had written: ‘…I read your profile and find you interesting…’ Next, she opened a more recent email: ‘…I’m going to kiss you all over, from head to toe. We’ll share ourselves, like we talked about last night.’  Her heart fluttered.  They had exchanged flirtatious banters during many conversations. ‘I can’t wait to share our first-morning kiss.’

Tiffany clicked on Manny’s profile picture and smiled as his appearance gave her a tingle, a twinge, and caused her heart to race. His body, shirtless and sporting swim trunks, was that of a masculine man built with abs of steel and a V-span torso. His arms were defined, and looked perfect for making a woman feel secure and comfortable whenever he held her. Tiffany released a sigh when she looked at his dark eyes, perfect mouth, and caramel skin. She imagined feeling his chiseled cheek next to hers.

Tiffany read one more email and Skype conversation before closing the laptop. She then sat back and imagined their first kiss. Her body felt excited while her mind settled on her decision to invest herself in the coming days.

Tiffany reminisced about the night she had received Manny’s first email. It was months earlier and the season was cold and wet, a typical winter. Tiffany looked at the flight attendants who were passing out goodies from their cart and raised her hand to get their attention.

***

A CYBER AFFAIR, a June 2016 release from Elevation Book Publishing, LLC, may be purchased through these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

 

***

About Lonz

From warrior to romance.  Lonz Cook is a Marine Corps veteran of 20 years and the author of numerous romance novels. He’s a screenwriter, an Adjunct Professor of Management, and a technology specialist.  Stay in touch with Lonz through his website, www.lonzcook.net, and his blog or through Facebook and  Twitter.

Author Speed Dating – Sylvia Hubbard

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Sylvia Hubbard

 

 

 

15 Questions

1. Are there any traditional Thanksgiving dishes that you can easily resist or dishes you refuse to even sample during your family’s holiday meal?

If there is the stuffing, I can’t resist. I’ll get a plate right by itself of stuffing, and then I even bring extra containers because I’m ghetto like that. (And proud of it.) What I won’t eat… chitterlings. Not in a infinity will those things ever touch my lips.

2. As a reader, name a few of your favorite books of all time. How have these books influenced your writing?

DESPERATION, by Stephen King; SECRET FIRE, by Johanna Lindsey; and BELLE AND THE BEAU, by Beverly Jenkins. My all out favorite is PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by the Godmother of Romance, Jane Austen.

 3.Which Scooby Doo character are you most like? Bonus: How are you at solving mysteries?

I’d be Fred, the leader of the group. I don’t think I’d be as cool, but I’d definitely be the leader and be able to put together all the clues. I’m pretty good at solving the crimes, but I don’t count myself as smart as Velma.

4. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which was the hardest and easiest to write?

I’m published in Romance Suspense. The sub-genres would be psychological, crime, drama, contemporary and erotic. The hardest is contemporary straight romance. I love the characters just falling in love, but then I get bored and always have a really saggy sappy middle. I’m so tempted to throw a murder or drama in there, but I fight it and finish the book.

5. If you could serve as a roadie for any band, past or present, for which group would be you be schlepping speakers and testing audio equipment?

Jill Scott. Omg, her music makes me want to write love scenes until the cows come home. And I know she’s not a band, but she’s really the only one I’d be a roadie for just so I could go to her concerts over and over again.

 6. If someone has never read one of your books, which title would you recommend she read first?

DARK FAÇADE. I seriously think that would definitely get you to understand how I make sin look good. And you’ll meet other characters that pop up in other books and really get an understanding you’re not in for a regular read.

 7. As a shoe shopper, are you all about the shoe warehouse where more is better, a discriminating shopper of only designer brands or a devotee of comfort with little concern for fashion?

I was raised by my father. He wasn’t much of a shopper for anything except when we went into the hardware store. We spent hours in there, but everything else it was in and out. I’m just a devote of comfort with little concern for fashion. If it fits, it’s comfortable and I look decent in it, I’m wearing it.

8. Favorite octogenarian actor: Robert Redford, Judi Dench, Diahann Carroll or Morgan Freeman?

Oddly enough, I’ve had a crush on Robert Redford since “The Sting” That was the movie that made me fall in love with deceit, con artists and sweet talkers.

9. Which one of your own fictional heroes would you have taken home if you could?

Lethal Heart, if I could.

10. What would you choose as your super power, and what would you do with it?

Infinite Wisdom. EVERYTHING!

11. In 10 words or less, give your best advice to aspiring writers.

Don’t stop, get it, get it.

12. Sitcom in reruns: Seinfeld or Friends?

Seinfield.

13. What would you consider your strengths and weaknesses as a writer? What have you done to become a better storyteller?

My strengths are my abilities to weave erotic romance around a crime suspense. My weakness is procrastination. It takes me forever to sit in a chair and get it done. To become a better storyteller, I study my craft every year by taking a class or reading a book.

14. Preferred activity in the fall: outside at the apple orchard or a leaf tour while inside a warm car?

I love to see it snow, but I really hate being outside in the cold. I will tour leaves and Christmas light displays all within the warmth of my car in a heartbeat, with a warm cup of Starbucks Macchiato extra whip and caramel.

15. Name your favorite compliment you ever received from a reader or reviewer.

“I burned dinner for two nights in a row because I couldn’t put your book down. My husband was angry but I didn’t care. I just needed to know what was going to happen next.” That was so the sweetest. That came from a reader who had picked up HIS SUBSTITUTE WIFE…MY SISTER.

 

***

 

 

 

 

Beautiful

By Sylvia Hubbard

 

Running to the bus stop, she missed the first bus and groaned, knowing she was going to have to wait for the second one.

“Psst,” someone hissed behind her.

She looked and gasped at the Lincoln, which was parked perpendicular on the side of the abandoned buildings. Turning around quickly, she pretended she hadn’t heard a thing.

In the past, Nikki told her Detroit was strange and to be careful.

“Psst,” the driver said again.

Madison tried to fight not looking, but being able to see the driver close up was what she had longed for.

Her curiosity won out. She turned to him and took in his features as she warily walked up to the car.

He was handsome. Too handsome.

“I shouldn’t talk to strangers,” she said sternly.

The stranger cajoled, reaching out to touch her sleeve innocently. “What’s the harm in talking?” His hand moved down to her hand and rubbed on her knuckles.

He was touching her. Were his eyes bad? She wondered. She looked down at her hand where his fingers rubbed against her fingers. “N-No, harm, I guess.”

“How old are you?” he inquired.

Looking back at his face, she answered. “Twenty-eight. Umm, my birthday’s coming up next week.”

She didn’t know why she told this stranger personal information, but she hadn’t told anyone about her birthday coming up, and rambling through her nervousness with a cute guy looking at her so closely made her less anxious.

He licked his thick bottom lip slowly. “Really?” he sounded fascinated by that information. “You on your way to school or work?”

Too nervous to talk, she only nodded.

He chuckled. It was a sensual sound that made her ear drums tingle. “Which one, little girl?”

“S-School… College,” she said trying to correct herself and not seem so nervous.

He gently started to massage her hand. His touch felt like warm electricity. “I could give you a ride,” he offered.

***

BEAUTIFUL, a July 2017 release, may be purchased through these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords.

***

About Sylvia

Detroit Author & Founder of Motown Writers Network, Sylvia Hubbard has published over 40 books in suspense romance. As a happily divorced mother of three, Ms. Hubbard has received numerous awards and recognition for her work. An avid blogger, Ms. Hubbard has had five #1 Best Sellers on Amazon. Her current work is called BEAUTIFUL, and she has two more books coming out before the end of 2017. Learn more about Sylvia through her website, www.sylviahubbard.com, and through these social-media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , YouTube, Periscope, Snapchat and Goodreads.

Author Speed Dating: Carrie Smith

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Carrie Smith

 

15 Questions

1. Are there any traditional Thanksgiving dishes that you can easily resist or dishes you refuse to even sample during your family’s holiday meal?

Stuffing. I know it’s most people’s favorite thing, but I don’t like it at all.

2. As a reader, name a few of your favorite books of all time. How have these books influenced your writing?

AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN by P.D. James, because I love P.D. James, and I like that she veered from her Adam Dalgliesh franchise to write about this unlikely amateur detective who ends up solving a complex crime.

3.Which Scooby Doo character are you most like? Bonus: How are you at solving mysteries?

I guess I would have to say Velma Dinkley, because I want to believe I’m smart and I do read a lot. I’m not very good at solving mysteries, but my characters are.

4. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which was the hardest and easiest to write?

I am published in the crime fiction genre. Specifically, my three novels (SILENT CITY, FORGOTTEN CITY, and UNHOLY CITY) are police procedurals. Currently, I’m working on a thriller. Writing any novel is challenging, but I would have to say procedurals have special challenges. The plot has to be so tight. There are genre requirements that must be honored. Police procedures must be accurately portrayed, and you must give your readers a fighting chance to solve the mystery, but you also need to distract them with red herrings and give them a satisfying, unexpected ending.  

5. If you could serve as a roadie for any band, past or present, for which group would be you be schlepping speakers and testing audio equipment?

I’m not sure I would like to schlep speakers for anyone, but if I had to do it, I would probably want to do it for someone like Alison Krauss & Union Station or Bonnie Raitt.

6. If someone has never read one of your books, which title would you recommend she read first?

Definitely SILENT CITY. It’s the first book in the Claire Codella series. In this book, readers learn about Claire’s backstory as a cancer survivor and get to know how her relationship with Detective Brian Haggerty started.

 7. As a shoe shopper, are you all about the shoe warehouse where more is better, a discriminating shopper of only designer brands or a devotee of comfort with little concern for fashion?

I would have to say I’m a discriminating shopper. I prefer quality over quantity.  

8. Favorite octogenarian actor: Robert Redford, Judi Dench, Diahann Carroll or Morgan Freeman?

Dame Judi, definitely! She can make even a bad movie seem good. I just saw her in Murder on the Orient Express, and she can still deliver.

9. Which one of your own fictional heroes would you have taken home if you could?

I’d like to have Detectives Claire Codella, Eduardo Muñoz, and Brian Haggerty over for dinner anytime. They complement each other so well on the pages, I’d like to see them interact in real life.

10. What would you choose as your super power, and what would you do with it?

I would choose mind reading as my super power. As a writer, I would use that power to gain deeper insight into the motivations of characters. 

11. In 10 words or less, give your best advice to aspiring writers.

Start with what you know; enhance it with your imagination. 

12. Sitcom in reruns: Seinfeld or Friends?

Seinfeld. I live the muffin tops episode every day.

13. What would you consider your strengths and weaknesses as a writer? What have you done to become a better storyteller?

To become a better writer, I read the works of other talented writers; write daily; and participate with a small group of trusted writers who critique each other’s fiction.

14. Preferred activity in the fall: outside at the apple orchard or a leaf tour while inside a warm car?

Outside at the apple orchard—unless it’s really cold. I have wonderful memories of apple-picking when I was a child.

 15. Name your favorite compliment you ever received from a reader or reviewer.

After the publication of SILENT CITY, a cancer survivor who read the novel emailed me to say that I had authentically depicted her own experience.

 

***

 

 

 

 

 

Unholy City

 By Carrie Smith

 

(From Chapter 2)

Rose had only joined St. Paul’s in the hopes of getting to know some nice men. Upper West Side Episcopalians, she’d assumed, wouldn’t be all that pious. She had envisioned a spiritual but not very religious group of liberal Democrats who pursued social justice by day and enjoyed their alcohol at night. That had sounded more her speed than Match.com. But so far, she had met no available men, and she was spending way too much time with bombastic vestry members who argued endlessly over stewardship, cemetery improvements, and whether to sell the church’s air rights.

She walked down the parish house steps to head home but paused on the stone path that led to the sidewalk beyond the gate. St. Paul’s knew how to exploit individual talents for the collective good. While Rose hadn’t met the perfect widower in his forties, she had been appointed guardian of the church garden, and it, along with the soothing voices of the choir each Sunday, kept her coming back. She loved this modest plot of land more than any of the outdoor spaces she had designed for wealthy clients with private rooftops high above Manhattan. The little herb garden on the south side of the church could be seen and enjoyed by everyone in the neighborhood, and she had big plans for it.

She decided to check on the bed of Moroccan mint she’d planted last month. She turned right and followed a path that ran along the limestone wall of the parish house. The Romanesque architecture reminded Rose of a medieval castle, and whenever she walked here alone, she sensed the confluence of past and present. The church archives said that two hundred years ago, this Manhattan Valley neighborhood had been a vast stretch of farmland known as Bloomingdale. Wealthy city dwellers from the southern tip of Manhattan had spent their summers on estates overlooking the Hudson River, and those estate owners had built and worshipped at St. Paul’s. Who, she wondered now, had tended her garden back then?

Rose reached the southwest corner of the church and paused to breathe in the fragrant night air. Her Moroccan mint was thriving. She could smell it from here. She turned right again and followed the west wall of the building. The lights over the parish house entrance did not reach around this bend, but she knew her way and advanced confidently until her left foot caught under something on the path and her upper body catapulted forward. She instinctively raised her arms in front of her face and braced for bone-breaking impact, but she did not slam down on stone. Instead, her elbows thudded into something solid yet soft. A bag of dirt left by one of the volunteer gardeners was her first thought.

 

***

UNHOLY CITY, a Claire Codella Mystery and a Nov. 7, 2017, release from Crooked Lane Books, may be purchased through these retailers: Amazon, Indie Bound and Barnes & Noble.

 

***

About Carrie

Carrie Smith is the author of UNHOLY CITY, the latest Detective Claire Codella mystery from Crooked Lane Books. Her previous books are SILENT CITY, FORGOTTEN CITYand the literary novel, FORGET HARRYShe is the recipient of three Hopwood Awards from the University of Michigan, a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Killer Nashville’s Readers’ Choice Award. Carrie is also senior vice president and publisher of Benchmark Education Company, a literacy publisher. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. You can find her online through her website, www.carriesmith.nyc, and on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

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Author Speed Dating: Patricia Kiyono

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Patricia Kiyono

 

 

 

15 Questions

1. Are there any traditional Thanksgiving dishes that you can easily resist or dishes you refuse to even sample during your family’s holiday meal?

No. I love to eat EVERYTHING!

2. As a reader, name a few of your favorite books of all time. How have these books influenced your writing?

Rebecca Winters’ romances first got me hooked on romance. She takes characters embroiled in impossible emotional conflict and somehow manages to take them to a happily-ever-after! I guess this is why I start writing my books by deciding on the central conflict, rather than the characters. My favorite Rebecca Winters books are BRIDE OF MY HEART (and the others in the Nevada Bachelor series), and THE NUTCRACKER PRINCE.

3. Which Scooby Do character are you most like? Bonus: How are you at solving mysteries?

Velma Dinkley. I wear glasses, and I’m prone to losing them (along with lots of other things). I read a lot about obscure topics and am a fount of useless information. But unlike Velma, I’m not that good at solving mysteries.

4. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which was the hardest and easiest to write?

I write sweet historical romance and sweet contemporary romance. I don’t think either one is easier to write. There’s a lot of research involved with either one. But with historical, I don’t have to worry so much about sounding dated. My daughter proofs almost everything I write, and one of her consistent criticisms of my contemporaries is that all the characters, regardless of age and social station, sounds like a 60-something educated woman.

5. If you could serve as a roadie for any band, past or present, for which group would be you be schlepping speakers and testing audio equipment?

Chicago! During my senior year in college, “If You Leave Me Now” was on the radio every day while I student taught. I loved all their songs.

6. If someone has never read one of your books, which title would you recommend she read first?

I guess it depends on whether they prefer contemporary or historical, long or short! For contemporary romance fans I guess it would be my most recent one, THE ROAD TO ESCAPE. For historical fans, my Partridge series are short holiday novellas set in Europe, and THE SAMURAI’S GARDEN is a longer novel set in Japan.

7. As a shoe shopper, are you all about the shoe warehouse where more is better, a discriminating shopper of only designer brands or a devotee of comfort with little concern for fashion?

It’s comfort all the way. I haven’t worn heels since the day I got married.

8. Favorite octogenarian actor: Robert Redford, Judi Dench, Diahann Carroll or Morgan Freeman?

Morgan Freeman. Love his voice, and he has a regal presence no matter what role he plays.

9. Which one of your own fictional heroes would you have taken home if you could?

Tom Cooper from THE ROAD TO ESCAPE is (in some ways) based on my own husband. He’s closer to my own age, so he has some of the same life experiences as me. But unlike my husband, Tom can’t cook!

10. What would you choose as your super power, and what would you do with it?

I would love to be able to organize my stuff. Papers, craft supplies, books, musical instruments and all sorts of other things are strewn about my house, and I often have to spend extra time looking for things I know I have. If I were a better organizer I’d have more time to write and indulge in my hobbies.

11. In 10 words or less, give your best advice to aspiring writers.

Join a group, learn from others, and write.

12. Sitcom in reruns: Seinfeld or Friends

I never “got” Seinfeld. He was way too whiny, and his friends were strange. I guess I’d choose Friends because I found it was less annoying.

13. What would you consider your strengths and weaknesses as a writer? What have you done to become a better storyteller?

I guess one of my strengths is the mechanics – spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I’ve learned a lot about making the words into a story from online classes and the speakers at my writing groups.

14. Preferred activity in the fall: outside at the apple orchard or a leaf tour while inside a warm car?

I like to be outside, but I have to remind myself to go outside. I’m not sure I’d enjoy a leaf tour. At least at the orchard I’d gather fruit to eat!

 15. Name your favorite compliment you ever received from a read or reviewer.

I’ve received a few reviews that complimented my historical accuracy. That makes me glad I did my research!

 

***

 

 

 

Four Calling Bards

in

Nine Ladies Dancing

By Patricia Kiyono

 

 

“Across the nation, women are ending, or at least decreasing rapidly, their use of the sweetener. We’ve already started to see a decline in the number of ships engaging in the trade. But there’s more that you can do. Sharpen your quills and write. Petition the government to stop dallying and end the practice of slavery. England has always prided herself for being civilized. What we are doing to our fellow human beings is anything but civil!”

Slight applause followed her pronouncement. One woman stood.

“This is a very noble cause, Mrs. Opie. I’m willing to cut back on my household’s use of sugar, but my husband will not stand for me writing letters to demand anything of Parliament.”

Other women nodded in agreement.

“I understand,” the woman replied. “Anything you can do to further the cause will be appreciated.”

“I can write letters,” someone said.

The room grew silent. Amanda watched the ladies turn to stare and, with growing horror, realized she’d been the one who’d spoken.

***

FOUR CALLING BARDS is included in NINE LADIES DANCING, a boxed set of ten clean historical romances. This Nov. 2, 2017, release from Dingbat Publishing is available only at Amazon.

 

***

About Patricia

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level.

She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her children and grandchildren. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspire her to create stories about different cultures.

Stay in touch with Patricia through her website, www.patriciakiyono.com and blog and through these social-media channels:Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

 

 

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