You tell us: What con have you always wanted to attend? (includes pics from #rt12!)

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Carina Press table at Ebook Expo

Okay, I admit it, this is a bit of a copout post. I’ve just spent the last week, Monday to Sunday, at the Romantic Times convention in Chicago. I’m exhausted, my brain is total mush and I had a great time. Since I spend so much time traveling to cons, they don’t always hold the same appeal and excitement for me as they do for most fans, authors and attendees. But I can still appreciate a good conference, a conference team who works hard, and the opportunity to see old acquaintances and meet new people.

James Rollins & Angela James

This year, I was fortunate to meet a LOT of Carina Press authors. There were over 40 at this conference! We had a fantastic cocktail party for authors and staff on Friday night. Food and beverage was consumed, lots of book talk–and even more non-book talk–went on and a good time was had by all (I think!). Then on Friday we held a cocktail party for all conference attendees and holy cow, the turnout was even better than we could have hoped for. It was only one hour, but we had an easy-to-participate activity that gave authors and readers an excuse to talk to each other, and that provided one lucky attendee with the opportunity to take home an iPad. Reception to that party was very enthusiastic and we look forward to doing it again next year!

This year, I also spent quite a bit of time with Harlequin and Berkley author Nalini Singh. If you haven’t read Nalini’s books,

Angela James & Nalini Singh

you really should check them out, she’s amazing! And, on top of that, she’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever have the chance to meet. I also did a bit of a fangirl moment with thriller author James Rollins, which made me happy. He’s one of only a few authors I had my photo taken with this week.

Anyway, at the bottom of this post, I’m going to include a few more pictures, but I’d love to hear from you: You tell us, what author or reader conference have you always wanted to attend? Mine is ComiCon in San Diego. I want to go and be a total geeky fangirl all week. Some day! What’s yours? Or, alternately, what’s a conference that you already have attended and absolutely loved?

Vivian Arend & Zoe Archer

Christine D'Abo

Julie Rowe

Nico Rosso

Calm before storm at Carina #RT12 cocktail party

Surprise, surprise–how I became fond of cats.

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By the time this is posted, I’ll be at the Romantic Times convention! If you’re attending make sure to check out my Editor Hide and Seek game. For details and hints, follow the facebook page:

I also have to give a shout out to Mama Braus. It’s her birthday and because I’m in Chicago, I won’t be able to celebrate with her. (She did get her present early though, so there’s that!)

This actually gives me the perfect lead into today’s blog post. A few weeks ago, I put on Disney’s African Cats for background noise, intending to edit. Documentaries are often my favorite since there’s a lot of narrative and not much action to follow.

The story follows two mothers—the lioness, Layla, and the cheetah, Sita—and the lengths they go to protect their cubs.

I never stood a chance.

From the moment the movie started, I was hooked—and I’m not even all that fond of cats! I hardly glanced at my computer and when I did, it was more at annoyance for tearing me away from such an amazing story. Needless to say, no editing was done.  There were chuckles, tears, and where I was biting my lip in anticipation. Forget Mr. Toad—this was a wild ride!

I went through and took notes (8 pages!) on the movie, wanting to examine it and see why they were so successful in creating this story. My intention was to go through the story and examine the pacing—but I think I’d give you all glazed eyes and spoilers. Instead, I’ll sum up the key elements of this story and why I feel it is such a wonderful example of story telling! You can read it here.

Honestly, I could go on and on. I encourage you all to watch this movie, savor it. What struck me the most was how surprised I was to be hooked at all. I didn’t expect it and that made the experience all the more wonderful.

And I’d love to find more examples like this. What movies or books have you picked out on a whim and found yourself marveling at? And why?

It’s All in the Cards

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Card games were very popular during the Regency. Most everyone played them, and most games involved gambling of some sort. When I was mulling the idea for Brook Street: Fortune Hunter, I knew the heroes would meet over a game of cards at a ball.

The thing is I’m not much of a gambler or a card player. I’m rather good at go-fish, no-way and Uno, but that’s about the limit of my skills. But since the guys were destined to meet over cards, that meant a research dive was in order.

So in I dove into Regency card games, and came out with a game for the guys to play: Brag. 3-Card Brag, to be specific. It’s a predecessor to poker, and since I’d seen poker games on ESPN and therefore had some idea of how things went, I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to learn.

And it’s not a difficult game. Of course, there’s a whole strategy to it, most of which eludes me, but the mechanics of the game aren’t complicated. Here are the basics:

-Decide on the stakes; initial bet (ante), min and max bets
-The dealer deals each player 3 cards
-The person to the left of the dealer starts the game. Similar to poker, you can stay in the game or fold. To stay, you must bet at least as much as the person before you.
-The game ends when either there is only one person left, or if there are only 2 players left, one can force a ‘see’ by doubling the bet. In which case, the other remaining player must show his or her cards. If the player who paid for the ‘see’ has a better hand, he or she shows their cards and wins the hand. Otherwise, the player can simply fold and the other player wins.
-In brag, the highest hand is a ‘prial’ or three of a kind, with three 3’s making the absolute best hand. After that, it’s similar to poker with flushes then pairs.

There you have it – a basic primer on how to play Brag. So what’s your favorite card game?

Impoverished Julian Parker returns to London with one goal: marry an heiress. He’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means denying his desire for men. After all, with a fortune comes happiness and social acceptance—which have eluded Julian his entire life.

The only things a vast fortune has brought Oscar Woodhaven are greedy relatives and loneliness. At twenty-one years of age, he has everything a man could possibly want—except someone to love him. When he meets devastatingly handsome Julian Parker, he believes his luck has turned.

Between Oscar’s lavish gifts and their searing-hot nights, Julian is caught between what he thinks he needs and what his heart truly desires. But when a betrayal threatens to tear them apart, Julian discovers he’ll do whatever it takes to convince Oscar the greatest fortune of all is love.

Buy Link: Brook Street: Fortune Hunter (#2)

Brook Street: Thief (#1) now available
Brook Street: Rogues (#3) available May 7

Ava March is an author of smoking hot M/M historical erotic romances. She loves writing in the Regency time period, where proper decorum is of the utmost importance, but where anything can happen behind closed doors.
Website ** Blog ** Goodreads ** Facebook ** Twitter

The Allure of the Sands

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PhotobucketAs a current Spartacus fangirl, I must confess that my *ahem* interest in all things ancient began with the blockbuster movie Gladiator. Even though I majored in history, the ancient world did not grab my attention until Hollywood brought the sands of the arena to life. Russell Crowe didn’t hurt either. Or Andy Whitfield, or…I’m digressing, aren’t I?

The writer in me felt compelled to try my hand at this particular era. There is a lot of room to create stories in this long stretch of history, and after some research, I found my niche in the Dacian Wars. This epic struggle with its strange ending was the perfect jumping off point for a love story between the conquering general and one of Dacia’s daughters, now enslaved in Rome.

I dug in. I did research. And I still got things wrong! Thankfully, my editor is an ancient history lover, so I feel that, between the two of us, the details are nailed down. But there were also things to avoid. First and foremost: do NOT write dialogue a’ la Spartacus! Although my husband and I have incorporated the stunted, “Apologies” and “Gratitude” into our vocabulary, it doesn’t read very well.

At the heart of things, I wanted to tell a great love story.  How does a vengeful woman taken prisoner come to fall in love with her captor? And how does a rabidly loyal soldier come to see that his commitment is misplaced? How do they learn to trust one another more than the brutal reality that surrounds them?  You decide:

As the Romans storm the last stronghold of Dacia, Princess Ademeni awaits her fate. Taken as a slave, she is deposited into General Marcus Cordovis’s home as a gift.

Driven to avenge her family, Ademeni plots to kill her captor and escape. Though not the cruel victor she expects, Marcus keeps her too close to make escape easy–so close that Ademeni is soon tormented by an unbidden, traitorous attraction. In a moment of weakness, a passionate kiss almost undoes them both.

But the handsome, widowed general has another surprise for Ademeni: a young daughter. Marcus dares ask Ademeni to help him bridge the gap between him and his little girl. And now, Ademeni is growing too fond of those she is supposed to despise. As Marcus prepares for the triumphal march and the opening of the gladiatorial games–where captives of her homeland will be sacrificed–Ademeni readies for her own battle between revenge and love.

I’ve had a great experience with Carina Press, from submission to publication. With the swing toward digital publishing and their nice list of similar historical romances, like Georgie Lee’s Mask of the Gladiator, Veronica Scott’s Priestess of the Nile, and Fae Suntherland’s Gladiator’s Master, I feel right at home.

You can purchase Surrender to the Roman on the Carina Press website.  I would love to hear your feedback, so feel free to let me know your thoughts on my Facebook fan page, Twitter feed, or over at Goodreads. You can always stop by my website and blog to see what’s happening.

See you in the sands!

M.K. Chester is a romance author, wife and mom, history geek, sports nut, sarcastic conversationalist, and totally owned by her Scotties, Stewie and Angus.

You tell us: Worst writing advice you’ve ever heard or received?

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Today’s you tell us comes compliments of Lane, @lweinberg18 on Twitter, who responded to my call for suggestions for these posts. I actually really love this question. Lane wondered what the worst writing advice people have ever heard from a colleague or editor.

There are two that I can think of right off, that I thought were particularly bad. The first was actually just in the past few months, on Twitter, when I saw an editor use the #pubtip hashtag to tell writers that they had to use only one POV per scene/chapter or they’d never get published by a romance publisher. I, and many others, pretty immediately took exception to that proclamation. It’s both bad advice,and it’s also untrue. There’s a vast, vast difference between rapidly switching POVs in a sentence or paragraph, and switching POVs in a scene. It’s okay to use more than one POV in a scene, honest. Just do it with purpose and don’t go crazy inserting random POVs in there. But yes, you can use more than one. And you’ll get picked up by a romance publisher. Just ask Nora ;)

The other bad advice I didn’t hear or see directly, but learned of years ago when I was working with an author on her manuscript. I noticed that some of her sentences were incredibly awkward and realized she had no instances of the word “was” anywhere in her manuscript. Nowhere. Not one. Turns out, a former editor of hers had told her to eradicate every instance of the word “was” from her writing and to never ever use it in writing. People, the verb “to be” and any form of that, including “was” is not bad. It’s an integral part of our language and tying your writing in knots to avoid every usage of it is both ridiculous and will lead to painful reading. Was does not always equal passive and you have my permission to give a good hairpull to the next person who tells you that was always equals passive.

Now you tell me. What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever heard dispensed, or ever heard of people receiving? I know there’s a LOT more out there. I’m hoping someone has something really ridiculous to share!

Friday Feed: Learn leadership skills from The Godfather, win a Harlequin shopping spree, and…mayonaisse is a poor choice

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This week on Fast Company, they posted an article on lessons businesspeople can learn from The Godfather (yes, the movie). It was really a fascinating article, and the movie aside, these are actually some excellent lessons for anyone in business. Here’s a snippet:

Don’t get emotional.

It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business. ~Michael Corleone

“Many people don’t like to talk about the fact that in business, there are winners and losers. When Sonny Corleone reacts impulsively and emotionally, he gets taken out. In business, if you don’t take the opportunity to out-sell, out-bid, or out-market your competitor, they’ll take you out. I’m not suggesting doing anything outside the boundaries of morality or rightness–simply pointing out that when people make emotional decisions, they start making bad decisions. To lead successfully, you have to take your emotion and ego out of the equation.”

Likewise, Moore says it’s important to play to win. In business, that translates to knowing the competition and always staying at least one step ahead. “Operate your business with integrity and have respect for competition, but you also need to seize opportunities to eliminate your competition and win.”

Until April 30th, you have the opportunity to win one of five $50 shopping sprees from Harlequin. Visit Harlequin’s Facebook for more details (and while you’re on Facebook, why not like the Carina Press page? We’re pretty interesting!)

Last, having nothing to do with publishing or writing but an article that made me laugh out loud this week, from Huffington Post. A man tried to smuggle a knife through airport security. In a jar of mayonnaise. As the article states “The hiding spot was poorly chosen. Jars of mayonnaise are also banned from carry-on luggage in the U.S.”

Happy Easter, Passover* or just happy weekend! See you guys Monday, where I’ll be in Chicago for the Romantic Times convention.

For those less familiar with Passover, I found this article interesting!

Reading Behavior

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A friend of mine once said that as a child, she ended up reading the bathroom a lot because it was the only place in the house where her mother couldn’t see her reading “questionable material”. Even though my friend has long since moved away from home, she still occasionally reads sitting on her bathroom floor for hours at a time. I found her behavior to be funny and weird, but then I thought, I probably have strange reading behavior/rituals as well.

So, in no particular order, my reading idiosyncrasies:

-I hate dog-earring my print books. Hate it. I use bookmarks or random bits of paper lying around or I just lay the book open on the last page I was on. When other people are about to fold over the corner of my book, I’m like: “Stop! What are you doing?! Step away from the book right now!”

-If I’m nearing my subway stop and I’m only one or two pages until the end of the chapter, I will speed read epically fast so I can finish the chapter before reaching my stop.

-When I finish a book, and nobody else is around for me to talk to, I immediately go to Goodreads and read every, single review of that book. I just need to know what everyone else thought about it.

-When I finish a historical novel (and after going to Goodreads), I check-out every Wikipedia article on each historical reference in the book.

-If I’m reading a contemporary book, I have a tendency to imagine homes and places as houses and buildings I’ve seen in real life. Does anybody else do this? Or is it just me?

What are some of your reading behaviors?

Glory Days and the Rules of the Game

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Some days, I feel as though I’ll never grow up. A modern day Peter Pan. I blame my students—they keep me young. When a person spends eight hours a day with teenagers, it tends to keep her young at heart.

Things changed last summer when my thirty-year high school reunion stared me in the eye. How could it have been thirty years since I walked across the gymnasium floor to have someone hand me a diploma? Maybe it seems so close because I stand in a gym every May and hand out diplomas to students who choose me as their presenter, giving them all hugs and telling them how proud I am of them. Every graduation of a new class of students keeps my own fresh in my mind.          Photobucket

As the reunion date grew closer, I found myself in touch with many of my former classmates through Facebook. (An enthusiastic wave to Terre Haute South Vigo class of 1981!) How great to reconnect and learn all about their lives while we reminisced about the “good old days.” With each new discussion, I learned something about their present lives, but I also discovered things about their pasts I hadn’t known in high school. The writer in me flared to life.

What if someone went back to a high school reunion only to have every skeleton she’d shoved in her closet come tumbling out? Maddie Sawyer was born that day, and I started writing the story of her finding a new love as she exhumes the life she thought she’d buried so long ago.

Have any of you been to a class reunion? Did you go hoping an old boyfriend had lost all his hair? Or did you just want to reconnect with old friends? Did you wish that the girl who picked on you had a butt the size of Florida, or was the reunion nothing more than a chance to raise a glass to your glory days? Please leave me a comment for a chance to win a copy of Rules of the Game! (I’ll draw a winner at random on Friday, April 6th.)

I have to wonder if the age of social media will blunt the excitement of reunions. Now that we’re all connected in so many different ways, the world seems so much smaller, and distance seldom keeps us far apart. Maybe one day, reunions will be passé. But for now, just like Maddie, we all make those trips back to our hometowns to see people who helped make us who we are.

Rules of the Game is on sale now!

PhotobucketRead an EXCERPT!

Blurb: Kathryn West has it all. She’s a confident, bestselling author living it up in New York City. Too bad she doesn’t actually exist, and is only timid Maddie Sawyer’s pseudonym. Determined to attend her high school reunion with a man right out of one of her racy romance novels, she plots to find a sexy bad boy who’s up to Kathryn’s standards.

She finds Mr. Perfect shooting pool in a biker bar. He’s a blue-collar hunk who just happens to look great in leather. But the mysterious Scott Brady has some rules of his own: he won’t agree to her deal unless she poses as his girlfriend in front of his family and friends first.

As the reunion nears, Maddie tries to maintain her carefree façade, knowing she’ll soon face some old ghosts. She’s torn between her growing attraction to Scott and the nagging feeling that he’s hiding something important. Will she still want him when she finds out his secret? What about when he discovers hers?

Sandy James lives in a quiet suburb of Indianapolis with her husband of thirty years. She’s a high school social studies teacher who especially loves psychology and United States history. Since she and her husband own a small stable of harness racehorses, they often spend time together at the two Indiana racetracks.

You can find Sandy on her website, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Rules of the Game on sale at:

Amazon B&N Carina

Howahkan – or you can call him Kane

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When Consent to the Cowboy released, way back when Carina Press launched, I had a reviewer ask me if I was going to tell Ana’s story. Ana happened to be Daphne’s best friend in Consent to the Cowboy. She played a young, almost shy character, except when she stood up for her friends. At the time, I had no plans to turn the book into a series.

Then a cool thing happened. I heard from more and more readers. They always had two things to say about Consent to the Cowboy.

1) The cherry scene was so hot!

2) Are you going to write Ana’s story?

How could I tell them no?

The problem came when I thought of how I was going to outdo Consent to the Cowboy with its hot cherry scene, middle of the road sex, and Klep the boot stealing St. Bernard. I knew Consent to Love had to be special.

Months later, I had this picture in my head of a strong Native American man standing in a field. That’s it, but it doesn’t take much for a story to come together. That’s when Howahkan, or you can call him Kane, entered the story. From there, Kane took over and gave me Ana’s story. When I asked Kane (I did!) if Ana was shy? I saw a slight shift of his brow, and he said, “My naughty girl? No.”

Although, Ana still works at Chum’s bar, and visits with Will and Daphne, you’ll get to go with her a few miles out of Podunk to the Lakota reservation where Howahkan lives.

Have you ever read a book where a second character grabbed your attention and you wished the author would write that character’s story? Leave a comment, maybe the author will see your message and surprise you!

Hold on to your horses, because things could get a little wild.

Buy Link for Consent to Love

If you want to read the first book of Wild Pleasures, you can buy Consent to the Cowboy here.


Twenty-four-year-old small-town girl Ana Reynold serves beer at the local bar, tries to keep her beater car running, and dreams of a better life as a painter. If she can learn to make a decent steak, she might get promoted to cook—and earn enough for her real heart’s desire. Right now, that doesn’t include romance.

But when she meets a tall, dark and sexy Native American man named Kane, Ana can’t take her eyes off him—or stop thinking about him. But she’d better. Everyone knows the proud Lakota who raises horses wants nothing to do with a townie barmaid who’ll bring shame to his people.

Except Kane can’t get Ana off his mind. He proposes a red-hot weekend in bed, a no-strings affair to end Monday morning. Yet once Kane brings the outsider onto Lakota land, everything changes…


The stranger stood directly in front of her. She raised her chin until she looked into his eyes. She swallowed. Lordy, he’s a big man.

His onyx-colored eyes framed in black lashes were startling. She glanced away, afraid he’d see how much his presence made her skittish. She couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

The bag leaning against her leg skimmed her bare calf. She reached for it automatically, and then realized he’d picked the sack up off the ground.

“Take a break. I’ll do it.” He turned and began to collect the rest of the trash, glancing back at her as if to make sure she didn’t move from her spot.

She gripped the edge of the boards she sat on and bit her lip. She shouldn’t let him do her job for her. Regardless of volunteering their time to help out, Chum was paying her a half a day’s wages for serving the refreshments.

Uncomfortable waiting and doing nothing, she stood and gathered the paper plates and napkins on the other side of the barn. She couldn’t remember a time when she’d responded to a man with such intensity. She actually quivered watching him move about the barn. Her skin prickled, and to her surprise, her panties dampened.

Ana carried the trash over to the man and dumped the items in the bag he held out for her. “Thank you. I can take the garbage now.”

His fingers brushed hers. She jerked her head up at the rush of tingles she received. “T-thank you…”


“Excuse me?” She tilted her head.

“My name is Howahkan.” His cheek twitched and he leaned forward. “Or, you can call me Kane.”

The Perfect Impostor

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Let me ask you something. As a reader, how tolerant are you when it comes to unlikely scenarios? I ask because it gets harder all the time to think of fresh plots. Notice I say fresh and not original. That’s because there’s absolutely nothing that hasn’t been done before.

In my latest Regency romance The Perfect Impostor, released by Carina Press today, my heroine is a struggling modiste who takes the place of a marchioness for an entire week at a society house party. Shades of Cinderella, I hear you cry, except that Katrina isn’t in danger of turning into a pumpkin any time soon. Given the problems Katrina has to contend with during that endless week, she might have preferred to take the pumpkin route, given a choice.

Back to my original question. Are you going to say, “heavens, she’d never get away with that,” and throw the book at the nearest cyber wall? I’m here to convince you otherwise but first, let’s pause to admire the cover. Carina artists do awesome work and I haven’t had a cover yet that doesn’t beautifully encapsulate the mood of the entire book. If readers do actually judge a book by its cover then I have high hopes for my little impostor.


What do you think?

Katrina Sinclair, recently widowed, is struggling to make a name for herself as a modiste. Her childhood friend, now a marchioness, could well make that happen when she asks Katrina to design her wardrobe for an upcoming society house party. One small snag though, Julia wants Katrina to swap places with her for the duration of that party. They did it often enough as children. No one could tell them apart then and can’t now.

Against her better judgement, Katrina agrees. What harm can come of it?

Plenty, as it happens. For starters, Julia’s husband, equerry to the prince regent, puts in a surprise appearance, expecting to spend the night with his wife. Katrina will do much to protect Julia, but sleeping with her husband is several steps above and beyond the call of friendship. How will she get out of that one?

Worse, Lord Leo Kincade turns up as well, supposedly on his way home from France. In actual fact, he’s been assigned to look into jewel thefts that are occurring at society gatherings such as the one Katrina’s attending. The proceeds from those thefts turn up in Napoleon’s coffers, making the lady behind the scheme a traitor to her country. Julia is a prime suspect.

Leo was once engaged to Julia but knows almost at once that the woman he meets at Lady Marshall’s isn’t Julia Dupont. But who is she? Why is she pretending to be Julia? Why is he drawn to her in a way that he never was to Julia? And what does she have to do with the thefts?
To add to Katrina’s woes, her late husband’s brother tracks her down to the house party too. He blames her for his brother’s death and is set on revenge…

The Perfect Impostor by Wendy Soliman available now from Carina Press .

Visit my website at, read the entire first chapter of the novel, answer a simple question correctly and you could win a copy of The Perfect Impostor. Good luck!

To keep up with all my news please go to my Facebook Author page at

I blog regularly at Confessions of a Writer and spend half my life on twitter as @wendyswriter

Thanks for your interest in The Perfect Impostor. I’d love to know what you think of it.