Journeys with my Editor

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By April Taylor, author of TASTE OF TREASON

The Tudor Enigma books deal with crime fantasy set in an alternate Tudor universe. They concern an apothecary in the Outer Green of Hampton Court Palace, who is also an elemancer – a magician who uses the elements to perform magic for the good of all but especially at the behest of Queen Anne Boleyn and her son, Henry IX, who now sits on the throne of England. A love of Tudor history and Hampton Court Palace made the setting for the books obvious. It was not until my first foray into the world of the partnership between editor and writer that I had any idea just how complicated this process was going to be.

I know many people, myself included, who are avid readers. In my green pre-publishing days I always imagined that the role of an editor was to tidy up the writer’s grammar, find the howlers and polish up the prose. Nothing could be farther from the truth, dear reader. During my publishing adventure with Carina Press, my editor, Kerri Buckley, has been far more than a tidier-upper.

Kerri forced me to think deeply about the magic element in my world. I knew elemancers believed in cosmic balance, so they had to have enemies – sunderers, who work to rip that balance asunder and cause chaos. She made me realize I needed to know the precise structure of the magic hierarchy, levels of elemancy and details of spells in order to make the magic parts authentic. I was forced to consider my characters’ motivations and conflicts in a way I never had before.

Editors walk a fine line. The prose must be accurate while not being pedantic. It must flow with no bumps in the road to jolt the reader and at the end, it must still be the writer’s work. Of course, in the process, the editor also keeps an eye out for the errors. Witness Kerri’s comment in Taste of Treason – “In this chapter her wrists have been slit. In the last chapter, it was her throat.” Good point and one I had not spotted, which just goes to prove that the writer is not always the best editor of their own work. Other comments have included – “Do you mean x or y here?”; “Hasn’t he already given her a potion and she has drunk it?”; “Is this phrase historically correct?” and my personal favorite – “This is wonderfully informative, but not relevant at this point.”

I know that Kerri has improved my books immensely. At the same time, she has also made me a better and more thoughtful writer. It hasn’t all been fun. But it has been worth it.

Taste of Treason

CARINA_1014_9781426899188_TasteOfTreasonBook two of The Tudor Enigma

Blood, frogs and a deadly threat to the firstborn…

Luke Ballard, Dominus Elemancer and Privy Inquirer into Divers Mischiefs and Grievances, has grown his magical powers since his last encounter with the Sunderers, dark sorcerers who will stop at nothing—including partnering with England’s mortal enemies—to destroy the throne. But is he skilled enough to protect his own and prevent tragedy from reaching the royal family?

The continuation of Tudor rule and the future of England’s true religion rest with King Henry IX’s new bride, Queen Madeline of Scotland. Pregnant with a possible heir, she’s nearly killed—twice—in incidents that bizarrely mimic the Plagues of Egypt. And she is not alone. All of Hampton Court, it seems, has been surrounded by a dark cloud of otherworldly danger.

Fearful for his wife and unborn child, King Henry can only turn to one man.

 

April Taylor has been writing stories since she was a child. She lives, with her husband and a blind rescue golden retriever, in the north east of England on the Yorkshire coast where the land crumbles into the sea, In her former life, April was an information professional working in public and prison libraries. Before giving up work, she was the R&D Information Manager for a global pharmaceutical company. April has also worked for the police and been the choir mistress for passengers on  cruise liners traveling all around the Caribbean, as far south as Cape Town and up into the Arctic Circle. April has published an anthology of short stories and two guides, one for students on how to write their dissertation and the other on research for fiction writers. In May 2014, the first book in The Tudor Enigma, Court of Conspiracy, was published by Carina Press.

Connect with April! Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

 

Weddings, and Dragons, and Art Theft, Oh My!

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By Lorenda Christensen, author of ‘TIL DRAGONS DO US PART

The Wedding.

That oh so brief event where lovers decide to make a formal declaration that their relationship isn’t simply special. It’s permanent. It’s the love to end all loves. Legal paperwork is filed and vows are exchanged.

shutterstock_184471574‘Til Death Do Us Part.

As Long as We Both Shall Live.

It should come as no surprise that more than a few couples prefer to make the event as memorable as the decision. So they sit down and make an itemized list. Big dress? Check. A garden of flowers? Check. Venues, guest lists, tuxedos, music selection, bridesmaid dresses, cakes, reception menus…until suddenly the list of to-dos starts to feel a lot less fun and a lot more stressful.

And that’s where the wedding planner steps in. Now here’s a person who isn’t fazed by the millions of things involved in making “The Wedding” something to be remembered fondly. Instead of the wedding providing the demarcation between “when she was normal” and “when she floated on a panic attack into Crazyland,” a wedding planner ensures that all the little steps are in place to make a couple’s day as close to perfect as possible. She and her army of trained assistants take on all the pesky details and leave you to sip champagne with the girlfriends.

In ‘Til Dragons Do Us Part, the third book in the Never Deal with Dragons series, the bride does indeed get to drink champagne with her girlfriends while the wedding planner and her assistants do all the hard work. But what she doesn’t know is that one of these assistants has never even attended a wedding ceremony before, much less planned a celebration as big and well publicized as this one is proving to be.

Because, you see, this assistant is really a thief. Savannah Cavenaugh, a dragonmorph, is more experienced with planning art-heists than reception menus. As one of the top contractors in her field, Savannah is determined to grab the painting and collect her fee, wedding or no. The only thing standing in her way is Lord Relobu’s head of security, Cameron Shaw.

So if you like fun-filled, action-packed wedding craziness, I hope you’ll take a look at ‘Til Dragons Do Us Part.

CARINA_1014_9781426899171_TilDragonsDoUsPartSavannah Cavenaugh became a top art thief thanks to a secret ability—a dragonmorph, she can literally fly away from the scene of the crime. Next up: stealing a priceless painting out from under the snout of Lord Relobu, North America’s fearsome dragon ruler. True, she’s never had to work in the midst of Earth’s most polarizing wedding before. Keeping her true identity hidden will demand she get creative, to say the least.

Cameron Shaw has one last chance to prove himself. As Lord Relobu’s interim head of security, he needs to ensure the world’s very first interspecies wedding happens without a hitch. That means keeping an extra close eye on the wedding planner’s pretty young assistant. She’s adorable, but something’s not quite right…

Fumbling her way around bouquets and linens turns out to be the least of Savannah’s problems. Crushing on Relobu’s hottest human henchman was not part of the plan, and neither was revealing her—achem—ferocious side. But when her archrival shows up to nab the very same painting she’s after, all bets are off…

But before you go, tell me…what’s your most memorable “not part of the plan” wedding moment? Ruined cakes, drunken canopies, and a pair of swim trunks were all involved in my wedding day. How about you?

About Lorenda

A native of Eastern Oklahoma, Lorenda lives with her husband and two sons in house that feels far too small during the stay-inside winter months. Lorenda loves chocolate, hates snakes, and, despite living two years in Bangalore next-door to a native preparer of Indian cuisine, cannot cook anything but ground beef. She is a recovering nail biter and is currently celebrating five years bite-free. Winner of the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® in Paranormal Romance. You can find Lorenda on her website, on Twitter, or roaming the newsfeeds on Facebook. You can also sign up for her new releases email list HERE.

 

Excerpt: BLAMED: A BLOOD MONEY NOVEL by Edie Harris

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Edie Harris’s Blamed: A Blood Money Novel is an exciting must-read! This romantic suspense is full of spies, assassins…and revenge. Read on to get your sneak peek at this thrilling new book.

About Blamed: A Blood Money Novel:

blamedBorn into a long line of spies, sanctioned killers and covert weapons developers, Beth Faraday carried out her first hit-for-hire when she was still a teenager.

That part of her life—the American spy royalty part—ended one year ago, with a job gone wrong in Afghanistan. The collateral damage she caused with a single shot was unfathomable and, for Beth, unforgivable. She’s worked hard to build a new life for herself, far away from the family business.

But someone, somewhere, hasn’t forgotten what Beth did in Kabul. And they want revenge.

As the Faraday clan bands together to defend Beth and protect their legacy, Beth is forced to flee her new home with the unlikeliest of allies—MI6 agent Raleigh Vick, the only man she’s ever loved. And the one she thought she’d killed in the desert

BLAMED: A BLOOD MONEY NOVEL will available from Carina Press and online retailers on November 3, 2014.

PRE-ORDER NOW!

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***

Beth had almost had herself convinced, before this very moment, that the man on whom she trained her gun wasn’t a spy. She’d almost believed that those little zings down her spine whenever they’d nodded a greeting to one another had been basic attraction, not like recognizing like. Perhaps the quirked half-smiles when they ran into one another at the Starbucks two blocks over weren’t because Beth had caught him following her, but merely because they were in the same place at the same time, again. Maybe when he had come into the Institute gift shop to buy the print of the painting that even now hung haphazardly in his living room…maybe it had been pure coincidence, when he’d seen her walk past the shop on the way to her office and waved to her through the glass.

And all the nights she had sat curled in the cozy armchair in front of her window, staring out across the street instead of focusing on curatorial paperwork, and seeing him quietly staring back at her? Maybe it had been a meet-cute waiting to happen, and her life was less Thriller Drama and more Romantic Comedy. Maybe her neighbor really was a normal, handsome, suit-wearing thirty-something: Preston Barnes, Commercial Real Estate Developer, just like the card she’d glimpsed when he’d dropped his wallet one Saturday morning at the nearby Whole Foods.

Commercial real estate developers, as far as she knew, didn’t make a habit of bleeding out in their bathtubs, or holding a gun on their neighbors. “Neighbor,” she intoned wryly. “How are you this fine evening?”

He smiled, different from the half-smiles in the coffee shop. The coffee-shop smiles were more a cute twist of firm lips, a flash of humor permitting a dimple to appear in his smooth cheek. This smile, on the other hand, was all white teeth, feral and sharply amused and far more threatening to her peace of mind than the pistol he had pointed between her eyes. “Dandy. Can’t you tell?”

Surprised to find her gun hand steady—finally—she swept her gaze over him, noting his shiny black dress shoes, tailored charcoal trousers, now-ruined white button-down, and buttery yellow silk necktie, loosened ever so slightly at the unbuttoned collar. He’d obviously been caught unawares by the shooter, his clothing showing all the signs of a businessman just home from a long day at the office. She remembered the jacket on the floor next to the open briefcase. “Rough night?”

He huffed out a pained laugh, wincing when it affected his wound, and clamped his free hand against his side. “You could say that.” As she allowed him movement, he did the same to her, letting her grip the Beretta in both hands. “Beth, isn’t it?”

She smirked at his attempt to maintain cover. But her smirk faded when he grimaced again. “You need a doctor, pal.”

Expression tight, he tilted his head slightly to the side, assessing her with that intelligent blue gaze, and she allowed herself a leisurely look at him for the first time since he’d moved in across the street six months ago, instead of quick, stolen glances. His pale eyes were thickly lashed beneath slashing black brows, the contrast of his neatly trimmed ebony hair against fair skin incredibly striking. He possessed an angular face, with the faintest of hollows beneath its contours, and the sharp lines of his jaw and chin and nose, not to mention the prominent cheekbones, gave him a harsh, masculine beauty. Without a doubt, he was one of the most gorgeous men Beth had ever seen, and the day’s worth of rakish dark stubble only made him more so.

“I can’t go into an ER with a gunshot wound.” When she merely arched an eyebrow, he gave her a pitying look. As though he expected her to be better at playing this game than she was. “Mandatory reporting.”

She blinked innocently. “You mean you don’t want the police to look into your shooting tonight? You don’t want your attacker brought to justice?” Justice. Now there was a word she hadn’t so much as thought in a year. It made her shiver, and she realized he was right to look at her with pity—she couldn’t play the spy game anymore, too out of practice and out of patience, not tonight and certainly not with him. “I can’t let you bleed to death in your bathtub, Mr. Barnes. It’s undignified.”

His shoulders rolled in a faint shrug. “This? Just a flesh wound. Relax.”

That made her teeth clench. “I’ll relax when you’ve handed me your weapon.”

He seemed to consider that for a long moment. “Was the rest of the apartment clear?” When she nodded, he sighed. “Good. I thought I heard him go out the back.”

“The balcony door was open when I got here.”

As though it were just that simple for him, Barnes spun the Ruger on one long finger and handed it to her, grip first. Seeing her no-doubt shocked expression, his smile changed again, back into the cute, lopsided Starbucks grin that never failed to set butterflies loose in her stomach.

God, what was wrong with her, that this lying liar-face of a man’s smile got to her when Mark the Sous Chef’s didn’t? Why was it, she wondered, mind suddenly frantic, that she had been unable to shed her danger-junkie approach to men, as she had shed her old life? Beth wanted normal,damn it—not just a year of it, but a lifetime.

The only conclusion left to draw was that she was too broken from all her bad deeds to understand normal. To deserve it.

Swallowing her bleakness at the thought, she snatched the Ruger and tucked it into the back waistband of her jeans. Hesitating only a moment, she extended a hand to help haul him out of the tub. “I’m taking you to the hospital.”

“No.” But he took her hand anyway.

Boy howdy, was that a mistake. The second they touched, Beth’s skin sizzled, her breath catching in her throat as her gaze locked on his. She watched his pupils dilate and a hectic flush flag those too-pale cheeks, mesmerized by his visceral reaction to her touch.

Which made her wonder what he saw in her reaction, to make his eyes dart over her features as if he were drinking her in, memorizing her. “I—I don’t—” She cleared her throat, trying to rid herself of its suddenly husky quality. “I can probably dig out the bullet if I have to, and I can stitch and clean you, but I don’t have anything on hand to replace the blood you’ve lost. And, buddy—” she surveyed the bottom of the tub, his stained clothing, “—you’ve lost a lot of blood.”

Tightening his hold on her, he levered himself up with a groan. “Looks worse than it is, I promise. Just do what you can.” Once standing, he released her, planting his hand on the counter when he swayed.

She moved to steady him without thought, one arm looping around his waist. He was a big man, at least six-two and a solid two hundred pounds, maybe more. Under her arm, his torso felt muscled and firm, and Beth fought against the instinctive urge to lean into him, regardless of the fact that she was the one holding him upright. “Any idea who your late-night visitor was?”

His chuckle was completely without humor. “Oh, yes, I’ve got an idea.”

Pulling his heavy arm across her shoulders, she led them through the bathroom, into the master bedroom. “Care to share with the class?”

“You won’t like the answer.”

Scottish Heroes and Haggis—Yes, please!

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By Elise Alden, author of PITCH IMPERFECT

Hand me a Scottish romance and I’ll drop whatever I’m doing to read it. Unless, of course, I’m at the Highland Games, in which case slobbering over real torsos and real legs trumps even the sexiest hero on the page. Where else but on the moors can I find such a large concentration of half-clad, testosterone-filled Scots tossing cabers and sweating it out for my delight? I started writing Pitch Imperfect after a day out at the Highland Games, and I kept these images fresh in my mind—purely for research purposes, of course. Visual writing and all that. But though hunks in kilts are definitely Scottish and fantastic eye-candy, I look for more than this feature in a contemporary Scottish hero

My hero has to own his Scottish masculinity; he wears his clan plaid without boxers or Y-fronts between his heritage and his…haggis. Whether he pairs his tartan with a rugby jersey, a Prince Charlie jacket, or with his naked, rippling chest, my hero is proud of his culture and rocks his family colours. Then there’s his voice. Deep, with a rolling, sensual brogue that wakes up my pretty parts the second I hear it. He’s considerate, and doesn’t shout to get his point across. He listens to the woman in his life, giving her his undivided attention as soon as she’s sharing the same space. When passion overcomes him his accent thickens so much you want him to sweep her into his lair—castle or cave.

My ideal Scottish hero also cares about his family and his community, whether it’s a city in the highlands or a village in the Scottish Borders, like Rob cares about Heaverlock in Pitch Imperfect. He gets involved in local affairs and takes a stand for what he thinks is right, unafraid of upsetting the status quo. But above all, whether historical or contemporary, my perfect Scottish hero is a bit of a caveman. Loving his heroine makes him feel raw, so primitive he sometimes reverts to his ancestry and acts the reiver, swinging her into his arms and…well, that would be telling!

What about you? Which character traits do you think make the best contemporary Scottish heroes? Drop me a comment, and if I agree, when I write my follow up to Pitch Imperfect  I’ll add this trait to my new hero—Rob’s twin brother Ben—and mention where it came from in the my acknowledgments.

CARINA_1014_9781426899140_PitchImperfectOnce-famous singer Anjuli Carver has returned to tiny Heaverlock Village alone and nearly broke. She’s poured every last penny into a rambling Victorian manor, hoping to start over. Trouble is, her money pit is falling to pieces and the only restoration architect for miles is Rob Douglas…her ex-fiancé.

For eight years, Rob has regretted not telling Anjuli why he never answered her letters. Being left at the altar broke his heart, but being used for sex one night in London after the fact nearly drove him to the edge of sanity, and he’ll be damned if he allows Anjuli to wreak havoc on his life again. He’ll restore her manor, all right, and give her a taste of her own medicine while he’s at it.

But how long can revenge last when memories of their shared past keep rushing to the surface?

Soon, Rob wants answers. Why did Anjuli leave the international spotlight to become a recluse in the Scottish Borderlands? And why does she refuse to sing? Anjuli wants nothing more than to be left alone with her grief, even as she struggles to keep her sexy fantasies about Rob in check. With gossipy villagers, interfering friends and more secrets between them than notes on a scale, Anjuli and Rob will need to find forgiveness in order to work together, then decide if they’re willing to risk it all on an encore performance.

Elise reads, writes and revels in romance, and is never happier than when caught up in a heart-thumping, sweat-your-socks-off tale–hers or somebody else’s. She loves creating stories about flawed characters, people for whom love isn’t simply a question of boy-meets-girl, but a gut-wrenching journey of transformation.

Connect with Elise Alden: Website | Facebook | Twitter | PinterestEmail 

 

Something Missing in Monster Haven

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By R.L. Naquin, author of DEMONS IN MY DRIVEWAY 

Hello! It’s me again! I think my books are coming out faster than I can write them. Demons in My Driveway is book five in the Monster Haven series. Five! That can’t be right. I just started writing them last week, didn’t I?

Honestly, this particular book addressed a concern I’ve been having about the world I’d created. When I started the first book, Monster in My Closet (available until October 27 for just 99¢!), I did so with the intention of populating the world with something different: A friendly closet monster, a family of brownies, an incubus, a skunk ape, and tiny fairies. As the series progressed, I added to the menagerie, and everything from a chupacabra to a thunderbird showed up.

I had one rule—no vampires, werewolves, or zombies in my world.

Now, I love vamps and weres, don’t get me wrong. And zombies are fine, though I have to admit, I’m a little tired of them. This wasn’t about disliking those creatures. This was about wanting something more. Something different.

And it worked, I think. How many books out there feature a pooka who looks like Danny DeVito and refuses to wear pants? Where else have you seen the Leprechaun Mafia force bad luck on people who refuse to pay their protection money? The rule forced me to think outside the box.

But. In a world where all of these things are possible, why aren’t there vampires, werewolves, and zombies? Their absence kind of contradicted the rest of what I’d created. If everything is possible, everything must be possible.

Demons in My Driveway addresses that question and puts it right. Of course, in a world where an under-the-bed monster wears a tutu and loves cotton candy, the vamps, weres, and zombies are going to be a little different from what you might expect.

Because that’s how I roll.

We’re almost done with Zoey’s story, folks. In fact, this one is more like the first of a two-part finale. Stick with me a little longer.

The world is about to change forever.

So, last chance. As I finish writing Phoenix in My Fortune, the final book in the series, is there a creature I’ve missed?  What would you like to see Zoey’s story is complete? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I can grant your wish.

Rachel-2014Rachel writes stories that drop average people into magical situations filled with heart and quirky humor.

She believes in pixie dust, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks and putting things off until the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas. Rachel has one husband, two grown kids and a crazy-catlady starter kit.

Sign up for her newsletter for news, extras, and exclusive stuff: Newsletter

Hang out with her here: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter 

 

CARINA_1014_9781426899157_DemonsInMyDrivewayDemons in My Driveway:

Zoey Donovan—Aegis and co-opted protector of all things supernatural—is moving up in the Hidden world. Actually, she’s being dropkicked onto the front lines of a fight between the newly formed Cult of Imagination and Hidden governments everywhere.

The Cult is opening portals and unleashing demons, vampires and werewolves, growing closer to breaking the lock that holds back the zombie apocalypse with every world they crack open. Oh, and they want every last Aegis in the world dead, and a roving band of Hidden worshippers is only too eager to assist.

On the upside, Zoey finally has her mother back. But having another Aegis around—one with very different ideas on how to run things—is proving difficult. For their own safety, they’re stuck inside Zoey’s home. What was once a haven is now a prison, further straining maternal relations and alienating her reaper boyfriend. Taking down a cult and saving the world—again—would be a lot easier if she could go farther than her own driveway.

Designing Rabbits

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By A.M. Arthur, author of STAND BY YOU

In my previous blogs about the Belonging series, I discussed the many varieties of coffee, and then segued that into another post on the magic of editing. Today I want to talk a little bit about an imaginary coffee shop that resides on an unnamed street in downtown Wilmington, Delaware: Half-Dozen.

At the end of Maybe This Time, Ezra Kelley has a twinkle in his eye and plans in his pocket to invest in his own coffee shop/bakery. By the time Stand By You opens, those plans have come to fruition. Ezra and friend Alessandro Silva (No Such Thing) are the proud owners of just such a place: a morning/afternoon coffee shop appropriately named Half-Dozen as an homage to the shop that inspired them (and provided them with their muffin recipes).

Naming the shop was easy. Then came the hard part of designing the place. Taking into consideration the fact that a used bookstore is right next door, giving it a book-ish theme was a no-brainer. Personally, I would totally dig a shop like this in my neighborhood. And the owners are working on a budget, so I leaned on two of my favorite things in the world: books and flea market chic.

Each table setting was eclectic, with chairs not always matching in design, but tied together with its book-inspired theme. One of the heroes of Stand By You, Romy Myers, busses tables and refills coffee at Half-Dozen, and he’s also friends with the owners. Romy designed his table using the novel Watership Down, by Richard Adams as inspiration—which happens to be my favorite book in the world. Not much of a reader beyond magazines and newspapers, Romy has never read the novel, but he does love the animated movie. His surprise and delight to discover a treasured film is also a book was not unlike my own when I first realized that a wonderful movie about rabbits was a thick, beautifully told novel full of drama, danger and mythology. I must have read it twice the first year I found it, and once a year after that through college.

What fantastic book or book series have you discovered through watching a movie first?

CARINA_1014_9781426899195_StandByYouThree months after his rescue from an abusive boyfriend, twenty-two-year-old Romy Myers has landed his first legitimate job—bussing tables at his friend’s new coffee shop. The job has brought him some stability after years of abuse have left him feeling damaged and broken. He’s working hard on his panic and social anxiety, and those things are often tempered by the big, burly presence of Brendan Walker.

From the moment ex-football player Brendan helped rescue Romy from his ex’s abuse, he’s wanted to protect him. And he does, from a distance, with joking text messages, a new gym routine to toughen him up and a genuine friendship. So far it’s been easy—but Brendan’s feelings aren’t just friendly anymore…

When an argument spirals out of control, a hot and heavy make-out session causes Romy’s friendship with supposedly straight Brendan to reach a new level. The last thing Romy wants is to fall for another guy who could potentially shatter him, but Brendan also wakes up a part of him he thought had been destroyed by violence—his heart.

A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone’s throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland.  She’s been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop.  She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn’t been coined yet back then) and “The Young Riders” with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories.

When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder.  She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she’s an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.

Contact her at am_arthur@yahoo.com with your cooking tips (or book comments). You can also find her online (http://amarthur.blogspot.com/), as well as on Twitter (http://twitter.com/am_arthur), Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com/blog/am-arthur), and Facebook (A.m. Arthur). A.M. Arthur’s work is available from Samhain Publishing, Carina Press, Dreamspinner Press, and Musa Publishing.

Listening to My Heroes

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by Anna Richland, Author of His Road Home

Music drives my creative process, although I can’t listen while writing (too distracting for me!). Instead, I listen while driving, washing dishes, cooking or sorting the stacks of paper that quintuple every time I turn off the lights. While I do chores, a song might spark an idea and the idea lights up the part of my brain that creates imaginary people.

Sergeant Rey Cruz, the hero of His Road Home, was a minor character in my debut First to Burn. I liked him and wanted to write more about him, but I needed a story. Originally he was a classic sidekick character, made of one-liners and unfulfilled plans, but I needed a lot more if I expected him to carry the weight of being The Hero.

Then my life intersected with a concert by the alt-folk-rock singer Brandi Carlile. Sitting in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall one night in November 2012, I heard Brandi’s voice soar through the hushed performance space with the song “Hard Way Home” as the story filled me. Every line of that song told me a part of Rey’s journey. The concert went on even though I began feverishly writing in my mind and hoping like hell that I wouldn’t forget a single idea.

Before the show finished that night, I knew Rey had joined the army to leave his tiny farm town in Eastern Washington, but he’d be returning in the hardest way possible. I knew that his emotional journey would begin with wanting a do-over and result in accepting that he would rescue the Afghan child again, even knowing the personal cost. I knew that his story had to include an actual road trip across the country, one that would echo his journey from loss to love. Rey explains the parallels himself when he and Grace listen to Brandi Carlile’s music during their drive.

To finish the story, I looped “Hard Way Home” in my car for weeks. Three, five, sometimes seven times in a row, when I needed to know what would happen next to Rey, until I had it all written.

If you have a moment, please tell me in the comments what song you loop over and over. I’m starting a new book and need all the inspiration I can get!

HIS ROAD HOME by Anna Richland

CARINA_1014_9781426899126_HisRoadHomeSpecial Forces medic Rey Cruz needs to find a fiancée, fast, or he’ll end up in a marriage orchestrated by an Afghan warlord. Finding a picture online of a girl he barely knew back home, he fakes an engagement photo, thinking no one else will see it. But when Rey loses both legs and the ability to speak while rescuing a local boy, the image goes viral.

Seattle marine biologist Grace Kim is shocked to find out she’s engaged. When she’s offered a plane ticket to visit her “fiancé,” she takes it, looking for the answer to one question: Why did he lie? Touched by Rey’s funny texts and the determination she sees in him, Grace offers her friendship–a big step for someone who prefers whales to most company.

And when Rey is finally sent home, Grace agrees to help him drive his classic car cross-country over Thanksgiving–a once-in-a-lifetime road trip that leads to what feels like real love. In front of his friends and family, she plays the caring fiancée, but what place will Grace have in Rey’s new life once he’s ready to be on his own again?

38,000 words

“tantalizing … a raw, emotional story” —Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

His Road Home is available at your online retailer of choice, including:

Amazon | Barnes&Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Carina | GooglePlay | Amazon.co.UK| Amazon.CA | Chapters.Indigo

Because ratings and reviews help other readers find books, I also hope you’ll consider adding His Road Home to your Goodreads shelves. Thank you!

About Anna Richland

Anna_Richland_1bAnna lives with her quietly funny husband and two less-quiet children in a century-old house in Seattle. She is a former army officer who now fills her days with imaginary friends and lots of coffee. She loves to connect with readers at Facebook, Goodreads or her website AnnaRichland.com, where readers can find excerpts from all her books. In addition to His Road Home, she also writes The Immortal Vikings series, paranormal romantic suspense inspired by the Beowulf epic.

Tropes I Hate to Love: The Makeover Story

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By Tamara Morgan, author of BECAUSE I CAN

We all have those romance tropes that fall into our OMG-I-love-it or hate-hate-burn-it-with-fire categories. Secret babies. Enemies to lovers. Brother’s best friend. Marriage of convenience. Second chance love. Everyone has their own favorite, which is part of what makes this genre so much fun.

One of my personal hot-button tropes is the ugly duckling story. I want to love this trope. I try very hard to love this trope. There’s something about a woman (or man) transforming themselves inside and out that makes for a fulfilling romance. After all, that’s kind of what this genre is all about—changing ourselves for the better for that one person we love above all else.

Of course, any time we’re talking about physical beauty, things get tricky. While there’s nothing wrong about wanting to be attractive for the person we love, we also don’t want to say that love is only for the attractive—especially if we’re talking about traditional standards of beauty.

That’s where the ugly duckling trope gets complicated. One movie example I adore is My Big Fat Greek Wedding, wherein the heroine controls every aspect of her transformation and does it as a part of a complete life overhaul. However, my enjoyment of My Fair Lady is almost always eclipsed by my strong urge to throw Henry Higgins out a window.

Perhaps that’s why I was so surprised when Because I Can became a makeover story (unfortunately, my books often do this, taking turns against my will or advice). It’s such a difficult trope to handle well, and I wasn’t sure this glamorous world of the Montgomerys was the best place to attempt it.

But I tried anyway. In the book, the family handywoman falls for the wealthy oldest Montgomery son. Georgia isn’t traditionally attractive, she doesn’t just slap on a fancy dress and feel like a new woman, and her transformation isn’t so much in her physical appearance as it her acceptance of it. In other words, she’s the ugly duckling who never quite reaches swan status, choosing instead to channel her energies into being the best damn duck she can be.

I like the idea that we can all become pretty amazing ducks in the end, which is why this particular makeover story works for me. I’m also always on the lookout for other great books and movies in this trope, so if you have recommendations, send them my way!

Because I Can (Montgomery Manor #3)

CARINA_1014_-9781426898952_BecauseICanJohn “Monty” Montgomery is a workaholic. The oldest of the Montgomery children, he’s been working by his father’s side building the family hotel chain almost his entire life. His commitment to the business leaves no time for romance. But that’s about to change.

Georgia Lennox has been fantasizing about Monty ever since she started her gig as handywoman at Montgomery Manor. She figures Monty is way out of her league, so she hasn’t dared to act on her feelings — until he offers to help fill a volunteer shortage on her latest project, building houses for families in need.

Sparks fly as they spend time together, first on the job site, then off. But Georgia’s not your typical frilly and feminine society girl. Hoping to find a way to fit in with the Montgomerys, she agrees to be made over by Monty’s sister for an event. But if she lets her rough edges be smoothed away, will she be letting go of the very thing that attracted Monty in the first place?

Available from Carina Press.

Tamara Morgan is a contemporary romance author of humorous, heartfelt stories with flawed heroes and heroines designed to get your hackles up and make your heart melt. Her long-lived affinity for romance novels survived a B.A. degree in English Literature, after which time she discovered it was much more fun to create stories than analyze the life out of them.

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The Monster in the Closet

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By Dana Marie Bell, author of OF SHADOWS AND ASH

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Author: Dana Marie Bell
Miniseries: Maggie’s Grove
eISBN: 9781426899133

Book three of Maggie’s Grove

Overprotective dryad Ashton Ward is pissed off. His mate Selena has been tortured by humans who hunt supernaturals, and she’s flat-out refusing to let him near her as she heals. Her magic is so compromised that just being near her puts him in danger, but he’s sure he can help ease her pain if she’ll just let him.

To keep Ash safe, witch doctor Selena Giannone wants to handle the fallout from her nightmare alone. But she might be dealing with more than the agonizing loss of her powers–something’s haunting her house so badly the land itself is afraid. A demon so powerful nothing in Maggie’s grove can tame it alone.

Terrified, exhausted and out of options, Selena turns to Ash for help. The enemy needs two things to feed: Selena’s powers, yes, but also it needs her fear. And if there’s a magic that can save her, it lies with Ash–with his touch, and with their bond.

We’ve always had fears of what’s hidden in the darkness. The creak of a floorboard is a footstep we can’t ignore. A whisper of sound becomes a sigh in the night. The faintest breeze caresses our cheeks, and we sense intent behind that touch.

But what if that touch was real? What if we open our closet and a monster really does reach out and drag us in? A monster you can’t fight, can’t strike because he’s incorporeal, made of nothing more than shadows and fear. And it wants you. Or rather, in Of Shadows and Ash, the third Maggie’s Grove novel, it wants Selena, the town’s beloved witch doctor.

Worse, what would you do if it was after a loved one? Would you sit back if asked and allow them to deal with it on their own, or would you insist on helping? If it managed somehow to get a foothold inside your love one, would you be willing to do whatever it takes to remove it? This is the dilemma that faces Ashton Ward, Selena’s dryad mate.

Researching ghosts, demons and the ways societies developed to deal with them was fascinating. From banishment to containment to forcing the spirits to go around the home, wards of all types can be found throughout the world. Priests and shamans can cleanse the area, and mediums can try and speak to these entities with the intent to find out why it lingers and what would appease it. Even now, magic is considered a strong tool when dealing with the supernatural. The rituals used in the book are based on my research, from the gems, to the gestures. I wanted to make sure each ritual was done in a way that would make sense to those who work magic in the modern world, and I hope I managed to achieve that.

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You can learn more about Dana on her websiteblogFacebook and Twitter.

 

Co-Writing: It’s Not That Scary…We Promise

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By Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels, Authors of IN THE RAW

One of the questions we always get is “How on earth do you write novels together? Writing is such a personal thing – Isn’t it hard to write with another person?”

Eileen:  Writing is often a solitary activity. As a writer, you get lost in your words, scenes and characters, interacting with them far more often than you do with actual real life people. As magical as it is to create something from nothing, writing can also be a terribly lonely profession. For us, co-writing solves that problem. Even when we work on solo pieces, we’re often online together, chatting and helping each other work through the plots of our WIPs. When we do write together, we’re often times each drawn to one particular character who we feel a connection with. Each of us will “adopt” that character and take over most of the writing for scenes from that character’s POV. However, even though we usually alternate working on the WIP based on which character drives the scene, we also help each other out if the scene is a particularly hard one.

Nikka:  An example of this came up while we were writing In The Raw. The scene followed a painful scene between Jamie and his father, which resulted in a fight between Ethan and Jamie. Even though the scene was from Ethan’s POV, one that I usually write, I kept getting writer’s block every time I tried to work on the scene. We knew we had to make Ethan’s remarks and attitude cruel to Jamie, and it killed me to write it. Eileen took over for a few days, cranked out some hateful dialogue, and we moved past it. Could we have still written a similar scene solo? Of course. But having a partner to help write it, to help move past it and get the words out, was priceless.

Eileen:  The same applies to scenes that seem effortless for Nikka to write. I love cooking and watching cooking shows, but the art of translating the techniques and nuances to the page is hard for me. On the other hand, Nikka takes a scene, blocks it out in her head and runs with it. The result is amazing. So usually, regardless of whose POV the scene is from, we never try to bully our way through a scene. We each have strengths in our writing and together, we just work.

Co-writing isn’t for everyone, though. We’re both profoundly grateful we found each other because for us, co-writing is natural and seamless. It’s something we try not to take for granted because we have too many WIPs that we want to write…together.

In the Raw by Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels

CARINA_1014_9781426899119_InTheRawIf you can’t take the heat…

James Lassiter has had a crush on fellow culinary student Ethan Martin for three years, but has never had the guts to make a move. Putting himself out there is hard, especially when under the thumb–and wallet–of his overbearing parents. Now that bad boy chef Ethan–who is always vying with Jamie for best in class–is struggling with the pastry course, Jamie suddenly has a reason to reach out.

Ethan doesn’t mean to be an ass–okay, so mostly he does–but even though he’s secretly hot for Jamie, he sure as hell doesn’t want help with pastry. Ever since his dad walked out, Ethan has been the one to hold things together and he’s done fine on his own. Except that he can’t get his cake to rise.

Jamie could be the answer to what Ethan’s been missing his whole life–someone to depend on. But with the two competing for the same scholarship, things suddenly get too hot to handle. And if Jamie finds the strength to go for what he wants, he isn’t about to settle for what he needs.

Read an excerpt of In the Raw HERE.

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EILEEN GRIFFIN BIO:

Eileen Griffin lives in the southwest, but loves to travel and has spent many summers crossing Europe with nothing but a backpack on her back. She enjoys TexMex, lives for good wine, and has a certain penchant for purple unicorns. She loves reading all genres of books, but her current obsession is writing M/M romance.

Website and Blog | Twitter | Facebook Author Page | Goodreads

NIKKA MICHAELS BIO:

Nikka Michaels lives in the Pacific Northwest where she spends her time cooking up romantic tales to satisfy her craving for HEAs with heat. A voracious reader, novice knitter and music lover she’s been known to multitask without breaking a sweat. She loves to read and write M/M romance but believes everyone deserves a love story.

Website | Twitter | Facebook Author Page | Goodreads

Stay tuned for the continuation of Jamie and Ethan’s story: In the Fire coming from Carina Press November 3.