Welcome to my inner world! C’mon in and stay a spell

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Yay, the first book set in the fictional town of Bitterthorn, Texas is finally here! Welcome to my inner world, showcased in UGLY DUCKLINGS FINISH FIRST!

So, how long have I been living with this world inside my head? Oh, only about a decade. It’s this tiny Americana-like town that’s a little bit like Mayberry, with a dash of those homey Hidden Valley Ranch commercials thrown in, and a huge helping of Norman Rockwell to finish it out.  Idyllic, right?

Oh, how I love turning that idyllic crap inside out.

There’s no such thing as perfect, and Bitterthorn’s no exception.  There are secrets behind every smile and casual glance.  Wiley “the Coyote” Sharpe seemed to be nothing more than a skirt-chasing pretty-boy, whose high school peers voted him  “most likely to be slapped with a paternity suit”.  But in reality he’s as sharp as his name implies, and now that he’s all grown up and established as a lawyer, he sees things aren’t quite right in his town.

Too bad he can’t think straight now that his high school tutor, Payton Pruitt, has returned.

The character of Payton was inspired by a mish-mash of people.  For instance, when my brother was a kid, he skipped a grade and landed in a class where he was physically smaller than his peers, but just as smart, if not smarter. That meant he got bullied before he hit a growth spurt (and then… well, you know what they say about payback, heh).  My bestie Eva, a doctor of internal medicine (and to whom UGLY DUCKLINGS FINISH FIRST is dedicated), is a genius who always had her nose buried in a book and was made to feel like the odd-girl out, no matter what she tried.  And then there’s me, the awkward goofball who’d rather be reading or writing than anything else.  Smoosh all that together, and you have the heroine of this story.

Payton is living proof that Bitterthorn isn’t perfect.  Bullied unmercifully during her school years, she got out just as soon as she could. She had one friend to her name—Wiley—and only the thought of showing him how she’d grown into a beautiful swan could bring her back to the town she hates.  As she returns for her ten-year high school reunion, however, she can’t help but notice that Bitterthorn is almost… tolerable.  What’s even more amazing is that Wiley is passionately determined to show her that as far as he’s concerned, she’d always been a beautiful swan.

Too bad someone is targeting him in a way that could put an end to their reunion… forever.

Want to know more about UGLY DUCKLINGS FINISH FIRST? Here’s the blurb:

Metal Mouth. Queen Geek. Dr. Payton Pruitt heard it all growing up. But she’s over it, and attending her ten-year high school reunion is the perfect way to prove it to herself. Even if there’s only one person she’s interested in seeing in Bitterthorn, Texas: Wiley Sharpe.

Now a respected lawyer, Wiley didn’t live down to the label Most Likely to Be Slapped with a Paternity Suit. But recent acts of vandalism suggest someone still sees him as a heartbreaker, and the reunion seems a likely place to find the culprit. Instead, Wiley comes face-to-face with his old pal Payton—and is wowed not only by her transformation into a ravishing swan, but by the connection they still share.

Payton is pleased the playboy she used to tutor has grown into an honorable man, but she’s too smart to fall for a guy with roots in a place she couldn’t wait to leave. But while Payton is an academic genius, Wiley is the one with the PhD in pleasure, and he intends to use it to convince her to stay…

63,000 words

FYI: Be on the lookout for the second Bitterthorn book, STARTING FROM SCRATCH, a Carina Press holiday novella coming this November and edited by the amazing Angela James!

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BUY LINKS:

Carina Press, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Google Play, ebooks. com, Kobo, BAM (Books-A-Million), ARe, iTunes

 

Want a chance to win a $25 Amazon GC?  Here’s your chance!  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 Question: If you were to go to your high school reunion, would it be out of curiosity?  To meet up with old friends?  To share with everyone that amazing life you’ve worked so hard to get?  To settle old scores? Or to put the ghosts of your past to rest?  I’d love to know. :)

 

 

 

The Lure of Damaged Characters

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I can’t resist damaged characters. The deeper the wound, the more intriguing the character.

Not everyone feels this way. I get that.

Many readers avoid tragic heroes and difficult heroines because reading is supposed to be an escape from the craziness of our day-to-day lives. It is for me, too. Yet, I’m fascinated by human behavior and the dissimilar ways we respond to life’s circumstances.

One woman dons her superhero cape, stares down the pain, and rises above it. Another resorts to destructive behavior, unsure of how to overcome the obstacles on her journey. I admire the former, yet learn so much more from the latter. When the woman who struggles finally achieves her happy ending I’m right there at the finish line, cheering her on.

Making the First Move by Reese RyanThey’re characters. Not real people. But neither are the characters in fairy tales. Yet they’ve entertained, inspired, and taught object lessons for centuries.

When you think of damaged characters, which ones come to mind? For me, any discussion of damaged characters brings three specific television characters to mind:

Sherlock Holmes, Elementary – In the first episode or two I was turned off by Jonny Lee Miller’s character. He was brilliant, to be sure. But he was also self-centered, arrogant, and six different kinds of rude. Yet, there was something about him I found compelling. So I kept watching. Slowly he demonstrated hints of change. The more I learned about him, the more I understood his pain and felt compassion for him.

Mary Shannon, In Plain Sight – Mary Shannon (played by Mary McCormack) is a U.S. marshal working in the witness protection program. Her mother was an alcoholic and her father was a chronic gambler who eventually robbed a bank and abandoned their family. Not surprisingly, she has trust issues, and is more than a little resentful. She’s prickly. Sometimes, downright mean. But she’s also fiercely loyal, and refreshingly honest. The poignant narration by her character at the beginning and end of each show allows us to step into her head and her heart. We get the chance to understand her from the inside out.

Raylan Givens, JustifiedI’m a latecomer to this show. I’ve only seen the first season, but How Beauty Loved the BeastDeputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is my current TV character crush. Apparently, I’ve got a thing for lawmen driven to the profession by an outlaw parent. He speaks softly, wears a big hat, and an even bigger gun—and he isn’t afraid to use it. Harlan County, Kentucky—the setting of the show—is filled with quirky, damaged characters. Which brings us to another complicated character—Boyd Crowder. He’s an old friend of Raylan’s. He’s also a career criminal, Raylan’s nemesis, and occasional ally. The bromance between these two broken characters is a thing of beauty.

Literature is filled with damaged characters like Lisbeth Salander of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, and Celie from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. They stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.

Looking for more stories of damaged characters? Try Jax Garren’s Tales of the Underlight series. Her hero Hauk is both physically scarred and bears deep emotional wounds. Though physically gorgeous, her heroine—JolieBenoit—is carrying some serious baggage of her own. Together they battle the oppressive Order of Ananke.

Rebecca Rogers Maher’s Fault Lines deals with heavy issues, but tells the emotional tale of Sarah Murphy—a woman who is gorgeous and successful on the outside, but who deals with an ugly secret that is destroying her from the inside. Prompted by her relationship with photographer—Joe Sullivan—she begins to confront her dark past. He also begins dealing with his own difficult relationship with his father.

Fault LinesMy debut novel, Making the First Move, features two characters who are also struggling to deal with their past. Melanie Gordon bears deep emotional scars from the loss of her father and from a failed relationship. She believes that she’s incapable of having a lasting relationship and loses herself in her obsession with her career.

Raine Mason has deep, internal wounds that have completely changed his life and his sense of identity. He also bears physical wounds which serve as a constant reminder of past mistakes, including a devastating secret that threatens to shatter his relationship with Melanie.

Jamie Charles, the best friend character in Making the First Move, gets her own story in my next novel, Love Me Not, scheduled for release on December 30th. She’s been deeply affected by her mother’s addiction and her father’s abandonment. She wears her tough-girl exterior like an exoskeleton, designed to protect her heart. Only she never counted on Miles Copeland. He isn’t scared off by her prickly façade, and he’s determined to win her heart.

What about you? Are you drawn to damaged characters? Why or why not? Who are some of your favorite damaged characters?

Making the First Move is available at:
Amazon.com | Barnes & Noble | Carina Press | Books-A-Million | iTunes | Amazon United Kingdom | Audible

Contest: Leave a comment then follow the link to enter to win the Making the First Move Blog Tour Grand Prize. A $25 Amazon or B&N gift card plus my book and four other sizzling contemporary romances being released this summer by fellow Carina Press authors.

Note: You’ll find a lengthy compilation of fiction featuring damaged characters on Goodreads here.

Bio:

Reese Ryan writes sexy, contemporary fiction filled with colorful characters and sinfully-sweet romance. She secretly enjoys torturing her heroines with family and career drama, reformed bad boys, revealed secrets, and the occasional identity crisis, but always rewards them with a happily ever after. Visit Reese online at ReeseRyan.com. Follow her on Twitter @ReeseRyanWrites. Connect with her on Facebook or Goodreads.

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It’s easier to forgive a man who cooks

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I have a confession to make. I’m a tiny bit more in love with my hero in Betrayed by Trust than I am with my other heroes, and I fall in love with all of them. (What can I say? I’m easy.) But there’s just something about journalist Joe Rossi. Yes, he’s smart, charming, ambitious and outrageously handsome, but he can be ruthless when he’s after a story and he’s been known to manipulate his sources to get information they didn’t know they were parting with. Still.

It’s the ruthless, manipulative part of Joe that drives Catherine Morrissey out of his life. Before they ever meet in the flesh, Joe betrays a painful confidence to add credibility to a story, which hurts Catherine deeply.

 photo aad4cb5c-e8e7-40a3-b8f8-67dfe4aff702_zps4f43b330.jpgBetrayed by Trust is in a many ways Catherine’s journey of forgiveness. When the police give her the runaround on her sister’s murder, she reluctantly turns to Joe for help. As they work together to find a killer, she is forced to see the loving, generous man who has taken in his eight-year-old half-brother and the teenage daughter of a dying friend. She also discovers that he’s a dynamite cook!

In this scene, Joe has invited Catherine to his house for dinner with the kids so he can show her his files on her sister’s case.

As soon as Joe opened the door, Catherine’s nose was assaulted by an aroma so delicious she automatically closed her eyes and sniffed the air. He chuckled. She opened her eyes and was confronted by something even more mouthwatering—a big, handsome man grinning down at her, chocolate-brown eyes alight with amusement, wearing a black chef’s apron that said HAUT STUFF. Wasn’t that the truth.

Mike and Tiffany were by the stove, Tiffany stirring a big pot with a long wooden spoon while Mike chowed down on a thick slab of Italian bread coated in tomato sauce and sprinkled with cheese. His eyes lit up when he saw her.

“Here, have a bite,” he said, holding his bread out to her. His little hand was greasy from the sauce, and he had an orange mustache around his mouth.

“Oh, Mike, that’s so gross,” Tiffany said. “She won’t want your piece.”

“How do you know?” he said.

“I’ll have a bite.” Catherine bent down so Mike could push the bread into her mouth. It tasted every bit as good as it smelled. “My taste buds just went to heaven,” she said when she’d swallowed it down.

Joe laughed. “It’s pretty good over linguine, too.”

Mmm, that brings back memories of sticking hunks of Italian bread into an enormous pot of bubbling sauce, shoving it into my mouth and savoring the flavor. Yum! When I was growing up we ate pasta two or three nights a week and every Sunday.  And my 100% Italian mother made the best spaghetti sauce on the entire planet. As a matter of fact, Joe Rossi uses the same recipe… ;)

How can she stay mad at him when he makes a great sauce (and looks so delicious in that apron)? And here’s what happens when she offers to clean up:

Joe grabbed the apron he’d discarded earlier and popped it over her head. It was huge on her, so he reached under her arms, crossed the ties behind her back, pulled them around in front of her and tied them at her waist. Then he slid his hands under her hair, grazing her neck, and lifted it out from under the top loop. In the process he tugged her head back, ever so gently, so that her face tilted up to his. She literally stopped breathing.

I think she’s well on the road to forgiveness, don’t you?

What kind of food could get you to forgive the man in your life? I’d love to know!

Just drop a comment in the box and tell me (don’t forget your email address) and I’ll send you a copy of Betrayed by Trust! A winner will be selected at random from all comments posted before 11:59pm EST on Sunday, July 14.

Happy reading! -Ana

Stay in touch with me by visiting my webpage: http://anabarrons.com, on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ana.barrons, or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ana_barrons

Betrayed by Trust is available at Carina Press: http://carinapress.com and anywhere ebooks are sold.

From Reality to Fantasy

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DESPERATE MAGIC Cover

You don’t know how much I appreciate getting away to a fantasy land that I’ve created. A land where I come up with perils for my characters, both emotional and physical, then make sure everything comes out okay so my hero and heroine can enjoy a HEA together, like Willow and Cullendor in DESPERATE MAGIC, the third novella in my Chronicles of Arandal series.

In real life, it’s not always that easy, as I’ve found out recently. About a month ago, we took a trip to Turkey, a beautiful country that I’ve wanted to see for years. Of course, my timing wasn’t so great. We had a few days in Istanbul seeing the famous sites like the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Aya Sophia and the wonderful Basilica Cistern with its spooky atmosphere and watery depths. Then we went off to Cappadocia, where the unique rock formations have awed visitors for centuries. We took a morning balloon ride, ignoring the fact that two balloons had collided two weeks before, killing a couple of tourists. (Yes, we made it out alive.) Then on to Bodrum, a beautiful town on the Aegean.

Bodrum Castle

When we got back to Istanbul, we drove straight into the riots that had taken over Taksim Square. From our hotel room, we could see protesters pulling up paving stones and making barricades. And we watched the police respond with tear gas and water cannons. (And felt the tear gas seep into our hotel room where it stung our eyes and made our noses run.)

Istanbul Protest

It was a real-world situation I couldn’t control. I could only watch and hope I was getting material for future books—not getting caught in the crossfire between the protesters and the cops. We were nervous about the trip to the airport, but we made it out of the country, and it was great to get home. Then came our next excursion, a couple of weeks later, to RomCon in Colorado Springs, where the air was full of smoke from forest fires. Again, we escaped in one piece, only to run into a long and frustrating seven-hour delay at the Denver airport, due to stormy weather—another situation where I knew I’d lost total control.

Now I’m finally home again, until Thrillerfest in a few weeks. But for the moment, I’m at my computer, wrapped up in my fantasy world of dragon shifters and heroines with paranormal powers. I love spending time with these people I’ve created, and I hope readers get the same respite from the problems of daily life when they read my stories.

Do you use books to get away from the problems of real life? What’s your favorite kind of story. One person who comments can win a CD of DARK MAGIC, the first novella in the Chronicles of Arandal series.

About the author:

Rebecca York (aka Ruth Glick) is an award-winning author of more than 125 romance novels and novellas, most romantic suspense with paranormal elements. Published in twenty-two languages, she has worldwide sales of more than thirteen million books. In addition to Carina Press, she has written for many well-known publishers including Harlequin, Berkley, Kensington, Tor, and Sourcebooks. She is the recipient of of the RWA Centennial Award.

Web site: http://www.rebeccayork.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RuthGlick
Twitter: @rebeccayork43

Quick! Say Something Sexy

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Love Letters Volume 3: Wicked Whispers is now available, and that means the Love Letters ladies are talking dirty.

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Well, not really.

You see, Love Letters Volume 1: Obeying Desire marked a first for all four authors – first audiobook release. Here’s their take on the latest installment in the Love Letters series and hearing their work read aloud:

I Is for Indecent by Christina Thacher

I’m a lawyer. We talk a lot. It’s pretty much in the job description—will yammer at anyone for money! But when the talk involves sexy stuff? Not so much. Lawyers tend to keep things dry and a bit dull. I can only imagine what a super sexy man might say to me, if he was inclined to seduce me with words.

When Ginny, Maggie and Emily agreed to a Love Letters volume where every story involved sexy conversation, I was thrilled. Here was a chance to put my imagination to good use. I dreamed up Stefan, the hottest man I could think of and then I put words in his mouth. Hot words, seductive words, words guaranteed to get a woman in bed.

Then we found out that the first two volumes of Love Letters were going to be available on Audible. That’s a huge honor…and a little bit scary. Hearing words I wrote read aloud? Luckily, the folks at Audible are even better at making words sound good than Stefan is. Whew! Talk about a relief! Now all I have to worry about is the oral argument I have to make in court next week.

J Is for Jaded by Maggie Wells

When I first heard the Love Letters series would be available in audiobook format, it all seemed a bit surreal. You see, long before we knew the title would be picked up by Audible, I went there.

J Is for Jaded, my story for Love Letters Volume 3: Wicked Whispers, takes place in a sound studio. The hero, Vaughan Hatch, is a former rock star turned sound engineer. My heroine? Julie Poplin is a successful audiobook narrator whose husky voice seduces our hero in just a few smoking hot passages. Audio booth sexytimes ensue, our couple oblivious to the red ‘RECORDING’ light burning bright.

I admit I was a little nervous about listening to the stories I’d written for volumes 1 & 2. I expect I’ll be a complete wreck when it comes to volume 3. This is one of those moments that leaves an author wondering… Is this life imitating art or just cosmic payback?

K Is for Kickstart by Ginny Glass

I guess I must have been in Maggie’s brain just a little (it’s pretty wild in there!) when I wrote my letter for Volume 3. Something about reading out loud, even if the material is not intended to be erotic, is something I find very sexy. So Sophie (frustrated Romance writer) and her editor Oliver (frustrated with her frustration) were born. Sophie has writer’s block and Oliver intends to help – but things get a little intense when he finds that she’s been using him for her hero’s inspiration.

When Love Letters started coming out in audio, I had no problem grabbing a copy and firing up the headphones. I wish I could say that I was in some exotic locale, chasing bad guys with an angsty, rugged cop, or holed up in a bunk on a wild west ranch (can’t wait for that volume!) but I was actually in bed in my pj’s.

It’s a glamorous, life, folks.

L Is for Lessons by Emily Cale

My mother reads my books. No, seriously. On purpose. And then she tells people. Like her friends who have known me since I was a baby. Her hairdresser. Our pastor (gulp).

Yeah, that happened.

Most of the time this all occurs while I am a thousand miles away and can screen my calls. But I was home not too long ago and Love Letters came up. After I answered the question of whether these were children’s books (the answer is no, if you are wondering), I mentioned that they were available in audiobook. Of course we needed to listen to the sample right away.

In the middle of a party. At my super conservative Aunt’s house. Confession: I’d been too scared to listen before then. It’s one thing to write it and read it to myself. Listening to other people say those things…well, I wasn’t ready. But if there is one thing family is good for, it’s throwing you over the edge. So we listened. It was kind of cool. Fun to hear someone else interpret the way I imagine dialogue.

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So yeah, a bit awkward in family situations, but the consensus is that a little sexy talk is very exciting. To celebrate, the authors would like to offer one lucky commenter their choice of any volume of the Love Letters series in either e-book or audiobook format. Just whisper something wicked (and your email address) in the comment box below. A winner will be selected at random from all comments posted before 11:59pm CDT on Monday, June 24, 2013.

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Steph names

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That’s what Larissa  (my BFF / Sydney Croft co-writer) calls them, and she always just shakes her head (and sighs – I can hear the sigh over email) when I come up with the names of my characters. Like the time she made me write the heroine in one of our Croft books (I typically write the heroes) and I told her the heroine’s name was Coco and that she was from Amish Country.  If we lived closer, I know she would’ve tried to hurt me.  Although really, I think the name just broke her.

But really, I don’t exactly come up with them.  Most of the time, they kind of arrive in my mind, like my characters.  But either way – if I hear a great name, I immediately picture the character in my mind.  And the rest is history.

I mean, my husband’s nickname is Zoo.  This was all inevitable.

So, of course, since Defiance (my new Carina Press release, which is up for order here!) is about the Defiance MC (aka motorcycle club) names and nicknames are very important.  Some of my characters don’t have their biker nicknames yet (like Mathias) but there are many guys in the MC who walked on and told me their names:  Rebel, Hammer, Cool Joe, Rockhead, Baz, Smoke, Lil’jon and Lights. I can tell you that Smoke got his nickname because of the phase, “where there’s smoke…”  (He might enjoy matches a little too much) and Lights isn’t the brightest bulb (or his he just playing dumb?)…see?  So many possibilities!

Now see, sometimes, I know the reason behind the name already (and I can’t reveal everything for my biker guys yet, so I just teased) and sometimes, I just love the name and then as I’m writing the story, the name will end up being perfect with a story point.

So, what would your biker nickname be?  Do you have a favorite name(s) for a romance hero?  Let me know in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Defiance!  I’ll be picking two winners at random  by the end of the day (or really, tomorrow morning)

You can find out more about Defiance (and you can read the first chapter and find order links) at my website:  www.StephanieTyler.com.  I’m also on Facebook and Twitter, so come say hi!

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New York Times Bestselling author Stephanie Tyler was a Secondary Ed teacher for grades ranging from middle school to college while she pursued a PhD in English Literature, all while trying to convince herself that she would get back to her dream of writing as a career eventually. When her daughter was born with serious medical problems, Stephanie found inspiration in the fighter her child proved to be—and found her own way back to writing. She’s published in a variety of genres, including romantic suspense, new adult and paranormal, and she also co-writes erotic paranormal romance under the name Sydney Croft. She lives in New York with her husband, her kids and her crazy Weimaraner, Gus, and they’re all cool with the fact that she’s permanently on deadline. You can find her at her website, on Facebook and Twitter.

The Worst Bad Dates

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At what point would you give up on finding love? Or at least take a break from it? A handful of bad dates? Six months’ worth? A year? And how horrific would they have to be for you to finally throw in the towel and declare yourself off the market and on a break from it all?

Those were all thoughts that went through my mind when Olivia’s character from Plus One first came to me. After that, I started getting bombarded with all these absolutely horrendous dates that she’d been on. There was the cat pee guy. The plumber who discussed his work over dinner. The thirty-five year old who lived in his mother’s basement and brought porn along for their first date.

Wretched, right?

Now, I’ll admit—I’m not the authority on this subject. I’ve never really had a bad date. In my defense, I’ve been with my husband since we were wee little babies at the age of fourteen.

But still.

I hear stories—awful, horrible and (forgive me) sometimes hilarious stories—from friends who are fully immersed in the oftentimes dreadful dating scene.

But even with all these bad dates, you can’t give up hope, right? There still has to be that glimmer in your subconscious that thinks, Maybe it will be different with this one… Otherwise, everyone everywhere would have given up on dating a long, long time ago.

And, yeah, I’m a hardcore romantic, in case that wasn’t clear.

Once Olivia’s character was fleshed out completely in my mind, I wanted her to have hit rock bottom on the dating scene. To be completely fed up with the crap that goes along with it. And I wanted her to have kissed a lot of frogs before giving her a chance at her prince. (In case it wasn’t obvious, Ian is one hell of a prince.)

But I think the one thing that worked for Olivia was, even when she’d declared herself on a break from all things men and dating, in her heart, she didn’t give up. Even though she was taking a break from the true dating scene, she was open to the possibility. Of a connection. Of meeting someone when it seemed like she’d gone through the entire state population of Minnesota in her quest for her prince. Of love.

And, really, that’s what it’s all about, right?

What was your worst date? And did anything ever come of it? Post in the comments and on Wednesday I’ll pick one winner to be the happy recipient of a shiny $10 gift card to your choice of e-book retailer.

~*~

Olivia hates the singles scene, so when her best guy friend, Ian, offers to be her plus one to a series of weddings she has to attend, she agrees. Although she doesn’t want to complicate their lifelong friendship, she can’t pass up the chance to have a steady date without the dating drama. What she doesn’t expect is to now find Ian so incredibly sexy.

When Ian sees his old friend Olivia dolled up for wedding #1, the boyhood crush he once nurtured transforms into smoldering attraction. It doesn’t take long for their no-strings arrangement to turn physical. But as Olivia’s desire to stay “just friends” becomes clear, Ian’s feelings are deepening. In the time they have together, how will Ian convince Olivia that one plus one can make for a lifelong pair?

Plus One available for purchase at: Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Brighton bio pic Brighton Walsh is a storyteller at heart. Whether through words or pictures, she’s been weaving tales for as long as she can remember. After decades of cultivating her writing, she finally decided to give life to the voices in her head and set forth to write her first novella. Love is her first love, and writing about it is a dream come true. When she’s not writing, she can be found with her nose buried in a steamy book or partaking in some retail therapy. She lives in the Midwest with her swoony husband and two energetic kids who (fortunately) know nothing about the naughty things she puts down on paper. She frolics around online frequently and loves to chat, so stop by and say hi. website | twitter | facebook | pinterest | goodreads

More than one way to be a strong female character

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Valor of the Healer thumbnail“Strong female characters”. It’s a phrase you hear over and over again in the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres in publishing, not to mention in SF/F-based TV shows or movies. In honor of the release of my fantasy novel Valor of the Healer, I’d like to tell you about what “strong female character” means to me–and what challenges are presented when you want to write a character who might not fit the typical definition of “strong”.

And by “typical definition”, I mean physical strength and power. Nine times out of ten, when I hear “strong female character”, I hear “female character who’s a badass”. Maybe she’s a vampire slayer, like Buffy Summers, or a hunter of some other form of supernatural monster. Maybe she’s a soldier, or a mercenary, or a FBI agent or some other kind of spy. In all these cases, though, she’s generally physically competent. She can hold her own in combat, and she knows her way around one or more weapons. Frequently, she’ll have the attitude to back up or even surpass her physical abilities as well. Such a heroine will be outspoken, often sarcastic, and more often than not more so than is actually wise.

In Valor of the Healer, though, my character Faanshi at first glance is the exact opposite of “strong female character”. She starts the story in slavery, and she’s been brought up to be meek and submissive. Faanshi’s not even supposed to look a man in the eye, much less stand up to him. Fighting and combat are inherently frightening to her, given her powerful healing magic; her instinct is to mend pain, not to be the one handing it out. Moreover, even aside from the submissiveness drilled into her by slavery, I wanted her to be of a naturally gentle and compassionate temperament. I.e., not the sort of girl who’s likely to pick up the nearest sword and spill the blood of her enemies.

My challenge, therefore, was this: how could I write such a character to show that she did in fact have strength of her own?

The first answer to this lay in Faanshi’s religious faith. She’s been raised by her great-aunt Ulima in the worship of the goddess Djashtet, and she believes very, very strongly in her chosen deity–even though she’s surrounded by people who not only do not share her beliefs, but who also persecute half-bloods like her in the name of her own. As the story starts, Faanshi’s prayers to her goddess have arguably been the most important thing keeping her sane in the face of imprisonment by her master.

Hand in hand with this goes the second answer to the question of Faanshi’s strength: Ulima. The laws and customs of two different nations dictate that Ulima cannot help Faanshi openly, but this doesn’t stop her kinswoman from doing everything in her power to support her. And there’s a great deal of strength to be had in the knowledge that someone, even in the face of adversity, is looking out for you.

The third and most critical of all the ways I’ve tried to portray Faanshi’s strength is through giving her the power of choice in her life. To be presented with sudden freedom when you’ve known nothing but servitude is exhilirating–and terrifying. For the first time in her life, through the course of this story, my young healer must step up to the plate and learn to be the one in charge of her liberty, her destiny, and her magic. Portraying how she does this, while keeping true to her gentle nature and her strong moral core, has been one of the most satisfying writing challenges I’ve had to date. Her development as a character won’t end with the final chapter of Valor of the Healer–but I like to hope that as of the end of this part of my trilogy, I’ll have put her firmly on the road to being a young woman of agency, or, as the elven scout Alarrah calls her, “a free woman of the West”.

So how about you, readers? I’d love to hear about your favorite heroines who show their strength in unexpected ways, no matter what their genres. How is their courage tested? How do they conquer their fears?

Drop me a comment any time this week to tell me about your favorite strong female characters, and on Saturday, April 20th, I will give away a copy of Valor of the Healer to a randomly selected commenter! Or pick up a copy for yourself right here on CarinaPress.com!

And if you like the book, do please come and find me and tell me about it! Valor of the Healer is my first novel with Carina, but I also write under the name of Angela Korra’ti, and I’m Anna the Piper to my online friends. You can find me at angelahighland.com, on Twitter as @annathepiper, or on Facebook or Google+ as Angela Korra’ti. Thank you all!

A new venture!

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I first had the idea for Soul Sucker about five or six years ago, and floated it past my agent. She went, ‘Huh? What is that?” We had no idea where it would fit in the publishing market, so I went ahead with something else. When I had time to look through my folder of ideas last year, (I think every writer has one somewhere), I found the single sheet of paper entitled Soul Sucker and read it through again. I still liked it.

I tend to write really angsty emotional characters, and I was looking for something different, and Soul Sucker fitted the bill. It was part Urban Fantasy, part Paranormal romance, and yet neither of those things, because the main character, Ella Walsh was funny as hell in a sarcastic anti-heroic way that appealed to me. Unlike most heroines in these sub-genres she was neither leather-clad, gun toting or ass-kicking material. She’s blond, short, a little unfit and tends to think most of life’s problems can be solved with a joke, a beer and some junk food.

Of course her hero, Vadim Morosov is the complete opposite. Tall, handsome, not quite human, and neat as a pin, some might say too neat, and the stage is set for a clash of egos and ideals that carries the pair from instant antagonism to attraction as they try to police their two worlds and prevent humans from realizing what’s really out there. I was asked to describe the book recently, and I said it’s like Moonlighting meets the X-Files, full of wit, weirdness and odd partnerships that somehow work.

Who are some of your favorite onscreen partnerships?

One randomly picked commenter below will win an Amazon gift card for $15. Thanks for having me, Carina Press Blog!

Kate Pearce x

 

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Sympathy for the Devil: Fallen Angel Heroes in Romance

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GIVEAWAY ALERT!

Why do I love fallen angels? At first blush, my fascination with these unconventional heroes seems unlikely. These once-divine beings, their bright beauty forever marred by their plummet from grace into darkness, seem better suited to villainy than romance. That’s why I think I love them—because they’re the ultimate bad boys. Their choice to fall, to reign in Hell rather than serve in Heaven, suggests a profound and bitter disillusionment with their former Paradise that makes me burn to discover what has happened to these tarnished angels to transform the infinite love in their hearts to inconsolable rage.
Fallen angels arrive on the scene with a backstory few mortal heroes can rival. A fallen angel’s very essence is a fatal flaw, a fissure of the soul so profound that this weakness has destroyed him. To me, his dark and tragic history betrays a unique and powerful need for salvation that only the heroine’s love can supply.

My fascination with this midnight of the soul and the themes of salvation, damnation, forgiveness and the redemptive power of love led to The Magick Trilogy, my maiden voyage into the world of Tudor paranormal romance. In my series debut Magick by Moonrise, Lord Beltran Nemesto is a Blade of God, a Church Inquisitor with a ruthless reputation for hunting down suspect witches and heretics. Unknown to Beltran, he’s a fallen angel, sentenced by God to a mortal life, where he must learn the hard lessons of mercy and compassion or lose his divinity forever. Yet he appears doomed to repeat the same mistakes that jeopardize his immortality—until he meets gentle healer Rhiannon le Fay, the Faerie ambassador to the Tudor court—the very woman he’s been ordered by the Church to interrogate and condemn.

Beltran begins his journey to redemption with his forbidden passion for this ethereal, unconventional, utterly unsuitable beauty—a heroine who fits my brooding, damaged hero to perfection. When Tudor England and the Faerie kingdom collide, only love can save them.

Beltran and Rhiannon’s story holds a special place in my heart. I hope you enjoy their journey as much as I have.

What do you think about the emerging trend of angels and demons in romance? Do you find these paranormal creatures sexy, intriguing or unnerving? I’d love to hear your views and any recommendations you might share on books, movies, and TV shows that explore this fascinating trend.

To enter for a chance to win a copy of Magick by Moonrise, please leave a comment and include your email address.
Click here to purchase Magick by Moonrise:

http://www.amazon.com/Magick-Moonrise-The-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00APEYAO8/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362459701&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Magick+by+Moonrise+Laura+Navarre

Bio for Laura Navarre:
In her other life, Laura Navarre is a diplomat who’s lived in Russia and works on weapons of mass destruction issues. In the line of duty, she’s been trapped in an elevator in a nuclear power plant and has stalked the corridors of facilities churning out nerve agent and other apocalyptic weapons. In this capacity, she meets many of the world’s most dangerous men.

Inspired by the sinister realities of her real life, Laura writes dark medieval and Renaissance romance spiked with political intrigue. Although Laura is a multi-published, award-winning author, MAGICK BY MOONRISE is her first historical paranormal romance. MAGICK won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) Award for Romance in 2012.

Laura holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine, an M.A. in National Security Policy from The George Washington University and a B.A. in International Relations from Michigan State. Living in Seattle with her screenwriter husband and two Siberian cats, she divides her time between her writing career and other adventures for U.S. government clients.
Connect with Laura at:
www.Facebook.com/LauraNavarreAuthor
www.Twitter.com/LauraNavarre

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4013449.Laura_Navarre

www.LauraNavarre.com