How Hot is Too Hot?

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Some people like their romance sweet, some readers like the characters to steam up the page. I’ve written a lot of romance, much of it erotic. There’s not a lot of sexual content I shy away from. I’ve published over 50 books and novellas, and each one has had at least a few fairly explicit sex scenes. But what does a writer do when sex just doesn’t fit the book?

In Ashes & Alchemy, I decided not to force it. Even though morals are a little different in my steampunk version of 1960, my hero, Seb, is still a gentleman, through and through. He not only falls in love with Minnie, the heroine, but he also respects her deeply. Minnie, mind you, doesn’t necessarily agree with this waiting business. She’s not an innocent young maiden—she’s a mother, after all. But she’s had a rough life and Seb’s out to prove that he considers her just as special as any diamond-studded debutante. So…no sex until after they’re married.

I had a choice. I could tweak Seb’s character and have him give in. It’s a novella, so it’s not like there’s room for much extraneous fooling around. Or, I could wait until the very end to slip in a little heat. Since I fell so deeply in love with Seb on my own, there was no way I was going to weaken his resolve. In this case, the characters won the battle. Seb and Minnie will have the rest of their lives together to heat up the sheets. I hope my readers aren’t too disappointed they’ll only get a taste.

So tell me, what would you prefer, as a reader or writer? Stick with the author or series’ standard heat level, or follow the characters and the story? I did struggle with this question and would genuinely love to know your opinions, since I’m sure it’ll happen again. In the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy my peek at how the middle class lives in the world of the Gaslight Chronicles.

Ashes & Alchemy
Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and All Romance e-Books.

London, 1860
Police inspector Sebastian Brown served Queen and country in India before returning to England to investigate supernatural crimes alongside the Order of the Round Table. If his wifeless, childless life feels a little empty sometimes, that’s not too great a price to pay in the name of duty.

Minerva Shaw is desperately seeking a doctor when she mistakenly lands on Sebastian’s doorstep. Her daughter Ivy has fallen gravely ill with a mysterious illness—the same illness, it seems, that’s responsible for taking the lives of many of Ivy’s classmates.

Seb sniffs a case, and taking in Minnie and Ivy seems the only way to protect them while he solves it. But as mother and daughter work their way into his heart and Seb uses every magickal and technological resource he can muster to uncover the source of the deadly plague, it’s he who will need protecting—from emotions he’d thought buried long ago.

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Contest: a Rafflecopter giveaway  Win a custom piece of steampunk jewelry or pocket watch from The Spectra Nova. Enter again by following my Bewitching Book Tour over the next two weeks!

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Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. An award-winning author of 18 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons, a granddaughter and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.

Connect with Cindy on Facebook, Twitter, or her website and sign up for her newsletter group!

Mystic Cove, a lovely place for a murder

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“This would be a great place for a murder!” I blurted.

From the set of gaping mouths and popping eyes, I realized I’d spoken out loud. Only my husband, who knows me too well, had no reaction.

“Well, it is,” I said with a grin.

Let me backtrack.

I’m Daryl Anderson, and today is the release date for my debut novel Murder in Mystic Cove. I’m tremendously excited of course, but also more than a little nervous. In fact, I feel like an overprotective mother who has just watched her little darling board the school bus for the first time.

Separation anxiety aside, this milestone in the life of my book is an occasion for looking back at the beginning.

A couple of years ago, I’d decided to try my hand at writing a mystery, but was having trouble getting started. I had the main pieces. My sleuth Addie Gorsky was a homicide detective who had thought she’d seen the last of murder. The killer was crafty as a wolverine, and as dangerous. The victim was an old misanthrope by the name of Mel Dick. I’d even worked out that the sole witness to Mel’s violent end was his beloved dog Mr. Jinks, an old pug with a flatulence problem and a flair for fashion.

But somehow the parts wouldn’t come together. It was like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with a vital piece missing. And then something happened.

My sister-in-law invited my husband and me on a family outing. No big deal, but her destination of choice was an upscale retirement community in north central Florida. I didn’t get it.

“I don’t get it,” I told my sister-in-law. “What’s the big deal?”

“They have a great town center—it looks just like a village in New England! You’ll love it!”

I was less than enthusiastic, but I piled into my brother-in-law’s minivan with the others. And who knew? Maybe it would clear the creative cobwebs.

When the van turned into the town center, I sat up and took it all in. It was a beautiful, if warm, afternoon in late spring. The clouds were marshmallow fluff in a pale blue sky. The Florida sun was laser bright. I had to admit—the place shone like a shiny bauble.

Riotous blooms of white oleander and pink bougainvillea lined clean streets. Neat brick buildings harkened to an earlier century. Throngs of pedestrians tried to keep out of the way of the tricked-out golf carts that darted along the clean streets like crazed Jesus bugs. An artificial paradise—Disney World for the older set.

I wondered what would happen if a murderer set up shop in a place like this upscale retirement community. Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t that be a lovely place for murder?

As you’ve probably guessed, that’s when I made my ill-considered comment about murder. It was also the precise moment when my novel became real.

That brief visit to the  provided me the spark I’d needed, and within a week I was writing the novel that would become Murder in Mystic Cove. The characters that had been banging around inside my head found a cozy home in the murderous town of Mystic Cove, a place of darkness and light, where a serial murderer kills with impunity until…

But I’ve said enough for now. Let me know what you think about Mystic Cove. Do you agree that it’s a lovely  place for a murder?

Paradise looked the same as it had beforepeople walked the sidewalks, golf carts buzzed and the sunlight dazzled. But appearances deceived. There was a serpent in paradise and last night it had slithered from its hidden place and struck, bringing death to Mel Dick.

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 Available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Daryl Anderson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but has lived most of her adult life in Florida. She lives off a dirt road just outside of Gainesville with her husband and their two spoiled dogs, Fera and Sally. When not plotting murder, Daryl enjoys gardening, vegetarian cooking, and cycling.

Connect with Daryl at her websiteTwitterFacebook, Tumblr and Goodreads.

Magic and Mysticism in Marfa

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Magic, mysticism, and wee ghosties that go bump in the night have always fascinated me. I was recently reminded of a traumatizing high school incident concerning a Ouija board. Whoa! Some things need to stay in the dark. I’m more into movies like Practical Magic, the TV series Charmed, and books from authors like Sarah Addison Allen. The magic is white and the good guys always win. And that’s how I chose the setting for my first Carina Press book, Beyond Texas.

Marfa (aka Mirage) is a small town in far West Texas that’s famous for the mystical lights that have been dancing across the desert as long as people have inhabited the area. Tourists, scientists, ranchers, and skeptics of all ilk have reported seeing the colorful orbs that appear in uninhabited and difficult area to access. The lights span the color spectrum and occur randomly regardless of the weather. They’ve been explained as swamp gas (in a desert), car lights (in 1883), ball lightening (I’ll give them that one), UFO’s, and the spirit of Apache ancestors. They’ve been known to zoom across the desert and whip back almost as if to entice viewers to follow them. Whatever the cause or the description, the miracle lights tantalize our imagination. Personally, I like to think of them as a friendly reminder that not everything is explainable.

Have you ever had an experience that didn’t quite fit what we call reality, that didn’t adhere to the rules of physics, that made you wonder—be it a feeling, a glance, a sound that seemed out of place?

Let’s chat about your otherworldly experiences.

Mysticism isn’t the only reason I chose Marfa (Mirage) as the setting for Beyond Texas. A small town in far West Texas seems an unlikely place to be on the cinematic map, but that’s exactly what happened when a famed producer made the Academy Award-winning movie “Giant” in the 1950′s. From that auspicious beginning Marfa was featured in such mainline films as “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood.” And believe it or not, a town with a population of 1,900 now sponsors an annual film festival. Throw in the mix the fact that Marfa has a military history dating back to the Mexican Revolution, and I had the perfect place for my hero and heroine’s romantic adventure. My heroine, Twinkie Sue Carmichael refers to the desert of West Texas as a part of her soul—a place where the blues, and pinks and yellows of sunrise melt together like an Impressionist painting.

Check out this YouTube video. Even though the cars are vintage, it is an entertaining introduction to Marfa and the lights.

 

About the Book

BEYOND TEXAS

There’s no place like Texas, and there’s no one like a Texan!
A budding entrepreneur, Twinkie Sue Carmichael is the co-owner of the Clown Motel in Mirage, Texas, a town known for the mystical lights that dance across the desert. As mayor, Twinkie is concerned about the shenanigans at nearby Fort Huacha, a redundant military facility that’s now the home of the Brotherhood. Why are pregnant teens being held at the fort? And what can she do about it when her witness is reluctant to go to the police?

A former drug agent, Cole Thornton arrives in Mirage looking for his kidnapped sister. He suspects she’s at the fort but he can’t prove it.

As they form a partnership to investigate the Brotherhood, Twinkie’s hormones and internal alarm go on high alert. Is this good-looking guy who he seems? In this fast-paced adventure Cole and Twinkie fall in love (and lust) surrounded by an eccentric cast of characters, from her cohort of girlfriends to her sheriff ex-husband. And from Cole’s high-powered family to his former drug cop partner. Not to mention his missing sister, a group of pregnant teens and a houseful of retired hookers.

As the Brothers and an assortment of other bad guys soon discover, you’d better not mess with a Texan!

 

Click here to buy Beyond Texas from Carina Press!

 

 

A Tidbit to Entice You

“Look what that no-good wind blew in now,” Jessie Roy mumbled. “She-et, old Beelzebub really does have it in for us.”

A lot of folks shared his pessimism. In her dual duties of town mayor and vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce, Twinkie had assumed the job of head cheerleader, but even her optimism had its limits.

First, they’d endured the media circus surrounding the crazy polygamist cult that had spilled over from the adjacent county, and now they were in the middle of a ball-busting, ground cracking drought the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the Great Depression. It was so bad the Baptists had resorted to sprinkling rather than their usual dunking.

Mama scampered over to unlock the door. “We have a customer.” Wave a dollar bill in her face and she morphed into Silly Putty.

Twinkie watched as the rider dismounted and took off his helmet. His Hog wasn’t any run-of-the-mill Harley. This guy rode a low-slung custom Blackline with polished chrome and red flame racing stripes.

The man strolled in the lobby oozing testosterone. With hair the color of midnight and a five o’clock shadow, he had the bad boy persona down pat. Please God, her eyes weren’t bugging out.

“Thank you, ma’am.” He nodded to Mama. “It’s a treat to have such a lovely concierge,” he said as he ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m glad I found a place to stop. That storm’s a real b…bad devil.”

Twinkie had always been a sucker for broad shoulders, and those biceps–well, let’s just say that a Texas Cowboy T-shirt with the sleeves ripped out had never looked so good. Faded jeans encasing very long legs and an impressive ass completed the picture. At least that was her impression until he took off his mirrored aviator sunglasses and she discovered he had eyes the color of          Mama’s sapphire ring. Oh boy, the big bad wolf had just rolled into town!

Jesse Roy pulled out his cell ready to punch in Dan’s number. “I’m definitely calling the sheriff.”

“We don’t sic the law on our customers.” Twinkie took a deep breath to regulate her breathing. Lord in heaven, she hadn’t clapped eyes on anyone like him in a month of Sundays.  “That’s not a good business model.” Actually, the only business she had on her mind was monkey business. She hated to admit it, but she hadn’t enjoyed as much as a kiss in six long months. That had to be the reason her lust-o-meter had just rocketed into the stratosphere.

 

About Ann

Ann writes romantic adventures served with a big dollop of humor. She likes sassy heroines and tough, but tender, heroes. As a fifth generation Texan she loves to set her books in the Lone Star state. Beyond Texas is her first Carina Press book (look for the sequel in the summer of 2014). An award winning author, Ann is a two-time Rita finalist and has written nine novels and one novella for Harlequin American and Everlasting. You can connect with Ann at her website, her Facebook and her Twitter feed.

She loves to hear from her readers. Connect with Ann on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or her website!

Holiday Gifts from the Heart

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When a gift comes from the heart, its worth always exceeds its value. We asked the three talented authors of the recently released anthology All I’m Asking For what they think is the most romantic gift to give (and receive!).

 

Christi Barth – Tinsel My Heart

If you’ve read any of my books, it’s obvious I like to drench myself—and my characters—in romance. So for me, the most romantic Christmas gifts are sentimental. Something to commemorate your love and your life together. An ornament secretly purchased over the summer while at your favorite vacation spot. A photo collage from each of your anniversaries.

No spoilers, but there’s a gift (okay, it might be an ornament) at the end of Tinsel My Heart that’d wring tears from Scrooge himself! The gift should make your heart flutter when you buy it, and again when he opens it.

Becca Huntley’s produced the Lyndale Park Player’s over-the-top Christmas pageant for ten years. The beloved Minneapolis tradition is the theatre’s main fundraiser. But this year’s production is almost canceled when their director disappears into rehab at the last minute. Good thing his directing partner steps in to save the day. Except for the minor fact that he hates everything about Christmas.

Connect with Christi on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her website!

 

Brighton Walsh – Season of Second Chances

My husband and I have been together a long time (this’ll be our 20th together!) so it gets difficult finding something unique and romantic when gifting. Last year, we had the stipulation that one item had to be homemade (we didn’t, however, stipulate who it had to be homemade by). As such, he got me a handmade necklace with a quote from Wuthering Heights: “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” It’s one of my favorite gifts he’s ever gotten me. My advice on gifting romantically? When in doubt, gift from the heart.

When a storm strands Claire Hanlin in Chicago on Christmas Eve, the last person she expects to come to her rescue is Logan Dawes, the man she almost married two years ago. The chemistry between them is dangerously potent, but with nowhere else to go, Claire accepts Logan’s offer to stay with him for the night.

Connect with Brighton on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her website!

 

Kat Latham – Mine Under the Mistletoe

The best romantic gifts are the ones that have special memories attached or that give you a chance to create new memories together in the future.

My husband and I met when we were both living in Prague, in the Czech Republic. It’s one of the world’s most romantic cities. For our first Valentine’s Day, he gave me a stunning book of black-and-white photos of the city. Eight years after we moved away, I still have that book.

Since my birthday is in January, for Christmas he sometimes gives me travel reservations so we can go away together and start the year making new memories.

Thanks to a transatlantic house swap, California girl Ashley Turner is finally going to fulfill her lifelong dream of a proper English Christmas. Her holiday plans did not include a sexy stranger climbing into her borrowed bed in the middle of the night. But in the light of day, Ashley can’t help but wonder if Santa has delivered early…

Connect with Kat on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and her website!

 

All I’m Asking For: A Contemporary Christmas Anthology

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Put love on your wish list

This Christmas, the producer of a small-town holiday spectacular is swept away by a handsome Hollywood director. Being stranded in a snowstorm offers a couple a second chance at a future together. And an American in London helps a brooding Brit put the ghosts of Christmas past behind him. Wherever you are, however you celebrate, this collection of three festive novellas will bring warmth to your holiday season.

Edited by Angela James.

Stories also available for purchase separately.

Holiday Date Night

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Once the presents are wrapped and the Christmas tree is aglow in festive lights, the magic of the holidays surrounds us. It’s the perfect opportunity to spend time with those you love. We asked the three talented authors of the newly published anthology For My Own what their ideal holiday date night would include, and here are their responses:


Shari Mikels - Christmas Curveball

My ideal holiday date night would start off with a six o’clock showing of The Nutcracker ballet. We’d have seats close enough to see the exertion of the dancers, but far enough away to take in the entire stage at once. Afterward, we’d have dinner at a restaurant featuring a live jazz band softly playing holiday tunes in the background as to not overwhelm the diners. And finally, we’d go to a little desserts-only shop that bakes specialty cakes by day and opens its doors to theater and concert-goers at night for a sweet treat to end the evening.

When newly single Rachel Tanner finds out that pro pitcher Kevin Ganlin has come home to recover from an injury, her heart skips a beat. She’s loved him from afar since her preteen years, never bold enough to let him know.

Connect with Shari on TwitterFacebookTumblrGoodreads, and her website!

 

Alison Packard - A Christmas For Carrie

My ideal holiday date would start with an early evening sleigh ride with my sweetie. Snuggled together under a warm blanket, we would sip hot cocoa and gaze at the stars until our driver delivered us to our destination: a cozy bed & breakfast where we are the only guests. After a romantic candlelight dinner for two, we’d sit in front of a roaring fire, listen to holiday music and forget about everything and everyone except each other.

The very thought of Christmas is enough to darken Carrie Jones’s day. “Jingle Bells” and eggnog? Not for this girl; not anymore. But running into a handsome old crush might make this year different…

Connect with Alison on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her website!

 

Kinley Cade - Kissing Her Scrooge

The most romantic holiday date to me is for sure in Kissing Her Scrooge. In the book it’s over a series of different dates, but combine them and that’s the ultimate fantasy: Hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows; a tree lighting ceremony; twinkly lights; connecting with family and friends; and spending time with someone you love. Realizing that person you love knows you better than anyone else.

The holidays are a romance waiting to happen. I’m really glad I got to write one.

Every Christmas, Hannah Jones makes it her mission to give her hometown the perfect pageant. Even malfunctioning inflatable Santas and lost students can’t stop the self-proclaimed Miss Holiday. But the teacher may have met her mismatch in sexy but antisocial tree farmer Griff Green. Hannah’s been lusting after her new neighbor for months—and she’s determined to melt his heart by being naughty as well as nice…

Connect with Kinley on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and her website!

For My Own: A Contemporary Christmas Anthology

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Snowy days and steamy nights

This year, a modern-day Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas with the help of a suddenly sexy old friend. A down-on-his-luck baseball star finds a beautiful new beginning with a hometown girl. And a prim-and-proper teacher is determined to bring out the holiday spirit in a grumpy tree farmer. Settle in for the season with this collection of very merry short fiction.

Edited by Angela James.

Stories also available for purchase separately.

LUMBERJACKS!

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For a mountain girl, there isn’t anything better: Hard-bodied men who brave the outdoors, work in and with nature, have their character molded by their environment. They rise before the sun, always smell of fresh-cut wood and have arms like steel. My favorite part of their bodies has got to be the rough hands that cradle you gently, yet masterfully handle an axe or saw to fell a massive 100-foot tree.

Yes, I married a lumberjack. Sort of. He’s been in the lumber industry for well over 25 years and filled a number of positions, all of them outdoors and blue-collar. He was raised in the business, really, since his father is still a logger, forester and anything else that the company needs him to be. I’ve heard every dirty joke out there about hard wood.

I decided it was finally time to write what I know. I took my love of my home state of West Virginia and combined it with my knowledge of the timber industry. The series, COUNTRY ROADS, kicks off with TAKE ME HOME and Matthew Shaw, the lumberjack with the heart of gold and a dark secret. Everything about him, from the saw-dusty clothes and muddy boots, screams “man of the mountains”.

But there is a new woman on his mountain, one whose very presence gives him trouble as much as she gives him wood!


Logging manager Matthew Shaw is wary when Kayla Edwards, the owner of Mountain Specialty Spices, hires his firm to harvest timber on her Appalachian property. It’s a place he knows better than the back of his calloused hand—it’s his family’s old homestead, lost years ago in a painful foreclosure. He’s hauled himself up from dirt-floor poor since then, and resolves to stay professional…but Kayla’s vivacious beauty makes it hard to focus on his job.

Home. That’s how army-brat-turned-foodie Kayla feels about her new mountain hideaway. What’s more, the hottest lumberjack ever to swing an axe has agreed to manage her timber crop and get the old maple syrup operations back on tap. Matt’s ruggedly sexy ways and passion for the land have her falling hard.

The heat between them grows wild…until Kayla discovers that Matt hasn’t been up front with her. She feels devastated and, worst of all, used. How can Matt prove it’s her he wants and not her land?

TAKE ME HOME is available at CarinaPress.com and all participating ebook retailers.

INEZ KELLEY was born and bred in the mountains of West Virginia. Although you can never take the hillbilly out of the girl, her knight in shining armor transplanted her to the Midwest along with their teenage drama queen, Spawnetta, and the Demolition Duo – Damien and his twin, the Omen.

Sign up for Inez’s newsletter to get sneak peeks and contest entries. You can visit her at her website http://inezkelley.com/  Follow Inez on twitter at @Inez_Kelley or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/inez.kelley

Get Your Geek On!

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Lexi Carmichael, geek girl extraordinaire, is back and this time she’s going to Rome! For those of you not familiar with the series, Lexi is a geek first-class—a gamer, hacker, book nerd and fangirl who double-majored in mathematics and computer science, and has zero social skills. Her day job for a hot new cyber-intelligence firm has landed her an exciting case on behalf of the sexiest überhacker in the universe, code-named Slash.

Slash’s uncle in Rome has been accused of siphoning money from the Vatican Bank and it’s up to Lexi to hunt the hacker and clear his name. There’s only one problem: Someone doesn’t want Lexi messing up their grand plans, meaning she may be the next target. Suddenly she’s on the lam in Italy with the sexiest guy she’s ever met, and his interest in her seems more than friendly. How’s a geek girl to know for sure?

Now all she has to do is find the hacker while figuring out how to handle Slash, if that’s even possible. Between Slash’s hilarious grandmother, a strange cat, a handsome guy from the Pope’s private Swiss Guard, and a curvaceous Italian agent who has the hots for Slash, things get a bit crazy. When the trail leads Lexi to the secret Vatican archives, she realizes there is a lot more at stake than just money. She’ll be lucky to get out of Rome alive.

Here is a short excerpt from the book:

I’ve loved listening to music since I was a little girl. Not because I’m musically gifted, but because notes, themes, chords and tempo all have an intrinsic mathematical logic that speaks to me. After all, music is defined by its numeric divisions, such as a beat, a measure or a bar. Musical scales are actually harmonics based on the numerical ratios present in the Fibonacci series, which are a sequence of integers beginning at zero and one and continuing with each new number being the sum of the previous two.

I know all of this because I’m a geek first-class. My name is Lexi Carmichael and I’m a mild-mannered twenty-five-year old who, thankfully for music aficionados, is not employed in any part of the music industry. By day, I work as the Director of Information Security at a hot new cyber-intelligence firm just outside of Washington, D.C. By night, I’m a gamer, book nerd and fangirl (Bond, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Lord of the Rings). I’ve got long brown hair, no discernible curves and zip in the social skills department. I double-majored in mathematics and computer science at Georgetown University with a specialty in cybersecurity. Ask me to talk about a rigorous axiomatic framework or computational complexity theory, and I’m all over it. Ask me to make small talk and I’ll imagine myself jumping off a bridge.

I love writing about Lexi, her friends and their adventures! Who knew geeks could be so much fun? If you’d like to read NO PLACE LIKE ROME you can download from Carina Press, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble, and wherever ebooks are sold! NO PLACE LIKE ROME is also an audio book. Click HERE to download or hear a sample.

Haven’t tried a Lexi Carmichael adventure yet? Well, you’re in luck! The first book in the series NO ONE LIVES TWICE, is now available everywhere ebooks are sold for ***FREE***. But hurry, this offer ends on November 30!

If you’d like to download NO ONE LIVES TWICE from Carina Press, click HERE.

Thanks to everyone for getting geeky with me! I appreciate you stopping by. Just for commenting on this blog, I’ll enter you in a random drawing to ****WIN*** any book of mine (paperback or ebook of your choice—check out my books on my website) and some geeky swag to go with it!

Feel free to drop me a line at my website, my Facebook page (and don’t forget to “like” me, please), or on Twitter. I really enjoy chatting with readers, writers, and random people!  :)

Julie Moffett is a bestselling and award-winning author who writes in the genres of mystery, historical romance and paranormal romance. Learn more about Julie and her books on Facebook, Twitter and her website. She has won numerous awards, including the EPIC 2011 Award for Best Action/Adventure Novel, PRISM Award for Best Romantic Time-Travel and Best of the Best Paranormal Books of 2002. She has also garnered several nominations for the Daphne du Maurier Award, the Holt Medallion and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.                                                                                                                                                                    

 

 

Out of the drawing room and into. . . the Alps?

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Improper Arrangements
When I set out to write my second novella for Carina Press, I only knew one thing: the heroine would be Lady Alice, the rejected almost-fiancée we never quite meet in Improper Relations. Beyond that, I had a blank slate in front of me.

It took weeks of brainstorming, coffee and chocolate before it hit me: I’d set my novella somewhere different. Really different. I wanted to experiment with the setting—move away from the drawing rooms and assembly halls of English high society, and into the open air of…where, exactly?

We writers are always being cautioned to write what we know. Although I’ve never climbed a mountain (I’m burdened by a crippling fear of heights), I did spend some years working as a copy editor for an extreme sports magazine. Although I never was inspired to take up paragliding or heli-skiing or ultra-marathoning, a few things stuck with me, and one was a growing interest in the early history of alpinism. What motivated those early pioneers of mountain climbing? Who were they, and why did they choose to risk their lives for the chance to stand at the top of the world?

I went to the window and forced myself to admire the entrancing view. Oceans of sky so blue it nearly hurt my eyes, a few stray clouds scudding by, and above all the inescapable mass of the mountains, so near and yet so remote, their upper slopes heavy with snow even in high summer. It seemed impossible that men had stood atop those peaks to stare down at the world below.

The more I read, the more I knew I had a potential hero—and not only that, I had the perfect setting for Improper Arrangements. By sending Alice and Elijah off on their own, unconfined by the strictures of polite society, surrounded by the overwhelming beauty of the Alps, I would free them to explore what really mattered: their hopes, their dreams and their growing feelings for one another. Alone on the High-Level Route, their lives would be reduced to the most essential elements: food, water, shelter and (let’s be honest here) sex. Lots and lots of sex.

My universe was reduced to this, to Elijah, to the sound of his every breath, the scent of his skin, the heat of his touch. I needed nothing more. I desired nothing else. Nothing beyond him, in this moment, in this void that enveloped us.

Now it’s your turn to share: do you like it when authors take a chance on an unconventional setting? Or are you part of the “strictly ballroom” camp when it comes to such things?

Juliana Ross is a former copy editor who is now a full-time writer (when she’s not helping the kids with homework, complaining about never-ending piles of laundry or walking the dog). You can find her at her website, her Twitter feed, her Facebook page and her Goodreads account.

Yeehaw! Cowboys!

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Cowboys.

Need we say more?

Okay, we know we don’t have to, but we will. You see, there are few heroes as enduring as the cowboys of the American west. Strong, resilient, upright men of honor, a cowboy knows how to get down and dirty, but he also knows exactly how to treat a lady.

There have been many, many memorable cowboys in fiction and film. Today, we’d like to share a few of our favorites with you!

Maggie Wells:

Will Kane, former Marshal of Hadleyville, and the law man determined to face his destiny in High Noon. Strong without being overbearing, Marshal Kane was a man with a strong dedication to duty. He placed the good of the town above his own personal well-being, and will willing to sacrifice his deepest desires for what he felt in his heart was the right thing to do.  Oh, and it didn’t hurt that Marshal Kane was portrayed by the incomparable Gary Cooper, either!

Christina Thacher:

Well, it has to be Clint Eastwood for me. But which of his many cowboy roles would I pick? I think I have to go with Hogan, his drifter/mercenary/romantic hero in Two Mules for Sister Sara. I love the plot of Hogan being confused by Shirley MacLaine’s Sister Sara, who smokes cigars and drinks his whisky. Eventually he learns that she’s a prostitute pretending to be a nun. It’s not quite screwball comedy, but funny and sweet as well as dramatic and exciting. Not a great movie, perhaps, but when they ride off together, I’m rooting for them. And that’s a cowboy I can love. (Plus Maggie already bagged Gary Cooper, darn her.)

Emily Cale:

Will the others kill me if I say that I’m too young to remember most of these? The one I do remember watching was Guy Williams in the TV show Zorro. Even as a little kid, there as something about him that summed up exactly what I wanted in a guy. He was chivalrous, always after the bad guy and super dreamy. Even now, when the word Zorro comes up, I am immediately in (even if I am usually disappointed by what shows up on these screen these days).

Ginny Glass:

My pick may be a little unconventional – one of my favorite “cowboys” is Kevin Kline as Paden in Silverado.  As a former gambler and outlaw, you see him first in dire circumstances, robbed and left in the desert to presumably die. Have no, fear, though, our man eventually makes it to the nearest town with the aid of the equally awesome Scott Glenn and this leads into one of the best scenes in the film – Kline has a showdown with his attackers dressed in nothing but long, red underwear.

I love the character’s mix of humor, swagger, and even of moral conflict. Part comedic, part dramatic, intelligent and sensitive with hints of a rogue past, Kline is super-smokin’ in this movie – just enough bad boy and just enough hero to make the cowboy lover in all of us swoon a bit.

But the gals reminded me of a few other hot cowboys, too – guess I’ll have to hit up my Netflix queue and brush up on some hot outlaws and lawmen. Hope you’ll all check out the final volume of Love Letters and enjoy some of our heroes as well!

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Love Letters Volume 6: Cowboy’s Command – available now from Carina Press!

These men know how to ride! Meet red-hot ranchers and captivating cowboys in five new short stories in Love Letters Volume 6: Cowboy’s Command.

V Is for Vindicated by Maggie Wells
Barrel-racing queen Michelle Kelly likes to ride wild–but her old flame Cole Powell might have what it takes to rope the woman he loves once and for all.

W Is for Wanted by Ginny Glass
When Samuel Thrasher is forced to return to his family’s ranch, he doesn’t want to revisit his past…except when it comes to Merrit Hightower, who’s definitely not the innocent girl he left behind!

X Is for XXX Ranch by Maggie Wells and Emily Cale
Jane Richardson is stunned to discover that the property she’s inherited isn’t the working ranch she imagined. Handsome neighbor Clive Boland offers to buy the XXX Ranch–and proposes more than just a business deal.

Y Is for Yearning by Christina Thacher
Cowboy Ben Hastings is everything Diana wants in a man. He may be quiet, but their passion between the sheets is anything but. Yet making a place for her in his bed and life may be a challenge…

Z Is for Zeal by Emily Cale
Rancher Aaron Lyons hates when tourists take over his local bar during rodeo week–until he meets Nathan Howell, and their encounter turns into a one-night stand neither of them will forget.
Learning the alphabet has never been so sexy. New to the Love Letters series? Start reading today!

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Taking the leap!

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Three weeks before my book was set to be released I ran into an old college professor. She taught English Lit, and we had a love hate relationship. And by that I mean, she loved when I didn’t show up to class and hated when I did. I was a science major. Chemistry, physics, and biology were the places I put my heart. I loved formulas, constants, and laws—not words. I liked numbers, because they were easy to figure out. You can imagine her surprise when she asked what direction life had taken me, and I told her I was writing novels. She was in such shock, I had to repeat myself three times, but when she came to, she said something that struck a serious chord with me.

“You finally took the plunge.”

The plunge off the proverbial cliff—the one that we’re all so scared to approach. That’s just human nature, right? I mean, think about the feeling you get when you scoot too close to the edge of a cliff. It’s unsettling—scary, even. It feels the way your first kiss tastes, or the way your hands shake when you finally touch the person your heart’s been screaming about for days.

It has a tendency to turn your world upside down, and that’s not just unsettling. It’s terrifying. But we all do it eventually—take the plunge. For me, this happened when I took the stories from my mind and put them on paper. I stopped tip-toeing around the ledge and jumped. That’s the bravest thing you can do, right? Throw all your weight into something. Because you’re gonna fall, and I’ll tell you right now, gravity won’t let you land on your feet. If life gets its way, you’ll land on your ass; it won’t be graceful, and it’s gonna hurt like hell. There isn’t anything pretty about it. The beautiful part comes after the dust settles and you pull yourself up—when you reach the one thing that was worth leaping for.

—–

Charlie Day knows a thing or two about landing on her ass. Unfortunately, she didn’t choose to jump. Instead, life gives her a swift kick from behind when Jackson Stiles saunters back into her life. You see, Jackson was Charlie’s first love, and only for that matter, but that was before he and her brother enlisted and served in Iraq. Before Jackson came back different. Before they told Charlie her brother would never come back at all.

 

When Jackson takes a job at the company where Charlie works, it becomes painfully clear that the spark between the two of them is still there. A spark that could very easily become a flame. And you know what they say about that . . . where there’s fire, someone’s bound to get burned.

He looks at me, and my wits vanish into thin air. Just poof, gone. Here’s the thing about Jackson…he’s always had this crazy effect on me. Like this weird magnetic pull. Here’s the other thing about Jackson… He’s perfect, and by perfect, I actually mean perfect. Perfect nose. Perfect jawline. Perfect teeth. Perfect eyes. Perfect body. He’s gorgeous in all the ways that make girls do stupid things. In fact, his only visible flaw is the small scar above his right eyebrow that he got during his first tour in Iraq. But it’s sort of rugged and sexy. So if anything, it adds to his perfectness. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that Jackson is intimidating, extremely intimidating.

 

“I miss you,” he says, leaning in.

That’s when I catch a good whiff of him. He smells the same, like body wash and citrus fabric softener. The same body wash and fabric softener, actually. The way he smelled in high school when he was sort of mine.

All of a sudden, my mind slams into overdrive and he starts tumbling through it…a kaleidoscope of memories, flashing and burning bright. Jackson kissing me, me kissing Jackson, Jackson and his smile, Jackson laughing… Jackson, Jackson, Jackson. All the feelings come rushing back, and for a moment, I feel like everything is the same, like he’s the same.

Except for the scar. So he’s not the same, not really. He’s been to war…he’s changed, and he isn’t my Jackson anymore. The thought sends my stomach plummeting to my feet. My gaze trails across his familiar face. Up the tanned skin of his neck, over his scruffy jawline, to his lips and then his eyes. I take a deep breath and look at the scar again. Then I burst into tears.

Giveaway: Who was your first love? Where you seven? Sixteen? Twenty-nine? I wanna hear about them. Or even better, tell me about the first big leap of faith you took—into life, love, adulthood. Post a comment below, and I’ll pick two winners at random to be the recipients of a $20 gift card to their e-book retailer of choice!

Headfirst Falling available for purchase at: Carina Press / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iTunes

Melissa Guinn is a caffeine-driven Respiratory Therapist by night and writer by day. She was born in West Texas, where pump jacks outnumber the locals, and you never forget to say “yes sir” and “yes ma’am.” It’s in West Texas that she currently resides with her husband, their two dogs, and half-tailed cat-dog. Loves include: Books, people, nail polish, coffee, and sometimes tequila.

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