The Many Faces of Tarot

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Karina Cooper's Tarot DecksDid you know that I like tarot? It’s true. I might have something of a problem.

The first deck I ever owned was the Arthurian deck, which you can see on the left side of the picture. I’ve had that deck for—wait, let me get the abacus out… okay, too long. Since I was a sophomore or junior, I think, in high school. I love tarot. I love the art, and the symbolism and the fantastic way it can help one work through questions one might have about life, the universe, and everything.

I had never, until now, successfully thought of a good enough reason to bring tarot into a book series. Sure, there’s all the usual methods—the fortune teller, the tarot as a method to figure out plot, and so on—but I really couldn’t settle on one.

Until Mr. Oliver Ashmore.

Tempered finally introduces Cherry St. Croix’s mysterious guardian, and I had so much fun with him. Cherry, fierce defender of reason and science over myth and magic, is suddenly placed face to face with a different kind of tool altogether: Tarot.

Tarot as Alchemical Tool

Wait, wait, I’m crazy, right? Well, a little bit. Here’s my overlap: in extreme short version, alchemy is the pursuit of perfection; perfection includes not just physical perfection (e.g., gold, immortality) but a perfection of the soul, too (e.g., Zen, or inner harmony, spiritual strength); Tarot is, in what’s commonly called the Fool’s Journey, about reaching the conclusion of a cycle beginning at the naive Fool and culminating in the completion of the World.

Ergo, alchemy utilizes tarot.

Want to know more? Mr. Ashmore has you covered. See how deftly he manipulates his addled ward into giving alchemy more of a chance than she has been willing until now. Watch as our intrepid heroine struggles for a eureka! moment that has, so far, eluded her.

Have you ever had your cards read? Are you a collector—of Tarot, that is, not of bounties (although far be it from me to judge)—or perhaps just idly interested? Or are you one of those who favor the deification of reason and science over that of the more esoteric arts?

Tempered: The St. Croix Chronicles

Tempered: the St. Croix ChroniclesForced out of London’s coal-blackened streets, Cherry St. Croix is faced with her most difficult undertaking yet: sobriety.

At long last, my guardian, the enigmatic Mr. Oliver Ashmore, has revealed himself—and his order is clear: I am to be dried out at once, regardless of my wishes.

I loathe the country estate I am imprisoned within. Footsteps follow me, voices call for me, and my sanity wavers. In my fevered dreams, I am haunted by those I failed, while waking proves no protection from the ghosts of my reckless past. The craving for laudanum plagues me. I require a distraction.

To unravel the alchemical mysteries of my mother’s family, I must rely on Ashmore’s tutelage. I am lured to the art and drawn by the secrets my guardian possesses. Yet the deeper I delve, the more I believe that something dreadful disturbs these haunted corridors. In my madness, I fear that what it wants most…is me.

Available now from Carina Press! Or you can read an excerpt here.

Want to find me on the web? I’ve got you covered:

The Hero I Wasn’t Expecting

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This was going to be the Spanish book, the third book in my Tudor fallen angel Magick Trilogy. I knew from the start I was going to need a Spanish hero. But I happened to be watching the entire seven seasons of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer back to back while I wrote Mistress by Magick madly against a hard deadline. Before I knew it, the daredevil Spanish pirate inhabiting my imagination, smoking cigars and wreaking havoc on the Tudor Queen’s shipping, looked like Spike. As in, Buffy’s platinum-haired, leather jacket wearing, punk rock vampire hero.

He was a completely unsuitable inspiration for Don Carlos Alejandro Angelo de Zamorra—better known as Lord Calyx, the Scourge of the Spanish Main—the swashbuckling captain of the galleon Arcángel.

CARINA_0114_9781426897795_MistressMagickBut what could I do? I have to feel a sizzle when I think about my hero, or else I can’t write the sex scenes. All I could think about was Spike. With that platinum hair.

But my hero Calyx is only half-Spanish. He’s also half-human, the illicit offspring of an Archangel’s affair with a mortal woman.

The secret son of Michael, the Angel of War, proud prince of a warlike race of divine beings known as Nephilim, was always going to look a little strange for the period.

That’s how I ended up with a swashbuckling Spanish pirate who looks like Spike from Buffy. In similar fashion, I wound up with Daniel Craig as the searingly hot inspiration for Lord Beltran Nemesto, the Inquisitor hero from Magick by Moonrise who kicked off this trilogy. Whichever TV or cinematic

I must say, invoking Spike has its advantages. The Carina artistic team nailed him perfectly for the cover of Mistress by Magick. And he’s the perfect foil for sophisticated and notorious Lady Jayne Boleyn, a disgraced countess and cousin of the Tudor Queen who spies for England. On the high seas, she’ll risk everything. Even her heart. And who could blame her? Because, you know, what woman in her right mind wouldn’t fall for Spike? hottie happens to star in my torrid fantasies ends up the secret hero of a Laura Navarre romance.

GIVEAWAY

Check out this gorgeous cover for Mistress by Magick and tell me what you think! I’ll give one reader who responds to this post all three books in the Magick Trilogy in your choice of e-format.

Laura Navarre

AUTHOR BIO

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 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 Tudor romance with fallen angel heroes. A 2009 Golden Heart finalist, she has an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. Now living in the Pacific Northwest, she divides her time between her writing career and other adventures for U.S. government clients.

Connect with Laura on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

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.

Tragic Beginnings to Happily Ever Afters

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There are quite a few things I love about being an author, especially an historical author. There are way too many to list but one of them is taking the woes of the modern world and translating them into the Regency equivalent. And I have to warn you, this blog and my book might make you a little sad to begin with, but in the end, it all turns out well for everyone. There is a happy ending at the end of this dark tunnel…

So the Regency era was famous for so many reasons but at the top of the list for me was an abundance of demented religious fanatics (stay tuned for that book)and a world with lots of animals and very little personal hygiene (not writing that book). News took time to spread but illness did not, mail took time to deliver and infant and pregnancy mortality rates were so high it makes you wonder how their civilization survived. One thing I often wonder about is how the Regency period dealt with medical issues when they would have had no idea a medical issue existed. Or would they have?

In a time where blood letting and leeching seemed a cure for whatever ailed you, what about the seemingly insignificant ailments? What would a woman do if she suffered miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage? Bad luck, you’re not cut out for pregnancy or motherhood? Pretty much. Some blamed it on the woman being ill-educated and not doing her womanly, wifely duty. It might have also been grounds for the very rare divorce if your husband was a titled lord in need of an heir.

Behind the Courtesan didn’t start with quite so much sorrow or intensity but like most authors, I was given the advice to torture my characters just a little bit more to figure out who they are and what they would do and why. One of my very close friends suffered three miscarriages before finally being diagnosed with a folate retention issue. And then I remembered reading an article about a poor woman who suffered nine miscarriages before being diagnosed with the same folate issues. And bingo, not only did I have my torture, I had a very real problem facing so many women around the world back then and today. Without folate in your body, cells don’t develop properly and neither does the fetus. Most of the time, the baby is lost before 9-12 weeks. Just enough time to imagine what motherhood would be like. Just enough time to fall in love with the little person you grow inside of you.     

In the case of Sophia, the heroine in Behind the Courtesan, carrying a child seemed an impossible dream for her. After suffering her latest miscarriage, she accepts her brother’s invitation to attend his wife for the birth of their first child in what seems like fate’s way of laughing in her face. But it has been a long fourteen years with no family to lean on since she fled after being sold to a duke by her land-hungry father. She finally feels the time has come to face the people and village she left behind and figure out where her life is going. Prostitution had kept her fed, clothed, housed and relatively safe but the loss of yet another child weighs on her mind and her soul. So she heads to Blakiston for a not very happy family reunion.

Back to the woes again.

In 1920s, scientists believed that folate deficiency and anemia were the same condition. However, later, researcher Lucy Wills in 1931 made a key observation and found out that folate was a nutrient that was needed to prevent anemia during pregnancy.

But 1920 was over a hundred years after Sophia lived and lost. I’d like to think that her position in society and the money she made would have seen her visit an apothecary because let’s face it, doctors back then were certainly not going to help you with this. Women’s problems were just that until it affected their men and their titles.

Just some of the problems facing women of old were

  • Birth viewed as a natural event, trust in God and nature
  • Birth was women’s province but…
  • Conflict between ancient practices and the church
  • Associations of midwifery with witchcraft (mostly gone by the Regency period)
  • Labor pain: women’s punishment for Eve’s sins

Can you imagine being told during labor, no drugs, this is what you deserve? I can’t even imagine no drugs since both of mine were twenty hour labors that required medical intervention. I shudder to think I would have died as would my first born had we not been in the twenty first century. No wonder death rates for pregnant women were so high! And what about other women’s problems? Polycystic ovaries? Endometriosis, which I myself suffer from. Fortunately I didn’t need medical intervention to fall pregnant but I did need huge doses of iron before, during, and especially after my pregnancies. I still do now and probably will for the rest of my childbearing years.

The other hardest part of miscarriage in any era is the emotional damage it leaves in its wake. Nowadays we can see psychiatrists and have friends and support groups but Sophia is an 1800’s courtesan. She has a handful of friends in London but no one to really talk to. She would have endured the pain all on her own and is quite morose in the first part of the book. But in the end, after the happily ever after, I like to think that Sophia eventually becomes a mother. After all, big city diets were so different than country diets. Perhaps the leafy greens and red meat are enough to help her conceive? Perhaps just being happy is enough?

I’m sure we all think about our characters after the story is done and The End is written. Hold onto that while you read my book. It isn’t all sadness and loss, there are happy moments that might make you laugh out loud. There are also moments where you may have to perch on the edge of your seat while you wait to see what happens next. Above all, I guarantee this is one happily ever after you will want to stick out to the end.

 photo BehindTheCourtesan.jpg


I wondered if anyone wanted to share their not-too-graphic stories of childbirth or infertility? Trust me when I say it helps so many other women. My best friend had no idea folate could present the issues it did for her and her husband (who they ultimately found had the folate issue and not her). She now has a very energetic almost three year old boy. Perhaps you know something that might help? There are five copies of Behind the Courtesan and my debut novel Scandal’s Mistress up for grabs for those brave enough to share or comment.

 

Bronwyn’s love of reading all things romantic got her into trouble at a very young age. Starting with Mills and Boon ‘borrowed’ from her mother and then progressing to meaty historicals and sweeping sagas, it’s only fair that romance pays her back with unique ideas for her own novels. She now writes dark and gritty Regency that borders on the edge of noir with the occasional dabble in contemporary and women’s fiction.

 

You can find Bronwyn on Facebook or Twitter or drop her a line at her website www.bronwynstuart.com

 

You can also buy your copy of Behind the Courtesan from Carina Press, Amazon, All Romance eBooks and most other small ebookstores.

 


Walking into the past

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What’s your favourite month in the place where you live? And why? I love September in my home town, the ancient university city of Cambridge, England. The trees are beginning to turn, the tourists are gone, and the students have not yet arrived. The place has a stillness about it and a sense of waiting. And September is the only time when the townsfolk, like me, almost have Cambridge to themselves. Almost. Have you ever felt that when you turn this next corner, you will have walked into the past? Wandering through the narrow Tudor streets and by the willow-fringed river Cam, I encounter those who lived here in years gone by, and they bombard me with their tales—maybe they know that Carina promises no great story will go untold!

That’s how I met Bryony, my heroine, and came to write Tainted Innocence, which is set in 1524. One early morning she persuaded me to walk barefoot across the fen still drenched with dew to Laundress Green, the bank where some 500 years ago the washerwomen met to do the Great Spring wash for the Cambridge colleges, and to exchange gossip. I hoicked up my skirt and slithered down the muddy bank to wade in the cool dark water, to imagine what it would have been like for her. I felt very foolish when I realised the people having breakfast in the posh hotel on the other side of the river were watching me!

Another day I followed the stream near my terraced cottage to its source—the quiet, magical wood where the Nine Wells bubble up from the earth. I discovered Luke Hobson was walking by my side, dark and troubled, a man who has learned from bitter experience to trust no one, and is angry to find himself attracted to a gypsy girl who is prepared to steal and lie in order to survive. What else, he wonders, is she prepared to do?

I arrived in Cambridge some years ago to teach on a short summer course. I never meant to stay. I haven’t yet managed to leave. Has that happened to you? My heroine, Bryony, flees to Cambridge hoping she will find a refuge, a place of safety—and a place she might learn to read and write. Instead she is accused of witchcraft and murder and is forced to accept that she must either find a man strong enough to protect her—or work out who the killer is herself. Sure—Bryony is feisty enough and should be independent! But imagine that you are trying to survive in the world of Henry VIII where men hold most of the power, and that you are illiterate, penniless, always hungry, and terrified of being drowned as a witch.

Do you always “get it right”? Bryony doesn’t. Me neither. I thought she would be attracted to one man. I hadn’t expected her to be attracted to two.

My life—and my novels!—rarely go to plan. That’s the fun of it.

 

Tainted Innocence

England, 1524

PhotobucketIn Cambridge, the College of the Young Princes brings together all manner of people—with all manner of secrets. Among them is Bryony, an illiterate laundress and a stranger to the town, who lives in constant fear that her unusual upbringing and lack
of friends will leave her vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft.

When Matthew Hobson, a scholar at the college, is found murdered and wrapped in linen that Bryony lost, she immediately becomes a suspect. But she is not the only one. Luke Hobson, a taciturn local tradesman who has sacrificed much for his charismatic but selfish brother, also has a motive for the murder.

With the university authorities eager to solve the crime, outsiders Bryony and Luke
are forced into a wary alliance, knowing they have to track down the killer if they are
to escape hanging. But can they trust in each other’s innocence in order
to uncover the truth?

About the author

Joss Alexander thought she’d spend her life gathering rosebuds but ended up picking rosehips, a somewhat thornier occupation that not many people have tried. She wonders why. Addicted to her keyboard, she can be dragged away to play tennis, climb mountains or go wild water swimming. It makes an excellent  change from the shoe-box study where she writes. Joss devours fantasy, romance, historical and crime fiction, but the authors she re-reads the most are Georgette Heyer, Robin Hobb and Will Shakespeare. Tainted Innocence is her first novel and is available from Carina Press. You can read an excerpt here and buy it here.

Find out more about Joss on Facebook, Twitter and her blog, Random Jossings.

A Little Wednesday Morning Scandal

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There are two questions I get asked all the time as an author of romance. The first one is where did you get the idea for Scandal’s Mistress and the second is so silly that I wish people would stop asking. “Do you get your inspiration from your own bedroom?” they ask with a giggle.

I often wonder if I was a sci-fi author or fantasy or non-fiction, what the second most asked question would be. I bet you a hundred bucks it would have nothing to do with the bedroom unless it’s a thing of dreams. No. I don’t personally know any authors who take their own bedroom antics and put them in a book. I’m sure it does happens but more in a comedic, we were going at it and fell off the bed kind of way, but not to or with me. When you read Scandal’s Mistress, you will see why it would never work. Mostly because I don’t have an animal rug in front of a roaring fire in the library. Sadly, I don’t even have a library. I also have a glass dining table rather than timber but we’ll save that conversation for another day after you’ve read the book.

On to the second question. I honestly can’t remember where I got the idea for Scandal’s Mistress. I only knew I wanted to write a book about a stereotype of the Regency period and who better than an actress? Then as I was lightly plotting (I’m a complete pantser so this is a difficult step to the process) I had to find a way to make my actress different from every other actress otherwise the stereotype mold would hold. I’ve found it’s hard to break a cycle that’s been in place for so many hundreds of years. Therefore, my actress had to come from somewhere else. Then she became an opera singer from Italy named Carmalina. Exotic, beautiful, but completely stuck in London. Here’s where we break the mold. She could not be bought. Actresses and singers and performers in general in the Regency period ranged from courtesans to out and out prostitutes and it was expected. Men took mistresses who came from the theater and his friends thumped him on the back for a job well done. But Carmalina could not be purchased and it irked Justin. He wanted her for his scandal but she would not have him. Then her voice began to fail and she found herself out of time and out of options. There the story starts.

London, 1805

Justin Trentham, third son of the Earl of Billington, is determined to get himself disowned from his cold and unloving family. Despite his numerous affairs with questionable women of the ton, his parents continue to be dismissive of his ploys, but Justin spots the perfect scandal in the form of a beautiful, exotic Italian opera singer…
Carmalina Belluccini refuses to become his mistress, despite being tempted by his charms. But after losing her singing voice, she finds herself destitute. She agrees to be Justin’s mistress for one month, until she has enough money to return to her beloved Italy.

She intends to keep their arrangement strictly business, but after witnessing Justin’s vulnerable side, she finds herself falling more in love than in lust with him. Carmalina is having second thoughts about leaving England…but is their love strong enough to survive the scandal of the season?

 

Intrigued? I hope so!

Now I want to ask you a question. It has nothing to do with your bedroom. I want to ask you what your most brilliant idea has ever been and if you remember your inspiration for said idea. I’ll also share with you an idea that came from our illustrious leader here at Carina Press, Angela James. I’m not sure if it was hers or someone else’s, I’m only glad it was passed onto me. If you want to read your electronic device in the bath, put it in a snap lock bag (not sure what the American equivalent is but as you have to be able to seal it properly so it’s air tight). It’s so simple and probably been shared on this blog already but I never would have thought of it. Saves me and my tablet the horror of dropping it… Happy reading!

 

Buy Scandal’s Mistress from Carina Press

Find me at Face Book or send me a tweet @bronwynstuart or read my blog

 

Change. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

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LIFE IS CHANGE. GROWTH IS OPTIONAL. CHOOSE WISELY.

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We’ve all heard that there are two things we can rely on in life: death and taxes. Well, for writers, there is another.

Change.

Change is all around us and it is a part of life. We see change in the seasons and the weather. People come and go in our lives, jobs change, our health changes, new businesses spring up, others fall victim to the economy. Or even the death of an owner (our town’s yarn shop) can cause unwanted and sad changes.

Sometimes change is good, other times, it is not welcome. Either way, it is a part of our daily lives whether we want it or not.

Most people do not like change because change is scary but I have always embraced change whether it is a new home or rearranging my house or even a new job. Change freshens my life. It is a renewal of heart, mind and soul–a breath of fresh air to chase away the stale and stagnant.

For writers, it is a part of our careers for if we do not change, then we dry up and fade away like a pile of autumn leaves. In the publishing world, what’s selling now will eventually fade away to be replaced by something new and fresh. Or perhaps something old will be reborn. Like historicals, angels, time travels and ghosts. Think of the writing world as a big circle with cycles and seasons. Nothing remains the same.

I, as a writer, must be open to not just riding the winds of change, but to grow as a writer and a person. While writing White Vengeance, book 11 in my White Series, I felt as though I was slogging through muck. Each word, each scene was a struggle. I loved the characters, loved the story, but something was happening to me as a writer–I was growing and changing yet my White books were not. At least not much.

My stories all had a bit of the mystical with the use of visions, gifts of sight and other aspects of Native American culture. As the series grew, I wanted as a writer to explore the mystical aspects of Native American beliefs and go deeper into the mystical world yet my books were historicals, not paranormals. Suddenly, I had a choice: continue to fight the change happening within me as a writer or give in and grow as a writer.

So I gave in and let myself write what I wanted for that last White book. And I had a blast. Writing was fun again. Things were happening that I never imagined. I allowed

myself to listen to that inner need to change and it revitalized the entire book. I loved the book, the characters, the writing. The change in me, my writing attitude was a wondrous feeling. I knew then that as a writer I had to embrace change–let myself grow. I gave myself permission and the freedom to grow and change. It was a scary step but one I have no regrets in taking.

I also realize in writing this, that Change was responsible for the birth of the White Series. When I wrote White Wind, I didn’t have a series in mind. Just one book. My next book was set on the Oregon Trail. I had the Jones family all set to head west and I needed a wagon master. For Jessie of course.

Enter a half-breed with issues who needed a past, reasons for his conflicts and of course, I turned to his family. Well, I decided to give Golden Eagle & White Wind (Sarah) a second son and named my wagon master, White Wolf. Okay, so now I have two connected books. Still not really a series.

But it became clear that Wolf’s family needed to make a showing in White Wolf. I already knew that Wolf had a powerful warrior brother named Striking Thunder as this was revealed in White Wind. Then I, in my “Godly” role of Creator, gave the two brothers, two sister. Nice even number of children for my original hero/heroine.

Well, it became quite clear that these children all need some major changes in their lives in order to grow and become the adult characters I envisioned! A series was born with the simple act of allowing myself to be open to change.

Change is still happening in my writing. My SpiritWalker series was born of the changes that took place in writing White Vengeance. I’m currently nearly done with my second SpiritWalker book that demanded many changes in my writing. I’ve also taken this new series to contemporary settings and surprise, it changed again.

There are more than just SpiritWalkers in this world. My SpiritWalkers are at the top of the “myth” chain of special humans but there are a whole host of other beings walking my world. Some good, some bad and some truly ugly beasts. None of any of this would have been possible if I had stuck to the same old thing.

Today, change has made me a better person. Even the disaster of losing my retail business is revealing the good. That change wasn’t just bad. It was ugly in so many ways yet due to my positive outlook and my belief that change is ultimately good even when it looks horrid, I’ve come out ahead.

So what is changing for you? Is it a good change? If it’s bad or ugly, is there good that you can see and hold onto? How do you view change? Is it refreshing or something you resist? If you resist change, why? I believe we should all think about change, see and analyze changes around us and allow change to make us better people.

What are your thoughts?

Susan Edwards

Susan Edwards ~ Magic, Myth & Wonder

White Series

SpiritWalker Series

http://susanedwards.com

http://susanedwardsauthor.blogspot.com/

http://twitter.com/susan_edwards

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Edwards/40226247104

GETTING DOWN & DIRTY

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Okay, get your mind out of the gutters! Or perhaps I should tell you to put your mind in your garden for a few minutes while we chat. I’m embarking on a huge gardening project–a 26 foot medicine wheel garden–which has taken me a couple of years of planning and researching. What I decided on was to incorporate elements meaningful to me. As I love outdoors, nature, etc. I planned my space to use the themes of Earth. I have sections for the four elements (Air, Earth, Water, Fire), the four seasons (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer), the Sun, Moon, Stars. I have herbs, and lots of just plain beautiful flowers on order.

I also pulled into the design the aspects of Native American research from my writing which I’ve adopted into my own life. The number four is an important number in many NA cultures as well as the number 7 which I also have plans to use. Then there are circles. I have an outside circle 26 feet of hedge. Inside that, is another circle–a pathway to walk around. Inside that there is yet another circle. This circle is split into 4 areas with paths (4 of them) leading to a smaller circle in the center which will be close to a grassy knoll. And yes, there is yet another much smaller circle inside that where we’ll have a small fire pit to enjoy in the evenings and maybe roast marshmellows!

Circles have so many meanings. Life travels in a circle such as the seasons from birth of Spring to death in Winter to life reborn once again in spring. Our lives travel in circles, meeting and merging then separating and one of my favorite that I live by: What goes around, comes around.

I should also mention that around my garden area, my husband will have his vegetable garden.

Okay, so how does this tie in with writing? Aside from being a wonderful place to take my laptop and write (when done of course), it made me think of my characters in my newly re-released books (White Wolf, White NIghts, White Flame, White Dreams).

First, in the mid 1800′s, growing your own food was part of survival. Jessie and her brothers (White Wolf) would most certainly have grown some of their own food. They lived by the goodwill of the land. And on the Oregon Train, Jessie, Wolf, along with James and Eirika (White Nights) ate what they could find along the trail. Unlike Native Americans though, living with the land, on the land and surviving their trek across the land was new to many if not most of the travelers looking to start anew in Oregon. Those who understood the land and nature, the good, bad and ugly were the ones to survive and/or lead others on their westward trek.

The Lakota Sioux on the other hand were very well versed in survial. Unlike many other tribes and cultures, the Sioux didn’t “garden” for their food but instead harvested what Mother Earth provided. They understood the seasons, the circle of life. And even though they didn’t ‘work’ the land, they honored and respected and took care of the land–their mother. After Emma arrives in the village of Striking Thunder (White Flame), she learns to love and respect not only The People, but the land which provides for them. Raised in a city, living outdoors at the whim and mercy of nature is an eye opener.

In White Dreams, Star Dreamer leaves the land she’s known all her life for the city, turning her back on all that she’s ever known. But even in a city, she realizes that nature and all that she holds dear is close at hand.

In our past, we depended on the land for the animals raised, crops and food grown and also for travel–those who left their homes and bravely set out without knowing what was in store for them. Today, we don’t notice the land in the same way–we drive on asphalt, see buildings, houses and shopping malls instead of crops (most places) and gardens. We don’t barter what we grow for what someone else grows. If the weather turns bad and ruins crops, prices might go higher but we are not truly affected. Our ancestors went hungry or went without money if their crops were destroyed.

Having a garden isn’t part of our survival now. We go to the local supermarket for our fruit and vegetables. We want flowers? Again, supermarket or other store-bought sources. We travel and pay money to view gardens or go on the internet or buy books. It’s a fact of life. But it’s also sad.

There is nothing so rewarding or even calming than digging in the dirt, letting the life-giving dirt fall between your fingers. The feel, the smell, the connection is still there I believe but life is so busy, even crazy, that we forget to just stop and smell the flowers or touch the leaves, or admire the textures of Mother Earth. Our yards if we are lucky to have a yard are planted to be “care-free” and sometimes planted with conforming to the neighborhoods instead of our own hearts.

Tomorrow, a 40 odd square foot of my backyard goes under the blades of a rototiller and then my journey of getting down and dirty begins. And as I spend time with Mother Earth, I’ll think often of my ancestors who didn’t ‘garden’ for a hobby but depended on what bounty they grew for their survival.

So let’s hear from you. If you could have any type of garden (food, herb, English Country, formal, etc.) what would choose and why? What would you plant? And what would a garden of your choosing represent to you. Do you think that working in the soil means anything to people in this day and age? Does it meet some kind of instinctual, emotional, or ingrained need inside us or have we as a race (those who don’t grow food commercially) gone beyond the need of connecting with our Earth Mother. And of course, any other comments are welcome.

Happy Reading (and Gardening).  You can also check out my website in a week or so for progress pictures of my medicine wheel garden along with covers of the latest four White books and other news.   A new contest will be up soon as well.

Susan Edwards

http://susanedwards.com

http://susanedwardsauthor.blogspot.com/

http://twitter.com/susan_edwards

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Edwards/40226247104

White Dove, White Deception, White Vengeance

Howdy Ma’am

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The Outlaw Bride I love me a good cowboy. I love the grittiness of the Old West, the challenges settlers faced, the lawlessness, the imperfect justice, the simplicity of life (not that it was simple by any means!), the sense of community and family. I was weaned on Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns. My Saturday mornings as a kid were filled with re-runs of The Big Valley and Bonanza. I devoured Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. I greeted my mother in the morning with a, ‘Howdy, ma’am.’ Writing in this genre was a natural fit for me.

Natural, but not easy. The Outlaw Bride took many twists and turns from first draft to final submission. Characters came and went, relationships changed, people lived, then died, then were resurrected, only to be killed off again. Subplots met a similar fate. At one point, my manuscript ballooned to 110,000 words (this was around Revision 4), before finally being culled back, streamlined, refocused. I was done.

Or so I thought.

An 11th hour epiphany sent me back to the drawing board. It was one of those moments where you’re shaking your head wondering how the heck you could have missed something so obvious. Of course Rogan should be Kate’s husband, not her brother-in-law! One final sweep of the manuscript fixed this last element then off to Carina Press it went.

I received The Call in August 2010 while at work. It came in on my cell while I spoke to my boyfriend on my office phone (I was hard at work as you can see…). I hung up on him then in stunned silence listened as Angela James told me they would love to publish The Outlaw Bride. In fact, I think my first words to her, once the brain freeze wore off, were, “That was so worth hanging up on my boyfriend for!” Luckily he’s the forgiving sort. But hey, no one ever did say the road to true love ran smooth.

A fact Connor and Kate learned the hard way.

Katherine Slade has two goals: to escape her outlaw husband and to find the family of the man who died saving her life. Taking the place of a mail-order bride isn’t part of her plan—until she’s forced to continue the charade and become Sheriff Connor Langston’s housekeeper to stay out of jail. Pretending to be another woman is hard, but Katherine’s real challenge is resisting her growing attraction to the handsome lawman…

Falling in love is the last thing Connor needs, even if the rest of Fatal Bluff wants him to. His hands are full with a band of outlaws threatening the safety of his town, and a child to raise. But Kate has a way of getting under his skin and into little Jenny’s heart. Soon Connor can’t get the fiery beauty out of his head—along with his suspicion that Kate isn’t who she claims to be.

When Connor learns the truth about Kate, is there any way for this outlaw bride to become the sheriff’s wife?

You can buy The Outlaw Bride HERE.

I hope you enjoy your journey to Fatal Bluff as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Website: www.kellyboyce.com

Facebook: Kelly Boyce, Author

Twitter: @KellyLBoyce

Bio: Kelly Boyce hails from Nova Scotia where cowboys are scarce but Scotsmen are plenty. A big history buff, she writes all time periods but has a soft spot for the Old West. She is currently at work on Book 2 in the Brides of Fatal Bluff series. She loves to hear from readers and hopes you’ll swing by and see her on Facebook and Twitter.

Of Dukes and Deceptions

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Is it just me or are we all subconsciously influenced by our surroundings? I ask because I was brought up on the Isle of Wight in the south of England, literally a stone’s throw from Queen Victoria’s Island retreat where she and her extended family spent so much time. We also have Carisbrooke Castle where Charles 1 was incarcerated, until they carted him off to London and chopped his head off, that is. Ouch! Add to that an abundance of castles, Roman ruins and so many ancestral homes that they seem almost commonplace, and I suppose it’s little wonder that I always wanted to read and write about bygone times.

Okay, so my first ever novel, written was I was just fifteen, was all about horses and ponies, with me doing what I was unable to achieve in real life and winning all the classes hands down. But that’s every adolescent girl’s dream, isn’t it? My first ‘proper’ attempt at writing occurred when I was in my early twenties and was fixed in the colourful Regency period. I just love the idea of gentlemen in tight-fitting breeches, hiding rakish tendencies beneath impeccable manners and brooding temperaments. They revert to type once they get into the bedroom, thank goodness, but my feisty heroines give them a good run for their money before they’re allowed to have their wicked way.

My Regency romp, Of Dukes and Deceptions, released by Carina Press today is a case in point. My hero, Nicholas Buchanan, the Duke of Dorchester, impulsively accepts an invitation from a complete stranger to visit his stud farm. To counter his boredom he fixes his sights on Alicia Woodley, the poor relation, striking a wager with his valet that he’ll bed her before his sojourn at Ravenswing Manor comes to an end. You must forgive him his arrogance. He’s a duke, for goodness sake. A young, handsome and highly eligible duke, much in demand and used to everyone cow-towing to his slightest whim. No one’s ever dared to tell him that he’s high-handed and arrogant.

Until now. Alicia doesn’t have any such qualms. She dislikes him intently and doesn’t hesitate to say so. But she also finds his presence strangely compelling. He’s made his intentions towards her abundantly clear.

Dare she? What would you do in her place? What’s your take on flawed heroes? Are all flaws acceptable just so long as they’re fixable or do certain traits put you off?

Before Alicia can make up her mind about this particular flawed individual someone attempts to kill her, bringing out Nick’s protective instincts in spades. As they conspire to uncover secrets that the family wants to keep hidden at all costs, they discover a passion that surpasses all obstacles. Is Nick the same arrogant individual we meet at the start of the story or has Alicia humbled him?

Want to know more? Then visit my website at http://www.wendysoliman.com. You can read the entire first chapter there and enter a contest to win a copy of the novel.

Happy reading. I hope you enjoy Of Dukes and Deceptions. Please let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

Wendy Soliman

Follow Wendy at: Twitter; Facebook; Goodreads; eHarlequin community.com; www.wendysoliman.com