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Allison Merritt stops by with a hot demon sheriff and a Giveaway @allison_merritt

Please help me welcome the lovely Allison Merritt to the blog today. She was not only gracious enough to answer some questions, but she’s sharing her HOT! upcoming release, and giving away some goodies.

Peeps! We have a HOT DEMON SHERIFF 😀 Read on to find out more.

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Allison, thanks so much for stopping in with us. And for letting us delve into your mind. First, tell me about this hot demon. If the book became a movie, which celebrities would play the characters?

 If Wystan became a movie, I’d love to see Henry Cavill play him. Man, does he have the jawline and the muscles for being a badass demon-slaying hottie sheriff? Yes, yes, he does. And for Rhia, I’d like to pick Anne Hathaway. She’s so talented, and I think she’d really capture Rhia’s personality.

 I’ll just say YUM! at Henry Cavill and we can move on 😉

 What hobby do you enjoy when not writing?

 I got a late start on watching Game of Thrones, seriously, I’m just now on season two, but I’m so into this. It makes me want to write fantasy romance. I love movies. It’s not unusual for me to bring home a different DVD ever couple of days to watch. When I’m not on my bum, I like to walk and take photographs of nature.

 It has a great storyline, love the angst, LOL.

 What’s your favorite comfort food?

 Lemon meringue pie. I call it solid sunshine, because that’s what sunshine would taste like if you could get a mouthful—you know, if it was a thing you could taste and not get horribly burned when you ate it.

 What’s your favorite color? Do you decorate your space and/or dress in this color often?

 It’s blue. I have more blue shirts and a couple of dresses than normal. I told my husband not to let me buy any more blue clothes, but it just keeps happening somehow. It’s not my fault cute clothes come in blue. We should complain to the manufacturers.

 Yay for blue! the best color ever.

  If you could time-travel, where would you go and why?

 I have an awful hankering to meet Nikola Tesla. You know the guy invented a way to get electricity without using all that crap Edison did? I curse Edison every time I get an electric bill. Tesla seems like he was a really interesting man. Little is really known about him, but I’d sure like to talk to him.

 Why are manhole covers round?

 They were inspired by stroopwafels. Have you ever had one of those? They’re an amazing thin wafer cookie filled with caramel syrup. They’re fantastic with ice cream.

 Do you have any upcoming news you’d like to share?

 Just a couple of months ago, I submitted Eban (The Heckmasters, Book #2) to my editor and I’m pleased to announce it’s coming out in April 2015. I just got the cover. I promise, between that and the story, everyone will be blown away.

  

Fast Five:

 Coffee or Chocolate? Chocolate

 Jewelry: Precious gems or gold? Gems

 Beach or Mountains? Beach

 Early Morning or Late Night? Late night

 Fruit or Veggies? Fruit

 

About the Book:

 WystancoverTitle: Wystan (The Heckmasters)

Length: 228 pages

Pubisher: Samhain Publishing

Publication date: October 21, 2014
Buy links:

Samhain            Amazon          B&N          Google Books

 

Blurb:

Her search for safety lands her in a totally new kind of danger.

 The Heckmasters, Book 1

 Certain that an ad for a job in a small New Mexico Territory town is the answer to her prayers, Nebraska schoolteacher Rhia Duke packs her sister into a rickety wagon and heads west.

 Except when they reach the near-deserted town, she learns the truth. There is no job, no future, and no welcome in the bleak blue eyes of the handsome sheriff.

 The minute Rhia’s runaway team thunders into town, Wystan Heckmaster feels the change in the air. One of three sons of a demon who dared love a human, he keeps watch over a Pit guarded by seven seals, and slays any Hellbound demon that attempts to free the master imprisoned within.

 With a gut full of regret and a forgotten town filled with reformed demons, Wystan is certain of one thing: he can’t be the man Rhia needs. But when the truth behind Rhia’s flight from Nebraska comes to light, Wystan must open his soul—and pray there’s enough love between them to overcome the darkness rising from the Pit.

 Warning: Contains a take-no-prisoners sheriff, a woman who can’t outrun her supernatural secrets, and a dusty town where hope is as thin as dust in the wind. Author recommends keeping a glass of cool spring water at your elbow while reading.

 

Excerpt:

 Something changed in the air the moment the wagon crossed the town’s border. Too  early to be a supply train, and there was no way in hell it was visitors. Berner didn’t host  town fairs, theatre troupes, peddlers, or bible thumpers.

 Wystan Heckmaster slapped his battered Stetson on his head, collected the keys to the  jail, then stepped out the door. The first thing he saw was a pretty woman with hair the color of maple sugar—a rich brownish-blonde. The frown on her face spoke volumes, and the air around her pronounced trouble. She made a straight path for him.

 “Mr. Heckmaster. Or should I call you Sheriff? Or Mayor? I need to discuss the ad in the Lancaster County Republican with you. Someone placed an ad, but your brother tells me there is no school here. I’m sure there has to be a mistake. There’s only one Berner in New Mexico Territory. I’m very capable at reading maps. If I wasn’t, I would be ashamed to call myself a teacher.”

 He doubted she had taken more than two or three breaths during the speech. If she made talking in rambling paragraphs a habit, no wonder she looked so peaked.

“Teacher?” He glanced along the street, but it was deserted as usual. “Lady, we don’t have a school here. Certainly no need of a teacher.”

 Her hands balled into fists that settled on her hips. The dress she wore was patched—the egg yolk yellow faded into something even more disgusting. It had little flowers dotting the material, but they looked as worn as her scuffed black boots.

 “Then what was the purpose of placing an ad in the Lancaster County Republican?”

 She spoke with the fierceness of a mama bear warning predators away from her cubs.

 Wystan reached into his shirt pocket and drew out a toothpick. “I didn’t place any ad in any Lancaster County anything.” He looked past her, expecting Eban to saunter up the street. Eban had to be the brother she’d referred to since Tell was still on the trail.

 “Someone did,” she insisted. She fished a crumpled and much-folded piece of newsprint out of the pocket hidden by the folds of her skirt. “See? Right here it says, ‘School teacher wanted for spring term at Berner Schoolhouse. Wages paid based on experience. Room and board provided. Apply in person at City Hall, Berner, New Mexico Territory.’ I’m sure my eyes don’t deceive me.”

 Wystan stared at the clipping, then back at the woman. A galaxy of freckles spattered across her nose and cheekbones, making her look younger than her eyes said she was. Full figured and sure as shittin’ a grown woman. The wariness and worry darkening her hazel eyes gave her away as one with a lot of trouble on her plate.

 “I can read.”

 She pulled the ad away from his face, folded it, and returned it to her pocket. “Where would you suggest I look for an explanation, Mr. Heckmaster?”

 Fussy little thing. “I assure you that no one in this town did. There’s been a mistake. Sorry to inconvenience you, Miss Schoolteacher. Now turn around and head home.”

 A flush colored her cheeks. “I can’t head home! I have no home to return to. My little sister and my friend are waiting at the doctor’s office for me to straighten this mess out. The ad says that room and board will be provided. I’d expected to move into a room, sir.”

 “You left them with Eban?” That explained his absence.

 “Beryl is ill, Sheriff. This is the first town we’ve seen in days and it was past time for her to get some attention.” Despair crept into her voice.

 Wystan shifted his weight and transferred the toothpick to the other side of his mouth. “Eban’s not exactly trained in human medicine.”

 The woman’s mouth opened into an O. She shook her head and seemed to regain her senses. “He’s a veterinarian? He seemed certain he could help Beryl.”

 Wystan cleared his throat. “Sure, animal doctor. I’m sorry for your misfortune, lady, but as you can see, Berner’s about run into the ground. There’s nothing here for you or your friend. Might be best to move along.”

 She seemed to deflate. “Move along.” Her lips moved, softly forming the words, but it was as though she didn’t comprehend them. “We’ll move along, right down the trail into the next town where there won’t be any teaching jobs either. Sylvie, Beryl, and I will starve to death on the side of the road with no one in the world to care.”

 

Buy links:

Samhain            Amazon          B&N          Google Books

Click on the link for the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

About the Author:

10624850_848959491804943_4194715946300646117_nA love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she’s not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.

 Allison graduated from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri with a B.A. in mass communications that’s gathering dust after it was determined that she’s better at writing fluff than hard news.

 

Social media links:

Blog – http://havenovelwilledit.blogspot.com

Facebook – http://facebook.com/allisonmwrites

Twitter – http://twitter.com/allison_merritt

G+ – http://gplus.to/allisonmerritt

Goodreads – http://goodreads.com/AllisonMWrites

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/allisonmwrites/

Brenda Novak’s back w/her On-Line Auction for Diabetes Research! #Diabetes

A Sweet Life: All Proceeds Go To Diabetes Research

The Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research is the biggest online event for diabetes research in the world. Each year, with the help of generous donors–which include some of the biggest and brightest stars in publishing, like Nora Roberts, Diana Gabaldon, Sylvia Day, Suzanne Brockmann, Lee Child, and Steve Berry–Brenda offers up over 2000 fabulous items, creating a shopper’s paradise. As a cumulative total, she’s raised $2 million.

But the auction is more than your everyday charity gala. It’s a blast to participate in–a real community. They do drawings and give away prizes. One of which is a Nook Glow Light, which I’m proud to have SHADOW’S EDGE join with other great Paranormal titles. (Check it out here)

You can visit this link to register and browse the categories of prizes. Here are the instructions for how to bid.

As if being a mother of five and a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author weren’t enough (upcoming titles include COME HOME TO ME and THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS in her Whiskey Creek series as well as a new thriller, A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN), award-winning novelist Brenda Novak is also a true philanthropist.

Wrapping up its 9th year, Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research, benefitting the cure-focused work of the Miami-based Diabetes Research Institute (DiabetesResearch.org) surpassed the $2 million mark. Held each May at BrendaNovak.com, the month-long online auction features personal meetings, lunches and dinners with celebrity authors, world-class getaways and state-of-the-art gizmos and gadgets.

These days, Brenda is contacting the previous years’ donors and looking for new people who might be interested in contributing. For Novak, it’s a labor of love and a concentrated effort to find a cure for her son, who has lived with diabetes since he was five years old. “I remember when this all started how excited we were when we raised $34,000. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought we’d come so far so fast,” says Novak. As in previous years, the 2013 annual auction boasted some incredible and very unique items that are of particular interest to budding authors due in large part to the participation of some of the most prolific writers in the country, who are offering their experience and expertise to help cultivate future talent. The Diabetes Research Institute, a center of excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is a recognized world leader in cure focused research. Since its inception in the early 1970s, the DRI has made significant contributions to the field of diabetes research, pioneering many of the techniques used in islet transplantation.

The DRI is now building upon these achievements by bridging cell-based therapies with emerging technologies to restore insulin production. For the millions of families already affected by diabetes, the Diabetes Research Institute is the best hope for a cure. For more information, visit DiabetesResearch.org.

 

auctionofyear
Discover why Brenda is so passionate about this cause:

 

Q: What makes you so passionate about Diabetes?
A: My youngest son was diagnosed with diabetes at 5 years old, that’s when I learned how serious this disease is. After his diagnosis, I spent months racking my brain on how I could combat it.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your charity?
A: Once my son was diagnosed, and I realized what this could mean for his future, I wanted to get involved, to do anything I could to give him a better chance at a healthy life. But I have four other kids and a busy writing career and wasn’t sure how I’d manage to make time for fund raising, didn’t even know where to start. Then I went to a silent auction at my son’s elementary school. There were some fantastic items that had been donated, but the turn-out was poor and the school didn’t make much money. I started thinking about the difficulty of trying to get a large number of people inside one building all at the same time, and the advantages of doing something on the web became very apparent. I figured I could use the support and traffic I already receive from my fan base to help my son and others like him, and the idea to do an on-line auction was born.

Q: How did it go the first year?
A: My first year was more of a test market to see if it would work. When we raised $34,982, I realized it definitely had potential. The second year, we nearly doubled that amount (at $63,000), and it has continued to grow bigger and bigger every year and, thanks to the generosity of my donors.

Q: How much time does it take to put it on every year?
A: It’s an incredibly time-intensive endeavor, but it’s also very fulfilling. We work on it year round. I started out running it on my own–just one person–and did that for three years. Then I hired a part-time assistant who has become a bigger and bigger part of the behind- the-scenes work as the auction has grown.

Q: How do you keep up with your publishing schedule, be a mom and run your charity?
A: It’s a juggling act! Sometimes I look back and don’t know how all the work got done, but I’ve been very blessed–with a supportive husband, good kids who don’t get into trouble (at least not BIG trouble) and good health. My assistant has been invaluable in helping me keep up.

Q: What makes your auction model work so well?
A: I think it’s the unique items that are offered, as well as the community. At the auction, readers can bid to win unique experiences–like having lunch or dinner with their favorite author, or staying in their favorite author’s guest house, or reading their favorite author’s

book before it’s ever even published. We also offer opportunities to aspiring writers of all genres–and millions of people want to write a book. Some of the most powerful agents and editors in publishing have donated their time to read submissions and give feedback, some with a turn-around time of twenty-four hours! In addition to these unique items, we have everything from trips & stays, to antique jewelry to celebrity items.

Also, the friendships we form, the prizes we give away, and the spirit of fighting back together brings us closer as a community each year. I’m not the only one driving this. We’re all in it together.

Q: Do you believe there is a cure for diabetes in sight?
A: I’m absolutely optimistic. When I went to Florida to tour the Diabetes Research Institute and actually talked with their scientists and learned what they were doing, I felt we were SO close. I got very excited because I could really see a cure coming in my lifetime, which is my goal. This is not a mystery disease. I believe it’s curable, and I believe we’re close.

We have Best Selling @CynthiaEden at the Swamp w/giveaway! #pararom #darkrom #giveaway

We’ve managed to snag another great writer in one of our UNWARY TRAVELER TRAPS we sprinkled through out the Swamp. Today’s catch of the day: CYNTHIA EDEN, Mistress of Award Winning Sexy Paranormal Romance and Dark Romantic Suspense.  Not only is she a New York Times, USA Today, Digital Book World, and IndieReader best-seller, but Cynthia is also a two-time finalist for the RITA® award (she was a finalist both in the romantic suspense category and in the paranormal romance category). Since she began writing full-time in 2005, Cynthia has written over forty novels and novellas, so I know you might recognize some of her series titles (Angel of Darkness, Mine to Take, Deadly Fear, Die For Me, Bound by Blood, and Burn For Me).

Not only did we manage to convince her (with large amounts of chocolate and elusive sightings of werewolves) to come answer a few questions, she even offered to give one lucky commenter their choice of either a PRINT COPY or DIGITAL COPY of  ONCE BITTEN, TWICE BURNED. (It’s an awesome read!) All you have to do is leave us a comment with a one word description of the one person you know best…you! Don’t forget your email or we won’t be able to share the wonderfulness of Cynthia’s writing!

In case you’re feeling shy and need a little encouragement, here’s a pretty pic and something to whet your reading taste buds:

OnceBittenpic

 ONCE BITTEN, TWICE BURNED

Ryder Duncan keeps his secrets. With a twisted scientist starving him in a 10 x 12 cell, it’s not easy to conceal the abilities that set him apart from other vampires, or his plans for escape. But survival–and revenge–are worth waiting for. Until the so-called doctor tempts his appetites with something special: a woman, with a soft Southern accent and a scent like flowers. Sabine.

Sabine Acadia didn’t volunteer to be dinner. She was kidnapped and tossed into the cage of a monster. A monster with fierce green eyes, a body that speaks of ruthless power–but a touch gentle as a caress. Ryder knows things about her, secrets Sabine needs to learn fast. Because while they might soon escape this prison, she’s fighting an urge to set all her desires free. . .

Buy links:        Amazon              B&N

Ready to meet Cynthia? Hang on tight, here we go…

 

As children we tend to have an idea of what we want to be by the time we’re ten. Before you decided to pursue the artistic dream of being a writer, what did you want to be and why?

 I planned to be a magician—the best magician EVER!!!!!! My mom had to sit through countless magic shows as I tried to perfect my craft. The milk didn’t always disappear into the rolled up newspaper (the way it was supposed to do!) and, instead, we often ended up with a wet floor.

 –As long as the rabbit made it out alive, I think you can call it a success!

If you turned your laptop/computer/pen/typewriter (yes, some of still use these!) over to your character(s), how would they describe you?

 They would probably say I was obsessive, compulsive, crazy, and given to watching far too many fanfic YouTube videos of ONCE UPON A TIME, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, and CASTLE…

–And what’s wrong with that? Oh! Look, new episode of CASTLE is on…be right back.

Personally, I tend to be a bit on the introverted side so the thought of being in the actual presence of one of my favorite writers makes my heart race, my knees shake and tangles my tongue (yes classic fan girl behavior). Who could reduce you to such a level and how do you imagine your initial meeting?

Jayne Ann Krentz totally reduced me to this behavior. I’ve adored her work for years, and when I had a chance to get her autograph at the last RWA conference, I rambled like a mad woman.

 –Okay, so you won’t be too stunned if this tongue tied mess tracks you down at RT then right? Right?

Many writers have that first novel which will never see the light of day. Out of curiosity, do you have one stashed somewhere? Inquiring minds want to know: what was your first attempt at writing and how old were you?

Oh, I definitely have a first novel—actually, I think I have the first five novels stashed some place. I’ve got a truly terrible Harlequin series book that I wrote for their long ago “Yours Truly” line (and when I say this book is horrible—I mean I had NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING!). I wrote that book almost 20 years ago, and I will never, ever show it to another person again.

I also wrote a YA book back then—more in the line with RL Stine/Christopher Pike. Kids were getting scared/there was a supernatural baddie after them…oh, good times!!

–Okay, so I have my own horrific YA novel that is never allowed to come into the light, nope, not ever. I refuse.

 

What is the best advice you can share with others?

Write—and write some more! Never give up on your dreams. If you love writing, then sit in that chair and get your hands on the keyboard. Write when you’re happy. Write when you’re sad. Write when you don’t even think you can pull the words out of your mind. Because the more you write…well, the easier it becomes.

 –I’m holding you to that last part. I’m at the end of my fifth book right now and she and I are not getting along. Okay, that may be a tad harsh, she’s fine, the writer, well, that wench needs some help…

And now we pepper her with our fast and furious, bullet list…

Blades, guns, fists or feet?

Fists!

Favorite Fairy Tale of all time?

Little Red Riding Hood

-Why do I get the impression you’re cheering the wolf on?

Three titles and their authors sitting on your nightstand/bookcase/table/floor waiting to be read?

OTHERWISE ENGAGED by Amanda Quick, HER PERFECT MATE by Paige Tyler, and THE SKIN COLLECTOR by Jeffery Deaver.

Greatest one liner of all time?

As you wish.

-One of the best depositories of one liners ever!

Sarcastic witticism, Southern sweetness or Geeky disdain?

Geeky disdain.

Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?

A rock with text across it that says, “Cavers do it in the dark.”

Favorite supernatural creature?

Werewolf

 

Much love and thanks to Cynthia for taking time out of her busy schedule to visit with us. If you happen to be attending Romantic Times BookLovers Convention in New Orleans  next week, look for Cynthia amongst the glittery crowd! (Me too, if you want to say “hi”!)

Want to add the rest of Cynthia’s titles to your TBR? You can catch them or her here:

Where to find Cynthia:

Website: www.cynthiaeden.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/cynthiaeden

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cynthiaedenfanpage

 

A visit w/@sbredstone and a peek at his dark paranormal mystery A SINISTER OBSESSION #giveaway

Welcome back! Don’t mind the mess, I’m in the midst of edits and final word counts. (Haphazardly stacking piles of paper and multi-colored pens into a teetering pile).  Oh, and a little dash of research before we begin our preparations for our travels to the Big Easy in May. (Shoving a couple of books under a couch cushion).

Today’s guest is the perceptively diabolical S.B. Redstone and he’s bringing along his dark, paranormal mystery, A SINISTER OBSESSION, along. His timing is impeccable considering my latest string of reading titles. I’ll share only because I have the excuse that I’m an author and this is research. I just finished up with Dr. Stout’s THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR (which really doesn’t make you want to meet your neighbors) and I’m getting ready to start with John Douglas’s MIND HUNTER, which is all about the FBI’s Serial Crime Unit. 

It’s RESEARCH, people (and kind of fun!).

But, enough on my quest for criminal motivation, let’s talk to someone who’s created a terrifyingly fantastic read for all you readers looking for a great novel weaving mystery, suspense, and dark fiction, with a paranormal female detective, a combative 1940’s style romantic relationship between detectives, a hot social topic viewed from a humanistic perspective, complete with an elusive killer whose narcissistic obsession leads to heartless murders and a diabolical scheme to achieve personal happiness. Yep, it’s all here in A SINISTER OBSESSION published by Black Opal Books.

I bet you want your own copy, uh? Well, here’s how you can enter for a chance to win your very own e-copy of A SINISTER OBSESSION. Click on this Rafflecopter link and/or share with us in our comment section what fascinates you about your favorite villain and you could be our winner. Don’t forget to add your email so we can connect with you! Will make our announcement on Tuesday, Mar. 25th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My enthralled crowd, I give you S.B. Redstone!

As children we tend to have an idea of what we want to be by the time we’re ten.  Before you decided to pursue the artistic dream of being a writer, what did you want to be and why?

I wanted to be Superman. As a child, I watched this superhero on television and I wanted to fly, leap over tall buildings , be the strongest person on Earth, help people, and beat up all the bullies that were annoying me! And—I wouldn’t have to take anymore crap from my parents, teachers, and grownups. Even now at my age, I still wish to be Superman, and save the world from human folly, but instead for a career, I helped people as a School Psychologist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

–I was more of the Wolverine type–claws, growls, snarls…   

If your character(s) came with a warning label, what would it say?

Detective Sergeant Aubrey McKenzie – “Don’t piss off this bitch!”

–Nice…=0)

Personally, I tend to be a bit on the introverted side so the thought of being in the actual presence of one of my favorite writers makes my heart race, my knees shake and tangles my tongue (yes classic fan girl behavior).  Who could reduce you to such a level and how do you imagine your initial meeting?

Rory McIlroy, the young professional golfer, replied to a question during a television interview. He was asked if he was intimidated by the more experienced golfers? He answered honestly. He was a professional golfer. If he didn’t think he could beat everyone, he wouldn’t be on the PGA tour. That’s my attitude. Not wishing to appear arrogant, I am a professional writer. I don’t give any thought to famous authors or who sold more books than me, which is just about everyone right now. I know I write well. They write well. I know my stories are interesting and have merit. So do they. Hopefully, the only difference between us; they just started before me. The better than 4 star reviews for A Sinister Obsession attest to storytelling skills. If all my reviewers worked at Simon and Schuster, my books would be piled up at the front door of Barnes and Noble. If or when I meet a famous writer, I’d probably ask if they played golf. With that said, I’ll share a time when I was intimidated by previous writers. Not fiction writers, but eminent personality theorists: Freud, Jung, and Ellis. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I was formulating a different view of human nature and relationships, which placed our natures in the natural world. While sharing my thoughts with colleagues, they encouraged me to write a book. A bolt of anxiety hit me. I said, “Who would care what an obscure therapist in Plainview Long Island thinks?” My colleague looked at me and said, “Everyone!” I wrote Taming Your Inner & Outer Bullies: Confronting Life’s Stressors And Winning with a great deal of trepidation published by New Horizon Press Books, Steven B. Rosenstein, LCSW, MS.

Many writers have that first novel which will never see the light of day. Out of curiosity, do you have one stashed somewhere?  Inquiring minds want to know: what was  your first attempt at writing and how old were you?

How did you know? I was a teenager when I was writing poetry. I don’t know why I chose that creative form as I was a terrible writer. Most of my interest was in sports and old movies. But I enjoyed doing it. Showed a few people and they  liked it. I think I can blame my creative desires on an old friend who was an excellent artist. I was envious of his talents and I wanted to be just as creative. I will admit to being a highly competitive person. Nothing I do doesn’t involve some form of competition, even if the completion is with myself. My first novel I wrote, when I didn’t know how to make two adjacent sentences coherent, was a horror novel. I sent it out to agents. Rejected! I put it away, and every year or two, edited it again and again. Recently, its main characters screamed at me to send out queries to independent publishers. I hope they’re right!  

–Ahh, teenage poetry, the perfect outlet for angst… 

We all have favorite characters, either main or secondary, and there are always bits and pieces of them we don’t share with our readers, but keep close to our hearts.  Choose your favorite from your cast of characters and tell us a couple of things that you haven’t shared in your books/writing.

There are few secrets that I haven’t shared with the readers about my characters. If I think it goes down on paper. I don’t hold back. Like it or not, the character gets revealed. For Detective McKenzie, she likes to physically hurt those she hates. That’s who she is. I could have made her less reactive and aggressive, but she wouldn’t have accepted that. I didn’t share with my readers that she’d like to bullet in the heart of most of the criminals she captures. There’s another character I dare not name to ruin the mystery, but he is really far more despicable than I made him. I didn’t want to tarnish every aspect of his personality, so the readers wouldn’t hate him as much as I do.

–I think a great many writers won’t share everything about their character with their readers, but if you do it right, you’re readers manage to uncover it all between the lines.

What’s some of the funniest/sweetest/strangest things you’ve heard from your readers?

A reader said, reacting to a murder scene, “I’ll never look at a knitting needle the same way again!”

Whether we’re plotters or pantsers (outlines not needed), creating our stories takes us on very memorable journeys.  Sometimes we may be part way through before we realize some major aspect of our story is just not working (plot, character, setting).  Have you ever hit this sharp, pointy snag and if so, how did you escape? We’re you battered and bruised or a bloody mess?

I’ve never hit a snag on a story and had to give it up because I write the entire story in my head, for months, before I ever think of having it appear on a computer screen. If it doesn’t have a great beginning, middle, and end with fascinating characters, I give it up. Ninety percent of my stories bite the dust. However, here’s a masochistic moment. A bit different that your question but the situation left me devastated. Many years ago, I saw the movie Amadeus. I thought it would interesting to write a screenplay about Beethoven, who had an even greater difficult life, but no one had done before. I did months of research. Wrote the screenplay, which took we nearly a year with the little free time I had. Just when I finished it, and was thinking about what to do with it, my wife comes over, and says gently, “Immortal Beloved, is coming to the big screen. Oh, noooooo! Here’s my advice to writers. Never write a screenplay about a famous person!

What’s the one genre you won’t ever try and why?

Young adult. I’d have no clue how they think. What they think about. I can’t watch their movies or their television shows. What they think is funny has me staring blankly at walls. I don’t understand paying hundreds of dollars for jeans with tattered holes.  They’re a great generation, but not my generation, and if I dared create characters of that age, they’d sound like old people with braces on!

Share if you dare, one of your favorite research experiences. Did you join a ghost hunters group? Did you step outside your comfort zone and into the wild world of your characters?

My favorite research experience wasn’t very exciting. In my horror novel, President Kennedy, is a background character. I went to the library and read every biography on him. I expected to read about his presidency and policy and couldn’t believe I was reading about the secret life of a sex addict. He had an insatiable appetite for sex. His long list of women included Marilyn Monroe, a Soviet spy, and prostitutes in the White House. Now my novel about a succubus seeking world domination, through demonic possession, during a sexual encounter had the powerful punch I was seeking!

–It’s amazing what you discover about public figures if you dig deep enough. 

You all ready for our BULLET LIST? Alright, SB, it’s all yours… 

Blades, guns, fists or feet?

Fists – I can’t really hurt anyone.

Favorite Fairy Tale of all time?

Peter Pan – Flying would be fun!

Three titles and their authors sitting on your nightstand/bookcase/table/floor waiting to be read?

Only two, but they’ve been by my bed for over a year.

Crazy Horse, The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz

No Easy Way by Mark Owen

Greatest one liner of all time?

“Here’s looking at you kid!” the movie, Casablanca

Sarcastic witticism, Southern sweetness or Geeky disdain?

Sarcastic witticism – I love one up-man-ship.

Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?

A paperclip with a plastic yellow heart on it. I have no idea where it came from. 

Favorite supernatural creature?

Succubus

Much thanks to SB for coming and spending time with us, we always love meeting new writers and getting a small peek into what  makes them tick!

A Sinister Obsession can be purchased at Amazon and all booksellers in kindle and paperback formats.

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Amazon  http://goo.gl/TkWAe6

A psychopathic killer on a quest leaves behind a string of brutal murders, and to find the Who, the police must first discover the Why

Detective Aubrey McKenzie has been assigned to investigate the murders. A lovely, fabulously wealthy, dark-haired Scot, whose iron will was forged in the inferno of human tragedy, Aubrey is stymied by the lack of solid clues. Now she must rely on her paranormal ability to apprehend the killer—an ability that has been invaluable in her police work but has made a disaster of her social life. Fate teams Aubrey with Detective Joshua Diamond, a handsome, talented, and compassionate man who is more than happy eating a greasy bacon-cheeseburger and wearing clothes that should have been thrown out with the trash. In a race against time, Aubrey and Joshua must overcome their vast differences—and their attraction for each other—and discover the identity of this elusive killer, and the quest this fiend is on, before more lives are destroyed.

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Bio

I write under the name S. B. Redstone. I began my career, after graduating from Hunter College, as a caseworker for the New York City Department of Social Services, Protective Services, investigating the horrors of the abuse and neglect of children. After attaining master’s degrees in Social Work and School Psychology, and then completing a post-graduate education in Psychoanalytic Therapy, I became a School Psychologist in the New York City Department of Education and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in his private therapy practice on Long Island. treating adults, adolescents, children, and couples. Always striving to improve his understanding of human nature, I researched and then wrote a personal improvement book, Taming Your Inner & Outer Bullies: Confronting Life’s Stressors And Winning, which offers remarkable insights into behavior, societal institutions, and relationships. I have written articles on the web concerning human nature, relationships and the abuses of societal institutions, given lectures, and appeared on radio shows.                                                                             

Always having a vivid imagination and a desire to write fiction, I developed my writing skills by becoming a successful writer of short stories, all of which have been published on the web and in print. As an expert in the field of human psychology, I have been able to develop realistic characters from the dark side of human nature where my villains don’t aspire for happiness through personal achievement, but rather from their demented narcissistic schemes. Many of my characters have been taken from my clinical experiences. I have two additional novels seeking publication. I am a member of the International Thriller Writers Org and Romance Writers of America.

I can be found at http://sbredstoneauthor.com and at Goodreads, Shelfari, and Bloglovin. 

Come visit w/Nationally Best Selling Deborah Cooke and join our #giveaway! #Dragonfire #UF #PNR #romance

Good morning Swamp Folks! How are we doing this fine spring morning? Did you all make it past Dreamer’s SnapDragons? *wincing* Yeah, seems the seedlings got mixed with the Venus FlyTraps, hence the sharp teeth on those little puppies.

Well, now that you’re all settled in, get ready, because today we welcome the Nationally Best Selling Mistress of the hunky men of her Dragonfire series–Deborah Cooke . You may also recognize her as Claire Delacroix, the NY Times Best Selling authoress.

And because Deborah is such awesome sauce, she’s going to do a giveaway right here!

So in the comments, share with us a piece of life advice you found helpful or not so helpful and you could be our lucky winner of:

A SIGNED TRADE PAPERBACK OF THE DRAGON LEGION COLLECTION!

Dragonfire is a paranormal romance series featuring dragon shape shifter heroes on quest to save humanity 

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Don’t forget to include your email so we can reach out and gift you! (winner announced on 3/19/14)

Without further ado, I give you Deborah…

As children we tend to have an idea of what we want to be by the time we’re ten.  Before you decided to pursue the artistic dream of being a writer, what did you want to be and why?

Well, maybe this is backwards, but I always wanted to be a writer. I was an avid reader as a kid and just loved books. I also loved making up stories. Now we’d call it fan fiction, but I used to continue the stories of characters I’d met in books. The idea that I could be someone who wrote books, who was responsible for putting stories out into the world, was just a thrilling possibility. I was told, though, that being a writer wasn’t a practical way to make a living, that I should write as a hobby and find a “real” job instead. Well, writing books isn’t a practical way to make a living, but if it’s what you want to do, “real” jobs are just too boring to endure. I had real jobs for a while and ended up scribbling books on the side. I had to follow my bliss, and I did. Even before I sold my first book, I quit my real job and I’ve never looked back. It’s been challenging sometimes but so rewarding that you take the challenges in stride.

–I did the same thing for books and movies, generally creating my own character, because, well, because I’m a writer.  I also heard the same thing about writing not being a “real” job. *snort* Shows what they know.  I’ve got a plan where the day job goes bye-bye, but we’re not quite there yet. Soon, though *rubbing hangs together*

If you turned your laptop/computer/pen/typewriter (yes, some of still use these!) over to your character(s), how would they describe you?

I expect my characters would be frustrated with me for not writing more quickly. They’d accuse me of being easily distracted by shiny new ideas, which isn’t entirely unfair. Shiny new ideas are exciting! The fact is that I’m pretty prolific, but I still have too many ideas to write them all as quickly as even I’d like. I also have a tendency to create secondary characters who want to steal the book so they can have their own stories told. I make them wait, even though they’re interesting, and they don’t like it. The line of characters wanting their particular book written forms to the right, and my office tends to be pretty crowded. So long as no one fictional does injury to anyone else fictional, I’m okay with the crowd. I doubt they feel the same way – and really, if I was waiting on an HEA, I’d be impatient too. This also explains why I talk when I’m writing, but I’m not really talking to myself (although it looks like it): I’m calming the crowd. =0)

–Yep, have to watch for others listening in, they start to consider us “unbalanced”.  Explaining it, seems to make it worse!

Many writers have that first novel which will never see the light of day. Out of curiosity, do you have one stashed somewhere?  Inquiring minds want to know: what was  your first attempt at writing and how old were you?

I made many first attempts at writing, and took creative writing classes in high school. The first full length book that I completed is the proverbial one under the bed. It’s a paranormal romantic suspense set in Venice. I loved that story to bits and revised it many (many!) times. I really didn’t have the skill to do a good job with such a complicated hybrid genre book then. I submitted it to many publishers and agents, but in 1990, there was no market for that kind of book. There still might not be a market for it, but over the years, it’s haunted me and I now have a better plan of how to write it. I might rewrite it one of these days. We’ll see. For now, those characters have joined the line in my office.

–So I’m going to ask, do you have one of those paper ticket dispensers, like a deli? “Please take a number and we will serve you as soon as we can.” =0)

What’s some of the funniest/sweetest/strangest things you’ve heard from your readers?

I’m always honoured to hear from readers. There’s something so private about the act of writing that it’s frequently a bit startling to realize that other people are actually reading my books. Of course, that’s the point of publishing them, but still, it’s very exciting to hear from a reader. The sweetest thing someone can say is “I loved your book X.” Wow! That never fails to give me a thrill. Meeting readers in person is also a treat. One of the most exciting changes for writers is the development of the internet and the opportunity it gives of interacting with readers, through blogs, emails or other social media. It’s so much fun to have that immediacy and even to be able to correspond.

–Well, let me be another one, I love, love your Dragon series (and I know Snarky is just almost speechless that you’re visiting).

What is some of the best advice you were ever given?

It wasn’t given to me specifically, but is from the writings of Joseph Campbell: Follow your bliss. You have to do what makes you happy, regardless of whether other people (or even you) think it’s a sensible choice. Another saying I just love comes from Julia Cameron and the Artist’s Way: Leap and the net will appear. That’s about trusting your instincts and following your heart (as well as your bliss). We know more than we believe we do, and need to be reminded to trust in ourselves and our own instincts.

–Instincts, we have ’em for a resin =0)

Time for our favorite things, our bullet list…

Blades, guns, fists or feet?

Whatever suits the character. =0)

Favorite Fairy Tale of all time?

I love so many, but would choose Beauty and the Beast.

Three titles and their authors sitting on your nightstand/bookcase/table/floor waiting to be read?

My TBR pile is very scary. It fills an entire bookshelf in my office. On my nightstand, though, are Agatha Christie: The Mousetrap and other plays (I admit I’ve been on a bit of an AC binge this fall.)
Margo Lanagan: The Brides of Rollrock Island (This is just lovely. I’m trying to ready slowly and savour.)
Ursula K. Leguin: Voices (Recommended by a friend who reads a ton more fantasy than me. I love UKL’s work, though, and am looking forward to diving in.)

Greatest one liner of all time?

“I know.”  Hans Solo en route to his inevitable demise, right after Princess Leia cries “Hans! I love you!”

–Ah yes, Star Wars, greatest space soap opera EVER!

Sarcastic witticism, Southern sweetness or Geeky disdain?

Oh, I like wry humor. The deadpanned one-liner is my fave.

Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?

Hmm. There’s the usual clutter of books, music dvd’s, computer parts, notebooks, file folders and knitting in various stages of completion.

Favorite supernatural creature?

Dragons, of course. (Shape-shifting dragons that can become hunky heroes are even better.)

–LOL!

Much thanks to Deborah for taking time out of her very busy schedule to be with us! Don’t forget to leave your comment and email below. 

Need more…

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Bestselling and award-winning author Deborah Cooke has published over fifty novels and novellas, including historical romances, fantasy romances, fantasy novels with romantic elements, paranormal romances, contemporary romances, urban fantasy romances, time travel romances and paranormal young adult novels. She writes as herself, Deborah Cooke, as Claire Delacroix, and has written as Claire Cross. She is nationally bestselling, as well as a USA Today and New York Times’ bestselling author. Her Claire Delacroix medieval romance, The Beauty, was her first book to land on the New York Times List of Bestselling Books.

Deborah was the writer-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library in 2009, the first time TPL hosted a residency focused on the romance genre, and she was honored to receive the Romance Writers of America PRO Mentor of the Year Award in 2012.

Currently, she’s writing the Dragonfire series of paranormal romances as Deborah Cooke, and the True Love Brides series of medieval romances (with fantasy elements) as Claire Delacroix.

The current Dragonfire release is The Dragon Legion Collection, which includes three paranormal romance novellas. You can read more about it right here:
http://deborahcooke.com/deborah-cooke-books/dragonfire/the-dragons-legion-novellas/

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The current True Love Brides release is The Highlander’s Curse, which is a paranormal Scottish medieval romance. You can read more about it right here:
http://deborahcooke.com/claire-delacroix-books/the-true-love-brides/the-highlanders-curse

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Deborah has also republished a trilogy of urban fantasy romances featuring fallen angel heroes and set in a dystopian future called the Prometheus Project. There’s a new fourth book in the series called Abyss and you can read more about it right here:
http://deborahcooke.com/claire-delacroix-books/the-prometheus-project/abyss/

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Find Deborah at these locations:

Deborah’s website and blog is http://deborahcooke.com

Deborah is on Facebook as herself:
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDeborahCookeFanPage
and also as Claire Delacroix:
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorClaireDelacroix

Deborah is on Goodreads as Claire:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12694.Claire_Delacroix

It’s all about NYT, USA Today Best Selling Rom Suspense Authoress, @KayleaCross! #romsusp #giveaway

Gather ’round the campfire, kiddos, today we have the pleasure of talking with NYT and USA Today Best Selling Author, Kaylea Cross. She’s agreed to spend some time answering a few of our questions. 

Keep your voices down, there may be a few…ummm…men in greasepaint armed with some serious weapons looking for her. We promised she’d return unharmed, but they’re a cautious bunch.

Kaylea has some seriously exciting series out there–two of my favs, Titanium Security Series and Bagram Special Ops Series, only because I haven’t picked up the others yet. If you like Maya Banks, Christy Reece and Cindy Gerard, you have to add Kaylea to your reading list.

And to help with that, Kaylea has agreed to give one lucky commenter a free e-copy of IGNITED, the first book in the Titanium Security Series.  Just share some of your favorite Romantic Suspense authors in the comments.  Don’t forget to include your email with your comment.

Okay, since Eerie’s signaling me frantically, we’ll get this show on the road. 

My fellow conspirators, I give you Kaylea…

As children we tend to have an idea of what we want to be by the time we’re ten.  Before you decided to pursue the artistic dream of being a writer, what did you want to be and why?

Always an author. Always. For my 5th birthday I ask for and received an old-fashioned typewriter. I vividly remember sitting down and hacking away at the keys on a story that night. I didn’t start my first novel until much, much later though!

–Me too, well, and a judge and a vet, and a journalist…My typewriter sat at the kitchen table. My parents were pretty great about the fact it took up a permanent residence. I have 250 pages of a YA fantasy under lock and key.  It’s been banished. 

We all have favorite characters, either main or secondary, and there are always bits and pieces of them we don’t share with our readers, but keep close to our hearts.  Choose your favorite from your cast of characters and tell us a couple of things that you haven’t shared in your books/writing.

Oh, hands down that’s Luke Hutchinson, from my first suspense series. He’s the love of my writing life and no hero will ever match him (I’m loyal like that). I guess the biggest thing I didn’t really dwell on for him is that there’s still a lot of darkness inside him that he struggles with.

Personally, I tend to be a bit on the introverted side so the thought of being in the actual presence of one of my favorite writers makes my heart race, my knees shake and tangles my tongue (yes classic fan girl behavior).  Who could reduce you to such a level and how do you imagine your initial meeting?

I’d have to say JR Ward or Suzanne Brockmann, because I absolutely adore their writing and their characters. Though I will admit I’m pretty shy and my knees were wobbling pretty good when I attended an air show to interview some flight crews two summers ago. There I was, surrounded by a wall of men wearing flight suits as I went through my list of questions with them. I did NOT tell them I was researching a romance novel, however, since in my experience that’s the kiss of death as far as credibility is concerned. (Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!)

–I’m with you on JR and Suzanne. They’re awesome character creators. Kudos to you on the flight crew interviews, I’m not sure I could have done anything remotely similar without stuttering (all hail the blogverse, where I can type without stumbling over my words!)

Many writers have that first novel which will never see the light of day. Out of curiosity, do you have one stashed somewhere?  Inquiring minds want to know: what was  your first attempt at writing and how old were you?

Well, this year I managed to publish the first book I ever wrote (a Civil War romance called The Vacant Chair), BUT, I had to rewrite it a couple of times and then I hired a freelance editor to go through it with a fine-tooth comb. It definitely is near and dear to my heart, though it’s far outside of the romantic suspense genre I’m known for.

–A historical? Wow, I’m thoroughly impressed. Historical’s scare me because of how accurate you have to be on your world building.

What is the best advice you can share with others?

Don’t give up, and don’t compare yourself/your work to others. Your process and voice will be unique to everyone else’s. Find what works for you and stick to that.

–Hear, hear!

Share if you dare, one of your favorite research experiences. Did you join a ghost hunters group? Did you step outside your comfort zone and into the wild world of your characters?

Aww, only one? Okay. I’m absolutely freaking terrified of flying (it’s a long story with a good reason behind it!), but for my Bagram Special Ops series I interviewed several helicopter pilots, flight instructors and even a Navy vet who survived a crash so I could get the details right. Then I went up in a helo five times to get the feel for the aircraft and the basics of the controls/mechanics. Best part was, I lived to tell the tale!

–It was well worth it, because I love that series. Your world building was awesome. I’m not much of a flyer either, but it’s more a heights thing than flying…

Now for our fun bullet list. Ready? Aim. Fire…

Blades, guns, fists or feet?

Guns! All my heroes are adept with firearms of all sorts.

Favorite Fairy Tale of all time?

Beauty and the Beast. I love that theme of redemption, and seeing past the physical to what’s inside.

–Love Beauty…even before Disney made a movie out of it =0)

Three titles and their authors sitting on your nightstand/bookcase/table/floor waiting to be read?

Uncommon Pleasure, by Anne Calhoun
American Sniper, by the late Chris Kyle
SEAL Team Six, by Harold Wasdin

–I’ve got Wasdin’s and Kyle’s on my TBR too. They’re compelling reads.

Greatest one liner of all time?

“Nothing like a good piece of ass.” (From Steel Magnolias)

–*snort*

Sarcastic witticism, Southern sweetness or Geeky disdain?

Southern sweetness all the way!

Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?

My late 18 ½ year old cat’s ashes and a little Ziploc of his fur. *sniffle*

((hugs))

Favorite supernatural creature?

Dragons.

—Oooohhhh, Snarky’s going to love you!

Big, huge Thank You to Kaylea for making time to drop in. Before we let her go, don’t forget to share with us your favorite Romantic Suspense author (with your email) for a chance to win an e-copy of IGNITED:

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When her father is murdered by a Taliban cell in the tribal regions of Pakistan, Khalia Patterson reluctantly steps into his shoes to carry on the legacy of Fair Start Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to furthering the education of girls. There she meets Hunter Phillips, the ex-SEAL and head of her Titanium security team, and quickly learns that coming to Pakistan might prove to be a deadly decision.
Battling demons of his own, Hunter grudgingly leads Khalia’s protective detail  as a favor to his boss. From their first meeting it’s clear she’s going to be trouble, and that the cell that killed her father is hell bent on taking her out as well. Keeping her alive is one of the toughest assignments he’s ever faced, yet through one harrowing situation after another she continually impresses him with her strength and inner courage. Even though he fights his feelings for her, it’s a losing battle. And when the job is over, he doesn’t know how he’ll let her go.
Buy Links:

Come find Kaylea Cross…

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NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Kaylea Cross writes edge-of-your-seat military romantic suspense. Her work has won many awards and has been nominated for both the Daphne du Maurier and the National Readers’ Choice Awards. A Registered Massage Therapist by trade, Kaylea is also an avid gardener, artist, Civil War buff, Special Ops aficionado, belly dance enthusiast and former nationally-carded softball pitcher. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her family. You can find Kaylea through her website, Twitter, Facebook,and her blog.

KC Klein on Inspiration and a Giveaway @kckleinbooks

Please help me welcome the lovely KC Klein to the blog today, talking about a writer’s inspiration. Also, make sure you leave a comment and your email to be entered in her giveaway : )

Finding Inspiration In Texas

First, I wanted to thank Amber for allowing me to come on her blog and do a guest post. What better place to talk about my latest book in the Texas Fever series, Hustlin’ Texas, than at a blog dedicated to romance? Amber has been so kind to work around my schedule and all my last minute postponements. Thank you so much Amber for working with me. Your patience has been amazing. J

A few years ago, before I even thought about writing a series, I started thinking about a sweet little love story that was centered on a headstrong young woman who had fallen for the cowboy next door. Add to it my heroine’s absolute passion for horses and a desperate rancher, and I had myself a story. So naturally when I started writing, I had to place my book in a small town in Texas. Well, the problem was I live in Arizona and had nUntitled-1 copyever been to Texas.

I was grateful to learn that the southern part of Texas has similar landscaping as Arizona and after interviewing and following around some local horse ranchers I was able to pull off a realistic Texas setting. But…I still felt the need to visit Texas and get the feel of the local flavor.

My best friend, Pam Silva, took pity on me and invited me to stay with her family who lived in the small town of Whitesboro, Texas.

Untitled-2 copy I learned a lot. I toured both small and large working horse ranches, saw long-horned cattle up close, found out in Texas that just about everything can be fried…catfish, hushpuppies, okra, sweet hushpuppies, and that no one I saw seemed as interested in pool like the woman on my cover. (What a shame.)

I also found that I wasn’t the first author, by far, to be inspired by Texas. In the Stockyard Museum in Fort Worth there is a wedding dress on display called the “Bad Luck Wedding Dress.” Due to technical difficulties I lost my pictures of the dress, but found a photo and the history of the gown on the museum website. Though you can’t tell from this photo all I have to say is that the women back then must have been very, very tiny.Untitled-3 copy

Alongside the dress was a romance novel by Geralyn Dawson who was inspired to write an entire series around the legend of this dress. Here’s her book cover. Untitled-4 copy

How cool is that to find your book kept in the Stockyard Museum alongside the actual dress that inspired your book—if only. (Insert heartfelt sigh here)

Well, maybe my book won’t make it into a museum, but I hope it will make its way into readers’ homes and hearts.

Thank you for letting me share a tiny bit of what inspired me in Texas. Below is the blurb and teaser of my latest book, Hustlin’ Texas. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, leave a comment below with your email address and you’ll be entered into a drawing for an e-copy of Hustlin’ Texas.

Thanks again and happy reading.

Hustlin' Texas (ebook) (2)Excerpt

Jett nodded, then glanced around the crowded bar. When he turned his gaze back on her, a person would be hard pressed to describe his eyes as anything sweet or candy like. “I was hoping you’d be up for a little game of nine-ball.”

Nikki took a sip from her beer and raised her brow in question. Nine-ball was the hustler’s game. It was short and quick, without all the rules of straight pool.

He nodded his head toward the tables in the back. “I heard you played.”

“Then you heard wrong.” She took another sip, eying him the whole time. “I’ve given it up for Lent.”

The corner of his mouth hinted at a smile. “Found God, have you?”

“Among other things.”

Jett glanced to the tables, then back to her. “One game. No money.”

Nikki shook her head. “I don’t play for fun. No thrill in it.”

He swallowed, and she could see his jaw work. “Then we’ll play for a favor. A debt. You up for a little more red in your ledger?”

She didn’t want to ask, not really, but gambling was too deep in her blood not to hear the stakes. “What’s the favor?”

He smiled, not the golden boy smile she’d come to know, but instead one that lacked any charm at all. “Well, Texas, that’s the thrill part. You don’t know until the end. Anything goes. No boundaries.”

Her heart did a funky jump-start in her chest at the possibilities, but her game face was ice-cold. “No limits?”

“None. Unless that’s too much heat for you? We could place some ground rules if you want to play it safe.”

Nikki knew what Jett was doing. It was so obvious, and yet, there was that achingly familiar thrill that zipped up her spine and buzzed in her blood. Some families were predisposed toward red hair or near-sightedness. The Logans were addicts. Throw a dart at the family tree and you’d hit a vice—drinking, smoking, shopping. You name it, and the Logans could turn anything into a compulsion. But really, under all the addictions, there was only one. One vice that was as indicative of a Logan as dark hair, brown skin, and blue eyes.

It was very basic, really. The Logans were gamblers.

There were stories as far back as her grandfather, if stories in the Logan family could be believed, who won his first car—a 1950 Cadillac—on the toss of a coin. Then there was her father, Dakota, who’d bet on every sports game invented, and even ones that hadn’t, like golf without clubs. Her father had once bet a hundred dollars on his ability to throw a golf ball through the eighteen holes. Legend had it, he’d won that hundred, but lost the money in the same night in an “I can piss into a can from the second story” contest.

So Jett knew what he was doing. And Nikki was smart enough to know this was more than a simple favor and way more than a simple game of pool. She also knew something else. Jett was no match for her in this game.

She hid her smile with a sip of her drink. The thrill of a “sure thing” was headier than any shot of tequila, more exciting than a leather-jacketed man on a motorcycle.

“Oh, I can take the heat,” she said.

“But can you handle this much heat?”

“Oh, I can handle it. Because we both know I can beat you with one hand tied behind my back and blindfolded.”

His eyebrows arched. “Then you’d best start figuring out what your favor will be.”

Nikki put down her bottle, no longer needing the buzz. “Already have.” Her car fixed…for starters. “You really think you can beat me at pool?”

God, he was so cocky. It was almost tragic.

His eyes narrowed and there was absolutely no humor in his voice when he spoke. “Oh, I’m betting on it.”

BIO: KC Klein has lived most of her life with her head in the clouds and her nose buried in a book. She did stop reading long enough to make a home with a real life hero, her husband, for over sixteen years. A mother of two children, she spends her time slaying dragons, saving princesses, and championing the belief in the happily-ever-after. Her debut novel, Dark Future, is a finalist in the 2012 Prism contest and has been honored with a reviewer’s choice award. Her other titles include a sci- fi, 2012 RONE award winning romance anthology, Hotter on the Edge, and the first two books in her Texas Fever contemporary romance series, Texas Wide Open, and Hustlin’ Texas. KC loves to hear from readers and can be found desperately pounding away on her laptop in yoga pants and leopard slippers or more conveniently at www.kckleinbooks.com. Sign for her quarterly newsletter for updates on her latest releases, sales, and free giveaways.

Blurb for Hustlin’ Texas:

“Sassy, sexy, fun, but sweet at heart, KC Klein knows how to spin a tall Texas yarn.”—Lori Wilde

“A sexy read. KC Klein’s hero is as hot as a Texan summer’s day. KC is an author to watch..” —Rachel Gibson

Only one person in Oak Groves is happy to see bad girl Nikki Logan back in town…

Oak Groves’ most beloved bachelor, Jett Avery, lives by a simple set of rules. Getting involved with a complicated woman isn’t one of them. He learned that the hard way two years ago when he spent one of the most incredible nights of his life with Nikki Logan. But then she hightailed it out of town, never to be seen again—until now. It might be time to break one of those rules…

Picking up the pieces of her life, Nikki is back in Oak Groves, face to face with the one man she’s done her best to forget. But she has her reasons for being here—and they don’t include winding up in bed with Jett. Especially since he’ll never forgive her once he finds out the truth about why she’s back…

Buy links for Hustlin’ Texas:

Amazon: http://kckleinbooks.com/HustlinTexas

Barns and Nobel: http://kckleinbooks.com/BNHustlinTexas

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hustlin-texas

Blurb for TEXAS WIDE OPEN:

“A tortured hero, a love that defies distance and time…this is a book you won’t soon forget.” –Cat Johnson

Katie Harris loved growing up on a ranch. She had her horse, the beautiful Texas prairie, and Cole Logan, the cowboy next door. But there are a lot of secrets hidden under a Texas sky…

Katie always knew she’d marry Cole one day—until he broke her dreams and her heart. But now that Katie’s father is sick, she’s back home, older, wiser and nowhere near the love-sick fool she once was.

Cole knows Katie doesn’t want anything to do with him. But after so many years, he can’t pretend she’s no more than a neighbor. Holding his ground was hard enough when she was seventeen. Now that she’s her own woman, Cole’s heart doesn’t stand a chance…

“Passionate, gritty and fast paced…with a hot blooded, honorable hero to make every woman’s knees go weak.”—Diane Whiteside

Buy Links for TEXAS WIDE OPEN:

Amazon: http://kckleinbooks.com/TexasWideOpenAmazon

Barns and Noble: http://kckleinbooks.com/TexasWideOpenBN

Blurb for DARK FUTURE:

A woman caught between two futures…

Awakened in the middle of the night by a future version of herself, Kris Davenport is given a mission: go travel in time to save the world–and his life. Of course, her future self doesn’t tell her who he is just sends her into the darkness and straight into an alien invasion.

…must choose between the man who has her heart…

He turns out to be ConRad Smith, the callous, untrusting military commander of Earth’s army and the world’s last defense. There’s only one way for Smith to know for sure if this strange woman is an alien spy–slice her throat. Except, he didn’t anticipate the desire he would feel as he interrogates the hot-tempered, warm-blooded woman.

…or the fate that saves the world.

As Kris and ConRad struggle to trust each other in a world on the brink of destruction, they each will have to face the ultimate choice of whether to fight or die… survive or forgive.

Buy Links for DARK FUTURE:

Amazon e-book: http://kckleinbooks.com/AmazonDarkFuture

Amazon print book: http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Future-Kc-Klein/dp/0062117041

Avon Impulse: http://www.avonromance.com/buy/dark-future-epb/

Barns and Noble: http://kckleinbooks.com/BNDarkFuture

Website: www.kckleinbooks.com

Blog: http://kckleinbooks.tumblr.com

WordPress: http://kckleinbooks.com/writing-from-the-edge-blog/

Links To Social Media:

Twitter: @kckleinbooks

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKCKlein

Pintrest: http://pinterest.com/kckleinbooks

Amazon Author page: http://kckleinbooks.com/AmazonAuthorPage

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5163507.K_C_Klein

Can you keep a holiday secret w/ @khlemoyne and THINGS THAT GO BUMP FOR THE HOLIDAYS? If so, you could win! #holidays #anthology #giveaway #BOB

It’s almost here! THINGS THAT GO BUMP FOR THE HOLIDAYS hits shelves TODAY, Dec. 14th! We wanted to get you ready for the release and today we have KH LeMoyne with us and she sharing, but shhh! don’t scream about it too loud, we don’t want to scare everyone away! Besides, you don’t want everyone to know what an awesome gift you’re picking up this year. 

((sigh)) Never mind, go ahead and tell everyone one….please!

3D Paranormal Anthology

Jami, thank you for having me on your blog. I’m thrilled to be in the Things That Go Bump For the Holidays anthology with you and so many other wonderful writers.

My contribution in the anthology, Heart Strings, is a follow-on short story with the characters from my first Portals of Destiny book, Return of the Legacy. For those of you who can commiserate with the difficulty of buy gifts and keeping secrets from your loved ones during the holidays, the task takes on a new level of difficulty in a family of gifted empaths and mystics.

Here’s an excerpt from Return of the Legacy to whet your appetite:

A glint of steel flickered in the shadowed dusk.

“What’s your business here?”

Logan shifted his eyes to make out the owner of the deep rasping voice. He slid his hand higher to palm the child’s head and shield her.

The sword was fisted in the hands of one short, but solid, old man, white hair plastered to his head. Fierce eyes challenged Logan’s, urging him to make a wrong move. Logan had no doubt a mistake now would end his life. Practiced calm seeped through him and froze him in place.

“Logan.” Robert moved closer, but a sword blade from a second person motioned him silent. Robert sank to his knees beside Logan, hands raised in submission in an attempt to defuse the aggression and take the brunt of the attention.

The position would make no difference. Robert was as deadly on his knees as he was on his feet. So was Logan if the protection of the fragile child hadn’t come first.

“There’s no need to hurt anybody.” Logan’s voice stayed calm and low. “We’re no threat.”

“That’s not for you to determine,” the older man rasped.

Logan moved his second hand from the anchor of the rock to the sling.

“Hefin, there’s a child.”

The deep, sultry voice drew Logan’s gaze to the woman’s face. His eyes narrowed. He moved back as she reached toward him, but the sword stopped his movement. Slender long fingers touched the sling with a gentle touch. They paused to cover Logan’s hand on the child’s head, and then retreated. Beneath her hood, he saw the outline of full lips and high cheekbones. Recognition struck a blaze through his body in spite of the wet and cold.

“Stay back from them, Briallen. They’re likely Vandals. Or scouts.”

Her hood feel back. Almond shaped eyes widened before her delicate brows drew together in puzzlement. “No, they are not.”

Ignoring the rivulets from rain that streamed down his face and the sword at his neck Logan met her gaze. “The girl is very sick. She needs a dry, warm place and some medical attention.”

Her hand gently pushed aside the blade at Logan’s throat. “Hefin, there is no harm here.”

Want more? I know you do! Check out her Amazon Author Page for all her titles. We’re going to share her Return of the Legacy:

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Three magical dimensions…Two mystical bloodlines…One undeniable destiny.

Born a magical empath, Logan MacKenzie has spent his life protecting his family from discovery. Evil has found them anyway. What begins as Logan’s search for answers on Earth becomes a race for survival in the magical dimension of Loci.

The battle to save those he cares about will reveal his true lineage—the bloodline of the Makir, one half of a pair of sentinels chosen to guard the mystical portals between dimensions. The price of his acceptance: a love he never imagined possible and a heartbreaking choice.

Her family attacked, her home destroyed, and now stranded on Loci, Briallen of Tir Thar, descendant of a magical race, has only to summon the power within her to return to her own dimension—or so she had hoped. Unfortunately, her powers aren’t cooperating, and the sorcerer bent on her family’s destruction will stop at nothing to possess her.

Raised without knowledge of the portals, the Makir guardians, or her own destiny, Bri takes a leap of faith in an alliance with Logan. Embracing an uncertain power and accepting his goals as hers offers her the only way home. If they fail, the consequences of allowing the portals to fall to evil are unthinkable—the destruction of every magical dimension throughout space.

Or for those who want a little more pulse pounding excitement, check out her Dragon Rider’s Gift:
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Three souls. Two hearts. One courageous calling.

Roark of Nedres spent his life absorbing lore, legend, and rumor to claim his dragon beast in order to save his people. Nothing has prepared him for the ultimate bond fate will demand.

Princess Nira Meriel Estar was born with the power of prophecy. Her most recent vision forecasts a dire fate for her people, promises few answers, and will deliver the country of Fyrhall a victorious future or crushing defeat. 

Kraz, an ancient dragon of mythical power and knowledge, has eluded capture for a thousand years. However, only a dragon of great wisdom would consider an eternal bond to his warrior rider to save his dragon race.

I bet you want your own copy of Return of the Legacy, or Things that Go Bump for the Holidays, or maybe even, Dragon Rider’s Gift?

Good, because KH is going to share one AMAZON or B&N copy of one of these with one of our lucky commenters.  Just tell us, do you like:

variety (Things that Go Bump for the Holidays)

a tale that tugs on your emotional strings  (Return of the Legacy)

 a fantastical tale of mythical proportions (Dragon Rider’s Gift)? 

Indicate your preference: VARIETY, EMOTIONAL, or FANTASTICAL, but don’t forget your email* so we can shower gifts on December 16th !

*we’ll only use your email for gifting, we promise not to send you a plethora of joke emails or newsletters

 KH LeMoyne 

KH LeMoyne left behind a career as technology specialist and now lives in Maryland with her family and two corgis. Her love of things mystical and magical keeps her writing, with characters who fight for never-ending love against insurmountable odds. Well, that and occasionally she gets to write about elves, dragons, immortals, and shifters. You can find Kate on the web at: www.khlemoyne.com, her blog: www.fantasypoweredbylove.com  and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/khlemoyneauthor

Come meet #NYT’s most awesome #RomanticSuspense Authoress @CindyGerard and her edgy, sexy men…. #giveaway #RomSus #THEWAYHOME #BOI #ONEEYEDJACKS

Okay everyone, breathe with me as I try not to hyperventilate from my squees of delight. Today I’m so honored to host the most awesome Cindy Gerard.  If you haven’t discovered her, you must add her to your TBR piles. Not only does she have the fantastic Black Ops, Inc. Series, but her latest group of hotties belong to the One Eyed Jacks. You don’t want to miss out on these great romantic suspense titles!  

And because of how truly fantastic she is, Cindy will be giving away THREE e-book copies of her title WHEN SOMEBODY LOVES YOU to our wonderful audience of commenters! All you have to do is leave a comment here (or over at 7 Evil Dwarves site) sharing your favorite heart pounding moment ( a proposal, your first trip to a haunted house, an interview, first day at school/work), whatever got your pulse rate up!  Will announce our winners on both sites on Nov. 15th!

Put your hands together for Ms. Cindy Gerard!

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If you were to hold a dinner party for six, who would you invite and share at least one question you would have for each? Your guests don’t have to be alive and if you really want to make it fun, you can use favorite fictional characters. 

I would really love to have dinner with all the BOI characters – especially Johnny Reed – and from the One Eyed Jacks series, Mike Primetime Brown.  These guys make me laugh.  And the question I would have for them is:  What do you think of cougars???  :o)

–*giggle*, let me know what their answer is, I might have to stop by at an opportune moment!

As children we tend to have an idea of what we want to be by the time we’re ten.  Before you decided to pursue the artistic dream of being a writer, what did you want to be and why?

I was sure I would be a nurse or a veterinarian or an actress, or a singer, or wait … a playwrite.  As you can see, I wanted the whole ball of wax. 

–been there and so cool to see it happen all over again with the boys in my home…

If your character(s) came with a warning label, what would it say?

Warning: anyone tampering with this man (men) are subject to getting caught in the middle of dangerous situations, apt to lose their heart, and will never be the same again.

–sign me up!

If you turned your laptop/computer/pen/typewriter (yes, some of still use these!) over to your character(s), how would they describe you?

Oh dear.  I’m almost afraid to explore that one.  Hopefully they’d say I’m kind and patient and generous but I suspect they’d say I’m bossy, impatient and determined to have my own way.

–yeah, but our characters would get bored if we were nice to them…

Personally, I tend to be a bit on the introverted side so the thought of being in the actual presence of one of my favorite writers makes my heart race, my knees shake and tangles my tongue (yes classic fan girl behavior).  Who could reduce you to such a level and how do you imagine your initial meeting?

There are many who could prompt an “I’m not worthy” moment.  Lee Child would be one.  LaVryle Spencer would be another.  I would imagine I’d pretty much stand there, starry eyed and stiff as a post, willing some pearl of wisdom to come out of my mouth but stuck, instead with a tongue tied hello.  I suck at hero worship.

–does this mean if I get a chance to meet you in actual person, you’ll forgive me for not being able to provide some witty repartee beyond “Errrppp!”?

Whether we’re plotters or pantsers (outlines not needed), creating our stories takes us on very memorable journeys.  Sometimes we may be part way through before we realize some major aspect of our story is just not working (plot, character, setting).  Have you ever hit this sharp, pointy snag and if so, how did you escape? We’re you battered and bruised or a bloody mess?

Frankly, it’s rare that I don’t hit a snag and I always feel battered and bruised when I finish a book.  There are days when I feel like I’m crawling over broken glass naked just to get a scene right.  I think all authors experience it.  Unfortunately, I think it’s also called: The Creative Process.  It’s unavoidable.  Let’s face it.  If it was easy, anyone could do it. 

–*wipes forehead free of sweat* So guess it doesn’t ever go away, uh? Oh well…

Share one uniquely strange experience you’ve had that remains crystal clear to this day.

A few years ago I visited the Korean War monument in D.C.  I’ve never had such an experience as the sense of reality, pain, cold, and fear that our military men had in that battle field depiction.  The statues were larger than life yet so lifelike in expression I literally felt all of those things as well as the loss they experienced.  Very chilling and very moving.  I stood and cried like a baby.

—I did the same at Pearl Harbor a few years back, so I get it. So hard to stand in the midst of such history and not be impacted…

What is some of the best advice you were ever given?

Be kind to people

What is the best advice you can share with others? 

Be kind to people

—  :0)

Share if you dare, one of your favorite research experiences. Did you join a ghost hunters group? Did you step outside your comfort zone and into the wild world of your characters?

I jumped off a 40 foot cliff into the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon so I could experience what it might feel like if you were running for your life and ran out of room.  And no, I’d never do it again. :o)

–Ok, you win this one, Cindy. No way will I ever be able to top that. I get dizzy at the top of buildings, much less the Grand Canyon…

Now our favorite part–our BULLET LIST…

Blades, guns, fists or feet? 

Food.  It’s a great weapon J

Favorite Fairy Tale of all time? 

Rapunzel

Greatest one liner of all time? 

“Did you ever feel like the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?”  Old lonesome George Gobel

Sarcastic witticism, Southern sweetness or Geeky disdain? 

Sarcastic Witticism.  For sure :o)

Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?

 A 90 gallon fresh water aquarium.

Favorite supernatural creature?

I’m holding out for the Lac Ness Monster to be real.

Want a peek into THE WAY HOME! I know you do, so here you go…

the way home9781476735207

THE WAY HOME – EXCERPT

PROLOGUE

Afghanistan – July

It wasn’t the memory he would have chosen – not when he couldn’t even remember his own name – but he knew that he used to have nightmares about vampires.  Hiding under his bed and in dark closets.  Swooping down on their Dracula wings, sinking their fangs into his neck and sucking out his blood.

How ironic, then, that he’d become a vampire of sorts: a creature who lived in the night, hid from the light, and sucked sustenance as though it were blood from a young Afghani woman who despised him but wouldn’t let him die.  She brought him food, water and medicine.  And opiates that she liberally laced in all three.

He watched her now through an opiate induced haze,  physically incapacitated and totally dependent on her. He knew that her name was Rabia and that shecould ill afford the things she brought for him. He also knew that if he were caught while she harbored the escaped American soldier a horde of Taliban warlords were searching for, not only would he be tortured, interrogated and finally executed, so would she.

So he didn’t know why she continued to help him, but he had no option but to accept it.  Just as he had no choice but to believe what she’d told him in heavily accented English about who he was … because he didn’t remember.  He didn’t remember being an American soldier, or what had happened to him, or how he’d escaped from the Taliban and ended up here.

The panic and anguish that stalked him whenever the opiates wore off were as huge and dark as the cave where she hid him. So he gladly relinquished both to the apathy induced by the poppy. Apathy was painless. Apathy made it tolerable to know that weeks, maybe months of his life were gone. His memories … gone.

Only the vampire dreams remained of who he’d been. And only the woman kept him alive.

He studied her now as she prepared his meal in the dim light of an oil lamp, in a silence that embodied their uneasy and unnatural bond as shifting shadows danced along the curved rock wall and dust swept into the cave on a wind that never quit blowing. He knew scattered words in Pashtu but didn’t know why he knew them. She had a passing command of English but rarely chose to use it. More irony that she represented the one constant in a life that had been reduced to pain, fear and the vertigo that crippled him even more than the opiates.  And he didn’t know whether to thank her for keeping him alive, or hate her.

Moving his head slowly to avoid triggering another vertigo attack, he pulled the ragged blanket around him against the chill of the cave floor.

Because he was too weak to feed himself, he watched her eyes as she offered spoonfuls of lukewarm soup.  He couldn’t see her features beneath the dark scarf she wore over her head and wrapped around her neck to cover her face. He could only see those eyes, onyx black, winter cold and void of any emotion but weary disdain.

It had been the same thing every day for twenty-three days. He’d used a small pebble to scratch a mark on the rock wall every day since he’d regained consciousness.  She would appear wearing dark, baggy trousers beneath an encompassing scarf or burqa that covered her from head to knees completely hiding her body beneath yards of coarse, draping cotton.  The scent of the summer heat and the scorch of the sun that she brought with her were reminders that a world existed outside this cave.  A world that wasn’t dank and dark and cold.  A world that was hostile and foreign and where, she assured him, he was not safe.

For twenty-three days she had been the only soul he’d seen and she had yet to look him directly in the eye.  He wouldn’t recognize her if he saw her on the street.  Not that he would ever leave here. If the pain and the vertigo didn’t keep him flat on his back, the ankle shackle that chained him to the rock wall would. And then there was the poppy.  Who knew how deeply he’d been dragged down that rabbit hole?

Some days – the lucid ones, when he couldn’t fight the fear – he would lie here shivering and wish for death.  When pain ripped through his head, when the dizziness became so crippling it reduced him to lying rigidly still, hugging the rock floor in a desperate and futile attempt to stop the nausea, that’s when despair crushed him. And he would beg her to let him die.

Always, she refused.  She continued to risk all to make certain he stayed alive and he had no idea why.

He knew only that every time she appeared on quiet feet and condemning silence, he felt both shame and gratitude because she hadn’t forgotten him … the way he’d forgotten everything but the need to leave this place that even God had forsaken and find his way back home.

If only he knew where home was.

CHAPTER 1

Northern Minnesota – July

Today, of all days, Jess Albert needed routine. Most days she got it. Shop keeping wasn’t exactly a glamorous, high profile or lucrative occupation. In fact, every day was pretty much a repeat of the day before and the day before that. Little mini ground hogs days stacked up like cord wood one on top of the other.  All that was about to change, however, to the tune of the old bell fixed above the Crossroads General Store’s front door.

“Until tomorrow my little lotus blossom.  Dream of me.”

Jess grinned as one of her regulars, Boots England, delivered his standard good bye, tucked his newspaper under his arm and limped toward the door on his recently replaced knee.

“One of these days Marcia’s going to show up with a shovel and bash one of us over the head if you keep flirting with me like that.”

“Ah, but what’s life without a little danger?”  He wiggled his bushy white eye brows, blew her a kiss and let himself outside on a hot rush of July air to get in his Saab and drive the four miles back to his lakeside cabin for his afternoon nap and his wife of almost fifty years.

The bell above the store’s front door dinged softly behind the irrepressible old flirt, sounding the same as it had since Jess’s father had first set up shop almost fifty years ago. Jess loved the sound of that bell. It was comforting and comfortable, the bedrock of her childhood, as ingrained in her psyche as the scent of sunscreen, bug spray and the cherry nut ice cream she’d already scooped gallons of this summer.

She’d spent her youth playing on the scarred pine floors, eventually working behind the counter and after burning out as an ER trauma nurse, finally taking over the store when her parents had retired and moved to Arizona three years ago. So yeah, she loved the sound of that old bell. She especially loved it because every time it rang it meant business which was good because her quarterly taxes were due soon and, as always, she was a little short on cash.

She also loved it because it meant she had another customer to help keep her mind off the fact that this particular day would be a tough one to get through. She glanced at the framed 8 X 10 photo of her and J.R. that hung on the wall behind the cash register. Suntanned and smiling, their whole lives ahead of them.  And then it wasn’t.  At least it wasn’t for J.R.

He would have been thirty-five today. If he’d been home and not deployed, she would have baked him a cake and some of his buddies on the base would have stopped by and they would have drank a little beer.

But the last birthday J.R. celebrated had been thousands of miles from home.  He’d been thirty-two.  Eight months later, he’d been dead.

“Too late to add these to the bill?”

She looked up at the young father making some last minute purchases before he and his son headed out onto the lake for a week of camping and fishing.  He’d added a map and two black ball caps with Lake Kabetogama embroidered across the bill in red to their growing stack of supplies.

“Not a problem.” She gave him a bright smile and harnessed her attention back to the business at hand.  “Anything else?”

The Crossroads Store was a North woods version of a Wal-mart – on a much smaller and less state of the art scale.  The store had been supplying locals and travelers alike for over eighty years.  You needed boots?  Whiskey?  Bait?  Groceries?  DVD rentals?  Anything you could think of the Crossroads provided.

“Yeah, throw in half a dozen C batteries and we’ll call it good, right, son?”

The boy looked to be around ten with flashing brown eyes and buzz cut blond hair.  He was the image of his father and antsy to start their grand ‘just guys’ adventure.

“Do you think we’ll see a bear?” Equal measures of hope and trepidation peppered the boy’s question.

“It’s a good possibility,” she said, feeding his excitement.  “Last DNR count, over a hundred and fifty black bears called Lake Kabetogama and this part of Voyagers National Park home. Where’re you camping?”

The dad dug into his breast pocket and quickly checked his camping permit. “Blue Fin Bay.”

“Ah.  Then there’s a pretty good chance you might spot one.”

The boy’s eyes grew as big as bobbers.

She couldn’t help but laugh as she continued ringing up their sale.  “Make sure to police your camp site every day and store your food in the bear proof lockers the park service provides.  You’ll be fine.”

The bell rang again in the background.  Jess glanced up from the cash register in time to see a pair of broad shoulders and the back of a baseball cap disappear down the center aisle toward the live bait tanks.

It was a sight she saw dozens of times a day during the summer season.  Another fisherman burning with fishing fever, hoping to get lucky and needing some bait.  Since she was on her own for a while until Kayla Burke, her mainstay summer help, got back from a bank run, she left the newcomer alone to figure out what he wanted while she finished ringing up twenty gallons of gas, a mocha cappuccino, a root beer and the rest of the groceries for the father and son campers.  She gave them directions to Wooden Frog Landing where they could put their boat in and wished them good luck.  Once they’d headed out the door, she decided she’d better check on Mr. Ball Cap.

Wiping her hands on a paper towel and heading out from behind the counter, she nearly tripped over Bear, her twelve week old Labrador pup. The dog was a mass of sleek, glossy black fur, big clumsy feet, and happily thumping tail.  Still fully spent from their run early this morning, Bear had ‘assumed the position’ and napped soundly by her feet.

“No, don’t get up.” She grinned at the oblivious dog and headed down a row of shelves stocked neatly with everything from canned goods to marshmallows to fishing lures, and walked toward the last place she’d seen the top of the ball cap disappear.

“Sorry for the wait.  What can I get you?”

“Not sure.  What do I need to catch the big ones?”

The voice stopped her cold.  And routine, mundane and comfortable shifted to excitement and chaos in one long, heavy heartbeat.  It didn’t matter that the row of stocked shelves hid him.  She knew exactly who was back there.

Tyler Brown.

Holy, holy cow. 

Talk about a blind side.  It had been a year ago February since she’d met this man and exchanged a very few words him.  No way should she have remembered the timber and the pitch of his voice so clearly after … what?  Eighteen months?  Yet she was one hundred percent certain it was him before she hesitantly made the final turn to face him.

“Surprise.”  He smiled, hopeful and expectant and even a little shy.  Coupled with his very large, very striking, and very unexpected presence, it set off a handspring of emotions in her stomach.

“Yeah,” she finally managed, along with a return smile that felt as forced as it felt necessary.  “You could definitely say this is a surprise.  Hello, Ty.”

She started to extend her hand, thought better of it and stuffed it into the back pocket of her shorts.  “Wow.  You’re a long way from home.”

A very long way.  Not merely a long way from Florida.  A long way from his life.  A heck of a long way from a cold winter night when he’d swooped in and out of her life like the storm he’d blown in on. And now here he was, back again.  One of the men who had been in the thick of a dangerous rescue.  A man who had made enough of an initial impression on her that she’d opened up her gun safe to him and three other virtual strangers based on his word alone.

Unable to stop herself, she started at Tyler Brown who looked nothing like J.R. but who she suspected was like him in every other way.  Every way but one.  Ty Brown was alive. J.R. wasn’t.  Her husband had died thousands of miles from home, fighting a war she’d never quite understood, hadn’t truly sanctioned and that she hadn’t been able to keep him from fighting.  Looking at Ty – who’d made her think of J.R. the first time she’d seen him – unsettled her as much as it confused her.  And yes, unfortunately, excited her.

Yup. Her day had gone from mundane to totally bonkers to the tune of a bell above the door.

“So.”  He looked expectant when she stood there. Guess he finally decided one of them needed to say something and since he’d brought this game into play, she was fine with it being him. “Thought I’d do some fishing.”

Florida was no longer surrounded by an ocean full of fish?

Because he had this little ‘if you buy that, I’ve got some farm land in the Sahara desert I’d love to sell you’ smile, she avoided the obvious questions like: What was he really doing here?  And the most damaging one: Why did it seem to matter so much?

“Early July’s not the best time of year.”  Two could play this game. “But I’m told fishing started to pick up a bit this week.”  She pasted on her shopkeeper smile and pretended her world hadn’t been tipped on end.  “You want live bait?”

His grinned, looking both thoughtful and amused, like he knew that she knew he hadn’t come all this way to fish but was willing to play it that way until she got used to the idea. “Live bait.  Yeah, sure.  Why not?  Live bait would be good.”

She moved behind the bubbling minnow tanks, hoping she didn’t appear as off balanced as she felt.  “Got a sale on flathead chubs.”

That spurred a soft chuckle.  “My lucky day.”

She could not look at him because for God sake, live bait had not brought him back to Kabetogama.  Neither had fishing but she wasn’t ready to process that yet.  Head down, she started scooping up minnows.  “Couple dozen do you?”

“I don’t know.  Will a couple dozen do me?”

He was laughing at her now … not unkindly but like he found her entertaining which meant he saw right through her.

Lord, she hoped he didn’t have her figured out.  Or maybe she did.  Then he could tell her exactly what was going on in her head because she didn’t have one solid clue.  Well, maybe one.  There hadn’t been a man in her life since J.R.  And there’d never been a man who triggered the physical reactions this man had at first sight all those months ago.  Reactions he triggered again today.

It had both unsettled and puzzled her that she had experienced such an instant and strong physical reaction to Ty Brown on that very brief first meeting.  But she’d chalked it up to a cold, isolating storm, the threat of imminent danger and a lot of long lonely nights alone in her bed.

But then he’d disappeared from her life as quickly as he’d come in to it.  Which had been good.  Which had been fine.  She’d actually been relieved when he hadn’t called even though he’d said he would – at least that’s what she’d told herself several times since.  She didn’t want to get involved with anyone.  She especially didn’t want to get involved with a man like Tyler Brown who was just like J.R.  Special Ops soldiers, whether active duty or retired, were always warriors.  They would always be the man leading the charge, putting themselves in danger, living for the adrenaline rush and dying for God and country and the guy next to him in the trenches.

She’d lived with that man.  She’d loved and tried to understand that man.  But neither love nor understanding had been enough to keep him home, keep him happy, or keep him alive.

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12 Days of Halloween w/ @Danielle_Monsch, #STONE GUARDIAN and #ToysForTots #miniiPadgiveaway #giveaway #Pararom

Today I have a very awesome friend stopping by, Danielle Monsch, the genius behind Entwined Realms’ STONE GUARDIAN, and she’s giving away an iPad Mini while helping out Toys for Tots (talk about multi-tasking). So come with me through the twelve days of Halloween and find out how you can win and help out at the same time!

12 Days of Halloween

From about mid-October until Christmas was always a magical and much anticipated time when I was young.

Probably not an uncommon statement from a kid. My mom should have been a party planner, because our house was always decked out for the season. We were the house that people do that double-take with, because looking only once wasn’t enough to take it all in.

Mom’s favorite holiday was Halloween. Since I’m a fantasy/paranormal writer, it’s safe to say that rubbed off on me, and with kids of my own, I enjoy Halloween in a completely new way, with my kids excitement about dressing up and their enjoyment in the *fun* scares.

While her favorite might have been Halloween, Mom excelled in overall holiday planning. My mom was a generous lady. She never liked cooking, but she loved to bake the holiday pies and cookies and other goodies that come with the season, and everyone who knew us came away during the holiday season with loads of culinary delights. If you ask me to name my favorite food ever, it would have to be Mom’s pumpkin pie.

It’s probably because this time was usually so joyous that one memory sits there, lumpy and misshapen and not a fit with the rest.

Don’t ask me how old I was, but I came down the stairs one night – going to get some water I think – and Mom was on the couch, staring at the Christmas tree. The packages weren’t under the tree yet, which was odd since Mom tended to put them under as soon as the tree went up (Mom is not a last minute shopper – in fact, I’m pretty sure her shopping is done in July.) Now I haven’t believed in Santa ever, so it was no question in my mind about who presents come from.

What set this memory in my mind so sharply was my mother’s face the few moments before she realized I was in the room. At the time I didn’t have the words or the emotional knowledge to name what emotions were in play. All I knew was it wasn’t good.

Several years later we were talking, and in the way of conversations everywhere, somehow that night came up, and I asked Mom what was going on.

She confided that when I saw her, the reality of our situation was none of us kids were going to get Christmas presents. It had been a bad year with lots of doctor bills and not as much work as they hoped to get. Maybe they would be able to get a practical clothing item, but certainly nothing beyond that. Then she told me that a couple days after I saw her that night, her uncle heard about our situation. Without her or my dad asking, he went out and got presents for us kids and told her that it was his early Christmas gift to her and he would not accept any money or repayment.

Mom told me she cried while she wrapped them. She told me it was the best gift she’d ever gotten.

While my childhood would never fit in a Dickinson narrative, there were a few years there where we did with minimal, so hearing after-the-fact that no presents was a possibility didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was the lurch in my chest at the thought of it as a near reality. That didn’t make sense – after all, we were several years past by then, and I was a grown person who understood economic realities.

That lurch, though, was real. And as time has marched on, I think I understand the reason for it, just like now that I’m a mother I understand the look on my mother’s face that night. The holidays were a safe and sacred time. The rest of the year – okay, it’s life, and life happened. But in my memory, the holidays were apart from that, not touched with the ickiness that could happen at other times.

If I didn’t get presents that year, I think that safety and warmth that the holidays (or the thought of) always caused would have disappeared. I wouldn’t have had that protective bubble anymore that helped get me through bad times, and the loss of that would have been a greater tragedy than not getting a doll under the tree.

So while Toys for Tots was not responsible for me getting presents that year, I recognize in a deep and personal way the very good work they are doing.

Toys for Tots is my favorite holiday charity. There are many excellent charities I celebrate and give to, but this time of year my thoughts and my wishes are for the kids who are not in the best circumstances and are in danger of not having a gift under their own tree. It’s not the material item that matters (though it’s always nice to get a great gift, right?) What I never want them to lose is that safe warmth that should categorize the holidays, a warmth that sometimes might be the only thing that gets them through the rest of the year.

Which leads me to the 12 Days of Halloween!

12 Days of Halloween is my (and many other excellent authors) way of having a great time and celebrating the beginning of this wondrous time of year – with giveaways and gifts and raising money for Toys for Tots!

What is involved?

First! My novel Stone Guardian (http://www.daniellemonsch.com/dani/books/stone-guardian/) is on a very special sale. From now until Halloween, it is half-off with part of the proceeds going to Toys for Tots! So you get a book for cheaper than usual, and a chunk of the money will be going to an amazing cause! Huzzah!

StoneGuardian800

And on the other side, I’ll be sharing lots of giveaways! Ebooks (donated by many generous authors) gift cards, swag sets, a Coach (!) bag, and finally…

An iPad Mini!

apple-ipad-mini-2

Yes, you read that right – an iPad mini with a special Entwined Realms designed cover set is the grand prize.

So if you are interested, please keep up with me at twitter (www.twitter.com/Danielle_Monsch) facebook (www.facebook.com/DanielleMonschAuthor) or my blog (RomanticGeekGirl.com) with all the ways to win.

Let’s celebrate the beginning to this great time of year, have a great party, maybe win some stuff, and most important of all – support Toys for Tots and make sure they can help a lot of kids this year!

AuthorHeadshotBorn to the pothole ridden streets of Pittsburgh, PA, Danielle started writing in a time long ago, a time when there were not enough vampire stories to read and she had to write her own to fill the void. Yes, such a time of darkness did indeed exist.

Danielle writes stories full of fantastical goodness and plenty of action, but always with lots of romance (and a bit of woo-hoo!) mixed in. Vampires and Werewolves and Demons and Angels, Sword & Sorcery, Fairy Tales, Updated Mythologies and the like – if it’s out of the ordinary, it’s fair game for her stories. 

When not writing, Danielle reads comic books and watches cartoons (though she says she reads manga and watches anime, because saying it in a different language makes all the difference.) She listens to music, plays D&D, follows XKCD, watches movies with the Rifftrax on, and is mom to two amazing little girls and wife to her favorite guy in the world.

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