Friday, July 29, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Deborah Blumenthal

It's a summer Friday and still hot in the Northeast. I hope you're enjoying your summer. Today my guest is Deborah Blumenthal. She has a wonderful story about a love letter found in a taxi and a woman who a romantic with a fanciful imagination. She also shares why she loves to write.
Three reasons why you love to write:
What other job can you do in your bathrobe?
It’s fun to live in your mind – at least from 9 to 5!
What other job lets you create other, more perfect worlds, and offers total escape?  
Fixing Your Wardrobe is a Dream Job. Fixing Your Life is a Work of Art.
Sage Parker has the perfect occupation for a Manhattanite—she helps the rich and powerful keep their wardrobes current and suitable for every need. Her sense of fashion is impeccable, her connections are unsurpassed, and her eye misses not a single well-made stitch.
So when she discovers a love note left in the back of a cab, Sage admires the card stock and the ink, but also the heartfelt words. She sets out on a mission to find out who the love note was intended for—and who wrote it.
What Sage discovers will broaden her horizons and change her life, introducing her to an extraordinary woman who is revamping her entire world midway through life, a dashing Brit with a hive of secrets, and a free-spirited painter, whose brush captures the light in everything he paints, including Sage.
Review for Someone Else’s Love Letter
 "Lush and glamorous descriptions of a closet mistress and her single adventures in the city. As a NYC celebrity stylist, I could not wait to turn the pages." ―Amanda Sanders, Celebrity Stylist at New York Image Consultant
Excerpt from Someone Else’s Love Letter
There are things you never expect to find in a taxi. Things like love letters. This one was easy to miss, wedged under the driver’s seat except for a tiny triangle of icy blue playing peekaboo. I would never have seen it if a stretch limo to our right hadn’t turned with no warning, nearly shearing off the front fender.
When the driver slammed the brakes, I was on my way home after three hours inside a walk-in closet. My handbag pirouetted over the seat, releasing a sea of bracelets, beads, scarves, shoulder pads, Miracle Bras, panty hose, scissors, Scotch tape, safety pins, Velcro, Motrin, tampons, and Red Bull. To the barrage of expletives from the driver, I tossed it all together like a crazy salad and stuffed it back into my bag.
That’s when I spotted the envelope.
I tugged at the corner and it slid free. The paper was thick, luxurious, and addressed in amethyst ink. I lifted the flap, tracing my finger over the midnight-blue lining embedded with whispery white threads. I held it to my nose.
A faint perfume. Two sheets were neatly folded inside.
Dear Caroline...
I was just a block from home, so I slid it into a jacket pocket and searched for my wallet. After greeting the doorman, I picked up my mail and rushed upstairs to feed Harry, the man of the house, my yellow lab. It wasn’t until a week later, when I wore the jacket again, that I thought of the letter.
When important things happen, your mind has a way of fixing the moments into your memory. You recall exactly where you were and why, who you were with, the time of day, even the light. I began reading the letter on the bus up Madison Avenue, passing Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Barneys, Yves St. Laurent, and Ralph Lauren’s flagship store in the Rhinelander Mansion. Only then I didn’t try to glimpse the clothes as the shop windows fast-forwarded like frames from a high-fashion video.
It was a crisp fall day, a time of beginnings. For no particular reason, everything felt right in my world when I woke that morning. It was Saturday. The Chinese finger trap of time was looser. My plan was to spend the morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then walk part of the way back through Central Park.
I was in navy D&G flannel slacks, a white ribbed Tory Burch sweater, and Fratelli Rosetti loafers. My jacket was over my arm. On the way to the bus I stopped at Starbucks and asked for Panama La Florentina, the coffee of the day, because the barista behind the counter told me it was similar to their house blend, and anyway, I just liked the way it sounded. Before I left, I put the coffee down and slipped on my jacket.The only free seat on the bus was the hot seat in the back, always the last to be taken because it was over some motor part that turned it into a radiator. I sat anyway, afraid that if the bus stopped short I’d be faced with litigation. Before I opened the newspaper, I slid my Metrocard into my pocket. That’s when I remembered the letter.
I opened the envelope and recalled how much I had admired the stationery, particularly the way the sender put the return address not in the usual places—on the upper left-hand corner or on the flap—but vertically up the left side of the front edge of the envelope, in carefully printed block letters.
Dear Caroline, I know you’re used to reading emails, not letters. I know you make split-second decisions, and think life’s more black and white than gray, but I have to explain...and I beg you to listen.
He talked about his empty life before they met—the unhappy relationships, his despair at not being able to find the right woman, his feelings of isolation. Then they met and everything changed.
How can I explain the way I feel about you?Let me tell you about a book of letters I read by the physicist and Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman. His first wife had moved to Albuquerque to be near him when he worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. She later died there in a sanitarium, from tuberculosis. A year and a half after her death he wrote, “I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead. But I still want to comfort and take care of you—and I want you to love me and care for me.” He ventures that maybe they could still make plans together, but no, he had lost his “idea- woman, the general instigator of all our wild adventures.”
“You can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else,” he wrote. “But I want to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.”
Before you nothing in my life had real meaning. You’re gone now, yet all I think about is you. I live in the shadow of our relationship, pretending you’re still with me. Even without you, the memories of our life together mean more than the reality of being with someone else.
Caroline, please, let me see you. At least let me talk to you. Life without you is unthinkable.
A heartfelt plea to win a woman back. It was almost Shakespearean. Only the address wasn’t Stratford-upon- Avon, it was downtown Manhattan. I slipped it back into the envelope.
Whose life had I stumbled on? Where did he live, what did he do? Men called, emailed, or sent text messages—they didn’t write letters, and if they did, never on handmade paper with deckle edges, a throwback to the fifteenth century.
The writer had style. He was smooth, articulate. The wrappings of his thoughts were as affecting as his words. Just thinking about him set my mind reeling with the possibilities. Where did that leave me?
Which made no sense. I was a peeping tom, peering into someone else’s emotional life. Still, he was a kindred spirit. He knew the importance of putting things in the proper wrapping too. So never mind Caroline who had tossed away the letter like a losing lottery ticket; maybe he’d like to meet a woman of the cloth who judged letters by their covers.
I gazed out the bus window, forgetting my plans for the day. When I remembered to check the street signs, the bus had passed the Met and was approaching 96th Street. I got off, turned around, and walked the three miles back to Murray Hill, as if it made perfect sense to ride all the way uptown and then go directly back home without stopping anywhere at all in between.
About the Author

Deborah Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and nutritionist who now divides her time between writing children's books and adult novels. She has been a regular contributor to The New York Times (including four years as the Sunday New York Times Magazine beauty columnist), and a home design columnist for Long Island Newsday. Her health, fitness, beauty, travel, and feature stories have appeared widely in many other newspapers and national magazines including New York’s Daily NewsThe Washington PostThe Los Angeles TimesBazaarCosmopolitanWoman's DayFamily CircleSelf, and Vogue.

Blumenthal lives in New York City.

Social Media Links:
Facebook: Deborah Blumenthal, Author:
Twitter: @deborahblu

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Medieval Monday with Barbara Bettis

I hope you had a good weekend. It’s been a scorcher here in the Northeast and great for sitting by the pool or in an air conditioned room reading a good story. Today I’m hosting Barbara Bettis. She’s given us an excerpt from her novel, Silverhawk. Continuing with our nature theme, in this excerpt Lady Emelin has chosen a stormy night to launch an escape from her tempting kidnapper, Sir Giles.
She shivered against the increasing cold and hunched forward to search the path ahead. Why hadn’t she thought to bring one of the blankets? Clouds scudded across the sky. Still she urged the horse onward. She had come too far to turn back now.
Had Silverhawk regained consciousness? Discovered her absence? Imagine the surprise, when he awoke alone. She’d shown him she was not helpless. Satisfaction lightened the oppression she was feeling—from the approaching storm; that had to explain the growing dread.
Then, carried on bursts of wind, came voices. At last. She’d found them. She straightened, the discomfort of the cold and riding bareback forgotten as she urged the mare forward. Onward down the trail she rode. Once she called out, “Lord Osbert, Garley, I’m here.” No answer came.
In the distance, thunder rumbled, and white light knifed across the ominous sky. Please, not rain. Surely the good Lord wouldn’t be so cruel. Her throat constricted. She gulped. She would not panic.
Concentrate on deep breaths. If only her heart would stop clamoring to get out. A cold, fat drop struck, followed by two more, a dozen. Then the downpour hit.
A jagged streak snapped in front of her. A rolling crash shook the earth. The mare tossed its head, danced aside. Emelin murmured, petted the animal’s neck in an attempt to calm it. But at the next sharp crack, it reared, and shot down the path.
Fisting the reins, she clung to its mane as the mount veered through the underbrush, away from the sharp zigzags of light. Branches struck her face, snatched at her skirts, nearly dragged her off. How she managed to keep her seat, she didn’t know. All she could think was, Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don’t fall.
At last the mare slowed. Emelin squinted through wet eyes, reached out to knock aside a soggy branch, dripping leaves. Finally, the animal stopped, blowing hard, trembling. Emelin shook.
Breath came in gasps. Her mind could not form a coherent thought as cold wetness dripped from her hair to ooze down her back. The frightened flight of the horse had carried her far from the path. She was hopelessly lost.
All around, wind-whipped shadows dipped, lunged forward, then back. Another spear of lightning wrenched into a nearby tree. Her shout of surprise was swallowed in the earth-shaking
roar that followed. The winded mare only shook harder.
Could they survive this nightmare?
Then through the rain-drenched night a huge black object hurtled up, rearing as it just missed her. Emelin screamed.
The monster swung around. Wet black tentacles wrapped around her, dragged her off the exhausted mare. She tried to struggle, but the iron hold wouldn’t allow it.
At last her feet touched ground, and the tentacles embraced her until she couldn’t breathe. It took a moment for the roar to dissolve into understandable words. “Are you hurt? Are you hurt? Tell me if you’re hurt.”
Her arms flew around his waist and she nodded against his soaked tunic. Thank God, thank God. She was safe.
Back Cover Copy:
He’s everything a proper lady should never want; she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.
Sir Giles has come to England to kill his father, who seduced and betrayed his mother. First, however, he’ll seek sweet revenge—kidnap the old lord’s new betrothed. But when Giles uncovers a plot against King Richard, he faces a dilemma: take the lady or track the traitors. What’s a good mercenary to do? Both, of course.
Lady Emelin has had enough. Abandoned in a convent by her brother, she finally has a chance for home and family. Yet now she’s been abducted. Her kidnapper may be the image of her dream knight, but she won’t allow him to spoil this betrothal. Her only solution: escape
Rescuing the intrepid lady—while hunting traitors—is a challenge Giles couldn’t anticipate.  But the greatest challenge to Giles and Emelin is the fire blazing between them. For he’s everything a proper lady should never want, and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

Buy Link: Amazon  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Madeline Martin

Sit back and relax. We’ve made it to Friday. Here in the Northeast, it’s going to be hot, very hot. What better way to spend a few minutes with something icy cold and a good read? Today my guest is Madeline Martin, an online friend I met in San Diego at RWA’s National Conference. We had a great time. I know you’ll love her story.
What Readers Want to Hear from Madeline Martin
I confess I always get a little stumped when I need to come up with a fresh idea for a blog post. And so I turn to my readers (you guys always have the best ideas). For this particular post, it was suggested I describe my beginning to end writing process, including where ideas stem from, time frames, etc.
Every one of my books is borne of a single idea or thought. It could be something that pops in my head from a memory, or it could be a lyric in a song or poem that snags my attention. For example, Grey or Blue by Jaymay had the lyrics “I can’t stop staring at your mouth without wondering how it tastes” which spawned a scene between Celia and Alec in Enchantment of a Highlander.
From that one idea, my subconscious grabs it and starts spinning, filling in scenes and places and who the people are. These are usually high stare off into space times for me. LOL But while it seem like I’m just zoning out, I have a whole world blossoming to life in my head.
From there I put together a brief outline of the beginning to end with main points/scenes I know I want to incorporate. Characters names and descriptions usually correlate with what personality they have or how they sometimes just show up in my head. This idea/character building is my favorite part of the writing process – before writer’s block can tickle at my ideas or edits can crush me down. This is the part of the story making process where I fling wide my arms and dance through an open field, where the sky doesn’t even feel like it can limit the possibilities crowding my thoughts. This is where I feel the story start to breathe in me, when the emotions of the characters tie into my heart and their souls become a piece of mine. Pure and simple, it’s magic. (I’m actually smiling as I describe this LOL)
Once my characters and plot are detailed out (ummm…for the most part), I write. I’m the most productive when I do writing sprints with friends. That means we both plan on writing for 30 minutes (from our own homes) and text each other when that 30 minutes is over to report the amount of words we’ve written. It’s fun competition that forces me in my seat and writing full steam ahead.
I do work a full time job and don’t like write while the minions are awake. This means I wake up at 4:30 to write and do a lot of work after they go to bed. As a result of my limited time, it takes about four months to write an entire full length novel.
I write using Scrivener, which is a writing program where I can break my scenes down and title them (which makes editing easier), I can also attach pictures of the cast of characters and scenery. One of the important features for me is the sidebar panel which allows me to make notes to myself. I use these for editing comments to address later rather than going back and editing. (For example: As of chapter 13, the sidekick has a scar on his cheek for a reason – go to previous chapters to add this detail) This keeps the self-editing process from being so painful.
Once the story is written, I plunge into my personal edits I’ve noted on the side, as well as a friend’s edits who helps me as I go (and she is a total Godsend!). Once that’s done, I do a final read through and edit what sounds right.
After edits, it goes to beta readers for their feedback, corrections are made. Then on to my editor with my publisher. I usually do two rounds of edits, then another two or three rounds of copy edits, then the final read through goes through my Momma, who can catch a typo like nobody’s business. And then, it is FINALLY done and the process can start over again.
I think the hardest part about writing a book is the allure of the next book. There are always new ideas tugging at my attention and trying to lure me off course.
I confess that working a full time job while writing, especially with having young children, is very difficult. I seldom have free time for me and I always feel like I’m working. Some days I get really overwhelmed when I look at my to do list (promo takes up a ridiculous amount of time), but then I just look toward the first item and press on. It is a lot of work, but I don’t regret one second of it and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Writing is my love and publishing books is my dream, and I consider myself lucky to have been embraced by such passion.
Love is the most potent of remedies.
The sweeping historical romance that began with DECEPTION OF A HIGHLANDER, and continued with POSSESSION OF A HIGHLANDER, reaches its dazzling conclusion in this scorcher set on the Scottish plains.
Alec MacLean returns home after a decade to find his recently deceased father has let his inheritance fall to ruin. As the new laird, it’s Alec’s responsibility to rebuild the castle and restore the lands. He must also regain the people’s trust after having abandoned them so long ago, a feat not easily done when he fears he’s plagued with the same darkness as his father.
Celia escaped the North Berwick witch trials at a young age, surviving because of the sacrifice of her beloved caretaker. She’s made a life for herself in the wilds of Scotland where no laird rules, a life where she heals for coin, a life without love so she can never feel the hurt of loss again.
When the new laird comes back to claim his land, his determination to restore order threatens everything Celia has worked so hard to gain, especially with the undeniable attraction sizzling between them. Together, they will face all challenges, from the tangle of their own damaged pasts to the fire-fueled witch hunts sweeping the Isle of Mull. Together, they will find that the best way to overcome darkness and war is through the undeniable light of love.
Reviews of Enchantment of a Highlander:
“…an enchanting series conclusion.” -Publishers Weekly
“…filled with interesting characters and is an enjoyable read.” -RT Book Reviews
Excerpt from Enchantment of a Highlander
Celia had known the man was nobility by his fine dress, but she hadn’t expected him to be Laird MacLean. Nor had she expected the son of the former laird to be so just, so powerful.
So dangerous.
The law did little good from what she’d seen, from what she’d experienced. Innocents were sacrificed under the guise of ‘law’.
A scratch sounded at the base of the door where the wind mewled. Celia pulled the latch and held the door wide enough for the red fox to slink inside before bolting it shut once more.
“Is he gone now, Ruadh?”
The fox stared up at her with his golden eyes and flicked his bushy tail in aggravation.
“Good riddance to that one.” She tossed the remaining thread into the fire and watched the remnants of the laird’s blood sizzle and curl into ash. “For the time being we are safe.”
She glanced at the door once more. Her skin still tingled where he had touched her. Unwanted, a thrill wound down her spine and blossomed in goosebumps across her skin.
He would be back and she would need to keep her secrets locked away, the way she had managed to do thus far.
Her life depended on it.
About the Author
Madeline Martin lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her two daughters (AKA OldestMinion and YoungestMinion). All shenanigans are detailed regularly on Twitter and on Facebook.
She graduated from Flagler College with a degree in Business Administration and works for corporate America. Her hobbies include rock climbing, running, doing crazy races (like Mud Runs and Color Runs) and just about anything exciting she can do without getting nauseous. She's also a history fan after having lived in Europe for over a decade, and enjoys traveling overseas whenever she can. Her favorite place to visit thus far: Scotland.
Author Contact information
*Email questions should be sent to:
Social Media Links:
Author Facebook
Author Twitter: @MadelineMMartin

Monday, July 18, 2016

Medieval Monday with Mary Morgan

Today’s Medieval Monday excerpt is about nature. My guest author today, Mary Morgan has given us a delightful scene that lets nature take its course! Enjoy the read.


Some of the men and women were already dancing around the fire. She laughed when she spied Betsy twirling around.

Betsy waved her over. “Come dance with us.”

Aileen held up her hand in protest. “Oh, no...I’m fine just watching.” Turning blindly, she stumbled into Brian.

“May I have this dance, Lady Aileen?” he asked.

“I really shouldn’t, Brian.” He looked so dejected she decided to throw caution to the wind. “You know what? I haven’t danced in ages. I think I will take that dance.”

“I would be honored,” he said proudly, holding out his hand.

Aileen swallowed the last of her wine, before putting the cup on a log. Taking his hand, she gathered her dress and joined the others.

In no time at all, she found herself being swept away with the contagious merriment. Letting her shields slip just a bit, she relished the gaiety—twirling and singing. When Brian would gather her close, she would move away, spinning in a circle. On and on, around the inferno, laughter peeling out.

She felt young and carefree.

Stephen had gathered some food from Betha as he intended to be away all night. She and Donal had pleaded with him to join in the feasting, but he waved them off rather rudely. He wanted no part of the festivities.

Almost colliding with a couple, he swore softly. Placing the food across Grian, he shifted hesitantly. It was then he spotted...her.

His hand froze on the leather sack. Sweet Mother! What was she doing? And dressed like that? She was a Goddess of the flame. He watched as she was swung up into the air by none other than Brian. Then the man dared to slide her down against him.

Dark fury burst somewhere deep inside Stephen. “I’m going to kill him,” he rasped out.

The blood roared in his head, as he stormed across the open field, never hearing those who greeted him in passing—one hand held firm against his sword. He slowed his pace and Stephen waited as any warrior would. Let the enemy show himself, he thought.

When their dancing brought them nearer to him, he darted in front blocking their path.

They never saw him coming.

Aileen’s back slammed into his chest, and his arms grasped her instantly in a firm grip. “Hey, ouch!” She tried to move, but he held her solid against his body.

Brian skidded to a halt. “Greetings, Sir Stephen.” He went to grab for Aileen’s hand, when Stephen let out a growl of warning.

“What is your problem? Did you just growl?” demanded Aileen. She tried to pry herself loose, but he continued to hold her firm.

“Mine,” he snarled.

Instantly, Brian’s face went white. “Thank ye for the dance, Lady Aileen,” Brian clipped out. Giving Stephen a curt nod, he stomped away.

“Bloody. God. Damn. Hell,” Aileen snapped.

Stephen released her, only spinning her around to face him. Something primal within him tore loose. He tried to reason with himself that this was insanity, though his mind and body wouldn’t yield. His gaze dropped to those lips—lips he had fantasized about for weeks.

Aileen,” he choked out before his mouth took hers in a plundering kiss. His lips moved over hers devouring their softness. The kiss became urgent, pleading in its need. His tongue sought hers, and the dance of desire seared their bodies. Raw passion took over his anger, and she opened fully, drawing him against her body. She took her hands and wrapped them around his head, threading her fingers in his locks and pulling him in deeper. Never in all of his life had he felt so right in someone’s arms.

When he broke from the kiss, his breathing was labored. Her eyes were dark with desire for him, and he shook with such need, it frightened him.

“By the hounds,” he uttered hoarsely. In one swift move, he picked her up. Carrying her to his horse, he ignored the hoots and remarks coming from the crowd. Placing her on Grian, he swung around in back, taking off through a large group of oak trees with only one clear thought in mind.

Back Cover Copy:

To right a wrong, two souls are brought together only to shatter when they are torn apart by the deeds of an evil druid. 

Dragon Knight, Stephen MacKay’s powers are altered after the death of his sister. Now he is plagued with visions that threaten to destroy his soul. When Aileen Kerrigan falls through a time tunnel, he vows to keep her safe, despite the fact the beautiful but head-strong half-blooded fae could be the death of him. 

When Aileen finds out her dad is a Fenian Warrior, she flees to a nearby ruin. Armed with the medallion her mother gave her, and a matching one belonging to a long dead knight, she is flung into the past and finds a handsome but surly warrior who is on a quest. Now it seems her future could be entwined with his, if she doesn’t kill him first. 

Buy Links:


Friday, July 15, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Sandy Bruney

The week is almost over. The summer is whishing past quickly. This week, Sandy Bruney, a longtime friend, is my guest author.
Books, Chocolate, and Wine…my favorite three things! Thank you, Ruth, for allowing me to visit today. I am excited to share some good news: my paranormal, A Question of Time, is a RONE finalist!
This was so unexpected I didn’t believe it at first when I saw the announcement on Facebook. It was a long and winding road (yes, the Beatles are another favorite).
Here is how it happened. I submitted a book that I had slaved over (and is still unpublished, alas). While working on it, I took a break and wrote a story for my own amusement. I hadn’t tried the paranormal genre and thought it would be fun to experiment. I tossed in time travel, telekinesis, shape shifting, and oh, yes, an alternate history. In my book, the United States is totally isolated from the world and ruled by the Jeffersonian dynasty and a Parliament.
The publisher, CleanReads, passed on the submission, but asked if I had anything else ready. Gulp. I sent in the book I never thought would see the light of day, and it was accepted!
To finish this story, I wrote a sequel, “A Question of Loyalty” and then a third to end the trilogy, A Question of Time.
Throughout the books, Caroline and Nathan use their paranormal gifts while serving their county and king. The story takes them from their initial romance to honeymooners (book 2) and finally, a family. The last book was the hardest to write, because in it Nathan questions the morality of his gift and almost loses his life when he is accused of kidnapping and possibly murdering King Thomas IV. And yes, I also reveal how and why the first Thomas Jefferson accepted the crown.
Sort of.
I submitted the book to InD’tale magazine for a review and was delighted with the result. As if that wasn’t enough, it garnered a nomination for the RONE, and much to my astonishment, it got enough votes from readers to become a finalist. The results will be announced in October.
In time, there are infinite places to hide a king.
When The Great Manzini kidnaps King Thomas IV during a magic show at the Ford Theater, Nathan recognizes his old enemy Rasmussen. He confronts the villain, who sends him sixty years into the future. On his return, Nathan is arrested as an accomplice to kidnapping and possible murder. Caroline must rescue the king to prove her husband’s innocence…but where in time is he?
4.5 Star Review:
A  Question  of  Time Sandy  Bruney
This is a refreshing and original take on everything from time travel to shape-shifting creatures. The author’s deft prose is perfectly suited to the narrative and the settings she creates with subtle nuances of tone and mood.
A Question of Time is not a typical book by any means. Fast-paced and intelligent, it is a fantastic read in any universe.   ….Gwenellen Tarbet  InD’tale Magazine
Buy Links: An e-book available at:
Excerpt from A Question of Time:
Caroline shut the door to her room and sagged against it for a moment. She hadn’t slept in nights. Day had followed day with no word, and each day her despair grew—a despair she was careful to keep hidden. Her cheerful optimism came with a price, and she felt that her inner strength had reached its limit.
Where, or when, was Nathan?
She didn’t want to get into her lonely bed, so she sat in her chair, feet tucked under her, hands clasped loosely in her lap. She let her head fall back and shut her eyes, remembering the first time she had seen him, annoyed at her pestering and not bothering to hide it. She knew now she had been naïve to request his help in finding Father, who turned out not to have been kidnapped after all, but Nathan had been kind enough to go along with her search, only to realize others were also searching for the inventor, and not with benign intentions.
As they faced danger together, she had felt herself fall hopelessly in love with the handsome, auburn-haired man with intense green eyes.
She had never expected to find love. She was too tall, too gawky. Moreover, while nursing her mother during her final illness, she had missed the parties and dances, the outings where young men and women learned to flirt with each other. She hadn’t learned to be coy, but blurted out what she was thinking. She rushed into situations without heeding the consequences.
Nathan hadn’t seemed to notice her awkwardness. He occasionally got angry with her, but only because he feared for her safety. He respected her opinions, as if he thought she had a brain and could use it.
Then Father came home and all went back to the way it had been. She ran his household, obeyed his whims, and kept her dreams to herself.
 Until Matilda. After his marriage, Father had declared he would find Caroline a husband. Horrified at the thought, she had run to Nathan and begged him to take her to Washington with him as his clerk.
Instead, he had proposed. And they had married that same day, much to Father’s astonishment.
She laughed even as a tear trailed down her cheek.
And suddenly she felt his presence. She opened her eyes.
And he was there.
About the Author:
Sandy Bruney is a native of New York State, but has lived in North Carolina for half her life. When not at the keyboard inventing new stories, she enjoys reading, working in the yard, and visiting with her three adult sons and their families, including three grandchildren. She is the organizer and past president of her local writing group, and is active in her church. She also volunteers at the animal shelter and has two rescue cats.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Medieval Monday with Ashley York

Medieval Monday continues the nature theme. In this excerpt from Ashley York’s The Seventh Son, we see the beauty and the restlessness of the new seaside home of Tisa, a reluctant bride. Enjoy the read.

Excerpt from The Seventh Son
The day Tisa arrived at her new home it was dark and stormy. They’d been keeping ahead of the impending rain the whole day. From the rise overlooking the sea, dark, angry clouds hugged the coastline, making it impossible to see the ocean. The sound of crashing waves pounding along the rocky shore made her stop. Her mount shifted beneath her as if wary as well. Darragh come up alongside and pointed out the little cluster of roundhouses nestled into the valley below.
“That is yer new home,” he said.
Several small buildings surrounded a larger longhouse in the center. It appeared quite peaceful despite the many barren trees no longer protecting it from the sea breezes.
“It looks peaceful.”
He snorted beside her. “Dunna be fooled. There is nothing about my father, including his clan, that is peaceful but ye’ve witnessed that yerself.”
His father had been relentless in keeping track of their whereabouts. He’d continued to impose on them, making lewd suggestions when they separated from the group at night. Tisa would almost believe she had become dulled by his comments. Almost.
“Darragh!” Aodh barked at his son. “See to the ships.”
Her husband sighed. “Father, I will see my bride settled before leaving her alone.”
Aodh laughed. A cruel laugh. The belittling laugh he often used with his son. “Afraid to leave her unprotected?”
Darragh turned to face the man that had come up behind him. “Aye, I will have her well protected before I venture off to see to yer ships.”
Aodh smiled at her. “But I’ve been so patient.”
“Then be patient about yer ships!”
Darragh took the reins of Tisa’s horse and led them both down the graceful hillside ahead of the others.
Tisa dared not breathe at this blatant show of disobedience. Once out of earshot, she whispered to her husband.
“Darragh, he is still not following.”
“I’ve shocked him into immobility.”

Back Cover Copy: 
Drogheda, Ireland 1075
The sixth son bears a curse as certain as the seventh son bears a blessing. When Tadhg MacNaughton’s betrothed is ripped from his arms and married to another, he believes the legend is true.
Tisa O'Brien's life slams into a downward spiral at the news she is no longer betrothed to the love of her life but to the tanist of a warring, prideful clan with dangerous political aspirations, the Meic Lochlainn. She faces her destiny with all the strength and dignity of her Irish heritage despite dealing with a husband who resents her and meets his needs in the arms of others, fighting off the lustful advances of her father-in-law, Aodh, and longing for the husband of her heart.
Tadhg MacNaughton makes a deal with the devil to ensure the survival of his clan as he is commanded to fight for Aodh who envisions himself the new High King of Eire. Up close and personal, Tadhg must witness his true love's marriage and remain silent even as it rips him apart. When a sinister plot to overthrow King William of England led by the exiled Leofrid Godwin and Clan Meic Lochlainn comes to light, Tadhg is faced with saving his clan or endangering his sister and her Norman husband.
An Irish beauty and a warrior betrayed, doomed in love from the start or does fate have something else in store for them? 


Friday, July 8, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Kiersten Hallie Krum

Last Minute Writer
I’m convinced procrastination is an art form. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m staring down a deadline with no clue in sight as to how I’m gonna meet it in the time left. Have you seen the TV advert where the couple is calling out all the home projects they’re desperately doing to avoid the Herculean task of dealing with their retirement planning? Cleaning the gutters is suddenly more preferable to them than dealing with this important part of their lives. This resonates because it’s true, and not only regarding retirement planning. Suddenly, the languishing laundry is crucial and that refrigerator cleaning must be done tout suite
Look, procrastinating gets a bad rap, but for good reasons. If we procrastinate our lives away, we’ll never accomplish anything except being experts in the optimal wielding of the remote control or the best dipping sauce for garlic knots (it’s Ranch, obviously), or the precise number of pillows required to properly prop up your head for the best angle toward the flat screen (three with a baseline of two underneath).
I’ve spent years—years—crafting my art of procrastination and along the way, sussing out exactly why I court this kind of self-sabotage. Ultimately, it’s rooted in a gut reaction against being told what to do even when/if the project is something I not only asked for but pursued and despite my brain sensibly ordering my ID to get over itself. It’s not reasonable and it’s not logical and the mind hoops I push myself to jump through in order to put hands to the keyboard (for example) are considerable and frankly a lot more work than just getting the job done. Alas, my ID doesn’t seem to learn from doing and so each project, the battle begins anew. This doesn’t worry my best friend though, who always shrugs all this off when I unload my mania on her. “You do your best work when you’re under the gun,” she tells me. Funnily enough, my day job boss agrees.
Let’s face it, nobody’s going to jump up and say “Yay! Let’s procrastinate! That job’ll get done by itself, right? Hurray!” because that would be silly. Discipline and self-control are admirable traits to be set as goals—for some people. And yeah, those times I haven’t plunged through a project proverbially at the last minute have been incredibly fulfilling, even more so for not mentally flogging myself with guilt and shame for not being better at the whole adulting thing that surely would’ve had me sticking to a set schedule and achieving specific word count on a daily or at least weekly basis.
But I’ll tell you, being a Last Minute Writer has taught me a few things that have actually improved my final product even if it came at 3 AM the day before (or, GASP, day of) deadline.
Recently, I told an author pal how a project of mine had simply poured out of me out of desperation. She replied that desperation was how most of her books got written. There’s hyperbole there, of course, but the root is truth. I’ve discovered that fine edge of desperation can cultivate some amazing things.
Here are the top five things that happen when you’re a Last Minute Writer (or Whatever):
1.                  There’s no time to second guess yourself
Holy cats, is this a big one. When there’s no time to dither, every word slams on to the page. You can’t second guess if this is show or tell or whether you’re in deep POV or if your characters are clichés. There’s not time to think, just do. Or do not. (Yes, I’m quoting Yoda here, but you can’t tell me you weren’t thinking it too.)
2.                  There’s no time to jerk around
Boy. Howdy. Feet to the fire time, baby, and while you or I may have procrastinated our way to an Olympic time trial in order to get things done, when there’s no time left, there is no time left, yanno?
3.                  There’s no option for failure
This is a biggun, because feel of failure is, I think, the number one reason why we (I) drag our feet, especially if/when it’s a project we actually *want* to do. “Fear is the mind-killer.” You betcha. It’s like, if I don’t finish, they won’t know I suck at this. Here’s a tip: everyone sucks at it, at least in their own minds. Neil Gaiman thinks he sucks at it. Truth. When you’re a Last Minute Writer, there’s no time for those fear demons to feed. Get with the program already.
4.                  There’s no time to doubt your talent
Because you got it, baby, or you wouldn’t be here in the first place. You had the talent and drive to get started, to solicit the project, to have the idea, the story, or the image. When you’re a Last Minute Writer (or artist, or musician, or plumber), there’s no time left to waste doubting the talent and skill that brought you to the party.
5.                  There’s no time for the nay sayers
This, I think, is the next biggun after the fear demons. People are gonna talk crap to you. They’re going to say your idea is flawed or redundant or that your talent and skill aren’t what, in your better moments, you tell yourself they are. Shut them out. When you’re a Last Minute Whatever, there’s no time to stop and internalize their garbage. There’s the clock. It’s ticking. They’re wrong. You got this. Time to move on, baby.
We’ve been taught and trained that planning and self-discipline are key to success, and that’s been proven over and over again. But it’s not the only way, and trying to force ourselves into the confines of someone else’s process just because the world tells us it’s the better way isn’t necessarily the best—certainly not the only—way to go. There’s a Shakespeare quote I’m constantly trotting out to remind myself to go my own way: “Self-love is not so great a sin as self-neglect.” Don’t neglect yourself. Stay true to you, and do what works even if it’s a Kermit flail final lap to deadline. If that’s how you need to get it done, then, by all means, flail on.
Can a woman on the run trust the man she once abandoned?
Wild on the Road
Driven by wanderlust and insatiable curiosity, Quinn Forrester views every new gig for her mixologist business as another chance for adventure. Until the night she wanders down the wrong hallway and witnesses a mob murder. After a week on the run, lack of funds and few options land Quinn in Barefoot Bay where she takes a job tending bar at the swanky Casa Blanca resort…and hopes no wise guys show up to make her sleep with the fishes. But nothing whacks a low profile like having your Navy SEAL ex-husband walk through the door—especially when he’s the love of your life you left behind. 
Wild on the Beach
Discovering his restless ex-wife at Casa Blanca—and still going by his name—is enough to drive Lieutenant Commander Jasper McQueen wild. When she ran out on their marriage, Quinn left him a broken man. Now with his career in jeopardy and his sexy ex-wife at hand, Jasper is ready to chuck responsibility and submerse himself in a hedonistic affair—all sex, zero emotions—with the woman he won’t forgive and can never forget. And this time, when they’re done, it’ll be Jasper who does the leaving. 
Wild on the Rocks
But a mob enforcer has tracked Quinn to Barefoot Bay. With her days numbered, Jasper may be her only shot at living through the night—if Quinn can get him to believe in her one last time.
"Supersensual and suspenseful, Krum’s (“Castle Haven” series) book has a lot to offer as part of this inventive series. Besides hot sex between two characters with plenty of chemistry, there is a deeper story here, with serious moments touching on PTSD and suicide that add more bite than your typical romantic suspense fare."   STARRED REVIEW from Library Journal
 "The whole book slides down like a tasty pina colada while you sit by the beach. So sweet and tasty you’ve slurped the whole thing before you know what happened."     —Heroes and Heartbreakers
"Highly entertaining, fast-paced, and sexy romance. 5 stars, and it’s going on my best reads of 2016 list."    —Straight Shootin' Book Reviews
Buy Link: Amazon
Nettie’s tray clattered onto the bar. “Holy shit,” she gasped, eyes fixed on the restaurant’s entrance. “Is it Christmas already?”
Quinn glanced over her shoulder as a trio of men crossed the threshold. The last rays of sun shined through the door behind them, blinding her and making the men little more than shadows. Large shadows with broad shoulders.
Hoo. Shah.
She shielded her eyes and turned back to the blender. “We should send God a fruit basket.”
“Full of gold.” Nettie nodded toward the man on the end. “That’s Luke McBain. He does the resort’s security. Very married to one of the wedding planners.”
“So looky but no touchy.”
Nettie grinned. “Exactly.”
Quinn checked the men out again from the corner of her eye. All three wore black collared shirts tucked into belted black trousers and topped with aviator glasses they removed almost simultaneously as they came fully into the bar and approached the women. As classic a uniform for their job as her black and white get-up was for hers. Standing nearly at the same six-foot plus heights—though the one on the opposite end from McBain was an inch or two shorter—they were all armed, two with weapons in hip holsters while the guy in the center sported a shoulder rig.
To Quinn’s mind, shoulder rigs were the sexy, Mad Men version of gun holsters. In a good way. Intensely masculine but minus the infuriating sexism. So her eyes lingered on that man, skimming over his wide, muscular chest framed within the holster’s leather strips while she absently noted he alone of the three had his sleeves rolled up to the elbow. His thick throat rippled as she watched and sharp hunger spiked deep in Quinn’s belly, the likes of which she hadn’t felt in more than a year. What looked like two days’ worth of scruff covered his scarred chin, surrounding lips she’d bet were full and a shy short of too fleshy when not drawn into their current tight line. Coasting past raised cheek bones, the hair on the back of Quinn’s neck lifted and her nipples contracted into painful points as her avaricious gaze met eyes she already knew were a stunning golden hazel when not darkened with swelling rage that made his pupil expand until the color was a mere glowing rim.
“Can you imagine having that in your bed every night?” Nettie said.
“I can, actually.” Quinn replied on little more than an exhale. The bottle of wine in her hands trembled. She set it down on the bar with extreme care and deliberately laid her hands on either side of it before looking up into the breathtaking, hard-set face of her husband.
“Fuck, Roy, but you can pick ’em,” the third man said as he settled onto a stool, seemingly oblivious to the heaving tension.
Quinn ignored him. She knew better than to look away from the seething powder keg that was Jasper. “You look like a recruitment poster for Badasses ’R Us.”
He stepped toward the bar as though seconds from yanking her over it. “You look like you’re on your way to try out for the Coyote Ugly sequel.”
His friend split a grin between them. “Okay, now I believe she’s your wife.”
Ex-wife,” Quinn and Jasper snapped simultaneously, which made the man crack up.
“Cut it out, Twist,” Jasper growled.
This was Twist? She risked taking her eyes off Jasper, fascinated to finally meet his closest friend, though it escaped her why it could possibly mattered after all this time.
Twist’s grin didn’t falter, but it didn’t reach his eyes, either, and the frank animosity there scorched her skin.
Okay by her. Not like she was trying to make friends.
“Luke McBain.” The other man introduced himself with a warm smile. She tore her eyes from Twist and reflexively accepted his proffered hand.
“Quinn McQueen,” she replied without thinking and immediately regretted it when Jasper’s entire torso recoiled.
The tailored shirt rippled over his muscled chest, mesmerizing Quinn so that Jasper startled her when he leaned those bare, cut forearms on the bar and got right back in her space. Holy crap, arm porn. She was in no way prepared for her ex-husband’s delectable arm porn.
He glared at her hand still caught in McBain’s until she yanked it free. “Come again?” The sibilant whisper coasted over her skin. Quinn caught her breath.
Even though his arrival right now, right here, and all that might mean scared the holy shit outta her, even after all the bone-crushing, lonely days and weeks she’d spent without him, even now, that deep rumble of his voice raised goose bumps on her arms.
“Jasp,” she whispered with absolutely no idea what to say beyond that or how to justify being Quinn McQueen again without telling him that simply having his name was a comfort when she felt more lost than ever before in her life.
His eyes flared with heat. They were close enough now for Quinn to see that ribbon of green gold around his pupil glow bright. She’d always thought his eyes were the perfect complement to the slight russet sheen in his thick hair.
She locked her knees and clutched her hands together beneath the edge of the bar to keep from grabbing him.
“You’re using my name again? Since when?”
“About a week ago,” she admitted, her voice small.
“For hell’s sake, why?”
Because I’m on the run from the Russian mob and the only place I’ve ever felt safe was with you.
Yeah, like either of them was prepared to detonate that cans of worms.
She forced herself to shrug. “I like the cadence.”
His hands spread wide on the wood. She half expected him to push right over the bar. “You like the cadence?” he hollered back, practically into her face.
She huffed out a breath. “It’s not like I expected you to find out about it! What are you doing here anyway?”
He tossed an incredulous glance at McBain as though the answer were obvious. And to be fair, it kinda was. “Searching for buried treasure.”
Despite his dry tone, Quinn’s eyes went wide at the thought of such an adventure. “Really?” she breathed.
“Jesus, no. I’m working security for the wedding.” He shook his head with familiar exasperation. “Christ, you look ready to abandon everything to go buy shovels and rent a trawler.”
“Ah, is this gonna be a problem?” McBain asked.
Slowly, Jasper eased back from the bar. “That remains to be seen.” Quinn could see he was already locking himself down, pulling those pesky emotions back under his control. He’d always been able to get over her so easily when she’d barely been able to let him walk out of a room without her.
Guess nothing had changed on that front.
“What are you doing here, Quinn?”
Irritation quickly replaced her shock, and Quinn reclaimed her attitude along with it. “Uh, working. Obviously.”
“And I’ve no doubt my wife would appreciate it if your impending domestic didn’t upset her high-society wedding,” McBain warned without heat.
Quinn zoned back in on the unfinished tab before her. “Shit. Nettie, I’m sorry. Let me get you sorted.”
The waitress eyed her with rampant speculation. Quinn expected she and Jasper would be tasty fresh meat for the locals when this got out. Say in five minutes. Or however long it took Nettie to speed dial the whole world as she knew it.
Charity would have a cow not to have had first dibs.
“Don’t worry about it, hon,” Nettie reassured her, but Quinn was already dumping the trio of cocktails.
“These margaritas have settled. Take the wine out while I whip up a fresh batch.” Running the blender would hold off Jasper’s impending interrogation, too, maybe long enough for her to come up with an explanation that didn’t involve the words “Russian mob” and “murder.”
Because there was no way he was letting it go that easily. Jasper McQueen did not quit until he got what he wanted, be it answers or his ring on her finger or her ass in his San Diego condo.
“Queen, you and Twist stay here for the duration of the dinner. Rotate out with one of the boys in the dining room on the hour,” McBain ordered. “Time for me to walk the perimeter.”
She threw a look at him over her shoulder in time to see him give Jasper a shoulder clasp of male solidarity.
Great. He had reinforcements.
“More bartenders are coming tomorrow with the catering staff for the wedding,” she explained needlessly after McBain exited and Nettie toddled off. “But I’m it for tonight’s dinner, so I don’t have time for a chat.”
“I’ll wait,” Jasper promised.
Of course he would. “Ho-kay then.”
Since she couldn’t budge him and had zero hope of ignoring him, Quinn focused on the work. She finished the margaritas as Nettie returned with a new order, all the while feeling Jasper’s accusing gaze locked on her, his eyes tracking her every move as though she’d disappear if he blinked.
God, he looked good enough to eat.
Down girl. He wasn’t hers anymore, and while she might still look, not being able to touch would probably kill her before the Russian mob did.
About Kiersten Hallie Krum:
Writer, singer editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her romantic suspense novel Wild on the Rocks is now available and its sequel, SEALed WITH A TWIST, will be available in October 2016. Visit her website at and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.
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