Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Tis The Season for Giving

Today we have a guest post from my good friend Gabrielle Bisset. Her stories take you to other times and places and are filled with sexy Alpha men and strong women. Here is her post.

I love the holidays, and one of my favorite things to do is to give gifts.  I'm not a big wrapper, but gift bags are wonderful to me.  I think I spend as much time choosing the bags as I do the gifts!

Since this is the holiday season, I've decided to offer one of my books to readers for free on Amazon December 27-29 as a gift to say thank you for such an incredible year.  Destiny Redeemed is an erotic paranormal romance, more romance than erotic, but steamy just the same.  Here's the blurb for a little taste:

Sentenced to spend the rest of his three remaining lifetimes in Nil, Amon Kalins is freed with the help of his Sidhe servant, Gethen, but now he must accept his life is never to be his again as the Council won't rest until he's safely back imprisoned within Nil's cold walls. Broken and nearly dead from his time in prison, Amon is saved by an Aeveren healer named Althea Forester. As a healer, Thea has served her people for forty-five lifetimes, never having a destined one and always knowing each lifetime would ultimately end with her alone. But destiny hasn't forgotten her.

Drawn to the seductive Amon, Thea quickly becomes a pawn the Council uses to trap him. Taken prisoner by the sadistic leader of the rebel group, the Soren, Thea must survive the vicious world of the people hellbent on taking her destined one away forever, and Amon must risk everything dear to him to free her from those who would sacrifice her to claim the bigger prize and return him to Nil.

Destiny Redeemed holds a place near and dear to my heart because it's about Aeveren, the paranormal race of characters I created first for Stolen Destiny and have continued in Destiny Redeemed.  Blessed with the gifts of reincarnation, powers above what humans possess, and destined ones, Aeveren live fifty lives, remembering each lifetime's memories, for good and for bad.  For a man like Amon, who has spent lifetimes as a villain because of his power to manipulate time, the chance at love in his forty-seventh lifetime forces him to see that his past may endanger the life he hopes to have with Thea. 

Get it free at Amazon.com, Amazon uk, Amazon de, Amazon fr, Amazon es, and Amazon it!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I love this time of year with all the excitement and anticipation as we get closer to our family celebration. Our children are on their own now and our celebrations have grown to include in-laws and grandchildren. It's a wonderful time with family. While our daughters and grandchildren are close by, everyone sleeps over and, well, it's wonderful. Here is some music for you to enjoy. I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday and new year!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mistletoe Madness Blog Hop: The Magic of Stories

Stories are an important part of our society and culture. We find stories in the books we read, movies we watch, painting we study, music we listen to, even in the news of the day and the liturgy of our religion. You can see its impact on the people in every culture whether being listened to or told and even re-told. Storytellers have shaped our society and our ways of thinking. Their stories are used to entertain, teach, and pass on knowledge and wisdom. Stories define our values, desires, dreams, as well as our prejudices and hatreds.

No one knows when story telling began. All we know is that it is an ancient well respected art and played an important part is society. We can only guess what promoted the first story. Perhaps a hunter came back from the hunt and told of his heroic deeds or was it to explain why he came back from the hunt empty handed? Did a mother try to calm a child’s fears or doubts? Did a Shaman or tribal leader tell of an important event? The storyteller held an important position in these early societies. They were typically the priest, judge or ruler. People found their stories interesting and listened to them. Storytelling days were considered important.

Before man learned to write, he had to rely on his memory to learn anything. For this he had to be a good listener. With the importance of the story established, the listeners paid close attention. These stories were not only told amongst themselves but, when people traveled they shared their stories with others in faraway lands when they traveled. And when they returned home, they brought back exciting new stories of exotic places and people.

The oldest surviving story is believed to be the epic tale of Gilgamesh. This story tells of the deeds of the famous Sumerian king. The earliest known record of storytelling was found in the Egypt. Cheops’ scribes recorded the stories told by Cheops’ sons who told their father stories to entertain him.

There are all kinds of stories myths, legends, fairy tales, trickster stories, fables, ghost tales, hero stories, and epic adventures, and that over time these stories were told, and retold. Passed down from one generation to the next, these stories reflect the wisdom and knowledge of early people. Stories were often used to explain the supernatural or unexplainable, confusing events and disasters. It was common for people to believe in the stories of gods that bound them to a common heritage and belief.

Most historians and psychologists believe that storytelling is one of the many things that define and bind our humanity. Humans are perhaps the only animals that create and tell stories.

The giveaway for the Mistletoe Madness Blog Hop: Leave me a comment telling me your favorite story.  One person randomly selected on December 23rd will win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Links to the other stops on the blog hop are on the right. Visit Blog Hop Central from December 16th to the 23rd for a chance to win prizes including the Grand Prize ** a Nook Color ** pre-loaded with books from our sponsor authors. Here is a direct link to the Grand Prize entry form. Happy Holidays and good luck everyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

10 Ways to Launch Strong Scenes

I read an article by Jordan E. Rosenfeld on Writer’s Digest about beginning new scenes.  If you prefer not going to article, I've pasted most of it here in his own words. 

A story is made up of a progression of scenes that are glued together with narrative. The scenes progress the story and takes us from beginning through to the end. Each new scene must move the story along and keep the reader engaged and, well, reading. To do that, every scene must have a purpose and must recapture your reader’s attention.
To deliver to their readers, writers should ask themselves these two questions when beginning a scene:
  • Where are my characters in the plot?  
  • Where did I leave them and what are they doing now?

What is the most important piece of information that needs to be revealed in this scene?
There are three ways to begin a scene: Action, Narrative, and Setting

Time and momentum are critical in the action scene. To build the momentum the action must start quickly and must show (not tell) the reader what is happening without any explanation
Action launches tend to energize the reader’s physical senses. To create an action launch:
1. GET STRAIGHT TO THE ACTION. Don’t drag your feet here. “Jimmy jumped off the cliff” rather than “Jimmy stared at the water, imagining how cold it would feel when he jumped.”
2. HOOK THE READER WITH BIG OR SURPRISING ACTIONS. An outburst, car crash, violent heart attack or public fight at the launch of a scene allows for more possibilities within it.
3. BE SURE THAT THE ACTION IS TRUE TO YOUR CHARACTER. Don’t have a shy character choose to become suddenly uninhibited at the launch of a scene. Do have a bossy character belittle another character in a way that creates conflict.
4. ACT FIRST, THINK LATER. If a character is going to think in your action opening, let the action come first, as in, “Elizabeth slapped the Prince. When his face turned pink, horror filled her. What have I done? she thought.”

Narrative summaries such as backstory or upcoming action distract and interrupt the reader. It can take the reader out of the story. However, it can be effective if it’s not too long.
A narrative approach is best used with the following strategies:
5. SAVE TIME BY BEGINNING WITH SUMMARY. Sometimes actions will simply take up more time and space in the scene than you would like. A scene beginning needs to move fairly quickly and, on occasion, summary will get the reader there faster.
6. COMMUNICATE NECESSARY INFORMATION TO THE READER BEFORE THE ACTION KICKS IN. Sometimes information needs to be imparted simply in order to set action in motion later in the scene. Opening sentences such as, “My mother was dead before I arrived,” “The war had begun” and, “The storm left half of the city underwater,” could easily lead to action.
7. REVEAL A CHARACTER’S THOUGHTS OR INTENTIONS THAT CANNOT BE SHOWN THROUGH ACTION. Coma victims, elderly characters, small children and other characters sometimes cannot speak or act for physical, mental or emotional reasons; therefore the scene may need to launch with narration to let the reader know what they think and feel.

To me, setting is a dramatic tool and is as important as one of the characters in a story. It sets the mood and gives the reader a place ‘to be.’  Where you place that description can add to the drama.  
Using setting can be effective in the following instances:
8. ENGAGE WITH SPECIFIC VISUAL DETAILS. If your character is deserted on an island, the reader needs to know the lay of the land. Any fruit trees in sight? What color sand? Are there rocks, shelter or wild, roaming beasts?
9. USE SCENERY TO SET THE TONE OF THE SCENE. Say your scene opens in a jungle where your character is going to face danger; you can describe the scenery in language that conveys darkness, fear and mystery.
10. REFLECT A CHARACTER’S FEELINGS THROUGH SETTING. Say you have a sad character walking through a residential neighborhood. The descriptions of the homes can reflect that sadness—houses can be in disrepair, with rotting wood and untended yards. You can use weather in the same way. A bright, powerfully sunny day can reflect a mood of great cheer in a character.
Scene launches happen so quickly and are so soon forgotten that it’s easy to rush through them, figuring it doesn’t really matter how you get it started. Don’t fall prey to that thinking. Take your time with each scene launch. Craft it as carefully and strategically as you would any other aspect of your scene. Remember that a scene launch is an invitation to the reader, beckoning him to come further along with you. Make your invitation as alluring as possible. ~ Jordan E. Rosenfeld
How do you decide how to start a scene? Do you have a favorite style?

ANNOUNCEMENT: December 16 I'll be participating in the week-long Mistletoe Madness Blog Hop. I hope you join in for reading fun and giveaways. The grand prize is a Nook pre-loaded with books by participating authors.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

10 Benefits of Using Descriptive Writing Techniques

As a reader, I read and let the story take me away - transport me beyond my armchair. I can go to any era, any country, be anything I want to be. I can imagine great fetes of magic, the impossible, and the romantic. I can even get the hero at the end *heavy sigh.*  I’m not alone. In the book On Writing Romance, Leigh Michaels says:
“The goal of writing a story is to make the readers feel like they’re right there, sitting quietly in a corner as the action unfolds – watching, listening, smelling, touching and tasting right along with the characters. When the readers feel like they’re part of the story, they become so involved that they can’t put the book down.”
I agree with Ms. Michaels, my goal as an author is to write stories that evoke a reader’s emotions and puts them into the story. I’ve always said I paint stories with my words. Not too long ago I came across a resource book that leaped off the shelf and grabbed me, Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan.
Below is an excerpt from Ms. McClanahan’s book.
·         Descriptive passages create the illusion of reality, inviting the reader to move in, unpack his bags and settle in for a spell. They provide verisimilitude, what John Gardner calls the “proofs” that support and sustain your fictional dream.
·         Description composed of sensory detail penetrates layers of consciousness, engaging your reader emotionally as well as intellectually.
·         Carefully selected descriptive details can establish your characters and settings quickly and efficiently.
·         As a framing device, description establishes the narrator’s, or character’s, point of view. Shifts in the description frame (or eye) can signal shifts in point of view or a significant change in the character.
·         Well-placed descriptive passages can move your story along, shape the narrative line and unfold the plot.
·         Descriptive passages can act as gear shifts, changing the pace of your story – speeding it up or slowing it down, thus increasing the story’s tension.
·         Description can serve as a transitional device, a way of linking scenes or changing time and place.
·         Description can orchestrate the dance between scene and summary.
·         Description can serve as a unifying thematic device, what Stanley Kunitz calls the “constellation of images” that appears and reappears in a literary work, suggesting the idea of feeling that lives beneath the story line.
·         Description can provide the palette for graduations in mood and tone. Dip your brush in one description and the key darkens; in another, and sun breaks through.

What makes you keep reading? What part does description play in your book?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Happy Holidays Everyone!

I love this time of year with all the excitement and anticipation as we get closer to our family celebration. Our children are on their own now and our celebrations have grown with in-laws and grandchildren. When our son comes in from Boston (we live in New Jersey) everyone comes home and sleeps over.
I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday and new year!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interview with Multi Published Author Toni Anderson

Available now at Carina Press

Today multi-published author Toni Anderson has stopped by for an interview and some information about her book, EDGE OF SURVIVAL which was released by Carina Press on November 21.
How did you come up with the idea for EDGE OF SURVIVAL?
In some ways this is hard to talk about without giving away story spoilers so I might be a little vague in places. Basically the idea came from 3 different directions. Firstly, I’ve always been fascinated with the British SAS. My dad is an ex para and a military history buff. I grew up surrounded by books on the military, watching every TV program ever made on soldiers and war, and visiting every military museum in Britain. I have vivid memories of my dad climbing the barriers in a couple of museums to strip a Vicker’s machinegun just because he wanted to.
But what really intrigued me was what happened to the SAS guys when they left the Regiment. Suicide and alcoholism are common among these men who are the secretive heroes of the British military. I wanted to explore that.
The second aspect is people living with diabetes. In this story, the heroine, Cameran Young has type-1 diabetes, but she doesn’t let it slow her down. However, it’s a daily struggle and I wanted to show this.
Thirdly, I’m a fervent lover of wildlife and the environment—this comes into play in the story.
What made you set your story in Northern Labrador?
Back in the 1990s I was privileged to be part of a research study up in Northern Labrador. It was an amazing experience for a girl from Shropshire. The area is so remote that it formed the perfect backdrop for this story and was somewhere I wanted to revisit, if only through writing.
How much research did you conduct for your story and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?
I foolishly assumed that having conducted the heroine’s research study in the first place the research aspects of this book would be easier. Boy, was I ever wrong. I had a good grasp on the landscape and the limitations of working in these remote areas. I’ve flown in choppers oodles of times and tagged and tracked fish. But I didn’t know anything about diabetes. I didn’t know anything about flying a helicopter. I didn’t know anything about the psyche of an ex-soldier. I didn’t know how the RCMP conducted murder investigations in the remote places...can you see the list growing and growing? J The most interesting thing I did was to communicate with a former SAS soldier turned helicopter pilot (what were the chances of me finding this guy? It was fate J). He really helped me get a sense of who my hero was.
What do you want your readers to take away with them after reading the story?
Hmm…good question. There are messages in the story but no preaching. I’d like readers to take away the need to look after our soldiers when they leave the military. The fact that people can live with diabetes but finding a cure would be a hell of a lot better option. I hope they also take away that warm, feel-good emotion you get when you read a really good love story. 
What attracted you to romantic suspense?
Romantic Suspense is what I love to read and what I love to write. I like the added aspect of danger, I like the complexity of trying to solve a crime or avoid danger while all the time trying to deal with falling in love when you least expect it.
What process did you use to write your story?
I hate my process. It involves multiple drafts and much hair-pulling. I am a plotter. I tend to use the worksheets from Discovering Story Magic to develop my internal and external conflicts, but it’s still ugly.
How do you make time to write?
I write when the kids are in school and often in the evenings. I wrote my first book, HER SANCTUARY, in the evenings when they were in bed. It took me five years and was exhausting. Right now I’m privileged to be able to stay home. We’ll see how long that lasts J
Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?
Multiple drafts and I never type THE END. My writing is too organic to ever type THE END J Or I’m too anal.
What comes first – characters or the plot?
They both tend to grow together. The story grows out of a scene that pops into my head. Then I start asking who might be affected by this scene. Who are the players and why does it matter? The characters and plot grow from each other.
If you could choose anyone, past or present for a mentor, who would you choose?
Nora Roberts. The woman is driven.
What advice would you give new writers?
Never never never give up—or was that Churchill? Join a writing group like Romance Writers of America, read lots of writing books and write every day. Don’t be put off by criticism.
What’s your biggest dream?
To be a NYT bestselling author who can pay the mortgage and contribute to the family coffers.
What is your idea of romance?
I’ve been married to a wonderful man for the last 14 years. The thing I find most romantic is the mutual support we give one another. If one of us has a bad day, the other is there for them, trying to make things better with a kiss and a hug.  We take time to let the other know we’re thinking of them throughout the day and we both understand what’s really important to each other and make compromises.  Yes, candlelight and roses are nice, but so is a cup of tea on the bedside table when you wake up, and knowing the dog has already been walked.
EDGE OF SURVIVAL (November 2011)
Foreword by Brenda Novak
Dr. Cameran Young knew her assignment wouldn't be easy. As lead biologist on the Environment Impact Assessment team, her findings would determine the future of a large mining project in the northern Canadian bush. She expected rough conditions and hostile miners—but she didn't expect to find a dead body her first day on the job.
Former SAS Sergeant Daniel Fox forged a career as a helicopter pilot, working as far from the rest of the human race as possible. The thrill of flying makes his civilian life bearable, and he lives by his mantra: don't get involved. But when he's charged with transporting the biologist to her research vessel, he can't help but get involved in the murder investigation—and with Cameran, who awakens emotions he's desperate to suppress.
In the harsh and rugged wilderness, Daniel and Cameran must battle their intense and growing attraction while keeping ahead of a killer who will stop at nothing to silence her…
My heroine has diabetes and I'm donating 15% of my royalties to diabetes research.

Toni’s Bio:
Toni is a former marine biologist who conducted her Ph.D. at the Gatty Marine Laboratory in St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland.  She was born and raised in the U.K., but now lives in the Canadian prairies with her husband and two children, living about as far from the ocean as possible. Her stories are set in the stunning locations where she’s been lucky enough to live and work—the blustery east coast of Scotland, the remote isolated mining communities of Northern Labrador, the rugged landscapes of the U.S. and the Red Center of Australia.  She escapes the long brutal Canadian winters by writing Romantic Mystery and Suspense stories.

Toni, thank you so much for visiting with me today.
Friends, check out her website for a list of current titles, her blog and Facebook Author Page for writing news and her personal Facebook page and Twitter for constant nonsensical chatter. She is also part of a wonderful group blog—Not Your Usual Suspects. Come introduce yourself. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

10 Ways to Stay Motivated While You Write

Writing is difficult. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. My stories start in my head. I hear dialogue, I see scenery, I even hear the exposition. Getting it down on paper and keeping my tushy in the chair is another thing entirely. It can be downright challenging. Here are some ways that may help you to stay motivated.
  1. Take a short time to organize. I’m a ‘plotzer’ – cross between a planner and pantzer I use a basic story outline to know my story’s direction. For me, detailed planning prevents my characters telling me where things are going. I know that sounds strange, but detailed planning for me (and I stress for me), interferes with some of my creativity. So, I use a basic outline and character study (index cards or notes). It’s the character study I find most valuable and where I spend my time. I get close with my characters.  Once I know them well writing flows easier and easier writing keeps me motivated. If I get stumped, I go back to my outline, character study, or do some ‘what if’ scenarios. It recharges me and keeps me writing.
  2. Set Deadlines. Deadlines work for some people. For me, they definitely are part of my day job and I had aggressive ones with my editor. I know the punishment for missing these deadlines but what would really happen if I missed a self-imposed writing deadline? Move the date? Besides, I’m a real softy. Ask my kids. So to quote Nathan Bransford “The trick is setting a deadline with teeth. If you secretly know that the deadline you’re setting for yourself is a soft one, it’s not going to have its hair-raising, stress-inducing maximum effect. So either you have to learn to be scared of yourself and your own punishments or you may need a partner in crime who can help you keep to them.”
  3. Daydream a Little. Picture what it will be like when you book is completed and you ship it off for query to an agent/editor. Dream about the possibilities of a successful novel, keynote at RWA, Pulitzer (when they have a romance category), and movie option. It all depends on completing what you write. Tuck the daydream in a nice cozy place and come back to the present and make it happen.
  4. Journalize. Writers usually keep a journal or pad handy for jotting down story and character ideas. Use your journal to clarify your obstacles, then think of ways around writing problems, like plot difficulties or difficult decisions about how to organization your story. Perhaps solving these difficulties will motivate you to keep on going.
  5. Just start typing. Momentum can be invaluable in making progress. Even 10 minutes of uninterrupted writing can be helpful. Find time during the day to write, at lunch, commuting, waiting in line at the grocer, at soccer game practice, you see what I mean.
  6. Skip ahead. I tell you this technique but admit I do not follow it myself. I am a linear writer. I find it very difficult to write ‘out of order.’ However, just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. So, if you’re stuck about writing the next thing, skip it for now and try jumping ahead to the next piece you’re excited about. You can come back to the part you skipped later.
  7. Talk with your critique partner or someone who supports your writing. For me, talking about my work in progress gets me excited. Sometimes that is all I need to stay motivated. I was stuck on a fight scene and spoke to my son (he’s grown) and Rayna Vause (a writer who is also a martial arts expert). Both gave me the support I needed and valuable insight. And while it’s not true of everyone, a lot of people—both writers and readers—are flattered to be asked to talk with a writer about a work in progress.
  8. Move Around. Sometimes you need to move out of your space, physically, to reset your mind. I get up and go downstairs to the kitchen for a glass of water or cup of tea. (Sometimes even chocolate.) I come back to my desk renewed.
  9. Write what You Love. Don’t try to catch a fad. It may be tempting, but most times it doesn’t work. You need to love your novel unconditionally if you’re going to finish it.
  10. Your turn. What about you? What motivates you?          

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why Regency Men are the Best

I'm really excited today to have a guest post from fellow Carina Press author, Joanna Chambers. Joanna's book, The Lady's Secret, is now available. Hmmm, she thinks Regency men are the best. Let's just see...

Hi Ruth, thanks for having me over to your blog! 

My book, The Lady's Secret, which has recently been released by Carina Press (buy it here) is set in Regency England.  The heroine, Georgy, embarks on a quest to prove she and her twin brother Harry are legitimate and that Harry is the true Earl of Dunsmore.  To gain entrance to Dunsmore Manor to search for evidence, she dresses as a man and obtains a post as Nathan (the hero's) valet.  I had a lot of fun with that set up!  You can read an excerpt here.

I'm very fond indeed of Regency heroes, so much so that I thought I'd have a go at persuading you that the Regency male is The Uber Romance Hero.  Here's my top 3. reasons why:

1. The Look

Not to be shallow, but aesthetically, I just love the whole Regency 'look' – and male fashions in particular: breeches, shiny boots, tight coats, acres of snowy white linen – just, um, yum!  I spent far too long looking for 'muse' pictures of my hero Nathan on the internet when I ought to have been writing...

Now that we've got that out of the way, onto something more profound!

2. The Lords

Yes, I know we all moan about the unfeasibly large numbers of earls, marquesses and dukes that abound in the fictional Regency universe but there's something of real interest here.  In the early 19th century, the power of aristocrats was still huge but beginning to wane.  The power of commerce ultimately proved the stronger force but just at this point time, aristocrats still enjoyed enormous, indeed untouchable power and privilege. 

 Of course, there was a price to be paid.  The corollary of unearned privilege, conferred by accident of birth, is the pressure to abide by societal expectations.  And so we get heroes like Nathan who have everything material they could wish for and yet have little choice about who to marry.   And we have heroes who are able to exercise unlimited and terrifying power over women should they choose to do so.  As a reader of romantic fiction, I find that enormously appealing: the hero who is tempted to abuse his own power, the hero who has to face up to himself; the hero who has to reject the society who has treated him so well.  Delicious!

3. The Lifestyle

Many aristocratic males of the Regency period enjoyed a racy lifestyle.  Heavy drinking was rife and there was a gambling craze that led many into financial ruin, as did high spending on luxury items, homes and fashion.

Again, from a romance-reader point of view, this is delicious because it enables a nice contrast to be drawn between the empty pleasures offered by this seemingly pleasurable lifestyle, and the more enduring and worthwhile pleasures the heroine offers.  And again, it's a lesson Nathan learns in The Lady's Secret.

What do you think?  Do you adore Regency heroes like me?  Prefer others?  Do tell!

Please leave a comment. Look for my response, why I love the rogues of the renaissance, on Joanna's blog November 22. 

The Lady's Secret

London, 1810

Former actress Georgiana Knight always believed she and her brother were illegitimate—until they learn their parents were married, making them heirs to a great estate. To prove their claim, Georgy needs to find evidence of their union by infiltrating a ton house party as valet to Lord Nathaniel Harland. Though masquerading as a boy is a challenge, it pales in comparison to sharing such intimate quarters with the handsome, beguiling nobleman.

Nathan is also unsettled by Georgy's presence. First intrigued by his unusual valet, he's even more captivated when he discovers Georgy's charade. The desire the marriage-shy earl feels for his enigmatic employee has him hoping for much more than a master-servant relationship...

But will Nathan still want Georgy when he learns who she truly is? Or will their future be destroyed by someone who would do anything to prevent Georgy from uncovering the truth?

Joanna Chambers
Buy Site

Twitter - @ChambersJoanna
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002993543568

Monday, November 14, 2011

Welcome to Tea

Come on in, and chat. Just leave a comment or Tweet me @RuthACasie. To start things off here is an excerpt from Knight of Runes, the inspiration for our tea party.

England - 2008
“Lady Emily, time for your tea.” Ninety-year-old Lady Emily Parsons sat in the old solar at Fayne Manor, now a grand and comfortable drawing room, resting in the wingback chair that faced the large window. She removed her glasses and looked up. Lord Arik’s Journal Chronicled by Doward lay open in her lap.
Helen, Lady Emily’s housekeeper and companion, brought in the steaming Earl Grey tea with warm scones and clotted cream. The tangy citrus aroma of the tea and sweet fresh baked fragrance of the cakes filled the room. She set the tea service on the table.
“Tea already?” Emily closed the journal and put the book on the table. Her hand lingered. She stroked the old leather binding, her finger tracing the strange embossed letters on the cover. “He must have been a driven man.” She straightened up and accepted the offered cup, enjoying the mild orange aroma.
“Who, m’lady?”
“Lord Arik. From everything I’ve read, someone was out to ruin him.” Emily stirred her tea with a shaky hand and let out a heavy sigh. “If only we knew where to find his sister Leticia’s journal I’m certain we would have the complete story.”
“You’ve been working too hard these last few months. First, organizing your family papers and now finding this,” said Helen, gesturing to the book by Emily’s side. “Perhaps Mr. George can take your mind off things. He arrived a few minutes ago.”
“Are those Helen’s scones I smell?” George Hughes entered the room, his bold strides making fast work of the distance from the door to Emily’s chair.
Emily watched as he took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet buttery aroma.
“Ah, there they are. Emily, you’re not keeping those scones all for yourself. What need I do to get one?” He took her hand, kissed it, winking at Helen as she left the room.
“You, young man, can have one just for the asking,” Emily said as she poured his tea.
He sat across from Emily, politely spooning cream onto the small cake. She smiled, remembering a younger George sitting in the same chair scooping all the cream out of the saucer and onto his scone leaving the dish empty, his resulting mustache the only sign there had been any cream at all. She looked now at a fine young man in his late thirties, tall with a muscular build and dark loosely waved rich brown hair with a slight touch of grey at the temples.
There was mischief in his blue eyes as he wiped the last of the crumbs from his mouth using the large damask napkin. “I’ve brought you a birthday present.”
“A birthday present? Is it my birthday already?” Emily teased him innocently.
He put the napkin down, went to her and took her hand. “Come. Let me give you your present before dinner.” He helped her up from the chair, tucked her arm in the crook of his and led her downstairs.
“What’ve you been up to?”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Spot of Tea

Afternoon tea is a tradition we associate with Great Britain. Traditionally, dinner was served at 8:30 or 9:00 pm – a long time after the morning meal which was served between 7:00 and 9:00 am.  To fill the gap, and stop the grumblings of many tummies,  tea was served.
High tea, an early evening meal, was served between 5:00 and 7:00. It included hot dishes followed by cakes and bread, butter and jam. Sometimes cold meats would also be served. For the most part, high tea was served at the dining table.
Afternoon tea, served in the late afternoon, was called low tea because it was usually served in the sitting room, salon, or library on low (coffee) tables. There are three types of Low Tea:
Cream Tea - Tea, scones, jam and cream

Light Tea - Tea, scones and sweets

Full Tea - Tea, savories, scones, sweets and dessert
The traditional time for tea in England was 4:00 or 5:00. Today tea is served in most tea rooms from 3:00 to 5:00. The menu has also changed to include three courses served in a specific order:
Savories Tiny sandwiches or appetizers

Scones - Served with jam and Devonshire or clotted cream

Pastries - Cakes, cookies, shortbread and sweets
On my first business trip overseas I spent the weekend in London. I had several places I want to see or experience, including the Tower of London, Warwick Castle, Hampton Court, and go to a tea room. A friend at the office surprised me and took me to tea at The Savoy Hotel. That’s where I discovered clotted cream. How delicious to bite into the warm scone slathered with cream.  
I found the perfect place in my story, Knight of Runes, to include The Savoy Hotel and afternoon tea.
To celebrate Monday’s release of Knight of Runes, I will be hosting a virtual tea from 4:00 to 6:00 pm EST. Please come back tomorrow and leave a comment for a chance to win a tea basket.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

5 Reasons I Wish I Was a Romance Heroine

I was browsing some of my favorite blogs and the title on this one by Kat Latham caught my attention. She’s not talking about the hunky hot hero. No, she gets down to the real reasons we wish we were romance heroines. Oh, why this picture? There’s just a little part of me that still wants the hunky hero!
Here is her full post.
Many of us romance readers wish we had the same things the heroines we read about get: a beautiful man who adores us, a close community of friends, fantastic sex, and a guaranteed happy ending.
But a tweet from Lauren Plude, editorial assistant at Grand Central Publishing, got me thinking. Lauren wrote: “One of the many reasons I sometimes wish I was a romance heroine–they never seem to have to wait for AM laundry delivery.”
Since I read that while working on a really annoying project, I started thinking about all the little blessings romance heroines have in their lives.
Forget the hot heroes; these are the real reasons I wish I were a romance heroine:
1. They never have to scrub toilets, grout or bathroom caulking.
2. Their hero is always willing to pitch in with dishwashing—often insisting on it without even being asked (unthinkable!).
3. If I were a Harlequin Presents heroine, I could own an art gallery in Sydney without actually having to work hard at managing it while I run around with my billionaire lover.
4. I’d have friends with exactly the skills and experience I’d need to rely on for every problem in my life.
5. Perhaps most importantly, though, nine hours at the office could be glossed over in a paragraph.
What are the little blessings that make you envy romance heroines?

TWO days until the release of Knight of Runes! For a sneak peek ~ here is an

Sunday, October 30, 2011


The candlelight flickered. The dancing flame threw eerie shadows on the wall. Cinnamon and pine fill the air with the aroma of autumn. The last of the residual heat is only a warm memory. I wrap the blanket around me a little tighter to stay the cold as best I can.
The storm that started in the morning still rages. The wind whips around the house, tossing the branches overloaded with heavy wet snow. Every now and then a sharp snap interrupts the quiet. A tree limb drops landing with a dull thud setting the loose snow flying.
For now the beauty and simplicity of the night are enough. I’ll catch up with things tomorrow when I have power and can boot up my computer. I’ve written today’s blog on my cell phone. I’ll go find Paul. He’s gone off into the other room.
Jeez, what will we do all night? Any auggestions?

Monday, October 24, 2011

NJRW 2011 Put Your Heart In a Book Conference - Empower Your Muse

After months of planning, the 28th annual NJRW conference came to a close on Saturday night. As this year’s assistant conference chair I may be biased but the event was really flawless, well the fire alarm during Friday’s cocktail party wasn’t planned but certainly added to the excitement.
Suzanne Brockmann
Over 310 people attended the two day conference. Lori LaSpada and Jennifer Sampson did a great job with registration. There were over 40 workshops covering craft, industry and writer wellness topics. Marlo Berliner, the conference chair and I did a pitching workshop to a packed room. Thanks to the hard work of Terri Brisbin and Kathleen Long there were over 30 editors and agents taking pitches and participating in the editor and agent panel discussions. Phyllis Nugent and Lita Harris managed the Book Fair and Signing with over 50 authors. Donations were given to Literacy Volunteers of America.
Julie Schroeder did an awesome job with the materials, sometimes with very quick turn arounds. Maureen Boylan kept us on budget and yet found the greatest give aways, Kat Attalia spruced up our surroundings with balloons and muses. Lena Pinto and Janet Pepsin rounded up the volunteers that helped out with everything. Val Luna and her team put together about 70 baskets that were raffled off throughout the weekend. BethAnn Kerber had oversight of the Goodie Room. The half day retreat for published authors was led by Nancy Herkness and Roni Denholtz. Joe Nasta saw to the transportation needs of our big four speakers as well as the agents and editors.

Victoria Alexander
Our Put Your Heart in a Book contest for unpublished authors was chaired by Maureen Boylan and Shirley Hailstock. The Golden Leaf contest for published authors was chaired by Maria Ketterer, Jodi Rotondo, and Michele Mahon. Anne Walradt made the entries come alive when she read excerpts from each of the Golden Heart finalists. 
Marissa O’Neill from B&N Book Club wrote a great article about the conference. She interviewed our speakers and many of our authors and attendees.
I have to admit, I had some GREAT fan-girl moments with Suzanne Brockmann, Victoria Alexander, Rachel Gibson, Brenda Novak, and Elosia James. I nearly jumped out of my seat when my good friend Lisa Verge Higgins won Golden Leaf Award.
There are some great pictures on the New Jersey Romance Writers FaceBook page. Stop by and take a peek.
It was wonderful to spend time with friends I only speak to on the loops and via email. I enjoyed dancing with close friends and making new ones. We kept the dance floor hopping at the after party.
I’m tired, achy but still smiling, for a little while. We start again right after Thanksgiving planning the next one. To whet your appetite, next year’s featured speakers include:
Susan Wiggs our pre-conference speaker
Jim and Nikko Goldrick who will do a special presentation
Heather Graham our luncheon speaker
Sabrina Jefferies our keynote speaker 
I hope to see you there!