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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Haunting of Handley Station by Liz Lafferty


"You really shouldn’t be out so late, miss. It’s a bad night to be out alone.”

“I’m here for the same reasons you are,” I said. My skin tingled with goose bumps. I hadn’t really expected anyone else to be here on such an unusually bitter cold Halloween night. And it was three in the morning. I huddled deeper in my coat.

He laughed, deep and masculine. “The story isn’t true.” His face remained hidden as he leaned against the corner of the train station building, one hand in his pocket, pushing his trench coat back to reveal a tailored suit. He wore one of those interesting hats from the fifties, a dark fedora. Talk about role playing.

“W-what story?”

He stepped into the light.

“You. I know you,” I said. The fear in my voice couldn’t be helped. The night was kinda creepy and I was foolishly alone. But I was sure it was him.

“Have we met?” he asked.

“No, not officially.”

“Could we, officially?” he asked. His crooked smile put me at ease.

“Ashley.”

He craned his neck, looking down the track line to the north. “Well, I’ve gotta go. My train’s coming in.”

I jerked around looking behind me for a train I didn’t hear. There was nothing, only eerie night air swirling around me and an unusual dampish mist. I shook inside my coat. When I turned around, he had disappeared.

The Haunting of Handley Train Station was true. I’d just been talking to a ghost.

I backed away. In spite of my bravado, I was new at the ghost-buster game. I couldn’t help it. I lived three blocks from the station and had grown up on its myths and legends. I wanted to see for myself.

I turned to run. And ran into him. His hands clutched my shoulders to keep me from falling. My hands were braced against his solid chest.

“Don’t hurt me. I know you’re just a ghost, but please don’t hurt me.” He seemed like a reasonable ghost. I patted his chest again just to be sure he was really there.

“I’m not a ghost,” said he of the masculine voice and strong, hard body.

“I was just talking to you over there.” I pointed lamely to the corner of the building where I’d been scouting.

“It wasn’t me. You saw him, didn’t you?”

“I saw you.” I pushed against his chest with both hands. He felt real enough. Even his breath against my ear felt warm compared to the odd chill of the air. His strong hands at my shoulders held me in place like no ghost could.

“No, my grandfather. He’s the ghost. He was killed here over fifty years ago.”

Yes, I knew the story. I’d never given a thought to the dead man’s family before.

“So, the ghost is real?”

“Very real. Only he never talks to me. Only women.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“I found out only recently, after hanging out here for the last fifteen years wanting to learn the truth.”

“What happened?” I said, now feeling an odd need to comfort.

“I don’t know. I keep hoping he’ll tell me or tell someone, but people don’t come like they used to. He doesn’t like crowds. He especially doesn’t like men. If it’s quiet and lonely, he’ll show up, walk around a bit and then at 3:07 disappears. Sooner if he doesn’t like the company. One night a year. What did he say to you?”

“Nothing. Just asked my name.” The warmth emanating from him drew me closer.

“What is your name?”

“Ashley,” I said again, feeling a creepy déjà vu, reminded of the ghostly introduction a few minutes ago and the vaporous attempt to meet this very man six months ago. He probably didn’t remember that I had approached him when I braved potential rejection and faced him on this very platform. Because he’d given a weak greeting and walked on, I vowed never to talk to him again. We’d remain platform acquaintances. Still, every morning I didn’t see him, I wondered about him.

He whispered my name. The goose bumps came back in full force. “I’m sorry,” he offered.

“About what?” Even at this late hour, I knew how to do innocence. He probably couldn’t see me batting my eyelashes.

“You’re still mad at me for not talking to you, aren’t you?”

“You remember?” I wasn’t mad. Humiliated, yes. Okay, I was mad.

“I had a girlfriend then. I don’t anymore. I’m David.”

His face was so near, mere inches, as he gazed down into my eyes. Interpreting that statement would require broad daylight and several cups of coffee. “He looks exactly like you,” I mumbled, trying to keep the conversation going, instead of falling in head first.

“I’ve seen pictures.”

“If he won’t talk to you, why do you keep coming?”

“For my mom, I think. She always wondered why her dad didn’t come home. Wanna grab some coffee?”

“Sure.” That wasn’t the only thing I wanted to grab.

“You’re going to have to take your hands off my chest now.”

“I’m not sure I want to.”

“I guess the coffee can wait.”


BIO: Liz is a hard working wage earner by day and a romance writer caught up with strong heroines and handsome heroes by night. THE HAUNTING OF HANDLEY TRAIN STATION is part of a series she wrote about familiar strangers, people we see every day, but don't know a thing about.

Author Interview: Jeannie Lin

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Jeannie Lin, author of the 2009 Golden Heart Butterfly Swords, which has been published by Harlequin Mills & Boon.

"What got you interested in writing?" I asked her.

"Money," she answered promptly. "Ha. I've been waiting to use that answer because it's true. The first time I became interested in writing something that wasn't assigned by a teacher was after my mother told me that if your wrote stories down and they were good enough, then people would pay for them. I was seven. I picked up my fat blue pencil (the ones without erasers) and got to work. The thought of being able to do anything for money at seven years old was absolutely mind-boggling. That's when I became fascinated with the idea of commercial fiction; that there was a profession of writing."

When Jeannie is developing her stories, she daydreams scenarios. She plays them over and over, imagining the emotions the characters go through.

"Susan Elizabeth Philips once explained that she's an actress," Jeannie said. "She has to move her characters through the scene and like in a play or movie before she knows about them. I think that's the closest explanation I've heard to what I do."

She considers herself a plotter: daydreaming for a long time, culling out scenes and characters. The ones that stick make it into an outline.

"The process of writing is negotiating between the words and the daydream," she told me.

I wondered who her favorite author was.

"My favorite author changes. It was once Ray Bradbury because of the rare emotional quality of his stories. Then I thought it might be Stephen King because his characterizations were so incredible, but I realized that as amazing as he was, no one's stories interacted with my worldviews and thoughts about meaning and reality as much as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. They call him a science fiction author because they don't know what else to call him. I would say he's the closest at capturing the quirkiness and impermanence and the reflective and self-defining nature of existence in a way that speaks to me. I've only read four books of his: Slaughterhouse Five, Cat's Cradle, Breakfast of Champions, and Timequake. I almost want to save them and spread them out throughout my life."

When it comes to good writing, Jeannie said it should make her forget that she's reading. There should be enough craft and substance, yet be so effortless that the sentences disappear and it becomes a conversation.

"A part of that is soul," she explained. "There has to be a little glimpse into the writer's distinctive point of view so I feel that I can't get this story or this feeling anywhere else."

When it comes to her own writing, she's been influenced by the wuxia stories of Louis Cha (Jin Yong), western traditional fantasy, and historical romance.

Jeannie was captivated by two ideas: the remarkable, and sometimes tragic, lives of the ruling women of the Tang Dynasty and the lure of the Silk Road.

"What is so romantic about the Silk Road is the ideal that over a thousand years ago, a network of trade routes connected East to West," she said. "I think it's an ideal of global connectedness that appeals to a modern mind. From there, I started pulling ideas together of everything that I loved. Heroism, honor, romance, and sword fights."

I asked her what the hardest part of writing Butterfly Swords was.

"Because it was my debut novel, the hardest part was analyzing feedback and learning how to improve the story. Before working with a professional such as an editor or agent, it's often a case of the blind leading the blind and you don't know which is the right path to take. At one point I had polished and polished the first chapters so much I felt there was no life to it anymore."

She admitted she didn't have a system for coming up with the titles to her books.

"I'll discuss and brainstorm with writer buddies and throw a couple of ideas around. Butterfly Swords came to me like a gift while plotting the book and that's the only title that fit perfectly. I hoped that Harlequin wouldn't change it. The Taming of Mei Lin was originally called Warrior Bride, but my publisher wanted a sexier title. The one they came up with fit the story very well."

On more of a personal note, Jeannie admitted that she hates how she looks in pictures.

"I always seem to blink or make a face in pictures," she admitted. "The only reason my wedding pictures look good is the photographer took a gazillion of them and I got rid of all the weird-faced ones."

Some things you may not know about Jeannie:

--she's first generation Vietnamese-American. Her great-grandmother was Chinese.

--she will usually try anything as far as foods go; her strangest is an intestine soup she ate in South Korea.

--she considers herself a science geek, or maybe just a geek in general.

--she thinks of herself as both a morning and night person, as she prefers a siesta schedule with a long afternoon nap.

--she can unwrap a Starburst with her tongue and tie a cherry stem as well.

Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

"Just write. Nothing gets me more frustrated than having to try to give advice to someone who wants to spin and circle and fret and worry. There's going to be enough circling and paranoia as you get further into it. Just write forward and finish the darn story and you will eventually find your rhythm and voice. I promise."

You can keep up with Jeannie on her blog, http://www.jeannielin.com/index.php/category/blog/

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Keena Kincaid

A good book has no ending
--R.D. Cumming

I find my favorite book is the one that’s just been released. By the time it comes out, enough time has passed for me to forget the agony of writing and revising it. Instead, I rediscover what drew me to the characters in the first place and am again left content with their happily ever after.

When I sat down to write Ami and William’s story, this scene came to me first. It’s still one of my favorites in the book. Here’s a shortened version of that scene:

William saw her at the same time he heard Aedan’s curse. Ami stood in the doorway, surveying the room as if it were hers. His heart thumped against his ribs, and the undefined anxiety turned sharp in his chest. Even amidst the crowd of overdressed popinjays, she stood out like an angel among heretics, alluring and disconcerting at the same time.

In subtle rebellion, she’d left off a wimple. Braids the color of captured night fell over her shoulders and back, the darkness emphasizing her rich, creamy complexion and barely blue eyes.

Ami’s beauty was neither conventional nor fashionable, but timeless. The contrast of fair skin and dark hair emphasized the faint luminosity of her complexion and strengthened the strong angles of her cheeks and jaw. The defiant tilt of her chin was softened only by the curve of her mouth, which even now begged to be kissed.

And every man in the room wanted to grant that plea. …

One of Carlisle’s guards took Ami’s hand, and the threat died on William’s tongue. Grinning, Ami danced toward the man, a swirl of color. Her smoky blue dress, trimmed at the sleeves with brightly dyed feathers, swallowed the torchlight and pulled his gaze to her as if she were the lone candle in the room.

His skin prickled, turned hot and tight. She moved like vapor made liquid, winking in and out of shadows as dark as her curls. The summer-weight wool clung to her frame as she lifted her arms and twirled. His mouth dried.

Heat flared over the room. Fabric hugged the firm roundness of her breasts and skimmed along the flare of her hips, leaving nothing to his imagination. Or anyone else’s. Coldly, William noted the name of each man who gazed on his sister with the wrong intent.

Laughter erupted beside him. “Relax. She is just having fun.”

William forced his shoulders against the wall, letting the cool stone hold him in place. “’Tis the feathers. She attracts the wrong attention with such frivolous adornments. The men think she is unchaste.”

“They hope it, to be sure.” Aedan’s eyes widened at the glare William threw him. “As one of us, she is free to do what she wills with their attention.”

“Bran may think she is your sister, but I am unconvinced.”

“You do not wish to be.”

“Why would I? What brother says his sister is free to be a whore? You may swive anyone who breathes, but—”

“Not anyone. I never touched Eleanor.”

William ignored the jab. “Ami was raised better.”             

“I grew up in a monastery.” Aedan slanted a merry grin at him. “You get no better than that.”

“And she does not like you.” Even as he spoke, an edged guilt passed through William. Ami had been chary of Aedan at first meeting, almost irrationally so. He’d encouraged her aversion to protect her from his charms even as he’d begun to suspect the kinship ties between her and the minstrel.

“She does not need to like me.” Aedan shifted his weight, moved closer, then whispered. “But she needs to know the truth.”

“Bran said—”

“My brother is over-cautious, always seeing death and dying.” Aedan punctuated his words with a dismissive wave of his hand. “’Twill not be disastrous if anyone other than you tells her the truth. She is stronger than Bran thinks, and if you lack the courage for honesty, I will tell her.”

“Tell her and face me.” William shifted to stand between Aedan and Ami. “She may not be blood, but I have loved and protected her for a lifetime as if she were my true sister. I will kill the man who thinks to nullify that.”

Aedan opened his mouth to argue, and William strode away before he did something stupid, like murdered Ami’s brother at her feet. Midway across the hall, he found her among the revelers and stopped—close enough to almost touch, but far enough away to resist the temptation.

Ami hadn’t seen him. Yet. She twirled, absorbed in the moment and glowing with joy. William knew its source went far beyond her love of dance. She possessed a power akin to Aedan’s. One he couldn’t deny, even though he knew Ami would if ever confronted. Not since childhood had she talked about the strange colors she saw or run to him in fear of the ghost she swore walked the old Roman ruins.

Aedan was as uncaring of his otherness as a beggar of his stench. But Ami would never have the luxury of being different. Nor was she as strong as Aedan supposed. Like plate armor marred in the making, a weakness ran through Ami that would shatter her if not protected. …

Ami turned a half circle and hesitated. Her gaze met his, and a smile lit her face. She glided to him, breaking the pattern of the dance without a thought. “Dance with me.”

“I cannot.”

She snatched his hand. Heat scorched his skin, ignited his groin. Ami gasped. Her pupils widened, darkened. Sweat licked along his spine. He held his breath and counted his heartbeats as she circled him. If he moved, he’d burst. And if his life didn’t end in a flash of blood and fire, his stiff-legged gait would telegraph his desires.

Rigid, he watched her step closer. Her hand trembled against his. Heat poured from her body, flushing her cheeks, dampening the curls that clung to the smooth skin of her neck. Her touch turned hotter, and he jerked away from the small flame at her fingertips.

For a moment, she stood as if suspended in time. Liquid horror poured into her eyes, and she stepped away. Fisting her fingers, she let a sallow-faced knight pull her back into the circle.

William ignored the urge to go after her and ease the shame and ache he knew she felt whenever she slipped. He didn’t dare touch her again.

Keena Kincaid, the author of four romance novels set in 12th century England, will be at LASR all week talking about her newest novel, ENTHRALLED. Leave a comment on one of her blogs and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of her book at the end of the week. She’ll be giving away two ebooks and one signed print edition.
Her topics:
·         Monday: Eleanor of Aquitaine
·         Tuesday: William of Ravenglas
·         Wednesday: Amilia of Ravenglas
·         Thursday: Magic and Marriage in the Middle Ages
·         Today: The First Scene

Her books are available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble online as well as anywhere ebooks are sold. You also can fan or friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and visit her blog, Typos and All.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Keena Kincaid

However it is debased or misinterpreted, love is a redemptive feature.

The world that Ami and William inhabit isn’t one that we’d recognize if we had access to a time machine. Parts of it might seem familiar, sort of like running into a childhood friend when we’re well into our middle ages, but how most medieval people saw the world is very different than how we view it.

For instance, if something goes bump in the night, we might think it’s an intruder or the cat. Our medieval counterpart might assume it was the cow (often sleeping in the house) or the restless spirit of a condemned sinner. If we see a UFO we think alien not God, and we’d never assume a demon was responsible for that dream involving Brad Pitt and Clive Owen.

In other words, a supernatural explanation wasn’t really considered “super” natural. So when Ami discovers her magical abilities run “in the blood” she doesn’t immediately think the bearer of this news is insane. Magic is real, if mostly condemned, in her world.

But magic isn’t all that threatens Ami’s happiness.

Ami’s marriage has been determined before she could crawl. She will marry an earl’s second son. Given the mortality rate in those days, no one would blame her father if he assumed that his grandsons would likely inherit the earldom. So with this marriage, Ami could take the family from being poor knights in the political backwater of Ravenglas to major landholders in England and France with the power to shape a king’s decision.

For William, contracts are to be honored; marriage is a business arrangement designed to strengthen the family and provide heirs that will rise higher than their forebears. Breaking the contract would dishonor the family, and even if he were willing to destroy the family name, the terms of the betrothal agreement rob him of Ravenglas if the contract is broken.

William fears that he will not be strong enough to give Ami up in the end, and she is terrified that he will be.

An excerpt about magic:

She stood in front of the small window. Moonlight fell around her, casting her in shadows and a silver glow that took his breath. Her hands were out, palms up, fire flitting from one to the other like a besotted butterfly.

Turning slowly, she faced him. Confusion and pain marred her expression.

The small flame continued to flutter back and forth. A draft blew through the room, fragrant with loamy scents of night and rain. Ami didn’t speak, merely stood as if waiting for him to pronounce judgment.

Each muscle in her body stiffened as he stepped closer. The fiery butterfly fluttered higher over her hands, throwing a small circle of light around the room.

She met his gaze with fury and pain and thrust out her hands, the butterfly exploding in a flash of flames.

An excerpt on marriage:

Ami turned to face William. Her cheeks were flushed with excitement, and her grin crinkled the corners of her eyes. His breath caught. His body tightened. She looked like a bride the morning after the ceremony.

“Do not be a fool, my friend. Keep her.”

Keep her.

Aedan’s beguiling words buzzed in William’s ears, tempting him, but William knew they offered a hollow promise. He had expectations to meet and responsibilities to bear. Land and people to protect. Lords to serve. Whatever his bloodlines, Aedan wasn’t raised among nobility. He had no idea of the sacrifices it required. The strength of his family provided food, clothing, and luxury goods for a hundred families, maybe more by now. Not even his life was his own to spend as he wished. He must wed for Ravenglas, fight for it, die for it.

“I will do as I must.”

Keena Kincaid, the author of four romance novels set in 12th century England, will be at LASR all week talking about her newest novel, ENTHRALLED. Leave a comment on one of her blogs and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of her book at the end of the week. She’ll be giving away two ebooks and one signed print edition.
Her topics:
·         Monday: Eleanor of Aquitaine
·         Tuesday: William of Ravenglas
·         Wednesday: Amilia of Ravenglas
·         Today: Magic and Marriage in the Middle Ages
·         Friday: The First Scene 
 
 Her books are available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble online as well as anywhere ebooks are sold. You also can fan or friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and visit her blog, Typos and All.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Keena Kincaid

I am my own heroine
--Maria Bashkirtseff

The first question I ask my character is: “what do you want?”

Usually that question comes at 3 a.m. when the character won’t let me sleep, but it’s a vital question and the most important I ask. Some of my heroines want esoteric things, i.e. “to learn.” Others want independence. In some form or fashion, all of them want a choice—something few medieval women were granted.

Ami’s desire is more tangible, if equally impossible. She wants William.

Her tragic past along with her magical ability to see others' emotions and separate truth from lies has left an indelible mark on her soul. She is slow to trust and quick to give her opinion. The constant in her life is William. He shelters her, loves her, tries to coddle her, and is willing to sacrifice his happiness (and hers) to see her safe and secure.

Although raised as a sister to William, Ami is true sister to Aedan ap Owen, the minstrel—a fact she doesn’t learn until after our story begins.

The relationship between Ami and William is more complex than the interactions between most heroes and heroines, at least in the beginning of the book They’ve known each other since they were ages 9 and 6, respectively, and are fully aware of the other's strengths, weakness and faults. At times they argue like siblings. Other times, they fight like lovers. Here’s an example:

Thump. Thump.

Ami ignored the frustrated knock on her door. It was childish to barricade herself in like this, but she couldn’t face anyone. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Thump. Thud. Bang.

She jerked at the sound of oak hitting stone. William filled the doorway, chest heaving as he glared into the room. Blood covered the front of his shirt. A small cry escaped her before the weight of this morn fell on her like tumbling snow. She straightened and glared at him. “I locked the door for a reason.”

“And I purposefully battered it open.” He kicked the door shut with his foot.

“You have no right to barge in here. This is not your room, and I am not your sister.”

“Ami—”

“That is not my name.”

“Yes, ’tis.” He stepped closer to the bed where she sat. “You are and always will be my Ami.”

“Until you give me to Hugh. Of course, I am not real family, so ’tis no sacrifice.”

“If I could have gone all my life without telling you this, Ami, I would have.”

“So you do not mind the lie. ’Tis the confession you dislike?”

He winced, and satisfaction curled through her. She wanted to cry and scream and burn the room to ash. She wanted him to feel her hurt. And beneath the scorching pain, she wanted to curl up in his arms until he made it better.

He cupped her chin, forced her to look at him. “I did not, do not care who was fathered by whom. I only want to keep you safe.” And close, he seemed to say. “Bran offered to take you to the inn. You can stay with him and Liza for now. When I return, we can figure out what to do with you.”

“Do with me?” She laughed, letting her bitterness rise to the surface. “I have already decided that. I am going to serve the queen, be her lady-in-waiting. That means I do not need you or anything you hold over my head, like food or shelter or affection.”

Keena Kincaid, the author of four romance novels set in 12th century England, will be at LASR all week talking about her newest novel, ENTHRALLED. Leave a comment on one of her blogs and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of her book at the end of the week. She’ll be giving away two ebooks and one signed print edition.
Her topics:
·         Monday: Eleanor of Aquitaine
·         Tuesday: William of Ravenglas
·         Today: Amilia of Ravenglas
·         Thursday: Magic and Marriage in the Middle Ages
·         Friday: The First Scene 
 
 Her books are available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble online as well as anywhere ebooks are sold. You also can fan or friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and visit her blog, Typos and All.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Keena Kincaid

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy
--F. Scott Fitzgerald

William of Ravenglas was a tough hero to write, at least for me. He’s arrogant, threatened by past sins and driven by a need to do “the right thing.” He can be rigid and judgmental, but as he’s well aware of his own sins, he’s also quick to forgive and loyal to a fault.

He is how I imagine chivalry and courtly love probably collided with flawed human beings once the ideas left the troubadours’ tales.

What I love about him is his struggle between duty and desire. He's a deeply flawed man—proud, ambitious, and fiercely protective—who wants to live with honor and integrity in a world where there is little of either.

William is adamant about preserving the family estate and increasing its wealth and political power. To achieve these goals, he must cast aside his desires and his honor. In the process, his actions put in the midst of treason, betrayal and dark magic.

Typically, I create heroes who are in desperate need of redemption. They didn’t fall from the straight and narrow path, but jumped from it. For William, one step off that path led to another misstep and then another.  Like most of us, he falls one inch at a time.

Even more tragic than his fall from grace is his honest belief that marrying the woman he loves to Hugh is the right and honorable course. With that marriage, his foster sister, Ami, will be safe and secure, if unhappy. The unhappy part bothers him, chafing his heart like rough leather. However, if he claims Ami, he forfeits Ravenglas. All the people who depend on his family to keep them safe and prosperous will suffer for his selfish actions.

Here’s a peek into William’s heart:

“Vae.” He’d rather she throw fireballs at him than cry. “Ami, do not—”

She pushed past him and raced up the stairs, her quick, staccato steps echoing around the chamber. With her gone, he finally saw the whole room. The children stared at him, wide-eyed and frightened. Both minstrels glared.

William glared back. One of these days, he was going to be the one who got staggering drunk, danced half-naked in the moonlight and kissed every girl he saw. But not this night.

Tonight he had to break Ami’s heart.

Even a few months ago, he’d had a plan. And it had been a good one. He’d to come to Carlisle, focus Aedan’s anger, and stop treason without leaving a bloody mess behind. He would leave court an earl, and once lord in his own right, he’d planned to use his connections to increase trade, dredge Ravenglas’ harbor so larger ships could enter the port, and turn his corner of England into a prosperous outpost where even the beggars were well-fed and content.

He’d even planned to shelter Ami if Hugh of Braose was not a good man.

Instead she’d been at the gate, as welcome as spring and as complicating as an ambush.

Keena Kincaid, the author of four romance novels set in 12th century England, will be at LASR all week talking about her newest novel, ENTHRALLED. Leave a comment on one of her blogs and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of her book at the end of the week. She’ll be giving away two ebooks and one signed print edition.
Her topics:
·         Monday: Eleanor of Aquitaine
·         Today: William of Ravenglas
·         Wednesday: Amilia of Ravenglas
·         Thursday: Magic and Marriage in the Middle Ages
·         Friday: The First Scene 
 
 Her books are available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble online as well as anywhere ebooks are sold. You also can fan or friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and visit her blog, Typos and All.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Keena Kincaid

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned
~William Congreve

ENTHRALLED came about differently for me than any book I’ve written to date. Usually, my books start with a dream, a character chattering in my head or a “what if” idea that gets the imagination going.

This time, though, the story was born of necessity.

Midway through writing TIES THAT BIND, I realized that I couldn’t wrap up my external plot—Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine's attempt to murder her husband, King Henry II, and rule as regent through her eldest son—unless I wrote a 200,000-word book or pulled a Shakespeare and murdered everyone in Act III.

Fortunately, I had two secondary characters that were willing to fight against treason and a villain who was both chilling and sympathetic.

Historically speaking, the passion (both good and bad) between Henry and Eleanor is more assumed than fact. The historical record is thin, sometimes conflicting, and lacks detail. Much of the motivation, affection, disappointment and hatred that stretched over a 37-year marriage must be inferred.

We do know Eleanor:
·         Wed Henry of Anjou in 1152, months after her marriage with the French king was annulled. Henry was 10 or 11 years her junior.
·         Bore at least 8 children during the marriage. The youngest, John, was born in either 1166 or 1167 when she was approximately 45 years old.
·         Encouraged estrangement between father and sons, and led her sons in rebellion against their father in 1173.

From these facts, I created goal, conflict and motivation to develop a fully actualized, if fictionalized woman.

In ENTHRALLED, Eleanor is cold and calculating, yet understandable (I hope). At 44, her legendary beauty is fading, her husband is openly in love with another woman, and her children are no longer under her direct control. She’s standing at the edge of irrelevancy—and she doesn’t like the view.

Here’s our first glimpse of the queen:

“I begin to think you avoid me.”

William turned and acknowledged Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine with a small smile meant to charm. “Never. I merely keep gossip at bay.”

“And your back to the wall.” She surveyed his face for lies. “The minstrel has that habit.”

“All fighting men have that habit, and Aedan is as good with a sword as he is with a harp.”

Malice flashed through her dark eyes, igniting a burning chunk of worry in his gut. He had known since the day Aedan killed Lord Hexham that Eleanor would be murderous over the turn of events, just how murderous was the question.

“Are you enjoying Carlisle, my queen?”

“No. I expected the Earl of Carlisle to be dead.”

“He was not the traitor.”

“And Hexham was not the one I wanted dead.” Her fingernails dug into his wrist. “Walk with me.”

William took his queen’s arm and walked from the crush and thrum of the earl’s court into the chilly air of a spring night.

It had rained. The damp air kept the scents of mud and wood smoke low to the ground. The smells masked the stench from the moat and stables. Eleanor said nothing as he led her through the inner bailey, but small movements of her head told him she missed nothing, not the half-finished walk between the old and new sections of the castle or the sagging scaffolding that attracted the castle children like gulls. Quietly, he studied her, trying to gauge her temper, but the smooth lines of her face revealed nothing of her thoughts. Despite being beyond forty, she was still one of the most captivating women in Europe. Even Ami looked plain in comparison, until she smiled. Eleanor lacked Ami’s sparkle and warmth, and her honesty.


Keena Kincaid, the author of four romance novels set in 12th century England, will be at LASR all week talking about her newest novel, ENTHRALLED. Leave a comment on one of her blogs and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of her book at the end of the week. She’ll be giving away two ebooks and one signed print edition.
Her topics:
·         Today: Eleanor of Aquitaine
·         Tuesday: William of Ravenglas
·         Wednesday: Amilia of Ravenglas
·         Thursday: Magic and Marriage in the Middle Ages
·         Friday: The First Scene

Her books are available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble online as well as anywhere ebooks are sold. You also can fan or friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and visit her blog, Typos and All.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Colors of Dawn by Azura Ice

Deep purple resided along the farthest reaches of the sky, and a few dozen stray stars still winked there. Lilitah regarded the dark amethyst hue above her and realized it was the precise shade of the stone in Maran’s ring. She’d always admired that piece of jewelry, and sometimes, whenever she watched Maran make bread during the wee hours of the morning, he would place it on a shelf above his work counter where it would glitter as if full of violet flames. She’d study the ring as it dazzled her and wonder what it would be like to wear it as her marriage band. Living behind the bread hut and maintaining a good friendship with its owner had its advantages. Maran always had something fascinating to discuss, and watching him knead dough or twist it into braids or form long loaves always seemed to calm Lilitah.

She stood on a dirt path and gazed up at the purple expanse where pink blazed across the horizon. The sky brightened, and light filtered into the valley between the village and the river. Lilitah pondered what would it feel like to fly in a sky that color. However, the mysterious hues of the night sky’s farthest corners were full of magic. Only the bread maker could promise such power to another person. His hands created the villagers’ bread, the staple of their diet, so it had to be done when the earth awakened and the powers of the night faded. Every baker over the ages knew that, and becoming the wife of such a man ensured their children would carry the magic through the generations.

“What are you thinking about?”

Startled, Lilitah spilled her cup of hot tree bark juice down the front of her dress and over her leather sandals.

“I'm sorry, Lilitah.” Maran passed her the rough cloth he always seemed to have slung over one shoulder. “You must have been up there with the stars,” he teased.

“No harm done.” She grinned at him as she patted the dampness from her clothes. Her gaze met his assessing one. Did Maran find her pleasing?

She certainly thought his face comely, and his large, expressive brown eyes always seemed to immobilize her if she looked into them for too long.

“I was just wondering what it would be like to fly up there amongst all those beautiful colors,” Lilitah said. Would he think her silly for entertaining such thoughts? After all, she might be an embroiderer for the village, but she was the youngest in the craft and had much yet to learn about it.

“I’ve often wondered that myself,” Maran replied.

His eyes met hers, and once again, Lilitah lost herself in their dark depths.

“Here,” said Maran. He held something wrapped in a dried palm leaf. “I brought you a berry biscuit.” He smiled, his eyes full of secrecy.

“Really?” She couldn’t believe he was offering her one of his rare sweet treats.

“It’s a special recipe passed down through the bakers. This biscuit serves a unique purpose.”

“Oh?” Lilitah accepted the treat from him. The biscuit still steamed from the hearth’s warmth.

“You must eat it alone.” He turned toward the door of his hut as the teacher of words emerged from a neighboring abode and began calling the children to school. “Tomorrow is the ceremony for the next couple who is to be joined,” he called over his shoulder. “I must prepare the bread bowls for the event. Be sure that you break open the biscuit before you eat it, Lilitah. It's a tradition. You must make a wish as you stare at the morning sky, then break open the biscuit.”

Lilitah glanced at the treat still encased in the dried palm frond. Removing the wrap, she revealed a warm, flakey biscuit as big as her fist. It smelled of almonds, goat butter, and sweet teetmo berries. Saliva flooded her mouth.

She chose a small cove at the river’s in which to break open her biscuit. Lilitah sat on large rock and watched the remainder of the day’s sunrise. She enjoyed the last traces of purple paying homage to the virgin pink of a new day and made her wish, a wish for a dark-eyed man with a handsome face. She inhaled the heady scent of the biscuit and broke it open.

Maran’s beautiful ring tumbled into the folds of her dress where it lay sparkling in the sunshine. Stunned, she could only sit and blink at the brilliant colors that danced within the stone’s depths. Finally, the meaning of it descended upon her with force. She rose and raced back to Maran’s hut.

As she burst through the flap covering the door, she found Maran sitting at a table enjoying a cup of hot tree bark juice. He set the cup down and stood, opening his arms to her, a huge smile on his face.

She leapt into Maran’s embrace and cried with joy against his shoulder as she clutched the marriage band tightly in her hand.

“Lilitah?” Maran said softly.

She looked up at him. “Yes, I am yours forever.”

“Now you know what couple is being joined tomorrow,” he said, laughing.

Lilitah laughed too. “Now you know what I wished for as I broke open your biscuit.”

Maran’s dark, dreamy gaze held Lilitah’s as he lowered his head and claimed her mouth. Heat swept across her body, and desire throbbed in her loins.

All too soon, Maran released her lips. “Tomorrow we make our own magic,” he said.

With a sigh of contentment, Lilitah wondered how her heart could hold so much love. Now she understood what it was like to fly high amongst the colors of the dawn.

About the Author: Azura Ice writes several subgenres of romance, which includes, but is not limited to het, ménage, m/m and can be set in contemporary times or even in a far away world or another dimension. Azura's muse leads her by the hand, and her fingers do the light-speed typing.

Who is Azura Ice? She's a full-time author who is owned by two crazy felines of tabby descent (although they swear they're of Egyptian lineage). Azura writes in an attic study that overlooks a beautiful valley and enjoys her husband's company when he's permitted to enter her domain. However, if he brings offerings of coffee and an occasional chocolaty treat, she's inclined to let him in her office more often.

Azura takes her writing seriously, so she doesn't hang out on forums or loops (she tries to avoid shiny object syndrome), but if you'd like to contact her, interview her, etc., you can reach her at Azura.Ice@live.com. Check out her website: http://ablueice.wordpress.com .

Author Interview: Ginger Hanson


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Ginger Hanson, whose latest book Feather's Last Dance was released in May. I asked her to tell us a little about the book.

As a teen, Faith Featherstone made two mistakes. One gets her pregnant, the second lands her in juvenile detention. Eager to do what’s best for all, Faith gives her son to her barren sister. Faith believes she has found the perfect solution. Matthew, will have two loving parents, she will be a part of his life, and he will know his biological father, because her sister is married to the father’s brother. Her only request? Be named Matthew’s legal guardian.

Five years later, the unthinkable occurs. Her sister and brother-in-law disappear at sea in a sailing accident. Now Faith fears her shameful past will cost her custody of her son. If Justin Worthington is willing to go to court for custody of the boy he believes to be his nephew, what will he do when he discovers the boy is his son?
I asked Ginger what got her interested in writing.

"I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’m pretty sure learning how to print opened the door. Cursive put me into a whole new realm because I could connect the letters and write even faster," she said. "Seriously, my parents were major readers so we always had lots of books in the house. There were plenty of children’s books for us to read and they fueled my imagination. I can’t remember a time in my life when I did not write something, be it stories or letters or articles."

She wrote her first story, "The Magic Tea Tray," when she was nine years old, but assured me, "I’m unwilling to reveal the exact number of years that have passed since that eventful day."

She has several favorite authors and Ginger admitted that narrowing them down to one favorite is difficult. In the Regency realm, she's consistently followed Barbara Metgzer's writing.

"I love her stream of consciousness humor, her fast pace, as well as the delightful characters she creates," Ginger explained.

"What come first," I wondered, "the plot or the characters?"

"Hmmm, that’s difficult for me to answer because it depends on the book. With Lady Runaway, it started with a scene so I imagine that would fall in the plotting category. I just had this image of a woman being knifed in an alley in Regency London. I built the whole book off that image, asking myself why would she be in the alley? How could I save her? With Ransom’s Bride, my second Civil War novel, it was the character. What if a younger sister, who is in love with her older sister’s fiancé, gets the opportunity to marry him?"

Most of Ginger's books end up having several titles. The working title is drawn from some aspect or theme in the manuscript and helps her to focus. It also gives the story a sense of substance. She tries not to get attached to the working title, however, because publishers often change them.

"For example, my first book ended up with the title Tennessee Waltz courtesy of someone at Kensington who I seriously doubt even saw the manuscript," she said. "It was a Southern novel with some scenes in Tennessee and, voilá, title was born. Using that criteria, it could also have been called New York Quadrille or Texas Two Step! Yes, it was a love on the run novel with the heroine and hero traveling to those three states. While I admit my title, D’Angleo’s Destiny, wasn’t the best one, at least it had something to do with the story!"

Lady Runaway, Ginger's first Regency, was called Captain Devlin’s Doxy for most of its unpublished life. Her agent wanted to freshen it up with a new title and when Ginger suggested Lady Runaway, the agent liked it.

"When I went solo and decided to submit LR to a small press, I was delighted that Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books loved the title and kept it. So far, my editor at The Wild Rose Press has like the titles of my contemporary books. I accidentally fell into a way to link them because I was using the heroine’s names in the working titles."

The first book in the series with The Wild Rose Press is titled Feather's Last Dance. It's set in Tassanoxie, Alabama. She's recently signed a contract for the second book in the series, Ellie's Song. She has more Tassanoxie stories in the wings.

I asked Ginger about her writing space.

"Disorganized chaos with books to the right, books to the left, books behind me. I’m fenced in by a computer, its peripherals and two desks. One is a lovely library desk that has traveled all over the United States with me and the other is a stark utility computer desk. On the wall above my computer screens is a bulletin board covered with character and place photos from my current works in progress as well as clip art, cut and paste 'covers' for all my unpublished manuscripts."

She actually wanted to be a foreign correspondent, not an author, when she was growing up. To reach that goal, she studied journalism, French, and Spanish in high school and college. She has written some freelance newspaper articles, but that's the extent of her correspondent career.

"And no, I’m not really fluent in any language other than English!" she admitted.

On a personal note, Ginger shared with me that the only time she and her husband haven't had at least one dog was while they were stationed in Germany, many years ago. She also tends to put dogs into her stories even if it’s only a reference to one!

"We haven’t rescued as many dogs as some folks, but we were doing it long before it became fashionable," she told me.

I asked her if she could tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. She admitted she can, even though she doesn't drink either.

"When I was a little girl we lived on a Mediterranean island called Malta. In the summer the water table became too salty for drinking and we were told to drink Cokes which were delivered to our house by a truck. The pallets were stored beneath the stairs leading to the living area on the second floor. My brothers and I thought we were in heaven and drank Coke by the gallon. Fortunately, my dad was diagnosed with TB and was sent stateside before our tour ended and we left Malta. I say fortunately because we arrived in Malta with great teeth and returned stateside with lots of cavities. So yes, I haven’t had a Coke since I was a kid and I can distinguish between Coke and Pepsi, which I prefer."

Finally, I asked Ginger, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

"Believe in yourself and develop a tough skin as early as you can. Few of us win contracts for our first book. Even if someone does, look into their background and you will generally discover some type of apprenticeship, be it in journalism, screenwriting, or a creative writing program. Be prepared for rejection. It hurts, but it’s part of this business. Even if an editor falls in love with your first book (yes, it happens, just not to me), there will be readers and reviewers who think it’s a waste of time. You can’t please everyone all the time. Concentrate on learning your craft and writing the best book you can."
You can keep up with Ginger on her website, http://www.GingerHanson.com

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor


Excerpt: The Crystal Crib

Sonja’s neck prickled as she approached the grand entrance to the hotel at Santa’s Magical Wonderland in Iceland and halted beneath a banner that read: live your dreams this christmas. Against a backdrop of snow-cloaked wooden lodges, shuttle carts shaped like white cats zipped along carrying smiling moms and dads with giggling kids. A cacophony of Christmas tunes blasted from the rides in the nearby theme park, lending the whole scene a manic out-of-this-world feel, as if a cartoon had come to life. 

Her instincts were usually accurate, but Sonja couldn’t spot anyone watching her—apart from two scruffy, black birds perched on a wire above the road. She squinted at them, a sense of unease wriggling up her spine. Perhaps she just felt guilty for coming here without telling her aunt. 

Rubbing her neck, she walked under the impressive ice-palace facade of the Magical Wonderland hotel and into the foyer. A familiar sense of isolation closed around her as she threaded her way between the happy family groups. Twin girls dashed past, holding a younger boy firmly by the hand, and she paused to watch them catch up with their mother and have a group cuddle. When she was younger she’d longed for a brother or sister, although she’d have been satisfied with just a mother or father. 

With a sigh, she ignored the people and concentrated on assessing the place with a travel professional’s eye. Despite the crowds, the hotel had a welcoming ambience. A huge Christmas tree hung with shiny decorations reached to the top of the glass-domed atrium, while the ice-palace theme gave the place a sense of fantasy. 

The resort staff wore green velvet outfits trimmed with white fur. A receptionist wearing the name badge frida looked up and smiled as Sonja approached the desk. 

“May I help you, madam?”

“I have an appointment with Vidar.” Using the Managing Director’s first name made Sonja cringe, but she’d been told this was how people addressed each other in Iceland because they didn’t have normal surnames.

Frida’s gaze sharpened with interest before she checked her computer screen. “You are Sonja?”

At her nod, the woman extended a hand, indicating she should come around the end of the reception desk to a door marked private. On impulse, Sonja grabbed a red and white button with the slogan live your dreams this christmas as she passed a display of resort freebies and dropped it in her pocket. She’d collected buttons when she was a little girl and still kept up the habit. Perhaps it would bring her luck when she met Vidar. Frida punched in a security number and held open the door. 

For more information visit www.helenscotttaylor.com