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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Carolyn Brown


I’m still in the Author Spotlight so we get to visit again today. Life is good!

Today I thought I’d interview some of the quirky characters who’ve played a part in the Honky Tonk Series. Maybe they don’t have their names up in the flashing lights or their pictures on the front covers but they tell me that without their input the story couldn’t have been told. So I’m interviewing Chigger from I Love This Bar, Jezzy from Hell Yeah, Merle from My Give A Damn’s Busted and Luther from Honky Tonk Christmas.

They are all sitting at the table with me so grab a cold beer from behind the bar and draw up a chair right here beside me. Got your note pad ready? Okay, first question: This one is for Chigger?

Why do you have such an unusual nickname or is that your real name? Merle, stop giggling, your turn is coming soon.

Chigger (who stuck her tongue out at Merle and fluffed up her dyed blonde hair): It’s my nickname and I don’t tell my real name, so don’t be askin’. Daisy found out but she’s been sworn to secrecy and since she’s one of my best friends I know she won’t tell. But yes, ma’am, I will tell you all about my nickname (she’s saying this with a wicked grin on her face). If you’re ever in Texas or Oklahoma and go out in the woods you might bring home a real chigger or two. They are these little red bugs that bury themselves down in the skin and itch like holy hell. That’s where I got the name Chigger (she takes a long drink of her Coors) because I’m like those little bugs. Some folks call me a hooker but I’m not. Hookers charge for what they do. Not me! Sex is too damn much fun to charge money for and I like it, especially after a hot, sweaty night of dancing and flirting. So I’m a big girl chigger. I can put an itch on a man that he can’t get rid of without a tumble in a big old king sized bed with me.

Well, that’s interesting! I bet you would be the life of the party wherever you go, Chigger. Now, Jezzy, tell me why on earth you moved to Mingus, Texas?

Jezzy (who’s grinning at Chigger and nodding at everything she says): My name is Jezzy Belle and I’m named after that woman in the Bible called Jezebel. My grandma owned the farm out west of town and when she died I bought out my two cousins’ part of the inheritance. Grandma was a God fearin’ woman and named her daughter and son for folks in the Bible. It stuck with her son who made a preacher of himself but my momma was a real hellion. When I was born out of wedlock she named me Jezzy Belle and told Granny that I’d been named for someone from the Bible, too. Me and Leroy, my best friend in the world, live together. No, it’s not a lovey-dovey happy-ever-after story for us. It’s platonic. He’s been married several times and every time I tell him he’s an idiot and every time he proves my point. But we live together out on Granny’s farm and we’re going to strike oil soon. I just know it!

Oh, my, Jezzy, are you really? That would be wonderful. Okay, Merle, next question is for you? You’ve played a part in all four of the books. You design beautiful western shirts. Couldn’t you do better in a big city?

Merle (with a custom made cue stick case sitting beside her leg): I don’t give a damn about making more money. I’m worth a fortune with what I’ve made right here in Mingus. I came here almost fifty years ago with my best friend, Ruby Lee. She built the Honky Tonk. I started up my shirt business. We both got richer than we ever thought possible. There’s money in booze and western shirts! I’ve been comin’ here to this Honky Tonk all these years trying to find someone who’ll give me a good game of pool. I’ve found a few that’s challenged me. Not very many. It’s my second home and I love it! But this constant changing of owners worries me. I’m afraid someday no one will want the Honky Tonk and then what will I do for a good game of pool?

Merle, I bet the Honky Tonk will be around for many years. There are too many people who love it to ever let it be sold. Speaking of which, how do you feel about Hayes Radner constantly trying to buy it?

Merle (she’s shaking her finger at me): That man better keep his sorry ass away from here or I’ll put out a hit on him myself. Hells bells, Mingus doesn’t need to be turned into a gaudy amusement park!

Okay, I understand. How about you Luther? You came to Mingus in Hell, Yeah and you’re still here. Going to stay or move?

Luther (who’d make King Kong look like a tiny stuffed toy): Hell, no, I’m not moving! I’ve flat fallen in love with Tessa who helps out Sharlene behind the bar and works down in the oil company office. I’m livin’ out on Jezzy’s old farm and I sure would like to ask Tessa to move in with me but I get all tongue tied around her. Larissa, I call her Rissa, is my best friend and I go to her for advice all the time. She says I’ve got to get over my fear and just ask Tessa. Maybe I will pretty soon but back to your question. I’m in Mingus to stay. Love my job at the oil company and my night job as bouncer right here.

Thank you all for visiting with me today. Anything else you’d like to say before we open the doors for the customers tonight?

Chigger: Have you got a quarter for the juke box? I’ve got a hankerin’ to hear some Waylon, Willie or Miss Dolly tonight.

Yes, ma’am. Could we hear Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman?”

Chigger: Hell, yeah!

About the Author
Carolyn Brown is an award-winning author who has published 36 historical and western romance novels for the library market, many of them bestsellers in that market. Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, Carolyn and her husband now make their home in the town of Davis, Oklahoma. For more information please visit http://www.carolynlbrown.com/

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Carolyn Brown







Meet the Honky Tonk Ladies


Hi y’all! I’m so excited about being in the Author Spotlight this week. It’s a big honor and I’ve been telling everyone who’ll stand still and listen all about it. I thought about getting one of those snake oil wagons from back at the turn of the century and going from town to town telling folks but my husband said that would be going too far. And I had my eye on the cutest little denim duster with a rhinestone bull rider on the back to wear when I stood on my soap box.

I guess Daisy, Cathy, Larissa and Sharlene, the four proud owners of the Honky Tonk and the heroines of I Love This Bar, Hell, Yeah, My Give A Damn’s Busted and Honky Tonk Christmas would look better in the duster than I would anyway. It’s not often I can get them all together in one place so let me introduce you to the Honky Tonk ladies. Grab a cold beer and let’s go visit with them.

Daisy is the one with the dark brown hair and blue eyes mixing Tequila Sunrises. She worked at the Honky Tonk seven years before she inherited it and thought she’d be there like Ruby Lee, the lady who built the place, until she died. It was a perfect plan until Jarod McElroy propped a hip on a barstool one day and her whole world turned upside down in I Love This Bar. Who’ll win in the war between them? Jarod, who wants Daisy to go home with him or Daisy who is determined to run the Honky Tonk until they take her out of the doors feet first after a busy Saturday night?

The tall blonde with the same shade of blue eyes as Daisy next to her mixing up a pitcher of Margaritas is Cathy, her cousin. She gave up her job as an accountant in an oil business in Mena, Arkansas, and came to Mingus to get away from an abusive boyfriend. She found herself in possession of the Honky Tonk in Hell, Yeah and fighting a tremendous attraction to Travis Henry, a crack-pot oil engineer who could speak her language on every level. Could all those raging hormones be ignored or would they win in the end?

Larissa, the dark haired, exotic beauty making buckets of beer is the third owner of the Honky Tonk. She’d traveled the whole world looking for a place to settle down and really call home but nothing spoke to her. So she went home to Perry, Oklahoma, pulled down a map of the United States, shut her eyes, turned around three times and stuck a pin in the map. It landed in Mingus, Texas, population less than three hundred, home of several bars, a convenience store and a post office. She thought she’d made a wrong turn and fallen off the end of the world when she went to see where Mingus was but it wasn’t long until she realized she’d found home in the town and in the Honky Tonk in My Give A Damn’s Busted. And if Hank Wells thought he could drag up any dirt on her to make her sell the Honky Tonk when she inherited it, then he had rocks for brains. When the dust settled who had a busted give-a-damn?

Sharlene is the short red head helping Larissa. She’d tell you what she did in those two tours of Iraq but then she’d have to kill you! But the classified job she performed for the good of her country still haunts her dreams and here lately the only way she can find peace is when she’s with Holt Jackson, the carpenter she hired to build an addition to the Honky Tonk. He’s got baggage in the form of a set of twins his sister left him to raise when she was killed. And Sharlene has an agenda: get the Honky Tonk enlarged to twice its size so she can have a Honky Tonk Christmas with all the past quirky characters and owners in attendance. Can it be done or will she and Holt burn the place down with the heat between them? Only reading the series will answer the questions.

About the Author
Carolyn Brown is an award-winning author who has published 36 historical and western romance novels for the library market, many of them bestsellers in that market. Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, Carolyn and her husband now make their home in the town of Davis, Oklahoma. For more information please visit http://www.carolynlbrown.com/

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anticipation by Denyse Bridger


The heat of the day wasn’t cooling fast enough, and she was in desperate need of a change of scenery. Familiar sounds droned in the background, and the air was heavy with moisture, heat, and fragrance from the flower boxes in the neighborhood. Life had a softer rhythm in New Orleans, one that she’d grown to love. Evening was chasing the sundown and the shadows were reaching across the city, darkness breathing chillier air into the heat-waves, calming them into quiescence.

She went into the bedroom of her small flat and flung open the closet door, surveying her options for a dress that suited her mood. She had a special date tonight and wanted it to be perfect. Her smile was slow and thoughtful, something she couldn’t repress. She’d never been lucky in love, but somehow Fate had given her another chance, with a man who was easily the most remarkable person she’d ever met. They’d been friends for almost a year, they had only been dating for a couple of weeks, and it was an unspoken understanding between them that the pace would be slow–neither of them was prepared to risk losing the relationship they had.

The shimmer of red satin caught her eye, and she pulled out the strapless dress. It was simple, gathered at the waist, a softly flowing skirt with slits on the sides. Comfortable, but also very chic. She tossed it onto the bed and went to the chest of drawers. A quick search turned up the lacy black stockings she’d bought ages ago for one of the dates she never went on. Even if he never saw the sexy underwear she was going to put on, it would make her feel beautiful... something she'd rarely felt in her life.

Humming softly she headed for the bathroom and decided on a scented bath instead of a quick shower. She hit play on the CD system before she dropped her clothes and headed to the bathtub... the sounds of smooth, sultry jazz drifted into the room after her and she closed her eyes as the silken water caressed her. She indulged herself in the pleasant idyll for forty-five minutes, and then dressed. She finished the outfit with lovely red heels, and left her auburn hair flowing in waves down her back–heat or not, it was easier than trying to contain it in any kind of style. Minimal makeup, and a spritz of scent on her bare shoulders was the last touch. A glance at the clock told her she had fifteen minutes to get to the club where she'd arranged to meet him.

Jazz clubs were among the most prolific and popular aspects of New Orleans, each one of them unique, but also sharing inherent similarities. The music–rich, pulsing, sensual rhythms that told stories to those who really listened–was as intrinsic to the city as the laid-back pace and culture that merged to make it a place unlike any other. She straightened the silk scarf that was on one shoulder, and went inside, smiling without real thought. Her eyes adjusted quickly, and she looked toward the bar.

"Looking for someone?"

Startled a great deal more than she should have been, she whirled to face him and laughed when she saw he was smiling broadly at her. When his gaze slid over her, heat flushed through her veins and left her shaking. He took his time, appraising her with blatant hunger, and she'd never felt more beautiful in her life than when his dazzling blue eyes once again locked with hers.

“You look more beautiful every time I see you, mon amour,” he breathed in a tone of unabashed appreciation.

She blushed, unable to stop the response, and reached up to touch the side of his face, knowing there was little need to even attempt a reply. In that moment, the world narrowed until it was encompassed totally in the blue eyes that watched her. How could she have known him for so long and not noticed how devastatingly handsome he was? It seemed impossible to recall that until recently they’d seen each other as friends only, and now they were taking a huge risk, hoping that love’s many faces could merge into a perfect blend between their hearts.

Music throbbed in the air, slowly washing over them, the steady pulse magically matching the rhythm of the jazz beat. Rémy’s sapphire stare darkened and he took her hands and drew her onto the dance floor. She followed, her smile growing with each step they took. She shivered in the moment it took for him to pull her closer, when their bodies met, she bit back a sigh, but knew he’d heard it anyway when a low growl sounded next to her ear, and mutated into laughter that poured into her veins and slid along her spine like silk. She almost purred with pleasure.

“Don’t think,” he murmured smoothly, “just feel the music, and the night.”

“And you,” she whispered before leaning into him and allowing everything to fade into the background. All that existed was Rémy, and the surge of wild excitement she felt in his arms. She leaned into him; let the slow rhythm of his movement draw her into his very soul. The scent of his skin was intoxicating, the feel of smooth muscles pressed to her sent endless ripples of heat tingling along her veins, and the sultry pulse of the music drummed in her ears like a racing heartbeat. All that was missing was the taste of his kiss...

Rémy heard her thought, or so it seemed. His hand slid into her hair, and he gently drew her head from his shoulder, just far enough to look into her eyes. They were still moving, but his smoldering gaze was locked with hers for an eternity of moments before he bent his head to hers. For just an instant, all she was aware of was the soft curve of his lips as he smiled before he covered her mouth with his. His kiss was slow and gentle, exploring and teasing as they experienced their first taste of each other. When he finally ended the kiss and they stared at each other in bemused surprise, he laughed a little.

"I've wanted to do that for a long time, ma cher."

"What else have you wanted to do?"

His grin created a minor earthquake inside her and heat rose in her cheeks. She knew he'd seen it when he pulled her tightly to him and the rumble of his laughter was all she could hear.

"Anticipation is everything, mon amour... enjoy it."

Sighing, she nodded, and knew it would be more than worth the wait...

About the Author: Canadian born and bred, and a lifelong dreamer, I began writing at an early age and can’t recall a time when I wasn’t creating in some artistic form. My life has had several on-going love affairs that shape much of what I write, the American West, Victorian England, cowboys, a passion for pirates, Greek Gods, and Ancient Egypt. The other endless love affair in my life is Italia and all its magic, beauty, and dazzling culture. That passion spills into all aspects of my life. Website: http://www.denysebridger.com Blog: http://fantasy-pages.blogspot.com

Author Interview: Kaylea Cross


The Long and the Short of It: LASR is pleased to welcome Kaylea Cross, author of Cover of Darkness which recently won the Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Awards, and is a 2011 EPIC Awards contest finalist, along with the 3rd book of her series, No Turning Back. She has been a very busy lady with the first book in the series, Out of Her League, being published by The Wild Rose Press in 2008. The fourth book, Relentless, is also out and the fifth and last in the series, Absolution is due out next month.

She also had some exciting news to share with us. Her next book has been contracted by Carina Press and is in the editing process now and will be released in ebook format next summer.

Kaylea makes sure she has an outline written down for her books to help her with writer's block. That way, if she gets stuck, she can jump to the next scene where she knows what she wants to say.

"Otherwise I'd never finish a book," she said with a laugh.

Sometimes she will even leave the project for a bit and take a breather.

Kaylea always dreams her characters up first and then she decides what situations would test them to their limits. She likes to know what terrifies them so she can pit them against it somewhere in the book.

"I like my characters to grow and change throughout the story arc, but I try to make it as hard for them as possible," she explained. "Before I write a scene, I envision it as though I’m watching it happen on a movie screen. That helps me get the characters’ expressions right, their tone of voice and all the visual things I need to put into the scene."

Every author has a unique voice, but the important things in a story are the same regardless of voice, Kaylea said.

"The plot, the characters and the emotions driving them throughout the book. I want all those things to be vivid and memorable for the reader."

When I asked which author was her favorite, she said, " I can’t pick just one, so I’m going to say Linda Howard for suspense, JR Ward for characterization, and Luanne Rice for breathtaking descriptions."

Kaylea, in addition to being a full-time writer, also has two active little boys. As a matter of fact, she received her edits for her first book while she was on bed rest during her pregnancy for the youngest. So, she tends to not only be an awesome multitasker, but she's also learned to work around them and their needs.

She has a big armchair (one-and-a-half wide) tucked up in a corner of her bedroom. It's cream with lots of pillows and she's added a sage green, velvet tufted French ottoman. She keeps her laptop on a table she painted a Civil War map on (she's a huge Civil War buff and has a Civil War novel that's still trying to find a home). Along with her laptop is a blue Victorian-beaded lamp her aunt made for her.

Kaylea is definitely a morning person, rarely being able to stay up after ten. So she answers email and gets her promo stuff done first thing in the morning, then she tries to get some writing in during the day when the kids permit it.

"Sometimes I sneak an hour while they’re having a snack or watching TV, and sometimes I work when they go to bed," she said.

She finds the hardest and longest part of writing the initial drafting, but then she works like a madwoman editing and polishing.

"I love polishing!" she told me. "The closer the finish line looms, the quicker I work. I tend to polish in longer stretches, too, because it energizes me. Same when my editor sends back edits and galleys—I try to get them done in one or two sittings if possible."

On a personal note, Kaylea admitted she would really like to have a dog, but her husband won't let her.

"Before we had our kids we had the worst Golden Retriever in the history of the world (think Marley and Me times ten), and now my hubby won’t let me get another dog," she explained, looking sad.

She hates how she looks in pictures, especially if it's a profile shot—"because I hate my nose," she said. "Thanks, Mom!"

The strangest thing she's ever eaten? Alligator. She told me that it didn’t taste too bad, but was a bit on the chewy side.

It's obvious from her books that Kaylea loves the military and special ops, so it's movies like Glory and Blackhawk Down that have her reaching for the tissues.

Her favorite pizza? "Whole wheat thin crust (because it’s gotta be crispy) with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes and artichokes. Yum!"

She also told me that she loves thunderstorms, however where she lives in Vancouver they are rare.

"Maybe one or two a year if we’re lucky, and they usually peter out in less than half an hour," she explained.

Finally, I asked Kaylea what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out.

"Read a ton of your genre, then find a dedicated (and if possible, career-oriented writer) critique partner to help you polish your work before you send it out to agents and editors."
You can keep up with Kaylea on her blog, http://kayleacross.blogspot.com

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Melissa McClone

A Tale of Two Covers


When I first saw the cover for Rescued by the Magic of Christmas, I fell in love. The horse-drawn sled is from a scene in the book. The snowflakes falling, the lit cabins and the pine trees all fit the Mount Hood setting perfectly. They'd even got the characters right.


When I clicked on a Google alert for Christmas Magic on the Mountain, I got a sense of déjà vu looking at the cover. It seemed very familiar. Oh, there were some differences: character faces, day vs. night setting. But there were also a lot of similarities.

This often happens with series romance covers. Artists create cover images from photographs taken at shoots. The pink-clad baby who appeared on the cover of Marriage for Baby has been on many other covers. So if a cover seems familiar, it probably is.

I thought I'd see what my heroes, Jake Porter and Sean Hughes, from the respective books have to say about their cover similarities.

Jake: Why were you wearing my sweater, Hughes?

Sean: Dude, I own a snowboarding company. You think I'd actually wear that sweater? Out in public?

Jake: You've got a point.

Sean: At least we're wearing our own gloves.

Jake: Damn straight.

Sean: Dudes don't borrow accessories from other dudes.

Jake: Unless it's climbing gear.

Sean: True that.

Jake: Now the girls…

Sean: I could see Zoe borrowing Carly's green sweater.

Jake: And gloves.

Sean: My Aunt Vera knitted Zoe's hat and scarf.

Jake: Kendall and Austin gave Carly hers.

Sean: Why the hell are we wearing scarves?

Jake: No clue. I don't own one.

Sean: I sure don't. I can't believe we aren't wearing hats.

Jake: I always wear a hat in the wintertime. Fleece lined.

Sean: Comfy and warm. The only way to go.

Jake: Wool's good, too.

Sean: Wool rocks.

Jake: Those sweaters look like cotton.

Sean: It's amazing we didn't suffer hypothermia dressed like that. Never wear cotton when you're going outside and could get wet.

Jake: Stop with the rescue team leader stuff. No one cares.

Sean: Sorry, dude. Occupational hazard.

Jake: You should have put your arm around Zoe to keep her warm like I did with Carly.

Sean: I was trying to be good. Act like a gentleman.

Jake: How long did it take Zoe to see through that?

Sean: Let's see how long it'll take for you to see through a black eye.

Jake: Let's grab a pint of the new Winter Ale at my brewpub instead.

Sean: Sounds good. But you might really want to ditch the sweater first.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Melissa McClone

MUSIC TO WRITE BY


I'm not only a writer, but also a wife and mother. I have a lot going on in life besides my current work in progress and spend a lot of my time driving kids from one activity to another. Often, my writing time comes in bits and pieces. That means when I have a free moment, I need to get my head into the story right away.

This isn't always easy with so much going on around me. But like many other authors, I've found music is the quickest way to get my head where it needs to be so I can write. Certain music and lyrics remind me of characters, setting, plot, etc. When I hear these songs, I can easily transport myself into the pages and start writing more productively.

With each manuscript, I come up with a soundtrack to help with the writing process. Sometimes it's one song. Other times I could fill an entire CD. There are always some standby songs (such as music by Lifehouse) that put me in the writing mood for every book. Here is the book soundtrack for CHRISTMAS MAGIC ON THE MOUNTAIN:

The main song was Use Somebody by the Kings of Leon. I was writing the proposal when I heard this song on the radio as I was driving to Toys R Us. I knew it was perfect for the story. Of course, my husband cannot stand the song after hearing it pretty much non-stop from September through January, when I finished the revisions. My kids, however, love it and know all the lyrics by heart.



The other song was All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey. (I also listened to the version from the movie Love Actually a couple of times.) I've always loved this song. It's so cheery and fun. The lyrics are perfect for a Christmassy romance and really fit with my heroine, Zoe.



In late October, I was driving and heard the song All In by Lifehouse. Even though the song wasn't out when I was writing the story, I'm including it here because it fits perfectly. Whenever I hear the song, I can't stop thinking about CHRISTMAS MAGIC ON THE MOUNTAIN.



Are there certain songs that you use as a reminder or to put you in a frame of mind? What are they?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Melissa McClone

EXCERPT


As a reader, I love reading excerpts. They give me an idea of the story as well as the author's voice. You can find an excerpt from the first scene of CHRISTMAS MAGIC ON THE MOUNTAIN at my website here. I thought I'd give you a few more excerpts that tell you a little about my hero Sean Hughes from all three of my Mount Hood romances.

From Chapter 7 of RESCUED BY THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS (Harlequin Romance 11/08)

Jake set the drink on the bar. "Merry Christmas, Sean."

"Same to you." Sean Hughes sat on the bar stool and raised his glass. "To Nick. Wherever you are, my friend, climb on."

Jake lifted his water glass into the air. "Hear, hear."

Sean glanced back at Carly and the kids. "You finally putting the moves on her?"

Jake clenched his jaw. "Thinking about it."

"You've been going to an awful lot of trouble for her."

"Not just for her. The kids, too." Jake placed his glass back under the bar. It hadn't felt like trouble to him. "I'm only doing what needs to be done."

Sean swirled the beer in his glass. "Is that what's best for Carly?"

"Since when do you offer dating advice?" Jake asked, filling another Nick's Winter Ale and two pale ales.

Sean shrugged. "Nick would be saying the same stuff if he were here."

"If Nick were here, he would have punched me out as soon as he found out I'd kissed Carly."

"True, that," Sean said. "I can punch you for him if it would make you feel better."

Jake handed a server two pints of amber. "Thanks, but no thanks."

Sean took another swig of his beer. "Just remember she's Nick's little sister. No flavor of the month."

"I know that." But saying those words made the fact sink in.

"Thanks for the beer." Sean took a large swig. "Better get back to the parents' house before Denali starts wondering where I've been."

"Denali is a dog."

"She's still a female."

From Chapter 2 of SNOW-KISSED REUNION (eHarlequin free on-line read):

Cocoa left her desk and wove her way toward Sean's office. Telephones rang. Keys clicked on keyboards. Framed, poster-sized photographs of Hughes Snowboards' sponsored athletes covered the wall.

Sean's office door was ajar. He sat on the edge of his desk, looking more like a model from an outdoor magazine than a successful entrepreneur and volunteer mountain rescue team leader.

With hazel-green eyes, a ready smile and thick brown hair, Sean had a reputation around town as a heartbreaker. But Cocoa would trust him with her life. In fact, she had.

From Chapter 6 of CHRISTMAS MAGIC ON THE MOUNTAIN (Harlequin Romance 11/10)

With a smile, she turned over her cards. "Three aces."

Sean flipped his. A two, three, four, five, six.

Her shoulders sagged. "I don't believe it. A straight."

Using his hand, he swept the pile of chips toward him. "We're different kinds of players."

She gathered the deck of cards. "Yeah, you win."

Sean's smile crinkled the corner of his eyes.

Butterflies flapped in her stomach. She focused on his pile of chips.

"That's not what I mean," he explained. "You play by instinct. That means you'll win big, but you'll also lose big. It's an exciting way to play if you don't mind talking the risks."

"You're the risk taker, not me." Zoe tucked the cards into their box. "You climb mountains, snowboard, rescue people."

"I take calculated risks. Ones I'm prepared for."

"And I just go all in."

"That makes you fun to play with," he said.

"Easy to beat."

Laughter gleamed in his eyes. "That, too."

"So how do you decide when you're going to bet?"

He sorted the chips. "I only bet when I'm going to win."

She thought about the times he folded or checked. "So if you don't think you can win…"

"I don't play."
~*~*~

If you haven't guessed, I really like Sean and have from the moment I write him into the prologue that opens RESCUED BY THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS. Are there any characters who you like to see make reappearances in series/sequels?



Copyright © 2008, 2010 Melissa McClone, Copyright © 2010 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. All rights reserved. ® and TM are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd and/or its affiliate companies, used under license

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Melissa McClone

RESEARCH (or THIS IS WHERE THE FUN BEGINS)


My two favorite parts of writing are rewriting and the research. Rewriting is great because there are already words on the page. No blank page to fill. And researching is just plain fun. I love learning something new when I read so I approach writing the same way.

With CHRISTMAS MAGIC ON THE MOUNTAIN, I had already researched mountain rescue when I wrote RESCUED BY THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS. I had a list of climbers and members of Portland Mountain Rescue to contact if I had specific questions so the climbing part of the story wasn't as much work as the first time around. Of course, the people on the list might tell you differently. I still asked them a ton of questions about climbing and mountain rescue and Mount Hood in December.

The accident and medical parts of the story, however, were where I didn't have a clue. I needed a plausible way for my hero to get hurt without making him look like an idiot. No one wants to read about a stupid hero who deserves the next Darwin award. Lucky for me, both my go-to-research-guy and a doctor/climber suggested an equipment failure.

Researching the actual injuries and medical parts, however, took a lot more time. Fortunately I had expert help to guide me. Okay, guide is not really the right word. It was more like they short-roped me and dragged me up to the summit.

My go-to-research-guy had been injured on Mount Hood in January '09 so I asked if he'd mind helping me even though he was still recovering. He gave me a peek into his emotional and physical state both right after the accident as well as during his recovery. Another climber I'd met on-line had also been injured climbing. His injury helped me narrow down what happened to Sean. Having insight from people who'd had their activities restricted due to an injury helped me better understand my hero.

I also had a huge amount of assistance from an emergency room doctor who climbs. I found him on-line at a climbing forum and asked if he'd mind answering some questions for me. He provided a ton of info so I could write the accident, injury, medical jargon, and hospital scenes. A PA (physician's assistant) who worked with me after I injured myself skiing also answered questions for me about the surgery and recovery.

Even with all this expert research help, I'm sure someone will find something that isn't quite right. That's okay. The goal of my research is plausibility. If something possible, I'm good. And if it's not, well there is such thing as artistic license.

Do you like learning something from the stories you read? If so, does anything stick in your mind?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Melissa McClone


The Story Behind The Story

When I typed THE END on the manuscript that would become RESCUED BY THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS, a November '08 Harlequin Romance, it was a bittersweet moment. I loved how the story turned out, but I was sad to say goodbye to the world I created.

I knew one of the reasons. The Mount Hood setting felt like a second home to me. Not surprising since I live an hour and a half away and ski with my family there. Government Camp, Oregon, as well as a couple other ski towns I've visited, inspired the fictional town of Hood Hamlet.

Another reason was the characters. I'd created a community of people I really liked. The members of my fictional Oregon Mountain Search and Rescue (OMSAR) intrigued me. Take a look at this article featuring a few members of Portland Mountain Rescue and you'll see why!

As I wrote other stories, I kept thinking about Hood Hamlet and one character, rescue team leader Sean Hughes. He kept coming back to me, again and again. I knew I wanted to tell his story so I submitted an idea set in late summer/early fall to my editor. She gave me the go-ahead.  Yay!

When I had a quarter of the manuscript written, my editor asked if I could set the story at Chrismastime. I said yes then quickly realized that meant starting over from page one. I also decided to open the book on Thanksgiving Day, incorporating the holidays and snow into the plot from the very beginning. I quickly knew this was the story I was supposed to tell and so happy the timeframe got moved.

After finishing Sean's story, my editor gave me another reason to revisit Hood Hamlet. This summer, I was asked to write an eHarlequin on-line read to lead up to the release of CHRISTMAS MAGIC ON THE MOUNTAIN. I took a line about one of Sean's employees from that book and wrote Snow-Kissed Reunion.

Cocoa Marsh had resigned herself to giving up her dreams. She might never be a competitive snowboarder again, but at least her job as a designer for Hughes Snowboards gave her the opportunity to ride whenever she wanted. And as for that pesky hope of a happily ever after…well, the love she'd felt five years ago for snowboarding superstar Rex Billings hadn't been real, anyway. He'd proven that when he'd left and never spoken to her again.

Until now, that is. Because Rex Billings was back, and looking more devastating than ever. Not that she was going to let herself fall for his charm and knee-weakening smile again. Even if he seemed more grounded, more committed, more…like a dream that might actually come true.  The story gives a nice peek at Hood Hamlet as well as my hero, Sean Hughes. You can read the eight chapters here at eHarlequin.

CHRISTMAS MAGIC ON THE MOUNTAIN does share the same setting and some characters (as well as a similar looking cover!) from RESCUED BY THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS, but don't think you have to read both or SNOW-KISSED REUNION. All of the stories stand-alone, but for readers who might want to return to Hood Hamlet they are there for you to read!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Moment of Truth by Lina Gardiner

It was impossible. At her feet sat the ugliest thing she had ever seen.

Covered in mud and muck, it was hard to tell which end was up. Selena Vanceborough’s shoulders sagged as she looked down at him. For the first time since getting her medical degree, she regretted offering first aid at rugby games.

After the downpour last night, she couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to play in that sodden field anyway. The filthy rugby player sitting on the ground looked up at her with eye’s that illuminated his embarrassment.

“I believe there’s a hose over there,” she said, picking up her medical bag and following him toward the high school. “I can’t treat you covered in mud. You’ll have to hose yourself off first.”

Her reason for being here was stupid. What did she hope to gain by coming to rugby games where her ex-boyfriend played? She should have quit when they broke up four months ago.

If she admitted the truth, she’d been having totally distracting thoughts about Jeffrey Moore, the dark haired pediatrician who’d been hired at the hospital a month ago, with his tall, lanky body, broad shoulders, and eyes that could light her on fire with the merest look. Problem was, he barely even noticed her.

Heaving a sigh she tried to concentrate on her patient, though as far as she could tell, he didn’t seem to be badly hurt.

He remained silent as he pulled off his shirt and began to spray water over himself. As the icy cold water rinsed the clumps of dirt off of the hard lines and planes of his exquisite frame, Selena’s gaze instantly fixed on him. But, not in the care-giver sense - more in the womanly sense.

When her heart began palpating double-time in her chest she swallowed hard and looked away, but only for a second, because she was mesmerized by the rivulets of water exposing his flesh as it slowly rinsed the mud off him. Bit by bit, revealing his taut body.

“Where are you hurt?” she said finally, clearing her throat and trying to regain composure. It would help if she stopped watching him do what suddenly seemed to be a very personal act of rinsing himself off.

Thoughts that were best ignored kept surfacing, images of him in the shower covered with soapsuds instead of mud should never have entered her head. As hard as she tried to distance herself, somehow her gaze kept returning and ogling him unashamedly.

“Here.” He pointed at his chest where his heart was.

“Are you having chest pain?” Instantly alert and feeling terrible for being so unprofessional, she took his wrist and felt for his pulse. Without a doubt, his pulse rate was faster than normal, but that could be attributed to his activity on the rugby field. Given his fine physique, she doubted he would be at risk for a coronary.

Although, she had felt like she might have the coronary just watching him rinse off. If she’d had a twenty dollar bill, she could have easily tucked it into his waist band. No! Stop thinking like that.

“Hold on. I’m fine. I’m not having cardiac arrest or anything remotely like that. My problem is I’m feeling rather stupid at the moment.”

She frowned and tipped her head. There was something familiar about his muddy features, but she couldn’t quite figure out who he was. “Why are you feeling stupid?”

“Let me just get this done first,” he said, spraying the water over his head, giving her a chance to see who he was.

A slow, gorgeous smile spread across his sheepish expression.

“Jeffrey? Jeffrey Moore? I didn’t know you played rugby.” No wonder she’d been ogling him. She’d been doing that for weeks, even when he was fully clothed.

“Obviously I don’t play very well.” He looked down at himself and shook his head. “Don’t laugh, but I came here to try to make you notice me. I didn’t expect it to be this humiliating.”

He wanted her to notice him. She couldn’t believe it. He’d risked life and limb because he thought she preferred jocks! “I’ve been trying to make you notice me too,” she admitted slowly. “You’re not hurt then?”

“Yes, I hurt all over. That’s the craziest game I’ve ever seen. A man could get killed out there.”

“I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

“Would it help if you kiss it better?” Her heart went out of control again. His gaze burned into her and he stepped closer to her. “It would make everything much better.”

When his lips met hers, a dizzying sensation warped through her. His kiss was everything she’d imagined it would be - and more!

When the kiss ended, he picked her up in his arms and pressed her against the hardness of his chest. “I was afraid this day would never come.” He began walking toward his vehicle.

“Where are we going?” she asked faintly.

“To get to know each other much better.” He stopped and pulled her even tighter against him and kissed her again.

She let her hand trail across his amazing bare flesh, unmindful of his wet clothing, her body responded with the hot thrum of extreme desire. “But the game?”

“It’s been over for ten minutes.”

She looked back toward the field. The rugby players from both teams lined the edge of the field watching them with stupid grins spread across their dirty faces.

They cheered in traditional rugby manner when Jeffrey set her gently inside his car. Selena’s heart quickened.

Soon they would be completely alone.

Lina writes paranormal romance for Imajinn books and The Wild Rose Press. She is currently working on a new Trilogy for Imajinn and usually has a submission at Harlequin in one genre or another. Website: www.LinaGardiner.com

Author Interview: Caitlyn Hunter

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Caitlyn Hunter, whose newest book Winds of Fate will be coming soon from L&L Dreamspell. Winds of Fateis based on the Cherokee legend of the Blowing Rock in North Carolina.

Caitlyn is one-sixteenth Cherokee, with a full-blooded great-great-grandmother. She grew up hearing stories about the Cherokee people and most of her books feature at least one character that is Cherokee. All of her paranormal romances are based on one or more of the legends.

"It fascinates me that I share in that heritage and I love discovering new legends and details of their history," she told me.

She and her sister, author Christy Tillery French, are working on a fact-based fiction book about their great-aunt Bessie, who grew up in Hot Springs, North Carolina, at the turn of the 20th century.

"This is a first for both of us," Caitlyn revealed. "Neither of us has ever co-written a book before nor have we written historical fiction. We’re relying mostly on stories we heard from both Aunt Bessie when she was alive and stories our Dad is still telling us that he heard from her when he was a child. She was a fascinating woman, very independent and determined to live life her own way so we got the title of the book from an old southern saying, 'A whistling woman and a crowing hen never come to a very good end.' It means to be who you’re meant to be and we feel that’s exactly what Aunt Bessie did so we titled the book, Whistling Woman."

She's also working on the third book of her Eternal Shadows series, tentatively titled Sun Shadows. It's the story of the third blood-brother, Lucien Tassel.

"Hopefully it won’t take me as long to write this one as it did to write Storm Shadows, the second one in the series!" she said.

Caitlyn tends to have more than one WIP (work in progress) going at a time—normally three or four—and has found if she gets blocked on one, she can switch to another.

"The important part, at least for me, is not only to go to another WIP but to move to one that’s in a completely different genre," she explained. "Say from paranormal romance to a YA or a children’s book. I have several of those in my Word files but I don’t expect I’ll ever do anything with them since they’re like my lifeline when a block hits. Still, maybe one day…

"If switching to another book or WIP doesn’t work I usually try working a puzzle of some sort which sometimes gets my brain working again. If it doesn’t, then it’s the dreaded housework cure. I hate cleaning and will do just about anything to get out of it—even forcing myself to sit down at my computer and stare at the screen until something shakes loose.

"I’ve also been known to argue with my muse of one of my characters. When I do that my poor dog leaves my office and hides behind the dining room table because he knows things are likely to get ugly before the block is broken."

Normally, a character will come to Caitlyn and, since she believes in letting the characters drive the story, the plot follows along behind.

"My main character in Unwilling Angel is based on a favorite author who passed away in 2005. Shortly after his death, I had an 'Elvis' sighting of him while I was out getting coffee one day. I hurried home to write it down and once I had the opening scene—which is pretty close to the opening scene in the book--Mac wouldn’t shut up so I continued writing 'his story' as he calls it. The book was finished in record time and it’s probably the best time I’ve ever had when writing, I just sat back and let him drive and I enjoyed the scenery, so to speak. Of course, once the story was finished, there were tons of revisions to do and since he was a best-selling author in real life, I tried my best to follow his direction."

"What books or authors have most influenced you in your own writing?" I asked.

"Two authors have influenced me in different ways," she replied. "The first one is Harper Lee, the author of my all-time favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird. I love her voice and although she only wrote the one book, I think she’s the author I’d most like to emulate. The other one is my sister, Christy Tillery French, author of the Bodyguard series and several other romantic suspense books. She’s the one person who has influenced me as far as getting my work out there and she refuses to let me give up on myself. Suffice it to say, if it weren’t for her guidance and support, I wouldn’t have ever written the first book, much less have submitted any for publication."

That first book was inspired by depression.

"When my husband and I were living in Maine, I got really sick and after scads of doctors and tons of tests to find out what was wrong with me, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis," she explained. "My neurologist warned me about the depression that most MS patients feel on their diagnosis but since I’d never suffered from depression in my life, I ignored his warnings. Well, it wasn’t long before I ended up severely depressed. It was a horrible time made even worse because my family was so far away. Thank goodness for telephones and more than that, for my sister, Christy. I’m convinced she’s not only my sister, she’s my guardian angel here on earth. And she’s psychic too! At least where I’m concerned. She had a knack of calling whenever I was feeling really down and she always cheered me up enough that I could face another day. Then she told me to write about what I was feeling so I did. The result was a lot of bad poetry that will probably never see the light of day and my first book. Well, really, my first two books, a romantic suspense and a YA."

Caitlyn has four books published ("five," she added, "if you count the first one which was with a publisher that's no longer in business") with Winds of Fate coming out soon.

So far, she would consider Unwilling Angel her favorite.

"I had such fun writing it and the circumstances that prompted the story fascinated me," she told me. "It’s the first time I’ve ever had a character from real life move into my writing world and refuse to let me not write his story. Which reminds me, I have finished the second book about Mac but it too needs to be cleaned up before submitting it so I guess I’ve completed six others. Too many books and too little time!"

On a personal note, I asked Caitlyn, "Do you really, really want a dog?"

"No thanks, I already have two. On second thought, I’d love to have a few more but there’s only so much room in our fenced-in backyard. Des, my black lab mix, whose first owner died of cancer, is very clingy and he’d probably have a hard time dealing with another dog taking my attention away from him. Fletch, my beagle mix, is very laid back and as long as the other dog didn’t interfere with his meal time or try to take his bed, he would probably be okay with it. Fletch is also deaf so he would expect the other dog to alert him when there’s anything to bark at. As long as the other dog did that, they’d probably be friends for life."

Caitlyn was an elementary school teacher and admitted to me that once she stopped teaching how to write cursive correctly, she quit paying attention to her own handwriting.

"I can still form every letter properly if I take the time but these days I tend to mix printing with cursive when I write so it’s a mishmash of printed letters and cursive ones. For instance when I sign my books, I print half of my name, the lyn and ter and the Cait and Hun are always in cursive. I’m not sure why I do that but I know if my former students ever saw it they would have a good laugh at how much their teacher’s handwriting has gone downhill."

Her strangest habit? Counting everything! She counts her steps when she's walking, the number of items she puts in a load of clothes, how many steps it takes her to iron one of her husband's shirts, even the number of strokes it takes to shave her legs. And, she never, ever lets herself stop on thirteen.

Her favorite animal?

"Domesticated, I’d have to say dogs. Wild, it’s a toss-up between polar bears and penguins. Oh, and cougars, wolves, moose—that comes from living in Maine—and puffins too. In other words, I love most animals but don’t care for snakes or lizards. Too creepy for me!"
You can keep up with Caitlyn on her website, http://www.CaitlynHunter.com/

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Amy Corwin


Missing The Fifties

Do you ever catch one of the old sitcoms from the late fifties or early sixties, like I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, or Father Knows Best, and miss those days? Or maybe it’s just the idea of that period, when the kids came running home from school to find mom in the kitchen preparing a full, sit-down meal. Desserts before we were convinced that the refined sugar would kill us. Gloves and hats when you went out. Mom dolled up in one of those lovely, wide-skirted dresses, high heels, and frilly apron, perfumed and ready for dad to come home. Cocktails first, of course, like in Bewitched and only a few channels on the television—all for free. (By the way, what ever happened to that promise by the cable companies that if we paid for television, we wouldn’t be forced to endure any more commercials?)

Of course, maybe it’s just me.

Or just me and Gwen Carter, the heroine of my paranormal, Vampire Protector. 

There is something undeniably seductive about that period of seeming innocence when the idealized American family reached its zenith. And although many of us had working moms, we still enjoyed a panoply of domestic activities that seem almost lost in today’s rushed existence. My mom made many of our clothes and we learned to sew, embroider, and knit. We made bread and every Christmas, we baked boxes and boxes of cookies to share with neighbors and friends. And we hung clothes out to dry in the sunshine that gave them a lovely, clean scent that no dryer sheet can ever duplicate. I remember the warm scent rising on the steam as I ironed clothes sprinkled with water from a glass coke bottle topped by a perforated stopper.

And the desserts—every night! I really miss the guilt-free days when we could eat homemade pies, cakes, cookies, and pudding without worrying about refined sugar, fat, and triglycerides. 

So maybe it’s not surprising that Gwen wants to return to her deserted home and try to remember her childhood. There must be good memories there…  Unfortunately, memories may not be all that waits for her in the shadows of that house…

Book: Vampire Protector
Trailer: 
Vampire Protector Trailer
Author: Amy Corwin
Author’s website:
http://www.amycorwin.com
Published: Nov 12, 2010, (e-book/paperback: Nov 12, 2010)
Publisher Line: Black Rose
Publisher:
The Wild Rose Press

Excerpt from Vampire Protector

In this excerpt, Gwen and John have entered her abandoned childhood home for the first time. 

The house holds its own secrets and may not be as empty as they hoped…

The music was real unless Gwen was going insane—an unpleasant but distinct possibility.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

“Yes.” A pinched look notched the skin between John’s eyes. “I thought that was what you were listening to. Someone’s car radio, perhaps.”

“No.” She had been listening to her memories, not the scratchy music playing in the empty living room.

Edging back across the hallway, she paused on the threshold, glancing toward the console record player. There were no lights and no electricity to produce lights, but twangy music floated out of the speakers anyway.

After a quick look in her direction, John strode over to the console. He lifted the heavy wooden lid. For a moment, he just stood there, staring down at the turntable before he eased the needle up, pushed the lever out of the way, and pulled out the vinyl LP.

When he started to lay it down on the dusty surface of the console, she said abruptly, “Don’t ruin it. The cover is right there on top. Put it away.”

The LP had been her mother’s favorite. She couldn’t bear it. She couldn’t bear to see the record lying on top of the stack as if she had just taken it out to listen to while she fixed supper.

A painful knot of longing nearly strangled Gwen.

Thanks!