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Sunday, July 31, 2011

GETTING IN THE ZONE

Athletes talk about getting in "the zone," when they run or workout. Writers do the same thing when they go deep into the point of view of their character. We become the character. We don't ask ourselves what would he or she do in this situation. We know, because we are that character.

Granted, I joke about the Muse sitting on my shoulder and whispering in my ear. The whole image makes for a fanciful thought, but the reality is, in my case anyhow, nothing beats knowing one's characters.

For me, this intimacy comes by creating my characters from the inside out. I start with their points of pain. We all have them. Past hurts, illnesses, rejections, family histories or accidents that scar us in one way or another--points of pain. These often influence our thought processes and our reactions to internal and external stimuli. They become our "buttons." And what happens when someone pushes our characters' buttons can make for some interesting personal dynamics in our stories.

Take my hero, Storm Masterson, for example. He's a twin. When he and his sister, Sunny, were five their mother walked out of their lives. Does he have points of pain? You bet'cha. Allow me to share this excerpt where Rachel, my heroine, meets him at the stable for a late night horse ride.


Storm turned to watch Rachel as she approached. He’d changed into jeans and a white T-shirt; his black Stetson was settled on his head. He handed her the reins. “Rachel, meet Kelsey. She’s a good, gentle mare, but she’s responsive. She’ll keep up with the best of them if you give her a chance.”

She extended an open hand with a sugar cube on it. “Hello, Kelsey. My, aren’t you pretty.”

Storm chuckled. “Flattery and sugar—you know how to get to a horse’s heart.”

“Well, all girls love flattery and sugar. Right, Kelsey?” She patted the mare’s neck, and the horse nickered and nodded. What a mundane remark to make; good goin’, Rachel. Now he probably thinks you’re fishing for compliments. She cut her eyes to Storm and was relieved to see he was busy with his horse. She needed to relax. This was merely going to be a short ride.

“Kelsey’s eyes are unusual, quite beautiful.” She cocked her head to the side and rubbed the horse’s velvety soft nose. “Her eyes have an almost human quality to them. They’re blue. She’s Appaloosa, isn’t she?”

Storm was smoothing a blanket over his mount, a large midnight black stallion with a jagged sliver of white on his forehead. “Yeah, she is. Her breed was almost wiped out by the U.S. Calvary years ago.” He lifted a saddle off a rack and slung it across his mount’s back as if it weighed nothing.

“Why would the Calvary kill off horses?” She glanced at Kelsey and rubbed the horse’s face. “I mean, wouldn’t the Calvary need horses? Seems rather counter-productive. Like, well, like if I, being a nurse, killed off my patients.”

 Storm yanked on the cinch. “Yeah, I get your point. You’re right about it not making much sense. From what my dad told me, the Calvary chased the Nez Perce Indians into the Bear Paw Mountains up in Montana and then slaughtered many of their Appaloosas. He was half Nez Perce and half Comanche, my dad was.”

 “I thought I detected traces of Native American in you and Sunny.”
 “Our cheekbones give us away, don’t they?” He flashed her a smile.

“Yes, that and your dark straight hair and dark eyes. Although you have a fierceness about you. I don’t detect it in Sunny, maybe because she’s ill.”

“Sunny is very gentle in her own way. I’m more like my dad. Focused. Determined. Hell bent on havin’ my way. Just like he was. My dad had dreams. Visions. I’ve started having them, too, now that he’s gone. Can be damn disconcerting at times.”

She’d read about this while she was treating a patient in South Carolina with Comanche heritage. The patient was very focused on walking the Red Way, as the Elders called it. As his nurse, she’d needed an understanding of Native American philosophies and traditions to effectively treat the whole person. She’d found their culture fascinating, spiritual and very connected to the earth.

She stepped closer. “Really? You mean you dream things and then they happen?”

Storm reached out and skimmed his knuckles down her cheek. A gentle gesture so in conflict with the fierce expression in his eyes. Her stomach quivered in response and her breathing quickened.

“Yes,” he whispered. He quickly turned his back to her, and she was sure she heard him mutter he’d dreamed her. Surely she misunderstood.

“What about your mother? Was she Native, too?”

He turned to face her again, his facial expression different this time. “No. Irish. Dad went to Ireland to buy a prize stallion. He met our mother while he was there. Didn’t buy the horse, but he brought her home to marry.” He expelled a harsh bark of laughter. “He’d have done better with the horse. The woman broke his heart.”

“Yours, too, I gather.” She reached up and laid a hand over his heart. Touching patients this way was second nature to her, but the charge that went through her system just now was unexpected. She meant to pull away, but Storm’s callused hand covered hers as if he didn’t want to break the connection.

He stared into her eyes for a long time. She tried to gauge his stern expression, imagining she saw pain and dejection there. This man was hurting; she responded to that, healer that she was. “You have a way of touching a person’s soul, Nurse Rachel. I’m not sure if I like that.”
Buy Link at Amazon: http://amzn.to/pkkcLq 

A Little Love and Thanks

When Lacey Whitman buys a restored Victorian home, she never dreams discovering an antique diary will lead her back to sea and into the arms of the dive bum she’d rather forget. Her habit of living in the past comes to a screeching halt as diver Max Bertrand and the diary of his ancestor take Lacey on the quest of a lifetime: To discover and raise the privateer ship, Specter, and bring the treasure and legacy of a true hero home again. But will finding it cost her heart?

I've enjoyed participating on the LASR blog today. I hope you enjoyed it, too! The best part of being an author, is having someone tell you how much they enjoyed your book. Writing takes me away, and if I can give you a little mini-vacation within a book, that makes it all worthwhile. Please enjoy the excerpt below from my readers' favorite treasure adventure, BY HEART AND COMPASS:

EXCERPT:
Sitting outside, one of the divers looked busy replacing the o-ring on a scuba tank.

"I'm looking for Max?"

The long haired employee didn't bother to stand, much less look up.

"So?"

"I'm Lacey Whitman, and I'm looking for the Max that owns the museum."

"You call that worthless shack a museum?"

Dumbfounded, Lacey couldn't think of any reply.

"What do you want?"

"I'm looking for Max," she repeated, feeling a flash of impatience. "I have some papers for him."

"Warrant, restraining order, or paternity test?"

After a pause in which she realized he was serious, she replied in frustration, "I have some research for the Bertrand family and someone at the museum told me to come down here."

Lacey caught herself biting her lip.

Finally, the man of absolutely no assistance put down the tank and stood up. Short and compact, he had amazing turquoise eyes that glowed from a dark, tanned complexion. Loose strands of sun-kissed brown hair blew about his face in the breeze.

"Max doesn't need any more paperwork. He doesn't want to see your research, and he is not giving dive lessons."

"I didn't ask for a dive lesson."

The diver sat back down again, crossing thick tattooed arms over himself. They stared one another down until he won. It was cheating to look her over as if she was a sweet little morsel, but it worked.

"I just want to talk to Max," she demanded.

He stared back with no expression. "You just did. Now get off my beach."

Lacey's cheeks were already flushed from getting the once over by this beach bum. His insult made her red all over.

"I'll be sure to let them know at the Bertrand Museum," she threatened, as if it mattered.

She turned on her heel and stalked off but he called after her, "Lady, I am the Bertrand Museum!"

BY HEART AND COMPASS
Danielle Thorne
www.daniellethorne.com

BUY NOW AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/By-Heart-and-Compass-ebook/dp/B003U8AFIG/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1280802562&sr=1-10

BUY NOW PUBLISHER: http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-96/By-Heart-and-Compass/Detail.bok

Kindlegraph: Have you heard?

So, there's this new service available for all you Kindle owners: Kindlegraph. You go to the site, find your favorite books, and request a "kindlegraph" - a free digital inscription from the author. Now, you can get your Kindle ebooks SIGNED by your favorite authors! How cool is that? It's new, so all your favorite authors aren't there yet, but there are 500 authors and 2,400 books available so far, including MINE!

Check it out, it's so much fun!

Thanks for reading,

Laura Kaye
Hot, Heartfelt Romance - Because everyone longs to belong...
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Welcome to our Anniversary Party Kick-Off Blog Party!!

It's being held here, and at the WC guest blog. 80 authors in all shapes, sizes and genres will be sharing with us over the next couple of days about love, writing, life and more. We hope you have fun reading their posts.

But ... even better? YOU CAN WIN BIG. Every comment earns you an entry.

GRAND PRIZE:
Winners choice of either a B&W Nook, a WiFi Kindle or a $150 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC!

Plus... we'll randomly give out $5 GCs to commenters throughout each day -- and winning a smaller prize doesn't exclude you from the Grand Prize Drawing.

We're partying all month, too -- more chances to win eReaders and GCs abound. Check out all the details here.

So... Visit the blogs all day long and comment. Fun AND prizes! What more could you want?

NOTE: We need to be able to email our winners, so make sure you either have an email address associated with your profile or include one with your comments. If you don't, you'll be disqualified


Grand Prize winner will be drawn Monday morning, 8/1/11 and notified via email that day.

Double Crossing Excerpt

I appreciate the chance to join the LASR 4th Anniversary Celebration! Don't forget to comment after you read my excerpt. Every one adds to your chances for the big PRIZES. WOOT!!

Excerpt from Double Crossing, Meg Mims… Astraea Press, August 2011

Evanston, Illinois: 1869
I burst into the house. Keeping the flimsy telegram envelope, I dumped half a dozen packages into the maid’s waiting arms. “Where’s Father? I need to speak to him.”
“He’s in the library, Miss Lily. With Mr. Todaro.”
Oh, bother. I didn’t have time to deal with Emil Todaro, my father’s lawyer. He was the last person I wanted to see—but that couldn’t be helped. Thanking Etta, I raced down the hall. Father turned from his roll-top desk, spectacles perched on his thin nose and hands full of rustling papers. Todaro rose from an armchair with a courteous bow. His silver waistcoat buttons strained over his belly and his balding head shone in the sunlight. I forced myself to nod in his direction and then planted a quick kiss on Father’s leathery cheek. The familiar scents of pipe tobacco and bay rum soothed my nervous energy.
“I didn’t expect you back so early, Lily. What is it?”
With an uneasy glance at Todaro, I slipped him the envelope. “The telegraph messenger boy caught me on my way home.” My voice dropped. “It’s from Uncle Harrison.”
Father poked up his wire rims while he pored over the brief message. His shoulders slumped. “I’ll speak plainly, Lily, because Mr. Todaro and I were discussing this earlier. My brother sent word that George Hearst intends to claim the Early Bird mine in a Sacramento court. Harrison believes his partner never filed the deed. He needs to prove our ownership.”
“Hearst holds an interest in the Comstock Lode, Colonel.” Todaro had perked up, his long knobby fingers forming a steeple. The lawyer resembled an amphibian, along with his deep croak of a voice. “His lawyers are just as ambitious and ruthless in court.”
Father peered over his spectacles. “Yes, but I have the original deed. I didn’t plan to visit California until next month, but we’ll have to move up our trip.”
“Oh!” I clasped my hands, a thrill racing through me. “I’m dying to visit all the shops out there, especially in San Francisco. When do we leave?”
“We? I meant myself and Mr. Todaro.”
I stared at the lawyer, who didn’t conceal a sly smirk. “You cannot leave me behind, Father. I promised to visit Uncle Harrison, and what if I decide to go to China?”
“Lily, I refuse to discuss the matter. This trip is anything but a lark.”
“It’s a grueling two thousand miles on the railroad, Miss Granville. Conditions out west are far too dangerous for a young lady,” Todaro said. “Even with an escort.”
“The new transcontinental line has been operating all summer. Plenty of women have traveled to California. I’ve read the newspaper reports.”
“I’m afraid the Union and Central Pacific cars are not at all as luxurious as the reports say. You have no idea. The way stations are abominable, for one thing.”
I flashed a smile at him. “I’m ready for adventure. That’s why I’ve considered joining the missionary team with Mr. Mason.”
Father scowled. “You are not leaving Evanston until I give my approval.”
“You mean until you dissuade me from ‘such a ridiculous notion.’”
“Need I remind you of the fourth commandment, Lily?”
“No, Father. I agree we ought to discuss it later.”
Red-faced, annoyed by being reprimanded in front of Todaro, I ignored the rest of the conversation. I’d always wanted to see the open prairie and perhaps a buffalo herd chased by Indians, the majestic Rocky Mountains and California. California, with its mining camps, lush green meadows and warm sunshine, the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco that had to be as exhilarating as downtown Chicago. I’d pored over the grainy pen-and-ink drawings in the Chicago Times. Uncle Harrison, who’d gone west several years ago to make a fortune and succeeded, for the most part, would welcome me with open arms. I plopped down on an armchair and fingered the ridges of the brass floor lamp beside me.
Somehow I had to persuade Father to let me tag along on this trip.

Have You Heard? Entangled Publishing is Launching!

So, I'm really, really excited to be working with Entangled Publishing, which is launching its grand opening all this week. In case you weren't aware of the incredible line-up of authors and books they have, they've set up a fantastic week of special launch events to familiarize you with their awesomeness and give you oodles of chances to win and win big!

Entangled will be publishing my four-book contemporary fantasy romance Heart of the Anemoi series, which features directional wind gods the Greeks associated with the seasons. Book 1, North of Need, releases November 1, 2011. The other books in the series are West of Want (3/12), South of Surrender (7/12), East of Ecstasy (11/12).

Here's a little of what the launch will entail:
  • 8/2 –  Books on Board Jumble Game!   Head over to Books on Board to unscramble the Jumble!  Winners will received digital and/or print bundles of our launch books!
  • 8/5 –  All Day Scavenger Hunt!  We’re holding a spectacular All Day Scavenger Hunt at Coffee Time Romance to celebrate our launch!  Participate each hour as we post questions about our different launch authors and titles.  The more you participate, the more chances you’ll have to win a KOBO eReader loaded with our launch titles!  Come FRIEND US at Coffee Time Romance!  Starts at 10 EST!
So, once all the fun and partying is done here, head over to Entangled and join the celebration there!

Thanks for reading,

Laura Kaye
Hot, Heartfelt Romance - Because everyone longs to belong...
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Laura Kaye is a multi-published author of paranormal, contemporary and erotic romance with five books releasing in 2011.

Pets in Books


I have four cats and one dog. Some would call me a Crazy Cat Lady. That term wouldn’t be too far off. I once said I could sum up my life with LOLcat pictures from icanhascheezburger.com. People thought I was joking. I wasn’t.

Chaos & Yoda
Pets are an important part of my life. Although I have a husband and three children who are around much of the time, the animals are my constant companions while I write. Right now one of my cats, Spirit, is keeping me company while I write this post. Another cat, Smalls, is asleep next to me. If it wasn’t so warm, I’m sure the dog would be upstairs with me instead of napping downstairs where it’s cooler.

I love putting pets into my romance novels. Before I had furbabies of my own, I used other people’s pets for inspiration for my animal characters. A friend from college, Mike, had a cat named Francis who was named that for two reasons—Frank Sinatra and Shakespeare. I used both the name and the basis for his name in my first Silhouette Romance If the Ring Fits….

A deep longing for a dog led me to create Denali, a blue-eyed Siberian Husky, who appeared in my Harlequin Romances Rescued by the Magic of Christmas and Christmas Magic on the Mountain. Giving a heartbreaker-player type hero was a way to show a different side of him. And if he was willing to commit to a dog, maybe he wasn’t quite the confirmed bachelor he claimed to be. (We ended up adopting Chaos, a Norwegian Elkhound, after realizing a husky's personality wouldn't be a good fit for our family.)

Our newest cat, Yoda, who we adopted from a local Humane Society and is pictured above with Chaos, ended up being the inspiration for a stray black kitten taken in by my hero in my Harlequin Romance Not-So-Perfect Princess. 

It was so much fun to use Yoda, who is known as the Master of Disaster and Ninja Kitty, to create Boots. The kitten not only is the catalyst for my heroine and hero meeting, but the cats brings them together throughout the story. I fell in love with my fictional kitty when it came time to make Romance Trading Cards for my characters I made him one, too!

Here’s a little taste of a scene from that book with my hero, Alejandro, and the kitten:

Lying in bed, Alejandro Cierzo de Amanecer heard a noise outside his room at the beachfront villa. The stray kitten he’d found at the boatyard must want something. He opened his eyes to see sunlight streaming in through the brand-new floor-to-ceiling windows. Most likely breakfast.
 
The bedroom door burst wide-open. Heavy boots sounded against the recently replaced terra-cotta tile floor.

Not again.
Alejandro grimaced, but didn’t move. He knew the routine.
 
A squad of royal guards dressed in blue and gold uniforms surrounded his bed. At least they hadn’t drawn their weapons this time.

Not that he would call another intrusion progress.

“What does he want now?” Alejandro asked.
 
The captain of the guard, Sergio Mendoza, looked as stoic as ever, but older with gray hair at his temples. “King Dario requests your presence at the palace, Your Highness.”
 
Alejandro raked his hand through his hair in frustration. “My father never requests anything.”

Sergio’s facial expression didn’t change. He’d only shown emotion once, when Alejandro had been late bringing Sergio’s youngest daughter home from a date when they were teenagers. In spite of the security detail accompanying them, Alejandro had feared for his life due to the anger in the captain’s eyes. 

“The king orders you to come with us now, sir,” Sergio said.

Alejandro didn’t understand why his father wanted to see him. No one at the palace listened to what Alejandro said. He might not want to be part of the monarchy, but he wasn’t about to abandon his country.

He’d founded his business here and suggested economic innovations, including developing their tourist trade. But his ideas clashed with those of his father and brother who were more old-fashioned and traditional in their thinking.
 
A high-pitched squeak sounded. The scraggly black kitten with four white paws clawed his way up the sheet onto the bed. The thing had been a nuisance these past two weeks with the work at the boatyard and renovations here at the villa.
 
“I need to get dressed before I go anywhere,” Alejandro said.

“We’ll wait while you dress, sir.” Sergio’s words did nothing to loosen Alejandro’s tense shoulder muscles. “The king wants no delay in your arrival.”

Alejandro clenched his teeth. He wanted to tell the loyal captain to leave, but the guards would use force to get him to do what they wanted. He was tired of fighting that battle. “I need privacy.”
Sergio ordered the soldiers out of the room, but he remained standing by the bed. “I’ll wait on the other side of the door, sir. Guards are stationed beneath each window.”

Alejandro rolled his eyes. His father still saw him as a rebellious teenager. “I’m thirty years old, not seventeen."
Sergio didn’t say anything. No doubt the captain remembered some of Alejandro’s earlier…escapades.

“Tell me where you think I would run to, Captain?” Alejandro lay in bed covered with a sheet. “My business is here. I own properties. My father’s lackeys follow me wherever I go.”

“They are your security detail, sir,” Sergio said. “You must be protected. You’re the second in line for the throne.”

“Don’t remind me,” Alejandro muttered.
 
“Many would give everything to be in your position.”
 
Not if they knew what went with being the “spare” entailed. No one cared what he thought. Even when he tried to help the island, no one supported him. He’d had to do everything on his own. Alejandro hated being a prince. He’d been educated in the United States. He didn’t want to participate in an outdated form of government where too much power rested with one individual. But he wanted to see his country prosper.

“Guard the door if you must.” Alejandro gave the kitten a pat. “I won’t make your job any more difficult for you than it is.”

As soon as Sergio left, Alejandro slid out of bed and showered. His father hadn’t requested formal dress so khaki shorts, a navy T-shirt and a pair of boat shoes would do.

Do you have any pets? Do you like books that have pets in them?


 
I just came back from the woods of Vermont. Gosh, I love it there. Nothing but trees, mountains, animals, and fresh, clean air. If you like these things too, you might enjoy my book, ALASKA HEART, from The Wild Rose Press. Different trees, mountains, animals, and fresh, clean air with a side order of handsome Iditarod winner, Dale Ramsden. 

Alaska is supposed to be cold, so why is Alanna Cormac on fire?
 
Sent on a dream assignment to Denali National Park, nature magazine writer Alanna Cormac has no intentions of falling in love with Dale Ramsden, sexy Iditarod winner. When Dale, his family, and even his eighteen sled dogs charm their way into her heart, however, Alanna’s fast-track New York instincts crumble. The Alaskan landscape and the caress of a man too good to be true ignite feelings she never had time to explore before. Feelings that have her so blissfully busy she’s unaware she’s being watched. Judged. Targeted.
 
She’s next.

Love will either save her or swallow her whole. Is there a difference?

Excerpt:
 
“When you turn around, look first. You can grab your camera after. Okay?”
 
“Okay.” Anticipation buzzed through me. Or was it being so close to Dale?
 
With a little nudge, Dale spun me around, and a gasp caught in my throat. His hands closed over my shoulders, anchoring me, keeping me earthbound amongst what had to be heaven.
 
Rising above all the other mountains in the distance, Mount McKinley reached into the cerulean Alaskan sky like a white giant. Its peaks were arrowheads of rock encrusted in snow that glistened magically in the pink of the late afternoon sunlight. How incredibly small I was, like a speck of dust in comparison to the majesty of McKinley.
 
“Oh, Dale…” My voice was nothing more than a rasp. I let my pack drop to my feet and leaned back against him. He folded his arms around me and squeezed. When I thought the moment couldn’t get any closer to perfection, he loosened my scarf enough to nuzzle his cold nose against my neck. Though I initially shivered at the contact, he quickly warmed the spot with the heat of his lips.
 
Giving McKinley another look, I turned around to face Dale. He trailed his lips over my cheek and finally to my mouth where he did things that made my head spin. Our lips met as we tasted, savored each other. Great Goddess, I had shut myself off for too long. Or maybe I’d been waiting. Waiting for him.
 
Whatever the case, Dale unlocked emotions in me. Trust, wanting, love. I wasn’t sure what to do with any of these, but my heart thudded wildly in my chest over the prospect. My skin longed to have Dale’s fingers spread across every inch of it. My lips wanted him to never stop kissing me.

“Take your pictures.” The words were a whisper. “And let’s go.”

Visit my website at http://www.christinedepetrillo.weebly.com/ to see my other available books and what's coming soon. You can visit my two group blogs as well. One at A Pinch of Romance, http://www.apinchofromance.blogspot.com/ and another at The Roses of Prose, http://www.rosesofprose.blogspot.com/.

Toodles,
Chris

Some more Cowboy Code to Live By....and a short, sweet series to read!

Current release, third in series.
Meet Hooper and Mallie.

  Will Rogers, probably America's favorite quote-meister, passed away in 1935, but his wit and wisdom live on, fortunately for us. Here's his Cowboy Code:.
1.  Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.
2.  Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
3.  There are 2 theories to arguing with a woman...neither works.
4.  Never miss a good chance to shut up.
5.  Always drink upstream from the herd.
6.  If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
7.  The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket.
8.  There are three kinds of men:  The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation.  The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.
9.  Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
10.  If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.
11. Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.
12. AND FINALLY:  After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring.  He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him . . . The moral:  When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut!
***I added these:
13. Be to work on time.
14. Ask permission to bring your dog. 
First in the series.        
Meet Christy and Kenn.
     
Second in the series.
Meet Pike and Daisy.


Please visit me on the web. www.tanyahanson.com
www.petticoatsandpistols.com

Anything can happen in a dream...

It's not available until September, but I had to add
it to today's list of amazing books.

A complete mini-series in one book!


In Our Dream was rated a five at Dark Diva Reviews

She’s a small town cop.  He’s an inmate undercover.  They meet in a dream.

From A Dream given four stars at Joyfully Reviewed 

She wakes up in a dark hole, alone.  He’ll stop at nothing to find her.

and for the first time published

After the Dream

Brody believes he’s a normal man. 
 Tess has felt like a freak most of her life- 
except when she’s around one man.

Watch for it on Amazon in September
and good luck with nabbing one of those prizes!!
Don't forget the scavenger hunt and two day
author chat coming up in August.
check it out at

Jacqueline Paige


A TIME FOR EVERYTHING - Linda Swift

THIS TIME FOREVER is truly the book of my heart. And this historical has a history of its own. I wrote it fifteen years ago. It was almost sold to Harlequin before it was finished; then rejected because it was "more than a romance." At an editor's suggestion, it was submitted to Mira where it languished for two years and was ultimately rejected there also. Three name changes, several rejections after other submissions by my agent and a revision with severe cuts followed. I set it aside in frustration.

Then submitted it to a digital publisher who accepted it with praise. Before I could sign a contract, said publisher disappeared from the face of the earth. I sent it to a different digital publisher and never heard a word. Only after they accepted another book did I learn they never got this submission. Then it went to Champagne books where it finally found a home. And now it is released as an ebook and will be available in print next month. Somebody knew better than I when its time should come. For this is a Civil War story and 2011 is the first year of the commemoration of the C.W. Sesquicentennial. How's that for unplanned and unexpected timing?

The story:

The Civil War brought casualties beyond the bloody battlefields as North fought South. Philip Burke, against his family's wishes, volunteered to defend the Union and became a prisoner of war who bartered his medical expertise to remain out of prison. When the Union Army invaded Tennessee, Clarissa Wakefield's antebellum mansion became a Confederate hospital. Philip was placed in charge and against propriety she volunteered to stay on and help nurse the wounded. Clarissa's husband was a Confederate soldier and Philip's fiancée waited for him in Oswego but the fire between them soon raged out of control. As the opposing armies fought for possession of Chattanooga, Clarissa and Philip faced their own battle. Caught in the passions of war and love, with hurt inevitable either way, would they be faithful to their vows or listen to their hearts?


Here's a excerpt:
Tip-toeing past the snoring guard, Clarissa stepped onto the moonlit veranda and made her way toward a wicker chair facing the river. It was only as she sat down that she saw the glow of Philip Burke's pipe.

"Oh, excuse me, I thought--"

"That you would be alone? I was just finishing my pipe." He made a move to stand but she said quickly, "Please don't go. It is I who have intruded."

"I scarcely think so. This is your home after all, Mrs. Wakefield." He settled back in his chair and took another puff.

"Let's not belabor such a trivial matter, Captain Burke. I'm glad of someone to talk to."

"Then I'll stay for a while longer with your permission."

"Yes, do. The quiet seems eerie. As if we're suspended in motion, waiting for something to happen."

"Waiting for all hell to break loose." He didn't appear to notice his offensive language and she forgot it with his next words. "I've experienced this before. It's the lull before the battle."

"Do you really think so?"

"It's inevitable, with the Army of the Tennessee on the march and the Army of the Cumberland right on their heels."

"Perhaps General Bragg will just go on to Atlanta."

"With thousands of battle-ready troops at his command?" Philip asked drily. "Not likely."

"When do you think it will begin?" Clarissa asked with dread.

"Perhaps tomorrow. If not tomorrow, soon."

Clarissa shivered. "I wish my son was back at Fleur-de-Lis. What if the Union . . .?"

"Have you forgotten I am a Union officer? You and yours will be safe as long as I'm here."

"Thank you, Captain."

Clarissa silently regarded the man who sat near her, his features highlighted each time he drew on the coals of his pipe. It was difficult for her to remember that he was a prisoner but that must have been the thought uppermost in his mind all these months. And as he had reminded her, he was a Union officer. If the city was captured by the enemy, he would become her captor. It was not a pleasant thought.

The night sounds of early autumn filled the silence--dry flies and tree frogs and raucous insects too numerous to be identified. Clarissa became aware of Philip's eyes on her and a warm sensation began in the pit of her stomach and spread to her breasts and thighs. She watched his slender hand as he knocked the ashes from his pipe and imagined the hand touching her. She felt her heart flutter and said with a catch in her voice, "I should go in now. It's getting quite late."

He stood at the same time she did and they were only inches apart. Clarissa felt his warm breath on her face and dared not look up.

Her hair was luminescent silver flowing about her shoulders in the moon glow and Philip reached out to touch it and willed himself to stop. But his hands with a will of their own moved to her shoulders and she raised her head and met his eyes.

In a dream-like motion they closed the space between them as their mouths slowly met and with a long-repressed hunger they sated themselves. Their bodies melded, soft against hard, silk against wool, and a fire blazed between them that blotted out all else except their awareness of each other. He brought his hand to the back of her head and wove his slender fingers into her silken tresses; the kiss deepened as his tongue became a licking flame in her mouth. When the kiss finally ended, the flame licked the hollow of her throat and the rise of her breast as he pushed aside the fabric of her gown. Fire burned against her flesh in every place his tongue touched and she arched against him, eager to be consumed by it.

"Clarissa, my beautiful Clarissa," he whispered. "No matter how hard I fight this, I can't stop wanting you. There's never an hour that you're not in my thoughts. I am obsessed by you."

She moved her hands from his chest to caress the sides of his face and he groaned with pleasure. "And I you."

He cupped her against him and she linked her arms at the back of his neck as he bent his head to take her mouth again with greater intensity. "I tell myself that you are married but it doesn't matter in what I feel. And I think you feel it, too."

"Yes, oh yes," she whispered.

For more information, you can visit the book's page at Champagne Books.

Congratulations to our next $5 GC Winner!

The choice of a $5 GC to either Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble goes to:

Robin!!
::::throws confetti:::

Robin won for her comment on the "Hero Inspiration " post.

Robin, I've emailed you...

Keep on commenting -- you might be next! -- and because I was asked: all winners of secondary prizes are still eligible to win the grand prize! Random.org is choosing our winners, so it's anyone's game.

Have fun!

Excerptlicious Spotlight on Hearts in Darkness!

I'd love to share with you my debut contemporary romance, Hearts in Darkness:

Hearts in Darkness is a contemporary romance about two strangers who find acceptance and dare to find love while trapped in a pitch-black elevator.  Here’s the blurb:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
~William Shakespeare

Makenna James thinks her day can’t get any worse, until she finds herself stuck in a pitch-black elevator with a complete stranger. Distracted by a phone call and juggling too much stuff, the pin-striped accountant caught only a glimpse of a dragon tattoo on his hand before the lights went out.

Caden Grayson is amused when a redhead literally falls at his feet. His amusement turns to panic when the power fails. Despite his piercings, tats, and vicious scar, he’s terrified of the dark and confined spaces. Now, he’s trapped in his own worst nightmare.

To fight fear, they must both reach out and open up. With no preconceived notions based on looks to hold them back, they discover just how much they have in common. In the warming darkness, attraction grows and sparks fly, but will they feel the same when the lights come back on?

The Story's Inspiration:

Hearts in Darkness was an exercise in procrastination! I was in the middle of writing a women’s fiction novel that was not cooperating (now completed), and my brain’s most pronounced form of procrastination is generating new plot bunnies. This was when Hearts came to mind. I like to ask ‘what if’ questions to come up with new ideas, and this particular what if question was inspired by the fact the elevator in my building frequently breaks down. I work in a male-dominated environment, too, so… *grins*

About Heroine Makenna James, with her first impression of the hero:

Makenna James is a smart, compassionate woman with a big heart. She grew up in a household of men and works among mostly men, so she’s come to think of herself as ‘just one of the guys.’ Her very first impression of the stranger in the elevator was that he’s a Good Samaritan (her Good Sam) because he holds the elevator door for her as she’s running down the hall to catch it and fumbling her belongings. It’s been such a bad day for her that, when the power fails, all Makenna can do is laugh. So her initial feeling in the darkness is one of embarrassment, because she’s trying to pull herself out of her hysterics and wondering what the other person must be thinking of her:

Bracing herself as she tried to calm down, she used her free hand to wipe away tears and fan the heat crawling up her face as she remembered Good Sam was in there with her.
Oh God. He probably thinks I’m a complete lunatic.
“Sorry, sorry,” she finally choked out as the laughs turned into occasional chuckles. Now she was laughing at herself.
Good Sam didn’t reply.
“Um, hello? You still with me?”
“Yeah, I’m here. You okay?” His voice resonated in the confined space, surrounded her.
“Um, yeah. I have no idea.” She brushed her hair back off her face and shook her head.
The low sound of his chuckle made her feel a little less ridiculous. “That bad, huh?”
 “The worst,” Makenna said and sighed.

The conversation puts her at ease, as does his awkward apology when he accidentally kicks her as he sits down, so she doesn’t feel she has anything to fear.

About hero Caden Grayson, with his first impression of Makenna and their situation:
Caden Grayson is a damaged soul, on the inside and out. His survival of a tragic childhood accident that killed people he cared about leads him to want to both help others in similar situations, thus his job as an EMT, and protect himself from the kinds of emotional connections that could cause that kind of pain again.  So, his appearance is a bit rough and edgy, and his reclusive nature have left him a bit socially awkward.

His first impression of Makenna is amusement:

Caden Grayson tried not to chuckle at the frazzled redhead careening towards the elevator. Why did women carry so many bags anyway? If it didn’t fit in the pockets of his worn-soft jeans, he didn’t carry it.
 As the woman reached down to scoop up her phone—another thing Caden refused to carry unless he was on call—he found himself mesmerized by the way her hair tumbled over her shoulder in a long waterfall of soft, wavy red.

His second impression is a bit more interesting:

 Red reached in front of him to press a button. Caden almost laughed when she punched it at least five times. But the laughter died in his throat when he caught the scent of her shampoo. One of the things he loved about women: their hair always smelled like flowers. And that scent, combined with the redness and the softness and the waviness…Caden shoved his hands in his jeans pockets to keep from running his fingers through the thick mass of her hair. But, Christ, how he wanted to, just once.

When the lights go out, it trips the anxiety Caden has struggled with since the accident:

And then Red disappeared, along with everything else, as the elevator jerked to a stop and the lights went out.
Caden gasped and stumbled back into the corner of the elevator. Clenching his eyes, he lowered his head into his hands and counted backwards from ten, trying to remember his breathing techniques, trying to keep from flipping the fuck out.
 The confined space of the elevator was one thing—years of therapy had gotten him past that. Mostly. But confined spaces with no lights? No way. The pounding of his heart and tightness in his chest told him that was a complete fucking deal breaker.

About the book cover:

I am in total love with my cover, too! It’s the work of the brilliant Tricia Schmitt, who is a freelance cover artist with a real up-and-coming career.  It’s the feel I imagined, but I was totally confounded about what the cover should be since so much of the story takes place in total darkness (I won’t say how much!).  I could not be happier with this cover.  Of the three I’ve gotten so far, it’s bar far my favorite.


I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to Hearts in Darkness! Happy reading!
Laura Kaye
Hot, Heartfelt Romance - Because everyone longs to belong...

Laura Kaye is a multi-published author of paranormal, contemporary and erotic romance with five books releasing in 2011.