Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Author Guest Post - Louisa Edwards (& a Giveaway!)

* Congrats to lucky winner - Virginia *

Readers, please join me welcoming Louisa Edwards, debut author of Can't Stand The Heat (A Recipe for Love) who will be guest blogging here today!

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The first book in the Recipe for Love series, Can't Stand The Heat features a food critic going undercover to write an expose about a hotshot chef. Only she doesn't know how to cook, and the chef is determined to teach her a lesson..about cooking with a dash of delectable passion thrown in!
 

I’ve been reading romance novels since I was about 11 years old. When my grandmother came to visit, I’d sneak them out of her suitcase and secret them away to my room. Then, under cover of darkness, I’d creep out of bed and read them by the light of the bulb in my closet. Yes, I was literally a closeted romance reader.

All through high school and the first few years of college, I kept my romances, with their covers depicting big-chested men and women in steamy clinches, under my bed and in drawers, hidden from view. I went to Bryn Mawr College, one of the Seven Sisters, and I was sure my friends would look down on me for reading a genre widely considered to be lowbrow, trashy, and/or demeaning to women.

Except romance novels are actually none of those things, and I knew it. Oh, sure, the genre runs the gamut and some less-than-stellar examples exist out there, but for the most part? Romance novels are full of strong, resourceful, intelligent, interesting women who are the stars of their own stories. What could be more feminist than that?

So I started owning up to my longstanding addiction—and the world didn’t come to an end! My buddies didn’t laugh at me when I said that one day I hoped to write a romance novel of my own. And at the recent launch party for my debut contemporary, Can’t Stand the Heat, some college friends I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years showed up to support and congratulate me. Some of them had even read the book—and loved it.

These days, I’m proud to be an out and open romance reader and writer. The genre I love has come so far, embracing the evolving needs and desires of its audience and adapting to changing societal pressures. I’m glad to be part of it, and if my book causes even one woman to open her mind to the world of entertainment romance novels can provide, I’m counting it as a win.

So how did you come to romance? And what keeps you reading?
I found my Mom's romances and started reading them secretly, that's how I got started :) What keeps me reading is how inspiring these books are. Let's face it, HEA (happily-ever-after) is something we could all use, in books if not in real life. They're like...well, let me not get on my high horse. This post will never end then. And I know you're raring to win a copy of this great book of Louisa's, aren't you?! Well, here it is...

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

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One lucky winner will get :
  • A copy of this book &
  • A Can’t Stand the Heat apron + Recipe for Love spatula (featured above)

To Enter
  • Just leave a comment with your email address in the body of the comment itself telling me : So how did you come to romance? And what keeps you reading?
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of October 30, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

______________________________________________________________________
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Author Guest Post - Shobhan Bantwal

It's my pleasure to introduce you to today's guest blogger, Shobhan Bantwal, author of The Dowry Bride and The Sari Shop Widow. Bantwal calls her writing “Bollywood in a Book,” romantic, colorful, action-packed tales, rich with elements of her own Indian culture -- stories that entertain and educate.

Pungent curry, sweet fried onions, incense, colorful beads, and lush fabrics - The Sari Shop Widow is a novel set on the streets of Edison, New Jersey's Little India, where a young businesswoman rediscovers the magic of love and family. When Anjali Kapadia's posh sari boutique in New Jersey is on the verge of financial ruin, her wealthy uncle from India comes to her rescue. But the wily, dictatorial uncle arrives with some unpleasant surprises--a young Indo-British partner named Rishi Shah for one--and a startling secret that disturbs Anjali.


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The Challenges of an Ethnic Fiction Writer


As an Indian-American author writing for a primarily American audience, I constantly face some tough challenges. No doubt the fiction market has launched many talented South Asian writers in recent years, but what they write and what I write is oceans apart. Mine is mainstream popular women’s fiction with romance at its center, while theirs is literary fiction—a slice of life. It is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges.

Despite the rising popularity of ethnic fiction, particularly from Asia, it is still a mere fraction of the thousands of fiction books published by American publishers. When I decided to venture into the hard-to-crack realm of fiction, especially mainstream, I knew it was going to be a serious challenge. And yet, with all the confidence and naiveté of a novice, I decided to take a bite nonetheless.

With a bit of caution, I began my creative writing career on a small scale, by writing articles for Indian-American publications, both print and electronic. With some 25 articles published in two years, I was rather pleased with myself. Not bad for a new writer, I figured, especially for a 50 year-old one who had never written a creative word beyond a class essay.

After that modest taste of success, I started writing short stories with Indian heroes and heroines. My stories were suitable for ethnic Asian publications, but how would the mainstream American ones react to my submissions? And my ambitions were gradually shifting in that direction.

Would they appreciate stories about arranged marriage, dowry, virgin brides and grooms, and male dominance? Would they even bother with characters like obedient wives and mothers who, despite advanced degrees and flourishing careers of their own, catered happily to the men their lives?

Not many American readers know a lot about Indian culture. It is not because they are ignorant; it is because Indian writers and moviemakers have not been effective in portraying the true face of India to American audiences. The real India lies somewhere between the glamour of Bollywood movies and the deprivation and despair of serious literary novels and documentaries.

To learn the techniques of making my stories more appealing to non-Indians, I enrolled in a creative writing course at the local community college. Our homework was read aloud for a critique session each week. As I read my short story about a young bride in an unhappy marriage, my American classmates just could not comprehend why my modern young protagonist could not walk away from her spineless husband and abusive in-laws. And if she happened to fall in love with another man and wanted to make love with him, why did she not surrender to the urge?

However, the course made me realize I had to get more creative in creating my characters. I could not assume that my readers would connect with them instantly, or understand their rationale, let alone sympathize with them. I had to make my stories unique and interesting enough to keep my readers turning the pages. Over the next couple of years I worked hard at doing exactly that.

The road to becoming a published author has been bumpy to say the least, with a lot of bruises to my ego. Landing a reputable agent and publisher were sweet experiences, but they came after a long and hard upward climb.

Creating shy yet sociable, timid yet sufficiently bold women clad in saris and lehengas, and making them likable is a tough job. Presenting sensitive, soft-hearted males as real men and not wimps, and authoritative males as essentially good at heart to a non-Asian readership is even tougher.

I still struggle with the fine balance between explaining and over-explaining an Indian word, custom, tradition or adage. Indians are not prone to emotional displays, so I often have to get into the character’s mind and explain away the finer emotions.

Introducing sexually tense and graphic scenes into my Indian romances is another little stumbling block to navigate. Young women in contemporary India are no longer the shy virgins of yesteryear, but their sex lives are still very private and secret. Their independent streak naturally causes friction in their conservative families. And I have to keep that fact in mind as I craft my romantic stories. But friction and tension are good things when it comes to creating a novel. A good, juicy story thrives on conflict, taboos, and societal constraints.

Nevertheless, despite all the challenges, my novels have turned into something that many readers delight in, and they have garnered me a large and loyal readership. For that I am deeply grateful to my karma and my family and friends.

To enter my contest and read my award-winning short stories, articles, recipes, and see some interesting photographs from India, go to my website, www.shobhanbantwal.com. The book trailer video for THE SARI SHOP WIDOW and my other books can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9uRlbkxxes.

Thank you for that entertaining post, dear Author! From personal experience, I can relate to many of the issues you've touched in this post of yours. You've described it exactly! And it is that insight that you have into the minds of your readers that makes your stories to compelling. Kudos! I look forward to many more years of reading your books. Read Shoban's previous post here.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Blog Tour - Bo's Cafe (& a Giveaway -- closed)

** Winner - Kayla **

PhotobucketAbout Bo's Café - High-powered executive Steven Kerner is living the dream in southern California. But when his bottled pain ignites in anger one night, his wife kicks him out. Then an eccentric mystery man named Andy Monroe befriends Steven and begins unravelling his tightly wound world. Andy leads Steven through a series of frustrating and revealing encounters to repair his life through genuine friendship and the grace and love of a God who has been waiting for him to accept it.

A story to challenge and encourage, Bo's Café is a model for all who struggle with unresolved problems and a performance-based life. Those who desire a fuller, more authentic way of living will find this journey of healing a restorative exploration of God's unbridled grace. Brought to you by the folks who published THE SHACK. Read an excerpt.

Guest Post by the authors - John Lynch, Bill Thrall and Bruce McNicol

We three co-authors have been close friends for fifteen years. We write so our readers might experience, as we have, this powerful, ongoing, life-changing process called protection.

Protection is a principle of love where someone chooses to stand alongside me in my limitations and weaknesses. Words like trust and permission, vulnerability and hope are embedded in this process. We believe that, “The degree to which I trust you is the degree to which you can love me, no matter how much love you have for me.”

The relationship between trust and love is profound. If I live independent of others and choose not to trust, as Stephen did for so long in Bo’s Café, I am unwittingly also choosing not to be loved.

We hope that our readers, through the characters of Bo’s Cafe, will capture how absolutely essential other people are for a healthy, right perspective of ourselves. Bo’s Café is a safe place where I can learn to give others permission (access) to who I really am.

We believe most people want to be known, and yet are afraid they will be! Afraid that somehow in being known, they will be less acceptable, less attractive, less significant. And, so we write this book to assist our readers in experiencing some of what we’ve experienced in our lives, in our marriages, in our friendships, and our work.

The most damaging things in our life are not the mistakes we make. The most damaging are the hidden things that begin to identify us. Protective love is a process of permitting someone you trust to have access to who you really are, and because they love you and you trust them, they don’t reject you, they actually stand with you in whatever is true about you.”

Thanks for that interesting post, dear authors. And thanks to Hachette books for this opportunity! For more info about the other stops on the tour, click this link.


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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky winner.

To Enter
  • Just leave a comment with your email address in the body of the comment itself telling me : why you want to read this book.
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.


Deadline   Midnight CST of October 15, 2009.

Eligibility  US & Canada only. Note - Sponsor will not ship to PO Boxes.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

______________________________________________________________________
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Excerpt - In the Garden of Sin by Lousia Burton


320p, Bantam

About the Book

Two linked tales are set in an ancient castle where four exquisitely beautiful beings who thrive on carnal energy entice and ravish their human guests.

Hannah Leeds is The English Courtesan, a seventeenth-century maiden who apprentices herself as a courtesan-in-training to Venetian nobleman Domenico Vitturi, offering her body in exchange for his patronage. Don Domenico has resigned himself to a life without love, his once-handsome face having been disfigured by the scars of war. He brings Hannah to the Castle of the Hidden Grotto to be tutored in the arts of love by its insatiable and inventive residents, little knowing that she has come for more than just an erotic education….

In Hunger vampires Anton Turek and Galiana Solsa satisfy their voracious erotic appetites while feeding on their prey. Weary of playing lapdog to the powerful, sadistic Galiana, Anton renews his quest to possess Lili, the beautiful succubus with whom he’s been obsessed for centuries—while Galiana sets her sights on the godlike, sexually ravenous Elic, whom Lili loves but can never make love to. Desire and vengeance reach a fever pitch at the Castle during an invitation-only Renaissance festival with a BDSM twist.

Louisa Burton invites readers to indulge in their most sinful fantasies with these two thrilling and edgy new tales of eroticism and romance.

Excerpt
This is an erotic fiction excerpt, which is sexually explicit and intended for adults. By reading it, you are affirming that you are 18 years of age or older.

The Opening of “Hunger”
From In the Garden of Sin
A July 2009 trade paperback from Bantam
Copyright © 2009 Louisa Burton. All rights reserved.
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The Middle of the Night, Early September
Greenwich Village, New York City

“How about a bite?”

Anton Turek heard Galiana Solsa’s seductively husky voice, raised a few decibels for his benefit, as he stood in a moonlit alley off Bleeker Street, lighting a fourth Gitanes off the third.

Took you long enough. Turek ground the unsmoked cigarette underfoot and retreated deeper into the brick-walled passage, ducking behind an artfully arranged jumble of old wooden pallets. He crouched, rather than knelt, so as to keep the knees of his new black Dolce & Gabbana jeans from coming into contact with the grimy concrete.

The crack-crack-crack of Galiana’s stilettos grew louder, underscored by thudding from the big, multi-buckled boots worn by the guy she’d been rubbing up against at The Fallout Shelter around the corner on Macdougal. Fallout was a teeming, murky, screaming-loud little joint with cinderblock walls that drew a punk-goth clientele of which Galiana’s take-out du jour, who’d introduced himself as Oxy, was drearily typical: swastika neck tattoo, studded motorcycle jacket, striped stovepipe pants, the clown boots, and chopped-up lampblack hair that had been waxed and sprayed into a calcified semblance of disarray.

Oxy and Galiana had been tossing them back for about an hour—Irish whiskey for him and silver bullets for her, both on her tab—when she whispered something in his ear while molding his hand to the crotch of her low-rise spandex booty shorts.

The mind is subtle, she liked to say. The cock is not.

She’d caught Turek’s eye, smiled, and gave him a little nod. He’d drained his Booker’s Manhattan, bit the cherry off the stem, laid a fifty on the bar, and made his way to this, her favorite alley in the Village.

That had been forty minutes ago. She didn’t give a damn how long she made him cool his heels, she never had.

“Well?” Galiana’s footsteps ceased, followed by Oxy’s.

Turek’s gums tickled as he peered between the weathered wooden slats of his “hunting blind,” as he thought of it—although it was Galiana who did most of the actual hunting, per se. He had a hard time getting humans to let down their defenses enough to go off alone with him. Something about him put them off. It didn’t used to be that way. Before his forty Lost Years, as he thought of them, he’d been fairly adept at the kind of interpersonal bullshit that won people over. It had come naturally to him; in fact, he’d been known for his savoir faire.

Not anymore.

Galiana and Oxy stood facing each other on the sidewalk right outside the alley. He was quite the strapping specimen by punk standards, but Galiana, propelled to six and a half feet in those heels and draped in one of the “zip-capes” she liked to wear when she was on the prowl—long and hooded, with linebacker shoulder pads—could have been Darth Vader next to his puny Luke Skywalker.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“You fucking bitch, you gotta be shitting me.” Oxy’s booze-thickened snarl made Turek smile. His cock twitched. Galiana didn’t care to be spoken to that way. It made her cross.

It made her ravenous.

“You rub a guy’s hand on your snatch and whisper that dirty shit in his ear,” Oxy said, “you don’t just take him outside and tell him it’s time to eat.”

In a cartoonishly suggestive purr, she said, “I didn’t say what it was time to eat.”

It took him a second, and then he snorted in an “I get it” way that prompted Galiana, as she turned and strode into the alley, to roll her eyes in Turek’s direction. Tonight, her blue-black hair was sculpted into fat coils and severe bangs—a neo-forties, Blade Runner look enhanced by those ink stroke brows and kohl-limned eyes.

The zip-cape was fashioned, like her thigh-high boots, of licorice-black vinyl. It billowed with her leonine strides despite the fifty pounds of lead ingots sewn into its hidden pockets, since their weight was located mostly in the upper back and shoulder pads. Most women could barely lift such a garment, much less wear it. Brass zippers lined every edge, from the floor-skimming hem to the deep hood, and there were two oversized belt loops, or what looked like belt loops, one on each side.

“Yes,” Turek breathed when, instead of hanging the cape on the old wrought iron lamp hook halfway down the alley, as she most often did, she swung it onto the ground, lining side up. She walked right over it, chuckling when Oxy hesitated to do the same.
“Go ahead,” she said as she turned to face him in front of the alley’s only window, which was tall, narrow, and iron-barred. “I’m chucking it tonight. I’ve had it for ages.” Since 2002, to be precise, which was when she had ordered yet another gross of them from the Hong Kong raincoat manufacturer that had been producing them to her specifications for some twenty years. The remaining three dozen or so of the current batch were hanging in the twenty-by-sixteen-foot dressing room she’d created out of a spare bedroom in their apartment.

Galiana leaned against the window, leveling her most pheromone-drenched gaze at Oxy as she caressed her breasts through her spandex top. It had an ultra-deep U-neck that showed off not just a luxuriant expanse of cleavage, but three glittering strands that might have been taken for the bottom loops of a triple diamond necklace—except that she wasn’t wearing a necklace.

Oxy leered as she pulled the elastic fabric open, stretching it around her breasts. Inserted in each nipple was a small platinum ring to which the ends of the three diamond strands were attached.

“On your knees,” Oxy said as he unzipped his fly.

“Yeah, right,” she snickered as she shimmied out of the shorts. Beneath them, she was bare except for a little black lightning bolt of pubic hair and the five-carat diamond adorning her clit. “You’re the one who’s going to be genuflecting tonight, my friend.”

“The fuck I am. Get on your fucking knees, bitch.” He grabbed her shoulders and tried to shove her down.

She swatted him away as casually as she would swat a mosquito.

He slapped her so hard, her head snapped around.

Galiana smiled slowly as she rubbed her cheek. “Ooh, a bad boy,” she said. “You like it rough, bad boy? You like to show your bitches who’s boss? I guess that’s something we have in common.”

She hauled back and punched him in the face.

“Fuck!” Oxy stumbled back, cupping his abraded cheek. “Shit!”

He balled a hand into a fist and whipped it toward Galiana’s head.

She seized his wrist, hissing with bared teeth. With her other hand, she reached into his pants, the muscles of her forearm flexing as she squeezed.

He yowled and tried to wrench her arm away, to no avail.

“Shh.” She whispered some words in the long-dead Etruscan tongue of her homeland.

It was like flipping a switch. Oxy’s mouth still gaped as if in mid-scream, but all that emerged from it was a strangled whimper.

Still gripping his balls, she said in the low feline rumble that Turek thought of as her Hell Voice, “Who’s the bitch now, bitch?”

His throat spasmed as he tried in vain to form words out of the helpless gurgle rising from it.

Reverting back to her usual Kathleen Turner purr, she said, “I’m not letting go until I get an answer, and I am a very patient woman. Who’s the bitch?”

“I... I... I am.” It was a barely audible rasp, but an impressive effort, considering the grip Galiana had on him, both psychic and physical.

“You’re what?” she demanded. “Say it.”

Fucking drama queen, Turek thought as his stomach grumbled. Galiana loved to toy with her pigeons, get them in a corner with their wings broken, and bat them around a bit before she pounced.

“Th-the bitch,” he croaked.

“Whose bitch?” she demanded.

Yours.”

“On your knees, bitch.”

She pushed him down, clutching his spiky hair as she thrust herself against his mouth. “Work that tongue. Flick the diamond. Faster.” She slapped his head. “Faster. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah... Now, slow down. Back off a little. Make it last.”

Make it last? “Verdammt,” Turek whispered as he crouched there, his knees aching like a motherfucker. “Blöde Fotze.” When a swear word leapt to his lips, it was more often than not in the language of his Bohemian youth, although he’d trained the last vestiges of a Germanic accent out of his English after World War I broke out; too much bullshit to have to deal with during one’s world travels. Galiana had cultivated an American accent, but Turek went with refined British, the better to score the best tables and otherwise throw his weight around in English-speaking countries.

Between the First and Second World Wars, he was occasionally mistaken for Edward, Prince of Wales, which he didn’t get at all. Granted, they were both champagne-blond and Teutonic, and they both knew how to properly tie an ascot, but Turek was a hell of a lot taller and better built, and facially, there was a world of difference. Turek’s eyes were pale gray, not blue, and he had—back then, before 1982 and his “Post Fuck-up Makeover,” as Galiana insisted on calling it—a much stronger jaw, a broader brow, fuller lips...

His virile good looks and that oh-so-flaxen hair had made him a pussy magnet for six centuries, so it had killed him to have to get the plastic surgery and hazel contacts, not to mention having to dye his hair and eyebrows a darker shade of blond every few weeks. Galiana had wanted him to go with brown or even black, but it wouldn’t have looked natural with his pale complexion. The physical transformation was jarring enough without ending up looking like Wayne Newton.

When Galiana first started talking surgery, he’d tried to argue his way out of it, but eventually he’d had to concede that she was right. They had his mug shot; they knew his name. He was bound to be re-arrested eventually; even if he were to leave the country, he could be extradited back to New York. Two centuries had passed since his forty-year stint in a Parisian prison cell, but the memory was still pretty fucking fresh. It wasn’t going to happen again if he could help it.

And it wasn’t like he hadn’t brought the whole shitstorm down on himself. He’d been an asshole to let himself be seen dumping that disco bitch’s drained corpse in that Staten Island landfill. If Galiana hadn’t pulled off her “Mission Impossible Jailbreak,” as the New York Post had trumpeted it, he might still be serving time.

“Can you save the dimples?” he’d asked the plastic surgeon as the anesthetic was being injected into his IV.

“You don’t have dimples,” replied the doc, a guy Galiana had found who had his own private little hospital in the Caribbean for well-heeled Bad Guys. “They’re just creases.”

“Chicks think they’re dimples. Can you save them?”

“Sure. Whatever.”

Sure. Whatever. Just the kind of precise, scientific response you like to hear from a guy who’s standing over a tray of knives and bone saws while you’re heading into la-la land.

The dimples—and they were dimples—were still there after the surgery, but otherwise you’d never have recognized him from before. His jaw, while still manly, was narrower, and the cleft chin was history; his eyes were a little smaller, but not unattractively so. Turek’s nose had gotten badly broken when one of New York’s finest grabbed his head and slammed it face-first into asphalt. Injuries to an Upír healed swiftly, but not always tidily. The nose was a mess, but rather than surgically reshape it, Dr. Whatever had suggested leaving it unset and seeing how it healed. It healed looking like some five-year-old had made it out of Play-Doh.

“It looks like shit,” Turek had said as he inspected his new face in the little hand mirror they gave him after the bandages came off.

“You look like a prizefighter,” Galiana said. “Women will want to kiss it and make it feel better.”

“I can make your cock look like that, too, if you want,” offered Dr. Whatever, and he’d laughed like hell without missing a stroke as he fucked Galiana against the wall next to Turek’s hospital bed.

The good doc had altered his physical features quite thoroughly, right down to grafting on new fingerprints from “a guy who never even got a speeding ticket, so we’re talking squeaky clean.” Turek didn’t ask whether the guy in question was a cadaver or alive, not because it made him queasy, but because he simply didn’t care. He did care that his fingertips had looked a little odd ever since the surgery, but that was a small price to pay for a nice, shiny new set of prints.

By the time Turek got out of the hospital, Galiana, in an effort to make their “after dinner clean-up” a bit simpler and more discreet in the future, had already ordered her first batch of zip-capes. She had also arranged for new personal documentation—driver’s license, passport, the works—identifying him as Anthony Prazak, a name he’d chosen because it meant “from Prague,” the city of his birth. He’d taken Galiana’s suggestion to change “Anton” to “Anthony,” only to find himself dubbed “Tony” by just about everyone he met. When he complained to Galiana about being saddled against his will with a nickname that he regarded as juvenile and low-class, her advice was for him to lighten the fuck up.

“My name for the first couple hundred years of my life was Thanchvil Vestarcnies,” she’d said, “and it was a butt-ugly name even back then. Most people have to take what they get when it comes to names. At least you got to choose your last name.”

Small comfort, especially four years later, when a new antidepressant hit the market, and “Prazak” morphed overnight into “Prozac,” always uttered with at least a hint of a snicker.

Because it was just so fucking funny.

“Yeah, Oxy, that’s the way,” Galiana said in a shuddery voice. “Get some fingers up there. More, bitch. Fill me up. Both holes. Good boy...”

When she finally came, it was with a low, voluptuous moan that drew giggly whispers from a pair of hipster chicks in sloppy sweaters passing by on the sidewalk with their cigarettes. They glanced into the alley, but it was too dark for them to see much.

“Stand up,” Galiana commanded, as imperious as before, if a bit more breathless. “Get those pants down.”

Oxy unbuckled his belt and shoved the pants down to the knees. His ass was small and muscular. Not bad, if you ignored the testosterone-poisoned dickhead it was attached to.

“Now, make yourself nice and hard. Good boy,” she praised as Oxy masturbated with brisk strokes, ass flexing.

Reaching overhead, Galiana grabbed a high crossbar of the iron window grille, pulled herself up, and wrapped her vinyl-booted legs around his hips. “You know what to do.”

He fumbled between them.

“Come on, push,” she said. “Haven’t you ever done this before?”

He grabbed the bars and flexed his hips, groaning.

“Deeper,” she said. “Deeper. Now stop. Don’t move. That’s right,” she said, the diamond strands glinting as she undulated in a slow, serpentine rhythm. “You just stand there nice and still and let me pump that cock.”

Still gripping the bars, Oxy closed his eyes and let out a quavering moan, his head falling back. Galiana’s internal muscles were amazingly strong, the most powerful Turek had ever experienced, and she had complete control over them. Fucking her was like sticking your dick in a milking machine.

“Not so bad now, are you, bad boy?” With one hand still gripping the iron bar, Galiana slid out the partial denture that mimicked lateral incisors to either side of her front teeth, whereupon her fangs—curved, sharply pointed, and longer than Turek’s, because of her age—sprang down from their grooves in the roof of her mouth.

Setting the denture carefully on the windowsill, she yanked Oxy’s head forward by the hair and glided her tongue up the side of his neck from collarbone to jaw.

It’s about time.

Turek stepped out from behind his blind as he removed his own two-tooth denture, which he tucked into a pocket of his lambskin blazer. His hollow fangs snapped down, sparking electric tingles that buzzed along the conduits in the roof of his mouth all the way to his cock, which grew half-erect in anticipation.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Author Guest Post - Cathy Maxwell (& a Giveaway!)

* Congrats to lucky winner - Bridget*

Readers, it's my pleasure to introduce today's guest blogger, Author Cathy Maxwell! Cathy is the NYT best-selling author of twenty adventurous historical romance novels. Her latest book is The Earl Claims His Wife from Avon Books (Oct ’09) and is part of her “Scandals and Seductions” series.

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PILGRIMAGES


And She Looked Longingly in His Direction--

Ugh! Blah!

I don’t understand people who think “romance” is nothing more than heated feelings between a man and a woman. How boring is that? How long can it last? Eventually someone smokes that mental cigarette and we are d-o-n-e.

A new reader to Romance commented to me that she was surprised by the action, the adventure, the fun she’d discovered in romance novels. And I said, “Of course, it’s romance.”

And she didn’t get it. A lot of people don’t get it (and a good portion of them are reporters).

Romance isn’t something that just blooms between two people and then disappears, lost in the daily drudge of work, bills, and laundry. (Or it shouldn’t because that is the recipe for divorce.) Romance is that which captures our imaginations, what makes us happy to be alive, that makes us realize we are alive.

It’s opening ourselves up to possibilities, to putting thought to action and breaking away from the ordinary. Or it’s making the ordinary, extraordinary--the little note tucked in a lunch bag, the dinner on the table, the phone call reminder.

Romance can be the Big Idea. There is romance behind the desire to solve the problems of this world, even behind the heated debates. Certainly there is romance in the valor of men and women who step forward to willingly place their lives on the line for an ideal--freedom, justice, honor. Wonderful words packed with purpose.

I find romance in adventure. In forcing myself to try something different. In never allowing myself to grow bored with life. Or fearful. Or sad. I actually take pilgrimages in search of romance. I went to Machu Pichu thinking I would find something miraculous. All I found was a pile of stones, but then I turned in the opposite direction and was blown away by the setting. I understood why those ancients had chosen this place for their homes and temple. I was humbled by their magnitude of their vision and absolutely charmed by the grace, intelligence, and spirit of the modern day Peruvians themselves. Hmmmm . . . I did find something miraculous, didn’t I?

Yes, we write about romancing dukes and princes, grocery store magnets, cops, robbers, men in kilts, and women with fangs. It’s fun, it’s passionate . . . but it also speaks to what is true--having someone you love who loves you with equal passion, in spite of the your flaws and maybe because of them, is a precious gift. Love adds romance to every single day.

And, my friends, if that isn’t worth reading, I don’t know what is.

Cathy Maxwell is the NYT best-selling author of twenty adventurous historical romance novels. Her latest book is THE EARL CLAIMS HIS WIFE from Avon Books (Oct ’09) and is part of her “Scandals and Seductions” series. You can find Cathy at www.cathymaxwell.com or visiting the Taj Mahal (the next adventure!).
You said it, Cathy! Romance has to be nurtured, like all the better things in life. Well, there you go readers. Pick up a romance novel and be proud of it! And now for the interesting part, the...

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of The Earl Claims His Wife will go to one lucky reader!

To Enter
  • Just leave a comment with your email address in the body of the comment itself telling me : what does "Romance" mean to you? If that's too complicated, describe your dream date with the hero/heroine of your dreams!
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

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Deadline   Midnight CST of October 26, 2009.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Author Guest Post - Jimmy Root Jr.

Today I'm pleased to welcome Jimmy Root Jr., author of Distant Thunder: Book One of the Lightning Chronicles. His guest post here today is part of this book's virtual tour, courtesy Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

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What Does Plausibility have to do With It?
 

Have you ever listened to a storyteller spin a yarn and all the while you were thinking, “This makes no sense?” The reason you came to that conclusion was either because that particular bard was terrible at telling a story or, the story itself didn’t promote plausibility.

As my fingers were sending sparks flying from my keyboard in the writing of Distant Thunder, every ounce of grey matter in my head was pulsating. It was shouting, “Keep It Plausible Stupid. Make it believable!” So, I took the headlines being broadcast on the news and projected my story into the world of current events and how they align to Bible prophecy. The trick worked. My story immediately took on a level of believability that captivates the reader.

How does a writer create plausibility?

I believe there are two distinct methods the writer can use in creating a tale that is plausible.

The first is the creation of a true-to-life scenario, with characters that reflect at least some elements of authentic human nature. Take for instance the popular series “Smallville.” The setting is a small Kansas farm town where Clark Kent got his start in life on earth. His character eventually transforms into Superman, but in the developmental years, Clark goes through all of the emotional ups and downs that the rest of us had to suffer. The only difference was that Clark could pick up a tractor and throw it across the county. What makes the story plausible is the realism of the setting and the human likeness in the future Superman. We all know there is no such thing as a Superman, but because we see he battles the same inner drama as the rest of us, we are willing to accept his fictional existence. We are easily pulled into his continuing saga. That is plausibility.

There is a second method of producing plausibility in a story. It has to do with how the characters see themselves and the setting in which they exist. For example, no one in their right mind believes there is a way to travel at ten times the speed of light. It is a physical impossibility, at least with our limited scientific knowledge. But the crew members of the USS Enterprise have believed it since Gene Rodenberry created them. Therefore, we join in on their adventures to go where no one has gone before, and we suck it all in as if we were there. Why? Because Captains Kirk and Piccard see every world they discover, every alien they face, and every circumstance they encounter as completely plausible. Only Spock has difficulty from time to time with plausibility. He can’t see beyond his logic. Logically speaking, warp drive doesn’t exist in the real world, but it does exist on Star Trek. One can easily see the concept. If it is plausible to the character, it is more palatably plausible to the reader.

As you write your story, ask yourself a couple pertinent questions. Does the near-reality of the story lend itself to plausibility? Is my story believable because of its reflection of authenticity? Is my wild scenario plausible to the characters I have created? If the answer is yes to any one of these questions, your story is probably quite believable.

Thanks for that interesting post, dear author. Readers, as always your thoughts and comments are most welcome!

You can visit his website at www.lightningchronicles.com or his blog at www.prophecyalert.blogspot.com. Connect with him on twitter at www.twitter.com/JimmyRootJr and Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimmyrootjr.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Author Guest Post - Julie Kenner

Readers, please join me welcoming Julie Kenner, author of the Demon Hunting Soccer Mom Series, who will be guest blogging here today!

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There is an old adage that instructs that a writer should “write what they know.” Frankly, I always thought that was a load of hoo-ey. After all, did Margaret Mitchell live through the Civil War? Did John Grisham sign on with a mob-run law firm immediately after law school? Did Madeline L’Engle travel by tesseract?

And yet, despite the fact that a goodly portion of my books dive deep into the world of the paranormal, I can honestly say that with each and every book, I do in fact write what I know. Because the adage isn’t meant to be taken literally. Instead, it refers to those basic human emotions that drive both life and solid fiction. Emotions that make us laugh and cry and connect with the characters in a story.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that real life experience never comes in to play. Back when I was practicing law and succumbing to the siren’s call of fiction, I drifted naturally toward legal thrillers (or perhaps not naturally, as I never managed to write past the third chapter of any of my false-start books). Later, when I became a mom, both the experiences and the emotions of motherhood became key components of my demon-hunting soccer mom series of books.

I can even remember the inspiration for the soccer mom books. At the time, I wrote primarily romance novels, and I was out of contract and racking my brain for a new story idea. I’d been writing light, tongue-in-cheek stories, but I had an urge to write something with both a paranormal bent and strong heroes. I didn’t have a story idea, but I did have an image: Five warriors striding over a hill with long knives and scarred faces. They were demon-hunters, and they’d led hard, loveless lives.

As I was pondering how to bring romance to my hunters, I was also busy pondering another area that I’d like to write in: chick lit. Bridget Jones’ Diary had drawn attention to books with spunky female narrators, and the classification of “chick lit” was born. But while I loved reading chick lit, I wasn’t as interested in writing it. At the time, I was a mom with an eighteen month old, still sleepless, still carrying a hefty portion of the sixty—yes, sixty—pounds of baby weight I’d gained (all gone now, thank you very much!). Frankly, I wasn’t much interested in the job trials and boyfriend tribulations of a girl in the city. Where was the book about me?

There weren’t many, and as I pondered that void my mind was also churning about my demon hunters. And then, like that infamous Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial, the two ideas came crashing together. What if I wrote a book about a mom who was a demon hunter? Now that was something I could get behind. At the time I was juggling a husband, a kid, a high stress job as an attorney, and a writing career. Trust me when I say I had demons a-plenty in my life!

I plunked myself in front of the computer and banged out the first chapter of Carpe Demon in about an hour. Kate Connor was born, and to this day she remains one of my favorite literary companions. Not only because she can take out a demon with a can of Diet Coke and a Happy Meal toy, but because she’s one-hundred percent mom (well, except for the percentage that’s a demon hunter, but Kate’s not that great at math, either).

When I sat down to write the stories, my goal was to not only entertain, but also to accurately portray some of the emotional rollercoaster that a working mom faces. And, yes, Kate kills demons. And, yes, she keeps her job a secret from her family (or she did at first), but so much of what she goes through is faced by both working moms and stay-at-home moms. The trauma of putting a toddler into daycare. The guilt when a mom realizes the all-over effectiveness of Bribery By Nabisco or Babysitting By PBS. The stress of maintaining a relationship with a hormonal teenager.

So I suppose in writing Kate I did write what I know. Maybe there’s something to that adage after all.

But as for the demonic bad guys? Well, as for those, I’m going to fall back on my legal background and plead the Fifth …

Thanks for that great post, dear author! You can visit Julie at her website - www.juliekenner.com.

As always, your thoughts and comments are most welcome, readers.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Author Guest Post - Randall Lang

Today I'm pleased to welcome Author Randall Lang. His guest post here today is part of this book's virtual tour, courtesy Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

I GOTTA’ STOP DRIVING ON SUNDAY

As a recovering roadrunner, I have been mercifully able to forget most of the silly things that I used to see during my 2-1/2 hours of daily commuting. Benefitting from the side effects of chronology and accumulation, I no longer have to squeeze my metallic missile among hundreds of others trying desperately to get to the slave ship by the appointed hour, followed by the whole thing in reverse eight insufferable hours later. Like a man awakened from a coma, I have rediscovered the joy of driving during non-rush hours on two-lane roads without feeling the insatiable need to pass everything in front of me. It is a luxury to which I have quickly adapted and enjoy immensely. Then I dropped my guard!

Forget that I should know better, I hit the interstate highway late on a Sunday afternoon. They were all waiting for me! The entire cadre of crazies, lost souls, tuners, boom-boxers, left-laners, designated speed controllers, mating tractor-trailers, and numerous other accidents waiting to happen who remain, as of yet, unlabelled. It was frightening! I took the first available exit to the parallel ‘scenic’ two-lane route. Even though I had escaped traffic bedlam, the old instincts and thought processes had, by now, been aroused. Cruising easily through small towns and villages without names, I began to relax and look around.

I have a car with a convertible top, and I adore it. Barring driving rain or blowing snow, that top is down and I am enjoying sights, sounds, and smells that are simply unavailable to those who ‘cage up’ behind tinted glass and breath artificially-chilled recycled air in cars sealed tighter than an RCA vacuum tube. This particular day was cloudless, eighty degrees, and gorgeous. Among the traffic coming in the other direction were several other convertible cars, all with top up and windows closed. “Why’d you buy it?” Why would someone spend the extra money for a convertible car if they aren’t going to use it? If not on such a beautiful day, then when? As I travelled on, other oddities confronted me. Ahead was a car built in Korea with an American flag sticker on the back. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a Korean flag on a Korean car? I’ve never figured out why anyone would by a car from a country that can’t make a shirt, but to each his own.

I saw lots of pick-up trucks, many with big wheels and loud exhausts, but none was hauling anything but people. If you don’t have to haul anything, wouldn’t it make more sense to drive a car and rent a truck for the occasions when you haul stuff? I was jarred from my thoughts by the passing of a ‘tuner’ with an enormous stereo system that threatened to deafen me and an exhaust system that sounded like an angry wasp on steroids trapped in a tin can. Does it make sense to have a car with less power than your stereo speakers? I gotta’ stop driving on Sunday, it makes my head hurt.

Randall Lang grew up in the tough coalfields of southwestern Pennsylvania where nothing comes easily. It is a world of limited opportunity and few roles to follow. Dreams are quickly vanquished in the shadows of necessity and creativity is usually buried beneath an avalanche of cynicism. However, epiphanies come in all shapes, sizes, and in a wide range of locations. In the dark and quiet world of the underground worksite, the stories within him began to take form. Years later, Randall is the author of eight books of erotic stories published by Renaissance E Books, has contributed to two erotic anthologies, and the recently released Magnificent Man, a romance story published by Midnight Showcase. Randall’s erotic works include the five volume Trailer Park Nights series and three books of erotic short stories. These are available at http://shop.renebooks.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=120. His newest release, Magnificent Man, is available from Midnight Showcase at

http://www.midnightshowcase.com/MagniMan.htm.

Visit Randall’s website, The Worlds of Randall Lang, www.randalllang.com.

Or his blog, The Mind of Randall Lang, www.randalllang.blogspot.com. It’s a strange place to be.

Randall now lives historically on an historic island in historic Wheeling, West Virginia.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Author Guest Post - Allyson Roy

Readers, please join me welcoming Allyson Roy who will be guest blogging here today!
 
Allyson Roy translates into Alice & Roy, husband and wife collaborating authors. They both have backgrounds in the arts -- Alice in dance and Roy in theater and stand-up comedy. Their first Saylor Oz novel won a Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. The second in the series, Babydoll, was just released.
 



Madcap Noir
 

In music it’s called a fusion genre -- the blending of two or more genres and not fitting squarely into any. Having spent years crossing over several areas of the arts, we like the idea of inclusion, of not being bound to rigid ideas of what a particular kind of book has to be. Of course this creates the risk factor of not meeting the expectations of certain readers -- and the challenge of branding our series without a traditional label.

So in trying to come up with a way to define our Saylor Oz crime adventures, we chose to name our style Madcap Noir.

Madcap because of the over-the-top comedy that dominates our storylines. Yes we push the envelope. We like to. Our goal is to offer a fun ride, even if it means giving a little ground in the hard realism department. Madcap also conjures up images of reckless mishaps. And it seems to suit our protagonist, whose name, Oz, was chosen for its connection to the bizarre.

Saylor is a warmhearted, game bumbler who is loyal to her BFF and sometimes gets a bit distracted by men with muscled torsos. What would a classic noir movie like Gilda be without the sexy elements? Into the soup of gritty, urban crime and hip characters we mix a healthy dose of heat and a fun female perspective.

DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), where our protagonist lives, has a beautiful noir atmosphere that makes it an ideal setting for a crime novel. Subway trains rumbling overhead along the underbelly of the bridge. The lights reflecting off the East River at night. The canyon-like feel of narrow, Belgian brick cobbled streets surrounded by giant, industrial-era warehouses.

Yet this vintage waterfront setting is also a hybrid, where upscale art galleries and boutiques co-exist with one of the toughest boxing gyms in the world and housing projects only blocks away. You can check out a few photos on our Behind the Series page.

I'm almost done reading this book and I could NOT put it down! With lots of male eye candy and a sex-therapist heroine on a crusade to free someone wrongly imprisoned and who just doesn't know when to quit (or keep her mouth shut about sex toys!) the novel is a fun, fast-paced suspense with a comic edge that keeps the reader mesmerized. To be honest, I thought seeing practically every episode of Law & Order had made me immune to all things dark and dangerous in NYC, but as it turns out, I wasn't. Through Saylor' eyes I was introduced to a new area of New York - DUMBO. It's as much a part of this novel as the heroine is and I so wish there had been a map or something in the book, so I could look it up and follow Oz in her adventures. And perhaps even visit it myself one day! Another thing this book made me crave (apart from the obvious, lol) was fragrance. Saylor loves perfumes and she has one for practically every occasion and they're as much a part of her diverse personality as her passion for porn - oh yeah, did I forget to mention that one?

If I've piqued your curiosity enough, then go read an excerpt here. And the authors' website is - http://www.allysonroy.com

Thank you for stopping by here, Allyson Roy. I'd love to host you again, perhaps when the next book in the series comes out? Can't wait for it!
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Monday, September 21, 2009

A Talk with Kris Radish, Author of The Shortest Distance...

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THE SHORTEST DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO WOMEN is your first novel set in the South. Why did you choose to set this book in a small South Carolina town?

I love to write about all the places in-between what some people think are the “real cities”—New York, San Francisco, Chicago. I think the heart of the world lies in the people and places of communities where there is a foundation of simple openness … where there’s a town snoop and people know what day you water your lawn. I also like to write about areas I want to visit. Ironically, much like my central protagonist in this novel, I got caught up with my own life and family and was not able to go to South Carolina for an extended research visit. Instead I relied on prior visits and research. I really do live my novels.

Your central protagonist, Emma Gilford, is an avid gardener; in fact, the gardens in the novel have such a presence that they almost become a character in their own right. What role do gardens play in Emma’s life? What role have they played in yours?

Well, first of all I’m a Radish! For Emma, her garden is her place of comfort, her own private family, in essence, and the place where she always feels safe. It’s important for all of us to have a sanctuary like that.

I was avid about my gardens when my children were growing up. It was my refuge and I could still keep an eye on them. Now, my “garden” is my work … and how I love pulling the words—I mean weeds!

Emma’s 78-year-old mother is a force of nature—a single parent with multiple love interests and an irreverent sense of humor who reigns as queen bee over her adult daughters. Is she based on anyone you know (or would like to know)?

Marty’s a brassy, wild, beautiful woman full of heart and love. There’s always a little bit of me in every character, and pieces of women I imagine and have known as well. Someday I will be a wild grandma too (not for a while … please!) and I hope I can let go of my children with grace and embrace our lives as touching, yet separate.

Emma is single herself, but she has a particularly close—almost maternal—bond with her 16-year-old niece Stephie. What does the aunt-niece relationship offer that a mother-daughter relationship might not? Have you experienced a similar bond in your own life?

I think it’s crucial for young women to have a relationship like that with an aunt, a neighbor, a teacher … someone you can share your heart with and be open with in a way that helps you navigate the rough waters toward adulthood. I had that with my Aunt Barbara. Ours was a very special, open, loving relationship—and she made me feel like I was the most wonderful girl in the world.

You have said that THE SHORTEST DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO WOMEN is, in many ways, about the assumptions we make about members of our family and the roles we play as a result. Can you explain?

We all do it, and it’s not necessarily the correct way to live. We do not know what is in another’s heart and soul and mind unless we ask them and have an open line of communication. It’s not easy; when we assume we know how someone lives and feels, we are often wrong. Open your heart and see what happens … the truth is usually not what we assume it is. And everything—absolutely everything—can change.

As the novel progresses, the Gilford sisters’ lives and the whole town careen toward a pivotal (and in wonderful ways comical) annual event: The Gilford Family Reunion. Has there been a Radish Family Reunion—and if so is there a Radish Family Reunion Bible (and/or photos you’d like to share)?

You caught me! There is a Radish Family Reunion and the planning book is downstairs in my kitchen cabinet. And we have an auction … and it’s wild wonderful fun … maybe not as wild as the Gilford reunion but very nearly so. I’m going back to Wisconsin to get some photos—and after I weed out the bad ones, I will share. I promise!

Toward the end of the novel, Stephie surprises everyone in her family by entering a beauty pageant—and many of your readers may be surprised to find one in your fiction as well. Why did you choose to include it?

Besides the fact that life is a pageant of sorts, where we dress up and sometimes unfortunately act and look the way others expect us to look, I wanted to address the notion of beauty. I also want my readers and everyone to know that we should all be the Queen of our own lives every single day that we live. It’s our life!

You have recently moved to the Southeast yourself (Apollo Beach, FL). To what extent does living in a new place change the shape of your life?

Change is such a good thing! A new view opens up fresh worlds (and words) of thought. It’s like recharging a battery every single time I look out the window. My heart, and life, have a new coat of paint—and it’s given my writing new ground as well.

What can your readers expect to see next from you?

I am days away from finishing my seventh novel, Hearts on a String, which is set in Florida and is a wild, hilarious, exciting story that addresses the notion of chance, risk, friendship and love in a way that should knock people’s flip-flops right off their lovely feet!

*** Reproduced here with Publisher's permission ***
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Giveaway - The Laird Who Loved Me by Karen Hawkins

* Congrats to lucky winner - Margay *

Author Karen Hawkins has generously put up a copy of her latest hit, The Laird Who Loved Me, to giveaway to one lucky reader here! By the way, the book's on it's third week on the NYTimes list - Kudos, Karen!

About the Book - Handsome Alexander MacLean enjoyed his intoxicating flirtation with lovely Caitlyn Hurst...until she embarrassed him in front of the entire ton. Orchestrating Caitlyn's attendance at a fashionable house party, Alexander plots her downfall. But to his fury, her charm and wit thwart his plan to ruin her.

Her disastrous London season left Caitlyn filled with regret and determined to make things right with Alexander. She's delighted to find him at the house party to which she's unexpectedly invited -- but it's clear that the sexy, arrogant Highlander hasn't forgiven her. So Caitlyn comes up with a bold scheme, proposing an unusual contest drawn from legend: each must complete a set of "mythic" tasks. If Caitlyn succeeds, Alexander promises to relent and forgive her previous rash behavior; if he succeeds, she will join him in his bed! But can Caitlyn force Alexander to give up his quest for vengeance without giving up her heart in return?

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Let's have fun with this! This book's title is sort of James Bond-ish (The Spy Who Loved Me), right? So how about you leave a comment making a romantic title out of any James Bond movie title. Like say, The Man with the Golden Heart (from the Bond movie, The Man With the Golden Gun). You get my drift. Make it intense, make it saucy or make it a tear-jerker! Whatever, have fun with it, Bond style. 
  • One title per comment.
  • Come back each day and leave a new comment with another James Bond-ish romantic title. Only condition is, it has to be something unique and not what someone has already commented with. And you can't use my suggestion, ok?
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of October 20, 2009.

Eligibility  US only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Author Guest Post - Michelle Moran (and a Giveaway!)

* Congrats to lucky winner - Beth *

Readers, please join me welcoming Michelle Moran, author of Cleopatra's Daughter who will be guest blogging here today!
 



 
Michelle Moran has traveled around the world, from Zimbabwe to India, and her experiences at archaeological sites were what inspired her to write historical fiction. A public high school teacher for six years, Michelle Moran is currently a full-time writer living in California with her husband. She is the author of the bestselling historical fiction Nefertiti and its standalone sequel, The Heretic Queen. Her third novel, Cleopatra's Daughter, released September 15, 2009.

Three Princesses


For every novel I have written, I can look back and say that there has been a very specific moment of inspiration - usually in some exotic locale or inside a museum - where I’ve said, “Aha! That’s going to be the subject of my next novel.” I never began my writing career with the intention to write books about three different princesses in Egypt. In fact, I had no intention of writing about ancient Egypt at all until I participated in my first archaeological dig.

During my sophomore year in college, I found myself sitting in Anthropology 101, and when the professor mentioned that she was looking for volunteers who would like to join a dig in Israel, I was one of the first students to sign up. When I got to Israel, however, all of my archaeological dreams were dashed (probably because they centered around Indiana Jones). There were no fedora wearing men, no cities carved into rock, and certainly no Ark of the Covenant. I was very disappointed. Not only would a fedora have seemed out of place, but I couldn’t even use the tiny brushes I had packed. Apparently, archaeology is more about digging big ditches with pickaxes rather than dusting off artifacts. And it had never occurred to me until then that in order to get to those artifacts, one had to dig deep into the earth. Volunteering on an archaeological dig was hot, it was sweaty, it was incredibly dirty, and when I look back on the experience through the rose-tinged glasses of time, I think, Wow, was it fantastic! Especially when our team discovered an Egyptian scarab that proved the ancient Israelites had once traded with the Egyptians. Looking at that scarab in the dirt, I began to wonder who had owned it, and what had possessed them to undertake the long journey from their homeland to the fledgling country of Israel.

On my flight back to America I stopped in Berlin, and with a newfound appreciation for Egyptology, I visited the museum where Nefertiti’s limestone bust was being housed. The graceful curve of Nefertiti’s neck, her arched brows, and the faintest hint of a smile were captivating to me. Who was this woman with her self-possessed gaze and stunning features? I wanted to know more about Nefertiti’s story, but when I began the research into her life, it proved incredibly difficult. She’d been a woman who’d inspired powerful emotions when she lived over three thousand years ago, and those who had despised her had attempted to erase her name from history. Yet even in the face of such ancient vengeance, some clues remained.

As a young girl Nefertiti had married a Pharaoh who was determined to erase the gods of Egypt and replace them with a sun-god he called Aten. It seemed that Nefertiti’s family allowed her to marry this impetuous king in the hopes that she would tame his wild ambitions. What happened instead, however, was that Nefertiti joined him in building his own capital of Amarna where they ruled together as god and goddess. But the alluring Nefertiti had a sister who seemed to keep her grounded, and in an image of her found in Amarna, the sister is standing off to one side, her arms down while everyone else is enthusiastically praising the royal couple. From this image, and a wealth of other evidence, I tried to recreate the epic life of an Egyptian queen whose husband was to become known as the Heretic King.

Each novel I’ve written has had a similar moment of inspiration for me. In many ways, my second book, The Heretic Queen is a natural progression from Nefertiti. The narrator is orphaned Nefertari, who suffers terribly because of her relationship to the reviled "Heretic Queen". Despite the Heretic Queen's death a generation prior, Nefertari is still tainted by her relationship to Nefertiti, and when young Ramesses falls in love and wishes to marry her, it is a struggle not just against an angry court, but against the wishes of a rebellious people.

But perhaps I would never have chosen to write on Nefertari at all if I hadn't seen her magnificent tomb. At one time, visiting her tomb was practically free, but today, a trip underground to see one of the most magnificent places on earth can cost upwards of five thousand dollars (yes, you read that right). If you want to share the cost and go with a group, the cost lowers to the bargain-basement price of about three thousand. As a guide told us of the phenomenal price, I looked at my husband, and he looked at me. We had flown more than seven thousand miles, suffered the indignities of having to wear the same clothes for three days because of lost luggage… and really, what were the possibilities of our ever returning to Egypt again? There was only one choice. We paid the outrageous price, and I have never forgotten the experience.

While breathing in some of the most expensive air in the world, I saw a tomb that wasn't just fit for a queen, but a goddess. In fact, Nefertari was only one of two (possibly three) queens ever deified in her lifetime, and as I gazed at the vibrant images on her tomb - jackals and bulls, cobras and gods - I knew that this wasn't just any woman, but a woman who had been loved fiercely when she was alive. Because I am a sucker for romances, particularly if those romances actually happened, I immediately wanted to know more about Nefertari and Ramesses the Great. So my next stop was the Hall of Mummies at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There, resting beneath a heavy arc of glass, was the great Pharaoh himself. For a ninety-something year old man, he didn't look too bad. His short red hair was combed back neatly and his face seemed strangely peaceful in its three thousand year repose. I tried to imagine him as he'd been when he was young - strong, athletic, frighteningly rash and incredibly romantic. Buildings and poetry remain today as testaments to Ramesses's softer side, and in one of Ramesses's more famous poems he calls Nefertari "the one for whom the sun shines." His poetry to her can be found from Luxor to Abu Simbel, and it was my visit to Abu Simbel (where Ramesses built a temple for Nefertari) where I finally decided that I had to tell their story.
It’s the moments like this that an historical fiction author lives for. And it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that my decision to write Cleopatra’s Daughter came on an underwater dive to see the submergd city of ancient Alexandria. Traveling has been enormously important in my career. My adventures end up inspiring not only what I’m currently writing, but what I’m going to write about in the future.




Visit CleopatrasDaughter.com

Check out Michelle's blog at michellemoran.blogspot.com

Thank you for stopping by here today, Michelle. It was a pleasure to host you! And I look forward to doing it again, perhaps for your next book (hint, hint!).

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A hardcover copy of Cleo's Daughter as well as an ancient Roman coin complete with certificate of authenticity (like the one on Michelle's website here) will go to one lucky reader of this blog.

To Enter
  • Just leave a comment with your email address in the body of the comment itself telling me : which historical figure you'd like to see featured in Michelle's next book?
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Deadline   Midnight CST of October 19, 2009.

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And lastly, remember to visit Michelle as she's hosting several contests on her website. The prizes include signed copies of Cleopatra's Daughter, gold Cleopatra earrings, and Roman artifacts.

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