Friday, July 31, 2009

Let your Voice be Heard!

Today is the final day to vote in my STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest. I've been thrilled by the response and it's been such fun to watch the leading name change, sometimes several times a day. This one's going to be close!

In case you haven't heard about this contest, there's still time (just not much of it!). Every good hero needs a BFF (and trust me, Crispin Hawke, who looks remarkable like the fellow in this delicious Fortin & Sanders pic, is a very BAD hero in the very best way!) But I wanted my readers to help me name this important secondary character for STROKE OF GENIUS.

Back in June, readers sent in their suggestions for the name of Crispin's friend and manservant. Then at the beginning of July, I had a dickens of a time narrowing the field to the top ten names. Here they are in no particular order:

Phineas Rowan
Thaddeus Puck
Caleb Flynn
Gordon Rigsby
Bryce Wickham
Nash Rowley
Tuck Willet
Hoyt Pennington
Addison Quinn
Jasper Willoughby

So which name do you think best fits this quirky, supportive fellow who cuts a wide swath of his own through the ranks of the London ladies' maids? Make your pick and then click HERE to vote!

If you've already voted, you can't vote again, but you can still support your favorite. Please always encourage your family and friends to vote. (They must at least 18 and hopefully someone who'd be interested in reading the finished book!)

Everyone who votes is registered in the drawing for a WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS! It's a great way to stock up on beach reads and you'll know soon if you've won! Please check for the results tomorrow!

Thanks again to everyone who submitted a name and all of you who've voted! I always feel that characters define the course of a book and a character's name is very important. You all have a stake in the story of STROKE OF GENIUS now. I'm working hard to make a good one for you.

If you have a strong opinion about the name you voted for, please leave a comment to share which one and why! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Upcoming Interviews

I've been a quiet on this blog lately, mostly because last week I was driving around the beautiful southwest for both R&R and research into my Stormwalker series (coming next year from Berkley). We drove from deserts to 12K-foot mountains and down into dramatic canyons, through storm after storm and witnessed spectacular sunsets. I visited ancient ruins, ate fantastic food, and wore myself out. Oh, and of course, shopped!

Anyway, now that I'm back, I'm pounding the keys, writing Mac and Isabella's story. Doing fun things with train journeys and Devonshire cream.

Coming up in the next couple weeks, I'll be interviewing Erin Quinn, who debuts with
Haunting Beauty next week. I did a quote for this book, and just loved it. She'll be here Aug. 6.

Then the fabulous Emma Holly, one of my all-time favorite authors will be here the following week (Aug 13). Her August release is
Saving Midnight which finishes up a vampire trilogy begun in June.

And in September, the equally fabulous Nalini Singh, she of Psy-Changling fame. She's in a way cool anthology (
Must Love Hellhounds) in September that I sooooo have to read! I have her scheduled for Sept. 4.

We'll be doing giveaways of backlist and fun stuff like that.

I also have a release in September (
Mortal Seductions by Allyson James)...maybe I should interview myself? :-) I can do a giveaway here for that in Sept as well.

In the meantime, stay cool and read books!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini???

Feast or famine!

Some summers my garden is overtaken by squash borers and refuses to produce a single zucchini (zucchino??). That's not the case this year - I've got zucchini coming out my ears!

I sent out a plea on facebook for recipes and got some fantastic suggestions and links to recipe sites. Grilled zucchini, zucchini lasagna, stuffed zucchini, zucchini bread, zucchini frittata...

By far the most unusual -- and tasty -- recipe is Chocolate Zucchini Cake. This cake was so moist and yummy! My two teenage sons, who would not be caught dead eating zucchini on its on, practically inhaled it. I found it here

I omitted the cinnamon and the nuts. I didn't make the icing glaze, but just used cream cheese icing from a can. 45 minutes cooking time was plenty for my oven - I think 50 minutes would have dried the cake out a bit too much. I suspect this cake would be great with coconut, but since the kids don't like coconut, I didn't try it. If you do, let me know how it turns out!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

* 2 1/2 cups regular all-purpose flour, unsifted
* 1/2 cup cocoa
* 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 3/4 cup soft butter
* 2 cups sugar
* 3 eggs
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
* 2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
* Glaze (directions follow)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

1 Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

2 With a mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are smoothly blended. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini.

3 Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture, including the nuts with the last addition.

4 Pour the batter into a greased and flour-dusted 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes (test at 45 minutes!) or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly.

5 Drizzle glaze over cake.

Glaze: Mix together 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 Tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth.

Cut in thin slices to serve. Makes 10-12 servings.

I dare you to TRY to eat just one piece. It can't be done!!!

Joy Nash

Available NOW!

A Little Light Magic

Summer at the Jersey Shore has never been so hot!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Hi all, I've been under the weather and buried since RWA, which was great. I got a great review for DARKNESS OF THE WOLF, my August Bite.

Here's the blurb:
Imprisoned and tortured by demons, Guy Laurent thought the only way he could escape was through death. Then he is offered a chance a freedom by recovering a girl with the help of former Draicon Kayla Morris...

Even though Kayla has been warned that Guy is a dangerous and savage wolf, his scent—and his kiss—makes her wildness surface. But despite both their inner wolves howling to mate, Kayla must fight their attraction—or risk unleashing the deadly gift she hates...

This BITE is now available through eHarlequin. Click here.

This is only the second Bite I've written, and I have to admit I like it much better than Broken Souls. There is just something about Guy, dark, tormented, and wanting to turn away from the world.

Love those dark heroes.

Amelia Richard reviewed this book for CataRomance (her review will be posted this weekend) Here's what she has to say:

4.5 Stars

"DARKNESS OF THE WOLF is a spellbinding combination of magick, passion and destiny, where revelations await the dynamically endearing couple.

Heartrending at times, passionate during other circumstances and always emotionally satisfying. DARKNESS OF THE WOLF touches you on some level during every scene. Bonnie Vanak throws in some surprising twists and plenty of heartfelt sentiments to keep you totally mesmerized throughout the entire story.

The humans who visit Savage Kingdom Zoo have no idea the animals they see in cages are actually werecreatures being held there because of a past transgression. The demon caretakers are brutal and make certain those held prisoner at the zoo suffer when defiant. Guy Laurent is a Draicon werewolf who has experienced many years of agonizing loneliness because of a betrayal, and though he has vowed to never help another again, he will agree to an unanticipated offer which might lead to his being set free. Morphs, the worst enemy to his kind, have attacked a pack living on a Caribbean island, and his help is needed to bring the lone survivor back to the United States. Guy is to work with Kayla Morris, and if they are successful within five days, he will not have to return to his hellish prison.

With dangerous threats possible on this mission, Kayla is being forced to work with a supposedly violent wolf shape-shifter though she does not like his kind at all. She just wants to complete this assignment and collect the money which is needed to keep her company from closing. When she picks up Guy, she is stunned by the affect he has on her but plans to keep their relationship strictly professional. Though they have differing opinions about how to handle the mission at first, trust must be formed between them in order to find the missing girl and return her to the States. Guy and Kayla also come to realize what is missing in their lonely lives.

DARKNESS OF THE WOLF delivers what the Silhouette Nocturne BITES line promises, as there are dark paranormal elements perfectly entwined with an emotionally fervent romance.
Though these stories are short, Bonnie Vanak manages to pack her tale with an abundance of touching moments overflowing with sincere feelings. I was profoundly moved by the scenes where Guy obviously felt much anguish, as the physical suffering and aloneness felt by him was extremely palpable. My feelings for this hero ran deep, as his caring for others could not be suppressed, regardless of his own misery. Kayla is also a tortured soul, as she endured much emotional pain when younger yet has persevered. This skilled author amazingly has the reader connecting with these two in a short amount of time, as their future happiness quickly becomes important.

Each of the previous Nocturnes by Ms. Vanak feature the Draicon, a race of werewolves with distinguishing backgrounds, and this story adds another fascinating installment to this series. Their enemy, the Morph, is still causing havoc to the werewolf packs thus affecting their lives in unexpected ways. There are also some stunning disclosures during the story, ones which make future releases in the series highly anticipated. Whether it is a scene filled with sexual tension leading to a blazingly steamy intimate encounter or one brimming with emotionally dramatic incidents, every instant is particularly realistic. Magically enchanting plus emotively poignant, DARKNESS OF THE WOLF captivates and entertains. "

I must say, I do like writing the shorter stories. This Bite is less than 15,000 words. It's a challenge to pack everything into a short story, and I hope I succeeded with Darkness of the Wolf.

Special thanks to Jennifer Ashley, who gave me great advice on writing shorts!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back to my series on when a story doesn't work

When researching victorian England for my Steampunk proposal I came up with an interesting fact. The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show appeared in England in 1887. I try to remain as historically actuate as possible, even though this book has fantasy elements and thowing a cowboy who is very good with his guns into the mix set my heart all aflutter. I write cowboys well and it seemed much more interesting than writing your typical British Lord of that time. I needed someone who could be in the same social circle as my heroine but also be forbidden. So Dax became a cowboy with a past.

I wanted him to have a rough edge of danger but also be able to pass in the society of the day. So I created a history for him. Dax was raised my his grandmother, a grand society dame in Boston. His mother died in childbirth and his father, who was a Doctor was stricken with grief and took off for the west. When Dax reached his late teens he took off to find his father who was living with the Sioux. Dax fell in love with Rebekah who'd was raised in the tribe. She died from a plague along with his father and once more Dax took off to become a scout for the army. He was part of the hunt for Geronimo and at one time was captured and tortured by the Apache. AFter his rescue he decided he'd had enough of the west and wanted to travel. He hooked up with the Wild West show and became Kid Cochran, the fastest gun alive.

The following is the first chapter which contains the meet between the Hero and Heroine and hopefully draws the reader into the story.


April 14, 1887

“What ever is the hold up?” Thomas Chadwyke, Earl of Pemberton rapped the silver handle of his walking stick on the roof of the carriage to get the attention of his driver. They had come to a complete stop on Gloucester Street and the Earl’s impatience was as usual, quite evident.
“It seems to be some sort of parade Sir,” Harry, the driver called down from his perch. “Coming from the train station.”
“A parade?” The Earl stuck his head through the carriage window.
“Really, Thomas,” Evelyn, Countess Pemberton said. “Don’t be crass.”
The Earl ignored her as he hung out the window and exclaimed quite loudly. “It’s the Americans! And I believe those fellows wrapped up in blankets are Indians.” The Countess leaned forward and peered through the window on her side of the carriage as the Earl continued with his exclamations. “Good Lord, those must be buffalo.”
“Oh!” The Countess said as she sat back onto her seat. “The smell is quite dreadful.” She pulled an embroidered square of linen from her reticule and placed it over the lower half of her face. “Merritt,” she said to her daughter. “Quickly, cover your face before some horrid disease creeps in.”
Before Merritt could respond, or even protest, her nurse and constant companion, Rose, slapped a ready handkerchief over the lower half of Merritt’s face and held it there. Merritt knew from experience that it would do no good to protest, or even move as Rose, in direct contradiction to her name, was extremely strong for a woman.
It was one of the requirements Rose met when she was interviewed for the position after discreet inquires were made by her parents. They lived with the fear that Merritt would hurt herself when she was in the throes of one of her spells, therefore her nurse must have the physical strength to keep that from happening. Merritt always wondered what it was they expected to happen to her since her spells usually entailed her speaking of strange things while seeming to lose all touch with what was happening around her. She was glad to know that with Rose’s constant care she would not throw herself from a window or cut herself with a butter knife which were just a few of the ways her mother’s vivid imagination had conjured up for Merritt to injure herself.
Merritt placed her hand over Rose’s and smiled agreeably with her eyes, since that was all of her face that was showing. She practically sighed in relief when Rose released the linen into her care and went about the business of protecting her own mouth and nose from whatever dreaded disease her mother was going on about.
“I do wish they would hurry,” the Countess said. “We’re going to miss our appointment.” The countess peered out her window once more as if just looking at the delay would convince it to stop inconveniencing her. Merritt sat with her back to the front of her carriage so could not see what was creating the stir. She was tempted to look but knew it would result in more fussing from her mother and Rose so instead she stared complacently ahead and tried not to think about what the day held in store for her.
If only we would miss the appointment…That would not trouble Merritt in the least. It would be cause for much rejoicing on her part. She might even be tempted to join the parade of Americans herself if only to prolong it so that she could miss her appointment. Of course that would be enough to send her mother into one of her own spells. She did her best not to laugh aloud at the vision of her mother swooning into her father’s arms while their rebellious daughter chased down the street after buffalo and wild Indians. Luckily the handkerchief covered the quivering of her lips as she suppressed the urge.
“I do believe they are coming this way,” the Earl said. He resumed his seat. “There are policemen about directing the carriages to move over to the side.”
“Oh, if only we had known,” the Countess exclaimed. “We could have traveled another route.”
“It was my understanding that they were supposed to ride the train all the way to the exhibition grounds,” the Earl said. “I say, it will not do to have the streets of London run amok with these wild creatures.”
“Are you referring to the buffalo or the Indians?” The Countess asked.
“Both.” The carriage lurched as Harry urged the four in hand over. Merritt barely heard Harry’s faint apology over the drumming sound of hooves against the cobblestones that suddenly filled the streets. Shouts and whistles joined the cacophony of noise. Her curiosity finally got the best of her and she turned so that she could see out the window.
“Do be careful dear,” the Countess instructed.
“I just want to see,” Merritt said. A rider went by and she caught the bright stripes of a blanket trailing over the brown and white splotched coat of a horse. “Is that what they call a paint?” she asked her father.
“I believe so.” He leaned out the window once more and Merritt rose up to join him, conveniently leaving her handkerchief on her seat. Rose tried to grasp her arm to stop her. Merritt managed to gracefully avoid her nurse and looped her arm through her father’s so that she was pressed against his side. She knew they resembled a pair of children with their faces pressed against the glass of the sweet shop but she did not care. It was not often that her father’s natural exuberance took over and she wanted to relish the moment. Who knew how long it would last?
“Oh his hair is nearly as long as mine!” she exclaimed as another Indian rode by. This one had long black hair cascading down his back and a feather sticking up in the back. “I wonder if Buffalo Bill is among the riders.”
“From what I’ve read he should be easy to recognize. Perhaps he stayed with the train.”
“Could that be Annie Oakley?” Merritt saw a woman dressed in fringed buckskin and a gun belt around her waist go by on a beautiful palomino. The papers had been full of stories of the Wild West show and the people who were slated to appear with it. For the past few weeks Merritt read about Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Red Shirt the Indian, and Kid Cochran who the papers claimed was the fastest gun alive, whatever that meant. She supposed it could have something to do with quick draw or rapid firing. Whatever it was, it all seemed very exciting and adventurous, especially when one’s life seemed to center around doctor visits and the constant hovering of her mother, her maid, and Rose the nurse.
“We are going, aren’t we Papa?” she asked as a dozen or so buffalo went by with their shaggy humped backs reeking from too much confinement.
“We shall see.” His usual reply to her requests for some sort of normalcy in her life.
“I do not see how it could possibly be safe,” the Countess interjected.
“Evelyn,” the Earl said dryly. “Or course it will be safe. The Prince is planning to attend and the Queen has requested a private showing.”
Merritt allowed herself a small smile. Her father’s retort was quick assurance that they would attend the Wild West Show and most likely at the nearest opportunity. The first scheduled public performance was for May the ninth but it was well known among the members of parliament, of which her father was included, that there would be private showings before then. It was a small victory she relished to make up for the dreaded appointment that was to occur later on.
“Watch out!” her father suddenly exclaimed. The carriage lurched as Merritt crashed into her father who steadied her with his arm. “Are you hurt my dear?”
“No,” she said. “I am quite all right.”
“Thomas,” the Countess said. “Would you please do something about removing us before we are trampled by these creatures?”
“I’ll see what I can do.” The Earl quickly exited the carriage on the side that was closest to the buildings without waiting for his man Jerry, to open the door. Merritt knew it was only because he wanted a closer look at the commotion without listening to her mother’s constant concerns. She turned back to the window and was amazed to see a buffalo staring at her. The head with its protruding horns was immense and the humped back seemed to her to be as high as the carriage windows. If she wanted to, she could stretch out a gloved hand and touch the shaggy coat.
A piercing whistle sounded followed by a shout.” Get outa there!” There was a popping sound and the buffalo jumped away and joined its fellows as they trotted on down the street.
“Sorry about that.” A horse and rider stopped by the carriage. The horse was extraordinary, nothing like Merritt had ever seen before. Its nose was a deep blue black then the color faded to bluish gray before becoming white on its hindquarters. There was a spattering of blue-gray spots across its back that ended in a silky tail that seemed to be a blend of all three colors.
“Oh my,” Merritt exclaimed. “What type of horse is that?”
The rider rubbed the arched neck of the animal with pride. “This here is Katie,” he said. “And she’s what we call an Appaloosa.”
“She’s extraordinary.” Merritt said as her eyes moved from the horse to the muscular thigh that held the animal in check. Her breath quickened at the sight of the raw wildness that was within her reach.
“Yes she is.” The voice had a lazy drawl and it captured her, drawing her gaze to his face. She saw a strong jaw and straight nose beneath the brim of a wide hat the types of which she’d seen pictures of in the newspapers. The jaw was covered with a stubble of beard and strong white teeth flashed a grin at her from full lips. He wore a short brown coat with the collar turned up against the crisp cold air. There was a blue paisley scarf tied about his neck and buckskin pants tucked into brown boots. Much to her surprise a gun belt rode low on his left hip and was tied off around his thigh to keep it from moving. He coiled a short whip around a knob that protruded from his saddle.
Her mother craned her neck to see who she was talking to and gasped at the blatant display of weaponry.
“They’re all a bit frisky after being cooped up for so long,” he said with a wave at the small contingent of buffalo that trotted on down the cobblestones with the riders doing their best to keep them contained. “We all are,” he added.
“I would imagine so,” Merritt said. She felt a flutter of excitement inside as she studied the cowboy. He seemed mysterious and forbidden, like one of the scandalous romance novels she kept hidden beneath her mattress or the champagne her mother would not let her drink at parties lest it bring on another spell. She heard her mother’s hiss and felt the sharp tug on her skirt. She ignored it as the cowboy pushed back his hat so she could see the rest of his face.
Deep blue eyes gazed at her from beneath a flop of golden brown hair that touched his incredibly long lashes. He pushed the recalcitrant locks aside and gave her a wide grin. “I hope you’re coming to the show.” He looked at her, boldly, brazenly and a lazy smile turned up the corners of his full lips.
Merritt felt the heat of his eyes and her cheeks burned with his look. He sees me… For the first time someone was looking at her, as a person, whole into herself. She was so used to the whispers about her spells and the sympathetic looks of the servants or the constant worry that lined her parent’s faces. No one ever truly saw Merritt. They only saw the circumstances that surrounded her.
“It is my intent.” She returned his smile with a shy one of her own.
“Merritt!” Her mother’s voice was loud enough for the cowboy to hear. She was not surprised. It was unusual for her to engage in conversation with the prim and proper gentlemen of the peerage. Of course it would shock her mother to see her hanging from a carriage window, talking to a complete stranger who seemed so rough around the edges. It might even be considered dangerous, enough so that a thrill went down her spine.
“That’s a pretty name,” he drawled. “Don’t think I’ve ever heard that one before.”
“Thank you,” Merritt replied. “My father gave it to me.”
As if on cue her father stepped round from behind the carriage with Jerry close behind him. “Taking in the scenery?” he said to the cowboy.
“Yes sir,” the cowboy said as he looked between Merritt and her father. The relationship had to be obvious to even a stranger on the street. She had the same blonde hair and the same piercing blue eyes although she was grateful to be blessed with her mother’s nose and chin. Her mother was still considered to be a great beauty. Merritt’s beauty was always an addendum to her condition.
“That’s an interesting piece you’re wearing there,” the Earl said, motioning towards the gun strapped to the cowboy’s hip.”
“It gets the job done,” the cowboy said. His eyes changed, along with his posture. He was no longer open and easy. Suddenly he was more reserved, as if there were secrets that he was trying to protect.
“The way seems to be clear, sir,” Harry said from his post.
“Oh,” the Earl said. His disappoint was evident. “Well then, I supposed we must be off. The cowboy backed his horse away as Jerry opened the carriage door and her father stepped in. He leaned out the window once more. “Will we see you in the show?” he asked as Harry set the team in motion.
“Yes, sir,” the cowboy replied. “Just keep a lookout for Kid Cochran!” he called out after them. He tugged on the reins and Katie, the beautiful appaloosa, rose up on her hind legs and pawed the air as her rider lifted his arm in the air and let out a farewell whoop.
Merritt and her father clapped their approval of the show as Katie took off in a clatter of hooves after the retreating buffalo. The crowd gathered in the melting snow let out a collective gasp and then a cheer at the cowboy’s bravado.
Kid Cochran…The fastest gun alive. And to think she had met him boldly on the street. Her friend Caro would never believe it.
It would make for much better conversation than the coming appointment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blogging As A Writing Avoidance Activity

from Emily Bryan ...

We're all guilty of it. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes, when we're in the zone, the story is flowing out our fingers and we can't seem to put a word wrong. We love writing.

We love having written.

Other times, we suffer from "word constipation" and we desperately seek activities that make us look productive when we're not. Blogging is such an activity. And it has the additional seductive edge by promising us we are doing promo--a thoroughly worthy writerly pastime.

However, the page count is not building and the story is not writing itself. So with that self-revelation, I will drag myself back to the 19th century and begin ploughing the virgin page once more.

But just in case you feel like web-surfing (not that that's a writing avoidance activity in and of itself) I can be found blogging in a couple other places today, too! Aw, come on. Join me for a minute. You know you want to. Then we'll get back to real writing again. I promise!

Avast, matey! Join me and the crew at RomanceWritersRevenge for a little pre-weekend wackiness and a chance to win either a critique of your writing or a signed copy of PLEASURING THE PIRATE! Either way, watch out for the undead monkey!

And today at my blog, I'm hosting my friend Melissa MacNeal and her newest release TEMPTED BY A COWBOY. When I learned a year ago that she was writing a Native American hero, I told her about the wildly exciting Indian Relay Races at the WYO Rodeo (loincloths, bareback riding, it just works!) And Melissa sent me an excerpt of the race! Please leave a comment at for a chance to win a COWBOY of your own!

Ok, we're back from that brief commercial interruption. Just out of curiosity, what is your favorite writing avoidance activity?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Back from RWA national conference in DC. It was an exhausting week but also a great one. I won the Prism for best time travel with Twist and Jennifer won Best of The Best for Dragon Master, first place Fantasy for Dragon Master. Also Jennifer placed for The Redeeming and Cheryl placed with King Of Sword and Sky. So once more the Chatelaines rocked! Thanks to everyone who dropped by to say hi at the book signing. We appreciate the support.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What Kind of Marketing Turns Your Crank? Or Stalls the Engine?

All right, so I'm not at RWA. I made the choice not to go for several reasons, one is I have so much work to do!!!

I just finished some revisions on my upcoming paranormal, Pride Mates, and I'm heavily invested in finishing Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage. (BTW, I posted pub dates for the next books in the Lord Ian Mackenzie series on my other blog: )

I also need to market my upcoming erotic paranormal romance, Mortal Seductions by Allyson James (Sept. 2009).

The thing is, I don't know what to do for it.

Any ideas? What kind of marketing makes you pick up a book? Ads? Campaigns? Blog tours? Interviews? Or should I just sit back, write my novels, let them appear on the shelves and have readers take if from there?

Feel free to be honest about what do you like to see. Or not see!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Beware! Sometimes the creepiest things happen in your own back yard.

I found that out in a big way a couple days ago. I’m lounging on the back porch when I feel some kind of insect crawling/buzzing near my ear. Not thinking too much about it, I brush it away. What happened next was bizarre. Instead of flying off, the thing dashes RIGHT INTO MY EAR!

OMG! I slap at my ear and dig my finger in. The thing burrows in deeper. I jump up and shake my head like a crazy woman. I can feel the thing crawling around in my ear, and it is about the WORST THING EVER. I don’t even know what kind of bug it was! But it wasn’t any tiny little thing. A fat fly? Or…OMG - a YELLOW JACKET? OMG! How long before it stings me? Images of Star Trek: Wrath of Kahn explode in my brain. I know just how Chekov felt when Kahn’s slug thing slithered into his ear.


I run inside the house screaming for my husband, who’s in the basement playing video games with the kids. He yells back for me wait a minute. Wait a minute? Wait a minute? While some alien bug burrows into my brain and takes over my thought processes? I can feel the thing wriggling. I’m clawing at my ear. “Wait a minute” suddenly sounds like grounds for divorce.

“No!” I scream. “I need you NOW!

My panic must have cut through the video game haze. The DH bounds up the steps, my son and daughter on his heels.

“I’ve got a bug in my ear! Get it out! Get it out now!”

I’m thinking DH will need tweezers, or will have to haul me to the emergency room, but luckily as soon as I stop clawing at my ear long enough for him to look, the bug decides that maybe this nice dark hole isn’t quite the safe haven it had supposed. It crawls out and drops onto the floor.

It’s a creepy skinny black beetle with pincers.

My hands are shaking, I can’t breathe, and my ear is bleeding from a gash inflicted by my fingernail. DH gallantly scoops up the monster and disposes of it. I gulp in a lung full of air and try to calm down. My son thinks this is the coolest thing ever. My daughter puts her hands over her ears and declares she is never going outside again in her life.

DH says he hopes the thing didn’t lay any eggs while it was in there.



Monday, July 13, 2009

RWA National Conference

Come see the Chatelaines in DC. We'll be at the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Washington DC this week. Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 we'll be signing at the Wardman Park Marriott with 500 other authors. The proceeds go to help Literacy in America. So come say hello to Bonnie, C.L. Gerri, Emily and Cindy. And tell Jennifer and Joy that you missed them as we will.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Back from Neverland

No, not that Neverland.

I just got back from a family vacation in Disneyland in Southern California. It really is easy to escape every worry and responsibility at the happiest place on Earth. There is so much there to distract you. I hadn't been to Disneyland for thirteen years.

Things in the Magic Kingdom have changed since then. For instance, where the old parking lot used to be is a new theme park called California Adventure. My kids ~loved~ the Tower of Terror. Me, not so much. Anything with "terror" in the title should have been my first clue . . . My speed is more the Disneyland side of things, especially the classics. Tom Sawyer's Island was a welcome escape on a hot summer day with the lovely shady alcoves.

It's a Small World had changed slightly since my last visit, incorporating more of the characters from current Disney productions and a bit of musical relief with "theme" songs that harmonized with that other song that hasn't quite left my brain yet. That's Woody from Toy Story on the left. We learned that they are producing a Toy Story 3--something to do with a large pink teddy bear with anger management issues. Sounds interesting.

I truly enjoy strolling through New Orleans Square and admiring all the beautiful iron work as well as visiting one of my favorite rides, the Pirates of the Caribbean. They managed to squeeze Jack Sparrow into the setting three times.

But my all-time favorite ride has to be Indiana Jones. Love it! Not sure why since I'm not so hot on roller coasters, but it's a wild ride that thrills and exhilarates. It appeals to the adventurer/archeologist in me.

What's your favorite ride or your favorite memory from Disneyland or Disney World? Or what would you recommend as the perfect family vacation?

Friday, July 10, 2009

STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest

from Emily Bryan . . .
In case you aren't aware of my STROKE OF GENIUS Name a Character Contest, let me explain how it works. Readers are helping me choose a name for a character in my current WIP whom I've designated as XXX for now. (He's my hero's best friend and manservant and he looks suspiciously like the Brits' Prince Harry!)

For the past month my readers have sent in their entries. And now I've finally decided on the 10 names that will advance to the next round. Whew! (If you check out my Contest Entries page, you'll see what a tough job that was! As opposed to the easy task of admiring this Fortin & Sanders pic I'm using as inspiration for my hero, Crispin Hawke.)

Now I need YOUR help! Please pop over to my website and vote for YOUR favorite name. If you do, you'll be entered in a separate drawing for a WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS that I bagged at RT last April. One vote per person please and you must be at least 18 to vote.

If you'd like to leave a note here explaining why you think your choice is the best one, that'd be grand.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Whatcha Reading??

I turned in a manuscript on Monday, and as usual after the crazed frenzy followed by big sigh of relief, I indulge myself in READING! I rummaged my TBR shelf and found a few books I realized I'd been "meaning" to get to and just hadn't. I'd missed a couple gems in my year-long writing flurry (which is only going to get worse):

Gemma Halliday,
Alibi in High Heels

The fourth of Gemma's mysteries, Maddie Springer, gets a chance to show off her designer shoes at Fashion Week in Paris. A mishap brings her mother and mother's psychic friend Mrs. Rosenblatt with her (to her dismay). Of course, Maddie can't go anywhere without trouble brewing (because we wouldn't keep reading if she didn't *g*). This time it's a deceased fashion model and stolen high-priced jewelery. Maddie finds herself suspect number one, and in a race to clear her name (and find that dang Eiffel Tower), she tears up Paris. Ramirez, her cop boyfriend, shows up to help, and interesting secrets about Felix, the intrepid tabloid reporter come to light.

All in all, it is a fun, fast, entertaining read, well written. This is book four--book five I believe ends the series (someone correct me if I'm wrong), and that ending is set up well. Great book, Gemma!!

Beyond the Dark anthology (Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Emma Holly, Diane Whiteside)

I'm still reading through this anthology, but I wanted to pause and say that the Angela Knight story "Dragon Dance" just rocked. All right, so I'm partial to dragons (says the author of three dragon novels, and who couldn't resist putting dragons into her upcoming Southwest fantasy romance).

The setup is: Hypers are people who suddenly develop a fantastic ability: speed, strength, telekinesis, telepathy, etc. When the ability comes upon them, it can drive them crazy, unless they are handled well. The government, of course, grabs these Hypers and make them agents. They've been studied to the max, and they aren't mutants or supernaturals. At first I thought "ah, like Heroes" but as the story develops, no, it's a little more complicated than that.

Arial Dean is a hostage negotiator whose been called in to talk down a Hyper who's threatening to kill his wife and children. The sheriff also sends for Tracker, a Hyper with strength and speed to help them take down the crazed guy. All is well until the Hyper touches Arial, changing her from Potential into one of the most powerful Hypers of all. Her ability is, well... I don't want to spoil it. It's kewl.

This story was well plotted, well written, great characters, sizzling chemistry between Tracker and Arial, cool backstory... I could go on. This story was so for me! I was amazed at how Angela packed a lot into a novella, but at the same time it didn't feel rushed and over-done.

I'm in the process of reading the rest: I'm on Diane Whiteside's rather cool depiction of mages in England in 1803, and am looking forward to continuing the read today!

Please share what you've read recently that you've loved!!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Part five of when a story doesn't work.

For the past few weeks I've posted the synopsis and first three chapters of my post apocotlypic romance that I shopped around to some different houses the end of 2008. One editor called it a MadMax/Matrix mix. I liked that reference. Still no one bit. No one even came close. They just could not identify with the characters.

So what was I to do? I had a concept that I thought was a good one. The greatest power is the mind. My overall story arc was pretty much typical. Guy meets girl, guy falls for girl, bad guy wants girl, bad guy takes girl, guy rescues girl and they live happily ever after. My world, as I envisioned it was complex and would need at least three books to tell, maybe four. Most important, I had two characters and names that I loved. Dax and Merritt.

I think one thing that went against me was the time of year. I sent out a dark, desperate and depressing world at Christmas time. That really should not influence it but deep down I think it did. Christmas is a happy time as it should be. But mostly I think the market was to blame. sci/fi romance is a very narrow niche and its hard to take a risk on something that does not have the potential for making a lot of $$$.

Publishers had taken a hit along with everyone else in 2008. A major book distributor went under. Returns were up, book stores were not buying as many titles as before but buying more of sure things. It was a hard time to sell period.

I took a long hard look at the market. I needed to come up with something new and fresh. Something that did not have vampires since I feel the fur and fangs market is way over done. I also felt as if urban fantasy might be overdone as well. Something well written in a new market sells, it becomes popular and suddenly every publisher in the world wants the same thing. They buy it up in hopes that they can cash in on the sudden craze and the reader gets tired of it. I am a firm believer that the reader wants a well written book in any genre instead of mediocre books in their favorite genre.

So thinking, new and different. Something that I could do well. Something in my writers wheelhouse. Somthing with strong characters, and great world buildling. I'm known for writing historicals and scifi. What blends those two genre's together?


It wasn't as if I had a lightbulb moment. I'd read a few articles, thought about it, watched some movies with some elements of it, then a friend called me up and said. "I think you should try writing Steampunk. Its' perfect for you."

But I still had this proposal with elements that I liked and characters that I adored. Could I turn it into a steampunk story?

Here's the synopsis. You tell me.

Prism by Cindy Holby
A Steampunk Romance

Cindy Holby, award-winning author of historical and scifi romance, blends both genres together with Prism, a steampunk romance featuring a cowboy, a psychic heroine and a diabolical plot to take over the world using imaginative technology in Victorian England. What’s a proper British lady to do when a mad scientist is after her brain and an American cowboy is after her heart?

London, England 1887

David Alexander Conrad, AKA Dax, is a cowboy. But he's not just any ordinary cowboy—he's one of the famed performers with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show who, in the summer of 1887, travels to England in order to give those stuffy Victorians a jolt of good old American showmanship. He is a renowned sharp shooter and trick rider with skills honed when he worked as a scout for the US Cavalry in the American Southwest during the Apache Wars with Geronimo. At twenty-seven, he’s the youngest star of the show and something of a celebrity in a London unaccustomed to his type. It is while Dax is on the party circuit that he meets a woman unlike any he has ever known.

Merritt Elizabeth Chadwyke is the daughter of Member of Parliament, Lord Pemberton She lives in a society bubble because she is subject to spells and needs the constant monitoring of a nurse. During her “spells” Merritt has been known to make outlandish comments about things of which she should have no knowledge. There is also evidence that during these spells, objects appear to move on their own. Merritt’s parents are very protective of her since they have already lost a son to a tragic accident. What her parents do not know is that at ten years of age, Merritt had a vision of her brother’s death but was afraid to say anything because of her parents reactions to her visions. She did try to warn her brother, who was fourteen when he died, but he ignored her. He realized he should have paid attention to her and said so as he died in his father’s arms. At their wits’ end over her strange illness, her parents send her to the Paranormal Research Institute run by Baron Edmond Von Swaim, who has become a society darling himself by using his powers of hypnotism to charm the upper crust. As Von Swaim performs test upon test on Merritt, he comes to the conclusion that she is something so unique and rare, he wasn't even certain it existed. Merritt is a Prism. And more importantly, she is exactly what he needs to complete his plot to overthrow the British Monarchy and take what he feels is his claim to the throne.

Von Swaim does everything to encourage Merritt’s family to turn her over to his care to cure her “spells.” His research into the study of the human mind has led him to believe that it is the greatest power upon earth. Through the use of his brilliant inventions and the enhancement of crystal prisms he plans to harness Merritt’s mind. Merritt, true to the nature of her spells, has a bad feeling about Von Swaim and refuses to go with him, despite her parents’ belief that it is the perfect solution to her strange illness. It is also during this time that Dax and Merritt have met each other and find that they are unable to stop thinking about each other. He finds it’s a bit more difficult to track a young woman through Victorian London than it is to fight Indians in the American west. Still he manages to find her, at parties, at the park, even in an exclusive tea shop. The feelings they share grow stronger with each passing moment and they go to great lengths to spend time together when they realize there is something special between them. As they pursue their romance Dax finds Merritt’s strange sense of things more of a gift than an illness and Merritt knows that Dax truly loves her for who she is, not what society or her parents expect her to be.

Frustrated with the constraints her family and society have put upon her, and unable to escape from Von Swaim’s constant presence, Merritt sneaks out to see a final performance of the Wild West show. Dax is happy to see her in the crowd and pulls her out to do some trick shooting. Meanwhile, Von Swaim, who has had Merritt watched ever since he’s treated her, is told of her escape from her home. Von Swaim sees this as the perfect opportunity to take her and sends his men, who wear armor and carry weapons that shoot lasers and electrical currents after her. Dax and Merritt manage to escape and spend a romantic night together in hiding. The following morning Von Swaim’s army finds their hiding place and chase Dax and Merritt through the streets of London. Dax is well armed but his trick shooting has no effect upon the special armor Von Swaim’s soldiers wear. Dax and Merritt are finally captured when Von Swaim uses a zeppelin to run them down in Hyde Park. He takes both of them prisoner, Merritt to be his weapon, and Dax, who is wounded in the leg to be brain washed and become a soldier in his army. They are taken by zeppelin to Von Swaim’s hidden castle in the Swiss Alps.

Dax finds there is no torture or brainwashing powerful enough to erase Merritt and his feelings for her from his memory. He manages to befriend a doctor in Von Swaim’s employ who has repaired Dax’s wound using Von Swaim’s invention of brass fittings and joints. After some time in which his injury heals and with the doctor’s help Dax manages to escape, only to find himself alone in a country where he knows no one and does not speak the language. To makes matters worse, Merritt is now under Von Swaim’s control and he has taken her to away for “treatment” with her parents’ permission. Fortunately for Dax, the Wild West Show is now touring Europe and he is able to find his friends who welcome him back with open arms. Dax is desperate to find Merritt but has no idea where to look.

Merritt, who is under Von Swaim’s control, cannot forget Dax either. Even though her memories of him are supposedly erased by Von Swaim’s hypnotism, her Prism abilities guide her back to Dax at one of the performances of the Wild West Show. Dax knows that he may never have this chance with Merritt again. With the help of his friends from the Wild West Show he is ready to use Von Swaim’s weapons against him. Dax and Von Swaim enter into a battle for her mind, but Von Swaim does not realize that Dax is also fighting for Merritt’s heart and soul. Dax will stop at nothing to free her from Von Swaim so that Merritt may make her own choices for her own life. Dax can only hope that once he frees her from Von Swaim that Merritt will choose him because he loves her just the way she is. Neither technology nor mind control, no matter how powerful, are any match for the strength of their love.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day!

In the USA, today is Independence Day, or the 233rd Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Most of us are happy to have the day off from work, to spend time with our family and friends. At my house this is, traditionally, a day we don't do much besides picnic in our local park, catch up with neighbors and meet new ones, then watch the late-night fireworks.

Today is a day of so many different things for Americans. It is a time to remember our armed forces and the sacrifices they make on our behalf every day. That they might be far away, but oh so close in our hearts.

It is a day of heightened pride and patriotism because of the principles on which our country was founded. The sacrifices our forefathers made to ensure we could live by those principles, and the efforts people have made over the last 233 years to ensure those principles are upheld. That is the source of my patriotism today and, in my opinion, what makes the United States a great country.

So, what does Independence Day look like at your house? Do you have any special memories from your 4th of July celebrations? Do you barbecue the day away, cheer on others in local parades, or enjoy a fabulous fireworks display? Are fireworks legal where you live?
How do you show your patriotism today?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fine as Frog's Hair

from Emily Bryan . . .
Every family has someone with a verbal gift. In my family, it's my dad. (You can see some pics of him and my mom at my MySpace. We took an Alaskan cruise together in 2007.) His speech has always been peppered with colorful euphemisms and obscure sayings. Some of them were related to his job. He was a "hoghead" (railroad engineer) for over 40 years. So if something "wasn't all coupled up," we knew there was a problem.

Here are a few of his favorite sayings and their translations:

"Slick as snot on a brass doorknob" ~ The roads are icy.

"Half a bubble off plumb" ~ There's something shady about all this.

"Fart in a skillet" ~ A very nervous person

"Colder than a well-digger's knee" ~ Very cold (This is the sanitized version!)

There are too many for me to list here. It makes conversing with my dad (who will be celebrating his birthday tomorrow!) always interesting and sometimes bewildering.

Do you have any unusual family sayings? Is there anyone in your crew who has a way with words?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I can tell when I'm on frantic deadline because...

...the dishes pile up in the sink, the laundry piles up in the closet, the refrigerator degenerates to a few bottles of soy sauce and something in a plastic container that must be developing its own language by now.

Also my online chatter dies off to the merest whisper. No tweeting, Facebook-ing, and I haven't logged into MySpace since forever.

Me being quiet means me pouring everything I've got into a book. It's a good thing. Really.

So no profound post today. I am having fun doing the interviews/giveaways so I'll be back with that when I can breathe better... Upcoming I'll interview Erin Quinn in August with her debut Haunting Beauty (which is awesome), Nalini Singh in Sept., and others.

In the meantime, I've totally revamped my Jennifer Ashley website ( Please look around, read, have fun, send me email.

Enjoy while I'm sucking iced tea by the gallon and sleeping in shifts. :-)

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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