Monday, August 31, 2009

Travels with Bonnie

Hi there. I'm back!

DH and I were in lovely Washington state, where we had the chance to meet Gerri Russell and her wonderful husband. We had a great time, and visited the Museum of Flight, where this photo was taken.

The plane behind us is a Corsair, built for World War II. The wings fold up.

It was so much fun meeting my fellow Chatelaine! Gerri and her hubby are so much fun to hang with.

I love to travel, mostly. I do a lot of it for the day job. I've been fortunate in that over the past 15 years, I've been to many countries and visited many cultures.

But it's the travel DH and I do for leisure, and for book research, that I enjoy the most.

This photo is of Mount Rainier, which DH and I hiked, well, part of the trail. The vistas and the wildflowers were breathtaking.

Now it's back to work, and deadlines.
But before I go, I want to congratulate both GERRI RUSSELL and JENNIFER ASHLEY, both of whom have new releases out this month!
Gerri's book is an historical called To Tempt a Knight.
Jennifer is writing as Allyson James and her book is called Mortal Seductions.
Congratulations ladies!

Hot Zombie Love?

It seems that the publishers are jumping on the band wagon of a new genre trend. Zombies. While cooling my heels after missing my flight in the Atlanta airport, I noticed that all the recommended reads in the bookstore were Zombie related. Even the children's books. My response is "Ewwww" I just really don't get it. Now while I wouldn't mind reading a story about a couple fighting Zombies ala Resident Evil I'm pretty sure I don't want to know anything about loving a Zombie, even if they originally were the love of my life. Yet some publishers are asking for stories involving humans and zombies. The following is an editor request that's been going around the writer loops
"is looking for "love amongst the undead, between zombies
and the living, and (we hope) many stories about the hot, alpha male and
female zombie killers." She's interested in short stories from 1500 to 5000
words and novellas, 20,000 to 30,000 words."

Meanwhile Zombies are now the subject of research. Scientists say "If zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilisation unless dealt with quickly and aggressively." Even researchers are jumping on the trend. Publishers Weekly also mentioned a book deal featuring a Zombie professor who is now trying to find the meaning of life while fighting off humans that are trying to kill him. Well yeah, I'm pretty sure I would want to kill something that wants to eat my brains.
So what do you think? Is there a future with Zombies? Do you find them sexy? Would you lay down your money for a Zombie love story? Do you think Zombies will take over the shelves in the same way vampires have? I'd love to know what you think of this new trend in publishing. And no, I am not even considering writing a Zombie love story. As I said early, ewwww.

Friday, August 28, 2009

End of the TORTURED Tour

...from Emily Bryan

Here comes my friend Amanda McIntyre, footsore and weary from visiting 25 blogs in 25 days! She's chosen to end the tour celebrating TORTURED, her new erotic medieval from Harlequin Spice, right here with us on THE CHATELAINES. Let me whet your appetite with a TORTURED trailer!

... from Amanda McIntyre

In a time of chaos, darkness, and violence, it is better to live only in the moment, lest your memories eat you alive.

A young woman blessed with “sight seeks vengeance against a tyrannical lord responsible for her mother's murder. Forced to become an executioner's apprentice, she encounters a Roman prisoner who offers her a way to escape her prison and find a future. Torn between desire, duty, and the chance for revenge, her choice to live or die leaves her TORTURED. (Available now, Harlequin Spice-Books Aug. '09)

Well, I saved the best for last! My thanks to Emily for inviting me here to blog at the Chatelaines. Today is the last day of my 25 day blog tour! I can see the lights in the night sky of home on the horizon and I have to tell you, I’m looking forward to settling down for a while and working on my next story! It has been a wonderful experience and I’ve met lots of new folks along the way!

In TORTURED, my heroine has a long journey she must make, both emotionally and physically. Both aspects are grueling, oftentimes painful and yet at the same time, help her to grow to become the woman she never thought she’d live long enough to become. In most romances, the HEA (happily ever after) comes in the form of the hero and the heroine winding up together, or at least giving the distinct impression that they are going to wind up together.

But in TORTURED, Sierra must embark on a journey that forces her to face her fears, face the depth of her emotions, face her humanness, her weaknesses. In the process, and while overcoming these personal obstacles (coupled with the real dangers of the physical ones) she must survive in order to achieve ANOTHER TYPE of happily ever after.

A journey that if she chose not to take, aware of the risks, would make it impossible for her to have a future and probably not with the hero! Does she follow through? Does she allow the horror of her past to hold her imprisoned, without hope of a future? It is a complex story, of that there is no doubt. I have never spoken of it as a traditional romance. If that is what you’re looking for, this book is not for you. But, if you want to read about courage, about what love can conquer, about the bonds between family, and a will to survive…I invite you to read TORTURED.

Each day, I’ve posed a question along the way and some days we’ve had some great discussions on them. Not always your garden variety blog questions, mind you, but we’ve raised some thought-provoking dialogue that is for sure! (Please note sharp dressed man vs. scruffy look on House of Muse LOL)

Instead of a question, I’d like to revisit a topic that came up along the tour—about paying kindness forward. Today, tomorrow, the next day—do one thing for a stranger-some act of random kindness. You may start a chain of events that will change lives. Thanks, Chatelaines for having me here!

You know the drill—leave a comment, you may win a book!!

“May the road rise to meet you
May the wind always be at your back
May the sun shine gently upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand”


Thanks for stopping by, Amanda. Paying kindness forward is a great topic for discussion. How about it? Has someone done something for you lately? Did it make you want to spread the love around?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gerri Russell and Scottish Medievals--To Tempt a Knight

Today I'm welcoming fellow Chatelaine Gerri Russell, whose September release To Tempt a Knight is out in stores. Give it up for Gerri!!

We're also giving away a book from Gerri's first series: The Warrior Trainer.

JA: Please tell us a little about your latest release, To Tempt a Knight.

GR: To Tempt a Knight is the first book in the Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars series. The entire series encompasses a group of knights that existed in Scottish history. These men were ten of the best warriors in the land, hand-selected to be King Robert the Bruce to fight at his side.

Toward the end of his life, the Bruce asked his men to do something for him that he was unable to accomplish in his lifetime. He asked his men to go on crusade and take with them his heart for burial in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Faithful to their king, they cut the king’s heart out of his chest, placed it in a specially designed cylindrical vessel, and in the spring of 1330, the Bruce’s inner circle of knights, supported by twenty-six squires and a retinue of men, set off on a Crusade from Scotland for Jerusalem, fighting along the way through enemy territory.

On the morning of August 25th, 1330, the Scottish knights joined King Alfonso of Castile in a battle that was intended to crush the Kingdom of Granada, which was held by the Moors at that time. A false battle cry sent the Scottish knights into battle before they had adequate reinforcements. They were outnumbered a hundred to one. And even with the heart of the king on their side, they were doomed to failure. The knights were crushed by the Moors, and their mission failed. Five of the ten knights died, along with hundreds of foot soldiers.

When I read about the devastation Robert the Bruce’s knights suffered, I knew I had to write the stories of how these knights survived, and how they put their lives back together after such a painful experience.

And as though they didn’t already have enough to deal with in the pages of the books, I made these men’s lives a bit more adventurous by bringing a French enemy straight out of Templar lore onto Scottish shores. This Frenchman is determined to destroy all the remaining Templars and claim the legendary Templar treasure hidden in the Scottish Highlands.

To Tempt a Knight follows the story of one of these wounded warriors, Sir William Keith, as he returns from his failed Crusade. He is charged with finding a vital holy relic and protecting the daughter of its former guardian—a task that will force him to choose between duty to his vows and desire for the beautiful, courageous woman finally able to soften his battle-hardened heart.

JA: This sounds like a heartbreaking and excellent story. What an interesting setup to the series! I don't have my copy of To Tempt a Knight yet, but it's on hold for me at my bookstore, and I'm so looking forward to reading it!

JA: Now, Gerri, you are the queen of contests! You won the Golden Heart twice and the American Title contest. How did it feel to win? And do you have tips for other writers who might want to enter contests?

GR: I’m not really a contest queen . . . I didn’t enter a million contests. I was very specific about entering only the contests that could help advance my career. There are a hundred reasons why a person should enter contests. Are you looking for feedback? Do you want to toss your work into a literary pool similar to what you might find in the marketplace? Are you looking for affirmation that you are doing something right? Are you trying to attract an editor’s attention?

I used contests to help me climb to the next rung on the publication ladder. Contests toughened me up for rejections, of which I had many. They opened my eyes to the things I was missing.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There are great joys in the contest route as well. The first time I won the Golden Heart was one of the most exhilarating days of my life. It was ~not~ the golden ticket to a publishing career, but it was the affirmation I needed to keep on going. I needed that memory in the years ahead, because it took me a total of thirteen years and six completed manuscripts before I finally sold. And yes, even then it took the American Title contest, a legion of voters, and the prize of a publishing contract to make that miracle happen!

If I have any advice to share at all it is this . . . never, never give up on your dreams!

JA: Thirteen years, wow. You are also the Queen of Persistence. But it proves a couple mantras I follow: Persistence pays off, and You need the patience of a saint and balls of granite to make it in this business!

What I meant about you being contest queen is that you WIN them! And you have very savvy advice--target those contests that will do what you need them to do (whatever your particular goal is). It does you little good to scattershot to places that might not help you or be where you can shine.

JA: Next question: Your books are steeped in medieval history and Scottish history, and you are a re-enactor in a Renaissance Faire. Tell us about your love of history and what it's like to step into that world yourself (and do you make your own costumes?).

GR: I have always been intrigued by history, but not necessarily the history that we learned in school. I was probably a really annoying student for my teachers because I wanted to know everything about history--not just about the great men or the battles or the politics. I wanted to know about the little guy who worked for the great men, or the women who supported them, or the servants who made their lives possible, as well as what they ate, how they celebrated? Curiosity had me thinking about how they survive a cold winter with only a smoky fireplace for warmth, what kind of diseases they suffered from, and how healed themselves. I always asked too many questions.

My intrigue with history is not limited to people. I also wrote my first series, The Stones of Destiny, about rocks—mystical pieces of history that the people of old cherished and passed from generation to generation.

My current Brotherhood series also focuses on treasures of the world, particularly the treasures the Templars might have gathered. What was it that the Templars had in their treasure trove, if they had a treasure at all? Where did they hide it? Why can’t anyone find it? The possibilities are endless as are the theories out there trying to explain it all.

But probably the most appealing part of writing about history and re-living it as I do once a year at the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire in King’s Valley, Oregon, is the appeal of dangerous men and adventurous women. I love watching the knights joust and battle each other with swords. I like men with a bit of brawn to go with their brains.

I also adore the clothing of the period. Dresses for the women of nobility were glorious works of art with the lace and embroidery and beadwork. For the Renaissance faire, I do make my own costumes, and for my entire family. It takes forever to sew them because the clothing (or garb and we refer to it) must be authentic, which means much of it has to be sewn by hand. I can sew glorious period gowns, wedding dresses, and ball gowns, but don’t ask me to hem a pair of pants. It will never happen.

As much as I enjoy history however, I value everything that modern society has to offer. Who doesn’t love a toothbrush, or antibiotics, or predictably disease-free water?

JA: Kudos on your costume talent, Gerri. I'm not a costumer myself, but I love looking at everyone else's lovely work. Oh, and I'm right there with you on the knights. I love a good Renn Faire joust. :-)

JA: What writing are you working on now? What's next for you?

GR: Right now, I’m working on book two in the Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars series, Seducing the Knight, which will hit bookstore shelves in May of 2010. I’m really having fun writing this series, and I truly hope readers will enjoy the adventure and the romance in each of the storylines.

Jennifer, thanks for interviewing me today and allowing me to share a look inside To Tempt a Knight.

JA: No problem. I love your writing, I love Scottish stories, and I love medievals!

Do share your thoughts, say hi to Gerri, and enter to win a copy of The Warrior Trainer.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Special guest Leanna Renee Hieber

We have a winner! Congratulations to Beth Caudill who was poster number 6. Beth your number was drawn by Cody, my doxie. He then proceeded to eat it before I could check it. Which meant I had to go back and see which number was gone. Anyway Beth wins a copy of Leanna's Book. Send my your address and Leanna will get it out to you.

I'm very excited to host my dear friend, Leanna Renee Hieber today on the Chatelaines. Leanna's first book, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker comes out tomorrow. and she's here with her Haunted London Tour. This book is getting great props from everyone and I heard it personally from her editor that this story is extra special. So rush right out and get it as soon as your favorite bookstore opens tomorrow. And Leanna is giving away a copy to one lucky commenter right here on the Chatelaines.

The STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL Haunted London Blog Tour Day 2!

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker:

“What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…”

I’m thrilled my Haunted London Blog tour now brings me to The Chatelaines!

Thanks, lovely ladies, for having me here, I couldn’t imagine being in better company than here with many friends, fellow Dorchester Authors, et al!

Today we meet:

The Man in Gray

Theater Royal, Drury Lane, WC 2

This Tour celebrates The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in a Gothic Victorian Fantasy series which releases TOMORROW from Dorchester. Here I introduce you to real, documented London haunts who “ghost-star” in my book. When Professor Alexi Rychman and his Guard of spectral police make their rounds, it is to any number of London phantasms. Since these characters are familiar to The Guard, I don’t get to tell their full story in the book. But here I can give them their due. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of the book!

One of my favourite “Ghost-stars” is The Man in Grey…

Drury Lane has a veritable resident troupe of ghosts, the most famous of which is the “Man in Grey” who appears in a grey riding cloak, a white ruffed shirt a powdered wig and a three-cornered hat. He appears young, though he has a bit of a limp as he floats along. Surprisingly he’s seen during daytime hours. Like many ghosts, he has a well-practiced routine. Seen by countless stage professionals from famous actors to management, he always haunts the same course in the upper circle, crossing to vanish through a particular wall. Entire casts have seen him go by above as they’ve been rehearsing on the stage. Occasionally he will sit in his a favourite seat: end seat, fourth row at the centre of the upper circle before later vanishing through the wall.

As to this man’s identity, it isn’t known for certain. But a discovery during 1870s renovations of the theatre surely holds a key to the mystery. A skeleton was found in a recess behind the very same wall where the ghost always vanishes, his remains shrouded in gray cloth with a dagger in his ribs. It’s suspected that during the reign of Queen Anne he was murdered by a spiteful rival, caught in the middle of some actress’ love triangle, and his murdered body was stowed away in the hidden space behind the wall. He’s supposedly a good omen of a successful show, though he has been known to push actors into their places, making him a theatrical legend and star in and of himself.

How does the “Man in Grey” become Strangely Beautiful? From The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker:

Alexi snatched the sherry from Rebecca’s hand. “Whenever you heathens can regain a modicum of sense, it’s time for a meeting,” he stated coldly. This quieted the group enough for him to continue. “There now. Sanity has returned to La Belle et La BĂȘte, but I’d best speak quickly as I fear its presence is fleeting. But before we begin … could someone go and remind our grey friend down the street not to push the actors into their places quite so hard? Since the discovery of his dead body during the renovations, his ghost has become increasingly meddlesome, causing many complaints.”

He waited a moment for one of his companions to volunteer for the routine policing of Drury Lane’s most infamous specter. Then: “Fine, you lazy fools, I’ll go. Considering your present behaviour, I’d not trust one of you to admonish this spiritual hooligan. Clearly, I ought to do it myself. But I warn you: sharpen yourselves.” He turned and promptly exited, his long black cloak billowing behind him. Throughout his exodus, a few more bars of the Fifth Symphony were hummed.

Outside, Alexi took a deep breath. Irrepressible chortles and a smattering of “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind” could be heard erupting inside.

“Infidels,” he muttered, taking the alley toward the Theatre Royal at a purposeful clip. “Will they forever be children?”

---- (End of Excerpt)

I’m indebted to Richard Jones, founder of the fabulous Discovery Walks of London and author of the fantastic compendium “Haunted London” and “Walking Haunted London” published by Barnes & Noble Books, a main resource for my research. Visit him at Come visit me at to find out more about The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and follow along on the rest of the tour! I hope you’ll also pick up the book! Be sure to comment to be entered to win a signed copy!


Leanna Renee Hieber

Saturday, August 22, 2009

How Reading Romance Changed My Life

************ AND THE WINNER IS... **************
I selected two winners for today's post - Houston AW Knight and Maered. Congrats!

I love historical novels--historical romances were my first love (well, after fairy tales, which are technically set in a historical time period, and my YA enchantment with sci-fi/fantasy via Tolkien and McCaffrey).

A historical romance was, in fact, the first romance I ever read.

I was babysitting. I was, um, maybe 13. The kids were asleep. I was bored. (These were the pre-cable TV days, and nothing was on.) I started browsing my employer's bookshelves looking for something to read. And there I spied this paperback novel. The spine was broken, the edges of the covers tattered, but the picture on the front was...well...beautiful. A gorgeous woman with flowing hair, wearing a long gown, held in the arms of an equally gorgeous man who was wearing what looked like a pirate shirt (To this day, I love a good clinch cover)

The author was a woman by the name of Natasha Peters. I no longer remember the name of the book, but the story inside was like nothing I'd ever read before. Exciting, dramatic, passionate. I kept turning pages, devouring every word. I did not want the the people I was babysitting from to come home!

I didn't finish the book that first night, but I when I babysat again, I took up reading where I left off. After that book was done, the next book I started reading after the kids went to bed was another historical romance, this one called Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss.

That did it for me. I was hooked! Shanna turned me into a lifetime lover of romance, and of historical romance, and I've never looked back. Since then, I've discovered so many fabulous novelists - historical romance and others - including all the great ladies here on The Chatelaines. In fact, several of top 5 all-time-favorite reads are historical romance novels.

To anyone who pooh poohs romance - I say pshaw! I was top of my class in history - because of all the great historical details I learned through romance novels. I went on to minor in History in college -specifically because of my love affair with historical romance novels...because romance novels aren't about dates, battles, and lines redrawn on ancient maps. They are about PEOPLE. About how those people lived in their times; how their cultures and beliefs affected their lives; and yes, how the wars they fought changed their world. (Historical novels are also part of the reason why I became so enamored with worldbuilding and different cultures.)

I sincerely believe that romance as a genre is vastly underrated for it's positive impact on readers lives. I can name more than a dozen people (some with severe dyslexia or other learning disabilities) who became avid readers because romance novels made reading accessible, exciting, and fun.

So I say hooray for romance! And a special hooray for historical romance!

Comment to Win!

I'll be giving away one novel-of-your-choice authored by any of the Chatelaines to a person selected from today's posters. All you need to do to be entered for a chance to win is to answer one or both of the following questions:

What was your first historical romance novel? and/or How has reading romance impacted your life or the life of someone you know?

What's Your Writing State of Mind?

Anyone feeling a little like this? I am. This summer has been filled with one distraction after another. All the distractions might be fun, but they reek havoc with a writing schedule.

Fall brings consistency of daily writing back into the regime. Are you as ready for a change of season as much as I am. Is it time to get back to writing consistently every single day?

But there may be one little problem…are you ready to get into the groove?

In order to be a marathon runner you must learn to train every day. To start with small goals for activity and slowly build to more. You have to get your muscles in shape and prepare for the ultimate test to your endurance. Is preparing for writing any different? Not really. So what's a writer to do when their muscles are a bit out of shape? When the skills and abilities of achieving page goals each day are a bit…let's be polite here…less than toned? It all goes back to the basics--those same principles marathon runners use.

• Retrain your discipline. This is a tough one. How to be disciplined enough to sit down in your writer's chair after a long break from that habit. Two things that have always worked for me are a quote and a kitchen timer. The quote: "Discipline is remembering what you want." by David Campbell The timer: gets set for 10 minutes the first day, 12 the second, 14 the third, and so on. When the timer is on, I write anything that comes to mind. It's a great way to get back in the habit of writing.

• Start with a plan. What do you want to accomplish? You need a map, a guideline of where you are going. Do you want to complete a whole book by a certain date? Do you want to finish one chapter each week? Write one, three, seven, twenty pages a day?

• Set small goals at first, then build gradually over time to increase your endurance. One you have a plan you can break things down into smaller and realistic goals. Setting goals helps you feel like you are making progress forward. I might start my first week off writing three pages a day, then after the first week bump the total up by 2-3 pages a day until I hit my normal daily average.

• Track your progress. I'm a visual person and I really have to keep a log or a graph to show me what my goal was and then how I'm performing. Placing that chart near my computer desk can really keep me focused and inspired when things are going so well.

• Eat a healthy diet and get enough rest. Yes, you actually write better when you each nutritious food and sleep eight hours a night.

• Celebrate the successes. When you hit your milestones, celebrate the moment. One of my favorite ways to celebrate is to go for a hike. I like to think about it as time off for good behavior. It's also a great way to regroup and feed that writer's well with new thoughts and ideas about what to write next.

What do you need to do to get yourself back in shape after a long summer's break?

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Peek Below Stairs

from Emily Bryan . . .

Many Regency-set historicals feature brooding noblemen and fresh-faced debutants giddy over the fact that there 'are so many eligible dukes this Season!' Then there are the matrons in the corner bemoaning the fact that good help is so difficult to find.

For my novella in A CHRISTMAS BALL, I decided to focus on the help.

My heroine, Jane Tate, is a scullery maid in the home of the Earl of Somerville. She's also the bastard daughter of the great man and when her mother died birthing her, she was raised by the staff below stairs. Since she's restricted from the public and 'Family' areas of the house, the earl has all but forgotten she exists.

Just as there is a hierarchy in nobility, there is a ruthless ranking among servants in a great house. The 'lord below stairs' is the butler, because of his position of influence with the earl. Next comes the housekeeper and the upstairs maids. The closer to the Family, the higher the status of the servant. Which means as the scullery maid, who spends her time helping the cook and running up and down the back staircase with loads of laundry and used crockery, Jane is low on the totem pole indeed.

But don't feel sorry for Jane. She's won the love a good man--Ian Michael MacGregor, the head groom who has a devilishly handsome face and arms strong as English oak.

And Jane is also gifted with an uncanny resemblance to her well-born half-sister. When the sister runs off with an Italian painter, Jane is called upon to pose as Lady Sybil so she can accept the previously arranged and very lucrative proposal of marriage from Viscount Eddleton.

Cinderella is going to the ball, but will she meet a prince there? Click here for a sneak peek! (And while you're there, be sure to enter my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST Contest for a chance at your pick from my backlist!)

For more widgets please visit

> Pre-order your copy on Amazon!

Do you enjoy Christmas anthologies? What's your all-time fav?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Read any Good YA Historicals Lately?

I'm taking a break from hosting authors I enjoy (coming up in Sept., Nalini Singh and Gerri Russell!!) because I'm back to writing about four things at once and too busy to do much posting.

However, I always have a book cracked for reading enjoyment, and lately I've been reading YA historicals (e.g., Great and Terrible Beauty series; just finished The Luxe).

I need more! I don't know enough about this genre to know what's out there, so if you or anyone you know has a good list of YA historicals I can glom, post 'em here!! Feel free to expound.

I'm not giving out any prizes this week, but you'd have the satisfaction of knowing you helped a fellow reader (i.e., me.) :-)

Oh, wait, I am running a contest (they're running it for me) on The Mystic Realm, to give away a signed copy of Mortal Temptations by Allyson James to celebrate the September release of the sequel, Mortal Seductions. Warning: This is erotic romance (I do mean it), so only look if you are into erotic romance mixed with Greek mythology and modern-day Egyptian archeology. And humor (erotic romance is where I let myself get a little zany). (I have Chapter One posted at my site:

Meanwhile, please do chat about good YA historicals! I need my TBR pile to grow! :-)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why can't men see mold? (or dust, or dirt, or...)

I returned home recently from a week+ at the beach with the kids - the DH had to work, so he didn't come with us.

Here's what I found in my poor house after 9 womanless days:

In the basement: Glass with an inch of juice and a quarter inch of green and black mold in the bottom, abandoned by one of the kids (no one is owning up to it) and subsequently unseen by their father, even though it sat just a few feet from his computer.

On the kitchen counter: Unopened bag of potato bread hamburger rolls, completely covered in green mold inside the bag. DH didn't notice it.

In the breakfast nook: I left an antique glass milk bottle filled with flowers from the garden - they flowers were just about dead before I left, but I forgot to throw them out. There they sat, right next to the table where DH ate his meals, growing slime and mold in the clear glass bottle just a couple feet from his head. He never noticed.

In the refrigerator: Two cartons of sour milk. Not sure what DH was putting on his cereal in the AM.

To be fair, my husband does do his share (and more!) of cooking, laundry, and grocery shopping. And I'm sure that if he noticed dirt and mold, he would do something about it. He just doesn't notice it.

I swear, it must be something on the Y chromosome. Anyone else notice this phenomenon?


Friday, August 14, 2009

What's your inspiration?

from Emily Bryan . . .

It's a question authors get all the time. Where do the ideas come from? Sometimes, I have no clue. It just pops into my head. But in the case of my current WIP STROKE OF GENIUS, I know exactly where the kernel of my premise came from.

Greek mythology.

No, I'm serious. I have a tattered, much-read 1898 edition of Bulfinch's Age of Fable or the Beauties of Mythology. (I am not making this up!) I've had it since I was a child. It might actually have been worth something except that it's in abominable condition. The pages are all withered and yellowed. I greatly fear it spent a good deal of time in someone's damp basement before it came into my greedy little hands.

But however poor the condition of the book, the stories inside (and let us not forget the extremely naughty classical illustrations!) are all intact. And the story arcs of myth and legend are worth revisiting and tweaking any time.

STROKE OF GENIUS is based on the Pygmalion myth in the same way that O, Brother, Where Art Thou was a retelling of Homer's Odyssey. In other words, very loosely.

In the Pygmalion myth, a sculptor falls in love with his own ivory creation and names her Galatea. He beseeches Aphrodite, goddess of love, to interceed. Since the statue is the spitting image of the goddess, she's flattered enough to grant his wish. She turns Galatea into a flesh-and-blood woman and the lovers have a long and happy life together.

So not enough conflict. But the bare bones are there and I can always think of ways for people not to get what they want in the way they want it.

In STROKE OF GENIUS, my hero Crispin is a celebrated sculptor, but my heroine is not a flawless block of ivory. She's Grace Makepeace, a Bostonian heiress who wants to wed a titled gent. Crispin decides to smooth her way into Polite Society, teaching her how to flirt (along with more about her body and the ways of men.) He has a firm "no virgins" rule, so the only way he can actually bed her is if she becomes a member of his "Unhappy Wives of Unattentive Husband's Club."

But Grace is not as malleable as marble. And at some point, when he least expects it, the "stone" he's trying to shape begins to reshape him. There is no Aphrodite to step in and save the day. Crispin and Grace will have to battle this out for themselves. For a sneak peek, please visit (While you're there, be sure to enter my CHRISTMAS IN AUGUST Contest in celebration of the upcoming release of A CHRISTMAS BALL--my holiday anthology with USA Today Bestseller Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson!)

Now it's your turn to share. If you're a writer, what's the inspiration for your latest WIP? If you're a reader, is there a classic myth or legend you'd like to see retold with a twist?

PS. Be sure to mark your calendars for tomorrow, Saturday August 15th. I'll be blogging with Elisabeth Naughton and giving away a copy of Vexing the Viscount to someone who leaves a comment there. Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Emma Holly--Special Guest Interview & Giveaway

Welcome, Emma! Thanks for talking to us today on the Chatelaines! Readers: Emma will be giving away two copies of her book, Kissing Midnight, to two lucky winners!

August sees the release of Saving Midnight, the last of Emma's trilogy begun in June with Kissing Midnight (followed by Breaking Midnight in July).

JA: Emma, please set up the trilogy a little for us. Tell us about the Fitz Clares and how this adventure begins.

EH: The “Fitz Clare Chronicles” follow the adventures of powerful vampire Edmund Fitz Clare and his adopted human family, all of whom were orphaned during World War I. All grown up now, they’re just beginning to realize that the father they adore is a bit more than eccentric . . . and that he has some dangerous supernatural enemies.

The settings range from 1930s London to Switzerland to the dustbowl in America. All the story “color” was wonderfully fun to research – sometimes surprisingly fun. The cars, the clothes, the fabulous Art Deco furnishings truly sucked me in. It was great to have the glamour of that period as a backdrop for my drama, and I’m not-so-secretly tickled with how action-y the trilogy turned out. My editor commented that this is my “biggest” story to date.

In addition to that, the series also gave me a chance to explore what makes a family a family – certainly more than blood. The Fitz Clares’ devotion to each other is larger than life, and I had a blast showing how heroic each would become in defense of the others. They really had to grow in order to make it through this trilogy alive! I also loved having Edmund face how hard it can be to let children leave the nest, especially when you’re immortal and they’re not. Plus, I had to include my usual generous amounts of kinky-romantic steam - which may explain why this family’s tale took me three books to tell.

JA: I love this time period, for some of the reasons you mention: Art Deco, the cars, and Agatha Christie. :-)

JA: What are Upyr, and how are they different from typical vampires?

EH: These days, there are so many different takes on the vampire myth that I’m not sure what’s typical any more. My upyr are somewhat traditional vampires. I chose a Slavic word to refer to them, because my first Midnight book was a Medieval, and the term “vampire” didn’t exist yet. Upyr share a number of traits with Bram Stoker’s originals. They can go out during the day, albeit briefly. They can assume an animal’s form (mine are usually wolves). Most importantly, they survive by drinking blood and not cappuccinos. In that sense, I’m a purist. I think vampires should have real fangs – and they shouldn’t just be for show!

JA: LOL, I love vampires with real fangs! How are these three books connected to previous books in the series?

EH: Edmund Fitz Clare was introduced in Catching Midnight as the older brother of the hero, Aimery Fitz Clare. He was a troubled soul but an interesting one, and I found I couldn’t let him go. He showed up again in Courting Midnight as Lucius White’s friend, still troubled and still fascinating me. In the process of figuring out how Edmund might redeem himself, the situation of the adopted orphans came to me. I loved the concept that they wouldn’t realize their own father was a vampire, and the lengths to which he’d go to hide his secret while also giving them the best childhood experience he could. Part of what drives Edmund is his need to make peace with people he thinks he’s wronged in the past, but most of all with himself. That’s kind of a theme for me in my books: that until you forgive yourself, no one else’s forgiveness really sinks in.

You don’t have to read the earlier books in the series to enjoy the Fitz Clares, but if you’d like to see where it all began, of course you should feel free *g*. Though the first three stand alone more easily than the Fitz Clare Chronicles, their order is: Catching Midnight, Hunting Midnight and Courting Midnight.

JA: I very much enjoyed Courting Midnight (and Lucien). I was excited to see more of the Fitz Clares, and I became very fond of Graham, Sally, and Ben, who made good foils for Edmund and Estelle.

JA: Will there be more in the series? What’s next for you?

EH: I’ve got two more upyr books in the works, currently titled Devil at Midnight/Angel at Noon. The story is a two-parter, involving Christian Durand, whom I introduced in Breaking Midnight. I hadn’t written a serious bad boy in a little while, so of course I wanted to do him.

JA: Emma, I love your writing—when I read one of your Black Lace books a few years ago (Cooking up a Storm), I was hooked. You have everything I love—humor; atypical characters; lots of spice; emotional development. I enjoyed the story I just read in the Beyond the Dark anthology—very cool alternate Egypt concept.

EH: Thank you! It means a lot to hear that fellow authors enjoy my work.

JA: That leads me to ask: You write several different subgenres: paranormal, contemporary, erotic. I personally like writing across subgenres because it helps keep my writing fresh, but I’m interested in why other authors do it. What do you find appealing (or unappealing) about writing several subgenres? Will you continue to do so?

EH: I love variety - learning new things for each story, tackling fresh challenges. It keeps me excited about what I do. No matter where my career leads me, I can’t imagine writing the same book or even the same kind of book over and over. My imagination just doesn’t work that way!

JA: Thanks again for joining us, and best of luck with the series! It’s intriguing, different, and well done.

EH: Thank you for having me to your blog!

JA: We'll be giving away a couple copies of Kissing Midnight, first of the trilogy to two lucky winners! Post a comment to say hi and enter the drawing. :-)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chapter two of Prism Proposal

In Chapter two I introduce Merrit's paranormal abilities and set up the plot point of Von Swaim's desire to control Merrit's talent. When doing a proposal its important to suck the reader in but you don't want to reveal to much too soon.

Chapter Two
“Cheeky sort wasn’t he,” the Earl said.
“Indeed!” the Countess exclaimed. “I always heard the Americans were rather forward.” Merritt folded her hands primly and kept her eyes upon her lap, as she well knew her mother’s mood.
“Accosting young girls on the street.”
“I hardly think he was accosting me.” Merritt boldly spoke out. “I consider it more as being polite.”
“Obviously they have no idea of propriety,” the Countess continued.
“Now Evelyn,” her father interrupted. “The young man was just trying to drum up business for the show is all. I’m sure any insult you imagined was entirely unintentional.”
“Imagined?” her mother gasped.
Merritt turned her head toward the window as her father winked at her. He had cleverly taken her mother’s mind off the cowboy and onto herself. It was no wonder he was such a success. He knew how to handle people. He knew what they were thinking and how to get them to come to his way of thinking. It was a gift that served him well, especially in Parliament. However when it came to his daughter the gift was useless. If only they would not worry so. If only they would just leave her alone. She had never hurt anyone and she certainly had never injured herself. If only she could just be what she was meant to be instead of what her parents and all of proper English society expected her to be. It just wasn’t fair. Not fair at all.
Harry moved the carriage along at a quick pace to make up for the delay. Merritt watched the streets as they passed. The snow from earlier in the day was nearly melted but a few patches remained on the shaded side of the street. What was left had turned into muddy brown water that trickled down the curbs and into the sewers below and eventually dumped into the Thames.
The streets were busy. The population of London had grown rapidly in the past few years, especially on the east side, which had become the haven for the poor. On the west side, where her family resided, people went about the everyday business of life. Tradesmen and solicitors, bankers and lawyers, governesses with their charges, all picked their way through the puddles on the street, rode their horses or were driven in a wide assortment of vehicles. Heavy wagons filled to the top with kegs and casks, boxes and bags stopped along the way to fill orders for the merchants. All in all a normal day in London, except for the fact that a herd of buffalo accompanied by cowboys and Indians had just passed by.
Another normal day for the normal people. What would it be like to be perfectly normal? Merritt could not even begin to imagine.
The carriage came to a stop. “We’re here sir,” Harry called down.
Merritt looked up at the tall building with the same feeling of dread that had been her constant companion since her parents informed her of their decision. A small sign hung over the door. Institute of Paranormal Research. Dr. Edmond Von Swaim.
They exited the carriage. Merritt gathered her skirts and reluctantly followed her parents up the steps with Rose and Jerry close on her heels. Did they think she would actually dash off down the street?
If only I could…But she could not. Any normal person would. But any normal person would not be here in the first place. She was not normal. She was paranormal. Or so her parents thought. They had latched onto the word as soon as they understood its meaning. They felt it explained her spells perfectly yet they wanted to be sure. They needed a diagnosis because with a diagnosis there could be a cure. It all made so much sense when they explained it to her. But now…that the time was nigh…it made no sense at all.
The door swung open before the Earl could lift his hand to knock. Her mother hesitated on the step before her as if she were suddenly afraid.
Imagine how I feel…Merritt knew they wanted to help her. They wanted what was best for her. They also wanted to protect the family from the whispering that went on when someone in their circle had experiences that were considered…objectionable. It would solve all their problems if Merritt had an illness that they could put a name too.
If only they would listen…if only they would ask…if only she were braver and stronger. If only she had been the one to die instead of her brother Christopher. If only…
The Earl took the Countess’s arm and led her inside. Merritt, always the dutiful daughter, had no choice but to follow. A butler, who stood a full head taller than her father, held the door open. His face was impassive, but Merritt could feel his eyes upon her. She marched straight ahead as her father looked upward and around, his eyes calculating the wealth of the Institute as one might inventory the jewels upon the neck of a dowager countess.
The foyer was a full three stories high. Before them was a grand staircase with a hall beside it that led back to a closed door. To the left was a closed door and to the right a sitting room. The fire was not lit, nor the lamps, and the heavy velvet drapes were drawn closed against the light of day. It all seemed very desolate and lonely even though the wood was well polished and the furnishings rich with ornate carvings and plush fabrics.
The sound of a clock ticking was overpowering in the sudden quiet when the door was closed behind them. To Merritt the sound was frighteningly omnipotent. She could not help but look upward to the source and saw a huge pendulum swinging directly over the door. The clockworks were above, on the third story behind a walkway that crossed from one side to the other. She could not see them clearly in the dim light but they seemed immense and complicated. Why would anyone need or want a clock that big?
A middle-aged woman dressed in a simple gray dress and white apron and wearing a white cap came down the impressive staircase and dropped a curtsey to her father.
“Dr. Von Swaim awaits you in the upper parlor,” she said. She spoke with a heavy accent, possibly German since it was known that Von Swaim was of German descent. “Your servants may await you in there.”
Her father started to protest then thought better of it. Merritt wondered if the overbearing presence of the butler had anything to do with his hesitancy. He motioned Rose and Jerry into the parlor. Jerry made it clear by his stance that he was not happy about the situation. Rose simply sat down on a sofa and let out a long suffering sigh.
“For privacy sir,” the woman said when they were settled. “Doctor Von Swaim has also canceled all of his appointments for this afternoon so you need not worry about anyone disturbing you during your visit.”
“Very well,” her father said. “Lead on.”
Merritt took a firm grasp on the railing as she followed her parents up the grand staircase. As she watched her feet climb the stairs her insides felt as if she were descending into a deep dark pit. Her parents had insisted on enough doctors in her lifetime to dread any thought of any type of an exam, especially one that was as mysterious to her as this. What exactly did a paranormal exam involve?
For once her mother kept her chatter to a minimum. She always used it as a mask but in this situation there was no place for it. There was no hiding the fear or intimidation that any of them felt.
The light was brighter on the second floor. Gas lamps lit the hallways and the curtains were open on the opposite ends of the building to let in the light of day. The woman led them across the landing from the staircase and opened a set of double doors.
Bookcases, two stories high, filled the walls on either side. French doors covered the back wall and opened invitingly to a balcony that overlooked a courtyard. Merritt could hear water bubbling below and imagined it must contain a fountain of some sort. Deep burgundy curtains hung beside the windows that flanked the French doors. An ornate birdcage made of brass stood upon a stand next to the window and a bright yellow canary piped a few notes when they were shown into the room. A large sofa also covered in burgundy sat along the wall on the right with wing chairs on either side. End tables flanked the sofa and were covered with an assortment of gewgaws made of brass and glass. Some seemed to be spinning; it would take closer examination to be certain.
The left side of the room contained a huge desk with two small chairs before it. The desk held a smaller collection of gewgaws and a large crystal prism that seemed to Merritt to be as long as her arm. There was a door built into the wall directly behind the desk and she could not help but wonder where it led. Into the bowels of hell?
“The Doctor will be with you presently,” the woman said and closed the double doors behind her as she bowed her way from the room.
“You think they would have offered tea,” her mother said as she sat down in one of the wing chairs.
“We are not here for a social visit,” the Earl reminded her.
“Well, yes, I realize that,” the Countess replied. “Still it would be the hospitable thing to do, considering.”
Merritt let mother’s words pass over her without a response. Her father turned his back on both of them and perused the collection of books that filled the shelf behind the chair. Merritt walked to the balcony to see if there really was a fountain beyond.
A large telescope sat on the balcony aimed upwards at the sky. A stool was beside it with a sextant lying upon it. The instrument of the sea seemed strangely out of place in such an enclosed area. The courtyard was enclosed on the sides with a high brick wall and another building stood behind it. Dr. Von Swaim must have use of both buildings as a door from it opened into the courtyard also. The back of it was plain and tall with small windows that were covered with iron grates and shuttered from the inside. A chill went down her spine as she looked it over. What was the purpose of closing off the lovely courtyard from view? And why the grates? Were they meant to keep people in or people out?
The courtyard was, as she first surmised before her inspection of the building beyond, quite lovely. A large fountain with a replica of the earth done in metals was the centerpiece and water spurted from the top and coated the sides before falling into the stone basin beneath. Japanese maples with tightly budded leaves graced the centers of four uniform triangles that formed the corners of the gardens and neat boxwoods hedged the sides with benches placed before them. A brick walk surrounded the fountain and freshly tilled earth between the two begged for plantings of colorful flowers. It was a heady contradiction to the heavy and overpowering massiveness of everything she had seen inside the institute.
She heard her father’s harrumph of impatience and turned to see what caused it. The canary peeped inquisitively as she stepped inside so she paused beside its cage.
“I imagine you wish you could fly away,” she said softly to the bird. It hopped from its perch high in the cage to another that was closer to her face. Its dark eyes blinked several times as it examined her.
“Such a pretty cage,” Merritt said. “But it is still a cage, no matter how pretty it is.” She turned her head and looked at the building behind the courtyard.
Still a cage…
The canary jumped from the bar with a loud chirp as the pressure of the room changed with the opening of the door. Merritt felt a cold breeze swirl over her face and the few tendrils of her hair that had escaped the careful attentions of her maid tickled her cheek when she looked into the room.
She recognized Dr. Edmond Von Swaim. (Describe here) How could she not? He currently was the darling of the social circuit and was often mentioned in the gossip columns of the newspaper. Merritt had been present at a few of the functions he attended, as he was a must-have on any guest list. He usually performed feats of hypnotism or other sorts of trickery at the parties that were expounded on at great length in the columns the next day. He had impressed her parents enough that after a few discreet inquiries, they had decided to take Dr. Von Swaim into their confidence regarding Merritt and her “spells.”
His answer? She must be examined immediately before her spells worsened or she did harm to herself. They were exactly the words her mother most feared, since she had been dreading the prospect for these many years.
Maybe he will have an answer…or even a cure…It was too much to hope for. Merritt watched as her father shook hands with Dr. Von Swaim, and her mother greeted him warmly.
Why do I feel such a sense of dread?
Usually she had a vision or warning sign if something bad was about to happen. In this instance there had been no warning yet she still had the feeling that something was horribly wrong. Perhaps the canary had the same concerns. It piped mightily, as if in warning, as Dr. Von Swaim approached her with his arms open wide. Did he actually mean to embrace her?
“My dear Merritt,” he said with a welcoming smile on his broad and ruddy face. His voice held just the slightest accent of his German origins.
Merritt held out her gloved hand so that he might take it, but also to keep him from encroaching upon her. He took her hand, clasped it between his two palms and gave it a firm squeeze. It seemed on the surface to be comforting but then again something about it disturbed her. Perhaps it was in the way he evaluated her. She looked into the deep-set blue eyes beneath the heavy blonde brows. There was no mistaking it. His demeanor was kind and friendly but he was calculating her worth, just as her father had when they arrived at the institute.
“Your parents have expressed their deep concern over your condition,” he said as Merritt carefully pulled her hand free.
“They trouble themselves over nothing,” Merritt said. “I have strange dreams, nothing more.”
“Nonsense,” the Countess said. “Who has dreams in the middle of the day? When they are often wide awake?”
“Come my dear,” Von Swaim said. “Sit and tell me of your dreams.” He stepped back and extended his arm, just stopping short of touching her back as if he would propel her forward.
Merritt suppressed a heavy sigh as she made her way to the sofa. There were no other options and there certainly was no escape. The only thing to do was get it over with as quickly as possible. She sat down and Von Swaim joined her. Her parents took position in the wing chairs on either side. Von Swaim sat forward, placing his body between Merritt and her father. It also placed his body between Merritt and the door.
“It would help me to know more of what you experience,” Von Swaim said. “Tell me of your dreams.”
It seemed too personal…too revealing…however he was a doctor. It was his intent to help her or so she hoped. If he could make the dreams, the visions, the spells, go away…Merritt looked at him hopefully.
“They are more like visions than dreams,” she explained. “I simply see things.”
“What type of things?”
She thought carefully of what she should say. It was all so confusing. Should she tell this man her deepest darkest secrets? Or would the basics be enough? It certainly would not hurt to share the things she told her parents. It wasn’t as if they had not already told him what they knew about her spells.
“Sometimes I see Papa at work talking with his friends…”
“About subjects that she should have no knowledge of,” the Earl interjected.
“Do you mean policy discussions? Von Swaim asked.
“Do you bring home notes or letters that she would have access too?”
“I wouldn’t do that,” Merritt said. “I would never look at Papa’s personal papers.”
“You do read the daily,” her mother said. “That’s enough to feed anyone’s imagination.”
“She speaks of things during her spells that she has no way of knowing. How someone will vote, or who will side with whom. It is almost as if she knows the outcome before it happens.”
Indeed,” Von Swaim said. “Very curious. Is she usually right about the things she sees?”
“Almost always,” her father said.
If only they knew…
“Any other instances? Anything besides parliament?” Von Swaim studied her intently, his eyes moving over her face and down enough to make her feel uncomfortable.
Merritt shifted her body so that he was not so close, and not so oppressive. She shrugged. “There have been a few other things.”
“She saw poor Mrs. Poole drop dead,” her mother said. “Our butler’s mother,” she went on to explain.
“No, I did not see her drop dead,” Merritt interjected. “I simply saw her lying on the floor. Then I asked Poole if he had seen her lately.”
“And when he did she was dead.”
“Yes. She was.”
“Quite dead,” her father volunteered. As if anyone could be any deader than dead.
“Fascinating!” Von Swaim jumped up from the sofa and strode across the room as if he could not contain himself.
Merritt looked at the man in disbelief. Poor Poole had lost his mother and Dr. Von Swaim was looking at her as if she had just given him a fortune in jewels.
“Is there anything else?”
Merritt twisted her hands in her lap. She knew what was coming before her mother even said it.
“We have noticed things moving about sometimes,” the Countess said timidly. Merritt could not blame her for being timid. It would be difficult to believe unless one had actually witnessed it. Small objects did have a habit of falling off of surfaces or in one instance flying across a room when she was in the midst of one of her more troublesome spells.”
“Excellent,” Von Swaim exclaimed. He came back to the sofa and knelt in front of Merritt before grasping her hands. “You must allow me to hypnotize you.”
She felt trapped once again. Pinned against the sofa with no chance of escape. She did manage to free her hands from his grasp yet he remained on the floor before her, practically kneeling on her skirts.
“Do you think it would help, Dr. Von Swaim?” her father asked.
“The subconscious mind holds much danger for those not familiar with its workings,” Von Swaim said as he finally rose to his feet. “Imagine Merritt’s mind as a battlefield with her subconscious at war with her consciousness. It seems to me that at the present time her subconscious is winning the battle. If I do not find out the cause I am afraid that Merritt’s consciousness may eventually be lost to you forever.”
“Oh my!” Her mother gasped. “Merritt lost?”
“The sanitariums are full of such cases.”
“That is unacceptable.” The Earl jumped to his feet while her mother held her handkerchief to her face to hide her distress.
Merritt was skeptical about his comments. There was no war going on in her mind. She just had dreams. Very vivid, very real dreams. She always knew whom she was and where she was when she awakened. It seemed as if Dr. Von Swaim had made a more accurate diagnosis of her parent’s fears and was using it to achieve his own ends.
“If you believe hypnotism will help, then by all means proceed,” her father said.
“Are you certain you will be able to hypnotize me?” She had seen performances of such things before but always felt as if there was collusion involved on the part of all parties.
“I have found that the stronger paranormal activity lends itself to susceptibility in these cases,” Von Swaim replied. He held a hand out to help her rise from the sofa and she had no choice but to take it. “Come my dear,” he said and led her to a gilt chair placed before his desk. “Please stay where you are so there will be no distractions,” he instructed her parents who had begun to follow.
They sat down together on the couch and smiled encouragement to Merritt. She smiled reassuringly in their direction and was pleased to see her father take her mother’s hand into his. There was nothing to fear. Her father would not let any harm come to her.
Merritt sat down with her back to the window while Von Swaim opened a desk drawer and removed an object. The light caught it as he carried it around the desk. It was a crystal, cut in the shape of a large diamond and suspended from a chain.
He sat down opposite her and dangled the crystal from the chain in front of her. “I want you to concentrate,” he said. “Concentrate on the crystal. Concentrate on the light. Watch it carefully.”
The crystal twisted back and forth, slowly winding then unwinding on the chain. Merritt watched the light from the lamps and the sun dance through the different angles of the cuts, each one casting a different color around it as if it was alive with its own aura. She heard the canary chirp once, heard the fountain cascading behind her, and heard the soft breathing of her parents. As watched the crystal spin up and down the chain she felt as if the walls of the room were falling away. The fountain became distant and then she heard the giant clock with the pendulum swinging back and forth.
The noise moved inside her head and became an echo of her heartbeat. Tick…thump….tock…thump-thump.
She was no longer in the room inside the institute. She was no longer with Dr. Von Swaim and her parents. She was standing in the middle of a circle. The ground beneath her was hard packed earth that was scarred with the imprint of many types of hoof prints. A light shone directly on her, blinding her. She lifted a hand to shield her eyes from it and the light faded.
Someone was with her. “Trust me,” a voice said. “You’ve got to trust me.” The voice seemed vaguely familiar and she searched the area inside the light until she saw a silhouette. Her forehead furrowed as she tried to put a name to the face that was hidden beneath the shadow of a wide-brimmed hat.
“Don’t move,” the voice said. “Trust me. I will never hurt you.” Then he raised a gun in his hand and shot her.
Merritt screamed. She felt her body spinning and then she landed beside the desk. Her hands gripped the sides of the chair as if she were on a boat in huge swells that threatened to break over her head.
As she caught her breath she looked at Dr. Von Swaim for an answer to what she had said or done while under the effects of his hypnosis. But Von Swaim was not looking at her. He looked beyond her. Merritt turned in her seat and saw the birdcage. It was no longer beautiful. It was twisted and ruined with the bars broken and pulled apart.
The canary sat upon the rail of the balcony with its beak wide open as it sang a sweet song to the clear blue sky above. It turned and looked directly at Merritt before it extended its wings and flew away.
“My word!” her father said.
Her mother simply cried.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tease me!

from Emily Bryan . . .

I'd never plagiarize in my books, but I freely admit I lifted the idea for this post from my friend TeddyRee, the Aussie blogger of THE ECLECTIC READER. This week she had a Teaser Tuesday, where she invited her readers to share a 2 sentence tease from the book they are currently reading. I thought it was a fun idea and I'd like to keep it going here. I'm sure Teddy will recognize this as the sincerest form of flattery!

The book on my bedside table is Alissa Johnson's TEMPTING FATE, which RT BookReviews calls "a joyous book from a bright star!" Here are 2 sentences from p. 7:

She jolted when his hand caught her arm and spun her around again.
"Oh, we're not quite finished here, imp."

(As a side note, Alissa also joins USA Today BestSeller Jennifer Ashley and me in our upcoming A CHRISTMAS BALL . You'll love her novella in that anthology!)

Now it's your turn! Pick up the book you're currenly reading. Open to a random page and give us a 2 sentence tease. Be sure to include the title and the author's name so someone else can find the books that intrigue them!

Come on! I can't wait for you to tease me!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Erin Quinn--debut novel and giveaway

Months ago, I was given the pleasure of reading Erin's new release, Haunting Beauty, from Berkley Publishing, so I could blurb it. I thoroughly enjoyed the complex and intriguing tale of Danni and Sean. I decided it would be great to interview Erin on The Chatelaines. And here she is! We'll be giving away a copy of one of the books Erin wrote several years ago for Berkley, Echoes or Whispers (paranormal romances), winner's choice. Leave a comment to say hi and to win a copy!

JA: Welcome to the Chatelaines, Erin!

EQ: Thank you! I’m thrilled to be here.

JA: Please tell us a little about Haunting Beauty.

EQ: HAUNTING BEAUTY is the story of Danni Jones, a woman whose entire past is a mystery. Life has been hard on Danni, but she’s not the kind of woman who rolls over and takes it. She’s forged ahead and, with her little dog, Bean, has found contentment, if not happiness. She has resigned herself to never knowing who she is, why she was abandoned as a child, or if she has family out there, somewhere. But when Sean Ballagh appears at her door offering everything she ever wished for—the answers to the questions of her past and the ticket to find her family—Danni must follow him to Ireland, a land steeped with mystery and lore.

Sean delivers the goods—he reunites her with her people—but how could Danni have guessed that she would be meeting herself as a child? Reliving those fateful hours before her whole world was shattered? Learning the secrets that determined her fate? Who is this Sean Ballagh with his beautiful eyes that are as relentless and deep as the sea? And what does he want from Danni? He is more than a messenger, but even Sean doesn’t know the truth about himself.

JA: I loved the time travel element in this story, which is a little bit different from most time travels (which often involves the heroine going to the distant past, where she is a stranger). What made you decide to take the woman back to watch her own past?

EQ: Exactly the reason you said. I love, love, love time travel but I wanted to tell a story that is different from other time travel stories. I wanted to give Danni and Sean a very specific reason for traveling through time at all, and a big reason for going to that particular hour of that particular day in that specific month and year. I wanted it to be more than just chance.

JA: I thought you cycled past and present together masterfully. The book kept me hooked!

EQ: Thank you!

JA: I also enjoyed the Irish setting. What made you choose to set the story here?

EQ: You know, I think it chose me. I mean, my name is Erin which means Ireland and though technically I’m a “mutt”—a mixture of so many cultures even I don’t know what they are—Irish is the heritage we claim. Once I started my research, I was so completely captivated by the history that I knew I wanted to write several books set there.

JA: The paranormal elements (the book/witchcraft) were quite intriguing. Did you tie them to/borrow them from a particular mythology?

EQ: The Book of Fennore itself was not part of mythology, but I did weave in other elements of mythology and history into it. On one had, the Book is a bit like the genie in the bottle. It can give you anything you ask for, but you must be very careful how you ask and you must be willing to pay the price for what you get. :-)

JA: Will there be future books connected to this one? What’s next for you?

EQ: Next up is HAUNTING WARRIOR, which is book two of the HAUNTING Series. HAUNTING WARRIOR tells Rory’s story. (Rory is the brother of HAUNTING BEAUTY’S heroine). I’m currently working on the third book, as of yet untitled. I’m guessing there will be a HAUNTING somewhere in there though, ha ha.

Jennifer, thank you so much for having me on your site. You asked some great questions. I was so honored when you gave me a quote for HAUNTING BEAUTY. You know I’m a big fan. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie was one of the best books I’ve ever read.

JA: Why, thank you!! And thanks for being here.

I hope everyone has the chance to enjoy Haunting Beauty. It's a different kind of paranormal romance. I confess I'm not a big time-travel fan, but I really liked this one. Post a comment for the drawing from one of Erin's previous Berkley releases Echoes or Whispers.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Feeling hot, hot, hot!

Seattle breaks temp record as heat wave continues. That was the headline of the Seattle Times on Thursday.

The Bellevue Reporter headline read, Bellevue sizzles as temperatures hit 106.

This is Seattle. We like rain here, not temperatures that make us swoon. Stores have signs on their windows that state, "We are out of fans and air conditioners" because they have been asked that question endlessly for the past week. Why? Because we here in the Pacific Northwest don't have air conditioned homes. We never need that kind of cooling.

As a result of the weather we've had a few interesting things happening around here. Outside activities (unless water is involved) and road work has come to a halt. Microsoft lost power and sent their employees home. Boeing had a major roll out of their newest military plane, The Poseidon, where every industrial fan available was moved outside and trained on all the suits so they could remain . . . standing. We've had brush fires, house fires, medical emergencies for the young and old. And in my house, a trip to the vet for a kitty with a heart murmur that was breathing a bit too hard. He's okay, and I learned how to treat heat exhaustion in cats as a result.

Fortunately, and to the relief of the economy and the residents of the area, a large number of the bigger chains stores have air conditioning, as well as grocery stores, libraries, and movie theaters. In order to escape the heat, I have seen three movies this week! Might as well be entertained as you try to cool down. I'll share my summer blockbuster movie reviews with you all next Saturday. So stay tuned for that.

My question for those of you who live in the warmer climates . . . how do you do it? Please share your tricks and tips. What do you do to survive the summer when the temperatures climb to the 90s and 100s?

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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