Category Archives: Guest Interview

Author Interview of Andrea R. Cooper

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I’m a wife and mom to three kids. Currently, I’m a stay-at-home mom and full-time author. I grew up creating stories and characters and haven’t stopped yet.

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

Romancing Adventure

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

Reading, Zumba, Martial Arts. Used to be a gamer, but hard to fit in nowadays.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Freestyle. I have an idea and characters and basic destination in mind, but I don’t plot or outline.

If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.

Imagine Dragons, Godsmack, anything with a beat

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

I brainstorm while cleaning. Since I’d rather write than scrub floors, my creative mind usually gives me ideas pretty quickly.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

My biggest surprise was when I discovered no writer has a perfect story. That editors and revision must take place for every book.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

Yes. I also write fantasy romance, urban fantasy, and historical romance.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

Scotland. I’d love to walk through the old and new castles there.

Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pinterest, collages) when plotting or writing?

Yes, I love Pinterest. All my books have boards there with characters, outfits, scenery, etc.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

Entertainment and a good story.

 

Fallen

BLURB

She has seduced men everywhere…but never fallen in love. Until now.

Succubus Adeline lost her powers. The crystal that all her kind crave has attached itself to her and rendered her powerless. Unless she finds a way to remove it, she’ll transform into a human–a fate worse than death.

Soon the tables are turned on the succubus, and the succubus finds herself the one at the mercy of desire.

Jack is running from vamps and weres. They want his hidden doppelgänger talents to locate a stone that enables weres to transform at will, but he just wants to be left alone. Now he has a bounty hunter after him.

In a race against time, vampires, and weres, Adeline and Jack travel from Boston to Greece to New Orleans to stay ahead of the hunters.

BUY LINKS

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

itunes

KOBO Books

EXCERPT

She scrolled through her cell as the taxi turned at a light, and Greek swear words were exchanged between their driver and an electric scooter rider. Jack’s eyes closed, and his head rested on the back of the seat, his cheeks pale.

What would she do if the order came from the master vampire who was after him? Jack tied himself to Beth in order to save Adeline. How can I repay him? The crystal latched onto her wrist caught the light. Right, if I don’t get this thing removed soon, all of my kin nearing 5,000 years will put a bounty on me. Visiting the Oracle, on behalf of a witchdoctor, would give her the chance to get information about removing the quartz without dying.

Her gaze glided over the Oracle voodoo doll. No, she’d probably be lucky if the Oracle didn’t strangle them when she met them.

Adeline dug out a mint and shivered when she pushed aside the cuffs in her purse. Snippets of hot memory of Jack on her made her debate sending the cab driver away for a few hours and straddling Jack. She offered him a mint and took one for herself. His hand brushed hers as the taxi took a sharp turn, its tires squealing.

Focus. It’s only his borrowed powers that make you feel this way. My powers. She checked her texts. Most were from men around the world asking when she’d come see them. Delete, delete, delete. Two messages from Renee, one from Damon, and one from her employer. She cringed.

Status update pronto. Never taken you this long to tag and bag a guy.

Yeah, well she’d never been without her abilities before. Working on it. She texted a reply.

Both of Renee’s notes were short, and the last one cryptic. You okay? Any update? And Call us when you can. We have something to discuss with you.

Damon’s text was blunt: Gotten the rock off yet? Or are you being chased?

Meaning by incubi and succubus who craved the crystal to amplify their gift and avoid becoming demons, or ones who already twisted and sought more wars and violence in the world of mankind. Of course, she’d tried everything to get it off. Even offered it to Damon and her succubus cousin, Samara, but the bracelet wouldn’t let go.

5-star Review snippet:

“This is a fantastic paranormal read and i just loved Jack and Adeline they were great characters.”

Andrea Cooper-June 21

Andrea has always created characters and stories. She writes paranormal and historical romance. When not writing or reading, one may find Andrea dancing in Zumba.

She believes in the power of change and counting each moment as a blessing. But most importantly, she believes in love.

WEB CONTACTS

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Guest Interview with Sheryl Winters

What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?

Research is a tricky subject. I can get lost for hours so I now use a simple technique to keep the story flowing. In my first draft, I type the word RESEARCH in big bold letters when I need a solid fact. An example of this is in Harper’s Place. Since the story is set in New York City, the snow fall accumulation had to be right. I wrote the story, added a realistic amount of snow for a snow storm and upped the believability Harper and Patrick’s romance.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

Writer’s block involves smacking my head against the table, repeatedly until the blood vessels in my head have opened up. I’m just kidding. When writer’s block hits, I will find myself reading the story over again from the beginning, letting myself feel all the emotions the characters feel. Usually, this is enough to clear up any writer’s block and let me proceed.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

Editing and revision can be fun. I like to restructure the story after I’ve made a rather terrible first draft. Each editing pass brings the story I’m working on closer to the original vision I intended. So I think I am most surprised at how much I enjoy editing something I’ve created.

What resources do you use for picking character names?

Baby name sites are wonderful for character naming, and I’ve more than one bookmarked. I can get stuck for hours finding the perfect name, so Baby Name sites become invaluable.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

I hope my readers enjoy the stories I write for them. I want them to forget about reality as they roam through the worlds I’ve created.

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

I’d love to say I can devote an entire day to writing. I try to maximize the time I have. If I only have an hour or so, I’ll do light editing. I find that real creativity takes time and quiet and the ability to let myself be bored so that my imagination can explode.

Harpers Place

BLURB:

Harper Grey is fed up with over-bearing men.

Her father wants to sell the family hamburger joint to her brother because a woman could never make it successful.

Harper knows she has the same flair for business as her mother, and sexy Navy SEAL Patrick O’Brien dares her to prove it to the world.

When duty calls and Patrick must leave her side, will Harper be strong enough to make her dream a reality?

BUY LINKS

Roane Publishing

Amazon  

Amazon (UK)  

Barnes and Noble  

Kobo Books  

Smashwords  

Bookstrand

EXCERPT

“How would you bring in new business, though?”

I’m amazed that he seems to find our conversation interesting. He’s an audience willing to listen and I’ve not had that in a long time. Damn this crush of mine. It won’t be easy to tame after tonight.

“New menu items, specials, things like that. Start serving dessert, like pies. Easy cook items. With the new burgers, I’ve created and a new décor, I’d open in the summer when the air is fresh and everyone is happy to be out of the snow, hungry for grilled food. I think we could do fine.”

“What’s your hold up?”

“Tony, Dad. It’s complicated.” I shrug. His arm feels good, and I have the overwhelming urge to nuzzle against it. “Did you kiss Amy Parker when you were twelve? She still brags about it.” Did I just ask him about kissing? What is wrong with me? Will this mouth of mine never shut up? Stop it, Stop it, stop it!

“That I did, in a closet over at Robert Anderson’s house.”

“Ew.”

“I was twelve and desperate. You can’t blame me. I do blame that stupid soda bottle.  And your first kiss?” There is a challenge in his voice.

“Kevin Monroe at the Klines Movie Theater. He sent me a six-page note the next day about how much he loved me, and I freaked out and dumped him.”

“Any regrets?”

I choke back a giggle. “Naw, ‘cept I remember I liked his cologne. It could have been aftershave, but it was nice.” It’s not half as nice as the Aramis that Patrick has on. Something about it sends a shiver up my spine that has nothing to do with the zombie waiting in Dad’s office.

“The dark isn’t so bad, now is it?”

“I guess not.”

Silence surrounds us. The fear that enveloped me seems to disappear.

“Are you seeing anyone?”

“No.” It sounds terrible now that I’ve said it out loud. Like I’m admitting to being a desperate and dateless leper.

“So,” he drawls out, “ever thought of dating a military guy?” He squeezes my fingers.

Is he serious?

His fingertip smooths over the rough callouses I’ve gained from years of hard work. Suddenly my wasted evening of not going out to celebrate is starting to look better. “I think it would depend on which military guy.”

“You’re killing me. You know that, don’t you?” His strangled tone only sets off a case of the giggles.

“Are you asking me out, Patrick?”

“Trying to, but you’re not making it easy.” The challenge is back in his voice.

“I wouldn’t mind a date or two,” I manage to squeak out. Breathe, Harper, just breathe, calmly through your nose, out your mouth. Sainted Mother of God, Patrick asked me out! I hit the jackpot! Now all I have to do is not hit him.

BIO

In a small town outside of Anchorage, Sheryl Winters can be found penning her next novel with her two cats and one dog at her side. On sunny days, she can be found in Hatcher’s Pass about an hour outside of Anchorage.

Sheryl is a firm believer that superheroes are among us—regular people whose actions “create beauty out of chaos.” Sheryl is an advocate in the fight against bullying.

WEB CONTACTS

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Guest Interview—Jana Begovic

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (ex Yugoslavia) where I spent most of my adult life. I also acquired most of my higher education there (B.A. and M.A. degrees in languages and literature). With my husband and son, I immigrated to Canada in 1991, half a year before the country was engulfed in a civil war. After graduating from the Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, Canada, I started working for the Department of National Defence and began my career path as a foreign language curriculum and testing specialist. With a full-time job that involves a lot of international travel, too, I currently write only as a hobby.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

Gourmet cooking and entertaining friends and family, reading, running and other fitness activities, travel, walks in nature.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

I think of the characters first and have a rough contour of the plot in my mind. I allow the story to evolve organically without much planning.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

I’ve traveled to most of the locations I mention. For example, in Poisonous Whispers, parts of the plot unfold in Vienna, Rome, Barcelona and Glasgow. Glasgow is one of the cities I have not visited yet. England and Ireland are also mentioned in this book, and I was fortunate to visit England several times. I dream of travelling to Ireland because I feel a strong attraction to that country. My bucket list is much too long for one lifetime.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

When I get stuck, I simply stop writing and let the story ferment further in my subconscious mind. I also believe in synchronicities, that is meaningful coincidences that come into your life when you need them. And invariably, whenever I’d hit a reef in my storytelling, I would hear a story from a friend or an acquaintance during my travels that would inspire me to continue writing. When it comes to Poisonous Whispers, I simply trusted the process because I believed this book was destined to be born. I will never forget sitting in an airport in Europe and having the “Aha” moment, and knowing without a speck of doubt where the story needed to go in order for the plot line to come full circle.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

I was shocked to see my characters assume a life of their own. They became alive and started to control the storyline. I was especially surprised that the heroine would reveal a certain secret to her husband almost ruining her marriage. That was so unnecessary and cruel!!! When it comes to editing itself, the realization that it is an almost never-ending process, that it is almost impossible to catch every single error discouraged and frustrated me many times. And I’m not even a perfectionist in my everyday life!

What’s your dream vacation destination?

A hot climate with white pebbled beaches surrounded by pine trees, buzzing with cicada song and infused with the scent of brine and Mediterranean grasses. I believe I’m describing the Adriatic coast where I used to vacation, and which I will always miss.

In what genre do you read?

I read both fiction and non-fiction, commercial and literary prose, but literary fiction is my preferred genre. I enjoy the depth of literary thought, and I crave books that make me stop after every couple of pages and contemplate life.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

I hope that readers derive pleasure from reading my debut novel; I hope they read it slowly, visualizing the pictures of both the physical and emotional landscapes I painted; I hope they lose track of time once they step into the multi-layered worlds I created; I hope the heroine’s pain-laced journey touches them, and also shows them that pain and loss, and poor judgment can deepen, strengthen, humble and redeem us.  And I hope they like and relate to my characters in spite of their flaws and moral fallibility.

Poisonous Whispers-1207

BLURB

“Don’t you ever forget about me…,” he whispers during their secret encounters. Like a curse, these simple words now haunt Leandra, a reputable psychiatrist, who finds herself in emotional chaos after the sudden breakup of her illicit affair. Unable to heal on her own and tormented by dreams in which supernatural forces create havoc with her fate, she desperately turns to David, a colleague psychiatrist, asking him to take her through past-life regression therapy. She hopes that this unorthodox and somewhat suspect technique will explain her profound connection to the lover who has abandoned her so abruptly.

The sessions take Leandra through 17th and 19th century Ireland, Italy and England, where love, loss and betrayal are the leitmotifs in an ambiance of co-mingled fantasy and reality. In her hypnotic state, Leandra recounts a saga of intoxicating love, dizzying passion, flaming lust and profound heartbreak. Despite the painful answers she finds under hypnosis, Leandra still cannot let go of the hope to reunite with her lover. Ultimately, the shattering revelations from her past-life incarnations, along with the turmoil over her ruined marriage, become the stepping stones of her introspective path to healing, self-discovery and an appreciation of true love.

BUY LINKS

Roane Publishing

Amazon

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

EXCERPT

A tiny streak of pale light is cascading softly down the cell window and making a shy sliver in the veil of darkness. I open my eyes, disoriented. I do not move; I do not even dare blink until I get my bearings. Then I remember and freeze in horror. I sit up, an aching all over my body and cold dread in my heart. Instinctively, I try to disentangle my matted hair with my fingers, but it is hopeless. All around me, I smell mold, decay and death. How can I survive another day in this hole? The sound of the door opening with a screech makes me jump in terror.

The gaoler walks in; a heavy set of keys dangling and jingling in his hand.

“Come. You are being moved in preparation for tonight’s execution. A verdict was reached.”

I speak not but follow him. We climb a steep staircase. Below us, I hear moans and yells and what sounds like the death throes of those hopelessly lost to the world and forgotten by justice, compassion and mercy. Again, I am feeling dissociated from the event of my calamity; I see my body walking, but my soul is not in it and indifference over what might happen floods me. Death is not the end. Death offers me salvation from pain, from the torment of living a human life.

We leave the jailhouse and enter the house across the street to the village inn. The inn owner, James Bourke, looks at me with hatred and disdain. He also always hated my husband because his wife had hoped my husband would marry her. She was in love with him, and when he married me she tried to kill herself. James married her later, but has always known that she never stopped loving my husband.

The gaoler takes me upstairs to one of the guest rooms and locks the door behind me. The room is wide and clean even though sparsely furnished. The bed is large and looks inviting and I realize how exhausted I am. On the bed is a white, thin chemise and I immediately understand thisis what I will wear tonight when I am pushed off the bridge into the water that is cool even on the hottest of summer days. Will I have the strength or the will to swim and save myself? What surprises and almost delights me under such grave circumstances is a bathtub in the corner of the room. There is steam rising from it and I immediately undress and slip into it, relieved to be able to wash off the dirt, the grime, and above all the horrible stench on my body. I rub myself raw trying to clean my skin. Washing my hair is more difficult because at home I have servants who help me with bathing, dressing and undressing. I have been spoilt by marrying a man of wealth and power. Where is my husband now? I crave his protection. If he saved me now, would I give up Kieran, would I give up love in order to live? I surmise I would.

After I have washed, I come out of the tub feeling more exhausted than ever. At the same time, I realize I have not eaten for over a day and devour the plate of bread, cheese and apples ravenously. As I am eating, I can feel tears stream down my face; they are tears of silent despair and hopelessness. My chest is heaving with pain and I have difficulty swallowing the last few bites. I throw myself on the bed thinking my weeping and sobbing will continue forever, but I fall asleep. One would think that my dreams would be filled with the terror of the situation, but instead I dream of Kieran. In my dream I accuse him of being a weakling, of not fighting for our love. He just looks at me sadly and his eyes are filled with tears of powerlessness. He is also saying something in his defense, but I do not understand his words. I wake up feeling a sharp pain stabbing my chest and I gasp for breath. I feel like I am suffocating. I take a sip of water from the pitcher on the floor and the pain subsides. Outside, the moon is peering out from behind a cloud and I realize I’ve slept through the whole day. It is time to get ready for a new chance at life or for death.

I use the chamber pot and wash myself again with the bath water that is no longer clean. I tie my hair into a braid and pin it up. If I had scissors, I would gladly cut it off so it does not weigh me down once the cool river takes me in its wet embrace.

I sit on the bed waiting for my fate to open the next chapter of my life. I do not understand why I am suddenly so peaceful, and I cannot be certain if it is tranquility or resignation that has filled my heart.

I have no reaction when I hear the key turn in the lock and see the homely face of the gaoler appear in the doorframe. He is carrying a large red candle and in its light his toothless smile appears eerie and foreboding.

“Are you ready, my lovely, to face the savior? I must say ‘tis a shame to see such a nice body go to waste and be eaten by the fishes and snakes, but you are not the first or the last wretched witch this village has put an end to.”

His laughter is broken by a cough that must be tearing up his insides. It is so strong that it overwhelms him and he has to bend down to cough out something awful that seems to have been stuck in his throat. What a horrid man!

From a 5-star review

“The writing is exquisite—a book of depth, sophisticated in style, literary in nature. Ms. Begovic displays strong lyrical and poetic writing filled with symbolism and universal truths. The book also holds an element of suspense that keeps the reader wondering about the relationships of the characters until the surprise ending. A beautiful story, a compelling read.”

Beverly Knauer, Author of “The Line Between”

Jana_Begovic_Photo

As far back as she can remember, Jana has been fascinated by storytelling and intoxicated with the written word. As a young child, she began spinning stories, talking to an imaginary friend and devouring fairy tales. Her love of reading and writing drove her to study languages and literature. She works for the Government of Canada in the field of military language training. She was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, but has lived in Canada since 1991.

WEB CONTACTS

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Twitter @ZhannaBegovic

Goodreads

GIVEAWAY

One AUTOGRAPHED book copy as giveaway will be mailed to a reader who leaves a question/comment and his/her contact info. The author will select the winner randomly. Good luck!

 

Guest Interview—Willa Blair

Welcome to my friend I met while living in Texas. Tell us a bit about you and your background

A life-long student and reader, I’ve been a stained glass artist and instructor, a foreign language teacher, a computer scientist, an analyst, a manager and an executive. I’ve visited five continents and can get by in several languages. Scouting new settings for books is lots of fun, and being an author is the best job I’ve ever had.

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

“Romance and Adventure”. I add “…in the Highlands of Scotland” for my Scottish books!

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

I’m sorry, I don’t understand. What does “away from the computer” mean? ;^)

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

Plot, always the plot. I get to know the characters as I write.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Both. I wrestle with an outline and bare-bones synopsis to get the flow of the plot figured out. Then the characters step in and do all they can to wreck the plan.

What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?

Again, both. I may need to do a lot of historical research if I’m starting in a new time period, then fact-check or look for amplifying detail later.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Yes – for my Scottish books—historical and contemporary—I’ve traveled through a good deal of central Scotland and the Highlands, but have plenty left to see and do! I’ve also been to Hawaii several times which came in handy for Sweetie Pie, and just went on my first cruise. Now I have 5 more countries to use as settings if my imagination decides to go there.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

Go away from it for a few days—or weeks—and work on something else.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

That much to my editor’s dismay, I’m enamored of commas.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

Yes. I also write Scottish historical romance.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

A summer in Scotland, a month each in Australia and New Zealand, a summer in Europe, shall I go on? I have lots of dreams.

perf5.000x8.000.indd

BLURB

Widow Lara MacLaren hungers for the hunky architect she hires to restore her derelict Scottish manor, but is she ready for a relationship…and is Ian ready for her twins?

Ian Paterson is eager to awaken Lara’s passionate side. Yet, if he reveals his ancestral claim to her estate, he risks losing her and his job. His clan’s history, lost over the years, may be hidden in the walls—along with a ghost waiting for the laird’s return.

When they uncover a room full of Jacobite treasure, proof of his ancestry, Ian realizes he’s out of time. If the ghost is real, it could expose his secret and destroy his romance with Lara. Ian must convince her she and her twins are the future he truly wants.

BUY LINK

Amazon

EXCERPT

“Are ye okay?” Ian felt Lara’s ribs expand under his hand as she breathed.

“I am now,” she murmured. “I could have sprained an ankle, or fallen and hit my head.”

“You needn’t worry,” he answered softly. “I’ve got you.” Pressed against his hard length, right where he needed her. Though he knew holding her was a mistake, he couldn’t let her go.

Her face flushed. “You do at that. I…I…” She glanced at the ceiling, then returned her gaze to his. “Thank you…”

“You’re welcome. I don’t mind a bit,” Ian teased. Her body was firm, yet soft against his. She made no move to escape his embrace. He lowered his gaze to her mouth. Her lips were so close. So tempting.

Lara’s breath warmed his face. Her gaze met his, then dropped quickly to his mouth.

He was certain she meant to allow his kiss…and to kiss him back. He parted his lips, drinking in her scent, eager to taste her.

Something moved in the darkness below them, soundless, but stirring the cool air and whispering across his hands. The back of Ian’s neck prickled.

Lara stiffened and cocked her head, as if listening.

“Just a draft,” he murmured. Ian could have sworn it was only moving air, nothing more. He hoped. He’d grown up hearing tales about Cairn Dubh—and its ghost. If Cairn Dubh did have a ghost, this ancient space would be a fine place for it to haunt.

Review Snippets

Waiting for the Laird by Willa Blair is a delightful romance and unexpected adventure set in Scotland.” Books & Benches Reviewer’s Choice Seal of Excellence

“Willa Blair spins a beautiful romance set in the Scottish Highlands full of suspense, history and mystery…This is an absolutely wonderful story to read while curled up in a comfy chair with a nice hot drink, I highly suggests you pick it up and enjoy.” Night Owl Reviews Top Pick

Willa Blair

Willa Blair is an Award-winning, Amazon and Barnes & Noble #1 Bestselling author of Scottish Historical, light Paranormal, and Contemporary romance. Her books have won numerous honors, including the Marlene, the Merritt, National Readers’ Choice Award Finalist, The Reader’s Crown finalist, Historical Romance finalist and Honorable Mention in InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE Award, NightOwl Reviews Top Pick, Books & Benches’ Readers’ Choice Seal of Excellence, and InD’tale Magazine Review’s Crowned Heart.

WEB CONTACTS

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Guest Author Interview—Jeremy Higley

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I was born in California, raised in Alabama, I earned my bachelor’s in Virginia, lived and served in Colorado, and now I live in Arizona. I’m an avid consumer of text, video, and apples. I love writing, teaching, and making people smile.

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

A vague prophecy, an ancient war between immortal wizards, and in the middle of it all, a young apprentice named Skel just wants to save his infant brother from a dream cult more powerful than magic itself.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

It’s scary, actually, just how much of my life involves my computer. Work, school, and play are all digitally entangled in some way or another. The biggest thing I do away from the cyber-void is talk to random people I meet in public. In the line at the grocery store, on the curb as I walk down the street… anywhere, really. The world is full of amazing stories hidden in plain sight.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

I start with the milieu. The geography, the chronology, the theology, the magic systems… not until I’ve fleshed out the world a bit do I feel comfortable filling it with characters and designing good stories for them to be a part of.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

I plan more than Ray Bradbury, less than J.K. Rowling. My planning functions as a really basic sketch, but then I follow the characters as they fill out the details in their own way. I build the world, and then they explore it.

If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.

For action scenes I’ll often pull out tracks from Star Wars movies, or anything similarly epic that can pull me in and help me keep my pacing. For everything else I’m usually listening to EDM, especially Lindsey Stirling.

What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?

Neither, really. I’m more likely to just start over again if I get stuck. Research is something I do when questions come up. I make a lot of notes during the world-building process, and sometimes that requires some research, but more often the original idea for something comes from research I remember doing a long time ago.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

The Eltar plains are loosely based on the African savannah, which I have never visited. The Blood Mountains are based on the Appalachians more than anything, and I have been there. The Mirror Desert was actually inspired by a picture I drew when I was a Boy Scout of a reflective desert under a sunset. Irontree Mountain is meant as an echo of the Old Forest in Lord of the Rings, a place many of us have been in spirit. Personally, I’d much sooner brave the Old Forest than go anywhere near Irontree Mountain, as you’ll understand when you get to the end of the book.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

It’s very true that I often start over. If it’s the chapter that’s giving me trouble, I start the chapter over and use a different character’s perspective. I’ve done that three times in a row before. Whatever it takes to get the story across in the best way possible. I completely restarted Son of Dark after the first two years of working on it, and it ended up being a much better novel as a result. Sometimes I wish I’d started it over again before publishing, as it would have given me more time with it. Couldn’t have hurt, but I’m really enjoying having it published and working on the sequel.

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

How fast everything goes! It felt like saying my goodbyes to a good friend while waiting for his plane to leave. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and it hurt to let go of a project I spent three years of my life on. I expect it will get easier as I write more novels, but a part of me kind of hopes it won’t.

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

I hardly ever write for longer than an hour or two. Because of other obligations, especially grad school, I snag time for writing in the evening before bed, and some writing sessions only last a half hour. I have a group of writing friends who will sit and write with me on their own projects for a couple hours each week, and lately this has been a huge help.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

Egypt. I would love to visit Egypt and see all the sights. Especially the pyramids.

In what genre do you read?

Classic literature, such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, and Hawthorne. Science fiction, such as Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, and Orson Scott Card. My tastes for fantasy include such authors as Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, Madeleine L’engle, Sean Flanagan, Patricia C. Wrede, T. S. Eliot, and Tolkein. Also, huge Bill Watterson fan.

What resources do you use for picking character names?

I develop a feel for each culture by coming up with a bunch of names that involve similar constructions and patterns, then choose from the list the names that will fall easiest on modern ears and don’t sound too similar to each other. As such, most of the names I come up with come straight out of my head, but I’ll fiddle with them a bit until they sound right. If that doesn’t work, I’ll look up obscure names to borrow. Orihah, for example. I got his name from a seldom-referenced genealogy list toward the end of the Book of Mormon.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

Most of all I hope they have a fun time. I can’t ask for much more. If there’s one moral I’d like them to pick up from this first book, it’s that suicide is never an answer. A second one might well be that you can find friends almost anywhere. Also, the darkness in the world is often not as strong as it seems, so long as you’re willing to stand up to it and not let it grow in your home or in your heart.

SonofDarkCover_Nov9

BLURB

A thousand years ago, the wizards of the Nynsa were tricked. They failed to follow the prophecy of the Darksome Thorn, and now the greatest evil of their time has survived into the next age. They will do anything the fix their mistake.

The Darksome Thorn, meanwhile, has revealed a new prophecy, and the very evil they failed to kill is working to use that prophecy to his advantage.

Forces of evil run rampant in the land of Duskain. Ancient powers are stirring. A greater darkness is imminent…

…and Skel, the foster son of an elephant herder, finds himself caught in the middle of everything…

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JeremyHigleypic

For more information on Jeremy, visit his webpage

Guest Interview of Kara O’Neal

Welcome to Kara who has several releases of historical romance fiction.

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I’m a teacher. I vowed up one way and down he other I wouldn’t enter into the profession. But God had other ideas. While I hadn’t planned on working in education, I certainly never thought about being an author. My sister challenged me to rewrite the end to a book I hadn’t cared for, and I did. In my head. Which opened up a new world, and soon I had four core families in a tiny Texas town in the late 1800s living in my imagination. It took thirteen years, and lots of rewriting, but I published my first book in 2013 and haven’t slowed down.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do anything else. I’m a mother of a cellist, trumpeter, and baseball player. I’d love to continue scrapbooking, but our children are too busy to allow for that kind of hobby. It doesn’t disappoint me because it’s truly a joy to watch them do what they love, to see them grow and change. I can’t believe I am so fortunate as to know them.

If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.

Well, the music I listen to while writing is whatever chant or cheer are played during an Astros or Texans game. I’m usually watching my favorite teams win, or lose, while I pen stories of romance and intrigue.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

I sure have. I am a native Texan and have traveled all over the state with my husband and children. All of my books take place in Texas, however, the 5th story, The Soldier’s Love, starts in Nebraska (I have been there, too.) and ends in Texas. The fort in my 5th book is based on Ft. Davis in West Texas.

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

When I get home, I almost immediately start writing. I write while I cook supper. I write in the car while waiting on a child to finish practice, or CCE, or a club meeting. I usually have about 30 minutes in the morning before I have to walk out the door, and I write then, as well. Every free moment I have, I write.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

Ireland. My husband is going to take me for our 20th wedding anniversary. I cannot wait.

In what genre do you read?

I read all books. I’ve read everything from Jane Austen to Tony Dungee (football coach). My absolute favorite author is Jane Austen. She transcends time. My favorite genre is definitely romance, though. I can’t get enough of people falling in love!

Love's Redemption 1019

BLURB

When she was little more than a child, Willa Kramer went to extreme lengths to save her family from their abusive father. After that horrible day, her mother and siblings moved to Tennessee, and Willa had hoped to leave Texas, its memories and Lonnie Davis, the only boy she ever trusted, behind. But fate is unpredictable.

Five years have passed, and Lonnie finds himself reunited with Willa, the only girl he’s ever loved. He’s determined not to let her slip away again, but a figure from the past looms, threatening his hopes for the future.

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EXCERPT

Lonnie excused himself from Willa’s parents, and despite his silent commands to give Willa space, he couldn’t keep from following the lady who had occupied his thoughts for the last several years. It would be odd not to speak to her. They’d been close. Once.

When he stepped into the vacant kitchen, he caught sight of her form through the screen door. She stood on the porch, her hands lightly gripping the rail, gazing at the outbuildings, field and the trees shading Glebe Run. The breeze caressed her, sending wisps of her hair to float around her face.

He paused. His chest tightened. He’d waited a long time to see her, had wondered if he ever would. Years ago, she’d wrapped him around her little finger, and he’d grown so attached to her, he’d thought about moving to Tennessee to be with her. But then she had stopped writing. To say it had hurt would be an understatement. But he hadn’t been angry. He could never be angry with her. Never. And now she was back and near. It was too tempting.

After taking a deep breath, he moved forward then went through the screen door. Even though it gave a loud creak, she didn’t turn. Did she know it was he who stood behind her?

The light breeze ruffled her skirt. Her long, velvety hair grazed the small of her back. An ache centered in the pit of his stomach. He’d missed her. And now she was here. “Hello, Willa,” he said, hearing the gentleness of his tone.

She tensed before facing him. Her gaze was shuttered, as if she needed to protect herself from him. Was she afraid? Had he said something in his letters that had hurt her? An urgency gripped him.

“How are you?” he inquired, tamping down the questions he really wanted to ask. Instead, he searched her face for clues as to why she seemed guarded. In the past, he’d been the person she trusted, the person she leaned on. What had he done wrong?

“H-Hello, Lonnie. It’s good to see you.”

Was it? She didn’t seem happy. “It’s…really good to see you, too,” he couldn’t help admitting.

“Did you meet my step-father?” she asked.

“I did. Seems like a nice fellow.”

“He is. He makes Mother happy.”

When she didn’t continue, he racked his brain for a response. Nothing came to him. Her upturned face held determined lines, and the barriers in her hazel eyes left him silent.

“Greg likes him,” she inserted into the awkward silence stretching between them.

He linked his thumbs through his belt loops. “I haven’t seen your brother yet. Where is he?”

She nodded her head in the direction of the barn. “Checking on his horse. He brought Tracks with us. He loves that animal too much to be apart from him for long.”

Lonnie understood. He was the wrangler on the family ranch and dealt with horses most of the time. He had a special relationship with the animals. “And Shelby?” he asked, inquiring about her sister. If mundane conversation was what Willa wanted, he would respect that. Besides, did he really want to ask why she’d stopped writing? Did he really want to return to the road that led to Willa Kramer? It had taken a while to stop feeling something whenever he thought of her. And he still thought of her. Every day.

“Married. She lives in Oregon. She hasn’t met our step-father, but I’ve written to her about him.”

Which meant Willa had indicated whether or not she trusted the man. Lonnie figured she did. If the man hadn’t earned the respect of Willa, Lonnie doubted her mother would have married him.

“How was the trip down?”

She shrugged. “As comfortable as possible. I hadn’t ever ridden on a train. It was much better than the stagecoach ride from Texas to Memphis.”

The day she’d boarded that coach to leave Pikes Run had ripped out his heart. He’d watched her go, unsure of what she meant to him, what he meant to her. A week after the Kramer family had left, Lonnie had understood he loved Willa. He’d written. And she’d replied. But then, after the fifth exchange, she had stopped. Without warning. Without explanation. What had he done?

As he looked into her eyes, it was all he could do not to move closer, to cup her cheek with a hand. He was falling again. Or had he ever regained his heart? That invisible tug he’d felt around her had returned. In mere minutes.

He refrained from uttering a curse. It wasn’t her fault he was still drawn to her. He’d probably never been free of her, though he’d worked like hell to forget her. But seconds had destroyed whatever barriers he’d managed to build, and he drowned in her eyes once more. And again, just as it had been all those years ago, he only needed her in order to keep his head above water.

But walls lived in the depths of her gaze. Walls against him. His gut clenched. Hurting Willa was the last thing he’d ever wanted to do, but it appeared he had. The need to apologize burned his tongue.

“Lonnie,” a male voice called.

Lonnie spotted a lankier, taller version of Greg Kramer walking from the barn toward the porch. Gladness gripped Lonnie, overtaking the frustrated helplessness rushing through his veins. He met the younger man in the middle of the yard. They shook hands, grinning at each other. Greg was a welcome distraction.

“It’s good to see you,” Greg said.

“And you. You’re taller.”

Greg laughed. “I can almost look you in the eye, huh? Might be able to beat you at arm wrestling now, too.”

Lonnie lifted an eyebrow, a grin still tugging his lips. “We’ll see about that.” He gestured toward the barn. “Willa tells me you brought your horse with you.”

A sheepish expression came over Greg’s face. “I shouldn’t have asked my step-father to pay to stable Tracks on a train, but I didn’t want to leave him. I just got him.”

Lonnie could feel Willa’s eyes on him. His body tingled with awareness, and if he wasn’t careful, he was going to whip around and jump right over the imaginary fence she’d erected and ask her why she’d stopped answering his letters. He had to put some distance between them. “Can I see him?” he asked Greg.

The young man’s face lit. “Of course.”

As they fell in stride with each other, Lonnie heard the screen door creak. Willa was gone. His heart sank to the pit of his stomach.

Kara ONealKara O’Neal was born and raised in Texas.  After surviving those awkward years of 7 to 16, she spent two years at Sam Houston State University where she met her husband.  He followed her to Texas Tech University and was proud when she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development.  Soon after graduation Kara followed her heart and became certified to teach Special Education.

She married the love of her life in 1998 and had three children.  The happiest times of her life are spent with her family and friends.  Kara is fortunate to be surrounded by the best and most amazing people God put on this earth.

When she was pregnant with her oldest child, Kara wrote her first novel.  And then rewrote it.  And rewrote it again.  She did this while teaching, raising kids, and traveling across Texas with her husband. Thank goodness for spiral notebooks!

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Guest Interview with DiAne Gates

Linda, it’s so kind of you to have me on your blog today. Thank you.

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I’m a Florida gal turned Texan for the past thirty something years. I won my first writing contest when I was a teen. The article, entitled The Basis of a Great Nation is a Christian Home, and the paper still resides in my cedar chest. I cringe at the teenage grammar.  I also paint and for most of my life painting took center stage. Moving to Texas stirred my interest in rodeo and the rest is history. I wrote articles and took photographs for the Youth Rodeo Association in East Texas, and rodeo is kinda like Florida sand—once the sights, sounds, and razzle-dazzle of the arena gets in your blood, well, you know—Roped was the result and I’m pleased to let you know Twisted is finished and will be with my editor at Prism Books by the second week in June.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

I come from a long line of foodies. My mom and aunt were caterers and I love to create new recipes and tinker with Mama’s family favorites. Being raised in the deep south, fried chicken, grits, and greens were the staples tingling my early taste buds. However, you can’t be a Texan and not love spicy. When the frustrations of technology get the best of me, I head to the garden. I love, love, love flowers and photography, as my FaceBook page and blog illustrate.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Definitely a SOP writer—Seat of the Pants—start to finish. Outlines are for sane, normal people. I’m sure if they tested me for ADD, I’d rank off-the-charts nutty artist. I’ve taken some personality tests that place me as a totally right-brained individual. Not one brain cell even leans left. Just ask my accountant husband, or my math teachers.

I generally begin with a situation or principle or character flaw and build my story from there. When writing Roped, my phenomenal edit group coined a phrase—that’s not a Crissy word. And bless their hearts, that phrase made Crissy’s character bud and bloom on the page. She’s Texan to the bone.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Terrell, Texas is the scene for the Roped series, that’s about twelve miles from our home in the small town of Crandall, Texas. But you will find a rodeo arena, horses and trucks and trailers, goats, and cattle, and, of course, barbeque, near any-town-Texas.

 Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

Take a bath, a bubble-bath preferably. Don’t laugh, I’m in good company. Author DiAnn Mills shares my idiosyncrasy. Something about relaxing in the warm water sets my brain to problem solve.  I just have to remember to keep a note pad on the sink so I can write the dialogue, plot twist, or whatever down before I forget. DiAnn’s dear husband installed a white-board for her creative flashes. The accountant personality in my husband said, “Really?”

What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?

I mentioned earlier I belong to a group of the greatest writers this side of heaven. We are seven in number. I’ve dubbed us The Magnificent Seven, but in fact we are called The Literati. And six of them are indeed magnificent! When we began I would create what I thought was wonderful. Arrive at our weekly meeting to find these six magnificent writers had torn my work apart. The drive home was usually tearful, with my husband asking, “Why do you go to these meetings?” “To learn to write,” I’d reply, sniff, and blow my nose. “Well, are you learning?” I’d change the subject and determine next week I’d show ’em.

By the time Roped reached my Prism editor, tears, rewrites, and revisions could have filled several moving boxes. Too bad I didn’t buy stock in Kleenex. I’ve learned the editing process is an awful lot like work, but they are also a writer’s best friend.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

Oh yes, my blog is serious non-fiction, written mainly to the Church. I believe the Church is one of the largest mission fields in the world. Most church members don’t crack their Bible during the week. They come to church to have their weekly feeding of the Word, then starve ‘til the next Sunday. That’s why our children have very little interest in the things of God and have been transfixed by the world. Because you can’t teach your children what you don’t know. I also write about the grieving process on my blog.

My writing career seriously began with a four book family devotional series entitled The Master’s Plan, which I’ve written and illustrated. And it keeps company with another children’s book, Arnold the Ant Who Didn’t Want To Be…an ant. Again one I’ve written and illustrated.  These five books are looking for a publishing home. Prism does not publish children’s books.

In what genre do you read?

If you had asked me three weeks ago,my resounding answer would have been, mystery/adventure. But two Prism authors have changed my mind by their new releases, Nancy Bolton with her historical fiction romance, Answering Sarah, and Julie Cosgrove, with her Navy Blues. My favorite author is Joel Rosenberg. His nail-biting, heart-stopping, fiction you’ll probably read as headlines in the newspaper in a month or two.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

No doubt whatsoever, the ability to see the issues my characters face and learn what to do and what not to do when facing those same life experiences. My stories are Christ based. Not hit you over the head with my Bible, but real life problems and what the Word has to say about our choices. In Crissy’s case, her Papa is the glue that holds the family together. A man who has walked with the Lord through the tragedies of life. The grandpa we’d all like to have claimed.

Roped

BLURB

“Will Texas teen Crissy Crosby’s rivalry and temper throw her off her dream to win the rodeo buckle?

When life bucks hard and unfair, will she latch onto the faith she was raised to rely upon or grasp anger and pride as her rope on this ride?”

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EXCERPT

“Before Chun could sit down, Jodie Lea leaned over and deliberately jammed her elbow into his side, then scooted as close as she could against the side of the bus, just as Mrs. Moore shifted the bus into gear and stepped on the gas.

One of his books jarred lose and tumbled into her lap. In a rage she turned and took aim. “What a jerk.” And with both hands, shoved the poor kid backward. He fell, fanny first, to the floor. Books flew every which way.

She leaped out of her seat and gathered up the fabric of her skirt, holding it fan-style for everyone to see. “Watch what you’re doin’, moron.” She turned to the other kids, stuck her nose in the air, and the curtain went up on her one-act horror show.

“His dirty Chinese slime is all over my brand new skirt. It’s ruined.” She brushed at an imaginary spot. “Stupid nerd. Why don’t you go back to China?”

I gasped. That was evil. Even for Jodie Lea.

She slipped a smirk at her two dingy girl-shadows who were equally offended. Jodie Lea stretched herself to haughty, her arms folded, her lips pouty, and her eyes narrowed to slits.

The boy sat motionless on the floor, muttering, “Please excuse me. I did not mean to cause you harm.” He struggled to his feet and reached to brush the invisible smudge from Jodie Lea’s skirt.

She flattened herself against the window wall of the bus. “Don’t touch me.” Her shriek had the grinding pitch of a tornado siren.

“Hey kid.” Jimmy Henry grabbed Chun’s arm and shoved him back down on the floor. “Can’t ya hear? Are ya yellow?”

Another boy jammed his foot against the new kid’s chest and pinned him there.

Our bus driver, Mrs. Moore, shouted, “Knock off the noise and sit down, or you’ll all end up in the principal’s office.”

Chun mumbled something in his native language. Sure couldn’t understand what he said. Prob’ly a good thing. But the hair on the back of my neck bristled. Poor kid. If Mrs. Moore didn’t do something—

The kids snickered and picked up Jodie Lea’s taunts.

I sprang from the back seat. “That’s enough.” In two quick steps, I latched onto Jimmy’s arm and shoved him away. “Knock it off. Can’t you see he’s upset?” I kicked the other kid’s foot off the boy’s chest and reached down to give Chun a hand up. “It’s his first day. Give him a break.”

An arsenal of words somersaulted syllable over syllable out of my heart and leaped off my tongue. “Jodie Lea Fairgate. This was low—even for you. You’ve done some rotten things, but this one ranks with the worst-of-your-worst.”

My bad-self suggested I rub her nose into the floor. I had enough cause. But Mama’s voice echoed in my ear. Not a word, Crissy.

So with all the self-control I could scrape up. I shut up, glared at her, and returned to my seat.

A voice came from the back of the bus. “You takin’ up for the nerd, Crissy?”

I stopped and, with my hands on my hips and my best cowgirl swagger, scanned the crowd of faces. “Yep, you wanna make something of it?”

“Don’t you guys know? Nerds of a feather fly together.” Jodie Lea twisted her face into an evil-step-sister grin and her groupie friends, of course, did the same.

Yikes, a litter of Cheshire cats. Monster-show scary. Right.

On his feet by this time, Chun’s face blushed a vivid shade of crimson.

I crawled under the seat to rescue his books. “Don’t pay attention to that girl. She’s the jerk.” I took his arm and guided him back to my row, then sat and glared at Jodie Lea Fairgate and the others ‘til their laughter stopped. Talk about rotten—that girl’s heart must be tough as steel. And dark. Very, very dark.

The boy glanced at me, his mouth forming a wanna-be half-smile. “Thank you for helping me.” Then he sat and stared at the floor.

I gestured toward the other kids. “They’re just a bunch of wooly-buggers. They follow whatever that stupid girl does. She’s trouble with a capital “T.”

“I did not mean to harm her.” Chun’s eyes met mine long enough for me to see those deep chocolate circles fill up with sad. My heart hurt to see him upset because of Jodie Lea Fairgate.

“Just stay out of her way and ignore her. That’s what I do.”

A twinge of guilt tugged my conscience. Yeah, right. Sure you do.”

REVIEW SNIPPETS

“A great read for teens and adults, Roped is a gallop-paced rodeo ride from the first to the last page. ” ~Lori

“Couldn’t put it down. Truly an AMAZING work of art.” ~Abigail

DiAne Gates

Texas writer, DiAne Gates, illustrates and writes fiction for children, YA, and serious non-fiction for the folks. Her passion is calling the Church’s attention to how far we’ve catapulted from God’s order.

DiAne worked as a photographer and writer for the East Texas Rodeo Association, which gave birth to this western rodeo adventure series, ROPED. The second book in the series, entitled TWISTED is just completed and with Prism Books.

She leads an edit group for North Texas Christian Writers and is a GriefShare Facilitator. Wife, mother, and grandmother, whose passion is to share those life lessons God is teaching her. Lessons she hopes will leap from the page into your heart.

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Guest Interview—Terri Wangard

Tell us a bit about you and your background

I’ve loved libraries since I was a little girl and we visited the North Branch of the Green Bay library. My favorite books included the Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka stories. I earned a Master of Library Science degree and worked for a few years in libraries before joining the family business full time. We publish Classic Boating magazine.

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

History that entertains and enlightens. And that’s what I hope my stories do.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

A little of both. For my first story, I had the characters. For the next two stories in the series, the plots were obvious, but not until I had the characters did the plots get fully developed.

If you use music while writing, name your favorite types.

Since I write World War II stories, I listen to World War II music. My favorite songs include “Comin’ In On a Wing and a Prayer” and “The White Cliffs of Dover.” I also listen the soundtracks like “Pearl Harbor” and instrumentals by Jonn Serrie.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Yes, but before I knew I would be writing about those locations. I’ve spent a little time in Germany and Sweden. Now I wish I’d taken more pictures, or could go back.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

After writing Friends and Enemies, which released in January, I started writing a contemporary, but an editor at an ACFW conference suggested I would need a series to be offered a contract. The story was set aside and I’ve been doing historical ever since.

Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pinterest, collages) when plotting or writing?

I didn’t get into Pinterest until after I’d written this series. Now I have Pinterest boards for each book. As I get ideas for my work in progress or future projects, I’ve been collecting pins in private boards. I tend to spend way too much time looking at pretty pictures!

What resources do you use for picking character names?

From my first book, I needed lots of German names, so I used my family tree. For my next books, I used names I liked and could live with during the year-long writing process. I have changed names or spellings. For No Neutral Ground, I noticed in cemeteries that “Jenny” was often spelled “Jennie” on older tombstones, so I made that change.

No Neutral Ground

 

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After his father divorces his mother because of her Jewish ancestry, Rafe and the rest of his family flee Germany. As a B-17 navigator, he returns to Europe. Flying missions against his former homeland arouses emotions that surprise Rafe. Despite being rejected, he is troubled by the destruction of Germany and his heart still cries for his father’s love.

Sweden may be neutral, but it’s full of intrigue. Jennie assists the OSS at the American legation in Sweden. She thought she’d be doing passive, behind-the-scenes work. Instead, she’s pushed into an active role to gain intelligence and frustrate the Germans.

How can Rafe and Jennie succeed in their dangerous roles when they are so conflicted?

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EXCERPT

The wind sliced right through Jennie Lindquist’s coat. So warm in Illinois, it now felt as thin as a pillowcase. Late winter was the wrong time of year to cross the North Atlantic. The temperature hovered around ten degrees, but with the wind and the ship’s speed, it seemed far below zero.

Her gloved fingers had grown stiff from the cold. She had to keep sketching, though, or she would lose her model.

The soldier continued to stare at the spot where the Statue of Liberty had long since faded from view in their wake. The quivering of his chin was his only movement.

Jennie perched on a stowage bin. After adding several pencil strokes to shade the edge of his arm, she held up her drawing and studied it through narrowed eyes. Had she captured his forlornness?

It would have to do. She shoved her sketch pad and pencil into her tote bag. Plenty of time remained aboard the ocean liner-turned-troopship to accomplish her goal of sketching a series capturing life aboard ship.

Overhead, the last escorting U.S. Navy patrol plane dipped its wings and turned back to New York. The Queen Mary was on her own to cross the North Atlantic and elude any skulking German submarines eager to hurtle a torpedo into her. Jennie scanned the horizon. Nothing but endless waves.

Ice crystals sprinkled down, luring her gaze upward. Lifeboats hung suspended overhead. A flexing chain caused more ice to break loose. Dismal gray camouflage paint hid the Cunard Line’s signature colors of red, white, and black. Behind her, one of the ship’s funnels belched smoke as the ocean liner charged full speed ahead at thirty knots. At least the frigid wind prevented soot from drifting down on the military personnel crowding the deck.

An officer standing ten feet away didn’t seem to mind the arctic blast as he raised his face to it. Jennie avoided contact with the military men. Her father had warned her to be wary of their intentions.

This one, however, tempted her. His profile presented classic lines an artist would love to paint. Portraits weren’t her specialty, but, my, oh my, his handsome features practically begged her to try her hand at capturing his likeness. Below the edge of his cap gleamed close-cropped blond hair; his eyes, when he turned his head, shone a startling blue. His heavy coat failed to hide broad shoulders tapering to a slim waist. To her eye, he presented the epitome of male perfection. Did the inner man match the gorgeous outer appearance?

Stray snowflakes swirled about him, and he brushed them away. She set aside Dad’s advice and invaded the solitude surrounding him. “You must be a northerner to be enjoying this glacial wind.”

He straightened to his full height, at least six feet tall, and settled his gaze on her. A quick grin lit his face, and her numb fingers itched to start sketching. “With a choice between enjoying the invigorating sea air or the warm, uh, unventilated air inside the ship, the cold air won.”

“Unventilated air?” Jennie laughed. “How polite.”

His smile came easily, as though he was used to wearing it.

“Someone on the last voyage must have been quite seasick in the room I’m assigned to. The smell was bad enough to drive me into this gale.” Looking back out to sea, he hunched his shoulders and tilted his head to the right, then the left. Weak sunlight glinted off white-caps as the morning overcast broke up, but the restless waves continued to batter themselves against the ship’s hull. He maintained his grip on the railing. “The way the ocean’s churning, we may have a lot more gastronomic upheavals. And to think, I used to enjoy being in a sailing club.”

“Did you sail on the ocean?”

“Sail, no, although I’ve been on a previous ocean voyage. Rivers or the North Sea was where I mostly sailed, but” ― he glanced back at the milling crowd of servicemen ― “we weren’t packed in tight like this.”

The North Sea? Wasn’t that in Europe? Jennie grabbed the railing as the Queen Mary veered to port. Every eight minutes, the ship zigzagged to avoid a potential submarine’s crosshairs. She’d timed the turns.

His voice held an unfamiliar accent. It wasn’t English. He’d been on an ocean voyage, singular, and he’d sailed on the North Sea. He must be from Europe, maybe from a country overrun by Hitler’s army. He should have some stories to tell.

The cold and the pressing crowd of soldiers faded into the background. “Where are you from?”

She leaned forward for his reply.

“Milwaukee.”

“Milwaukee?” She stepped back. So much for hearing about foreign lands. “Really? I’m from Chicago.”

His gaze roved over her. “You’re not in uniform. What’s a civilian doing on a troopship?”

Jennie straightened to her five-foot, six-inch height. “I’m joining my parents in Sweden. My dad’s a military air attaché based at the American legation, where he works with interned American airmen. He came home on leave for the holidays and took my mom back with him in January. Now I’m going, too, to help out.”

“My grandparents came from Sweden. Do you speak the language?”

“Enough to ask for help if I get lost.” She laughed at his widened eyes. “Yes, I speak Swedish. Maybe not as fluently as a native, but I have Swedish grandparents, too. My mom’s been pen pals all her life with a cousin whom we hope to meet.” She tugged her hat down more securely and retied her scarf before the wind pulled it free. “Do you have relatives there?”

“Opa’s brother, my grandfather’s brother, lives on the west coast of Sweden.”

“The west coast. Highly unlikely I’ll be able to pay him a call and tell him I met you.” As a group of rowdy soldiers brushed past them and eyed her, Jennie stepped closer to her new acquaintance and pulled her coat’s collar tighter.

She turned back to face his puzzled perusal.

“There are twelve thousand troops onboard.” He looked around the deck. “Are civilian quarters still available?”

“Well, I heard about the accommodations used by Prime Minister Churchill when he sails, but somebody already claimed those.” She could get used to his grin. “Did you know there’s a hospital unit onboard? I’m billeted with the nurses.”

A soldier stumbled hard into the officer, who muttered something under his breath that didn’t sound like English.

She stared at him. “You said something in neither English nor Swedish.”

He looked at her for a long moment, and his relaxed posture stiffened. “I am Rafe Martell, second lieutenant and navigator in the United States Army Air Force. In a more peaceful time, I had another name and lived in Germany. But then Germany decided I wasn’t good enough to be a German, and America offered me a new home.”

A hint of challenge gleamed in his eyes.

Why would Germany not want him?

“I’m Jennie Lindquist.”

“Jennie Lindquist? Good Swedish name. Do you sing?”

“Excuse me?”

“Sing. Have you not heard of Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale? My great-grandparents heard her sing and my grandfather says they insisted they heard an angel.”

The ship lurched to starboard, causing Rafe to stagger against the rail and inhale sharply.

Jennie grinned. So he wanted to know if she could sing? Now was the time to demonstrate her ability. “Rock a bye airman, on the ship’s deck. When the ship rolls, the airman gets sick.”

A startled laugh burst from Rafe. Tears welled in his eyes ― from the wind? ―   and he used both hands to whisk them away. The childlike gesture was endearing.

“May I ask why Germany didn’t want you?”

He stared out to sea as though he wouldn’t answer. Why should he? His experiences were none of her business. Then his gaze probed her soul, and she resisted the urge to squirm.

“I’m half Jewish.”

His clipped answer was totally unexpected. Jennie had read newspaper reports about the Night of Broken Glass a few years ago, when the German people destroyed Jewish property. The pictures in the newsreels had been stunning. Hard to imagine such crime could be committed by civilized people in this modern era. Editorials speculated the destruction was inflicted by members of the Nazi Party and most Germans hadn’t approved. However it happened, Jewish lives and livelihoods had been ruined. That’s what he’d faced? She hugged herself to stop a shiver.

His look dared her to say something. What could she say? He didn’t resemble the people shown in the pictures.

“You don’t look Jewish.” She cringed at her rude reply, but a smile stretched across Rafe’s face.

“I agree. I should have been pictured on Aryan propaganda posters instead of being forced to run for my life.” He bounced his fist on the rail. “I had no idea my mother was Jewish until I was expelled from the Hitler Youth. That’s a Nazi version of the Boy Scouts. To suddenly be lumped with a social group I had no relationship to or understanding of…” He paused for a moment as he searched the horizon. He shook his head. “It was a shock.”

“How did you get away?” She might be probing an unhealed wound, but she might never have the chance to talk to someone from Germany again.

“My grandfather is a partner in a Dutch flower bulb business. I arrived in Amsterdam within two weeks of my disgrace, supposedly as an apprentice. The next week my grandparents, mother, sister, and brother arrived. The following summer, in 1937, we boarded the Statendam and never looked back.” His grin returned. “And as of last summer, I am a citizen of a country where the nationalities are mixed up and melted together.”

“What about your father?”

“He divorced us to keep his job.”

Jennie opened her mouth to ask him to repeat that, but Rafe’s flat tone hadn’t invited questions. Bitterness, anger, and hurt glittered in his eyes. His jaw shifted as though he battled his emotions.

She looked out to sea to give him time to himself, and they stood in silence.

What was it like to have a father who would turn his back on his family? And what was life like for Jews in Europe? They were so far away. Jews in America had it better, didn’t they? Did she know any? There may have been some among her colleagues at the art museum where she’d worked. How could she be so ignorant? She massaged her brow as her head began to ache.

Terri Wangard

Terri Wangard grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during the Lombardi Glory Years. Her first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. These days she is writing historical fiction, and won the 2013 Writers on the Storm contest and 2013 First Impressions, as well as being a 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she lives in Wisconsin. Her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her busy as an associate editor.

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Guest Interview–Rosemary Morris

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

Characters in my historical fiction who are of their time and place. They are not 21st century characters dressed in costume.

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

I enjoy growing organic herbs, fruit and vegetables and putting them to good use in my vegetarian cuisine, reading for pleasure, knitting and other crafts.

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

Before I begin a novel I fill in detailed character profiles for the main characters. By the time I begin the novel, for which I have an undeveloped plot and theme, I know my characters almost as well as members of my family.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

Definitely freestyle, I put my characters in various situations, and then enjoy finding out what they will do.

What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?

While reading non-fiction something gives me an idea for a novel.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

Yes, I visit places of interest in the U.K.

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

I wake at 6 a.m. drink a glass of water and then turn on my laptop. I check my e-mails and then work on my current novel until 10 a.m., with a break for a healthy breakfast of porridge made with skimmed milk to which I add three portions of fruit. I then take care of domestic tasks etc., and, weather permitting, work in the garden or greenhouse until I lunch at 1 p.m.

In the afternoon, I either check my e-mails or critique a chapter submitted by a member of the online critique group which I belong to. At 2 p.m. I read either historical non-fiction for research or fiction for pleasure, and sometimes have a cat-nap. From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. I participate in social media, apply critiques of my most recent chapter, answer e-mails etc., or attend the writers’ group which I belong to.

Of course, my daily routine isn’t cast in cement. On some days I have the pleasure of looking after my grandchildren. Sometimes I spend the weekend with one or the other of my children and their families, visit a place of historical interest or a museum.

Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?

I write short stories, and recently won two flash fiction competitions which can be read on my blog. I also dabble with fantasy fiction for fun.

What’s your dream vacation destination?

I’ve always wanted to stay on a houseboat in Kashmir but due to the political situation, it’s a dream that will remain unfulfilled. However, I would like to visit some holy places in India, for example, Vrndavan where Lord Krishna took birth.

In what genre do you read?

Mostly all genres of historical fiction and some cosy crime fiction.

What resources do you use for picking character names?

The Oxford Dictionary of Christian names.

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

I hope that when my readers finish my story they will sigh with satisfaction, and that by the end of the novel I have created word pictures of the past in which my characters lived.

sundays-child-200x300

 

BLURB

Georgianne Whitley’s beloved father and brothers died in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte. While she is grieving for them, she must deal with her unpredictable mother’s sorrow, and her younger sisters’ situation caused by it.

Georgianne’s problems increase when the arrogant, wealthy but elderly Earl of Pennington, proposes marriage to her for the sole purpose of being provided with an heir. At first she is tempted by his proposal, but something is not quite right about him. She rejects him not suspecting it will lead to unwelcome repercussions.

Once, Georgianne had wanted to marry an army officer. Now, she decides never to marry ‘a military man’ for fear he will be killed on the battlefield. However, Georgianne still dreams of a happy marriage before unexpected violence forces her to relinquish the chance to participate in a London Season sponsored by her aunt.

Shocked and in pain, Georgianne goes to the inn where her cousin Sarah’s step-brother, Major Tarrant, is staying, while waiting for the blacksmith to return to the village and shoe his horse. Recently, she has been reacquainted with Tarrant—whom she knew when in the nursery—at the vicarage where Sarah lives with her husband Reverend Stanton.

The war in the Iberian Peninsula is nearly at an end so, after his older brother’s death, Tarrant, who was wounded, returns to England where his father asks him to marry and produce an heir. To please his father, Tarrant agrees, but due to a personal tragedy he has decided never to father a child.

When Georgianne, arrives at the inn, quixotic Tarrant sympathises with her unhappy situation. Moreover, he is shocked by the unforgivably brutal treatment she has suffered.

Full of admiration for her beauty and courage Tarrant decides to help Georgianne.

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Review Comment

I was looking forward to another novel from Rosemary Morris and this one I couldn’t put down. The author seems to have found her voice in this story ….

This novel does not flinch from the realities of Regency times but in spite of that has a light and amusing style, with some parts that are near hilarious. Rosemary paints the more repulsive characters particularly well and is great at describing food and clothing. Her heroine is truly a character, a young woman with both passion and compassion. As for the hero, lovely – I wouldn’t send him back to war in a hurry.  By J. Pittam “Maythorn”

EXCERPT

Hertfordshire, England

November 1813

Rupert, Major Tarrant, caught his breath at the sight of seventeen year old Georgianne. Black curls gleamed and rioted over the edges of her bandeau. Georgianne’s heart-shaped face tilted down toward her embroidery frame. Her hands lay idle on her gown. It was lilac, one of the colours of half-mourning. A sympathetic sigh escaped him. She wore the colour out of respect for her father, who lost a hand and leg, during the Battle of Salamanca, and died of gangrene more than a year ago.

There had been so many deaths since he last saw Georgianne. Not only had her brothers died during the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo but his elder brother had drowned six months ago while bathing in the lake on their father’s estate.

He advanced into the room with Adrian, Viscount Langley, at his side. Georgianne looked up and smiled. He caught himself staring into her hyacinth blue eyes, fringed with long black lashes. Colour crept over her high cheekbones. Her arched eyebrows drew together across her smooth forehead. Egad, she had the sweetest countenance he had ever seen; one with the lustrous, milky white sheen of china, and bow shaped rose pink lips to catch at the heart.

Georgianne stood.

He bowed. “My condolences.”

Sarah, clad in full mourning for her older half-brother, stood to make her curtsy to Langley. “I trust you have everything you require, my lord?”

Langley bowed. “Yes, thank you.”

“My lord, allow me to introduce you to my cousin, Miss Whitley.”

Georgianne curtsied as his lordship crossed the parlour to make his bow.

Tarrant inclined his head. “Ladies, please excuse us, we must see to our horses.”

Sarah shook her head at him. “See to your horses? The grooms can do so.”

Georgianne gurgled with laughter. “Ah, Sarah, have you forgotten how cavalrymen fuss over their mounts?”

“Excuse us.”

* * * *

After the gentlemen left, Georgianne glanced at her cousin. She had seen little of her since Sarah yielded to the family’s persuasion to marry Wilfred Stanton, heir to his uncle, the Earl of Pennington.

Despite her reluctance to leave home because of her mamma’s unfortunate habit, and extravagant displays of grief over the loss of her husband and sons, Georgianne agreed to visit her cousin Sarah, who suffered from melancholy after the birth of a son.

Anxious for her mamma and two younger sisters, she reminded herself Whitley Manor—on the southern outskirts of Cousin Stanton’s Hertfordshire parish—lay a mere fifteen minutes away by carriage.

“Are you daydreaming, Cousin?”

Georgianne pretended to be busy untangling another strand of embroidery thread. “No.”

“Did I tell you Papa wants Tarrant to resign from the army now he is Papa’s heir?” Sarah’s needle flashed in and out of her work.

“Yes, several times.” Georgianne shivered, stretched her hands toward the fire, and fought a losing battle with the draughts in the old vicarage.

“Are you not interested in dear Tarrant?”

Georgianne bent her head. Once, she had wanted to marry a military man. However, after the loss of her father and brothers, she changed her mind for fear death might snatch him from her, either on the battlefield or as a result of wounds sustained in combat. She shook her head, remembering the dreams she harboured three years earlier when she last saw Major Tarrant. How her life had altered since then. Most of the time, she lived cloistered at home in reduced—yet not impoverished—circumstances. She spent her life in an endless round of mending and embroidery, both of which she detested. Her only escape from this drab existence consisted of daily walks, rides, or reading her beloved books. A yawn escaped her. Oh, the tedium of her days at home.

“You have not answered my question.”

Georgianne gathered her thoughts. “Yes, Sarah, I am interested in Major Tarrant. After all, we have known each other since we were in the nursery.”

“Good, but what are you thinking about? You are neglecting your sewing.”

Georgianne picked up her needle and thrust it in and out of the chemise, careless of the size of her stitches. Already she loathed the garment and vowed never to wear it.

“Papa wants Tarrant to marry,” Sarah rattled on.

Eyes downcast, Georgianne set aside her sewing and wrapped her arms around her waist for comfort. Before they died, her brothers and father had expressed their admiration for Major Tarrant in their letters. She shrugged. Once upon a time, she had built a castle in the air inhabited by Major Tarrant, a mere lieutenant when she last saw him.

Mamma still insisted on love not being the prime consideration for marriage, but novels and poems contradicted her opinion. Georgianne wanted to fall in love with one of the many eligible young gentlemen available: maybe a titled gentleman like Viscount Langley, provided he was not a military man. She shrugged. Certainly her mamma would regard the Viscount favourably. His lordship was wealthy, possessed good manners, and his height and broad shoulders equalled Major Tarrant’s. However, although she found no fault with him, Mamma might not approve of the Viscount’s skin—almost as dark as a gypsy from exposure to the sun while serving abroad—and his hair and eyes, sufficiently dark to rival any Spaniard’s. Her spirits lifted. The rectory would be a happier place with two fine young men in attendance. She was glad to be here, despite her acute concern for her family.

Sarah’s voice ended her musing. “Have you heard Tarrant inherited his godfather’s estate and fortune? Besides his pay, his income is thirty thousand pounds a year.”

Georgianne nodded. “Yes, I know. Major Tarrant is exceptionally fortunate.” Sarah blinked. “Why are you smiling?”

Georgianne stood and crossed the room to look out of the window. “I am happy because, so far, Major Tarrant and Viscount Langley have survived the war, which has taken so many lives and affected everyone in some way or another.”

She must force herself to remain cheerful. Papa had died eighteen months ago. It was time to set grief aside, if she could only find the means.

Thankfully, there was much to look forward to. After her presentation at court, she would be sure to meet many engaging gentlemen, one of whom she might marry. In time, she could help her sisters to escape their miserable existence.

Rosemary Morris - Small photo

Multi-published historical novelist, Rosemary Morris was born in in Sidcup Kent.  As a child, when she was not making up stories, her head was ‘always in a book.’

While working in a travel agency, Rosemary met her husband. He encouraged her to continue her education at Westminster College.  In 1961, Rosemary and her husband, now a barrister, moved to his birthplace, Kenya, where she lived for twenty years. After an attempted coup d’état, she and four of her children lived in an ashram in France.

Back in England, Rosemary wrote romantic historical fiction.  She is now a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Historical Novel Society and Cassio Writers.

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Guest Interview–Helena Fairfax

Tell us a bit about you and your background.

I’m a British author, and I live in Yorkshire, in the north of England. My first contemporary romance was released in 2013, and there’s been no stopping me ever since :)

What’s the logline that describes your writing?

Heartwarming romance with believable heroines, strong heroes, and uplifting endings

What are your hobbies away from the computer?

I live near the Yorkshire moors – close to where the Brontë sisters used to live – and I walk the moors every day with my rescue dog. I love to watch the changing seasons, and now, in spring, everything is coming alive. It’s wonderful to see the colours creeping back over the barren winter landscape.

Besides walking, I also read, read, and read!

Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?

I start with the characters. Romance novels are all about internal conflict – the personalities of the hero and heroine, and what it is that’s keeping them apart. I will also have a particular setting in mind. The story evolves naturally out of these elements.

Is your writing style planned or freestyle?

I generally have a good idea of the overall structure of the story and the character arc of the hero and heroine. In The Scottish Diamond – the novella I’ve just released – things didn’t go quite according to my initial plan, and the hero turned out to have a secret that surprised even me! That was really exciting to write, and I love this hero possibly more than any of my others (and that’s saying something :) )

What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?

It’s a bit of both. I’ll research as I’m mulling the story over, and then when I get stuck I go away and research some more. It’s easy to get sucked into the research side of things, so I try not to let it become a distraction. Having said that, I’ve had some of my best ideas for moving the story forward while researching.

Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?

My stories are set in various locations, from France to Scotland, London, and the north of England. I’ve been to all the places I’ve written about. I think it is possible to write about somewhere you’ve never been to – the internet is a wonderful resource – but it would take a lot more effort and possibly not be as realistic.

Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?

I take a break from it. Sometimes as little as ten minutes away from staring at the screen. By the time I get back, I’ve worked out what to do next, and it seems obvious. Other times, it takes a lot longer. When I’m really stuck, I find it useful to discuss the story with someone else. Just talking about it can often help you see the solution. My husband is brilliant at seeing an answer, especially when it involves the development of a character. Talking things through with him will often fire me with new enthusiasm

Describe a normal writing day (or period, if you have other employment obligations).

On a normal writing day I take my dog for a very long walk first, before sitting down to my computer. I get my emails, social media, etc, out of the way, then settle down to write as much as I can before my brain starts to freeze and the words start to dry up. I find it quite hard to write in the evening when I’m tired.

 

What’s your dream vacation destination?

Anywhere by the sea. I love Cornwall, and also the Welsh coast, and the Mediterranean for the sunshine.

Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pinterest, collages) when plotting or writing?

I’ll find a photo of someone – usually someone famous, like a film star or musician, and I use it as the basis for my main characters – the hero especially. I’ll refer to the photo when I’m describing them. This helps me have an image in mind, and it keeps my descriptions consistent. There’s no changing the hero’s eyes from grey to brown half way through the story, for example. I’ve pinned some of the photos I’ve used for each story to my Pinterest board.

In what genre do you read?

I read a lot of contemporary romance in order to keep up with what’s happening in the genre. Besides that, I read pretty much anything, apart from horror and psychological thrillers, which I find too tense. I like detective novels and sci-fi, and I read a lot of literary classics. I’m just reading some Chekhov short stories. They’re really entertaining and a surprisingly easy read.

What resources do you use for picking character names?

It depends on the age of the character, what they do for a living, etc. If it’s a child, I might have a look at newspaper lists of most popular names, for example. Once I’ve decided on a name, then that’s it – I find it very difficult to change it. It would be like renaming one of my own children!

Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?

As I said above, I have a rescue dog. She’s a Staffie cross, and was abandoned as a puppy on the streets of Leeds (a large city near where I live). She was already called Lexi when we adopted her, and so we’ve kept the name. She’s a brilliant dog with us – very loving, playful, and affectionate – but she gets very stressed around strangers and other dogs. Living near the moors is ideal. We can walk in splendid solitude, which suits us both – Lexi so she can chase rabbits, and me so I can dream up my stories!

What do you hope readers gain from your stories?

I’d like them to find my stories a page-turning and entertaining read, to fall in love with my characters, and to come away feeling uplifted.

The Scottish Diamond 300 dpi

BLURB

What do you do when nothing is what it seems…even the man you love?
“Fair is foul, and foul is fair…”  When Lizzie Smith starts rehearsing Macbeth with her theatre group in Edinburgh, she’s convinced the witches’ spells are the cause of a run of terrible luck. Lizzie’s bodyguard boyfriend, Léon, is mysteriously turned down for every job he applies for, until he’s finally offered the job of guarding “The Scottish Diamond,” a fabulous jewel from the country of Montverrier.

But the diamond’s previous guard has disappeared in mysterious circumstances. The Scottish Diamond has a history of intrigue and bloody murder, and Lizzie is plagued by nightmares in which Macbeth’s witches are warning her of danger.
Then Lizzie discovers she’s being followed through the streets of Edinburgh, and it seems her worst fears are about to be realised…

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EXCERPT

I continued to frown up at him, troubled. He took my face in his hands and kissed me.

‘I know what it is,’ he said, his eyes twinkling. ‘It’s all your talk of witches and ghosts. Your Scottish superstitions are rubbing off on me and I’m seeing things in this gloomy weather that aren’t there at all.’

He swung me into his arms and kissed me again.

After that, Léon dismissed his vigilance as something brought on by the strangeness of his new city. And once he began his new job at the Castle, he didn’t mention being followed again, and in fact, all the tension he’d been showing disappeared, and he became almost his old self. He left the house with a sense of purpose that had been lacking in his previous aimless wanderings around Edinburgh. And the best thing was, he was beginning to understand more and more of our Scottish brogue every day.

I later discovered it wasn’t just our Scottish way of speaking he was mastering. A few days after he started work, I was in the kitchen preparing our evening meal, when I heard the front door close and Léon’s light tread in the hall. Usually he went straight upstairs to change, but this evening he came directly to the kitchen and put his head round the door. His eyes brimmed with amusement.

I stepped closer to give him a kiss, and he pushed the door wide. My mouth fell open. He was dressed in a kilt. The green tartan cloth was thrown over one broad shoulder in Highland fashion, and the pleated skirt revealed an inch or two of tanned, muscular leg above a pair of thick, cream-coloured socks.

‘Wow,’ I stuttered. ‘You look…’ I breathed out in a long whistle. ‘You look amazing.’

He smiled broadly, showing his white, even teeth in one of the first real smiles I’d seen him give since we left Europe.

‘This is my new uniform.’ He spread his arms a little, glancing down at himself. ‘Not a bad effort for a half-Italian, half-Montverrian. What do you think?’

‘Not bad at all.’ My face decided right then and there to turn a decided pink, and to hide the fact that I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, I threw my arms around his neck and planted a kiss below his ear.

His arms encircled me, and he murmured, ‘Ever made love to a man in a kilt?’

And after that, everything between us was perfect again. All my worries about Léon wanting to go home to Italy, and all his former tension vanished, and we were just as we had been during those idyllic two weeks we’d spent at his home on the Amalfi coast that summer.

But of course, perfect times can’t last forever. Everything changed when I realised it wasn’t Léon who was being followed. It was me.

Helena Fairfax photo

Helena Fairfax writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Her first novel, The Silk Romance, was a contender for the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme Award and a runner-up in the Global Ebook Awards. Helena Fairfax was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize in 2014.
Helena is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
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