Until April 30, you have a chance to win free ebooks of all romance sub-genres by the 11 contributing author by participating in this giveaway. Either go to Connie Bretes’ website (the event sponsor) website here or enter via the rafflecopter.
If you haven’t already participated in the giveaway for a chance to receive free ebooks in several genres, don’t wait. Click through to the page on Connie Bretes’ website or enter through the Rafflecopter below.
My giveaway, Silent Signals, is a historical western romance set in December 1887 in Aspen, Colorado with a rancher and a woman who trains shepherding dogs.
A World of Gothic…Gothic Mystery Novellas ON SALE for ONLY 99 cents each through Halloween!
A group of authors from countries all over the world were drawn together by our love of the classic gothic mysteries by authors such as Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney.
While the stories are stand-alone, they each share a recurring thread of a Spinel stone, which can play a small or large part in the plot. We have stories set in Scotland, Greece, Oklahoma, Florida, France, Ireland, and more.
We hope readers have as much fun reading these stories (we recommend you do so with the lights on) as we had writing them.
Dark Hunt ~ A World of Gothic: Florida by Tamrie Foxtail
Ghost in the Rain ~ A World of Gothic: Scotland by Marie Treanor
House at the Edge ~ A World of Gothic: Greece by MM Jaye
Haunting at Spook Light Inn ~ A World of Gothic: Oklahoma by Alicia Dean
Haunting in the Pines ~ A World of Gothic: East Texas by Janis Susan May
Raven of Blackthorn Manor ~ A World of Gothic: Ireland by Gemma Juliana
Blood-Stained Memories ~ A World of Gothic: Florida by Kathy L Wheeler
Sea of Darkness ~ A World of Gothic: France by Amanda McCabe
Shadows and Lies ~ A World of Gothic: Louisiana by Raine English
Sinister Ceremony ~ A World of Gothic: Maine by Stacey Coverstone
Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Linda. Since we both belong to a special group called Authors Helping Authors for so long, we should call it Friends Helping Friends. That’s one of the great things about technology and writing—meeting so many writers online and becoming friends, even when we’ve never met in real life.
Writing is a solitary business. When we’re in the groove, we don’t want to be bothered, we don’t come out of hiding until we’re exhausted or famished, then we dash back into our cave and work some more. Being “in the zone” doesn’t just apply to athletes. I’ve felt the rush that comes when the words flow and everything falls into place. I’ve also felt that frustration, almost depression, when nothing comes, when the Muse takes a vacation. I’ve never faced a blank screen because starting a new project is exciting. Getting those first words down is exhilarating. Around chapter eight, I bog down. I need a plan. Or at least a better one than “they live happily ever after.”
My frustration comes when I reread what I’ve written and wonder “where the heck was I going with this?”
My latest release, Numbers Never Lie, a romantic suspense, began about fifteen years ago. I knew where that story was going. I wrote and wrote. I was in the zone. Then, Life intruded (as Life does), and I set aside the story. This winter, I remembered how much I’d written, including the ending. I thought it would be a piece of cake to tweak it and release it. Hah! I wasn’t as “finished” as I thought. I hadn’t written the ending—I wrote about how the ending should go. Consequently, I had a lot more work to do than I’d thought.
My mother always said easy jobs are the ones that take the longest because something always goes wrong. She was talking about fixing a leaky faucet or a squeaky floor board. The same could be said about writing. Twice, now, I’ve taken an old manuscript and brought it up to date. And, twice, I’ve said it’s easier to start new than rewrite a story.
Still, I enjoyed Numbers Never Lie. I liked the premise—a fish out of water—before I realized it was more mystery than suspense, and more about second chances. The story didn’t change as much as my perspective.
Be sure to see the Rafflecopter at the end of this post and sign up to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.
A shocking secret brings danger to Jack Sinclair and his sister Maggie.
As kids, they were the fearless threesome. As adults, Jack’s an accountant; Drew, a lawyer; Maggie, a teacher and camping troop leader. Upon returning from a weekend camping trip, Maggie receives horrifying news. She refuses to believe her brother Jack’s fatal car crash was an accident. If the police won’t investigate, she’ll do it herself. Convincing Drew Campbell to help is her only recourse.
Drew Campbell was too busy to return his best friend’s phone call. Too busy to attend a camping meeting important to his teen daughter. Too busy to stay in touch with Jack. Logic and reason indicate Jack’s accident was just that–an accident caused by fatigue and fog. Prodded by guilt, he’ll help Maggie even if he thinks she’s wrong.
A break-in at Jack’s condo convinces Maggie she’s right. Then her home is searched. What did Jack do that puts Maggie in danger?
Numbers Never Lie is available at Amazon.
Maggie Sinclair wondered for the tenth time that morning why she hadn’t had her head examined before agreeing to Ellen’s offer. The week before, Maggie called off the trip when not one parent volunteered to chaperone. She hated disappointing the girls who had been crushed when their leader moved away. For the past two months, they talked about camping again. But week after week they returned with the same news. Their mothers refused, and their dads were too busy.
So when Ellen said her dad would help, the girls went wild. And Maggie, who should’ve known better, believed Ellen who swore she’d asked and her father agreed. Maggie should have followed up with a phone call, but years of avoiding Drew Campbell prevailed. Years of unreciprocated longing—from when her heart first took notice, through the years when he was single, then when he was married. Except for that one time, she never let him know. Avoidance was best.
Now here she was needing his help with the girls. Preparing them for a week-long camping trip to Isle Royale had been Trish Morrow’s goal when she started the group four years ago. The girls loved roughing it. They just needed more hiking and camping experience before tackling the primitive island in Lake Superior.
Though they’d gotten a late start this morning because of the fog, Maggie noticed the girls’ energy start to flag after the fifth mile of the hike. That was when she put Drew Campbell at the front of the line. From the rear, she watched him trying to set a faster pace—especially after Gretchen’s assurance that they could keep up. The man was in a world of hurt even if he was making a concerted effort not to show it. He looked so trim, so athletic, Maggie had assumed he was in good shape.
Typical desk jockey. He probably got his exercise in a climate-controlled gym. No, wait. In a health club.
For better or worse—and she was afraid worse was the operative word—she was stuck with him for the next thirty hours.
Are we having fun yet? she mocked herself as she tromped through the woods with eight tough little girls on the brink of womanhood and her brother’s best friend. From the back of the line, Maggie watched his long-legged stride and the way his navy golf shirt revealed his strong shoulders and the way his obviously new jeans conformed to his butt. She lifted the tail of the bandanna knotted around her neck and wiped the sweat from her upper lip. She couldn’t blame the sun for the heat coursing through her.
Okay, Sinclair, she told herself, keep your mind on the matter at hand. And not how good Campbell’s butt looked in tight new jeans.
Good Lord, she felt fifteen again—instead of thirty-four. Her stomach in knots, her skin on fire. Lusting after the man who said she kissed like a guppy.
About the Author:
Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides writing science fiction romance, she writes romantic suspense, and cozy mysteries. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and five grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website: http://www.dianeburton.com
Connect with Diane Burton online
Goodreads: Diane Burton Author
Sign up for Diane’s new release alert: http://eepurl.com/bdHtYf
If that doesn’t work, here’s the link to Rafflecopter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/16cf1daf21/?
Thank you so much for having me at Musings about the Writing Life, Linda. Several of my romantic suspense/murder mystery books are set in Alexandria, Virginia, a colonial town on the Potomac River across from Washington, DC, where I lived for many years. The Mason’s Mark: Love and Death in the Tower, is one of those novels.
Most of The Mason’s Mark, is set at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. The 330-foot-tall building has three sections—the ground level, the main floor, and the tower. The tower holds six progressively smaller rooms. The top level opens to an observation deck, from which visitors can see all of Alexandria and Washington, DC—or, if you’re my heroine, find a dead body.
The fourth floor contains a museum dedicated to George Washington. Washington served as the Charter (first) Master of the Alexandria lodge, and many of his letters and memorabilia are housed here, including the Washington family Bible. Since our heroine and hero meet in the museum, it follows that the Mason’s Mark would involve long-lost papers, distant family scandals, and academic intrigue concerning our first President. Delicious mystery and even more delicious romance ensue.
In the worst first day at work ever, newly minted docent Claire Wilding’s carefully memorized spiel is interrupted by the discovery of a dead body. As she deals with a smitten police detective, a hunky Senator, shadowy black ops agents, and two eccentric mothers, she learns more than she ever expected to about jewels and pennies, renegade Italian Masons, and our first President’s family secrets. Along the way she discovers that first love is not always the right love.
When they reached Prince Street, Gideon found a parking spot directly in front of her house, no small feat. Just one more way he’s special, thought Claire glumly. He walked her to her door. She unlocked it and turned to thank him, but he was already on his way to his car.
Ichabod greeted her with a snarl.
“I know. I forgot to feed you. Come on, Icky.” She found a can of cat food and emptied it into his bowl. Then she poured herself a large glass of water and took it to the living room to conduct an analysis of the soiree.
So at any point did I come across as even semi-coherent? She tried to hack through the warm, fuzzy blanket of the evening. Gideon had been the perfect gentleman, ordering foie gras and champagne, pointing out the constellations with obvious expertise, helping her in and out of the car. It all seemed so…unreal. Like he was acting a part. Too perfect. And he’d sucked her in like soda through a straw. She slapped her forehead, forgetting that she still held the glass. Water sluiced across her face and ran down her front. She mopped it up with some tissues and vowed to hit the antique stores that weekend. I’ve got to get a coffee table. Preferably one with cup holders.
The doorbell rang. With the disintegrating tissue pressed to her face, she stood on tiptoe to check the peephole and looked straight into an unblinking sea-green ocean. Gideon. After a minute she remembered to open the door.
He stared at her with concern. “Are you all right?”
Claire pulled the tissue away and noticed black streaks on it. Her mascara must have run. Oh no, I bet he thinks I’ve been crying. She rubbed her eyes, hoping that wasn’t making it worse. “Fine. I spilled a glass of water, that’s all.”
“Oh.” He stood, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “Um, could I come in for a minute?”
She pointed at the living room and backed away, then turned and leapt up the steps. A quick look in the mirror confirmed her suspicions. I look like something Ichabod’s been playing with. She fixed her face, wrung out her blouse, and returned with renewed aplomb.
Gideon filled the small space. Claire sidled around him and sat on a packing crate. He looked around the room. “So…er, have you just moved in?”
“Yes.” It struck her that he was more uncomfortable than she and drew strength from that. “About a week ago. Sorry about the mess. Won’t you have a seat?”
He dropped down on the loveseat but immediately sprang back up. He patted his rear, flummoxed. “Why am I wet?”
Claire put a hand to her mouth to suppress the giggle. “Ooh, I’m sorry. I forgot. That’s where I spilled the water. Here, let me.”
She retrieved a towel from the kitchen and began to dab at the dark blotch on his khakis. He stood it for a minute, then put a hand under her chin and lifted her up. “You’d better stop doing that. This is hard enough for me.” He blinked. “Do you…do you know how beautiful you are?”
The question threw her. How to respond? Yes? No? Tell me more? She decided to let him talk.
“Your eyes are the color of the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea on a cloudless day. I could sink into them and drown.” He touched her brow. “And these little cinnabar ringlets framing that soft, creamy face…” He wrapped one around his finger. “Wind one up tight and it could strangle me.” He took her hand. “Your fingers—so slim and delicate, like little stilettos. Sharp enough to gouge an eye out.”
Claire stepped away from him, bewildered. “You make me sound like a vicious animal. Why?”
His hands dropped to his sides. “Because I sense how dangerous you are.”
“To me. Claire…I—” He gazed at her helplessly.
Someone had better take charge.
Although she has lived or traveled in every continent except Antarctica and Australia (bucket list), M. S. Spencer has spent the last thirty years mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director and parent. Blessed with two fabulous grown children and an adorable grandchild, she has published ten romantic suspense/mystery novels. She now divides her time between the Florida Gulf coast and a tiny hamlet in Maine.
When widower Rich Redman returns to Pennsylvania with his young daughter to sell his deceased grandmother’s house, he discovers Grandmother Gertie’s final request was for him to find a missing relative and a stash of WWI jewels.
Torrie Larson, single mom, is trying to make her landscape center and flower arranging business succeed while attempting to save the lineage of a rare white rose brought from Austria in the 1900s.
Together, the rich Texas lawyer and poor landscape owner team up to rescue the last rose and fulfill a dead woman’s wishes. But in their search to discover answers to the mysteries plaguing them, will Rich and Torrie also discover love in each other’s arms? Or will a meddling ghost, a pompous banker, and an elusive stray cat get in their way?
“Okay, the blue shirt with the gray slacks doesn’t make you look as stiff and lawyerly-looking as the white shirt does,” Marlene said. “Too bad you don’t have any softer-colored shirts.” She dangled three other ties in her hand she had brought along with her.
Rich glowered at her. “Lawyerly-looking? Softer colored? Are they even words? All I want to do is not look like an affluent stuffy lawyer with a stick up—”
He stopped and looked over at his small daughter, then continued in an irritated voice. “I want to look dressy, but not straitlaced or smug. You know what I mean.”
“But you are a stuffy lawyer, and it’s no secret your bank accounts won’t bounce, you dolt,” Lulu said with a huff. “I thought you and Torrie were going out as friends.”
He looked at the elderly housekeeper. “We are. But I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable, and I want to feel casual, but well-dressed.” He picked up a blue and white striped tie and held it to his chest. All three females groaned. He chose a darker blue one and the groans grew louder. He glared at them. “I’ll have you know some of these ties are pure Italian silk and cost a fortune. To some people, neckties are a symbol of success and authority.”
“Then send them back to Rome and let the Pope bury the lifeless-looking things.” Lulu rose. “They look like they should be on a corpse.”
Rich looked at Marlene. “Can you believe I’m paying her to insult me?”
Lulu snorted. “No, Perry Mason, you’re paying me to feed you, do your laundry, and oversee the household. The advice is free.” She headed for the door. “I’m going home, kids. See you in the morning.”
“I can’t wait,” Rich muttered and followed it with a dismal shake of his head.
Lulu paused and offered him a don’t-you-dare-tangle-with-me stare, then looked at Estella with a tender, warm, grandmotherly smile. “Your daddy doesn’t realize the only reason I take his grief is because I love to be with you, doll face. Tomorrow we’re making brownies and Perry Mason here is getting zip, zero, none, nichts, nada.” She headed out the door.
“Stop calling me Perry Mason!” Rich shouted at her retreating back. He heard her cackling laugh as she hustled toward the stairs.
With a degree in journalism and communications, Judy Ann Davis has written for industry and education. She enjoys writing short stories and novels with a touch of romance and mystery—and lots of comedy. She is a member of Pennwriters, Inc. and Romance Writers of America, and divides her time between Central Pennsylvania and New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
The Writing Life: Ha! I’m not sure how I find the time to write. I was a computer programmer, then laid off and all set to get stuff done! Well. One finds it’s not as easy as all that. All of sudden, you are taking care of stuff that you haven’t gotten to for years, and now that you don’t have a “day” job, you find yourself volunteering for other things. Granted, they do relate to your writing life, but still, they are things that take you away from the one thing you are trying to accomplish—writing!
All in all, what you’ve accomplished is creating more stress. So I’m starting a new resolution…(in October). No more extra stuff! Well, except for this blog. Thank you, Linda Carroll-Bradd.
There on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle lies the ruins of a haunted, old armory…
Helena Abigail Evans-Ross remembers nothing from her past except the sting of her Aunt Lydia’s hand almost knocking her head from her shoulders. “Don’t look!” she screamed, just as Abby’s gaze meets her father’s blank stare, and the realization that she is holding the bloody knife that ended his life. She’s home to learn the truth—but can she live with a truth is she is the one who murdered her own father?
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I glanced over to my handsome chauffeur. Water from his hair dribbled down a strong neck that disappeared into the collar of his rain-soaked shirt. He and Adam must be somewhere in their mid-to-late thirties by now. I knew his dry hair would resemble burnished gold. The light from the dashboard didn’t reflect the tone of his skin.
I leaned back in the seat and let his accent wash over me. Its familiarity settled nerves drawn so tight I felt I would shatter with a sudden move. I cleared my throat. “Where do you call home, Mr. Creighton?” There wasn’t much of him that reminded me of that long ago young man, just the clipped British words, making it easier to remember to refer to him as Mr. Creighton.
He grinned. Most likely relieved I’d finally joined the conversation. “Call me, Ian. Manchester, mostly. I’ve been here since spring assisting Adam with his research. I spent summers here on the island as a younger man until—” He tossed a quick glance in my direction. “Well, I’d planned on returning home by now.” His gaze dropped to my ringless fingers before he shifted his attention back to the road. “Though I may find my stay here pleasantly extended.”
Until what? I wanted to scream. Instead, heat flamed my cheeks at his not-so-subtle regard. I curled my fingers beneath my tote and out of sight, at a loss for words. My goal on this quiet Gulf Coast island was not to find romance. My sole agenda dealt with the bland contents of the letter stowed in my bag. A letter stained with my own bloody prints.
Facebook page for the World of Gothic series
Kathy L Wheeler loves the NFL, NBA, musical theater, travel, reading, writing and … karaoke! Kathy lives in Edmond with her attorney and musically talented husband, Al. She has one grown daughter who has an adorable baby boy, and one bossy cat, who acts as if she were the rescuer rather than the rescue-e!!
A haunted Highland house, battered by storms and murder…
Arriving at remote Invershiel House in the Scottish Highlands, researcher Kate Yorke is fascinated by the reclusive and troubled owner – notorious rocker Dan Stewart. Dan is haunted by the deaths of his fellow band members, especially his ex- lover Islay Lamont, whose shade seems to flit around the in the rain.
Then Kate trips over a dead body which inexplicably vanishes. It becomes a race against time to find the identity of the body and the killer. And to discover if she and Danny have any kind of future together. Or even at all…
I had to acknowledge that my peace was churned up by his unexpected presence here. It wasn’t even an unpleasant feeling; in fact it felt rather…exciting. But it was disturbing.
I took off my glasses and rubbed my eyes. I suspected Dan Stewart carried such disturbance wherever he went. If I thought about it, the whole house felt different now. As if its peace had gone too; as if it had sprung to life, eager, waiting.
Mocking my own silly fantasy, I stood abruptly and paced around the room, trying to recover my lost concentration. I suspected I was just tired and would work much faster and much better after a good night’s sleep.
I paused by the window to watch the storm. Although the thunder had stopped, the wind and rain were still blasting the trees and rattling the window. Close-up, I could feel the draught through my thick sweater. On impulse, I retrieved my phone from my bag and tried to capture the raging storm on its camera. But it looked too tame on the screen, not deep or dark enough, no real movement in those black clouds still scudding and swirling across the sky. I wished I could paint. For a moment, I even wished I could be part of it, to go outside in it again. There was nothing to stop me, except common sense.
I smiled to myself and lowered the phone, just as a movement in the garden below caught my eye. Someone was out in this. Someone not remotely dressed for it either. Through the darkness and the almost opaque mist of rain, I could make out only that it seemed to be a woman wearing only some kind of floating, white, wispy garment, more like the loungewear of wealthy women of past centuries than anything anyone would wear today for any purpose. The odd garment shimmered as the figure glided across the lawn, impossibly graceful.
On impulse, I raised my phone again and snapped.
Perhaps she moved too quickly. Nothing of her showed on the screen except an indistinct blur of light against blackness. Frowning, I looked again out of the window, but the woman had gone. Vanished.
Gone back inside if she’s got any sense whatsoever.
I could tell myself that, and believe it. I just couldn’t quite silence the tiny voice in my head that whispered I might just have seen a ghost…
And then, before I could laugh myself back to sceptical normality, another figure strode into view. Two figures. A man and a large dog. The dog was trotting along at his side, sniffing the grass. Even in darkness, the man was unmistakably Dan Stewart. He seemed to be wearing the same old khaki jacket. I could see the rain running off him in rivulets. It hadn’t seemed to touch the ghostly woman…
He stopped, gazing ahead, and slowly turned as if looking for something, or someone. Just for a moment, I was tempted. I even raised my phone hand. But it felt too wrong to take a picture of him without permission in his own home. He was facing the house now and without warning, he tipped back his head and caught me staring down at him.
I felt frozen in that distant gaze. Forcing myself, I gave a feeble wave and dragged my eyes free towards the black, wooded hills and the furiously scudding sky. Still, I was aware of him striding back towards the house. I even heard his voice calling to the dog which loped after him.
Restlessly, I abandoned the window. I needed to go to bed. My eyes, my mind, were all far too tired.
Ellie had been quite blasé about leaving the letters out of their locked cabinet. “Even if anyone knew about them, who’d steal them round here?” she’d said reasonably. I took her at her word and just stuffed my own notebook into my bag before picking it up and heading for the closed door, where I paused, because I could hear footsteps pounding up the stairs.
My heart drumming, I waited for them to pass before I left the room. They strode closer, along the hall, and I held my breath. He’d go past; he must go past…
The door flew open, and Dan Stewart stood there, scowling at me. Raindrops stood out on his wet hair and clothes.
No, he wasn’t pretty. But there was something devastatingly attractive about that rough, bony face and those big, grey eyes that seemed much darker than before.
“Did you take any pictures?” he asked abruptly.
I blinked. “Sorry?”
“Pictures,” he repeated. “With your phone.”
I lifted my chin. “No,” I said. “I’m not that rude. Or crass.”
His frown deepened for an instant, and then his whole face relaxed into a grin. “Not of me. I wouldn’t wish that on you. I mean before I went out?”
The dog, a large, hairy creature of indeterminate breed, pushed past his legs and regarded me, wagging his tail.
“I took some pictures of the storm,” I said with as much dignity as I could muster, before I gave in and held out my hand to the dog.
In much more peremptory fashion, Dan Stewart held out his hand to me. “Can I see them?”
I paused with my hand on the dog’s head, feeling my hackles rise. I straightened, no doubt glaring my outrage, but his eyes and his hand remained steady. I curled my lip, a trick I’d recently discovered was quite famous for taming unruly students, and took the phone from my bag, slapping it into his palm.
Marie Treanor lives in Scotland – in a picturesque village by the sea – with her eccentric husband, three much-too-smart children and a small puppy who rules them all. Marie is the award winning author of over forty paranormal romances – Indie, New York and E-published.
Subscribe to Marie’s New Release Mailing List: http://www.marietreanor.com/marie-treanor-newsletter/ .
Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarieTreanor
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.
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…
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 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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Bethany never imagined becoming the target of a hired killer. Her intent had been to clear her roommate of murder and get her out of jail. After a tip from a neighbor about a ski-masked man leaving the apartment and tossing something in a dumpster, she retrieves a pair of bloody gloves from the dumpster and places them in her brief case for safe keeping. On the way to take them to the police station, she is attacked and injected with a fast-acting sedative. In a desperate attempt to protect the evidence, she thrusts the briefcase at the man in front of her and begs him to take care it.
Bethany glanced behind her, heart skittering, as she hastened along the street. Though she hoped to blend in with tourists in southern Staten Island, she couldn’t escape the feeling she’d been followed. She’d told no one except the detective about the evidence in her briefcase. Since it could prove the innocence of her friend, she was eager to turn it in. Fortunately, in two more blocks she would arrive at the station. She could hand it over and stop worrying.
Someone brushed against her and she tightened her hold on the satchel. Pedestrians here were working people with a sprinkling of petty thieves. The last thing she needed was to have an opportunist steal what was valuable only as evidence and discard it in a dumpster where it would never be found and justice would never be done.
She entered the crosswalk with the throng. Half-way across the street she felt a sharp jab beneath her right rib. She grimaced as she stumbled forward, bumping into the broad back of the man striding ahead of her. He turned to study her with striking blue eyes.
Someone touched her hand and whispered, “Let go and I’ll let you live.”
She jerked her hand away as her vision began to blur. The man she had jostled turned with a frown. “Are you all right?”
She held on to the satchel. As his face became hazy, she thrust it towards him. “Take care of this please. It’s important.”
He took it from her grasp as she toppled forward. She heard a buzz of voices as strong arms lifted her, and then, oblivion.
Luke carried the limp woman across the street and cradled her in his lap while he called 911. A crowd gathered while he checked her quickened pulse. What could have happened to her? His thoughts were interrupted as a man leaned towards him.
“She’s prone to fainting spells. I can hold onto the attaché case. I’m her brother.”
Luke evaluated the man and made a quick decision. “She told me to keep it safe. It’s fine with me, for now.”
The man didn’t insist, yet continued to stand by, expressing none of the concern Luke would expect of a brother while Luke focused on the woman, making sure she continued to breathe.
The steady shrieking of an ambulance preceded its arrival at the curb. Luke moved back to allow the attendants to administer to the fallen woman. They took her vitals and loaded her onto a stretcher.
“Where will you take her?” Luke asked. Not only did he need to know where to deliver the satchel, he was curious about why it was important enough to protect.
“I’m a friend. Can I come along?”
The man nodded. “You can ride up front with the driver.”
Luke held onto the briefcase as he strode to the passenger door. What possessed him to care about what happened to this stranger? He should send the attaché with her and forget the whole thing.
He glanced into the crowd and saw the man who claimed to be her brother watching from the outskirts of the bystanders. If he had it to bet, Luke guessed the guy knew what was inside that case and had a reason for wanting it. Perhaps he had injured or drugged the victim to steal it. The possibilities ran through his mind as he climbed aboard. He thought about going after the suspect. Yet, he doubted he would catch him, given the distance between them. If he didn’t stay with the victim, it would be harder to locate her and return her property. He shut the door and buckled his seat belt. Whatever the outcome, he was along for the ride.
The driver was a stocky, middle-aged man with thinning hair who asked Luke, “You her husband?”
“No. She fell into my arms. I was complemented until I realized she was unconscious.”
The man nodded. “Sounds like my experience with women.”
Luke’s curiosity about what was in the case burned as they drove to the hospital. When they arrived, he waited for the paramedics to lift the woman from the ambulance and wheel her into the emergency room.
“How’s she doing?” Luke asked the small blond attendant who was pushing the cart,”
Once inside, he was asked her name. “I don’t know. We just met. You’ll have to get identification from her purse. Please let me know when she’s able to have a visitor.”
The rigid, vinyl chair in the waiting area poked against his shoulder blades. He resigned himself to the discomfort and the television comedy that spewed raucous laughter. His thoughts were on the woman who’d passed out in his arms.
He turned the briefcase over in his lap. If she protected something illegal, he refused to be any part of it. He studied the lock, and knew it would be no problem. He fished in his pocket and withdrew the knife set he’d carried all through his stint in the military. With a few quick twists, he had it open. He peered inside the bag to see two bloody gloves staring back. If she didn’t have a good explanation, he was going straight to the police.
Bethany awoke in a narrow bed. She squinted at the bright ceiling light, and struggled to remember why she was hooked to an IV. What had happened? She moved to sit up and her head throbbed. Then, it all came back. He had wanted the gloves. Had he gotten them?
She fumbled for the buzzer as a nurse entered the room. “I had an attaché case. Where is it?”
The young woman knitted her brow. “Don’t be upset. Your things are bagged beside your bed.”
“I need to see them.”
The nurse moved swiftly to her side. “Don’t try and get up. I’ll hand it to you.”
Bethany knew from the weight of the bag it didn’t contain the attaché case. She fought rising panic. “My briefcase is missing. Where is it?”
“I don’t know. There’s a gentleman in the waiting room who wants to see you. Perhaps he has it.”
A native of Houston, TX, Karen spent her early years enjoying life along the Gulf Coast. After high school, she attended Texas A&M as well as the University of Houston where she obtained a B.S. in early childhood education. She has written numerous articles and stories, books for children and novels for adults. She particularly enjoys writing contemporary and historical romance.
She now lives in the Southwest with her family and assorted pets.