Guest Blog: Pauline Baird Jones on the second Pets in Space Anthology, Embrace the Romance

I’d like to welcome my guest blogger Pauline Baird Jones. Pauline is an old and dear friend and a fellow SFR author.  Today, she is sharing a special project from her and a whole crew of other SFR authors to raise money for Hero Dogs.  — Monette

********

 

It Started as a Joke and Became Our Mission

 

The first Pets in Space anthology started as a joke, a throwaway comment on Facebook, but Veronica Scot saw the potential of the idea and contacted me privately and said, “We should do this.”

I thought about it and realized she was right. We should do this, but we both had two requirements that had to happen if we did this.

  1. Awesome original stories (Veronica convinced some amazing authors to write stories for our adventure in space and publishing); and
  2. We had to donate a portion of the proceeds to a charity that is about animals and veterans.

It did not take us long to discover Hero-Dogs.org. We knew they were the charity for us, but would they be willing to partner with something called Pets in Space?

They did! And when we went back to them for Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, we were so honored that they said yes again. Supporting this charity has definitely become our passion.

What is Hero Dogs you ask?

Hero Dogs, Inc., a Maryland 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, improves quality of life for our nation’s heroes by raising, training, and placing service dogs and other highly skilled canines, free of charge with lifetime support of the partnerships.

In addition to supporting a wonderful charity, Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2,  brings you a dozen original stories written just for you! Join in the fun, from the Dragon Lords of Valdier to a trip aboard award-winning author Veronica Scott’s Nebula Zephyr to journeying back to Luda where Grim is King, for stories that will take you out of this world! Join New York Times, USA TODAY, and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, and Alexis Glynn Latner as they share stories and help out Hero-Dogs.org, a charity that supports our veterans!

10% of all pre-orders and the first month’s profits go to Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.

The authors of Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 hope you’ll join with them in supporting our wonderful charity! You’ll get 12 great reads, all for the price of a cup of coffee! And please tell a friend!

 

Universal Link for All Stores: books2read.com/u/3L9aYM

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35658092-embrace-the-romance

Instafreebie Sampler: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/EZz5p

Website: http://www.petsinspaceantho.com

Newsletter Signuphttp://www.petsinspaceantho.com/stay-in-touch/

Preorder Video: https://youtu.be/UW4CZc76CB0

Hero Dogs: http://www.hero-dogs.org/

Embrace the Romance Pet Coloring Book Contest Link: http://www.petsinspaceantho.com/giveaways/get-embrace-romance-coloring-book-now/

About Pauline Baird Jones:

Pauline Baird Jones never liked reality, so she writes books. She likes to wander among the genres, rampaging like Godzilla, because she does love peril mixed in her romance. You can find her online here:

Website:       http://paulinebjones.com

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPaulineBairdJones/

FB Handle:    @AuthorPaulineBairdJones

Twitter:        https://twitter.com/PaulineBJones

Twitter Handle:      @PaulineBJones

Instagram:    @paulinebjones

Amazon Author Page:        https://www.amazon.com/Pauline-Baird-Jones/e/B000APFS0M/

Covers to Color: Laying Out the Coloring Book

MM_CoversToColor_page01In the previous weeks in this series, we’ve covered how and why we came up with the idea to create a coloring book of cover art, the legal aspects of creating such coloring pages from existing art, and the actual method to create the coloring page. This week, Guest Blogger April Martinez of Graphicfantastic will walk us through how she laid out the final coloring book.

*****

There are two parts to creating a coloring book. The first involves the illustrations. The second involves putting all those illustrations together. These do not necessarily involve the same skill set.

As both an illustrator and a print graphic designer, I feel it is important to point that out, especially to anyone who is considering having a coloring book made. There are people who can create artwork but can’t design, and there are people who can design but can’t create artwork.

Illustration can be a very organic and intuitive form of creative expression, whether one does it by hand or with the help of a computer. Design, on the other hand, requires a more technical bent; and good design requires some experience. So, the production of a coloring book might involve the talents of two different people.

Since my skill set is wide enough, I took care of both parts. I’ve already talked about the first part, the illustrations, being done in Illustrator. The second part, the book design, was done in InDesign.

The first thing to consider was how Moni would have the book printed and at what size. She and I agreed on a standard 8.5” x 11” size so she could have it printed anywhere, and since we couldn’t be sure what sort of paper quality she would have available to her, I decided to design the book so that each illustration was on its own sheet — no other illustration on the back of it, just a blank page. This way, if people want to color with markers instead of color pencils, they don’t have to worry about ink bleeding through to the other side, ruining another cover illustration.

My Patterns coloring book was done with a bleed so that the illustrated patterns would go all the way out to the trim (the edge of the page), but for Moni’s book, I decided to have a margin for a simple border. It wasn’t just so that the colored illustrations would present better and lend themselves well to being framed if the colorist wished it; this was also because some printers don’t have the capability to print all the way to the edges of the paper, and Moni or whatever print service she decided to use might not have access to a paper trimmer. So the margins were also for ease of production.

For the front and back cover, I created a “halfway colored” version of the illustrations, as this is a shortcut to communicating to anyone looking at the cover that this is a coloring book.

And since this is a *promotional* coloring book, I set aside some space to show Moni’s other titles.

The result is a 12-page booklet in high resolution PDF form, something that would print out nice and sharp in detail. Normally, such a PDF with this many images at such a large dimension would have a huge file size, but because the illustrations are in vector format (done in Illustrator), it came out to just 9.6 MB, not much bigger than a print book cover flat might be.MM_CoversToColor_page12

After that, it’s up to Moni how to print and produce the physical book.

Can I just say “I love the coloring book April created for me.”  Next week, I’ll share what I did and why in producing the final product.

Covers to Color: Creating Illustrations by April Martinez

MM_CoversToColor_page01The last two weeks I covered how this idea of making a coloring book of my book covers came about and the legal issues all authors must address in order to do such a project.  This week and next, April Martinez, my fabulous cover artist and the person who created my coloring book, will talk about her process.

Creating the Illustrations

When Moni came to me about a coloring book for her, I’d already been mulling over the best way to convert existing cover art into coloring book line art.

Last year, my fellow cover artists and I were discussing how the popularity of coloring books has worked its way even into the romance industry — one New York publisher had already turned their cover art into black and white illustrations that their readers could color, and smaller publishers were considering doing the same. So, when the topic of Photoshop tips and tricks came up, we cover artists began to look for a quick and easy way to turn photo-manipulated cover designs into simpler line drawings. We shared among ourselves links to videos and how-to blogs, debating over the best way to do this.

I was skeptical of all the methods, though, even of the ones I’d shared or developed myself.

See … the thing is, there is no quick and easy way to turn a photo-based image into line art that a colorist would actually want to color.

The best you might be able to create with a few Photoshop tricks is something that looks like a realistic pencil drawing or a textured and artfully done pen and ink illustration. It is not, however, something a coloring book enthusiast would necessarily want to color.

 

Amazon Reviews on Gray Scale Coloring Books

Some Amazon Reviews on Gray Scale Coloring Books

Why is this?

Well … if you look at a coloring book illustration, especially in a popular coloring book, the artwork is fairly simple and spartan. By “simple,” I don’t mean anything like stick figures and children’s drawings; I mean that the artwork is typically uncluttered by textures, highlights, shadows, and details that might add depth to the drawing. It is crisp black ink on clean white paper, no gradations of color such as grays to add shading or 3D shape to the representation on the page. If you think about it, a coloring book illustration is actually quite an abstract version of whatever it’s supposed to be. It’s almost a written language, the world laid down in symbols of black markings, a simple line drawing meant to communicate with uncomplicated brevity a universe of much deeper meaning.

The colorists, mind you, are meant to add all that texture and meaning to the illustration themselves. It is their purpose to give shape and color to the line art, like adding muscles, fat, and skin to a skeletal framework.

So … using a Photoshop trick to turn something into line art doesn’t necessarily work because a Photoshop trick will merely take all the detail in a photo-based image and translate it into black or gray pixels — i.e., turn it into a grayscale image. If there is a lot of texture and grain, or a lot of gradations of color and shadow, Photoshop won’t know how to translate that into its barest form — i.e., solid outlines, the most basic language that a human colorist can understand and work with. It just won’t know what to keep and what to throw out, at least not as well as a human mind could.

This is especially the case when the artwork you want to convert is a beautifully textured image, artfully lit, fading one element into another in a pleasing montage-like collage. In fact, the result is often just too finished or too busy to do anything more with it. It might be utterly beautiful in its detail, but a colorist looks at that and thinks, “That’s not something I can color.” They may not even want to. Why bother? There’s no room for their own interpretation.

So, when Moni came to me, not only had I already weighed the pros and cons of each Photoshop trick I’d come across or developed, but I had also already seen some Amazon reviews on coloring books created in this quick and easy way (see above) — and I had already learned a few things in creating my own coloring book, which I’d created from scratch with no Photoshop filters. I decided then that Moni’s coloring book would be a good opportunity for me to really test my own theories on this.

And here is what I did:

1. The quick-and-easy Photoshop conversion

Moni gave me four titles to work with, the first being Prime Imperative. This being my first attempt at converting one of my covers into a coloring book illustration, I decided to give some Photoshop methods a good college try.

False modesty aside, I have “mad skills” in Photoshop — über-mad skills — and I’ve written the tutorials to prove it. None of the YouTube videos people recommended were revelations to me; I already knew most of the tricks. Yet … I couldn’t find a single way in Photoshop to turn Prime Imperative into simple line art that someone would want to color.

Not only did I try multiple ways, but I also combined a number of different ways to try to get the best result. Parts and pieces of the image that already had good contrast and large expanses of color, I did in one way. Other parts and pieces that had a complex gradation of colors and a lot of detail, I did in another way. I did a lot of versions. I did them in layers. I did them in stages, and I did them with the different settings and options tweaked. It was one giant trial-and-error session that proved to me that the “quick-and-easy” way was far from quick and far from easy.

The very best I could come up with was this:

 

converted

PhotoShop Method, (c) 2016, Graphicfantastic, All Rights Reserved.

 

2. The time-consuming hand-drawn method

By this point, I’d figured drawing the illustration by hand would take less time and yield better results. I was wrong about the time, but I was right about the results.

I imported the cover art into, not Photoshop, but Illustrator, and I imported it as a template. I then used the pen or pencil tool — anything with a 1pt. stroke, really — and actually traced the lines in the artwork. Given the detail in the artwork, it was as time-consuming as one might expect it to be, probably more than a full day’s work, maybe 8-10 hours with a Wacom pen and tablet, simply laying down line by line, using my human brain to decide what to outline and what to leave out.

For an artist like me more accustomed to working with stock photos and Photoshop tools, the work seemed overly slow and tedious. Despite my early experience with hand-drawn art, I’d gotten way too used to the instant gratification of photo-manipulated work. So I was practically brain-dead by the time I finished.

But I was relieved to finally be able to send Moni the two experiments — the Photoshop-converted version and this hand-drawn version:

 

handdrawn

Hand-drawn Method (c) 2016, Graphicfantastic, All Rights Reserved.

 

Which of these two would you color? If you’re anything like me, you’d prefer the second one; there’s just more room for interpretation.

This made me cringe as an artist trying to make a living, though. Creating a coloring book illustration by hand is just so much work. I would have to charge a full day’s pay for each drawing, at least, and who would want to pay that? Oy.

But the hand-drawn version really did end up being the better one, so I did the other three by hand as well.

*********

I loved the results April produced with the hand-drawn method. 

Next week, April will be back and discuss the laying out of the coloring book, which includes the amazing front and back covers.

Muse Wednesday: Cynthia Sax

Lord Of ScoundrelsI am thrilled to have author Cynthia Sax sharing her muse with us today.  It’s so much fun to find other authors who like the same books — Lord of Scoundrels is one of my favorite Loretta Chase books and is a go-to, re-read, comfort book for me. So please join me in welcoming Cynthia to the blog as she shares why she chose this particular book as an inspiration for her writing. — Monette

**********************

I’ve been inspired by a zillion different authors. Barbara Cartland was my first introduction to romance. Christine d’Abo was my first introduction to erotic romance. Laurann Dohner was my first introduction to both SciFi erotic romance and stories with cyborg heroes (which is the niche Releasing Rage falls into).

But there’s one romance novel that I reach for whenever I feel a fit of the lazies, whenever I think ‘this story is tight enough’, and that’s Loretta Chase’s Lord Of Scoundrels.

Lord Of Scoundrels, a Regency romance, is a tight book. There’s not one throwaway scene in the story. Every scene is important. Every scene has multiple meanings. There are motifs and symbolism and very few wasted words.

The prologue is a flashback of the hero’s early life, specifically his hellion days at school. He’s not a teenager. He’s a very naughty little boy. Then, in the first chapter, we meet the heroine. She’s confronting her much larger brother, taking him to task for his behavior. He responds as a naughty little boy might and we KNOW she’s someone who won’t take any backchat from the hero (foreshadowing). She not only will challenge the hero but she’ll understand him.

And yes, I said prologue. Many editors hate prologues. I’ve never had one survive to final copy. Not having a prologue is one of those unspoken writer ‘rules’ yet here is one in the book I use as a benchmark for writing. It is needed. It adds value to the story. It proves that every rule can be broken if we do it well enough.

Lord Of Scoundrels also shows that every action can be acceptable as long as the character’s motivation is strong enough. Dain, the hero, is a terrible person. He doesn’t miraculously improve by the end of the story either. He stays true to his rather difficult nature. But we understand why he’s a terrible person and we understand why Jess grows to love him.

Shocking things happen in this story. They have a reason for happening. They aren’t merely a means to surprise the reader. But Loretta Chase ‘goes there’. She didn’t soften the story to be more marketable.

Lord Of Scoundrels is circular storytelling (which is one reason why the prologue is so important). It starts with a very naughty little boy and ends with a very different naughty little boy. Circular storytelling is a favorite construct of mine. It’s extremely powerful and I often use it.

This book is a basis for my mental revision checklist. I ask myself ‘Is this scene necessary? Can this scene do more? Can I use symbolism effectively here? How can I make this object or phrase or article of clothing mean something in my story? Can I make this character more intense? Is he or she true to his or her nature? Am I being authentic or am I making him or her ‘nicer’ in hopes that the book will be more marketable? Do I ‘go there’ and do I ‘go there’ for a storytelling reason, not simply to shock readers?”

Have you read Lord Of Scoundrels? What did you love about it?

***

Releasing Rage_CompressedReleasing Rage-Cynthia Sax

Half Man. Half Machine. All Hers.

Rage, the Humanoid Alliance’s most primitive cyborg, has two goals–kill all of the humans on his battle station and escape to the Homeland. The warrior has seen the darkness in others and in himself. He believes that’s all he’s been programmed to experience.

Until he meets Joan.

Joan, the battle station’s first female engineer, has one goal–survive long enough to help the big sexy cyborg plotting to kill her. Rage might not trust her but he wants her. She sees the passion in his eyes, the caring in his battle-worn hands, the gruff emotion in his voice.

When Joan survives the unthinkable, Rage’s priorities are tested. Is there enough room in this cyborg’s heart for both love and revenge?

Buy Now:

On Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Releasing-Rage-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B00ZOL1DRO

On Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00ZOL1DRO/

On ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-releasingrage-1850041-340.html

On B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/releasing-rage-cynthia-sax/1122455646

 

About Cynthia Sax:

USA Today bestselling author Cynthia Sax writes contemporary, SciFi and paranormal erotic romances. Her stories have been featured in Star Magazine, Real Time With Bill Maher, and numerous best of erotic romance top ten lists.

Sign up for her dirty-joke-filled release day newsletter and visit her on the web at www.CynthiaSax.com

Website: http://cynthiasax.com/

Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Facebook: facebook.com/cynthia.sax

Twitter: @CynthiaSax

Blog: http://tasteofcyn.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muse Wednesday: Rebecca Drake

The last in a series of Muse blogs leading up to the Maintaining Pace in Mystery panel, Saturday, October 10th at 1 pm, Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, NC, is from Rebecca Drake.  If you are coming to Bouchercon, please come and see Rebecca, me, Laura Benedict, Hilary Davidson, and Annette Dashofy.

*****

Harriet the SpyMy first muse was a nosy, streetwise bad-ass named Harriet M. Welsch, the titular character of Louise Fitzhugh’s children’s classic, Harriet the Spy. Harriet spied on her friends and neighbors, scribbling down their conversations and her own sharp observations in a notebook. I adored Harriet and while I didn’t have a nanny and didn’t know anyone with a house that had a dumbwaiter (read the book—I won’t spoil it for you), I did have a notebook, plenty of pens, and the free time that you only have when you’re a child.

This was in Bloomington, Indiana, a far cry from the Upper East Side of Manhattan where Harriet lived, but it was a walkable community in the 1970s, long before child abduction stories and 24-hour news cycles made people fearful of what is now called free-range parenting. This was an era when mothers routinely urged their children to get out and go somewhere, anywhere, but at home and under foot. My husband’s mother used to tell her kids, “Go blow the stink off you!” My own mother was more eloquent, but no less determined to get me and my siblings out of her hair. Every Saturday we were sent off to visit the library, walking distance from our house by yesterday’s standards, but an Uber ride by today’s. With nobody to monitor our progress, I was free to roam all over Indiana University’s campus spying on students or stalk the people browsing in shops along Kirkwood Avenue. Once I arrived at the Monroe County Public Library I faced a dilemma—did I use precious book selection time to keep spying or did I abandon my own writing to get immersed in other people’s stories? I usually split the difference, picking out a stack of books before heading upstairs to the adult section, where I’d crouch in one of their amazing 1970s egg chairs and swivel around squinting at patrons and scribbling notes about them, before being shooed back downstairs by librarians. Like Harriet, I was an insatiably curious kid who was always fascinated by human behavior, especially anything odd and abnormal or even vaguely suspicious. What was behind that woman’s hyena-like laughter or why was that man hiding in the stacks mumbling to himself?

While the fictional Harriet was my inspiration to start recording these observations, I found my adult muse in English author Ruth Rendell. By the time I discovered her I’d read hundreds of novels and fallen in love with so many authors and their characters, but in Ruth Rendell’s, and her alter ego Barbara Vine’s, books I found the adult version of that pointed, sometimes wry and darkly comic, observation of human behavior that I’d first identified in Harriet the Spy. I realized that this was the type of author I aspired to be—I wanted to write books exploring ordinary people and the complications within their seemingly ordinary lives, which often became shockingly extraordinary in her gifted telling. The very first book of hers that I read was a standalone, The Tree of Hands, which dealt with child abduction—the crime at the The Tree of Hands original UKcore of the novel—but was also an exploration of mothers and children, attachment and grief. It wasn’t until I was thinking about my muse for this blog that I realized how deeply this book, which I read so many years ago, had influenced by own writing and especially my latest novel, Only Ever You, which explores similar themes.

I quickly read some of her other stand-alones—A Judgement in Stone, A Dark-Adapted Eye, A Fatal Inversion, The House of Stairs—before also devouring her Inspector Wexford series, my favorite of which is An Unkindness of Ravens. I’ve also read and adore her short story collections, especially The Fallen Curtain, The New Girlfriend, and The Fever Tree. Some of her stories have shocking endings and many of them continue to haunt me years after reading them. People often describe Rendell’s writing as “disturbing,” and it definitely can be—she takes an unflinching look at personality quirks and foibles, which either mask or become the catalyst for sinister and criminal behavior. However, in her Wexford novels, I think we get if not the warm fuzzy, definitely the warmer side of her characters. Reg Wexford is also a keen observer of human behavior, but his clear, if often stumbling, devotion to his wife and daughters and his constant struggles with weight, make him a likeable, relatable character in a way that some of her other standalone characters might not be. Like them or not, what you can say definitively about Rendell’s characters is that there are no cardboard cutouts among them. She was a master at exploring the psyche, and a prolific inspiration to writers everywhere—she wrote 66 novels and was still writing until she suffered a stroke and died this past May at 85. When I heard about her death I experienced the same pangs that you feel on the death of a friend, even though I never had the pleasure of meeting or even seeing her in person. This sense of loss was coupled with the unhappy realization that there would be only one more time, when her final book is released, to experience the sheer joy of spying a new book by her on the bookstore shelf. My only consolation is that because she wrote so many books, I can start fresh with her first novel and discover my muse all over again.

 

RebeccaDrake-150x150Author Bio

Rebecca Drake’s latest psychological thriller, ONLY EVER YOU, will be released by St. Martin’s Press in 2016. Her debut novel, DON’T BE AFRAID, was a lead title for Kensington in 2006. THE NEXT KILLING followed in 2007 and was selected by four national book clubs including The Literary Guild. THE DEAD PLACE came out in 2008 and was an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) bestseller. In 2011 “Loaded” appeared in PITTSBURGH NOIR, one of Akashic Books’ award-winning collection of noir anthologies. A graduate of Penn State, Rebecca is an instructor in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. More about Rebecca can be found at RebeccaDrake.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/rebecca.drake.writer And Twitter @AuthorRDrake

OnlyEverYouHighRes-197x300Pre-order Only Ever You at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Books-a-Million
Penguin Bookshop

 

 

Muse Wednesday: Laura Benedict

The third Muse blog in the lead up to the “Maintaining Pace in Mystery” panel set for October 10th, at 1 pm, in Raleigh, Bouchercon 2015, is panelist Laura Benedict.  Her muse is a classic — if you haven’t read the book, I’m sure you might have seen the movie. If you have no experience with either, you must try.  Both the book and movie are super.

*****

highsmithstrangersIn the summer of 1990, I spent the five weeks leading up to my wedding living with my future in-laws. My soon-to-be husband slept in his old bedroom, which seemed about a half-mile away from where I was quartered in his sister’s childhood bedroom. What did I do during those long, lonely nights in my room? Why, I read like a madwoman, of course. The house—way out in the West Virginia countryside—was stuffed full of books; my husband’s father is a big non-fiction reader and loves history, and his mother is mad for mystery and suspense novels.

While I’d been writing for a couple of years, and had taken a few post-grad writing classes, I hadn’t yet found my material. That sounds a bit presumptuous, doesn’t it? Found my material. But it’s an important step for a writer. There are so many avenues to explore, and, truthfully, unless a novice writer already has a passion for one type of material, she should try her hand at several different ones before committing.

My temporary bedroom was full of mystery and crime novels by established writers: P.D. James, Ellis Peters, Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman, Ruth Rendell, Elizabeth George. I could’ve read a new writer every night for weeks. But once I discovered a Patricia Highsmith compendium on a bedroom shelf, I was completely smitten. I spent a scandalous day and a half tethered to my room with that book.

Have you seen the 1951 Hitchcock suspense film Strangers on a Train? That was all I’d heard of Highsmith back then. The film follows her novel up to a point, but I recommend both.

Two men, Guy Haines (a famous tennis player) and Bruno Anthony (a wealthy, boorish playboy), meet on a train and strike up a conversation. Sly Bruno brings the conversation around to murder, suggesting that Guy kill Bruno’s father, and that Bruno will kill Guy’s wife, Miriam (an unpleasant woman who won’t give Guy a divorce so that he can marry the sweet, lovely daughter of a senator—because Guy is famous, Bruno knows the gossip about him). Bruno says they won’t get caught because no one knows they know each other, and neither would have a motive for their respective murders.

It’s a grisly idea, yet terribly clever. Bruno is a psychopath, but Guy is a pretty good guy who would never imagine murdering anyone. He has even remained married to Miriam after she became pregnant by another man. He leaves the train after saying something patronizing but not serious to Bruno. Bruno misunderstands and thinks that they have a deal. Not long after, Guy learns Miriam has been murdered. When Bruno comes to Guy looking for kudos, ready with instructions for getting into the Anthony home to murder his father, Guy is stunned. He tells Bruno that he won’t do it, that he never meant for Miriam to die. Unfortunately, Bruno has stolen Guy’s lighter, and threatens to use it to implicate Guy in his wife’s murder. Guy has to do something…I won’t tell you more. If you don’t know the story, I can’t recommend it enough.

One of the things Highsmith does frequently and very well is put an average person in a morally-charged, thrilling kind of danger. One moment a character is sitting on a train, or throwing a dinner party, or on vacation in Greece, and the next moment they’re running for their lives. The 1950s was a time for intense realism in both books and film (okay, so the dresses weren’t necessarily so realistic), and morality was always in question. But I just love that sense that life can turn on a dime—and rarely in a pleasant way. There’s something more to Highsmith, though. Her villains are rarely thoroughly villainous. They are terribly human, and they sometimes get away with their crimes.

Highsmith’s pacing is perfection. She marches the reader right up to the edge of reasonable behavior and gives a little push—and we tumble into the story, compelled to follow her, peeking between our fingers at the awkward encounters, the necessary murders, the shamefully easy criminality.

There has never been another crime writer like Highsmith. I’ve read just about everything except her previously uncollected stories (I don’t think it’s fair to posthumously publish stories that a writer purposefully left unpublished.), and re-read her style book Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction about once a year. Her prose is simple and declarative, yet wildly intense. It’s that intensity that I yearn for in my own work. That sense that really bad things can happen to just anyone, and they probably will. Once immersed in that world, I could hardly imagine wanting to write anything but suspense. Everything else pales for me—science fiction, romance, historical fiction—I want that constant tension. As a writer, I want to keep both myself and my readers guessing.

And a little postscript—Yes, I married him! We celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary this past July. So Patricia Highsmith is sort of our marriage muse, as well.

LBenedictcrop415Bio:
Laura Benedict is the author of five novels of dark suspense, including CHARLOTTE’S STORY and BLISS HOUSE, the first two books of the Bliss House trilogy. Her work has also appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, PANK, and numerous anthologies like THRILLERS: 100 Must-Reads, and THE LINEUP: 20 Provocative Women Writers. She lives with her family in Southern Illinois.

Visit her at laurabenedict.com.

“Murder, sexual obsession, and misogyny explode in the final scenes, bringing all the simmering evil to the surface in a shocking finale, that, like all good horror stories, is probably not the end. You just can’t look away from this bombsite—nor forget it. Dripping with southern gothic atmosphere.”—Booklist,starred review, Charlotte’s Story

Charlotte’s Story Buy Links:

http://www.amazon.com/Charlottes-Story-Bliss-House-Novel/dp/1605988782/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/charlottes-story-laura-benedict/1121186394?ean=9781605988788

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781605988788

Bliss House–NOW OUT IN PAPERBACK:

http://www.amazon.com/Bliss-House-Novel-Laura-Benedict/dp/1605985724/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383097982&sr=1-1&keywords=bliss+house

 

 

Guest Author: Cherie Nicholls

Windborn-Cherie_Nicholls-200x320My author buddy, Cherie Nicholls, has a new paranormal romance out and she is here today to tell us all about it. Psst, it has shifters in it and y’all know I love my shifters. — Moni

*****

Thank you for having me!

I have a special kind of love for shifters. Just about all of my books have involved them in one form or another. But this is the first time I’ve written about Lions. King of Beasts, majestic, authoritative, and a little bit moany.

But Luka is just too cute, I couldn’t stay mad at him.

His love for Aura is true and deep and, as far as he is concerned, unrequited. But then again, Lion Shifters are many things, including blind… really really blind.

Blurb:

Luka Barend is an alpha lion shifter, member of the Shifter Council, teacher, and big brother. He’s also stuck firmly in the “friend zone.” In point of fact he is King of the Best Friend zone. Sometimes it really sucks to be him.

Aura Vietor is a High Priestess, an air elemental witch, and a woman who really, really wants Luka to realize that his best friend is actually a woman, with needs. Many, many dirty needs. Stupid blind lion shifter!

 

Excerpt:

Luka lay facedown on his bed and wondered, not for the first time, what he could’ve done in a previous life to be cursed with a family like this.

Granted, what with them all being orphaned at young ages and ending up in children’s homes, he’d not had much choice. But still he must’ve really pissed off a couple of gods in a previous life if this crazy menagerie was his punishment.

“So I said to her, ‛Baby, if you’re impressed now, you should see what I can do with it.’ And let me tell you, she was really impressed.”

He looked up at one of his younger brothers and glared. In nature, lions and wolves didn’t mix. Sadly, that wasn’t the case here. He was a lion shifter, and Nate—well, Nate was a pain-in-the-ass wolf-coyote shifter. Another perk of being in an adopted, mixed breed family.

“Is there a reason you’re in my house?”

“Sure.”

He waited, but Nate didn’t seem to want to offer more.

“Nate, it’s been a long day. I’ve been in a council meeting for the last five hours. Tell me why you’re here before I shift and bite your tiny little wolf head off.”

“Seriously, bro, since you made the council, your fun meter has dropped, like, twenty percent.”

“Nathaniel!”

“Geez, chill. I’m here because Aura was looking for you. Something about a ritual and the lake. If she needs a sex sacrifice, I’m totally up for that.”

Luka dropped his head back to the bed and groaned.

“Please tell me you didn’t offer her your services.”

“I thought about it, and then I remembered the last time I kindly offered my time and how it took a month for the green color to fade from my fur.”

“Smart move. I’ll give her a call. Now get out.”

“I’m crashing here tonight,” Nate threw over his shoulder as he headed for the door.

“You have your own place.”

“Yeah, but your place is closer. I mean I’m literally already standing in it. So, win.”

He didn’t argue as Nate closed the door. It was true he did have his own place, but more often than not, Luka would walk into the kitchen to find one or more of his siblings there.

He was sure some psychologists would say it had to do with their childhoods. How losing their parents at such young ages had affected them. Now they would cling together, needing each other’s presence to feel secure and connected.

Personally, he thought that was all crap and they just liked eating him out of house and home.

With a resigned sigh, he rolled onto his back and grabbed his phone off the bedside table.

He punched the quick-dial number and waited for the call to be answered. It didn’t matter that it was near midnight. There wasn’t a worry that he’d wake up the person at the other end. Aura was a night owl, something he’d learned as a kid.

“About goddamn time, freak,” was the greeting he received. As tired as he was, he couldn’t help smiling.

“Sorry if I wasn’t waiting by the phone for your call, hag.”

“What were you doing? Off licking your own ass?”

“No, I was with the council planning our witch hunt.”

“Yeah, like you’d have any chance against us.”

“Us? Who said anything about the others? Nope, we’re just planning on hunting whining air elemental witches.”

“Flea-ridden alley cat.”

“Reject from The Wizard of Oz.

There was silence on the other end for a second before he heard the snorted laugh.

The sound warmed his heart. Aura might be an air elemental witch, a rare breed of witch to say the least. She might even be one of the most powerful magical women in the world. But first and foremost, she was his best friend. And wasn’t that all sorts of fun. Somewhere in their teen years he’d landed not only in the friend zone, but he was in point of fact, king of the best-friend zone. Yay him.

“So what did that boring group of dried up has-beens have to say this time?”

“That group of has-beens is the authority around here, and I happen to be a member, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. I told you when they asked you to join that you’d be at least nine hundred years too young. But no, you wouldn’t listen. So deal with it, kitten.”

“No, please, Aura. You’re drowning me with your admiration.”

“Bite me.”

“Only if you ask me nice.”

He heard her breathy laugh come down the line again and willed his body not to react. He’d have more chance swimming up a waterfall.

“So, I hear you were looking for me,” he said, and tried hard to distract his body and the part of him that was getting hard at the thought of her luscious mouth on it.

“Sure was. The full moon is coming.”

“And? Happens all the time.”

“Yes, I know that, o wise one. But this one is different. It’s a blood moon. Rare and very powerful. I need to have a ceremony down at the lake. It’s going to happen, but I figured I should get your approval first, what with you being all council-like now. That way the boring old farts can’t shut me down.”

“You ask so nicely too.”

“You want nice? Okay, fine.” He closed his eyes. He knew what was coming and so did his body. “Please, Luka. Oh, oh, oh, God, please, Luka,” she panted down the line. “I promise to be a good girl, really good…oh, mmm, so good.”

He swallowed hard and forced out a laugh. “You’re getting better at that.”

“I should be. Practice does make perfect.”

That dragged a silent snarl from him. The thought of another man’s hands on what he’d always considered his had his lion pawing to get out.

“Fine, have your little magic show at the lake. But don’t poison the lake, don’t burn anything down, and, Aura, if you really must be naked, at least put up a border spell so I don’t find a group of teenagers all standing there watching you and your coven.”

“Man, Nate was right—you really have lost your fun side. Okay, fine, Mr. Prude. I’ll make sure the poor innocent boys are shielded from our perfection. I guess I shouldn’t really ruin them for all the other women.”

“I appreciate it. Now go away. I have sleeping to do, and your cackle grates on my last nerve.”

“Yeah, love you too, twinkle.”

He hung up, dropped the phone back onto the table, and lay back down.

Luka stared up at the ceiling and wondered again if the gods were messing with him.

 

© Cherie Nicholls 2015

Buy Link

 

Cherie NichollsAuthor Info:

Cherie Nicholls is an author of Paranormal Romance. By day she is an IT Manager and by night she whips up worlds where alpha men find their mates and people are always more than human.

Cherie was born and lives in London, UK, and is a daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, aunt-in-law, great-aunt, and godmother in an ever-growing family. She has a passion for shifter stories, most any sport and thimbles…don’t ask.

 

Find Me Links:

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Guest Author: Marci Boudreaux

the-road-leads-back_coverI’d like to welcome my friend, Emilia Mancini writing as Marci Boudreaux to my blog.  She has  new book out and I am so excited that she asked me to host her on this last day of her book tour.

####

Moni! Thanks so much for having me!

I’ve been making the rounds lately sharing information about my new book, The Road Leads Back. If people aren’t tired of hearing from me yet, thank you. Sincerely!

This book is a little different from the rest I’ve written. I like to think it has a bit more depth than my previous books. Not that they were shallow, but I feel like I’ve tapped into some part of me that is willing to share more. Perhaps it’s age (you know, I am turning 29 for the tenth time this year).

My characters are a bit older. A bit wiser. Have bigger issues to overcome and deeper ties to the past than I’ve delved into before.

In The Road Leads Back, Kara and Harry crushed on each other during high school, but neither made a move until graduation night. It isn’t until twenty-seven years later when Harry and Kara’s paths cross again that Harry realizes he left Kara with more than just memories of losing their virginity together. They have a son.

For the last almost 30 years, Kara believed Harry had abandoned her with their son because his parents deceived her in order to “protect” Harry’s future. She has a lot of anger and resentment to get over and Harry has a lot of making up to do to his adult son. As they start this voyage as a family unit, Kara and Harry both have to face their parents and process years of deception. They have to get to know each other again. And Kara has to learn how to cope with life, rather than run away from it as she’s always done.

There are a lot of challenges the characters face in this book, and I hope you enjoy seeing them learn and grow as much as I enjoyed writing their journey.

 

Blurb:

Kara Martinson and Harry Canton weren’t exactly high school sweethearts, but they did share one night neither will ever forget. Twenty-seven years later, Harry surprises Kara at an art gallery opening and discovers he left her with more than just memories when he went away to college. Desperate to connect with the family he never knew existed, Harry convinces his son to move to Stonehill—and pleads with Kara to come, too.

Kara hasn’t stepped foot in their hometown since the day she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. Now Harry’s back in her life and as they put together the pieces of their parents’ betrayal, old heartaches start to feel anew. She wants to be near her family, but returning to Iowa means facing some things…and some people…she isn’t quite ready to.

Can Harry convince her to forgive the people who betrayed her so they can embrace the future they were robbed of so long ago? Or will the pain of the past be too much for Kara to overcome?

 Excerpt:

Kara squeezed her way toward the crowded bar, nudging between two kids who she couldn’t quite believe were old enough to be legally drinking in public. Shouldn’t they be funneling cheap beer in a college dorm somewhere? Or sneaking shots from Daddy’s liquor cabinet?

Art gallery openings used to be much more sophisticated than this. When she was a young artist, openings were about appreciating the art and the artist, not the free booze.

Shit.

Had she really gone there? Kara shook her head at her bitter thoughts.

The bartender, a walking tattoo with spiked black hair, leaned close so she could hear him. “What’ll it be?”

She realized all she wanted was wine. And quiet. The kids around her were acting more like pre-teens jacked up on sugar than art aficionados. One made a face, squished and reddened, as he held up an empty shot glass as proof of his triumph.

She wondered when she had gotten so damned old. She never used to snub her nose at a good drink. Actually, she completely understood what her problem was, and it had nothing to do with age. She’d conformed. She’d fallen into line. She’d done what she was supposed to do. Agent? Check. Gallery opening? Check. Interviews with all the local fancy-pants magazines? Check.

But this wasn’t her. None of this was her.

Frowning, she leaned in as well, making sure he heard her over the jeering of the kids next to her. “Tequila.” Within seconds he set a glass in front of her and filled it with amber liquid. He started to walk away but she held up one hand and lifted the glass with the other. She downed the drink, slammed the glass down, and gestured for another—one shot wasn’t nearly enough to numb the misery of this evening.

The young man lifted his brows and smirked as he gav­­­e her another shot. He laughed as she motioned for him to fill the glass a third time. “I can’t do this all night, lady.”

“One more.”

“Some of the crap in here costs more than my car. No puking. Got it?”

Kara chuckled. Clearly he didn’t recognize her as the artist who had made the crap. “Honey, I was doing tequila shots before your daddy dropped his pants and made you.”

The barkeep threw his head back and laughed, then filled her glass one more time. “Nice one, babe.”

Babe? Kara snorted as she lifted the glass. It was almost to her lips when a hand squeezed her shoulder.

“Kara?” asked a deep, smooth voice as if the man wasn’t certain who he was touching.

She turned. Her eyes bulged as she looked into an intense dark gaze she hadn’t seen since the night she’d lost her virginity.

The music had been loud, the beer lukewarm, and everybody who was anybody—and several nobody’s like Kara and Harry—in their senior class of Stonehill High was at the graduation party. The only person she had cared about, though, didn’t care about her. Or so she’d thought. Until she’d somehow ended up on Shannon Blake’s disgustingly pink- and ruffle-covered bed with Harry Canton, book club president and algebra superstar, clumsily removing her clothes, leaving slobbery kisses in their wake.

Kara swallowed hard as the flash of a memory faded, and the man standing before her, looking as shocked as she felt, came back into view.

She downed the liquor, slammed the glass against the bar, and sighed before she announced, “I’ve been looking for you for twenty-seven years.”

He sank onto the vacant stool next to her and lifted his hands as if he were at a loss for words. Something that appeared to be guilt filled his eyes and made his full lips sag into a frown. She’d be damned if temptation didn’t hit her as hard as it had when she was a hormonal teen.

“I wanted to tell you I was leaving,” he said, “but I didn’t know how.”

“You should have tried something like, ‘Kara, I’m leaving.’”

“You’re right. But I was a kid. I didn’t have a lot of common sense. All I could think about was how I finally had my freedom.”

She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes at him. “You had your freedom? You selfish prick.”

His eyes widened. “Well, that might be a little harsh. I was just a kid, Kara. Yes, I should have told you I had no intention of staying with you, but I was a little overwhelmed by what had happened. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?

Harry’s shoulders slumped, as if he had given up justifying sneaking out on her in the middle of the night. “Look, I saw a flier for your gallery opening, and I wanted to say hello. I thought maybe… I don’t know what I was thinking.” He sounded hurt, dejected even. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He stood. She put her hand to his chest and shoved him back onto the barstool. The move instantly reminded of her their one night together. All of seventeen and totally inexperienced, she’d fancied herself a seductress and pushed him on the bed before straddling his hips like she had a clue what she was doing.

Touching his chest now, warmth radiated through her entire body.

She glared, pulling her hand away and squeezing her fingers into a fist. “Are you living in Seattle?”

He shook his head. “I had a conference in town. There were fliers at the hotel. As soon as I saw your picture, I knew I had to come.” His smile returned and excitement oozed from his face. “I can’t believe you have a gallery opening. This is amazing, Kare.”

She wasn’t nearly as thrilled by her accomplishment as he seemed to be. She felt like she was selling her soul instead of her art. She’d always preferred to go the indie route, but that crap agent had cornered her at a particularly vulnerable moment and convinced her she needed him…just like he convinced her she needed to be in a gallery. Although, now she was glad she’d conceded on the open bar.

The tequila swirled through her, making her muscles tingle, preventing her from fully engaging the near-three decades of anger she’d been harboring. She had spent an awfully long time wanting to give Harry Canton a piece of her mind.

Even so, hearing him say she’d done something amazing warmed her in a way very little ever had. If he had come looking for another one-night stand, she hated to admit that she would consider reliving that night again—only this time with more sexual experience and less expectation of him sticking around.

He might be almost three decades older, but his face was still handsome and his brown eyes were just as inviting as they had been when he was a high school prodigy and she was a wallflower.

She smirked at a realization: he was in a suit, probably having just left a corporate meeting, while she was wearing a red sari-inspired dress at her gallery opening.

He was still the straight arrow. She was still the eccentric artist.

“Did you hear what I said, Harry? About looking for you for the last twenty-seven years.”

His shoulders sagged. “I never meant to sleep with you that night. I mean”—he quickly lifted his hands—“I was leaving and should have told you before taking you upstairs. I shouldn’t have just left like that, but I didn’t think you wanted to see me again anyway. If it’s any consolation,” he said giving her a smile that softened the rough edges of her anger, “I’d been working up the courage to kiss you since junior year when you squeezed a tube of red paint in Mitch Friedman’s hair after he made jokes about Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows in art class.”

She frowned at him. That hadn’t been her finest hour. Then again, neither was waking up thinking she was starting a new life as a high school graduate and the girlfriend of the cutest boy she’d ever met, only to find the other side of the homecoming queen’s bed empty. “There’s nothing wrong with a woman embracing her natural beauty.”

His smile faded quickly. “I’m sorry,” he said, sounding sincere. “I shouldn’t have left you like I did. I hope you believe that I regret it. Not being with you,” he amended, “but leaving without explaining.”

She laughed softly. He’d had that same nervous habit in high school. He’d say what was on his mind and then instantly try to recover, afraid his words had come out wrong. Usually they had. For as awkward as she’d been, at least she’d always been able to say what she meant and to stand behind it. Of course, that ability got her in trouble more often than not.

She’d told herself a million times that Harry didn’t owe her an explanation. They hadn’t been in any kind of relationship. She’d drooled over him from afar, but other than an occasional smile in the hallway, he’d barely acknowledged her existence in high school. Even if he hadn’t gone off to start his Ivy League college career the day after graduation, he likely never would have looked at her again. Well, at least not until she could no longer hide the truth of their one-night stand from the world.

“I expected so much more from you, Harry,” she said sadly, the sting of what he’d done back then numbed slightly by the tequila.

His shoulders sagged a bit. “I know.”

“Why didn’t you ever write me back?” Her voice sounded hurt and pathetic. She was surprised that after so many years of being angry, there was still pain hiding beneath her fury. “I must have sent you a hundred letters.”

He creased his brow. “Letters? I didn’t get any letters.”

Kara searched his eyes. He looked genuinely confused.

“I sent them to…” Her words faded. Suddenly the tequila-induced haze wasn’t so welcome. “Your mother said if I wrote to you, she’d make sure you got my letters.”

“My mother? I never got any letters.”

“But you sent money.”

Harry shook his head slightly. “What the hell are you talking about? Why would I send you money?”

She stared at him as realization set in. He hadn’t responded to her letters because he hadn’t received her letters. And if he hadn’t received the letters, he hadn’t sent her money. And if he hadn’t sent her money, he hadn’t known that she needed it. Sighing, she let some of her decades-old anger slip. Her head spun, either from the alcohol or the blurry dots she was trying to mentally connect. Leaning onto the bar, she exhaled slowly. “She never told you, did she?”

“Told me what?”

Kara couldn’t speak. Her words wouldn’t form.

An arm wrapped around Kara’s shoulder, startling her and making her gasp quietly. She turned and blinked several times at the man who had just slid next to her.

“Sorry to interrupt,” he said, “but I need to get home.” Leaning in, he kissed her head. “Congratulations on the opening, Mom. It was great.”

“Um…” She swallowed, desperate to find her voice. “Thank you, sweetheart.” She flicked her gaze at the man sitting next to her. The longer Harry looked at her son, the wider Harry’s eyes became.

Phil cast a disapproving glance at Harry then focused on his mother again. “Don’t forget that Jess is expecting you to make pancakes in the morning. You promised.”

“I haven’t forgotten.” Kara returned her attention to Harry. His jaw was slack and his cheeks had grown pale.

Phil nodded at Harry as if he were satisfied that he’d made the point that his mother didn’t need to be staying out all night and walked away. Harry watched him leave while Kara waved down the bartender and pointed at her glass. The tattooed kid hesitated, likely debating the ethics of giving her another shot. She pointed again, cocking a brow for emphasis, and he finally filled her glass.

“Kara…” Harry’s voice was breathless, like he’d been kicked in the gut. “Was…was that my…son?”

No. His mother definitely hadn’t given him the letters Kara had written. She lifted her shot, toasting him. “Congratulations, Harry. It’s a boy.”

 

Contest:

Sorry, but I do have to put in one little rule here. International shipping is crazy expensive. If the winner is not in the Continental US, you will receive an e-copy of The Road Leads Back and your choice of one of my backlist.

bloghopcontest

Marci’s website

 

Buy links:

The Road Leads Back

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Leads-Back-Stonehill-Romance-ebook/dp/B00UAYL4HE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427302429&sr=8-1&keywords=marci+boudreaux

 

About Marci:

_wsb_450x316_croped+headMarci Boudreaux lives with her husband, two children and their numerous pets. Romance is her preferred reading and writing genre because nothing feels better than falling in love with someone new and her husband doesn’t like when she does that in real life.

As well as writing erotica under her pen name Emilia Mancini, Marci is a content editor for Lyrical Press, an imprint of Kensington Publishing. She earned her MS in Publishing from University of Houston-Victoria in 2014 and worked with Des Moines publishing company Big Green Umbrella Media, Inc. as a freelance writer until she recently opted to focus on working in books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger: Parker Kincade Announcing the Hearts in Danger Boxed Set

AHASetI am very happy to help my friend Parker Kincade announce this box set.  I DO know that heart disease is a silent killer. 

Luckily, we caught my husband’s in time. He had quintuple bypass surgery on February 9th of this year at the St.Vincent Heart Hospital, performed by Dr. Scott Hanan. Without the quick actions of his doctors, his surgeon, and the team of highly trained medical professionals at St. Vincent, my husband would not be here with me today. He was one bad day away from a massive heart attack that would’ve killed him before emergency help could even arrive.

It still scares me how close of a call it was — and we had no obvious warnings that shouted out “heart attack waiting to happen”! All his symptoms could be chalked up to other innocuous things.  A silent disease, indeed — and to underline that, my husband is a doctor and even he did not expect to have five seriously occluded arteries.

We’re two months out now, and my husband is regaining his strength and his energy each and every day.  He’s not all the way there yet (he still can’t swing a golf club for another month or so), but he is alive and with me–and that I am grateful for every damn day.

So, please support the wonderful authors who’ve given of their time and talents to help the AHA educate people and fight this very real threat that affects more people than you know. The authors are donating a portion of the proceeds to the American Heart Association. –Monette

*****

Did you know every minute in the United States, a woman dies from heart disease, stroke or another form of cardiovascular disease (CVD)? (Source: American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org)

Every. Minute.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the US. I could go on and on about statistics, but I won’t. What I will do is encourage all of you to be aware of the symptoms. The American Heart Association offers great information to get you started. Click here for more info.

Cardiovascular disease runs in my family. More than that, I’ve felt the pain of losing a loved one to this dreaded and deadly disease. One of my dearest friends, Paul Waits, passed away on October 2, 2014, of a massive heart attack. He was 44 – only 5 months older than me (he passed the day before I turned 44).

Paul had no warning. No symptoms. One minute he was here, the next he was gone.

If cardiovascular disease runs in your family (and even if it doesn’t), I urge you to see a doctor to check your cardiovascular health. I’ve done it. It doesn’t hurt. It’s cool to see your heart as it beats on an ultrasound screen. (I don’t know the technical term for this machine – the test is called an Echocardiogram). Have a carotid doppler. Also painless. Have whatever test your doctor/cardiologist recommends. And then you’ll know, hopefully BEFORE there’s an issue. Even if you are asymptomatic.

There is a reason they call it “the silent killer.”

In honor of Paul, and all the men and women who live with (or have died from) CVD, a portion of the proceeds from our new project–Hearts in Danger–will be donated to The American Heart Association.

Hearts in Danger is romantic suspense boxed set includes 14 novels, by romance authors at the top of their game. Many of these novels are “first-in-series”, so if you’re looking for a new series to get hooked on, this is a great way to try it out!

This limited time box set is only $0.99 (AWESOME value), but we will be rewarding those who purchase the set via PRE-ORDER and through the first week it’s live! Just fill out the form to claim your freebies as our thanks for supporting the cause.

http://www.heartsindanger.com/

Check out the website for contest details!

Preorder Links:

Amazon US: http://bit.ly/HeartsInDangerAMUS

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/HeartsInDangerAMCA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/HeartsInDangerAMUK

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/HeartsInDangerAMAU

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HeartsInDangerIT

Google Play: http://bit.ly/HeartsInDangerGP

Kobo:  http://bit.ly/HeartsInDangerKO

 

RELEASE DATE: JUNE 2, 2015 – for only $0.99! Here’s what you’ll get:

 

Accidental SEAL by Sharon Hamilton: Navy SEAL Kyle Lansdowne goes looking for his missing SEAL Team 3 buddy Armando who has been kidnapped by a drug gang intent on buying specialized military equipment. Newbie Realtor Christy Nelson holds her first Open House but is given the wrong address, and finds a hot naked SEAL in the master bedroom. Their little misunderstanding leads to a hot affair until the gang uses Christy as bait to lure Kyle into a trap to ransom his honor.

 

Pick Your Poison by Roxanne St. Claire: Meet Benjamin Youngblood – he’s sexy, smart, spectacular and … about to lose his job for the best security firm in the world. He’s got one chance to prove himself and nothing will stop him. Not even a flower farmer. When Ben sets out to track and trap an assassin, he’s forced to trust a feisty farmer who could be as dangerous as her homegrown poison. Ben and Callie join forces to zero in on the killer, taking a few heated detours along the way. Can they stay alive long enough to save Ben’s job, stop an assassin, and find true love?

 

Protective Custody by Paige Tyler: Someone is stalking reporter Paisley McCoy, and police detective Gray Beckham is the only man who can protect her. Having a dad on the force has led to one hard and fast rule – she doesn’t date cops. And while she might be sexy as hell, there’s no way he’s going anywhere near the captain’s daughter. Paisley and Gray can’t deny the chemistry between them, though. But as that connection turns into romance, they find out the stalker is a far greater threat than they had originally thought. And that if he can’t have her, no one will.

 

Hot Pursuit by Lynn Raye Harris: When someone starts shooting at Evie Baker, there’s only one man dangerous enough to help her–the man who broke her heart ten years ago. Hostile Operations Team soldier Matt Girard uses all his considerable black ops skill to protect Evie from someone who thinks she possesses information that could bring down a crime syndicate. But working together shows Matt what he gave up–can he claim Evie for his own after what he did in the past?

 

SEAL’s Honor by Elle James: Two Navy SEALs jeopardize their lives and hearts in a battle-torn land when they vie for the love of one sexy Night Stalker helicopter pilot.

 

Against The Dark by Carolyn Crane: Angel is an ex-safecracker forced into one last heist. Cole is an undercover agent with big plans for his gorgeous thief—he’ll make her pose as his girlfriend to help with a dangerous mission.

 

Hidden Prey by Cheyenne McCray: Tori flees an abusive relationship and heads to her hometown in Arizona. When she arrives, she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses the execution of a Federal agent by the son of the head of the Jimenez Cartel. Special Agent Landon Walker rescues Tori and sets out to protect her, but soon protecting her isn’t enough. He’ll go to the ends of the earth for her—and never let her go.

 

Dangerous Curves by Nina Bruhns: A spec ops transporter for STORM Corps takes on drones, bad guys, and car chases on the coast of Italy—and falls for a beautiful scientist whose curves are far more dangerous than the road!

 

Deadly Pursuit by Misty Evans: One year ago, rookie FBI agent Celina Davenport pulled off the ultimate undercover operation…she seduced Emilio Londano – the dangerous leader of the San Diego Mafia – and destroyed his illegal empire. When Londano escapes a maximum security prison and begins picking off Celina’s friends and coworkers, everyone she knows becomes a target. Including DEA agent Cooper Harris, the man who once broke her heart and is now assigned to be her bodyguard. Cooper must risk his career – and his heart – to keep Celina alive. But will their past, with its forbidden passions and impulsive choices, put them directly in the killer’s crosshairs?

 

Protecting Caroline by Susan Stoker: Caroline helps foil a terrorist plot when she finds herself on a plane that’s hijacked (with the help of three members of a SEAL team), but after she gets home she finds herself still in the sights of the terrorists. She can only hope Wolf and his team will be able to save her in time.

 

One Night Stand by Parker Kincade: Amanda Martin decides to have a one-night stand. No relationship, no promises … just hot, indulgent sex. What she doesn’t anticipate is meeting a handsome-as-sin stranger who gives her pleasure unlike she’s ever known. A stranger with a deadly secret…

 

Brody by Mandy Harbin: Brody “Brutus” Jackson isn’t your average small-town mechanic. He’s a man with no memory of his past, and no hope for the future. Under FBI protection, Alexandria Collins and her son have been in hiding for ten years. When it’s time to move again, her piece of crap car breaks down and the man giving her a tow is the biggest, hottest guy she’s ever seen. She is determined to ignore the need her long-neglected body hungers for. After all, the last man she showed interest in put a gun to her head. Brody thinks the skittish Xan is sexy as hell, but it’s not her hot body that has him rocked to his core. He knows her from somewhere, and in his line of work, that’s a dangerous thing. Following orders have never been this hard, but when he finds out she’s his next assignment, he will protect her at all costs … even if what she needs protection from most is him.

 

Enemy Mine by Megan Mitcham: Born in the blood of Sierra Leone’s Civil War, enslaved, then sold to the US as an orphan, Base Branch operative Sloan Harris is emotionally dead and driven by vengeance. With no soul to give, her body becomes the bargaining chip to infiltrate a warlord’s inner circle. As son of the warlord, Baine Kendrick will happily use Sloan’s body if it expedites his father’s demise. Yet, he is wholly unprepared for the possessive and protective emotions she provokes. In the Devil’s den with Baine by her side, Sloan braves certain death and discovers a spirit for living.

 

Caught in the Crosshair by Barb Han: On a tropical island with a hurricane brewing and dangerous men closing in, private security firm owner Jaden Dean will need to work side-by-side with Lauren James to survive and find her brother. The cartel he’s associated with seems to be one step ahead and Jaden’s operatives are being killed one-by-one. He will have to use all his specialized training and risk everything, including his heart, to outwit the deadly group and keep Lauren safe. Their magnetic attraction isn’t helping matters…because even a slight distraction might just get them both killed.

 

*******

 

This set will only be on sale until the end of June, so you’ll have to act fast. And remember, it’s for an excellent cause. We would be grateful for shares and likes!

 

 

 

 

 

KaLyn Cooper’s Christmas in Cancun

christmasincancunI’d like to welcome Guest Author KaLyn Cooper to my blog. She has a new release just in time for Christmas:

*****

 

Christmas in Cancun released on Monday so it’s a busy time for me as an author…and then there’s the whole Christmas Holiday.

Parties, shopping for gifts, a vacation with the whole family (not Cancun this year but we are headed to the Caribbean), shopping on warm islands, cooking, shopping for more food, decorating (and I do it BIG), shopping for more decorations, and then celebrating Christmas with my family.

Then there’s more parties and cooking and…and…

Somewhere in there I have to find time to finish my novella, Conquered in Cancun.

So much to do, and the time flies!

I don’t know about you, but for me, the more I have to do, the better I feel and the more “stuff” gets done. I can be the world’s best procrastinator, especially if I only have one or two things to do and there’s no time constraints. But if I have a whole bunch of things and they all have deadlines, I can rock a list.

Yes, I’m a list maker. There’s nothing I like more gratifying than taking that pen and drawing a line through the completed item, or scribbling through it to decimate that task if it was a tough one, or one I just kept putting off until it was essential.

Today, I have filled a legal pad with all the “stuff” I have to do.

Top of the list is to keep up with all the promotions I have going for Christmas in Cancun, and there are a LOT!

Through Dec. 6 – I am giving away a Diamond Ring to a lucky commenter over on my blog, Rants and Raves of KaLyn Cooper https://kalyncooper.wordpress.com/

Also through Dec. 6 – I am also one of ten authors in the Hottie Hunt blog hop. You can read my interview of Karl, the hero of Tara Quan’s Dec. 22 release, A Christmas Together. Visit all ten blogs, be sure to comment, then follow the instructions to enter to win eBooks and a $10 gift certificate.

Through Dec. 31 – The $100 Hottie Holiday Bonanza runs the entire month. Sixteen authors have chipped in to create a pile of prizes including a $100 gift card. All you need to do is follow the link and you are automatically entered. Comment and you get extra entries.

Dec. 6-10 – Hot for the Holidays. The lovely ladies at Love, Lust and Laptops will each be giving away prizes on their individual blogs and jointly we have even more, so there will be LOTS of winners!

I’m also blogging on several sites. If you comment on them, you are entered to win a pair of Diamond Earrings to be given away Dec. 31st. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for where I’ll be next.

Whew! Lots to do, but I love it.

Now, tell me your holiday plans. Parties? You hosting or attending? Where do you plan to spend Christmas? Did you buy anything really unusual as a gift? (I’m always hunting gift ideas.) Comment here and you’re entered to win those diamond earrings!

Christmas in Cancun Blurb

Busy building a new career with his catamaran company, former SEAL Jack Girard had all but forgotten about his grandfather’s quest to find the golden Mayan goddess statues until his brother’s beautiful widow, Jillian, and adorable daughter, Addison, arrive in Cancun with the research materials. His need to complete the family mission is almost as strong as his desire for Jillian.

Between raising her daughter alone and finishing her doctorate in Mayan anthropology, Jillian doesn’t have time for a man in her life. Although, after mourning her husband’s murder for two years, she’s ready for a man her bed.

 

An underwater Virgin Mary statue and centuries-old manuscripts lead the two of them through the Mayan Riviera and directly into danger.

 

During steamy Caribbean nights together, will they develop the ability to move on and discover the real treasure isn’t gold?

 

Excerpt for Christmas in Cancun

Jillian had been ready to scream for the police when the man grabbed her baby. She’d read about airport kidnappings in foreign countries and how, if the parents didn’t pay up immediately, they’d sell the child. She didn’t have much money and no idea how to get the massive amounts she was sure a kidnapper would require. She couldn’t let him take her baby. No, she wouldn’t let him take Addi.

The dark evil thoughts that raced through her fatigued mind delayed understanding the fact that he’d called her baby girl by name, her nickname. Then he’d said he was Jack Girard.

Jack? No. This couldn’t be Jimmy’s brother Jack. He was a Navy SEAL. Every picture she’d seen of him, and there were several, he’d been in one uniform or another. Or he’d been in nothing but low-slung swim trunks and behind the wheel of a boat as a teenager. He’d been clean-cut with short hair, was close shaven and extremely good looking.

The man who held her daughter was a different man altogether.

Jack Girard wasn’t this long-haired, shaggy, sun-bleached-blond Adonis with bulging tanned muscles under a blue polo shirt with a sailboat logo emblazoned over an impressive chest. The man before her looked deadly on every level. His light blue eyes were hard as arctic ice with hints of green. Then she watched his whole face transform as he smiled at Addi and poked a finger into her baby’s belly. The green had overtaken the blue, and he looked like a loving father playing with his child. Her child.

Jillian couldn’t breathe.

“You ready to meet your hellion cousins, little princess?” His voice was playful, yet its low tones reverberated through Jillian, shaking parts of her soul that had been dormant for more than two years. Since her husband’s murder. Addi squirmed at his touch and giggled.

“Uh…I’ll take her,” Jillian managed to push out through her tightened throat as she grabbed for her child. When he turned his broad smile toward her, her world focused on his white teeth, all of them perfectly straight except for one eyetooth, which turned slightly.

It was Jimmy’s smile. Except Jimmy was dead.

Her knees went weak. Her vision blurred. No matter how hard she tried, her lungs refused to work. Indistinct sounds echoed in the tall room and overwhelmed every one of her senses. The world went white.

“Whoa.” Jack’s voice shot through the encroaching fog in her brain, and a strong arm snapped around her back. “Breathe, Jillian. You’re safe.”

 

 

KaLyn Cooper Bio

KaLyn Cooper’s romances blend fact and fiction with blazing heat and heart-pounding suspense. Twenty-two years as a military wife has shown KaLyn the world, and thirty years in PR taught her that fact can be stranger than fiction. She leaves it up to the reader to separate truth from imagination. She, her husband, and bird dog live in Tennessee on a micro-plantation filled with gardens, cattle, and quail. When she’s not writing, she’s at the shooting range or on the river.

www.KaLynCooper.com.

 

Buy Links

Print   http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Cancun-Volume-KaLyn-Cooper/dp/1503004236

 

eBook

 

 

Author Links