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13 Things That Inspired JL Hilton to Write the Stellarnet Series

I’d like to welcome my guest today—J.L. Hilton. J.L. Hilton is the author of the Stellarnet Series published by Carina Press, including Stellarnet Rebel (January 2012) and Stellarnet Prince (November 2012). Her artwork is featured in the books Steampunk Style Jewelry and 1000 Steampunk Creations. Visit her at JLHilton.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and deviantART. Over to JL!

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13 Things That Inspired JL Hilton to Write the Stellarnet Series

I didn’t plan to write a novel. Before May 2009, I devoted most of my time to homeschooling my children, volunteering, and designing jewelry. But thirteen things bubbled in the cauldron of my noggin and coalesced into Stellarnet Rebel, the first book of the Stellarnet Series, and from there came the sequel, Stellarnet Prince, released this week by Carina Press.

1) All five seasons of Babylon 5. G’kar is my most-est best-est favorite-est character ever. Just when you think he couldn’t get any more awesome than busting out of his chains after being tortured and losing an eye, he also helps King Fricking Arthur fight off a gang of space thugs.

2) I’m a Browncoat – a fan of Joss Whedon’s TV show Firefly and the movie Serenity. In 2006, I coordinated the first charity screening of Serenityin my city, as part of the Can’t Stop the Serenity (http://www.cantstoptheserenity.com/) program to benefit Equality Now. I’ve been involved in the event ever since, and this year am a global sponsor. (http://www.cantstoptheserenity.com/sponsors/)

3) Technology. I love the Internet, smartphones and video games.

4) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. One of my favorite books of all time. I also listen to the musical. A lot.

5) Deadwood is another favorite TV show. I sometimes refer to Asteria Colony in my books as a “cyber Deadwood” on the edge of settled space, populated with criminals, outcasts, Net whores and obsessive online gamers (substitute those for the 19th century opium addicts, I reckon).

6) V for Vendetta. The character V is one of several inspirations for Duin, the titular character inStellarnet Rebel. (I could probably make a whole ‘nother list of thirteen inspirations for Duin, including Ben Franklin, Doc Brown, Madeye Moody and the crazy Irishman from Braveheart.)

7) My aliens known as Glin are based on dolphins. The first time I saw dolphins in real life was at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. They made me cry, they were so beautiful. Some biologists think that they were land critters who returned to the water, and that idea fascinated me. Also, like the Glin, dolphins have incredible hearing and natural healing abilities.

8) The BBC miniseries North and South, based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novel.

9) The first season of the BBC Robin HoodTV series. This, along with North and South, led to Richard Armitage being one of the inspirations for my Stellarnet character Belloc, and Lucy Griffiths being an inspiration for the heroine, Genevieve O’Riordan.

10) Twilight – in a sort of backwards way. While thrilled for everyone who enjoys paranormal romance, it’s just not my thing and I’m sick of hearing about vampires. I began writing the Stellarnet Series as much for myself as for readers – a this is what I want to read sort of thing.

11) Traditional Irish music. A study of Irish culture, history and politics has been a life-long hobby of mine.

12) Alex Steffen’s article “Science Fiction, Futurism and the Failure of the Will to Imagine.” (http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/001065.html) He quotes author Bruce Sterling: "There’s still plenty of space opera out there, with heroes running around in galactic Disneylands, but almost no one is addressing the nature of the 21st Century, or putting together, like, genuinely novel visions of life in the year 2050."

13) Finally, in May 2009, I awoke from a dream in which an interstellar news blogger met an alien freedom-fighter in the center of a space colony. From that one dream, I had a whole story that wanted to get out of my head.

Have you ever had an amazing dream, or one that seemed real? "I’ll sleep on it" is a common expression. Do you ever solve problems or get ideas in your dreams?


2012-jen

Promo info

Author website: www.JLHilton.com
Book website: www.StellarnetSeries.com
Publisher website: www.CarinaPress.com
Buy link: http://www.StellarnetSeries.com/shop/
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/J.L.Hilton.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorJLHilton
deviantART: http://jlhilton.deviantart.com/
Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5344538.J_L_Hilton


Stellarnet

Blurb:

An otherworldly love. Human blogger Genny O’Riordan shares two alien lovers: Duin, a leader of the Uprising, and Belloc, the only surviving member of the reviled Glin royal family. Their relationship has inspired millions of followers–and incited vicious anti-alien attacks.

 
A planet at risk. A Stellarnet obsessed with all things alien brings kidnappers, sex traffickers and environmental exploitation to Glin. Without weapons or communications technology, the planet cannot be defended. Glin will be ravaged and raided until nothing remains.

A struggle for truth. On Earth, Duin discovers a secret that could spur another rebellion, while on Glin, Belloc’s true identity could endanger their family and everything they’ve fought for. Have the Glin found true allies in humanity, or an even more deadly foe?

Purchase Stellarnet Rebel

JL is running a contest. Fill out the rafflecopter below to enter the draw.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Shelley’s Tip for Lazy Zips

I love my jeans. During summer I enjoy wearing shorts. Unfortunately most of my jeans and shorts end up with the same problem—a zip that keeps falling down.

The last thing anyone needs is to walk into a room with their zip at low mast. Who knows what people will see?

Maybe it’s the fact my puku sticks out—that’s Maori for stomach—but whatever the reason, it’s totally frustrating.

Then, a brainwave!

Jeans

Instead of struggling to replace the zipper or paying someone to do it, why not find a cure? This is the answer to my lazy zips.

Paper Clip

The humble paper clip.

I chose one of the feet paper clips because I liked the funky look. I hooked it into the zipper tag.

DSCF1497

 

I pulled up the zipper and hooked it around the stud/button thingie.

 

Jeans and Paper Clip

 

Then fastened the button hole over the top of the paper clip.

Tamed Lazy Zipper

Result: One tamed lazy zipper!

You could probably make a loop with a piece of waxed string, but I think the funky paper clip looks better. I can remove it easily when I want to wash my jeans.

What do you think? Do you have clever tips to share?

Want to win a print copy of Summer in the City of Sails? Check out my giveaway at Goodreads and enter the draw.

Summer in the City of Sails

Summer in the City of Sails – Goodreads Giveaway

The Lure of Romantic Suspense

AuthorPic_RebeccaSmithMy guest today is Rebecca Lee Smith. Rebecca lives with her husband in the beautiful, misty mountains of East Tennessee, where the people are charming, soulful, and just a little bit crazy. She’s been everything from a tax collector to a stay-at-home-mom to a house painter to a professional actress and director. Her two grown sons live nearby, still have the power to make her laugh until she cries, and will always be the best things she’s given back to the world. It took her a lot of years to realize that writing was her true passion. When she’s not churning out sensual romantic mysteries with snappy dialogue and happy endings, she loves to travel the world, go to the Outer Banks for her ocean fix, watch old movies, hang out at the local pub, and make her day complete by correctly answering the Final Jeopardy! Question.

I asked Rebecca to tell us what attracts her to writing Romantic Suspense and what challenges she faces while writing one. Over to Rebecca…

My mother named me after the book, Rebecca—she was looking for a three syllable first name to go with my one syllable last name (Lee)—so maybe that has something to do with my lifelong attraction to mysteries and romantic suspense. If she’d named me Chatterley, my writing might have gone in a decidedly different direction.

I have always loved mysteries, probably because I’m a puzzle person, but I’d never read any adult romantic suspense until high school. I know this will date me, but I was looking at the titles on a friend’s bookshelf when she pulled out a copy of Bride of Pendorric by Victoria Holt and said, “You would like this.” She was right, and from that moment on, I devoured every romantic suspense I could get my hands on: Gothics by Phyllis Whitney and Daphne du Maurier; contemporaries by Mary Stewart and Emily Loring; classics like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I also love humorous contemporaries, and thought that’s what I would write someday (my son thinks I’m more funny than mysterious), but when I started writing my first book, my past reading life came back to haunt me, and the plot just naturally evolved into a mystery.

I’ve often wondered why a dead body insists on showing up in the manuscript I’m writing. I can’t seem to get away from it. Maybe I find it easier to propel the plot against a mystery/suspense backdrop and keep the conflict alive between the hero and heroine. At some point, if they work together to solve a murder, they must learn to trust each other. This can create all kinds of issues for them to address before getting their Happily Ever After. And no matter what, the H & H have to get their HEA. In my books, anyway.

In A Dance to Die For, my heroine, Annabel, is an off-Broadway dancer who suffers from a condition known as dancer’s hip. She injures herself and destroys her career, trying to save her friend Quinn from falling off a platform. Determined to find out the truth about Quinn’s death, she follows a clue to a North Carolina inn where she falls in love with Trent, Quinn’s ex-fiancée. Depending on her level of activity, Annabel is in some form of pain throughout the book, and one of the biggest challenges I faced was depicting her as a strong, resourceful person who never thinks of herself as a victim, and handles her own challenges and setbacks with humor and spirit. How could the hero not fall in love with her? I wish I was more like her.

CONTEST:

Rebecca is giving away a $20 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during her tour. To increase your chances of winning, check out the rest of Rebecca’s tour here.

And now a question from Rebecca: When you are reading (or writing) about a character who has admirable qualities you wished you possessed, does it inspire you to incorporate those qualities into your own life? Don’t laugh, watching Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote taught me to nod, smile, and keep my mouth shut.


Cover_ADancetoDieFor

BLURB:

Annabel Maitland believes in destiny and following her heart—Trent Sheffield realizes his destiny is to believe in her.

Annabel destroyed her Broadway dancing career trying to save her friend Quinn’s life. Convinced Quinn’s death was no accident, Annabel follows a clue to a North Carolina mountain inn and discovers that everyone who knew Quinn—the real Quinn—wanted her out of their lives, including the sexy innkeeper whose laid-back charm and megawatt grin take Annabel’s breath away. The physical attraction between them is undeniable, the cerebral attraction irresistible. But trusting her heart means ignoring evidence that plants him firmly on the list of suspects.

Determined to keep his family’s financially strapped inn afloat, the last person Trent needs working for him is a stubborn, impossibly long-legged dancer whose sharp wit and silver eyes keep him scrambling to stay on his toes. He’s falling hard, and he wants to trust her, but Annabel’s connection to his ex-fiancée makes him question her motives at every turn. When a string of mysterious accidents threaten Annabel’s life, they must unearth Quinn’s killer before it’s too late. But what if Annabel was the target all along?

Purchase A Dance to Die For

Visit Rebecca’s website

Writing a Disfigured Hero with Rebecca Royce

My guest today is Rebecca Royce. She’s been on tour with her book Love Beyond Sight, and this is her last stop. Since her hero is a wounded one, I asked her to tell us about writing a disfigured character. Comment on this post, and enter a draw to win a $50 Amazon Gift certificate. Welcome, Rebecca.

I didn’t start writing Samuel in Love Beyond Sight. I started writing him in Love Beyond Sanity, in the book that where I first introduced Eden. She needs help and a voice that she doesn’t recognize fills her mind to save her.

But as I write things as they come to me, I knew the voice was Eden’s soul mate but even I wasn’t entirely certain whom he was. So I waited until he spoke to my muse and when he came it was with so much sadness that I wanted to write his story immediately so I could give him a touch of happiness in the midst of his crazy existence.

Samuel was raised human, as all but four of the Outsiders were. His understanding of his powers came early as an Outsider ancestor who explained to him in a vision who he was and what he could do contacted him. But, for the most part, he lived a very happy, somewhat normal existence.

Until the day Sebastian caught up with him. For those of you who have perhaps not read the first three books, Sebastian is a demon whose purpose for being on Earth is to destroy the Outsiders and enslave humanity.

It turns out that Sebastian and Samuel have encountered each other before. As a teenager, before he’d come into all of his powers, Sebastian locked Samuel in a closet and set him on fire. He nearly died.

But—its not so easy to kill an Outsider and the fact that he didn’t die meant that his body tried to recover. The fire, laced with magic, made it impossible for him to entirely heal. He was left forever scarred. Even his own family couldn’t look at him without wincing. Eventually, he went out on his own.

The good news? Samuel can change his face. Its one of his powers. He can become any one he can touch. For a small amount of time. Its not a permanent fix but it allows him to get through life.

He has no intention of letting Eden ever see his real face. Ever. But that happens and its wonderful…for him. For her, however, it doesn’t work. She’s made to love Samuel…not the fake versions of him that she keeps seeing. They can be together but she can’t love him.

For me, writing Samuel was challenging because he’s strong, tough, and smart. He comes up with ideas and is pivotal in what happens with the story arc of the series. Yet…he has this weakness he cannot get past and it had to be done in such a way that the reader could feel for him without feeling pity for him. I think, ultimately, that Samuel turned out exactly as he should have. I fell in love with him when I wrote him and I hope the reader does too.

CONTEST: So let me pose you a question: Do you need your hero to be physically perfect? Is that important to you when you’re reading a story? (Everyone who answers this question will go into a draw to win $50 Amazon.com GC)


Cover_LoveBeyondSight

Blurb: In Love Beyond Sanity, Eden Roan awoke in a mental hospital, unsure of how she got there. Nearly discovered by a demon, she is rescued by a voice in her mind who saves her life by transforming her figure into something the demon doesn’t want to look at.  The voice tells her she is his but that they will never, ever meet.  As time progresses, Eden becomes more and more convinced that the voice is just her imagination playing tricks on her.  It can’t possibly be her destined soul mate.

Or can it?

Samuel Quinn was horribly disfigured by the demon when he was a child. He can’t stand looking at himself and does not want Eden to see him. Luckily, his powers allow him to hide himself using other people’s features as his own.  But when Eden needs him, Samuel will have to step forward to save her even if he can never let her see the real him.

Can there be love without sight? Or will the demon finally have them all just where he wants them?

AUTHOR Bio:

As a teenager, Rebecca Royce would hide in her room to read her favorite romance novels when she was supposed to be doing her homework. She hopes, these days, that her parents think it was well worth it.

Rebecca is the mother of three adorable boys and is fortunate to be married to her best friend. They live in northern New Jersey and try not to freeze too badly during the winter months.

She’s in love with science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal and tries to use all of these elements in her writing. She’s been told she’s a little bloodthirsty so she hopes that when you read her work you’ll enjoy the action packed ride that always ends in romance. Rebecca loves to write series because she loves to see characters develop over time and it always makes her happy to see her favorite characters make guest appearances in other books.

In Rebecca Royce’s world anything is possible, anything can happen, and you should suspect that it will.

www.rebeccaroyce.com

Weapons Training and Winter Formals: A deadly combination!

Check this out! Brinda Berry has a new release. Whisper of Memory is book two in the Whispering Woods series.

Whisper of Memory_By Brinda Berry

 

Whisper of Memory

Weapons training and winter formals… a deadly combination

All Mia ever wanted was to fit in at Whispering Woods High. But being a portal-finder who dates a guy from another dimension sort of makes it hard. A month ago her brother disappeared, and agents from the IIA began policing people’s movements through dimensions. She’d trusted Dr. Bleeker from the local university when he’d told her the IIA were the bad guys. But even a girl with an extraordinary ability to sense things can make mistakes.

Now two people are dead, and as a portal gatekeeper for the IIA, Mia needs to find Dr. Bleeker before he hurts anyone else. And her boyfriend Regulus, an Agent for the IIA, carries secrets of his own. Between learning about weaponry, finding the perfect dress for the winter formal, and catching bad guys, who has time to fit in?

Check out the Whisper of Memory book trailer.

Enter the Whisper of Memory contest (trading cards and a Kindle Touch)

Purchase The Waiting Booth, book 1 Whispering Woods series

Purchase Whisper of Memory, book 2 Whispering Woods series

Before her involvement with the Interdimensional Immigration Authorities (IIA), Mia Taylor had only used weapons in video games. Now, she’s required to protect herself. Which weapon does Mia get to practice? She learns how to throw a knife. What would be your weapon of choice?

My answer: I’d like to be skilled in hand-to-hand combat. Kicks. Punches. My hands would be lethal weapons. I would also have a very intelligent canine companion who could creep up behind my enemies and nip them on the butt to give me an edge.

What would be your weapon of choice?

The Connection: Characters and Real Life Experience

This is the final day of my Lone Wolf virtual tour. I’m visiting Sara York’s blog and talking about authors, life experience and characters. Is there a connection between an author’s life experience and their writing?

Don’t forget–if you comment on my post at Sara’s blog you’ll be in the draw to win a $20 Amazon voucher.

Attending a Cocktail Party? Make Your Own Fascinator Hat!

I’m really excited to introduce my guest today. Maddy Barone writes romance and has a love of all things paranormal. In her own words, “I’ve been writing since junior high. Werewolves, time travel and handsome princes who can wield magic and lead armies are my thing. Any damsel in distress that I write can darned well rescue herself and if the hero’s ego can’t take that, then he’s not a hero. I want strong men who can respect their ladies and treat them like partners, not dainty little dolls. Is there anything sexier than a tough man who finds that one perfect woman and is willing to do anything for her?”

Maddy is also a keen member of SCA, a non-profit education organization that studies the renaissance and middle ages. She gets to dress up, mainly in garb from the Italian Renaissance but she has Japanese, Viking and Byzantine garb too. Just quietly – she has a rather cool steampunk outfit that I have my eye on. I’m very tempted to launch a surprise attack from New Zealand to nab it for myself!

Today Maddy is taking us through the process of making our own fascinator hat. Give her a warm welcome. Over to Maddy…

How to Make a Fascinator Hat

HRH the Duchess of Cambridge (nee Kate Middleton) has made fascinators the newest rage in headwear. Appropriate for every social event from weddings to the races to cocktail parties, a fascinator can add the perfect finishing touch to any outfit. But –gulp!—have you seen the prices?! Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to make it yourself? I made this one for $10.00 (USD) in 40 minutes.

Fascinator Hat

Fascinator

Do you think you need to be a milliner to be able to make a fascinator hat? Well, you don’t! All you need are a few things you already have around the house and a couple things from a craft store.

Fascinator Materials

Materials:

A round base. This can be a ready-made sinamay base available from some millinery supply stores and Etsy.com, or a small plastic lid covered with fabric.

Veiling. About 12-15 inches (30-37 cm) This can be purchased from bridal supply stores, eBay, Etsy. But you can do without it too. Use tulle or take a veil off some old hat from the thrift store.

Feathers. I bought mine at JoAnn Fabric & Crafts. I used:
a half-pinwheel of black feathers
a 3 inch piece of black and white marabou feather boa
2 red feather clumps

A focal piece. I used a brooch from my grandmother. You might use a silk flower, a fancy button, a cute bow, a rhinestone earring or clip.

Fastener. I’m using an old black plastic headband. You could use a comb, a clip, a barret or elastic.

Needle and thread or glue. I sewed my items on so I could remove them and re-make the hat with other items and colors, but you could easily use a glue gun if you prefer.

Directions:
1. If you will be using veiling, gather it to a length that will go half way around your base. Stitch or glue in place along the back edge. If it looks a little wonky that’s okay. The wearer can use hair pins to put the edges in place.

Fascinator 1

2. Begin adding your feathers, layering them in whichever fashion you like best. I sewed the pinwheel on first. See what big ugly stitches I used? I plan to take this off and remake it sometime to go with a different outfit. Big stitches are easier to remove, and who is ever going to see them?

Fasinator 2

Fascinator 2

3. When the feather layer is secured by stitching or glue, add your focal piece. I used my grandmother’s brooch. I can take it off and replace it with another one to change my color scheme.

4. Stitch or glue the fascinator to the headband or whichever fastening method you chose.

5. Try on the fascinator. Pretend your hair is perfect, your eyes are dramatically made up and your lips have that 1950s red pout. Use hair pins to arrange the veil in the most flattering way.

You’re done!! Congratulations! You have a fascinator hat to wear to your next cocktail party!

Fasinator Fascinator

Wolf's GloryWolf’s Glory

After the Crash, Book 2

When goth-girl Glory Peterson’s plane crashes she walks to find help. What she finds are people living in teepees like it’s the Old West. Wolf’s Shadow knows Glory is his mate. Glory’s happy to take a roll in the hay with him while she’s waiting for transportation back to civilization, but when she finds out she’s gone fifty years into the future and Shadow is a bossy werewolf who thinks he owns her, her attitude changes fast. Shadow is used to giving orders that are obeyed. Glory hasn’t obeyed an order since kindergarten. When two strong-willed lovers clash, who will win?

Available from Liquid Silver Books Now

Visit Maddy Barone to learn more about Maddy and her books.

CONTEST: Book one in Maddy Barone’s series, After the Crash, is actually one of the ebooks in the ebook bundle I’m giving away. The contest closes soon. Details of how to enter are on my contest page.

Finding the Friction with Mary Hughes

My special guest today is author, Mary Hughes.

Bestselling author Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and writer. At various points in her life she has taught Taekwondo, worked in the insurance industry, and studied religion. She is intensely interested in the origins of the universe. She has a wonderful husband (though happily-ever-after takes a lot of hard work) and two great kids. But she thinks that with all the advances in modern medicine, childbirth should be a lot less messy.

Over to Mary…

Biting Me SoftlyLife and death is about as tense as you can get. So writing about cops and doctors naturally sizzles. But the adage is “write what you know”. Besides authoring, I’m a musician and computer consultant. What kind of story tension can you get out of programmers?

Well…what if the programmer is working late? Alone. And what if she’s a woman?

What if she’s alone and a man shows up? A tall, powerfully-built, stunning god of a man? What if he’s a vampire?

And what if he instantly rubs her the wrong way?

Add a touch of laptop humor, and we have the following.

“I” is Liese, a small town programmer. Her blood center’s just been invaded by graceful, blond Logan. The excerpt is abridged.

“What did you say your name was?” I asked him.

“I didn’t say.” The man pulled a small leather case from his jeans pocket and tossed a business card on my desk with a careless snap of the wrist.

Gorgeous and talented. This guy would bear watching. Aw, shucks, my libido said. I ignored it. Eyes locked on him, I picked up the card. Dared a glance. Logan Steel, CEO Steel Security.

Smack me in the face with a Toshiba. Steel Security was the firm that installed a multimillion-dollar security system at Andersly-Dogget Distribution, my first job—one week before I was fired.

I threw the card back. It hit the desk and rebounded into the trash, making my cheeks heat. “You can’t be serious! Steel Security is the Ferrari of security firms. They do the biggest names in the world. Why would they be in little Meiers Corners?”

“We are here to install a system.” Steel perched gracefully on my desk again. In his tight black T-shirt and open leather jacket he looked more like a well-muscled fashion model than a CEO. “Here’s the work order, if you don’t believe me. You’re wrong, Ms. Schmetterling. Gorgeous, but wrong.”

Gorgeous? I shot to my feet. “Now I know you’re lying. Fun time’s over. There’s the door.”

CONTEST: To celebrate Biting Me Softly in stores around the US, I’m having a giveaway! Just comment on this post to enter. For a second chance, let me know the city or bookstore where you’ve seen Softly! Through April 20, 2011, adults only please. Winner will receive choice of Biting Me Softly in paperback (if US or Canada) or one of Bite My Fire, Biting Nixie, The Bite of Silence or Biting Me Softly in ebook.

He’s a candy box of sex appeal wrapped with a golden bow. She’s on a diet.

Blood, sex, violence. Blood, okay, but computer geek Liese Schmetterling had enough S&V when her cheating ex fired her. Now security expert—and lip-smacking gorgeous—Logan Steel saunters into her Blood Center, setting fire to her libido. And threatening her job.

Visions of pink slips dancing in her head, Liese tries to push Logan away without touching his jutting pecs…or ridged abs. Or petting the Vesuvius in his jeans. He’s hiding something, but it doesn’t seem to matter when his smiles stun her, his kisses crank her to broiling and his bites rocket her to heaven. Fangy bites which, if she weren’t grounded in science, would make her think ampire-Vay.

Centuries old and tragedy-scarred, Logan’s mission is to fortify the Blood Center’s electronic defenses against his nemesis, the leader of a rogue vampire gang. He’s ready for battle but not for Liese, who slips under his skin, laughs at his awful puns, charges beside him into dark, scary places—and tastes like his true love.

No matter how often Logan declares his love, Liese can’t bring herself to trust him. But when his archenemy comes after her, not trusting him may cost her life…

Warning: contains explicit vampire sex involving absurdly large male equipment (hey, they’re monsters), unbelievable stamina (just how long can he stay underwater in a hot tub?), hide-your-eyes violence and horrendously bad puns. And, just when you think it can’t get any worse, a computer geekette trying to play Mata Hari.

Buy at Samhain Publishing
Check In Stock at Barnes and Noble

Hugs from Hughes!

To learn more about Mary Hughes, please visit www.maryhughesbooks.com.

Late Harvest by Suzanne Barrett plus Contest!

My special guest today is author Suzanne Barrett. I’ll turn you over to Suzanne since she’s done a great job of introducing herself.

I’ve been writing since 1989, and the book that got me started into thinking I’d like to do this is LaVyrle Spencer’s Hummingbird. In re-reading that well-worn paperback, I can see writing errors we try not to do today, however, I didn’t understand those things then. What stood out for me was that the book drew me in like no other. I went on to read every book Ms. Spencer published, but I liked Hummingbird the most.

As for the writing, I did the usual things: joined RWA, my local chapter, joined a critique group and attended workshops, and of course bought every writing how-to book to hit the bookshelves. Of course none of those things got me published. It was more plain hard work, studying my writing and the writing of people who did it better than me, and making changes where necessary and still remaining true to myself.

I entered contests, and worked myself up to finalist status and winner in some. Late Harvest was a Golden Heart finalist one year. That opened doors but didn’t get me a contract. I continued writing and submitting. Finally, after nine years, I sold to Kensington…and went on to sell three more books before they dropped the line.

So here I am with Turquoise Morning Press and loving the interaction with a small press and its publisher who is herself a writer. Late Harvest is my first release with TMP, however, I have five more books coming out in 2011. It promises to be an exciting year.

Now about the book:

Late HarvestLate Harvest was a difficult sell to New York because it’s not formulaic. Too dark, my Kensington publisher said. “We don’t like Germans,” my editor said. “We might be interested if you change those awful German names.”

I didn’t want to make those changes. Late Harvest isn’t just about wine-making, but about the late harvest wine called Eiswein–made from grapes picked after a first frost. It is, of course, a German wine and German wineries abound in the Mendocino area. So Cresthaven was born, owned by the von Daniken family from Germany’s Rheingau. When the story opens, Otto, the patriarch is bedridden by a stroke, unable to speak, and the key to the artificial method for making Eiswein lies with Glenna Ryan who fled the winery some five years earlier. Kurt, Otto’s nephew, now runs the winery and he’s determined to bring Glenna back so she can facilitate the production of this precious late harvest wine. But Glenna has secrets she cannot reveal and agrees to return by exacting a promise from Kurt: her expertise in exchange for surgery for her son.

An excerpt:

Glenna moistened lips that had suddenly gone dry. “Do I pass inspection?” Her voice sounded a little throaty.

“You look…lovely, Glenna.” Kurt continued his perusal, one lean forefinger tracing his full lower lip.

Glenna found the movement of his hand fascinating. Her own grew moist as her mouth turned dust dry. She moistened her lips with her tongue and realized that he was staring.

Raising her eyes to his, she deliberately blanked her expression. “Why did you do it–buy this dress? I didn’t need a new gown for the ball. My blue dress–”

“Was a made over,” he interrupted gently. “I asked Mags what you were wearing. I wanted you to–” He paused, searching for a word, “–have something more personal.”

Glenna tensed. “I would have looked acceptable even in my made-over dress.” She noted the instant thinning of his mouth, and she pasted on a bright smile. “I’ve grown quite socially acceptable in recent years.”

A hardness crept into his eyes. “You were–are always acceptable, as I suspect you know. God, Glenna. Can’t we just….”

The smile left her lips. Once again she dragged her gaze upward. “Call a truce?”

“No, I–” He slapped the magazine down on the table, then stared intently into her face for what seemed an interminable moment. “Yes, why not? Just for tonight, Glenna, let us pretend we met only this last April, when you came to work for me.”

Glenna found herself mesmerized by the smoky depths of his eyes. Warm and friendly on the surface, but underneath….Underneath lay a deep hunger. She saw it, and felt it as a wave of desire shook her.

In a voice that was little more than a thready whisper she said, “Yes, I’d like that. Tonight is our first…” Her voice trailed off. She couldn’t say it.

“Our first evening together, Glenna. And California’s entire wine community will be watching.”
He made a quarter turn, offering her his arm.

Purchase Late Harvest

CONTEST: Suzanne is giving away a Kindle download of Late Harvest to one lucky commenter. Ask her a question or make a comment and you’re in the draw.

Researching Cowboys–the things we writers do….

My special guest today is author Sherry James. She’s celebrating her new release, The Cowboy and the Hellcat and talking about cowboys. One of my favorite topics since I’m a keen rodeo fan. Don’t forget to check out the contest at the end of the post.

The Cowboy and the HellcatHey, everyone! I’m excited to be here today at Shelley’s blog home on the web. Thanks for having me, Shelley! This is an exciting week for me since my latest book, The Cowboy and the Hellcat is being released Wednesday, Nov. 10th from the Wild Rose Press.

Since I’m a writer it’s a good thing I love to do research, especially research that involves talking to real live, in the flesh, sexy cowboys. What a hardship! ;-) I know a lot about rodeo, bull riding, and the western way of life, but it’s always nice to talk to other folks who also live and breathe the life to get a fresh perspective.

I also love to write about cowboys and I always strive to make darn sure I’m depicting the life as accurately as possible for you, the reader. That’s why when my local radio station was giving away tickets to a dinner/meet & greet with PBR (Professional Bull Riders) bull fighters, stock contractors, and bull riders last December, I put three phones to work. My insane efforts paid off and I was the correct caller and got my name put in for the drawing. And by golly, luck was really on my side. My name was drawn out for the big package, including tickets to the bull riding. Yee-Haw! So, I called up my critique partner and good buddy, Julie Miller, and asked if she’d like to go. All in the name of research, of course! ;-) Even though Julie writes about cops in Kansas City for Harlequin Intrigue, she jumped at the chance to experience something new. I mean, what better way to talk bull riding, rodeo, and goin’ down the road then over a nice dinner and a few drinks with handsome men! Handsome men are always good inspiration for us romance writers!

Bull fighter, Cody Hollums of Midland, TX, was gracious and answered my slew of questions. He even asked me if I was going to write a book featuring a bull fighter as the hero. You betcha, Cody! And I can guarantee he’s going to look a lot like you. Keep an eye out.

Stock contractor, Chad (Bubba) Berger of Mandan, ND was a lot of fun, too, and I wish I would have had more one-on-one time to talk with him. Thanks for the beer, Chad!

Sherry & Cody

Then I sat down with bull riders, Markus Mariluch of Elko, NV, and Skeeter Kingsolver of Mclouth, KS. These two were so down-to-earth, just good ‘ol boys, and were more than happy to answer all my questions. We talked about the lifestyle, the travel, and if fear ever enters their minds before they climb onto the back of those 2,000 pound bulls. Markus knows all too well what it’s like to be stomped on by a rank bull. In 2008 he rode a bull who tried to make hamburger out of his face. Amazingly, Markus was back in the chute a week later and ready to take another out for a spin. Now that’s tough. Cowboy tough!

Sherry with Markus Mariluch of Elko, NV, Bart Miller of Oshkosh, NE, and Skeeter Kingsolver of Mclouth, KS

As for Skeeter. Well, what can I say? Skeeter is just as cute as a bug’s ear. I mean this guy is young enough to be my son, but he’s as sweet, polite, and common as they come. I just wanted to squeeze him! And keep your eye out for Skeeter. He’s a rising star in the PBR. Maybe you caught him in the reality TV show, The Posse, which aired on CMT late last year. The film crew followed Skeeter and other pro bull riders around for a summer to give fans a glimpse into the world behind the bucking chutes. Skeeter said it was fun doing the show, although at times he did get a little weary of the cameras being right there all the time.

After chatting with the cowboys that night, I went back the following and took in the bull riding. The bulls were rank, too. Big time. One bull was so rank that after he dumped his rider he decided to take on the outrider and his horse. That cowboy suddenly found himself on an intimate date with the fence, and his horse took a hard ride on the bull! Fortunately, neither the horse or cowboy were hurt, but it sure looked ugly. On a positive note, one young cowboy who’d brought his girl to the bull riding had worked it out to bring her into the arena. Much to her surprise, he got down on one knee in the dirt and proposed! Now that’s romance the cowboy way. And you can bet that’s going to show up in a book someday. To me, that epitomizes the cowboy. He’s a gentleman, shows respect for women and their animals. All the guys we met stood when we stood, offered their hands in a friendly shake, and tipped their hats. To me, they symbolize the honesty and integrity of the American way of life, and showcase the roots of our great country! Long live Cowboys!

So, do you like to read about cowboys? For you, what’s the allure? And do you prefer contemporary cowboys over historical cowboys? Or do you love them both? All of you who comment today will get their name put into the drawing for an electronic download of my new western historical, The Cowboy and the Hellcat. Hellcat is the first book in my Cowboys of the 4 Aces series. Yes, handsome Adam Ford has two younger brothers who have their own adventures to tell! If you’d like to read more about The Cowboy and the Hellcat, or my other books, please stop by my web site, www.sherryjames.com.

I’ll announce today’s blog winner late this evening. And if you want a second chance to win a prize, be sure and check out my T-shirt contest also going on at my web site.

Pix: Bull fighter Cody Hollums of Midland, TX & little ‘ol me!
And me with Markus Mariluch of Elko, NV, Bart Miller of Oshkosh, NE, and Skeeter Kingsolver of Mclouth, KS.