Heather Hiestand: Wedding Matilda

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Heather Hiestand will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chance of winning.

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About Wedding Matilda

Sugared violets, buttercream…but he craves her kiss most of all…

Orphaned as a boy, Ewan Hales is proud to make his living as secretary to the manager at Redcake’s Tea Shop. But the startling news that he’s heir to the Earl of Fitzwalter changes everything. While tendering his resignation to lovely Matilda Redcake, however, Ewan is struck by her spirit, the luscious bow of her lips—and a realization. Matilda might not marry a working man—but will she wed a future nobleman?

Ewan’s unruly hair and roguish kisses are tempting, but Matilda has far too many problems to consider romance. With sabotage at a cake factory threatening the family empire, she must focus her considerable willpower on keeping Redcake’s from ruin—until she learns that her young son has been kidnapped. Together, she and Ewan must uncover the truth before they can savor the sweet freedom of love…

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Matilda knew Mr. Hales was the spider at the center of a web of information about Redcake’s.

The man himself had his back to her, one finger on a row of figures in an open ledger and the other on a typewriter key. She had no idea how to operate such a machine, but it did make reports easier to read, so she had insisted that her own secretary, her cousin Greggory Redcake, learn to operate one.

“Mr. Hales?” she inquired.

The finger went up in the air in a request for silence. Her eyebrows lifted. When had the man become so imperious? He probably thought she was a cakie, the Redcake’s name for waitresses. Still, she’d have expected him to be more charming. Her sister Alys said he was notorious for relationships among Redcake’s female employees, having worked his way through accounting, the Fancy, and the bakery staff.

His finger moved down the row of neatly printed numbers in the ledger. The keys clicked a few times. A pause. He turned a page in the ledger and repeated the sequence.

“Mr. Hales,” she tried again.

His fingers stopped moving, pinched around the page he was turning. His back stiffened as he slowly resumed his page turn. His other hand left the keys and he swiveled his chair around.

“Yes?”

He remained cold. No little bow, no small obsequious smile, as she had seen from him in the past. His hair had been mussed, she now realized.

Didn’t he recognize her? “I’m Matilda Redcake.”

Her announcement brought no change in his demeanor. “I know who you are, Miss Redcake.”

About the Author

AuthorPhoto_WeddingMatilda copyHeather Hiestand was born in Illinois, but her family migrated west before she started school. Since then she has claimed Washington State as home, except for a few years in California. She wrote her first story at age seven and went on to major in creative writing at the University of Washington. Her first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then it has been all about the many flavors of romance. Heather’s first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period, and she continues to return, fascinated by the rapid changes of the nineteenth century. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she has achieved best-seller status at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. With her husband and son, she makes her home in a small town and supposedly works out of her tiny office, though she mostly writes in her easy chair in the living room.

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Elsa Winckler: Touched to the Soul #Giveaway

Elsa is giving away a copy of Touched the Heart, the first book in the series, to a random commenter.

 Interview with Elsa Winckler

Susana: What inspired you to start writing?

Elsa: All those happy endings! I’ve always loved to read and loved the happy endings but I didn’t always like the way the two would get together, so I decided to write the kind of story I like to read. I was thrilled to discover there were other people who also enjoyed reading it

Susana: What comes first: the plot or the characters?

IMGP9652 copyElsa: For me it’s the characters. I try to figure them out, sometimes I even use the Mayer Briggs personality test to really try and understand them! Once I know what makes them tick, the storyline falls into place.

Susana: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Elsa: A pantser, I’m afraid. It used to bother me but I’ve made peace with the way a story unfolds itself. I have a vague idea of what should happen and then I let the characters tell their story – sometimes with twists that I haven’t foreseen.

Susana: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

Elsa: I knit. My hands always have to be busy, so when I don’t type, I knit – in front of the television, in bed, in the car (when I’m not driving). When I concentrate on a tricky pattern, my mind wanders and it’s often then that I’d get an idea or realize how to solve a problem I was having with a story.

Susana: Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who?

Elsa: I love Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, the Brontë sisters. If I have to pick a favourite story, it would be Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South – a beautiful love story between two complex characters unfolds against the backdrop of a newly industrial England – simply breathtaking (there is also a wonderful BBC DVD available with Richard Armitage as a to-die-for Mr Thornton J )

Susana: What is something you’d like to accomplish in your writing career next year?

Elsa: Up until now, I’ve written mainly category-length love stories but would like to try my hand at something with a little bit of suspense thrown in. 

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About Touched to the Soul

Zoe Sutherland can’t stand the pushy, arrogant architect David Cavallo. He was just too damn sure of himself, too handsome, too…everything. Maneuvered into working as the interior decorator on his latest project, a glamorous new hotel, Zoe can’t keep her mind on the job. And worse, the strange man won’t give her access to the hotel’s floor plans. How is she supposed to finish the design when she doesn’t have the plans? And when the obnoxious man distracts her with every smoldering look, every touch…

David has one goal: get rid of the pesky interior designer. Since he’s been forced into close proximity with the beautiful Zoe, everything’s gone downhill. And to make matters worse, she’s only out to further her own career—and he’s not about to give her the hotel’s plans so she can steal his ideas. He needs to get her out of his system, and sleeping with her seems like the best way to do that. When it comes to women, he’s found the best way to handle them is to love ’em and leave ’em. But something strange is happening…because after a night of loving Zoe, he’s finding it harder than ever to leave…

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And then she swallowed. He bit the insides of his cheeks to prevent him from smiling. So, the lady wasn’t as cool as she pretended to be.

“I tried to contact you after Don and Caitlin’s wedding but you never answered any of my messages.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You know perfectly well why I ignored those messages,” she said primly.

He leaned forward, enjoying her obvious discomfort. “You see, that’s just it. I don’t know. You kissed me, stormed away, and ignored all the messages I sent you.”

Her lips trembled slightly. “You were the one who kissed me,” she said, her eyes stormy.

“You didn’t kiss me back?” he asked, not quite understanding why he couldn’t stop baiting her.

She inhaled audibly, bent her head for a few seconds before she opened the file. “We can go ahead with the contract. That is, if you still want me to.”

“Oh, I still want you…” he said solemnly, waiting a millisecond before he added “…to.”

Her flared nostrils were the only indication that she’d caught his meaning.

“Good.” She got up. “I’ll ask Susan to contact you for the next meeting. Please make sure whoever you send has all the information available—budget, timeline and of course if…”

He also got up slowly. “Seeing that my brother suggested we make use of your firm, I will be working with you. Directly.” He emphasized the last word. “I don’t mind doing favors, but when money is involved, I have to protect the investment we’ll be making. I have to make sure you are not just a pretty face but can actually do the job. You obviously don’t really want to work for me, but you’ve realized it’s good for business. Therefore, I have to make sure our business doesn’t suffer because of yours.”

About the Author

I have been reading love stories for as long as I can remember and when I ‘met’ the classic authors like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James The Brontë sisters, etc. during my studies, I was hooked for life.

I married my college boyfriend and soul mate and after 39 years, 3 beautiful children and 3 grandchildren, he still makes me weak in the knees. We are fortunate to live in the picturesque little seaside village of Betty’s Bay, South Africa with the ocean a block away and a beautiful mountain right behind us. And although life so far has not always been an easy ride, it has always been an exiting and interesting one!

I like the heroines in my stories to be beautiful, feisty, independent and headstrong.  And the heroes must be strong but possess a generous amount of sensitivity. They are of course, also gorgeous!  My stories typically incorporate the family background of the characters to better understand where they come from and who they are when we meet them in the story.

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Sandra Masters: Once Upon a Duke

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Interview with His Grace, the Duke of Sutton

Sandra: What is your main fear, Your Grace?

His Grace the Duke: Getting leg shackled by a woman. I fear commitment and what love can do to a man. My interaction with Lady Serena started out as just another notch on my bedpost, but somehow it grew into something profound when she kissed my scar with tenderness and genuine concern. Even as I now speak, I can feel her nurturing lips.

Sandra: What is the main conflict?

His Grace the Duke: Serena wants a commitment of marriage. As a child, I did not see love from my mother to my father. I have offered the position of mistress. She refused. I left without saying goodbye. Interviewer:

Sandra: What has messed up your life?

His Grace the Duke: When I arrived in London, my thoughts were consumed with Serena. I did return and visited her surreptitiously one night at the lakeside manor and it was…comfortable. I wondered how along the way I had acquired a family: a woman, a maid and a puppy.

Sandra: If everything was so good, why didn’t you propose?

His Grace the Duke: I thought I had time to consider everything. Ours was a tempestuous relationship. The concept of a future relationship intrigued me. I returned to visit her, but she was gone. Her brother informed me she was engaged to wed another man in three weeks, and that she ordered the puppy drowned and my portrait burned.

Sandra: How did you react?

His Grace the Duke: Unfortunately, I believed him. Enraged, I did not care about the portrait she burned, but to order the dog, Adonis, killed—how could I have misjudged her? I drank myself into a stupor with a good friend.

Sandra: Then what happened?

His Grace the Duke: And just when I thought there was no other choice than to forget her, visitors came to my London townhouse who informed me of Serena’s brother’s lies. They returned the pup to me unharmed. She reaffirmed her love for me in letters.

Sandra: Were you now convinced of her love for you?

His Grace the Duke: It was then I realized her brother’s duplicity—about everything. Serena’s letter ended with the words that she would love me forever, in this world or the next. What else could I do but have the maid tell her I loved her with all my heart, that she would either attend our wedding—or my funeral. I leave your readers to draw their conclusion as to how my author, you, charted the ending of the novel.

Sandra: Your Grace, I have created you out of the figment of my imagination. Did I do you justice?

His Grace the Duke: It is a difficult question and I can only say that you and I have been in each other’s heart and soul for a long time. I do believe readers should enjoy our fairy tale romance. After all, you showed me what love can do to redeem a man.

About Once Upon a Duke

Serena, an artist and widow, has no desire for another husband. When she meets Geoffrey Austen, attraction sizzles to a scorch. Stolen days and nights ignite forbidden passion. Geoffrey asks Serena to be his mistress, but she wants commitment, love and marriage, not an affair with a notorious rake.

Geoffrey realizes Serena might be the one woman who can care for his tortured soul, and maybe release his demons. The magic they shared is shattered when he learns she has been forced into an engagement with another. He vows to save her even at the cost of his own life.

Will Geoffrey’s gallantry prove he truly loves Serena?

If he survives, will Serena surrender all to him?

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London 1817

If Lady Serena could be granted one wish, she would ride off into the morning mist and vanish. That, of course was not possible, but here in her favorite lakeside retreat, she could relax in safety.

With her mare nearby, she bent her head over her sketchbook and inhaled the scent of sweet honeysuckle. She paused her charcoal, leaned her head against the tree at her back, and envisioned how her sketch would be completed.

Hoof beats disturbed her contemplation. In the distance, a vision of man and steed, moved as one, and rode toward her.

The vision spoke as he drew his horse to a halt. “Good day, my lady.” He dismounted, and tethered his stallion to a tree away from the mare. “It is a beautiful day, and to have my path cross with a lovely woman makes it more so.”

“Yes, it is a welcomed morning, sir, but your flattery does not turn my head.”

Alarmed, she thought to reach for her riding crop, but checked the impulse. Serena raised her hand to shield the sun and eyed the well-dressed handsome stranger. She assumed him to be of noble birth if on Henry’s property. Her snobbish brother would never allow an outsider to encroach. Something about the man demanded her rapt attention. Curiosity compelled. What harm could come of it?

Allow me to introduce myself, Lord Geoffrey Austen, at your service.” He swept off his hat and bowed. “I am Henry Worthington’s hunting guest for the week.”

“I am Lady Serena Worthington, sister of your host. I would rise and curtsy to you, but I am far too comfortable. You may, however, consider I have proffered the appropriate respect, if you would indulge me.” She meant her smile to charm, and to distract him from her breach in etiquette.

“I would be happy to humor you in any manner you prefer.” His voice murmured low and husky. He removed his gloves and walked to sit next to her on a log fashioned into a bench. Serena noticed the large ring on his finger as it caught the sunlight’s glint.

“I have seen you twice before from a distance when I have come to visit Sir Henry, but never approached you. Some things are best appreciated from afar, but today I was compelled to ride over and speak with you.”

Serena smoothed her skirt, her palms damp.

“Your brother is well aware of my notorious reputation. He would prefer I did not seduce his sister and has made his wishes known to me. However, I feel the Fates demanded we meet.”

“Seduce or merely tempt?”

He grinned. “Dear Lady Serena, a beautiful woman is always a challenge. A wonderful circumstance caused me to come upon you this glorious morning, but I see I have interrupted your sketching. Shall I depart? Or will you show me your wares?”

“They are not my wares, Lord Austen. They are representations of my artistic imagination. There is a difference.”

“I offer my apology. Allow me to rephrase the question. May I see your work?” His eyes sparked with blatant flirtation.

“You may.” She handed him the sketch pad.

He flipped through a few pages. “God’s blood, you are talented. You could sell these.”

“I considered the notion, but Henry would think it crass.”

“I disagree entirely with his perception.” Lord Geoffrey turned to face her. “I wonder, my lady, why your brother has hidden you? Rumor has it you are unattached.”

“I have chosen solitude. It is my personal preference, I assure you. Why do men think every woman in England wants to leg-shackle a man?” She cocked her head in appraisal and met his inquisitive gaze. “I cannot abide the need to display myself on the marriage auction block. I would rather remain a liberated widow or enter a convent before I’d suffer nuptials to some old goat, or a young wastrel who looks for a generous inheritance.” She rose to pace, both hands akimbo on her hips. “If I shock you, it is intentional.”

His lips lifted, the cleft in his chin apparent. “I have a fondness for women who provoke.”

Her heartbeat skyrocketed. He had a maddening hint of arrogance that beguiled her. She lowered her lashes, and then focused her gaze.

“Lord Austen, I know my brother’s horses and your animal is not familiar.” She hoped to steer the conversation in another direction. Her stomach quivered, uneasy.

“Solomon is mine. He is an Arabian and strong-willed, like his master. It takes a firm hand to control him, but he flies like the wind.”

“Your pride is evident.” Serena gestured toward her horse. “My mare is Sheba. She is also high-spirited. We are a good match as well. Perhaps we should consider mating?”

Had she actually said that? Nerve endings tingled, warmth flooded her.

Lord Austen arched a brow. “Were you referring to our mounts, or do I dare hope you meant their owners?” His suggestion wicked.

Serena stopped pacing long enough to meet his direct gaze. “My lord, you disappoint with your practiced words.” She wanted to look away, but curious, dared to ask, “Are you available?” How had the brazen words escaped her lips?

“I could be, for the right woman.”

“Do you have criteria?” There she was, egging him on again. Why was the man so hypnotic?

“Perhaps one could say my only requirement is the effect she would have on my sensibilities.” His smile held a salacious bent.

“How are your sensibilities today?” She continued to play the game and resumed her restless pacing.

He walked to his horse and ran his hand over the silky flesh of its neck. “I would demand to sample the offerings. Do you agree?” Lord Austen turned to her and continued to stroke the stallion in a slow deliberate manner.

Serena took a deep breath and tried to quell her rapid heartbeat. She shivered as if he caressed her skin, his fingers working their magic.

His eyes refused to leave hers. His lips curved sensuously. “Are you about to offer me something?”

She returned to her seat. “I am not familiar with breeding rights. Do we still speak of the horses?” Serena eyed the man and his steed. “How magnificent, a fine specimen.”

“Yes, I agree, or are you a woman who desires to dabble in double entendres? I would say you contemplate the splendid creature before you.” Lord Austen’s stance was presumptive with his feet wide apart, one hand held his riding crop at his hip. “I do not know which of us you mean.”

“Perhaps you will figure it out, Lord Austen,” she flirted back.

Serena noted the twinkle in his blue eyes, as his full dimpled smile emerged. She had a sudden desire to touch that arrogant face. What was it about this man? Her gaze centered on a straight scar down his right cheek. It intrigued her.

“Allow me to explain,” Lord Austen postured. “You see, I am considered quite unsuitable for marriage to most respectable ladies. My reputation precedes me, in part because I allow it. The rest is a fabrication of gossip I refuse to dispel.”

“You are a true rogue? Should I be worried? Are you good at your craft? I am told that a man with a rake’s soul can be a dangerous excitement.”

“So many questions, my lady, which require a thoughtful response. Let me say I have had no complaints.”

“It grieves me to wound you, but since I have not heard about you or your notoriety, could it be possible we do not travel in the same social circles? Should I swoon and fall at your feet? Perhaps I do not find you irresistible?”

Her stomach tightened when he strode toward her in lightning-fast motion. Her breath quickened. His arms uprooted her from the seat, his finger rested under her chin with just enough pressure to tilt it upward.

“Have you not been unattached long enough? Do you desire a man in your bed? If so, I could be persuaded.”

“Perhaps I am the one who needs persuasion.” Against the warning bell in her head, she opened to him when his lips claimed hers. Their tongues teased and the kiss lingered, laced with intimacy. Her body swayed, and made Serena aware of her heartbeat against his chest.

She traced the scar at his cheek, curious how he’d sustained such an injury. Perhaps her heated fingertips would erase the memory of pain to fade away. Serena knew too much about such marks. Her uncharacteristic response, in spite of her fear, confused her. His allure difficult to resist.

She embraced him, pressed her breasts against his chest and experienced a pleasurable frisson which warmed her, his spice and clove cologne an additional attraction. Serena again enjoyed how his mouth plundered and tasted her lips. His skillful tongue flicked in erotic foreplay, something she had heard of, but never experienced. She quivered when he pulled his mouth from hers.

“My reckless lady, your kisses are the sweetest I have tasted. I must have more.”

He again crushed her against him. Seeking. Tasting. Wanting. Taking. Demanding.

Lord Austen set her body afire as he explored, tantalized. An odd sensation stirred within her and caused a warm tingle in her lower body. Strange, to her it had no name, but it delighted.

He untied her hair ribbon, released the untamed dark curls that fell free against her shoulders. The red band lay unheeded on the pine-needled ground.

“I like you this way,” he whispered, his breath warm against her ear. “Do my lips satisfy your desire, my lady? You look wild and wanton, an eager beauty I must possess.”

“I am no man’s possession.”

She reeled from Lord Austen’s sensual assault. His blatant arousal pressed against her and rather than desire, filled her with fear. His nearness too intimate. His touch too hot. His desire too obvious.

A sinful leer crossed his face. He took her hand and placed her palm against his hardened manhood. “This is the kind of rake I am.”

She yanked away from him, and sent a hard slap to his face. “You assume too much. I do not play this game.”

“I think you are well-practiced in such games, dear lady.”

“How dare you tarnish me so? You go too far.” She chastised herself for her role in fanning the flames, but she’d never admit it to him. Serena raised her chin in defiance, looked away, and pointed an accusing finger toward the fall of his breeches. “A mild flirtation does not cause that. I suggest you swim in the cool lake water to ease your discomfort.”

She reached for her large canvas bag of art supplies, marched straight to her horse, and attached the bag to the special custom-made leather strap on her saddle. She mounted Sheba and reined her horse to face the man who stood with his mouth agape. “Do not visit this place again if I am here. This is not a request, Lord Austen. If you do not abide my wishes, I will report your transgression to my brother. Do I make myself clear?”

Lady Serena lightly touched her horse’s rump with her whip and cantered off without a backward glance.

Lord Austen rubbed his cheek, ran his finger down the welt that would soon bruise.

He spoke to Solomon. “I will survive this assault, but the damage done begs retribution. His laughter echoed through the sunlit trees as he recaptured his esteem. Geoffrey found Serena a refreshing change from the ladies who paraded in front of him with marriage on their minds. Still, a decadent thought invaded his head. He wished the yards of fabric which separated him from the softness of her body had dissolved when she was pressed against his hardness. The wanton lady had halted his seduction before it had barely started. “I think I have a coquette on my hands.” How he loved the chase.

The ribbon he pulled from her hair lay on the ground. Geoffrey picked it up and inhaled its lemony fragrance. He pressed it to his lips, and then placed the pretty scarlet band in a pocket. It would be a remembrance until next they met. Perhaps he would tie one of her hands to the bed post? No. He wanted those beautiful fingers free to stroke his body, while he explored hers.

He recalled the pleasure when her generous breasts pressed against his chest and he’d envisioned his body above hers. In his mind, he saw her writhe in ecstasy beneath him. She would beg him to make her his own.

Lord Austen closed his eyes and imagined the pleasure of touching her most intimately, inch by inch, and time and time again, until they were both exhausted and sated. He would wager she would not slap him then.

He mounted his stallion and gave another hearty laugh. “Solomon, I am tempted to place a bet in the White’s Club books that she will be mine by week’s end, perhaps even sooner. He guided his horse along the well-worn path to the large manor house of his host and whistled a bawdy tune.

 About the Author

Jeanette Watts: Wealth and Privilege

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Jeanette will be awarding a Victorian cameo to a randomly drawn winner (international) via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

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Interview with Jeanette Watts

Susana: Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

Jeanette: There are two expressions that always keep my life in perspective.

Susana: One of them is “I’d rather be lucky than good.” There are always millions of people around the world with incredible talents. But the vast majority never get that “Lucky Break” that makes a would-be actress into a star, or a good basketball player into a national hero.

Jeanette: My second expression is “The stitch ripper is your friend…be one with the stitch ripper.” I sew. A lot. I always have friends over to sew with me. I’ve taught a lot of people how to sew. Part of sewing is making a mistake, and having to rip out the stitches and do it again. Some people find a lot of shame in making these mistakes, I came up with this mantra to take away some of the stress. Sewing is like life. We all make mistakes. The nice thing about sewing, we can rip out the stitches and we get a do-over. How awesome is that?

Susana: When was the moment that you knew you had to be a writer?

AuthorPhoto_WealthAndPrivilege copyJeanette: When I was in 5th and 6th grade, I used to make up stories in my head and tell them to my best friend while we were walking to school. I’d have an ongoing serial, and every day I’d give her the new installment. One day, she dragged me over to another friend of ours, and she told me to tell one of my stories to this other person. I tried to reproduce it as best I could, but I kept leaving out details. That’s when my best friend exclaimed, “What do you mean, you aren’t writing these down?!” She changed my life that day. I’ve been a writer ever since.

Susana: What are you reading now?

Jeanette: The biography of Amelia Bloomer. I absolutely adore biographies! David McCullough is awesome, although I’ll read all sorts of different authors.

Susana: What comes first: the plot or the characters?

Jeanette: The characters, of course! A writer can have a plot in mind, but characters who really come to life take on a spirit of their own, and they will derail your plot. When that happens, all you can do is run with it. If you try to force the characters to suit the plot, it is always to the detriment of the story. You have to stay true to the characters.

Susana: What author or authors have most influenced your writing?

Jeanette: Margaret Mitchell. Gone With the Wind is the one book that has had a huge impact on my writing. She did her homework, then did some more, then did some more. The characters may be fictional, but the eyewitness account she gives of the Civil War and Reconstruction are spot on. I spent a lot of years researching for Wealth and Privilege, because I needed to live up to that standard.

Susana: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

Jeanette: That I don’t actually own dogs. My husband is allergic to everything with fur, so I can’t have any pets. And no, I’m not interested in fish. So Anthra and Bit are the fantasy dogs I would have if I could. I love labs!

Susana: If your publisher offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming project, where would you mostly likely want to go? Why?

Jeanette: Greece. I have had one particular love story floating around in my head for something like 20 years. I haven’t written it down because I haven’t figured out the setting yet. Is it science fiction or fantasy? Is it a contemporary drama? Is it historic fiction? I think I found my answer when we went to Athens and Sparta on vacation. I think I want to set it during the Peloponnesian War.

Susana: Who gave you the writing advice that sticks with you to this day?

Jeanette: I had two English professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who had policies that will be with me all my life. One professor used to hand out writing assignments and say “Just be brilliant!” His view on the world was that if you treat people like geniuses, they will perform like geniuses. If you treat them like idiots, they will behave like idiots. I did some of my best writing for him, just because he told me to. This is less writing advice than it is life advice, but I learned it in a writing class.

The other English professor was this stern and somewhat intimidating fellow who surprised the hell out of me when he told my class that if they were having trouble getting ideas written out on paper because they were censoring things before they were written out, just “give your internal censor a shot and tell it to go to sleep for awhile.” While I don’t recommend becoming an alcoholic, I do think the fundamental advice is very sound. Get everything down on paper, THEN go back and edit.

Susana: What are your favorite pastimes?

Jeanette: I’m a seamstress, a dancer, and a fencer (although I haven’t done it for a couple of years, and I miss it terribly). I do all kinds of different dance forms – everything BUT tap, jazz and ballet. That includes international folk dancing, and swing dancing, and belly dance. I want the opportunity to take up Argentine Tango. I also am always working on our house. We’ve just finished remodeling the kitchen, so now I’m eyeing the peeling paint in the dining room. I’ve refinished woodwork in several parts of our house. Paint is the devil, and should never be applied to gorgeous pieces of oak.

Susana: What has been your biggest adventure to date?

Jeanette: Starting a Cancan troupe. It’s called Madame Gigi’s Outrageous French Cancan Dancers. I started with me, two yoga instructors, two teenagers, an elementary school teacher and my living room. We borrowed pettipants, made the petticoats, and had no clue what we were doing. Now I have 15 dancers, including men, we dance at the biggest Bastille Day festival in the country, we’ve done more television appearances than we can count, and we have had invitations from Boston to San Diego to Hong Kong (which, sadly, fell through). The dancers keep getting better, the costumes keep getting better, the audiences keep getting bigger. It’s been an amazing journey!

Susana: What is the one modern convenience you can’t do without?

Jeanette: As tempted as I am to say my iPhone, because I’m totally addicted to it, I’m going to name the less newly-minted automobile. I know I could get by without my phone if I had to. But I don’t want to think about not being able to get in a vehicle and drive to another city for a dance, or back to Wisconsin to see friends, or out to some exciting new city for a book signing! I love to travel. Life without the ability to go places? Horrifying.

About Wealth and Privilege

Money. Family. Love. Hate. Obsession. Duty. Politics. Religion – or the lack thereof. Sex — or, once again, the lack thereof.

Thomas Baldwin finds himself married to a woman he can’t stand, while head-over heels in love with another woman he can’t have. Talk about bad planning. He feels like a kite, buffeted by circumstances which blow him not only through personal crises, but also through some of the most significant events in Pittsburgh during the late 1800s, including the railroad riots of 1877, the creation of the Homestead Steel Works, the assassination of President Garfield, and the Johnstown Flood. Over time, and with the help of his muse, who dances maddeningly just beyond his reach, he takes control of his life, wresting it from the winds attempting to control him.

A carefully-researched historical novel about life among the privileged class of Pittsburgh during the Industrial Revolution.

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Excerpt

A soft rumble of thunder sounded in the distance, and they both groaned.

“Just what we need,” Thomas observed. “More water.”

“Well, I suppose thunder doesn’t necessarily mean more rain,” Regina answered hopefully.

It was an odd sort of thunder. It took Thomas a moment to realize why. Then it occurred to him that it was continuous, and getting louder, instead of fading away.

A strange black fog began to drift through the air. They froze, staring at each other, listening. The rumble increased like – what? It was a cross between an oncoming train, and – and – Thomas imagined this must be what an avalanche must sound like.

Then he knew what was going on. The South Fork dam had broken!

Before he could share his insight, Regina’s face changed. She stared up Clinton Street, mouth open, eyes wide with horror. She pointed, incoherent noises issuing from her throat. Thomas turned, and nearly fell off their precarious little raft.

The source of the crashing rumble was a towering wall of debris moving toward them. A misty black cloud hung in the air, occasionally obscuring the horrific sight. A writhing mass of tree roots, rooftops, planks, railroad pieces and other metal parts tumbled over and over upon itself.

The rumble had clarified into a roar of screaming and crashing as the rapidly approaching behemoth rolled toward them.   They couldn’t outrun it, either on or off their little craft. Regina pointed to the nearest building. The brick corners were coined, laid unevenly enough to make a decent ladder. Thomas understood without a word. They poled their way across the watery distance, desperation giving them strength and speed.

About the Author

Jeanette Watts has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing.

When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.

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Barbara Monajem: Lady of the Flames

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About Lady of the Flames

Perfect lady, disgraced lord, traitor, spies, magic with fire, magic with blades and love (of course!).

Magic with is fraught with peril—but so is love.

Lord Fenimore Trent’s uncanny affinity for knives and other sharp blades led to knife fights, duels, and murderous brawls. Five years ago, he faced a choice: marry Andromeda Gibbons, the woman he loved, or find a safe, peaceful use for his blades by opening a furniture shop—an unacceptable occupation for a man of noble birth. The choice made itself when Andromeda turned to another man. The furniture shop prospered, but now Fen’s partner has been accused of treason. In order to root out the real traitor, he may face another unpalatable choice—to resort to the violent use of his blades once again.

Once upon a time, Andromeda Gibbons believed in magic. That belief faded after her mother’s death and vanished completely when Lord Fenimore, the man she loved, spurned her. Five years later, Andromeda has molded herself into a perfect—and perfectly unhappy—lady. When she overhears her haughty betrothed, the Earl of Slough, plotting treason, she flees into the London night—to Fen, the one man she knows she can trust. But taking refuge with Fen proves to mean far more than getting help—it means learning to believe in love, magic, and the real Andromeda once again.

“I love historical romances but add in the paranormal aspect and it is perfect.” 
“It was a quick read for me, mostly because I couldn’t put it down!” 
“A thoroughly enjoyable twist on (a) Regency novel…” 

$.99 for a limited time

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SusanaSays3Susana Says

…truly a magical Regency romance: 4/5 stars

A lighthearted story of two lovers kept apart for years by an untruth—or was it something else?—until they are both entangled in a dangerous web of espionage and violence that forces them to confront the truth about each other and those around them.

Ms. Monajem’s skill in combining humor and violence (although not graphic) reminds me of Kresley Cole’s in her Immortals After Dark series. And magic too, as Cuff the hobgoblin is one of my favorite secondary characters and he doesn’t speak.

A perfect selection if you are seeking a historical romance with a touch of the whimsical to read at the beach or on the back porch.

Heat Level: a trifle over sweet, but not really steamy.

About the Author

81O8T58bcmL._UX250_Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. When they grew up, she turned to writing for adults, first the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries and then Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Some of her Regencies have magic in them and some don’t (except for the magic of love, which is in every story she writes).

Barbara loves to cook, especially soups, and is an avid reader. There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. She’ll manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

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Captivated By His Kiss

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New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Cheryl Bolen and USA Today Bestselling Author Bronwen Evans are joined by Barbara Monajem, Collette Cameron, Wendy Vella, Heather Boyd, and Lauren Smith in this exciting collection of regency romances. Be Captivated By His Kiss in these seven emotional stories of second chances, scandalous wagers, and the quest for true love. Lose yourself again and again in beautifully written romance.

$.99 for a limited time

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Stella Barcelona: Shadows

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Stella will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during this tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About Shadows

A cryptic, urgent text message turns the peaceful life Skye Barrows has created for herself and her sister into chaos. She must follow her father’s instructions to the letter, but Sebastian Connelly is blocking her way. Telling Sebastian what she must do is not an option.

What He Doesn’t Know Will Get Them All Killed

BookCover_Shadows copyWhen a prison break in the midst of a security system upgrade threatens to destroy the reputation of Sebastian’s company, Black Raven Private Security Contractors, he goes on the hunt for escaped prisoner Richard Barrows – a delusional and paranoid computer software genius.

Sebastian’s mission: find Richard Barrows and return him to prison, but stonewalled by Skye, who refuses to give him answers, and with the added complication of her special needs sister, Sebastian finds himself always a step or two behind vicious killers.

Nothing About This Case is Normal

For Sebastian, it should be simple, but this case will test him in ways he never imagined. As probing interrogation becomes urgent protection, the search for Barrows forces Sebastian and Skye into a murky world of shadows and illusions.

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Excerpt

At six-five, Sebastian could stand upright in the jet, but what he needed was a good, arms-over-head stretch, and that was impossible. “Get the senior agents for each team on the line for action reports.”

“Back in five.”

Sebastian slung his backpack over one shoulder and nodded to the two pilots, who stood at attention as he departed. “I’ll call with a departure time. For now, plan on two hours.”

He walked down the narrow stairs to the tarmac, breathing in fresh, crisp February air. Above the yellow and orange horizon, stars blinked in the clear, pre-dawn sky. He didn’t bother breaking the connection with Ragno as she put together the conference call. He could hear her keyboard clicking and her soft breaths. While they worked the prison break, they’d keep an open line throughout the day and most of the night.

Sebastian walked to a black Range Rover that had pulled up to the private airport’s landing strip. He usually enjoyed high-stakes hunts with elusive prey, but Barrows wasn’t just elusive. He had disappeared, and Sebastian couldn’t get a handle on where he might be. No one could.

Sebastian nodded to Pete St. Paul, the driver of the Range Rover, who had stepped out and opened the front passenger door for Sebastian. Pete was one of Black Raven’s newer agents. “Good morning, sir.”

“Morning.” Sebastian dropped his backpack into the footwell of the passenger side, did an arms over head stretch before stepping into the SUV and extended his legs as he pushed the seat back as far as it could go. “Having fun yet?”

Pete’s smile made it to his dark brown eyes. “I’ve done worse.” He shut the door and came around to the driver’s side.

About the Author

AuthorPhoto_Shadows copyStella Barcelona has always had an active imagination, a tendency to daydream, and a passion for reading romance, mysteries, and thrillers. She has found an outlet for all of these aspects of herself by writing romantic thrillers.

In her day-to-day life, Stella is a lawyer and works for a court in New Orleans. She lives minutes from the French Quarter, with her husband of seventeen years and two adorable papillons who believe they are princesses. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Southern Louisiana Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Her first novel, Deceived, was inspired by New Orleans, its unique citizens, and the city’s World War II-era history.

Her third novel, Jigsaw, a Black Raven novel, will be released in 2016.

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Nikki McCormack: Forbidden Things: Dissident

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The author will award a $50 Amazon/BN GC to one randomly chosen winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

Surviving the Solitary

by Nikki McCormack

One of the biggest challenges to writing is the solitary nature of the craft. Regardless of the genre you write in, from the moment you first start putting words on a page, you are putting your trust entirely into a vision that exists only in your head. No one else can see exactly what you’re making until you’re at least done with that first drift, which means you have to have faith in your vision and your ability to express it well. Having that kind of faith in yourself is hard.

Many of us grow up watching our loved ones struggle with self-doubt, fear of failure, or the tendency to put others before themselves. We learn by example, becoming experts at doubting and second-guessing ourselves. We let the needs of other be more important than our needs. All of these things can make it incredibly hard to believe that writing is worth prioritizing.

People around us can also have a hard time understanding what we’re doing when we spend so much time working on our novels, especially if they want some of that time. They can’t see the ultimate vision and it can be hard for someone who’s never done that kind of writing to fathom the amount of work that goes into it. In some cases, people can unintentionally feed the doubt and guilt by treating your writing as only a hobby or complaining about the time you invest in it.

Even once you get to the point of working with beta readers and editors and, in some cases, agents and/or publishers, the majority of the task is still very solitary. However, this is when you start to get some of the feedback you need to prove to yourself that your writing is important. The challenge now is that the feedback will include a lot of constructive criticism needed to help you improve, which can also feed self-doubt in those long lonely hours working on yet another edit.

Then you publish. This is when the best and worst come together. Reviews and letters from fans of your work really do make everything worthwhile and often help friends and family understand what you were working for a little better. Once again, however, if you get many sales, you’re going to get a negative review once in a while. It is easy to focus on the negatives, but you have to hold the positive feedback close to your heart and grow a thick skin against the other. The positives are the ones that will keep you going forward and help you build the confidence you need to put out the next book.

Almost everything you do as a writer requires long lonely hours. There isn’t much you can do about that, except get a cat or two and maybe a dog. That’s my advice. Then, whenever you have to take what my writing group now refers to as a ‘despair break,’ you will always have someone around who is up for a supportive cuddle or a few minutes of stress relieving play.

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About Forbidden Things: Dissident

Ascard power can strengthen, heal and create. It also has great potential to destroy, enough to topple entire governments. Indigo’s country places strict limitations on the use of ascard so she must channel her talents into the healing arts or risk severe punishment. An orphan from a disgraced family, trapped by her father’s treason, Indigo struggles to reclaim her place in a society that has driven her into an abusive engagement.

Then a mysterious stranger from a neighboring country contacts her using ascard. He needs help escaping his prison so he can bring an end to his emperor’s oppressive rule or die trying. His unshakable devotion to his cause and the passion hidden behind his cool arrogance move her to help him at the risk of being branded a traitor herself.

When the politics of society bring them together a second time, Indigo decides to use her growing powers to help him fight his war. If only she dared fight for her own future with such passion. Perhaps she can find the courage to do so by helping the man she has fallen for win his revolution. She might have exactly the power he needs to succeed.

Excerpt

Resolute, he turned and stepped between the pillars.

The sudden pressure on his lungs was welcome. If he understood the prison, he would return to his rooms in the stronghold, the place he was taken from.

His head spun and he stumbled. His knees struck hard on the pale marble floor of his bedchamber. He ended kneeling like a man at worship before the stand on which he kept his sword. The weapon waited there, a seamless blending of Lyran and Kudaness design tempered with ascard. The gentle curve of the blades razor edge glinted in the light, sharp and clean.

A slow smile spread across his lips and he laughed. When the laughter faded, he stood and grabbed the sword belt lying beside the weapon. He had to tighten it several notches past old wear marks. He gripped the pale wood hilt, delighting in the balanced weight of the lethal blade. It felt natural in his hand, an extension of his being. In a life full of frustration, the weapon was simple and pure. There was no doubt as to its purpose and no question of how it would serve him. If only people could be so simple.

He held his breath, listening to the song of the blade sliding into the sheath. It was exquisite. It sang of blood and vengeance.

He stroked the hilt, his gaze drifting to the door leading out of his chambers. “Shall we see who’s home?”

About the Author

AuthorPhoto_ForbiddenThingsDissident copyNikki started writing her first novel at the age of 12 (which is still tucked away in a briefcase in her office). Despite a successful short story publication with Cricket Magazine in 2007, she treated her writing addiction as a hobby until a drop in the economy left her with an abundance of free time to focus on making it her career.

Nikki lives in the magnificent Pacific Northwest tending to her awesome husband, two sweet horses, three manipulative cats, and a crazy dog. She’s a wine and tea fanatic who loves sitting on the ocean in her kayak surrounded by open water or hanging from a rope in a cave, embraced by darkness and the sound of dripping water. She also enjoys horseback riding, archery, PC gaming, dancing, good anime, etc. She studies Japanese and practices Iaido because she believes we should never stop learning.

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