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Jessica Jefferson: Chasing the Other Tisdale

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Jessica will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

Author Insights into Chasing the Other Tisdale

by Jessica Jefferson

Writing as therapy could have been the other name for this novel.

I am a big fan of the “wallflower” concept in historical romance. What woman hasn’t had at least one moment in her life where she felt trapped behind the sidelines, feeling out of her element and easily glossed over?

I was a fairly chunky kid and during the first part of elementary school, my family moved around a lot. We eventually settled in a small town, but many of the kids I attended school with had been together since before kindergarten. It’s hard to break into that kind of environment.

As I grew older, I became more confident with my personality, but less and less confident with my looks. I modeled my heroine Lilly much after myself. Lilly is everyone’s favorite, but still a disaster when it comes to boys. I always compensated with my other short-comings by trying to be the funniest kid in class, just like Lilly.

I can’t say that I modeled my hero, Will, after one guy or another. But his encounters with Lilly are similar to those I have experienced in my past—with some artistic embellishment of course. There was a fairly popular guy at my high school, a few grade levels ahead of me, a real jock type. He made a mooing sound at me once in the hallway. Granted, it could have been in reference to any number of fat kids, but I felt as if it was only meant for me. Years later I met him again while we were both working one of those college-aged mall jobs. I was older and had slimmed out a bit, but he was the same good looking guy he always was. We ended up dating. Nothing serious, just a couple of people who liked to watch movies and occasionally make out. It was the ultimate “chunky girl made good fantasy”, and I made sure to include a similar circumstance in Chasing the Other Tisdale.

A few years later I met my husband. We started out as just friends, having a few mutual acquaintances and attending the same college. At one point we were dating other people, and I remember his girlfriend being one of those petite, buxom types that I don’t typically stand too close to for fear of comparison. He broke up with her and a few months later, I found myself single and more than a little interested in my friend. But, that’s all we were. Now, I’m fairly tall and even at my thinnest, the term “big-boned” comes to mind. Having known who he’d dated before me, I’d be lying if I didn’t feel the slightest bit self-conscious and reluctant to make the first move. One night while we were watching a movie, he looked at me with dreamy eyes and told me, “I love your personality.”

He meant it as a compliment. We had a ton in common and I knew he really enjoyed having someone he could talk to. But at that moment in time, I would have given anything for him to tell me that he wanted me as a wanton sex object and not just as a cool chic to hang out with!

And that is the moment in my life that inspired a fairly large section of dialogue in which our heroine throws a tantrum after hearing how much the hero values their friendship. I feel like offering myself and bits and pieces of my own life into my books helps give them an air of authenticity that I don’t believe would be there otherwise.

About Chasing the Other Tisdale

She’s the other sister…

Overshadowed by the beauty of her older sister, Lillian is better known as the other Tisdale; unremarkable and unsure how she will ever deliver on the promise of her family’s name.

He’s a rake in need of reforming…

Will Colton leads a frivolous existence, embracing notoriety instead of managing his family’s fortune. Determined to forget his financial burden and his father’s growing resentment, he maintains a lifestyle dedicated to pleasure and self-indulgence. When Will is invited to the Tisdale estate for an extended holiday, he never expects to become friends with the forgettable Lillian. But when a family secret comes to light, he must choose between leaving London and protecting the honor of one woman or staying and risking the reputation of another.

Upon his return, Will finds the girl he left behind has come out of the shadows and into her own. Lillian’s finally the center of attention, and not all of it good. With his own reputation in tatters, can a reformed rake lure her out of the hands of London’s bachelors and back into his own arms? Can he escape his past and reclaim her heart, or has he lost her forever?

Chasing the Other Tisdale, Compromising Miss Tisdale and Taming Miss Tisdale from Soul Mate Publishing are all available now on Amazon.

Excerpt

When Lillian Tisdale dreamt of that magical moment when she would fall in love, she never imagined that it would be so sudden, so complete, or so…

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Lilly, as she was more commonly known, sat cradled in between a large branch and the massive trunk of the hundred year old willow tree near the pond at Brightly, her family’s ancestral estate. She set her sketch book and charcoal pencil down on the branch and took a moment to appreciate the scenery before her. Brightly was noted for its lush gardens and rolling green hills, and she found it impossible to imagine any other property in England being as lovely.

This was her favorite tree, had been for years, and one of the only places she could disappear to when she felt the need for a respite from her three sisters and older brother. She relished the quiet of her hiding place, the silence disturbed only by the soft wind skimming the pond, the rustling of the leaves in the oak groves, and the occasional coo of a nesting bird.

“You naughty minx!”

Lilly startled, the unexpected sound of a man’s voice coming from out of nowhere. She steadied herself against the branch in front of her, knocking her sketchbook onto the ground in the process. She sighed, doubting the book would survive the fall intact. She’d spent the last of her pin money on that sketchbook and wouldn’t be able to afford a new one for at least a month. Her parents, for all their wealth, were sticklers when it came to their children’s allowances.

“You’re a wicked, wicked man, Mr. Colton!”

This time, the voice was distinctly female and the name she mentioned sounded familiar…

About the Author

AuthorPhoto_ChasingTheOtherTisdale copyJessica Jefferson makes her home in northern Indiana, or as she likes to think of it—almost Chicago. She is heavily inspired by classic sweeping, historical romance novels, but aims to take those key emotional elements and inject a fresh blend of quick dialogue and comedy. She invites you to visit her at jessicajefferson.com and read more of her random romance musings.

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Rebecca E. Neely: A Mighty Good Man

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Rebecca E. Neely will be awarding $10 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 chances of winning.

About A Mighty Good Man

‘Hank’ Jerry…Her personal and professional life on the skids, a family emergency forces her to return to the small town, and the aunt, she left behind.

Jack ‘Gent’ Darcy…Fresh out of prison, he’s bent on cutting ties with the Creds, but when you’re a war counselor in a national gang, they don’t let you just walk away.

Injured and on the run, Jack lands on Hank’s doorstep, and makes her a proposition she can’t refuse: write his story about life inside one of the most powerful gangs in the country. It’s simple – she’ll get her career groove back, and he’ll bury the gang, then disappear – his version of freedom.

Only problem is, they can’t help falling for each other, and they’ve both got something to hide that could blow up in their faces. With time running out and gang enforcers closing in, will the trust they’ve forged survive the ultimate test?

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Excerpt

Zip. Zilch. Null. Nada. Void. The empty set.

No text. No email. No electronic communiqué of any kind.

Cover_AMightyGoodMan copyScowling, ‘Hank’ Jerry—a woman who wore the self-made moniker the way some might armor—jammed her smartphone into the front pocket of her cargo pants and sucked a drag off her first cancer stick of the day, exhaling into the predawn behind her Aunt Henry’s restaurant. The fluorescents overhead cast a harsh glow over this particular piece of real estate in Fiddler’s Elbow, Pennsylvania—a throwback hunky mill town where dial-up was considered high tech and people still lived life one pierogie at a time.

From the shadows behind the dumpster, a man emerged and limped toward her, clutching his side, his chest heaving, clouds of his breath hanging in the April air.

“Hide me!” he gasped.

“What the hell?” Heart pounding, Hank retreated a few steps and threw her cigarette to the ground. Blood, bruises, panic—all of it oozed from this man who’d materialized like smoke. Tires squealed on pavement in the alley running the length of the restaurant and hodge-podge of neighboring buildings.

“Will you?” he ground out.

A dozen fleeting impressions swamped her brain. Muscular. Dirty. Unshaven. Murderer? Crazy? Eyes, wild and green, probing and pleading in the artificial light. In the alley, car doors slammed. Feet pounded gravel and shouts cut through the dark. Two people? More?

“Please.”

They locked eyes. No, said her gut. Not crazy. But maybe she was.

About the Author

Rebecca E. Neely was born and raised in a small town in western Pennsylvania. Her father, an English teacher and a writer, instilled in her a love of words, and literature, especially short stories, at a young age. Her mother, a voracious reader, gave her Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild as a Christmas gift when she was nine, and Rebecca’s been hooked on reading stories of all stripes ever since.

Rebecca enjoys finding, and reading new authors via her Kindle. Live music inspires her, as do the family and friends she’s blessed to have in her life.

In a former life, she earned a B.S. in Accounting, and worked in that field for about a decade. Since 2001, Rebecca has freelanced, writing a wide variety of copy for local magazines, and businesses all over the country. She is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), the Western Pennsylvania Romance Writers (WPRW), and is honored to serve as a judge for several writing contests each year.

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Katie O’Boyle: Coming Home to Love

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Katie will be awarding a signed-by-the-author print copy of Book One of the Lakeside Porches series by Katie O’Boyle, Stepping Up To Love (US ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About Coming Home to Love

With his health deteriorating and his spirit dying, Justin Cushman has come home to the Finger Lakes to assist his injured nephew Joel. Sick of accumulating wealth for its own sake, Justin knows that his life is meaningless without a loving relationship and a purpose for his billions. On a whim, he visits Joel’s spa, looking for a massage to relieve his pain. Gianessa Dupioni is a gifted masseuse who starts the boss’s irritable uncle on a journey of health and happiness. Too bad for Justin that Gianessa is devastated by personal losses and strictly focused on rebuilding her career. Justin may be a master strategist in the financial world, but can he persuade Gianessa to let love in?

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Excerpt

Cover_Coming Home to Love copy“You know,” Gianessa said, as she stroked his palm with her thumb, “I was prepared not to like you. Look how that turned out.”

He blustered. “Not like me?” He winked.

“The first time I saw you, you were badgering Grace.” She leaned forward, leading with her breasts. “That ticked me off.”

“And you wore your hair in that French braid, which ticked me off.”

She gathered her long, toffee tresses behind her shoulders. “You never said you didn’t like my braid.”

“I wanted from that first moment to get my hands in your hair. I plotted six ways to Sunday to get rid of the braid.

“My braid is perfect for work. It feels elegant and simple, and it makes me feel put together and focused.”

He caressed her cheek and jaw and neck with eager fingers. “But you’re elegant and complex, and I prefer you undone.”

About the Author

Author Pic_Katie O'Boyle copyBorn in the upstate-New York village known as the Birthplace of Women’s Rights, Katie O’Boyle loves the Finger Lakes in every season. She enjoys lunch with friends at charming inns, and she cherishes the lakeside porch as a place for intimate sharing, laughter, and inspiration. To the outside world, she is a tech-savvy college professor. In her soul, she is a passionate author of warm-hearted romance. She is hard at work on book four of the Lakeside Porches romance books and novellas.

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Taming Miss Tisdale: Jessica Jefferson

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Jessica is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

Susana: What inspired you to start writing?

Jessica: I always wanted to write professionally. I started college thinking that’s what I was going to be doing, but then life happened. After that, it really was a question of when I was willing to finally take the plunge. A couple years ago I was reading a book and thought – why not now?

Susana: How long have you been writing?

Jessica: Since I was little. But it wasn’t till I was an adult that I decided – why not romance?  I love reading it, why would I write anything else?

Susana: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

MEDIA KIT Jessica Jefferson Author Pic copyJessica: Find an honest critique partner. You have your mother to tell you what you want to hear, you need someone to tell you what you need to hear.

Susana: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Jessica: I do. It’s unfortunate and usually has the most inconvenient timing. I listen to music, watch movies. Sometimes that helps me find inspiration.

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

Jessica: Chicken or egg? Each book has been different for me. The first book was plot, the second book was characters. I prefer going the route of plot first, though.

Susana: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Jessica: I plot with post-its, the entire book – chapter by chapter.  And then I start writing and it all goes awry!

Susana: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Jessica: The hero has a seizure disorder. I wanted to create a hero that wasn’t the perfect alpha male so took a chance.

Susana: Are you working on something at present that you would like to tell us about?

Jessica: I’m working on book three in the Tisdale series. It’s the story of Lilly, the ugly duckling who falls in love with an unattainable man.

Susana: What are you reading now?

Jessica: I just finished Lisa Kleypas’ Smooth Talking Stranger. What a good book!  I’m really thinking of starting Outlander, but I’m afraid of the commitment. There’s a lot of books in that series and once I start, I can’t stop.

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

Jessica: Kathleen Woodiwiss – she’s the queen of historical romance and it’s impossible to not be inspired by her sagas.

Susana: What is your work schedule like when writing?

Jessica: I try to write when I can. I have some days set aside where that’s my only responsibility. It’s hard to fit it all in though – kids, family time, social media, edits, reading, and then writing.

Susana: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Jessica: I wanted to be a writer. Or a secretary. I would set up my desk and pretend to type, send out memos, and file papers.

Susana: What is your favorite food? Least favorite? Why?

Jessica: I love all food, so it’s hard to narrow that down. My least favorite is sushi – I’ve just never developed the taste. I think it may be a textural thing.

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

Jessica: I have Mr. Darcy tattooed on my foot. I thought – what man has always been a presence in my life, and will never leave me? He was the only logical answer.

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

Jessica: Judith McNaught. She did contemporary and historical, and did them so well.

About Taming Miss Tisdale

Miss Tamsin Tisdale believes herself to be completely unsuitable for London life. After a myriad of social mishaps, and the potential ruination of her family name, she’s shipped away to her cousin’s northern estate. Only after she comes to her senses will she be welcomed home.

Marcus Winston, the Duke of Grayson, has a lackluster reputation. The last in a dying line, he’s endured a protected life—rank with privilege, encumbered by isolation. After a brief encounter with rebellion, he learns the devastating consequences of his carelessness and willingly accepts living life from inside his gilded cage.

However, a chance meeting with the brazen Miss Tisdale gives Marc the opportunity to reinvent himself into the man he’s always dreamed of being. When his deception comes to light, and ghosts from both their pasts threaten to unravel the intimacy they’ve come to cherish, will either of them set their fears aside long enough to embrace love? Or will Miss Tisdale’s stubbornness divide them?

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Excerpt

Marc watched the faint outline come across the dense morning fog, becoming more discernible as it approached. The tall, thin figure was riding along at a perilous speed, given the morning’s lack of visibility. He thought perhaps it was some gangly young man misguided in the fog. It wouldn’t be the first time someone accidentally stumbled upon the vast property that made up his family’s immodest estate.

MEDIA KIT TamingMissTisdale2_850 (1) copyThen the fog parted in an almost biblical manner, revealing his gross inaccuracy.

Were those … breasts?

Marc closed his eyes and thought for a moment. Typically, women didn’t ride alone at such an hour and they certainly didn’t wander unexpectedly across his property. It’d been quite a while, his last birthday to be exact, since his last intimate encounter with a woman—a gift, compliments of St. Regis—so there was always the possibility that perhaps his half-drunk, sex-starved mind had conjured up the sensual image.

He shook his head, opened his eyes, and looked back again toward the horizon.

Yes, those were most certainly breasts.

And she was most definitely not a young man. The woman’s riding habit pulled taut against her body as she raced toward him. Her hair was blowing behind her—various hues of auburn and gold, like wild flames curling about in the wind. Then a decidedly feminine voice burst through the morning’s silence, interrupting his self-doubt.

“Oh, thank goodness I found you!”

This was no mirage. She was indeed very real.

And very loud.

About the Author

Jessica Jefferson makes her home in northern Indiana, or as she likes to think of it—almost Chicago.  She is heavily inspired by classic sweeping, historical romance novels, but aims to take those key emotional elements and inject a fresh blend of quick dialogue and comedy.  She invites you to visit her at jessicajefferson.com and www.embracingromance.com and read more of her random romance musings.

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Emelle Gamble and “Dating Cary Grant”

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Emelle will be awarding a $50 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during this tour and the Reviews Tour. A digital copy of Dating Cary Grant will be awarded to 5 randomly drawn commenters also during this tour and the Reviews Tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

Cary Grant interviews Tracy Connor

The heroine in Dating Cary Grant is a thirty-something career gal who is experiencing a rough patch in her marriage, and like any one who is in her position, she’s trying to figure out what to do about it, and who needs to do it. Is it her inflexibility and unrealistic expectation that is the biggest stressor causing her problems with Mike Connor, the man she married five years ago and the man she still truly loves, or is it Mayor Connor’s poor priorities where he puts work, work, and work in the top three spots of what he spends his time on?

Let have “Mr. Perfect”, screen legend Cary Grant, ask Tracy a few questions…

CG: Tracy, dear girl, what is it you most want your Mayor to change about his routine?

TC: I want him to lead a more balanced, more scheduled life. I don’t want him available to his constituents at all hours of the day and night, and all weekend.

CG: Sounds like you want a 9 to 5 banker type?

TC: Well, yes. I mean, I understand how much Mike loves working for the citizens of Cukor, Connecticut. But he doesn’t ever say no! Except to me.

CG: Ahh, I see. So this isn’t so much about his having a demanding schedule, as it is about cutting into your schedule with him.

TC: Exactly. When we have a date to go into the city, or I’m cooking dinner, or we make plans for a long weekend away, I want him to say “No” to anything that might come up that would cause him to cancel. He missed my birthday dinner because he said he had to deal with an attack of black flies in the city park! Black flies. Is it  too much to ask that I mean more to my husband than an insect infestation, Mr. Grant?

CG: No. Of course not, Tracy dear. And I’m sure you show this same consideration to Mike than you wish he would show to you, don’t you? I mean, you don’t ever stay in Manhattan when you have a late meeting, or break a date to come to one of his public events, or go see his family, just because you boss might want you to, do you?

TC: Well, eh, Mr. Grant, that’s a bit complicated. You see things at work have been insane lately, and I’ve had to stay with my friend, Posey, sometimes for a few days at a time. But that’s different than  Mike standing me up because of an attack of black flies in Cukor. Isn’t it?

DC: Is it, Tracy dear?

Readers, what do you think? In your experience, can  a relationship really be a 50/50 equal partnership at all times? Leave a comment below and give Tracy Connor your advice.

About Dating Cary Grant

A modern Manhattan fairy tale starring…

Cover_DatingCaryGrantTracy Connor, a New York City career woman who loves her job and classic movies.

Mike Connor, her estranged husband, a small town Mayor who loves his wife but doesn’t seem to have enough time to see her.

The handsome stranger, Philip Adams, who lives downstairs from the small sublet Tracy has temporarily moved into. He’s charming, funny and looks a lot like her very favorite screen icon, Cary Grant.

Dating Cary Grant is a romance all about New York City career woman Tracy Connor struggling with real issues with her real guy, her husband of six years, Mayor Mike Connor of Cukor, Connecticut. Tracy is a smart woman, but some of her problems with relationships are partially caused by her unrealistic expectations that real guys should – and can – behave like matinee idols. Mike’s problems are also caused by the fact that he’s such a great guy and overextends his heart, and his appointment calendar, to every constituent, friend or stray animal who crosses his path.

Tracy is also being stressed by a TV reality show intent on showcasing Tracy and Mike’s personal life, as well as the imminent takeover of her employer, a small, private television station, by a billionaire with unlimited funds and no taste.

Dating Cary Grant considers just how selfless a man needs to be to meet his wife’s expectations, and just how honest a woman must be with herself about what she’s willing to give, and give-up. And Cary Grant is along to help prove that any woman’s search for “Mr. Perfect” might take her to a surprising place to find him.

Secret SisterOnce and ForeverDuetsMolly Harper

Excerpt

Her husband rested his big hands on the door. “Look, can I just come in for a few minutes?”

Tracy stared at him and realized Mike was nervous.

Nervous.

She had never, ever, seen her husband nervous, in any situation, in all the time she’d known him. He was an experienced attorney as well as a public official, a man naturally at ease with people, all people, even people pissed off because their property tax bill went up or angry because the jury ruled against them. People didn’t make Mike Conner nervous.

He listened, shook hands, and proceeded to logically explain how he was going to fix everything, no problem.

He had never even seemed stressed when they met with the marriage counselor, she thought. But at this minute, Mike Connor was nervous.

She lowered her voice. “It’s the middle of the night, Mike. Please.”

“I know what time it is.” His eyes studied her face, and then swept down her body with the force of a physical touch. “And I know you’ve got a headache, but let me say you look great. Really great. And you smell wonderful. Is that new perfume?”

“No. It’s the same perfume I always wear.” She watched as Mike’s eyes dropped to her cleavage and her face burned over the fact she had chosen this sweater with another man in mind.

Suddenly she visualized that other man, showing up with a bottle of aspirin. Though she hadn’t done anything wrong, nothing positive would come from Mayor Connor meeting Philip Adams outside her apartment door, of that she was sure.

“Mike, you really need to go.” She stepped across the doorway as if to encourage him to head for the stairs.

“Am I interrupting something?” He pointedly looked over her shoulder.

“No. Of course not. Not that it’s any of your business.”

“How’s that? We’re still married, aren’t we?”

“Yes, we are. But after everything we’ve been through the last couple of years, I’m a little surprised you’d insinuate something like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like I’d cheat on you.”

Mike’s face paled.   “I wasn’t insinuating that. Look, just a few minutes, okay? I smell coffee. And I could sure use a cup.”

Tracy sent another glance down the stairs. “There’s a 24-hour deli a block over. You can stop and get some on the way back to your car. I’m not trying to be difficult, but I just need some sleep. I’ve got to go into work all day tomorrow, and Sunday I promised to meet Posey early in SoHo, so whatever you’ve got to say –”

“–I’ll buy you pancakes. You love pancakes. Even in the middle of the night, right?” He reached out and gave her arm a squeeze.

Her heart softened but her tone remained unchanged. “I’m not hungry, Mike. I’ll call tomorrow and we’ll set up a time where we can talk more. Please, just don’t push me.”

About the Author

EmelleGambleEmelle Gamble was a writer at an early age, bursting with the requisite childhood stories of introspection. These evolved into bad teen poetry and worse short stories. She took her first stab at full length fiction in an adult education writing class when her kids were in bed twenty years ago. As M.L. Gamble, she published several romantic suspense novels with Harlequin.  Soul Mate Publishing  brought out Secret Sister,  a paranormal women’s romantic fiction novel in the summer of 2013. This was followed by the novella, Duets, in November, 2013, and the follow on novel starring the characters from Duets, Molly Harper, in January, 2014.

Always intrigued by the words ‘what if’, Emelle’s books feature an ordinary woman confronted with an extraordinary situation.  She most enjoys reading stories that surprise and amaze her, and hopes her readers will enjoy the challenging and exciting journeys her characters take.

Emelle lives in suburban Washington D.C.  with her husband, Phil, her hero of thirty years,  and two orange cats, Lucy and Bella. These girls, like all good villains, have their reasons for misbehaving. Her daughter, Olivia, and son, Allen, are happily launched on their own and contributing great things to society, their mother’s fondest wish.

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Victoria Pinder and “The Zoastra Affair”

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Victoria will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

Setting the Scene: A Letter From a Character

by Victoria Pinder

Dear Diary,

It’s been a while since I wrote in a book. My life has changed. Now that I’m back in the pink haired girl’s body, I’m safe again. I had to steal Grace’s body. But it was a shameful act. People can’t wrap their minds on any goal that might make it okay to borrow someone else’s life. And everyone loves Grace. I can’t say I blame them. If I had another choice, I’d have made different plans. And Grace is a nice person. Her husband loves her. But no hu-man on the ship would understand or care. My life was stolen too. Long ago, by some child named Lenchena. I had two childhoods. The one I was born into and then the second one when my life was stolen. The Sheratons are backwards. The planet is beautiful and tame and inviting for visitors. But what lies underneath that is an alien race where men and women are segregated. They wouldn’t allow me to be an an engineer based on my gender. But I was one of the brightest minds in the known galaxy in terms of engineering. I remember everything about my life, before.

The hu-mans have every right to lock me up and throw away the key. Heck, I’d not trust me if the situation was reversed. But why do they keep the ship so cold? Or is it just my cell? If they take me back to Sheraton, I’d rather die. This body might belong there, but my soul doesn’t. I can’t go back and lose any hope of fixing what happened. I want my life back too.

I’m so sorry about everything. I don’t know what else to do.

Ariel Transcender

About The Zoastra Affair

A hundred years from now, Earth has trading partners with alien beings, mostly humanoid. However, going into space brought forth an unknown enemy who attacks Earth at will.

The Zoastra is part of the Earthseekers, an organization originally designed to go into space. Its new mission is to find Earth’s enemies.

Ariel is stuck on a Victorian planet and steals Grace’s body and life to get off the planet. Grace must get her body back before Ariel bonds with Grace’s husband, Peter. Then there is Cross, the man on a mission to find those who killed his family. Ariel is attracted to Cross, but she’s stolen someone’s life.

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Excerpt

Twenty Second Century

Sheraton Home World

I’m going to have to steal someone else’s body to get out of here.

“Ariel, are you listening?”

Ariel Transcender stared dumbfounded at the mother superior of her prison, a/k/a Aulnale School for Orphans. “Yes, mistress.”

She had no idea what happened, though she pasted a fake simpering smile of appreciation on her face. Ms. Rochelle walked away.

A few minutes later, Ariel looked out the window again, tuning out Rochelle’s mind numbing lecture on what was proper behavior when near a man. The boarding home on this planet gave the stupidest lectures of the galaxy. Her lips curled into a sneer. Women were not excited to be bound to men.

Could I do this to someone else? Do I have any other choice?

MEDIA KIT TheZostraAffair500x700Lenchena, the teenage girl who’d stolen her adult body and taken off on Ariel’s ship, needed to be found. And Ariel refused to listen to the daily drivel about always listening to a man

No longer on her planet, Grinocx, she did her best to understand this planet’s culture. Order made sense, but the Sheratons never made sense. Her gaze wandered to the well-manicured lawn designed for ostentatious parties. Not paying attention, Ariel’s mind still picked up a few phrases in the lecture, please a man, be agreeable, and do whatever is asked with a smile, floated in the air.

Lenchena’s voice became animated as she told them, “Ferula can be used on your future husband to ensure he finds completion even if you are too tired to perform your duties. However, with your husband, do this sparingly or else he’ll find you a lazy wife.”

Ariel blinked after that statement. Another grueling lecture on pointless marriage and sex. Blah, blah, blah. Her people, Grinders, didn’t believe in love and mating only to reproduce. Being stuck on Sheraton where the women dressed in long dresses, caring for homes with neatly cut green grass, and doing nothing more exciting than watching the pink dawns, while the men held careers in outer space, had never been her plan.

Was she really sitting in a lecture on how to please the male species? She rolled her eyes. Seriously? No, she refused to listen to this nonsense. The words ‘ladies never say no’ reverberated behind her back and made her face pucker.

Ariel schooled her features, pretending to listen to the school master, Ms. Rochelle. The woman had no heart. No one had listened to Ariel when she had cried for days and days that some young teenager had switched bodies with her, trapping her in this alien hell. Rochelle had dragged her back to school, and kept her under lock and key.

Hope became fleeting after that, while the years ticked past. For the past four years, she’d been training at the all-girls school for orphans on how to be a proper maid and housewife

The twenty-five years of her life training to be an engineer, then serving on the starship Tygra, then the sistership Thrycer, had been stolen.

Now that this body was almost of marriageable age, Ms. Rochelle, cursed school teacher, paraded Ariel out of the orphanage to find her a match. Every week or special event needing service, Ariel had on the job training with heavy supervision, pointing out Ariel’s light pink hair and ability to be a serviceable wife to a working man. Pink hair girls are sweethearts. Yeah right. That lowlife bottom-feeding insect, Lenchena, had stolen her body and her life.

Ariel had stopped complaining years ago because it got her nowhere. She was on her own and needed to find a way out of this body and back to her ship. With the almost age of marriage upon her, it was now or never. Then Ariel was going to find that little twit who stole her body and make her pay for stranding her on this backward planet.

“In a few weeks Ariel will be leaving us. Heading toward marriage with Massimo?” Ms. Rochelle’s voice pulled her back into the lecture.

“Err . . .” Massimo, with his hovercraft, became convenient transportation to leave the school with permission, but marriage? The boy dreamed of owning a restaurant with a pretty wife. She’d find a way off the planet, when she wasn’t being observed or offered for marriage to every low level non-space going man on this planet. Time ticked fast now.

“Ariel is lucky to have found a man so interested in her beauty, he can overlook her status.”

Ariel’s mouth tightened and she lowered her head to hide her scowl. No. Massimo was a child, too. Getting her body back from the child thief, Lenchena, mattered far more. This body was now strong. Away from the ever-watchful teacher, she’d have her chance for escape at one of the upcoming diplomatic events where she’d be a maid or serve others dinner. Plus, Sheratons mated for life, something Ariel refused to believe in. But in order not to draw attention to herself, she played along. “Um, yes. I am.”

A group of male soldiers marched past the closed door of the school room. The females in the class twisted around to catch a glimpse of them. Ariel didn’t join her classmates in staring and drooling at the opposite sex.

Pathetic.

Why did these aliens keep males and females separate until marriage? The customs of this world never ceased to amaze her. The teacher taught the virgin teenagers to expect women to fall into orgasm whenever a man’s hand grazed her body. Seriously? Had they never had sex before? In her memory, sex hadn’t been that all-encompassing.

For the past four years she’d been stuck in this body, living through alien teenage hormones. The sexually denied tightness irritated her body, and her mind longed to be back working on a single engine design. On the Thrycer, she’d run a top design engine room, winning numerous awards for ingenuity on a space ship. Then she’d joined the boarding party to Sheraton, being told the planet was a relaxing and safe tranquil spa. Lies.

If Ariel let them, these alien hormones would dull her reaction time in the girl’s leftover body that held her consciousness. She’d managed to keep slim and fit with exercise as she bided her time until she found a way to her freedom, and got her body and life back. When she finished this, she’d fix everything. She’d force the girl who stole from her to return with the borrowed body to make the final switch and right everything.

About the Author

MEDIA KIT Author PhotoVictoria Pinder grew up in Irish Catholic Boston before moving to the Miami sun. She’s worked in engineering, after passing many tests proving how easy Math came to her. Then hating her life at the age of twenty four, she decided to go to law school. Four years later, after passing the bar and practicing very little, she realized that she hates the practice of law. She refused to one day turn 50 and realize she had nothing but her career and hours at a desk. After realizing she needed change, she became a high school teacher. Teaching is rewarding, but writing is a passion.

During all this time, she always wrote stories to entertain herself or calm down. Her parents are practical minded people demanding a job, and Victoria spent too many years living other people’s dreams, but when she sat down to see what skill she had that matched what she enjoyed doing, writing became so obvious. The middle school year book when someone wrote in it that one day she’d be a writer made sense when she turned thirty.

When she woke up to what she wanted, the dream of writing became so obvious. She dreams of writing professionally, where her barista can make her coffee and a walk on the beach, can motivate her tales. Contemporary romances are just fun to write. She’s always thinking whose getting hurt and whose story is next on the list to fall in love. Victoria’s love of writing has kept her centered and focused through her many phases, and she’s motivated to write many stories.

Member of Florida Romance Writers, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of RWA, and in Savvy Authors.

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Lilas Taha and “Shadows of Damascus”

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About Shadows of Damascus

Bullet wounds, torture and oppression aren’t the only things that keep a man—or a woman—from being whole.

Debt. Honor. Pain. Solitude. These are things wounded war veteran Adam Wegener knows all about. Love—now, that he is not good at. Not when love equals a closed fist, burns, and suicide attempts. But Adam is one who keeps his word. He owes the man who saved his life in Iraq. And he doesn’t question the measure of the debt, even when it is in the form of an emotionally distant, beautiful woman.

Yasmeen agreed to become the wife of an American veteran so she could flee persecution in war-torn Syria. She counted on being in the United States for a short stay until she could return home. There was one thing she did not count on: wanting more.

Is it too late for Adam and Yasmeen?

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Excerpt

ADAM

Baghdad, Iraq

Summer 2006

M4 Carbine rifle ready, Sergeant Adam Wegener scanned the street, skimming from window to rooftop. Nerves on edge, his neck and shoulder muscles strained to keep him focused. His heart thumped against his ribs.

Patrol leader Lieutenant Clifton moved his troop with caution through the street, Adam’s fire team at the rear. They’d done street sweeps many times before, but this one was different. Something was not right. Apprehension took hold of his insides and squeezed tight with every step.

MEDIA KIT Shadows_of_Damascus_copy_2Adam turned and walked backwards a few steps, establishing eye contact with Corporal Scottsdale. He nodded at the big guy’s expressionless face, assurance at having Big Scott cover his back. He checked on the other two members of his team trailing his left, Corporals Andrews and Bradley, and faced forward again.

The neighborhood seemed unnaturally quiet. No children walked to school, no laundry hung outside windows on this breezeless day, not even alley cats explored the overflowing garbage containers.

From a corner of his eye, he caught a movement in one of the windows. Wood shutters slammed closed against the windowpane.

A loud boom burst the air. Adam hit the dirt, his head pounding the pavement. The world went silent. He spat blood mixed with something solid. Parts of his body armor and uniform had been ripped off, along with patches of skin. He rose to his knees, his hands searching for his rifle. Finding it, he clasped the rifle in his arms and crawled. He moved as if swimming in a viscous liquid, not knowing which direction to take. He saw only clouds of smoke.

He screamed the names of the soldiers in his team, not sure if his voice even worked. He couldn’t hear a damn thing. His elbow landed on something hard, a boot. He moved his fingers up the leather, across the twill fabric of the pants, until his hands sank in soft flesh and wetness. The man mumbled something, his voice muffled and distant.

“Big Scott, that you?” Adam shouted.

A shower of bullets rang by his side. Helmet gone, he ducked and covered his head. His ears popped from the pressure, jump-starting his hearing.

“Take cover.” Big Scott’s voice penetrated the sounds of warfare.

He scrambled to his feet, hoisted Big Scott on his shoulder, and dashed to the nearest house. He kicked the door and threw himself and Big Scott inside. Propping the injured soldier’s back to one wall, away from the windows, he snatched the M9 Beretta pistol from the holster mounted on his chest rig and forced it into Big Scott’s hands.

“Cover the door.”

Rifle raised and ready, he moved from room to room to secure the small house. He entered the kitchen, coming face-to-face with an old woman. Sitting motionless on a wooden chair, hands clasped on the Formica table in front of her, she stared down Adam’s raised barrel.

Keeping an eye on the wrinkled, tanned face, he scanned the kitchen. No place for anyone to hide, not even a closet door to check behind.

“Anyone else in the house?”

She held her stare, unflinching.

Adam tried to recall Arabic words he heard Fadi, the interpreter assigned to his patrol unit, say in situations like these. But he couldn’t recall a single one.

“Where’s your husband?”

The woman blinked. She craned her neck to one side, looking past him toward the front of the house. The white scarf covering her hair slipped down to her shoulders, revealing gray strands pulled back in a tight bun. She lifted the scarf and refastened it under her chin.

His hand shook. He aimed a loaded weapon at a woman the same age as his mother. Hell, she even resembled her.

“Rajul? Rajul?” Was that the right word for man? Why was she so calm?

The only point of entry was the door he came through. He heard heavy movement outside. The sounds of shouting men grew closer. The old mother could yell to alert the insurgents any second. He snatched a towel hanging on a hook to his left, and held his index finger to his lips, motioning for the woman to go with him to the front room.

She followed without uttering a sound.

Adam pointed his weapon for her to sit on the cement floor. He tore the towel into strips and kneeled in front of her.

Big Scott moaned. He slumped to one side, pistol aimed at the door.

“I got you, man. Have to secure the old mother first.” He used a towel strip for her hands and tied another around her mouth.

He turned to Big Scott, got his first aid kit out of a side pocket on his torn pants, and dug for supplies. He applied bandages to Big Scott’s bleeding midsection. Keeping pressure on the wound with one hand, he pulled the radio from his pack and reported to his platoon sergeant they were trapped inside one of the houses.

“Damn it, which one?” Lieutenant Clifton’s voice crackled.

“Don’t know. Scottsdale’s injured. It’s bad.”

“Andrews, Bradley?” The lieutenant screamed back.

“God damn IED was right under them. Can’t confirm.”

“Second platoon’s six blocks away. They’re en route and—”

A loud explosion silenced the radio. Cursing, he flung the radio across the room.

“Hang in there, big man. QRF’s on the way.” There was no way the Quick Reaction Force could come to their rescue if they didn’t know where they were.

“How long?” Big Scott’s voice came out calm, surprising him.

“Ten minutes.” He fumbled with more bandages. Could second platoon make six blocks in ten minutes? It was possible. “Stay with me. Think about that sweet girl you got back home. Sandy, right?”

He slumped beside Big Scott. Sticky stuff on his back squished. He closed his eyes, hoping to God the sensation resulted from an injury he hadn’t yet felt, rather than the blood and flesh of his missing team members splattered all over him. He needed to find a way to signal their location.

Big Scott clamped a charred hand on top of his. “Won’t make it.”

“The hell you won’t. Sandy’s waiting for you.” He pulled himself to his feet and approached the door. “You’d better not disappoint her.” If he opened the door and his patrol didn’t spot him, the insurgents would be alerted to their position, and that would be the fucking end. If he didn’t do anything, Big Scott would bleed out. He looked back at the corporal. His friend didn’t have much time. There was only one thing to do.

“We have to get out of here.”

He propped Big Scott on his shoulder and opened the door. Clouds of smoke blocked his view. Using the cover of smoke, he edged his way along the side of the house, unable to see a yard past his face. His foot stumbled over a chunk of cement, and he collapsed against the house, slumping down on the dirty street, overcome by how absurd this mission was.

A clomp of boots on the gritty pavement caught his attention. They were trapped. They could not fade into the concrete, not a car nor a bush to hide behind, and he didn’t have time to retrace his way back to the door. He aimed his rifle in the direction of the approaching boots and counted the steps. One man, probably a scout. Shots would draw others.

He slung the rifle across his chest and let it hang. Clamping a hand on Big Scott’s mouth, he stifled the soldier’s agonized moan. Adam stretched to full height, flattened his back against the wall, and pulled his knife.

Heavy fire erupted around them. Bullets shattered the wall to Adam’s left. He hit the dirt again. Big Scott’s limp body fell on top of him, pinning him down. Knife gone, he tried to push Big Scott off. Pain shot through his body like electricity. He doubled over and collapsed once more, trapping his rifle under him.

Leather boots slammed right next to his face. He wrapped his hand around the ankle and tried to topple the guy down.

“Don’t fight me, Adam. I’m here to helb you.”

“Fadi? That you Fadi?”

“Shut ub before zey hear us.”

Fadi took hold of Big Scott’s shoulders and pulled him into the house. He returned to Adam and dragged him until they were inside. He checked their injuries.

Multiple holes on Adam’s left side bled. Big Scott lay flat on his back, praying aloud.

“Clifton knows where you are now.” Fadi applied bandages to Adam’s leg.

He sucked in a sharp breath and tried to stay alert, his eyelids too heavy to keep open.

Fadi shook his uninjured shoulder. “Do what you always do to stay awake.”

Adam opened his eyes. “What?”

“Count, man. Count za bains. Double za number if zey were very bainful, half if zey were minor,” Fadi urged in his particular accent.

Adam’s mind kicked into counting mode. Shit, was he crazy?

“How’d you know where we were?”

“I heard za insurgents shouting to each ozer.” Fadi moved fast to administer the articles in his first-aid kit to Adam’s other wounds.

Crunching numbers didn’t do much to alleviate his pain, but the process helped him filter through Fadi’s heavy accent.

“At first I didn’t understand the words they were using for directions,” Fadi explained. “Arabic has two words to indicate left. One can mean north, depending on the dialect. I had to get closer to figure it out, and that’s when I saw you. Clifton was very mad. Didn’t want me to leave the team, but hey, I’m a contract interpreter, not one of his soldiers.”

The woman moaned from her corner. Fadi shot his head up and approached her.

“Who did this?”

“Needed to make sure she didn’t scream.” Adam tried to lift himself on his elbows. He groaned, the full force of deep searing pain setting in.

Fadi untied the woman’s mouth, released her hands, and spoke to her, his tone low and gentle

“She’s an old woman, Adam. She’s trapped here just like we are. This is her home. No one and nothing is going to drive her out of it. You didn’t need to tie her up.”

“Not taking any chances.”

Scott’s praying voice disturbed rather than comforted Adam. He concentrated on breathing. Why couldn’t he just pass out and be spared this agony?

The woman placed her hands in her lap, flipped her palms upward and muttered something.

“What’s her problem?

“She’s praying,” Fadi said.

“I didn’t hurt her. See what else you can do for Big Scott before I lose it.” Adam found it hard to formulate his words.

Fadi kneeled in front of Big Scott, tore a bag with his teeth, and spread its contents over his gaping wound.

Adam’s eyes darted between the old mother and Big Scott. Never hesitant Scott. Never questioning and never smiling either. Were they praying to the same God? Would He listen?

“Tell her I’m sorry I tied her up, will you?”

“Itlaa barrah balady,” the woman responded to Fadi.

“What the hell did she say?”

“She wants us to leave.”

“We wouldn’t be here if her people hadn’t planted that Goddamn IED. Tell her that.” Adam spat blood.

“She meant leave her country.”

Darkness closed in on Adam, the bliss of unconsciousness threatening to take over. He closed his eyes.

“I’m okay with that . . .”

About the Author

MEDIA KIT Lilas_TahaLilas Taha is a writer at heart, an electrical engineer by training, and an advocate for domestic abuse victims by choice. She was born in Kuwait to a Syrian mother and a Palestinian father, and immigrated to the U.S. as a result of the Gulf war in 1990. She earned a master’s degree in Human Factors Engineering from the University of Wisconsin- Madison. There, Lilas met her beloved husband and true friend, and moved with him to Sugar Land, Texas to establish a family. She is the proud mother of a daughter and a son. Instead of working in an industrial field, she applied herself to the field of social safety, working with victims of domestic violence.

Pursuing her true passion for creative writing, Lilas brings her professional interests, and her Middle Eastern background together in her debut fictional novel, Shadows of Damascus. 

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