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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat by Sara Humphreys

I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. I love dressing up in costume (last year I was a flapper) and getting my boys geared up for whatever creature strikes their fancy is a blast. However, the temptation to eat the endless stream of candy is pure torture. Every year I tell myself that I won't eat my weight in Kit Kat bars but that's a lie.

A big fat chocolate covered lie.

 Eating five "fun size" candies is fun in the moment but later...it doesn't feel very fun. Y'know how it feels?

Fat. It feels fat.

Every year I leave the bowl of candy out on my stoop while I'm trick or treating with the boys, and  you can bank on the fact that it will be all gone when we get back. I don't mind that the candy is all gone, in fact I welcome it, but I'm convinced that one greedy little bugger comes by and dumps the entire bowl into his/her bag. One year I want to set up a camera and see if it is some 16 year old jerk wearing a lame mask with his regular clothes. You know it is.

When they were little, I made their costumes and I had so much fun doing it! My mom always made our Halloween costumes and they seemed so much cooler to me than the store bought kind. Although, that was back when the costumes from the store came in a box with a cruddy plastic mask. I will admit that today's store bought stuff is much better...but I still prefer homemade. The picture below is from Halloween 2003. That was the year that my oldest (the ninja) said to me, "Mom. Please don't cry but I don't want you to make my costume this year."

Needless to say...he got the store bought ninja. However, Leo wore the Macaw parrot costume I'd made a few years before but to add his own twist he carried a pitchfork and told everyone he was a Devil Parrot---if you knew Leo you'd know how perfect that choice was. The twins had coordinating dragon costumes and I went as a weary Mama pirate.

Watching my boys wear the costumes I made/helped put together/bought (depends on the year) is priceless and will never get old. Well, it won't get old for me but I'm pretty sure it's already getting old for my teenagers. However,  my twins are still into it.

Jack created a death dealer of some sort and he's feeling rather pleased with what he's put together. He loves Halloween and has expressed, on more than one occasion, that it's his favorite holiday. Good. I'll have at least one partner in crime as the years go by.

William is going as the "Life of the Party" which includes the lampshade hat as seen in the picture above. Tonight we'll be adding empty bottles and he'll be wearing a disheveled shirt and tie. I did tell him that this costume is an example of what NOT to do when he's a grown up.

On a side note, I do have a treat to share with my readers.

UNLEASHED (Book #1 Amoveo Legend) is currently on sale for only $2.99! It's a great opportunity to start the series and catch up before UNCLAIMED comes out in a few weeks.

Off to fight the candy fight. I hope you and your family have a fun and safe Halloween!

Dream on....

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Confessions of a Newly Hatched Pinhead (and an ode to Warren Zevon)

Confession time. I do hereby solemnly declare that I, the Countess of Cocodrie, have become a Pinhead.

Yes, Pinterest has claimed another victim.

I pooh-poohed it until recently, when I developed an interest in journaling and started looking for ideas. So I started an art journal board and pinned stuff to it (only stuff I could legally pin, of course). Then I started a digital scrapbooking board. Then a digital art board. Then a scrapbooking layout idea board....

Wait...wait. I'm an author! I deal with words. What's up with all the pictures already? I had wanted to go into graphic design until I hit senior high school and decided I wanted something that paid better (and OMG but was I stupid if I thought writing was going to get me there, wherever "there" is).

And how could I combine the two loves? Which translates as, "How can I justify goofing off instead of working on my book?"

I began to do some Pinterest cruising to see what kind of fun things some of my own favorite authors were doing. Okay, so JR Ward doesn't seem to do Pinterest; I'm sure she's very busy writing. But there sure are a lot of Black Dagger Brotherhood fans putting up art that they might or might not have the rights to (this is a concern). Ditto with Cat and Bones; the Jeaniene Frost fans are busy little bees.

Where are the authors? What are they doing? Turns out, I couldn't find an easy way to discover authors on Pinterest--they're (we're...I'm...) lost in a sea of pins and quite undiscoverable without a link.

Maybe that's as it should be. It keeps everything fun and out of the "marketing-buy my book-love me-love me-love me" thing we authors fall prey to. (But I'll keep looking.)

In the meantime, I decided to create Pinterest boards for each of my novels. Which is pretty ambitious, given the current state of my book deadlines. So I only have two up right now, but what fun! For Royal Street, I have pictures of page proofs and houses on which my characters' homes were based and eventually I'll add recipes and restaurant menus and all kinds of fun stuff. For Absolution, I have photos taken in the area where my modified town of Penton, Alabama, is located, the way I thought my character Mirren's tattoos would look, and even an embedded YouTube video of the song that inspired Mirren's character (the late great Warren Zevon's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner").

I mean, if JR Ward posted Zsadist's recipe for lasagna, I'd repin it. I might even cook it.

So what about you? Have you discovered Pinterest? What kinds of things do you pin? Are you, too, a Pinhead?

And in the spirit of mixed media and not having everything be about the words, leave a comment for a CD or iTunes download of Warren Zevon's "Exciteable Boy," which contains "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" as well as other classics like "Werewolves of London." Winner to be announced as an addition to this post on Sunday, November 3.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Another milestone has been reached in my home. Kid has passed The Driving Test.

Let me say that said Kid is, of course, thrilled. Said Child has also promised me there will be only one other kid (if any) in the car, there will be no texting and driving, there will be NO drinking and driving, AND this Kid will gladly split gas with me since I’m the “lucky” (?) person who gets to share the car with this Kid.

Anyone want to start the betting pool how long this Nirvana is going to last?

I have a few Kids. One is heading out of the teens (praise Jesus!). I actually “get” why, decades ago, people married their kids off at a younger age. Stick two teenagers in the same house, make them earn a living, have the hormones go wild and, oh yeah, let the two of THEM deal with each other’s teenage-ness.

I love my Kids. I do. They’re good human beings; they’re intelligent, funny, well liked, and kind. I’d like to think I had something to do with that, but if I take the credit for that, then I have to take some responsibility for that “teenager-ness,” don’t I? And I really don’t want to take responsibility for that.

Of course, I did sass my mom. I was a good kid, excellent student, involved in a bunch of activities, didn’t drink or anything else that would give my mom a heart attack and make my father lock me in my room until I was thirty (you know, old…), but I had my idea of how I wanted to live my life and of course my parents didn’t know anything… Yes, Mom and I clashed. Dad and I… well, let’s just say that his nickname for me was “Princess.” 'Nuff said. (Hence my tiara collection…)

But yeah, Mom and I butted heads. It doesn’t help that I got my Italian from her. Passionate, loud, and emotional. For as ferociously as we love each other now, we were just as much at odds. Okay, maybe I was at odds and she was just trying to make sure I lived to that ripe old age.

Mom and I finally worked out our differences when I was twenty-one. I suddenly saw her as having some intelligence—more than I’d given her credit for—and she’d acknowledged that I actually did have some good ideas and maybe could do this Life thing for myself (with her as a safety net of course).  When I held my first Kid, alone in my hospital room after a C-section, Mom walked in. I looked at her with tears in my eyes and love overflowing in my heart and said, “Oh my God. You love me this much!” And she smiled, cried, and said, “Yes. I do. You finally understand.” And then I said, “I’m so sorry for all the grief I gave you.”

So now that my youngest is in those “lovely” teen years (and driving…), I have a count-down going. Child, in one of those “lovely” teenager moments, snarled at me and said, "I can’t believe you’re counting the days until I move out.”

I looked at Kid (whom, amazingly enough, I still love through this “fun” time), and said, “No I’m not. I’m counting down the days until you like me again.”

Considering the Kid is out with MY car as I write this on a Friday night, Kid is liking me A LOT.

Of course, Kid isn’t here to share the love. And I’m actually enjoying the quiet.

So… question for the day: What’s your “teenager moment” that you want to apologize for to your parents?

Monday, October 28, 2013

When Did I Become...My Parents?

As far as my son’s generation goes, I’m a fairly young mother. Whenever I go to his PTA or other school meetings, I always appear to be a decade younger than the parents of his peers. Perhaps it’s just my DNA and supple skin that makes me look younger, but I suspect it’s because I simply *am* younger. He was born when I was 24, and while my mother was 20 years older than me, a lot has happened since my generation was born. For one, more career-oriented women in the workforce meant more couples began having children at an older age, and so the truth is – I really am about a decade younger than most of the other parents.

Foolishly, I thought that would make me the “cool” mom. I mean, I’m closer in age to these kids than any of the other parents, right? Honestly though, I was never “cool” even when I was their age. I never partied. I never got into trouble. I was the sports editor for the yearbook, always writing something. No one was ever mean to me – EVERYONE wants to be in the yearbook, right? – but I wasn’t part of the “cool” crowd. I wasn’t a geek or someone with no friends either. I was just somewhere in the middle, with most everyone else. There is nothing in my DNA that should have ever led me to believe I could ever be a “cool” parent.

Not my real son. He would kill me if I posted a picture of
him getting yelled at. 
My son has been spoiled his whole life, don’t get me wrong. (If “cool” parent is somehow equivalent to a parent who spoils.) He’s visited more countries than most Americans will ever see in their lives, and he’s not yet old enough to drive a car. Having been raised in a family that had very little money when I grew up, I wanted my son to have things and see things that I never would have dreamt was possible at his age. I love him and wanted to give him what I never had. But something I *did* have which seems to be lacking in him is drive and motivation. Is it my son, his gender or is it this generation?

Looking over a study-guide for his test the other day, I was floored that he wasn’t nearly as prepared as I would have been at his age. His response, “It’ll be multiple choice, so I can figure it out.” I thought my head was going to seriously explode. Then I did what I’ve rarely done. I yelled, “We can’t go through life hoping for multiple choice questions. We have to just #*@$ing know the answers!” (That’s not to say he hasn’t been reprimanded his whole life, but I’m usually very calm and explain things matter-of-factly. My blood pressure doesn’t usually rise during one of these discussions like it did that day when I actually yelled. I’m not usually a yeller, you see.)

The scariest thing for me was, I could hear those same words coming out of my parents’ mouths. (Not that I ever gave them reason to yell that particular thing…Again, I was always more prepared for tests than that.) But I may have heard something similar said to one of my brothers at one point. And while I might not be a "cool" parent, I always suspected I was "cooler" than them.

More oldies but goodies that might soon make a comeback in my household…
“As long as you’re under my roof, you’ll follow my rules.”
“If your friends were all jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?”
“When you’re an adult, you can make that decision for yourself.”
"Are your ears painted on?"
“I’m not asking, I’m telling.”

All of this got me wondering, when did I become my parents? Was I always like them and just blissfully delusional to the fact until now? Or did it just happen upon me, like catching the flu or something? If the latter is true, will I go back to myself anytime soon? In short, once you've become your parents, is there a way back to yourself? Or am I lost forever?

I know I'm not the only one to experience this. It's been said time and time again by others. I just never expected it to happen to me!

So now it's your turn.  'Fess up... Is there something your parents said when you were younger, something you vowed NEVER to say, but discovered it flew out of your mouth when you were an adult anyway?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Romance Ramblings: Welcome Reader/Reviewer Melody May!

For this week's Romance Ramblings, Jerrica and I got the chance to sit down with reader/reviewer Melody May! In addition to our usual ramblings, Melody was nice enough to give us a romance reader's perspective...
...Plus she tells us what will inspire her to try a new author and what made her *almost* throw an audiobook against the wall.

What inspires you to try a new author? And is there anything that makes you want to throw a book (or audiobook) against the wall? 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Let's give 'em something to blog about, shrew.

We all know how I love my fun facts, right?

Seriously, my morning is not a success until I have a hot cup of java love in my hand and my fun facts picked out.
I need my fix, people!

Anyway, I could not for the life of me think of a topic I wanted to write about for this blog post. On top of deadline brain, all three of my kids have projects and field trips this month. So I went looking for inspiration and ran across a little fun fact that piqued my interest.

Today's fun fact- Xanthippe is a term used to describe an easily annoyed woman, one who is ill tempered.

Being a... strong personality myself, this fact fascinated me.

Apparently, the name comes from Socrates' much younger wife, Xanthippe, who is considered the epitome of the shrewish wife. 

The origin of the her name is Greek, meaning Blond (Xanthos) Horse (Hippos). Personally, if anyone christened me blond horse, I'd be mighty ill tempered too. 

Xanthippe is believed to be the inspiration for Katherina in Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" because she possessed a sharp tongue and is said to be the only person to have beaten Socrates in a debate.

In fact, after one such heated discussion, she supposedly dumped a chamber pot on his head. His comeback, "After thunder generally falls the rain," is a testament to his amazing patience. 

But, in her defense, I'd probably bash my husband in the melon with a toilet too if he philosophized for free to people who thought him nuts, leaving me at home with three boys and no money.

Weapon of choice, ladies. Win hard.

It should also be noted that I went looking for the antonym for Xanthrippe... there is none. I'm sure it doesn't mean there has never been a wife who didn't nag. Ahem.
Do you consider yourself a Xanthippe? I don't. But my husband's opinion may differ. ;)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Favorites

I love autumn.  It's (usually) one of the best seasons in North Carolina, long and beautiful with gorgeous keep-your-windows open weather and amazing color.  We've got the beauty this year, even if the weather is holding out on us and giving us overcast, cloudy days.  But there are still plenty of reasons to love the fall--and here's a list of my (somewhat shallow but true) favorites:

1.  Fall food. 

     I'm not talking fair food, although the State Fair is going on right now and judging by my FB feed, lots of my friends are indulging in fried oreos, giant turkey legs and barbecue sandwiches with Krispy Kreme buns.  (Ugh)  Nope, I'm talking good, homemade comfort food for when the nights start coming earlier and the temps dip down in the evening.  We had pot roast tonight.  And that is one meal that every one of my picky eaters love.  Soups, chili, casseroles--and the baking!  Fall puts me in the mood to bake.  We've already been through a couple batches of chocolate chip pumpkin muffins this year and a big batch of cookies this week.

2.  This is where the weather would usually go, but see above.

3.  Fall TV!  

    Here's where the shallow comes in, but I love veggin' out with a good TV series, and the fall season is always fun after the summer drought.  I'm digging Castle again, now that they are back in NYC.  I just enjoyed the finale of Project Runway last week.  I've recently discovered Face Off, which is fun.  We love The Big Bang Theory and I'm enjoying trying out some new shows to see if they stick--still up in the air about Sleepy Hollow, but I'm hooked on Orange is the New Black.

4.  Fall clothes. 

    Am I the only one who loves to dig out the long sleeves, the yoga pants and the soft cashmere sweaters after shorts weather?  I love switching seasons in clothes..it's like a whole new beloved wardrobe every few months.

5.  Costumes

     We are a costume family and Halloween is the perfect excuse to go gangbusters!   The kids and I have been working on our costumes and having a grand time.

So there you have my faves!  Will you share yours?  What's your favorite fall food?  Do you love yoga pants?  Costumes?  The hot guy who plays Ichabod Crane?  Spill, please!  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hair, Glorious Hair!

I hope you all read that title with the tune of "Food, Glorious Food," in your heads, because that was the intention :)

At any rate, let's talk hair today. Why? Because it's on my mind. I've had short hair since the summer between 10th and 11th grades. I've tried over and over again to grow it out, but every time it gets anywhere near my shoulders, I freak out and chop it all off again. I just can't hack it.

Me with short hair earlier this year...

BUT, my 3-year-old and I decided earlier this year that we were going to grow our hair out together. Some days I wonder to myself, "What was I thinking?!?!" And other days, I'm all, "Wow. This long hair thing is really working out!" I hate to be so wishy washy. I totally wish I was one of those people who could just wake up looking like a million bucks, but I imagine those people are few and far between and that I'm not alone in my battle with the hair :)
Me with long hair just last week

And while we're on the topic...I'm now wondering what I was thinking letting my Mini Me grow her hair out. She seriously is starting to look like Cousin It. The darling has inherited my wavy hair and her dad's fine hair, which means that tangles abound! She cries almost every time I brush her hair, no matter how gentle I try to be. BUT, do you think she'll wear any of her 40 handcrafted bows that I've bought her to try to contain the masses? Maybe for a second, but she much prefers to let it loose in the wind. Ugh.

See?? Cousin It!!
But this all leads me to the next topic, which is that of the Blow Dry Bar. Have you heard of them?? They're popping up EVERYWHERE! They don't cut your hair, but they'll do everything else: wash, blow out, up-do... They even offer memberships and packages. It's like Massage Envy for hair. Of course, I totally want to join, but it's a little pricier than I anticipated. A blow out at these places is almost as much as my haircut. But it does beg the question, would it be a better blow out than my haircut person might do? Who knows?? Do you?? Have you ever been to one of these places? Would you use it? And what would you be willing to pay to have someone wash/blowout your hair?

What do you prefer for yourself? Long or short? Do you think I should I keep letting my own hair grow, or should I go back to my bob???

Efficacy of Boiling Oil as a Weapon by Robin Delany

Oh, and how to sleep with your hand in water.

I recently poured boiling oil into a can, which I do all the time, but this time I got distracted and I was foolish enough to be holding the can. So, this was my brilliantly self-tested research on the efficacy of pouring boiling oil over the side of a medieval castle wall. That’s the only way I can look at it and not hang my head in shame.
Anyhow, I’m going to share the top five things I learned from this little “experiment,” in case you find yourself facing a group of sinister knights at your castle gate, or you just burn the heck out of your fingers.

1 – This one is helpful for medieval writers - Boiling oil would have been an extremely effective means of attack against castle crashers. Not only does it sizzle upon contact (ouch) but also it continues to burn for some time afterwards. I couldn’t imagine not having any water to soak the wounds. And if you consider that the movement above them would have made most men look up . . . Yowza!

2 - Oil burns laugh at burn cream. I could literally hear the laughter between each “Ouch, expletive, ouch, expletive” that came from my lips.

3 – Certain types of home remedies work great for burns. For instance, I keep a container of aloe in the fridge to cool sunburns. Honey is great for cooling a burn from hot water or touching a hot pot. Two-year-old kisses are effective on all minor injuries. Even so, oil burns really seem to need water.

4 – You can sleep with your hand in water. Take one big and one small sandwich bag. Place two to three ice cubes inside the smaller one. Place it, and your hand, in the larger one with a about a tablespoon of water or so. Enough to cover the burns while you lay down. Have someone tape or use a shoestring to tie the bag around your wrist. If you’re doing this alone, you can put a rubber band around your wrist, then slip it down over the bag after inserting your hand. Then you simply wrap a bath towel around your hand, and especially your wrist, and go off to sleep.

5 – This one is helpful for middle grade writers (and possibly college students ;D ) - Having your hand in water while you sleep does make you have to pee. You’ll probably wake up two or three times to go.

*One note of caution, with all joking aside. If you burn yourself badly, go to the hospital—if you burn areas where your fingers bend, or if you burn the palm of your hand, especially. If you scar and don’t get help from a doctor, you might lose mobility.

So, help me feel less silly by sharing a time when you did something this head-slappingly brilliant. Or at least tell my your home remedies for burns. I’d love to hear them.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Romance Ramblings: Ava & Jerrica's Top 11 1/2 List

There's often something unpleasant on the news, be it government shutdowns, natural disasters, or tragedies of one form or another. So this week, inspired by the government shutdown, Jerrica and I have compiled a TOP ELEVEN 1/2 list of things you can do to keep your mind off all the unpleasantness going on...

Do you have anything to add to our list? What is your favorite form of distraction...?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes the best things in life are simple. Before I even attempted to become a writer, I was a reader. I could read three to four books a week. Easily. I devoured romance books. And the simple pleasure of sitting down in a comfy chair, with a blanket and a book, is indescribable. Words simply cannot portray the sheer pleasure I receive from opening a new book and entering into a fictional fantasy.

Another simple pleasure is receiving an autographed copy of your favorite book from your favorite author. Better than that, is receiving an autograph from an author friend. One of the things that bothered me the most about digital books was that you could no longer do this. Or so I believed. Luckily, some brilliant man invented the Authorgraph and low and behold we can now sign and share our Authorgraphs through Social Media. What a concept. Although I have to admit that there still isn’t anything quite like opening the pages of a real book and seeing an author’s autograph. Just the sound of the pages gives me pleasure. And the smell…ahhh…isn’t it lovely?

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to get the chance to sign my first Authorgraph to a wonderful reader named Teresa Jones. It was such a pleasure to write how much I appreciated her. Another simple pleasure. It’s funny how something so simple as a signature changes everything. It personalizes things and makes you feel special.

And as special as being on the other side of the authorgraph was to me, I had to return to my favorite autographed books and relive receiving them. So I thought I would share with you my special autographed books and what made them so special to me.

The first autographed book I ever received was from Leigh Greenwood in 2003 whom I met at my first local chapter meeting ten years ago. I’d never been to anything like this before and getting the chance to meet one of the authors who had shaped my love for western romances simply made me entire day. I came home floating on cloud nine.

The next autographed copy came from one of the authors in my very first critique group named Ciara Gold. I was so thrilled to see her sweet message in the book Celestial Dragon and see my name mentioned in the dedication with the words “This one is for you!” Wow!

I received an autograph from Cherry Adair during my first RWA seminar in Raleigh. I really enjoyed her class and she soon became one of my favorite contemporary authors. The best part about that particular trip to Raleigh though was getting the chance to meet my critique partners but that’s whole different blog for another day. I had a blast, picked up a great new book, some new knowledge, and came home with some excellent memories. It was one the best experiences of my life.

The next autographed book comes with an interesting story. I haven't been able to attend an RWA national conference yet, but my very sweet critique partners never let me feel left out. Last year my absolute favorite thriller author James Rollins attended and my critique partners were kind enough to get a special autographed copy of his books for me! I squealed like a little girl when James Rollins actually tweeted out that he hoped I enjoyed my books! It's one of the many reasons why this group of girls, whom I rely on so much, are some of the most special people in my life. There is nothing as awesome as having friends who think of you, even when you're not there. Thank you girls, you know who you are!
Now to share my two favorite autographs with you, the first from our very own Lydia Dare/ Ava Stone at our first meeting. Not only did she sign my copy of Tall, Dark and Wolfish, she dedicated the book to her critique partners. What an awesome feeling! Of course, we won’t mention the fact that I had to burst her bubble to remind her that “No, she doesn't live in the regency era and yes, she is actually an American and not English.” Poor thing, she took the news better than I had first imagined. LOL, love ya Ava! 

And last but certainly not least, is the special book I received in the mail from SamanthaGrace. The best part about this book was the acknowledgment in the back of her book mentioning yours truly. It reads “I would like thank Suzie Grant for sharing her abiding love of the sea, and for her patience in answering numerous questions or pointing me in the right direction.”

I am truly humbled honestly. I love to talk about sea faring and ships. I was just doing something that I loved to do and I could talk ships all day long—if you let me. I never expected such a sweet acknowledgment. I've actually never felt quite so proud as I did the day I saw this dedication. Not only did I get the chance to help such a fabulous author, but now I have this tangible memory that I get to return to time and again to relive.

So tell me about the autographed books you've received over the years and remember to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. Sometimes those are the best kind. Special thanks to Teresa, Ava Stone, and Samantha Grace for letting me share these memories.       

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Following the Historical (Not Hysterical) Trend

Saturday my husband, daughter, and I met a good friend for breakfast. He is actually my husband's friend from college. As often happens with college buds, they lost touch and moved to different parts of the country. Then by some weird twist of fate, they ended up in the same town about thirteen years later and ran into each other at the Kwik Trip. Anyway, that's a story in itself, but after knowing Herman for seven years myself, I understand why my husband was so happy to renew their friendship. Besides being a great all-around guy, he is a great conversationalist.

So... back to Saturday's breakfast convo. Somehow we started talking about sports and romance, and how there is a trend of sports related romance novels on the market. Not just the sports you might expect, but MMA (mixed martial arts) and rugby, to name a couple. I told them about how Harlequin even found a little niche with NASCAR fans. This came as a surprise to both of the guys, and Herman asked, "How do you know what the trends are?"Just by paying attention to what books are being released and selling well, you can see trends emerging.

My 1st cover
One of my favorite trends to keep up with are covers. I love cover art. The first time I see my cover is thrilling! It's even better than when the box of books arrive. (Although I hug a book every time I receive my author copies and carry it around for a while until I can bear to part with it. Then it goes on a special shelf in my bookcase.) 

When I sold to Sourcebooks in 2010, the trend was headless heroes and heroines, but by the time my book debuted in 2013, heads were almost back in fashion. Note Lord Andrew is only missing the top part of his head. (Yeah, I know. Who's looking at his head?) Then I was lucky enough to get in at the beginning of the hot-heroes-in-white-shirts-and-faces trend. Now I've spotted white-shirt/bare-chest heroes on books by NY Times bestselling authors, such as Mary Balog and Grace Burrows. I don't know how long this trend will last, of course, but what's not to love about nobility in half-dress?

A new trend I've been noticing are covers where the hero is looking directly at the reader when the heroine is with him. I have mixed reactions to this trend. If the hero and heroine are enjoying an intimate moment and the hero is staring at me, it can make me feel like a Peeping Tom. One cover that really works for me is Shana Galen's "The Spy Wore Blue".  Maybe it works because his look says, "Nobody better mess with this lady. She's mine." And isn't that one of the reasons we read romance?

Seeing the hero and heroine in a romantic embrace where they are completely lost in each other doesn't make me feel like a perv, though. Go figure. I guess I just don't want to get caught in the act of peeping. LOL  

I also love covers where the hero and heroine are both looking at the reader. The message is "We are equals, and we're going to kick some arse side-by-side." 

Oddly, I don't feel like I'm intruding when the heroine is looking at the reader during an intimate moment. (Why the double-standards, Sam? I honestly don't know.) One of my favorite examples is one of Deb Marlowe's books. 

And I'm a little partial to this one too. 

Release Date: Jan 7, 2014
One trend that seems to have staying power is the girl in the pretty dress. Head or no head doesn't seem to make much difference. It's all about the dress! 

What are some cover trends you've noticed in your favorite sub genres? What do you like to see on covers? 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Six Degrees of Separation – The Duke of Danby + Giveaway!

A little over two years ago a group of Regency romance authors, all members of the same critique group, tossed out the idea of a duke who was tired of his grandchildren not marrying as they should.  The ideas flowed and the Duke of Danby was born, along with his wayward grandchildren. We had a great time developing the stories and putting the twelve novellas into four separate books just in time for the holiday season.

Some of the authors have gone on to write stories that link back or refer back to their original Summons characters, whether they are another sibling, cousin, friend or friend of a friend, or a bit of “six degrees of separation”, though I am fairly certain Kevin Bacon has not made an appearance in any story yet, but who knows what the future holds ;)

The path taken from the original Summons books has been fun and has led to the following two releases.  A PACT BETWEEN GENTLEMEN and A GENTLEMEN’S PACT.

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In Ava Stone's A Bit of Mistletoe, Everett Casemore, the very serious Marquess of Berkswell, returns home for Christmas, slightly shaken by the death of an old friend. Determined not to suffer the same sort of fate at the hands of a woman, Berks resolves himself to eternal bachelorhood. Unfortunately, both his resolve and his peace of mind are threatened by the arrival of a beautiful, thoughtful, but mostly unsuitable lady. * Miss Theresa Birkin knows better than most that an error in judgment can lead one down an unfortunate path. If only she'd been wiser when she was younger. If only she hadn't followed her foolish heart. If only she'd met Lord Berkswell long before now. 

Six DegreesEverett Casemore, the Marquess of Berkswell, is the older brother of Pippa St. Austell (heroine of BY ANY OTHER NAME in THE BETTING SEASON). Her husband is an old friend of Viscount Heathfield, husband of Emma Whitton, granddaughter of the Duke of Danby. Theresa Birkin is the best friend of Miranda Casemore (MY LORD HERCULES from A SEASON TO REMEMBER), whose sister-in-law Louisa, Viscountess Marston (DEVIL IN HER DREAMS, by Jane Charles in A SEASON TO REMEMBER), is a granddaughter of the Duke of Danby

In Jane Charles's Lady Disguised, Mr. Sebastian Stanwick never intended to marry. It was bad enough that his father gambled away everything they owned and then drank himself to death, leaving his mother broken until she could not go on. But the death of his good friend at the hand of the man’s wife only solidifies Stanwick’s decision to remain a bachelor. Women were simply unpredictable and unstable if not taken care of properly. * Hélène Mirabelle wants few things in life. One, is to perform on the stage, and the other, is to be out from under the roof of her overbearing new family: Lord Bentley and the Trent brothers. Since her mother’s recent passing, Hélène's desire to return to Milan and the stage has only grown. A husband could never fit into the plans because no decent man would take an actress as a wife. * One fateful night leaves Hélène questioning if being an actress is the only thing she wants, while Stanwick begins to wonder whether all women are truly prone to madness and if they are, he may never get Hélène off of his mind. 

Six DegreesLady Hélène Mirabelle is the half-sister of John Trent, who married Danby’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Whitton (COMPROMISED FOR CHRISTMAS in A SUMMONS FROM HIS GRACE)

In Catherine Gayle’s Thick as Thieves, David Hounslow, the Marquess of Preston, will not stand aside while those he loves are hurt. When it becomes clear his brother-in-law’s guest is up to no good, Preston determines to scrutinize every move of the would-be thief. Not that he minds such a task—Lady Frederica is as beautiful and intelligent as she is enigmatic. Considering her close relation to a wastrel brother and her current proclivity for the less-than-savory, Preston never expected to be won over to the lady’s charms. Yet she just might steal his heart. * Desperation has become Lady Frederica Bexley-Smythe’s constant companion due to her brother’s recent affinity for gambling and carousing. With the fate of both her mother and sister resting upon her shoulders, perhaps the time has arrived for Freddie to bend the rules. How else can she secure their future? Unfortunately, Lord Preston’s scrutiny is complicating her task. Far more perplexing than his perusal is his caring nature, which is distracting her from the treasures she intends to steal. But desperate times call for desperate measures…

Six Degrees: Preston’s brother-in-law is Lord Upton Grey. Upton Grey is long acquainted and respected by Danby, because Danby arranged for his grandson Robert Goddard to be appointed as Upton Grey's butler a few months before the story takes place.
Lady Frederice Bexley-Smythe is the older sister of Lady Matilda Goddard (RHYME AND REASON), who married Thomas Goddard...brother to the previously mentioned Robert Goddard and Abby Cavendish, the heroine from AN UNINTENDED JOURNEY (A SUMMONS FROM THE CASTLE).

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In Jerrica Knight-Catania's All He Wants For Christmas, Rowan Findley can't imagine a fate worse than what his friend suffered at the hands of his mad wife, so he's made the decision to remain a bachelor for all eternity. That is, until Olivia walks into his cousin's drawing room for a Christmas party. Her fiery red hair and sweet demeanor remind him of a night so many years ago that he would never forget. * Olivia Edwards can't quite believe her eyes when Rowan Findley waltzes back into her life, as handsome and charming as ever. It's been almost seven years since she's seen him, and the secret she's been harboring all that time has her on edge whenever he's about. Yet she can't deny that she's still drawn to him, nor can she deny the desire she's kept hidden in her heart these many years.

Six Degrees: Rowan Findley is the cousin to Penny from A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS from A SEASON TO REMEMBER - Drake Lockwell is Damien Lockwell's older brother. Damien married Isabel Whitton. And Penelope Bartlett's sister-in-law is Louisa Whitton.

In Aileen Fish’s Chasing Lord Mystery, Lord Northcotte is not in the holiday spirit when he joins his sister’s family shortly after the brutal death of a friend. Discovering a matchmaking scheme is afoot, he tells them he will never marry Lady Miriam or any other woman. Now if only his heart would listen. * Lady Miriam’s mother accused her of chasing Lord Mystery after a noble act by a handsome stranger six years ago became the measure of all other men. Now he’s staying at the home where she’d hoped to escape a summons from her grandfather, the Duke of Danby. Terrified Northcotte will recognize her and reveal the contents of the scandalous letter she wrote him years ago, she can’t decide which is the bigger threat: the duke armed with a special license, or Lord Mystery, who carries a secret she’d never live down.

Six DegreesLady Miriam is the older sister of Harriet, who found love in THE VISCOUNT’S SWEET TEMPTATION (A SUMMONS FROM YORKSHIRE). She avoided the first summons by staying with a sick aunt. Northcotte is the brother of the heroine in THE INCORRIGIBLE MR. LUMLEY, in which he has a major role.

In Julie Johnstone’s ’Tis The Season For Surrender, Lillian Lancaster would rather catch the plague than a husband. Unfortunately, her abusive, recently deceased father’s will stipulates her inheritance hinges upon her marrying a lord. With time running out, Lillian proposes to the guilt-ridden, marriage-adverse Lord Edgeworth after securing his agreement to a marriage in name only. * Edgeworth feels responsible for his former betrothed’s death and believes he doesn’t deserve love, which makes Lillian’s proposal oddly perfect. Commanded by his grandfather to marry by Christmas or become penniless, the obviously perfect choice is a woman who wants nothing to do with him. * When Lillian displays a brave and true heart and Edgeworth reveals his honorable, protective side maintaining a marriage of convenience becomes harder than these two wounded souls imagined. Now, Lillian and Edgeworth must decide if they are courageous enough to risk their hearts and surrender to love.

Six Degrees:  In this case, there is no separation. Edgeworth is a Danby grandchild who had yet to get married.

Do you have a favorite character from the Summons anthology or any of the books that blossomed from them?  Is there a character who has not had a story told that you are anxious to read? If you are not familiar with the Summons stories, do you enjoy cross-over characters from separate series?

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