Monday, 31 January 2011

Q&A & Excerpt for "Moonlight Sonata" FREE Read

#1 What is "Moonlight Sonata" about?

STEPH: This is a free read offered by Desert Breeze. My heroine, Lady Amelia Andr├íssy is a talented pianist. When "Moonlight Sonata" starts, she has just recently learned of her husband's infidelity. Shortly after that, he dies. When Amelia receives the news of her husband's death, she faints – right into Count Anton Varga's arms. A spark passes between them, but Anton is haunted by his own demons. Amelia and Anton become friends. Can Anton inspire her to play the Moonlight Sonata again?

#2 – Why did you write it?

STEPH: I wrote "The Count's Lair," Anton and Amelia's story, which begins two months after "The Hungarian" ends, but then I realized I needed to write about the events that occurred between Anton and Amelia, after she fainted and he decided to clear his head. It provides a strong emotional connection for the characters.

#3 – Why is Amelia attracted to Beethoven's music?

STEPH: For her, the music provides her with a wide range of emotions to express. With the Sonata Pathetique, the music allows her to express her loneliness and heartbreak. With Moonlight Sonata, it allows her to express her attraction to Anton.

#4 – Anton has met Amelia previously. Why doesn't the spark pass between them sooner?

STEPH; He wasn't prepared to see it until then. He wasn't willing to open up his heart until that moment.

#5 – What did you enjoy the most in writing Moonlight Sonata?

STEPH: The rich character introspection. Both characters acknowledge their shortcomings, dare to hope, and grow in courage.

Here's an excerpt from Moonlight Sonata, the prequel to "The Count' Lair."

"Hello, Amelia."

She bit the inside of her lip. The rich scent of mulberries and spice hung around him, fueling a growing agitation in the pit of her stomach. He looked like a magnificent beast -- ready to tempt her to sin. "Hello, Anton."

"I'm sorry I didn't call, but I wanted to see you."

She stood rooted in the spot next to the coffee table. Anton walked toward her, his feral gait even, his expression full of confidence. He passed in back of her, pausing. She felt the heat of his breath on her neck. She didn't know what to say. She'd enjoyed his friendship and she had wanted to call him later this evening, but he seemed bolder, determined. He had the look of a man who knew what he wanted. Her hand went to her breast, trying to stop the nervous fluttering of her heart.

"I was looking forward to seeing you as well," she finally said.

He rounded the coffee table and stopped in back of the couch, putting his hands on the couch's backrest and looking directly at her.

Amelia swallowed. The look in his eyes was unmistakable. They danced with the flames of desire. For her?

"I've been giving what you said a lot of thought--" he began.

"What did I say?"

"You challenged me to be a better man."

"I did."

"Well, that's what I want to do."


"But I have no idea how to be a better man. My role models were poor. My father was a drunk and womanizer. My brother was a gambler. I don't want to be like either of them."

Amelia was speechless. She didn't know what to say. She rubbed her forehead, trying to reconcile her anxiety with the growing agitation in the pit of her stomach. Truth be told, she found him incredibly attractive with his tussled hair, chiseled cheeks, and full, red lips. And the way he looked at her -- it warmed every fiber of her being. "Ah, would you like a drink?" she finally asked.

He raised a dark eyebrow. "Would you?"

You can download this story for FREE from the Desert Breeze Publishing Website:
Free Link:

Images from Dreamstime, character inspriation for Anton & Amelia.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Author Spotlight week - Excerpt from What The Heart Sees

I'd known Kirk for a few years before she entered my life. I met her one day when I was returning home from a walk with Ralphie. Ralphie is a Cockapoo -- part Cocker Spaniel, part Poodle I bought because I read in Esquire that adorable dogs are babe magnets. Women can never walk by a really cute dog without kneeling down to scratch its ear, which is an oxymoron if you think about it. 'Cute Dog'.

Some of Kirk's girlfriends have actually said that to me. "You're a really cute dog, Ansel."

How do you respond to something like that? I ran around in circles and barked. When in doubt, go for the laugh.

Anyway, I was returning home from a walk with my babe magnet the day she moved into the first floor apartment in our building. Talk about stink! She was, speaking in matters of personal hygiene, a complete mess. Her hair was stringy, and she had food stains down the front of her shirt like maybe her last meal had come from the bowels of a fast-food dumpster. Either she'd been crying for a week straight, or she was a serious crack head. Her nose was leaking, and she kept wiping the snot on her sleeve where it congealed like pork gravy. Honest, I had all I could do to keep from upchucking my cornflakes.

Somehow, though, I pulled myself together, figuring she could use a hand. Everything she owned was in a black plastic bag she hauled behind her like it held the weight of a cadaver. Even next to the scary, dark side of Los Angeles, the whole scenario was pretty spooky. I was positive she'd been living on the streets, probably under an overpass, or in an alley under a tent of cardboard. I even wondered if she might have been, you know, a prostitute.

Anyway, despite her obvious dire circumstances, when she spotted Ralphie, she dropped everything and knelt down straight away to scratch his ears, which says a lot about my babe magnet. He returned the favor by parking his snout in her crotch. Way to go, Ralphie boy!
Still, she wasn't exactly the type of woman I had in mind. Ralphie's taste in women was questionable to say the least. He habitually picked up the wrong kind -- women who were squat, squint-eyed and fashion challenged. Ralphie was short himself, so maybe it had something to do with crotches -- how low to the ground they are.

I showed him some posters of models I had tacked on the wall of my bedroom, and some snapshots of Kirk's cast-offs, too. You know, girls with long, shapely legs in five-inch heels and thirty-eight inch hooters.

"When you see somebody that looks like that, act cute and wag your tail like crazy. I'll do the panting. And that crotch business -- leave that to me, too."

So anyway, there's this chubby little broad with thick-lens glasses not more than five feet three inches tall with absolutely no sense of style. Call me shallow, but I was reminded of the sitcom Ugly Betty except 'Dumpy' didn't have braces. In fact, her teeth, which were perfectly straight and white, and her smile -- which dimpled her Pillsbury Doughboy cheeks -- were probably her best features.

So, like I was saying, she was moving into the ground floor apartment, the nastiest one in our building, because the octagenarian found dead in bed had lived there for maybe forty years and our slum landlord never fixed anything until a tenant moved out... or died.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Author Spotlight week - Janice Zick shares her favorite authors

My favorite authors are Anne Tyler for Breathing Lessons, Saint Maybe, The Accidental Tourist, The Clock Winder, The Amateur Marriage, A Slipping Down Life and numerous other novels that have been made into movies. Her characters are always quirky and her style is unique and nearly impossible to imitate: She uses spare language and her themes are always salt of the earth, down to earth, middle America. Her dialogue is spot on. Her novels are character driven and her characters are always a little addle brained and seem to barely muddle through life. They struggle with everyday issues as a result of their own off-beat, unconventional view of life. They seem to obsess over ordinary circumstances that most others would take as a matter of course. In a sense, they seem to invent their own problems. I enjoy her books so much that I actually wrote her once and told her she wasn't allowed to ever die. (She never responded.) Really, if you haven't read an Anne Tyler novel, you should IMHO..

I also like Barbara Kingsolver for The Poisonwood Bible and Summer Sisters. I like Pat Conroy for Beach Music, Prince of Tides and Lords of Discipline. He is, perhaps the most lyrical author I can name.

I like John Steinbeck for Of Mice and Men, The Pearl and Cannery Row; Frank McCourt for Angela's Ashes, which earned the Nobel Prize for literature, although I was somewhat disappointed in his second memoir, Tis. I think like Gone with the Wind, Angela's' Ashes was a work impossible to trump—a very hard act to follow for the author. McCourt, who died recently, began his writing career later in life, which is very unfortunate; because he was extremely talented. I'm sure he had many more novels in him.

I also enjoy John Grisham and Elizabeth Berg. I'm always awaiting their next novel.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Janice Zick shares her favorite movies

My favorite movies are Out of Africa, Sophie's Choice and almost any movie starring Meryl Streep or Robert Redford. He is a good actor and perhaps an even better director.

Also, Jeremiah Johnson, Life as a House, An Officer and A Gentleman, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, and A Beautiful Mind--the latter because I was once very much in love with a man who suffered mightily with schizophrenia. I know that the movie was accurate in it's portrayal of that illness.

I tend toward dramas, but I enjoy a good romantic comedy too. I recently watched Ira and Abby and thought it was absolutely charming. I think it was a made-for-renting movie, not one for the box office; but it would have done well I think. If you like romantic movies—well, of course you do—I highly recommend it.

When a movie is based on a novel I've read, I am almost always disappointed in the screen play. The movie doesn't usually do the book justice. The exception might be the movie Angela's Ashes, which was well done I believe as were the Harry Potter movies.

Not to offend, (I'm definitely in the minority here,) but I didn't care for Forest Gump or Pretty Woman even though I'd share a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs with Richard Gere in the alley behind an Italian restaurant any day of the week.
Anyway, thanks for checking in. I'd love to hear from you. I am proud and humbled to be among the talented authors of DBP

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Janice Zick shares her passion for romance

What the Heart Sees is the first strictly romantic novel I've written, although all of my novels have included an element of romance. It was fun to write something lighthearted and humorous for a change. My work in progress, entitled Places on Moriah, will be the second romantic comedy I've written, although it contains a great deal of angst as well. Right now I'm struggling to finish it because of family matters and time constraints, although I believe my WIP shows promise. It is also written in first person, and I tend to fall into character as I'm writing it. I love first person for this reason. No, I do not suffer from MP. (At least I don't think so.)

My other novels are considered literary mainstream—a genre that is difficult to sell, I've learned. It seems there are only a handful of publishers who are interested in this category. The themes of literary mainstream are usually psychologically intricate and tend to be more serious in nature.

Basically, everything that doesn't fit another genre usually lands there by default. Unlike sci-fi, mystery, romance, fantasy… it is a hard genre to describe or characterize, which I believe makes it hard to market. Exactly where on the shelf does it belong?
I'm grateful for small publishers like Desert Breeze whose editors publish novels based on the quality of the work rather than name recognition. Finally, first time authors who are really good writers have a chance to put their work out there.
After What the Heart Sees debuted, one of my old friends from way back called to actually thank me for writing it.
She said, “You have no idea how much I needed to laugh.”

It was one of the neatest things that's happened to me in my writing career. Even if that person had been the only one to read it, it would have been worth the effort to write it.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Author Spotlight week - Q&A with Janice Zick

STEPH: I don't know much about What the Heart Sees. Can you tell me about it?

JANICE: My novel, What the Heart Sees, is about a struggling stand up comedian who has been corrupted by Hollywood's narrow standards of beauty and loose morals until he meets a short, chubby girl from the heartland who wins his affection over time by teaching him the meaning of love.

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for the novel?

JANICE: My inspiration for the novel came from a character that grew in my mind and became so distinct and quirky that I just had to make him the main character in a novel. He more or less insisted on it—would not leave me alone until I did. Because Ansel Dueseldorf is a fairly witty, aspiring standup, it only followed that the novel had to be written in first person. His one liners really cracked me up. Do you see how real he became to me as I was writing? The theme from the Twilight Zone plays here.

STEPH: Where is the novel set?

JANICE: The setting is LA/Hollywood for obvious reasons where Ansel has lived his entire life, and a woman is not considered beautiful unless she's at least five foot nine, resembles Paris Hilton or Angelina Jolie, and can squeeze into a dress size two.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

JANICE: I don't know exactly how long it took to write, but I know it was less time than any of my other novels—maybe just a month or two. Once I knew my main character(s), it more or less wrote itself. It was fun, because I never knew what Ansel and Greta would do next although they were always true to form.

STEPH: Do you like to write in the morning or the evening?

JANICE: I write after my coffee in the morning sitting up in bed wearing my toe jams. Some days, if my muse is working well, I don't get dressed at all. Usually though I only write for about three hours at a stretch. I find that after that I'm fairly drained creatively.

STEPH: Tell us a little about where you live.

JANICE: I've lived in Wisconsin my entire life. The small town I live in—Cedar Grove—is very near Lake Michigan twenty minutes south of Sheboygan and forty-five minutes north of Milwaukee. Wisconsin is the dairy state and stomping ground for diehard Packer fans called cheeseheads who drink a lot of beer probably because they eat a lot of salty brats. I myself do not imbibe as beer gives me a headache.

I have, however, been known to eat a fair number of brats.

Wisconsin has many lovely lakes, even more than Minnesota. Our winters are very cold, our summers are very hot, our springs are rainy although May can be lovely and our autumns, if the conditions are right, can be ablaze with color.

If you sit in one of our fast food restaurants for any length of time, you'll learn there are lots of short, chubby women like Greta living in Wisconsin. You would count me among them. I consider them real women unlike the Hollywood wannabes that parade through my story. Jeanine Gerafalo (sp?) called them “freaks of nature” in one of her comedic monologues. I laughed my ass off, which was wishful thinking, because when I turned around it was still there.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

JANICE: I'm definitely a panster. When the characters are well formulated in my mind, they just do what comes naturally. I give them lots of rope (at times to hang themselves,) and they are in charge of the twists and turns in my novels. I was active in drama during my high school and college years. I like to write in first person, because I find myself getting in character and becoming that person. (More Twilight Zone music here: Do do do do, do do do do.)

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

JANICE: I've been writing off and on for the last ten to twelve years.

STEPH: Do you have any hobbies you'd like to share?

JANICE: My hobbies are reading and sculpting angels, nativity scenes and other figurines from polymer clay.
My favorite past time is being with my three young grandsons, who are growing up way too fast.

I plan to buy a Kindle very soon.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Welcome Cover Artist Gwen Phifer

Artist Gwen Phifer

I'd like to welcome new cover artist Gwen Phifer to the Desert Breeze Community. Enjoy this Q&A

STEPH: How long have you been a graphic artist?

GWEN: Well, my mom is an artist so I've always been messing with art supplies since I could hold something in my hands. I didn't seriously consider being an artist until around high school and I went to college to become an Illustrator. I've only "professionally" been on the market for about a year.

STEPH: Did you go to school for it? Which one?

GWEN: Yes, I went to Savannah College of Art and Design. I graduated in 2009 with a BA in Illustration.

STEPH: How did you find Desert Breeze?

GWEN: It was an interesting coincidence. My aunt is a writer that lives in WA and she saw the Desert Breeze call for artists on one of her forums and sent me the link. On a whim, I responded and the rest is history!

STEPH: What artistic medium do you like to work in?

GWEN: I love working in a mixed media technique with watercolors and acrylics, but in this day and age digital is the way to go. I have a Wacom tablet and that helps me recreate a lot of the textures and "feel" of physical media without the mess. Plus, the ctrl+Z button is a lifesaver.

STEPH: Is there a certain artist that's influenced you?

GWEN: Oh goodness, where to start... the Golden Age Illustrators best sum up my inspirations/influences- Rackham, the Wyeths, Pyle, Parrish, Jessie Willcox Smith. I could go on and on, but I think I'll stop there!

STEPH: Can you share some of your hobbies?

GWEN: I horseback ride, English rather than Western. I think it's become more of an obsession and less of a hobby. There's always something to learn and the barn has become one of my safe havens. It keeps me sane! I also read enough that it is definitely a hobby. I'm a huge Fantasy/Romance/Sci-Fi junkie.

STEPH: Tell us a little about the state you live in.

GWEN: I live on the outskirts of a little town in Upstate South Carolina. It's an interesting mix of "good ol' boy" roots and the explosion of culture that came with the BMW plant. Overall, we're probably just like anyone else. Except we can't drive in snow and we talk funny-like. ~.^

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader?

GWEN: Sadly no. (I can hear the gasps of horror now!) But, I want one and I'm sure working for an e-publishing house will probably result in me getting one. Not that I'm complaining or anything. ^.^ I just have to save up for one. I'm thinking, Kindle?

STEPH: Can you send some of your art to share on the blog?

GWEN: "Dreams in Gold" is a mixed media piece of the story Rumpelstiltskin. The "Mycena Rosellas" are digital and part of a larger group of Mushroom Dancers. Last, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" is a digital spread illustration. On my website ( there's a whole lot more.

#STEPH For fun: Do you have a favorite sport? Favorite team?

GWEN: Not much of a sports fan, but I do like watching Equestrian eventing. (Like I said, probably an obsession at this point!)

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Setting the Pace by JoAnn Carter

Author JoAnn Carter

Have you ever set out with a goal, a good and worthy goal, or New Years resolution only to become frustrated to the point of giving up? I know I’ve been there—done that. Here’s a recent example… I wanted to jog around the neighborhood (1.5 miles) before the year ended. So every morning, once the weather was nice, out the door I’d go. Bless my sweet husband, he’d come with me as a source of encouragement. However, no matter how hard I tried, it never took long for me to become winded to the point where I needed to walk. I was so disgusted after weeks and weeks of little to no improvement, I decided to quit. My husband, seeing my broken spirit said, “Do you trust me?”

I wondered where this was going but I replied, “Yes, I do.”

“Good. Then tomorrow, let me set the pace.”

The next day, dragging my heels, I followed him out the door. But you know what, a remarkable thing happened. I jogged around one loop without stopping! After the appropriate round of high-fives and smiles I stood amazed. I didn’t need to stop and I didn’t feel ready to pass out—granted it wasn’t the whole neighborhood yet, but I went as far as my husband asked simply by matching his steady stride.

You know what the trick was? Pacing.

Okay, so fast forward—I’m almost all the way through the neighborhood at this point (just a little side street left to tackle), and it’s that time of year to dig back in and refocus on my writing. I set my writing goals; I’m going to write 2,000 words a day and finish a novel every three months. I have BIG plans of going GREAT places.

Guess what? It didn’t take me long to fizzle out. Instead of enjoying writing, embracing the gift of time I had to set aside for writing this year, it felt like a burden, a chore! Then it hit me like a 2x4. My pacing was off! Granted some folks may write like a marathon runner, and have great success, but that won’t work for me. I want to love every moment of writing…explore the journey with eager anticipation.

I’d like to throw out this challenge, if you’re feeling tired or burned out—even though the New
Year in just beginning—check your pacing. Great things can happen if you slow down to enjoy life’s journey. I have proof. I been jogging completely around the neighborhood and my Inspirational/Historical Romance The Floating Palace (Book One in a three part series) will be released July 15, 2011 right here with Desert Breeze Publishing.

If that can happen for me, I know you can face your own personal mountain! Remember the key is taking steps, even baby steps some days.

Happy New Year!

JoAnn Carter
Inspirational Romance Author: Teacher’s Plans, By the Book, Sweet Rest, Smuggler of the Heart, Daniella, The Hamster Wheel, and Finders Keepers

Friday, 21 January 2011

Author Spotlight week -Excerpt from The Ill-Gotten Insurance

Minx placed Harris' coffee in front of him and pulled out napkins from the table dispenser. There. She'd done her hostessing duties. Sitting across from him, she reached into her bag and got out her power bar.

"So, lieutenant, what's up?"

Harris took a sip, then set the cup back down. "I've never been at the Elite Exercise Emporium before. Nice place. Do you think I should take out a membership?"

She blinked back surprise. Surely this wasn't his official business?

Peeling the wrapper off the bar, she replied, "You look buff enough, lieutenant."

"Is that a compliment?"

She tilted her head at him. "Do you want it to be?"

What was going on here? Were they actually flirting with each other?

As she nibbled on the end of the granola power bar, she studied him. His odd combination of short dark and light grey hair swirled in waves over his head. A dark lock tumbled down over his high forehead. One renegade curl strayed appealingly around the curve of his ear.

He gestured with his large, well-formed hand. "That your lunch?"

"It sure is. Are you hungry? I've got two more bars with me."

He was a man that didn't smile much. With his job in the Los Angeles Police Department, there probably weren't many opportunities for smiles. But when he did let loose and show those pearly whites, despite herself, she seemed to turn into one of those silly adolescent girls she'd disparaged just a minute ago.

Harris not only smiled, but laughed. A deep, hearty, masculine laugh. His laughter attractively crinkled the skin around his eyes. Otherwise, his tanned face was unlined. Prematurely grey, that was what he was. Maybe that trait ran in his family.

"No, thanks. That granola bar looks like Fido's dog food to me."

The laugh and the smile disappeared as quickly as they surfaced. He must've been getting ready to lower the boom. Official police business was rarely good.

She swallowed down a bit of apprehension

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Susanne Marie Knight shares her favorite authors

Author Georgette Heyer

My favorite author? Oh, that’s too difficult to whittle down to only one. So I’ll cheat again. :)) Growing up, I enjoyed reading three genres of novels--science fiction, Regency, and suspense. I still do today.

For powerful stories that stretch the imagination--science fiction, I love to read Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. With those authors, I could wile away the hours in the company of robots and exploring deep space.

For elegance and charm of Polite Society, I turn to Regencies, and author Georgette Heyer. Surprisingly, Regencies and science fiction are linked by many readers. According to September 2002’s Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine, science fiction fans love the “alien” world of polite Regency society. This interest, the article states, is due to Regency author Georgette Heyer’s prose using “witty dialogue, costumes, rules and conventions of the Regency society...” I agree!

For the challenge of a juicy murder mystery, Agatha Christie can’t be beat. I read and reread her many books, always on the lookout for clues so I can solve the murder. And if the story contains romance, so much the better! I’ve learned a great deal about detecting from Christie’s two unconventional crime solvers, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Susanne Marie Knight shares her favorite movie

I’m going to cheat--I’ll mention two movies. A criterion for a favorite movie is that it must be one I can watch over and over again... and still enjoy. “Beetlejuice” with Michael Keaton, fits in this category. It’s such an original tale and has so many interesting parts to it. I never tire of seeing the civil service in the underworld or the Handbook for the Recently Deceased--or Diseased! And the dialogue... priceless! At my house, we often quote the characters. “We come for your daughter, Chuck” and “My life is one... big... dark... room” are only two of the numerous funny sayings.

My other favorite is “The Witches” with Angelica Houston. Oh, that movie is rich with humorous lines. Angelica gives a tour de force performance as the Grand High Witch in all the world. Her goal is to change every child into a mouse, starting in England with our hero Luke, and his friend Bruno. If you haven’t seen “The Witches”, I highly recommend it. The story starts out a little slow and is sad at first, with the death of Luke’s parents, but keep watching and you’ll see a fantastic tale unfolding. Missing children living out their lives in paintings, why witches always scratch their heads, and “perfume” that if applied to the skin, grows fur are only some of the topics covered. Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) also gives an inspired performance as the much put upon manager of the resort.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Susanne Marie Knight shares her passion for Romantic Suspense

What could be more exciting than a good romantic suspense? You have romance, intrigue, sitting on the edge of your seat action! I enjoy weaving a story that has all these elements. For murder mysteries, I also like to throw in those “red herrings” so that my readers can try to figure out for themselves the identity of the killer. Here’s a comment one reader wrote to me: “I kept guessing all the way to the end and I thought someone else was the murderer. Wonderful!!” And here’s another: “very funny, with interesting character interplay. Kept me laughing and guessing, laughing and guessing.”

I particularly love writing the Minx Tobin Mystery Series. This is my first true series and I really enjoy having the chance to explore the characters in depth. Getting to know them so deeply allows me to anticipate how they will react in whatever situation comes their way. When I started THE ILL-GOTTEN INSURANCE, I had no idea Minx had a background in art. Nor did I know that there is actually a type of gun called the .22 short, Beretta Minx. That certainly came in handy! So stay tuned to Minx and Gabe’s adventures. There are lots more surprises in store for them as the series progresses

Monday, 17 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Q&A with Susanne Marie Knight

STEPH: I don't know much about The Ill-gotten Insurance. What's it about?

SUSANNE: The Ill-gotten Insurance is Book 2 in the Minx Tobin Murder Mystery Series, which features our gal, Minx, a fitness instructor who has a knack for solving puzzles--puzzles concerning dead bodies. Her counterpart, Homicide Lieutenant Gabe Harris, wants to be her love interest. In Book 2, he *may* be getting closer to his goal! Here’s the book blurb:

An odd string of coincidences leads Minx Tobin to an old friend, Bill Gutierrez. Only Bill died five years ago. Before Minx has a chance to question the man, he turns up dead... again, with a slip of paper in his pocket with her name on it. Whether she likes it or not, Minx is involved in another murder. Will the Case of the Ill-gotten Insurance turn out to be deadly for her as well?

Los Angeles Homicide Lieutenant Gabe Harris regrets that the fitness trainer who piqued his interest is a murder suspect once again. But at least he has a legitimate reason to see Minx. Maybe he can even convince her to go out with him. And maybe he can prevent L.A.'s newest murderer from adding Minx to his... or her fatality list.

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for the story?

SUSANNE: I like to plot a story on the basis of the title. Beginning this series is The Bloodstained Bistro. Naturally, the location figured prominently in the book. For The Ill-gotten Insurance, there is an artist who already “died” once before. Next up for Minx are: The Duplicitous Divorce, The Virtual Valentine, and The Yuletide Yorkshire.

STEPH: What attracts to writing Romantic Suspense?

SUSANNE: I love to figure out mysteries along with developing a romance. Seeing how the couple react to each other, along with how the romance progresses... or not keeps me glued to the computer chair. :))

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

SUSANNE: I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of writer, which means I don’t have the action plotted out for my book. This is probably not the best way to write, but it works for me. I use the “what if” scenario to figure out where I'm going, then I choose my characters and let them decide what will happen next. I enjoy writing this way because I rarely know how my characters are going to solve their problems! After I’m finished with the book, then I do the synopsis.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write The Ill-gotten Insurance?

SUSANNE: In 2009, I must’ve been on a writing roll. I started and finished The Ill-gotten Insurance in only two months. Wow. This past year’s been different, however. My hope is that 2011 allows me more time to write.

STEPH: Do you cast the characters? If so, who are the leads?

SUSANNE: For this series, I didn’t use actors as inspiration. Thinking back on it now though, I’d say Homicide Lieutenant Gabe Harris has a little of James Bond’s Daniel Craig in him. :))

STEPH: Can you tell us a little about the state you live in?

SUSANNE: I’ve lived in Washington for many years now. It’s such a large state that I’ve only explored a tiny bit. Next summer, I’m hoping to visit Mount St. Helens... as long as it doesn’t decide to erupt again first!

STEPH: What was the last book you read?

SUSANNE: I came across a book I’d read MANY years ago, and decided to read it again. Way Station by Clifford D. Simak is a science fiction story about a U.S. Civil War soldier who is chosen by aliens to be a gatekeeper on Earth, without anyone else on Earth knowing about his activities. It’s thought provoking and an excellent example of Simak’s fine storytelling.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

SUSANNE: Yes, I do! I love ebook readers. My main one is a Sony, and it sorts my book inventory by title, by author, and by date loaded onto the reader. I also have an eBookwise reader and the Rocket reader. Each reader has its own advantages.

STEPH: Renoir, Monet, or Picasso?

SUSANNE: Definitely not Picasso! Choosing between Renoir and Monet, I’ll pick Monet. Monet was an impressionist painter, specializing in landscapes. I find I’m drawn to the scenic outdoors. Renoir, also an impressionist, was known for his portraits.

Thank you, Stephanie, for this interview!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Author Spotlight week - Excerpt from The Privateer

"Good Lord!" was Captain Adair's first private remark. "What was that wild, babbling thing?" Well satiated at the Lieutenant-Governor's expense, Captain Adair and Bertrand had excused themselves as the hour drew late. Once free of the manor's gates, they slowed their pace, letting their eyes adjust to the dim light of the waxing half moon. Dark shadows of the island's palm trees stretched across the foot path like ghostly sentinels. Fronds ruffled the night air. "Those white curls," Adair continued, "have you ever seen such fair madness?"

Bertrand waved him off. "I prefer beauty in her natural state, not trussed like a turkey without a mind to own."

"I didn't mean she wasn't a beautiful thing, Miss O'Connell. If one likes a girl with no shape and high as a heron."

"Now that I am faced with the inevitable obligation of procuring one of those things as you call them, I'm not inclined to worry about form."

"Well," said Adair, too loose in the tongue, "I'm sure Miss Spencer feels the same way."

Bertrand made an ugly face for his friend's benefit. "What we must suffer to advance ourselves." He wanted nothing to do with matrimony, but he knew if his ambitions were to be met, there was little choice.

"Surely a title has its merits. Fortunately for me," Adair added, "I only need to catch and conquer to earn my colors."

"And you have conquered well," Bertrand said wryly.

Adair lost all mirth. "A fine upstanding wife would all but secure you, mate."

Bertrand ground his teeth at the thought that everyone on the island seemed to believe Miss Spencer would make a fine upstanding wife, and nobody more than her mother. He changed the subject before he let slip that he found the O'Connell girl far more intriguing.

"Speaking of security, Dubois has returned."

His companion stiffened. "What information did he gather?"

"The Warbler was in Martinique not three weeks ago."
"Again? Bloody thieves."

Bertrand shrugged. "It's a simple way to profit. They trade slaves for sugar rather than gold, then return to England with a valuable commodity that is easier to transport."

"Sugar purchased from the French. Where are the Africans coming from directly?"

"Not from the South Sea Company, that much I know."

"Should we consider this an answer to the recent surge in kidnappings?"

"I would lay all the blame on the Spanish, but they appear to be too busy pillaging our ships in the name of Utrecht. Port Royal is on vigilant guard. Once these ships leave England the African coast is over their shoulders."

Adair brushed a hair that had escaped its pigtail in the blessed breeze, out of his eye. "I cannot believe a merchant would run such risk."

"Everyone has his thumb in the pie. I don't see a connection with the rumors. And there is more. Some of the same leaflets discovered in Jamaica have made their way east."

"Your man found evidence of an uprising?"

"From what I understand."
"Old Cudjoe?"

"I'm disinclined to believe that," said Bertrand.
"But who reads them?"

"It is ignorance, Adair, to assume the Englishman the only literate creature in the New World."

"Any more rumors of French support?"

Bertrand shook his head. "No evidence, but France would profit enormously. Consider St. Lucia. They want it."

"I don't like it though. The shipping lanes are starting to resemble the Channel."

"Search them," Bertrand growled.

"For what? The papers are official and nothing is out of order."

"Allow me."

"No," Adair said. "You monitor the guardacostas. Those Spanish mongrels are up to something. The next ship of the line I spy without colors will get a boarding party."

"You'll be wise to have orders for that."

"I'll think of something. A lieutenant transfer should arrive soon to replace Walker."

Bertrand stooped and picked up a discarded bottle, half buried in the sand. "There have been more attacks." He shook it clean and blew across the top.


"Aye. Pirates. And this Moreaux, again. He appears to scout within a closer range of the colonies before each strike then disappears quickly."


Bertrand shrugged in the blue moonlight. "Belize, perhaps? New Providence? Maybe as far as Brazil."

"Too far, man. Any more theories?"

"Men from the Main recognize the name."

This drew in Adair immediately. "Any word from survivors?"
"To my knowledge, he doesn't leave any."
"Then the rumors are from?"

The pair approached a slight embankment that led to the wharf and the frigate, Indemnity. Bertrand stopped. "He seems to be regrettably selective. Flies any colors he fancies. She's rumored to be a galleon although anyone able to throw up sails and ignore a few chasers can elude them."

Adair sought the moon. It glowed luminous, unlike his expression. "You've been given more than I," he muttered. He wiped his hand over his face looking suddenly tired. "Until next week then, my old friend," and taking his cue, Bertrand slipped off into the shadows underneath the pilings.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week -Danielle Thorne shares her last vacation

I'm lucky to be able to take a few road trips every year, but my last big getaway was in April of 2010. I can't believe it's been almost a year since I had the opportunity to walk the Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico, and dive with a young local in Mahahuel as he collected lionfish specimens with a spear gun. I've always been attracted to the exotic – the Orient, Europe and the Caribbean. I have a deep love for this planet. The beauty and diversity of it amazes me. It's truly a blessing.

Getting away and planning vacations isn't easy, especially at my stage of life. It's something I've sought to make a priority, not just for myself but for my family. As St. Augustine said, "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." I've become a hands-on person. I want to taste, touch, smell and feel everything I've read about. Traveling makes me feel alive. If that means living on a small grocery budget to save pennies, or wearing off-brand clothes, so be it.

We had a very small Christmas this year, and my children were very understanding. I'm sure it's because they know next spring, we hope to be cruising the waters of the eastern Caribbean and adding a few more dive experiences under our belts.

Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week -Danielle Thorne shares her favorite 80's show

I watched a lot of television growing up. Even back then, experts worried it would stifle my imagination. I don’t recall it having that affect! Some of my fondest memories of spending time with my big sister, are of watching Fantasy Island and The Love Boat. That special night was the highlight of my week – even better than cartoons on Saturday. As I grew older, I glued myself to detective shows like Miami Vice. I graduated from a crush on Gopher to speed boats.

Miami Vice was so exotic to a Southern girl like me. I'd been raised running barefoot in the mountains and swimming in creek beds. Even when we moved to Suburbia, we were still in Music City, U.S.A. -- Nashville -- so beaches and neon city lights were the moon. The theme song to that cop show is still one of my most memorable show tunes. Then again, every time I hear Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight," I think of Miami Vice and the episode it played on. Oh the days of mullets and white blazers and designer shades!

I guess you can say I've grown up. I do find the Florida tropics a nice place to visit, but I am more attracted to the Caribbean further south.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Daniellle Thorne shares her passion for Historicals

I love a good adventure, no matter where or when it happens. Historicals are one way I like to escape because they take me away. Three hundred, two hundred, even one hundred years ago, the world was a different place. As much as we have in common with our ancestors, the changes we have seen in science, medicine, the Arts and entertainment, and especially society, give each century a culture all its own, creating places I love to visit and experience.

I'm often asked what draws me to write about the Age of Sail and piracy eras. I wasn't born in a coastal town, and I'm not related to any great Naval heroes. The only explanation I have is I feel a kinship with the sea and distant horizon. I feel it in my blood, perhaps from my Rhode Island ancestors that sailed on merchant sloops up and down the coast. The Golden Age of piracy and the history of the West Indies intrigue me because of the exotic freedom it offered from cold parlor rooms. I can relate to wanting to escape the repetitious routines of every day life and strike out to see the world. Although the brutal history in this era is disturbing in many ways, I focus on the excitement that was to be found. I try to incorporate truths, even if they are painful. In essence, I love the marvelous changes of history, but I do not write about it with rose-colored glasses. Our ancestors from long ago experienced the beauty in this world the same way that we do – they felt the same happiness, fear, excitement, disappointment…Historicals are not just a way to experience the past, the genre offers a way to connect and learn about who and what came before us.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Q&A with Danielle Thorne

STEPH: I don't know much about The Privateer. What's it about?

DANI: The Privateer is about a West Indies privateer with a pirating past. Julius Bertrand is doing the best he can to make it in society while carrying out clandestine work for the government. When a new doctor and his precocious daughter arrive to his island colony, Bertrand finds himself distracted by the idea of choosing a wife. His ambitions lead him to make regrettable choices that almost kill him and those he loves when his past catches up with him.

STEPH: I understand this is a re-release. How did it find a home with Desert Breeze?

DANI: The Privateer was contracted in 2007 with another company that sold out months before publication. Unfortunately, it saw little editing, and the new publisher did not honor the contract or my other subsequent books there. When The Privateer's sequel, By Heart and Compass, published with Desert Breeze, we discussed moving it to join its companion, and fortunately for me, it all worked out beautifully!

STEPH: How long did the story take to write?

DANI: The Privateer took me over a year to write, as it required massive amounts of research (including my first trip to the Caribbean). I was new to the Age of Sail genre, as well as early eighteenth century life in the West Indies, but my attraction to this period as well as my love of non-fiction history made it easy to garner the information. It opened up my imagination and made The Privateer truly an adventure to write. The Privateer was my first ever completed novel.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research on the story?

DANI: Tons. I spent many long days on the upper floors of the Memphis City Central Library digging through old West Indies journals when I wasn't glued to documents online. I also read and reread the entire Jack Aubrey series (Master and Commander) written by Patrick O'Brian. His novel, Post Captain, inspired my story. I do not profess to be an expert, but I gave one hundred percent to the accuracy and atmosphere of this time. Age of Sail research is a continual learning process since I don't have a ship in my backyard.

STEPH: Do you cast your characters? If so, who are the leads?

DANI: My hero, Julius Bertrand, is a complete figment of my imagination, a probable patchwork of people I have known or read about. His companion, British officer Shane Adair, was inspired by Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey. However, I did yearn to make him cleverer and less clumsy than O'Brian's lovable sea captain. As you can see, I’m don't usually type cast, but I do confess my heroine was based on the beautiful actress, Nicole Kidman, who takes my breath away.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? Which one?

DANI: Yes! I have a Sony Reader, about a year old, that I love very much. I wouldn't turn my nose up at a Kindle though!

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

DANI: I started writing in second grade and received my first national recognition at fourteen years old. Poetry came natural to me, but working up to novels has taken a lot of study and perseverance. For me, short story writing is the most difficult. I always find it a challenge and admire anyone who can create a strong message in so few words.

STEPH: Which state do you live in? Can you tell us a little about it?

DANI: I currently live in Georgia, although I was raised in Tennessee. I'm a bit of a gypsy, being born in Chicago and having lived all over the South. I've also lived in Idaho and Oklahoma. My favorite thing about Georgia is I'm only a few hours away from the Smoky Mountains in one direction, and the beach in another. I love the people here, the landscape and the culture. Living less than an hour from Atlanta is a blessing, too, because I love Theater and museums. Of course, my favorite place to visit is the Georgia Aquarium.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

DANI: My office is a small converted bedroom with a small secretary, bookshelves, filing cabinet, and a craft table heaped with every gadget you can think of, from a laminator to printers to a postal scale. I also have my other interests crammed into other corners—couponing supplies and Cub Scout stuff.

STEPH: What country would you like to visit that you haven't yet?

DANI: I am dying to visit England, which is the primary country of my ancestors and the focus of my historical research for novel writing. I've done my genealogy back to the 1700's in two northern coal mining counties (as well as in Wales). I dream of walking where my ancestors walked. Plus, I want to sneak a visit in to Jane Austen's neck of the woods. And Whitehall. Who wouldn't?

Saturday, 1 January 2011

A History of New Year's by Stephanie Burkhart

The ancient Babylonians who lived before the Romans, approx. 2000 BC, started their New Year on the 1st new moon after the spring equinox. For them, it was the logical time to celebrate, as spring entails new growth. They would feast for 11 days and their traditions included making resolutions. One of the most popular resolutions was to return borrowed farm equipment!

The Egyptians used a similar calendar to the Babylonians, as did the Romans. Throughout the years, various Roman emperors tinkered the calendar to the exasperation of the Roman senate. When Julius Caesar visited Egypt, he liked their calendar so much that he changed the Roman calendar to start on January 1st and synchronized it with the sun, thus the previous year continued on for 445 days. This came to be known as the Julian Calendar.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII created the calendar, which is what most of the western world now uses. It firmly set the calendar in stone and provided a clear distinction of the four seasons. It's hard to believe our modern calendar is only 428 years old!


It has always been thought that one can affect the luck they have in the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason people hold parties, eat certain foods, and follow certain traditions. The Dutch believe eating donuts on New Years will bring them good luck. Other lucky foods include cabbage, black-eyed peas, and rice.


The custom can be traced back to the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, and the winter solstice. The first person you encountered when the bell chimed midnight should be the first person you kiss. Kissing a loved one brought good luck. Kissing someone less liked or not at all brought misfortune. No wonder why people partied with friends and loved ones.


Since 1904, the popular place has been a hot spot for parties. In 1904, the owners of the square held roof top parties. In 1907, they dropped the first ball. It was made of iron, wood, and 100 25 watt bulbs. Now it's made of Waterford Crystal and has 600 bulbs. There were only two years the ball didn't drop. Can you guess? In 1942 and 1943 due to wartime restrictions.


Members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages in 1866 with flowers and paraded through the city to celebrate New Years. Nowadays large floats covered with flowers symbolize the parade. In 1902, the Rose Bowl football game followed the parade. In 1903 the game was replaced with Chariot Races! In 1917, the Rose Bowl football game was brought back for good.

Does anyone have any traditions they'd like to share?

Goodie Time:
Leave me a comment and I'll pick a winner on 3 JAN to win a PDF copy of their choice of the following:


Visit my other New Year's Blogs:

At Romance Under The Moonlight, answer my New Years trivia and you can possibly win one of my autographed books. Here's a link:

Visit Happily Ever After and take a look at New Years around the world. Here's a link:

Have a happy and prosperous 2011!

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