Friday, 28 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from "Lone Star Joy"

Thanks so much for supporting Kathleen during her week in the spotlight. Leave a comment today, Saturday and Sunday and one lucky winner will be selected randomly to win an ebook copy of Kathleen's latest release, "Lone Star Joy." Enjoy the excerpt!

Moderator Steph


Stamos stood over his new housekeeper and frowned. She looked a bit young to him. Hell, if she could get Dillon to sleep every night it would be worth it. He touched her shoulder. The panic in her big hazel eyes surprised him. "It's just me," he assured her.

Joy blinked twice and looked around the room. "What?"

"You must have fallen asleep."

"Oh. Well I want you to know that I never fall asleep in the saddle."

"Honey, as long as you can keep us happy you won't have to worry about the saddle." He knew instantly that he must have said the wrong thing. Her pale face turned bright red.

"George never said. I don't do that. I..." She bit her bottom lip.

"Whoa. What's this about George?"

"He said you were on the up and up with your work release program. He never mentioned me making anyone happy."

"I think we're talking about two different things. Here give me Dillon." Stamos leaned down and took the sleeping baby from her. "Now let's start from the beginning. I'm Stamos Walker and you are?"

Her whole body tensed. "I'm Joy Courtland. I'm the horse wrangler. I'm on the prison work release program."

Stamos softly swore. "George sent you here? You're not the new housekeeper?"

Joy shook her head. "Is there a problem?"

"I don't hire women to work on my ranch. George knows it too."

"If you would just give me a chance." Her bright blue eyes were too big for her thin face. In fact, all of her looked down right thin, except for the glorious chestnut braid that hung down her back. It looked as thick as his wrist.

"Listen, can you hold Dillon while I make a phone call?"

Joy stretched out her arms and took the baby, cuddling him to her. Stamos gave her a curt nod and walked to the phone across the room.

"Well, Dillon, I guess it's back to the women's penitentiary." She looked down at Dillon and sighed. "You sure are a cute one, but I guess it makes no never mind to me." Her braid hung over her shoulder and Dillon grabbed it. "Ouch. You little dickens. Give me my hair back." Dillon held on tighter with both hands this time.

"Well if you don't beat all. You are a handful. Full of piss and vinegar I'd say. Cute as a doodle bug, but a handful." She smiled, as she tried to pry his hands from her hair.

Stamos watched, trying not to laugh. Dillon had pulled his hair a time or two and he knew how much it hurt. This little gal acted like it was all a game. She was good with his son.

He picked up a plastic horse that was Dillon's favorite and tried to entice him with it. "Dill, come on now, let go of the sweet lady's hair."

"Dillon," Joy cajoled, "come play horsey with your daddy." She stared at Stamos. “Maybe if you made horse sounds."

Stamos thought she was a bit daft, but he tried it. Dillon immediately let go of Joy's hair, which she put behind her, and reached for the horse. "I'll be damned. It worked," he said.

"I talked to George." He watched her face close and her body tense. "It doesn't make sense. I run a work release program for non-violent offenders, male non-violent offenders. You don't qualify for either. I don't know what to do with you. I feel bad, but you'll have to go back in the morning. Will I have to worry about you running off ?"

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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Kathleen Ball talks about suffering for her craft

When I wrote my first couple of novels, I had ever been near a horse. I bought many books about them. There certainly are many different breeds. Really, what did I know? I'd read tons of westerns but I never really appreciated the relationship between the characters and the horses.

Everyone knows that the horse is a cowboy's best friend, but until you actually have a horse study you with its big brown eyes that you get it. These magnificent creatures each have their own personality. At the stable, they have a pecking order. Some form relationships and follow each other around and there is that one mare that everyone hates to be around. Yes, they can be bossy.
My Daughter-in -law Brittany loves horses. She purchased a rescue horse named Dash. He's chestnut in color and very tall. He looks more like a thoroughbred but he's a quaterhorse. You would think that being the biggest horse, he'd be in the front of the pecking order. Dash didn't seem to know that he was the biggest. Eventually they took a liking to him and he now has many friends including a donkey and two goats.

I learned how to wash and brush Dash. He'd head butt me and put his head over my shoulder. It was time to learn to ride, not Dash though. Brittany rode Dash and I rode Pina Colada a much shorter white horse. I was fine with short.
We went trail riding. It took me a while to get Pina to go. I didn't want to hurt her but I guess I didn’t kick her sides hard enough. Finally, we were on our way. I was excited and nervous. We didn't get very far before Pina decided to stop and eat. The tall grass enticed her. Brittany yelled to pull her head up. I tried but again I didn't want to hurt her. She knew-- I know Pina knew I was a new rider. Eventually she was off following DashMy son Steven was riding behind me, and his horse decided it would be fun to keep biting Pina. Brittany kept telling me to let go of the saddle horn and just hold the reins. Well I could do both at once and there was no way I was going to let go. The woods and lake were beautiful.

I thoroughly enjoyed the outing. We headed back and I thought I'm going to do this next weekend. We got back to the horse trailer. To get on the horse there are steps. Getting down you're on your own. No hunky cowboy showed up to lift me down.

Brittany held the reins and explained what I was supposed to do. I swung my right leg around and I guess I was supposed to take the left foot out of the stirrup and gently and gracefully slide down. That didn't happen. I didn't take my left foot out of the stirrup and if it hadn't been for Brittany, I would have been flat on my back under Pina.
Dash, Brittany, Colt and Steven

I pulled my hip. Six weeks before it healed. The nice weather is starting here in Texas and I can't wait to go horseback riding.

Callie's Heart - April 2012
Texas Haven- July 2012
Ryelee's Cowboy -August 2012

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Character interview with Joy & Callie

Welcome ladies I'm so glad you could be here.

Callie-- No problem I love spending time with Joy.
Joy-- I heard we'll be talking about men. You can count me in.

I have met both of your husbands and I must say I'm impressed.

Joy-- Tall, dark and handsome. That's my Stamos.
Callie-- Mine's a tall drink of water. Brown hair with blue eyes. If you want impressed you need to see him with his shirt off.
Joy-- Stamos has an awesome build too.

Callie how did you meet Garrett?

Callie-- I've known Garrett forever. He was always there for me growing up. We've had a few bumps in the road. We married to save my ranch. I thought it was a real marriage but Garrett thought he was just helping out. Took me a while but I lassoed that Cowboy.

Sounds romantic.

Callie-- not really, I'm the best roper in the county. He tore my heart out and stomped on it a few times. We're happy now.

That's good to hear. Joy how did you meet Stamos?

Joy-- I met him when I arrived at his ranch for the prison work release program. He thought I was the nanny and handed me his son, Dillon.

And it was love?

Joy--Oh heck no. He didn't trust me. I was convicted of stabbing my stepmother. The problem was his release program was for non--violent males. I didn't fit that description.

But then it turned to love?

Joy--Not at first there was a little busy body named Bailey who tried to come between us. Then Stamos married me so I wasn't thrown back into prison.

Callie-- speaking of Bailey-- she tried to steal my husband too. She knows better than to tangle with us.

I'm sure. How are Stamos and Garrett as fathers?

Callie-- I couldn't have asked for a better father for my twins.

Joy-- Does my heart good when I watch Stamos. He's a good Dad.
Callie-- Me, Joy and our new friend Storm leave the kids with the men and have a ladies night at least once a month. You'll meet Storm in February.

Where do you usually go for ladies night.

Joy-- Lasso Springs is a small town. We usually go to the whiskey barrel. The whole incident with Callie has been forgotten.


Callie-- I was mad at Garrett so I went to the whiskey barrel and let men dance with me for shots. I was having a good time, but Garrett came, threw me over his shoulder and took me home.

Sounds like he's very macho

Joy-- laughs. They think they are, but we have them tamed.
Callie-- of course they don't realize it. We can usually get our own way.
Joy-- They are rugged cowboys, and they look intimidating on the outside but they are sweethearts inside.

Do you believe in a happy ending?

Callie-- I'm living mine
Joy-- Me too. When Stamos has his arms around me I know I'm home.

Thank you ladies. It was so nice to meet you.


Callie's Heart - April 2012
Texas Haven- July 2012
Ryelee's Cowboy -August 2012

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Kathleen Ball talks about her journey into writing

I've been writing a little over three years. I wrote my first book and immediately sent it off to all kinds of contests. I didn't know anything about writing, but I felt that my story was good. I was so sure that people would love my book.

Reality set in. I got my contest feedback. It was a RWA contest and their judges usually will tell you what is wrong with the first 20 pages-- or whatever the rules of the contest dictate. I was stunned. I placed third from the bottom and one of the judges suggested that writing wasn't for me.

It was very upsetting to say the least. I put it away and began my next book. I eventually grew curious to see what was so wrong with my novel. My main problem was point of view. I'd never heard of it. In fact, there are a lot of writing rules that I didn't know about. I wish I had known them. Each time I learned another important one I would reedit my books.

It wasn't until I wrote Callie's Heart that I even had a handle on most of the rules. Meanwhile I was trying to get an agent and couldn't understand why they weren't interested. My books were on and they were all award winners. I still had a lot to learn.

Passive sentences were a big problem so I went in and rewrote them all. After that, I found out that dialogue tags were not being used anymore. I learned a lot from other authors that I had met on Facebook. Most of us were unpublished and I would watch. A lot of the time people would say that they had to take out  "as" or  "that". There were always tips to be found. Many bloggers post tips for writers.

Meanwhile I was submitting my manuscript. Desert Breeze Publishing wanted Callie's Heart and the other two in the series. Lone Star Joy and Stetson's Storm. I thank them, it's been such a positive experience.

Of course my novels have had to be edited. The best thing about the editors is that they don't just say change it, they explain why it is wrong and offer suggestions. I've heard of writers that fight with their editors. I haven't had that happen. I value their experience and advice. I've put the skills I learned from them, and use them in the novels that I'm writing.

I love that I am constantly learning. My nemesis is the comma. I tried to get a movement going to eliminate the comma. People really love their commas. I have studied the comma and feel that I have a better grasp of them.

My advice is to know the rules of your genre. Enter a few contests that provide feedback, and be willing to take advice.

Callie's Heart - April 2012
Texas Haven- July 2012
Ryelee's Cowboy -August 2012  

Monday, 24 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Kathleen Ball

STEPH: I don't know much about "Lone Star Joy." What's it about?

KATHLEEN: Lone Star Joy is a Contemporary Western Romance. It's book two of the Lasso Springs Series. Callie's Heart is Book one.

Sexy, Cowboy, Stamos Walker has a choice, either marry Joy Courtland or send her back to jail. Joy is a convicted murderer but Stamos believes she is innocent in every way.
STEPH: How long did it take you to write?
KATHLEEN: It took me about three months to write.

STEPH: How much research did you have to do?

KATHLEEN: You can learn a lot by reading books and researching on the internet. I'd never been around horses so I learned how to ride a horse. It was fun.

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

I love the cover. It's another piece of art by Gwen Phifer. It embodies Joy's need and desire to be free.

STEPH: Joy is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness?

KATHLEEN: Joy's strengths are what she learned in prison, keep you back to the wall, your head down, be aware of your surroundings, and always be ready to fight for your life. Her weakness is that she believes that the only one you can count on is yourself.

STEPH: What does Stamos find appealing about her?

KATHLEEN: A former FBI agent, Stamos admires her resilience. He understands her tough exterior. I love when he continues to find the softness inside of her. The little things, singing to his baby, having animals flock to her.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

KATHLEEN: I always believe that love can conquer all. Of course, there are obstacles to overcome but in the end, the journey is well worth it.

STEPH: As a writer, where do you draw inspiration from?

KATHLEEN: I've always been a reader. I can remember my sister calling me a bookworm. I always had a book with me. I discovered the world of romance after I had my son. I was hooked. I'd read a book a day. I love all types of romance but the Cowboys won me over. I really don't know where the inspiration comes from. While writing one book-- the idea for another just forms.

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

KATHLEEN: I have a kindle fire-- I don't leave home without it. It's full of books. A lot from Desert Breeze Authors.

STEPH: Fun question: Do you have an autumn traditions you like to share?  Pie Baking? Hayrides? Bonfires? Yankee Candle scents

KATHLEEN: First is the pumpkin coffee at Starbucks. I make pumpkin bread and we have baked apples and cider. It's funny I sit here writing, and it's hot out. I live in Texas. I lived most of my life in New York and I miss the vivid array of colors of the changing leaves. I miss the crisp cool air. But I have to say, driving out of my subdivision and seeing cattle is amazing.


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Friday, 21 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Dark Days of Promise

Thank you so much for supporting Shaunna during her week in the spotlight. We hope you enjoy this excerpt from her release, "Dark Days of Promise."

Moderator Steph

My senses distilled, the clean lemon scent of Janine's home intensified. This specter existed as no spirit at all... but a soldier in army fatigues wearing the ranking emblem of an officer on his chest. His frame seemed to fill the whole corridor.

Intimidated by his size, if not his rank, I gave him my immediate and full attention.

"Can I help you?" His voice rumbled with authority. He positioned himself, taking the defensive, his booted feet shoulder width apart, his elbows inches from both walls, blocking the space.

I managed to regain a smidgeon of composure. "I should ask you the same." My voice sounded self-assured. I wondered where it came from while feeling so inferior to him.

"Why? This is my home."

I lost my balance, stumbling back a couple of feet, my surprise giving way to embarrassment. My hand went to my hair to comb it before I remembered it stayed in place as a messy bun. I dropped my hand wishing I knew what to do with it.

"Oh... you're Kelly." I stammered, unsure of myself, my jaw going slack. I struggled in desperation to right it.

Now I see the resemblance to his pictures. Janine needs newer ones and dang, he doesn't quite look the same as the picture I have. He's... wow. Take a picture Vick.
"You are?" he asked, still very much in charge.

"Huh?" I couldn't think of anything else to say. His charismatic presence stupefied me. I hadn't blinked, lost in the depths of his eyes.

He folded his arms making his biceps bulge under his fatigues. I dared to raise my chin in defiance. I'd give him no more, at least not until he retreated an inch. He didn't give it to me. I retreated, feeling foolish in comparison to his alpha-male claim of the hallway.

"Interesting name." His timbre reflected a pleasant nature. Of course standing toe to toe with him in Janine's hallway of small-antiquated proportions disintegrated my defense.

"It's nice to meet you, Kelly." Smooth girl. You are so dead.

"I'd like to say the same." His cautious mantle of soldiering remained on guard.
"Then why don't you?"

"Because I don't know your real name." His eyes betrayed his annoyance for a split second before a shield of secure soldier mastery descended.

"Vicki." I lowered my chin waiting for him, my body poised, expecting his response.
He failed to give me one while his eyes bored holes through me.

"Kelly, meet Vicki, our neighbor." Janine called from her room, her voice reflecting her personable nature. Did she really need to make introductions this way? Did she peek around the corner to watch this? I couldn't be sure with the wall of solid muscle between her doorway and myself. I imagined Janine's face as she overheard our stilted conversation. The humor of the situation flooded over me, bringing a smile to my lips.

Kelly's answering smile altered his expression, and his body language. Almost duplicating his masculine smirk in the photo I possessed, softening the solid mass of muscle without diminishing his potent dynamics.

"Excuse me. I came to see Janine." I didn't dare push past him.

"Mother?" He called over his shoulder, still guarding the hallway. "Do you feel up to having a visitor?"

"I always feel like visiting with Vicki," Janine answered from her room.

Kelly stepped aside, placing himself against the aging wallpaper as though afraid I might give him some dreaded disease if I happened to brush against him. I did brush against him as I passed. Dang he's big. I entered Janine's bedroom to find her reclining on several pillows. She appeared tired, her skin lacking its usual healthy glow.

"Janine, are you feeling all right?" I asked in concern.

"Better now. I called you this morning when I fell. As luck would have it, I fell against the telephone table, knocking it to the floor with me. Kelly came home quite unexpectedly and helped me to bed."

"I'm sorry," I apologized, feeling guilty for going to lunch. "It took longer at the bank than I thought. After, Farley insisted on taking me to lunch. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Would that be Farley Wilson?"

"Yes, you know him right?"

"Early forties, nice dresser and a smooth talker. He missed his calling as an insurance salesman," Janine answered appearing a shade worse.

"You look tired. I shouldn't bother you with my issues. Will Kelly be here long?" She seemed more fragile than usual.

"Actually, he's been busy seeing to my needs and hasn't said yet."

"I'll let you two get to catching up." I patted her hand and retreated the way I'd come. So much for asking her for her opinion of Farley.

Kelly stood at the kitchen counter, draining a jug of milk. He must have heard me approaching. He lowered the jug, wiping his lips with his sleeve. For a brief instant he wasn't a soldier, but a young boy caught in the act. A sheepish grin filled his features. Then his expression changed, his eyes capturing me as if holding me in animated suspension.

Yum. Delicious tingling filled me. Wow, what has he done to me? I thought I'd outgrown this silly attraction to a man in uniform. Not. I focused on my feet, willing them to keep moving toward the door. The traitors stopped and turned toward him. My mouth joined the mutiny.

"Nice to meet you, Kelly. Your mother's mentioned you often." I sensed a smile curl my lips hearing my way too formal effort at breaking the ice. Can't you do any better, girl?

"You, too."

Is it animalistic charisma emanating from him or danger? It didn't matter which. I'd always proved a sucker for both. Vick, you need to remove the sign on your forehead beckoning these guys. That's two in one day. He said no more, and I hurried out the door, my knees masquerading as jelly.

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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Blurb & Cast for Dark Days of Promise

Thirty-four year old Vicki Laramie must learn to trust before she can love, but she might die trying.

While Vicki’s children grapple with the death of their father -- a man whom she’s successfully fabricated as loving, a lie her rebellious teenager recognizes -- she must find a way to support her family and find a role model for her boys. She never intends to fall for Staff Sergeant Chase, her best friend’s son, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’d much rather choose a safer man to love, but her children have a voice in the decision she makes. With two deaths to deal with, a suitor after her money, a rebellious son, and Sergeant Chase’s repeated attacks, she can only hope to survive the danger she faces. If she doesn’t, her children will be left without either parent.

Here's Shaunna's pics for the cast:

Victoria (Vicki) Laramie                  - Natalie Portman
Sergeant Kelly Chase                  - Josh Duhamel
Janine Chase                  -                     Teri Garr
Farley Wilson                                    - Daniel McPherson
Phillip Laramie                                    - Asa Butterfield
Carter Laramie                                    - Aiden Langford
Krista Laramie                                    - Kylie LaDuca

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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Character Interview with Victoria:

Natalie Portman, inspiration
for "Victoria."

QUESTION: Victoria, How do you feel about having one of the most difficult years of your life shared with so many?

VICKI: Vicki, please. Has it really only been a year? It feels like so much longer. I guess that if someone else can benefit from my life it's okay.

QUESION: What was the most difficult thing this past year?

VICKI:(Vicki's eyes tear up.) Death is never easy to deal with, especially when you lose someone so close to you.

QUESTION: That was probably insensitive of me to ask. Let's change the subject. Do you have one piece of advice for other women who are re-entering the dating scene? Only one piece?

VICKI: Oh, if I had to only share one piece I guess it would be, 'be sure not to rely too heavily on first impressions.'

COMMENT: That's an odd piece of wisdom.

VICKI: No, not really. But if it is wisdom you are looking for, you should be asking someone other than me. It's really too bad you haven't benefitted from my friend, Janine's wisdom.

QUESTION: Maybe you could share a bit of Janine's wisdom with us.

VICKI: I'd be happy to. Even the darkest of days carries a promise of something good.

QUESTION:Since this is an Inspirational Romantic Suspense and you have inspired with sharing your wisdom, do you mind sharing the most romantic thing that has happened to you this year?

VICKI: Um, can I share the second most romantic thing? Of course. It happened just before Christmas. I remember because on one hand I was afraid but on the other, I just couldn't get enough. It was the first time he kissed me. Oh, I was so torn. I thought I was in love with another at the time. Christmas is such a romantic season.

QUESTION: Are you going to tell us who you kissed?

VICKI: No, I think I'll let you experience it with me as you read the book. (wink)




Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Having Fun with writing Dark Days of Promise

Writing blog posts - they are at times my worst menace and at others my greatest triumph of the moment. They are almost as much of a challenge as writing a tight query, and certainly worse than that first page of a new novel. Have fun, you say -- and well, my mind darts to the fun scenes in Dark Days of Promise.

Fun- learning how to write a Sizzling Kiss and yeah, my first good written kiss is in the pages of Dark Days of Promise for the reader. You try dissecting your most recent kiss that made your heart go pitter-pat and you loins burn. Oh yeah. Research for that was fun too!

Not so fun - having to tone the kiss down sufficiently for the innocent reader and still make it sizzle.
Fun - remembering the best snowball fights of my life, reliving them, putting them on the page and making them better. Yeah, that was fun.

Not fun, but funny - watching my children's seven foot tall snowman wilt under the local rainfall hours after it was finished. We shed a tear or two over that one.

Fun - Digging up every darling memory of little girls to create the sassy little Krista. It just isn't complete without her interaction with Janine. Janine is the neighbor, best friend, mother, and grandmother. She is my own mother, a few of my aunts, my piano teacher, and my grandmother all rolled into one. How can you not love that woman? And no, I can't play the piano!

Not fun - Christmas, as it unravels.

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Monday, 17 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Shaunna Gonzales

STEPH: I don't know much about "The Dark Days of Promise." What's it about?

SHAUNNA: Thirty-four year old Vicki Laramie must learn to trust before she can love, but she might die trying.

While Vicki’s children grapple with the death of their father -- a man whom she’s successfully fabricated as loving, a lie her rebellious teenager recognizes -- she must find a way to support her family and find a role model for her boys. She never intends to fall for Staff Sergeant Chase, her best friend’s son, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’d much rather choose a safer man to love, but her children have a voice in the decision she makes. With two deaths to deal with, a suitor after her money, a rebellious son, and Sergeant Chase’s repeated attacks, she can only hope to survive the danger she faces. If she doesn’t, her children will be left without either parent.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

SHAUNNA: Sad to say it took me five years, but it isn't the project I started out to write, it's better. And that five years includes research I didn't know I needed to do until I was knee deep and midstream.

STEPH: How much research did you have to do?

SHAUNNA: A lot. But it was fun. I truly enjoyed getting to know these veterans on their terms, not mine. The story didn't take the course I intended it to because of the personal stories these guys shared with me and gave me permission to share a small amount of.

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

SHAUNNA: I actually saw the cover in my mind's eye before the book was completed. The cover is dark as in the title. And just like when you are driving a country road on a dark and stormy day you occasionally will see what I call "God's rays" in the distance. So the rays of bright light over this fledgling tree are a Promise of good in the darkness. This tree is stout even if it is young and so beautiful, much like the heroine. The grass is green hinting at the nourishment available for the tree in the vast and otherwise empty field.

In Dark Days of Promise the heroine feels she is facing a life of darkness but a wise friend promises her that, "…even the darkest of days hold a promise of good things"
5. Vicki is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness? Vicki is tougher than she thinks. There are things about her that she sees as major weaknesses that are strengths in another persons view; Her children come first, even before her own desires. She sees her shortcomings and takes action to remedy them, even at the risk of her own life.

STEPH: What does Sergeant Chase find appealing about her?

SHAUNNA: Her unwillingness to back down. She stands up to him. She's a hard head and he sees past that to her concern for others, including himself.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

SHAUNNA: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) In an effort to treat this subject fairly, I altered my writing course from "romance with a twist" to helping our society, sufferers and innocents alike to becoming aware. It is more than those who experience the violence, more than the victims who experience this debilitating disease that are affected. And it is more than just veterans that face this. It is their families, the bystander of violent crime and all of us who dare to care for and love them.

STEPH: As a writer, where do you draw inspiration from?

SHAUNNA: The best ones come as I write (which means I guess they are hiding in my character's minds), but others zip in from personal experiences or reading or watching someone elses art and thinking "What if this happened in this way or this setting? How would I make it my own?"

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

SHAUNNA: Yes, my family gave me a Kindle for my birthday a few years ago.

STEPH: Fun question: Do you burn scented candles? What are some of your favorites? N

SHAUNNA: No one has asked me that before. Yes, on occasion I do. My favorite is watermelon, but I also enjoy honeydew and blueberry and one by a particular candle maker called "sunflower."

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Friday, 14 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from: Gone To the Dogs

Janis and I hope you've enjoyed her week in the spotlight. Enjoy this excerpt from Gone to the Dogs.

Moderator Steph


Adam was sitting on a bench by the door and rose at her entrance. They smiled at one another, each looking deep into the other's eyes. His hand tightened around her elbow as they followed the waiter to a reserved table against the back wall of windows -- their favorite seat.

Adam leaned forward, catching her hands in his. "Hello, Ms. Abigail Naycomb."

"Hello, Adam, the handsomest man in the world. Were you waiting for me long?"

They smiled at each other. She supposed they were in love. Well, he said it often enough, and she thought it all the time.

"Only about five minutes, but I think I was early. Have I told you that I love you?" He looked at her and she chuckled.

"I don't think you have. Would you like to tell me?"

He raised her hand to his mouth and kissed the center of her palm. She shivered with pleasure. Okay, she never said he was a slouch in the romance department, did she?

"I love you, Abby. I have loved you from the first moment I saw you crawling around on your stomach in that sand dune with your seat sticking up in the air, and the wind blowing your hair around."

She laughed at the word picture he drew and self-consciously tucked a curl behind her ear.

"No, don't. I love the way your curls surround your face. You remind me of a Renoir painting I once saw. Oh, but she was bathing in a stream. Do you suppose you could get naked so I could compare?"

Abby laughed out loud, attracting the attention of the waitress who came over to take their order. Adam, with a grin still on his face, ordered the house specialty for them both.

The restaurant was crowded with diners. Adam waved across the room at a couple who just came in. Abby waved as well. She couldn't remember their names, but she recognized their faces. She was feeling more and more confident as she grew accustomed to the small town and its inhabitants.

Out the window, the brown pelicans lined up on the deck railing, all facing outward for some show that only they could see. She and Adam both turned to enjoy the lakeside view while the wind whipped the water into white capped waves. Wheeling overhead, she could see two eagles slipping into circles around each other in some courting dance, she supposed. It was spring. There was a lot of that going on.

She turned her attention back to Adam, who was wearing a shirt in her favorite blue color. She loved the way his thick, straw-colored hair flopped onto his forehead. His eyes were striking in his deeply tanned face, and she felt she could sink into them. Gosh, I love you. He looked at her, smiling with a question on his face. She drew in a deep breath.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Janis Lane talks about research - Part 3

I'm a Gemini with one foot in the present and another deep into the past. One of me loves Contemporary nature themes and the other dips into history with Traditional Regency Romances (Musa Publishing) with blushing heroines and dashing heroes. When writing BELOVED SOLDIER RETURNS, a Regency Romance novella, I read and researched as much as I could find regarding Roma or Gypsy cultures which was an important part of my story. Available are fascinating histories of a people almost universally disliked. Most countries receive them reluctantly. More welcome now than in the past, there are still towns and cities where the tribes are asked to leave. No wonder they were always roaming. Perhaps their closed society makes them target of curiosity and a romantic feature. It could be the dark, brooding character is popular as well.

More recently I have been reading a 'History of Regency England', OUR TEMPESTUOUS DAY by Carolly Erickson. The author has juxtaposed facts and brought history sharply into focus. It's as if she handed the reader a pair of 3-D glasses as she presents her text. Her social awareness of the era is a valuable resource. What a new land have you virtually visited lately? Do you enjoy researching for your novel ? Did you manage to pull yourself out of the research to continue your novel?

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Auhor Spotlight - Janis Lane talks about research - Part 2

GONE TO THE DOGS is a contemporary sequel to SANDPIPER AFFAIR which allows the reader to peek into the second stage of the romance between Abby and Adam. The setting was in middle Florida and it pleased me to write about some of my favorite southern food. Hope you enjoy the cat fish fry, but don't forget to eat your hush puppies with sweet pickles. The story was full of the nature that I love even as I ratcheted up the tension in places and created conflict between my favorite characters, Adam, the perfect man, and Abby, the wildlife photographer. Poor Abby mostly created her own interpersonal conflict.

I admit I had a bit of trouble with the camera angles. Even as I read and talked to people in the know, I was still uncertain whether my camera bits were sufficient. More research followed. This also involved a dip into the world of show dogs as Abby expanded her work to include pets and their masters. I learned a lot about pure bred dogs from writing and researching this story. Following behind Abby as she worked was interesting, but things got pretty exciting there at the end. You can guess why.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Janis Lane talk about research.

The problem with research is that it's so very easy to become lost in the different types of American birds, the state of our pure water systems, the plight of the American cougar —you fill in the blank of your story line. We are writers, but we are readers first. Sit me down with a non-fiction book (ebook) of any kind and I'm lost for awhile. The most difficult stage is sorting which information is useful and which is to simply enjoy.

I write Contemporary Romantic Suspense with a nature theme (Desert Breeze—SANDPIPER AFFAIR). My heroine, Abby is a wildlife photographer. After a lot of reading and researching, augmented by field trips (okay, I do use all this in my writing, I swear.), my knowledge of my subject had grown pretty extensive by the time I sat down to write. I not only knew what birds looked like, but I was acquainted with the personalities and behaviors of particular species. It was a short trip from that to using this knowledge for a bit of spoofing for the introduction of each chapter of my story. I had fun. Current bird pictures donated by my good friend from Maryland. Thank you. They are gorgeous.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Janis Lane

STEPH: I don't know much about "Gone to the Dogs." What's it about?

JANIS: Contemporary Romantic Suspense GttDs is a sequel to "Sandpiper Affair." Heroine Abby is a wildlife photographer. Her love, Adam, is a large, wealthy park ranger she refers to as "…the handsomest man in the world." They're in the second stage of a romance where they must adjust to each other's idiosyncrasies and imperfections. (Now the work begins.) The story is nature based, set in middle Florida.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

JANIS: It takes me about a month to write a full length novel. Then I start editing. That takes another month or two, sometimes longer. Not sure I ever completely stop editing unless it is published.

STEPH: How much research did you have to do?

JANIS: For this one quite a bit. When I wrote "Sandpiper Affair" I already knew most of the nature- related material. For GttD I researched American cougars, the aquifer system in Fla. and then the kennel clubs and perhaps other facts as well.

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

JANIS: The Labrador on the front of the cover is the first cause of conflict between our besotted couple. He has been taken in supposedly temporarily, but his untrained behavior causes a disruption in the household. He is a loveable dog, but causes mischief when left alone. There is a surprise ending for him which changes the picture completely. It has a happy ending.

STEPH: Abby is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness?

JANIS: Abby is an independent, consummate career woman. She's had an interesting childhood and is privileged to work in her chosen profession. She is very hard working, almost a perfectionist, and independent to a fault. Her weakness is her own lack of self-confidence. She fears entering into a long term relationship with an alpha male like Adam will overwhelm her personality. She thinks she might be incapable of sustaining an intimate relationship.

STEPH: What does Adam find appealing about her?

JANIS: He thinks she's sexy. He admires all her strengths and is very patient with her weaknesses although he does not really understand them.

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

JANIS: Second stage of a romance where the work begins. It's a romantic suspense so there are murders and problems to solve. Danger lurks in the underbrush of Middle Florida

STEPH: As a writer, where do you draw inspiration from?

JANIS: From the things that I love and/or believe in. Nature, romance, loyalty, spirituality, history, the inherit good and evil of man. Research is a great part of it all as well.

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

JANIS: Nope, but I will soon. Probably a kindle.

STEPH: Favorite international cuisine?

JANIS: Italian, but Mexican would run a close second. Does Southern US count as a foreign cuisine?

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Friday, 7 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Accidental Hearts

Michelle and I hope you've enjoyed her week in the spotlight. Here's an excerpt from Accidental Hearts. Leave a comment here on this post today, Saturday and Sunday along with your email and I'll pick a winner from the post to receive a PDF copy of Michelle's story.

Moderator Steph

(The set-up: Abby and Tyler have taken their respective monsters ... err, nieces and nephews ... out to a recreation center with mini-golf, games, ice cream, laser tag)

"Uncle -- "
Tyler jerked around when Pam shrieked and barely closed his eyes in time as the golf club slammed into his face. He threw himself backward and flung up his hands, deflecting the worst of the blow.

And ended up sitting in three inches of slightly scummy water.

It occurred to him that if Pam hadn't yelled, he wouldn't have turned and put his face directly in the path of Danny's golf club.

Then again, he should have checked before he bent to take his violet ball out of the hole. He knew it was a mistake to put himself and Abby ahead of the children, even though he knew the game would go much faster that way. That was what he got for hoping to leave the children several holes behind so he could have some private time with Abby. Trying to get away from them seemed to encourage the children to play fast, which brought Danny up on his heels playing without looking ahead. How hard was it for the boy to see an adult male standing two feet away on the putting green?

"Tyler?" Abby knelt on the edge of the shallow water hazard and reached for him. "Are you all right?"

"Am I bleeding?"


"Then I'm all right. I think." He tried to smile and regretted it. The tiny movement sent a spike of pain crashing through his head. Now he knew how Frankenstein's monster felt, with that seam around the top of his skull.

Twenty minutes later, he and Abby sat in a corner of the snack bar, all by themselves, while he pressed a paper towel full of crushed ice to his forehead. According to the tiny mirror in Pam's pocket, most of the damage consisted of a half-inch wide mark down his forehead, dark red and turning into a bruise. Nothing on his nose, though it felt like the bone was ready to crumble. No blood, thank goodness. He had felt sick enough when Abby had hurt her knee. Seeing her blood had made him feel helpless and angry and slightly twisty in his stomach. Tyler didn't want to know how he would react to his own blood on his hands.

"Feeling better?"

"It's quiet, there's no one arguing within a mile of here, and I have ice cream.
Which, I might add, I don't have to share with those two monsters of mine. What more could a man want?" He tried to smile and was relieved when his head didn't threaten to split open again.

"I like a guy who's easy to please." Abby spooned up some of her sundae. There was an odd flicker in her eyes that made him wonder if she was about to say something and then changed her mind.

"Honestly, I am feeling better. Would you stop trying to feel guilty?"


"Yes, you. It was Pam who shrieked and Danny who hit me. I don't see any way you could have foreseen or stopped them, and Chad and Candy weren't involved at all."

"Well, if you put it that way ..." She fought a grin. "How's your sundae?"


"I'd believe that if you were actually eating it."

"Oh." His face warmed, which felt rather odd against the chill of the paper towel.
The truth was that between trying to drive the ache in his face away, wondering what kind of an idiot he looked like, and gloating over Abby's concern for him, he hadn't had any attention to spare for eating.

He liked staring into her eyes as she sat across the table from him. Tyler wished he could ensure she would be there every morning and evening -- but how could he say that? Most of their time together had been either full of interruptions, embarrassment, or accidents. The last thing he wanted to do was drive Abby away. He wanted to do everything in his power to make sure she wanted to be there, with him.
Short of brainwashing at this point in their relationship -- did they even have a relationship? -- what could he do?


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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Michelle Levigne wants to hear your story!

Tell me YOUR story.

Abby and Tyler have a lot on their individual plates, and it takes some determination, some whining, some prayer, some interference on the part of nieces and nephews, before they can finally get together and speak their hearts. Have you experienced something like this in your life? Not just in the area of romance, but in things you need to do, want to do? Getting an education? Taking a vacation? Obtaining a life-changing experience? Overcoming obstacles, especially the ones thrown at you by people who think they're being helpful but they're actually working against you? What part did your faith play in it? Can you point to something that clearly wouldn't have happened if God hadn't stepped in? Or maybe you wish God HAD stepped in? Maybe even slapped you backwards and said, "Nuh uh. This ain't the way, babe." (Okay, maybe God doesn't talk like that, but how can you be sure?)

Speak up -- either when the blog here is open for comments, or post comments to the Tabor Heights Today blog: I will publish the top 5 on the blog, the most inspirational stories of overcoming, and everyone who gets published with receive a mousepad with the cover art for all the books of Year One.
We wanna hear from you -- and who knows? Maybe I'll like your story so much, it might just slip into a subplot in Year Two ... (Not making any promises, I'm just saying it might happen ............)

Part of this week's giveaway: Post your stories! Michelle will pick 2 commenters in a random drawing to win a mousepad of the story.

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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Author Spolight - Michelle Levigne talks about Tabor Heights Year Two

Happy New Year!

ACCIDENTAL HEARTS is the 12th book in Tabor Heights, and the final book in Year One, which coincides with the 12th month of the year. So in essence, this is New Year's Eve, and the book that comes out in December, INVITATION TO A WEDDING, is New Year's Day.

And just like on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day you have traditions, and you look forward to the new year and make plans and resolutions, INVITATION will give you just a tiny taste of what is going to happen in Year Two of the Tabor Heights books. People you've met and cheered for in the previous year/12 books will show up, and you'll hear about their weddings, changes in their lives, and resolutions of their stories. Some, like Officer Mike Nicholls, will be mentors to the heroes and heroines of the stories of Year Two.

We're going to have 2 collections of short stories in Year Two, both of them dealing with Butler-Williams University students. Some of them, as in the dorm sisters in A BOX OF PROMISES, aren't even looking for love, but somehow love -- or the potential for it, anyway -- finds them!

Just like Abby and Tyler in ACCIDENTAL HEARTS. They are so busy taking care of their families, helping their siblings and nieces and nephews, they aren't looking for something for themselves. But when God drops someone nearly on your head and says, "Hey, look what I've got for you!" well ... you gotta listen. And fight for that true love. Even if the entire world seems to be conspiring to keep you apart.
Just like Abby and Tyler.

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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Michelle Levigne talks about Redemption

Redemption -- I'm not talking about taking a story that you wrote a long time ago, dusting it off, and performing a little plastic surgery to make it workable. With ACCIDENTAL, I had to do some major redemption. I wrote this story I don't know how many years ago, before I started pulling the Tabor Heights stories together. Before I realized it was a Tabor Heights story. I had to change the hero's last name, his sister's marital problems, and bring the heroine's parents back from the dead. Along with minor details like street names, city names, and current events. But that's not what I mean by redemption.

Big confession time: There was a period in my writing when I succumbed to the allure of writing "sexy" -- and the requests of some of my editors, and the pressure of the people around me in RWA. When Tyler plans the "get to know you better" getaway for him and Abby, in the original version of the story, he was planning on proposing, convincing her to fly to Vegas to elope, and even packed a lacy negligee to surprise her with. Ummm, NOT the Tyler and Abby we know now! And in the original version, they were seriously considering having the honeymoon first, before they were interrupted by their rescuers. (Hope that doesn't give away too much of the story...)

I have other stories I've put back into storage that I hope to redeem someday, take away the sex and concentrate more on the relationship and the action, the conflict, the challenge in the story. It's going to be hard, but I've been learning -- and maybe God has been teaching me -- that you don't need the hormones going at 300MPH to have a good story!

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Monday, 3 September 2012

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Michelle Levigne

STEPH: I don't know much about "Accidental Hearts." What's it about?

MICHELLE: Tyler Sloane, who we first met in COMMON GROUNDS as Xander's college friend and new roommate, has come to the rescue of his sister Tanya, whose marriage just imploded. He has her and her two children, Danny and Pam, come live with him.

Abby Morgan, who we first met in THE SECOND TIME AROUND, is the cousin of Dr. Daniel Morgan of Bulter-Williams University's theater department. She is helping her widowed brother, Al, raise his children, Chad and Candy.

They meet at summer camp, when, after dropping off their nieces and nephews, Tyler's Corvette breaks down and blocks traffic. Abby, who happens to be a pilot and has some mechanical skill, steps up to help. They're both interested, but with jobs to do and kids to help raise, who has time? Somehow, accidents keep throwing them together -- and when the accidents start pushing them apart, they realize they want to be together.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MICHELLE: I can't remember how long the first draft took, because it was so long ago, but I spent about 2 months, on and off, doing the revising. Boring answer, huh?

STEPH: How much research did you have to do?

MICHELLE: Not that much. I had to look up some things like if there was an airport in Davenport, Iowa, and a little terminology for small aircraft, but the rest was taken from experience and all the things I had already established for the Tabor Heights books. For instance, where Tyler gets his hand smashed by the knucklebuster on the theater curtain ... *sigh* ... that was ME!

STEPH: How does the cover reflect the story within?

MICHELLE: I love Corvettes. What else can I say? I always give Jenifer such a challenge for my cover art, because I'm not a very visual person, but she always comes through. It's a great cover. I think the hood being propped up on a Corvette, signalling something is wrong ... that says it all.

STEPH: Abby is the heroine. What are her strengths? Weakness?

MICHELLE: She's responsible, reliable, dedicated, has a slow fuse -- but she's so used to putting herself last for the sake of her family that she feels guilty when there's something she wants and she feels resentment and frustration because it seems eternally out of her reach. Meaning a relationship with Tyler.

STEPH: What does Tyler find appealing about her?

MICHELLE: Maybe unconsciously, he likes that she doesn't seem to need rescuing, like his sister. Even though Tanya is strong -- she has to be -- she let her jerk-face husband scam her and then steal from her and her children. Tyler likes that Abby is independent and takes care of others. It helps that she's pretty, but she's not a glamour chick. And it helps a LOT that she understands the world of theater, because Morgan is her cousin. You can't believe the conflict and stress that can form in a relationship where one person doesn't understand the world that the other one lives in. (Well, maybe writers with spouses can understand -- especially the spouses/kids/parents who don't understand that when the fingers are moving across the keyboard, or you're staring into the distance, yes, you ARE working and interruptions about anything less important than blood or fire will destroy that scene you're building in your head.)

STEPH: What is the theme of the novel?

MICHELLE: Life gets in the way -- but you gotta decide what's really important to you and go for it. No matter what. No matter who.

STEPH: As a writer, where do you draw inspiration from?

MICHELLE: I HATE this question. Because honestly, ideas come from everywhere. Some stories come from dreams that stay in your head long after you wake up. Other stories come from watching a TV show or movie or reading a book that you hate because you KNOW it should have gone a different direction. Or the old standby: "I can write better than THAT!" You get images in your head, or someone asks a question, or you have a favorite story you'd like to see from a different angle. A friend dares you to retell an old story. Or, in the case of some of my SF, I made a world so "real" and secondary characters so solid that they developed lives and histories of their own, and I knew I had to tell those stories, too.

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

MICHELLE: I started with a Palm Tungsten, then ordered one of the first Nooks. When my Palm died (temporarily!), I needed another MP3 player, so I got an iPod Touch, which lets me load e-reader software, so I have Nook, Kindle and iBooks on my iPod and my iPad. I have too many gizmos and too much luggage! But I would be lost without my iPad -- I can read in the line at stores or riding in a car (NOT driving), check my email without having to go through the fuss of logging in online, keep notes and lists and iTunes University is proving to be incredible for research purposes.

STEPH: Fun question: Are you a candle fan? What's your favorite candle to burn? Any autumn scents you'd like to gush about?

MICHELLE: I like scented candles, but don't really take the time to burn them. I have a Bath & Body Works 3-wick candle sitting on my desk, half-burned, that I got last Christmas. It's called Winter Night. I really like it, but as you can guess, I haven't burned it in a long time. And I keep it sealed to preserve the scent. Maybe when the cold weather comes back and I don't have my windows open for fresh air anymore, I'll start burning the candle.

But you know, I'm hoping to get my own place soon, so maybe I'll start getting candles and burn them regularly ... READERS? Any suggestions from you?

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