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Sometimes it’s hard to give something up. Especially when you’re totally in LOVE with it. For yeeeears I worked with a prologue to my latest romantic thriller release IN HIS EYES and though I REALLY wanted to keep it in, beta readers, writer friends and eventually my editor all told me … let it go Nina. So I did.

Though it didn’t make it into the book, I’d like to share it with you.

PROLOGUE:

The wooden coffin rested eerily over the wounded earth, the deep hole as hollow as the hearts of the two mourners. The man stared past the spray of wild flowers adorning its lid to his stepmother cowered on the opposite side. The reptilian slit of his eyes and the malevolent smile communicated loathing—and power. The widow’s eyes, puffy and glazed from weariness, watched him with a melancholy sort of understanding. The corner of her mouth lifted in a tremulous smile of acceptance. There were no tears when her husband died, none came now, and none would fall later.

Though the heat rose in currents from the tar road nearby, the young widow shivered. Standing in the shade of the oaks, the minister was the sole witness to the exchange. Reading from the book of Psalms, he faltered only momentarily, but finished the ritual graveside prayers IHE cemetarywithout acknowledging what had passed between them.

Perhaps the minister also imagined how things would unfold.

Her life had not been hers for a very long time—now it belonged to him. She deserved no more love than he doled out to her in meager portions. No one thought she was worthy of anything, least of all her. She believed her life—each wretched day she survived, right up to her last breath—was preordained by this path she’d chosen to walk years ago. The way it would end was also a foregone conclusion.

Just days after the funeral, he sold his father’s house and packed their meager possessions into the old Cadillac. Crisscrossing the country, they stayed in seedy apartments where no one looked them in the eye. It was easier to ignore their pain that way. No one asked any questions, provided the rent was on time each Friday. She had no idea where they were and didn’t really care as long as he kept theIHE apartment needles in the bedside table filled with liquid heaven. He was gone most days and used her in unfathomable ways long hours into the night. He’d learned from the best and added new tricks of his own. But she accepted it all as her lot in life.

Now, he no longer needed her. She’d outlived her usefulness. They both understood that. She’d taken him into her bed only to prolong the inevitable. She didn’t plead or cry out with fear. She was just numb—or perhaps relieved it was going to be finished. Maybe it was the sweet wash of drugs coursing through her veins. Whichever the case, she didn’t care.

From the moment his father had fallen ill, everything had been destined. She may have been four years older, but her stepson had the maturity of a man twice his years and he dominated their relationship in every sense of the word. There hadn’t been any questions when he replaced his father at her side.

During their time together, she accepted his beatings, the verbal and sexual abuse, and the neglect. It was all either of them knew. Somewhere, in the back of her brain, she understood this wasn’t love, but she didn’t know what was. She had no yardstick with which to measure her worth. They’d cut her off from the rest of mankind so long ago, she barely remembered anything existed outside the confines of the world where they held her prisoner. She had no immediate family, so there would be no one to miss her when this was finished. Only he knew she still walked this earth and after it was done, only he would know she no longer did.

On this day he’d roused the woman early. Bathing with her in the communal bathroom of the apartment building, he’d taken great care IHE hairwashing her hair and body. With touches so gentle, he’d acted as if he’d felt something for her. His skilled hands had pleasured her without pain. He’d held off his own need until they were back in their room on the soiled sheets. With a passion neither of them knew existed, he’d made love to her. Whispering into her ear, he’d apologized for all that had been and all that would come.

Mutely, she let him brush the black waves of her hair and masterfully massage lotion over the yellowed bruises his fists had left. She watched him tenderly put the needle into her arm. He held her while the liquid worked its magic on her body and mind, taking her to that blissful place of detachment. He took her again, more urgently, but still with great affection. That’s when she’d known for certain that it was finished. She would not live to see another sunrise, never again feel a gentle breeze caress her skin, nor feel the pain of brutality.

He dressed her and took only a few of his belongings. When they climbed into the car, she didn’t ask where they were going. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.

They traveled for hours, waiting for the blackness to cloak them in its secrets. She looked over at him now. In the green glow of the dashboard lights, his rugged features were contorted with grief. Turning from the road, he smiled at her. A heartrending smile filled with regret. Even in her drug induced fog, she could see the tears welling in his eyes.

They stopped somewhere. A city perhaps, but she couldn’t be sure. He’d fed her pills and alcohol for her last meal, so the edges of her IHE garbagereality were blurred. He lifted her from the car, carrying her like an infant into the darkness. He laid her down gently and her body melted into the lumpy surface. The stench curled around her nose and brought bile to her throat, but giving into the retching would displease him, so she swallowed it down. Hiking up her skirt, he removed her panties. He hacked off her hair with the knife he perpetually carried. Plastic rustled as he moved her. He’d laid her with the garbage. How appropriate. The cold sting of his tears fell upon her face as he pressed his lips to hers for the last time.

She wanted to touch him, to tell him she understood, but she couldn’t lift her hand or form the words on her lips. She was tired, so very tired.

His face was a smooth canvas of detachment when he pushed the final needle into her vein. With one last caress of her cheek, he left.

The cold rain continued to fall long after he turned his back on her, long after she slipped into oblivion.

I LOVE this story. It was many years percolating before it became a published novel. Here are some of my favorite lines from GARDEN OF SERENITY.

Garden-of-Serenity-e-reader-copy

1. Jahara Khateri’s life was over. As she stared out the windows of the crowded helo-train, she knew nothing could change the course of her life. She felt the hollow reality as obvious as the barren expanse of the desert stretching between her and the horizon.

2. Gabriella Bresilee settled her bony frame in one of the chairs across from Jahara. The yellow suit she wore covered every inch of her alabaster skin, save for her face, hands and feet. Tucking stray wisps of auburn hair back into the braided bun at the top of her head, Gabriella’s mouth curved in a predatory grimace.

3. Brenimyn’s hand engulfed hers and he leaned in close, the warmth of his breath stroking her cheek. “My dear, I was not in your head. You crawled into mine somewhere around the barn scene with Nazaret and the replay of our lovemaking.” He nipped the bottom lip of her gaping mouth. “Which, I might add, has been a pleasant vision while we rode.”

NudeCoupleSmall4. To the women before him, he was nothing more than a stud. Stupid, beastly and—inhuman. Oh, if only they knew what he could do, they wouldn’t think themselves so superior, now would they?

5. The anger riding on his words pushed her away. “I…I’m not sure. I haven’t had time to process this. I need…” Her voice fell away. She had no idea what she needed.
“What, Jahara? You need what?” Brenimyn pressed his palm between her breasts, the contact buzzing through her, quickening her pulse. “The truth you seek is right here. Feel it. Feel me.”

6. Mikalyn would never, as long as she lived, forget the ultimate powers of healing she witnessed the day before. The light poured forth from Jahara, radiating from her heart down her arms, to her hands, buried deep in Lukiam’s arm. Jahara’s upper body glowed with a brilliance pouring into Lukiam until the unconscious man became luminescent with the healing power flowing out of Jahara. It had been only minutes they’d been joined in that halo of light, but the vision of it would be seared in Mykilai’s mind forever.

7. “Brenimyn’s the one for me. I wasn’t looking, but there he is. There’s always been something missing.” Jahara pressed a palm to her heart. “With Bren, my heart is whole.”

WomanSmall8. A picture of Jahara standing in front of the government building filled the wall monitor. Brenimyn’s heart nearly stopped at the image of her. She looked lost. He knew he couldn’t have saved her from that moment, but guilt knotted his gut. He hadn’t told her how things would go today. The vision his sister had shared with Brenimyn made him the scapegoat. No one had known how the Government would accomplish it, but he was here only to pave the way for the true warrior. The battle was Jahara’s to win or lose. He was never meant to stand at her side while she fought.

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Okay, I’m going to come right out and say it … I’m a beach bunny. Ya know, like a snow bunny, only warmer and in a lot less clothes. 😀 And it’s really hard for me to watch the summer winding down. (And just like every year I’m wondering … where the heck did it go???)

Yep, I grew up on the coast of Maine. I worshiped the sun so much that I never lost my tan lines in the winter. Seriously. I didn’t know until I went off to college and didn’t have quite as much time in the sun, that a white bikini in the shower wasn’t normal. LOL! (Of course back then I was too young and stupid to worry about the ozone layer and skin cancer. *eyeroll* Foolish youth.)

Those hours lounging on a towel shaped my romantic fantasies. There is nothing sexier to me than a man without a shirt, a pair of jeans and bare feet. The bare feet are a must. And if he was sitting around the bonfire at the river, laughing and hanging (and maybe doing a little flirting), well I was in definite lust.

I learned to sail on the ocean and snorkel it’s waters. I got my first kiss at the beach. (Probably shouldn’t mention it was during a game of spin the bottle. Yeah, pretend I didn’t say that.) Held hands for the first time walking along the sandy shore in the blue wash of a full moon. And yep, after I met Mr. Nina … a little nookie a time or two in the privacy of the dunes.

I’ve enjoyed sunsets and starry nights. The soft brush of an ocean breeze and the crisp bite of the ocean waves. The ocean is the most romantic place I’ve experienced. It’s no wonder the smell of salty air makes my heart go all squishy.

I’ve set a couple of my books at the ocean, the scents and sights always an integral part of my stories. My sexy romantic suspense novel, Deceive Her With Desire (book #2 of the Dangerous Affairs Series“) takes place on the Maine coast. Please enjoy this excerpt:

Cautious, and working to keep his jangled nerves from pumping his legs in a dead run, Ayden strolled to the shelter of the dinghy. The noise grew louder. Ayden realized he wasn’t moving away from the sound. He was aimed right toward it. What a fool. It was a beautiful fall night. No doubt lovers were using the upended craft for a little private party of their own.

Turning on his heel, he started to walk away, when the noise came again. It wasn’t the moan of sexual pleasure. It was the keening sound of sadness. Someone was crying. And from the quiet hiccupping, it was female.

Ayden shot a longing look over his shoulder, debating between the refuge of the path and the complications under the boat.

Chivalry won out and he stepped warily around the bow.

The redhead sat on the wooden slats, her bare feet digging restlessly in the sand, her face cupped in her hands. Between shuddering breaths, she sputtered angrily into her bent knees, but her tears and her fingers kept the words from him.

“Uh-hmm.” He cleared his throat, not knowing how else to get her attention.

“Holy shit…” She tried to jump to her feet, but banged her head on the iron rigging attached to the upside of the boat and fell back down. “Crap!” Her hand flew to her head.

“I’m sorry, you okay?” Ayden reached for her, but she shook him off.

“I’m fine.”

She looked up at him. Even in the pale light, he could see the sadness in her eyes.

“Actually, I’m not all right.” She pushed herself up, ducking her head away from the oarlock. She brushed the sand off her ass. “You scared the living shit out of me.”

Biting back a smile, Ayden watched her glistening tears turn to fury. That he could handle. An angry woman was one hundred times easier to placate than a despondent one.

“Again, I apologize.” He held his hand out as a peace offering. “I’m Austin Schaeffer.” How easily that name slipped off his tongue.

“Deirdre Tilling,” She shook the hand he offered.

Her grip was surprisingly firm. Ayden liked the touch of her palm against his skin. Not all soft and pliant, but callused and rough. He wondered how it would feel running up his back.

She was a beautiful woman. Her breasts swelled enticingly just above the bodice of her dress. Her long, muscular legs that he’d admired in the great room, started somewhere around her neck. No wonder Jameson had been seducing this lovely creature.

Jameson. Right. He mentally shook his head. Focus, Ayden. Tonight was about gathering information, not sexual conquests. But then again, there was that two birds and one stone thing.

So what about you? Do you have fond memories of the ocean? or perhaps another spot makes your romantic knees go weak? Tell me about it.

I’d like to welcome guest blogger, Molly Daniels, author of the ARBOR UNIVERSITY series. Molly Daniels resides in the Midwest with her husband, three children, and various household pets. Her fifth-grade teacher showed this avid reader how to write the stories swirling in her head, successfully unleashing her imagination upon the written word.

Kenzie is the ‘wild child’ of author Molly Daniels. They cohabitate nicely inside the brain of a woman in Indiana who’s the mother of three and ‘Aunt Molly’ to the entire neighborhood. A devout chocoholic, her hubby has learned to watch out when the characters in her head take over and not get too upset when the words are flowing and all concept of time is lost. (LOL)

Thanks for having me today, Nina! All this week, I’ve been the featured Author-of-the-Week over at the Secret Cravings blog, and I’ve decided to extend the deadline for you to have a chance to win a free download of their choice of my back list.

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to two special ladies, Caitlyn McCarty and Susan Best. Both are Education Majors at Arbor University, and both have wonderful singing voices-

C: How do you know?

S: Oh please, the entire dorm has heard you singing Penny Lover by Lionel Richie. And when you come over to study, we’ve always had a tape or the radio on.

C: True. When I’m at home, my choir director at church used to have me sing solos during the service. My favorite is Amy Grant’s Arms of Love.

S: Lucky. My choir director told me I have a nice voice, but since I’m not one of his ‘pets’, I’ve never been given the chance for a solo.

C: His loss. You sing like an angel.

S: Thank you!

Caty, would you be willing to let our viewers know a little background on you, Bryan Johnson, and Peter Criswell?

C: Bryan and I began dating right after our sophomore year of high school, and all went well until our junior year of college. We only saw each other on weekends, since we were three hours apart. Bryan had a brush with the law and was falsely accused of vandalism, and after he was cleared, I couldn’t make it up to see him one weekend and a girl accused him of getting her pregnant. I’d met Peter several months before, but after Stephanie crashed her car, we discovered he owned the first car lot we went to. He messed with my head-

S: No, he didn’t. He simply opened your eyes to the fact you have tunnel vision when it comes to Bryan.

C: (bristling) Whose side are you on, anyway? Do you know how scary it is, to believe you have your future mapped out, only to have it ripped away your final year in college?

S: You’re right, I don’t. But I do know how scary it when you think you’ve lost your best friend. Rob and I dated in high school too, but he cheated on me when I wouldn’t sleep with him.

So that’s another thing the two of you have in common.

S: Yes. Rob went to another school, and while we had a wonderful summer together, he broke up with me over Labor Day weekend to be with Michelle. I’d met Travis the weekend before, and since all my friends were paired up, I felt jealous and decided to encourage him. But when I started singing with his friend’s band, I felt pressure to lose a few pounds, so I began a crash diet-

C: Sweetie, that was no diet.

S: All I tried to do was keep the calories low. You know how hard it is when there are three other girls who can eat what they want, when they want, and stay the same size? If I even look at the candy machine my jeans feel too tight.

C: I admit, we didn’t make it easy for you. But all you had to do was talk to us.

S: Let’s not have that argument again, please? I don’t think Molly wants us to fight.

Okay, let me get this straight. Cait has tunnel vision when it comes to Bryan and Susan doesn’t feel anyone understands her issue with food.

S: I think that’s right.

So are you still seeing Travis?

S: No; I felt betrayed by everyone. Over the summer, I reconnected with Rob’s brother Jamie, who helped me see I’d made some wrong assumptions, going clear back to junior high-

C: You know what they say about assuming things….they make an ass out of u and me-

S: I know, I know. You’re one to talk. You did the same thing about Peter.

C: (blushing) Yeah, well, we all make mistakes.

Okay ladies, thank you for being here today!

EndlessLove_LRGEXCERPT from ENDLESS LOVE:
“Caitlyn, why did you come here?”

“Because, I don’t want to lose our friendship.” Caty sat back down. “I’ve come to value it. I know this sounds selfish, but I enjoy spending time with you, and-”

“Hold it.” Peter held up a hand, shaking his head. “Don’t use me as a substitute, Caitlyn. I’m not the kind of guy who will listen to you gripe and complain about not being able to spend any time with him and who listens to you sing his praises when you do. That won’t work with me.”

“But-”

“No buts. I put up with some of your bullshit last fall, but that was because you were confused and not sure what you were going to do. Then you made a decision, but since Mommy and Daddy didn’t like it, didn’t support your decision, you went running back to good ole Bryan, whom everyone approved of, and you stopped rocking the boat. What’s going to happen, Caitlyn, if you butt heads with a coworker, principal, some other administrator, even a parent, who doesn’t like what you are teaching in your classroom? Are you going to stick to your guns, or will you change your lesson plan? Are you going to be the teacher who changes policy because one of your kids has a need that’s not being met, or will you be one of those teachers who hide behind the school’s policy? What do you see yourself doing?” Peter swallowed the rest of his coffee after that speech and got up to pour another cup.

His words hit her hard. “I-I guess I never thought about that. I hope I get a school system that stands behind me in starting up the drug awareness program, but if they don’t, I guess part of me would wait until the next year to try again.”

“What about talking with other people in the community?” He sat down again. “Couldn’t you build support then approach the school board again?”

“I guess so.”

“Come on, Caitlyn. Where’s your fire? Where’s the go get ‘em attitude you had in October?” Peter bit into a slice of bacon. “Or did your parents manage to destroy all your faith in yourself?”

Shaken, Caty stood and collected her coat. “They didn’t destroy anything. I see this was a mistake.”

Peter moved to stand beside her. “You’re doing it again. Nobody’s giving you the answers you want, so you walk away. Look at me.” He cupped her face in his hands. “I see a beautiful, strong, caring young woman who has a problem breaking away from her parents.” He bent down and placed his forehead against hers. “Or maybe the parents aren’t ready to let her go. Anyway, I believe in you, Caitlyn. I believe you have the strength, the power, the will to do whatever you want with your life.”

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ELoveWeighsIn_MEDEXCERPT from Love WEIGHS IN:
“You’re not going to flub up in front of us, are you?” teased a familiar voice. Susan looked up in surprise as Gretchen, Shawn, Amy, Brad, Caitlyn, and Peter approached.

“Hi, guys.” Happy to see them, she stood up and hugged her friends. “No, we’re just talking about making a slight change in the last set.” She introduced the band members.

“We just got here. Let’s go find a table and get a round of drinks. Break a leg, kids.” Gretchen ushered the rest toward the bar.

Susan excused herself to use the rest room and overheard a disturbing conversation between two other girls.

“…can’t believe she’d have the guts. I mean, did you see the size of her thighs? And that shirt. Good lord. You’d think people who pork out like that would have the decency not to tuck their shirts in like that.” A toilet flushed.

“I know, and can you believe her voice? I sing better than that in the shower.” Water running and the hand dryer drowned out the voices.

Are they talking about me? I’m not leaving until I know they’re both gone. She peeked through the crack between the stall door and the wall and saw the two girls touching up their makeup.

“She needs to get with the times. The Madonna look is so three years ago.”

“At least she’s not wearing a miniskirt.” Their voices disappeared as the door slammed closed.

Stunned, Susan left her stall. She looked at her reflection in the wavy mirror and studied herself. They’re right, I am a fat slob. My stomach has this bulge at the zipper, instead of being nice and flat. She stuck out her tongue and washed her hands. And my thighs do look awful in these jeans. Why oh why did I even wear them?

Because you were in a hurry. You were so happy after messing around with Travis, you forgot to be careful with what you wore tonight. Now people are talking about you!

How can I get up on that stage and wow them for another ninety minutes? They don’t want to see me or hear me. I heard that woman! I sing like I’m tone-deaf or something! Susan brushed aside the few tears. I’ve got to get back out there and fake it. Nobody’s forcing me to continue after tonight. I’ll finish this last set, even though my friends are out there, hearing us for the first time.

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Again, thank you sooooo much for having me today Nina! And visitors, don’t forget to leave your contact information in your comment!  I’ll be choosing a winner and announcing it tomorrow.

Welcome to the JUST ROMANCE ME blog hop. If you got here without being on the “bus”, click HERE to join the fun and visit the other participating authors!

I’m so glad you could make it. At the time of this post the northeast United States is being hit with the trifecta of winter elements: a blizzard with 12-18 inches of snow and record high tides that may cause flooding (thanks to the new moon) are expected where I live, and record low temperatures. It seems like the perfect time to share one of the chilling scenes from my newest release IN HIS EYES, a romantic thriller that just may give you a few more chills! The scene below will give you an idea of how creepy the villain really is!

450 X 600It’s always wonderful to be noticed … or is it?

To those around her, Maggie Callaghan appears to have the perfect life…a handsome husband, three beautiful children, and her own business. But beneath her thin veneer lies a dark past and self-doubts. When evidence of her husband’s infidelity surfaces, Maggie leases a cottage on the Maine coast and prepares for her inevitable divorce. But a serial killer is on the hunt—and he’s marked Maggie as his next victim. Now her beachside retreat is the focus of an undercover FBI investigation targeting the murderer who’s left a trail of bodies across two states. As lies and secrets are revealed, Maggie realizes her life depends on knowing who’s protecting her—and who’s got her in his sights.

EXCERPT:
Like most nights, he sat in the alabaster sand, sifting grains slowly from hand to hand as if measuring time. Watching.

Always watching.

People rarely saw him, unless he chose for it to be so. And the woman meandering along the water’s edge was no exception. She had no idea he was admiring her. Appraising her. Measuring her.

With the tide so low, he’d been able to study the exotic creature whose hair rode the wind like black silk. She dragged her feet in the shallow surf, her eyes cast down as if the ebb and flow of the ocean could soothe away her troubles. The dip of her chin and the graceful arch of her neck spoke of a heavy burden.

She walked without a companion. Alone was good.

Lord, she was beautiful.

The sadness that curved her body in on itself made her that much more irresistible. He imagined he could hear the sweet strains of her loneliness carried on the evening breeze.

He didn’t know he was searching. Didn’t realize the moment had come again.

It had been a long time since he’d found someone who obviously hungered for the kind of solace only he could offer. He replayed the scene over and over again, long after she’d left the beach, long after the day had surrendered to the night. How serendipitous for her to be here on his beach.

He sat, quietly measuring time in handfuls of sand, thinking about the grace of her walk, the gentle swell of her hips and breasts, the lovely mane of hair—and he knew.

You are the one. I’ve been waiting for you.

In the solitude of the new moon, he sat for a long time committing to memory every detail of their encounter and formulating a plan to make the woman his own. Satisfied, he strolled back to his cottage—his heart and soul as dark as the murky shadows swallowing him.

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**** CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED *****

Okay, so with all the cold and snow and wind I’m thinking I’d like to get away this weekend with a good book to one of my favorite warm-weather destinations … The Virgin Islands. I was lucky enough to spend 10 days in the sand and surf doing research while I was in college. It was amazing and beautiful.

If money were no issue, where would go … and it’s okay if you enjoy winter (brrrrr) and you’d like to go somewhere cold … and what book would you take with you? Curious minds want to know.
Headline Anyone commenting on this post between now and SUNDAY, JANUARY 5 at 4:00pm EDT will be entered to win a prize pack including a $10 Amazon gift card, some IN HIS EYES goodies, a bookbag and a print book from my backlist. (Shipping to US or Canada only. An international winner will win a $25 Amazon gift card in lieu of prize pack.)

Thanks for visiting. Enjoy the rest of the hop!

noteXSmallSo, it’s the question I ask myself every time I sit down at the computer with the intention of writing my next story. Do I write something that’s hot with the market or the story that’s rolling in my head? And trust me when I say … they’re not usually the same.

Now, let me clarify by saying that I’ve never written a story where I wasn’t proud of the final product. It’s just that I’ve enjoyed writing some more than others. And I have yet to have any characters just run away with the story. Nope. Soooooo not me. I’m really envious of authors who say they couldn’t type as fast as their characters talked or that scenes unraveled and they were just along for the journey.

Yeeeeah. Maybe some day.

But until then I weigh and measure which story to work on next. I have figured out I’m a one story author. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t left some of my novels to write something shorter, but I don’t work on two stories at a time. I’m singularly focused. I do have several plot ideas rolling around in my head, all the time, but until I have a really good idea where they’re going I can’t put fingers to keyboard.

For the last couple of years I’ve been really focused on what is selling in the erotic market. I’ve tailored my characters to fit in that mold. And you know what … it was hard. I’m proud of the stories and pleased with the end product, but the journey to completion wasn’t fun. Now don’t get me wrong … everyone, no matter how much they love their job, has those days when they just don’t really want to show up and when work is just that … work. And the same is true for me.

But the last book I re-wrote, the one where the rights reverted back to me, was a wonderful journey of being reintroduced to characters I loooove and writing that makes me VERY proud. It’s a futuristic erotic romance titled A TOUCH OF LILLY and is set in deep space. I really enjoyed creating the aliens and weapons and discovering a new setting. When this was out with a publisher, the reviews were awesome! The sales? Not so much. And that’s supposed to be all right because my writing should be about the story and not about what the readers are buying.

Or should it?

Let’s face it. I’m writing to make a living. I’ve never hidden that fact. When my body gave itself over to the MS I was forced to stop working. My writing has become my new career. Failure is not an option … okay, that has more to do with how I’m wired rather than my need to buy groceries and pay the electric bill. But still, I want this new career to keep me contributing to my family’s budget. So then I vacillate back to … write what the readers are buying. And with this new self-publishing thing going on it means I do have flexibility. I’m not bound to what publishers are buying. Still …

It’s a ping pong match in my head with stories vying for my attention. I don’t know what the answer is. I wrestle with it every time I sit down to write a new story. Ideally, I’d like a balance of both worlds, a story that is fun to write and one the readers will love. I have no idea if I’ll ever find the middle of that road, but I’m working on it.

So as an author, where do you head with your stories? And as a reader do you read by genre or by author or a balance of both? Because I’m dying to know.

And because this is my blog and a place for me to do a little marketing. Here’s the new cover from Dar Albert … an aaaamazing cover artist and the blurb:

399 X 650Ex-Chicago detective LILLY D’ANGELO has a secret she doesn’t share with anyone. A master of the one night stand, she’s given up ever finding a soul mate and thrown herself head first into her career. That is, until she captures the wrong alien. Kidnapped and sold into the sex slave trade, she’s shipped into deep space. Barely escaping with her life, Lilly now travels the galaxy working as a bounty hunter using her secret talents to bring down criminals and seeking revenge on the one male who ruined her life.

Agent DALLAS SAWYER works for deep space’s version of the FBI. After a disastrous mission that left several of his team members murdered, a president executed, and Dallas near death, he’s determined to take down the assassin targeting government officials. When a sexy human female gets between him and his goal, Dallas and his alien partner find themselves on the receiving end of a passionate night they won’t soon forget and a proposition that may very well blow up in their faces.

Because in deep space … true love can happen with just a touch.

 

JustRomance.me Bloghops

Welcome! I’m so happy you’ve found your way here. If it was just by chance … well you’ve joined me on the right day because it’s Just Romance Me Earth Day Blog Hop weekend with all kinds of wonderful authors to check out and plenty of prizes to be won. (If you’re not on the “bus” just click HERE to start at the beginning.) One lucky hop participant will also be chosen at random to win a $75 gift card and a second will win a $25 gift card.

I love Earth Day. My first true experience celebrating happened on the mall in Washington. Mr. Nina and I were there by chance with our children (who were really young … so that’ll tell you how many years ago that was … I have grandchildren now!) and we got to take part in all kinds of activities. Now, I like to think earth day is every day!

So here are a few tips on protecting Mother Earth:

1. Think Green
Sometimes being eco-friendly is just thinking about something before you do it. Like refilling a mug at your local Starbucks instead of using a Styrofoam cup or packing your lunch in plastic washable containers rather than ziploc bags. I mean really … would you not want to enjoy a walk through a beautiful green field with your honey?

2. Conserve Water
Run your dishwasher and washing machine only when you have a full load. And of course you can take smarter showers by using low flow shower-heads. Better yet … bathe with a friend.
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3. Fuel Efficient Automobiles
A car that gets 20 miles to the gallon emits 50 tons of carbon dioxide over it’s life time. Double the gas mileage and cut down the amount of air pollution. Cutting your mileage by combining errands helps cut back on the consumption of fossil fuel and for more conservation … wrap your arms around someone and share a ride!

4. Save the Trees!
Use rags instead of paper towels for cleaning. Don’t print out every memo or email at work. When possible print on both sides of paper. (I actually save junk mail and print on the back of that.) Be sure to recycle used paper. And to save more trees of course you should buy E-BOOKS! All the benefits of a print book without any of the waste of paper! Sometimes being a tree-hugger can be a sensual experience!

So there you have it, my tips for earth day! Hope you enjoyed the photo illustrations. I know some people are visual learners. (Sorry, I can’t help you tactile learners! *vbg*) Let me know which suggestion you liked best or what little thing you do to help the environment that I didn’t mention … or just mention one of my ebooks you’ve enjoyed …

**** GIVE AWAY ****

Anyone commenting on this post between now and MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2013 before noon EDT, will be eligible for a print copy of HEALER’S GARDEN and a $15 Amazon gift card. (Shipping to US residents only. An international winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card only.)

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Publishing has always been a difficult way to make a living. Not just sitting down and actually getting the words on paper (which is a blog in and of itself), but the competition of getting your finished story to the reader.

The whole process has been made easier in the last few years as the world of self-publishing opens a new realm for authors hoping to see their work in print (or at least in digital pixels).

The competition no longer lies in trying to catch the ear of an agent and ultimately the attention of a publisher. The problem for an author is now trying to rise above the din of other books being released daily in HUGE batches. I feel like a woman standing in the middle of the stock market floor shouting “me me me … I’m over here” only to be drowned out by others who jump higher and yell louder.

Like many authors, I go out in the twitterverse and tell people about my books. I mention them now and again on Facebook. I’ve even done a couple of ad campaigns. But like other authors, I don’t want to scare readers away by being in their face every day shouting BUY MY BOOK … IT’S REALLY GOOD! Yeeeeah, that so isn’t going to work. No one likes the hard sell.

So what’s left? Well, Amazon used to have catagory tags for our books. We used to be able to have people agree with them and have our books show up on category searches done by readers. But Amazon found out some people were (in their words) abusing the system. Authors (like me) were having “tagging parties” to get high numbers of agreements so their books show up higher in a search. Some people were putting big name authors in their set of tags so their books showed up when a reader searched those author’s books. In some cases, this was done by some readers who wanted other readers to find an unknown author (which is awesome). In some cases it was done by the author (not cool).

Tags were being abused by some by adding erotic tags to books that didn’t fit that category. Some authors found tags like “spam” or “delete” or “trash” in their lists.

I think Amazon got tired of the sheer number of valid complaints they were getting and have now completely dropped the tags associated with books (Note: turns out this is only on the US site). I think the only way to search for a book now is through the categories authors/publishers add when putting a book up on Amazon. I haven’t heard any backlash from readers, but I’m wondering if many have discovered they’re not getting the results from their Amazon searches. And perhaps readers didn’t really use this feature.

I also think Amazon used the tags (and likes at the top of a book page) in their algorithms to determine a book’s ranking on lists. (Pure speculation as no one knows for sure how the algorithms work.) And Amazon doesn’t like to think the rankings are manipulated in any way. Getting rid of tags stopped the possibility that authors could do anything to “play the system”.

There are rumors that Amazon is going to get rid of the reviews as well. I don’t know if that will happen, but I do know similar things are happening with reviews being used to bring down (or up) an author’s number of stars. Unfortunately not all reviews are legitimate. Again, I’m not sure how many readers use reviews to find a new author. But I wonder if readers are going to miss the reviews if they’re no longer found on books.

What about you? Do you use either tags or reviews in determining whether you’re going to make a book purchase? Because you know … I’m curious about this kind of stuff!

Welcome to the annual Just Romance Me Holiday Blog Hop. Is there a better way to do a little early celebrating of 2013 than with some hawt excerpts, sexy men and fun little stories? I hope you’re enjoying the hop so far. If you’ve stumbled here without jumping on the bus and grabbing a flute of champagne, just head over HERE to make sure you don’t miss a chance for any of the wonderful prizes being offered along the way. And of course one lucky person completing the whole tour will be chosen at random to win the grand prize of a Kindle Fire HD 7″!

2012 was certainly the year that so many women (and men) discovered the naughty side of romance in the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. Dominance and submission worked their way into every day vocabulary (even if they were whispered at bridge club meetings, hair salons, and the quiet of our bedrooms *g*). In that vein, I thought I’d turn the temperature up with a hot excerpt from my BDSM Ecstasy Resorts series. Here’s a little dungeon scene with Sara and Derek from INVITATION TO ECSTASY. Please enjoy:

Inhaling deeply, Sara filled her lungs with the seductive aromas of leather and sexual musk, overlaid with the lemon scent of disinfectant. Her nipples tightened in anticipation, sending frissons of desire straight down her core. The door shut behind her with a quiet click, tightening the hungry knots of need pulsing at the apex of her thighs.

“Bend over that spanking bench in the corner,” Derek said as he removed his black T-shirt, carelessly throwing it over a bondage chair. “We’ll start your punishment there.”

Testing the limits of Derek’s patience, she met his steely gaze. “I prefer to be flogged.”

“I’m not amused by your impudence, Sara.” His voice filled with the danger she’d seen in the hall. She froze in place as he stalked toward her, the push and pull of bronzed skin over sinewy muscle barely containing the power he had every intention of using on her. Derek stopped in front of her, his chest pressed against her breasts, his breath the only thing separating his lips from hers. “I won’t be topped by a submissive. You won’t like it if you continue to push me.”

“Yes, but I—”

With the speed of a feral cat attacking his prey, Derek spun her around and pinned her to the wall. The solid planes of his chest pressed hard against her back, both her wrists trapped between their bodies in the steel grip of his hand. Power sluiced off him in waves that buffeted her and stole her breath. Adrenaline and desire heated her blood, kicking her heart rate up several notches.

This was what her body craved. What she needed more than her next meal. His insistence she give up everything for his pleasure. She hadn’t trusted anyone enough since Marc’s death to give in to the dark desires swirling around her. But as Derek pressed his thigh between her legs, she couldn’t stop her back from arching and rubbing her swollen sex against his jeans.

He swept the hair from her cheek, burying his face in the crook of her neck. “No, Sara. There are no decisions for you.” His tongue licked just below her ear and moisture dampened her sex as she canted her hips to ride his thigh. “I am your Master. This is about what I want. You are my toy. To use as I choose.” His teeth dug into the soft flesh where his tongue had just traveled, startling a cry from her lips.

The pain was exquisite, flaming the fires of hot desire jolting over her nerves. Sara stiffened against his weight, the first tremors of pleasure quivering over her muscles.

“But first, there is the matter of your punishment for your behavior in the hall.”

And just like that, as quickly as he’d held her down, he released her and stepped away. She groaned at the loss of security his body’s heat and weight had offered her.

“The bench.” He nodded his head toward the black padded piece of furniture on the other side of the room. “Now.” His voice was thick and rich as honeyed molasses, forcing her body to obey.

The slip of lacy thong between her nether lips teased her heated flesh as she crossed the room. A rush of cream seeped from her folds to dampen her thighs. From the corner of her eye, she saw him watching her. Derek’s heavy gaze followed Sara’s every move, hunger darkening his eyes to the deep green of the forest. Her nipples strained against the soft bodice of her dress as if seeking the attention her Master was giving her ass.

“Stop. Take off your dress for me.” He swallowed hard, the first sign of weakness since taking control from her. “Slowly.”

Yes, control me so I don’t have to think.

She turned back to face him, her eyes submissively aimed at the floor. With nervous fingers, she pulled the front zipper down her torso, the tight leather parting and exposing the creamy swell of her breasts. Emboldened by Derek’s sharp intake of air, she pulled it slowly over her belly, each rasp of the zipper exposing more alabaster flesh. Cool air kissed her skin as the butter-soft material parted and gooseflesh rose, tingling along her sensitive nerves.

With exquisite leisure, offering Derek time to enjoy the visual display, Sara slid the narrow strip of leather off her shoulder, completely exposing her left breast, the areola and nipple tightened to a sensitive bud. Her breath sawed from her lungs as she slid the other side down. Caught on the flare of her hips, the leather clung to her skin. She hooked her thumbs under the material and rolled her ass, pushing until the dress dropped and pooled at her feet. She reached to undo the garter around her waist, intent on stripping off the thigh-highs and boots, but Derek’s whiskey-rich voice stopped her.

“Just the dress, Sara.”

He said nothing more, and only years of training kept her eyes cast at his feet. She couldn’t see him, but every shuddering breath he took quivered over her skin as if his fingers traced hot trails along her flesh.

At this moment, she couldn’t remember why she hadn’t believed in Derek’s ability to command her. Power pulsed around them. Energy vibrated along her nerves and heated the thick air, making her skin flush. With only his presence, he’d immersed her in the hypnotic push and pull of his domination.

“Beautiful.”

And just like that, the simple word echoed off the walls, shattering the magic.

“So beautiful.”

The voice, no longer Derek’s, was a faded memory come to back to haunt her. A cold rush of fear slid down her spine, pulling her back from the tenuous edge of trust. Derek’s heavy biker boots moved toward her, and it took all her willpower not to cower from the memories his compliment had conjured.

Mentally, Sara shook herself, trying to reorient herself in the here and now. She could do this. She’d done it in Chicago and she could do it here with Derek. The fact was she wanted to submit to him, if only to prove she was stronger than the past. A past that was currently crashing down around her and eroding away the wall of confidence she’d erected. She was suffocating in doubt, unable to completely fill her lungs.

“So very beautiful and all mine.”

Cold bands of memory continued to snake around her chest, making it hard to catch her breath. Though a warm hand curled around her neck, it was the chill of history that gripped her, pulling her back into a nightmare she’d barely escaped.

Sara’s back went rigid, even as Derek molded himself around her body.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m hoping 2013 will introduce even more people to the sweet and sexy seduction of erotic romance. I’m hoping to get settled in a new home we’re currently building. I’m hoping my muse finds her way back from the tropics and whispers sweet little sexy nothings of stories in my ear. And of course I wish for world peace … or at the very least for congress to stop bickering and get some actual work accomplished. LOL!

What are your hopes for 2013?

**** THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED ****

Anyone commenting on this post between now and midnight (EDT) DECEMBER 31 will be eligible to win a $10 Amazon gift card
and their choice of one of my ebooks.

Oh, and I wish someone sexy like Mr. Nina would cook your
New Year’s breakfast.
😉

Welcome to another Six Sentence Sunday where I post six sentences from one of my books. My sexy vampire romantic suspense, SHADOWS OF FIRE, is now available! Here’s a little taste of what happens when human friends have no idea you’re a vampire …

“She’s human,” the man said, slurring his words around teeth hanging unnaturally long from the man’s mouth.

Human, what kind of hallucination was this guy having?

“Hope’s a friend of mine,” replied Alex as all three of them moved in some bizarre synchronized ballet that kept the woman positioned between Hope’s shovel and the crazed lunatic. “She thought you were going to hurt me and since you didn’t mean to attack me, she’s just going to get back in her car and meet me at the tavern.”

“Only if you come with,” said Hope. No way in hell was she going to leave Alex alone to become the bi-line of tomorrow’s obituary section.

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Thanks for stopping by. I always appreciate your comments. Please click HERE to check out other authors participating in Six Sentence Sunday this week.

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