Friday, September 30, 2011

Welcome Ann Tracy Marr!

My guest author today is Ann Tracy Marr. Ann writes award-winning paranormal Regency romances. To His Mistress, the third book in her Banshee Brigade series, debuts in paperback October 25. Keeper of the Grail is in the works. A computer consultant in the Midwest, Marr lives with her husband, two cats, and plots that bounce off the wall. I asked her to share some details about herself and her writing with all of you. Here are her thoughts.

From Ann Tracy Marr:

As I write this, it is past midnight and the cat won’t come in. I hate cats that stay out all night; they yowl at other cats and disturb the peace. So I have to stay up and try to get the cat in. Humph.

BTW—that humph is the way I sound. Not a literary device, but literally the noise I make when I am disgusted. That is how I do dialogue. I stick my head in the clouds and imagine I am this character I am smearing all over the fake Microsoft Word page, and try to figure out what that character would say and how she would say it. What inflection would she put on the words? Would she say, “I hate cats that stay out all night,” or would she say, “I hate cats that stay out all night.”

If the character puts the emphasis on the first part of the sentence once in a while, it doesn’t matter. But if she emphasizes the beginning of her sentences over and over again, it’s a character trait. Convey that trait on the page and you have the start of a person who comes alive for the reader.

When you, the reader, catch the cadence in sentences, you start to imagine a real person. If she stresses the first words, you guess she’s the type who blurts things out. She becomes a forceful (dare I say it?) bitch who dominates the conversation. She is impulsive, opinionated, pushy. Take your pick. Any or all of the above can fit; it all depends on how the writer wants that character to come across.

Here is an example from my latest book, Keeper of the Grail. It starts as a conversation between Lord Brinston and Sir Sloane Johnstone and adds Mrs. Maud Silvester. Look at the dialogue and tell me what these people are like.

Ah, there she is,” Sloane gloated.

“Your Frampton? Which?” [Brinston said.]

“In the back of the group.”


“The one with her back to the wall, talking to the potted palm.” A crash resounded through the ballroom. "The slain potted palm.”

Brinston winced. “For Merlin’s sake, Sloane, stay away from her. Only part you got right was her description and her antecedents. Not only is she a Frampton, which is bad enough, she is barmy, talking to plants like the Green Man. Unless the palm talks back, she’s going to acquire a reputation that will see her exiled to Skye.” He tipped his head. “I don’t know her. Never seen her before. Egads, she is shaking her finger. Scolding a plant? Sloane, it’s really too much. Her Fra Angelico must be imaginary.”

“No.” Sloane slapped his gloves against his hand. “This one is special, Brin. Different.”

“On that, I have to agree. She is certainly different. But different doesn’t do justice to a woman who talks to palms.”

“Will you forget the palm; doesn’t mean a thing. It won’t survive being knocked over anyway. I need her name. By Merlin, if you cannot provide it, how am I to learn her name? Can’t ask my mother; she’ll have banns posted.”

“Maybe my sister knows.”

“I have to find out somehow; I contracted to take the lady driving tomorrow. Deuced awkward knocking on the door not knowing her name.”

“I’d like to see you do that.”

Ostrich feathers whipped across Sloane’s face as Maud Silvester spun on her heel. “Will you two hooligans keep your voices down,” she demanded. “You are giving me a bilious fever.”

Sloane summoned up every bit of the charm he was born with, which was not a large amount. His talents tended more to the prosaic. “Sorry, Mrs. S.”

“Wipe that nauseating grin off your face, Sloane Johnstone. It does not impress me. Brinston, don’t say it. You look like a fool,” Mrs. Silvester snapped. The sharp angles of her face, bisected by wrinkles and spleen, caught the candlelight and lent a devilish air to her words. “Her name is Sarah. Miss Sarah Irene Frampton. And I suggest you treat her with a degree of respect. As you said, she is special. Her surname may be Frampton, but she takes after the Hempstead’s, her mother’s family. And you,” her nose pointed like a dagger, “are so muddleheaded you will never learn her address. The Frampton’s are at No. 5 Hay Street, by Audley Square. If you are to take her driving, mind you are on time for once. Her aunt is hopeless, but she is a stickler for the proprieties. Wear a better jacket. Now, begone.”

The men slunk away. A pencil in hand, Sloane scribbled in a small notebook. “S-a-r-a-h Frampton, No. Five Hay Street.” His head rose. “What's wrong with my jacket?”

Brinston grinned. “It is old, outmoded, and ill-fitting, but that is what I like about you, Sloane. You’re no slave to fashion. Gads, Mrs. S makes me feel like a snotty nose brat snitching tarts off the tea tray.” He veered toward the hall. “By the way, you had better watch yourself, asking this Miss Sarah Frampton for a drive without knowing her a’tall. She might be as mean as Mrs. S as well as being barmy. Never ever put yourself on the block.”

“It’s only a drive.”

“And it’s only the little season, but that don’t stop husband hunting. She’s a miss -- means she’s not married. Looks close to being an ape leader. She’ll shackle your ankle and drag you around Hyde Park, just to escape the shelf. If you ask my opinion--”

“Which I did not.”

“--You need to learn how to say no.”

Sloane shook his head. “She needs help; I can’t just turn my back.”

“Never could.”

“And you have this one pegged wrong. She didn’t approach me; I offered. All she wants is to be rid of me so she can find her art.”

“And I’m the Sultan of Arabia.”

“Well, Sultan, I’m hungry. Let’s find food.”

Brinston eyed his friend’s waistcoat. “You are always hungry. Eat more than any other man alive.”

Copyright Ann Tracy Marr

Lord Brinston and Sir Sloane Johnstone are old friends; their banter shows how relaxed they are with each other. You also might notice that Brin is more light hearted – Sloane is the serious one, although he is not a prig.

Can you tell that Maud Silvester speaks in capital letters? That every word is gospel? Maud is one of the grand ladies of the ton. A dragon who eats timid people for breakfast. It is the cadence of her sentences – abrupt, not always complete, like newspaper headlines – that conveys her character. The two men also use incomplete sentences, but they are not abrupt – not demanding.

I came up with the dialogue by putting myself in their heads -- imagining how each character would react in the situation. Brinston and Maud Silvester were easy because I know them better – they have appeared in other books. Sloane is a new acquaintance, but I did know that he had dug a bit of a hole for himself, and that he is not one to panic.

Would you believe it? 20 minutes after I give up and start writing, the cat shows up. He hissed at me, the little brat, when I picked him up to bring him in. In case you are wondering, emphasizing hissed indicates irritation.

Ah, peace and quiet for one night.

Thank you to Sharon Poppen for allowing me to take over her space this week. She is at meeting new friends.

Visit Tracy at
Buy her books at

Round Table Magician Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587496066
Thwarting Magic Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587496479
To His Mistress Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587497209
Keeper of the Grail Awaiting release

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Jennifer Cloud Stops By This Week!

You are all in for a treat today as author Jennifer Cloud stops by and shares some of her thoughts on writing. We are indeed lucky to hear from such an accomplished author. Here are just a few of her accomplishments. The 2008 Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice nominated her novel Her Eyes for Best Paranormal from a Small Press. Her Eyes was also nominated for Best Comtemporary Book. The Wicked Witch won 2004 Preditors and Editors Reader's Choice for Best Horror. It also won a Reviewer's Choice Award. Her novel Wanting More received a CAPA nomination and an honorable mention in the Golden Rose Awards. Restless Shadows placed number eight in the top ten for Preditors and Editors Reader's Choice for Best Horror. After reading her list of accomplishments, we know that checking out Jennifer's thoughts on writing is going to be fun and certainly worth our while. We are lucky she is joining us this week.

I asked Jennifer a couple of questions about her writing and here's what she shared with me.

What does your writing schedule/routine usually look like?
I get up early and try to get in as many words as possible. There are times I write all day, when my Muse is kind. Others, I can stray from the computer unable to string two words together. I learned a trick from a friend. Always stop writing when you have more to say. That way it's easy to start writing again.

Do you write a little every day or do you block out large chunks of time to devote solely to your writing?
I used to write every day. I now try to steal time when I can. Real life and family keep me from doing large blocks of work. I do miss the times when I could just write and have no other concerns. Sigh. Now writing is like an addiction. There are times I almost feel guilty for taking the time to indulge because it takes time from my family.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Oh, I was a child. The first time I confessed my desire to write was in the fifth grade. I remember the look on my teacher's face. He was concerned then told me that writing was expensive. I could only imagine that he'd self published or something because he told me that you had to pay per copy to get them published. I knew that wasn't right but wouldn't correct my teacher. My mother had told me that correcting your elders was disrespectful so I grinned and nodded.

Here's Jennifer Cloud's bio :
Jennifer Cloud was born in Asheville, North Carolina. There she met her husband who encouraged her to write after finding a partial manuscript. She now resides in Missouri with her husband and two daughters.

She is the author of many novels in both print and electronic versions. She's also had two dozen short stories published and many novellas.

For more information check out her website at or

Her current releases are:
Sweet Jane
Magic Rising: Dragonfly
Coming soon-Her Eyes

As J.L. McCale
Finding Flesh
Liar, Liar
The Other

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Welcome to Jana Richards - Author of Till September

Hi Everyone!

I have a treat for you today. Author Jana Richards is stopping by to share her thoughts on writing and to give us a sneak peak at her latest novel. Self-Promotion is a necessary fact for authors. Authors love to write and it's like ice cream on the cake when a reader takes the time to write a review or contacts the author to share their reading experience. But, in order to do those things, the reader has to know about the book and how/where to buy it. So, when asked about how she approaches Self-Promotion, here's what Jana has to say.

Self-Promotion & the Introverted Writer

I’d rather have dentistry without anesthesia then stand in front of an audience at a book reading. I taught a couple of classes in romance writing a few years ago, but I gave it up because public speaking was giving me nervous palpitations.

The introvert in me cringes at putting myself out there. I feel as if I’m standing naked outside a bookstore hollering, “Here I am! Buy my book! It’s good! Really it is! Honest!”

Can’t I just stay in my room and write? That’s what I really want to do. Why do I have to spend so much time on promotion?

The answer is simple. I can write the best book in the world, but if no one knows about it, no one is going to read it.

So self-promotion is a necessary evil. If you’re an introvert like me, what are the best ways of promoting? What gives you the most bang for your buck, and what forms of promotion are the best ways of selling books, without actually having to make a live appearance?

Lesley Anne McLeod (, a writer of Regency romances, says that sometimes promotion is frustrating, “like trying to get someone in another Universe to notice you.” She uses various introvert-friendly forms of promotion, such as creating book trailers, participating in online live chats, writing a blog, and having a MySpace page. Of all her online ventures Lesley Anne believes her website is her most successful.

“I think the website is my best tool, and of it, the contest and the free stories the best hooks for customers. Building my mailing list is always an aim of mine, and promoting the website where I can.”

Tina Pavlik of The Romance Studio ( agrees. I recently participated in Tina’s online class “The 42 Most Common Promo Mistakes Authors Make”, and she feels that some of the biggest mistakes center around websites. These mistakes include the following:
- Not having a website that she owns as opposed to a website hosted at a free host
- Not paying attention to the content of your opening page.
- Not having a simple, easy to navigate menu.
- Not updating the site often enough.
- Not auditing the site to make sure links and images work, and there are no formatting or spelling errors.
- Having a flashy website that takes too long to load.
- Not giving any thought to how easy the website is to find.

That last one was a biggie. Tina talked a lot about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), metatags and descriptions tags that will help get your site noticed. If you are unsure what any of these terms mean (as I was), I recommend taking Tina’s class and whipping your website into shape.

What about buying advertising? I asked writer and editor Judith B. Glad ( whether paid advertising is worth the investment.
“I think the answer is yes and no. You do have to spend some money to promote, but you don’t have to spend a fortune.” Jude says that when she was first published she bought some ads in Romantic Times. “I saw a tiny blip in sales with each review, but we’re talking just a few more sales than the previous quarter, so who’s to say that wasn’t due to pure chance.”

Do bookmarks sell books? Does it matter if your books are only available as ebooks? Jude says, “I think if you have books in paper, then having bookmarks to insert…is worthwhile. Having bookmarks for ebooks seems kind of contradictory.” Lesley Anne, whose books are available as ebooks, disagrees. “I really think bookmarks are worthwhile—just for getting the name out and about.”

In 2008 I attended the EPIC Conference ( ) One of the workshops I took in was called “Promotion: You want me to do what?” put on by Sherry Wille ( ) and Susanne Marie Knight ( ) Susanne had some interesting and mostly stress-free ideas about promoting online that suits the introvert in me:
- Having a great website (of course).
- Using an email signature line. Be sure to use it and vary it.
- Reciprocal links: Share links with other authors and place on your “Links Page”.
- Offer free excerpts on your website. You can also post them to lists that allow excerpts such as Be sure to create your excerpts in PDF before sending them out.
- Write articles and post them on your website and other websites.
- Write free short stories and post them on your website to entice readers.
- Join forums, bulletin boards.
- Participate in author days on web groups. Try events scheduled by publishers and review sites.
- Start a blog and comment on other blogs you enjoy. Find great sites to guest blog at.

One word of caution from Tina Pavlik. She recommends that writers spend three-quarters of their time writing and one-quarter promoting. Sometimes writers, even introverted ones, get so caught up with all the blogging, online chatting and forum visiting that their writing suffers. Eventually they have nothing new to promote. Work hard to keep a balance between writing and promotion.

Thanks Sharon, for letting me do a little promoting on your blog today! It didn’t hurt a bit!

Jana's Bio
Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy. She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side. She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.

Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, along with two university aged daughters and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. You can reach her through her website at .

Till September - Book Blurb

For the first time since her husband’s death, Hannah Kramer can imagine herself with another man. But then she discovers the truth about Quinn Anderson’s reason for staying at the bed and breakfast at her farm. He’s there to buy farmland from her cash-strapped friends and neighbors and resell it to foreign buyers. How can she love a man bent on destroying the way of life she loves? Will Quinn convince her that he wants to build her community, not destroy it? Can he make her believe he loves her before time runs out in September?

Thank You, Jana, for stopping by!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The talented Regan Taylor joins us this week!

Meet Author Regan Taylor!

My guest today is author Regan Taylor. Her books are always exciting reads, and a little sexy, too. So, read on! Get to know this talented writer. And, Regan would love for you to leave her a hello and a comment.

From earliest childhood Regan was an avid reader and upon discovering Alexander Dumas and Charles Dickens she was hooked on books that carried the reader away to a different time and place. Preferring the quiet of her room and a good book she traveled far beyond those four walls.

Her first foray into writing, aside from tedious English assignments in high school and college, were two non-fictions intended to be of assistance to people with disabilities. Both were a struggle and convinced Regan she was most certainly not a writer. She did continue reading anything and everything she could get her hands on and in 2003 “discovered” reviewing with Love Romances reviews. From her first reviews she became involved in interviewing various authors as part of the site’s interview feature.

The Bride Series tells the story of the Parker Brothers, Kendrick, Brett and Wolf along with their friend Rick who’s story unfolds in a time travel.

(The above bio was taken from Regan Taylor’s profile at Awe-Struck Publishing)

Now, too get to know a little about Regan as she relates to writing, I asked her a couple of questions. Her answers are delightfully insightful.

Do you have any strange writing quirks?

No, not really. Unless you consider that I tend to dream my books a quirk. It’s especially helpful if I get stuck on a scene and am unsure where to go with it. Before I go to sleep at night I think about the scene, where it’s stalled and mull it over. Generally during the night I’ll have a dream that tells me where I need to go with it. Otherwise, I just sit down and let the story tell me where it needs to go.

What is the most unusual thing you have ever done in the name of research?

I’m actually a pretty linear thinker when it comes to research and then move into relational when I’m writing. I don’t know if it’s unusual but for me it was a fun way to research part of With All Dispatch, coming spring 2012 with Awe-struck. I got up one morning and took the route my characters were going to take on their first date. I drove out Novato Boulevard to Petaluma-Pt. Reyes Road and stopped along the way to write a scene where Gareth, my hero, tells Molly, my heroine, how the landscape reminds him of his home. I stopped to have a bite at the Cheese Factory (it’s been there since the mid-1800s) and then headed out to Platform Bridge and on to Pt. Reyes Lighthouse. Of course I wrote a scene with my couple enjoying lunch at the Cheese Factory and they had a romantic interlude when I pulled over on the coast highway. At the lighthouse the Ranger took some time to talk to me and gave me some good info that I use in the story.

Returning home that night I took the coast road, Highway 1, and stopped for an authentic English dinner at the Pelican Inn.

While my couple concluded their evening by driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, I headed north toward my home and wrote a delicious love scene with my hero and heroine.

Treasures Antique Series

My latest release with Awe-struck is The Photograph, book 1 of the Treasures Antique series. The series is set in nearby Napa, California. Well, nearby to me . If you’ve ever been there you know Napa is an interesting blend of rural wineries and small town charm.

I’m sure I’m not the only avid reader, or even reader, who found herself imagining what it would be like to have one of our romance heroes come to life. Okay, I will admit, my personal romantic hero is in my life and has been so through good times, rough times, happy and sad. He was my first beta reader, a former Marine and U.S. Marshal. With The Photograph I took that imagination of having a hero walk off the pages in a different kind of way. You also meet a few other characters, one whose real identity is revealed in future stories. I recently signed book 2 of this series, With All Dispatch which has a special place in my heart because I wrote in the last days of my 22 year old kitty Molly’s life.

The Photograph:

From the time Carrie Taylor discovered the magical worlds of romance novels, she has devoured them one right after the other. She not only thrilled to each new hero, one more dashing than the one before. Carrie clearly saw herself as each beautiful heroine waiting to be rescued by each daring hero. And then one day, she brought home a photograph. A very special photograph and suddenly her imaginary hero turned into a living and breathing man. Or did he? At one time Black Eagle scoffed at the girls of his village wishing on a falling star. And yet his one great wish, that of a woman of his own, was never realized. And then one night, he wished upon a star. Can the love of a man from the past help a modern woman with her modern problems in a modern world?


backed her against the door, holding her firm in his embrace. "You are mine, Cassandra, mine and mine alone."

As the stunningly handsome blond-haired man took the dark-haired beauty in his arms, his oh, so sensuous lips coming closer and closer to her own, Cassandra knew he would take her in a passion that only grew hotter and hotter with each taking. She felt him hot and hard against her, leaving no doubt what he wanted of her. "Yes, Erek, yes. Now and always."

He reached for her, pulling her into his embrace, knowing this was the love he had waited a lifetime for. No man, no army could keep them apart. Never again would they be torn from each other. This would be a love for all time. "I love you, Cassandra. I will love you forever."

* * * *

Carrie Taylor sighed and closed her eyes as she held the book to her chest. "Why don't they make men like that in real life? Why can't I meet my own Erek? A man who's not only totally gorgeous on the outside with a fabulous chest and nice butt, but a really nice guy on the inside? A guy who you can tell anything to and he'll listen and help you do whatever it is you really want to do?"

While good for company on a dark, cold, rainy winter night, Taister's 'meow' didn't really answer her question. She scrunched the long-haired black cat's ears before turning off the light beside her bed. As she snuggled under the covers, she heard Taister's purr from the foot of the bed. At least he was faithful, not like that jerk Dean. "Dean Welman--what an absolute loser," she told the cat. "The porker. Taister, tell me this, just because I hung out with him--all right, dated him--am I a loser?"

When the cat didn't respond with more than a louder purr, Carrie thought back on the man she'd recently broken up with. Dean had come on all charm and kisses, promised her the moon and then went and two-timed her. Such was the story of her life. "Hell, he wasn't even that hot in bed!" Chalk up number--well whatever number he was. And come to think of it, he was definitely the loser.

"I'm well rid of him, Taister, that's for sure."

Drifting off to sleep, Carrie replayed the last few chapters of Her Knight in her mind, seeing herself in the role of the heroine, Cassandra. Erek, of course, looked just like the model on the book cover. She could almost feel the soft velvet of the deep burgundy gown worn by Cassandra on that same cover, her cheeks warming at the thought of the bare-chested Erek with his long blond hair flowing over his shoulders, his powerful hands kneading her breasts. Erek was the best hero she'd read in a long time. As a dream lover, he was ideal. At least in her dreams someone loved her.

The alarm jarred her awake long before she was ready for it to be morning. Even the music from her favorite oldies station sounded way too loud when she wanted a few more minutes in the big four-poster bed in the castle with Sir Hot Bod Erek. Unfortunately, or fortunately for the pocketbook, her sense of doing the right thing and holding down a job demanded she get up and head into work.

Padding towards the kitchen, she found a note from her roommate Molly, who worked for a police department in the next county.

She read the note and sighed. "Man, Taister, things are getting worse at that job of hers instead of better. I really thought--well, hoped actually, that one of these days things would get better. It appears not."

Taister meowed up a storm while she tried to read the note; so much so that she was sure he was telling her if he didn't get his breakfast ASAP, life on planet Earth, as they knew it, would end.

"Okay, okay, little man, let's keep Earth in orbit another day. One can of the stinky, wet, fishy food coming up. Molly wants to get together for dinner. I sure hope it's good news for a change and not more BS from her supervisor. She needs to be catching a break and soon. Did you hear her talking about that crazy supervisor of hers the other day?"

The black cat continued his own little diatribe on how he was missing out on some of life's greatest joys because she had slept till the alarm and taken a shower instead of rushing to make his breakfast. After all, he had some serious cat things to do.

"Sounds like you didn't catch the entire 411 on it and, that you don't much care, either. I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying and just so you know, I've thought about it, long and hard and here's a news flash for you: Life as we know it will not end if you don't get something to eat, right here and now."

Taister grumbled, or at least that's what it sounded like and she couldn't miss the look he shot her. "And some people think cats don't know how to communicate. If there's one thing you can do, and do well, it's communicate."

Carrie finally put the dish down on the floor. Taister ate his requisite two bites and went off to engage in his own morning ablutions. "You sure have a tough life, Taister, a real tough life." He only gave her a quick glance before returning to his grooming. Carrie grabbed her coffee and headed off to get ready for work.

* * * *

Just a few short hours later at work, Carrie looked up from yet another mailing project and to her surprise, there stood Erek--in full knightly garb. While seeing his bare chest would have been mighty pleasing, the shining metal of his suit of armor and the way that metal triangle piece kinda sat there up front between his thighs sure conjured up some pleasant thoughts.

"Sweet Carrie, I hath been looking for you."

"Erek?" The sight of her latest mental lust--break made her glad she'd chosen to wear her favorite sheer ivory shell under an ashes of roses blouse and thigh highs in lieu of pantyhose.

"Yes my love, 'tis your Erek." He took a step towards her, his hand outstretched in a courtly gesture. "I've come to take you for a ride, a short one because you are at your labor, so we will think of it as a prelude to our time tonight."

"Oh, yes, Erek. I like the way you think."

He turned to shut the door and began to divest himself of his knightly garments while he boldly strode to her desk. Seeing his intent and knowing the type of ride he planned, Carrie unbuttoned her blouse. Erek's eyes lit up in anticipation and he reached out a hand to cup her lace-covered breast. "Ah, sweet Carrie, I like this corset much better than those of yore." He lowered his lips to hers. At first he brushed them ever so slightly, tasting the sweetness there. "Ah my love, your lips are like the freshest berries. I hunger for the full meal."

His hand kneaded her breast as she reached upward to partake of a full kiss. His warm tongue was like honey and she melted to his touch. His hands pulled up her skirt, murmuring against her lips as he did so, "I love these hose you wear. The memory of them when we are apart makes me crave you all the more."

Carrie acknowledged to herself that she felt pretty sexy in her thigh highs along with her 'come do me' red pumps, but she wasn't going to bother Erek with that trivial knowledge.

"Carrie. Carrie?"

What the hell? She turned to find her co-worker Maria standing beside her, hand on her shoulder and no sign of Erek in the room.

"What's going on? How long have you been here? Where's..." Oops, better not ask about Erek. I don't need anyone thinking I'm crazy 'cause I imagine my romance heroes being with me in the flesh. It was bad enough when I called out that one character's name when I was in bed with Dean right before we broke up.

"I've been standing at the door calling you for the past two minutes. Man, when you get into your work you really get into it. Although I can't imagine stuffing envelopes is that absorbing."

"It's not. I mean it is. Well not absorbing, you just need to be really sure you get them stuffed just right. And well, I was just thinking."

"Well, think on this, girlfriend. A bunch of us are trying out the new cafe up the street, Gazillios, for lunch. Wanna come?"

"Yeah, sounds good. Let me grab my purse."

During lunch the group shared the usual good laughs about some silliness that happened at the office in the morning with one of their co-workers. "Okay, so what did Visa do now?" Carrie asked.

"I can't believe you missed it!" Debra told her.

"Sorry, you know how it is when you get totally involved in work."

"Right. More like thinking about your latest romance novel," Maria whispered to her.

She play-slapped her friend. "So what happened?"

"Well, you know how Visa's been on this total man hunt?"

"Yeah. That's not exactly news. She's always sniffing out a new guy."

"This morning she comes strutting in wearing this bright red sweater two sizes too small for her and the reddest lipstick ever on her lips."

"I thought she was going to fall out of that sweater." Macy put in.

"Who's she after now?" Carrie asked.

"Anyone she can get!" Doug answered.

"Like you'd know." Maria jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow."

"I so would. She was after me a few months ago. Never wore that sweater, though," Doug mused.

"So if she did, would it have turned you straight?"

"Probably not. Still, it is something to watch." Doug chuckled.

"Why do you call her Visa?" Sandy, the new girl asked.

"Because like Visa, she's everywhere you want to be. Invited or not, there she is. In fact one time she even showed up at this funeral. Didn't know the guy who died or his family, just showed up because a bunch of people she knew were going."

"So do you give everyone nicknames?" Sandy sounded a bit nervous waiting to hear what they called her.

"Actually, no. Just Visa."

Downtown Napa--if you could call it a downtown--is a city full of quaint shops, charming restaurants and has an overall enchanting aura to it. Not too far from San Francisco, Napa sports every variety of eatery, but with the magic of a small town. The shops look like Christmas through the entire year. Little lights peep out of windows with pretty curtains, trees dotting the curbs, with full bushes in open spaces. Even though considered a city, it has all the ambiance of a long ago small town...quaint and cozy. The cafe they went to had the best quiche and smoothies, some of which Carrie saved to bring back to work with her for an afternoon snack.

As the group passed Carrie's favorite store, the Treasures Antique Shoppe, she made her excuses. "Maria, I'll be along in a few. I want to see if Mr. Merle has anything new in the store."

"Looking for some new treasures in Treasures?" She laughed.

"Yeah. Even though I split with Dean a month ago I still feel like I need something comforting or to do something special for myself."

The people who wandered into the quaint shop were always friendly and interesting, each with their own story about what they were looking for and why.

The owner, Mr. Merle, seemed to enjoy talking to each person, hearing their story and helping them find just the right item. He was an elderly man, seventy-five if he was a day. With his snow-white hair and twinkling blue-gray eyes, when Carrie spoke with him it was like speaking to a beloved grandfather or great-uncle. There was something magical, for lack of a better word, about him. It was almost like he came from another time and place. He always had a kind word, good advice and knew some intricate detail about every item in his shop. Maybe it was because he seemed to have this thing about bringing couples who really loved each other, like soul mates, together that Carrie believed him when he told her there was a wonderful man out there for her, just waiting to appear, even though all she ever seemed to meet were jerks like Dean.

They exchanged waves of greeting when she walked in, before he turned to complete whatever it was he was working on. The kindly old gent was always busy tinkering with something or other. She quickly spotted a large old trunk towards the back of the shop chock full of what looked to be some fascinating bits and pieces. Tea cups, ribbons, a few leather bound books, a spindle of yarn and papers filled it to almost overflowing. It reminded her of one of her pirate stories where the kidnapped maiden finds just the object she needs to escape her captor when they arrive in port.

She stood, gazing into space a moment trying to remember which it was, "Oh yes, Captive of the High Seas. Captain Black Jack Walters, wasn't he a hunk and a half?" she asked no one in particular.

The author described one of the most passionate love scenes she'd ever read when Black Jack and the heroine made love during a storm while at sea. She'd re-read that scene over and over and tried to entice the guy she'd been dating at the time to rent a boat during a storm so she could find out for herself just how intense sex could be under those conditions. He thought she was crazy and that was the last she saw of him. When she asked the next guy she dated about it Carrie had to settle for a waterbed in a hotel up in Reno to see if the rolls and pitches added to the experience. It didn't.

Digging deeper in the trunk, she came across a photograph. No ordinary photograph, this one was very, very old, one of those ancient tintypes used way back when. Like in the old west...which reminded her of a western she'd read a few months before about a woman who pretended to be a mail order bride and ended up married to the town's sheriff.

"They sure don't make em like Sheriff Rick Hansen, that's for sure." She drew a curious look from one of the other women in the store, causing Carrie to make a mental note to stop talking to herself, especially about her romance novel heroes.

She studied the old, faded photograph for a few minutes, unsure if it was truly so blurry or if it was just that the picture was kind of cloudy. Interestingly, one of the people in it seemed to stand out. He was either a proud Indian warrior or someone made up to look like one. Truth be told, it wasn't his firmly muscled chest, those pecs that made you want to reach out and touch them, something that almost always drew her attention. No, it was his eyes. Carrie had never seen such compelling eyes in her life. They were dark, like molasses, warm and comforting. Even in the photograph, they seemed to hold her, to reach out to her and make her want to be with him.

It wasn't like in her imagination. This felt so real. As if he called to her through time and space. Nor were they the same kind of feelings she had when she looked over the hunky models on the covers of the romances she devoured like candy. No, this felt different, far different than anything she'd ever felt before.

Taking the photograph, she headed to the register to ask the Mr. Merle about it. At some point she'd heard he had an abiding interest in paranormal type happenings, not that she felt there was anything odd about the photograph itself. After all, it was just an old photograph. She appreciated him because he'd talk to her about the things that interested her. Mostly she talked to him about her romance problems--he always seemed to make her feel better.

"Hey, Mr. Merle. How are you doing today?"

"I'm good, Carrie, I'm good. And how's my favorite treasure hunter?"

"I'm just fine."

"That no-account fella Dean hasn't been around bothering you, has he?"

That was another thing she liked about Mr. Merle, he listened to her and remembered things she said. Too bad he wasn't forty years younger because he'd be the perfect date. Sir "D", her pet name for Dean, so named because he was--in a word--dickless, had dark hair and brown eyes and while he had a chest that made any red blooded female want to run her fingers over it, when it came to personality, his was non-existent. While it didn't bother her, he didn't deal too well with his Napoleonic height, or his scrawny butt and legs. His being so short didn't faze Carrie.

For that matter, his lack of height didn't seem to bother anyone but him. He seemed to think the world owed him for being short and he tried to be such a Casanova to make up for whatever lack he thought he had. He wasn't even that good in bed. It was always all about him. Talk about getting the old one-two punch. That was Dean. One thrust, two thrusts and he was done.

"No, he hasn't. It's really over, finally. At least I hope it is. He was calling a lot in the beginning, after we broke up, but he finally seems to have backed off."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it. Never did like that fella. There was something about him that just didn't seem right. I tell ya, Carrie, somewhere out there is the right man for you. He may just pop out of nowhere like a bolt of lightning."

"It would be nice, but so far nothing. So, Mr. Merle, I found this photo while I was poking around. I'd like to buy it."

Mr. Merle leaned over the counter and took a look at the photograph. It could have been Carrie's imagination, but it looked like he made some kind of hand signal over it, kind of like what a magician did at a party she went to as a kid passing his hand one way and then the other.

His smile seemed luminous when he said, "I'll tell you, Carrie-girl, one of my relatives took that picture years and years ago, back in--oh, I guess around the mid-1850's or early 1860's thereabouts. He was all up for being a journalist and then those tintype cameras came about and he just knew there was a career in that. Taking pictures. I always did like that picture."

"Oh, so it's not for sale?"

"No, I won't sell it to you, but I'll give it to you. There's something about it that makes me feel it should belong to you. It's yours if you promise to care for it real close."

"Oh, I will. Are you sure? I don't mind paying for it."

"Yup, that photo's been looking for a home for some time and I believe it found the right one with you."

Carrie happily brought the photo back to work and carefully placed it on the corner of her desk. She told herself she was being so totally cautious with it only because she'd promised Mr. Merle she would take care of it and remember to take it home with her that night. He had been most determined she immediately bring the photograph home with her. Yup, it was because she promised Mr. Merle she'd bring it home, certainly not because Carrie already imagined the Indian in the photograph coming to life and carrying her away.

Several times during the afternoon, though, she picked it up to study it. Try as she might to take in all the elements in the picture, she always came back to the warrior. So much so that when she prepared to leave work for the day it was the first thing she picked up to bring home. With plenty of time before meeting Molly for dinner she stopped off at the local gift shop and found an antique-looking frame for her new picture.

They picked a little Italian restaurant with great antipasto for dinner. With its red-checkered tablecloths, wooden chairs with plump cushions matching the tablecloths, and old wine bottles with the basket-type bottoms holding multi-colored candles, it was, for Carrie, like she'd really gone to Italy. At least that was how her books described the cafes there.

She showed the photo to Molly as soon as they sat down to dinner, asking her roommate, "Isn't this the coolest photo ever? I found it at Mr. Merle's and he gave it to me."

"That's a pretty old photo. Carrie, look how funny the people look. It's like they all have bug eyes."

Carrie giggled in response to Molly opening her eyes so wide all of the white seemed to show. "Yes, but it's so cool. Look at the Indian, isn't he gorgeous? No, wait. More than gorgeous, there is just something so, so, so..."

"Uber hunky?"

"Yes! That's it...uber hunky about him."

Molly studied the photo a moment longer before replying. "You know, there is something kind of cool about him. Too bad he's not around anymore."

"Yeah...a guy like that would be a once in a lifetime kinda guy."

"Uh huh. Only I'd want him to be coming here, not me going there--I wouldn't want to live back then: no microwave, no electric coffee pot, no lattes, no pizza. Much as I'd like to be hanging with a gorgeous guy, I'm not about ready to give up my creature comforts."

"Mmm, I'd have to agree with you on that one, maybe."

"Maybe? Girl, think about it--no hot showers, no coffee pot with an automatic turn on in the morning, no cars, no cell phones..."

"Less stress, more time to have, well...quality time, cleaner air."

"Rough work-hardened hands, no sunscreen."

"Men who aren't afraid to be men."

"Ah...right...marital rights, you don't get the vote."

"Yeah, well I guess. Still, sometimes I do wonder what it would have been like to have lived in another time."

"From the faraway look in your eyes I can see you're already mentally traveling somewhere other than the present," Molly told her. "I suspect even with all those historical romances you've read you don't know what it would be like."

"No, not really. After all, the books are all made up. Well, yeah, there's historical research and such. But to have really lived it, not just imagined it would be so incredible."

"Is it the times or the men you are interested in?"

"Ooo-la-la, the men." Carrie paused a second before mentioning to Molly, "You'd also have no Julie Prince to deal with."

Molly sighed and spun her fork around her angel hair pasta. "That's true, although, I'd rather send her to the dark and dirty past. Life would be so much better, at least the work life, if I didn't have to deal with her."

"Which brings me to your note this morning. What did she do now?"

"Same ole, same ole," she sighed.

"Want to talk about it or let it go?"

"You don't mind hearing me bitch about her again?"

"Bitch about the Bitch? Hell. No. It makes me appreciate how easy it is at my job and besides, that's what friends are for. If it helps you deal with it, I'm all over it."

"Thanks. I do need to vent. I sound like a broken record. She just did what she usually does, again, yesterday. I go on my days off and someone else--that stupid blond bimbo badge bunny, Kris Harris, the skinny one who does all the officers, isn't screwed up again."

The one who if she stood sideways and stuck her tongue out would look like a zipper?"

Molly giggled. "That's the one. The Zipper."

"Why don't they do something about her?"

"Because the guys like her...well not like her personally, but I hear she does amazing things in the patrol cars when she's out on ride-a-longs. Do you know she's slept with twenty-one out of thirty-three straight male officers in the past two years and broken up two marriages?"

"Sounds more like a suck-a-thon."

"You got that right. Someone needs to put a leash on her."

"Or a chastity belt."

Molly snorted. "I knew I could count on you."

"So bimbolina screwed up again, and..."

"Of course I got written up for it. Eventually I'm going to remember that if the Zipper blows it, rather than blowing an officer, I shouldn't point out that I wasn't there on a particular day because Julie will write me up for not being able to take criticism and heaven forbid I show her that twit did it because then I'll get in trouble for trying to blame co-workers, even if it is their mistake. I gotta get out of there."

"Did you hear anything yet from the application you filed with county?"

"No." She sighed again, "The problem is, with all the bogus write ups chances are I won't get another job. Julie gets off on writing up those bullshit log entries, and since she hates to lose staff, it keeps anyone who wants to leave dispatch from finding a better job. I swear if someone took up a collection to get her laid I'd contribute twice the going rate. I'm just a bummer, aren't I?"

"Bitching aside, I do have some good news."


"Since Shannon is about to finish her probation and her graveyard rotation I'll be going back on graves in a few weeks."

"And that's good because?"

"I won't see Julie or I'll hardly ever see her. Maybe a few minutes before my shift on Fridays and Mondays, but otherwise I won't have to see her. And, working nights, there's less chance of someone doing something I can get blamed for."

"I know you've always preferred graves, but I like having you around to do things on the weekends. Does Vincent know? Have you told him?"

"Not yet."

"Will it bother him?"

"You mean me working Friday and Saturday nights? Who knows? I mean, he knew I worked for the police department and did shift work when we first started dating. And I've covered a few graveyard shifts the past few months since we met. We'll see how it goes. Since I'll have seniority, of a sorts, after Maria and Sally, I can always move back to swings for the next rotation if it's a problem for us. Although our relationship better be moving to the significant other stage for me to put up with Julie through a weeks of swings."

"Well I'm glad you'll be out of Julie's radar for awhile." She drew in a deep breath and shook her head, "We're just a pair. I've got boyfriend issues and you have job ones. Somewhere between the two of us is someone who is issue free."

"Well let's hope we find her soon."

"Speaking of someone who is issue free, Visa pulled one of her stunts today."

"Oh, no. What did she do now?"

"Red sweater, two sizes too small, spiked heels--hooker heels--and this red lipstick that looked like something out of a bad 50's B movie."

"She so doesn't get it, does she?"

"No. I'll tell you, Mol, sometimes I swear the woman has no self-respect. She's like a cartoon character. Doug Mitchell said she was sticking her chest out trying to make it look like she had more in the cleavage department than is actually there. It was pretty funny."

"Any guys around to pick up on her show?"

"No." Carrie giggled. "We must have been her dress rehearsal."

"Well at least you have something to laugh about at work."

"Yeah, we do. I'm really sorry that things are so shi-tay at your job."

"Thanks. Carrie, I swear that woman stays awake at night thinking up the next hair brained thing she can come up with to disrupt someone else's life. Usually mine. Right now I just want to look forward to the weekend."

"I wish I had an answer for you. Short of just quitting, I can't think of anything. Although, hmm, you know, I have an idea. Let's fix Julie up with Dean and they can take off on a wild and wacky weekend together...and forget to come back. Maybe they just both need to get laid, you know?"

"That, my friend, was a visual I just didn't need. I do feel better for talking to you, though."

Later that night, Carrie grabbed one of her newest romance novels--a steamy regency she'd picked up the day before and headed to her room. Reading a bit before going to bed was a habit she had started back in junior high. Back then, it was Dickens and Dumas that held her attention. Especially Dumas. In high school she first 'discovered' historical romances and was hooked on Rogers, Woodiwiss and a host of others, buying each book as they came out. Of course, she had to hide them between her mattress and box-spring when she was at school because her mom would have had a hissy if she found out she read what she called "those smut books."

Even now she liked to read a bit before going to sleep and found when she read a good romance it definitely left her with sizzling dreams. Only tonight, when she climbed into bed to read her newest regency with a to-die-for viscount, she found she couldn't get far. Talk about a total first.

Instead she kept glancing over at the photo now sitting on her light pine nightstand. Tearing her gaze away from the picture, Carrie looked over her room.
It was everything she had always wanted...girlie and at the same time very sensual and conducive to sweet dreams, if not a few romantic nights. When she was dating anyway. It was a study in contrasts and yet the epitome of all she was. Pale lavender satin sheets covered the bed beneath a fluffy white down comforter. Bunches of pillows in all sizes and shapes, along with several stuffed teddy bears that reclined on them, decorated the head of the bed when she had the time to make it. The bed itself was a pine four-poster with matching nightstands, a dresser and an armoire she couldn't resist buying when she saw the mini-closet it held. Stained glass nick-knacks hung from the center curtain rod, covered by sheer lacy curtains on the windows. A bookcase--a very large and very full one--took up almost one wall.

Her favorite pastime was sitting in bed, vanilla votive candles scenting the air with herself dressed in a sexy nightgown, propped up against the pillows reading before she fell asleep. She usually drifted on to dreams of the hero in whatever book she was deeply engrossed in.

Tonight, however, she just couldn't stop looking at the warrior in the photo.

Finally giving in to impulse, she picked it up and, after studying it for quite some time, placed a kiss on his image. She held it to her breast and thought about the fact that not since high school, when she'd read her first romance novel, had she done anything like that. Who kissed a picture? She set it on the nightstand, then picked it up again, giving the man in the photograph another quick kiss and could have sworn she felt...warmth...warmth?...coming from it.

As she set it down, she wondered if she really saw the photograph give off a flash of light.

"Okay, I'm becoming certifiably weird. No more antipasto for me."

(Like it? Go to Awe-Struck Publishing to buy this and other books by Regan Taylor.)

Check out these websites where you can get another look at Regan's writing and, of course, buy a copy or two."">

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Let's get to know Skyla Dawn Cameron

My guest today is Skyla Dawn Cameron. Welcome Skyla! I think you readers are in for a treat as Skyla shares lots of interesting info that will help us come to know more about Skyla, her writing and about her fascinating books. Let's get started by telling the readers about one of your favorite fictional characters, why you made that selection and how it affects your writing today.

So, without futher introduction, here's Skyla!

For my favourite fictional character, I’m afraid we have to go back awhile.

No, not to Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett from high school (though she’s high on the list). Further still. Nancy Drew? I adore her, but keep going.

We’re going waaaay back to when I was six or so and obsessed with a book called Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gilman.

Jillian Jiggs is about a little girl named Jillian who has the best of intentions. She really does mean to listen to her mother. She means to clean up her room.


She’s easily distracted by her wild imagination, and she jumps from one activity to the other, playing dress-up, creating things out of boxes, and inventing stories with her friends. She’s strong, creative, and entertains herself—and as a little girl, I greatly identified with her. I was an only child and I lived in an apartment with no one around to play with, so I had to have my own fun and make my own games. So lost would I be in my own little worlds, I whined and dragged my feet any time I was taken away from them. Why clean my room when I could tell stories? When I could lose myself in a world of my own creation? When I could turn some of my Barbies into zombies or build a fort with all of my books or pretend to be Cinderella while my wicked mother made me clean the bathroom?

Jillian Jiggs was one of the first times I remembered seeing myself in a book and I read it so many times I could recite the story by heart (to this day, I still recall many of the lines). While she may not directly influence any of my characters or books, young Jillian stands out in my mind as the ultimate example of believing anything is possible, and of the individual’s ability to create magic out of the ordinary. She also confirmed for me that creativity should be prized and prioritized, even over everyday duties. Though I’d be pressed to say you can find any hint of this character in my work, perhaps my work wouldn’t exist today if I hadn’t had an idol in Jillian Jiggs as a child.

About the Author: Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever. Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy, which is great for her attention deficit disorder.

Skyla lives in Southern Ontario where she dabbles in art, is an avid gamer, and watches Buffy reruns. She’s naturally brunette, occasionally a redhead, and will probably go blonde again soon. If she ever becomes a grown-up, she wants to run her own pub, as well as become world dictator.

You can visit her on the web at for free fiction, book news, and tons of other totally awesome stuff.

She’s on Twitter at

Facebook at

About Hunter (sequel to Bloodlines)

Sometimes natural predators need to be kept in check, and for that, there's Ryann David. Orphaned as an infant and raised by an exiled branch of the church to become a warrior for God, she and her fellow members of Venatores Daemonum have trained all their lives with only one purpose: destroy all demons in the mortal realm.

But when Ryann and her team are sent to hunt down a vampire who has killed one of their own, a new world of danger, betrayal, and conspiracy greets her. Allied with an irreverent psychic detective and the very monsters she was raised to kill, Ryann will risk everything—her life, her faith, and her heart—in pursuit of the truth as the black and white existence she knew turns a murky shade of gray.


He stood straight, the smile brushing his lips seeming to light the room. His elbow nudged mine. “I hear you picked a fight.”

I sighed. “Accidentally. Do you think it’ll cause too much trouble for long?”

Christian chuckled. “I think Jeremiah has a very long memory but he’d be stupid to cause you any problems. So.” He nodded at the mats. “Wanna have a quick round? For old time’s sake before you’re officially one of us?”

My lips parted to disagree as he went ahead and shucked his shoes. I still smarted from the day before, from my muscles aching with every movement to the tender spots marred by bruises on my jaw, head, and throughout my torso and limbs. But when he strolled onto the mats and looked back with a bright grin and brows raised in challenge, my feet moved of their own accord and slipped out of my plain black flats.

I’d do anything he asked and he knew it.

Christian tossed his coat and it landed loudly on the mats four feet to the side. Next he unbuttoned and rolled up the sleeves of his white dress shirt—a sure sign he meant business.

And here I am in a skirt. Lord help me.

I eased out of my blazer, folded it, and let it drop next to my shoes, then took a cautious step onto the mat. Paused. As a rule the girls wore knee-socks as students before becoming full-fledged Hunters and when not in training sweats; I tested the smooth, giving ground beneath my feet and knew I’d be slipping and sliding in no time. Christian didn’t seem to mind his plain socks, but then he was Christian—he probably could’ve done it blindfolded.

I wasn’t that good—yet. I hooked a thumb under the top of my left sock and peeled it off, then the right. When I stepped forward again, this time I was completely aware of my knee-length navy skirt and already planning precisely how it would inhibit me.

And because a good teacher is always in tune with his student’s thoughts, Christian paused in the center of the room and watched me cautiously walk over. “You might end up fighting in worse than that.”

My cheeks heated and I hoped the blush wasn’t too obvious. “You mean we’ll be sent on assignments looking like school girls?”

Christian shrugged and gave another glittering smile. “Depends on the assignment.”

I don’t want to know what that means.

“Grace had to infiltrate a political fundraiser in formal wear to stop a demon summoner. Took out the witch and three demons, and the dress is still hanging in her closet in case it’s needed again.”

“Heels too?”

“Now that I didn’t hear about.”

Well, his point had been taken; if I wanted to play with the grownups like Grace, I needed to fight in a skirt.

Stupid skirts.

I padded toward him, breathing deeply and trying not to tense. I stopped three feet away in a square of sunlight; the mat was warm beneath my bare feet, calming. I drank it in, letting relaxation move up my legs, through my body, straight to the top of my head where sun heated my curly, blondish hair. All the thoughts, the worries, the drama from earlier were easily swept into a clear little box in my head, to be tucked away until I left the mats. There was no time for anything else now—just me and my target. A familiar comfort washed over me: I liked this part, when the rest of the world disappeared.

It was where I belonged.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.

He shifted from foot to foot and rolled his shoulders. “Ready?”


(Skyla certainly got my attention with this tantalizing excerpt! Hope you all enjoyed getting to know Skyla and will check out all her books and Thanks again, Skyla!)