Thursday, 28 March 2013

Available Now: Lush Situation

Welcome, Kate Laity, author of the incomparable Chastity Flame series. Kate's taking over Heart of Fiction today to tell us about Chastity, Lush Situation, and the cover artist who has helped wrap this series up in glossy graphics that can't be ignored. Take it away, Kate!

When I describe Chastity Flame to people I usually use the shorthand description that she's like an über-sexy female James Bond. Since the Bond reboot with the yummy Daniel Craig that's a good selling point, although when I started thinking about Chas what I had in mind was the kick-ass heroine of Peter O'Donnell's comics and novels (and yes, the rather camp, pop art movie version from the 60s with the gorgeous Monica Vitti) Modesty Blaise.

You may notice a slight similarity of the names (cough). It started as a joke: "Oh, I'll think of something better by the time I finish…" but I ended up liking the name and I like that it's an homage to O'Donnell's heroine.

One of the things I loved about Bond in the reboot era (apart from Daniel Craig, yum yum!) was the relationship between him and M. Not surprising that the orphan should bond with the authority figure. I made Chastity an orphan too, who bonds with her boss 'Monitor' although her memories of her family are warm and often leave her confused when she begins to piece things together—

—like her 'special' ability for receiving visions of things she couldn't possibly have seen.

She doesn't quite understand how it happens and she can't control it either. Rather than the gadgetry of the earlier Bond films (so he always seemed to have just the right capabilities for a completely unforeseen and unlikely situation) I figured it was better if her slight advantage remained also elusive and unpredictable.

I was pleased when a friend who doesn't much like 'unrealistic' narratives said he totally bought the slight supernatural element. In Lush Situation we see further developments in her ability, as well as in her complicated love life. Once again there will be a lot of steamy encounters (scorching hot fun!) but there's also the opportunity for Chas to begin forging friendships, something she doesn't have a lot of experience with doing. She's really conflicted—it's only natural to want to build friendships, but she also realizes that being friends with someone in her line of work can put people in danger.

One of the lovely things about this series is working with cover artist S. L. Johnson who has a terrific sense of design. She has created some incredible covers for the books that really give them the oomph they deserve.

The first Chastity Flame book has a computer hacker, so she put some 0s and 1s in the background that spell out a special message (we had a contest to reward the first person too figure out the message!). I love the way the flames form her curvy hips and echo the fire from her gun.

In Lush Situation the theme is human trafficking, which gets linked to an upscale London sex club for women. The handcuff hanging from Chas's hand echoes both of these themes, so at the same time it's playful and sinister. In the background are rows of stilettos, which create an eye-catching wallpaper to the image. The two covers look great side by side. I can't wait to see what the third one will look like, so I better get busy writing it!

• • •

Chastity Flame is back and hotter than ever. She’s sworn off meeting her irresistible colleague Damien, but how long can they really stay apart? Fortunately she’s got an international human trafficking ring to crack. When an upscale sex club for women opens in London with great fanfare, Chastity hopes it will prove distracting as well as providing a potential break in the case — until she runs into Damien with a gorgeous woman clinging to his arm. Maybe a broken heart will make it easier to bury herself in work – and kick a few asses.

"I need work, not tasks for a fill-in. I need something real."

Monitor took a moment to respond, but it seemed as if the weeks of consistent devotion to duty—annoying as that duty had been lately—finally had the expected impact. "As a matter of fact, I have something that I think you will find engaging," Monitor smiled, clearly pleased with herself. "Something that you’d be perfectly suited for, too."

"Tell me more," Chastity said, at last sitting in one of the chairs before Monitor’s desk. "I’m intrigued."

Monitor opened her desk drawer and drew out a folder, which she tossed toward Chastity. "It’s got everything: sex, intrigue and international law breaking."

"What’s the story?"

"Human trafficking," Monitor said with evident distaste. "We’ve been trailing them for some months now, but we haven’t been able to get involved directly because it’s been outside our borders. But they finally brought the game here. A girl was killed in the Czech Republic and they had some trouble covering it up. Apparently they have relocated their headquarters here."

"Must be the attractive new economic incentives," Chastity said with the trace of a smile.

Monitor gave her a look, not quite as severe as it might have been. "They prey on the lost and the vulnerable, like the one who was murdered. She had been a runaway, someone who would not be missed."

"But she was not as missable as they had thought?"

"Sort of," Monitor sighed. "She managed to get a letter out to her mother. Detailed the operation—at least as much as she was able to see."

"Must have been a smart girl," Chastity said as she flipped through the notes and photos.

"Not smart enough."

Chastity pulled out a photo. "So this is our kingpin? Or should I say queen pin?" The woman in the picture had a jaw like a bulldog and an expression to match it.

"That’s the one. Her name is Abita Teufel. American by birth, but her parents were Canadian. Early on she graduated from minor theft to serious drug running. Never had her own hands in the pot once she learned better—after a short stretch in a Maryland prison. Married to a Romanian gangster who died mysteriously."

"As they do," Chastity muttered. The woman wasn’t playing with kittens. She studied the photo a little longer, fixing the details in her mind, before flipping through the materials in the rest of the folder.

"The ring seems to have been begun by other people, but this Teufel woman was quick to exploit it."

"Clearly she has the right touch of ruthlessness," Chastity said, her voice cold as she stared at a photo of a poor girl smashed on the pavement.

"She's cruel, focused and without concern for the opinions of the rest of the world," Monitor agreed. "Her only interest is expanding her empire and her profits."

"So how do I get to her?"

"A bookstore."

Chastity looked up at her boss to see if she was making some kind of joke. That would have been the last thing she expected, but it seemed far more likely. "A bookstore?"

"Yes," Monitor said with a humorless smile. "She's sponsoring a reading tonight at a local chain in honor of her cover business—the sex club for women. Surely you saw that on the news?"

Chastity vaguely recalled snarky coverage that cocked a snook at the very idea that women could enjoy sex so casually. She had felt her own eyebrow rise as the newscasters implied that such women would have to be terrible sluts of course to be able to take pleasure in such shenanigans. Idiots! Of course women treasured pleasure. A place like that, which catered to women's fantasies? Sounded perfect for a little exploration—and distraction.

Maybe visiting the club would be just the thing to stop her obsessing over Damien.

"So, you're willing to go?" Monitor asked over her glasses.

Chastity laughed. "You bet."

• • •

When I created Chastity Flame, my sexy government agent, of course I had Ian Fleming’s Bond in the back of my head. While working on the sequel, Lush Situation, I decided that Chas needed a drink just as memorable as Bond’s “shaken not stirred” martini. Et voilá! I give you . . .

The Chastity Flame:

2 measures gin (I recommend Boodle’s or Tanqueray Rangpur)
1 measure vodka ( I recommend Zubrowka, Reyka or Stoli)
A generous dash of bitters (is there any but Angostura that will do?)
Lime garnish

Pour all the ingredients into a shaker with plenty of ice, but don’t dawdle or it will get dilluted. Strain the chilled contents into martini glass — or a tumbler if you’re a heathen. Garnish with a lime slice and a shot of lime juice if you like that sort of thing (I do). It should be the color of Chastity’s amber eyes and be rather lethal, but then again, so is its inspiration. A perfect accompaniment for a stimulating book.
• • •

K. A. Laity is the award-winning author of Rook Chant, Owl Stretching, Pelzmantel and Unikirja, a collection of short stories and a play based on the Kalevala, Kanteletar, and other Finnish myths and legend, for which she won the 2005 Eureka Short Story Fellowship as well as a 2006 Finlandia Foundation grant. With cartoonist Elena Steier she created the occult detective comic Jane Quiet. Her bibliography is chock full of short stories, humor pieces, plays and essays, both scholarly and popular. She also writes romance as C. Margery Kempe and Kit Marlowe.

Find Kate online at --

KA Laity
A Knife and a Quill
Tirgearr Publishing

• • •

See where it all started.

Get 50% off Chastity Flame at Smashwords.

Just enter SV59W at the point of purchase.
Offer good through 31 Mary 2013.

--> Kate is giving away a copy of Lush Situation to one lucky winner today. Just leave a message for her in comments, along with your email address, and the best comment wins. :-)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

PI Interview: Digital is a ‘Dirty Reality’ with Kemberlee Shortland

{interview conducted with Stephanie Lawless of Publishing Ireland}

Kemberlee Shortland is the owner of digital-only publishing company Tirgearr Publishing- the only such publisher in Ireland. This week marks Tirgearr’s first anniversary for which several events have been pencilled in to mark the occasion. In addition to being interviewed on …, Kemberlee is also keen to promote Read and eBook Month for March. Although this is in Canada , it has spread internationally. The event kicks off with a weeklong Read an eBook Week from 3-9 March, starting this Sunday and carrying on until the following Saturday, where digital books are being offered at knockdown prices, some even free. Publishing Ireland talked to Kemberlee about what it means to be a digital-only publisher in Ireland, the advantages and disadvantages of selling only eBooks and what digital publishing means for the future of the industry. 

PI - How are things going for Tirgearr one year on? 

KS - Well, we were supposed to start our sale today but about a quarter of our books are missing from part of Amazon’s catalogue. We can’t do a search by title, author, publisher or ASIN number. The only way we can get onto the page is if you get the link directly on our website that we put on but then it comes up with no information saying that this book is no longer available for sale. Ireland and England are suffering from that. They might be up and available in my lifetime but I doubt it.

It’s kind of a quiet anniversary but what we announced last night was that March is ‘Read an eBook Month’ and while it’s a Canadian national holiday, it’s actually going international so we’re picking up on that and we’re going to have our sale the first week of that month. All our books are going down to 99c since we’re a year old. They will all be on sale from Sunday and we hope that Amazon will have their finger out so we can get all of our books on sale through their site.

Digital books are really the big thing right now, I mean everything is online- music, movies, television, videos, books, everything. It’s kind of neat that Canada recognises it as a whole month and not just a day. It’s great that other groups are getting involved in this in an international venue too. There’s another publishing company called Samhain Press which is the second biggest publishing company right now. They’re offering some knock-down prices and also some free books. We’re not doing any contest or anything to give anything away but we are knocking down our prices for pretty good discounts. We’ll just give some books away at random to some people off our media sites.  It’s not something that we’re pushing you know- that’s the thing about our company. We’re quite relaxed. We do want our authors to get something out of it other than just name recognition. Royalties always help!

PI - Why the decision to go digital-only?

KS - Like I said, everything is going on the internet- movies, music – it’s all on the internet. People are also into eco-living and downsizing. I mean you get people who say if I had to leave my house today I could only take what I could fit in my car. You know there are people out there that would need a van to just move their book collection! They don’t have to do that if it’s on digital- they can put it on a flash drive or your iphone or whatever.

Well you know it’s funny how things go. I was always active in photography, just as a hobby and I always the 35 mm and rolls and rolls of film and then I got a digital camera. I thought I’d never use it and then the second I picked it up and was able to put thousands of photographs on a flash drive and not have to spend all this money on film- and film was pretty expensive back in the day and I could go through ten rolls in an afternoon! That wouldn’t even fill half of a flashcard. I’ve got a practically brand new Cannon 35 mm camera sitting in storage because I’m just not using it anymore. Since I switched to digital I haven’t looked back. The same thing happened when I got my Kindle. So I got my reader (which was given to me) and I actually haven’t bought one paperback for the last two years. They’re all digital and now that we’re publishing, I don’t even buy books because I have so many submissions coming in, I don’t have time for pleasure reading!

PI - Does this change the way in which you read now? Are you more clinical and editorial?

KS - It does. I did book reviews for over 15 years and I still do if there’s a book that I really feel strongly about. I start looking at books thinking ‘they missed this plot development. They really could have expanded thought or they could have done this with the character or the drama or the romance or the horror or whatever. I also notice spelling errors. Nobody’s perfect, I mean one or two is ok but when you start seeing them on every other page or if there are grammatical problems you go into ‘editor mode’.
We went to the Cork Opera House to see the Grapes of Wrath years ago by John Steinbeck, who was a classic author from the 40’s. I actually grew up in an area called Steinbeck Country, which is where he lived and wrote most of his stories, so I was really curious about how Irish actors would take to an American Depression-era story. When we went in the stage had nothing on it except the actors and maybe one prop. They sucked me in- I could actually see the dustbowls of Oklahoma, I could see people travelling in their old beat-up cars heading west to California where the work was supposed to be. I could see it. They had the accents down and it was perfect. Then one guy said ‘garage’ [rhyming with marriage] it was like ice-water in the face! At that point I was ready to get up and leave. It’s like that when I’m reading. If I’m reading this really great book and I get halfway or two-thirds of the way through it and suddenly something just throws me out I can’t get into it any more. Even it’s like some small, simple historical element that’s glaringly wrong it’s like a slap in the face. I don’t want to get slapped again so I just put the book down! What’s worse is that these books are actually getting published and getting good reviews, which just goes to show that the reviewers don’t know what they’re talking about.

PI - With the proliferation of information on the internet, the potential for glaring inaccuracies has exploded. Does this emphasise an even greater need for editorial guidance and precision?

KS - Well one thing that really stayed with me since the Book Festival when I was on the panel with Anthony Farrell from Lilliput was a comment he made to somebody in the audience that publishers are gatekeepers to quality publishing. Basically, you submit your book and the publisher will make sure that it’s edited properly and that it’s got the right cover and presentation. Self-publishing authors don’t really do that. The finances for a lot of professional editing mean that they might be able to afford to have the first three chapters edited and that’s the part of the book that would be really nice but when you submit that book to a publisher, the rest of the book really falls down. I see that quite a bit. He was really correct in saying that because without professional editing, you’re going to miss out on this stuff.

PI - You say you offer a full-circle service to your authors. What does this service entail?

KS - Our books are edited between the editor and the author. The author is involved in their editing process. We don’t just take the book, edit it and throw it up on the internet and try to sell it. We want the author involved in the process of the book because it’s their creation. We have debut authors who are actually co-authoring a book that’s out this Thursday which is set in 1775 and involves the start of the American Revolution so it involves a lot of historical details that have had to have been gone through. We have had two editors on it to make sure that it’s right. We have had it proof-read twice, with a third proof-reading now that it’s finished and going through to publication. We want this book to be as correct as possible. With the amount of eyes that we have had on the story, we are actually battling between ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ and making sure that it’s right.  So we want to be those gatekeepers that Anthony mentioned.

PI - The last time we met was at the Publishing Ireland digital session at the Dublin Book Festival where discussions about what exactly an eBook is got quite heated. I even remember the phrase ‘dirty reality; being floated as the defining aspect of epublishing in today’s publishing climate. Do you agree with this?

KS - I asked him at the end of that show ‘do you mind if I take that and put it on my business card’- you know ‘digital books are a dirty reality!’ If it sells books I’ll tart it up as much as I can! We might actually have to come up with a real erotica line under the name ‘dirty reality’.

PI - I see you are now branching out in terms of genre in Tirgearr into historical fiction and more to come. What made you begin with romance and erotica?

KS - We accept all genres with the exception of children’s and young adults- simply due to the content on our site. We don’t want there to be confusion or anything or to have a child looking for something that might be suitable for them and then coming across all this other stuff.

Romance is not really a surprise because my background is in romance. I know a lot of people in the romance business and a lot of romance falls through to the erotica line. Erotic romance is basically a romance with more sex in it. We don’t really get into the harsh erotic or porn side of it where it’s just like making out stories. For me personally and our business ethic, sex has to have a purpose. It has to have meaning. That’s where a lot of erotica is going today. It’s pornography and it’s being dumbed-down as erotica. If you have a graphic, physical sex act and that’s all it is, well that’s all it is.

And EL James? Do you think that her self-directed method made her work suffer in terms of quality?

KS - She actually was published with a company in England and then her rights were later sold off to bigger companies as she got noticed? I have great respect for what EL James has done and the success that she has made, however, for all the publishing that she’s done and the opportunities that she’s had to improve her work, the editing of the book is still horrible! The situations with her characters are believable only to an extent. You really want to be a masochist to get into a lot of it. The books were originally going to be banned because of their explicitness. Then of course you get the ‘I’ve got to get this book before it gets banned’ effect!

PI - You list some advantages and disadvantages of adopting digital formats on your site- one of which was that eBooks are generally less expensive than their print counterparts. This is a controversial enough issue. Can you expand a little on what you mean by this?

KS - I don’t think VAT comes into with the exception of selling eBooks in Ireland, because the VAT is so high here.  What happened was when digital publishing first started coming on about fifteen or sixteen years ago, books were pretty inexpensive. The traditional publishers shunned digital publishers, saying that this was a fly-by-night kind of thing it’ll go away in a couple of years but it didn’t. It grew and grew and grew because digital publishing companies were publishing books that the traditional publisher was afraid to. They were cross-genre books, they were subjects that had never been tried and tested before. If it wasn’t for digital publishing, we wouldn’t have the likes of vampire stories like Twilight or EL James’s stuff. JK Rowling wouldn’t be in the mainstream right now for example. What’s happening is that digital publishing and traditional publishing had this great chasm between them because traditional publishers were ignoring it, hoping it was going to go away but you’ve ended up seeing really great publishers going bust because paper sales have failed. Dorchester Publisher was one of the biggest romance publishers in America and their paper sales started failing so they turned their company around to digital only. Then their authors who had been with them for a long time said to them you can’t do this. Our contracts are for paperbacks and you can’t deny me what I’ve had for the last 20 or 30 years, like Morgan Llewellyn. You’re going to go all digital, why submit to Dorchester because they’re no longer giving you advances? You could go to any digital publisher. Within six months they were closed. Authors who were there were left scrambling.

When it comes to the pricing, traditional publishers are actually trying to catch up to where digital publishing is. They don’t quite get that digital books are supposed to be cheaper than the print book and when they release a book in print, they release a digital book at almost the same price. It’s slightly cheaper but it should be about half as cheap really. The biggest thing that I’ve seen, and it’s a problem for me only because I’ve seen both sides of it, is that the pricing of books in Ireland is so much more expensive than in America. People who are internet-savvy are buying books off Amazon and so bookstores are really starting to suffer. We’ve already seen this with Hughes & Hughes and with Waterstones. The smaller shops are also having a hard time because they really rely on Eason’s because they are bookseller as well as a retailer. I went into one of their stores last week and I was looking at a paperback for €22! This was a book that would have been €15 a couple of years ago. Even on the three for two table, I know what their mark-up is and they are still making a killing.

PI - If what you’re saying is true then surely there is simply no room for print anymore? Or is there?

KS - Certainly there is. I see some point in the distant future, and I’m talking about not even in your great grandchildren’s time, that everything is going to be electronic. Right now there’s a place for both of them.

PI - Another disadvantage that you mention refers to ‘traditional devices’ and the fact that they are designed for mass market type books. Firstly, what are these devices? And second- Do you see any kind of solution on the horizon for this problem in terms of developing platforms for a more eclectic kind of audience?

KS - If you can get it onto an epub format or an applications format you can get it onto any format going. They’re traditionally meant for the mass-market books and those would be original paperbacks. Paperbacks were originally meant as cheap, throwaway books. They were printed on cheap paper with cheap ink, cheesy covers and they were meant to be read like eating ice-cream. They were meant to be gobbled down. This goes back to the 70’s when novels became really popular when romance and erotica books became mainstream. What’s changed today is that you’ve got colour screens, you’ve got tablets, everything is easy to take with you. Now you can put a whole cookbook into full colour format with embedded video. You couldn’t do that a couple of years ago. You certainly can’t do that with a traditional book.

PI - You yourself are a writer which is something I didn’t know. Is this an advantage or disadvantage in terms of self-editing and self-censoring? Are you too aware?

KS - I have a lot of experience in the publishing business. I worked in bookstores, I was a book-buyer, I was a book-puller in a warehouse, I’ve done reviews, editing, proof-reading and publishing just seemed to be the next thing. I’ve been writing since I was really young and I started publishing in 2006. When I’m writing my own stuff, I’m able to do a bit of self-editing much better than I would have otherwise. I see the mistakes that people are making and I then make sure I don’t do that in my work. I would never self-edit and then publish though. Everything that I’ve ever published- even through our own company goes through the same rigorous editing that everybody else does.

PI - I was going through Tirgearr’s site and one of the things that struck me most about your FAQ page was the fact that you don’t accept submissions that don’t include what you call an HEA, or ‘happily ever after’ ending. Is this really true and if so, do you find it restricts you in a good way or is there room for stories with a darker edge?

KS - That’s for romance. For romance it has to be a ‘happy ever after’ or what they call an ‘HEA’ or a ‘happy for now’. People don’t have to get married or have babies or ride off into the sunset on the back of a horse, but the readers want to be satisfied. They don’t want to read about a heroine who goes through all these trials and tribulations and emotional growth with her hero or partner to find that she dies in the end.

PI - What’s next for Tirgearr Publishing?

KS - We’ve talked about eventually putting up a separate website for children’s and young adult stories because they are very popular. We just want to get this end of the company sorted out first before we do anything else. We want to make sure this house is paid off before we start putting extensions on! Right now we are just doing what we did last year. We are getting some great books out there and we are also looking for a minimum of two new editors and a new proof-reader or two. We’re gaining in popularity which is great. Because I’m from a romance background, we just happen to be getting a lot of those kinds of submissions but we are looking for other genres. Right now I’m looking at my list of what I have to send out to readers and they’re all thrillers and dramas. We have an author by the name of David Toft who lives in Dublin and whose book The Cycle’s Turn we are bringing out in April. This is a pure fantasy and not a cross-over so that will be interesting and we are very hopeful for it. We are hoping that he is going to open the door for us in terms of non-crossover genres. We are also doing Stella Whitelaw’s Jordan Lacey Series in digital.

Tirgearr Publishing is celebrating its first year anniversary by running a sale until 9 March to coincide with Canada’s Read an eBook Month. For details, go to

This interview originally appeared on the Publishing Ireland website on 7 March 2013. Reposted with permission.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Buyer Habits

Please help us learn a little about your book-buying habits by taking a minutes to let us know by which method(s) you use to chose the books you buy.

Use the poll above. It just takes a moment.

If the method you use is not on this list, please use the comments section to tell us.

Many thanks!!

~ The Tirgearr Publishing Team

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Stella Whitelaw: Lucifer's Bride

Please help me welcome back one of Britain's most prolific authors, Stella Whitelaw!

Stella's writing career began at the tender age of *nine*. She had been suffering from a case of the measles and her father gave her a typewriter, figuring learning to use it would distract little Stella from her discomfort. Little did he know Stella would pick up the writing bug and clutch it close to her heart for the rest of her life.

In her adult life, Stella has, so far, penned more than *forty* works of fiction, which include the wonderful Jordan Lacey Mysteries.

Today sees the release of Stella's book, Lucifer's Bride. This is a deeply engrossing tale of jealousy and deceit married with (pardon the pun) revenge and murder. Don't let the pretty cover fool you. This one will make your heart race, as all great thrillers should.

Before we look at this exciting book, let's have a quick chat with Stella.

Hello, Stella. Welcome back to the Heart of Fiction. We appreciate you taking some time out of your very busy schedule to have a chat. You know our readers love learning more about their favorite writers.

We talked about your writing space the last time. But like any good story, your space must be a fluid thing. Do you write in the same space all the time, such as an office, or a little nook in the corner of your sitting room?

I have three writing spaces. The big dining-room table has been my desk for many years since I outgrew the kitchen table. It’s untidy but I know where everything is. Reference books are on hand, including tomes on police procedure and forensic science. The empty filing tray where Rosie always dozed is a sad reminder that my beautiful and intelligent tabby was hit by a speeding car on Christmas Eve and died on Boxing Day. Her son, Jasper, sleeps curled up by my feet. He can’t jump, poor baby. He can’t see properly and has selective hearing.

Often I write in bed, first thing in the morning. My subconscious works while I sleep and I need to get the words down on paper before they escape. There’s a stack of draft paper and pens beside my bed. If Jasper will let me write. He thinks serving his breakfast is vastly more important.

Thirdly, my knees, if you can call them a space. Like Trollope, I write on the train, always carrying a pad with me. There’s something about the rhythm of the wheels and the flashing countryside that I associate with writing. Some of my best short stories have been born on a train!

Wow! Sounds like your space is very fluid. And I know what you mean about trains being inspirational.

What is your daily writing routine like?

I always set myself dead-lines, a relic of my reporting days. So I work every day, starting about ten in the morning. A day without writing is a day wasted. I’m a vegetarian so a late lunch means preparing lots of vegetables or a big salad.  I only go shopping when absolutely necessary.

A brisk walk or some reluctant gardening is a dose of fresh air. I try not to count the rose bushes. At five I start work again with a cup of tea and I will carry on till my eyes glaze over. Sometimes, if there’s a good drama at nine o’clock, I’ll allow myself an hour off. As I tell my students, television can be research time. Sometimes I analysis scenes for their content and dialogue exchanges.

I didn't know you were vegetarian. I might have to come to you for some great recipes!

So I'm guessing cooking must be a favorite past time too. Do I have any other interests besides writing?

Yes, so many that I think I am leading several lives all at the same time. Books are my indulgence. It is only by reading that my writing can be improved. I’m currently reading the latest Lee Child and Victor Hugo’s Les Mis. I love films and the theatre but time is a problem. I’m with the Front of House team at our local theatre. Big band jazz is a great favourite and there’s always music in the house.  Occasionally I need Rod Stewart or Chris Rea to accompany a romantic scene.

My First Monday Club has closed after five years and I really miss it, so talking to writing friends is a special treat. I still invigilate at the County School and those teenagers give me many ideas. I have a folded envelope in my pocket for notes.

The Women’s Institute has booked me for ten talks this year and I’ve done three already. (I had to do an audition in front of ninety delegates!) This gives me a chance to meet new people which I always enjoy. Call it more research.

My goodness, Stella, you are one busy woman. We'll let you get back to it! Thanks for spending some of your precious time with us.

So, readers, we're onto Lucifer's Bride. It's hard to imagine that such a lovely woman as Stella can pen such dastardly stories, but she's one of the best. Here we go . . .

• • •

A Cornish summer wedding with a deadly twist.

Fiona Kimberley was a self-centred young woman, hungry for money and social status. So when she is found murdered on her wedding day it comes as no surprise to anyone that there is a lengthy list of suspects. Fiona had alienated many people in her short life, all of whom were present at the wedding, and all of whom had the means, and the motive, to exact revenge on the beautiful bride.

Elvina closed her eyes and sat down on the edge of the bed, the world spinning round her. She had not thought of that evening in Wimbledon for so long; the hurried phone calls, the drive through the night in an ambulance, the small private nursing home. Then the very natural mistake made by the matron in charge that Fred Goldblummer was her father; a mistake which Elvina, in the confusion of the moment, had not corrected. For years Fred had seemed more like a father than a husband.

She had already met Sir Peter at the races at Lingfield. When he began to show more than a passing interest in her, the temptation became too much. Why not? Why shouldn't she? Fred was totally paralysed, unable to speak. He would never recover. She was still young and this was another chance for life.

So Fred, her husband, conveniently 'died'. The funeral was private. The only reminder was the standing order payment to the nursing home which increased annually. She never went to see him. Apparently he did not recognise anyone, not even the nurses. He existed in a grey, mindless vacuum.

She married Sir Peter and they lived happily ever after. Till a stray bullet shattered the idyll.

She put the letter down hurriedly. She was too old for scandal. The tabloid newspapers would love it, splash the bigamous marriage over the front page. AMBASSADOR'S WIFE HIDES VEGETABLE HUSBAND, or LADY ELVINA IN FORTUNE FRAUD. The State pension she had been receiving for years. . . would they want it all back? Would she be prosecuted for fraud and sent to prison? Even an open prison would be unbearable. She could not share a room or a bathroom with anyone, not at her age.

Sir Peter's relatives would doubtlessly contest the will. They would want their rightful share.
The recession had wiped out many of her investments, but she was too distressed to care. It simply brought her plans closer. Her money was running out. When it had gone, there was no point in living.

• • •

Stella Whitelaw began writing seriously at the age of nine. She was ill with measles when her father gave her an Imperial Portable typewriter. Covered in spots, she sat up in bed and taught herself to type.

At sixteen, she became a cub reporter and worked her way up to Chief Reporter. She was the first woman Chief Reporter, the youngest, and the only one who was pregnant.

After producing a family, she became Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons. Secretary then meant the original meaning, Secretariat, the keeper of secrets. She was awarded an MBE in 2001 but is not sure why.

Like Trollope, she wrote books on the train and in the recesses. The Jordan Lacey PI series is her favourite and the cruise crime books. Her big romances, No Darker Heaven and Sweet Seduction, were a marathon adventure.

Stella has won a woman’s magazine national short story competition and the London Magazine’s Art of Writing competition judged by Sheridan Morley. The Elizabeth Goudge Cup was presented to her at Guildford University.

Homeless cats find their way to Stella’s lifelong hospitality and she has written eight books of cat stories for the 7 – 70 plus.

You can find Stella online at --

• • •

--> Stella is giving away a copy of Lucifer's Bride to one lucky winner today. Just leave a message for her in comments, along with your email address, and the best comment wins. :-)

Monday, 11 March 2013

Pat McDermott: Band of Roses Trilogy

Author Pat McDermott is no stranger to a great 'what if?' story. And all great stories start with 'what if?' right? The Band of Roses Trilogy is a testament to that.

The basic premise to this trilogy is what if Brian Boru, the great Ard Rí (High King) of Ireland, had never been killed at the Battle of Clontarf back so long ago on 23 April 2014?

What if he had refused to battle on Good Friday, something he never did? Boru was a god-fearing man who supported the church, and vowed that no matter how serious the issue, he would never fight on a holy day.

What if he lived and his family continued ruling Ireland right up into modern times?

What if that family, a thousand years on, was suddenly thrown back into the spotlight and forced to fight for their lives?

The Band of Roses Trilogy answers some of those possible questions while taking readers on a memorable romp though Ireland's ancient history as well as history in the making.

Let's take a look at this series --

A Band of Roses , book one

Irish kings still rule the Emerald Isle—
and a princess is in trouble . . .

Ancient Irish traditions remain strong in a world where High King Brian Boru survived the Battle of Clontarf and established a dynasty that rules Ireland to this day. When greed for oil prompts England’s Regent to claim an Irish island in the North Atlantic, Ireland’s Crown Princess Talty becomes a pawn in a murderous plot to seize the throne of England.

From Japan to California to an eleventh century Ireland preparing for the Battle of Clontarf, Talty must hide her true identity, though she can’t hide her ingrained training as a member of the Fianna: the warriors who guard the Kingdom of Ireland. She brings home a discovery worth more than any oil well, yet all she wants is to return to her family and Neil Boru, the adoptive cousin she secretly loves and cannot have—or so she thinks. Neil has a secret of his own, one that emerges as the Boru clan works with MI6 to thwart an invasion of Ireland and bring Talty home.

Fiery Roses , book two

"Irish kings still rule the Emerald Isle—
and part of the kingdom is burning . . ."

In the exciting sequel to A Band of Roses, the discovery of gas off the coast of northwest Ireland ensnares Irish Princess Talty Boru and her devoted champion, Neil, in a web of blackmail and murder. County Mayo's residents object to a pipeline crossing their pristine boglands, but an arsonist tries to change their minds by setting homes and land ablaze. One of his fires sends newlyweds Neil and Talty to an ancient world at the mercy of a waking volcano. While they struggle to outwit a tyrant with a shocking secret, King Brian locks horns with a ruthless tycoon who will stop at nothing to become a high roller in the oil and gas game. The resulting conflict proves fatal for the Boru clan, whose members once again close ranks to thwart the latest threat to the kingdom they are sworn to protect.

Salty Roses , book three

"A ride aboard a luxury submarine leads to oceans of trouble for Ireland’s Crown Princess . . ."

Warrior princess Talty Boru and her noble Irish clan have outwitted all sorts of scoundrels. A wife and a mother at last, the dynamic heir to the Irish throne believes her days of exotic adventure are all done and dusted. Yet her royal duties seem endless, and a day off with her handsome husband Neil is looking good. Former naval officer Talty eagerly accepts an eccentric billionaire’s invitation for a jaunt aboard his luxury submarine, but as she and Neil dive beneath the waves to view an eerie shipwreck, a sinister plot unfolds. An unknown enemy lures them to an ancient tomb and sends them to a world infested with treacherous pirates. Talty takes charge of a pirate ship and its mangy crew, while Neil matches wits with a steamy temptress who jeopardizes his wedding vows. As he and Talty fight to save their marriage, they learn that the door to parallel worlds swings both ways…

What first struck me about these stories is how relevant they are in today's Ireland. Especially Fiery Roses and the gas fields off the County Mayo coast. Anyone following the Shell To Sea drama over the last many years will know of which I speak.

This is no light-hearted series. And I wouldn't expect that from Pat, as she's a very conscientious writer. These stories are deeply-engrossing, dramatic, emotional, and sometimes romantic tales. Each book is well over the 400 page mark, guaranteeing readers a full and fulfilling experience.

With all this drama, one wonders what makes the author tick. We sat down and had a quick chat with Pat about her writing and her love of Ireland, among other things.

Welcome, Pat. Thanks for taking time to chat with us. First let me congratulate you on such a wonderful series. They're really engrossing tales, right from page one. Gotta love books like that.

So, let's get started. Readers love knowing more about their favorite author. We've read interviews about the books themselves and where you get your ideas . . . all the usual stuff. We'd like to know you from the other side of writing. Will you please tell us what your writing space is like? What surrounds you and gets your imagination going?

My writing retreat is right off the kitchen, handy for all those domestic chores I like to get up and do when I'm stuck on a scene. My desk and its environs are cluttered when the writing is flying, neat when I can’t think what to write next. My desktop setup includes a slide-out shelf for my tea, speakers for music, and several boxes and statues acquired in my travels, mostly in Ireland. I have a daily Irish calendar and love ripping off the page each morning to see the next photo. Behind my desk are three tall bookcases packed with books and more statues, including a copper image of High King Brian Boru. The office has a lace-curtained glass door, though I never get to close it, as my three cats would take offense and howl. (Or is that my husband?)

With the Ireland images and the Boru statue, it sounds like you have some great inspiration for this series. I might have to get some tips from you about keeping the desk clean when I'm not working though. My hubs accuses me of nesting everywhere I go. He's right, of course!

What is your daily writing routine like?

I try to write every day, usually early in the morning when it’s quiet and my only interruptions are cats in need of hugs. Whether I’m struggling with something new or revising pages I've already written, I find that quiet time of the day most productive. If I'm not working on a story, I'm doing something to promote either my own work or the work of other writers (I have a book blog for that). Or I'm updating my travel/writing blog. I make it a point to go out almost every day for groceries, to visit friends, or to haunt the library or the mall, anywhere to get out of the house for an hour or so. Most afternoons, I'm reading for research and/or pleasure. Monday evenings, I host a writers’ group, which gives me an incentive to spruce up a chapter or two each week. At certain times of the year, I attend a writing class on Tuesday nights. Busy days, and that doesn't even count the usual household chores or family and social commitments. When my children were small, I doubt I could have managed all this. I have great respect for writers with growing families who find time to write, and write well.

Oh, my goodness! You are really one busy woman. It makes me feel guilty for asking the next question! What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

Probably cooking or planning a meal. Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes, and I have my own cooking blog, called Kitchen Excursions. I enjoy exploring different ethnic cuisines. Recently, I've discovered some delicious Turkish and French dishes, and I make a mean Guinness Beef Stew. I also love hiking, reading, and traveling, especially to Ireland.

I knew about your other blogs, but I didn't know about Kitchen Excursions. I'm definitely going to pop into that one and read through your recipes. I go through bouts of enjoying cooking then not. I'm experiencing the latter at the moment and need some incentive.

Thanks for chatting with us, Pat. Let's get to that great excerp.

• • •

In this excerpt, Talty and Neil are in County Mayo for the opening of the Grace O'Malley Museum:

The wind fills the rigging and whips my hair. Salt spray dampens my face. The men at the oars propel my galley over the sea to capture the foolish merchant ship that dared to invade my waters. She sits low in the waves, weighed down with gold and silver, packed with silk and spices from the Far East. She’s mine.

“Man the cannons!” I shout from the gun deck. “Prepare to board her!”

“Your Highness? We have here a model of Granuaile’s galley. Not an exact reproduction, but assembled as closely as possible from the descriptions in the existing records.”

The droning words seeped into Talty’s daydream like ink drops clouding a pool of water. The invigorating tang of briny air gave way to the scent of new wood and fresh paint. Talty was back in the Grace O’Malley museum in Louisburg, Mayo.

“You’ll walk the plank for this, me bucko!”

Though miffed that the curator’s ongoing narrative had spoiled her imagined adventure, Talty smiled courteously at the gangly, white-haired man. “The ship looks quite authentic, Mr. Gavin.”

The raisin-like eyes behind his glasses squinted back at her. “Grania had several galleys under her command.” Gavin walked on, babbling away about tribal warfare in sixteenth century Ireland.

Talty knew the story of Granuaile, also known as Pirate Queen Grania “Grace” O’Malley, yet she listened politely, ambling along after Gavin to the next display. Neil stopped beside her, biting his lip the way he did when trying not to laugh. The merry gleam in his eye said he’d caught her daydreaming.

She stepped on his foot. “I understand Grania divorced one of her husbands and locked him out of his castle.”

Gavin didn’t miss a beat. “Richard Bourke. Sometimes known as Iron Dick.”

Neil’s polite cough barely muffled a snort of laughter. “The fella possessed exceptional marital skills, did he?”

Talty stepped harder on his foot, somehow managing to keep her public smile in place. “Isn’t the name from the armor he wore?”

Gavin’s unsmiling face betrayed no awareness of their playful interaction. His attention seemed riveted on the exhibit before him. He clasped his hands behind his back. “That’s one theory. The name may have referred to an ironworks on his property. Unfortunately, we have more folklore than fact about the history of this time. It’s folklore that tells us how Grania herself became known as Granuaile. ‘Gráinne Mhaol’ means ‘Bald Grace’ in Irish. Legend has it she cut her hair after her father refused to take her along on his voyages. He claimed her hair was so long, it would get caught in the rigging.”

Neil tugged Talty’s shoulder length hair. “Obviously he let her sail with him after that.”

“Obviously. This ends the tour, ma’am. If you’re ready, we’ll officially open the museum.” Gavin started for the door.

Talty followed, recalling one of her favorite stories about Grania O’Malley. Only hours after the Pirate Queen gave birth to a son in her cabin, foreign pirates attacked her galley. Grania appeared on deck clad only in a blanket. She shot the pirate captain with her blunderbuss pistol and led her men to victory. Having recently experienced childbirth herself, Talty found her admiration of the legendary woman turning to awe.

The wax figures of Granuaile and her husbands, sons, and enemies positioned throughout the room appeared ready to step down and strike up a conversation. Colorful murals on the walls portrayed seascapes and sixteenth century sailing vessels, adding to the fanciful mood.

This morning’s formalities would be modest compared to the afternoon gala at the Marine Foundation, yet Talty suspected the most enjoyable part of her day would be spent here in Mayo. The Marine Foundation was important, yes, but the reception following its opening ceremony was “by invitation only.” She dreaded facing the fawning, praise-seeking politicians who’d have the run of the place, and she didn’t care a whit if she ever met the billionaire tycoon, Roxy what’s-his-name.

The Granuaile event was open to the public. Talty looked forward to her allotted forty-five minutes of shaking hands and chatting with the people before the Morrigan whisked her south to Galway. Silently rehearsing her short speech, she walked between Neil and Gavin to the Granuaile Center’s humble lobby. The standing crowd enthusiastically applauded her entry.

Despite the warm welcome, Barry and Rory stood guard on either side of the packed little room. Their eagle-eyed vigilance was more than adequate for this quiet corner of Mayo. Security at the Marine Foundation would be tighter than a goatskin on a drum.

Her public smile firmly in place, Talty cordially greeted the well-wishers, who had no way of knowing she was already back on her pirate ship, shouting orders to man the cannons and prepare to board.

• • •

Boston, Massachusetts native Pat McDermott writes romantic action/adventure stories set in an Ireland that might have been. Autumn Glimmer, a young adult paranormal adventure featuring Ireland’s fairies, is the sequel to Glancing Through the Glimmer. Both books are “prequels” to her Band of Roses Trilogy.

She is a member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project, Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. She lives and writes in New Hampshire, USA.

 • • •

 --> Pat is giving away a copy of Salty Roses to one lucky winner today. Just leave a message for her in comments, along with your email address, and the best comment wins. :-)

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Carley Bauer and Lynette Willows: No Gentleman Is He

We often hear about two authors collaborating on a story. Usually they've chosen a single name to published under. But rarely do we hear of collaborating authors writing jointly under their own names. This is the case with authors Carley Bauer and Lynette Willows.

In their debut book, No Gentleman Is He, book one of the Sons of Liberty Series, Carley and Lynette have seamlessly woven an engrossing tale set in 1775 Colonial America. I can't really say this is a pre-Revolutionary War story because it's not set too 'pre' war. It begins in March 1775 and takes us, through the characters' eyes, right into the heart of 19 April 1775 . . . the night when the 'shot was heard 'round the world', when Paul Revere made his epic ride to Lexington to let the locals know 'one if by land, two if by sea' and shouting "The British are coming", and the night the course of American History took a dramatic change. And our hero and heroine, Colton and Cassandra, are smack dab in the center of it.

This is not just a great historical. This is also a great romance. Two people who've met under unusual circumstances, who are thrown together during desperate times (both personal and national), and who come to a greater understanding and respect for one another.

Cassandra eloped with Seth and left England to make their way in the Colonies. Seth was a horseman and the two planned on raising horses. But Seth's untimely death put Cassandra into a difficult situation--trying to earn her keep while also keeping her prize horses. Only two years in the New World, hers and Seth's dreams were only just starting to come to fruition. Now, alone, Cassandra is learning how to survive on her own.

Colton Rolfe is a local plantation owner. His ancestors, which included the famous Pocahontas, started Varina Farms as a tobacco plantation. Colton still farms tobacco, but horses are his passion. When he meets Cassandra and discovers her superior horses, he'll stop at nothing to have exclusive rights to breed his stock with hers. He sees her desperate situation to his benefit and hires her on as his steward, but has a cunning plan that will send her back to England, and leaving her horses with him.

Only . . . you knew there was an only . . . only this is romance and nothing ever goes to plan. Colton soon finds his interests are no longer in Cassandra's horse, but in Cassandra herself. Fight himself as he does, there's just something about this high-spirited filly that calls to his inner Colt (like how I played up on the horse theme of the story?) ;-)

I had a chance to chat with the authors about their work, this story, and about what they get up to when they're not writing.

Hey, Carley. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me. I know you and Lynette are busy working on the next Sons of Liberty book. Readers love to know about the authors they read. Tell us a little about you. What is your writing space like?

I couldn't wait to have an office. A couple of years ago, my husband and I redid a room across from our bedroom. New paint, shelves of reference books, printer, fax, a nice desk top with a 28" monitor and a view from the second story of the evergreens in the backyard. Perfect. Except, the monitor is too big, I'm on the second floor which means racing down the stairs to the kitchen or to answer the door. I still have the 'office', and use it at certain times. Never for writing, though. Mostly I walk by and admire it.

My writing space is my sofa, a coffee table and end table for reference books, my phone and laptop. This works for me because we are empty nesters. There is no thru-traffic. When my husband is home, he may watch TV or more likely read. Being my biggest fan and most ardent supporter, he often runs interference with the phone and door.

That's so funny! You have an office to admire but never use. I wonder . . . does this hint at your quirky personality? I'm thinking yes! So, when you're not admiring your office, what is your daily writing routine like?

Peak writing time for me is between mid-morning and mid to late afternoon. I have the luxury now of working the rest of my schedule around that, leaving open my most productive times. I've never been one to jump out of bed and write. A little me time, straightening up around the house, paying bills, responding to emails, then I'm ready to roll.

I've learned my least productive time is evenings. After dinner, I do a bit around the house, run errands with the hubs and maybe watch a little TV to relax.

Two precautions I've taken to prevent needless interruptions during my most productive time have been ingenius moves I wish I'd started years ago.

1) A 'No Soliciting' sign on my front door had been invaluable in putting the brakes on every sales person and JW traipsing up and down my street.
2) I mentioned I keep my phone beside me. We ditched our landlines years ago in favor of cell phones, which have been upgraded to smart phones. I do not have to set aside my laptop in order to see who is calling. I glance over and unless it my husband or children, I don't answer. I have sent a no-texting warning to friends and family. I text only outside of my productive hours.

I SO hear you on the smartphone vs house phone thing. I got my first smartphone last June/July and I think I've used the house phone, maybe, three times. Two times were for Dellani Oakes' radio show :-) What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

Geographically, we're situated half way between Washington DC and New York City, two hours in either direction with Baltimore and Philadelphia even closer. It takes little planning for my husband and I to enjoy a nice ride forthe day. Also enjoy trips to Rehoboth Beach or maybe the Catskill Mountains in NY where our youngest son lives.

I also enjoy research, which lends itself to writing. My husband enjoys reading most anything, so we can often we found browsing Barnes and Noble in our free time.

Lately I've been into work-outs, health, and physical fitness. Haven't joined a gym, but am looking at some equipment for the house. Who knows, maybe a personal gym can take the place of that un-used office

Transforming the office makes sense. And you said it has a great view.

I've been to both DC and NYC. Really enjoyed the DC area, I must say. SO much history. It's no wonder you and Lynette chose American history to write about. It's right on your doorstep!

Lynette Willows, on the other hand, isn't quite in DC, or anywhere on the American east coast. In fact, she lives in Canada.

Welcome, Lynette! Hopefully, this catches you between manuscript volley's with Carley. Thanks for taking some time to chat with me, too. Let me just say, I love this picture of you here. It's SO Americana, yet it's in Canada. Really incredible.

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Readers want to know all about you! Describe your writing space for us, will you? I mean, with this as your setting, where do you actually do your writing?

I have an old fashioned farm house, and I made up a parlour room at the foot of the stairs, complete with my desk under the window and library shelves off to my side. I have to have a comfortable, large chair. Since I was little, I sat Indian style, with legs crossed and tucked under my tush, for some reason. As a result, I use this huge armchair that they call a “chair and a half”, which is almost larger than my desk. It’s a wonderful room, all painted and accessorized in autumn colours.  Very soothing and condusive to work.

I need a chair like yours. I sit Indian style too but my current chair only has room for one leg, which most often goes to sleep after five minutes ;-)

OK, so if I had a writing room in a house like this, I would be in there all the time. Tell me, what is your daily writing routine like?

There’s a lot of blind fumbling first thing in the morning and sweeping up spilt coffee grounds from the floor as a result. After three cups of coffee, I become coherent enough to get to work. My work day usually starts at 8:00 am. I go over emails to see if there is anything urgent I need to reply to. Usually the dogs need letting out about this time, then they can settle down and do their job as my muses. I will go over any latest compositions or changes with my lead muse, Misty Maiden, and get her opinion. It’s amazing how a Maltese that looks like Betty Boop can be so perceptive.

I have a regular routine for the most part. I work until noon,then make a light lunch. It’s usually a working lunch. I’m a very boring person, actually, and work until about 4:00 pm and turn into a semi-dutiful wife, making supper. If I’m really in the zone of creativity, I will go back and work more until about 8:00 pm, then settle in to relax, usually watching British drama series. Nothing really exciting.

As a side note, I cannot listen to music as I write; I end up bopping out to it, even Beethoven, and lose all concentration. Instead, I put headphones on and listen to the sounds of wildlife from the African live feeds or Pete’s Pond trail cam. Strange, I know. Must be the country girl in me.

I can't really write to music either, though certain scenes call for something atmospheric. Carmina Burana, for example, or even the theme music from Last of the Mohicans is great for battles or chase scenes . . . for historicals. ;-) I love that you listen to nature sounds though. Great idea. Beats the sound of the keys as you're tapping away, I'm sure! {note to self: check out nature videos on YouTube}

When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Both my husband and I are avid campers and fishermen, especially now we’re empty nesters and he’s retired. I also enjoy visiting friends, gardening, walking my “girls” in the field behind my place and finding the tracks of animals who have visited there. Moose, coyotes, deer and rabbit are very numerous there. We also time our camping trips for when the various wild berries are ready for picking. For instance, when the wild cranberries are ready, we will travel the two hours to Edson, camp out nearby and spend a weekend picking enough for the next year. There is nothing better than wild cranberry sauce for Xmas dinner! Then, of course, there’s blueberries, pincherries, saskatoons, basically anything that can be turned into pies and jellies, ready for picking at various times during the summer.  I have simple tastes in entertainment. I’m an avid garage-saler, and watch the signs on the roadsigns religiously.

Isn't that wonderful you can still find all those berries in nature? So much progress has destroyed all that in other places in the world. Back when we lived on our property, we'd pick the wild blackberries for jam and jelly. The dogs followed behind us on the way home, as the heavy berries would start juicing themselves from the weight and drip out of the bags. The dogs would chase after us, licking the bags LOL And yeah, amazing flavor off wild berries.

I understand about the wonder of nature in the country too. We have a bit ourselves with rabbits and hare, mink, ferrets, badger, foxes, birds (including pheasants) and Sika Deer, which have only just started being seen again in the region. Loved it when we lived there. Of course, I grew up in an area once common to fix, American deer, and mountain lions. But that's another story!

A BIG thank you to both Lynette and Carley for taking time out to chat with me so I could let you know a bit more about these fabulous ladies. Let's go now to No Gentleman Is He.

• • •

Young, adventurous and widowed in a new land, Cassandra Courtney Brooks finds her dream of raising a superior breed of saddle horse slipping away with the death of her husband. Left with four horses, living in a tavern attic, and her scant savings depleting, she resolves to see her vision through to fruition by accepting the scandalous position of steward at Varina Farms.

Born in the image of his native ancestry, Colton Rolfe’s savage blood runs through his veins. Scorned by his father, Colt grew into a man of ill temperament whose only interest is the wild equine beasts on his plantation. His desire to breed his horses with the superior Thoroughbreds of the newly widowed Cassandra Brooks leads him to abandon societal rules. Colt’s growing resentment toward the Crown and his assistance to Sons of Liberty missions is complicated by the discovery that Cassandra’s father is a titled English nobleman.

Cassandra is soon forced to question the wisdom of her decision when she finds herself enamored with her employer. As fiery passion grows between them, Cassandra realizes her own spirit of independence, love of the land, and the savage man who is so much a part of it.

As the threat of war comes ever closer, wills are tested through gunfire, treachery, danger, and kidnapping. Does Colt dare trust Casandra with Sons of Liberty secrets? More importantly, can he trust her with his heart? And will Colt ever trust Cassandra enough to love her as she longs to be loved?

“How much do you charge for your stock?”

Startled by the abrupt topic change, she stammered, “Well, I have not sold any yet. The colt will be the first.”

Inwardly, Colton rejoiced at her inexperience. “How much?” he pressed, in an effort to keep her off balance.

“I have given it some thought. A price of twenty-five pounds seems reasonable.”

Colton’s jaw dropped open. “Are you insane, woman?”

She flinched and bristled, then found her voice. “With my quality horses, I cannot see why I should not demand a fair price.”

“Twenty-five pounds…” he stopped. “That is five pounds more than I charge and I have the best in the county!”

“You had the best,” she corrected saucily, her blue eyes shining with mischief.

Angry at her cheek, Colton urged his horse closer to hers and leaned over close in what he hoped was an intimidating manner, staring into her eyes. He was gratified to see her quiver, her hands tightening on the reins. Still, her gaze remained steady on his. Through his anger he admired her courage. Grown men quaked at his bullying tactics, yet this slip of a girl held fast under his stare.

“You insolent wench,” he huffed.

Cassandra shivered, but did not answer. She held her ground, and he strongly suspected she knew her position was strong.  They held a glaring contest for a few seconds.

A slow smile curled one corner of Colton’s mouth. “You have brass ones, woman,” he murmured. “That is one reason I want to buy your horses and make them the foundation of my breeding line.”

Cassandra snorted in derision, obviously surprised at his offer. “Do you honestly think I would give up my horses after all I have sacrificed to keep them?”

“You admitted you are in a bad way.” He shifted in his saddle. “Tom Hardwick is a fine horseman and good foreman, but unfortunately the man is illiterate, only able to work out numbers with great effort. With my planned expansion I have need of a knowledgeable steward.” He studied her reaction at this unorthodox suggestion. “I also need a housekeeper. Martha is not able to read or write, either, and she is getting old. My sister, Frances Anne, who normally would take over the household duties, is abroad and not due home for a year or more. Therefore, I propose you be my housekeeper as well.”

Colton could see suspicion rising in her deep blue eyes. A fetching creature, he doubted she lacked admirers. He supposed she wondered if the proposition was business or if his pleasure would also be part of the bargain. Inexplicably, the latter thought made his groin tighten.

Proper English women were reared to manage a substantial household. Colton was unaware of her heritage but assumed she garnered these qualities as a governess or housekeeper to prominent English families before coming to the Colonies. War with England was on their heels and Colton made it clear he was willing to make an investment in the fight for independence with his horses. Knowing her background beyond that of Seth Brooks’ widow may not set well with him but he needed her horses to produce stronger stock if the Colonialists were to get independence from the Crown.

Cassandra sniffed haughtily. “I do not see how your offer could possibly tempt me.”

Colton’s eyes fixed intently on her, belying the informal way he rested his elbow on his thigh, leaning toward her.

“I want sole rights to your stallions to service my mares, Mrs. Brooks. I also claim sole ownership of any foals resulting from breeding our stock.”

Her mouth dropped open at his outrageous proposal. He continued, undaunted.

“The annual wage as steward and housekeeper at Varina Farms is two hundred and forty pounds. It is more than generous, you must admit. You can save up enough to open a small shop, or snag another husband, when my sister returns to take over the household. It is not often a mere woman is offered such an opportunity,” he added.

“You arrogant boor,” Cassandra huffed. “Just when I think you might be a gentleman, you manage to change my mind!”

• • •

Carley Bauer enjoys life on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. with her husband and their blue eyed feline, Noelle. After 30 years as a state contractor in a self employed capacity, she decided to try her hand at her first love, writing.

She loves being an empty nester, free to travel with her husband. Still involved with her children and grandchildren, Carley loves big family dinners.

Some of her other hobbies are fashion, the occasional bite of the Big Apple where the excitement feeds her natural love of city life and home decor, which boasts a collection of Fenton Glassware.

Lynette Willows is a mother, wife, and the property of two Maltese. Verbally awkward, she has always put her thoughts to paper and eventually realized this was what writers do. Hence, the profession chose her instead of the other way around.

She served ten years of apprenticeship as a freelance writer in between raising boys and serving hot suppers to a hard working husband.

She has a love of odd facts and her favorite hobby is historical research.

She is an avid camper, fisherman, and chases storms for the adrenaline rush. Lynette is an empty nester living with her husband in rural Alberta, Canada.

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