Marjorie M Liu - Eye of Heaven

I was in the middle of writing THE RED HEART OF JADE, and -- as happens quite often -- I began thinking about the next book, EYE OF HEAVEN. Specifically, the character who I knew would be the focus of the story: Blue Perrineau. Quiet, competent, deeply protective of his friends -- the guy everyone turns to when there is a problem -- and the one person no one ever thinks about as having his own difficulties. Probably because he never talks about them.

That kind of stoicism is what drove me as I wrote about Blue, and ultimately, his counterpart: Iris McGillis, shape-shifter and circus performer. Opposites, and yet the same down to the core. Both isolated by their parents and the circumstances of their lives -- and both unbearably lonely.

The rest fell into place. The villain took shape as I thought about what it would mean for Iris -- an extremely private woman -- to have a stalker, and what it would mean if that stalker knew her secrets. Profit or pleasure -- that was the question -- and the villain became a man of both, an expert at procuring other humans for the modern slave trade. And what better prize than a woman who is part magic, and can change her shape from human to animal?

That's all I had as I started writing EYE OF HEAVEN -- which is typical of the way I work. I almost never have a plan as I write. No outline, just people -- and the characters in my stories are always my inspiration. I let them do the talking -- I go where they take me -- and it feels good to work that way, like the book is a natural evolution of hearts and minds. And in this case, Blue and Iris were a joy to write, though their circumstances -- family betrayal, human slavery, the black market trade in organs -- were significantly less so. Trial by fire, that's what I like to put my characters through.

Anyway, I hope very much that you enjoy EYE OF HEAVEN! After you're done, please visit the Dirk & Steele site (http://www.dirkandsteele.com/), narrated by the agency's foul-mouthed boss, for some additional insights into the characters and the series.



In December of 2003, I was preparing to market my novel, A Restless Knight. At the time, several author-friends said the market for Historical Romances was slow and was especially over-saturated with Scottish Historicals; I should try writing something else that would stand a higher chance of selling. Well, that’s a fine how do you do! A Scot, one with a strong background in medieval history, and couldn’t sell a Scottish Historical? Well, fudge!

One who offered me sage advice was NY Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands. Lynsay suggested I try for a lighter romance, one laced with a wee dram of my quirky Scots humour. She thought my voice would come alive with that style. This is Lynsay’s area--she’s the Queen of Hysterical Romances. When she gave good advice I would’ve been silly not to listen.

She asked me what else I was working on. I told her about a series of books I originally thought to target Silhouette Intimate Moments-- seven books about seven sisters, in their thirties and finding love better the second time around. As I worked with the novels, I knew they deserved single title treatment. Each book was just so special.

The idea for the series hit me one summer while sunbathing in Scotland! No, I hadn’t had a wee dram too much. It was a hot summer, into the high 80s some days, very unusual, so my sisters and I were taking advantage and actually getting a tan. I realized each of us were into a ‘second love’ in our thirties. We’d lost loves through divorce or death. Now we were starting over, facing love on a stronger footing. We’d grown enough to be comfortable with who we are and what we wanted in life, and brought that ‘woman in bloom’ to our relationships. We each agreed our love was so much stronger, more vital because we were better equipped to handle it, treasure it, and were mature enough to put aside our own egos and really work for a fulfilling partnership. Being a writer―translation: all life experiences are fodder for our imaginations―I hit on the idea of doing stories of seven women coming into their own, dealing with finding their place in life, and discovering that romance was, indeed, better the second time around.

I had finished one sister and started working on four others--all written as straight romances--no paranormal elements, not going for humour. When Lynsay asked what WIPs I had going that weren’t historical, I showed her the first one that was a rough draft finished, but also told her about The Invasion of Falgannon Isle. Originally, I had set it up as book three in the series. Only, she loved the premise and said she’d like to see more. That night I wrote the first three chapters. Much to my delight, she adored it and pushed me to finish the book and submit. I took her advice and haven’t looked back.

I recall a friend coming over to Scotland for a vacation that summer and being very disappointed. I guess she expected everyone to live in castles, paint their faces with blue woad and all the men run around in kilts. Scotland is so much more, but she failed to look past the Hollywood image with which she was familiar. Hollywood offered you quasi-history in Braveheart and Rob Roy, which were sweeping, majestic, but missed so much of what is special about the country. Two of my favourite movies, yes, despite their glaring faults―only Scotland, as I told my friend, is so much more.

It’s that more I wanted to tap into, that out-of-step with the world, far from the beaten path, the slower pace of days, the small community feel with the oddball, gentle humour that seems to laugh at life. These were things I wanted to imbibe into my loving prose. As I was on a boat going past Skye in the Hebrides, inspiration rose within me. Skye was often called the Isle of Women. Suddenly, the story seemed to write itself, taking on a life of its own. An Isle of Men. With it came the quirkiness and a touch of Highland mist, blending in a Brigadoon-ish, paranormal theme of an island of men wanting brides, but cursed to unhappiness until their Lady of the Isle found her one true love.

As for The Cat Dudley­―inspiration for him came from three cats my grandfather has―The Cat Basil, The Cat Nigel and The Cat Cyril. They tend to run his office and seem to boss everyone about. Dudley’s character is a blend of the three orange tabbies. He is an excellent character, but also a ‘device’. His immediate acceptance and unconditional love clues up the reader from the start that Des is a person worth loving­―even when Des doesn’t know it himself. The Cat Dudley shows the reader this by adoring Des from the very first.

So take seven sisters, romance, a mythical isle of men and one arrogant tabby cat and you have the formula for The Invasion of Falgannon Isle.


Annette Blair - The Scot, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Available everywhere December 5th

Where do we get our ideas for our stories? Each has a different beginning, of course. When I wrote my first witch book, I had only THE KITCHEN WITCH in mind, but I thought it might be smart for Melody to have a couple of friends, in case. Turns out, that was a brilliant move. Kira got her story in MY FAVORITE WITCH, and because she was a fundraiser, she fit a story idea I had about a consortium of Newport, Rhode Island mansions. Giving her a hockey player hero was a natural for me. I worked in the prep school that holds the national record for the most consecutive state hockey titles, and I’d watched several young men work their way from the 7th grade to the NHL. That book became a National Bestseller.

Then came the real challenge. I had to find a worthy story, and hero, for Vickie. One thing I had going for me was that Vickie owned the Immortal Classic, a Vintage Clothing and Curio Shop, so she was into antiques. Also, she never claimed to be any kind of witch—a clue. She’s a witch in denial. Of course. Now, how to reveal her true gift, her inherited gift for witchcraft? Put a witch in her family tree . . . and an antique with a spell on it.

I love the stories behind the antiques on The Antiques Roadshow. I watch it all the time, whether it takes place in England or the U.S. and I’ve often thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a story that started with an antique that could change somebody’s life?” I figured that if I watched the British version of the Roadshow, then a Scot could very well be watching the American version. I love romances about Scots—I’m married to a Scot.

Did you ever see the movie Possession? If you haven’t, you should. I loved the notion that a century old love could inspire a contemporary love story. So Vickie’s ancestor, the witch, had a lover, a Scottish lover. He carved carousel figures. Yes, I happen to adore carousels. Now, how to make the carousel piece the Scot is looking for so unique that when one appears on the Roadshow, he has to come to Salem to see if it’s the one his ancestor carved?

We don’t get all of our ideas in a vacuum. My brainstorming buddies helped me with this one. Put the signs of the zodiac on the figures. Twelve figures, twelve signs and they’re all horses except for the Aquarius unicorn, which Vickie finds in her locked family wardrobe . . . because she’s the first direct female descendant who can turn the inherited key in the lock. The key never worked for anyone else. This does not, however, prove to her that she’s a witch. She’s still got a lot of lessons to learn, and some of them are hot.

Now here’s where the amazing part comes in. This is all floating around in my head, and I’ve started to plot the story, and I’m chatting about it with a few writer friends in the car on the way to a writers’ conference, and one of them says something that gives me a vision. It’s a picture, so vivid, I could smell the flowers and see the sun going down on the embracing couple. That vision became a recurring theme in the story, a dream that our hero and heroine share before they meet. And it’s only after Rory MacKenzie comes to Salem—to see if Victoria’s Aquarius unicorn has the hidden compartment his ancestor carved in his Aquarius unicorn—that the dreams escalate, become explicit, erotic, and they realize they’re dreaming about each other.

The way THE SCOT, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE came together seems, to me, more like a gift than an idea. I hope you think so too. Here’s what the reviewers have to say:

"...sassy dialogue, rich sexual tension and plenty of laughs make this an immensely satisfying return to Blair's world of witchcraft." Publishers Weekly

“Enchanting.” Hot. Romantic Times

“Sexy, witty and utterly delightful.” Affaire de Coeur

“Outstanding! Actually made me believe in magic.” Huntress Reviews

Enter my new contest at www.annetteblair.com/contest.htm and don’t forget to looks for THE SCOT, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE in bookstores on December 5th.


Annette Blair


Today's Post

Unfortunately, Kathleen Eagle's post today has been canceled. But there are still plenty of great authors coming up for the rest of November.



Write From April

When I’m doing my most intense, creative work, my husband usually comments, “Shouldn’t you be writing?”

Some of my best ideas, characters, and plot lines have come through the art of daydreaming—brainstorming with all my thoughts. The real version of me hard at work is lying on the floor looking at the ceiling or lying on the grass and staring up at the sky. Hoping—and trusting—that in the emptiness of the ceiling, the wall, the vast openness of the sky above, life will suddenly take form like the first primitive organisms in the empty prehistoric sea. And the awesome thing is, it usually does. Vague, not quite visual shapes, not quite heard lines of dialogue, random motions of people and places that will select themselves into a story line pop into my mind.

TROPICAL WARNINGS began to take root in my mind lying on a lounge chair at the pool of the campground I was managing. All the guests there assumed I was sleeping—sun-bathing, when in fact I was listening to conversations, watching out of the corner of my eyes. Characters began to take shape, plots began to form. I was again, hard at work.

We have stored in our brain every article we've read, every experience we've had, and every image that has passed before our eyes. It is all there. The challenge -- one of the keys to constant creative inspiration -- is to retrieve this information deliberately. All this information is the corridor to a writers creativity. Recognize and realize that your mind is more powerful than any computer. It holds far more information than the Internet and is a database for whatever it is you choose to write. Take the first step through the corridor of creativity by opening the door to your mind—a mental atlas filled with scenes, characters, plots, conflicts…all the ingredients for blockbusting novels, short stories, poetry. To enter through this door you must first free your mind of all other distractions and those inner critics who speak loudly and negatively in an attempt of keeping you from this first step. Spend a few moments quieting yourself through meditation. It will help you stay focused and remain creative.
April Star



"Hero’s Welcome," my entry in this anthology, tells the story of Ben Linkman, who formerly belonged to the underclass on the planet Thindar. His people have won a war of rebellion, and he’s come back from a military hospital to claim the estate the new government awarded him. An amputee and in pain, Link finds a surprise waiting for him when he arrives–Kasimanda, the woman he loves. She was once the daughter of a noble and on the other side in the conflict. Raped by soldiers in Link’s army, she’s as wounded as he. Together they must heal each other–and defend Link’s estate from the deserters bent on killing them and stealing the property.

When I first wrote this story, I was thinking about how war damages people and how they might heal. And because I write romance, I was thinking about how love could be an important part of the healing process. I was also glad of the opportunity to write about how two groups of people can hate each other--just because of their ethnic background. But what happens when a man from one group and a woman from the other group fall in love? I've never written a Romeo and Juliet story. I want my people to end up happy, not dead.

Rebecca York


Mary Kennedy - Secrets of a South Beach Princess

A lot of people ask me if I really go to all the exciting places that I mention in my books. And the answer is yes! I go to South Beach, Florida as often as I can--that's the location of my new Berkley release. Secrets of a South Beach Princess. I have to really develop a feel for the city and make it my own. When I first visited South Beach and saw all those pastel-colored hotels, the color reminded me of salt water taffy, so I jotted that down! And of course, I made a note about the beautiful palms, the salty tang in the air, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.

There's something wonderful and magical about really being "on the scene." For example, I knew I needed a place for my characters to sit and relax as they talked about their lives. I found a cute little cafe with green umbrella tables on Collins Avenue, so I sat outdoors and ordered a skim milk latte, just as my characters would do. I watched the South Beach crowd strolling by, tanned, beautiful and hip, as the sunshine was casting a golden glow over the whole scene. Life doesn't get any better than this.

Here's a true story. When I was sitting at a cafe in South Beach, looking at the string of fabulous hotels, I thought: "what would it be like to live in the penthouse of one of those places? What if you actually owned the hotel? Or your family did? What if you could schmooze with celebrity guests, while you were learning the hotel business?" Then I spotted a tall, beautiful blonde girl walking into a famous hotel, greeting the doorman by name and handing him all her shopping bags. She looked like she didn't have a care in the world--she was young, gorgeous and living in South Beach. And that's how I created Amber Fielding, the main character in SECRETS OF A SOUTH BEACH PRINCESS.

SECRETS OF A SOUTH BEACH PRINCESS, (Berkley Trade, November 10, 2006)


The Bargain - Julia Templeton

The idea for my erotic historical romance THE BARGAIN came about after visiting a medieval castle in England. I walked up the steep tower steps, touching the dark stone as I went, all the while envisioning the men, women and children who had walked those same steps before me. When I finally reached the ramparts, I stood looking out at the rolling hills and lush meadows that seemed untouched by time and wondered again at the people who had lived there all those years ago.

I could imagine the day-to-day existence of these people. The servants bustling about, the soldiers hard at practice, the women watching from above or perhaps from windows of these huge fortresses. And what must it have been like to stand on the ramparts, looking out at an enemy, knowing at any moment your life could be over?

That is exactly where THE BARGAIN begins. Aleysia Cawdor is a young Saxon princess who has lost much to war. She is standing on the ramparts of Braemere Castle, looking out at the black sky, compliments of the Norman army that has burned much of Northern England to the ground in order to stop the Saxon rebellion. She knows Renaud de Wulf, King William’s merciless knight is on his way to Braemere. Without a moment to lose, she says goodbye to Braemere, when the horn of de Wulf sounds.

Adelstan is caught by de Wulf’s men and imprisoned. Though Aleysia is terrified, she begs Renaud to spare her brother. When he refuses she offers him a bargain—her body for her brother’s life. To her surprise, the love-starved knight agrees. Aleysia finds herself in hot water more than once in her quest to free her brother from his tower prison…and to free herself from the hold Renaud has over her in the bedroom. She enjoys the moments they spend together, especially the fire he ignites in her body, and yet she cannot give him her heart when her brother’s life hangs in the balance.

Although the story deals with the realities of war, there is also a lot of humor to be had, and I especially enjoyed exploring a secondary love affair that features an older woman and a younger man.

So there you have it. The inspiration that led to THE BARGAIN! I suggest any history lover make the trip to England (or Scotland) at least once. You’ll never regret it. Until then, you could always visit medieval England by reading THE BARGAIN.

Warm wishes,



Karen Fenech

A secret. A man she betrayed but has never stopped loving. An enemy who wants them dead.

That's the premise for BETRAYAL. The idea sprang from a situation I’d heard of. A bride-to-be called off her wedding just days before when her future husband confessed something he'd been keeping from her.

How sad, I remember thinking. Here this woman was, all set to start a new life with the man she loves and then finds out it just isn't going to happen. I never learned what the something he'd confessed was, but that event got me thinking about keeping secrets.

Most people, I think, who have a secret they don't want their significant other to know about keep quiet to hang onto the one they love.

I mulled that over. What if a woman had a secret? And . . what if keeping her secret would have the opposite result to what I just described. What if keeping her secret meant she would lose the man she loves?

I tried that again. Keeping, not revealing her secret would cost her the man she loves. . .

That concept stayed with me. I became so intrigued by it that I knew I'd just found the next story I was going to write.

That one idea became two, thank goodness : -) and each idea sparked another. On and on until I typed "The End". I've found it isn't just one idea that's needed to write a book. It takes one to get started, and many more to finish.

I had a lot of fun writing BETRAYAL. I hope you'll want to read it.


To read Chapter One of BETRAYAL, and to enter Karen's current contest, visit her website at: http://www.karenfenech.com/