“Love @ First Site” in DREAMS & DESIRES

When my first published piece, a short story eBook called SHE’S GOT LEGS, came out last July from Freya’s Bower, I realized that it was difficult to promote an eBook from a company that very few people had ever heard of. FB had only opened its doors a few months earlier, and while it was slowly building a reputation for quality, there had been such an explosion of e-publishers in the last couple of years that it was difficult to stand out from the crowd.

I was chatting with the editor-in-chief and managing editor and tossed out the idea about how wouldn’t it be great to do something really big, like an anthology where we invited some bigger names and all proceeds went to charity. The idea just literally burst out of my mouth before I’d had a chance to even really think about it, but once I did, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Fortunately, Marci Baun and Faith Bicknell-Brown, the editor-in-chief and managing editor respectively, were both intrigued by the idea, as well.

Within a few days, not only did we have a plan, but we also had a charity. Two Freya’s Bower editors are domestic violence survivors, so helping women was an obvious choice. Through Marci’s research, we selected a shelter in Florida (safety and privacy concerns for the residents preclude us from publicly disclosing the name or exact location) to become the recipient of the funds.

We agreed that nobody involved with the project (authors, editors, publisher, cover artist) would receive any compensation whatsoever, and that we would rely mostly upon word of mouth for advertising, so that we wouldn’t cut into the profit for the shelter. Once the contracts were drawn up, the fun began—recruiting authors.

We sent out the first invitations a week before RWA Nationals and approached some authors in Atlanta, as well. I must admit that I felt like a little kid in a candy store, having the opportunity to choose anyone I wanted, and inviting some of my favorite authors to contribute. Fortunately, the cause was so strong that most authors readily agreed.

To be honest, when I conceived of this plan, it never occurred to me that I might get to contribute a story. But about a month before the first draft deadline, Marci asked if I had a story to tell.

My contribution is entitled “Love @ First Site” and it’s the story of Julie Antonelli, a DC lawyer who has trouble meeting guys she’d like to take home to her mom, so she enrolls in an Internet dating site. I’m married, but most of my girlfriends here in DC are single and doing the eHarmony or Match.com thing. I took some of the stories they’ve told me and played “what if.”

I hope you enjoy what I came up with, and I hope you enjoy all the stories in the collection. And know that with every purchase of DREAMS & DESIRES, you support women who need an extra helping hand to allow their own dreams and desires to come true.
~ Amanda Brice


Lady of Scandal - Nicole Byrd

While doing research for another Regency set book, I came across a reference to a gentleman in the government whose mother, when widowed, had supported her children by becoming an actress. This was a surprise since the general perception is that no lady could go on stage and keep her social status. I immediately wanted to put a lady of quality onto the stage, as I saw lots of wonderful story possibilities. So Ophelia Applegate, one of the Applegate twins, suddenly had a long held ambition to tread the boards, although she knew her family would refuse to allow her to do any such thing. And since no reader imbued in Regency lore was going to believe that this was possible, despite the fact that I found a few more references to it happening, I went ahead with the idea that it would cause a scandal, (and I'm sure it would have) hence the title, and played with the whole double standard, which in the end made the plotline both suspenseful and fun. Can the twins maintain their stage aliases and come out into Society at the same time? Quite a balancing act to pull off!

I also had fun with the relationship between the twins-- Cordelia who is more responsible, Ophelia who is the dreamer, apt to leap before she looks. I have some of those in my own family. (No, it’s not Michelle!) And they tend to be charming, and–despite their lack of planning–very apt to come out all right in the end, strangely enough. Yet the twins are also close to each other, and when they fall in love with two sexy and handsome heros, it makes a difference to the twins’ bond–which I also thought should be addressed, so the relationships depicted have some extra levels. And there’s a mystery, as usual, adventure, touches of humor, and lots of passionate romance. I hope you have fun with it!
Wishing you all good reading, as always–


Candace Havens - The Velvet Mask

The Velvet Mask

When I was contacted about participating in the “Dreams and Desires: A Collection of Romance and Erotic Tales” anthology, I said yes instantly. The proceeds go to a great cause, helping a battered woman’s shelter, and I immediately had an idea for a story.

I don’t know exactly why, but the name Scheherazade popped in my head. I knew something about the story, but did a little research. For those of you who don’t know, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the king in his chambers. He was murdering a virgin a day because his wife betrayed him. (Men! Sigh.) Scheherazade woos him with her stories and he can’t get enough. So night after night he calls upon her to entertain him and she does.

I thought it would be fun if my character became her for one night. Then came the idea for the masquerade Valentine’s Day singles party. My heroine is based on a couple of different people I know who have made major changes in their lives and found an inner power they never knew existed.



Poor Kendra Ballantyne. I always try to give her plenty of problems in her stories, the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series from BerkleyPrime Crime. In her latest story, MEOW IS FOR MURDER, she’s forced to clear her worst enemy of an accusationof murder.
Where did the idea come from? Well, it was several books in the making. Kendra met her main love interest, Jeff Hubbard, in her first story, SIT, STAY,SLAY. But unlike the romance genre, in which I also write, mysteries don’t always have a happy ending when it comes to relationships. That was why, in the second book, NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FERRETS, I introducedAmanda, Jeff’s ex-wife, who stayed in his life and is therefore a thorn in Kendra’s side.
But there’s only so much Amanda either of them can take. And so, I had to come up with a way to get her to agree to stay away from Jeff. Hence, the idea for MEOW. What occurrence in Amanda’s life would be dire enough to get her to back off? I could kill her, of course, since the stories are murder mysteries, but they are cozies. And if she was a killing victim, I’ve made Jeff a nice enough guy that he might mourn deeply for her, which wouldn’t bode well for his relationship with Kendra.
So, what else? And then I figured it out. Make Amanda a murder suspect who has to beg for murder magnet Kendra’s help. Amanda’s stalker is murdered, and of course she’s at the head of the suspect list. She knows Kendra solves murders, and she promises Kendra she’ll stay out of Jeff’s life if Kendra clears her.
What animals would be of assistance? Kendra’s a pet-sitter, and the pets around her always seem to help her find the killer. I’d already featured dogs(Kendra and I are both owned by loving tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniels named Lexie, and Kendra’s Lexie is always there to help), ferrets, macaws and even a ball python. I needed an idea here, which happened to be kind of obvious: cats. Beautiful cats. Intelligent cats. Bengal cats, who, like their owner, don’t like Kendra much.
And, yes, they’re highly involved in solving the mystery. What’s next for Kendra and her Lexie? Watch for THE FRIGHT OF THE IGUANA in October 2007.


THE STRANGELING by Saskia Walker

The Strangeling is the story where I delve into my interests and respect for neo-druidism and all things pagan. The idea seed for this novel was planted many years ago, when I first became interested in paganism. It’s hard to pinpoint when it was exactly, but I think it might have been when I was about 8 or 9, and my parents first took me to visit Stonehenge, seen here.

My dad told me the theories that existed about the history of the stone circle, and I could scarcely believe the massive stones had been moved from Wales to this spot, and placed here for worship of the sun and moon. At that time, you could walk in and around the stones and really experience them. I became fascinated by the idea that stone circles functioned as some sort of calendar for nature, and that pagans rejected a material world in favour of a deeper connection with nature and the spiritual world. I began to read around the subject and it became a deeply rooted interest, part of me.

The Strangeling is a mini explosion of all my fascinations with paganism onto the page! In a fantasy setting, I delved into the notion that nature is the ultimate power — a power that should be revered, and one that can be sourced. In the diagram seen here, the cycles of nature — or nature’s calendar — are represented. In the novel, I explore the idea that the ebb and flow of the seasons are more than what we experience on an everyday level, and light or dark energy can be channelled through them. I also explored the idea that physical and emotional love between two people can manifest healing power beyond them.

Bron, the hero of the story, is an “elder” — a type of Druid, as it were, loosely based on what we know, but not strictly — and he leads the heroine, Maerose, to an understanding of her magical powers as a daughter of Beltane, aligning her with the moon goddess and arousing the spirit of Beltane that she carries inside her. The physical and emotional love between them creates “sexmagick” a power they can use to drive back a curse manifesting on their homeland. Research has also shown that some Celts believed in human sacrifice, often for scrying, and I adopted this notion in creating my antagonist character, Veldor, who seeks to pervert Bron and Maerose's cause.

The Strangeling is set in a fantasy world I would like to delve into again. I’d love to go deeper into those long held fascinations, and maybe even redeem my bad guy, Veldor. Who knows, I’d like to hear what readers think on that point! If you pick up the book, I hope you enjoy the story.



About Stonehenge http://www.stonehenge.co.uk/about.htm

Neo-Druidism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Druidism

Neo-paganism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-paganism


Back in Fortune's Bed

When my editor called with an invitation to write a book in the Dakota Fortunes continuity series I hesitated for, oh, three seconds before accepting. The Fortunes of Texas is one of the longer and most popular of the Silhouette mini-series, you see, and the first that I'd glommed as a devoted Desire reader. Be part of the Fortunes saga? Absolutely, I said.

At that stage all I knew was the title of my book—Back in Fortune's Bed--that my hero was one of the Australian Fortunes, and this would be a reunion of past-lovers. Oh, and the book would be set in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My immediate research, therefore, covered two areas. First up, I needed to find out what had already been written about Max Fortune's family background in Australia. The series editor found me a copy of the series "bible" that explained how these Fortune cousins ended up in Australia, where they lived, how they'd made their fortune (excuse the pun.)

I also managed to find a copy of Karen Rose Smith's "Marry in Haste", which featured Max's brother and his family backstory. Next, I researched Sioux Falls and the February weather in South Dakota. Thank heavens for the internet and the friends I have made in the mid-west who helped me beyond the statistics to what heavy snowfalls and icestorms and airport and road closures meant to those who lived through them. This was my first mid-winter book and I have to say I enjoyed using the bleak weather as an extra external element on the romance development between Max and Diana.

The other big--and fun--part of any continuity series is working with the other authors. In this case I found myself working most closely with charlene Sands (Fortune's Vengeful Groom, Mch) and Jan Colley (Expecting A Fortune, May.) Charlene's heroine Eliza and my heroine Diana were sorority sisters at Wellesley, and it was through Eliza Fortune that Diana came to meet Max...both the first and second times. Eliza has a significant role in Back In Fortune's Bed, and likewise my Diana plays a part in Charlene's book.Jan and I worked even more closely as our heroes are best friends and business partners. They came to South Dakota on business, to inspect horse stud farms and purchase stock for their joint venture into breeding thoroughbred racehorses. Max's cousin, Skylar Fortune, runs a small but successful stud farm on the Fortune estate outside Sioux Falls and she helps introduce them to the right people in the industry. Jan and I had a lot of fun researching the horse industry and coming up with the layout of Sky's barn and the horses therein, as well as looking further afield.

When you think of horse breeding, horse racing, thoroughbred horses, horses of any kind, you think of Kentucky and the blue-grass county. A significant portion of Back In Fortune's Bed is set in Lexington, and as a horselover with a yen to visit this part of America I had a ball both researching and writing those chapters. I hope you enjoy reading them, too.



Dead Giveaway - Brenda Novak

Is it ever okay to do the wrong thing for the right reason? That’s one of the themes I wanted to explore when I wrote DEAD GIVEAWAY. Clay Montgomery has certainly walked on the wrong side of the law—is still walking on the wrong side of the law. Which makes it pretty tough to get together with a police officer. But faced with the same set of circumstances in which he found himself nineteen years ago, he’d do it all again. That’s what I love about him. He’s uncompromising in his determination to protect those he loves regardless of the personal sacrifice. I don’t know that I’ve ever created a character with such a strong sense of responsibility, or so much courage.

Because DEAD GIVEAWAY is the second book in a trilogy, the basic plot idea was already in place. I developed it before I wrote DEAD SILENCE, Book #1, but there was still a lot of brainstorming that needed to be done. I had to figure out how to make the conflict change and grow and challenge my characters in different ways. I also had to figure out how to make the nineteen-year-old murder upon which all three stories are based fresh and interesting from this new angle (from the perspective of Clay, the hero, and how it has affected his life). I did this by revealing more than the reader knew before, and showing that what happened twenty years ago was more complex than everyone believed. I offered a new challenge, in the form of Allie, the cold-case detective who comes home to solve the mystery that has been troubling her small town for so long, which created the ideal conflict. Clay has something to hide, and Allie’s out to expose it.

Next up is DEAD RIGHT, out in August 2007!

Dead Giveaway, On Sale Now!
Check out my on-line auction for diabetes research beginning May 1st at www.brendanovak.com!



The theme for the KINK anthology came from fellow author Sasha White. Sasha invited me to submit a joint erotic romance proposal with her, and she came up with the theme and title. I loved the idea, and it set all sorts of interesting ideas in motion.

When I think of “kink” and “kinky” sexuality, the associated words for me are: naughty, fun, liberating, romp, deviant and decadent. My imagination immediately went to an environment where this kind of starting point might be possible.

I have to confess that my novella, SEX, LIES, AND BONDAGE TAPE, was somewhat self-indulgent. Set in the rock world, it draws on my experiences of being a live music photographer for small-scale concerts, and that of having friends who are musicians and in the music promotion business. Live music performance can be incredibly energizing, and after-concert socializing can feed off that effervescent energy. I’ve had the privilege of being backstage after performances and of being able to enjoy the buzz that often transpires. I’ve often wanted to capture that on the page, and this seemed like it might be a good setting for my naughty, kinky story.

The novella opens with Kelly, my heroine, sneaking backstage to get an autograph for a friend, at the end of a rock concert. When she gets backstage she finds it isn’t as easy to locate the room she is looking for as she might have thought. Being backstage at a concert is kind of like being a generic hotel chain — there’s a similarity to what you might except to find, but nothing is quite where you expect it to be. I drew on that to set up the crazy shenanigans of my heroine finding herself in the wrong place, witnessing a secret she shouldn’t know about, and subsequently being faux-punished by Tommy, a sexy security guy who she takes an instant shine to.

With the energy of the rock-concert setting, coupled with the agenda of a kinky relationship unfolding into a deeper emotional attachment, I had all I needed. The characters and the story took off from there, resulting in a cat-and-mouse kiss chase back and forth across London. I had a lot of fun writing this novella!



Michael Laimo

What if?

That’s really how it always begins. You ask yourself, “What if…” and then you fill in the blank…a blank that can take about 400 pages, or a year, to complete.

Prior to starting my new novel Dead Souls, there were two ‘what ifs’ nagging to be explored. The first idea echoed back to my childhood years, and the ever-spooky ambience that gave me the willies when I went to church. I was raised a catholic and was made by my parents to attend religion classes and church. As one who’s always looked at life from a very scientific point-of-view, I saw the stories told in church about Jesus rising from the dead to be rather, uh, horrific. And frankly, let it be known: I still think it’s all rather scary. Think about it--you have millions of people worshipping a man who presumably come back from the dead.

With this in mind, I figured there has to be a ‘reason’ behind this amazing event other than just writing it all off as a miracle.

So then…what if Jesus’s rise from the dead wasn’t a simple miracle? What if there had been a darker explanation for this rather unearthly occurrence?

After considering this, I found myself going back to the “What if…” again, and looked at my second idea: what if people rose from the dead for a reason completely different other than those described by the slew of classic and modern-day zombie originators? I’d had the idea in my head of having zombies walking the earth by means other than exploding satellites, nuclear activity, or germs. What if…(and there’s that omnipresent question again) my zombies actually had souls in them…the souls of those caught in a web of black magic, who in order to escape their spell, must return to earth in the bodies of their recently deceased ancestors.

Hrmm…and what if, just what if, Jesus’s rise from the dead was due to similar circumstances? This really set the wheels turning, and in a couple weeks time, I’d had an outline for a book that contained not only zombies, black magic, and a study of the ‘real’ reason behind Jesus’s rise from the dead, but there was also a lot more of what I love in a horror novel…what I love to put in my horror novels: murders, monsters, blood, guts, and a lingering sense of dread that makes a reader squirm in their seat.

It was quite a cocktail I had brewing, one that took quite a long time to ferment…but man, was it worth the wait. I say this because I feel that Dead Souls is my very best book. It took a lot out of me. But it was worth all the blood I sweated. And it will always make me search for an even grander way to answer that haunting question that will never leave me for as long as I live.

What if…?
Dead Souls--coming from Leisure Books, February 2007




Lois Winston: Dreams & Desires

Dreams. Desires. We all have them. What are yours? Ever think what you’d wish for if someone handed you a magic lantern and a genie popped out? I have.

Wish No. 1 -- To Rule the World.
If I ruled the world, there would be no hate, no wars, no poverty, no violence or crime of any kind. But the chances of me getting elected Queen of the Universe are pretty slim.

Wish No. 2 -- To Have Lots of Money.
Bill Gates or Warren Buffet type money. Not because I want a yacht or lots of bling or a penthouse in Manhattan (okay, being a diehard city girl, I’d really like a penthouse in Manhattan but there’s no way that’s ever going to happen given the price of NY real estate!) No, I want lots of money so I can give it away to people in need. Unfortunately, very few of us authors make enough money to quit our day jobs, let alone have discretionary income to donate anything substantial to worthy causes.

Wish No. 3 -- To Make a Difference.
Which brings me to the reason for this blog. When I come across something I can do that doesn’t involve writing a check so small my contribution seems meaningless, I jump at the chance. Such was the case when I was asked to contribute to Dreams & Desires: A Collection of Romance and Erotic Tales.

Dreams & Desires is a compilation of nineteen stories by nineteen authors. The stories range from sweet to spicy to sizzling and cover a variety of romance sub-genres. Not only did all the authors contribute their stories to this anthology but all the editing and cover art were also donated. All of the net proceeds -- that’s 100% of the profit -- from the sales of the anthology will go directly to a battered woman’s shelter in Florida.

Did you know that 95% of abuse victims are women? Every year four million women are assaulted by their spouses or partners. When Freya’s Bower, the publisher of Dreams & Desires invited me to participate in this anthology, I jumped at the chance to add my voice to a cause that will help break the cycle of abuse. By doing something I do all the time -- writing -- I can MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Wish No. 3 can come true. I know it’s a small step, but no goal is reached without taking that first step. Maybe the money raised will only help one person break the cycle of abuse, but that will be one less abused person, and that’s a huge achievement.

Wouldn’t you like to make a difference, too? You can by purchasing a copy of Dreams & Desires. And as an added bonus to contributing to such a worthy cause, you’ll be rewarded with 19 great short stories by some of today’s rising authors. Freya’s Bower has made it easy with a price to fit all pocketbooks, whether yours comes from Wal-Mart or Fendi. Dreams & Desires is available as an eBook for $7.99 (ISBN: 1-934069-36-1), a paperback (ISBN: 1-934069-22-1) for $19.95, and a hard cover (ISBN: 1-934069- 23-X) for $29.95. The paperback and hardcover are available at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ . The eBook is available through Freya’s Bower at http://www.freyasbower.com/ .

My contribution to the anthology is The Reluctant Bridesmaid, a humorous contemporary story set in New Jersey. Here’s a short blurb:

It was bad enough when Paige’s cousin Tara stole her boyfriend. Now Tara and the creep are getting married, and Paige is stuck wearing a bridesmaid’s gown that makes her look like a jaundiced Holstein -- make that a jaundiced, dateless Holstein.

I hope the story makes you laugh out loud.

And that completes my PSA (Public Service Announcement.) Now for a bit of BSP (Blatant Self-Promotion.) I’d love for you all to click over to my website at http://www.loiswinston.com/ where you can read excerpts from my current release, Talk Gertie To Me and my next release, Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, due out May 29th. For those of you who write, I have lots of articles on the subject on my website and links to other sites of interest. And if you like to win cool stuff, sign up for my newsletter while you’re there.

Thanks for stopping by and may you all have your own dreams and desires fulfilled in 2007.