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Have a CLOCKWORK CHRISTMAS with chance to win trading card set

 

 

The authors of A Clockwork Christmas wish you a very happy holiday and would each like to share a steampunk holiday gadget from their characters’ Christmas together:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jed and Esme from Wanted: One Scoundrel

A perfect steampunk Christmas for Esme and Jed has to include a clockwork gingerbread house. The walls and roof are made of gingerbread, elaborately iced to show tiles, windows, rambling roses on the cake-cottage walls, but all the time, something is ticking. Tick tock. Tick tock. Till at noon on Christmas Day, the walls fall open, the roof rises and, revealed in all its shimmering clockwork-powered splendour is a slowly spinning confection: a marzipan holly wreath. Because this might be the Antipodes, but a kiss under the mistletoe is one tradition Esme and Jed intend respecting.

 

Dario and Lia from This Winter Heart

In the course of THIS WINTER HEART, Lia and Dario’s Christmas got somewhat lost. But years earlier, when they were still newly-weds, things were very different. One of the most memorable gifts Dario gave Ophelia back then was a miniature, working replica of their house and the surrounding grounds–a model for the garden he intended to build for her, complete with eleven clockwork pipers (in honor of the eleventh day of Christmas). I imagine they spent many happy hours planning for their future, drinking hot, spiced cider and eating biscochitos while the pipers serenaded them with Christmas carols.

 

Roderick and Cornelia from Crime Wave in a Corset

CRIME WAVE IN A CORSET comes to an end at the stroke of midnight, Christmas morning, where the greatest gift one can give—a true and selfless love—is discovered. That’s a great place to end a romantic tale, right?  Here’s the thing, though… my mind often carries onto the next scene despite the cessation of writing (I’m weird like that). Since Cornelia’s brutal, survive-or-die existence had never allowed her to know the magic of Christmas, I’ve always imagined that Roderick would have been delighted to introduce his little thief to some of the more touching holiday traditions. I had even planned a scene displaying one of Roderick’s inventions, a self-decorating tree whose ornaments unfurled from the branches with a few turns of some well-oiled clockwork cogs. Then I had planned to have them make love under that tree and realize they were each other’s perfect gift… *drifts off dreamily* But the scene got cut. In my mind, though, Roderick has no trouble convincing Cornelia that Christmas is a season filled with love.

 

Jasper and Callie from Far From Broken

Callie gave Jasper an old tin pocket watch one year for the holidays. And while he will always cherish it because it has special meaning to him, it’s old and doesn’t work anymore…and it was recently charred in a fire, leaving it blackened and misshapen. So she secretly had another one made for him and plans to give it to him this Christmas. But this one does more than just tell the time. It carries a compass, a secret compartment for powders…and when required, he can remove it from his wrist, press a hidden button, and … Whalla!! … A travel coffee maker.

Just kidding.

But it turns into something cool. What would you want it to be?

 

Leave us an answer to be entered into a prize for a complete set of five Clockwork Christmas Romance Trading Cards.  Open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.  Contest ends 1-2-2012 at 12 a.m. est.

 

Thank you, and have a wonderful, happy holiday!!

 

JK Coi

PG Forte

Stacy Gail

Jenny Schwartz

 

A Clockwork Christmas

 

We Wish You a Steampunk Christmas

Changed forever after tragedy, a woman must draw strength from her husband’s love. A man learns that love isn’t always what you expect. A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. And an American inventor finds love Down Under. Enjoy Victorian Christmas with a clockwork twist in these four steampunk novellas.

 

Anthology includes:
Crime Wave in a Corset by Stacy Gail
This Winter Heart by PG Forte
Wanted: One Scoundrel by Jenny Schwartz
Far From Broken by JK Coi

When I grow up I wanna be a….with Rachael Johns

All my heroines have careers I consider interesting. Careers I’ve at some stage dreamt about having myself.

The heroine from my novel JILTED (coming June 2012 from Harlequin Australia) is a soap-opera actress. In my teens, I was a soap-opera addict and always fancied myself as one of the stars. I even did acting classes for a while, but the closest I got was becoming a high school drama (and English) teacher.

The heroine from my work-in-progress, currently titled MAN DROUGHT, has just bought herself a run-down country pub. Something fascinates me about these old places in the middle of tiny Australian towns, but since it’s highly unlikely I have the funds, where-with-all OR support to buy one and revive it myself, I gave my heroine the job J

Peppa Grant from ONE PERFECT NIGHT is a voice talent, but she doesn’t do boring stuff like adverts or on-hold messages, she does AUDIO BOOKS. As a reader, I’m sure you can see the appeal. Who wouldn’t want to be paid to sit and read books all day? The closest I ever got the THIS job was when I worked as a copywriter for an on-hold messages company (see I KNOW that is BORING) and had to fill in occasionally for the people in the studio who recorded the voice talents. As much fun as I had fiddling with all the switches and sitting in the big swivel chair, I always longed to be on the other side of the glass with those massive ear phones over my head and the mic in front of me. That was the really FUN job.

Other jobs I’ve dreamed of doing include reading the news, being a vet, working as a flight attendant, nursing, diving for ship wrecks… the list goes on. And I think one of the great things about being a writer and/or a reader is that you get to experience so many more careers than you possibly can do in real life.

So, I’m curious… what’s the most interesting character career you’ve ever read and what job would you really like to read about?


Peppa Grant’s fellow employees may call their new CEO Mr. McSexy, but she’s also heard that he’s aloof and distant. Cameron McCormac certainly seems cold toward Christmas when she meets him at the company’s annual party…but he’s also the sexiest man Peppa has ever seen. And when he offers to forgive the damage she accidentally caused to his expensive car in exchange for accompanying him to his family’s holiday get-together, she agrees.

 

Cameron needs a date to the family party to get his matchmaking relatives off his back. Their chemistry is instant and undeniable, leading to an incredible one-night stand. But Peppa wants love and family, while Cameron’s only interested in temporary pleasure. When their relationship takes an unexpectedly serious turn, will he run the other way—or will he give love a second chance?

 

 

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Rachael’s Blog:

Rachael’s Website

Haselnussplaetzchen courtesy of J.K.Coi

For me the holidays are all about the food. Yep, I’m easy J

I love warm and gooey gingerbread, squares, and chocolate. I love the smell of clementines when you peel them and the way that scent sticks to your fingertips. I can’t get enough turkey and would pretty much eat it every day if I could, right along with buttery mashed potatoes, roasted squash…and just a little bit of rum in my egg nog.

My grandmother is German, and so every year she makes traditional German cookies. I’ve been learning from her the last few years, but some of them are pretty complicated. I’d like to share the recipe for a pretty easy treat with you today, and in return, tell me about YOUR favourite holiday foods!

Thanks, and have a wonderful holiday!

 

Haselnussplaetzchen (Hazelnut Cookies)

 

1/4 pound flour

1/4 pound hazelnuts, lightly toasted and ground

1/4 pound sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

1/4 pound butter, flaked

chocolated glaze

whole hazelnuts

Sift the flour onto a board and add hazelnuts, sugar, vanilla sugar and butter. Quickly knead all the ingredients to a make the dough. Shape dough into a roll of approx. 1 1/2 inch dia. and put in a cool place for approx. 1 hour.

Cut 1 inch rounds and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Refrigerate again for approx. 30 mins. Bake the cookies in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for about 10 minutes.

Cover the cookies with chocolate glaze while they are still hot and decorate each cookie with a hazelnut. Leave the cookies to cool at room temperature.

Enjoy!

JK Coi
www.jkcoi.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jkcoi

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JKCoiAuthor

Blog: www.jkcoi.blogspot.com

Far From Broken available now from Carina Press

Soldier. Spymaster. Husband.

Colonel Jasper Carlisle was defined by his work until he met his wife. When the prima ballerina swept into his life with her affection, bright laughter and graceful movements, he knew that she was the reason for his existence, and that their love would be forever.

But their world is shattered when Callie is kidnapped and brutally tortured by the foes Jasper has been hunting. Mechanical parts have replaced her legs, her hand, her eye…and possibly her heart. Though she survived, her anger at Jasper consumes her, while Jasper’s guilt drives him from the woman he loves. He longs for the chance to show her their love can withstand anything…including her new clockwork parts.

As the holiday season approaches, Jasper realizes he must fight not just for his wife’s love and forgiveness…but also her life, as his enemy once again attempts to tear them apart.

 

Read an Excerpt here

Josh Lanyon on Christmas

Hello Manic Readers!

It’s the holidays again — I know that for a fact because I’ve been reading an article on how the TV Yule Log got to be such a sensation with viewers across the nation.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Yule Log, the, er, history is right here. I find the idea of a televised Yule log touching. I think it speaks to our desire, sometimes unacknowledged, for tradition. Or maybe it’s just nostalgia. If so, it’s nostalgia for a past most of us never experienced first hand.

(Did people in the 1920s privately long for the traditions and holidays rituals of the 1800s?)

Anyway, in my opinion, the best Christmas stories capture that longing. It’s a longing for what could have been. Or what was once, but is no more.

That sounds so sad! And not entirely true because part of that nostalgia is simply a longing — or just appreciation — for home and hearth — for someone of our own on Christmas morning.

Christmas is a magical time and all things seem possible. All season long we review the past year, and it is often during the holidays that we reach out to estranged family and friends. It’s a good time of year to make peace with the past — and to plan for the future.

It’s also a good time for extravagant wishes to come true — engagement rings are often exchanged. We run into old lovers at holiday parties and under the influence of alcohol and mistletoe we say the things we should have said before.

Admittedly, this is not always a good thing.

Then again, sometimes it is a very good thing.

Which brings us to Lone Star and the Men Under the Mistletoe anthology. Men Under the Mistletoe is this year’s male-male romance holiday anthology from Carina Press, and the theme of all the stories is second chances.

 

 

Mitchell Evans is a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater. Though naturally gifted, he’s worked hard for his success, and most people — including Mitch — would say he’s achieved everything he ever wanted. But success doesn’t automatically bring happiness, and when things go very wrong for Mitchell in New York, he heads back to the little town in Texas where he grew up. And, inadvertently, into the arms of his first — and perhaps only true — love, Web Eisley. Web is now a Texas Ranger — and it’s hard to imagine a more unlikely pairing than a famous ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger.

 

But that’s the magic of Christmas. Sometimes you can go home again.

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

You can find Josh at Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and of course, his website.

Happy Christmas from Megan Slayer aka Wendi Zwaduk

One of my favorite Christmas songs starts, “So this is Christmas, and what have you done?” I thought for this post I’d share a little of what I like to do for Christmas and my family’s traditions.

One thing my family is absolutely finite on is when the tree goes up. Never before December 1st. It’s not the most eco-friendly thing, but we cut down our own. Once Christmas is over, we put the tree out for the birds to nest on, so we try to make up for cutting it down. Some décor might actually go up prior to the tree, but not much. I guess its the bombardment in the stores, but it’s nice to have the tree up for a short period of time. But that’s me. I’m not keen on the needles all over the floor, so short works for me.

Another thing we do is shop. Now before you say, everyone does that, we shop but it’s not for ourselves. Even before we had our son, Dh and I would buy toys for the Toys for Tots boxes and get items for the pet shelters. That had to do with the pictures of sad little kittens and puppies on the collection boxes. I’m a sucker for pitiful looking animals, but that’s a whole ‘nother post. Part of buying the pet items, cat litter, dog food, cat food, kitten food, etc. is that we deliver it ourselves to the shelter. Our shelter is a no-kill so they can use all the supplies they can get. Plus it shows the tot exactly why we bought the stuff. He now reminds us it’s time to get the shelter stuff.

We put the change in the red kettles. My son loves to shout, “my turn to put the coins in.” That’s all well and good, but if it’s grocery day and we happen to go to three or four stores all with red kettles, well…you get the idea. But I don’t mind. I know it helps others. I’ll put in the change.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to sound holier than anyone else. I just love the holidays and helping those who don’t have much. I spent time not having a whole lot and I appreciate what I’ve got. And now that I have a little more than I need, I like to help out those who can use the helping hand. And maybe my family traditions might spur you and yours to start some traditions of your own.

And if you’re interested in starting a tradition of reading, then check out my pen name, Megan Slayer. She’s got not one, but two holiday stories out that just might tickle your fancy. Believe releases December 19th from Liquid Silver Books. Here’s the blurb:

Can love surpass distance and time? Only if they both believe.

Raylan believed himself unworthy of love until he met Chase. Chase brought out Raylan’s natural need to control and the power to force submission. But time and distance make having a relationship hard. Can Raylan prove to Chase they have what it takes for love to last through this Christmas and every other Christmas for the rest of their lives?

 

Chase found the muse for his songs in Raylan. Each time they touch, kiss, make love, music fills his soul. But working odd gigs to make ends meet while Raylan photographs rock and roll royalty isn’t beneficial to Chase’s creativity. Can he convince Raylan they’re better off together than apart?

Contains hot manlove, a little rope play, a little spanking and a lot of sex under the mistletoe…

Buy BELIEVE

 

 

And if that’s not enough for you, here’s the other book, Wrapped Around, out December 3rd from Changeling Press.

Christmas is the time to come together — with candy, shiny paper, and lots of white-hot sex.

Luc loves his role fronting the band Glow. He loves the adoration of the fans, the energy in the crowd, but it’s Christmas. No one likes a Christmas alone.

Taygan’s free spirit resists taming–except when it comes to Luc. Luc’s one hundred percent human. Taygan is all air elemental. He needs his space and freedom, but he’ll do whatever it takes to make Luc happy, including giving up his space and freedom to make Luc’s holiday one he’ll never forget–complete with the real Santa, peppermint candy, and lots of hot sex.

Contains a little rope play, some devious play with a peppermint stick, oh and lots of manlove.

Buy WRAPPED AROUND

Thanks for reading and have a great holiday season!

About me:

I always dreamed of writing the stories in my head. Tall, dark, and handsome heroes are my favorites, as long as he has an independent woman keeping him in line. I tend to write books with titles taken from songs because music is one of my many muses.

I earned a BA in education at Kent State university and as well as a Masters in Education from Nova Southeastern University. I’ve tried my hand at teaching, waitressing, and retail sales, but writing holds my heart.

I love NASCAR, romance, books in general, Ohio farmland, dirt racing, and my menagerie of animals. I books under contract with Total-E-Bound, Liquid Silver Books, and the Wild Rose Press. But then again, I’ve got more stories percolating than my brain can handle. I can’t wait to share them with you!

www.wendizwaduk.com

www.wendizwaduk.blogspot.com

www.theauthormeganslayer.blogspot.com

5 Things I learned about Love and Life from Maere cu Llwyr

Every writer has heard about characters that come to life. You know, the ones who take over your novel and dictate what should be going on with them? I honestly never believed that stuff. Of course, when I was first told this, I was also a sporadic storyteller, flitting from one project to the next.

And then I found my focus and started writing. I mean, seriously writing. No longer toying with words here and there, but really digging in. And that’s when it happened. They actually did start informing me about who they were and what they wanted. This is where Maere cu Llwyr comes in. She’s the heroine of my latest publication by LBF Books, Pagan Fire.

Maere is a strong woman, fiercely protective of the people she loves. She’s also a healer and takes special care of those who hurt. Here’s what she taught me about love and life during the course of writing her story in Pagan Fire:

 

1. Be Strong
I suspect this will sound like a cliché, but there truly is beauty in strength. A woman who carries herself with confidence and the knowledge that she really is ‘all that’ is infinitely sexy. Ask any guy. They’ll tell you the same.

2. Go after what you want

Having dreams is great. As a matter of fact, I find it’s essential to my very existence. And one of my dreams is living a life in love. Maere has taught me that if this is what I want, then I need to go after it. After all, no one owns my life but me.

3. Take a Risk

Love isn’t for sissies. If you really care for someone, suck it up and let them know. Yes, there’s always the chance they may not return the feeling, but how are you going to know if you don’t put yourself out there?

4. Follow your Instincts

There’s an old saying, the heart knows what it wants. For Maere, it’s her gut that tells her when something is right or wrong. She feels it deep in the very essence of her being. She makes her decisions and goes forward without looking back. She does not second guess herself. If ever there was a lesson I needed to learn, it’s this one.

5. Open your Heart

Keeping an open heart is perhaps the hardest – and greatest – lesson for me. When the heart is closed, there’s no way for love to find its way in. Believe me, I know this from experience. So what did Maere teach me? To stand tall with my shoulders back and face the world head on. When you lead with your heart, everything else falls into place.

                                                                                                                       
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teri Barnett is a writer, artist, and designer currently living in Indiana. Her publications include Pagan Fire (a paranormal historical romance), Through the Mists of Time (a historical time travel romance) and Shadow Dreams (a paranormal historical romance), all published by LBF Books/Lachesis Publishing. For more information, including where to find her novels, please visit her on the web at http://www.teribarnett.com/.

Twelve Days of Christmas WARD AGAINST DEATH style and giveaway

Thank you Manic Readers for inviting me here today. With only twelve days until Christmas eve I thought it would be fun to do a 12 Days of Christmas using “gifts” from my debut novel, Ward Against Death style.

 

A little about the book first:

CHRONICLES OF A RELUCTANT NECROMANCER – Book One

 

Twenty‐year‐old Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple job—bring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good‐bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeon—the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying—so bringing people back from the dead it is.

 

But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.

 

However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive…

Excerpt:

Her eyes narrowed and her hand snaked under the pillow. “It’s not wise to enter a lady’s

bedchamber without her consent.”

Ward plastered on his calmest, gentlest expression. The newly wakened dead often

assumed they had just roused from sleep. “You’ve been unwell.”

Her icy blue eyes examined him, her gaze jumping from his face, to his wig, to his jacket,

and back to his face. “Unwell? Is that what my father told you?”

“In a manner of speaking.” She wasn’t acting the way she was supposed to.

Noblewomen, particularly those around his age, were usually demure or aloof—not suspicious.

“Well, I’m fine, and I’m sorry my father troubled you.” She threw back the covers, sat up,

and stepped onto the thick rug. “Now go, be a good doctor, and tell my family I’m healthy and

sleeping.” She punctuated her last word by pulling her nightdress over her head, revealing a

slim waist, athletic muscles, and pale skin marked with the purple bruises of livor mortis along

her back. And no other clothes.

“But—” He flushed and spun around to face the wall. “What are you doing?” No. Wait.

What was he doing? He’d seen a dead naked woman before. Just never like this.

She chuckled. “I’m going for a walk.”

“A what? No—You can’t.” She really wasn’t acting the way she was supposed to.

“I beg to differ.”

The situation was spiraling out of hand. Damn it, he had to take control. He was the

necromancer, she the newly awakened. She was supposed to listen to him.

He turned to confront her. Thankfully, she was fully dressed—in men’s clothes, but at

least she was dressed. “Listen, I—”

She slipped her hand under her pillow and removed a sheathed dagger.

Great Goddess! She kept a dagger under her pillow? Ward inched toward the

door to block her escape without appearing obvious, although he had no idea what he’d do if

she fought him. Why did he always get stuck with the difficult corpses?

Now to the song:

 

On the twelve days of Christmas Ward’s true love (although he’s still uncertain about whether there’s any love between them at all. It’s complicated) gave to him…

 

  • One undead assassin’s murder to solve

–         Being an assassin is just one of the little things Celia neglects to mention to Ward when he first wakes her from the dead.

 

  • Two (too) many complications

– keep reading and you’ll see.

 

  • Three exhilarating escapes

–         over a wall, out a window, through the city streets, in palace… is that more than three?

 

  • A Four-story fall

–         ouch

 

  • Five silver-plated surgical knives

–         A part of Ward’s surgical kit… which it turns out he’ll need.

 

  • Six score of flying arrows

–         see #3

 

  • Seven years of medical training down the drain

–         Looks like the family business of necromancy isn’t treating him any better.

 

  • Eight beams of shimmering light

–         beauty found in the strangest places.

 

  • Nine nights in the sewer

–         some place Ward thought he’d never be

 

  • Ten days of terror

–         why he ended up in the sewer

 

  • Eleven grains of poison

–         medical training finally put to practical use.

 

  • Twelve dozen rushing guardsmen.

–         see #3

 

Ward is thrilled the song only has 12 days. Too bad for him the story doesn’t end with just that.

 

Hope you enjoyed this Ward Against Death rendition of a festive classic. One of my favorite holiday traditions is singing carols. What’s yours?

 

Thanks again for inviting me here today. I love chatting with readers: Twitter @melaniecard  /  Goodreads / Facebook  /  MelanieCard.com

 

Get your copy of Ward Against Death at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books On Board | Diesel | iTunes | The Book Depository

 

Melanie is generously giving away an ecopy of  WARD AGAINST DEATH.  Just answer Melanie’s question.   Please subscribe to Manic Readers blog so you don’t miss any of our wonderful authors or their great giveaways (see right sidebar). Extra entries if you like her on FB or follow on Twitter (please provide verification). Contest open internationally and will end at midnight on 12/19/11.

 

About Melanie Card:

 

Melanie has always been drawn to storytelling and can’t remember a time when she wasn’t creating a story in her head. Her early stories were adventures with fairies and dragons and sword swinging princesses.

 

Today she continues to spin tales of magic in lands near and far, while her cat sits on the edge of her desk and supervises. When she’s not writing, you can find her pretending to be other people with her local community theatre groups.

Shannon Stacey and audio books

Over the years I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with audiobooks. Mostly off-again. It started with cassette tapes checked out of the library but, after my third trip back to the library with a handful of chewed-up brown tape that used to be tape six of a seven-tape book, we broke up.  We reconciled briefly when my library began offering books on CD, but my CD player could only read “tracks” and wouldn’t pick up exactly where I left off. When a day full of interruptions meant listening to the first five minutes of chapter three about twelve times, I decided audiobooks and I were over for good.

Then came digital. I’m not the most tech-savvy knife in the block, though, and on the rare occasion I managed to get an audiobook onto my mp3 player, I’d find the thing was stuck on shuffle. That makes for a confusing plot. But Audible and iTunes and my iPod Touch have made listening to audiobooks so simple, I’ve been sucked back in and, during this holiday season, I’m very thankful I can “read” on the go.

An audiobook is the perfect company while I declutter and dust all the spaces I put my Christmas knick-knacks, wrap presents and stare at my list, waiting for gift ideas to appear by magic. And that’s on top of regular housecleaning. Amazing how sparkly my floors get when I’m in a really good part of an audiobook! I don’t listen to them while I drive because I lose track of what’s going on in the book while I’m yelling at other drivers, but I know a lot of people who love “reading” during their commutes. They’re also great for knitters, though I haven’t had time to knit so much as a scarf this winter.

Right now I’m listening to The Bride by Julie Garwood (an old favorite, though this is my first time listening to it on audio), and also loaded on the iPod are Completely Smitten by Susan Mallery, The Next Always by Nora Roberts and, if I find myself with a to-do list that’s going to keep me on the move for a long time, 11-22-63 by Stephen King. There are some books I bought for my Kindle I’m now wishing I’d bought in audio because I don’t seem to have any time to sit and read right now.

How do you feel about audiobooks? Have you given them a shot yet or do you prefer reading over listening? Do you have a favorite (either book or narrator) and what are you reading/listening to this week?

Happy holidays!

Shannon Stacey

About Shannon Stacey:

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Shannon Stacey lives with her husband and two sons in New England, where her two favorite activities are writing stories of happily ever after and riding her four-wheeler. From May to November, the Stacey family spends their weekends on their ATVs, making loads of muddy laundry to keep Shannon busy when she’s not at her computer. She prefers writing to laundry, however, and considers herself lucky she got to be an author when she grew up. You can contact Shannon through her website, where she maintains an almost daily blog, or visit her on Twitter,  her Facebook page, or email her at shannon@shannonstacey.com. All of her Carina Press titles are also available as audiobooks from Audible.com.

Begin at the beginning or not

Yesterday, I started a sequel to my novel, a cozy mystery, being released in February. It sounds easy, right? The main characters have been established, so that part was easy. The surroundings aren’t difficult either since the story takes place in Sarasota, FL where the first story was set. Okay, I got ready, sat down and went for it…Ten minutes later; I was still sitting there in front of the empty computer screen. Commensurate with the blank page syndrome, it was terrifying. I had a story line in mind, but where to start?

Annette Blair (a fantastic author and well published, too) once said to me, “Start things out with a bang. Hook the reader on the first page.” I’ve followed her advice for years now, and I think of her every time I start a new story. This time, however, I was stuck. I wondered it was due to the fact that I hadn’t had to work at developing my main characters. I know…it should be like slipping into a comfortable pair of jeans, but for the life of me, it wasn’t working.

Another piece of advice Annette passed on to me was to sit and just write, no worries over what came out, but get the story down and then go back and refine, change, slash and dash. She is so right when it comes to that.

After a half hour of empty screen, I began to write. I put the characters up on the page and let the story go wherever it would. So far, I have two chapters done. I’m feeling pretty good about that. Did I start at the beginning? No! I began the book with a bang! Annette would be proud.

To say that I’ve never had this problem in the past would be a big fib. In fact, I think many of us have difficulty with that first page and where to take it from there. The only advice I can offer is to start writing and worry about the why’s and wherefore’s later. Get the story on the page and keep going until you say The End. Then you can sort things out, rearrange, or slash and dash. I am a pantser, so it is easy for me to work this way. If you are a plotter, well, this might not work so well in your case. Good luck with your Bang and keep going from there.

10 Things I Like About Winter by Laura Kaye with Giveaways

10 Things I Like About Winter

 

So, since the first book in my four-book contemporary fantasy romance series, the Hearts of the Anemoi, is set in winter, I thought I’d share a bit about why I enjoy this season. NORTH OF NEED is about a long-exiled snow god who falls in love with a grieving widow at Christmastime, and the wintry setting is nearly a character, it’s so important to the story. So, without further ado, here’s 10 things I like about winter:

Snow men. Notice I didn’t say making snow men, because I’m not very good at it! LOL But I totally love seeing them decorating people’s front yards. I love watching kids make them. I love the cute faces made out of rocks and sticks. I love the image of someone’s scarf wrapped around their neck. I’ve always found snow men cute and magical, and have a whole collection of snow men ornaments and figurines. No wonder I like NORTH OF NEED’s hero, Owen, so much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The crisp, cleanness of new snowfall. I love the unbroken newness of a fresh snowfall. How it blankets the world. Makes everything clean and white and bright. How, for a moment, before those first foot or pawprints make tracks through the snow, it’s like a whole, brand new world has been created. Pure winter magic.

 

The quiet while snow falls. You ever notice, no matter how hard or soft snow falls, it’s entirely silent. How powerful is that? Snow has the physical ability to change and cover the physical landscape, and yet it does so in absolutely silence. Really cool.

 

Snow on tree branches. I’ve always liked the way trees look when their branches are snow-covered. Nature’s holiday decoration, done just for us to enjoy.

 

Warm comfort food. Aw, man, this is a good one! Winter is the season of a nice think beef stew, or a spicy pot of chili. Winter is chicken pot pies and turkey casseroles and warm apple pie and hot chocolate with little marsh mallows and whipped cream. Yeah, this is a definite favorite part of winter!

 

Christmas carols. I don’t like ‘em too early, and I’m done with them by about December 27th, but during the holiday season, I love hearing Christmas carols. I find myself humming Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…Jack Frost nipping at your nose… Tell me you don’t hear that in your head right now! And that it doesn’t make her chest go all warm and fuzzy! LOL

 

Christmas light decorations. Christmas lights make the world festive and bright, and I love driving around and seeing how everyone decorates. And this is something my kids (ages 5 and 7) especially like, too. To them, lights are magical and fun, and their excitement at seeing them is one way I like to see Christmas through their eyes. I especially enjoy driving through big light displays—we have one in our area at a State Park and we go every Christmas Eve.

 

The smell of the Christmas tree. We always get a real one, so our house is always a wonderful, yummy combination of smells—the pine from the tree, the Yankee Candle Christmas Cookie candle burning, the warmth of the fire.

 

Christmas cookies. I don’t know why, but chocolate chip and sugar cookies don’t taste as good any other time of the year! I love baking them and having the smell permeate the house, icing the sugar cookies with my girls, and always having some to share with friends.

 

The spirit of giving. Ever notice how giving everyone becomes at the holidays? I don’t just mean Christmas presents, but of course those are fun, too. The season brings out people’s generosity, even at a moment when their expenses are higher and they don’t have as much to give. Still, people turn out to donate food, clothing, presents for needy children. They pick up tags from Angel Giving Trees and give toys to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots. The spirit of giving is something I especially love about winter.

 

So, that’s it! 10 Things I Like About Winter! Now, I know winter’s not a lot of people’s favorite season, but come on and work with me—what’s one thing you especially like about winter? (And, if it’s not your favorite season, share which one is! The Anemoi series will feature a god in each, so you won’t hurt my or Owen’s feelings… *grins*)

 

Thanks so much for reading!

Laura Kaye

 

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About North of Need:

 

Her tears called a powerful snow god to life, but only her love can grant the humanity he craves…

Desperate to escape agonizing memories of Christmas past, twenty-nine-year-old widow Megan Snow builds a snow family outside the mountain cabin she once shared with her husband, realizing too late that she’s recreated the very thing she’ll never have.

Called to life by Megan’s tears, snow god Owen Winters appears unconscious on her doorstep in the midst of a raging blizzard. As she nurses him to health, Owen finds unexpected solace in her company and unimagined pleasure in the warmth of her body, and vows to win her heart for a chance at humanity.

Megan is drawn to Owen’s mismatched eyes, otherworldly masculinity, and enthusiasm for the littlest things. But this Christmas miracle comes with an expiration–before the snow melts and the temperature rises, Megan must let go of her widow’s grief and learn to trust love again, or she’ll lose Owen forever.

Owen’s POV:

Chair Lift 3 took them where they needed to the top of the mountain, and Owen loved how Megan snuggled into the side of his body, their thighs pressed tight together. He gazed down at her. “Beautiful up here,” he murmured as the unnoticed resort glided by beneath them.

“Yeah.” She turned away from his chest and took in the view, then glanced up to see him staring at her. A blush bloomed over her cheeks, discernible even under her ski goggles and beanie. She leaned back against him. He squeezed her in with his arm around her shoulders. At the end of the lift ride, they jumped off together and she guided them to the trail she wanted to try.

“Okay, promise me you won’t cheat.”

“Cheat? What do you mean?”

“None of that snow god voodoo,” she said.

Owen’s whole body shook with amusement.

“I mean it,” Megan said, humor coloring her voice.

He steadied himself using his poles. “No voodoo. Got it.”

“Good. Okay, then. Wait here a second, I want to show you something.”

He nodded. “All right.”

Megan slowly skied away from him. “Stay right there, now,” she called over her shoulder. Just as he started to frown at how far she’d gone, she threw him a mischievous look, dug her poles in, and shoved off. “Catch me if you can!”

Owen gaped. “That little…And she told me not to cheat.” He didn’t think on it long, though, because he was after her in a flash. He knew why she made him promise not to use his powers. She was good. Surefooted and centered. Handled the turns with ease and zigzagged on the straightaways to pick up speed. Gods, her competence on the snow had him hardening in his pants.

He whooped out a cheer of pure exhilaration. The cold air whipped at his hair—he wore neither hat nor goggles, not needing them. He filled his lungs with the wind, fed off it. Tightening his stance, he gained on her, but never caught up. Man, was he going to make her pay.

At the bottom, they twisted to a stop, their downhill skis carving into the snow and sending up sprays of powder. Owen glided toward her.

“Sorry, sorry,” she giggled out with a hand over her mouth.

Owen grabbed it and pulled it away, wrapped it around his back.

“I told you, never hide your smiles from me.” He kissed her cold lips. “Naughty, naughty girl.”

She nodded. “Yep. Ready to go again?”

He smacked her bottom, though her insulated snow pants kept his bare hand from having the effect he really wanted. “You better believe it.”

Y’all are lucky today!  Laura is offering 2 prizes today. 

(1) An ecopy of NORTH OF NEED.  Open internationally.

(2) A set of NORTH OF NEED trading cards.  This prize is open to US and Canadian residents only, sorry.

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both contests end  12/13/11 at midnight est.  Please subscribe to Manic Readers blog so you don’t miss any of our wonderful authors or their great giveaways (see right sidebar).   Extra entries if you like Laura on FB and follow her on Twitter (please provide verification). Best of Luck!

 

About Laura Kaye:

A multi-published author of paranormal, contemporary and erotic romance, Laura Kaye’s hot, heartfelt stories are all about the universal desire for a place to belong. Laura is the author of the bestselling contemporary romance and award-nominated HEARTS IN DARKNESS and the bestselling and award-winning paranormal romance FOREVER FREED (NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best Paranormal of 2011), as well as an erotic romance novella, JUST GOTTA SAY. Her fourth book, contemporary fantasy romance NORTH OF NEED, is the first in the 4-book Hearts of the Anemoi series. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.