When I Grow Up, I Want to Be...
As a season of hope approaches with the coming of Easter, I find myself thinking of a new job and new adventures. It could be because my frustrations with my current job have gotten me thinking about moving on, or it could be a good old mid-life crisis brewing. Or maybe it's the spring vibe inspiring me to think of things beyond my everyday normal mode.

Did you ever wonder what you'd do if you hadn't done what you did? Profession-wise, I mean? I've been pondering it quite a bit lately. I've not ever regretted being a writer, but it's my other occupation that doesn't seem to suit me anymore, or perhaps I just don't suit it.

Oh, what do I want to be when I go up?

I could be Mrs. Santa Claus, but that would upset my husband a bit since he probably doesn't want to share me with the Jolly Old Elf himself. I thought about being a go-go dancer, but I'm guessing that requires perkier bosoms and less belly flab. I could just lie to both Santa and my DH and become a go-go dancing Mrs. Claus. I know it sounds odd, but at one time I thought it would be cool (no pun intended) to be married to Kris Kringle and to live in a magical world devoted to cheering people up. What a great gig! And all the cookies I could eat, too.

Still, the North Pole is cold and I've grown into a warm weather kind of gal. Yep, warm weather and the ocean--that's for me. So maybe I should look into treasure hunting? Like salvaging. I'd have to learn how to dive first, but, wow, how great would it be to work outside all day trying to find treasure claimed by the sea years ago?

I've always kind of wondered what it would be like to be a magician or an illusionist. I'm terrible at sleight of hand, though, and I'm sure my audience would figure out my tricks or illusions and stampede for the door. Speaking of which, could I be a cowgirl? I do like horses, but I don't know how to mend fences or ride the range, so probably not.

What else is there? Soooo much. Too much! But I will find something...something. How about you? If you could be anything right now, this minute, what would it be? Please do share!

Happy Reading,
Cameo
Spartan Race
So I did something new this weekend. Well, I didn’t do it, I watched, but a friend of mine did it.

The Spartan Race.

Ever heard of it? I hadn’t until he signed up for it. It’s a four mile obstacle course. Unfortunately, once he ran into the woods we lost sight of him for an hour. All we know was when he came back out he was COVERED head to toe in mud.

What had he done while he was back there?

Well, trudged through a mud pit, dragged a 70 pound rock up a hill, crawled under barbwire, climbed a few walls, carried a few sandbags up a hill, swam across the Catawba River, and rope lifted a bucket full of cement.

Can you say wow?

This is the first obstacle the racers had to face (and the only one we as the spectators saw before they enter the woods). Under, over, under.

After they do that, they disappear for about an hour. So me, his wife and kids made the long trek around to where we would get to see the last leg. This picture is what we see as the racers start to emerge from the woods. Yep, covered in mud. I won't lie, at this point, my envy went up. LOL. This sort of thing is right up my ally. A way to challenge yourself in mind and body. I decided right here, I'd participate in the next one.

This is the final leg that the spectators get to watch. The racers have to shimmy across this wall, throw a javelin in a haystack (seems easier than it is), then do some kind of weighted row for 300 meters.

There is one final wall to climb, a fire pit to jump over (yes, I said a fire pit) then they have to fight their way through men hitting them with foam bats, then swim to the finish line.


This is my friend jumping over said fire pit. I can't take credit for this awesome photo. We were on the other side where you see the fences in the background. But I asked his permission to share it because it really is such a great photo and really, really captured the moment.


You want to know what the best part of this was?


The atmosphere. You had so many people doing this race, from different sizes to fitness levels to ages. Everyone encouraged everyone. I was proud of everyone that attempted this. Just to buck up the courage to sign up for something like this is hard enough, but to actually do it, to complete it, is something else all together. Some people were so exhausted by the time they came out of the woods, they were barely walking. But they powered through, it may have taken them three hours to complete, but they did it.

The video I've embedded down below inspires me every time I watch it. It fills me with such "I can do anything," emotion, I feel like I can tackle the world. Maybe this is why I want to tackle a race like this. And if this video fails to move you, then read this awesome article. Talk about inspiration, people. With friends and family, you can face anything.

Paraplegic proves barriers can be conquered with a little help from friends.


Esme





Guest: Alexa Bourne - Her Highland Champion & Book Giveaway
Alexa Bourne is a teacher by day and a romantic suspense writer by nights, weekends, and all school holidays. She also teaches online classes for writers throughout the year. She is thrilled to be writing for Decadent Publishing and to have the chance to share her love of Scotland with readers everywhere.
When she’s not concocting sinister plots and steamy love scenes or traveling and exploring new cultures, Alexa spends her time reading, watching brainless TV and thinking about exercising. She loves to hear from readers. To find her, visit www.alexabourne.com or http://alexabourne.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter @AlexaBourne.


Alexa's new book is Her Highland Champion.


A Decadent Honor Guard story….
Heather Winchester leads a charming life. With good friends, a beautiful flat in one of the most amazing cities in the world, and a promising future once she finishes her Ph.D, she is finally pursuing her own dreams instead of catering to everyone else’s…except she doesn’t remember any of it.
Malcolm Fraser has returned to his Highland village to forget his failings as a professional bodyguard. Believing he could just lose himself in the mundane activities of running his bed & breakfast, he finds a woman’s lifeless body by the loch instead….
Captivated by Heather as she regains her memory, Malcolm is thrown into the line of duty. As danger comes knocking on their door, will he be strong enough to love her and keep her safe?

Q: Welcome, Alexa! What inspired Her Highland Champion?
A:  A visit to the village of Glenfinnan in the Highlands of Scotland inspired this story. I was on vacation in Scotland and wanted to go to Glenfinnan because it was the birthplace of the character Connor MacLeod of the Highlander movie. Once I got there, I was amazed by the beauty of the place.
Q: Scotland is very inspiring. What is the story behind the story?
A:  I wrote this story and started submitting it to agents and publishers in 1999, when I knew nothing about writing. I mean, I had 2 heroes, knew nothing about point of view, motivation and all those other terms. But I had so much fun writing it, I kept it and vowed to go back to it once I knew more. Fast forward 12 years. My friend Camryn Rhys suggested I submit to her publisher because they were starting a new line called the Honor Guard Series, which incorporated international settings, local flavor and alpha heroes. I pulled the story (and its 2 heroes!) out from under the bed, revised it (and chose 1 hero) and submitted it last November. Three weeks later, I got the contract.
Q: What do you enjoy most about writing romantic suspense?
A:  I love seeing the good guys win, the bad guys get what’s coming to them and seeing my main characters rise to the challenges and grow.
Q: How do you choose names for your characters?
A: LOL! I don’t believe I choose their names. I believe they let me know what works for them. A few times my characters have “suggested” names and I’ve tried to change them, but in the end, the characters ALWAYS win.
Q: LOL That's so cool! Where is your favorite place in the world?
A: Scotland is my absolute favorite place in the world. Whenever I’m there, I’m calm, relaxed and happy.
Q: I feel the same way! Please tell us about your favorite character in the book.
A: My favorite character is actually a secondary character, Jamie MacDougall. He’s the pub manager in my fictional village of Glenhalish. He’s a giant of a man with a good heart! He doesn’t trust easily, but he’s fiercely loyal and will do whatever he can for those he cares about.
Q: What is your writing process or method?
A: I write a rough draft within 1-2 months (depending on the story). Then I plot. J Next comes revising, which entails choosing one major focus per draft (I do 4-6 drafts per book), such as figuring out the sequence of events, making sure the suspense unfolds correctly and realistically, adding more details. 
Q: Wow that's interesting. What do you wish you’d known before becoming published?
A: I’m absolutely amazed with how much time promotion work takes. It’s interesting and fun, but so very time-consuming. Finding a balance with my “real world”, my writing and promoting I can tell will be a constant struggle for me.
Q: That's true. Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
A: If you want it badly enough, don’t give up. It took 12 years from submitting my very first (crappy) manuscript to receiving my very first contract.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m waiting to hear whether my publisher wants my second novella. The hero in that one is the 2nd hero from my very first suspense. (Fingers crossed!) I also have a full-length manuscript out on submission. While waiting to hear back on those, I’ll be revising another full-length story that got requested. 
Fantastic! Best of luck with all your projects! Thanks for being our guest today! Do you have a question for readers?


What country would you like to see used as a setting in a book? 
"Win it before you buy it!" Alexa and her publisher are giving away a copy of her new book to one lucky commenter. Please remember to leave your email in some form so we can contact the winner. Thanks!
Please visit Alexa online: 
Twitter: @AlexaBourne
Last Chance to get Flaunt It for FREE

Flaunt It, #1 in the Paolo's Playhouse series is still free at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony until March 28th.So if you'd like to try a sexy emotional short read, now's the time. I've posted an excerpt to tempt you and couldn't resist posting the beautiful covers for all 4 playhouse stories.

Excerpt:

He didn’t say anything to Piper about the Playhouse until their relief arrived. She climbed up on a barstool with a curious grin on her bright pink lips. Her lip color matched the wide pink stripe of hair at her temple, a bright contrast to the rest of her short, spiky, platinum blonde hair.

“I didn’t know Chuck and Tanya were working tonight.” She grabbed a couple of swizzle sticks and drummed them on the bar. “I thought we were working late. What’s going on?”

“Last minute plans,” he said smoothly. “Hope that’s okay.”

“Sure. Spontaneous is cool.” She tossed the sticks and leaned closer. She smelled like sunshine, even after dancing and working the floor for hours. “Can you tell me about it or is a big secret?”

He took a deep breath. “Remember my friend, Paolo? I’ve told you about him.”

“Yeah, I remember. The guy who has the sex place, right?”

“Right. We’re going there tonight.”

Her eyes widened. “Is it like one of those dungeons I’ve heard about?”

He couldn’t tell if she hoped it was, or not. “No. There aren’t any public rooms at the Playhouse. Just private playrooms for private fantasies.”

“That’s right. I remember. There are different rooms for different fantasies, right?”

He eyed her cautiously. “Yeah.”


Her whole face lit up. “Ooh, I’m excited. Which one?” Nothing seemed to faze her and for some reason it irritated him. Probably because everything she did fazed him.
“Are you sure you’re not too tired?”

“No! I’m fine, Ben. Which room?”

No way was he telling her now. “You’ll see.”

“Wait.” She grabbed onto the front of his shirt, pulled him forward and kissed him, hard and fast. She tasted like peppermint. “You’re not going to tell me?” She was too damn cute when she pouted.

“It’s a surprise, all right?” He didn’t want to give her time to worry about the reasons he picked the room he did.

“But how can I get ready for the fantasy? What if I need…I don’t know…ropes or something?”

“Do you want ropes?” he snapped. She released his shirt abruptly and he took a step away. “Want me to tie you up? Or maybe you want to tie me up?” Jake and everyone else within hearing distance were taking in every word.

She frowned. He didn’t blame her. “No, not really. I’m just sayin’.”

He didn’t know why he was being such a jerk. Maybe guilt did that to a guy. He softened his tone. “You let me worry about that, babe. Besides, everything we need will already be there.”

Her eyes had lost some of their spark but her bright smile almost made up for it. “Okay. What should I wear?”

He shrugged. “What you have on is fine.”

From the horrified look on her face, you’d think he’d told her to wear a paper bag.

“No. These are work clothes.”

He reached across the bar and hooked his finger in the deep V of her top. Then he pulled her forward this time and kissed the tip of her turned-up nose. The patrons loved their give and take across the bar, but this time wasn’t for their benefit. “It doesn’t matter what you wear, Piper.” If he had his way, she’d be naked before long.

“Maybe not to you, but it does to me. How much time do I have?”

“Not long. I thought we could just leave from here.”

“Not in my work clothes, Ben. Not without a shower.” She hopped off the bar stool and waved to Chuck who was taking over as bartender. Piper met Ben at the end of the bar and she leaned into him, kissing him hard, the way he liked it. Her breasts pressed into his chest. ... “Pick me up in half an hour. I’ll be ready. Promise.”

Ben watched her bounce out the door. That was Piper, up for anything. Except commitment. Would tonight get that exhibitionist streak out of her system? Or would he have to resign himself to the fact that she lived for showing off for everybody?

That he wasn’t special at all.

Pass the word! Enjoy :)

Natasha
www.natashamoore.com
A Pregnant Pause

The good old days…

I don’t miss them much, really. However, once in a great while a trend comes along that just makes me long for the days when it didn’t exist. Do you ever have those moments? Instances when you think that if you were hanging from a cliff and a genie popped up and gave you one wish, you’d actually use it to wish away some ridiculous energy-sucking zeitgeist instead of saving yourself?

For example, have you noticed the trend on so-called “news” sites to post articles and pictures of celebrity post-baby bodies? Beyoncé is the latest celeb to show off her newly trim physique just weeks after giving birth, and the corresponding slideshow offers up at least six other celebrity moms who returned to the land of hot from the land of pre-birth not. In league with these posts are those applauding the “sexy mommas,” famous women who—gasp!—look great even when pregnant.

Am I the only person who finds this kind of insulting? I realize that perhaps this is an attempt to prove that women can be pregnant (translation: fat) and still be beautiful or to celebrate motherhood. The thought is appreciated, but the how of the matter is just not hitting the mark. Quite honestly, I think all pregnant women are beautiful. My daughter literally glowed when she was pregnant with her kids. She didn’t need a Christian Dior gown and make-up to celebrate her baby bump—her mommy-to-be grin did the job just fine. Pregnancy is a very individual journey that doesn’t look or feel the same for every woman, and although it’s nice to see it’s not a forbidden subject anymore, it’s hard to reconcile how the media has chosen to portray it.

I’m not sure what it says about society that we even bombard our pregnant women, not just our teens, with unrealistic body images and health messages. No, it is not healthy to gain too much weight during pregnancy; however, the amount of weight can vary according to body type and size. A good doctor can guide you through a healthy pregnancy and into a fit post-birth lifestyle. Not every woman loses her baby weight immediately after giving birth, and it is important to remember that celebrities can afford the best doctors, the best nutrition, the best stylists, and the best trainers money can buy.

I guess I’m just sensitive because I once had a friend whose family insisted she not gain too much weight during her pregnancy, as none of them ever had. She shouldn’t have listened, but she did and her health suffered to the point she started passing out. Finally, concerned friends convinced her to take care of herself, and both mother and baby did well throughout the rest of the pregnancy.

I’m also thinking about this subject because I’ve been contemplating having a pregnant heroine in one of my stories. I’ve seen it done and done well, and I think that it’s an element that I’d really like to explore. In our writing, we strive for realistic characters that readers can connect with in some way, and so I think it would be a fun and rewarding challenge to give maternity a nod in one of my next capers.

Have you read a book with a pregnant heroine? Did you like it? Please share your experiences!

My Special Field Trip to District 12
So I’m one of many, many, MANY people impatiently awaiting The Hunger Games release this Friday. On Sunday, I was over at my mom and dad’s house. My dad walked into the kitchen and asked me if I wanted to go see where that movie was filmed. He didn’t have to say which movie. There had only been one hugely anticipated movie filmed there recently. The Hunger Games. I answered with a resounding YES!

We all packed into the car. I made my seven-year old twins go as well. They were thrilled about this. Not. However, I think watching mommy turn into a child shaking with excitement made it all worthwhile for them. We drove the ten minutes up to the Henry River Mill Village. The entire ride up, I kept wondering what I’d see. In all my years of growing up in Hickory, NC, I’d never been to the little ghost town. I pictured lots of woods, because in my mind this was where the actual games were shot.

Boy, was I wrong.

As we crested the hill, I gasped. Hand-over-my-mouth, oh-my-God whispered, gasped.

This is the first thing I saw:


I turned to my dad and said, "It's the bakery, Dad! Peeta's a baker's son. This is the bakery. I know it."

And just like that I knew I'd just entered Distract 12.

Later, when we got home, my Dad dug out a newspaper from earlier this week and handed to me. Right there on the front of the Hickory Daily Record was the guy who will portray Peeta standing with a loaf of burnt bread (we all know the significance of the burnt bread) right in front of this building. The only addition is a wood porch that was built in front of it. I smiled when I saw it.

One other view that really grabbed my attention was this one:


You get this image after you've taken this curve along the road. This just opens up right in front of you. Honestly, it took my breath away when I saw it, because it was exactly how I envisioned District 12 when I read the book. When I got back to my house later that night, I pulled up a couple of the trailers and watched them. Looking for these houses. What I found was even cooler. There is a clip where Katniss is walking in this exact location, behind all the debilitated houses. It was a really cool moment.

Here are a few more pictures:

I loved this last one. The picture doesn't do it justice, however. All I can say is this was the perfect setting for District 12. I have no idea how the production team caught wind of this little deserted town, but I can't see where they'd would've found a more perfect place.

According to the Hickory Daily Record, the area has seen an increase in tourism since the filming completed. I can believe this. We weren't alone while we were there. Everyone, at least locally, wants to see where The Hunger Games was filmed. I'm so glad I went.

Abby
Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye
As you're traveling across Isle of Skye on the way to Dunvegan, you'll see MacLeod's Tables in the distance.

The entrance to Dunvegan Castle. 
Clan MacLeod's motto is 'Hold Fast' and when it comes to their stronghold, Dunvegan Castle on Isle of Skye, they have done this for over 800 years. They were only absent from the castle for eighty years following a devastating potato famine 1847 - 51. The 25th chief had to leave his home and take a job in London in order to feed his family. His second son, the 27th chief returned 80 years later as an elderly man.

Inside the castle, we were able to see a wealth of historical paintings, objects and important historical artifacts, including the famous and magical Fairy Flag and Rory Mor's Horn.
View over Loch Dunvegan from the castle gun court.
 The castle is actually six separate buildings, each built during a different era, which were given a face-lift during a renovation in the 1800s. Above, on the right, you can see the well and just beyond it the wall where you can look down and view the sea gate, the ancient entrance to the castle.
A bridge over the stream in the lush gardens.
The original gardens date from the 1700s but have been added to and improved over the centuries. The gardens lie inland from the castle and Loch Dunvegan and back up to mature woodlands. This area is somewhat temperate and warmed by the Gulf Stream. The views here are much different from most of Isle of Skye which is mostly open moorland. By all accounts, gardening here is not easy and takes a considerable amount of work because of the soil and the climate.
The waterfall is known as Rory Mor's Nurse. The chiefs could hear this waterfall from their tower window and it lulled them to sleep.

  Since 1974 the gardens have been extensively improved and expanded.
I love the stone benches and stone walls here surrounded by flowers and plants.

 The walled gardens were created in the 1800s for the growing of vegetables. Now it contains mostly beautiful flowers.



View of the castle from the loch side. This would've been the original entrance.
Sir Walter Scott described Dunvegan in 1814: "The whole castle occupies a precipitous mass of rock overhanging the lake, divided by two or three islands in that place, which form a snug little harbour under the walls. There is a court-yard looking out upon the sea, protected by a battery, at least a succession of embrasures, for only two guns are pointed, and these unfit for service. The ancient entrance rose up a flight of steps cut in the rock, and passed into this court-yard through a portal, but this is now demolished. You land under the castle, and walking round find yourself in front of it. This was originally inaccessible, for a brook coming down on one side, a chasm of the rocks on the other, and a ditch in front, made it impervious. But the late Macleod built a bridge over the stream, and the present laird is executing an entrance suitable to the character of this remarkable fortalice, by making a portal between two advanced towers, and an outer court, from which he proposes to throw a drawbridge over to the high rock in front of the castle." Lockhart's Scott, ed 1839. I found this information in Boswell's Life of Johnson, Tour to the Hebrides, (1773)
 By James Boswell, Samuel Johnson


This bridge leads to the present-day entrance. We were able to walk underneath it. I love how ancient these walls look.
I hope you enjoyed this visit to Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. To learn more please visit the Dunvegan Castle website.

Thanks!
Vonda
www.vondasinclair.com

Flaunt It is FREE until March 28th!

I'm so excited that Flaunt It was chosen by Samhain to be part of their Giveaway program! Until March 28th, the first story in my Paolo's Playhouse series is free to download from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony! If you haven't checked out this short sexy read yet, this would be the perfect time.

He’ll put her on display, if that’s what it takes to keep her…
Paolo’s Playhouse, Book 1

When it comes to sexy and sassy, Piper, the most popular waitress at Ben’s bar, has it all going on. Now that they’re dating, though, Ben wishes she’d dial down the skimpy clothes and flirty attitude, and her habit of dancing around the bar and flashing to her favorite song. Every teasing peek at her body, every laugh at some customer’s lousy joke, is certainly good for business—but it sends his jealousy meter into the red zone.

Sure, they’re dating, but he’s no muscled, tattooed stud with diamonds in his ears. How can he compete, especially when she refuses to even spend the night at his place?

Desperate, Ben books a room at his friend Paolo’s fantasy club, hoping an erotic night in front of a two-way mirror will get her exhibitionist streak out of her system. Praying it won’t prove his greatest fear—that she lives only to show off. And he’s not that special to her at all…

Product Warnings

Flirting and pole dancing, hot sex and showing off for an invisible audience. Stop by the playhouse and live out your fantasies!


Reviewers have had great things to say about Flaunt It:

"I would highly recommend this short story to anyone that wants it fast and delicious." Marika

"Having read a couple of Ms. Moore's other books, I was really looking forward to reading this short story, and let me just say this book does not disappoint. The plot is fast-paced and enthralling..." Bec, The Romance Studio

Feel free to pass on the news to anyone you think would like to try out this sexy, emotional little story. What a great opportunity!

Natasha
www.natashamoore.com
Congratulations to Terry Spear!!!
A huge congratulations to our own blogging buddy, Terry Spear! Her new release, A SEAL in Wolf's Clothing landed on the USA Today Bestseller List!!!!! Woohoo!!! Go, Terry! (With a hot SEAL/werewolf hero this yummy how could it not?)  :)

Can You Feel It?
It’s in the air! Spring is coming. Oh, I know winter might have one last show of bluster, but spring is everywhere, staking claim to the earth and her inhabitants. And none too soon, either. I think people, even though the winter’s been mild, have cabin fever to the Nth degree. I base this on the fact that the minute the temperature rose above 32 degrees, the shorts and tank tops came out, along with the flip flops, which never really went away, actually.

There’s nothing like a change in the seasons to lighten the mood and inject some joy into the day. So instead of grumbling about having to try on my bikinis from last year, I’m choosing to focus on what I love most about spring because…well, why not?

1. Bunnies—I always liked bunnies, but now that I’m addicted to Icanhascheezburger.com , where they regularly feature photos of rabbits as big as dogs (scroll down to Super Bun to see what I mean), I’ve learned to appreciate them more than ever.

2. Flowers—No, they’re not all blooming yet, but they’re getting there and it’s going to be a gorgeous show. Reds, pinks, purples, blues, and all the other hues that decorate gardens in our neighborhood and beyond present quite a dramatic sight that takes my breath away. This year we ARE getting flowers (we say that every year and then time gets away from us) to enjoy with our friends and neighbors.

3. The Blue Sky—I don’t mind a cloudy day or two, but the winter drearies can just be too much! The lovely blue of a cloudless sky is a color like no other, and I can’t help but smile when I see it.

4. Sunshine—How I’ve missed this! It seemed there for a while that everywhere I went I was cold, chilled to the bone. However, a dose of warm sunshine takes the edge off in a way not even hot cocoa can.

5. Tree buds—Yeah, my sinuses and I know they cause allergies, but they are so nice to see after months of barren trees, and they signal the re-birth of the earth is on its way.

6. Urges—Get your mind out of the gutter! I mean the creative ones. I find the stories are popping into my head faster than I can write the ideas down. It’s great to sense the muse around, ready to make mischief, and there’s no time like the spring to start a new story. Speaking of which…

I promised myself some writing time tonight. I’ve got a cougar story percolating that just won’t let me rest. I hope you’re enjoying the impending seasonal rotation and burst of spring we’re about to experience. What do you like most about it? Please do share!

Happy Reading,
Cameo
Pantser vs. Proposal--let the fight begin.

What happens when a pantser has to write her first proposal?

She has a panic attack.

I’m not a plotter. The closet I’ve come is sitting down and doing some brainstorming when I get stuck in a scene. My idea of an outline is the first draft. By then, I know everything and I guess I can then write the second draft the way a plotter would write the first draft.

So when I had to write two proposals for the next two installments of my MMA series, I blinked and was like, how am I supposed to do that? I have no idea what happens BEFORE I write it.

I won’t lie. It’s been hard. Harder than writing any book, that’s for sure.

GMC.

Goal. Motivation. Conflict.

Simple right?

Yeah. No.

All I can say is, I bow to you plotters.

I feel like my “proposal” is a bunch of nonsense that leads to more nonsense that has the ending result of huh? instead of I need to read this.

Not a very promising feeling. LOL.

I’m learning. Stepping outside my comfort zone.

It’s not the first time I’ve had to step outside the ole comfort zone, and it sure as hell won’t be the last, and it hasn’t killed me yet.

I may have lost a few handfuls of hair, but I can do this. I need to stop letting the doubt creep in and just accept that it’s okay not to know everything. That as long as I can get the idea down, I can make someone intrigued enough to say, "Hey, yeah I'd like to read this."

Man, I thought writing a synopsis was hard. It’s a freaking cake walk in comparison.

So have any of you had to step outside your comfort zone?

Abby

Reforming a Wild Highlander
Lachlan, the hero in my novel, My Wild Highlander, is known as Seducer of the Highlands for good reason. He can seduce a lass with nothing more than a smile. Let’s face it, he’s hot. He’s tall, broad-shouldered with the body of a warrior. His sandy blond hair is sinfully long and he loves to wear a kilt. With his devil-may-care attitude, love of adventure… and a good tumble… he’s the last person you would expect to get married. But that’s exactly what the king asks of him. It’s incredibly difficult to tell the king no, especially when he’s offering all sorts of rewards like a title, land, a castle… and Angelique.

Lachlan is perplexed when he can’t seduce Angelique as easily as he’s seduced most every other lass he’s come across. Can Lachlan put his wenching ways behind him and become a responsible chief, a noble earl and a faithful husband? Angelique has her doubts, but Lachlan is determined to prove her and everyone wrong.

I had fun watching Lachlan grow and become the man he was always meant to be. Just because he learns how to be responsible and loyal doesn’t mean he can’t still have a great time.

In the excerpt below, Angelique wakes to find a man in her bedchamber. Is he there to kill her or to seduce her… or for some other purpose?

What about you? Do you enjoy reading about rakes, rogues, scoundrels and other seducers? Do you like Highlanders?

MY WILD HIGHLANDER BLURB

Lady Angelique Drummagan, a half-Scottish, half-French countess, has suffered much pain and betrayal in her past. She wants nothing to do with the sensual Scottish warrior that the king has ordered her to marry because the rogue could never be a faithful husband, but she has little choice in the matter. Dangerous, greedy enemies threaten her from all sides and she’s in dire need of his protection.

Sir Lachlan MacGrath, known as Seducer of the Highlands, possesses a charming wickedness and canny wit which has earned him much popularity. After the king decrees that he wed the fiery hellion, Lachlan discovers there is one woman who can resist him—Angelique. Can he break through her icy façade and melt her heart, or will the dark secrets lurking in her past not only cost them their future together, but their very lives?

EXCERPT

Angelique awoke in the night, thinking she'd heard a thump. Her eyes searched the darkness of the bedchamber. She snatched her dagger from beneath her pillow and slid to the floor behind the bed. The faint moonlight glimmering through the window did little to illuminate the room. Only embers glowed in the hearth. She caught the whiff of a masculine scent. An intruder!

A floorboard squeaked and a large dark silhouette moved forward. Parblue! Immobile, she waited for the moment when she could best strike.

When the intruder bent over her bed, she lunged toward him, stabbing her blade at his neck. Before she met her mark, he jerked back, grabbed her forearms and dragged her against him. She lost the grip on her dagger. Heaven help me.

"M'lady?"

She screamed, trying to wake Camille, sleeping on a cot in the corner. A hand clamped over her mouth.

"Release me!" Her demand came out muffled.

"Shh. 'Tis me, Lachlan. You must come with me." He uncovered her mouth.

She went limp with a bit of relief. The heat of his strong hands and solid body burned through her. Now she recognized the pleasant but disturbing male scent of him. "Why?"

"Someone is trying to kill us. We must go into hiding," he said, low and fierce in her ear, his breath fanning her hair and tickling her skin.

"You have lost your senses. No one is trying to kill me." Were they?

"Indeed, Kormad is making plans."

Kormad. Mon Dieu. "I must have my clothes, my trunks."

"We have no time. Bring one change of clothes. I'll have the others shipped to Draughon."

"Camille must come with me. I go nowhere without her." Angelique wrested away from Lachlan, hurried to the corner and shook her cousin out of a deep sleep. "Parbleu! Camille, wake up."

"Whaa?" She stirred a bit.

"She is a heavy sleeper."

Lachlan went to the door. "Dirk, we need your help. Can you carry Lady Angelique's companion?"

The fearsome man appeared at the threshold, the lantern in his hand illuminating his long red hair and exaggerating his frown. "Can she not walk?"

Unable to wait for Camille to wake, and with no maids about, Angelique quickly threw smocks, stays and a change of clothes into a sack for herself and the same for Camille.

"I must dress," Angelique said.

"No time."

She yanked a blanket off the bed to wrap around herself seconds before Lachlan dragged her from the room.

After meeting Dirk cradling the sleeping Camille, and Rebbinglen carrying a lantern and a sword, they slipped through a narrow doorway she'd never seen before, and entered a tight dark passage. The dank air and close space made her feel she would suffocate. Apparently this was one of the secret passages she'd heard about that riddled Whitehall.

They reached an exterior door—near the stables if the stench was any indication. Wind twisted the trees and bushes. The faint glow of the lantern revealed the muddy ground. Angelique hung back on the threshold. "I am barefoot."

"Come." Lachlan scooped Angelique into his arms abruptly, making her head spin, and rushed her outside. Ma foi! She did not want to notice the warmth of his breath against her hair or the hardness and strength of his body. Before she had time to decide whether or not she liked his touch, he pushed her inside a coach with her cousin and slammed the door. The team and coach took off and raced through the gate, then along King Street. Horses' hooves clomped all around them—guards, she hoped.

"Camille, wake up, damn you." Angelique shook her on the opposite seat. "You are one worthless companion."

She roused a bit. "Huh? Are we moving? Where are we?" she asked in a groggy voice.

"In a coach, heading for God knows where. Lachlan says our lives are in danger."

"Is it Kormad?" Camille sat up.

"Lachlan says yes."

"You do not think it is Girard?"

"No, I hope he is dead of a fever." Angelique slid back on the leather seat. The coach careened around a corner, and she grabbed for a handhold.

"But we cannot be certain."

"We must not speak of it." Angelique's stomach knotted with the very thought.

"Did you get…the item?"

"Of course. You know I would not leave it."

After taking another corner too quickly, the coach drew to an abrupt halt and the door opened. Lachlan now held a torch aloft. "Come, both of you. Hold this." He handed the torch to Rebbinglen.

"Where are we going?" Angelique asked.

"No time for questions now." He motioned her forward.

Again, he lifted Angelique into his arms and carried her across an alley as if she weighed no more than an infant. Amid the chaos, he seemed an island of strength and protection. She was finding, of a sudden, that she liked this feeling. She had not experienced true safety for a long time. And besides, he smelled appealing, like clean male blended with leather. In the torchlight, their gazes mingled for a moment. He was not the seductive charmer now. No twinkle of humor danced in his eyes, no smirk upon his lips. He'd transformed into a formidable warrior with a firm mouth and dark, indomitable eyes—a side of him she'd never fully seen.

They slipped through a narrow doorway, Dirk carrying Camille behind them.

"What is this place?" The scents of tallow and musty books irritated her nose.

The passage opened up and they moved through a large dim church filled with empty pews. Only a couple of candles lit the plain interior. Five of King James's retainers wearing royal livery waited near the pulpit along with a dour Protestant minister.

"What is happening?" Angelique asked.

"We are to be married, as you ken." Lachlan set her on her feet at the front of the church.

She pulled him aside. "Have you lost your mind? We cannot marry now. Not like this," she whispered loudly.

"Aye, 'tis necessary to marry in secret. Someone wishes to kill us. They are wanting your estate through any means, fair or foul." His harsh expression told her of the seriousness of the matter. "King James bid us to go ahead and marry. Now. We have the special license."

"But I must wear my wedding gown and I did not bring it. I will not marry in my shift and a blanket. Barefoot."

"No time." Lachlan dragged her before the minister. "Please begin." He placed his hand over hers, tucked against his elbow.

The minister began in a dry monotone.

Parbleu! Angelique felt paralyzed for a moment, her mind racing. What to do? She glanced aside and found Camille standing barefoot, dressed much as she was. She gave an almost imperceptible nod and faint smile, her gaze steady. She approved? Merde!

How preposterous Angelique should get married in such dishabille. Her hair was a bedraggled disaster, tousled and hanging to her waist. She was a countess, not a prostitute. Since she had been a small child she had dreamed of the day she would wear her mother's enchanting French wedding gown, say her vows and kiss her own charming prince.

Today was not that day. That day would never come. She glanced up at Lachlan, and sensed some understanding in his eyes, a silent communication she could not fully grasp because she didn't know him. Lowering her gaze, she thought of the emerald ring on her finger and how he'd given it to her on bended knee. A romantic gesture, but had he meant it in the way she hoped?

Mère de Dieu, do not let this be a mistake. Do not let him slip inside my heart and destroy it. I cannot dare trust him.

Lachlan nudged her. "Say 'I will,'" he whispered without moving his lips.

"I will," she said in a strong voice. She could have been agreeing to anything. The minister droned on. In shock, wishing this over with, she let her attention slide away to other things, the creaking of the old building, Lachlan's warm, slightly roughened fingers on hers as he pushed another ring onto her finger, a shiny gold band.

"With this ring, I thee wed. This gold and silver, I thee give. With my body, I thee worship." Lachlan's smooth baritone voice reciting those vows stripped away the fog. Her attention riveted upon him, and she knew she would remember this moment forever.

She repeated her own vows rather stiffly, in a halting voice. Only Lachlan's steady hands kept her upright. She wanted to do nothing but burst into tears, though she didn't know why. The way she was dressed—or rather undressed—like a whore for her wedding, or the satisfied, hopeful expression in his eyes, such a contrast to her own misery.

Naturally, he should be pleased. He would be an earl and worth a goodly sum. Her possessions became his. He owned her now.

Sliding his fingers into her unbound hair, Lachlan lowered his head toward her and panic tightened her throat. He touched his lips to hers, the first contact startling, but warm and compelling. His full lips sipped at hers gently, drew away a breath and came back for a firmer, more possessive kiss. His beard stubble rasped her chin and the tip of his tongue tasted her lips, between. Such an unexpected and erotic action. She could not even draw breath.

Whistles and yelps from his friends echoed into the rafters. The minister cleared his throat.

I must shove him away. But no, she couldn't. Not because he was her husband, but because the damnable seducer had mesmerized her.
My Wild Highlander copyright 2011 Vonda Sinclair

Thanks!
Vonda
www.vondasinclair.com
Plaything Now Available for Pre-order
Plaything, the 4th Paolo's Playhouse story, is now available for pre-order! The release day is May 8th, but if you don't want to forget, pre-order it now so it will show up on your device as soon as it's available.

I'm excited to share the cover and blurb with you. This is Paolo's story and the one that started it all (at least it's the first story in the series I wrote even though it's the last one to be released.)



One taste of everything she ever wanted…how can she walk away?

Paolo’s Playhouse, Book 4

Julianne’s the epitome of a successful businesswoman. But where her boardroom reality is full of decisions, her bedroom fantasy is the exact opposite—allowing a lover who knows what he’s doing to strip her of the need to make any decisions at all.

When she reads an ad for Paolo’s Playhouse, her long-ignored need twists inside her, too sharp to ignore. Trembling, she picks up the phone, and Paolo’s charm, lyrical accent and empathy soothe her fear just enough to agree to be the Playhouse’s bondage toy. One look at Paolo the following night, and she wishes she’d struck a different bargain. To be his alone.

Paolo can’t take his eyes off the brave and beautiful woman with hair like the fire he sees in her soul. Her sexual need to be bound matches his own powerful need to be the one to bind her. Tonight and always.

Except Julianne agreed to only one perfect night. Now he must convince her it could be the first night of many for them—if only she will trust him.

Warning: Features a sexy Italian whose lyrical voice can charm or command, whose sensual hands can stroke or spank. Stop by the Playhouse and live out your fantasies!

And of course, the first three stories in the series, Flaunt It, Risk It, and Birthday Girl are all available now.

Natasha
www.natashamoore.com
I have NEWS!!!

I actually announced this last week via Twitter, but wanted to make an official announcement here. Entangled Publishing has offered me publication for my MMA contemporary romance, Extreme Love. AND…wait for it…

They want two more MMA books. YAY!! I get to write more hot fighters! Woot!

I’ve talked about Extreme Love on here off and on. But for those who don’t know, this is the book of my heart. Writing this book helped me get through some very conflicting emotions I was having after I lost a ton of weight. Some people lose weight and embrace it, others carry a crapload of emotional baggage along with the weight and losing the weight just isn’t enough.

I was the latter. I had a hard time letting go of the image I’d seen in the mirror for almost twenty-five years. I still do in fact, but I’m much better than I was.

Here is the unofficial blurb I queried with:

New Body, New Clothes, New Men

Who knew losing weight would change everything?

Caitlyn Moore sure didn’t. After winning a lifetime battle of the bulge, life, as she knows it, turns topsy-turvy. Accepting her new body and wardrobe proved hard enough, but nothing prepared her for the men. Good God, the men. Used to the average Joe, she’s stunned when mega-hottie and extreme fighter, Dante Jones, storms into her life. At first, she pushes him away, refusing to encourage the attention of a cage fighter, a sport she finds barbaric and revolting. Then she learns Dante has a love ‘em and leave ‘em reputation. What better way to fine-tune her non-existent flirting skills than with a supremely masculine male who won’t stick around? But things don’t go as planned. Dante has no intention of being a practice dummy; he’s out for all or nothing. Now Caitlyn must accept Dante—violent career and all—or let him go.

Dante “Inferno” Jones came to Georgia for one thing: win the Welterweight Championship of Mixed Martial Arts. At a time when focus is crucial the last thing he needs is a distraction, but that’s exactly what walks into his life in the form of shy but gorgeous Caitlyn Moore. Not used to a woman turning him down, she becomes a challenge he can’t resist. But as time passes, the light-hearted pursuit shifts to a battle to win her heart, putting his upcoming fight in jeopardy. Faced with losing the biggest match of his career, Dante must ask himself if his extreme life also has room for Extreme Love.

I have been through the ringer with this book. Seriously. It’s gotten a lot of attention, but no firm holds. It’s also gotten lots of personalized rejections, which as writers, we do appreciate. It gives us something to focus on. While my rejections never came back because of one specific thing, it was also split 50/50 down the middle between Caitlyn and Dante, it did give me something to focus on. With each rejection, I rewrote, tweaked, added, and deleted. This IS the book of my heart, you know. I wasn’t giving up without fighting. And I’m so glad I didn’t.

Where the book stands today is something I’m immensely proud of. It still has everything I started with, but it’s so much stronger than the original version.

So my advice to you is: don’t give up. Rejections suck. We’ve all been there. We all know the tears and depression that follow one. But when that hurt fades, and it eventually will, get out that rejections and really see why they passed on the manuscript. I was able to take something from each one of mine and make my story better.

And now I’ve sold it, plus two more.

I get to write more hot fighters!! Yeah, I know I’ve already said that, but I love MMA, have a huge respect for the sport, and getting to write more books on men Caitlyn described as the elite of the elite, warriors in their own right, some of the most well-defined, tattooed eye-candy a girl could ask for, has me thrilled!

I can’t wait to share them with you.

Abby

Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye

Armadale Castle Gardens consist of 40 acres of lush—sometimes exotic—plantings, winding woodland paths, and giant 200 year old trees among other things. The gardens sit on the protected Southern part of Isle of Skye known as Sleat (pronounced "slate"), which receives the benefits and warmth of the Gulf Stream.

View from the edge of the gardens over the Sound of Sleat.

The extensive gardens contain several beautiful woodland paths to explore.
 The castle and gardens are part of the 20,000 acre estate known as Clan Donald Skye owned by the Clan Donald Lands Trust. Traditionally, it was once part of the Clan Donald land of the Sleat peninsula. Although I don't have any photos of it, we visited the Museum of the Isles, also on the estate, which contained a rich and amazing collection of historical artifacts associated with the area.

A replica of a Viking ship sits in the gardens. It is a symbol important to Clan Donald given their Norse ancestry.


White fuschias.

This nice sitting area on the edge of the gardens overlooks the Sound of Sleat.

MacDonald chiefs began staying at Armadale from 1650, although earlier, the clan occupied castles at Knock, Dunscaith and Duntulm, all on Isle of Skye. In the 1700s the mansion at Armadale was used as a dower house for the chiefs' widows. Around 1790 a new house was built here. In 1815 this was extended. A fire in 1855 destroyed most of this section and it was rebuilt as we see it today. In 1925 the MacDonald family moved and abandoned the castle. 


 It was cloudy and rainy the day we visited so it's difficult to see the castle in this photo. Click here to see photos of Armadale Castle from the early 1900s.

Today Armadale Castle is mostly a ruin with little more than walls remaining. No one is allowed inside because of safety concerns. But visitors are allowed into the left side which consists of a romantic and picturesque staircase and window frames with vines growing over it. Weddings are held here. Part of the original mansion, from 1790, remains in good condition (below). It is called the Somerled Rooms.  Clan Donald is known as the Sons of Somerled.

The gardens contain many mossy trees.

View over the Sound of Sleat with honeysuckles in the foreground.

I hope you enjoyed this visit to Armadale Castle!
Thanks!
Vonda




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