To-do's Finally Being Marked Off
This morning is morning three of the kids being back in school. I've gotten more accomplished on Monday and Tuesday than I have all summer. Alright, yes. I'm over-exaggerating, but it seriously feels like it.

This weekend I concentrated on finishing the second book in my MMA series. At 7:00 Sunday night I finally typed the words "The End." I can't tell what a relief it was to get that book off my desk. I felt like I couldn't start anything else on my to-do list because I was so close to the end of that one. And now it's done. I can't wait for everyone to meet Tommy. His is a story of redemption. I love those :)

Now I'm moving back to my other series I'm working for Entangled. My Covets. I have a lot to do here, lol. A lot of tearing my baby up and then patching him back together. Sigh. It's taking a lot of stewing, but I think I've figured out how I am going to tackle rewrites. I have a few scenes I have to completely cut  and then replace with brand spanking new ones. This always gives me heartburn, guys. LOL. It stresses me out. Doubt hits me tenfold every time I have to do this. I second guess each word, worrying I'm making it worse. Anyone else go through this with rewrites?

The other thing that is giving me heartburn (yeah, I'm popping the Tums a lot right now, lol) is proposals. Simply put: I. Hate. Them.

I have nothing else to say there.

So, all in all, the last four days have been very productive. I have this morning to work before my day job interferes. But unlike the rest of the summer, I'm not having five to six days between writing sessions. So Yay on that :)

Abby

Brookgreen Gardens
While at Myrtle Beach a couple weeks ago, we visited Brookgreen Gardens on two different days. Since one ticket is good for seven days, we thought we'd go back and see what we missed on the first visit. We still didn't see everything because the entire property is 9100 acres. The gardens alone are massive. They provide a shuttle to the various parts of the estate. When we first arrived on both days it was raining. After a brief shopping spree in the gift shop, the rain stopped and we headed out into the gardens.


Pledge Allegiance sculpture in bronze by Glenna Goodacre 


 Brookgreen Gardens was formed from four different plantations that produced rice during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Those plantations were The Oaks, Brookgreen, Springfield and Laurel Hill. "In 1931 Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington established Brookgreen Gardens as a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation to preserve the native flora and fauna and display objects of art within that natural setting."

Mrs. Huntington was a sculptor and many of these amazing sculptures were created by her. There are many from other sculptors as well. I have never seen so many sculptures in one location. In fact, there are over 1400 by 350 artists. It is the largest collection in the country. Brookgreen Gardens is a National Historical Landmark, and is accredited by the American Association of Museums.

I have so many photos of the amazing sculptures and beautiful gardens I had a difficult time choosing only a few. With some of these, I'm including a photo of the plaque under it so you can read about it.


There is also lots of wildlife here. This Canadian goose was one of four lounging about and grooming in the gardens near a pond. They seemed very docile, though I didn't try to pet them. LOL

I love Spanish moss dripping from old oaks, and I loved this view over the pond.








Diana of the Chase, by Anna Hyatt Huntington


I am a huge fan of waterlilies! :)

 Jaguar by Anna Hyatt Huntington
Click on the above photo to enlarge it so you can read it. It is entitled Pumas. (In most cases the  v is a u.) There were many of these types of poems and quotes throughout the gardens.

Live Oak Allee Garden was one of my favorites. These massive oaks are 300 years old and were planted in the 1700s when this was a rice plantation.
 I hope you enjoyed this visit to Brookgreen Gardens. I'll try to share more photos next time since I've only shown you a small portion of the photos I took.

Thanks!!
Vonda
www.vondasinclair.com


Hiking at the Gorge
Rain threatened early in the day, but it turned out to be beautiful weather for a walk through Chautauqua Gorge. Hubby and I went with our son, his fiance, and another couple, our good friends who have hiked around the gorge before.


My son and his girlfriend were looking for places that would be good photo ops for their engagement photos. The steep, narrow trails down to the water were a little tricky, but a walking stick helped a lot.


You need to wear shoes or sandals that are sturdy and you don't mind getting wet. You often have to walk through the creek. We haven't had a lot of rain this summer so the water levels were down quite a bit.


Since the water levels are down, some of the waterfalls have barely a trickle. But we did find a few to enjoy.




Hubby rested his feet for a few minutes and I used the time to get a picture.


And here is one photo op of the kids.


We had a great time getting some fresh air, sunshine, laughter and more than a little wet. Yeah, so it goes without saying that some of these rocks are slippery, right? Even with the walking stick I managed to slide into the water at one point. No, I don't have a picture of that - thank goodness. Next time I'll be sure to wear some lightweight shorts instead of heavy denim, so they'll dry out faster.

Summer is rapidly drawing to an end and we've been trying to hold on tight with both hands, enjoying the good weather for as long as we can. What did you do this weekend?

Natasha
Plaything - Paolo's Playhouse #4
Silken Canvas - coming Dec 25th
www.natashamoore.com




Cover Reveal! Summerset Abbey

Today we have special guest, T.J. Brown revealing the beautiful new cover of her upcoming book, Summerset Abbyto be released from Gallery Books in January, 2013. The book is available for preorder at Amazon.


Teri Brown is proud of her two children but coming in a close second is the fact that she parachuted out of a plane and beat the original Legend of Zelda video game.  She is a word scribbler, head banger, math hater, book reader, rule breaker, food fixer, novel writer, kitty keeper, and city slicker. Teri lives with her husband and way too many pets in Portland, Oregon.

Q: Welcome, Teri! Please tell us about Summerset Abbey.
A: Here’s the official blurb

Reminiscent of Downton Abbey, this first novel in a new series follows two sisters and their maid as they are suddenly separated by the rigid class divisions within a sprawling aristocratic estate and thrust into an uncertain world on the brink of WWI...
Rowena and Victoria, daughters to the second son of the Earl of Summerset, have always treated their governess’s daughter, Prudence, like a sister. But when their father dies and they move in with their uncle’s family in a much more traditional household, Prudence is relegated to the maids’ quarters, much to the girls’ shock and dismay. The impending war offers each girl hope for a more modern future, but the ever-present specter of class expectations makes it difficult for Prudence to maintain a foot in both worlds.

Vividly evoking both time and place and filled with authentic dialogue and richly detailed atmosphere, Summerset Abbey is a charming and timeless historical debut.

Q: It sounds wonderful! What inspired this story?
A: Like millions of other people I am completely enamored by Downton Abbey on PBS. My love of the Edwardian period of history began when I was about 15 years old and I got my hands on a book called Amanda/Miranda by Richard Peck. The time period fascinated me as soon as I realized it was the same era as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, one of my all-time favorite stories, only this story was about the very rich in England, as opposed to the very poor in New York. But the time period, that moment in history when the industrial revolution was changing everything, completely fascinates me. They had telephones, autos, electricity and airplanes, but everything was new and experimental. It truly was the cusp or the birth, if you will, of the modern era. And just to be clear, the dates of the Edwardian period of history is much disputed… strictly, it is the time when King Edward ruled, a scant ten years, but as an era, it is generally thought to have run from 1895 to the first world war, which of course, changed everything.
Q: Fascinating! I also read and enjoyed Amanda/Miranda. What is the story behind Summerset Abbey?
A: The story is one of those strange, whimsical things that happen sometimes in publishing. Like so many other people, I was watching Downton Abbey and loving every minute of it. It just popped into my head that I’d love to write a story set in that time period. Then I thought that if I got some other authors together, we could write an anthology and I bet it would sell! I had seen many tweets on twitter go by from editors also in love with Downton Abbey. So I shot my agent a “hey, what do you think of this idea” kind of email and she wrote back telling me to put something together ASAP and she’d send it out. Because my agent, the amazing Mollie Glick, is just the sort of person who makes things happen.
So I came up with a concept, got three other authors together and put together a couple of paragraphs and a bio from each of us. My agent sent it out. Most of the editors loved the idea, but were hesitant to buy something without a big name attached to it or that wasn’t even written yet. The very last editor who had it, Lauren McKenna from Gallery Books, loved the concept and was a huge Downton Abbey fan. She wrote my agent back and basically said, I don’t want a four novella anthology, I want a three book series around this concept, and I don’t want four authors, I just want Teri, can she do it?
Ahem. Yes, yes she could.
Two conference calls, two chapters, one rewrite and a little over four weeks later, I had a three book deal. Do I know how rare that is? Yes!
Q: What a wonderful turn of events! Why do you choose to write romance?
A: This one is more women’s fiction than romance, because there is a surprise at the end that is a bit different than the HEA (happily ever after) that most romances offer. Of course, this is only book one.<smile> But even though I write YA under my Teri Brown name, all of my books have some kind of romance in them because romance is a basic part of the human experience, period. The pain and joy of falling in love is something that everyone can understand. So it’s usually a part of my character’s experience, as well.
Q: Which of your characters is most like you? Least like you? And why?
A: There are three main characters in Summerset Abbey, Rowena, Prudence and Victoria. Rowena is probably the least like me because Rowena is the least proactive about her life and situation. She feels almost paralyzed to do anything and though I have occasionally felt that way, I am the type to leap in and do something even if it’s wrong. But Rowena has been searching for her true self and hasn’t yet found her passion. This is really difficult on her as the eldest, because she feels like she should be the one taking care of everyone. In the beginning of the book, she makes a decision that has drastic consequences on the other two women and it freezes her for the rest of the book. By the end of the story, she has found her passion; she just isn’t sure what to do about it! I am more like a combination of Prudence, who is a caretaker and loyal to a fault and Victoria, who is this amazingly inquisitive, imaginative, outgoing person.
Q: Did you choose the title of your book and if so how did you do it?
A: I actually didn’t choose the title of my book. I kept coming up with things that weren’t quite right until I hit on the idea of Summerset Manor. Summerset is the name of estate where the story takes place. My editor felt that Summerset Abbey was a better title because she wanted people to know that if they loved Downton Abbey, they would enjoy this story because it was a fresh take of the same time period.  So basically it was a marketing decision.
Q: Interesting. What’s next for you?
A: Well, I am really excited about my YA series set in the 1920’s under my real name, Teri Brown. The first in the series is called Born of Illusion and it’s about Harry Houdini’s illegitimate daughter. It will be out June, 2013. I have two more Summerset Abbey books— the second, Bloom in Winter, will be out in March and the third is scheduled for August. I’ve always wanted to have dueling careers and would love to continue writing adult historicals under TJ Brown. In fact, Elaine, a secondary character in Summerset Abbey, is waiting for her story to be told, so I would love to get the chance to do that. I also have another idea concerning a radical underground group of suffragettes with a shocking tie to Jack the Ripper, also set in the Edwardian era. It just depends. Right now, I’m just happy to be making my next deadline!
Q: All these projects sound wonderful! Would you like to ask readers a question?
A: Yes! I’ve told everyone what I love about the Edwardian Era. I would love to hear what readers like or dislike about that era!
Thanks so much for being our special guest today, Teri! Everyone, please visit Teri online at: https://twitter.com/tjbrownbooks


Why Do Guys Always Want What They Don't Have?

Next door to me lives a nice young man of 18. Let's call him Football Jock. I have a 16 year old daughter. Do you see the problem already?

The kids have known each other all their lives. Although we all are in and out of each other's homes regularly, they don't socialize together due to the age difference, plus they attend different schools.

He's always had an eye for her, but I never worried about it, because girls have been chasing him for as long as I can remember. It's a joke really, in our neighborhood. He's a football player, playing varsity as soon as he started high school. The girls swarm. His girlfriend in his freshman year was at least two years older than him. You get the picture.

So my daughter is cute enough, but boys don't chase her down the street. She has the right amount of attention from boys at her maturity level.

Last week, she told me Football Jock asked her to hang out. She said no, for a minor, but acceptable reason. So he asks her again this week. (huh? Hey, Football Jock, what about all those girls who chase you down the street?)

My daughter said okay this time.

She dressed nicely because she always does. At 7 PM, I see Football Jock's brand new car (gift of Grandma) pull up in front of my house (20 yards from his house, lol). I see him get out of the car to come in to get my daughter!!!

Wait. Why so formal? You're just hanging out.

No. He's dressed up!

Wait. This is a date? Mom falls on the floor. The kids disappear.

Help. He's too experienced for her! Waaaaaaaay too experienced.

What happened here?

The only thing I can think of is this:

She never fell at his feet. When he'd try to flirt (oh, yes, I saw), she didn't respond. She actually turned him down the first time he asked her out. She became a challenge?

Okay, I admit it. I'm freaking out here.
Do guys really have such a need to chase?
Who has some words of wisdom?



Time
I need more of it. Who's with me?

In three more days, I'll get to add 18 hours back into my week. Right now those hours have been sucked dry by a group of rambunctious kids who like to run around the house like a bunch of crazed monkeys. In the last ten weeks, I've maybe gotten 18 hours total to write. Man, I love summer vacation. LOL.

But as of Monday, the kids are back in school and I regain Mon, Tues, and Wed mornings. My time. Six hours a day dedicated to writing. It's amazing how much I actually did get done in those six hours. Between the kids home all day and juggling my "day" job. (I actually work two nights and three mornings a week, lol), I've gotten so far behind.

The first couple of weeks of this regained time will be dedicated to catching up. I need to finish my current WIP. (Almost done, hoping that will be off my to-do this weekend) Rewrite a portion of my just contracted book. Write two proposals. A slew of paperwork. Start my next WIP in my paranormal series. And start research for the third book in my MMA series. All while continuing to do the whole social media thing.

Have I mentioned how much I detest Twitter? I do. Seriously. Detest. I don't get that program at all. I only use it because I have to. There is something about it that my brain can't click with. I've tried being friends with the program, but I sweat I think it hates me.

Anyway, who else is ready for school to star so they can get back to their routine? 
Abby

Paisley Kirkpatrick & Paradise Pines Series: The Night Angel

Please welcome a good friend of mine, Paisley Kirkpatrick. Paisley, please tell us about yourself.
My husband of 43 years and I raised two daughters. Now that he's retired I am working at my chosen profession of author. It's great that he supports my love of writing and lends a comment every now and then. He's a great help with plotting. We have been fortunate enough to travel -- his favorite place is Germany and mine is Scotland. I have been a member and on the board of the Sacramento Valley Rose Chapter of RWA for 13 years, and online chapters From the Heart, Hearts Through History, and Celtic Hearts. 

Q: Please tell us about your new release, Paradise Pines Series: The Night Angel.
A: Sassy Amalie Renard, a poker-playing saloon singer, shakes up Paradise Pines, a former gold-rush mountain community by turning the saloon’s bar into her stage. Her amazing voice stirs the passions of the hotel owner, a man who anonymously travels tunnels at night providing help to the downtrodden as the mysterious Night Angel. Declan Grainger agrees to subsidize the building of a music hall to fulfill Amalie's dream, but a bounty for her arrest could spoil his plans. Distrust and jealousy stir flames of malice and revenge threatening to destroy their town. Drawing from past experiences, Declan and Amalie turn to each other to find a way to save the community.

Q: Sounds amazing! How did your story’s setting impact your plot or characters?
A: My setting is an integral part of my story. I use the 1849 Gold Rush town of Placerville, California, as my model for Paradise Pines. The abandoned tunnels zigzagging under the town provide my hero a way to anonymously give food and supplies to the impoverished townsfolk.
Q: How do you choose names for your characters?
A: My Mother left me a great legacy. She spent the last ten years of her life assembling our genealogy. I search through the family trees until I find a perfect name for each character. I have to admit that a couple of the names I've tweaked to make them a better fit for my characters. The heroine in this story uses the stage name Lily Fox, which is very close to the name my great grandmother used when she performed at the Tivoli Theatre in San Francisco. Since my heroine has a lot of my grandmother's traits, the name was a perfect fit.
Q: That's fantastic you've used your ancestors' names and especially your grandmother's. Did you choose the title of your book and if so how did you do it?
A: I did choose this title with a little help from a New York best-selling author who judged one of my contest entries. One of the notes she sent me on my submission was to consider Night Angel as the title instead of the non-descript HERS TO TRUST. She was right. I've never regretted taking her advice.
Q: Very cool title! Where is your favorite place in the world?
A: J Scotland stole my heart. I want to return and search for it as soon as I can. My Mother's family migrated here from the Loch Lomond and Aberdeen areas. I knew when I burst into tears on a boat ride across Loch Ness that I'd come home.
Q: I understand completely how you feel about Scotland. The country stole my heart too! Please tell us about your favorite character in your book.
A: My Scottish hero, Declan Grainger, wrapped his charm around my heart from the beginning. He is a charismatic hotel owner who lives by a high moral standing, fulfilling his dream of giving to others as his foster parents gave to him. His sparkling green eyes are evidence of a great sense of humor. He loves music and delights us throughout the story with his violin.
Q: I can't wait to read all about him. Can you share with us “the call” story?
A: I didn't actually get 'the call' by phone, but by email. I always thought when I got an offer I'd scream, cry, and do the happy dance, but I didn't do any of those things. I couldn't move, could barely breathe - I just sat staring at the monitor saying ”WOW” over and over. At first I was disappointed the email came so late. It was Christmas Eve at about 10:30 pm. My hubby was asleep (we never wake the sleeping bear) and my critique partners live in Florida. I just couldn't wake them either. Now that I think back on it, the joy was mine alone until morning. I couldn't sleep, of course. I couldn't stop smiling.
Q: Wow! What a wonderful Christmas gift! Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
A: Yes, NEVER give up. I wrote for 22 years before I got my first publishing contract. My friends say I am stubborn, but I prefer to say persevering. It never entered my mind to quit. What would I do with all my spare time if I wasn't putting words into my computer? Surround yourself with great teachers, learn all you can from classes and reading books, attend conferences, and make contacts. Authors are the best kind of friends to have.
Fantastic advice! Everyone, please check out Paisley's wonderful excerpt from The Night Angel.
The mirror on one of the closet doors was too short to see her reflection full length, but Amalie knew she looked good. She retrieved her hatbox from under the bed and lifted the false bottom. The black onyx necklace with matching earrings would enhance the comeliness of her costume.
She draped her black velvet cape around her shoulders, picked up her beaded bag and left her room. Now that she knew Patrick's offer to perform at his place might be a sham, Amalie acting as Lily Fox lifted her chin and set out for combat.
Declan let out a low whistle as she sauntered up to the counter. "Patrick's in trouble, isn't he?"
She nodded curtly at him. "I'd say more than a little. If you'd be so kind, I'd appreciate directions to his saloon."
"If you can wait a moment, I'd be most pleased to escort you, my lady. Let me find George to man the counter and then we can leave." Declan returned a moment later with his black overcoat and hat.
She slipped her arm through the crook of his as they strode into the brisk evening air. Her high-heeled boots hit a slick section of ice on the boardwalk. Declan caught and held her against his broad chest before she spilled backwards. Their gazes locked for a long moment. He straightened and took a slight step back, but she saw the flicker of desire before he glanced away. This was not good. A man didn't fit into her plans unless she could use him to get what she wanted.
He rubbed his hand across his beard and squared his shoulders. "Shall we continue?"
"Yes, thank you."
A merry piano tune and garrulous laughter carried down the boardwalk as they neared Trick's. A burly man stumbled outside the saloon and nearly collided with them. The miner ripped off his weathered hat and bowed before her. "Evening, pretty lady." He grabbed the handle and swung open the door, giving her a deep bow in the process.
Amalie brushed past him. A gasp escaped her lips, then a smile. Patrick's place wasn't as abysmal as she anticipated. Dusty bearded men in miner's boots and faded shirts mingled with gamblers in fancy vests and frock coats. She moved further into the crowded room reeking of smoke and stale whiskey. The familiarity of being surrounded by the rowdiness of a saloon again tugged at her heart.
A fast-clipped tune resounded from a piano tucked in the back corner. A tawdry woman with a glass of ale in her hand lingered next to the upright. Amalie stopped cold at hearing a bawdy song burst out of her bright red lips. Declan hadn't exaggerated. The painted hussy stood on a wooden box.
Amalie scanned the expanse of card players for Patrick. She should have known better than to deal with that lying scoundrel. Betrayal surged through her. She would not put up with his tomfoolery. The man needed to be taught a thing or two -- the first lesson, not tangling with Lily Fox.
Different colored bottles of whiskey and beer reflected in the mirrors along the wall behind the long wooden bar. Perfect. That's where she'd start her evening.
She slipped off her cape and handed it to Declan. His appreciative gasp brought a smile to her lips. Having men ogle her appearance was hardly new. She'd learned early to use her looks to her advantage. The way Declan's eyes heated with appreciation when he cast a glance at the deep cut of her d├ęcolletage reminded her how good it felt to be a woman.
"Now you'll see who I really am."
Declan grabbed her arm. "Don't let them forget you're a lady, Amalie."
She cast him a wicked smile. "The name's Lily Fox. Believe me, honey, Lily's no lady."
She approached a couple of gamblers and leaned over slightly to give them full effect of her daring dress. "Would you mind helping me, gents? I have need of your table for a moment."
The men jumped to their feet in unison, their cards forgotten. Amalie took the nearest man's outstretched palm, stepped onto a chair, over their cards and up onto the long wooden plank bar.
"Good evening, boys." She strutted along the length of wood, avoiding whiskey glasses and kicking away eager hands.
The saloon girl stopped caterwauling. The room went still. She had everyone's attention, just the way Lily liked it.
"Get down, young woman. This ain't no place for you to prance about," the barkeep snarled in outrage.
Ignoring the scowling face with the handlebar mustache, she kicked up her heels. Adding a dance step, she pranced back and forth the length of the makeshift stage. Lily reveled in the whistles and disregarded the uncouth remarks. She was in her element. "My name is Lily Fox and I'm here to entertain you tonight."
With the flick of her hand, she caught the attention of the stunned piano player. "Play something quick and lively, will you, honey?" She glanced around the room of excited faces and turned on her brightest smile.

Please visit Paisley online:


Blogs:
Voices from the Heart http://voicesftheart.blogspot.com/

 Thanks so much for being our special guest today, Paisley!

Surprise Discovery at Sampson
A few weeks ago, my hubby & I went on a long weekend with friends. We camped at Sampson State Park, an old military base on Seneca Lake, one of New York State's Finger Lakes. We all love to go wine tasting & that was our primary plan for the weekend. But the guys took their bicycles and went exploring down the old abandoned roads on the old base.

Down one of the overgrown roads, they found an old family graveyard. It probably belonged to the family who owned the property overlooking Seneca Lake before it went to the government.

The four of us drove over later to take some pictures. This was our first view of the cemetery.


The graveyard had been fenced in at some point, but sadly, many of the gravestones have been broken.



As in many old cemeteries, many of the stones had been worn so badly that the names are not longer able to be read. But many of them still can be.




We wandered the cemetery for a while, reading off names and dates. My artistic friend wished she'd had paper to do some rubbings. While I, the writer, made up stories in my head about the people resting there. We both wondered if there was still family around who knew this graveyard was here.




Sometimes life can throw little surprises our way. Little treasures to spark conversation and imagination.

Have a great week.

Natasha
Plaything - Paolo's Playhouse #4
Silken Canvas - coming Dec 25th
www.natashamoore.com

My Exciting Annoucement
I'm very excited to announce that this weekend I signed another three book deal with Entangled Publishing. My Awakening series will come out with Entangled's Covet line in 2013. That's right, people. Paranormal. Shifters to be exact. I can't wait to share Aidan's, Liam's, and Brit's story with you.

The idea for this series started about a year and a half ago. I love soul mate stories, especially paranormal ones. The whole bonding for eternity stuff really does it for me. Then I started thinking...hmm. Okay. So the hero has met his other half, they have bonded. Life's grand. But what happens when one mate dies and leaves the other here on Earth? 

That is what I explore in this series. The downside to bonding for eternity. Because that sort of love can't be all rainbows and puppies, right? There has to be a catch?

Well, yes there is.

And I can't wait to share with you what it is:)

Thanks for letting me share!
Abby
An Evening Walk
Here are some photos I took on an evening stroll from our villa, through the resort, and to the beach one evening.

 The small lakes that ran through the resort community at Myrtle Beach were very picturesque and so were the bridges and trees.



 I love the shade of blue of the sky and watching the waves crest.
 One of my favorite things is walking on the beach at dusk or at night. The crowds are gone and the air is cool and refreshing. The edge of the surf always feels great washing over my bare feet.
The pier was lit up nicely. I love the way the lights reflect off the water.
Thanks for checking out my pics!! :)
Vonda
www.vondasinclair.com

Fantastic Review for My Brave Highlander
I received a fantastic review from Laurie at Bitten By Paranormal Romance for My Brave Highlander. She rated it 5 - An alpha howl... and steamy! :)

"Vonda Sinclair never fails to entertain you with a page turning adventure and a sizzling romance. With her vivid imagination you’ll find her characters and story flows excellent together. This book is part of a series but they are all standalones.

I read the all three books in this series now and really enjoyed them, but this one has turned out to be my favorite of them all. I was engrossed with the story and romance between the hero and heroine, I just couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what was going to happen next. I hope that Jessie will one day get a story and Robbie too. There are so many great characters in this series I can see the author making it grow years to come. I highly recommend this to any romance reader." Laurie - Bitten By Paranormal Romance

Thanks so much, Laurie!!

Also for the last couple of days, My Brave Highlander has been on the Historical Romance and Historical Fiction Bestseller lists at Amazon! Woohoo!! :)

Here is an excerpt of the first scene...


This story takes place in Scotland in November 1618.

Dirk MacKay urged his horse into a gallop along the narrow, muddy road that led from Draughon Castle toward Perth. Praying he wouldn't be too late to see his father alive one last time, he squinted against the cool, misty rain stinging his eyes.
The meager light of dawn hidden behind thick, leaden clouds provided little illumination. Greenish-brown hills dotted with grazing sheep and rolling beige grain fields sped by on either side of the road. Tulloch carried him closer to the thatched-roof stone crofters' cottages situated before a small wood of bare-limbed trees. A faint white mist hung over the massive River Tay, hidden amongst the bushes in the distance.
Dirk hoped he'd slipped away before his two friends knew what he was about. They would insist on going with him and he couldn't allow them to make such a sacrifice.
Lachlan was recently married and a newly titled earl and chief. He would be daft to accompany Dirk on a dangerous trek through the snowy Highlands to the edge of the earth, leaving his wife and clan to fend for themselves.
Although Robert "Rebbie" MacInnis, Earl of Rebbinglen, was a Highlander with naught to tie him down, Dirk wouldn't put his life in danger, either.
It wasn't simply the severe cold weather of the north that made Dirk worry over his friends' safety. A murderer lurked amongst his clansmen… a murderer who wanted Dirk dead, and wouldn't bat an eye at killing one of his friends, as well. He shook his head. Nay, he'd done the right thing by not asking Lachlan or Rebbie to risk their lives by traveling with him to Durness.
The three of them had been near inseparable for the past few years, but Dirk needed to handle this on his own. He'd been living in limbo for twelve years, and now it was time to return to his real life… to follow his destiny.
Behind him, quick, rhythmic hoof-beats pounded the road and spattered through puddles. A sharp whistle pierced the chill, wet air. Dirk glanced back to find a dark-haired, black-cloaked man following him.
Rebbie.
"Damnation." How had he known? Dirk slowed his horse, then halted and turned to face his approaching friend. Tulloch, snorting at the interruption to his gleeful run, danced about beneath him. "Whoa, lad," Dirk said, trying to calm the horse.
When Rebbie drew up and stopped beside him, Dirk asked, "Where are you going?"
"A better question is where are you going? You left without a word. Luckily, I heard the floorboards creaking as you slipped past my chamber this morn. Does it have aught to do with that missive you received last evening?"
"I'm in no need of help," Dirk said, skirting the disconcerting question.
Rebbie's black brows lowered. "Even if you did need help, you're likely too proud to ask for it. What's happened to cause you to slip away like this?"
"I must return home without delay." And, nay, it was not pride that kept him from asking for help. There were some things a man must face on his own.
Rebbie tugged on the reins of his fidgeting, temperamental bay. "Why?"
Gazing north, Dirk observed the mist-cloaked, brownish mountains in the distance. He would have to travel far beyond them to reach home. "An urgent family matter."
"Of what sort?"
"Damnation, Rebbie. Must you always ask a thousand questions?" Dirk hated the way his chest tightened every time he thought about the loss he might face once he returned to the castle where he grew up. The regret. The fear. If he hurried, he might still have time to see his father alive. "'Twould take too long to explain it now. I must be on my way."
Rebbie's frown deepened and his steady gaze grew darker. "How far are you traveling?"
Dirk hesitated, unsure whether he wanted to blurt out the truth. His friends thought he was someone he was not, but 'twas time to face facts. 'Twould no doubt spawn numerous other questions from his inquisitive friend. But there was no point in lying anymore. He was coming out of hiding and taking the bull by the horns—for a certainty, his life would be in danger once he reached Castle Dunnakeil.
"I'm going home to Durness," Dirk said, feeling more like his true self than he had in years.
"Saints, man!" Rebbie exclaimed. His horse flicked his ears and turned in an agitated circle. "That's where you're from? I thought the MacLeries were from Strathspey."
"Aye." His mother's clan lived in that area and he had spent much time there. But his true name wasn't MacLerie. It was MacKay. He couldn't tell Rebbie that now or he'd ask a thousand more prying questions.
Rebbie waited for Dirk to explain, and when he didn't, Rebbie raised a brow. "Durness, aye?"
Dirk nodded, a sudden gust of wind whipping his damp hair into his eyes.
"Well, at least come back to the keep for a few minutes. Lachlan can provide supplies, food and wool blankets. In this weather, 'twill take a long while to travel to Durness."
"I'm well aware. My plan is to ride west, through Stirling, then head up the west coast by galley or ship. If the weather is decent, I can travel most of the way by sea." But the wind and rain, which had been near unnoticeable when he'd left Draughon Castle a quarter hour ago, was now turning into a gale.
"I'm coming with you," Rebbie said, his determined jaw hardening.
Rebbie was a proficient and skilled former soldier, up to any battle that might come their way, but the harsh Highland winter was a different matter, and so was the murderer. "Nay, I think it best if you stay here and help Lachlan."
"Och! 'Tis not safe for anyone, even someone so fearsome and trained as you, to travel that far alone. There are highwaymen, savage pirates and outlaws. Sometimes large bands of them." Rebbie's brown eyes narrowed, giving him the look of the pirates he talked about. "Come. Let's discuss it back at Draughon, out of this rain. Rushing off unprepared will be of little help. You need supplies. Extra wool clothing."
Dirk's stomach clenched with dread. 'Haps his friend was right. He'd planned to buy supplies in Perth or Stirling. But taking them from here might be more practical; he wouldn't have to waste time looking for the items he would need.
"Very well." It was still early morn. If they didn't tarry too long, they could make much progress today.
They quickly rode back to massive Draughon Castle with its four, round, gray stone towers and large rectangular keep. The guards at the black iron gates allowed them entrance to the high-walled, stone-paved barmkin. They circled around the side of one tower to the stables.
Rebbie swung down, his feet landing with a clunk on the cobblestones. "Prepare our horses, along with two more, for a long journey," he told the stable lad.
"Two more?" Dirk asked, dismounting. "Lachlan can't leave Lady Angelique and his clan."
"I ken it, but the two of us will need servants to care for the horses, run errands and such."
Dirk rolled his eyes at the coddled nobleman. "I have no servants. And the fewer in our party the better."
Rebbie waved him off. "We'll discuss it later."
The two of them proceeded around the side and up the front steps of the keep.
Once inside the expansive, two-story great hall, Dirk approached the massive burning fireplace near the high table to warm his back, while Rebbie sent his manservant, George, to wake Lachlan. Dirk ran his gaze over the large tapestries depicting Drummagan family history that decorated the walls. They reminded him of the ones at Dunnakeil.
Female servants lit candles and carried food up from the ground level kitchens, preparing for breakfast at the long wooden tables.
Rebbie and Dirk pilfered a couple of buttered bannocks while they waited.
A few moments later, Lachlan MacGrath-Drummagan, wearing a belted plaid, emerged from the narrow turnpike stairway. "Angelique is sick," he murmured for their ears only.
"What's wrong?" Dirk asked.
"Nausea, vomiting."
Dirk and Rebbie exchanged a concerned but curious glance.
"'Haps she is with child," Rebbie suggested.
"Aye." Lachlan gave a wee joyful grin. "I'm hoping that's what it is." His sandy-blond hair glinting in the candlelight, he glanced back at the stairs briefly, making it clear he wanted to be up in the bedchamber with her. Facing forward again, he asked, "What are you two doing? Looks like you've been out riding in the rain."
"Aye, Dirk is headed to Durness and I'm accompanying him," Rebbie said. "We need provisions and supplies, if you can spare them. Wool blankets, mantles and enough food for a sennight."
"God's teeth!" Lachlan's light brown eyes widened. "Why in blazes would you need to go to the far north?"
"I'm not entirely certain." Rebbie looked to Dirk.
 My Brave Highlander copyright 2012 Vonda Sinclair

Thanks!!

Vonda
www.vondasinclair.com



On Deadline
Quick post today because I'm finishing up first pass edits for Silken Canvas, my December release from Samhain. I love this book, always have, but I know it is becoming much better because of my editor's input.


As I'm reading this manuscript for the upteenth time, I realize how different this story is from how it was a couple years ago. In fact, many of the elements I started out with, elements that gave me the idea for this story to begin with, elements I thought would be important, are no longer present.

Yet the core story is the same. I may be crazy, but I've enjoyed the edit process on this story. I've loved seeing it become, as my editor loves to say, psychologically complex. She pushed me to dig deeper and try harder, and I'm grateful for that.

Brendan Cole burst onto the art scene in a blaze, creating erotic works of art from beautiful women. Recently, though, reviews suggest that his brilliance is burning out. He knows what’s missing—inspiration. He lost it the day his ex-lover and muse, Ashley Mancuso, walked out on him.

Together, they can once again create the erotic images that will silence the critics forever.

When Ashley runs into Brandon at an art gallery, their attraction is as hot as ever. Though she swore to never again take second place to his art, she finds herself agreeing to an impromptu photo shoot. Once in front of his lens, five long years of suppressing her kinky side melts away—and shakes her resolve to keep it strictly business.

One spellbinding session after another makes it impossible to resist talking of fantasies and long-buried desires. But once the images hit the gallery walls, all the fears and insecurities that drove them apart create a rift wide enough for danger to find its way in…


Okay. Off to read through one...more...time... (I hope it's only one more time!)

Have a great Monday!

Natasha
Plaything - Paolo's Playhouse #4
Silken Canvas - coming Dec 25th
www.natashamoore.com

Pensive About Pen Names
I've been thinking quite a bit about pen names lately. This came about because an author friend who is starting out in the erotic romance genre asked me about using a nom de plume. Should she write under her own name? she wanted to know. Or should she take on another identity--a secret identity--to sell her books?
That's a tough question.
I basically told her it was up to her, but gave her some of my insights from using pen names for going on over two decades now. There are good reasons to use them and good reasons to not, and it's a hard choice either way. I think anyone who's ever written as someone else, including most of my fellow blogmates, can attest to that.
I actually write under more than one pen name. I've got about five, to be exact. I initially chose a pen name for protection, as writing erotica or even less graphic romance tends to be a bit controversial around the water cooler and can also attract the attention of some individuals who choose to view it in the least respectable terms for whatever reason. I added other pen names for the different genres I write, to help keep my readers from, for example, buying a book they thought was a romance when it was really a horror. It's been helpful in that respect and a good idea.
However, it can be a real pain in the rear. Trying to maintain different pen names in a world tied to social networking is nearly impossible and can be very taxing. I've had to limit my activity to focus on just a couple of identities because there wouldn't be enough hours in the day to interact that much, and it wouldn't be fair to people who read my books.
Also, lately I've just really wanted to write something--anything--under my own name. I blame my mid-life crisis that I've been going through for the last fifteen years (What? So I started a little early...lol). It gets really hard sometimes to be someone else and not be able to share your work as yourself. I see other writers at conferences happily chatting away about their books, but, depending on the conference, I might be hiding behind a ficus plant instead of promoting my novel so that I don't incur the wrath of those who don't understand exactly how exciting one little feather can be. Heh heh heh...
I don't know what my friend will decide to do, but I hope our conversation will help her decide which path to take. I hope it helps you, too, if you're a budding author who is kicking around writing under a different name.
Any writers out there who'd like to share their own pen name insights, please do comment. I'd love to know what you think!
Cameo
Ready for my Shows!

It’s been a long summer. LONG summer. I think it feels longer this year because there has been absolutely nothing to watch on TV at night and that is how I unwind from the day. A glass of wine, a good show and then I’m ready for bed.

The only thing I’ve had going for me this summer has been True Blood (which IMHO has been really good). And that’s only one day of the week and now it’s even almost over.

To supplement, my roomie and I have watched a lot of movies. Some that were really good, some that found her put on movie probation and one that I willingly put myself on probation because I picked the horrible thing. God, it was disturbing. Just a word of wisdom: don’t pick a movie solely based on the fact your favorite vampire is in it. You’re just asking for trouble.

Anyway, I find myself longing for my shows.

I’m dying for Grey’s Anatomy to return. I was pissed off by the season finale in May, but that hasn’t stopped me from getting excited about its return in a few weeks. Who’s going to die? (I think I already know the answer to this one thanks to a certain tweet that was posted a few days ago). I want to know what’s going to happen with Christina and Owen. And how they are going to make it to where Alex stays. I thought I had that figured out, but the tweet sort threw a wrench in that thought.

I miss The Vampire Dairies. How is Elena going to react to being a vampire? How will she adjust? What does this mean for her and Stefan? Hell, her and Damon?

Then we have Once Upon a Time. The curse is broken. Everyone remembers. But what was that freaking dark fog rolling toward Storybrooke? Are we in for a second season of no one remembering? Honestly, that will infuriate me. I spent all last season waiting for them to all remember, and if all I get is 30 seconds of them going “I remember” to only have that fog obliterate their memory again, I’m going to be raging at the TV.

And then we have Big Bang Theory. My weekly belly-laugh show. This show is one I will watch re-runs of over and over again. But I’m ready for some fresh material. Some new Sheldon quotes to go around the house and say.

What show are you looking forward to returning?

Abby
Vacation Pics!
Hi, everyone, today I'm sharing some pics from Myrtle Beach, S.C. I took most of these yesterday evening. I really like this first one with the sea oats, the piece of driftwood and the waves in the background.







Do you enjoy beach vacations? Which beach is your favorite?
Thanks for taking a look!
Vonda
www.vondasinclair.com

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