Things My Mother (Never) Told Me
My husband and I recently bought a new dishwasher. The one we had was only about six years old, but the thing never actually cleaned the dishes. Sometimes there were even bits of dried-on food stuck to the plates after the cycle ended.

It was a pain in the neck to have to WASH the dishes before the dishwasher washed the dishes. Even my mother thought it was insane.

So imagine my shock recently when I invited my mom over to see my shiny new dishwasher, showing off its three tiers, its dedicated cutlery rack, and demonstrating how to start it up. It wasn’t until my finger was poised over the 'start' button that my mom screeched, “Wait!!”

I looked at her in surprise.

“Aren’t you going to run the water in your kitchen faucet until it gets hot enough to clean those dishes in the dishwasher?” she asked.

What? Is this true?? Who on earth knew that I had to run the hot water in my kitchen sink in order to get hot water to the dishwasher?? And why the heck didn’t my mom tell me this years ago? Could that have been the reason Dishwasher #1 never worked right?

As you can imagine, I was a little upset. Mom tried to defend herself by saying this was "common sense." Well, I guess it's not so common if I didn't know about it. So I asked mom if there was anything else she hadn’t told me.

Turns out there was.

Did you know that if you buy bananas by the bunch you should separate them from each other so that they’ll get brown/ripen less quickly?

Did you know there are little tabs at the ends of a roll of saran/plastic wrap that you're supposed to push in to hold the roll in place so you don't get frustrated trying to pull out the cling wrap?

Did you know that the best color bra to wear under a white shirt is not white (which I always thought would blend in with the shirt) but actually beige or brown (to blend in with your skin tone)?

Did you know about the… unfortunate… after-effect of eating asparagus? I literally considered consulting a urologist before mom told me I was normal!
 
Sheesh. I’m old enough to be a mom myself, but obviously I still have a lot to learn. How about you? Were there things your mom didn't tell you but just assumed you knew? And are any of those important tidbits things you'd like to share with the rest of us?
 
Leigh
www.leighcourt.com

Technology Rant


Today I would like to write...no, semi-rant...about why I hate technology. Well, not technology in general exactly, just my husband's. Specifically, I despise his computer, which likes to vex him on a regular basis.
     Before I launch into it, I must admit that I am biased. I usually have a great relationship with computers and peripherals, but when one starts stressing my husband, all bets are off.
      Have you ever had one of those moments when you do some simple task that you do every day and suddenly it doesn't turn out the same way? Like shutting down your computer? My hubby did that, and the next time it was supposed to start up, it had an error. And then another...and another...

      So now it starts when it wants to and crashes when it wants to, and to make a long story short, all the techies in the world haven't been able to diagnose its malady. Also, along with this, my Yahoo mail was hacked due to a technical glitch on a computer that was not my own, so I was working on that as well and have decided to eliminate that address altogether.

      I spent last evening trying to get my e-mail account ready to deactivate and working on our rebellious computer. I removed programs and installed different software and pressed buttons and held my breath and whispered encouraging words. I’m sure the neighbors wondered what was going on, as I would sometimes scream, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” in a way normally reserved for characters in my erotic romances. However, they’ve not mentioned it, although this morning I noticed some strange looks when I went to get my mail.

      Speaking of this morning, my post is later than usual because I was, yet again, helping my DH with his machine. My final suggestion was taking a hammer to the hard drive, but that met with disapproval (although that disapproval was not instant, I noted). That, along with my growing aversion to anything technical at the moment, kept me off my computer for a good two hours.

      I’m back on now, and what brought me here is, of course, writing. I need to write. Yeah, I can do it long-hand, but my thoughts flow too fast and my hand moves too slowly. And reading. I have a number of books I read on my computer, and I’m not giving those up. So me and computers are back on good terms for now, at least until the next round with DH’s computer.



Happy Reading!
A visit to Aonach Mor, Nevis Range
Taking a gondola up the mountain of Aonach Mor, in the Nevis Range in Scotland, was an unusual experience for me. Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in Scotland and all of Britain at 4409 feet (1344 meters) high and usually has snow on top of it into the summer. Aonach Mor is two mountains over, in the same range, and is 4006 feet (1221 meters) high.

I took some pictures from inside the gondola. The plexiglass windows were scratched so there are some blurs.
That's one of the other gondola cabins moving into the picture. Here you can see how steep the mountain is.

We were up over a beautiful stream but it was difficult to get a good picture of it.
Getting close to the Top Station
This area, near Fort William, is famous for skiing, mountain biking, and all sorts of outdoor sports. It also has Britain's only mountain gondola. This gondola took us 2150 feet up the side of the mountain. Two walking trails are at the top and we'd hoped to walk at least one of them to take in the amazing panoramic views. Well... it didn't quite work out that way. :) For one thing it was very cloudy and misty so the views were almost non-existant. For another, the side of this mountain must have been one of the absolute coldest places in Scotland. Even though it was September, it felt like January during a blizzard. It was misting an icy cold rain and the wind was blowing like crazy. Although we were bundled up pretty good, there was no way we could stand to hike in this low temperature without a lot more clothes, which we didn't bring. We walked around a bit, took pictures, ate lunch inside at the Snowgoose restaurant and shopped.

The start of one of the hiking trails.
Gondola Top Station


Based on the information in the guidebook, sometimes they experience a temperature inversion. In other words, it's warmer on the mountain than in the valley below. Not on the day we were there! :) Scotland's weather is incredibly variable. Snow is possible at higher altitudes in Scotland at any time of year. Sometimes they ski in June at the Nevis Range.
View of the valley below
Aonach Mor is Britain's 8th highest mountain. The Ben Nevis volcanic complex was formed around 425 million years ago. It is made of granite which was formed deep in the earth's cruse and pushed upwards as a molten mass before cooling. The rocks surrounding the volcanic complex are sandstone, mudstone and limestone from 600 million years ago. These were formed under the sea and pushed upwards as the continental plates were pushed together. This upheaval helped create the Great Glen fault which runs through the area below Aonach Mor from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east.
View up the mountain

To give you an idea of how cold it is here in the high mountains, Coire Leis, in the shadow of Ben Nevis, holds snow for at least ten months of the year. The guidebook says it's not unusual for them to have 80 - 100 mph winds at this altitude which is why trees don't grow above about 250 meters. In places with long-lasting snow, rare plants grow. The snow lies in a gully on the face of the mountain in the shape of a snowgoose, which is how the Snowgoose restaurant got its name.

Most of Aonach Mor is designated a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest' in the Ben Nevis and Glencoe National Scenic Area. This restricts certain activities that might cause lasting damage to the fragile habitat. This is why people are discouraged from hiking to the top of the mountain in summer.
Two gondola cabins


The gondola has 75 cabins that rotate in a continuous cycle during operating hours so there was no wait time for us. The trip up the mountain took twelve minutes.


Beautiful thistles were growing on the side of this icy mountain. I would recommend a visit to Nevis Range, but only on a sunny, clear warm day, unless you love extreme winter sports. LOL Thanks for taking this chilly tour with me. :)

Vonda
www.vondasinclair.com

Beautiful and fiercely protective of those she loves, Lady Seona Murray captured Keegan MacKay’s attention when she first set foot in Dunnakeil Castle. Though she is a chief’s daughter and forbidden, Keegan has fallen in love with her from afar and burns to possess her. But so does the clan traitor, Haldane, an obsessive outlaw bent on murder and kidnapping.

Sinfully handsome, Keegan MacKay is a fearsome guard as well as the chief’s cousin, but Seona’s father would never consider him a worthy husband for her because he is not a titled laird. Seona has secretly watched the sensual, tawny-haired warrior from across the crowded great hall for months, but when he is tasked with escorting her across Scotland, back to her home, their simmering attraction flames into sizzling passion with just one kiss.

Though she fears she is endangering Keegan’s life, Seona cannot resist his seductive charm or his spellbinding kisses. Keegan sets fire to the memories of her sad past and shows her what it means to truly live. But her father has other plans. He’s arranged for her to marry a wealthy Lowland laird. Is Keegan daring enough to steal her away? Or will the vindictive Haldane snatch her first?
Camp NaNoWriMo
I think everyone who's part of the writing community has heard of NaNoWriMo. A writing push held in November, to write 50,000 words in one month. I have always resisted the call, thinking that I don't do my best work when I rush, spewing words on the page without going back and editing as I go.

But I've been having a little trouble getting back into the writing routine after two long trips in the past month and have been struggling between a few different projects, not sure what to focus on.

Then I heard about a summer push called Camp NaNaWriMo. From their website:

Based on November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Camp NaNoWriMo provides the online support, tracking tools, and hard deadline to help you write the rough draft of your novel in a month… other than November!

What: Writing a novel from scratch in one month’s time.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster. Writing begins at 12:00 AM on April 1, and again on July 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach your word-count goal by 11:59 PM on the last day of the month.



For this push, however, you aren't limited to the 50K word goal. You can set your own word count goal. If you want to write a 25K novella, you can do that. I'm sure if you wanted to write more words during the month, you could do that as well.

I'm going to start a new project for Camp NANOWRIMO, book #2 in a series I will be indie publishing (my first venture into the indie waters.) Not sure how the process will work for me, but if I don't try, I'll never know, right? I'll be aiming for 50K for the month of July. For 31 days that comes out to 1,613 words a day. Totally doable. I've written much more than that for days on end, except for beginnings. I'm going to plan as much in advance as I can this week so hopefully the writing will be smooth right from the beginning. I'll let you know how it goes.

Anyone want to join me?

Natasha
www.natashamoore.com
Tackling First Round Edits
First round edits with Entangled is BRUTAL. I'm starting my third first round edits with them. I received my editor letter for The Awakening: Liam last night. (FYI-second round really isn't any easier, lol).

It's just a letter detailing each problem area in the book. No track changes involved. I go into the manuscript and rework certain things (and as all authors know, one change has a domino effect that changes everything past that point) THEN I resend the manuscript to them. Second round is when I get all the bleeding on the manuscript. Let me give you an example of how brutal these edits are:

When I was working Extreme Love, my mom kept my kids for me that weekend so I could work uninterrupted. (I also have a day job I have to juggle) When she brought them back to me, I had been working on the MS for five days and had put in about 60 hours, plus the hours at my day job. She brought my kids home 30 minutes early. What did I do?

I burst into tears. Nope, wasn't from seeing my kids for the first time in two days, it was because my mom brought them home 30 minutes early. My mom said I looked like a deranged madwoman as I came down the stairs.She was scared of me.

We laugh about it now. As brutal as these edits are, I have never been dissatisfied with the end result. Not once. So all the blood, sweat and tears are worth it.

Do I still dread these edits?

I'd be lying if I said I didn't. I know when I receive them all I'll be doing is working, editing and sleeping for the next five days. My housemates batten down the hatches and pretty much give me space unless I approach them. And I'm getting ready to dive into another round.

Right now I'm eager to start, I'm always eager to start, lol. Then that doubt starts to creep in with each change. (Any other author feel me on that?) Then I'll get to the point where I've made so many changes, I won't know if I'm coming or going. I'll feel like I've messed up the entire book and it's just a bunch of complete crap. Every change will become complete torture. My stress goes up. My hair will start to knot from the amount of times I've run my hands through it. I start eating things that I can easily nuke in the microwave. I may drop mustard on my shirt and just swipe it away with my hand and move on. My eyes will get gritty and red-rimmed from staring at the screen for days on end. I give up sleep.

Enter the deranged madwoman. LOL.

But then I finish. I re-read. And I smile. The last five days has sucked, but, man, this story kicks ass!

Liam's book will truly kick ass. I've been waiting to share his story since I started The Awakening series. He is the reason I started series.

So now I must go and start these edits!
Have a great week!
Abby


Building Sexual Tension
Sexual tension is one of my favorite elements in romance. I love reading it and I love creating it in my own stories.
What is sexual tension? It isn't sex. Nope. Sexual tension is the anticipation, the chemistry, the excitement, the wanting, and the waiting that may eventually lead to sex. Or maybe not. Tension and suspense are created when the outcome is unknown. Will they or won't they? There is a push/pull synergy going on in sexual tension. The two people are drawn together, but something also pushes them apart.
Laying the groundwork for strong sexual tension means thinking about the conflict that already exists between the hero and heroine when they meet. Are they from different social stations? Are their families/ clans/ countries enemies? Are they from two different worlds and won't be allowed to stay together? Did they have a major conflict in the past? If you make sure this stumbling block is big and realistic, then strong sexual tension will be easier to create.
The first appearance of sexual tension in a story is often that first glance between the hero and heroine. They notice each other and are attracted. They each want to move closer to the other person and talk or touch. The more the hero learns about the heroine, the more he wants to know. With each scene, the sexual tension grows and heightens until the characters and the reader can hardly stand the suspense any longer. Will they kiss? Will they get together? Will they confess their feelings for one another?
Many elements of fiction will help you create strong sexual tension. For instance, the five senses can bring sexual tension to vibrant life on the page. When two people are physically and emotionally attracted, they notice tiny details about each other—sexy scents, the exact shade of blue of his eyes, how soft her skin is, how hard his muscles are, how sweet her kiss is. Dialogue is another tool you can use to heighten sexual tension, as you will see in my example below.
Emotion lights the fire under sexual tension and gives it power. Without emotion, there might be sexual attraction, but that will burn out fast without the corresponding emotions to keep it alive.
Something as simple as the touch of a hand can create an inferno of sexual tension, longing and arousal in the hero and heroine. But sexual tension is more than arousal. It affects people in physical, emotional, and visceral ways. If we're talking about your heroine, maybe her heart pounds, her stomach aches, her breathing grows shallow, her skin flushes, and she feels feverish or has chills. The emotional and the physical are tied together, creating something powerful. Once sexual tension and emotion build higher and higher, this leads to falling in love. And this is what romance is all about.

Here is an example showing several of the things I've talked about, an excerpt from my latest book, My Daring Highlander. The blurb explains their external conflict, or the large stumbling block, that keeps them apart for most of the story.

Blurb: Beautiful and fiercely protective of those she loves, Lady Seona Murray captured Keegan MacKay’s attention when she first set foot in Dunnakeil Castle. Though she is a chief’s daughter and forbidden, Keegan has fallen in love with her from afar and burns to possess her. But so does the clan traitor, Haldane, an obsessive outlaw bent on murder and kidnapping.
Sinfully handsome, Keegan MacKay is a fearsome guard as well as the chief’s cousin, but Seona’s father would never consider him a worthy husband for her because he is not a titled laird. Seona has secretly watched the sensual, tawny-haired warrior from across the crowded great hall for months, but when he is tasked with escorting her across Scotland, back to her home, their simmering attraction flames into sizzling passion with just one kiss.
Though she fears she is endangering Keegan’s life, Seona cannot resist his seductive charm or his spellbinding kisses. Keegan sets fire to the memories of her sad past and shows her what it means to truly live. But her father has other plans. He’s arranged for her to marry a wealthy Lowland laird. Is Keegan daring enough to steal her away? Or will the vindictive Haldane snatch her first?

Example/ excerpt of sexual tension from My Daring Highlander:
Seona stared after Isobel as she disappeared up the steps, a bottle of wine and flask of whisky in one hand and the lantern in the other. What was she up to, leaving Seona alone with Keegan in the kitchen?
Well… Seona knew Isobel wanted her and Keegan together. She encouraged her at every opportunity, because she wanted Seona to have a happy marriage like she had. But Seona did not see how that could happen.
Her gaze darted back to Keegan. He watched her as an osprey watches a salmon, with a concentrated focus that might be called hunger. Aye, she hungered for him as well.
His brows quirked in a wee, concerned frown. “Are you afraid?”
“Nay.” Did she look afraid? She tried to smooth out her features. She certainly didn’t fear Keegan. Only what he represented—everything she wanted, standing before her, just waiting. She still wasn’t sure she was brave enough to grab hold and face down all the obstacles.
“Good. I would never want you to be frightened of me, Seona.” His deep, soothing voice was spellbinding.
“I’m not. I trust you more than anyone.” ’Twas the truth and she was not shy about admitting it to him.
“That means more to me than I can say,” he whispered. “But ’haps you shouldn’t.”
His words should have alarmed her, but they didn’t for she suspected she knew what he was about to say. “Why not?”
His gaze grew more penetrating. “Because I wish for things I have no right wishing for.”
Another kiss?
“When I’m alone with you…” he said, shaking his head, “I find I want to…” He blew out a sharp breath and glanced away. “Hell, why am I telling you this?”
“I want you to tell me.” She yearned to know his every thought. “I couldn’t sleep.” That was her confession. Surely he would understand her meaning—she couldn’t sleep because thoughts of him kept taunting her, especially after he’d consumed her mouth earlier.
“Would one more goodnight kiss help?” His expression remained serious. Passionate.
Her heartbeat thumped in her throat. “Aye.” ’Twas a lie. The kiss would not help her sleep; it would keep her awake the rest of the night. But ’twas the one thing she craved most, as a starving person craves bread.
***
Please let me know if you have any questions about sexual tension and how to create it in your own writing.
Thanks!
Vonda


Thoughts on the Weather
I just got back from my second trip in one month. Hubby and I just flew down to Florida to drive my elderly parents up from Florida, where they spend most of the year. On our way back to western New York, we stopped to visit family in Georgia. There is such a great disparity in the weather from Florida to New York, and we had some interesting conversations on the way.

We live in western New York, just south of Lake Erie, and our region is famous for our rough winters and lake effect snow. It's the reason many people leave the area, either permanently, or by becoming "snow birds" who travel to warmer climes for three or four of the winter months. My parents' situation falls somewhere in between. They come north for about four months (my father says he never wants to see snow again!)and spend most of their time in Florida.

Snow can be a pain. Blizzards are hell to drive through and digging out can be horrible. (Thank God for snow blowers!) And it's just plain cold! But...

Most of the year it's beautiful here. It's rarely hot enough to suffer from the heat and usually has enough rain to avoid brown lawns.

Snow can be beautiful drifting down like you're living in a snow globe world.

Skiers like my hubby wouldn't be able to enjoy their sport without snow.

AND...Snow doesn't destroy property - or entire towns! - like hurricanes or tornadoes that hit other parts of our country.

Still...I'd love to be able to spend more time outside which is why hubby and I are considering becoming "snowbirds" but probably only for a couple months.

How about you? Are there pros and cons to the weather where you live? Do you ever want to get away, at least for a little while?

Natasha
Silken Canvas - available now
Voluptuous - coming Sept 6th
Playing for Real - coming Mar 18th
www.natashamoore.com
Memorable Opening Lines
How important are opening lines to a book’s success? Editors tell writers that opening lines are essential to grab their (and a reader’s) attention, but honestly, how many opening lines can YOU remember? Even of famous books?

As an erotic romance author, I’ve tried to follow this sacred Rule Number One, and hook a reader from the very beginning of a story. Here’s a sampling…

“Isabella Tallin was handcuffed and blindfolded. What the hell was going on?”  (from my case-of-mistaken-identity contemporary erotic romance The Initiation of Isabella)

“Today was Saturday. That meant sex with Doc tonight.” (from my contemporary erotica amnesia story Snow White And Her Seven Lovers)

“Agent Turner, I’m sending you undercover as a Beautiful Dolls sex robot.”  (from my futuristic police erotic romance Programmed For Pleasure.)

What do you think? Would those opening lines tempt you to want to read more about the story? Are they enough of a hook for you as a reader?

Let’s compare those opening lines to some classic romances.

From Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell… “Scarlet O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

From The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald… “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

From Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte… “I’ve just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbor I shall be troubled with.”

Well? Would these classic opening lines be enough of a hook to make you buy the book? Or is it the story as a whole that makes it a classic? As an author or a reader, what do you think of the importance of opening lines?

Jenna Ives
www.jennaives.com

Memorable Dads in Literature and Cinema
I'm not scheduled to post on Father's Day, so I wanted to send good wishes to dads everywhere a little bit early. Plus, I got to thinking about it this year and realized there are some really memorable dads in literature and cinema. I've never written a father character directly into one of my books, although I'm in the process right now in my newest contracted WIP. He's a bad dad, though--the absolute worst. Once the book gets closer to publication, I'll post more on him and his awful ways, but for now here is a list of some of the dads that come to mind when I think of patriarchs in literature and cinema.

1. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird
I love this character and the fact that Harper Lee's book evolved from her admiration of her father and the life lessons he taught her. Even if you don't like the book or movie, you have to admit at the very least that Atticus is a pretty cool name.

2. John McClane from the Die Hard movies
He's not what anyone would necessarily call the ideal father, what with all the violence and chaos he attracts, but in the end he and his kids come together to fight bad guys and save the world, or at least part of it. And who else can say, "Yippee Ki Yay..." with a straight face and such sincerity?

3. Mr. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice
Lives in a house full of women trying to find suitable marriage matches and all the drama that ensues and doesn't go completely insane. Good dad!

4. Zeus from Greek mythology
I said "memorable" dads, which doesn't always mean good dads. To his credit, he's a better father than he is a husband. Plus, he's got that cool lightening bolt he uses to zap his enemies.

5. George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life
The ultimate dad, willing to sacrifice himself for his family. Probably the reason this character is so memorable is because he's so human and real. Who wouldn't want this guy for a father?

What about you? Do you have a most memorable dad in literature or cinema? Please do share!
Guest: Alexa Bourne - Carry Me Home
Alexa Bourne is a teacher by day and a romance writer by nights, weekends, and all school holidays. She also teaches online classes for writers throughout the year. She writes romantic suspense and contemporary romance and is thrilled to have the chance to share her love of Great Britain 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.
Q: Welcome back, Alexa! Please tell us about your latest release. 
A: Carry Me Home came out June 2nd. It’s a contemporary romance set in the Highlands of Scotland. Here’s the blurb:
After six months in the city, Mary MacDougall returns to the Scottish Highlands to finalize her divorce. Because of a past tragedy, she doubts her husband Jamie can possibly love her with the same unbridled passion as before and insists ending the marriage is best for both of them. But Jamie has other ideas…. Jamie MacDougall has no intention of letting his bonnie lass go. At least not without a fight. Aye, they’ve suffered heartache, and she may be ready to call it quits, but he refuses to throw away the partnership they’ve built since they were children. Instead, he’ll remind her they were meant to be together, forever. Can this marriage survive pride and grief to allow love to carry them home?

Sounds wonderful! Do you have a review you could share with us?

The first review I received was from a writer whose work I love and respect, Jan Hudson. When I read her words, I actually had tears stinging the corners of my eyes. Why? See for yourself:
If you love all things Scottish, as I do, you’ll love Carry Me Home, Alexa Bourne's new Tease (a short read) from Decadent Publishing. It’s rare that a book actually brings me to tears and even more rare that I can both laugh and cry in the same book, but this deeply moving story of a couple on the verge of ending their marriage did just that. Mary MacDougall returns to Glenhalish, her hometown, with divorce papers in hand and determined to get Jamie, her brawny, red-haired Scot to sign them. Even though the sight of him awakens powerful feelings and his touch…well, she’s convinced that their marriage is over, and she wants to be done with it and get on with her new start in Edinburgh. But Jamie, stubborn man that he is, refuses to let go of the love of his life and begs for a weekend to prove that they can work things out. Can he prove that he can change? Can they overcome the pain of the past and rekindle their soul-deep love for each other? This is a must read!

Q: What inspired this story?
A: Actually, the main characters in this story were secondary characters in my very 1st book, Her Highland Champion. I knew, at the time, that Jamie and Mary had more to tell me. BUT it wasn’t until my senior editor asked me to join the new Decadent Tease line that their story started to evolve.
Q: I remember them from the first book and look forward to reading this one. What is the story behind the story?
A: I wrote this story in 3 weeks. I worked my day job, went home and wrote for an hour at a time from about 4pm until 11pm or midnight most weekdays. During the weekends, I would get up about 8am and write an hour at a time until 11 or midnight (and sometimes later).  I stopped to have fast food meals and to occasionally go out to buy peanut M&Ms and Cokes. I had trouble at times, but then I would play the Selah song I Will Carry You, which helped me get to the heart of the story and bring Jamie and Mary to their happily-ever-after. It was the most intense writing experience I’ve ever had and I honestly feel this is one of my best stories ever.
Q: Wow! That's amazing! Please tell us about your favorite character in the book.
A: My favorite character is actually Jamie’s little sister, Meggie. She’s outspoken and sometimes annoying, but she means well. She’s such an amazing character that she now hosts the Glenhalish community blog on my website! AND her story is my next Tease release, Silent Surrender.
Q: Please tell us about your other books.
A: Well, like I said, Meggie MacDougall’s story, Silent Surrender, is my next Tease story. At the moment, I have also submitted the 3rd MacDougall sibling’s story to my publisher for consideration. (Fingers crossed they want Ewan’s story as well!) All 3 stories are set in my fictional version of Glenfinnan, Scotland.
I also have 3 romantic suspense novellas set in the UK. They are also contemporary and revolve around the fictional bodyguard agency, International Protective network (IPN). You can learn more about the IPN books on my website.
Q: What is your writing process or method?
A: I usually start with a scene idea or a character. I write the rough draft by hand and out of sequence, and that’s where I learn the plot. In the 2nd draft, I add more detail and start to organize the scenes as I type everything up on the computer. In the 3rd, 4th and sometimes 5th drafts, I’m revising and adding more depth to each scene and character. I usually figure out the entire plot details and character conflicts (to the point they all come together) when I’m on the last revising draft. Finally, I usually read the story out loud to catch any last minute grammar or word issues.
Q: What do you wish you’d known before becoming published?
A: How difficult promotion is! I love a lot of aspects of promotion, but it’s constant work and I often second-guess whether I’m doing the best I can.
You're doing great! Thanks so much for being with us today, Alexa. We wish you the best of luck with your new book!
Carry Me Home is available at Amazon and Decadent Publishing.
Please visit Alexa online:
Twitter: @AlexaBourne
The Little Guy is 6 Months Old
He's growing up so fast!

Hubby and I are flying down to Florida today to drive my parents back up north for the summer, so while we're gone I thought I'd share some recent pictures of the little guy. Hope they bring you a smile as your week begins.

Tough guy on Memorial Day:



Looking at that face, I'm not sure he liked his first taste watermelon:



He's not crawling yet, but I don't think it'll be much longer:



Yeah, he's a happy guy (most of the time!):



Have a great Monday!

Natasha
Silken Canvas-available now
Voluptuous - coming Sept 6th - pre-order now
Playing for Real - coming March 18, 2014
www.natashamoore.com
Done done done!
...Writing my most recent book, that is!

What a great, great feeling, I tell ya. I started this book back in October (well, to be honest, I had started it a couple years ago. I had the first 3 chapters written, but hadn't done anything with them. Then, in October, I re-read those three chapters and thought whoa, that's pretty hot! I ended up picking up from where I left off and running with it :)). So, I wrote the novel in 8-ish months, which some may think is a crazy-long time for a 60K word book. But for me, and considering the stats -- continuing my cancer treatments every three weeks through February, more testing (some planned, some not -- eek!, but everything came back normal, thank goodness!), three (yes, THREE) surgeries, and just the general WTF-erry that goes on inside a cancer patient's head from time to time -- I don't think that's too bad.

For as long as I've been a part of Fierce Romance (which I think is about 5 years now, WOW!), I've been telling you all about our yearly family vacations down in the Florida panhandle. We love going down there soooo much. Last year, we missed our yearly trip (I was just finishing up chemo and getting ready for my first major surgery), so this year it's going to be extra special -- and in more ways than one.



The first is going down there as a cancer survivor with my family. We've all had a hell of a year and a half  (each of them were put through life's wringer right along with me!), and we all need this time away desperately. And hello? It's a beach vacation! We've rented a different house this year, right on the beach, but in the same locale where we've always gone. Sigh. I can't wait.



The second way is because that book I just mentioned finishing? It takes place on the very beach where we're going. It's a sexy, emotional menage a trois romance with a sun, surf and sand setting. I'm seriously excited for everyone to read this book. It's in the hands of two wonderful beta readers right now, then it's off to my editor to see what she thinks. I'll definitely keep y'all posted!



Have an amazing weekend!

Kristin
www.kristindaniels.com
www.facebook.com/authorkristindaniels
http://twitter.com/Kristin_Daniels
Silence
I'm sitting here enjoying the silence as I sip on a cup of coffee. The silence is pretty important right now. The next five hours will be my last for ten weeks. Yep, it's the time again...summer vacation.

My kids don't technically get out until Friday at noon, but since I work the other job on Thurs. an Fri morning, this IS my last morning of my writing schedule.

I've been MIA for awhile and I'd like to apologize for that. May has been an especially hectic month. I've had two releases, two blog tours and the looming school year end. I've tried to get as close as to prepared for the break I'm going to be forced to take over the next ten weeks. I guess I'm as prepared as I can be.  I've finished the third book of my Awakening Series, which was a biggie I needed to get done before the kids were home full-time. My deadline for the last book in my Love to the Extreme Series isn't for a few months, so I'm not under any crucial deadlines. And I should finish the proposals I need to send out today.

So bring on summer vacation :)

I don't have any huge plans. I am taking my kids to Kool Park this weekend. I haven't been since I was a teenager. Kool Park was the IT pool when I was a kid. The pool is huge and has an awesome water slide.The twins have never been, but I think they are at an age they will appreciate the full Kool Park experience. As for me? I'm just looking forward to some time away from my computer, this house and my other job. I feel like that has been all I've been doing for two months. Actually there is no feel about it. It is all I've been doing for two months. LOL. I need to play a little too.

Usually I dread summer vacation because I know how much it cuts back my writing, but this year has been so freaking slammed. I've written four books, edited two and had two releases. I need the break as badly as the twins need it. So, while I plan to carry around my trust notebook and pen, I need to detach my laptop from my lap and just go and do. My brain needs some serious time off. I still will write, but it won't be the chaotic schedule I usually keep. With anywhere from five to nine kids in this house at all time, it won't be possible. So I'm just going to enjoy, not stress.

What are your plans for summer?
Abby

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull, Scotland
Approaching Duart from the Sound of Mull
 Today's post is a continuation of our tour of Duart Castle on Isle of Mull in Scotland. In last week's post, I covered some of the history up to the 1400s. Photography was not allowed inside the castle, but I found some pics online for you to see. After clicking on the photo link, remember to click the back button to return here.

The kitchen was designed in 1912 during the reconstruction of the castle. The coal range here was used until 1960. There is a cook's kitchen table and a dry store through the doorway. The vegetables were prepared in the scullery, which is a separate room with two sinks.

The dungeons hold officers who were captured after their Spanish galleon showed up in Tobermory Bay in 1588. (No, they're not real officers. :))

Next we went up a turnpike stair which was built into one of the earliest walls of the castle. The pantry is at the top of the stairs. The food from the kitchen arrived here on a dumb waiter. China is also kept here.

The Sea Room was probably my favorite room because it has amazing views out over the Sound of Mull and Loch Linnhe. This room was added in 1912 to provide covered passage from the rooms on the north side of the courtyard into the keep. On a clear day, you can see Ben Nevis from here. The room contains many interesting artifacts, including a small Spanish cannon dredged up from the mud of Tobermory Bay, where the galleon from the Armada sank.

The Great Hall or banqueting hall is one of the most fascinating rooms because of all the history it contains. The wall here is ten to twenty-three feet thick, and where the keep joins the original courtyard wall on the west it is sixteen feet thick. The portraits here show Macleans spanning three hundred years. The coat of arms of the 26th chief is on the fireplace. We left the room via another turnpike stair built into the thickness of the wall. These types of stairs turn clockwise so that castle defenders could easily fight with their swords in their right hands.

The Dressing Room and State Bedroom is on the next floor. The four-poster bed and matching furnishings were made for the wartime honeymoon of Lord Maclean and his bride. This floor also contains a large collections of family photographs from the mid-19th century to present day. Also on display are many examples of historical clothing from the Maclean family including a dress from 1750. On the top floor of the keep is a large display area that tells the history of the clan. The walls were removed between three bedrooms and a bathroom to create this exhibition area. Next we went onto the wall walk on the roof of the castle, which I showed you last time. After this we left the castle and passed through the courtyard again.

The Courtyard
 Hector Odhar Maclean of Duart was among the clan chiefs who fought with James IV at Flodden in 1513 against the English and were also killed with him. The MacLeans and Campbells were allies during this time and this tie was strengthened by marriage. But one disastrous and infamous incident destroyed this alliance. Lachlan Maclean of Duart married a Campbell's sister, Catherine (the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Argyll). One story says she tried to kill him twice and another story says she failed to produce an heir for him… in any case, he tied her to a rock in the sea at low tide and left her to drown once the tide came in. Fishermen passing in a boat saw her and rescued her, taking her back to her brother. Not knowing she had been rescued, Maclean reported her death to her brother. Revenge ensued. In 1523 Lachlan was 'dirked in bed' while in Edinburgh. One source says he was killed by Sir John Campbell of Calder. The rock where Catherine was tied is now known as The Lady Rock and can be seen from Duart at low tide.

The entry/ exit
 The Macleans were at their most powerful in the late 1500s, but the Campbells also held a lot of power within the Stuart Court. Since they were now enemies of the Macleans, the Campbells took every opportunity to humble the Macleans and Macdonalds. These clans were already weakened by the many years of clan warfare and by the deaths of their chiefs. James VI disapproved of Sir Lachlan Maclean's dealings with Elizabeth I and this led to the sequestration of Duart in 1604 to the King's Commissioners.

Four years later, Lord Ochiltree was sent to Mull by the king as viceroy in an attempt to further subdue the troublesome chiefs of the islands. He invited all the chiefs to a social get-together on board his ship at anchor. As they awaited the toast, he told them they were all under arrest. They were taken to Edinburgh and forced to agree to the terms of the Statutes of Iona under which they lost most of their sovereignty over the islands.

The Macleans were allowed to return to Duart. The next few years were peaceful for the Macleans and they enlarged the castle and made it more comfortable. Despite what King James VI had done, they remained loyal to the crown during the Cromwell era. The chief at the time, Sir Hector Ruadh Maclean was killed at Inverkeithing in 1651. Eight of his foster brothers were killed by Cromwell's troops as they fought to rescue their chief, and 750 clansmen died with them.


After leaving the castle, we had lunch at the Duart Castle Cafe. I enjoyed the parsnip soup and sandwich. Then we walked down toward the shore. The wind was becoming stronger by the moment. Because I was sick with a bad cold, I was bundled up like winter with my thick scarf and several layers of jackets and a rain coat.



Heather


 In 1653 five naval ships were sent by Cromwell to capture the 10 year old chief. Three of these ships sank during a massive storm just below the castle, and one, The Swan, is still being investigated and analyzed by academics. It is still under the water.


 After the Civil War, the Macleans found themselves deeply in debt because they'd mortgaged most of their lands to fight for the king. The Campbells bought up these debts and eventually owned most of the Maclean's lands. The chief at the time was a child and his tutor gathered a small army, trying to fight the force of the Earl of Argyll. But the earl obtained letters of Fire and Sword in 1674 and launched into a full scale assault. After much fighting, the Macleans had to surrender the island.

In 1681, the land was returned to them when the Earl of Argyll fell from grace. But in 1688, Argyll was back in favor and Duart was once again besieged from the sea by English warships. The chief, Sir John Maclean was, at that time, fighting with his clan at Killiecrankie for the Jacobites. But they were defeated and this enabled the Campbells to return to Mull. With a force of 2500 men, the Campbells destroyed Duart Castle. The chief held out with the Jacobites on the Treshnish Islands, but they were finally defeated in 1691. The Maclean estates were forfeited. The castle, though mostly ruined, still held a government garrison until 1751. After this the castle was abandoned and became in worse condition.


 The Macleans would not hold Duart for the next 160 years but they remained strong in the military and the many of them lived on the island of Inchkenneth.

Colonel Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Bt.,KCB, Twenty-sixth Chief of Clan Maclean bought back the ruined Duart Castle and a portion of the peninsula around it in 1911. He hired the Scottish architect Sir John Burnet to restore the castle and make it a comfortable place to live.

Underneath the castle
 As you can tell, the sky is getting darker and there are some raindrops on my lens, causing blurs. The wind was also blowing harsher. But I thought it was the neatest thing to walk around underneath the castle where it sat on that cliff.



 We talked to the current chief, Sir Lachlan Maclean, although we didn't know who he was until later. He has two adorable dogs. He works on the mainland but spends a lot of time at Duart. In 2000 he planted the Millennium Wood, a collection of trees and shrubs indigenous to Argyll. He has also had extensive work done on the castle.

Even though it was a few minutes until the bus would leave, we hurried back because of the worsening weather. I took this picture of Duart through the bus window. We were glad we returned to the bus early when the driver left before the scheduled time. It might not be such a bad thing to be stranded on Isle of Mull for one night, but I wasn't sure the chief would let us stay at the castle. :)

Hope you enjoyed this tour of Duart Castle!
Thanks!
Vonda

P.S. I got a great new review from Night Owl Reviews
4.50 / 5 - Reviewer Top Pick

 My Daring Highlander is historical romance at its best. Ms. Sinclair gives us another magical story in her Highland Adventure series. My Daring Highlander brings Scotland to life and sweeps you into a world where love isn't always enough but maybe hope is.
Keegan and Seona face almost insurmountable odds. They do so with dignity and honor. The attraction between them simmers until it explodes. Their love story is truly an amazing one and I was so caught up in their lives that I read this book in one sitting. I love this series and I love the characters. I wish I could think of a sexier description for them but what the couples are in these books are grown-ups. They face their lives with courage and truth.  Start at the beginning with this fantastic series. The author weaves a spell-binding tale of love, honor, family and friendship.
--
Keegan MacKay loves Seona Murray but can never have her. She is above his station and will be given to another. Seona is entranced by the man she's come to know. When he escorts her back home their passion explodes, even as danger tracks them.
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