Why I Love Libraries

I had to dash into our public library the other night to try to find a book for my son. He had to answer some questions on a story but had forgotten his book at school. Even as I ran into the library and downstairs to the kids' section, I took a deep breath of...books. The hushed voices soothed my mind, slowing down my mad dash, and I smiled at the sight of two high school kids, hauling backpacks over their shoulders, wrapping up their studying for the night. And I realized that many of my happiest memories are from the times I spent in my public library.

When I was a kid, my parents severely limited our TV viewing. With a black and white TV and a handful of channels, I didn't mind too much. Instead, my parents encouraged us to read. My dad would drive me and my sister to the library, drop of us off, and pick us up a few hours later. We'd both check out armfuls of books and take them out to a grassy area in front of the library to start reading our treasures while we waited for our ride.

Later when I was in high school, the library became THE spot to hang out on a weeknight and do homework (or at least pretend to). With no computers and no Internet, we had to do research the old-fashioned way - a card catalog and shelves of reference books. Five or six of us would sit at a table while we did homework and giggled every time the librarian shushed us. I remember one night when we had each other in stitches as we read about the oddities in Ripley's Believe It or Not. I continued to use libraries as my primary place to study and socialize when I was in college when the goal became to find the most out-of-the-way corner to hole-up and read.

When my kids were little, I used to take them to the library story times in the hopes of instilling in them the same love of libraries that I have. Alas, it doesn't seem to have worked, but then I have two boys and maybe that appreciation will come later.

We have a wonderful public library in our town, and I was happy to see people still taking advantage of its pleasures. I love the atmosphere, the smells, and the sounds of a library. I see people sitting in chairs or at tables in bookstores with their coffees and a book, but to me it's just not the same.

Our public library is going to have a book fair in June and after seeing an article about me in the local paper, one of the librarians called me with an invitation to participate. I'm very excited about the opportunity to give something back to the public library.

Do you have a favorite library or memories of libraries? Did your library inspire you to read and your love of books? Let's not forget to support our public libraries!

Flowers of Winter

I thought I would show you some pics of flowers I have blooming right now. A lot of people assume daffodils are the first flowers of the season to bloom. Not so. There are several kinds that bloom when daffodils are still only short green buds. Blooms in midwinter. Above is a purple Dutch iris. I have a small patch of these by the walkway. They grow from bulbs. These rich, lush blooms serve to remind me spring is on the way soon... but not yet. It's snowing as I write this.
Above are double snowdrops. The flowers hang down like that naturally. Since they are double, they're a bit heavier than a regular snowdrop. I love these cheerful and cute little flowers. I planted the first bulbs here almost twenty years ago and they have formed a nice little colony.

Lenten Rose (Helleborus) are incredibly lovely perennials that are always a nice surprise this time of year. I love these and they reseed themselves and spread easily. The colors of the blooms vary from rosy pinkish purple to white and green. Below is a white one.

Above is another type of Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) with green flowers. Not as showy as some of the others but they are unusual and interesting looking. Some of the blooms appear to be wearing lipstick. :-) They are only starting to open and will stay on the plant for a few months. These also reseed and form large groups.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of "spring" in the midst of winter.


As a woman who’s always been more into planning than spur-of-the-moment, I recently put my resolution to remain flexible into play. Several months earlier, hubby and I purchased tickets to a comedy event. Almost daily, we chatted about the upcoming concert. Since the venue is several hours away, we agreed on arriving early and enjoying the sights of the city. No planning in advance, except for purchasing the tickets.

Fast forward to the week of the performance. Nothing that happened in our working week dampened our moods. We were ready for Friday night. Anticipation buoyed us and boosted our energy levels. Two days before to the concert, my closet doors remained closed in the event I became tempted to pull a couple outfits from the racks and ask his opinion on a favorite.

As happens with all good moods, they eventually reach an end point. Conflict delights at barging in on a woman before she’s out of her pajamas. The morning prior to our getaway, I brewed the coffee and turned on the television. The Weather Channel delivered the awful news. A winter storm would sweep into our area overnight. A call of icing doesn’t bother me when I’m watching NHL games. But the notion of driving on slick roadways doesn’t thrill me in the slightest.

Despite the dismal weather prediction, my hubby remained confident all would be fine and we’d no need for alarm. My writing day beckoned and I gladly heeded the call. I played among the plotting sheets on our living room floor and steered my thoughts away from the approaching storm. After about an hour I took a break and enjoyed a mug of green tea while curled up on the couch. The remote control lay nearby on the coffee table, but I resisted picking it up and rechecking the weather. Hubby’s reassurances played in my mind. Before half of the tea was gone, pleasant warmth tracked from my neck to my toes. Warmth I couldn’t attribute to the tea. Something stirred deep inside me. Many link this sensation to their gut, but I don’t. My instinct is settled somewhere else, and I’m not concerned as to its pinpoint location. The fact instinct has served me well in cases where I’m apprehensive sustains my faith in the well-hidden predictor. Instead of sipping, I gulped the rest of my tea and returned to the story plotting. All would be fine. My instinct and hubby were right.

The following morning I awoke earlier than usual, headed for the family den and peeked out the curtain. A glazed front walkway and driveway greeted me. But no chills chased through my body. I tuned into the local forecast and also accessed the online report for our destination city. The temperature was trending upward, and the pink-contrasted portion of the scan was tracking northward on the radar. A direction opposite the one we’d travel.

After a hearty breakfast we hit the highway. From the minute we reached the interstate, our conversation remained upbeat. We reached our destination in good time. Even the brief drizzle of rain didn’t change our mood. Sightseeing. Shopping. Strolling the city streets. Dining at a new restaurant we’ve added to our list of all-time favorites. A spectacular comedic performance ending our day. Though we didn’t arrive home until after three the following morning, we were still laughing and repeating some of the funnier lines from the show.

How many of you have relied on instinct? How accurate has your instinct proven?

Feel the heat in erotic fiction,

Shawna Moore
ROUGHRIDER – Ellora’s Cave
HELLE IN HEELS – Ellora’s Cave
TORMENTED – TBD Ellora’s Cave
Shawna’s Myspace
Helle’s Myspace

Surrender to the Highlander by Terri Brisbin & Interview

Today we're talking to Terri Brisbin, an author with Harlequin Historicals.

Vonda Sinclair: Hi Terri, welcome! I'm glad you're here! Please tell us about Surrender to the Highlander. (And wow, what a hot cover!)

Terri Brisbin: SURRENDER TO THE HIGHLANDER is a story of temptation and surrender.

The prodigal son returning to his father's lands, Rurik Erengislsson is seeking all the things he has only dreamed of within his father's earldom - recognition, family, and a future filled with everything he's been denied.

Margriet Gunnarsdottir hides behind the robes of a nun to protect her secrets, secrets that threaten to ruin everything Rurik needs and wants

In spite of the growing attraction and love between them, neither one can trust after being betrayed before. . . So, when the cost of true love is revealed, will their love be strong enough to overcome their enemies' plots and their own broken hearts? Can they surrender all to gain what they most desire?

VS: Sounds wonderful! Am I right in thinking Rurik, the hero of this book, was a secondary character in Taming the Highlander? (I loved Taming the Highlander and his role in it so can't wait to see what he's up to.) What inspired you to write Rurik's story? Did he demand it and it all came about easily? :) Or was it more of a struggle?

TB: Yes! Rurik walked into my previous story, TAMING THE HIGHLANDER, and took over! He is a man who LOVES women and they love him, too. Oh, and he loves to do two things that both begin with the letter "F" and one of them is Fighting...and the other...is NOT Fishing! LOL! But I began to wonder who the real Rurik was and what he wanted in life...and that's how this story started.

The struggle was in coming up with a heroine worthy of Rurik and one who would bedevil him. That's how Margriet came about -- a woman, hiding behind the robes of a nun, with the face of an angel but the temptation of the devil himself.

VS: I can't wait to read this. Do you prefer writing Scottish historicals or historicals set other places, like England, and why?

TB: I love writing historical romances, set in either Scotland or England, but I admit I am drawn to medieval Scotland. Something about struggles of the people, their inherent appeal and honor and the magnificent lands draw me to it. And, I think I lived there in a previous life.

VS: Neat! (Hey, maybe I did too.) What is your writing process or method?

TB: Writing process? Is that what you call it? LOL! Actually, I usually have the overall idea of the story (or get it as I write the synopsis/proposal). I research the time and place and people, read lots of stuff, dawdle around for weeks or months as the story and characters percolate in my mind and then write the book (or novella right now) in the last week or two just before my deadline! No, really! I wish I was a more methodical writer, one who produces pages on a reasonable schedule, but it just doesn't work for me.

So, I wait until the pressure to write builds inside, until the characters are screaming at me to write their stories and until I have to and then the words pour out. Lucky for me, they come out in pretty good shape -- I clean up the manuscript and send it in to my editor...

This works for me for other parts of the projects, too. I am a procrastinator and need that pressure to produce.

VS: Wow! That's amazing. What's next for you?

TB: My next book, POSSESSED BY THE HIGHLANDER, is an August 2008 Harlequin Historical release -- it's Duncan's story, also from TAMING THE HIGHLANDER and is about the price and worth of honor. Right now, as in right now!, I'm writing my Christmas Regency novella for Harlequin Historicals' Christmas anthology that's coming out in November 2008.

Then, I'm really excited to be beginning a new series set in medieval England about three bastard knights from Brittany who fight with William the Conqueror and who want to win titles, lands....and women. The first one should be out in the Spring of 2009.

VS: Those all sound wonderful! Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?

TB: I think the best thing that unpublished writers can do is write and learn. They need to hone their craft and learn the market in which they want to be published. But, the writing is the most important thing.

VS: Would you like to ask blog readers a question?

TB: Oh, yes! Where and when do your favorite heroes come from? Are you attracted to historical hunks or contemporary heroes? Real men or other-worldly creatures? What works for you?

Thanks for being here Terri! It's been a pleasure talking to you about your latest Scottish historical romance. Please visit Terri's websites at www.terribrisbin.com and www.myspace.com/terribrisbin .

Cades Cove, a trip to the past

One of the excursions on our weekend trip was to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. In the 1800s and early 1900s this was a farming community. It is now preserved as a sort of "museum" for a trip into the past. Cades Cove is one of the most popular visitor destinations in the Great Smokies with two million visitors a year. We were among the thousands visiting last weekend. Check out these views!

It consists of an 11 mile loop, a one way paved road that winds through the community where you can see original log homes, barns, corn cribs, spring houses, mills, churches, etc. Wildlife here flourishes as you can see in these photos and the slide show. We saw more than twenty deer, a coyote, squirrels, and wild turkeys. Even though several black bears live here, we didn't see any.

First we visited the oldest cabin in Cades Cove, the John Oliver cabin, build in the 1820s. We went inside to see the fireplace and the upstairs loft. The logs were hewn out by hand. Gravity holds the logs together. Chinks were filled with mud to keep out the wind and weather. The rocks of the fireplace were also stuck together with mud.

After deer-watching for a while, we took a half mile hike up to the Elijah Oliver Place. (Elijah was John's son.) For a short distance the trail follows a beautiful stream, then winds through the woods. Here we visited the log house with attached "stranger room" for overnight visitors.

We didn't have time to hike to the waterfall or visit all the houses and cabins. But we did stop and take a look around the Tipton house, built in the 1870s. The Cantilever barn here is very interesting because of its large overhands. It uses balance for support. A buggy sits inside.

If you're in the Great Smoky Mountains I recommend a visit to Cades Cove, but be prepared for lots of other tourists, even in winter. It provides a visit to the past you'll not soon forget.

Here is a video slide show I made with more photos I took.

To learn more about Cades Cove please visit:
Cades Cove Website

Review of Judith Merkle Riley's The Serpent Garden

Review of Judith Merkle Riley’s The Serpent Garden
by Terry Spear

The story opens with Susanna Dallet confessing it was her fate and her sins that caused her to fall into the world of the French court in 1514, all because she was trained to paint by her Flemish father, and was married to a painter, who wished to learn her father's secrets.

In the beginning, three men unearth a box containing a manuscript and a demon. One of the three men is the woman's husband. Another wants to get rid of the painter to steal the 1/3 of the manuscript that he took, believing that the manuscript as a whole will make him all powerful. So he devises a way to kill the painter---sending a letter to his mistress's husband of the adulterer’s affair. The captain kills the painter and sends the body back to his wife, but she believes he's out drinking and spending their money, and in the meantime she has painted a miniature portrait in his name on commission to earn some money. When the Frenchman comes for the painting, the man meets the priest leaving the house who informs him the painter died the night before, so the Frenchman is sure the painting can't be finished. She pretends that her husband painted the painting, and then he tries to find out who the apprentice was who truly created it...and it just gets more and more mired in lies and troubles. :) All she wanted to do was paint and pay for her household. But in that day and age, women couldn't paint.

Between the courtly intrigue in France and England, traitorous plots to install a new leader when the King of France dies, the angst Susanna faces as she tries to live her life as a painter, keep out of politics, and find happiness makes this story a wonderfully intriguing journey into the past fraught with scandal, plots, and traitors. A thoroughly enjoyable read, I have even recommended it to my students in my writing classes for an excellent example of keeping the reader hooked. For a historical journey that will keep you riveted to your seat, The Serpent Garden is a wonderful tale.

Terry Spear, Author of Heart of the Wolf

The Siren Call of Sensory Details

Whether taking a long walk in the woods on a brisk October day, or skimming my toes in the damp sand during a vacation in July, I’m a woman who embraces every sensory detail. How the tepid water laps at my ankles. The cry of a gull as he careens toward his mate. A tang that tickles my nostrils as the ocean tide slaps the shoreline. A rich burst of flavor from freshly-ground Arabica beans as I sip coffee on the balcony and another sunrise smudges the horizon. Those and so many other gifts from Nature are provided for my sensory pleasure.

While I enjoy being outdoors when weather permits, another of my favorite places to visit is the local bookstore. So many delightful literary offerings there. New authors whose work I’m longing to read. Favorite authors whose talent at turning words and phrases always amazes me and finds their books on my shelves. Of course, the cafes where I sample certain confections and coffee beverages from time to time.

But you might ask what I find so mesmerizing and magical about a bookstore. Every visit is an adventure. From the moment I step over the threshold, I’m surrounded by displays from which I take a visual cue during my shopping. The entire wonderful experience begins with an eye-catching cover. Appealing cover art will find me picking up a book and reading the back cover blurb. If my interest is piqued, I speed read through the first chapter. I applaud authors, publishers and cover artists for their ability to bring the story and/or central characters to cover life. Because of evocative covers, I’ve purchased many new authors’ books I might have otherwise missed. Kudos to all involved in the cover art conceptualization. I’ve been blessed to work with many fine cover artists including Sahara Kelly (my first cover, SAINTS AND SINNERS), Scott Carpenter (TAMING THE TEMPTRESS), Syneca (HELLE IN HEELS and ROUGHRIDER), Ginger Heaston, and Sable Grey. You can check out some of these covers at My Website.

Readers, have you been drawn to a particular shelf because an appealing cover is facing out and urging you to take a peek at the pages? What are some of your favorite covers? I’ll confess my favorite cover is pictured above.

Very visual vixen,

Shawna Moore
ROUGHRIDER – Ellora’s Cave
HELLE IN HEELS – Ellora’s Cave
TORMENTED – TBD Ellora’s Cave
Shawna’s Myspace
Helle’s Myspace

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day all you Fierce Romancers! For fans of Romance there's love in the air every day, every time we pick up a book looking for that happily-ever-after. I think Vonda pretty much covered everything Romance with her post yesterday, and it got me thinking about my favorite romantic scenes in movies, books, and plays. One of my favorite romantic plays is Romeo and Juliet (and all its iterations). I think the movie, Shakespeare in Love, did a fantastic job highlighting the beauty of the language in that play. As many of you know, I love Victoria Holt's books, and one of the most romantic of her books is On the Night of the Seventh Moon. The scene where the hero and heroine meet in the Black Forest is beautiful and so sensual and romantic. I've read it over and over many times. Another of my favorite romance writers is Georgette Heyer, and I think one of her most romantic books is Venetia. The way the hero and heroine slowly fall in love is lovely!

So while I'll be racing through just another Thursday - work, edits, errands, shuttling the kids to soccer and baseball practices, helping them with homework, AND cooking dinner - I'll let my mind wander to a stray line of Shakespeare or into the Black Forest or the English countryside...ahhh.

To get you in the mood for Valentine's Day...

My husband decided spur of the moment last weekend that we should take a little trip for Valentine's Day this weekend. Woohoo! Sounds like fun! With impulsive, romantic getaways like this it isn't important how much it costs or how far removed. The excursion might simply be to a place you've never been before, even if only a few miles away. This might be a place of natural beauty, a lovely landscape or someplace with lots of activities and nightlife. Whatever your preference. It's *your* romantic mini vacation, so do whatever you enjoy. Don't cook (unless you really love to). Eat at restaurants with good food. Sleep in. Take nice long showers or baths (with your significant other!) Stock the mini fridge with your favorite beverages and snacks. If you can allow yourself, splurge on at least one rich, sinful dessert. (Recipe below if you're in the mood to bake together.) You might even want to watch a feel-good, romantic movie with your sweetheart.

Now, to get you in a romantic mood...

13 of my favorite Love quotes:

"Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same."

"It takes a minute to have a crush on someone, an hour to like someone, and a day to love someone... but it takes a lifetime to forget someone."

"Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. . . . It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk everything, you risk even more." Erica Jong in How to Save Your Own Life (1977)

"Love is most nearly itself When here and now cease to matter." T.S. Eliot

My mind has been the most discontented and restless one that ever was put into a body too small for it. I never felt my mind repose upon anything with complete and undistracted enjoyment- upon no person but you. When you are in the room my thoughts never fly out of window: you always concentrate my whole senses." John Keats (Letters to Fanny)

"There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

"When we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness - and call it love - true love." Robert Fulghum

Real love stories never have endings." Richard Bach

"Love is just an abbreviation for everything we have ever wanted to say about that one person who truly means something to us, all wrapped up in a tiny four-letter box." Anonymous

"Love is much like a wild rose; beautiful and calm, but willing to draw blood in its defense." Mark A. Overby

"It has been wisely said that we cannot really love anybody at whom we never laugh." Agnes Repplier

"When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life." Greg Anderson

The world moves for love; it kneels before it in awe". Edward Walker, in The Village

My favorite romantic books are too numerous to name so how about...

A list of my favorite romantic movies:
Dirty Dancing
Ever After
The Lake House
Sense and Sensibility
Pretty Woman
The New World
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Rob Roy
What Women Want
Pride and Prejudice

Now for a rich Valentine's treat:

Better-Than-Sex Chocolate Cake

1 package chocolate butter cake mix
1 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 eggs
3/4 cup chopped pecans
½ cup oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup water
1 (4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 8-ounce carton sour cream

Remove a spoonful of cake mix to coat chocolate chips and nuts; set aside.
Combine cake mix, eggs, oil, water, vanilla, pudding mix and sour cream.
Beat well four minutes with electric mixer. Fold in coated chips and nuts.
Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 - 55
minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Remove from pan after completely cooled.


1 stick margarine or butter
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 cups 10X powdered sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

Melt margarine or butter in saucepan. Add brown sugar. Cook, stirring
constantly, until bubbly. Add the evaporated milk, stirring until smooth.
Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar, blending until of spreading
consistency. Frost cake.

I wish you and that special person a Happy Valentine's Day!

What is your favorite love quote, your favorite romantic movie, or your favorite sinful dessert recipe? Or if you prefer, tell me where you went for a romantic getaway.
Vonda Sinclair www.vondasinclair.com

Recapturing the Muse!

Recapturing the Muse

Here was an interesting exercise we did in writing with my local romance writer’s chapter this past weekend. Each member brought in a sack of six items and then we passed them around. We had fifteen minutes to write a story, then share with the group. After we finished this, we had time enough to write a new story, swapping our goodies with another member. Ironically, we all had an easier time coming up with the first story. It was as if our minds were still hooked on the earlier story, and we had to shift gears too quickly to come up with a new story.

How else can you encourage your muse to jump into a creative writing exercise?

Begin a sentence: The cop pulled over the pickup, expecting to give a warning for a blinking taillight, but as he approached the back, the odor from the bed of the truck nearly knocked him off his feet.

Now, everyone can come up with a story, and as vast as writers’ backgrounds are, you can be sure everyone will create a unique tale.

Or start out with a prompt: If I had a million dollars, I would…

Or take a well-known fairytale and have everyone turn it into something different, different ending, maybe the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella has ulterior motives, maybe it’s set on Mars…

Writing exercises like this can help stimulate your muse. Brainstorming can too. With others or on your own, come up with twenty ways to solve a problem, or create a motivation, or a goal for your characters. By digging deeper, we can come up with twists and turns we might not have thought of initially.

So if your stuck, get creative! Recapture your muse!

Terry Spear


Let's Hear it for Erotic Historical Romances

Before I reach the subject of today’s blog, I want to give thanks for my beloved mother, an avid reader of romance fiction. Without her encouragement and love, I would never have become published. To me and many others, she was a shining example of a perfect heroine. Tomorrow marks the seventh anniversary of her passing. While I miss those wonderful times we spent together over the years, I know she’s with me every day, spurring me along my career journey.

Each morning before I sit down at the writing desk, I read my emails. This past Thursday it’s likely anyone walking past our house heard my celebration. At the time I was alone in the house, still in pajamas and not yet sipping my first cup of brisk morning coffee. But I didn’t need to be dressed to the nines in order to perform the Happy Dance and burst into song when I read the news from my editor at Ellora’s Cave. She’d written to let me know she wanted to contract my erotic historical romance novel. Talk about great aerobic exercise! I must remember that metabolism-boosting impromptu dance routine—and play K.C. and the Sunshine Band on the stereo as opposed to hearing their tunes only in my mind. Even though several days have passed since the news, I’m still smiling and in the best of moods.

The first three romances I wrote were historicals. Historical romances were my first reading love and will always have a special place in my reading and writing heart. The fact I can transport readers and myself to a time we can’t experience firsthand is one of the main reasons I delight in telling historical tales. In junior high school I truly enjoyed reading steamier historical romances. Kathleen Woodiwiss is the author who whetted my reading appetite for historicals. THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER remains a treasure in my literary collection.

Writing can become a very solitary pursuit, but being able to surround myself with the bawdy characters I’ve created from bygone eras passes the plotting, researching and writing time in a most pleasurable way. The historicals I’ve published are set in Jazz-Age Manhattan (SAINTS AND SINNERS) and Tombstone, Arizona, during the silver boom (TAMING THE TEMPTRESS).

Readers, fess up. What do you most enjoy about erotic historical romances? The lusty ways these characters loved and lived in days past? The richness and authenticity of dialogue? The ability to live vicariously with the hero and heroine during a bygone era? Period details of place, clothing, architecture, etc?

Feel the heat in erotic historical romances,

Shawna Moore
ROUGHRIDER – Ellora’s Cave
HELLE IN HEELS – Ellora’s Cave
Shawna’s Myspace
Helle’s Myspace

Veronica Wolff introduces us to Master of the Highlands

Veronica Wolff was an aspiring art historian when she realized that academic writing was not the place to explore her romantic flights of fancy. She lived everywhere from South Carolina, to Hawaii, to India, finally settling in Northern California where she lives with her husband, two children, a dog and cat, and countless houseplants. Her unmarketable skills include snowboarding, speaking Hindi, gardening, and knowing an alarming amount of pop-culture trivia. She has two books coming out with Berkley in 2008, both time-travel romances set in seventeenth-century Scotland, based on the lives of real heroes.

Vonda Sinclair: Hi Veronica, welcome! I'm so glad you're a guest here today! Please tell us about your first book, just released by Berkley, Master of the Highlands. (And what a yummy cover! Nothing better than plaid over a muscular chest!)

Veronica Wolff: Master of the Highlands was based on the real life and battles of famous seventeenth-century laird, Ewen Cameron.

Lily Hamlin has finally realized that her life isn't as perfect as she once thought. Making a pilgrimage to Scotland, a land she's only heard about in lullabies, Lily hopes that she can find her place again. But while exploring the Highlands, she discovers an overgrown maze and a strange stone map--and lands in the Lochaber of 1654...

Ewen, Chief of the Clan Cameron, is a busy man who must figure out how to save his people from the brutal redcoats and has time for little else. Having sired an heir, the widowed Ewen has no need--or room--for another romance. Then into his life drops a saucy lass with a peculiar accent, no regard for his title--and an arousing body. Drawn to each other despite their differences, they both realize that they don't want her to go back to her own time. But with battles brewing between the Camerons, the redcoats, and a rival clan, staying is a gamble.

Vonda: This sounds like my favorite kind of book! What is the story behind the story?

Veronica: I was a fantasy fiction fan who hadn’t read much romance. My mother gave me Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER as a gift and, though I know Gabaldon wouldn’t call it a romance novel, that book made me realize how deeply satisfying a good love story could be. It also made me an avid fan of Scottish history! After I read everything she’d written, I went on to devour every Highland book I could find. Karen Marie Moning quickly became another favorite. But all these wonderful love stories spoiled me: Suddenly, a book felt lacking if it didn’t have a good, solid romance at the heart of it! And so I became a fan of all romances, not just those set in Scotland.

As for Ewen's story in particular, I am a history buff and web surfing addict, and have lost many an hour poring through the vast number of historical accounts, legends, and just-plain ghost stories there are to be found in Scottish history. I stumbled across this strapping and noble laird one day and got completely swept away by his life story. I couldn't believe that there weren't all kinds of movies and books based on his life--I felt like I'd discovered some secret treasure! I immediately set to work imagining what his life might have been like, inserting my own heroine into his family and amidst his real struggles with the MacKintosh clan and with the redcoats. I'm selfish, though! I wanted to get as close to the action as possible, which is why I sent a modern-day heroine back to him.

Vonda: Sounds fascinating! I can certainly see how your interests led you to writing the books you do. What challenges did you face in writing a time-travel?

Veronica: My biggest challenge is one that I imagine is faced by all writers of historical fiction: Accuracy! That is, I'll be jamming on a scene, the words really flowing, and then my hero will do something simple like pick up a glass from a table. Full stop as I proceed to lose fifteen minutes confirming just what kind of glass a laird would use in seventeenth-century Scotland. Leaded? Metal? And what would he drink?

Or, picture this: He pulls his sword from his scabbard, hearing the scrape of steel on... Another full stop! And twenty minutes this time, confirming period dress, sword type, scabbard material, and so forth. People have suggested that I simply flag these moments with an asterisk to return to later, but I like to really see the full scene as I write.

Vonda: I know exactly what you mean. Each detail must be researched and that research can eat up the time. Who is your favorite character in this story and why?

Veronica: Ooh--good question! It's a hard one, though. At the time, I most enjoyed writing Gormshuil. She's based on a real-life "good" witch who advised the Cameron clan, and I had such fun imagining what path would’ve lead a woman to such a role. That said, once I was done writing the book, the character I missed most was Ewen! So much so, I ended up writing a part for him in my second book (coming June 08), which takes place when he was a teenager. Now that was fun to write! In fact, I'm finding I get deeply involved with all my heroes, I think precisely because they are based on real historical figures. The stakes were so high in old Scotland--it's hard not to get wrapped up in the lives of these amazing men!

Vonda: Absolutely! I can't wait to meet your heroes. Your website is one of the most amazing and beautiful I've seen. Can you tell us more about how it was created?

Veronica: Thank you! I'm actually thrilled to answer this, since building the web site was such a rewarding and collaborative experience for me. First, I must confess, I have an unfair advantage in that I'm married to a software developer! I hired a wonderful designer, Sunni Chapman, who came up with the feel of the site, and Adam, my fabulous husband, put it all together, treating it as its own application, architecting it, optimizing it, and so forth.

For me, though, the photography is the real soul of the site, as is the music. I've been so blessed to come across such generous and talented people, and photographer Rebecca Cusworth is first and foremost among them. She's a young Glasgow-based artist whom I discovered on a photo blog. She sells her work online, and if you ever wonder why I'm constantly touting her and giving away her work, it's because she is one of the loveliest, sweetest, and most gifted people I've encountered.

Musician Áine Minogue was also a delight to work with. I literally teared up the first time I saw the slide show on my front page, so moved was I by her beautiful music set in tandem with those evocative photos.

Finally, Tom Cameron, Commissioner of Clan Cameron of North America, very generously supplied me with all those great shots of Lochaber. I'd been shy to get in touch with the clan, but when I finally did, Tom was so kind and enthusiastic! Getting shots of Cameron country from an actual Cameron was a heart-warming experience for me.

Vonda: Wow, that's wonderful! Thanks so much for visiting with us today. I've enjoyed it! Please point us to your website, contest (with a fantastic prize!) and where to buy your book.

Veronica: You're a sweetie, Vonda. Thank *you* for the time and effort here. I sincerely appreciate it. My website is here veronicawolff.com

Enter my contest celebrating the release of Master of the Highlands! You can win a gorgeous Rebecca Cusworth photograph, suitable for framing.

Order Master of the Highlands at Amazon.com.

Vonda: Finally, in closing would you like to ask blog readers a question?

Veronica: Vonda asked me what stumps me in my writing. The question I'd pose back to you is, what brings you to one of those Full Stops while reading? Is it a difficult-to-understand bit of accent or language? Historical inaccuracy? A character who's not true to themselves? Weak love story? Please do tell!

Judging a Book by Its Cover

I just got my cover for my eRed Sage story, Sex and the Single Pearl, which has a tentative release date of August…and I love it! It’s beautiful and sensual, and prominently features the pearl, which is an integral part of the story. After sending it out to several friends and writing buddies, I got a few comments that the MEN really enjoyed this cover.

It got me thinking about what’s appealing to men and women and how it differs. The men obviously responded to the cover because of the sexy woman with the great bod. I think women will be drawn to this cover because there are two men in the picture and the fantasies and possibilities surrounding that image make most women drool. LOL However, I don’t think the woman’s body prominently displayed on the cover is a turn-off for most women, like a man’s half-naked body would be for a man. Don’t get me wrong, I adore sexy nekkid hunks (sounds like a great name for a band!) as much as the next girl, but I love the sensuality and the hint of mystery in this cover. By the way, the very talented Rae Monet created the cover for Sex and the Single Pearl.

What types of covers do you like, especially for erotic romance? Are you a guys-only kind of girl? Do you like to see faces or just the bodies? Do you like explicit sexuality or do you prefer the strategically-placed silk sheet?

New Review for Heart of the Wolf!

Some of the fun of writing books is getting great reviews. This one was particularly neat because Ms. Nutt gave me a two fer one!!

"You’ll be drawn into the story from the first page to the last, wanting to know how everything will turn out. I love how Ms. Spear has intertwined true attributes of wolves to make the werewolf world come alive. Bella and Devlyn’s devotion to each other is endearing. Their love scenes sizzle the pages … definitely hot! I look forward to reading more about this author’s werewolf tales.

"I also recommend Terry Spear’s Winning the Highlander’s Heart. If you like Scottish medieval hunks, this is a book for you."

Karen Michelle Nutt, author
For ParaNormal Romance Reviews
February 2008

Quinn's Curse & Interview w/ Natasha Moore

Natasha Moore fell in love with the written word as soon as she could read. As she grew up, she discovered romance and now enjoys the chance to add some extra sizzle to her stories. She writes sexy contemporary romance for Samhain and erotic romance for Ellora’s Cave and Red Sage. She lives in New York State with her real life hero who is happy to tell everyone that he’s her inspiration. They travel in their RV whenever possible. The great thing about writing is she can take it anywhere.

Nicole North: Welcome, Natasha! We're glad to have you as a guest here. What a delicious cover! Please tell us about your story, Quinn's Curse.

Natasha Moore: Thanks for inviting me to talk about my first release from Red Sage. I'm so excited about it. Cursed to wander Logan Point for three hundred years, lusty pirate, Nathaniel Quinn must resist the call of the sea. When young widow, Miranda Kent buys the lighthouse, Quinn’s passion is aroused. No one said anything about resisting a beautiful woman. But when unexpected emotions pull at the doomed lovers, Quinn must look beyond himself and his desires to save the woman he loves.

Nicole: I love pirates, especially lusty ones! ;-) Do you have a review you could share with us?

Natasha:This is from Simply Romance Reviews:
Three hundred years ago Pirate Captain Nathan Quinn’s ship the Tempest went down in a storm off the coast of Maine. Floating on a piece of the Tempest, he sees the young Henry Jones struggling and saves him before succumbing to the cold water. Instead of the hellfire he expects, he is cursed to stand near the lighthouse for three hundred years, if he doesn’t touch the water he’ll be allowed to sail the seas for eternity, if he touches the water he will be dragged down to hell.
In the present while researching her genealogy, Miranda Kent visited the Logan Point Lighthouse and knew a sense of coming home. Using the savings she and her husband had put aside before his death, she purchases the Lighthouse to turn the light keeper’s home into a bed and breakfast. The lure of it being haunted by the ghost of a pirate, she hopes will bring in the tourist.
Natasha Moore has created a captivating ghost story that keeps you reading. In a story of its length character development, motivation and plot are sometimes difficult to find in a story, yet this one has all those elements in spades. The story progresses with a natural flow that doesn’t feel rushed. A book to add to your must read list.
~Reviewed by Stephanie

Nicole: Wonderful review! What inspired you to write this story?

Natasha: I admit Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribbean first put the idea of a cursed pirate hero in my head. And memories of the old movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir gave me the idea to make him a ghost that only the heroine can see. The story took off from there.

Nicole: Johnny Depp can be very inspiring. What was the most challenging thing about writing this story?

Natasha: This was my first attempt at a paranormal romance, so while putting in all the ghosty parts was fun, it was new to me and that made it a challenge.

Nicole: You have several books published. Please tell us about some of those.

Natasha: Sure, I’d love to! I have two stories available from Ellora’s Cave. Nothing to Fear is a Quickie (so called because it’s short and hot!) :

Mason Blake's dark good looks and domineering personality give Kelly Long all sorts of forbidden fantasies. But when she agrees to play a damsel in distress for the community Halloween haunted house, Kelly finds herself tied to a bed and at Mason's mercy. Mason knows Kelly is fighting her sexual needs and he hopes that a few hours of playing out her fantasies will prove to her that bondage - and Mason - are nothing to fear.

My other story from Ellora’s Cave was selected to be included in their annual Cavemen anthology. I was thrilled my story was chosen because the competition is stiff. Taste of Honey is part of Seasons of Seduction IV.:

Cowboy Jake Manning is nursing a beer and a heart that’s been stomped into a million pieces when classy Shauna Montgomery asks him to dance. Jake knows better than to get involved with another sweet-smellin’ woman, but what the hell, it’s just a dance. Shaunna had been planning a little revenge against the boyfriend who dumped her but the steamy dance floor seduction leaves both her and Jake hot and hurting. They end up at Jake’s place for a lesson in power, control and passion. But can they get past their differences and learn to trust again?

My first release from Samhain Publishing is a full-length novel, The Ride of Her Life. It is available now as a download and will be put out in print later this year.

After a devastating diagnosis, sensible Sarah Austin yearns to live life to the fullest. When she talks her former teenage crush into a cross-country ride on his Harley, she thinks it’s her one and only chance for adventure, including a fun fling with Love ‘em and Leave ‘em Bastian. No longer a rebel, Dean Bastian is now a counselor for troubled teens and ready to settle down. He doesn’t know why Sarah is so desperate for an adventure, but he’s willing to do anything to keep a smile on her face, even pretend to still be a bad boy. Sarah doesn’t want to burden anyone with the future she faces, but can Dean convince her that the rest of their life can be an adventure…together?

Nicole: Those sound wonderful and very hot! Please describe your journey to publication.

Natasha: Wow, my journey has been a real roller coaster ride. I’ve been writing for a long time. At one point, I had an agent, four manuscripts under my belt, and was sure I’d be published soon in category romance. But I eventually lost the agent, decided sweet romance wasn’t for me, and took a few years off from writing. When I started writing again, I experimented with different styles and genres. When I discovered erotic romance, I knew that’s what I would enjoy writing. And when you love what you’re writing, it makes all the difference. In a little over a year I’ve made eight sales, which is still amazing to me!

Nicole: That is amazing! Congratulations on all your sales! Would you like to ask blog readers a question?

Natasha: Most of my stories are contemporary. I’ve always liked the idea that these stories could happen now, could happen to me. But I’m discovering that there are a lot of…let’s say…plot situations that won’t work in contemporary stories that can make paranormal/ historical/ futuristc stories interesting. So I’m toying with the idea of writing more stories in other sub-genres, but still write contemporary too. Do readers like an author to stay in one sub-genre, or will you follow a writer that you enjoy reading anywhere she wants to take you? I’m hoping my readers will enjoy the variety.

Thanks again for visiting with us Natasha! Find out more about Natasha at www.natashamoore.com

Are You a Creature of Habit?

While grocery shopping the other day, I must have set a record keeping those cart wheels rolling. A winter storm was forecast for our area. Decent parking spaces were at a premium. The aisles were filled with folks stocking up on necessities. I’d started plotting a new book and wanted to return to that creative world as soon as possible. Good fortune remained with me for a while, and I steered clear of the heavy shopping traffic. Once I reached the Dairy section, Lady Luck sprinted somewhere and left me wondering which yogurt to purchase since my favorite brand and flavor were gone. Okay, I’ll admit mainly being a creature of habit and sticking with the tried and true when it comes to brands I buy and foods I’ll eat. That day I had no choice but to select an alternative and hope for the best. With a week’s supply of my favorite breakfast food in the cart I continued to the checkout. Was I confident my selection would yield a positive result and please my palate? My sureness hovered somewhere around fifty percent since the day was otherwise going pretty well. The following morning as the coffee brewed I opened the yogurt container, dunked the spoon inside and scooped out a rounded serving. Didn’t take long for me to decide I’ll include some of that brand and flavor of yogurt on my shopping list from time to time. Change can be good. Downright delicious. Trying something new can be a positive and rewarding experience.

The same goes for the books I read. I return to my favorite authors time and again. After all, they deliver a solid story and I love their writing style. But some of those favorites have ended up on my bookshelves because I took a chance and purchased something by a new author. Often times the keeper was an author’s first published novel. If I hadn’t broadened my selection process, I might have missed a lot of great books.

What about you, readers? Are you a creature of reading habit or is variety the spice of your life? Do you find yourself reaching for books written by new authors and/or authors whose work you’ve never read?

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler,

Shawna Moore
ROUGHRIDER – Ellora’s Cave
HELLE IN HEELS – Ellora’s Cave
Shawna’s Myspace
Helle’s Myspace

Why Judge Writer's Contests?

I received a questionaire last night asking me why I judge writer's contests, how many, etc. And it gave me pause.
Why judge unpublished and published authors' contests?

I average 7 a year. Would be more if I volunteered for all the requests I receive for them. I'm a sucker when a chapter I've judged for asks me personally. I've been getting better at ignoring some of the ones that are mass mailing requests. The reason? It takes time judging contests. Lots of time. Particularly when it's for published authors' books and you have to read 5 or 6 whole book, rather than 25-30 pages per entry for 5 or 6 authors.

So why judge? The satisfaction of giving back to the writing community. I want to help others, who may have the chance to get their manuscripts before an editor or agent that they might not otherwise. To share some advice if a writer needs some help.

And often, I find wonderful stories that I hope I'll be able to read in print some day. One I fell in love with recently is now an American Title finalist and her manuscript is still in the running. I can't wait to read her book one of these days. Another was a published author's work that I probably would never have checked out, but I love her stories and she's made a fan of me. Just because I read it in a contest.

So why judge contests? To find new authors whose books I want to read, to help the beginning writer to succeed, and helping writing chapters out that need my help, but also, sometimes looking at a manuscript, I will see what works and what doesn't, which helps to remind me what makes a story riveting, that I want to read without putting down until the very last page.