A White Halloween

I know, how odd that it looks like a white Christmas here when it is actually Halloween, right? I had to share some of the pics I took yesterday when we rode our ATV in the beautiful snow we had here in NC up the side of a mountain and along another road. It was definitely a winter wonderland!

We don't usually have snow this early but this is off Hurricane Sandy. I was so sad to see the devastation in the north east. I hope all of you, your families and homes are okay or that you will bounce back soon. I'm thinking of you.

Best wishes for a happy Halloween!

P.S. My book, My Fierce Highlander is an Epic Award Finalist in historical romance!

P.P.S. My story, My Brave Highlander takes place in a winter wonderland also, in the icy north of Scotland during November.

Battle-hardened warrior Dirk MacLerie isn't who everyone thinks he is. He's Dirk MacKay, heir apparent to the MacKay chiefdom and Dunnakeil Castle on the far north coast of Scotland. When he returns home after a long absence, will his clan know him and will the duplicitous enemy who tried to murder him twelve years ago kill him in truth this time?

Lady Isobel MacKenzie is a beautiful young widow betrothed to yet another Highland chief by her brother's order. But when her future brother-in-law accosts her and threatens to kill her, she is forced to flee into a Highland snowstorm. When she runs into a rugged and imposing man she thought dead, she wonders if he will turn her over to her enemy or take her to safety.

Dirk remembers the enchanting, dark-eyed Isobel from when he was a lad, but now she is bound to another man by legal contract—an important detail she would prefer to forget. She wishes to choose her own husband and has her sights set on Dirk. But he would never steal another man's bride… would he? The tantalizing lady fires up his passions, testing his willpower and honor at every turn, even as some of his own treacherous clansmen plot his downfall.

Guest: Amy Gamet + 2 Book Giveaway!

We're pleased that our special guest today is Amy Gamet and she's giving away both of her books. Welcome, Amy! Please tell us about yourself.
I am a stay-at-home mom to three young kids, with an awesome husband who gives me time to write whenever he can.  I used to teach middle school math, and though I loved the kids, I enjoy writing much more than I ever loved the Pythagorean Theorem.  
Q: Why do you choose to write romance?
A: My first attempt at writing professionally was for magazines.  I got three assignments on my first three query letters, which was wonderful. The articles were short, but it was a high to see my name in print. Then our family moved to a new home—a real fixer-upper—and I was sidelined by home improvement projects for over a year.
When I tried to go back to writing articles I found I had little interest.  It took me a while to realize a simple truth—I don’t even like to read magazines, so why one earth did I think I would like to write for them?  Around that time, a friend started a book club and invited me to join.  We read mostly women’s fiction with a little chick-lit, and the point was hammered home even harder.  I like to read romances, almost exclusively.  I dropped the book club and tentatively started several rough drafts in quick succession, soon realizing it would take some time to learn the craft of writing fiction.  Everything I had written up until that point had been non-fiction.
Q: I'm glad you found romance. How do you choose names for your characters?
A: Funny story.  When I was writing my first novel, Meant for Her, I was having trouble coming up with a name I liked for the heroine.  The parent of one of my son’s classmates called to RSVP for a birthday party. Her name was Julie Trueblood, and I liked it, so I threw it into my story as a placeholder until I could think of something else that resonated with me.  I got used to seeing it there, and it stuck!  I recently emailed the mom to share the story with her, and she wrote back, “Read some of the book already and she sounds exactly like me, except for the double math major. I always hoped I would be famous! Can't wait to read more. -- The Real Julie Trueblood.”

Q: How neat! I love that name. Which element of story creation is your favorite?
A: The characters come easily to me.  Once I know who they are, their word choices and language just flow into the dialogue.  I enjoy how different they are from each other, and how they choose to express themselves.  I really love characters with strong personalities, whether they be opinionated or kind and loving.
Q: I agree with you about that. Which element of this story was the hardest for you?
A: The suspense plot doesn’t come naturally to me.  I have to work at it.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I almost never think people have ulterior motives, and I believe people are genuinely good at their core.  Not exactly suspense material, eh?  I try to make this work in my favor, by making my villains human and relatable, just like my heroes.  The elusive plot details have to be hashed out on giant sheets of paper in a rainbow of scented markers before I even know where to begin.  (Okay, maybe the scented markers aren’t a necessity, but that’s what I use—and I refuse to share them with my marker-destroying progeny. Mommy has to have some things of her own.)
Q: LOL What inspires you? What motivates you?
A: I can’t believe I get paid for this!  I love to write, like some people love to take naps or go skiing.  After years spent working jobs that were an imperfect fit for me, I’m motivated by the writing itself, and the just rewards of that writing.  When I read a good review or hear that someone got lost in one of my stories, that’s amazing to me.  I love the idea of a person I don’t even know picking up my words and experiencing what I’ve written.  It’s just incredible.
Q: Please tell us about your other books.
A: My first book, Meant for Her, is about a woman whose father dies and leaves behind a coded message for her to decipher.  Her father was a notorious traitor who went into hiding ten years earlier to avoid prosecution, leaving Julie to fend for herself as a teenager.  Hank Jared is the Navy investigator on her father’s homicide case.  He’s falling for Julie despite his position and reservations about her possible involvement in his espionage.
In Meant for Her, we meet Julie’s best friend Becky O’Connor, who’s nursing her own wounds over her sister Meghan’s abandonment.  Meghan ran away years before with Liam Wheaton.  Meghan and Liam’s story is my current book, Love’s Greatest Gift: A Christmas Novella.
We also get to know Julie’s aunt Gwen, who is the clear fan favorite, with many reviewers asking to hear her story.  She took Julie in to live with her after Julie’s father’s abandoned her.  Gwen’s husband was killed in a tragic accident just a year before, but she would never turn away an injured soul.  Gwen knows what it means to find true love, she just isn’t convinced she’ll ever experience it again.  I’m going to prove her wrong this winter, when Colin Mitchell, a man from her past, comes back again in Book Three of the Love & Danger series.
Q: Please describe your journey to publication.
A: I thought I would submit my first book to Harlequin, but as I was writing it I also joined an email loop for self-published romance authors.  It sounded wonderful—total control over your books, your covers, your marketing.  According to the authors on the loop, if I could write a good book, it would eventually find its audience.  I never did submit anything to Harlequin, and I suspect I never will.  I am loving being in charge of my own destiny.
Q: Way to go on striking out on your own! I agree it's a wonderful way to go. Would you like to ask readers a question?
A: When my mom told her friend Joy I had written a book, Joy said, “Everyone should write a book in their lives. It’s wonderful that Amy’s already done that.”  What about you? Have you ever considered writing your own book?  What would it be about?
I would like to give away a copy of both ebooks in the Love & Danger series, Meant for Her and Love’s Greatest Gift.
Thanks so much for your generous giveaway, Amy! Everyone, to enter this contest, please leave your email address along with your comment so we can contact you if you win.
Love's Greatest Gift EXCERPT:

Meghan O'Connor had been in love with Liam Wheaton since as long as she could remember.
Her parents had done what they could to stop it, carefully erasing his name from the birthday party invitation list and failing to pass on phone messages when they intercepted his calls. But Largo was a small town, with only one class at each grade level, and ten months out of the year Liam and Meghan spent six hours a day together.
There was talk of sending Meghan to boarding school at Saint Catherine's, but in the end Bill O'Connor couldn't justify the additional expense, just to get his daughter away from Chip Wheaton's son.
Chip was a drunk, and a mean one at that, who could be found at The Well any night of the week. He worked at the quarry, or doing construction, in-between layoffs and being fired time and again. His wife Lindsay cleaned houses and cared for the couple's five children, who always seemed a shade dirtier and a tad more disruptive than the other children of Largo.
Liam was the oldest. He got a job as a stock boy at the Super Duper when he was fourteen, and the townspeople could often be heard commenting on how clean and polite he was for a Wheaton.
Meghan didn't care that Liam was a Wheaton. All that mattered to her was that he was gentle and kind, going out of his way to make sure she was happy, and flashing his devil-may-care smile to cheer her up when she was not.
He had the darkest brown hair and strong, handsome features, marred by a razor-thin scar that ran from his left ear to his chin. His father had crashed the family sedan into a maple tree when Liam was five, propelling the unrestrained boy face-first through the windshield.
Meghan thought the scar made him look like a warrior.
For the most part Liam was quiet, keeping his smart wit and quick temper hidden from those who didn't like a fast tongue on those they look down upon. He excelled in school, but with the future before him like so much blank paper, Liam knew only that he wanted to spend it with Meghan.
He only got in serious trouble once, when Ricky Powell asked Meghan to go with him to a dance and she said no. Ricky touched her face and called her a bitch who'd rather go slumming with trash. Liam broke Ricky’s nose in two places.
The pair signed up for track and field instead of soccer so Liam didn't have to buy cleats and a ball, and when Meghan tried out for a part in the school play, Liam volunteered as a stage hand. It was after a performance of My Fair Lady, in the heavily draped wings of the stage, that they shared true love's first kiss.
Patty O'Connor didn't miss the high flush on her daughter's ivory cheeks, nor the newfound spring in Meghan's step. Patty was in the crowd when Liam broke the school record for the hundred meter dash, and saw Meghan embrace Liam like only a woman holds a man.
A shocked Patty could feel the eyes of the other parents upon her, shame covering her like fire, wishing the bleachers would give way beneath her just to draw attention away from that filthy embrace.
Meghan was taken out of track and field, and the theater troupe, and her father sat her down to explain exactly what kind of people the Wheatons really were.
Meghan seemed to take his words to heart.
Over the next several weeks, she went out of her way to make it up to her mother, watching her younger sister, cleaning the house and doing the shopping. Patty was just beginning to think things were back to normal when Bonnie Harrison called to say she saw Meghan and Liam making out behind the Super Duper, “like a couple of horny teenagers.”
Saint Catherine's was called, only to find that the nuns were in the process of shutting down the school due to poor enrollment.
Patty marched a mortified Meghan into the principal's office at school, and Meghan shriveled as she listened to her mother reprimand the administrator for allowing Liam Wheaton to get his grubby paws on her innocent daughter. Well aware on which side his bread was buttered, the principal gave Liam his own private lunch table, away from his classmates, and Liam's desk was moved to the opposite side of the classroom.
It was a full year before her mother sent Meghan back to the Super Duper.
“I need eggs for the casserole, and I can't walk away from these,” she said, gesturing to several pots bubbling on the stove. Patty exhaled loudly, staring at her daughter. “Go to the store. And no funny business, young lady. Do you hear me? If that Wheaton boy is there, you ignore him. Not a word.”
Meghan's bike flew down Main Street as fast as her feet could pedal, her dark hair blowing behind her in the breeze. All the way there her heart pounded in her chest, her hands gripping the handlebars too tightly as her emotions raced in anticipation.
They hadn't even spoken since the fateful track meet, the adults keeping a close watch on them at every turn. Meghan pulled her bike up on the curb, hastily snapping the lock and running inside. She scanned the aisles one by one until she found him, his long body reaching onto a high shelf.
She bit her lip as she started toward him. “Liam,” she called out lightly, and his head snapped up.
His eyes held hers, devouring her, setting her belly to tingling. “Meggie.”
“My momma let me come buy some eggs.” What a stupid thing to say, but it didn't matter, because they were together again, face-to-face.
“I've missed you,” he said, his eyes falling to her lips.
Meghan felt herself flush, loving the sound of his words after so much silence. “Meet me,” she said quietly.
“I don't know.”
He took a purposeful step toward her. “The old powder mill, by the river.”
She had heard stories about what went on there. Dirty stories about men and women and what they could do to each other. She felt dizzy, even as she nodded her consent. Anything to be close to Liam. “When?”
“I get off at six.”
Her parents were going to a concert, and Becky had a sleepover at a friend’s house. “I'll be there.”
And so it was that Meghan O'Connor and Liam Wheaton made love at the old powder mill, the summer they turned sixteen. When Meghan slipped from Liam's arms and raced to beat her parents home, she had no idea that two great changes were about to take place, that would alter her life forever.
A new life was forming in her belly, and the old powder mill was about to go up in flames.

Buy Love's Greatest Gift at: http://amzn.com/B009QFC756
Please visit Amy online at: www.amygamet.com
Thanks so much for being our guest today, Amy!

I'm a Sucker for a Bad Boy Hero

Over the past few months I've been highlighting my BDSM backlist, but you may not know that a couple of my early releases had no BDSM elements, in fact, were not erotic at all. My first sale ever was a contemporary romance, The Ride of Her Life, about a good girl who wants to be bad and a bad boy who wants to be good. There are several reasons that this has always been one of my favorite books.

* It was my first sale. I think the first sale always holds a special place in an author's heart.

* I'm a sucker for a bad boy hero - especially one who rides a Harley

* The Ride of Her Life won the 2009 NEC Reader's Choice award for short contemporary romance.

* The cover is totally made of awesome


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 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 her life can be an adventure…with him?

About The Ride of Her Life:

"...I loved the way Ms. Moore kept the tension between these two...This is definitely a keeper and a recommended read. ..."
- Nickie from Romance Junkies

"A great story of finding love and romance when you least expect it with a person you could spend the rest of your life with."
- Sheryl from ecataromance Sensual

…The secrets in this story drew me into it and held my attention until the very end…
- Missy – Fallen Angels Review – Recommended Read

"The Ride Of Her Life has a nice balance of heartfelt moments and scenes of careless exuberance of falling love."
- Mrs. Giggles


He was out in the driveway, polishing the bike, when Sarah pulled up to the curb. At least, he thought it was Sarah. The woman who stepped out of the late-model Ford was petite, wearing faded blue jeans and a tight T-shirt that hugged her every curve. She pulled out a familiar saddlebag and slung it over her shoulder, then grabbed a pizza box out of the backseat. She nudged the door closed with her hip.

Dean couldn’t take his eyes off her, or her new short, spiky hairdo. She looked sexy as hell. He felt his body tighten as her hips swayed in the well-washed denim. Her white T-shirt stretched seductively across her breasts and his heart pounded at the sight. They were only talking about the trip and he already couldn’t control his response to her. They hadn’t even left the driveway yet. What would happen once they were on the road? He felt more than a little irritated that he was so out of control around her.

“What did you do to your hair?” he called out, a little harsher than necessary.

Her bright smile faltered and she lost the little rhythm she’d had in her step. Real smooth, Bastian. She continued up the walk at a slower pace and Dean met her halfway. He took the pizza box out of her hands but she didn’t meet his glance.

“I didn’t mean that how it sounded,” he told her. “You look great. In fact, I was blown away. You look so different.”

She shrugged her shoulders and finally looked at him. “I can’t fit a hairdryer in here,” she said, pulling the saddlebag off her shoulder. “The stylist said I just use a little gel and I’m ready to go.”

He’d always been one of those guys who loved women with long hair. Preferably flowing in a riot of curls down her back. But one look at Sarah and he was a changed man. The smooth pageboy she’d worn before had been plain and simple. But this flirty style brightened her eyes and flattered her tiny features. With a simple haircut, Sarah had been transformed from merely pretty to palm-tingling sexy.

He wanted to touch her again. Really touch her this time. Play with the fringe of hair around her face. Nibble on her pretty little ears. Kiss the bare nape of her neck. He grasped both ends of the pizza box. He was in big trouble.

The Ride of Her Life is available both as a download and in print.
Samhain e-book Print
Amazon e-book print
Barnes & Noble e-book print

How about you? Are you a sucker for a bad boy hero?

Silken Canvas - coming Dec 25th

Rome conquers Gaul in 52 B.C. and the rest is history!

Earlier this month, we welcomed Jenna Ives as a new blogger to Fierce Romance. I’m thrilled to say that I’ve joined the FR family as a new blogger, too!

I’m Leigh Court, and I write historical erotic romance, usually set in Victorian England or ancient Rome. I’ve always loved reading historical fiction, and I love writing it just as much!

I have two Victorian romances in Secrets anthologies with Red Sage Publishing (with another one on the way for 2013!) and one Roman epic published by Ellora’s Cave called Conqueror Vanquished.

The teaser is this: What happens when two supposed enemies are forced to look beyond the reason for their hatred? They find an emotion just as strong….love.

And here’s a little background…  In 52 B.C., Rome has just conquered Gaul…

>>Leonidas Danae Vorenus, commander of Rome’s prestigious Sixth legion, is ordered to establish a strategic outpost in Gaul after its surrender to Julius Caesar. But on the way to his new post, Leonidas is wounded in an ambush. Only one person can save his life, and she’s his sworn enemy.

Solange is a healer. She values every life, even if it belongs to one of the hated Romans who’ve just conquered her land. Bound by her duty and now by her new position as a subject of Rome, she is obliged to tend Leonidas.

But the relationship between conqueror and conquered soon evolves into much more. Their forced intimacy ignites an unexpected attraction, and prompts the two enemies to look beyond the reason for their hatred to explore the powerful emotions simmering underneath.<<
For me, writing about ancient Rome is fascinating. They were such a technologically advanced and self-sufficient people, especially the army.  And since any good historical story needs to be grounded in reality, I did a lot of research for this one. Most of the information I found on ancient Rome is common knowledge, but I did uncover some fascinating, little-known facts:

 -          Roman soldiers baked their own bread to eat while on campaign. Every group of eight soldiers had an iron skillet that folded away in their pack just for that purpose. A soldier's daily grain ration was about 3 ½ pounds, and the army docked their pay for the grain they were given. Imagine if our army leaders charged soldiers for their meals today!

-          Roman soldiers were forbidden to marry, but if they were already married when they enlisted, that was okay. You might think this rule would be a problem for a romance between my unmarried Roman commander, Leonidas, and the woman he loves, but you’ll just have to read CONQUEROR VANQUISHED to see how Leo skirts that particular issue!

-          Most of our system of measurements came from ancient Rome. A Roman foot was 11.65 modern inches, a Roman mile was 5000 Roman feet (compared to our modern 5280 feet),  and a Roman hand (4 inches) is still used today to measure the height of a horse at the shoulders. Fascinating stuff!

-          A typical Roman fort was basically a small, self-sustaining, walled city, with a network of roads that connected several buildings including a house for the Commander, several barracks for the soldiers, stables for horses, a granary, kitchens, a smithy, even a hospital (if needed). With its high rampart walls and wide dirt moats, it was an almost-perfect, defensible stronghold.

-          Since my story is a romance, I also had to research ancient Roman weddings. I was amazed at how many traditions of our modern weddings can be traced back to Roman times! Take the wedding cake, for example. After an ancient Roman ceremony, an offering was made to their main god, Jupiter, which usually consisted of cake. Once the priest had made the offering, this cake was eaten by the bride and groom, and then shared with wedding guests. Many more of our modern wedding traditions come from ancient Roman times, too, including carrying a bride over the threshold!

I enjoyed researching the ancient Roman empire almost as much as I enjoyed writing CONQUEROR VANQUISHED, and you can read an excerpt at: http://www.leighcourt.com/books/conquerorvanquishedexpt.html. This Roman setting is a departure from my previous two Victorian romances, but I’m obviously drawn to the past, when men were noble, and lived for honor.

What about you? Do you prefer modern men or historical men? 



In the Dark

I sometimes wonder if I haven’t read too many books. But how can one read too much? How can that be a bad thing?

Well, the other morning I started to wonder if it was, and I’m sure my hubby was thinking the same thing, because he had to sort of rescue me. I started out to my car, which is parked in a garage, and halted at the door. Something wasn’t quite right. It seemed very dark for some reason, and it took me a moment to figure out what was missing. Then it registered…

The light was out.

Now, a normal person would simply pull out her cell phone, the glow of which could be seen on Mars, and head out, darkness be damned. I, however, hesitated, my zoetrope of scenarios whirring away in my adrenaline-fueled imagination. Every book I’ve ever read where a person starts to go somewhere and a light is out, yet the person continues forward, has ended badly for the person. Naturally, then, my mind spun with the possibilities. The most logical was that the light bulb to the garage door light had gone out—plain, simple, boring. However, logic has never been my strong suit, so I immediately veered from “logical” to “What if?” and finally to “better safe than sorry.”

In other words, because I wasn’t sure that someone or something with murderous intentions wasn’t hiding in my garage and hadn’t unscrewed the light bulb in my garage’s overhead light, my husband ended up standing at the door to make sure I made it twenty feet to the safety of my little car (that, if a fly farted in it the right way, would fly into pieces on the highway).

This is how I think, but I can’t be the only one. How many times have you read a book in which the lights had been knocked out on purpose so some nefarious bad-doer could engage in a variety of bad doings? And what happens then? That’s right—some dorky secondary (or thirdary) character like the expendable, red-shirted Star Trek guys blunders across a serial killer or a mob hit man or a mummy or a mutant hedgehog with revenge on its mind, and that’s the last time he’s ever seen with all his body parts in one location.

So, with my imagination working in overdrive, I woke my hubby up to watch me to my car, just in case something sinister was at hand. To his credit, he stumbled to the door with me without question, the only statement he made being, “No one could get in our garage. It’s secure.” To which I replied, “What if some alien life-form transformed itself into something that could slither under the wall or through the window into the garage and wait for me?”

Still patient, he sighed and threw his man logic at me: “If the alien life form had the skills to transform itself to slither into the garage, it certainly wouldn’t need to have it pitch dark to attack you.”


But this is how I think and Hubby knows it, so he watched me safely to my car before locking up and ambling off back to sleepyland, probably wondering why his flake-o-meter hadn’t picked up on my peculiarities before the wedding.

He was right, of course. There wasn't anything in the garage except me, my car, and my wild imagination. The next day he asked me if I wanted him to accompany me to the garage again, but I declined. I used my cell phone to guide me through the dark, and, once again, I made it to my car just fine.

Or maybe not just fine, because I still wonder if I don't read too much--too many mysteries, too many thrillers, too much horror, too much intrigue. Hmmm...

Nah. lol

Hope your Halloween is happy and safe. If you're looking for a bit of scary erotic romance for this creepy season, please check out Seducing Gracie from Changeling Press. Then you'll understand...muhahahahaha!

Happy Reading!

I'm Going to Sleep for a Week

I'm not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. I've just started week 4 of getting up at 6:00 in the morning to write. Who was it that said if you did something for two weeks in a row you'd start a new routine?


Four weeks later, getting out of that bed is still as hard as it was on Day 1. It's by sheer willpower alone I force myself out of that bed each morning. But I do it then stumble to the coffeemaker.

The reason I'm having to wake up so early is because I write best in the mornings now. Didn't used to be that way. Used to be at night. I don't know if it's mommy brain or just getting older, but by the time I have free time at night, I can barely put a coherent thought through my head, much less create a fun and exciting life for the people who live in my mind. So getting up earlier was the only option to make more time to write so I could meet my deadline.

And I HAVE gotten a crap-ton done in the last 4 weeks, despite being a single mom and working another job. I've written 35,000 words, (already had 15k written when I was told the deadline) and those words are not first draft quality. It's the polished, completely fleshed out stuff I post for my CP's. Once I finish, all I'll have to do is go through their crits, makes some adjustments and then it's off to my editor.

I've also proven something to myself this month. I can put out a book fast. A really freaking good book, too. I've always been envious of prolific writers. Always in awe of how they write so fast and still produce a good book. Always wondered how in the world they were able to get it all sorted out and have it make sense on paper so fast.

Up until this point, the fastest I've written a novel-length book has been 5 months. I was thrilled with that, lol.

Now I'll have a book written, polished and off to my editor in around 45 days. I'm really stunned by that. Never thought I could do something that quickly.

I used to be the Queen of Procrastination. Used to let blocks in story keep me from writing for weeks. I haven't had the luxury of being able to do that this time. I've had to use every spare minute. (I'm two weeks behind on Dexter and Homeland :( There will be a marathon viewing when I'm done)

And when I come to a part in the story that is giving me fits because something isn't working, I don't walk away, I sit there and figure out what isn't working. I rewrite the scene, try different approaches until it clicks.

I won't lie. My schedule has been rough. I'm tired. A little on the cranky side, but I wouldn't have traded this experience for anything.

Because I've learned two very valuable lessons:

1) There is always time to write, you just have to be willing to sacrifice other things. (Mine has been sleep, lol) 

2) I don't have to wait until I'm walking in the grocery story, three weeks later, and have an ah-ha moment to fix a difficult chapter. It can be worked through in a matter of hours.

Now I'm off to write. :)

Love Charms-Do They Work?

I'd like to believe in charms. How about you?

Or look at it another way. Do you believe in the power of positive thinking?

If you do, then you can see how a love charm might work IF you believe in it. You cast your charm. Then you see your target. Maybe you relax a bit, smile at him, you act more confident because you are more confident. You're using magic. How can he resist?

I'd like to believe in magic. I do believe there many things out there in the universe, and right here on this planet, that we simply don't understand yet. People who lived a thousand years ago would have thought it was "magical" to speak to someone in another town through a telephone. Electricity? Magical. Music coming out of a box with no singers or instruments nearby? Magic. Why shouldn't extrasensory perception exist? We just can't explain how it works yet.

There are many things to be learned and developed which we simply don't understand yet.

So I've written a series of romance short stories based on the concept of a love charm. The first one, Love Charm for Ashley, is available now.

Here's an excerpt:

Ashley clutched her love charm to her breast as the evening cruise ship pitched under a full moon. She’d followed the directions for the spell carefully, as any good teacher would. Lilac and rose petals, oil of lavender, a snip of her own hair and the spell was finished. All wrapped up in a sachet of pink silk and hope.

Hope that she suddenly didn’t want to throw into the cold black waters of Boston Harbor. Because if the spell didn’t work, and actually, she was not the kind of person who could believe in charms and spells; well, if it didn’t work, then what would she do next? Pushing thirty, no man in sight, and a long string of lackluster boyfriends in the rear-view mirror.

“Do it, Ashley!” Brenna, her roommate and cheerleader approached with the wavy gait of a drunken sailor. The empty wine glass in her hand bore testament to Brenna’s conviction that Saturday night was for carousing.

“Careful, Brenna.” Ashley automatically held out a hand. “Don’t get too close to the railing.”

“You’ve got everything the spell called for. A full moon.” Brenna gestured to the sky. “A body of water.” She flung one arm toward the harbor and her wine glass flew out of her hand and disappeared under a slapping wave. “Whoops!” Brenna giggled.

“I don’t know, Brenna.” Ashley followed the trajectory of the wine glass with a dispirited eye. No man would emerge out of those lobster-crawling depths. But the directions had been clear. Toss the charm into a body of water under the light of a full moon. Ashley looked back at Brenna. “How is this spell going to bring me a good man?”

“Who knows? What’ve you got to lose?” Brenna grabbed the packet and, before Ashley could blink, she’d thrown it overboard. The pale silk bobbed for one second in the moonlight, and then sank, like Ashley’s heart.

“I didn’t make my wish, Brenna!”

“No problemo.” Brenna giggled again. “I made one for you.”

“That’s grand, Brenna.” Ashley tried hard to stifle the sarcasm.

“No, I mean it.” Brenna grabbed her arm. “I wished for my brother to come for a visit and give you a fab…a fab.u.lush weekend.”

“You think he’ll come all the way from the Middle East just to show me a good time?” Ashley tried to speak lightly, though disappointment clogged her throat like a trapped wishbone.

“Home for some reason. I forget.” Brenna waved a hand, as if she might conjure him from the sea. “Ya know, he’s a lady-killer.”

“Yeah. I’ve heard you say that.” Ashley spoke dryly. Like she needed a lady-killer. Of course, Brenna's brother lived in Florida, so it wasn’t likely he was in the neighborhood. But it would be just her luck, that he’d show up and make her the focus of his attention for the nanosecond he stayed in town.

She had a knack for attracting the kind of men who didn’t stick around and Brenna’s brother, if only half her stories could be believed, was exactly that type of guy. A different woman every night. Gone on a moment’s notice when the Army needed him in some far-flung corner of the globe. A secretive job in the Special Forces, which, of course, is why women fell all over themselves to bask in his reflected macho glory.

No thanks. Not for her. She wanted someone steadfast and true. Someone who’d hold her tight all night long, someone who’d smile at her in the morning.

“Come on, Brenna.” Ashley held onto her friend as the big ship docked at Rowes Wharf. “Time for you to get home.”

“Home?” Brenna stumbled on the gangplank, then looked up at Ashley. “How much have I had to drink?”

“Too much if you have to ask,” Ashley answered. “Are you expecting to meet someone? Because there’s a man out on the dock waving at you.”

“Brenna!” A tall, rangy man dressed, despite the cool temperature, in only blue jeans and a black t-shirt, held open his arms. His grin lit up the night, and Ashley felt an ugly pang of jealousy pierce her. She stomped off the boat, looking for a cab. Wouldn’t you know? Her spell brought in a man for Brenna.

The man now had one arm looped around Brenna and was grinning down at her with unmistakable affection. But Ashley knew she wouldn’t be able to leave her tipsy friend without checking him out. Sighing, she walked over to join them.

“Ashley!” Brenna’s eyes telegraphed a message of excitement. “Look who’s here!”

“Who?” Ashley couldn’t help looking at the man, and their gazes locked as he smiled at her.

“I’m Glen.” He held out his hand and, reluctantly, Ashley responded. She forced herself to break contact with his eyes, but then her gaze got caught on his wide shoulders, moved down to admire his muscular arms, and progressed directly to his strong forearms. It was only when she reached the sight of their hands clasped together that she realized she’d been holding onto him for too long.

And her entire body buzzed from that one point of contact.

“Hey,” he said softly, leaning down to speak close to her ear. “You’re shivering.”

Somehow he was clasping her hand now, instead of shaking it, and he tried to pull her closer to his warmth.

She had to resist. “Brenna—” she gasped. It was too awkward to try to explain that she’d never take a man from her best friend, even if he were the most appealing man she’d ever seen.

But he must have understood. Suddenly, he laughed. “Brenna is my sister,” he said.

“Oh!” Excitement fizzed within her. He wasn’t taken, at least not by Brenna. Also, that’s why he’d somehow seemed familiar. Though she hadn’t recognized him in the dark, she’d seen pictures of him and heard so many stories from Brenna that she felt like she knew him. Not that her knowledge brought any comfort in its wake. One thing she knew for sure was that he was a here-today, gone-tomorrow type of guy.

“And you are?” Glen broke into her thoughts.

“Ashley.” She refused to be drawn into his orbit.

“You’re Brenna’s roommate?" He raised his brows. "That’s great.”

She knew better than to ask, but the word came out anyway. “Why?”

He gave her an irresistible grin that she recognized from the photos. All white teeth and wicked curves. “That means I’ll be spending the night with you.”

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So, tell us, what do you believe in that we don't understand yet?

Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland is famous for being the childhood home of the late Queen Mother and the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It is still the home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, the Bowes Lyon family. The current owner is Michael Fergus, 18th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

Angus is called Scotland’s birthplace because on April 6, 1320, the Scottish Declaration of Independence was signed by the Scottish nobility in Arbroath Abby in Angus. The Scots declared their nationhood and right to self-government and sent it to the Pope because they were trying to throw off the rule of Edward II of England.

Glamis (pronounced Glams as in glam rock or glamour) has been a Royal residence since 1372 when Sir John Lyon was granted the thaneage of Glamis by King Robert II. Four years later, he married the king’s daughter, Princess Joanna.

Glamis, a pink sandstone L-shaped tower, is built on the site of a Royal hunting lodge, where in 1034 King Malcolm II was murdered. The structure was remodeled during the 1600s and the central part would’ve looked much like it does today, but it has been built onto and extended over the years.

“The house from the greatness of its mass, the many towers atop, and the spread of its wings, has really a very singular and striking appearance, like nothing I ever saw.” Thomas Gray (1716 – 1771)

 We visited Glamis on a bright, sunny day. The weather was so nice (and knowing how quickly Scottish weather can shift) we decided to tour the grounds first. We walked along the front and the side of the castle, taking photos the whole time. We passed the Forecourt and Dutch Garden, a formal boxwood and rose garden created in 1893. A statue of Mercury is the focal point. This is the family’s private garden.

Two of these circular turrets stand on the front lawns. They used to mark the corners of the old walled gardens.

Other surviving parts of the old gardens include this incredible 17th century sundial and the old yew tree behind.

Five hundred years ago, the castle was surrounded by extensive walled gardens created by the 3rd Earl in the late 1600s. In the 1700s the 9th Earl replaced these with a landscape park. Many of the huge conifers were planted by the 13th Earl after 1865.
 These gorgeous blue flowers surround the turrets.

We walked along the nature trail and into a small dark forest with trees hundreds of years old. It was very quiet and mysterious inside. There is also a pet cemetery. Scots LOVE dogs and you will often see cemeteries for these beloved pets.

 After leaving the wood, we visited the amazing Italian Garden, a formal garden designed in 1910 by Arthur Castings and laid out by Countess Cecilia, the Queen Mother’s mother. It is bordered by yew hedges, and includes a raised terrace between two small gazebos. There are fan shaped parterres separated by gravel walks, and pleached alleys of beech, a stone fountain and ornamental gates which commemorate the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday.

I couldn’t get enough photos of this beautiful place, especially the two moss-covered gazebos and the thousands of flowers, butterflies and bees.

Walking beneath the pleached alley of beech.

The perennial flower borders were extensive.

 We walked through the Pinetum, a collection of exotic trees and conifers, many of which are native to North America, planted by the 13th Earl around 1870. We crossed Glamis Burn, a small clear stream, along the way and then came to the Water of Dean, another small burn which drains the Loch of Forfar and flows into the River Isla. The bridge we crossed here is the Earl Michael Bridge, originally built in 1890 and reopened by the Queen Mother in 1996 after restoration by the 18th Earl.

 These are the gates that lead into the walled kitchen garden. These are mostly grassy areas now but there are plans in the works to restore it. Did you notice the sky in these two photos, above and below? Yes, rain was on the way and we were looking for shelter. We found it in the closed doorway to what appeared to be a hothouse (no visitors allowed inside), since the wind was blowing from behind the structure. It was only a short, misty shower and a few minutes later we were ready to finish our walk.
Lions stand guard over the gates.

We saw this beautiful privately owned cottage along the way. We walked through more woods and to another bridge, then along a road that bordered the Highland cow pasture.

bridge over the Water of Dean

An scenic view of the Highland cattle

Mama and baby

Next it was time to eat lunch in the castle's Victorian Kitchen Restaurant and take a guided tour of the castle itself. The tour guide was very gifted with the art of revealing interesting and entertaining history as we walked through the many beautiful, opulent rooms. No photos were allowed inside, of course but I've found some online. We started our tour in the dining room. And then visited the drawing room. The most interesting painting was one where the 3rd Earl wished to be painted as if he were wearing leather armor that made him look naked, with rippling, bulging muscles. Hmm. Guess he wanted to be eye candy. This is said to be a Romanesque tunic, with lion epaulettes. Click here to see the painting. It was painted by Dutch artist Jacob de Wet in 1683. The earl's sons surround him and he gestures toward Glamis, the castle he restored and remodeled. If you look closely you will see the castle looks almost as it does now. This is made more interesting by the fact that this earl's father, the 2nd Earl, was one of the richest peers in Scotland, but when he died, he was one of the poorest. When the 3rd Earl inherited this property, it was forty-thousand pounds in debt. But he worked diligently for the next forty years restoring both the estate and the castle, along with his wealth.

We visited the Chapel, the Billiard Room, King Malcolm's Room and many others.

My favorite room was the Crypt. This room is the most ancient part of the old castle and the walls are 16 feet thick. It is filled with hunting trophies from Victorian times, suits of real armour and breastplates used in battles, saddles and other fascinating items hundreds of years old. Also, the Secret Room of Glamis is located here.

There are many legends about Glamis, some true history and some that were surely embellished over the years. The tour guide told us the story of the Secret Room. A man known as Earl Beardie, who was either Alexander Lyon, 2nd Earl of Glamis, or Alexandar Linsday, 4th Earl of Crawford was playing cards late on a Saturday night. It is unclear who he was playing with. He was warned by either family members or servants to stop playing at midnight so that he wasn't committing the sin of gambling on the Sabbath. He refused to stop playing. One story says he played cards all night with the devil. Another says he and his companion played cards well into Sunday and the devil came along and walled them up in one section of the room so that they could play cards until doomsday. From outside the castle, a window can be seen in that area, but not from inside. There is rock wall blocking off the window and the section leading to it. The tour guide assured us that many people had reported hearing noises coming from behind the wall on Saturday nights and that most refused to enter the Crypt on Saturday nights.

Another source says the hidden room was where one of the Earl's deformed children was kept imprisoned so no one would see him. Still another source says what happened was that Ogilvie clansmen were fleeing their Leslie enemies and asked for refuge at Glamis. What they didn't know was that the Earl at the time was friends with the Leslies and he had the Ogilvie clansmen walled up and hidden, where they died of starvation. It's difficult to know what the truth is but I believe all legends contain some truth. Only the Earls know what is truly behind the wall.

I hope you've enjoyed this tour of Glamis!

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