Claire Donally | Let The Name-Calling Begin!

cats name callingNo, this is not about the presidential primary campaigns. I just realized that, with CATCH AS CAT CAN, I’ve devoted more than a third of a million words to the adventures of Sunny and Shadow, and that it might be interesting to discuss some of the most important of those words – the names of the characters.

The first to get christened were Sunny and Shadow – for some reason the title of the series was one of the first inspirations to come from brainstorming a cat mystery. A neighbor had a cat named Shadow, although I honestly don’t recall hearing the name before I worked up the series. Shadow didn’t need a last name, but Sunny did. I’d been asked to set the series in Maine, but the names famously associated with the state – Gorgas, Muskie – didn’t match well with Sunny. The best was Pepperell, which always makes me think of towels. Casting my net farther around New England’s past, I got lucky in nearby Vermont, who had a native son make it to the White House – Calvin Coolidge. Sunny Coolidge sounded good to me. Problem almost solved, except I didn’t want Sunny to be a Sonya. A friend suggested a somewhat more exotic first name, Sonata. Fine, and it probably meant that Sunny’s late mother was musical.

Having gotten a star, I needed to build up the supporting cast. As an editor I’d worked on a lot of series bibles, the guidelines for multiple writers to work on a project, so developing character names and capsule biographies remains a big part of my preparation process. Sunny starts off the series taking care of her ailing father. He’s supposed to be a regular, if somewhat grumpy guy, so Mike seemed an excellent name choice for him. By tradition, a romantic interest, often in law enforcement turns up in these stories, and I filled the bill with a fellow named Will Price. I forget where the Price came from, but I recall thinking that Will was a name not much in use these days, and it would stand out. I like having a colorful neighbor lady in my cozies, but what would her name be? One of my sources for Early American names was the passenger list on the Mayflower, although I didn’t use direct swipes. Among them was someone named Margeson, which was a bit of a mouthful. I went with a simpler Martinson and a fancier first name Helena. You may see another naming quirk of mine here. Among my major characters is someone with a two-syllable first and last name, Sunny Coolidge. Her dad has a one-syllable first name, Mike Coolidge. My male lead has a very manly pair of one-syllable names, Will Price, and Mike’s lady friend has two triple-decker names, Helena Martinson. I like the variety, and I think it helps to distinguish the characters, if only on a subconscious level.

Another naming quirk I picked up was one my agent used in his writing projects. As he began work, he’d create a two-column list, first names and last names, with rows for each letter of the alphabet. Then, as he’d name his characters, he made sure they were well-distributed alphabetically. His point, again, was that it made the characters easier to distinguish. Not that you need to follow this rule. Pride and Prejudice has three Bingleys and seven Bennets, not to mention a George and a Georgiana. But if you’re not Jane Austen, every bit helps.

Considering the Maine location would call for a lot of old Yankee names, I made a conscious decision to limit the number of names ending in -son or -ton. There are a lot of fine old English surnames based on being someone’s kid or coming from a particular location, but I didn’t want to overuse them. Binge-reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes, I seemed to see a lot of these sorts of names pop up in the stories. And there are plenty of WASP-y names that don’t fall into the category: Frank Nesbit, my nasty sheriff, Jane Rigsdale, Sunny’s romantic rival (There was a Rigdale family on the Mayflower – I changed the spelling). Jane’s maiden name was Leister, which is a twist on a friend’s name and could be Yankee or perhaps German. We have a couple of Italians in the area. Sal DiGillio gets his first name from a friend’s father and his last name from a high school pal. Gene Avezzani gets a fancy name as a restaurateur friend of Will’s. The Avezzani, as I recall, was an alphabetical decision. Gene may have been, too. In any event, only two -son surnames survive in the continuing cast of characters. Mrs. Martinson and the town grocer, Zach Judson.

I have to admit, I’m not above tossing the occasional joke name into the mix. In HISS AND TELL, I introduce a politically-connected New York realty magnate named Augustus de Kruk. He says the Kruk rhymes with “truck” and gets furious when people pronounce it “crook.” In CATCH AS CAT CAN, a detective appears, Phil Treibholz. That’s German for “driftwood,” which, oddly enough, is one of the possible Old English sources for the name . . . Marlowe. Philip Marlowe, Phil Treibholz. Sorry, folks.

Naming your characters is only half the job. Then you’ve got to keep track of them. Think not? Let’s consider the case of Sherlock Holmes’ partner in crime detection, Dr. Watson. In all the fifty-six stories and four novels, his full name appears only four times. In the subtitle of the first Holmes tale, in the preface of a short-story collection, in the first line of one of the later mysteries, he’s “John H. Watson, M.D.” However, the one time his name appears in dialogue, Watson’s wife calls him “James.” Dorothy Sayers spun a wonderful theory that Watson’s middle initial stands for “Hamish,” which is Scots for “James.” The editor in me, however, suspects this contradiction can probably be put down to a bad day at the writing desk.

To try and make sure this doesn’t happen in the Sunny and Shadow universe (emphasis on try), I rely on the old editorial technique of the style sheet. One of the more boring aspects of a copyeditor’s job is to generate a list of all the names, places, oddball things and spellings that appear in a manuscript, to make sure no Johns turn into Jameses, or Picketts into Pucketts. It has happened to me, I’m sorry to say. In THE BIG KITTY, the friendly neighborhood grocer was Zack Judson. In CAT NAP, he mysteriously became Zach because I was asleep at the keyboard. To prevent similar disasters, I consult a ring binder with all the style sheets for previous books. I also maintain a computerized alphabetical list of all the continuing characters in the series, adding any new characters being introduced in my present book in red. It’s very colorful, not to mention handy. And the style sheets are great for providing the name of the nice restaurant four towns over that the characters visited five books ago . . . when your faulty memory comes up with the name of the nice restaurant in the make-believe town from the series you were doing six years ago.

Shepherding Sunny and Shadow through five adventures hasn’t been easy. (You know what they say about herding cats.) But now you know how this author rides herd on all the names that crop up along the way. Every new book adds another page to my private Who’s Who . . . not to mention What’s That?

About CATCH AS CAT CAN

Catch as Cat Can

The new Sunny and Shadow mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Hiss and Tell and Last Licks.

When a new seafood shop opens in Kittery Harbor, Maine, Sunny’s tomcat Shadow is on the hunt for tasty treats—until Sunny discovers a cold-blooded killer’s catch of the day.

Neil Garret is new to town, but his seafood shop is already going belly up. Working next door, former reporter Sunny Coolidge can’t help noticing the telltale signs. But checking on Neil one morning reveals something far worse for business than a lack of inventory—a mysterious man lies murdered in his freezer.

Sunny’s boyfriend, Chief Investigator Will Price, nets Neil as the prime suspect. But even when Sunny learns about Neil’s secret past, the open-and-shut case seems fishy. Now it’s up to Sunny to find the real culprit and get Neil off the hook.

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Sunny & Shadow

THE BIG KITTY

#1
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CAT NAP

#2
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LAST LICKS

#3
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HISS AND TELL

#4
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CATCH AS CAT CAN

#5
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Introducing Darcie Wilde And The Rosalind Thorne Mysteries

Hello, my name is Darcie Wilde, and I write mysteries. Specifically, mysteries set during the English Regency.

I got my introduction to the Regency the way most people do; via the work and world of Jane Austen. From the Incomparable Jane, I discovered the warm, witty, wonderful works of the great Georgette Heyer. Between the two of them, they kindled a fascination in me for all things Regency — the dances! The genteel manners, the snobbery, and the witty banter! And, oh! Those clothes! I mean, what’s not to love? It’s a lush, intricate and magnificent time period.

But the more I read about the history, the more I came to realize it was a deeply complicated time as well. Not only was Napoleon running roughshod across the Continent, at home, the royal family which was still very much the heart and center of government, was falling apart in all sorts of interesting ways. The banks and the stock market were careening along full tilt in the modern boom-and-bust cycle. Drinking and gambling were epidemic among the upper classes. The middling and lower classes were agitating for better and fairer living conditions, and a debt of as little as five pounds could land a man in jail for the rest of his life.

Oh, and did I mention there was no police force? Having a crime investigated and prosecuted was largely left to the private individuals who were directly victimized. It frequently involved having to pay a professional thief-taker or one of the very few police officers to look into the crime and find out whodunit.

And of course, nothing could possibly go wrong with that, now could it?

It was this contradiction — the idea that this glittering high society skated on very thin ice that led to the creation of Rosalind Thorne. Rosalind was a minor heiress. She had every advantage, until she didn’t. Her father abandoned the family before his creditors could catch up with him, and Rosalind was left to make do on her own. She became what the writers of the time called, “a useful woman.” These women were gentry who had fallen on hard times. They would manage to stay on the fringes of society by helping their friends out by arranging balls and dinner parties and handling other social and domestic chores. In return, those better off friends would do things like loan the women the use of their carriage, or invite them to dinner, or to stay in the country, or give them little gifts, even money, and so could keep living something like their old lives, on the surface anyway.

This is what Rosalind does, and she’s actually very good at it. As a result, she knows all the people who make things actually happen in the glamorous world of the haut ton, and how their lives all mesh together. She’s overlooked, because she has neither power nor money. In fact she’s pitied. Which means she’s underestimated.

Which means no one really wonders what’s going on when she makes polite conversation on topics of recent interest, or is seen doing a favor for a “friend,” or is standing in a corner gossiping about that shocking thing that occurred last week at the dance…

Even when that shocking thing is the discovery of a very dead body.

About A USEFUL WOMAN

A Useful Woman

Inspired by the novels of Jane Austen, this new mystery series set in 19th-century London introduces the charming and resourceful Rosalind Thorne, a woman privy to the secrets of high society—including who among the ton is capable of murder…

The daughter of a baronet and minor heiress, Rosalind Thorne was nearly ruined after her father abandoned the family. To survive in the only world she knew, she began to manage the affairs of some of London society’s most influential women, who have come to rely on her wit and discretion.

So, when artistocratic wastrel Jasper Aimesworth is found dead in London’s most exclusive ballroom, Almack’s, Rosalind must use her skills and connections to uncover the killer from a list of suspects that includes Almack’s powerful patronesses and her former suitor Devon Winterbourne, now Lord Casselmaine.

Torn between her old love and a growing attraction to a compelling Bow Street runner, Rosalind must not only unravel the mysteries surrounding Jasper’s death, but the mysteries of her own heart as well…

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About Darcie Wilde

Darcie Wilde

A longtime resident of the Great Lakes State, Darcie Wilde writes her sizzling-hot romances in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When not actually writing, she lives out her own happily-ever-afters with her husband of fifteen years, one rapidly growing son, one cat, and one writer’s group of infinite patience.

Rosalind Thorne | Regency Makeover

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Joe Cosentino | Meet Jana Lane

Introducing the third book in the Jana Lane, former child actress mystery series…

SATIN DOLL

Murder, corruption, and scandals rock Washington, D.C…. America’s most famous ex-child star, Jana Lane, is playing a US Senator in a 1983 film. Just as she and her family arrive in DC, two Washington power players are murdered, and Jana is caught in the web of intrigue and political scandal. Jana falls under the spell of the breathtakingly handsome detective assigned to the case, ex-professional football player and food aficionado, Chris Bove. Will Jana and Bove uncover the murderer’s identity and shocking secrets before Jana and her family become the Capitol’s next victims?

Praise for PORCELAIN DOLL, a Jana Lane mystery:

  • “Porcelain Doll is Joe Cosentino at his finest. We are drawn back to the fashions and attitudes of the 1980’s in a character-driven story full of intrigue and passion.” Kirsty Vizard, Divine Magazine
  • “Beautifully written and intensely detailed, Porcelain Doll is one not to be missed. Flirtatiously decadent with a strong moral undertone, set in a decade of extraordinary social change this is a story of its period that is as poignant today as it was then. Joe Cosentino controlled the emotions that the book encouraged with a deft but delicate touch. Suspenseful and mysterious, Porcelain Doll is a masterful creation, one that was impossible not to be affected by.” Carol Fenton, BooksLaidBare Reviews
  • “Murder, mystery, and suspense are high inside of this brilliant masterpiece by Joe Cosentino.” “Every page fills the readers with intrigue.” “Edge of your seat mystery that lures readers instantly.” “Once you read it, you can’t put it down.” Danielle Urban Universal Creativity Inc.
  • Praises for PAPER DOLL, the first Jana Lane mystery:
  • “Paper Doll is a superbly crafted mystery with an eclectic cast of characters that will engage you and elicit some very emotional responses as you are completely caught up in the events that unfold in these pages. Everyone has secrets and the people in Paper Doll have them in spades!” Fresh Fiction
  • “If you like novels that are filled with new and old Hollywood, and a range of sub-plots, you are going to love this!” Saguaro Moon Reviews
  • “I liked that there was enough evidence for each of the suspects to keep me guessing until the very end.” Molly Lolly Reviews
  • “Joe Cosentino knows how to keep his readers’ interest with every page.” Universal Creativity Digital Magazine
  • “Mr. Cosentino has produced a masterpiece of mystery” “The story gripped me from the start and there were enough twists and turns, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure, to keep hold of me until the end of the book.” “Great book, can’t wait for book 2.” Readers’ Favorite

Jana Lane

PAPER DOLL

#1
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PORCELAIN DOLL

#2
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SATIN DOLL

#3
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CHINA DOLL

#4
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About Joe Cosentino

Joe Cosentino

Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote Paper Doll the first Jana Lane mystery, Porcelain Doll the second Jana Lane mystery (The Wild Rose Press), Satin Doll the third Jana Lane mystery (The Wild Rose Press), Drama Queen the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), Drama Muscle the second Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, & The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press), Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back & Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (NineStar Press), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are China Doll the fourth Jana Lane mystery (The Wild Rose Press) and Drama Cruise the third Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press). Joe was voted 2nd Place for Best Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015.

Jana Lane

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A.M. Arthur | The Thrill of the Hunt

For some of us, thrifting is a way of life. Walking into a thrift store is a new adventure each and every time, because inventory is always changing. You never know what you’re going to find hidden among the racks and shelves, and there are so many different reasons for hunting through a store that I thought I’d list a few.

Savings. Depending on the store and how they price things, you can find incredible savings on clothing and home goods. Name brands are mixed in with unknown labels. In some households, shopping at the thrift store is necessary because of their budget, and trust me, been there, done that. Why spend $20 on one shirt at the mall, when you could get four like-new shirts for the same money at a thrift store? Or $80 on a service-for-eight dish set at Macy’s, when there’s a gorgeous pattern sitting on that shelf for $25?

Costuming. Back when the Lord of the Rings trilogy first released, some friends and I wanted to cosplay a few of the characters. So where do you go to find cheap materials to manipulate into Middle Earth costumes? The thrift store. The costumes never did get made, but we collected some neat, inexpensive pieces during those first few weeks of excited determination. But thrift stores are a great place to find items from other decades for parties, Halloween, or just because you like to wear vintage stuff.

Nostalgia. One of my favorite recent thrift store finds was an original stuffed Care Bear still attached to its display box. For a dollar. I couldn’t resist it. Eighties toys continue to be collectible, and I love finding something that makes me nostalgic. Sometimes I see the old Corelle pattern we had when I was a kid, and oh, the memories.

Upcycling. This has become a trendy word in the last few years, but it’s basically taking something old/broken/boring and creating something new with it. Turning old radios into planters, or a chair into a wall shelf. Thrift stores are full of cheap things just waiting to be repurposed and made new.

Books. I saved the best for last. Books, books, and more books, and so cheap! I’ve made many a large book purchase from thrift stores over the years. Books for me, books for family members, books to give away as gifts. The best part? You haven’t spent much on them, so once you’ve read them, you can donate them again—whether to a library, another thrift store, or even to your friend’s summer yard sale.

What’s your favorite thing to hunt for in a thrift store?

About A.M. Arthur

No stranger to the writing world, A.M. Arthur has been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long. She credits an early fascination with male friendships and “bromance” (and “The Young Riders”) with her later discovery of and subsequent affair with m/m romance stories. When not writing, she can be found in her kitchen, pretending she’s an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.

All Saints

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About COME WHAT MAY

Come What May

Jonas needs Tate. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Or at least, he doesn’t want to admit it. Because there is no way Jonas Ashcroft is gay. He’s a straight, carefree frat boy player, just like any good son of a conservative state senator. If only his struggle to convince everyone—especially himself—didn’t leave him so miserable. No matter how many girls or bottles he drowns himself in, Jonas can neither escape nor accept who he is.

Enter Tate. He’s smart, confident, and instantly sees right through Jonas’s surly exterior. Sure, he’s done things in life he’s not proud of, but he knows who he is and what he wants. And what he wants is Jonas. As their easy friendship intensifies into something more, Tate introduces Jonas to a life he’s never known. One filled with acceptance and sex and a love that terrifies and excites them both.

But some inner demons refuse to be shaken off so easily. When Jonas’s old life barges in, he faces a shattering choice, one that could destroy everything he and Tate have fought so hard for. Sometimes love just isn’t enough—and sometimes it’s exactly what you need.

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Lindsay McKenna | Deconstructing OUT RIDER

deconstructing out

About OUT RIDER

Out Rider

With her return to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, New York Times bestselling author Lindsay McKenna shows how love can find a way out of the darkness…

A fresh start—that’s all Devorah McGuire wants. As a former Marine and current Ranger with the US Forest Service, she’s grown accustomed to keeping others safe. But when the unthinkable happens, she can only hope that a transfer to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will allow her to put the past behind her for good.

Dev’s mentor at Grand Tetons National Park is fellow canine handler and horseman Sloan Rankin. He shows Dev the spectacular trails, never knowing the terror that stalks her every move. Despite her lingering fear, Dev feels an attraction for Sloan as wild as their surroundings.

With Sloan, Dev can envision a new life—a real home. Unless a vengeful man fresh out of prison succeeds in finishing what he started…

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Kara Isaac | How to Speak Like A “Kiwi”

The first time I ever traveled to America, I thought, “They speak English, I speak English, this will be easy, right?” Not so, as I discovered the first time I ordered an entrée expecting a small starter and found myself staring down an ENORMOUS plate of food!

As my debut romantic comedy, CLOSE TO YOU, is set in my native New Zealand, I thought I’d take the opportunity to enlighten you on some “Kiwi” phrases that have my American friends confused, bemused, or just downright amused!

  • “Bit of a dag”: A person who is quite funny or a bit of a prankster e.g. “My Uncle Phil is a bit of a dag.”
  • “Box of budgies”: happy, very cheerful e.g. “I saw Gran today. She was a box of budgies.”
  • “Bludge/bludger”: Someone who is constantly sponging off others and never picks up their share of the tab, buys their round, does their part etc. e.g. “Don’t expect Sophie to pay you back. She’s a total bludger.”
  • “Chocka”: Something that is full to overflowing e.g. “Mate, I can’t fit anymore drinks in the fridge, she’s chocka.”
  • “Hard yakka”: hard work, usually associated with some kind of manual labour e.g. “Finally built that fence today. Flip, it was hard yakka.”
  • “Knackered”: to be tired/exhausted e.g. “The kids were up half the night and I am completely knackered.”
  • “Manky”: Something that is a little bit gross/dirty e.g. “I can’t do anything with my hair today. It’s really manky” or “Are you sure you want to wear those trackpants in public? They’re a bit manky.”
  • “Pack a sad”: To become morose or ill-humored e.g. “Luke’s team lost the game and so he packed a sad and went home.”
  • “Spat the dummy”: Having a temper tantrum/meltdown e.g. “I was in Starbucks this morning and the barista didn’t make this woman’s coffee right and she totally spat the dummy.”
  • “Wop-wops”: a location in the middle of nowhere e.g. “My mum was born in the wop-wops.”

So there you have it. Try adding one of those into your next dull conversation to liven it up! I’m off to deal with a four-year-old who is completely knackered and has packed a sad about having to go to bed :-)

Giveaway

Comment below with a sentence using one of Kara’s New Zealand or your own favorite New Zealand sayings. One commenter will win a copy of CLOSE TO YOU & a Starbucks card!

About Kara Isaac

Kara_Isaac_Profile

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. It will release next week (argh!) from Howard Books. When she’s not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. You can sign up for her newsletter at karaisaac.com or connect with her on Facebook at Kara Isaac – Writer

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About CLOSE TO YOU

Close To You

A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.

Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.

Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?

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Sharon Hamilton | Writing A Different Kind of Heroine

In the book I’m finishing now, BAND OF BACHELORS: ALEX, my heroine is a very different kind of lady. She’s a tall, strikingly beautiful and in-your-face-kind of gal, who plays beach volleyball and can spike a ball within the 5’ line so hard it will break a person’s nose if they don’t dig it properly. She likes to lead when she dances slow, and she’s used to having guys dump her after a few dates, which is fine with her, because she’s easily bored. Her name is Sydney.

She’s the perfect match-up for my adrenaline-junkie Navy SEAL, Alex Kowicki, who skydives to ease his nerves and prides himself on his self-control. He’s had a string of blind dates, arranged by his bachelor friends, all with disastrous results. Trained to protect women and children and the innocent, he isn’t quite sure how to react when Sydney sets her sights on him.

Sydney always gets what she wants. Alex will get way more than he bargained for, until it’s too late for either of them. Love finds a way, but what a journey!

BAND OF BACHELORS: ALEX goes on sale June 14th. Pre-order it now:

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About BAND OF BACHELORS: ALEX

Band Of Bachelors: Alex

Adrenaline junkie and Navy SEAL Alex Kowicki is one of four bachelor SEALs trying to navigate his successful military career while achieving his goals as a first class connoisseur of beautiful women. He isn’t ready to jump back into anything but his free falls, HALO drops or his missions overseas. He trusts his buddies to fix him up with another blind date that won’t be as dangerous as his last ones.

But Sydney Robinson has other plans. A beach volleyball player who can spike better than most men, she knows how to execute a series of events that include stalking the handsome SEAL all the way to Sonoma County, capturing him in a winery and delivering his carcass to her bed for keeps. Along the way, the two of them fight a home-grown terrorist cell in a duel that might cost one of them their lives.

Lucy Farago | Excerpt from SIN ON THE RUN

Blake spotted her the moment she returned. Hell, every man in the room had either craned his neck or swiveled his head. As she walked up the aisle, she looked familiar but he couldn’t place her. Now, away from the other women, he figured it out. Black Opal was a beauty. Dressed in lavender or her usual black, it didn’t matter.
He’d often wondered if her off-stage persona was anything like the on-stage one. Over the top in everything: her hair, too black to be natural and too long to be real, would fall to her ass. He’d seen her dance, seen her use that mane as a cloak, teasing the audience with silky sweeps over creamy white skin, revealing only hints of what lay beneath. The old cliché fit. The woman put the tease in striptease.
He’d been in the club a couple of times under the guise of private investigator. When clients wanted to be entertained in Vegas, it usually involved a show, a stage and beautiful women, clothes optional. He had nothing against women seductively taking their clothes off, but he preferred them to do it in the privacy of his bedroom, for him alone.
He’d spent years as a special agent locking up scum who preyed on innocent women, but Maggie’s club was different. The women were considered performers with an act, some with agents, and were treated as such. Any woman who’d ever been coerced or pushed into stripping knew the difference between Heart’s Desire and other clubs. Maggie and the three women who’d walked with her down the aisle gave anyone who wanted out of the business a helping hand.
The few times he’d seen Rhonda dance he’d been unable to take his eyes off her. Normally he didn’t even bother to watch, but she’d exuded this confidence, this don’t-screw-with-me aura that had men falling at her feet. Go figure. But even though she looked like a ball-buster, Blake had sworn he’d seen more. What, he wasn’t sure.
He put a hand over his mouth, failing to stifle yet another yawn. His last case had done him in. He’d been hired to recover a missing model, one whose legs had been insured for millions. Her agency wanted their money, but since she hadn’t shown up dead, the insurance company was reluctant to pay out. The designer she’d signed with wasn’t pleased about losing the star of his ad campaign. Claiming it had cost him a fortune, the guy had wanted compensation.
Blake recovered the model. Only the legs that had made her famous were no longer attached to her body. He’d prayed she’d been dead when she’d been mutilated. Shaking the gruesome image out of his head, he headed to the bar for a drink. He took a seat and swiveled his chair, curious to see Maggie’s other bridesmaids corner Rhonda.

About SIN ON THE RUN

Sin on the Run

There are some secrets even Las Vegas’s 24/7 glitter can’t hide. Lucy Farago’s dazzling new series ups the ante as a fiery stripper fights to protect an elite detective from danger–and both their killer pasts.

Living in the red-hot now is how Rhonda Deagan survives. Onstage, this sexy Goth stripper always stays on top, no matter how much her real-life dreams shatter. So why not risk a scorching fling with a gorgeous groomsman after her best friend’s wedding? Too bad Blake Cameron is in someone’s lethal sights. And saving this cool-headed investigator’s life just put Rhonda on the run with him–and on his personal, oh-so-seductive hit list.

For Blake, figuring out who doesn’t want him dead is easier than keeping his new raven-haired friend safe. The only way he can buy time to out-think their pursuers is to hide them both in the aristocratic world he thought he’d escaped. But there’s no escaping the incendiary attraction between him and Rhonda. Walking the knife-edge between desire, lies, and naked truth may be their best chance to live–if it doesn’t cut too deep to survive.

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About Lucy Farago

Lucy Farago

Lucy Farago knows there is nothing like a happy sigh at the end of a good book. With the encouragement of her loving husband, she wrote her first manuscript. An unpublished historical, it sits in a file on her computer, there to remind her how much fun she had learning the craft and becoming part of an industry whose books make you believe anything is possible. A big fan of Agatha Christie, she set out to write her first romantic suspense novel. Thrilled to be a published author, Lucy also teaches yoga, enjoys cooking, and saying what other people are thinking. In her fantasy world, her beautiful Siberian husky, Loki, doesn’t shed and her three kids clean up after themselves . Alas, that fantasy will never see fruition.

Women of Vegas

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Amazing April Titles — Musicians, Artists, Shifters, Lords and Royalty

As a confirmed book addict, who marks the calendar when my favorite authors come out with new books, I was taken aback by just how many long-awaited books had April release dates. After being sufficiently wowed, I decided to undertake a month-long book odyssey. Crucial TV-viewing was interrupted, proper tribute to the family cat was put on hold, and other highly important daily activity came to a screeching halt while I wallowed in romantic literary delicacies. It was hard, but somebody had to do it.

My all-time favorite romance writers, Cynthia Eden and Jennifer Ashley, are both very versatile authors who tackle stories in a wide array of genres and sub-genres. Both authors are also very prolific without sacrificing quality for the sake of quantity. Both BITTER BLOOD by Cynthia Eden and WHITE TIGER by Jennifer Ashley feature shape shifter heroes but the settings and journey that both sets of characters take differ. I love Cynthia Eden’s shadowy New Orleans noir with a paranormal twist. Eden’s “Blood and Moonlight” trilogy has an exciting mix of dangers around every corner, characters that experience a constantly changing reality, and paranormal villains in all their fangy glory. However, in spite of that turmoil, Cynthia Eden has crafted an epic love story with a hero and heroine who have an unshakable faith in each other and their love. BITTER BLOOD ties everything together enough to satisfy fans of the series and provides that thrill that only paranormal romance can. Jennifer Ashley’s “Shifters Unbound” series has the excitement fans crave but with solid, stellar storytelling, a little humor and a definite focus on the love, strength, and importance of family. WHITE TIGER starts off with one sexy white tiger shifter fighting for his family, and it ends that way too. Everything in between is a showcase for Jennifer Ashley’s brilliant assortment of characters. The relationships between pack members, and even non-pack members are what make this series and story shine. It doesn’t hurt that the love story in WHITE TIGERR is marvelous as well.

PLAY FAIR by L.P. Maxa and TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT by Erika Kelly are both two fabulous books about rock stars that center on family, but they are wildly different yet equally enjoyable. Although there are many tear-jerking, sentimental moments in PLAY FAIR, in general I consider L.P. Maxa’s “Devil’s Share” series to be delightful brain candy. Each Devil’s Share rock star bad boy experiences his own epiphany and moment of growth over the course of the series. The main characters operate as a tight knight, fun, sometimes goofy, family and their affection for each other really comes across as you read about them. I recommend PLAY FAIR if you’re looking for a fun rock star-themed read with a little bit of emotional pull to bind the story together. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Erika Kelly’s “Rock Star Romance” series has ridiculously hot guys with a surprising amount of emotional depth. However, what stands out to me in TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT is the kick-ass heroine and her honesty in the face of difficult situations. Mimi is attracted to Calix but she doesn’t play coy and sets her own terms for their relationship. Erika Kelly also makes every supporting character in TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT flesh and blood, very believable, and a gem. You will get very emotionally invested in an Erika Kelly romance.

HIS RUTHLESS BITE by Brooklyn Ann and GOOD DUKES WEAR BLACK by Manda Collins have the least in common of any of the books in this group of awesome April books, but they are both outstanding. HIS RUTHLESS BITE is a paranormal historical about vampires with a hero who suffers from what I consider to be “the Mr. Darcy effect”. Gavin Drake is a lord vampire – so not only is he a toff, but he has supernatural as well as societal power. Gavin has the reputation for being ruthless and immovable when in reality, like the much maligned Mr. Darcy, he’s a better man than he’s thought to be. HIS RUTHLESS BITE is great for fans of historical romance that like common tropes like “marriage of convenience” but want a little something spooky and otherworldly to mix things up. There are no paranormal aspects in GOOD DUKES WEAR BLACK by Manda Collins exquisitely blends romance and mystery, in a story about a missing woman and the ease with which some members of society were dragged off to insane asylums. I love the gothic vibe in GOOD DUKES WEAR BLACKK coupled with the strong female characters.

Vaughan Hewson in DIRTY by Kylie Scott and Asher Knight in RETURN OF THE BAD BOY by Jessica Lemmon are both incredibly sexy musicians who come to a crossroads in life. One other key similarity is that, while the many characters in each book are very different, the strong friendships are amazing. Vaughan and Lydia meet in a most unconventional way in DIRTY, move in together and then pounce on each other with sexy results. Gloria and Asher in RETURN OF THE BAD BOY are combustible together and try and take another crack at get their relationship right after many epic fumbles. I love both authors and, as with so many of my favorite books on this list, these books are character-driven and the characters driving the story are exceptional. Along with the intense emotional impact, both books have a lot of humor thrown in to lighten the mood. Kylie Scott and Jessica Lemmon are two superb contemporary romance authors for fans to keep an eye out for.

HIS ROYAL PRINCESS by Jessica Clare is the only book I’ve read this month, and in a very long while, about royalty. Normally Jessica Clare writes my favorite stories about sexy billionaires and, as Jessica Sims, about sexy paranormal characters. In HIS ROYAL PRINCESS, this is a little bit of a departure in that this story features a heroine who can more than match the hero for wealth and status. Actor Luke Houston and Princess Alexandra are great characters and HIS ROYAL PRINCESS has all the trademark heat and sense of fun that so many Jessica Clare romances have. This is a perfect short, sweet treat well worth checking out.

Anya Summers | An Interview with Zoey Mills, heroine of HER HIGHLAND MASTER

 

Curious about the characters in HER HIGHLAND MASTER? Now’s your chance to meet Zoey.

What is your name? Do you have a nickname?

My name is Zoey Mills. Sometimes my sister calls me Zoe or Z, but it’s rare.

Who is your best friend? What kinds of things do you do when you’re together?

Lucy Martin and I have been BFFs since grade school. She’s really like a sister to me. We experienced our first boyfriends together, puberty, high school, and college. She was the first person I called the day my parents died. One of our favorite things to do is a girl’s night out. We don’t worry about finding guys or anything, just go have a blast at a winery or pub.

If you have a family, how do you get along with them? If you don’t, are there people in your life that you consider family? How do you get along with them?

My baby sister is my only blood relative. We’re the best of friends. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fact that our parents died and we had to forge our way, or if it would have always been that way with the two of us.

Do you have a birthmark? Scars? Where is it/are they? How did you get it/them?

No, I don’t have any birthmarks. I’m pretty average physically I think.

When you’re angry, what do you do? Where do you go? How do you deal with your anger?

I’m more of a fighter. When I’m angry I typically go to the boxing gym near our house and go a few rounds with the bag. It gets it all out of my system and is a great workout to boot.

If you had to make me a meal right now, without going to the store, what would you find in your refrigerator to feed us?

Probably a spinach salad and some fruit. Although I always have my fridge stocked with wine and cheese too.

What’s the one thing you’re afraid of losing?

My sister. Our parents died in a car wreck six years ago and she’s the only family I have left.

What makes you laugh out loud?

British comedies. I love the dry wit and their off-beat humor. I cannot get enough of them.

Has anyone broken your heart? Who was s/he?

No one in the romantic sense, most of my relationships have been fairly bland. There was an event that shattered my heart though, it was the day my parents died. It’s something I don’t think I will ever fully recover from. As you get older you begin to understand that not all grief dissipates, some grief is so deep you will carry it with you all the days of your life.

What’s the one thing you want out of life that you don’t think you can have? Why can’t you have it?

A life of my own. Since my parents died, I’m the one who has kept the home fires burning, so to speak.

About HER HIGHLAND MASTER

Her Highland Master

Zoey Mills’s life is in shambles. She’s been accused of leaking her upper crust Hollywood clients’ data to an online magazine for a large payday. After a wine and chocolate-filled evening of drowning her sorrows, she determines that her best course of action is to leave her home in sunny Los Angeles for a week-long vacation in the Scottish Highlands. It’s the only way she can escape from the fact that her image is being splashed across the nightly news – and it might actually give her a chance to consider what her next move should be, now that her Great Master Life Plan has disintegrated into dust.

Unfortunately, she’s only just landed and is navigating the tiny roads in her rental car when a freak early autumn snow storm hits. Zoey finds herself stranded and winds up on the doorstep of Mullardoch Manor; home of the sexy Scotsman, Declan McDougal, who is her every dark fantasy brought to life.

Declan is one of the founding members of The Dungeon Fantasy Club. As a billionaire businessman and a Dom, he prefers to keep his sexual preferences and tastes away from the boardroom. He’s also become bored, not just with the club, but also with his life. None of the subs he meets can hold his interest for more than a night and it’s been that way for a long time. He just never wants more than a brief encounter. At least, not since his ex-fiancée cheated on him with another Dom and ran away. However, that all changes when Zoey barrels into his home uninvited and upends his luxurious but stale existence.

When Zoey finds herself without a place to stay, Declan makes her a tantalizing but scandalous offer: Stay in his home for the week, free of charge, and spend each night warming his bed. Or any other time of the day, for that matter. Deciding she doesn’t have much to lose and possibly everything to gain, Zoey accepts.

With Zoey’s every sweet subsequent cry of ecstasy, Declan uncovers a sub who warms not only his bed, but slowly thaws his frozen, scarred heart. And as Zoey explores her deepest fantasies, even as he spanks her bare bottom for disobeying his rules, she finds herself wanting more than just a week of unmitigated pleasure with the Dom.

Things seem to be progressing perfectly, both in bed and out, when Zoey’s past catches up with her. When he feels betrayed once more, and fears the woman he has grown to care for is not who she says she is, will Declan still be willing to risk his heart to become Her Highland Master?

Buy HER HIGHLAND MASTER: Kindle | Blushing Books
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About Anya Summers

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Anya grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Anya never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a M.A. in History.

Anya is a Bestselling and Award-Winning Author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance under the name, Maggie Mae Gallagher. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the midwest with her two furry felines.

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Don’t miss these exciting titles by Anya Summers and Blushing Books!

Dungeon Fantasy Club Series

  • Her Highland Master, Book 1, April 15, 2016
  • To Master & Defend, Book 2, May 15, 2016
  • Two Doms for Kara, Book 3, June 12, 2016
  • His Driven Domme, Book 4, July 2016
  • Her Country Master, Book 5, August 2016
  • Love Me, Master Me, Book 6, September 2016
  • Submit To Me, Book 7, October 2016
  • Her Wired Dom, Book 8, November 2016

GIVEAWAY

Tell us what you think of this new series and five readers will win an ebook copies of HER HIGHLAND MASTER