Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Results Are In!

As long as I can remember, there's been a myth in our family that great-grandma Missouri Belle was half Native American. My uncle and I have had many fireside chats about her and how she came to be Indian. If it was true, it happened when Missouri's mother was keeping the homestead going while her husband was off fighting the Civil War. Was it rape, as my uncle speculated, or was it an impetuous love story? My mind buzzed with ideas, and I began doing genealogical research in an attempt to find out what tribe she was descended from.

We thought we had hit upon something last summer, when we found Missouri's grave. The name on her tombstone wasn't Missouri, but Missouria. My brother did a search and discovered there was once a Missouria tribe, but they disbanded in the 1800s, as their number dwindled. Paydirt! We were elated. So much so, my brother decided to give me the gift of a DNA test for Christmas.

I got the results a few days ago, and it revealed some fascinating stuff. My family is mostly from western Europe--Germany and Switzerland, which I knew about. Following a close second was Scandinavian, which I had no idea existed in my genes. More research must be done to find out if I'm related to any Vikings. I knew about the smidge of English in my blood, but was totally unaware of the 10% Irish in me. Since one of my heroes was Irish, this makes me very proud.

But the Native American? Not a trace was found--anywhere. The DNA revealed a drop of European Jewish, but not a bit of Indian. I discussed it with the family, and we think my uncle should get tested, since he's one generation closer to Missouri Belle, so we're not giving up entirely. But to say we were disappointed would be an understatement.

Fortunately, I love to write historical romances, and the impetuous love affair between my great-great-grandmother and her Missouria Indian can still happen. Stay tuned. Someday, you'll see Susannah Myers' illicit tale come to life. That fact that it's fiction rather than real-life won't really matter.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thursday Threads--Get to know historical romance writer Meggan Connors

The Marker
By Meggan Connors
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: Sensual

When her father loses her in a poker game, Lexie Markland is sent to work in the household of Nicholas Wetherby for one year to pay off the debt. Innocent, but not naïve, she is savvy enough to know she must maintain her distance from this man, who frustrates her with his relentless teasing but whose kisses bring her to her knees. Because although she may be just another conquest to him, it’s not just her heart in jeopardy should she succumb to Nicholas’ considerable charms.

Since his brother's death almost a year before, nothing has held Nicholas’ attention for long—not women, not booze, not even an excellent hand at cards. Nothing, that is, until he meets the woman he won in a drunken night of poker. Intrigued by his prize and her chilly reserve, he makes it his mission to crack Lexie’s cool demeanor. But even as passion explodes between them, the question remains: will Nicholas be able to take the ultimate risk...and gamble on love?


Sacramento, California
Summer 1874

    Nicholas Wetherby threw back his whiskey in a single swallow. He hadn’t touched his cards since he had first looked at them, casually raising bets as other players placed them. Recognizing Nicholas’s betting patterns as those of a man with a remarkable hand, the other players at the table folded, one after the other. All except one.
Idly twirling a silver dollar between his fingers, Nicholas leaned back in his chair, hooked his arm over the back and studied the last remaining a player, John Markland. Markland was a man who had been perpetually down on his luck since the death of his wife, and any good sense he may have once had must have died with her. Only an improbable run of good fortune brought Markland to this particular table, and he played like a man possessed. Nicholas had once heard he lived more or less hand-to-mouth in a seedy part of town with his daughter, and the stack of cash in front of him would keep him in food and booze for a good month. If the man had any common sense left, he wouldn’t push his luck—he would fold this hand, gather his winnings, and count both his cash and his blessings.
    “How much you got, Markland?” he asked.
    Tobacco smoke clung to the air as Markland mashed the end of his cigar between his teeth. Making a show of counting his money, he said, “Ninety.”
    Still not looking back at his cards, Nicholas tossed in a hundred dollars. A part of him expected Markland to fold over the casual way he placed his bet, as if he didn’t care about the sum of money being wagered. And, in fact, he didn’t.
“Well, that ought to cover it.”
    The desperate greed lighting his eyes poorly disguised, Markland stared at the cash in front of him. The problem with Markland was that he lacked both the fortitude and the skill to earn his money, so he had to win it. Pity he wasn’t even very good at that.
    Nicholas despised men like him. But then, Nicholas despised just about everyone these days.
    “I’ll sign over the house to you if you go all in, Wetherby.”
    Nicholas chuckled, but it felt hollow in his gut. “I’m sure it’s mortgaged for more than it’s worth. I think not.”
    He didn’t want anything Markland had to offer, but at least the betting was getting interesting. The familiar rush accompanying a big win caught his attention and pierced through the languor that had been dogging him for months. Ever since the death of his brother almost a year before, no amount of drink or women seemed to be able to fill the void in his life, though a big win at poker at least piqued his interest for a time. 
    “I’ll give you my watch,” Markland said, fishing into his pocket. “It’s pure gold.”
    Nicholas eyed the banged-up trinket his opponent dangled in front of him, acting like a street vendor hawking ‘genuine diamonds’ or some cure-all elixir. As if he would want such a piece of junk. Nicholas almost wished the man had more pride.
“I have a pocket watch, and I don’t need another,” Nicholas replied, swiftly losing interest in the betting and wanting to move on to the next hand. “Just call with the ninety and let’s be done with this. Except for the cash in front of you, you have nothing I want.”
Markland fidgeted in his seat and tapped his index finger nervously on the worn, green felt of the card table. His eyes shifted from Nicholas to Nicholas’s money, and over at the bar. “A moment, Wetherby,” he said, holding up his hand. “Barkeep!” he shouted to the man standing behind the gleaming mahogany bar. When he turned in their direction, Markland said, “Bourbon whiskey, for me and my new friend here. The ‘48, if you would.”
“Going for the good stuff, I see.”
    “Nothing but the best for me and my friends,” Markland said, raising a glass in a toast.
    Never one to turn down a free drink—especially not one as good as the ‘48—Nicholas nodded his thanks, replied, “Indeed,” and drained his glass. He placed it on the table with heavy thud and said, “Just call.”
    “No, wait!” Markland cried. “My daughter! If I lose, I’ll give you my daughter!”

Here's the link to Amazon:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mary's Merry Christmas

I have to admit, this holiday season began all wrong. First, there was the upside-down turkey for the second year in a row. Only this time I couldn't blame my sister entirely, since I was at her house this year, slipping the bird into the oven. Then, I got sick for a couple of weeks with something my doctor proclaimed as the 'creeping crud.' That was her technical term for it. What it did was make me feel miserable, blowing (literally) through boxes of tissue and losing my voice (the horror!). Then came the loss of the mother of one of my dear friends. Not much to celebrate this year, eh?

Not so fast. Take a look at my little dog, Mary, all dolled up for the holiday.
Three or four years ago, she was living a miserable existence as a puppy-mill breed dog. The only times she was picked up at all was to be abused. She still has a fear of being picked up, and can't do normal dog things like jump on the furniture or take a flight of stairs. But her life, compared to what it had been, is one big joy ride now.

So, the moral of this holiday tale is to take happiness wherever you find it. Circumstances may make it not the picture-perfect holiday you had envisioned, but there are bright spots to be found regardless. All you have to do is search for them.

Have a safe and happy Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Final Weekend To Save!

Amazon's Kindle Big Deal for Christmas will end on December 22. Two of my books--The Reluctant Debutante and Banking On Temperance--are for sale for only 99 cents each. But the offer expires on December 22. By that time, Amazon believes all the new Kindles will be loaded up and wrapped to place under the tree.

So, please add grabbing some great romances to your list of things to do this final weekend before Christmas.

The Reluctant Debutante

In 1855 New York, Ginger Fitzpatrick has absolutely no interest in taking part in the newest rage in America—the Cotillion Ball. Instead, Ginger would rather be rallying for women’s rights and marching alongside Amelia Bloomer. She meets and falls in love with a dark mysterious man named Joseph Lafontaine, who ignites her passion and makes her question if love and marriage is such a ridiculous notion after all. What she and the rest of New York’s high society don’t realize is that Joseph is half Ojibwa Indian, causing Ginger to fight for another kind of social justice. 

Buy Link:

Banking On Temperance

Set in St. Louis in 1857, this book follows the trail of a poor preacher and his family, who have decided to migrate to Oregon in order to keep their two young sons from having to fight in the impending Civil War. However, along the way to join up with a wagon train, the preacher falls ill, and the family is forced to winter over in St. Louis. Temperance Jones, the eldest, meets and falls in love with Basil Fitzpatrick, owner of the local bank. However, he can't help her fulfill her father's dying request to get his boys out of harm's way. 

Buy Link: 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thursday Threads--Linda Bennett Pennell

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing Linda Bennett Pennell and her fabulous book, Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel.

Genre: Historical fiction with romantic elements

Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel tells a story of lives unfolding in different centuries, but linked and irrevocably altered by a series of murders in 1930. 

Lake City, Florida, June, 1930: Al Capone checks in for an unusually long stay at the Blanche Hotel, a nice enough joint for an insignificant little whistle stop. The following night, young Jack Blevins witnesses a body being dumped heralding the summer of violence to come. One-by-one, people controlling county vice activities swing from KKK ropes. No moonshine distributor, gaming operator, or brothel madam, black or white, is safe from the Klan's self-righteous vigilantism. Jack's older sister Meg, a waitress at the Blanche, and her fiancé, a sheriff’s deputy, discover reasons to believe the lynchings are cover for a much larger ambition than simply ridding the county of vice. Someone, possibly backed by Capone, has secret plans for filling the voids created by the killings. But as the body count grows and crosses burn, they come to realize this knowledge may get all of them killed.

Gainesville, Florida, August, 2011: Liz Reams, an up and coming young academic specializing in the history of American crime, impulsively moves across the continent to follow a man who convinces her of his devotion yet refuses to say the three simple words I love you. Despite entreaties of friends and family, she is attracted to edginess and a certain type of glamour in her men, both living and historical. Her personal life is an emotional roller coaster, but her career options suddenly blossom beyond all expectation, creating a very different type of stress. To deal with it all, Liz loses herself in her professional passion, original research into the life and times of her favorite bad boy, Al Capone. What she discovers about 1930’s summer of violence, and herself in the process, leaves her reeling at first and then changed forever.

June 14, 1930
O’Leno, Florida

Jack jammed a finger into each ear and swallowed hard. Any other time, he wouldn’t even notice the stupid sound. The river always sorta slurped just before it pulled stuff underground.
His stomach heaved again. Maybe he shouldn’t look either, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the circling current. When the head slipped under the water, the toe end lifted up. Slowly the tarpaulin wrapped body, at least that’s what it sure looked like, went completely vertical. It bobbed around a few times and finally gurgled its way down the sinkhole. Then everything went quiet . . . peaceful . . . crazily normal. Crickets sawed away again. An ole granddaddy bullfrog croaked his lonesomeness into the sultry midnight air.
Crouched in the shelter of a large palmetto clump, Jack’s muscles quivered and sweat rolled into his eyes, but he remained stock-still. His heart hammered like he had just finished the fifty yard dash, but that was nothing to what Zeke was probably feeling. He was still just a little kid in lots of ways.
When creeping damp warmed the soles of Jack’s bare feet, he grimaced and glanced sideways. Zeke looked back with eyes the size of saucers and mouthed the words I’m sorry. Jack shook his head then wrinkled his nose as the odor of ammonia and damp earth drifted up. He’d always heard that fear produced its own peculiar odor, but nobody ever said how close you had to be to actually smell it. He prayed you had to be real close; otherwise, he and Zeke were in big trouble. 
The stranger standing on the riverbank stared out over the water for so long Jack wondered if the man thought the body might suddenly come flying up out of the sinkhole and float back upriver against the current. Funny, the things that popped into your head when you were scared witless.
The man removed a rag from his pocket and mopped his face. He paused, looked upstream, then turned and stared into the surrounding forest. As his gaze swept over their hiding place, Jack held his breath and prayed, but he could feel Zeke’s chest rising and falling in ragged jerks so he slipped his hand onto Zeke’s arm. Under the gentle pressure of Jack’s fingers, Zeke’s muscles trembled and jumped beneath his soft ebony skin. When Zeke licked his lips and parted them like he was about to yell out, Jack clapped a hand over the open mouth and wrapped his other arm around Zeke’s upper body, pulling him close and holding him tight. Zeke’s heart pounded against the bib of his overalls like it might jump clean out of his chest.
With one final look ‘round at the river and forest, the stranger strode to the hand crank of a Model T. The engine caught momentarily, then spluttered and died. A stream of profanity split the quiet night. The crank handle jerked from its shaft and slammed back into place. More grinding and more swearing followed until the thing finally coughed to life for good and a car door slammed. Only then did Jack relax his hold on Zeke.
“I want outta here. I wanna go home,” Zeke whispered hoarsely.
Lucky Zeke. Before Meg left home to move into town, Jack would have felt the same way. Now he didn’t care if he ever went home. 
Jack cocked an ear in the Ford’s direction. “Hush so I can listen. I think he’s gone, but we’re gonna belly crawl in the opposite direction just to be sure we ain’t seen.”
“Through that briar patch?  I ain’t got on no shoes or shirt.”
“Me neither. Come on. Don’t be such a baby.”
“I ain’t no baby,” Zeke hissed as he scrambled after Jack.
When the pine forest thinned out, Jack raised up on his knees for a look around. Without a word, Zeke jumped to his feet and started toward the road. Jack grabbed a strap on Zeke’s overalls and snatched him back onto his bottom.
“You taken complete leave of your senses?” Wiping sweat out of his eyes, Jack pushed his shaggy blonde hair to one side. “Check it out before you go bustin’ into the open.”
“Why you so bossy all the time? I ain’t stupid, ya know. Just cause you turned twelve don’t make you all growed up.”
Zeke’s lower lip stuck out, trembling a little. Whether it was from fear or anger, Jack wasn’t sure. Probably both. Peering into the night, he strained for the flash of headlights. Nothing but bright moonlight illuminated the road’s deep white sand. Finally confident that no vehicles were abroad, he grabbed Zeke’s hand and pulled him to his feet. With one final glance left, then right, they leapt onto the single lane track and ran like the devil was on their tails. 

Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel now available from Soul Mate Publishing
Confederado do Norte  coming from Soul Mate in 2014



Twitter:  @LindaPennell

Buy link for Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

You Live And Die By The Biscuits

As a self-professed reality TV viewer (see last Sunday's post for full disclosure), I watched a famous cheftesant contest last week. The person who went home because of a bad biscuit uttered the profound words "You live and die by the biscuits." His, in this case, had saggy, soggy middles, even though the top and bottom were gloriously golden. What had happened?

One of the judges explained that, for biscuits to be done right, the butter must be ice-cold, and cut into small chunks, not creamed, into the flour mixture. Then, during baking, these tiny chunks of butter melt, allowing for the biscuits to rise properly. I'm not enough of a baker to know if this is, in fact, correct, but it sounded logical. This particular chef obviously had creamed his butter instead of chunking it.

So what does a baking lesson have to do with writing? Allow me to explain.

Last summer, I attended a workshop with Margie Lawson. While the workshop as a whole was kind of all over the place, I did pick up one image that has stuck with me. She said to write each character's backstory in a series of bullet points and pretend you copied them onto a sheet of glass. You then drop the glass, breaking the points into little chunks of story and insert them, one at a time, into your manuscript. If you add in too much backstory at once--in other words, creaming it into the dough that is your story, you end up with a saggy, soggy, middle.

Every time I'm writing a story now, and attempting to insert some backstory to help the reader find out what makes my characters tick, I remember the image of the backstory on glass and only insert enough of a chunk at a time to tease the reader into wanting to learn more. At least I hope that will be what happens. After all, you live and die by the biscuits.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Get to know Elle Hill

Today, we get to know Elle Hill, who writes paranormal romances.
I read her short story in the Christmas anthology, and loved it, so I'm certain Hunted Dreams is a dynamite story.

Let's find out more about the novel.

Genre: Paranormal romance

Heat level: Sensual.

Hook: A woman trapped in an endless cycle of nightmares. A handsome hero committed to rescuing her. It’s just like Sleeping Beauty – except the dreaming damsel is the sword wielder and the hero is a psychic vampire feeding off her pain.


“The Leeches got their nickname from the way they eat.” Reed’s voice was even.
“They drink blood?” she breathed.
He shook his head. “A little less literal. The Broschi are empathic. They can feel and even evoke other people’s feelings, negative ones like fear, pain, horror.”
“Sun and stars,” she breathed. She got it.
She got it.
“They’re eating me,” she said, and laughed, but not humorously. “These superhuman, psychic Leech people are keeping me trapped in nightmares, eating my feelings.” Her chest felt heavy. She pressed her left hand against it and felt its gentle rise and fall.
None of this is real. All this drama, all this fear, all the pain and anger and malice. None of it exists except in the form of juicy brainwaves that these beings sip like mint juleps. No wonder she couldn’t die, couldn’t escape, couldn’t ever wake up.
Reed’s face was flushed, his nostrils wide. Her handsome hero. For a minute, she hated him, hated that he got to wake up, hated this situation, hated everything boxing her in this narrow world.
Katana glared at him for a moment. “I’m trapped in here,” she grated.
His face relaxed into compassion. Hers hardened.
“I know,” he said.
She stared at him for a moment longer. Finally, with a sigh, she leaned her head against the glass. “Who are you, Reed?”
“I’m a Leech, too, Katana.”




Purchasing the book:

Twitter: @ellehillauthor

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dream Big

Okay, I'll confess it--I watch a lot of reality TV. I use the excuse that I only have eight stations at my disposal (six if you discount the Spanish and Russian stations), and I don't watch any crime or cop dramas, which annihilates most of the nightly lineup on every other station (Castle doesn't fall into this category, since he's an author).

But the fact of the matter is, I enjoy my reality shows. Not all of them, mind you. I draw the line at Miami, Shahs and Jersey. But everything else is fair game. I find some of the best lines for my contemporaries from watching these shows.

Recently, a new show started up that features a fashion blogger from Dallas. She made the comment that if your dreams don't scare you a little, you're not dreaming big enough. Sage advice from a fashion blogger, I thought. So, with the new year in sight, I'm offering up my dream list for 2014. They scare the crap out of me, so I think they're big enough.

1) Make it into the realm of "established" author. (10,000 sales, according to The Fussy Librarian)
2) Attend the RWA Conference in San Antonio.
3) Hit #1 on an Amazon list, at least for one day
4) Buy a new Mac to replace Old Faithful, who is now over ten years old.
5) Have one of my books be optioned for a TV movie. (Castle's daughter would be a great Ginger!)

So tell me, what are your dreams for 2014?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday Threads--Janis Lane

Say hello to Janis Lane, everyone.
She's got a cozy mystery for your enjoyment. Murder In The Neighborhood proves that even in a small town, there's murder afoot.

Heat Level: Sensual

A handsome detective and a sexy reporter team to capture a killer who threatens their small-town-American community, even as they are tempted by sweet romance.
A killer is attacking respectable citizens in picturesque Hubbard, NY and leaving corpses on their front steps in the middle of the day. Detective Fowler isn’t certain who causes him to lose the most sleep, a certain sexy reporter with bouncing curls and sparkling black eyes or the elusive psychopath creating panic in his small town community. Together the detective and the reporter race to find the monster in their midst and return the town to the desirable place where people come to raise their families in peace and contentment. Can they sort through their differences to find romance even as they search for a determined stalker with murder on his mind? The clock ticks down on a man in a rage with a deadly mission.

A young woman competently filling a pair of gray slacks and a blue sweater was backing out of a bedroom with her hand still on the door. She was slightly built but of medium height with a thick mop of curly brown hair cut just at jaw line. A tiny waist and the snug slacks accented a firm, rounded bottom that strained and rippled the material as she stepped backwards from the room.

He thought he had seen those hips someplace before, but he waited patiently for the intruder to turn around. Would she recognize him outlined against the light? She finally did and gave a visible start and squeak of surprise.

“Miss Hampton,” he greeted keeping his voice quiet and noncommittal. He nodded with raised eyebrows, as he leaned against the doorjamb with his arms crossed in front of him waiting for her explanation. Her cheeks reddened slightly as she came toward him. He had never known such a rounded woman before. Everything about her made him think of succulent apples. She wasn’t fat. Just curvy round. He tried not to look down at her chest, which he knew would bring thoughts of Delicious to mind. He was slightly acquainted with Beverly Louise Hampton and more than a little wary. His attraction to her had his automatic defense mechanisms clicking, one by one, firmly into place.

“Hey, Detective Fowler,” she said warily by way of greeting. “I came in the back door from behind. I parked my car over on the next street because I knew the short cut through the yards. Used to ride my bike through here to get to school,” she babbled. “I guessed you would have all the official vehicles out front. I said hello to the police earlier,” she added, winding down and giving him a slightly apprehensive look. He knew she knew she shouldn’t be here.
She clutched a notebook to her chest nervously but tilted her chin up slightly. So, she wasn’t sorry she’d intruded herself into a crime scene. Just as he knew she’d monitored the calls to the police.
“Just because your daddy, a mannerly gentleman, by the way . . .” He gave her a hard stare. “. . . owns the newspaper does not give you the right to contaminate a crime scene, Miss Hampton, and you are perfectly aware of this fact,” he said between clenched teeth. He strode past her and walked through the house.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Contemporary Side

I love writing historicals, as anyone who follows my career knows. But in between all the history, I like to put together a contemporary that's more breezy than a heavy historical. I think it makes both my historical side and my contemporary side better if I bounce back and forth. The last thing I want is to have every book sound the same. The characters must jump off the page at you and have you, the reader, be rooting for them from the first scene. Otherwise, what's the point?

Blame It On The Brontes was my debut contemporary. There is more coming early in 2014. I'll be releasing The Road To Comfort (just saw the cover--Yum!) sometime in January, and then Voice Of An Angel in early 2014. I'm hoping having more than one selection will help the lagging sales of all of them. And, I hope to become more familiar with the haunts of contemporary readers. It's been a bit of a struggle. Authors and publishers alike try different promotional tactics. Some work, some don't. Time was when offering up your book for free for a day or two stimulated sales, since it raised you in the Amazon rankings. Now, we've been told that doesn't work anymore. Getting 30 reviews for your book in the first three days of its release was guaranteed to bring you lots of extra Amazon promotion. Now, that's been proven a falsehood.

What is an author to do? The answer is very simple, and very complex. Write the best book you possibly can, promote it at every opportunity, and keep your name out there. Easy-peasy, right?

So, here goes. Blame It On The Brontes has been voted #1 Best Baby Boomer Romance by Goodreads subscribers. It's three love stories in one book, wrapped around a central story line. And, best of all, it's on sale for four more days at only 99 cents! Grab your copy now, or load up that Kindle gift you're giving someone for Christmas. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne would appreciate it. Not to mention, I'd be overjoyed.