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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Starlight Saturday

Welcome Author
Renee Wildes

Renee Wildes

When you think of Wisconsin, one of the first things that comes to mind would be one or more of the following: Beer, Brats and Cheese (anything dairy as we are the "Dairy State"). But "writer" or "author" wouldn't necessarily get added to that list because not everyone realizes just how many authors actually reside in Wisconsin. Not all of them were born here (Peter Straub came from Milwaukee), but many of them, like Neil Gaiman, have settled here from somewhere else.

What does that have to do with a romance author? Well, Renee is one of those authors who resides in Wisconsin - it doesn't matter if she's homegrown or transplanted, she's still talented and I like it that she calls Wisconsin home!

Renee's here to promote her latest release, Dust of Dreams. Let's check out her interview and she what sneak peeks she has for us!

ME: Almost anywhere you go in the US, Independence Day is celebrated with parades, firework displays, cookouts and music – sometimes on July 4th and sometimes earlier depending upon what day of the week the 4th falls on. What celebration plans are going on in your area, and when will they happen?

RENEE: We live in Wausau - a small city in central WI. They have a parade, and a fair that goes on all weekend. Rides, carnival games, fair food. They bring in bands – and beer. For the fourth they usually schedule fireworks at dusk. But we’ve had so much rain the fireworks never happened.

ME: What kinds of festivities would a traveler find at this celebration? What sights, sounds and smells might he or she encounter?

RENEE: It’s just like a small-town county fair w/o the critters. People put up flags all over town. It smells like a big BBQ – roasted corn on the cob, BBQ ribs and bratwurst. (We ARE talking WI here!) The ground gets really sticky w/spilled beer. The bands play all day, and there are the flashing lights from the carnie area and the clank of the rides. You have to watch out for all the power cords so you don’t fall flat on your face.

ME: What about you and your family? What plans do you have for celebrating Independence Day?

RENEE: We usually go to my trainer’s farm for a big BBQ w/fireworks, but the last couple years they haven’t had one. (Finances have hit everyone pretty hard – we’re all cutting back.) We just had a family cookout, with sparklers and those popper things you throw at the sidewalk for the kids. It ended up pouring rain so we went to the movie theater and saw “Knight and Day.” Place was packed – lots of people trying to escape the rain.

ME: Is there any favorite treat that you must consume during an Independence Day celebration?

RENEE: Always have corn-on-the-cob and those red-white-and-blue popsicles

ME: In many areas, people like to purchase their own fireworks and set them off – snakes, bottle rockets, and sparklers among others. What’s your opinion on fireworks – take them or leave them? Which ones are your favorites?

RENEE: I love watching them but leave them to the professionals. They’re dangerous! We stick to poppers and sparklers. Love the colored sparklers – kids have fun with them. They pretend to have wizard duels with them.

ME: A day some might consider as equally important is Bastille Day on the 14th commemorating the storming of the prison fortress, Bastille, in 1789 when the French people stormed the fortress, putting an end to “the tyranny of King Louis XVI’s monarchy”. Celebrations are beginning to be held in major cities across the country celebrating French history. One of the largest celebrations in the country happens in Milwaukee, WI (4 day long festival beginning with a re-enactment of the storming of the Bastille, complete with a 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica) a tradition starting 27 years ago makes it one of the city’s oldest festivals. Is Bastille Day celebrated in your area? If so, how? What sights, sounds, and cuisine will travelers stumble upon?

RENEE: N/A up here.

ME: Are there any other festivities that take place in your area that a traveler might enjoy local culture and traditions? If so, what are they and where would a traveler go to find them?

RENEE: We have an annual hot air balloon rally, a Chalkfest where local artists draw on the sidewalks all around the town square, a couple of citywide art fairs, a “battle of the bands” and a blues festival. Go to http://www.wausaucvb.com/index.cfm?ID=151 for full listings.

ME: We’ve had our fun now, so let’s put the focus on your writing. While there are many genres to choose from, what specifically brought you to romance? Why this genre over the others?

RENEE: Not just romance, but for me FANTASY ROMANCE. I’m a huge Joseph Campbell disciple. I own the Kalevala. I grew up reading fantasy authors Terry Brooks and Mercedes Lackey, and then got into reading romance (Julie Garwood’s historicals).

I have to have my HEAs! I love stories where good always triumphs over evil and the girl always gets the guy, so now I write my own.

ME: Even though the popularity of the romance genre continues to grow, it’s still not always a highly respected genre. What, in your opinion, is the reason for the continued interest in the genre and for the lack of respect it receives?

RENEE: Ouch! I think the popularity is the escapism into a fantasy where no matter how bad things get in the book, you KNOW things’ll turn out right in the end. So much of real life is NOT a HEA. People need something positive.

I think people who don’t get it think it’s some kind of “crutch.” Or they confuse love scenes w/pornography. I always tell people I’m proud to write stories with strong heroines who make a difference in their worlds, with supportive heroes who are strong enough to let the heroines be themselves.

I want my daughter to grow up to be a strong woman who takes control of her own destiny, and my son to grow up to admire and respect women as equals.

ME: A holiday we didn’t discuss above is Parents’ Day. What traits, in your opinion, make for a good parent? Have any of these traits, been inspiration for a character’s personality and actions in your stories? If so, how? Which character(s), which trait(s) and why?

RENEE: A good parent has to set an example. They have to be a good listener, open-minded, consistent and fair. They have to be adaptable and know when to compromise and when not to. I learn as much from my kids as I hope they learn from me.

My heroine in Lycan Tides is Finora, a stranded selkie who’s also a widow and a single mom. She yearns to return to the sea, but fears finding her skin because then what happens to her children? Everything she is and does is colored by the fact that her kids come first. Part of her challenge with the hero Trystan is coming to understand that moms are women, too, and sometimes it’s okay to do something just for yourself.

ME: For a writer, inspiration can be found everywhere and in almost anyone, but sometimes specific people, places and events can inspire certain characters, personality traits, events or situations that happen in our stories. In your current story that we’re promoting here today, Dust of Dreams, did any one particular person, place or event inspire you? If so who/what was it (were they), how did it/they inspire you and how is this inspiration reflected in your story?

RENEE: It sounds like a weird combination, but it wasn’t a specific person, but a couple of events. I’ve always loved the principle of the Olympics, how everyone can get together for a common goal, a sporting event, regardless of politics or whatever. I wanted to get an “enemies-are-just-people” theme going. And when I was teenager, I was a big-time tomboy. I was in a Wilderness Challenge club with snowshoeing, whitewater rafting – and caving. We took a caving trip in Missouri that I remember to this day. Dark winding passages, sticky red-clay mud, mineral water – and bats. So I did a setup where my elven hero has to help a goblin child (elves and goblins have been warring for centuries) and the goblins live underground.

ME: Without giving away anything pertinent to the story, tell us about the hero and heroine (s) of your story. What do they look like? How do they meet (or “did” if this is not the first book with these same characters)? What are their personalities – Are they comical cut-ups, are they serious or are they a mix of the two? Please give us a little bit of dialogue from the story that can illustrate this. (Not much, but just a few lines and from a different section than the main excerpt – Thanks!)

RENEE: Pryseis is a dream faerie with amethyst eyes and iridescent hair. Her wings are actually solar panels, which is why going underground to help a goblin child escape his nightmares is so personally risky for her. Benilo is an elven spirit healer, with pale blond hair, blue eyes (and yes, pointy ears). They actually meet in a dream. She’s determined to help the child. He’s determined to help her. They’re both compassionate, serious people with a rebellious streak. They have to be rebels, or neither would have been permitted to help a goblin, child or no.

EXCERPT: Deciding it worth the risk, he drew Pryseis into his arms and held her close, reaching out with his own mind to brush hers. “Pryseis?” He waited a moment. “Can you hear me?”
Pryseis stirred. “It worked. You’re still alive.” She opened her eyes, and gasped. “You look terrible!” she whispered, reaching out her hand to trace his lips.
He fought the temptation to drown in her misty amethyst gaze, and reached out with his mind to touch the pain she bore—part overreaching with her own gift and part the sorcerer’s attack. He pulled it from her, much as he had the nightmares of the women and girls in Shamar. Then it had poisoned him. One more now would not make much difference.
But it would help Pryseis.
“What did you do?” she mind-sent. “Cease. Heal yourself first.”
“I did.” He pulled some more power from the elements until the double-headache receded. “I imagine I look worse than I feel.”
She snorted. “Somehow I doubt it.”

ME: The main characters are usually great, but sometimes, secondary and tertiary characters are known to steal the scenes, even if the author did not intend this to happen. Who are the secondary/tertiary characters in your story and what do they look like? What’s unique about them? What is their relationship to the hero/heroine? Have any of these characters gone on to become scene-stealers? If so, who and how did they do it? Is there the possibility for them to get their own story? (Again, please give us a small bit of dialogue to illustrate this – thanks!)

RENEE: I ended up with a subplot of Pryseis’ nephew and Benilo’s apprentice teaming up on their own rescue mission. Dax is half-forest troll, half-dream faerie – he’s dealt with the prejudice of others his entire life. Prince Brannan is a fledgling elven spirit healer whose younger brother was killed in battle by trolls. They have to learn to work together, and actually start to become friends before something threatens to break that bond forever. Prince Brannan’s a recurring minor character throughout the series. Dax, though, got to me – he’s getting his own book down the road.

EXCERPT: Pryseis stumbled from the chambers, numb with disbelief. Dax caught her elbow and steadied her as she made her way down the long glittering hallway to her rooms.
“You needn’t do this,” he stated.
She turned to him. “A child needs my help.”
“A goblin lad,” he snarled. “He’s not worth your life.”
She faltered at the depths of his rage. Fierce and bitter. ’Twas the true Dax. His deference was but a mask. “What makes my life more worthy than his?” Pryseis challenged. “Goblin, troll or faerie, a child is still entitled to grow up without harm or fear.”
“And what about your need for sunlight?” Dax clenched his square jaw and traced the edge of one of her wings with his finger. “You’ve never gone without direct radiance for more than a night afore. I don’t want you to end up like Shallar. You’re all I’ve got.”
She felt her smile wobble. “I love you too. I’ll be fine. We’ll be back afore anything happens.” Did she try to reassure him, or herself?
Concern flickered in his eyes. “It could be a trap. You can’t trust the goblins.”
Which troubled her more—the direction Dax’s mind wandered, or the part of her suspecting he might be right? Was there more to the lad’s calling? There must be a better way than suspicion, accusation and conflict. Pgah, she tired of it all!
“’Tis a suffering lad. He’s in my head and in my heart. I must help…or I’ll go mad.”
He raised a heavy brow, but stepped aside at the door. “Try to get some sleep.” Matted coils of brown hair swung about his broad shoulders as he strode away. The confident stalk of a predator, long-legged and full of lethal grace. At least his troll blood negated a faerie’s need for the pool. Dax never craved the waters, never faded from their lack.
Unlike Pryseis, who soaked the sun in through her wings and drank from the pool to sustain herself.

ME: So, want to read more? Here's more of an excerpt from Dust of Dreams:

Dust of DreamsBLURB: DUST OF DREAMS
All her light—and all his love—may not be enough to hold the nightmares at bay…
Guardians of Light, Book 4

Mingling with other races is strictly forbidden, but dream faerie Pryseis has no choice. An innocent goblin child suffers dangerous nightmares, and it should be a simple task to cure him and return to her anxious sisters before the council knows she’s gone.

Yet there’s a reason a creature of air and sunlight has no business underground. Now in chains, prisoner of an ungrateful goblin sorcerer, Pryseis despairs that anyone will save her. Her only comfort—the memory of a man she can only touch in her dreams.

Benilo ta Myran, with the reluctant blessing of his elven king and queen, takes up a quest some would call mad, driven by the certain knowledge that the beautiful faerie who invades his dreams is in danger. He carries a terrible secret—war has broken his healing powers—yet he cannot leave her to face the darkness alone.

The first touch of their flesh surpasses their most erotic dreams, but the nightmare has just begun. There’s the suffering child, and a sorcerer who won’t go down without a fight. And the clock is ticking down for Pryseis, who must return home—or fade away.

Warning: Beware of wounded bunnies, hungry trolls, low ceilings, glowing mold and goblins bearing gifts. Most of all, beware beautiful faeries and hot elves appearing in your dreams. They may lead you astray…and steal your heart.

EXCERPT: DUST OF DREAMS Book Opening:
What to do when nightmares become real?
Kneeling on the damp, stony ground, Pryseis took a deep, shuddering breath of frosty mountain air and stared at her sunlit reflection in the shimmering pool. She ran a hand through her hair, watched the long, iridescent strands slide through her fingers in the streaming sunbeams. Light which made her wings tingle as they absorbed energy directly from the sun’s rays. The fading glow warned her the end of the day fast approached. Dread seized her at the thought of sleep. Every night the same small, scared voice in the dark haunted her dreams. “Help me…save me…” She’d added her magic to her sister faeries’ to ease his suffering. But the group’s spirit-nets had no effect on the child. Now he’d faded from their senses and singled her out. None other still heard his cries. His anguish was in her head, in her heart.
And she couldn’t get him out.
Somewhere down below the barren mountain, in the Shadowlands, a goblin child needed help. He called to her. Just to her. Drew her to him with bits of nightmares, fear and anxiety. Pryseis ached to go to him, ease his suffering. Dreams were her especial realm. She never failed. The certainty had grown for days. She could help him…if she could find him.
There was the crux. Thanks to their need for the pool’s elixir, faeries never left Crystal Mountain. One cupped handful of the renewing waters every seven sunrises to stay strong and immortal. Just one had ever tried—her grandmother Shallan—and she’d failed, nearly died.
Pryseis’ sisters would never let her go.
She squared her shoulders and strode toward the shining crystalline palace where the council chambers were housed. This lad’s nightmares differed. They affected everyone around him. Something ominous stirred below the mountain. The traditional methods, gentle influence of the many, failed. Time for a new way. Light against darkness. One-on-one, she and the lad. Who would prove stronger? Who would prevail?
The council would capitulate. They must.
Dax met her on the rocky path connecting the pool to the palace. She stared up at her grown nephew, who stood a full head and shoulders above her. Halfling son of her dead brother—half dream faerie, half forest troll. Both. Neither.
“Good morning, Lady Aunt.” His voice was deeper than her brother’s, rough-edged.
Lursa, that title turned her into a doddering oldster! “Good morning, Dax. I go to address the council. Care to walk with me?”
He fell in one step behind her, deep brown eyes downcast. Pryseis wanted to scream at his deference. Why did he never look her in the face? What expression would he show? What did he feel, think of all this? “I’m requesting you as a bodyguard,” she announced.
Dax froze. “What?”
Her small wings fluttered with agitation in the cold light of the setting sun. They prickled as they wrung the last bit of energy from the waning sunlight. “You heard me.” He was the only one she trusted to stand with her in the upcoming confrontation with the council.
And after.
Dax grunted and resumed walking. He took troll stoicism to new heights.
Pryseis stared at the crystal palace, glittering with icy radiance against the stark grandeur of the barren mountaintop. Home of the faeries for millennia. Creatures of air and fire, bound to water, stuck on earth. High atop Crystal Mountain, she touched sun and sky, that glorious cold streaming light. The dreams and secrets of the world swirled around her, carried on the wind.
What lurked in the darkness below, so far from the light of the sun?
Yet the darkness drew her, spun from the child below.
Please let the council see the light of truth.
A massive rock troll named Braxx greeted her at the palace entrance. Twice as tall and broad as Dax, the armed sentry bowed, a mountain unto himself. Rough, bark-like skin stretched taut across bulging layers of muscle. “Lady Pryseis, I was about to summon you. Lady Maeve orders your presence.”
Pryseis shivered. Maeve had watched her these past few days, ever since the nightmares ensnared her. Maeve could be her staunchest ally or fiercest opponent in the next few minutes. “Best not keep her waiting.”
Braxx moved to block Dax. “Just council members.”
“Dax is with me.” Pryseis stared down the immense troll as if he didn’t tower over her.
Braxx yielded, lowering his gaze. “As you wish, Lady Pryseis.”
Pryseis raised her head, squared her shoulders and swept into the council chambers, Dax in her wake. “You called for me, sisters?”
Silence greeted her inquiry. Maeve, council Prime and strongest of the golden hope faeries, recovered first. She straightened in her ornate thronelike chair. “We worry for you, Councilor.”
Not good news when they addressed by title rather than name.

Friday, July 30, 2010

PHANTASM FRIDAY

I'm eat up prepping for my son's 13th birthday party today. I've vaccumed, swept, mopped, put a load of dishes in the dishwasher, a load of laundry in the washing machine, a load of laundry in the dryer and I've ran my errands. It's 2:30 and I'm already ready for bed. By 5 o'clock tonight my house will be running over with boys. I just love teenage testosterone! ;-) Maybe I'll get to write tonight when I lock myself in my bedroom to escape bedlam and pray for sanity to return. Or...I guess I could just feed my insanity into my book. =)

The winner of Keta Diablo's drawing is SHERRY! I'll e-mail Keta offline with your e-mail address, Sherry! Hope you enjoy reading the book you won!

Hope everyone has an amazing weekend! Stay safe and cool!

~huggles~
Gracen

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wistful Wednesday
u

What Are You Doing This Summer?


Record heat. Oil spills. The recession. Whichever way you turn these days, you will find a roadblock to summer fun this year. Not to mention stress-inducing events that require some down time to get over them. So how do you do it?

Like most people throughout the country, I am not in the position of taking an actual vacation this year, so I have to find creative ways to decompress and "get away from it all." In fact, the closest I came to having fun was a couple of trips into Boston, but those were centered around my daughter's hospitalization, so they don't count.

Still, it would be nice to be able to do something that didn't require a lot of money, a lot of planning or traveling, but is still fun. What would you do?

For me, it always comes down to books. When I can't go to the actual places I want to, I "travel" to them via books. I love books because I'm not limited by money, availability, or the practicality of doing it. I'm not even limited by time or space. This week, for instance, I am visiting the mills of Northern England in the 1850's via the book North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. A few weeks ago, I visited the modern day mid-west with Adriana Trigiani's Viola in Reel Life. And the prospects for next week are wide open. I could visit medieval England or the Highlands of Scotland, or maybe spend some time with Louisa May Alcott in 1800's New England. I could delve into the world of geishas or members of a harem, or just meet the girls Friday Mornings at Nine, courtesy of Marilyn Brant. The choices - and the possibilities - are truly endless.

So that is how I will spend the hazy, lazy days of summer in my humid little corner of the world. How about you? Any fun plans for the summer?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Keta Diablo is Here With a Chance to Win One of Her Gay Fiction Books!

Take a look below and be sure to leave a comment to be eligible to win one of these hot, steamy man love stories.


Blood Oath – Gay Fiction VAMPIRE, Amber Quill Press
Link to Purchase:
http://amberquillpress.com/AmberAllure/BloodOath.html

Also available at All Romance Ebooks:
http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-bloodoath-442546-143.html

Blurb:
When Kale MacDonald's beloved grandmother dies, she leaves him a letter urging him to travel to Savannah, GA to find his destiny. Kale is confronted by a strange, decadent man who appears to be stalking him. He's also confronted by a trio of rogue vampires intent on killing him. Mystery and danger collide in the City of Secrets, and no one is who they appear to be.

* Blood Oath made the top ten best-seller list at Amber Quill Press the first month of its release.



CROSSROADS: Shadowland, Contemporary Paranormal Gay Fiction Series
Phaze Publishing, http://www.king-cart.com/Phaze/product=Crossroads+Shadowland/exact_match=exact

Also available at All Romance Ebooks:
http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-crossroadsshadowland-439347-144.html

Blurb:
Frank must travel to Louisiana to solve another missing persons' case. This time, Rand insists on accompanying Frank to get a hands-on introduction to the PI business. Evil forces are at work in the bayou. Frank is pitted against a centuries' old ghost and races against time to save two innocent young men from eternal damnation. Rand gets caught in vortex of prejudice when he encounters a sinister duo bent on violence against gays. Sinister machinations converge in a maelstrom of retribution and hate. Frank must pull out all the stops to save the young men and the man who holds his heart.


* Shadowland is the 4th novella in the best-selling series CROSSROADS. The first three novellas were combined and are now available in print here:
http://www.king-cart.com/Phaze/product=Keta+Diablo/exact_match=exact



Hot and Sticky, Contemporary Gay Fiction
Amber Quill Press, http://www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/HotSticky.html

Also Available at All Romance Ebooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-hotandsticky-434231-144.html

Blurb:
It’s been extremely difficult for Hugh Landon, an up-and-coming lawyer in Washington, D.C., to control his sexual fantasies about his paralegal, Milan Vassar.
When his career hangs in the balance over a missing file, Hugh must call Milan at the midnight hour and plead for assistance. Hugh’s determination not to mix business with pleasure disintegrates when Milan arrives at the office not only to help him, but to confess he’s held the same secret desires for his boss

Hot and Sticky made the top ten best-seller’s list at the publisher’s web site the first month of its release.



Lip Service, Contemporary Gay Fiction, Noble Romance, https://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=148

Blurb:
After their recent tiff, Bryan took off for Japan on business and left Navarre home to stew. Now Bryan is expected home after two long weeks, but fate has other plans--mechanical problems with his plane and no rental cars available. So what's a desperate man to do? Find his own means to get to the man he loves. When he finally arrives, Navarre has second thoughts about challenging fate. Bryan has company in his hotel room!

* Previously published in the Spank Me Twice anthology (voted BEST EROTIC BOOK of 2009 by Love Romances Cafe).



Magnolia Heat, Historical Gay Fiction, Noble Romance,
https://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=138

Blurb:
North Carolina, 1876: Rumors abound about the dark, mysterious Dominic Beresford in Chapel Hill. Their curiosity piqued, their libidos functioning on overload, Craven and Anthony are intent on obtaining answers about the supposed licentious gatherings taking place every weekend.

When the duo are caught spying on Beresford Hall, their punishment will be swift and severe, and in Craven’s case, dispensed by none other than the stunning Lord of the Manor.

What begins as penance soon veers off to a session of feverish passion where the avenger becomes the pawn in his own game. A male/male historical that will leave you breathless.

Bondage. Forced seduction. Intense and graphic scenes of man love.


The Devil’s Heel, PIRATE Gay Fiction, Noble Romance, https://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=122
Also available at ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thedevilsheel-437926-145.html

Blurb:
Five years ago Drew Hibbard dismissed Rogan Brockport from his life. Now, they meet again at the Governor’s Ball and Rogan will know the reason for the abrupt, unexplained cut. After Rogan saves Drew’s life during a pirate raid, he kidnaps him and the perfect opportunity to extract answers from Drew is finally at hand. Betrayal. Retribution. Undying Love. The Devil’s Heel.
* The Devil’s Heel has been on the best-seller’s list at All Romance Ebooks for two months!

If you’d like to learn more about Keta and her books please follow her blogs:

Keta’s Keep Erotic Blog, http://ketaskeep.blogspot.com/

The Stuff of Myth and Men, http://thestuffofmythandmen.blogspot.com/

And don’t forget to visit her author home, Keta’s Haunt, http://www.ketadiablo.com/ and sign up for her newsletter for a chance to win more books. Keta gives away three books every month, all year long.

Keta on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ketadiablo

~~~~~

Tomorrow Beyond Romance Blog will be hosting Keta on her blog, http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/. If you’d to better your chances of winning one of Keta’s gay fiction books, please visit Beyond Romance Blog, tomorrow JULY 28th.

CONTEST:

Keta will be giving away a copy of one of her gay fiction books promoted on the tour. If you’d like to be eligible to win, please follow her blog, The Stuff of Myth and Men, http://thestuffofmythandmen.blogspot.com/, leave a comment below by stating what book you’d like to win and make sure to include your e-mail address.

I’ll be selecting a winner and announcing it here on my blog on July 30th so check back. As soon as the winner is selected, Keta will be notified and will send you the ebook you chose. GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Twilight Thursday

Welcome Author
Jocelynn Drake

Jocelynn Drake
!!!

Trying to maintain a regular guest author features on this blog keeps all three of us hopping, and I'm always on the search for new authors. This search takes me to the friends list, and author lists that other authors place on their websites as well as those larger sites. I discovered today's author through YA Author, Rachel Vincent's Website. Why am I telling you this? To demonstrate the importance of those "friends links" and that they will work, to show that people do read them and will follow the links and that people like me will follow those links when searching for new and different authors to share with readers.

Why does all this matter? Because it's my job to help your TBR pile grow exponentially, and today's guest will do that, without a doubt! Her Dark Days series began in 2008 with Night Walker, continued in 2009 with Day Hunter and Dawn Breaker, and charged through 2010 with Pray for Dawn and her latest, Wait for Dusk which will be on store shelves soon, if not already available.

Night Walker introduces us to Mira, an "unstoppable enforcer for a mysterious organization that manipulates earth-shaking events from the darkest shadows," through her own eyes. That's right, this series appears to be Mira's reflection on her own life, from the moment she meets Danaus - a human vampire hunter - and her subsequent battles against the Naturi. Mira is a very interesting character, and while you can learn about her, Danaus, and all the other creatures she interacts with on Jocelynn's website, it's best to read the series, since you'll be getting all of your information straight from Mira herself. Pray for Dawn, however, is told from Danaus's pov.

Before I send you on to consult Mira's and Danaus's journals, I'd like to share my interview with Jocelynn:

ME: Almost anywhere you go in the US, Independence Day is celebrated with parades, firework displays, cookouts and music – sometimes on July 4th and sometimes earlier depending upon what day of the week the 4th falls on. What celebration plans are going on in your area, and when will they happen?

JOCELYNN: My family had a party at my house on the Fourth of July. It was a cookout with lots of good food, conversation, laughter, and fireworks. We only had two fires break out, which I take as a good sign for the first party at my house.

ME: What kinds of festivities would a traveler find at this celebration? What sights, sounds and smells might he or she encounter?

JOCELYNN: In truth, the Fourth of July is always spent with my family doing a cookout. I’ve never attended any other kind of celebration. The biggest event that most people will see are fireworks displays once the sun goes down.

ME: What about you and your family? What plans do you have for celebrating Independence Day?

JOCELYNN: My family had a party at my house on the Fourth of July. It was a cookout with lots of good food, conversation, laughter, and fireworks. We only had two fire break out, which I take as a good sign for the first party at my house.

ME: Is there any favorite treat that you must consume during an Independence Day celebration?

JOCELYNN: For me, no Independence Day celebration is complete without watermelon. It’s the perfect summer treat and I look forward to it all year.

ME: In many areas, people like to purchase their own fireworks and set them off – snakes, bottle rockets, and sparklers among others. What’s your opinion on fireworks – take them or leave them? Which ones are your favorites?

JOCELYNN: I love fireworks. I love the big explosions in the sky with the broad array of colors followed by the shower of golden sparks.

ME: A day some might consider as equally important is Bastille Day on the 14th commemorating the storming of the prison fortress, Bastille, in 1789 when the French people stormed the fortress, putting an end to “the tyranny of King Louis XVI’s monarchy”. Celebrations are beginning to be held in major cities across the country celebrating French history. One of the largest celebrations in the country happens in Milwaukee, WI (4 day long festival beginning with a re-enactment of the storming of the Bastille, complete with a 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica) a tradition starting 27 years ago makes it one of the city’s oldest festivals. Is Bastille Day celebrated in your area? If so, how? What sights, sounds, and cuisine will travelers stumble upon?

JOCELYNN: No, Bastille Day is not celebrated in my area.

ME: Are there any other festivities that take place in your area that a traveler might enjoy local culture and traditions? If so, what are they and where would a traveler go to find them?

JOCELYNN: There is a heavy catholic population where I am from so the summer is filled with church festivals. Every weekend is loaded with them from the middle of June through the middle of August. The festival range from the small with a few games of chance and games for kids, while others have rides and are more like large carnivals. There is always lots of food like hot dogs and cotton candy.

ME: We’ve had our fun, now let’s put the focus on your writing. While there are many genres to choose from, what specifically brought you to romance? Why this genre over the others?

JOCELYNN: I am not strictly a romance writer. The Dark Days series is an urban fantasy novel with romantic elements. The relationship between the main characters takes a slow, natural progression over several books. It felt natural to include it because relationships are just as important in a book as the major plot points and other elements of character development.

ME: Even though the popularity of the romance genre continues to grow, it’s still not always a highly respected genre. What, in your opinion, is the reason for the continued interest in the genre and for the lack of respect it receives?

JOCELYNN: I think the continued interest in the genre is because it is constantly growing and morphing to meet the needs of the reader. It is a genre that is constantly attracting new readers through the fresh stories that people are telling.

On the other hand, I think there is an old stigma in that romance stories are these cookie cutter tales about two people who fall in love when the stories have far more depth and creativity to them that most are willing to give them credit.

ME: A holiday we didn’t discuss above is Parents’ Day. What traits, in your opinion, make for a good parent? Have any of these traits, been inspiration for a character’s personality and actions in your stories? If so, how? Which character(s), which trait(s) and why?

JOCELYNN: Honesty, dedication, compassion, and patience are all great qualities to be found in parents. While my main characters may struggle at times with honesty and patience, I am happy to report that they are very dedicated to their beliefs and are compassionate people.

ME: For a writer, inspiration can be found everywhere and in almost anyone, but sometimes specific people, places and events can inspire certain characters, personality traits, events or situations that happen in our stories. In your current story that we’re promoting here today, Pray for Dawn, did any one particular person, place or event inspire you? If so who/what was it (were they), how did it/they inspire you and how is this inspiration reflected in your story?

JOCELYNN: There was no driving inspiration in particular for Pray for Dawn beyond a need to tell Danaus’s story. In this particular book, I change the storyteller from Mira, the vampire, to Danaus, the vampire hunter, in an effort to not only allow the reader to see the world through his eyes, but to also give Danaus a chance to face and battle his past, which has haunted him most of his life.

ME: Without giving away anything pertinent to the story, tell us about the hero and heroine (s) of your story. What do they look like? How do they meet (or “did” if this is not the first book with these same characters)? What are their personalities – Are they comical cut-ups, are they serious or are they a mix of the two? Please give us a little bit of dialogue from the story that can illustrate this. (Not much, but just a few lines and from a different section than the main excerpt – Thanks!)

JOCELYNN: Mira is a nightwalker that is more than six hundred years old. She has the special ability to control fire. She stands around five foot, six inches and likes to wear black leather. She has extremely pale skin, red hair, and lavender eyes. She is generally serious, but is also sarcastic with a little bit of a quick temper.

Danaus is a nightwalker hunter that is nearly 2,000 years old. He has the special ability to boil a creature’s blood within its body. He stands close to six feet tall with shoulder-length black hair and dark blue eyes. He is also very serious and doesn’t like to talk much. Mira and Danaus frequently butt heads on matters as they are both too stubborn and secretive.

QUOTE FROM PRAY FOR DAWN:
I pulled the curtains closed, but she didn’t visibly relax again until I took a couple steps away from the window. She slowly stood with her arms crossed over her stomach.
“How is it you’re awake?” I demanded.

“A gift from a friend,” she said, regaining her grin.

“Ryan.” The warlock’s name rumbled from somewhere in my chest and crawled up my throat, coated in frustration and anger.

“Your warlock is slowly proving to be useful.” She sounded indifferent, but I knew better.

“How? What has he done?”

“Nothing that concerns you.”

I frowned at her, which only caused her smile to widen. I didn’t trust either of them and it didn’t bode well for anyone if they were suddenly working together. “You’ve been with Ryan all this time.”

Mira chuckled, leaning against the corner of the wall. She shoved her hands into the front pockets of her jeans and stared at me. “You make it sound so sordid. Jealous?”

“You’ve been missed. The lycans stopped me today in their search for you.”

“Yes,” Mira frowned. “Barrett was kind enough to leave a somewhat scathing voicemail on my phone today. Apparently you’ve been busy. I spent the better part of an hour reassuring him that I hadn’t been kidnapped or killed.”

“You disappeared without a trace,” I reminded her.

“I’m a nightwalker; it’s what we do.”

“Did you even bother to take Gabriel with you?” Previously she had not traveled without, but following the death of her other bodyguard Michael, I sensed a hesitance to bring Gabriel along on her travels.

“I’m not helpless.” Her narrowed eyes began to glow again, but this time it was from anger. I had no doubt Mira would tear out my throat if I pushed her too far. She wasn’t known for her patience.

“But Tristan is. Did you even bother to tell him that you were skipping town?”

“He’s not helpless!” she snarled. She pulled her hands out of her pockets and pushed off the wall toward me. “She just taught him to be that way.” There was no question as to who “she” was. Sadira had made Tristan more than a century ago and Mira before that. She had kept Tristan weak and dependent upon her, as if to ensure that he never left her the way Mira had.

“I never asked for this,” she continued, her eyes darting away from me for the first time as her hands balled into tight fists. She hadn’t. Mira valued her independence, her lonely existence. She had told me once that she had never made another of her kind and that she never would. Yet, she was now saddled with another’s child because she couldn’t bear to see Tristan tormented by her peers. And to make matters worse, she had started a family with at least two other nightwalkers in an attempt to protect them and add some more security to the city.

“Doesn’t matter. You’re his Mistress now.”

“Who are you to lecture me about my duties, hunter? Tristan is mine and none shall harm him.” Her powers suddenly filled the room like a cool wind sweeping in laced with the scent of lilacs. We stared at each other, the tension building to the point where the muscles in my jaw began to tick. I was waiting for her to twitch first. I wouldn’t strike first.

And then just as suddenly, the energy flowed out the room. Mira took a couple steps backward and shook her head, looking somewhat confused. I knew her thoughts had to be the same as my own. How had we pushed each other so quickly to the point of nearly tearing the other’s heart out? She looked up at me and her grin seemed sheepish. She had almost lost control. Mira had come in here to seduce me, not kill me.

“Why are we fighting?” she softly began, one corner of her mouth quirked in a playful smile. “Let’s go back to bed. You’re tired.”

“Out, Mira!” I shouted, pointing toward the door. It was all just a game to her.

“Fine,” she sighed. “I’ll go play with James.” Mira scooped up what looked like a cloak that had been draped over one the chairs by the door. She wrapped it around her before she slowly strolled out of the room, her hips swaying.

“Call Tristan!” I called after her before she shut the door.

I drew in a deep breath through my nose and slowly released it as I rolled my shoulders. I didn’t completely relax until I felt Mira enter another room farther down the hall. By the thrum of power seeping from that direction, I was willing to bet it was Ryan’s room. The warlock would keep her occupied while I caught a few hours of sleep.

ME: The main characters are usually great, but sometimes, secondary and tertiary characters are known to steal the scenes, even if the author did not intend this to happen. Who are the secondary/tertiary characters in your story and what do they look like? What’s unique about them? What is their relationship to the hero/heroine? Have any of these characters gone on to become scene-stealers? If so, who and how did they do it? Is there the possibility for them to get their own story? (Again, please give us a small bit of dialogue to illustrate this – thanks!)

JOCELYNN: I have a very long list is secondary and tertiary characters – far too many to name here. Some of my favorites include the nightwalkers Tristan and Valerio.

For more on Tristan, Click Here.

For Tristan’s short story, Click Here.

For more on Valerio, Click Here.

Pray for DawnBLURB: “Pray for salvation…
Pray for daylight…
Murder has pulled Mira out of the shadows and back into the living world…

As the fire-wielding enforcer of the Nightwalker Coven wrestles with the mind-destroying ghosts of her dark past, the slaying of a senator’s daughter in Savannah threatens to expose her kind to the brilliant light of day. The dawn of chaos has come. The naturi have broken free of their eternal prison to feed on the defenseless and unbelieving of an unprepared Earth.

Mira and Danaus—vampire and vampire slayer—must unite to prevent the annihilation of their separate races. But for Danaus the challenge is intensified, for he must also fight the bori who covets his soul. And Mira, the Nightwalker he must protect—whose power is the Earth’s last hope—is rapidly going insane.”

Want to check out the excerpt? Click here for an excerpt courtesy of Harper Collins.

Don't forget to check out these other titles by Jocelynn:
Nightwalker Dayhunter Dawnbreaker Unbound
and don't forget the latest installment to the series:
Wait for Dusk

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wistful Wednesday

New Discovery:
Richard Armitage and North and South


I love making new discoveries, especially when they're related to writing and/or reading in any way. And when I make new discoveries, I like to share them with others to pass on the love. So today, I am sharing my latest discovery with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

I first became aware of Richard Armitage through another blog that I read, Ramblings on Romance, Etc., and let's just say - the ladies over there are crazy about all things Richard, especially North and South. They call themselves Crusaders and they get very excited when they recruit new people to the cause. Check out this post to see what I mean:


Rumor has it that a certain someone over at Romance Bandits (cough - Anna Campbell - cough) is also a huuuge Richard Armitage fan. And with an endorsement like that, wouldn't you want to check him - I mean, it - out, too? But why just take our word for it? Why not just check it out for yourself?



Friday, July 16, 2010

PHANTASM FRIDAY

What's the value of a review?

I've been pondering this question a lot lately. I write reviews and I'm always ecstatic to receive a great review. I've received a lot of great reviews (click HERE to read the good reviews), but recently I received a horrid review. I don't have permission from this particular reader to reprint their review, but here's the link if you're curious to read it HERE.

Maybe you're thinking I'm crazy for sharing a bad review, but I'm realistic not everyone will enjoy what I write. I don't enjoy every book I read. Even the bestselling authors get bad reviews. I've read some books that made me wonder why on earth any publisher would take the chance on the author and their book. But, even then, I would never give a review like this one because I don't see the point in belittling another author, but that's just my opinion. Not everyone shares my opinion. AND I am NOT belittling the reviewer for writing his/her opinion. Everyone's opinions are valid, including this reviewer.

What bothered me the most about the review was that the reviewer said he/she was "disappointed" in Elfin Blood and that the storyline was weak. Wow. Tough words for any author to hear. Right? There were some inaccuracies in the review about the storyline, but that was how the reader interpreted my book. So, maybe I didn't make particulars clear enough in the book. Or maybe she/he was so bored they couldn't concentrate on the content enough to discern the real aspects of the book. I'll never know.

On the heels of receiving this terrible review, I received a direct message from a reader who raved about Elfin Blood. She gave me permission to use her review, so here is a part of it:

"It is impossible not to fall in love with Gracen Miller's turn-of-phrase and excellent descriptive passages, making it easy for the reader to imagine themselves in the story experiencing what the characters themselves are seeing/feeling. A VERY dangerous talent when the reader gets to the erotic scenes.....sorry, mind wandered to Landau making love to me...again and again! Where was I? Oh yes....A definite must read for any lover of the paranormal erotic genre. The narrative sweeps you up, dialogue is snarky and sassy, the characters are so realistic it's easy to forget they are preternatural beings. In the end you WILL believe in the existence of sexy, hot vampires, elves and that jewels can sing!" (I will post full review on my website in a few days.)

Fabulous words, exciting words…but, in the back of my mind is the other review, the one that said my story was a disappointment and that the storyline was weak. And that got me to thinking, what's the value of a review? How do you—as a reader—decide if a review is relevant and when to purchase a book or not purchase a book based upon a review?

I know I have bought a book because it received a bad review just so I could form my own opinion. Sometimes I look to see how many people have reviewed it, but there are times reading one negative review skews my entire opinion of a book. Fair? No! But true.

So, tell me, how do you value a review and decide which review is the most accurate for you when deciding which books to purchase?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Twilight Thursday

Welcome Author
Leslie Parrish

Leslie Parrish
!!!

If Leslie Parrish looks familiar to you, she should. Leslie Parrish is the dark alter-ego of Author Leslie Kelly. Plus, this isn't Leslie Parrish's first visit to Moonlight, Lace and Mayhem. We had her visit last July when she promoted her Romantic Suspense, Black CATs series. I recently had the chance to read these three books and they are fantastic! While this series isn't as dark as Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta novels, it does come close. In fact, they are darker than I expected and offered the escape from the typical romances I've been reading. While the word "romance" tells you there will be a Happily Ever After for someone, and that some things will be tied into a big red bow, Parrish opted not to tie everything into a big red bow. Her deliciously complex and convoluted plots kept my wildly off-balance - which isn't an easy feat since I see patterns and usually recognize the killer from the word go - and kept me guessing! They feed the darker side of your psyche - the side that enjoys a good episode of CSI, Bones, Numb3rs, or Criminal Minds.

Cold Sight, Leslie's fourth Romantic Suspense, continues her foray into the darker worlds, but with paranormal elements woven into its core. This series offers paranormal without the vampires, werewolves and shifters but instead delves into the psychic side of life which, I feel, makes it easier for readers to immerse their brains into Parrish's world. It's not much of a stretch to believe in psychics with real-life psychic mediums like Allison Dubois - main character and focus of the TV series Medium.

While the pain in my ankle distracted me from finishing Cold Sight and I do not like to spoil a good story, I don't mind generics. Parrish definitely delves into the dark side of humanity with this one. Changing the first victim's age from young teen to young child would make it even creepier, possibly too creepy for a Romantic Suspense..., but don't take my word for it, check out The Prologue for yourself.

Before you do that, though, stick around and check out my interview with Leslie Parrish where she offers exclusive peeks into her latest novel!

ME: While there are many genres to choose from, what specifically brought you to romance? Why this genre over the others?

LESLIE: I fell into romance by accident, to be honest. I am a voracious reader, always have been. And I’ve always dabbled in writing. But about 13 years ago, when I was a stay at home mom with 3 little girls under the age of 7, I was pretty much losing my mind, and needed some kind of creative outlet. My hubby spotted an article in the paper for a romance writing class, cut it out, and basically pushed me out the door so I could get out one night a week. I loved the class, and during it, started writing a book. After the class ended, I continued to meet with my classmates and we formed a critique group. With their help, I finished that book, then sold it off the slush pile to Harlequin Temptation.

Honestly, if there had been a class on how to write a horror novel, things could be very different today. ;-)

That said, I’ve loved sticking with romance because I am, at heart, a character-based writer and romance, more than any other genre is extremely character based.

ME: Even though the popularity of the romance genre continues to grow, it’s still not always a highly respected genre. What, in your opinion, is the reason for the continued interest in the genre and for the lack of respect it receives?

LESLIE: My honest opinion is that because the genre is both written and read, primarily, by women, the genre just doesn’t get treated with respect. There’s still a tremendous amount of gender bias in this world, and this is a prime example. Obviously love is a well-respected theme in entertainment. If it weren’t true, why can men write romance novels—tack on a really bad, depressing endings—then make millions and roll in their movie deals? (Heaven forbid they include a happy ending, because, then, you’ve got :shudders: a romance novel.)

ME: A holiday we didn’t discuss above is Parents’ Day. What traits, in your opinion, make for a good parent? Have any of these traits, been inspiration for a character’s personality and actions in your stories? If so, how? Which character(s), which trait(s) and why?

LESLIE: I have worked very hard to be a good parent to my children, and the main thing I think is important is to treat them with respect, and treat my husband (their father) with respect. He has often told me that he finds it a tremendous responsibility to be the father of girls, as he has to set the bar for the kind of treatment they will demand from their future husbands…and he wants them to be treated very well. So he has never, in our marriage, raised his voice to me in front of them, or treated me with anything but the utmost courtesy.

That has carried over when I’m working on my books, because you will find that same respectful core in every hero that I’ve written. While there may be shades of alpha, you’re just not going to find a hero in one of my books treating the hero disrespectfully.

ME: For a writer, inspiration can be found everywhere and in almost anyone, but sometimes specific people, places and events can inspire certain characters, personality traits, events or situations that happen in our stories. In your current story that we’re promoting here today, COLD SIGHT, did any one particular person, place or event inspire you? If so who/what was it (were they), how did it/they inspire you and how is this inspiration reflected in your story?

LESLIE: Actually, no…lol…sorry! I was inspired by my own desire to meld a dark romantic suspense novel with a paranormal romance novel. I didn’t want to write vampires or werewolves or demons, but I do love anything psychic or ghostly, and really enjoyed getting to instill that element into one of my dark, Black CATs type novels.

ME: Without giving away anything pertinent to the story, tell us about the hero and heroine (s) of your story. What do they look like? How do they meet (or “did” if this is not the first book with these same characters)? What are their personalities – Are they comical cut-ups, are they serious or are they a mix of the two? Please give us a little bit of dialogue from the story that can illustrate this. (Not much, but just a few lines and from a different section than the main excerpt – Thanks!)

LESLIE: It’s funny, I sold this book on synopsis and when I wrote that synopsis, I had said the heroine would be a reporter. Then I went to write the book, and remembered that I HATE reporter heroines! Lol! It really is a pet peeve of mine, and I called one of my Plotmonkey buddies and wailed, “Why did you let me do this?!?” She, hating reporter heroines, too, assured me I could make it work, and challenged me to write a heroine she and I would both like.

And believe it or not, I did! I have heard from reviewers and readers who share my disdain for reporter heroines, and they have all absolutely loved Lexie. She’s a wonderful character—pretty but not beautiful, strong and stubborn, determined and honest. But she also has a big heart and what’s driving her in this book isn’t her ambition to “get the scoop” but her need to save this one missing girl whose story has captured her heart.

Aidan is dark and mysterious, with jet-black hair, amazing grey-blue eyes, and a propensity to wear black. (As the heroine finds out, though, it isn’t for any deep, dark reason, but because he’s just lousy at matching colors…lol!) Aidan has been in seclusion for a year when the book starts, buried by guilt over a case gone wrong, which ended in the death of a child.

The thing is, lurking beneath that mysterious, gruff exterior is a really nice guy who is gradually revealed through every interaction with this witty reporter who rings all his bells.

Here’s a snippet from their first conversation, when Lexie has shown up at Aidan’s door, asking for his help on a missing person’s case:

“Lexie,” she automatically murmured.
“Lexie?” He swept an assessing stare at her, top to bottom, with those piercing, knowing eyes. “I don’t like it. That’s a little girl’s name; it doesn’t suit you.”
“Gee, thanks. Why don’t you go ahead and read my mind this time and see how appreciative I am that you pointed that out?”
Ignoring her sarcasm, he crossed his arms, leaning one hip against the over-laden desk that looked like it could double as a two-person life raft. “You misunderstood.”
Didn’t seem like there was much to misunderstand about him saying her name was stupid.
“I don’t read minds at all.”
She should have known he wasn’t apologizing for the name crack.
“Now, as I was saying, Ms. Nolan, I know Vonnie Jackson worked at Ranger Joe’s because she waited on me when I ate there with some friends a few weeks ago.”
Huh. The abrasive, snarly guy, who’d just insulted her nickname—which her father had bestowed on her when she had been, okay, a little girl—actually went out in public on occasion. With other people. Guess anything was possible.
“Yes, even shut-ins get out to a restaurant once in a while,” he said dryly, again as if he could look into her head and see her thoughts.
She shrugged, then, always blunt, couldn’t help adding, “Frankly, I was thinking how strange it is that you actually have friends.”

ME: The main characters are usually great, but sometimes, secondary and tertiary characters are known to steal the scenes, even if the author did not intend this to happen. Who are the secondary/tertiary characters in your story and what do they look like? What’s unique about them? What is their relationship to the hero/heroine? Have any of these characters gone on to become scene-stealers? If so, who and how did they do it? Is there the possibility for them to get their own story? (Again, please give us a small bit of dialogue to illustrate this – thanks!)

LESLIE: It’s interesting, several reviewers and readers have pointed out the strength of one particular secondary character in this book. Vonnie Jackson is an 18 year old girl from the wrong side of the tracks, who has worked her butt off to get out of the slums and away from her druggie/drunk mother and her lousy life. She’s brilliant, and has recently transferred to the “good” school in town, braving sneers from her old neighborhood and the disdain of the rich kids with whom she just doesn’t fit. When the book opens, this amazing, vibrant young woman is being held prisoner in the basement of a psychopath’s house, and he’s reading her corrupt, vile fairy tales. She knows he means to kill her, and she’s using her wits, determined to stay alive. The entire prologue is available on my website.

Vonnie was one of the best characters I have ever written, and yes, I would love to bring her back in another story sometime. She needs to grow up a little, obviously, but I can see her showing up in a later eXtrasensory Agents story.

Here’s a scene in Vonnie’s point of view:

“Do you know what the witch did to Rapunzel to keep her from calling for help from up inside her tower?”
That singsong voice. Another damn story. That told her his mood wasn’t as bloody as it had been since she’d screamed for help. So maybe he wasn’t here to kill her after all. Whether that was a good thing, or a bad one, she just didn’t know. Part of her desperately wanted release, even if that release came because she’d lived her last moment.
Another part, the hard, determined core of her that had taken on so much, fought so hard, was suddenly desperate to stay alive, if only to keep him from winning. Funny, she didn’t mind so much losing—dying. But oh, she did not want him to win.
“Well?”
She answered with a small shake of her head, not wanting to do anything to antagonize him.
“The witch chopped out the ungrateful girl’s tongue and fed it to her dog. Do you think I should do that to you?”
Is the dog as hungry as I am?
That answer came from the old Vonnie’s brain. The sassy Vonnie. Not this beaten, broken one.
She replied with another negative head shake, pleading at him with her eyes. Finally, he came closer, the white king mask emerging out of a dark corner into her line of sight like a pale skull out of a crypt. The plastic smile was as insane as the person behind it.
He was holding two things. In one hand, a big plastic cup with a lid and a bendable straw. In the other, a small knife. The knife wasn’t so small it couldn’t be used to slit her throat, but Vonnie suspected he hadn’t come here for that. For some reason, he wanted to keep her alive.
She wished she knew more about his other victims—how long they’d stayed down here, how long he’d kept them imprisoned, telling his sick stories. But there was no way to know. None of them had carved any last words into the wall or hidden any journal of their tortured, final days. At least as far as she could tell.
“I’ll show mercy,” he said, “because I like you.”
He liked her. She’d hate to see how he treated those he didn’t like.
“You remind me of myself, you see, the way I reacted to being down here in the dark. The others were so stupid. So weak. But not you. You’re so smart—always thinking. You don’t cry, you don’t plead. You play along and don’t do anything until you think you have a chance, like when you screamed yesterday. Very naughty, but a good effort.”
Now that his anger had faded, he sounded almost approving, admiring even. Like he’d been glad she’d bided her time and done nothing, waited until she had an actual chance of rescue before crying out.
The truth washed over her. She had been involved in a game of wits with the man from the very start. He had no pity, so all the others who might have pleaded for help had earned nothing but his disdain. Because she hadn’t, because she’d been smart enough to know that would never work, she was still alive.

ME: Want to read more? Check out the excerpt and below:

Cold SightBLURB: After being made a scapegoat in a botched investigation that led to a child’s death, Aidan McConnell became a recluse. Still, as a favor to an old friend, Aidan will help on the occasional XI case. But under his handsome, rugged fa├žade, he keeps his emotions in check—for fear of being burned again.

Reporter Lexie Nolan has a nose for news—and she believes a serial killer has been targeting teen girls around Savannah. But no one believes her. So she turns to the new paranormal detective agency and the sexy, mysterious Aidan for help.

But just as the two begin forging a relationship, the case turns eerily personal for Lexie—and Aiden discovers that maybe he hasn’t lost the ability to feel after all…

EXCERPT: Here’s a scene from the second time Lexie goes to Aidan’s house, when she’s finally gotten him to agree to consider helping out in this missing person’s case. They get to know each other a little, and we see how Lexie begins to work her way around Aidan’s defenses.

Stepping back, he gestured her into the house. “Coffee’s ready.”
“Thanks.”
“It was no trouble. I never start the day without brewing a gallon,” he said as he turned to lead her toward what she assumed was the kitchen. “I don’t sleep well at night.”
“Maybe because you drink a gallon of coffee during the day?”
He was walking ahead of her, so she couldn’t be sure, but she’d swear by the slight movement of his broad shoulders that he laughed.
The short hallway opened into a huge, modern kitchen that had obviously been recently renovated. Judging by the top-of-the-line appliances, marble countertops, and walnut cabinetry, the man obviously had a little money put by. Whatever he hadn’t updated about the rest of the house, he’d made up for with this fabulous room. “Wow. Very nice. You could cook an entire flock of Thanksgiving turkeys in that oven.”
“I can live with creaky floors, but not with forty-year-old appliances.”
Lexie leaned against a cabinet, watching as he poured her a cup of coffee, his movements smooth and easy. He seemed comfortable today, definitely less on guard, the handsome face not set in a permanent frown and those amazing eyes more blue than gray. Even the all-black ensemble didn’t seem so much dour as super-mysterious now.
By God, the man was something.
He pushed the cup across the countertop. “So I’ve lived up to my end of the bargain?”
Inhaling the strong, heady scent coming off the steaming cup, she could only nod in appreciation. She loved good coffee. The stuff at the office was about one step up from brown water. Helping herself to the cream and sugar he’d already put out, she replied, “More than.”
He held out his hand. “Okay. Have the CD?”
Grabbing it from her purse, she handed the disc to him. “I took thorough notes for the transcripts.”
“I don’t doubt it. I just want to hear the voices, the tones. Catch the nuance.”
“That a psychic thing?”
He shook his head. “A cop thing.”
Her jaw fell open. Fortunately, she hadn’t just taken a sip of coffee; otherwise it would be all over her front. “You were a cop?”
“Well, not officially. I majored in criminology in college, then went through the police academy in Little Rock, but never put on a badge.”
She definitely hadn’t turned up that tidbit in her research, having spent much of her time reading about his recent cases. Ever blunt, she asked, “Why? Just couldn’t cut it?”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” he said, his brow rising in amusement. “Actually, I was at the top of my class. I wasn’t interested. Did it for the experience but never wanted to wear the uniform.”
“Bet the police in Little Rock aren’t too fond of you.”
He grinned, that quick, sexy grin he’d flashed once or twice yesterday. “Not as un-fond as the ones in Savannah.”
She only hoped he soon became the bane of the local police force, too. Because right now, it was her and Walter against the rest of the town. They could use some reinforcements. Especially reinforcements with investigative backgrounds and psychic powers—if such things really existed. Now that she’d heard Aidan had studied criminology, she had to wonder if his successful record was more a product of really good investigative skills and excellent intuition rather than any supernatural know-how. Either way, the man’s involvement could be important.
Though she wanted to savor the excellent coffee, and also wanted to pick the brain of her host to see what he thought about everything he’d read so far, she knew better than to push. If he wanted to tell her, he’d have told her. She had only met him yesterday, but she already knew that. So she didn’t take her time, or even finish the coffee, before pushing the cup away.
“I’ve got to run. I’m heading over to Vonnie Jackson’s mother’s place.”
He crossed his arms over his big chest. “In the Boro?”
“Yeah.”
“Maybe I should go with you.”
She chuckled, amused by his sudden worry for her. Yesterday he’d seemed ready to toss her off a high building. “I’ll be fine. I live in Granville and have been south of Woodsboro Avenue plenty of times. Heck, my favorite bakery is down there! You just stay here, read, and listen.” Flashing him a flirty grin, she added, “Maybe I’ll bring you back a peach pie. Theirs is amazing.”
“I don’t do sweets.”
She lifted a hand to her chest and gasped. “No!”
“’Fraid it’s true.”
“You just lost a lot of points, mister. There’s something wrong with a person who doesn’t like dessert.”
One of those sexy grins tilted the corners of his mouth up. “But you have to admit, I do make good coffee. Doesn’t that earn me a couple of brownie points?”
“Do you like brownies?”
He shook his head, appearing rueful.
She blew out a disgusted breath. “Well, then, no points for you. But you do make excellent coffee,” she conceded. “So I guess I’ll let you slide. Now go read.”
He held up the CD. “I want to listen first. I have a feeling there’s something important on here. Something I caught in the transcripts but can’t quite nail down.”
Following him to the door, she said, “I hope you’re right. Because that clock keeps on ticking.” Three and a half days since Vonnie had been taken. The thought made all humor slide right out of her.
“I’ll be in touch,” he said, opening the door and stepping back out of the way.
She’d noticed that before, of course, that he was careful not to get too close. Now, however, she wondered whether it affected every aspect of his life. Whether he ever allowed himself to touch anyone.
Any woman.
Sex had to be something he was very careful about. And if he never had it, well, that was just a crime against half of humanity. Not only incredibly hot, the man was also charming, intelligent, and had a good sense of humor lurking behind all that sternness.
So, no, an abstinent Aidan McConnell was unacceptable. It would be a complete travesty.
The very idea was also something she, personally, didn’t want to contemplate any longer.
Because combining Aidan McConnell and sex in the same thought was way too dangerous for her peace of mind.

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