Grab your favorite beverage, relax, and let me tell you a story…

After Midnight - Black Phoenix #1

Re-edited, revised edition October 2013

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Dangerously Sexy Suspense

January 31, 2012

Spotlight On...Claire Croxton

Today I have fellow Wild Rose Press author Claire Croxton with me At the Keyboard. Welcome Claire, please share a little about yourself, your genres, any other pen names you use. 

Hi there, I write contemporary romance under the penname Claire Croxton. I also write erotica as Luna Zega. I love a good heartwrenching story laced with humor and snark. Laughter through tears is a beautiful emotion. My main characters are strong, no nonsense women with hearts of gold and a quick wit. The heroes are muscle-bound, hunks with tender hearts and big . . .smiles *grin* I’ve fallen in love with everyone of them.

Tell us a little about your latest or upcoming release.

Redneck Ex was released on January 20th by The Wild Rose Press. It’s a contemporary romance set in Alaska, Arkansas and Germany. The main character, Summer Leigh Johnson, is minding her own business, working her dream job in Barrow, Alaska when out of nowhere, she’s notified that her husband has been injured in a car bombing in Iraq. Only problem? She doesn’t have a husband. Turns out, her banjo-picking, bull-riding, coon-hunting, redneck of an ex-husband, Dwight Sullivan, has her listed as next-of-kin. She hasn’t talked to him in the eleven years since he left her crying in the rain. She wants to turn her back on him, but when his elderly parents ask for her help, she’s burdened by the WWMD —what would Mama do?—curse. She goes to his aid. In the years since their divorce, she’s blocked out all the good things about Dwight. As a result, she’s completely blindsided when she finds the sweet, loving man she fell in love with all those years ago.

Wow, Redneck Ex sounds like a great read! What was the hardest thing for you about writing this story?

I read this story to my critique group. The hardest part was convincing people that it wasn’t autobiographical. There are a lot of similarities between Summer Leigh and myself, but I was writing about places I know. I thought it was fun having a story based in Barrow, Alaska. I lived there for fourteen years and it’s a unique and exotic setting. Yes, I have a redneck ex-husband, but so do half the girls I went to high school with. There’s one scene in the book where Summer Leigh falls asleep in the sun. When I finished reading the excerpt, the man who runs the critique group asked, “So, how bad did you get burned?”

What do you find easiest and hardest to write?

Dialogue is pretty easy for me to write. I want my characters to sound realistic. I find that when I’m writing, I can combine two or three people’s voices in my head and come up with a unique voice. To me, it’s important for each character to have his own voice. I want the reader to be able to discern who’s talking without needing dialogue tags.

For me transition scenes are impossible. My critique partner is always telling me that I get bogged down in details when I’m trying to move to the next major event in the story. Fortunately, he’s brutal and slashes and burns those bits and I’m able to scale it back. As a result of his constant nagging, I’m learning the importance of pacing.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My preference would be to wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, sit at my desk and start writing. Reality doesn’t allow that to happen. Life gets in the way. I have several hobbies. I love to cook. Absolutely love it! I specialize in decadent desserts such as chocolate soufflé, baked Alaska, cherries jubilee and the best homemade ice cream ever. I also enjoy cooking meals for my family and friends. When I lived in a remote village in northern Alaska with no stores or road access, I realized I needed a new hobby. Getting fresh ingredients was impossible and besides it doesn’t take too many batches of cookies to make one’s parka too snug. So, I started quilting. In the two years I was in the village, I made 50 quilts. Now, that I’m back in the Ozarks, I also garden.

I wish I loved to cook! It would make things so much easier! Okay, you get stranded on a desert island, but get to bring one item of your choosing. What would it be?

Oh man that’s a tough question. How do I decide? Orlando Bloom? Johnny Depp? Oh, my, what about Gerard Butler? Colin Firth? Sam Eliot? No wait . . . rum. Nope. That won’t do. A laptop with an internet connection. That’s it. I can visit all the pretty boys online, download my favorite books and shop for shoes all while getting the perfect tan.

Fantastic! What’s next for you.

I have another contemporary romance, Santorini Sunset, being released May 18, 2012 by The Wild Rose Press. It’s a snark-filled romp through Greece. Caroline Clayton’s fiancé dumped her for her supermodel sister. Then, the sister had the cajones to ask Caroline to be maid of honor. Caroline agrees, but she’s not attending that blasted wedding by herself. She recruits her sexy, Peruvian co-worker, Raul Sobrevilla, as her wedding date. When the family converges on their vineyard in Santorini, the games begin and of course, Caroline emerges the winner.

Where can we find you on the web?

Website:  www.clairecroxton.com
Blog:  http://clairecroxtonromanceauthor.wordpress.com/

Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Yes, I have a couple of questions.
  1. What is the most endearing/important trait of a romance hero?
  2. Is there a characteristic of a romance heroine that will make you slam the book shut? If so, what is it? 
Great questions! Thanks for spending the day with me, Claire!

With one twang of a banjo string, Summer Leigh Johnson's tidy, organized life in Barrow, Alaska is jolted back to the Ozarks when her coon-hunting, tobacco-chewing, bull-riding, redneck ex-husband asks for her help. She has two options: turn her back on him like he did to her eleven years ago, or help. Burdened with the curse of every southern woman--What Would Mama Do?--she goes to his aid. And what does she find? The man she fell in love with all those years ago and a second chance at love and family. The last time she gave her heart to Dwight, he flicked it aside like an empty can of Skoal. This time he's cradling it as gently as he would a speckled pup. It will take a lot more than Dwight's southern charm and good looks to convince Summer to stay.


“You’re going to Germany?”

“Yeah.” I stepped into the bathroom and grabbed some Tylenol before taking my original seat. The pills stuck in my throat and I washed them down with lukewarm coffee.

“Why the hell would you go see your ex-husband?” Her red face clearly indicated her anger.

“His parents were always good to me,” I tried to explain. “Generous and kind. Always made me feel like a part of the family.”

“Screw that!” Janice interjected herself into the conversation in her usual gentle manner. “Any debt to them was paid when their ass-of-a-son left you.”

“We didn’t even know you’d been married.” Bernice sounded tentative and worried. “How much can this man mean to you if your best friends don’t even know about him?” She took my hands, rubbed them softly and asked, “Why would you go to him? Especially after all these years?”

“For God’s sake. I’d never go see my ex!” Janice exclaimed.

“We all know you wouldn’t piss on your ex if he were on fire...” Stephanie said.

“I would if I peed gasoline!”

We laughed.

“Not everyone abhors their ex,” I said.

“You might not detest your ex, but God knows you don’t like the guy,” Janice said. “Never. Once. In the eight years I’ve known you have you even mentioned him. Never! How can you go to him now?”

“Because if I refuse to go and something happened to him, I’d never be able to forgive myself.”

Stephanie and Candy nodded in understanding, but I could tell, Janice and Bernice needed more convincing.

“Look at it this way, how can I be a martyr if I don’t go?” I joked.

January 30, 2012

Spotlight On...Casey Clifford

I hope you'll all help me give Casey Clifford a great big welcome to Off the Keyboard. Casey, please share a little about yourself, your genres, any other pen names you use.

Many know me as Mary Jo Scheibl. I've been a member of RWA since June 1986, WisRWA about the same time, Kiss of Death since a few months after it formed and RWA-WF for the past year or so.

I write using the pen name Casey Clifford. I chose this to honor two women who were mentors and friends and very intelligent. Both of them were trend setters for their time. They were and are survivors and reflect an ongoing theme in all my books. I write Romantic Suspense and Women's Fiction as genres but I prefer to call my writing Wise Women Fiction. :-)

Tell us a little about your latest or upcoming release.

My most recent book, An Island No More was released last Friday, January 27. It's a romantic suspense set in the southeast corner of Wisconsin in my fictional town of Southport as it is located on the shore of Lake Michigan.

What I love about this book is my heroine Maggie Meehan. She's a single parent who's determined to succeed in parenting and with her life goals while being as independent as possible. One of her growth arcs is accepting the truth of John Donne's well known lines "No man is an island." My title emerged from those lines which begin the book. They signify Maggie's character arc as well as the hero, Seth's.

Sounds wonderful! What was the hardest thing for you about writing this story?

I love revision and editing. It's the best part of writing in my estimation. However, I found that part the most difficult for this book because that final revision/editing process occurred within a couple weeks of the death of my adult son. My wonderful editor, Lori Graham, offered to hold back on this stage, but I knew if I did that, I was only prolonging the process of moving on and achieving another goal of which he would have been proud.

Now, just a few days short of a year since Jimbo died, I'm holding An Island No More in my hands. And I've learned once again that nothing will halt my need to write. I also know my characters kept me from becoming a lonely island. They reminded me vividly of the universal truth each of them had to learn in this story unfolds.

I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your son. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been for you. At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.

I can't remember not writing--something. As a child, my summer month's project would be to write a short "play" which then the neighborhood kids would put on for a captive audience. We'd do one a month. Unfortunately, or not, one proud father filmed some of them. They have come back to remind us of our youth because before the man died, he had those skits transferred to tape and then DVD.

My high school and college instructors encouraged me and though I had a career as a professor on summers off I'd write novels. Put them away until the next summer and revise. I retired as soon as I was eligible and started writing seriously and marketing myself. I revised and editing those old stories and wrote more, entered contests, got more involved with my local RWA chapter and another online RWA chapter.

I had a few 'almost there' adventures with major publishing houses; however, something would always happen before a contract came about--such as the editor left or died, the line folded. Finally 5 years after retirement, I was offered a contract for Black Ribbon Affair. I'll never forget that email popping up. My hubby who's always been supportive, broke open the champagne he'd bought that first year of retirement. He was that sure of my success.

Black Ribbon Affair went on to win the Holt Medallion for Best First Book and the Write Touch Readers' Award for Best Romantic Suspense. My second Wild Rose book, An Island No More, is out now. It is also RS.

This past autumn I made the choice to indie publish my Women's Fiction. Two are no available as digital books, Fireweed and Seasons of Wine and Love. I expect my third WF to be available in February. This third book begins a series I refer to as my Dessert Dames, or Double Ds' series. This series centers on a group of life-long women friends in their early 50s. Each book centers on one specific friend faced with a catastrophic and life changing event. How she manages that and how her friends help and support is the unifying theme--oh and the desserts which always help them get through life.

Why did I decide to indie publish my WF? I'm a pragmatist. I've been around long enough to understand just how long traditional publishing takes. I thought about the two women who were my mentors--blazing new paths because they wanted something. I wanted these stories to be read before I die, not after. I'm a seasoned woman. I'm at the age where life is more behind me than ahead. But I'll never be too old to try new things.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Writing takes a lot of time as you know and I stay focused on writing goals. However, I love to read and read mostly RS and WF. I also work on one nonfiction book a month. I love to bake. I enjoy being with my family and friends and doing things with me. I love photography and traveling.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I'm doing final edits/formatting for the February book which I've titled Better Than Dessert. I'm working revising the second in that series, and plotting the third. I'm mentally thinking through plot lines for 2 RS works, a novella and the third in the Affair series. Oh, and PR for everything.

Where can we find you on the web?

I blog every Sunday on my website: http://caseyclifford.wordpress.com I'm on Facebook but don't have a clue about all the other options out there.  Probably by next year I will.

Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Most importantly, I thank you for this opportunity to meet a new audience and tell them about my writing journey. I believe my writing is such a part of me that I can never walk away from it. Like life, writing has its high points and its low ones. I've mucked around in that slough of despair more than once in my life but that struggle would have been worse had I not known I might use those emotions and that knowledge at some future date in something I write. My writing has served as a lifeline during difficult times, and I've had a few. To me having the gift of weaving words, ideas, emotions into a story readers might love to read energizes me.

And a question I have is--"Do you have any questions for me?"

College professor Maggie Meehan thinks she can tackle any challenge alone, but when an old flame returns to campus he puts her career--and her heart--in jeopardy...

With a daughter to support, Maggie wants the job security that comes from achieving college tenure. The likelihood of that lessens when Seth Baldwin, a man from her past, arrives on campus with tenure and a hefty salary. Sparks blaze between them that have nothing to do with their careers and everything to do with their hearts.

When Maggie's abusive ex-husband shows up making demands and a disturbed student hassles her, Maggie wants to tough it out on her own. But when a series of murders rocks the campus and Maggie is threatened and even assaulted, Seth refuses to let her face the ordeal alone.
Can Seth's love strengthen Maggie enough to overcome a killer bent on her destruction?


“What I’d really like to know, Maggie, is in which role you think I most resemble him? James Bond, perhaps?”

At that unexpected voice, Maggie’s heart slammed against her rib cage. Her tummy plummeted to her swollen feet. She spotted the Bondish-sly grin accompanying Seth’s words as he walked through the doorway with Emily close behind. Giggling, her daughter looked quite pleased with herself.

“More like his role in Lawnmower Man,” she snapped her conversational dart.

“Ouch…you’re killing me here. Lawnmower Man?”

“On second thought?” She cocked her head. “Maybe more Remington Steele. Inept. But perfectly attired—whatever the occasion or weather. And in reruns.” She eyed Seth’s casual appearance: pressed khaki shorts, polo shirt in a rich teal, comfortable boat shoes, no socks while she was barefoot and bare-faced.

“Reruns! Lawnmower Man. Woman, you show fangs early in the morning.”

“I wasn’t expecting company.” Despite herself, she laughed, and Seth walked across the patio with Emily at his side. He stood next to the lounge and peered down at her. She didn’t squirm but returned his stare. If he made comparisons to last night, he shouldn’t come calling unannounced. The warm morning sun turned her sweaty.

Of course, he looked cool and polished.

“Ahh, Mom needs more coffee. Would you like some, too, Professor Baldwin?” Emily grabbed an empty cup from the table next to the lounge. Maggie nodded and so did Seth.

“If Maggie doesn’t mind?” He stared into her face.

Could he read her emotions? She hoped not. She bit her lower lip, sighed, and leaned her head against the back of the chair. “Bring two cups, please, Em. Professor Baldwin and I have some talking to do.” Her heart hammered in a chest not sufficiently covered—at least with Seth Baldwin around.

“Good, I asked him to stay for breakfast. Is that okay?”

“You did what?”

Emily smile slithered away and Seth looked uneasy—for the first time. “He didn’t accept. After I bring coffee, you can talk and I won’t bother you.” Emily walked away, less confident than before.

“I didn’t mean to cause a rift.”

“I’m sure you have better things to do than join us for breakfast.”

“Actually, I don’t. Mind if I have a seat?”

“Take your choice.” She pointed to chairs several feet away. Contrary as she remembered him, he settled his lanky length at the far edge of her lounge. She ignored the skip in her heart beat.

“I like the view better here.” He grinned which enhanced the smile brackets at his mouth. “Plus we don’t have to raise our voices.”

“Why’re you here?”

“To see you. An added bonus is discovering Emily.” He lowered his deep voice. “I didn’t know you had a daughter, Maggie. She’s delightful, charming, and full of spirit. Just like you…”

January 29, 2012


Some of you may have noticed my debut release, Not Without Risk, is disappearing from online stores. No? Well, I’ve noticed it, and let me tell you, it’s a bit unnerving. Not like it’s a surprise or anything, I mean, I asked for it, but still…

Maybe I should start over. A while back I realized I was near the end of my contract with The Wild Rose Press, and I started toying with the idea of not leaving my book with them. What if I took it back? Made a few changes and re-released it out into the virtual world at a new, lower price? I have friends who are editors, a friend who’s a publisher, and hey, I have a sexy cover artist friend! Should I? Shouldn’t I? Chould I?

After much thought, long conversations with my husband, and lots and lots of emails back and forth between me and the gals whose opinions I value the most, I asked for the rights back to Not Without Risk.

*insert confetti toss*

Okay, so it isn’t a celebration yet. In fact, I flip flop between moments of anxiety and fear that I’ve made the wrong decision, to excitement and anticipation. I can’t wait to dig back into RISK! My writing style has changed since I scribbled that tale long-hand during the many, many I hours spent at the hospital with my youngest son. I could cover the logistics of what is different about my writing style, but, YAWN, who wants to hear technical jargon?

I don’t, not when I can talk about my sexy new cover. Wait until you see it! I’ve seen the mock-up and Oh. My. God. It’s hawt! *Sarah disappears to go check the cover mock-up one more time* Oh, yeah. Rawr!

And so, while it’s a bit unnerving to see the book disappear from online merchant shelves, I’m also excited. Geeked, as my niece would say. Not only will I be able to have another go at RISK, I get to give it a hot new cover. And even more thrilling…put it back out there for all of you at a fabulous, new low price!

I don’t have all of the details ironed out, but as soon as I do, I’ll share them with you. Until then, thanks for reading.

January 26, 2012

Welcome Guest Blogger Joya Fields

Thank you so much for hosting me here today, Sarah! My debut novel Beneath the Surface released this month and I’m thrilled to be here to chat about using vacations to find settings for books.

Have you ever visited a place on vacation and fallen in love with it? Or toured a city and found so much rich history that you needed to share it? That’s how I found the setting for Beneath the Surface.

Brooke Richards, the heroine of the novel, is an underwater archaeologist. Although I’m a pantser, and I had no idea what was going to happen in the story, I knew Brooke’s profession was going to be a big part of the story, and the setting needed to be near water.

The first thing that popped into my mind was our local beach—Ocean City, MD. But since the story takes place in late September, Maryland wasn’t warm enough. So my thoughts drifted to a place we’d visited a few years back—Flagler Beach, FL. I pulled out some old photos of the beach, and researched it online a little more. Since this is a romantic suspense, I called the local police department to find out about local procedures.

The beach was a gorgeous and unique part of the town, and so were the local establishments. Garrett Ciavello, the hero of the story, and his family, own a restaurant with rooftop seating that overlooks the ocean. Although the Ciavello restaurant is fiction, the restaurant is modeled after a real-life establishment with a breathtaking view of the ocean. My family and I ate lunch there one day with the mid-February warm sun beating down on us and the ocean waves crashing only yards away as we watched.

My memories of our Florida vacation live on through the setting in Beneath the Surface. Writing in little flashes of memory, and researching the spot more extensively, let me relive our fun vacation while creating a realistic setting for the book.

What places have you visited that would make a great setting? I’d love to hear about your vacation memories.

 Beneath the Surface
by Joya Fields

She’s fighting to stay independent—he’s determined to protect her no matter what…

Brooke Richards survived the earthquake that took her parents and most of her leg, but she needs time to regroup. A trip to Florida for a state-of-the-art prosthesis and to visit her best friend Linda seems ideal. But the trip turns traumatic when Brooke witnesses Linda’s boat disintegrating in a fiery explosion.

Police officer Garrett Ciavello believes the blast was intentionally set to hide something Linda found on a dive. When Brooke offers her expertise in underwater archeology, Garrett accepts her help with the investigation. But since his fiancée’s death years ago, Garrett has become overprotective, and as they are drawn to each other, Garrett realizes he will risk anything to keep Brooke safe.

Brooke is fiercely independent. Garrett is fiercely protective. Will they heal each other’s wound and find a killer…before it’s too late?


For the first time since the accident, Brooke forgot about her leg. Forgot about all she’d lost and focused on the way Garrett made her feel.

She knew she needed to stop him. She should find a way to resist the temptation to be with him. But for a few minutes, she could enjoy the taste of him, the feel of him, couldn’t she?

He dropped his hands to her waist and softened the kiss before trailing a line of kisses down her neck. A weak cry slipped from her mouth. “Garrett,” she whispered.

She should stop this now before it got any more intense.

He lifted her chin and forced her to meet his brown eyes, smoky with desire. Heat spiraled to her middle and she caught a whiff of his sawdust scent.

“I…I can walk you back to your own room before I head to mine.” His voice broke as he whispered.
She swallowed hard. She couldn’t do this right now with him. Too many obstacles stood in their way. But as she looked in his somber eyes, she realized none of those complications were bigger than her need for Garrett.

“Let’s go to your room,” she said, her voice shaking. She moved her hands inside his shirt and ran them over his tight abs and chest. Heat soared through her body at the feel of him. “Together…”


January 25, 2012

2011 Best Book Nomination

I couldn't be more thrilled to announce that
has been Nominated for LASR 2011 Book of the Year!

Voting will run February 16 - 29

January 24, 2012

Spotlight On... Cara Marsi

My special guest at Off the Keyboard today is multi-published author, Cara Marsi. Cara is here today to tell us about her wonderful books. Please share a little about yourself, your genres, any other pen names you use.

I've always loved romance, from the time I was a young teen. I watched the old romantic comedy movies on late-night TV and I read YA romances, especially the ones by Elizabeth Howard. I loved her books so much I once wrote to her and said I wanted to be a writer but I didn't have a typewriter. She wrote back that I didn't need a typewriter to write. I finally realized by dream of being a published author when my first book was published by Avalon Books. "A Catered Affair" is a traditional sweet romance written under my real name, Carolyn Matkowsky. I have the digital rights now to that book and will be publishing it myself early this year. When I republish it, I'll add back the sex I had to take out for Avalon Books. I now use a pen name, Cara Marsi. I found that Matkowsky was too easily misspelled and was confusing to readers and reviewers so I went with a shorter, easier name. I'm published in romantic suspense, paranormal romance, contemporary romance and romance short stories. I've published a dozen short stories in the confession magazines.

Tell us a little about your latest or upcoming release.

My upcoming release, which I hope will be up by March, is a steamy, contemporary romance called "Storm of Desire" about a couple with a sexual history who find themselves stranded together by a January nor'easter. Needless to say, they can't keep their hands off each other, but they've got other issues that interfere with their chance at happiness.

How did you come up with the title for your book(s)?

"A Catered Affair" is about a caterer so that title was easy for me. "Storm of Desire" takes place during a storm so that one was easy. Usually I struggle with titles. One of my critique partners came up with "Murder, Mi Amore," my romantic suspense set in Italy, and a 2012 EPPIE finalist for best romantic suspense. Another critique partner gave me the title "Cursed Mates" for my paranormal romance about star-crossed lovers from Noble Romance Publishing. My editor gave me the title "Loving Or Nothing," my sexy, sweet contemporary novella which is set in the fictional town of Loving, New Jersey. My online critique group helped with the title for my short story anthology, "A Cat's Tale & Other Love Stories." In addition, I have a romantic suspense called "Logan's Redemption," which was originally published by The Wild Rose Press. I came up with that title all by myself, as my hero, Logan, has a dark past that haunts him. "Logan's Redemption," with a very hot guy on the cover, is available on Kindle, Nook and Apple. All of my books are available for download. "Loving Or Nothing" is also available in print. By the way, the hot guy on the cover of "Logan's Redemption" is a model and photographer from Serbia named Marko Geber. He contacted me when he came across my book with his picture, which I'd gotten from a royalty-free site. He was very pleased that I used his picture, and because of my using him on the cover, he's gotten work for other romance covers. It was very cool hearing from him.

What happened to the first book you ever wrote?

It's still in the proverbial drawer. I want to rewrite that one someday because I love my characters, especially my hero, a very gorgeous and troubled Native American.

What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?

I love the idea of two people letting go of their fears to take the leap of faith that lets them love each other and want to spend their lives together.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I completed my first manuscript.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I go to the gym five days a week, I read, watch TV, meet with my critique group, meet friends for lunch and dinner. And I do try to spend time with my husband, but he'd argue that I don't spend enough time with him. My son lives 2500 miles away and I miss him. My husband and I share our home with a sweet, fat black cat named Killer. The cat on the cover of "A Cat's Tale and Other Love Stories" looks just like my Killer.

Where can we find you on the web?

Website: www.caramarsi.com 
Twitter: http://twitter.com/CaraMarsi
Facebook: www.facebook.com/carolynmatkowsky

Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

What do you like about reading romance? Who is your favorite type hero?

Look for Cara's release, Logan's Redemption, available NOW in paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords.

Doriana Callahan's life is unraveling. Someone is stalking her and sabotaging her father's company; her teenage son is rebelling; and Logan Tanner is back in town. For sixteen years she's kept an explosive secret from Logan, a secret he soon discovers.

Logan never belonged in Doriana's world, but a long time ago he allowed himself to dream of a future with her, until the awful night he was forced to run. Now he's back and he needs her forgiveness, but first he must forgive himself.

Despite the fact that Doriana kept the existence of his son from him, Logan vows to protect her. He races against time to stop the culprit threatening Doriana and works to forge a bond with his son.

Can the love and passion that still burn between Doriana and Logan overcome old lies and new dangers? The clock is ticking on a second chance at love.


Lisa closed the office door and leaned her very pregnant body against it. A huge grin split her pretty face.

Doriana arched an eyebrow. “You find it amusing that my father overstepped my authority and hired your replacement?”

Lisa made an unsuccessful attempt to look sympathetic. “I know you’re upset with your dad, but he is CEO. So I guess he can do whatever he wants.” Her gray eyes twinkled. “Your father should do more of the hiring around here.”

“What are you talking about?” Doriana asked.

“You’ll see. Should I send him in?”


“Yup,” Lisa said. “Your dad hired a guy.”

Doriana made a face. “I’ve always had a female assistant. What will I do with a guy?”

Lisa giggled. “Trust me. You’ll figure out what to do with this one.”

“This pregnancy is affecting your brain.” Doriana pushed away from the desk and stood.

Lisa gave her a sly smile. “When you see your new assistant, you’ll know what I mean.”

Doriana sighed. “Wait about five minutes before sending him in.”

“You need to primp,” Lisa said.


Laughing, Lisa opened the door and squeezed out.

Rubbing her aching temples, Doriana sat down and swiveled her chair to face the large window that took up an entire wall. Smog blanketed the Philadelphia skyline, obscuring her view of Billy Penn atop City Hall. She missed old Billy’s comforting presence, especially now.

She needed time to mentally prepare to meet the temp her father hired She did her own hiring for her department, but her dad had insisted on this temp. Why?

Her gaze drifted to the long table under the window. Family pictures rested on the marble top. Most were of Josh growing up. She smiled, remembering how Franco wanted to name his new nephew Noel because he was born on Christmas Eve.

She couldn’t believe Josh would be sixteen next month. She bit her lip as an ache, sharp as a stonecutter’s chisel, stabbed her. Nearly sixteen and out of control. When had Josh stopped being her sweet, lovable little boy and turned into the arrogant, rebellious almost-man who fought her every chance he got? A hellion who reminded her more of his father every day.

Thinking of Josh’s father brought the old, familiar pain. She’d never revealed the identity of her son’s father to anyone. Seventeen, scared and humiliated, she couldn’t admit that her baby’s father had walked away without a word.

Inhaling deep breaths, she counted to ten. It didn’t help. Nothing helped these days. The demands on her time gave her constant headaches. Her son needed her, but so did Dad and the company, especially with the recent setbacks.

The intercom on the desk shrilled. “Doriana,” Lisa said from the outer office. “You have that meeting in a half hour. And Mr. Tanner is waiting.”

Doriana’s hand froze over the reply button. Tanner? Long hours had her imagination working overtime.

“Doriana?” Lisa said.

Doriana shook herself back to reality. “I didn’t forget about the meeting. Please send in Mr..., the temp.”

Wearing her best professional smile, Doriana stared at her office door. Of course it couldn’t be him. It couldn’t be him. The refrain ran through her head like a mantra.

The door opened and her gaze connected with gold-flecked hazel eyes. Josh’s eyes. No, Logan’s eyes.
“Hello, Dorie.” His voice, deeper than she remembered, held the rough edge that had so excited her as a teenager. He closed the door softly and leaned against it, a black-clad Adonis who, despite the years and the hurt, took her breath. Unmoving, he studied her.

Was he looking for the young girl he’d romanced, then abandoned? That girl died the night her son was born. Their son. Anger and bittersweet sorrow roiled Doriana’s stomach. She brushed hair from her face with a shaky hand.

“You look good,” he said.

So do you. She couldn’t say the words. Pulling her gaze from his, she glanced toward the window. The pictures. Josh. Fear splashed over her like ice water from the Delaware River. One look at the pictures and Logan would know. She wasn’t ready for this.

Resolve stiffened her spine. She would protect her secret and her son until she discovered why Logan was here. “Is this some sort of joke?” she asked, returning her attention to Logan. “What are you doing here?”

“Working for you, last I heard.”

January 22, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday 1/22

Welcome to Six Sentence Sunday! Wow, it feels like months since I participated. Has it really been that long?

Today I decided I'd share with you the first six from my WIP, Midnight Heat.

Dominic Price was fantasizing about another man’s woman. Not just any woman. No, the one on his mind was the wife of the sorry bloke sitting not four feet away, his gaze on the mobile phone near his feet as if he could will the bleedin’ thing to light up.

He was on the twelfth day straight of his imprisonment in the basement recording studio. Nerves were frayed, tempers short, and the ability to string notes together into a proper melody, long gone. If it were up to him, they’d have thrown in the towel hours ago.

Be sure to visit all the other Six Sentence Sunday Authors. You can find a list of them at the OFFICIAL SITE.

January 21, 2012

Guest Blogging

I'm blogging at Reading Between the Wines Book Club today about how I choose my titles. Stop by and say hello.

January 18, 2012

Gone Blogging

I am blogging today at Emma Lai Writes, introducing you to Isabeau Montgomery, unconventional heroine of AFTER MIDNIGHT. Stop by and say hello.


January 17, 2012

Welcome Guest Blogger Terry Odell

Please help me welcome Terry Odell. Terry is here today with a fantastic post about writing "those" books. Welcome Terry.

Thanks so much to Sarah for inviting me to be her guest here today. A little about me. I did NOT write my first book in crayon. I didn't major in English. (I was a Psych major/Biology minor). As a matter of fact, I was a card-carrying AARP member before I even considered writing. But now, I've got 7 novels and an assortment of short stories published. Almost all of them are romance.

So, you write "those" books…I'm sure any romance author has heard it, clearly from someone who's never read a romance. (Confession – I was halfway through writing my first manuscript before I'd read a romance. I thought I was writing a mystery!) Well, yes, I do write "those" books. My publishers call them "Romantic Suspense." Me, I like to think they're "Mysteries With Relationships."

I think one of the lines of demarcation between a mystery and a romantic suspense is the sex. If you're a romance writer, eventually, you're going to have to deal with that moment of relationship consummation. If you're a mystery writer, sure, you can have sex scenes, but the relationships can develop over a series of books, and usually the relationship is secondary, so the sex tends to be more "in passing" rather than a milestone. But in all of my books, the characters have to earn that moment together.

I've been places where readers will ask, "Is there sex in your books?" When I answer in the affirmative, some grin and say, "That's great!" and snatch the book up. Others frown and walk away. I sent a reviewer—who said he reviewed romance as well as mystery—one of my romantic suspense books, figuring it covered both his genres. He refused to review it because it was, in his words, "Porn." Yet the publisher had labeled it "sensual".

I've got some good friends who write erotic romance. As with any book, there are some I enjoy, some I don't care for. For me, a lot of it boils down to vocabulary. Sometimes, it feels like I'm reading an anatomy text. Others, it's just a word that I react to differently. Everyone has trigger words, and there's nothing right or wrong about using them. You just have to know readers will react differently depending on their prior conditioning. For me, there's nothing erotic about the word "pussy" … I get the picture of two sleazy guys in a bar asking the bartender where they can get some of the same. Yet for others, it's a perfectly acceptable word with positive, even sensual, connotations.

In my first book for Five Star, my editor warned me against using the word "penis" because she said their final copy editor wouldn't approve it. She said their readers didn't mind blood and gore in mysteries, but were more picky about the romance vocabulary. (For the record, in my third book with them, the word is there. I didn't avoid it, and the new editor didn't cut it.)

The beauty of the genre is that there's something for everyone. And I'm not ashamed to say I write "those books."

And, here's an excerpt from FINDING SARAH, that book I thought was a mystery when I was writing it. In this scene, Randy and Sarah have finally earned the right to be together. They've had dinner, then returned to his house, ostensibly for ice cream to end the meal, although they both know where the night is going. This excerpt ends at the bedroom door. However, in the book, the reader gets to follow them inside.

He opened the door for her and turned on a lamp by the couch. "You want dessert now?"

"Right after the ice cream."

Randy chuckled. "I'll serve. How about we eat on the couch?"

Sarah settled on the couch and toed off her sneakers and socks while she adjusted the three-way bulb in the lamp to the lowest setting. Candles would be better, but she hadn't thought to bring any.

Randy appeared with two sundaes. "What are you thinking?"


"That was not a 'nothing' look, that was a 'something's missing' look."

"I thought candles would be nice. But they're not important. The moonlight is enough."

Randy set the ice cream on the end table and disappeared down the hall, returning in a moment with a green foil gift box. He arranged half a dozen pillar candles on the coffee table and lit them. The scent of vanilla filled the air. Sarah turned off the lamp and picked up her bowl. An ice cream purist, she turned the spoon over as she put it into her mouth so that the initial sensation on her tongue was the creamy richness of the ice cream. She grinned as Randy followed her example, eyebrows raised.

"This way, you don't get the metallic taste of the spoon," she explained. The scent of the candles intensified the vanilla flavor of the ice cream.

Randy nodded in agreement, matching her bite for bite.

Sarah scraped the remains of the sundae from her bowl. She licked the spoon, enjoying the chocolate's creamy sweetness. She glanced at Randy, sitting beside her in the flickering light. A flush rose to his face as he set his bowl on the coffee table. Lowering her spoon, she glued her eyes to his and let her tongue dance circles around her half open mouth while she savored both the chocolate sauce and the thought of his mouth against hers. The look in his eyes made her forget the chocolate. Her breath quickened.

Randy dipped his fingertip into the chocolate residue in her bowl and brought it to her lips. Her tongue swirled around his finger. He pulled his hand away and covered her lips with his own. She pressed deeper into the kiss, her tongue feeling the chill in his mouth turn hot. Somewhere in the distance, she felt him remove the bowl and spoon from her fingers, heard the soft thud as he placed them on the coffee table, but the kiss took on a life of its own, transcending awareness of anything else.

He pulled her on top of him so that she straddled his lap. She leaned her head into his chest, listened to the pounding of his heart, the rapid rhythm of his breathing. His hands sent shivers down her back as he reached under her sweater and unfastened her bra. Murmurs of pleasure intertwined as one. She wanted his hands to envelop every inch of her. Shifting herself closer into his body, she began rocking gently, her mind oblivious to all but the fluttering sensations building deep within her.

She ran her fingers through his hair, caressed the velvety softness behind his ears, rubbed her hands up and down his back, began working his shirt free of his pants. His hands moved to her chest, kneading her breasts, rolling her nipples under his thumb. Sparks shot through her at his touch. She reached to unbuckle his belt, to touch him, to share the pleasure.

"Sarah," he gasped. "Wait." He put his hands over hers.

She let go of his belt, unable to speak. He couldn't have changed his mind. Not now. Randy put his hands at her waist and shifted her down toward his knees.

"You're making me … I'm so … I'm not sure I can … Oh, God, Sarah, I don't want to spoil it for you. It shouldn't be this quick."

She slid off his lap and ran her fingers across his lips. His breathing was rapid and shallow. She extinguished the candles and extended her hand. "We said we were going to do this in a proper bed. Will you take me there?"

FINDING SARAH is available as an e-book from most e-tailers. There are also some out of print copies still out there (some of which are at my house, and I'm happy to autograph them for readers.)

For more about Terry and her books, visit her website at www.terryodell.com

She'd also love for you to follow her blog, Terry's Place, www.terryodell.blogspot.com
You can find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/terry.odell
And at Twitter, she's @authorterryo

January 14, 2012

The Page 99 Test ~ Not Without Risk

The Page 99 Test is simple: After reading page 99, would you want to turn the page and keep reading? About a month ago I posted page 99 of my contemporary romance, After Midnight. Because it was so much fun, I thought I'd do it again.

Let's have a look at my romantic suspense, Not Without Risk:

    As her legs suddenly went weak, Paige forced away the thought. She couldn't get involved with him. Couldn't let herself care.
    She dragged in a shaky breath. "I'm sorry I've wasted your time."
    Justin set his jaw. His hand curled against his thigh. "I never said you were wasting my time."
    She'd been so afraid, coming out of a nightmare then hearing someone move around downstairs. So sure of what she'd heard, certain of someone in her studio. Now...
    Maybe it had been a dream, or the panicked imaginings of an exhausted mind. Paige didn't think so, but couldn't be certain. "I must be overreacting."
    "It would be understandable."
    She closed her eyes against the kindness she heard in his voice. They snapped open at the feel of his finger beneath her chin. He tipped her face to his. "Then there's the broken bottle in the darkroom. Imagination doesn't explain that."
    Relief filled her, driving away some of her tension. Maybe she wasn't losing her mind, after all. "Thank you."
    "For what, doing my job?"
    "For answering my call, even though you were probably busy with something else. For believing in me. Again."
    "We aren't going to start this again, are we? I wasn't busy." Justin explained as he lifted his hand and traced his fingertip along her jaw. "I had dinner with my mother earlier. On my way home, I stopped off for a drink. That's where I was when you called."
    Paige took a deep breath, trying to slow her racing heart. The caress of his fingers across her skin made her pulse trip. "I'm glad." She wasn't supposed to care where he went or who he spent his free time with, but she had to admit to being thrilled he hadn't been on a date. Just the thought of him touching another woman the way he touched her now made her stomach clench painfully.

So what do you think? Would you keep reading?
Want to join in the fun? I'd love to read your page 99.
Post it on your blog and let me know where to find it.

January 11, 2012

Balancing Life and Writing

Today it's my pleasure to host author Marie Astor. Marie is in the middle of a blog tour promoting her new release, On the Rim of Love. Welcome. Marie.

Marie will be awarding a custom made jewelry set (necklace and earrings) to one randomly chosen commenter so make sure and leave her a comment. (US / Canada only)

Balancing life and writing – I have a one-line answer to this topic – it is hard!

If it were up to me, I would be writing non-stop, with perhaps short breaks for sleep, but I have a family and I have friends and all the obligations with come with being an adult.

I can certainly relate to the plot of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke where the author of a book finds himself transported into the world of his own creation. When I am working on a novel, the plot and the characters become as real to me as my own life - I find myself drawn into a self-created world where I am listening in to every scene, every thought – the trick is not to get sucked in or risk becoming a social recluse, which is a fate that I’m pretty sure no one would like to fall victim to.

So, my advice on balancing life and writing? Take breaks! Don’t forget your friends, remember to surprise your family with doing something special for them, like making pancakes and eggs for dinner (yes, breakfast food for dinner!) or heading out for a picnic on a sunny day. But what about writing? you say, don’t you need to have a schedule? Yes, it certainly helps to have a schedule and most of the days I follow a very rigorous schedule – I try to devote at least two hours a day to writing – it may be in the wee hours or the morning or it may be at night and sometimes in the afternoon – the schedule will wary depending on the hectic demands that life throws my way each day. But, every now and then, I’ll take a break and let the day shape itself. I always carry a small notebook with me, so that I can jot down any ideas that spring up in my mind, and I find that when I’m out and about with my family and friends, ideas become frequent guests.

I’d like to thank Sarah for inviting me to her blog and giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on this exciting topic. Wishing everyone happy writing and reading!


On the Rim of Love
by Marie Astor

Maggie Robin has been dating the irresistibly good-looking, successful Jeffrey Preston for two years. But when Jeffrey proposes marriage a week after Maggie’s college graduation, she is no longer sure if she wants to marry a workaholic TV producer.

Her doubts culminate when during a ski trip to British Columbia, Maggie meets Taylor Denton, a handsome, free-spirited big mountain skier who is the complete opposite of Jeffrey. It does not take Maggie long to realize that she has fallen in love with Taylor and she decides to break off her engagement with Jeffrey. But just when she thinks she has found the love of her life, an ill-fated misunderstanding tears Maggie and Taylor apart.

A week later, Maggie is told that Taylor has died in a tragic ski accident; yet, her heart refuses to believe in Taylor’s death. When Maggie returns to Taylor’s native town, she learns that Taylor is indeed alive, but has been seriously injured. Resolved to bring her lover back to life Maggie stands by Taylor’s side, convincing him to embrace life again.

Marie Astor is a die-hard romantic who wholeheartedly believes in true love, which is why she writes in the contemporary romance genre.

Marie is the author of contemporary romance novels, On the Rim of Love, Lucky Charm, and a short story collection, A Chance Encounter and Other Stories.

In addition to being a writer, Marie is an avid hiker, an excellent swimmer, a good skier, and a capable badminton player.

Currently, Marie is working on her next novel - stay tuned for details! If you would like to receive updates about book releases and events, please visit Marie’s website at: www.marieastor.com or visit Marie at her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/marieastorwrites.

January 8, 2012

Snippet Sunday

Since I've spent so much time lately talking about my newest release, I thought I'd go ahead and change things up today and share with you a snippet from my debut romantic suspense, NOT WITHOUT RISK.

Good God, she was beautiful. And strong, stubborn, driven—things that he never imagined he could find so alluring. Still teasing himself with the feel of her beneath his fingertips, he trailed his hand down her throat toward the gentle swell of her breast above the neckline of her blazer. His palm itched to continue on, to cup her. He wanted his hands on her, wanted his mouth on her.

He fought back the urge by reminding himself that Paige had wants of her own. She wanted her life back. The life she had before St. John’s murder, before the threats and the fear. The life she’d had before him. It would do for him to remember that.

Instead, he chose to recall the taste of her. Her throaty moan of approval as his mouth had taken hers. The way her body had strained against his, seeking release, a release she craved as badly as he. Emotion pulled at him, threatened to drown him. Scared the hell out of him the way those photos had just a few hours ago.

Justin hadn’t known a man could want like he did. He wanted her even though she made him wish for things he’d never even considered, things he wasn’t certain he even believed existed. He wanted to risk, to reach for that ever-elusive something that snaked through him whenever she set those green eyes on him.

Damn, but just admitting that to himself made him wonder if he’d lost his senses completely. He’d been trained not to risk. In his line of work, risk could get him killed. Yet ever since that fateful evening some six months before, the feeling that he was missing out on something in life ate at him.

Her eyelids eased open. Justin went from staring into her sleep-softened face to staring into the endless green of her gaze. A smile curved her lips, lit her up from the inside out.


He didn’t know which he liked more, the way she said his name, or her smile. His pulse kicked into high gear. Desire sucker-punched him in the gut. “Were you expecting someone else?”

She sat up slowly, her fingers moving to his jaw. Her gaze slid to his mouth as she traced his smile, dipped her thumb into his dimple. “Hmm…your smile is incredible.”

“Is it?” Justin held perfectly still, worked to draw oxygen into his suddenly deprived lungs as she eased her body closer and closer. Her thigh pressed against his, her breasts brushed his chest.

“So is your mouth,” she murmured, her voice like a caress across his flesh. Leaning into him, she used her teeth to nip at his lips, following the sharp bite with a swipe of her tongue.

Leave her alone
, the voice of reason whispered, but Justin ruthlessly shoved the thought aside. Blood pounding, mind reeling, he settled his left hand at her waist, slid it up to cup her breast through her jacket and captured her moan with his mouth.

January 4, 2012

Gone Blogging

I am blogging today at Keeping a Pulse on Life and Romance. I'm talking about the importance of music in my life and how my love of it led to AFTER MIDNIGHT. Stop by and say hello.