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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November 26, 2013

Q & A with Laura Kaye and #HardAsItGets

HARD AS IT GETS is one steamy read! How did you first get into writing?

Thanks so much! And thanks for having me here, Sarah! I’ve been a writer all my life. I’m a historian by training, so writing non-fiction was a part of my job for the fifteen years I worked as a college professor. But I started writing fiction in 2008 in kind of an unusual way. I hit my head on July 4, 2008. I didn’t think much of it that day, but soon after I realized I’d really hurt myself, and it turned out I had a minor traumatic brain injury. As I recovered, I was filled with an amazing urge to be creative, so I started taking guitar lessons (still not very good at that!) and wrote my first novel in 12 weeks (fortunately, I’m better at that LOL!). The experience of writing that first book was truly transformative. It was what I was supposed to be doing, so I revised that book until it sold and kept writing new ones. And I haven’t looked back since!

Why did you choose to write romance?

I had been an avid reader of paranormal romance for years at that point, so I wrote what I loved. But I also picked romance—unconsciously, I think—because to me it’s an incredibly hopeful genre. Romance stories are inherently stories about people who can’t find love or think they don’t deserve it who overcome the odds and find it in the end. In the years leading up to starting writing, I experienced a number of very hard personal losses, so writing in this genre was one way I worked through those issues.

What does “Hard Ink” refer to? What importance do tattoos play in your story?

Hard Ink is the name of the Rixey brothers’ tattoo shop in the Hard Ink series. Nick and Jeremy Rixey are co-owners, though Nick (the hero of book one, Hard As It Gets) prefers to be more of a silent partner, despite Jeremy’s efforts to put Nick’s artistic talents to work. In this series, tattoos are a way people remember, pay penance, or highlight what’s important to them. The act of creating permanent marks on skin has deep meaning to them. And the shop creates a gritty setting where diverse kinds of people meet and interact in the series. I really love it!

Describe Becca—what do you love most about her? And Nick? 

I’d love to! Because I really loved writing these characters!

Becca Merritt is smart and strong and honest and protective. I really loved the way she was willing to stand up for those she loves, even against people and forces who might be stronger and even a little scary. There’s a scene in particular when she dresses down Nick’s Special Forces teammates after a fist fight where I was particularly cheering for her! LOL

Nick Rixey is, omg, so freaking hot, you guys! He’s brooding and tortured and honorable and when he falls he falls so hard. I especially loved Nick’s mix of hard, alpha edges with his artistic side. When Nick shows Becca what her idea for a tattoo might look like on her skin, it’s just scorching!

What significance does the military play in the book?

Military themes are central to the whole Hard Ink series. The military isn’t just sexy window dressing nor is it just there to provide an intriguing backstory. The prior SF guys are this series are entirely defined by their military experience good and bad. It informs their identity, their sense of honor and duty, their view of the world, and of course gives them the skill set required to fight the battles they face in the series. The overall series mystery the characters are working to solve revolves around a military conspiracy in Afghanistan, so even though they’re out of the Army, the military themes are central.

If you could describe your book in a 140 character tweet, what would it be? 

In #HardAsItGets, an ex-soldier joins forces w/his dead commander's daughter to regain his tarnished honor & save her brother from a gang

Is there a particular author or book that has influenced your writing? 

There are a number of authors that have influenced me, but if I had to pick one it would be J.R. Ward. A lot of what I know about how to write sexy, authentic male point of view comes from reading her books. And I definitely learned the importance of a good bromance to a romance novel from her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, too. Given my ginormous fangirling, you can only imagine how flipping excited I was when this happened:

“Edgy, sexy, and full of suspense! A great read from a great new author!” 
~J.R. Ward on Hard As It Gets 

You guys, I bawled like a baby in the middle of a huge workshop put on by my publisher. For real. LOL

What advice would you give aspiring writers looking to get into the publishing industry?

Here’s my advice:

1) Write, write, write. You can’t revise what you haven’t written and you can’t sell what you haven’t written. And the psychological and emotional boost you’ll get from writing “The End” for the first time cannot be overestimated.
2) Revise, revise, revise. That first time you type “The End”? Yeah, you’re nowhere near done. Your book will need to be edited, by you, several times before you ever put it in front of an agent or editor. You get one shot with them, so don’t waste it by not showing them your very best and most polished work.
3) Find critique partners. And your mom, siblings, and best friend do not count (unless you’re really lucky, like me, and your best friend happens t also be a professional author). You need other aspiring writers in your genre who will give you honest but constructive feedback about how to improve your manuscript. Let them catch all the embarrassing goofs and plot holes you thought you caught before it gets to an agent or editor.
4) Want to be a professional, then act it. And by that I mean join the professional organization(s) of the genre in which you write. Through them you will find classes to help hone your craft, critique partner match-ups, networking opportunities, calls for submission, and other opportunities invaluable to breaking into publishing.
5) Don’t give up. You will hear way more no’s than yeses, particularly early in your writing career. Stick with it. Believe in yourself. Give yourself one day to wallow in the rejection and eat a bunch of chocolate and then get right back on the horse. If your first book doesn’t sell, chalk that up to learning and write a second.

What can fans of HARD AS IT GETS look forward to next? 

I’m currently writing four series: two contemporary (Hard Ink, Heroes) and two paranormal (Hearts of the Anemoi, Vampire Warrior Kings). I’ll have books from all four of those releasing in 2014. My next release is Hard As You Can (Hard Ink #2) coming 2/25/14!

About Hard As It Gets: 

Five dishonored soldiers.
Former Special Forces.
One last mission.
These are the men of Hard Ink. 

Tall, dark, and lethal...

Trouble just walked into Nicholas Rixey's tattoo parlor. Becca Merritt is warm, sexy, wholesome--pure temptation to a very jaded Nick. He's left his military life behind to become co-owner of Hard Ink Tattoo, but Becca is his ex-commander's daughter. Loyalty won't let him turn her away. Lust has plenty to do with it too.

With her brother presumed kidnapped, Becca needs Nick. She just wasn't expecting to want him so much. As their investigation turns into all-out war with an organized crime ring, only Nick can protect her. And only Becca can heal the scars no one else sees.

Desire is the easy part. Love is as hard as it gets. Good thing Nick is always up for a challenge...

Read Chapter 1 of Hard As It Gets
Buy at Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes 

About Laura Kaye:

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.


November 18, 2013

The Key

Story ideas come to me all the time, in many different ways. Sometimes it’s when a character pulls up a chair in my head and begins talking to me, and sometimes, it’s in a dream. The first time I wrote about a young woman and a rock singer (many, MANY years ago) their names were Emma and Joseph and their story came to me in a dream. Although I fell hard for both of these characters, it was apparent right from the beginning that theirs was a story I could never share. Why? Because romance books just didn’t feature heroines with inoperable brain tumors.

I love their story so much…a tale full of pain and happiness, strength and weakness. The story of a woman who dreams of a key – a key to heaven, or so she believes. Turns out it was a key to her future.

The story played out like a movie, from start to finish – one of the most detailed and complicated dreams I’ve ever had. At the end, there was Emma, reading from a journal she had kept through it all. From her initial diagnosis to her first meeting with Joe, from leaving him to their happily-ever-after. A highlight reel of sorts: the good and the bad moments. And so that is how I began writing their story – in a series of journal entries:

September 1

I dreamt of an angel last night. An angel of fair skin and long auburn hair with a white gown made of delicate lace and wings that took my breath. Her arm was stretched out before her, a key dangled from her fingers. Not a car or a house key. Not a key of gold or fancy jewels. A silver key about an inch in length and of plain design. A simplified skeleton key.

I awoke before I could take her offering and immediately began to sketch my angel. To capture on paper the image so clear in my mind. But somehow I have lost the memory of her face – the angle of her cheeks or the shape of her lips – and only that key remains. That silver, uncomplicated form hanging from a basic chain. Why was she offering it to me? What did it represent? I’m afraid to speculate, for deep down, I believe I know what she was offering me.

I saw my oncologist yesterday. My treatment isn’t working, just prolonging the inevitable. And so I made the decision to opt out of further treatment and accept my fate. Then I dreamt of an angel, and a key.

This story lives with me still today. Enough that I have a key collection that began after my dream: skeleton keys, charms of keys and my favorite, a sterling silver key necklace. It comes back to me at the oddest moments, at least once every year. One day perhaps I will finish writing it down. Maybe then I can let it go. Maybe not. It’s hard to say why some things stick with us through the years. Perhaps it was that like Emma, I felt as if that angel was offering the key to me.

November 17, 2013

It's HERE!

The revised edition of my contemporary romance, AFTER MIDNIGHT is here!

Here's my sexy new cover and a tease:

He leaned into her. “If you still want me to stay away from you, you’d better tell me now.”



“Kiss me.”

She didn’t have to ask twice. He dipped his head, settled his lips on hers and plundered. He dragged her against him, and drank in the hot, potent taste of her as he fed on her mouth like a starving man.

She softened, a tiny sound of passion slipping up her throat—an urgent invitation. His pulse leaped. So did other parts of his anatomy. Her fingers burrowed through his hair.

He deepened the kiss, stroking his hands down the sides of her body to settle on her hips. He used them to guide her as he stepped forward once, twice, until her back settled against the trunk of the maple. Awash in the smell of her, the feel of her, he pressed closer, until no space existed between them. Her breasts flattened against his chest, her hips arched into him. Heat from her body flowed into his, sparking a fire. His heartbeat echoed in his head.

AVAILABLE NOW - at a new low price $2.99

Barnes and Noble

iBook (coming soon)

Come dish about Noah, Dominic, Nick and Alex!
Readers in the series groups are the first to find out new release dates and are often treated to exclusive content relating to each series.

November 5, 2013

Hopeless by @authorKeriNeal #blogtour

HOPELESS by Keri Neal

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance 
Release date: November 1, 2013 
ISBN: 1492272221 
ISBN13: 978-1492272229


On her seventeenth birthday, Jade is filled with hope for the future. She and her boyfriend Pen are in love, she is finishing her final year of high school, and she is finally safe from the Fallen, who wanted her blood to fulfill an age-old prophesy. Pen is not as comfortable with the truce they made to protect her, so he makes a new deal with the Arches and leaves Jade alone. 

But not for long. 

A new Guardian is assigned to protect Jade. Blake is rude and offensive, his methods unconventional. Because of his dedication to her she trusts him with her life. Best of all, he knows about the Surge—her telekinetic ability—and is eager to teach her how to control her power. With Blake’s help, Jade learns she can defend herself, with or without the Arches protection, against the evil forces that want her blood. 

Then . . . Pen comes back. 

He doesn’t like the idea of someone else looking out for Jade, but an army of evil is on its way to destroy her, and Jade needs all the help she can get. 



The subtle noise woke me out of deep sleep. I stared into the darkness of my bedroom and waited. After a few minutes I heard it again.

Tap. Tap.

Something was scraping my window. The Santa Ana winds were always heavy this time of year, but the sounds it caused never bothered me before. This was different. Keeping my eyes on the window, I slid out of bed and dug the Louisville slugger out from behind my nightstand. I gripped it hard and tiptoed to the source of the noise.

Tap. Tap. 

It wasn’t getting louder, but I knew without a doubt something, or someone, was outside my window. I approached with caution, ready to start swinging. Then something caught my eye. It was a leaf. I tilted my head to get a better angle, and the rest of the twig took form.

Breathing a heavy sigh, I tossed the bat onto my bed and put my head in my hands. My dreams had been so restless lately. I was starting to hallucinate. I laughed at my paranoia and opened the window to retrieve the stray twig.

The moon was an amazing presence in the clear sky. Summer was ending, signaling the beginning of cooler nights in the Southern California desert. I sucked in the clean air and let it fill my lungs. I loved this time of the year, when most of the smog was chased away by gale-force winds. Leaning out the window I watched the leaves dance on the Mulberry tree. A pair of glowing eyes glared back at me from deep within the branches.

I leapt back. Remembering the open window, I made a grab for the sill to slam it shut. I wasn’t quick enough. The eyes grew a body and pounced. I screamed until I heard footsteps in the hallway. Gary reached into the room and flicked on the switch, filling the room with a light that caused me to wince.

When my eyes adjusted to the room, I noticed several things at once. Gary was standing in my doorway, his Chargers pants and white t-shirt vibrating as he fought to catch his breath. In his left hand was a nine iron. The intruder was unmistakably male. Despite the ski mask, his muscular figure was well defined by a too-small black t-shirt. Both men ignored me as they stared each other down from separate ends of my room.

“Jade had a nightmare. You came to check on her. She was fine. You went back to bed.” The guy’s voice lilted with an accent I didn’t recognize.

The golf club fell out of Gary’s hand and hit the floor. I was having an out-of-body experience. There was no way Gary would fall for this guy’s impression of the Jedi mind-trick. But even as I thought it, he turned on his heel and scuffled back to his room at the end of the hall. I began to panic, the giggling bubbling up from my gut making my breath choppy. If my Surge was ever going to cooperate, this would be the time.

Holding my breath, I closed my eyes and focused on the center of my gut where the Surge originated. Nothing happened. It didn’t make sense; if I lost control when I was upset, then I should’ve been blowing the doors off the hinges. But I didn’t, I just stood there stunned as a feeling of dread washed over me. Behind my eyelids I saw Pen, his beautiful face staring back at me with adoration. He would never know how much I loved him. I was going to die and I was all alone. I opened my eyes with a determination to face my death. The intruder hadn’t moved except to turn his head.

The floor creaked as he shifted his weight and ambled toward me. He reached up and tore off the mask, revealing spiky black hair. His smile was cocky, as if he was proud of himself for being so clever.

Suddenly a pair of arms wrapped around me from behind. I blinked up into the intruder’s eyes, and in the next moment he was gone. I was somewhere else. It was dark, but I could smell pine needles and hear branches crackle as the wind blew through them high above me. I was almost certain I was in the mountains somewhere, but it was too dark to tell. Whoever had brought me here still held me tightly.


I spun around to throw my arms around him. He’d come back! Somehow I knew he wasn’t gone for good. He wouldn’t just leave me forever. Not after what we’d been through. But instead I was faced with dark eyes the color of onyx. A stranger, not Pen, had saved me from the supernatural being. I should’ve been grateful. Maybe shook his hand and exchanged emails. He seemed nice enough as he stared back at me with his head tilted in that way Pen did when he was trying to feel my thoughts.

All of these reactions would have been a normal way to react to someone who had just saved your life. I, however, was not a normal girl.

“Who the hell are you?”


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November 2, 2013

Open Promo for Authors - Bring it on!

Welcome to Open Promo for Authors! Once again I've decided to open the floor (or blog post as the case may be) and allow you, my fellow romance authors, a chance to tell me about your book. Do you have a current or upcoming release? Then I want to hear about it! After all, Christmas is right around the corner. And what's better than a stocking full of books?

I do have a few pesky rules though:

  • The book has to be a romance. I don't care what genre romance, but my readership is romance so we're going to give them what they love.

  • You can post for yourself or you can post about a fabulous new book you can't wait to get your hands on and you think we should all run out and buy.

  • If you include a short excerpt in the post, please include a rating AT THE BEGINNING of the post. Let's be thoughtful of those readers who are uncomfortable with some heat levels. 

  • Also, I reserve the right to delete a post if it promotes objectionable content. (incest, rape, etc.) 

Simple enough, right? Post away!