Friday, June 27, 2014

Author Spotlight - Sydney Holmes

I am pleased that Sydney agreed to our Friday Feature. She's a great woman, and talented author. I hope you enjoy getting to know her just as much as I have.

Sydney, tell us a little about your writing: 

When writers work on a book, we become obsessed. Our characters are alive in our heads 24/7, we hear their voices and play out scenes while we run, shop for food, cook dinner and yes, sometimes while helping our kids with homework. Our plot twists are constantly playing behind our eyes and we often run to our notebooks to write something down before it floats away. I write provocative romance because I cannot think of a better subject to obsess about. Can you? I love lascivious men. I love strong, confident, sexy women. I think about sex and love and even heart break all the time.
There is nothing better than starting a new book. And there is nothing more exciting than reading a hot, sexy story about two people searching for themselves and getting lost in each other. I absolutely love writing adult contemporary romance with an erotic flair.  I’m an avid reader of romance as well, because I truly love this genre.
I’m married with two kids and live in California. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science (yes, I was thinking of law school) and a Master’s degree in Education (yes, I used to teach English). And, in my mind I look like this photo. According to my husband, I’m damn close! Thanks honey, that’s why I love you so much. And ladies, there’s the proof that love is, in fact, blind.

I have traveled all over the world with my family and often get inspired on the road. I love mysteries and puzzles, hiking and running, traveling and reading. I can often be found sitting in Starbucks listening to people talk to each other when they think no one is paying attention. So, keep that in mind next time you sit down to share your secrets over a vanilla latte, the reasonably (okay, I’ll admit it) attractive woman sitting next to you might be me, and those might be notes I’m taking, not a grocery list.

What's going on in your life right now, work wise: 

The big news this week is the release of my boxed set Passionate Kisses: Ten Sizzling Contemporary Romance Novels. I've teamed up with nine spectacular authors to create the best summer read out there. Awakening is part of that set. 

 Let's talk about your book, Awakening: 


Ever feel like everyone else has figured out this thing called life but you’re just watching it fly by, not really living?

Nora Young still believes she has time to figure it all out. She can still go to law school and take on the Supreme Court, make love in the sun, or even share her dreams with her boyfriend. Maybe that explains her morose mood when she realizes she’s moving up the corporate ladder at work as an Event Specialist—not a party planner thank you very much! It might also explain the horror when her emotionally distant boyfriend tosses out the words “marriage” and “kids” as if they’re the inevitable next steps in their benumbed, stifling relationship. 

Nora realizes she needs to take control and create a life filled with passion, purpose and adventure.

            Ryan Cole walks into her office and seems to offer everything Nora is looking for: passion, adventure—exhibitionism? But just when Nora starts to open up to Ryan and his crazy adventures, his ex girlfriend warns her that Ryan’s real tastes are dangerously extreme. Intrigued, Nora pushes Ryan to reveal his secrets but will Nora be able to handle it when he comes clean? Does setting boundaries with Ryan mean saying goodbye to the most passionate, sexy man she’s ever met?

Chapter 1

Jack London’s is crowded and we all squeeze into a table near the back. We’re far from the bar, but close to the bathroom, so I guess it works out.
Carrie, Joanne, Willow, and I are here with Sophia to celebrate her 24th birthday. We all met at Stanford; Joanne, Sophia, and I were starry-eyed freshmen and Carrie and Willow were sophomore roommates giving us the lowdown on college life. Even back then, Sophia was a cute, whip smart, blonde with an athletic body. Not much has changed over the years.
"Okay, girlfriend. What's next? Wine, more champagne, mixed drinks? What's your pleasure, birthday girl?" Carrie stands to make her way back to the bar. Even for Carrie, tall, dark haired babe that she is, it will take a while to get more drinks.
"UmHow about some food? I gotta drive home soon. I need to sober up a bit," Sophia yells her response across the table.
"Whatever! Fine. I'll order some appetizers, too." Carrie marches off into the depths of the bar in search of sobering appetizers and more booze.
Of all of us, Carrie is the most successful and the most confident. She knew going into college that she was destined to be a rich corporate lawyer working her 80 hours a week, partying like a madwoman on weekends, as well as the occasional weeknight.
Willow slides in next to Sophia, taking Carrie's seat. Bags and wrapping paper litter the table and floor. I move the presents over to a corner.
"How's life? How goes the job?" Willow almost has to scream in Sophia's ear. Maybe this wasn't the best place to celebrate.
"Oh, my God. David is a nightmare! You can't even believe it." Sophia's delicate features look exaggerated as she speaks of the horror of her job.
"Yep. I so could have called that one." Willow downs the rest of her drink. She has long flowing hair to her waist and, as her name suggests, she was raised a flower child in Northern California. She had hopes of becoming a lawyer to help the poor and advocate for change, however, she soon learned that often the poor can't pay retainers and the banks holding her student loans didn't care, she still had to make her payments. Begrudgingly, she now works at the same firm that Carrie does as a junior associate. She hates it, but she is paying off her loans and saving money. Looks like her new coping strategy is drinking. Heavily.
"Okay, you two. We’re not going to get into a 'who has the worst job’ competition." I reach over to slide my drink back away from Willow's sticky hands.
"So, Nora. Checked out any law schools lately?" Joanne smirks at me across the table. I narrow my eyes at her.

"No, but thanks for asking. How's the novel?" She bursts out laughing. Back in college, Joanne and I used to stay up late talking about our hopes and dreams. She wanted to write the next great American novel, and I wanted to take on the Supreme Court, changing laws for the betterment of womankind.
Joanne now works as a staff writer for a fashion magazine and I work in corporate events. We often joke that we jinxed ourselves with those late night talks. Yeesh, what a lot of hot air we wasted.
"How's it going, Nora? Is Darren still as kooky as ever?" she asks.
"Yeah. Darren is still Darren." I sigh, reaching for my drink.
"When are you going to wake up and realize that guy doesn't hold a candle to you? He’s a freak, and you need to move on." Wow, Joanne is diving straight in tonight. We’ve had this conversation before and I really don't want to have it again. They just don’t understand what it’s like with him. What I’m like with him.
"Actually, he seems to be perking up. He almost got wild with me last weekend." I smirk at her.
Joanne's eyes shoot up in surprise. Before she can ask me anything else, Carrie is back with a pitcher of margaritas and some chips.
"There's your damn food. Now drink up!" She sits down and takes a large swig of her drink. "Okay. What are we talking about?"
"Nora just told me that Darren had wild sex with her last weekend," Joanne yells. Everyone within earshot turns to look at us.
My jaw drops open for a second before I snap it shut self-consciously "Nice."
"Oh, really?" Sophia chimes in. "And when were you going tell me?”
Sophia and I work together and she knows way too much about my failings with Darren.
"No!" I say truly exasperated. "I did not have wild sex with Darren. I said I almost had wild sex. You know how he is.” My face is red and my hands are shaky. “I’m slowly pulling out his wild child. Very slowly,” I say when I have recovered enough.
"Wait a minute." Willow tunes in, drunkenly. "You had wild sex with a wild child? Who?"
We all start laughing hysterically. Thank God for Willow.
“Excuse us.” A male voice interrupts our hysterics. We all pull it together and look up at the voice. A group of young, buff men stand near our table waiting for our attention. Three of the men look like they came from the office wearing slacks with collared shirts, but one has on tight jeans and a tight long sleeve shirt. He is sporting a day old beard that works well on him. My eyes linger on his pants.
“You’re excused!” Joanne says smartly, and then bursts into more laughter.
“We noticed that the birthday girl hasn’t had her birthday dance yet,” Mr. Nice Package says. 
“Oh! Is that like a tradition?” Willow looks up at the men.
There are four of them, together they look as if they are posing for a Hot Guys calendar photo.
“Yeah!” Green shirt guy steps up from the back of the group. He sweeps his thick black hair back and flashes a sexy smile. “It’s a tradition. The birthday girl gets to have first choice, then the rest of you get the leftovers.”
“The leftovers? Ha! You guys are more like first course.” Carrie starts to stand up.
“Wait a minute!” Willow drags her back down. “It’s Sophia’s Birthday. She gets first pick.”
Sophia’s eyes are huge and she looks mortified when she glances at me. I smile and nod at her, encouraging. She hesitates and eyes all the men standing in front of her.
“Come on. It’s just a dance.” Mr. Nice Package says, looking as innocent as he can, offering her his hand.
Shaking her head and laughing, she stands up grabbing a clean cut man from the back and leading him to the dance floor. He’s dressed in black slacks and a white shirt with his sleeves rolled up. Not a bad choice at all. The rest of the guys all hoot and howl as they pass.
All at once the remaining men turn expectantly towards us. I watch in awe as Carrie gets up and pulls Green Shirt guy to the dance floor. That leaves Mr. Nice Package and a dark haired man with a cocky grin playing along his mouth. Joanne and Willow turn toward me.
“I’ll sit this one out. Go for it!” I shout to them, sitting back happy to watch my crazy friends.
Joanne and Willow slide out of the booth and pair up. I watch as they make their way through the crowd. What a night. Sipping my drink, I realize that I’m once again watching events unfold in front of me and not fully participating.
“Are you okay?” A deep, smooth voice asks behind me.
Turning, I see that a man with dark hair just long enough to create that messy-sexy look has slid into the booth next to me. A surge of adrenaline rushes into my body leaving me breathless. Oh, he’s gorgeous with a strong jaw and the most amazing eyes I have ever seen. Even in the dark light of the bar, they are glowing chestnut brown. I take him in and can’t stop myself from smiling.
“What? Yeah. We just ran out of men!” I say, laughing.
“And I am?” he says.
“Are you with them?”
“No. But I see that you’re sitting here alone. A beautiful woman should never sit alone while her friends are having all the fun.”
I pause and look at him. He doesn’t look like a creep, but still my eyes narrow as I look him up and down. He sits, watching me scrutinize him.
Finally he smiles and stands up. “Do I pass?”  He asks, lifting my hand from the table and pulling me out of the booth.
Swept up in the moment, I abandon caution and join him. He guides me to the dance floor as his hand slips onto my back, just at the base of my spine, his thumb rubbing back and forth across my back. A chill starts low and climbs up my body.
When we get to the dance floor, I expect him to let me go so we can start dancing, only he doesn’t. He spins me into his arms and holds me against his body. I almost gasp when his hard chest presses into mine. His arm wraps tightly around my waist while he holds our joined hands high. For a second it feels like we are going to Tango, but thankfully we don’t. He pulls my pelvis into his and grinds his hips erotically into mine.
A jolt of electricity hits me so hard I would have stumbled if he hadn’t been holding me so tightly. The music is fast and loud and everyone around us is spinning and rocking out, but not us. Slowly, he moves our hips together as if he is listening to his own music. I look around self-consciously. Feeling his breath on my neck, he whispers something into my ear, but I have no idea what he said. He drops my hand and moves my hair behind my ear, caressing my neck. Shivers run through me. This man is all sex, and he knows it. Loosening his grip from my waist, both of his hands land on my hips, holding me in place while he rubs his pelvis into mine. Heat races across my skin followed by shivers.
Good God, I am so turned on right now. The alcohol is not helping me hold it together. I feel his hard cock dig into my pelvis, right where I want it. I need to get the hell out of here. This man is too good at this.
“Shit. I’m sorry.”  He says after I pull away from him.
“It’s okay.” I say shaking my head. I look around, stunned at myself. I can see my friends all dancing with these strange men. None of them seem to have even noticed that I’m on the dance floor. The alcohol seems to be at full power, coursing through my blood. Glancing back over my shoulder at my dance partner, I see that he is watching me, his pelvis back to undulating against mine.
He pulls me close again and slides down my body, his hands trailing a sinfully hot trail along the sides of my breasts to my hips. Looking down, I see his head is just at my hip line. His big brown eyes stare into mine while he dances back up, his hands running along my stomach and again across my breasts. Never lingering long, just gliding across my heated skin.
“Jesus,” he breathes in my ear, “Where have you been all my life?”
As if the cord has been yanked from the wall socket, my brain shuts off.  Letting the music guide my hips we move in unison, hip-to-hip, hands trailing over each other. Hot muscle moves under my hands as he dances. Becoming bolder, my hands grip his hips, forcing them into mine. He leans back laughing, encouraging me. In my wild abandon, I fling my hands over my head, shaking my head side to side, all while continuing to grind my hips into this sexy stranger.
How or why he chose me, I’ll never know. But he did choose me. He thinks I’m sexy. His arousal makes me actually believe him. I know this is crazy, but sometimes getting a little crazy is good for the soul.
When the beat changes with the next song, I turn around and rub my ass into his crotch, pumping my hips back and forth, side to side. He stays with me, never letting our bodies lose contact. Leaning back against his hard chest, his hands slide down my sides, fingertips racing across my thin shirt. My skirt inches higher as I sink lower, dancing down his hard body.
I feel his hands on my skin under my shirt. The direct skin-to-skin contact boils my blood instantly. My head falls back onto his shoulder, giving him full access to my stomach and chest. I feel him bumping into me, keeping the beat for us. There is nothing but the music and his touch. We are one, moving together, creating a sexual frenzy around us. Closing my eyes, my hands thread through his hair, my head leans on his shoulder, while his hands grab my hips, squeezing and tilting my ass into him.
All too soon the music stops and the beat changes again. But the pause has popped our bubble. I look around and see that all of my friends are back at the table, watching us. Turning back around, I face my smiling dance partner.
“You’re amazing. So sexy,” he says, making me blush.
“Um.” I stutter in his ear. “Thank you for the dance.”
He walks me back to my table, his hand possessively on my lower back again. Carrie, Joanne, and Sophia are all staring at me with their mouths hanging open. Willow’s eyes are closed, and she is swaying in her seat.
“Ladies,” he says to the table then turns and disappears into the crowd.
I sit, grabbing the nearest drink, downing it like a shot.
“Holy fucking shit,” Joanne says.
Willow’s eyes snap open. “Oh! You’re back. Thought maybe you found a new home for the night!”
“Wow!” I manage to say. “I have never. Never.” The words evaporate before I can form a complete thought. Never in my life have I ever felt anything like that. I’ve had guys tell me I’m attractive, but I have never felt it like that. For the first time in my life I felt sexy, really sexy.
“You were amazing out there. When did you learn to dance like that?” Carrie asks, still in awe.
“I didn’t.” I say back to her, just as awed as she is.
“Well, it looks like Darren had better step up his game!” Sophia says.
Everyone erupts into laughter.
“Speaking of Darren. Did someone here say you guys finally had wild sex? ” Willow asks again after we recover.
                "Sadly no, I was saying that Darren and I ALMOST had wild sex last weekend," I correct her, still breathless.
"I kinda thought you guys broke up because he wouldn't marry you, or move in with you or something like that." Willow trails off, thoughts muddled in her intoxicated state.
"Condoms!" Carrie shouts to the table.
"You need to carry condoms with you all the time. That way when you and Limp Dick have the opportunity to do the nasty you can. They’re so much less hassle than dealing with, ya know. On the fly.” Carry explains.
“Really? You think buying condoms are the answer to my sex life’s problems.” I snort at her.
“No. What you really need is that guy’s phone number.” Willow drunkenly tells the table.
 “Holy shit, that was really fucking hot out there!” Joanne says again.
“Yes, that was really fucking hot!" I say reaching for my drink again.
Everyone at the table erupts. It’s obvious we’ve all had a lot to drink tonight! Still stunned from my dance, I sit back and take a deep breath. Joanne is right. I have never been that turned on by anyone on a dance floor. If that’s what he’s like dancing, imagine what that man is like in the bedroom! A wave of heat crashes over my body thinking about it.
“Okay, my friends. This has been a fantastic birthday. But I really need to leave.” Sophia starts to gather her gifts.
We all pile out of the booth, picking up presents, bags, purses, and coats. As we make our way toward the door, I glance around the room. My sexy stranger is nowhere to be seen. He’s starting to feel like an illusion. Did that really happen? Or was that some alcohol induced fantasy?
Sophia hugs everyone and we all say goodbye. We finally start to head in different directions and Joanne takes Willow by the hand and leads her to the car. Willow slurs something to Joanne and hands over her keys. Good call on that one.
I turn to Sophia. “Happy Birthday, you!”
“Oh, my God! That was crazy. Those guys made the whole party! And that one guy you danced with. Holy cow!” She gushes as she fans herself.
“I know, right! So that actually happened. I didn’t just make that up?”  I ask, only somewhat in jest.
“I saw you! Nora Young, you were hot! Hot like, I’d take you home and do you hot!” She is laughing at her own jokes.
Shaking my head at her, I give her one last hug.
“You need to go home and go to bed, girl! See you on Monday!”
I watch her walk to her car before I turn and head off to find mine. I can’t stop thinking about that dance. We were hot together out there. That kind of passion is something I thought only existed in movies or books.  But I felt it, boy did I feel it. It was so sudden, and then he just left. I loved that it was so flammable and then he was just gone. No expectation for more, no requests for anything other than just one hot dance. My creep radar wasn’t screaming like it usually does in those situations. Something about the sexy undertone of his voice maybe. Or most likely that third drink!
That man had passion like I have never seen before. That’s what’s missing from my entire life. I want that; need that! Carrie’s right, I need to be more aggressive with Darren. I’m starting this weekend, I’ve got some shopping to do and then I’m going to knock Darren’s socks off!
The parking lot is full when I get back to my apartment, so I park around the corner. That is one of the biggest problems here, no assigned spots. I make my way up the stairs and as soon as I’m through the door I start stripping off clothes. Collapsing in bed semi-naked, without brushing my teeth, I think about what my life would be like if I lived with that kind of passion.  

Praise for Awakening: 

****4 Super Sexy Stars****Whoa! This was one hot book! My first by Sydney Holmes, but I'll happily read more;) Nora and Ryan's chemistry was off the charts. Love scenes were erotic but tasteful, somehow. Kjen

I was drawn in by Nora and Ryan and hope the next book comes out soon.  Michelle

AWAKENING is a great read. The storyline is believable and the characters are realistic. Everyone can see a bit of Nora in themselves and we can all relate to the theme of whether or not we should chase our dreams or just play it safe. Amie Gaudet 

I don’t know what’s up with these characters, or how the author did it, but she totally hit the nail on the head with this one. Dana

Great debut novel by an excellent wordsmith. Anna

I am looking forward to the next installment of the awakening series to see where Nora and Ryan's story ends! Lindsey

One sexy hot read and recommended. This is my first book by the author and I found it to be engaging and well written.   Obsessed by books blog

Loved how the author brought out a deeper connection with them than just hot sex.  Connie

Purchase @

Background on the Author:

Sydney Holmes writes contemporary romance with an erotic flair, or as she likes to say, “Hot and spicy romance that keeps you up at night!” She believes there is nothing more exciting than reading a hot, sexy tale about two people searching for themselves and getting lost in each other. Sydney found her HEA with her wonderful husband and they now have two amazing children.  She graduated from The George Washington University with a BS in Political Science and holds a Master’s Degree in Education. She lives near the ocean in California and travels as often as she can. This is Sydney’s debut novel.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Feature - Gail Kretchmer

I am truly excited about today's author spotlight, Gail Kretchmer. Gail and I discussed options, and while I was okay with the standard, Gail wasn't. And, boy am I glad she did. I'll let you hear it in her own words.

Sex in the Literary World

When Jai Elle invited me to guest blog for her, I was at first thrilled, and then I immediately took a big gulp. What would I, a writer of literary fiction, have to say to an audience of romance readers? I knew I needed to find common ground between romance and literary, besides the usual story structure stuff. What do most readers, and for that matter most adult humans, have in common?


But of course we all have our individual sexual preferences, as Jae Elle suggested in her June 17th blog “Are you into….” Likewise, we have different preferences when it comes to reading about sex.

Claire Davis, award-winning author of the literary short story collection “Labors of the Heart” and faculty member at Pacific University’s MFA program, periodically gives a craft talk about writing sex scenes. She believes that sensuality is most powerful “in what’s not shown,” and when it comes to scenes involving what might be considered sexual deviancy, she said that literary masters like Vladimir Nabokov and Denis Johnson rely heavily on pathology and landscape to convey the tension of the scene without making the reader feel complicit in the acts.

Alan Elsner, author of a historical fiction novel called “Romance Language,” said in a Huffington Post blog that love is primarily expressed through sex in the romance genre, whereas literary works such as Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice,” present romance more “in the [characters’] heads.”

When I sat down to write two sex scenes in my new novel, “The Damnable Legacy of A Minister’s Wife,” I took the approach that Davis and Elsner would likely have used. In the scene excerpted below, a mountain climber begins to seduce another climber on the flanks of Denali, in Alaska. I felt I could best show the heat of the scene (juxtaposed against the frigid landscape) by not relying on graphic description. Instead, I slowed the pace, relied on benign clothing accessories like gloves, and incorporated the briefest verbal exchanges. I also used food as part of the landscape because food can be so sensual. And then, just as the foreplay is about to burst into full-on sex, I ended the chapter. The reader knows what’s coming and can imagine the scene just as well as I can. The reader doesn’t need to see the words on the page.

He sat beside her and unzipped her jacket, slowly. Then he pulled her glove from one hand, finger by finger, and their eyes met. She was cold, tired, hungry. She was a lonely woman, too.
He pulled her other glove off slowly.
“What are you doing?”
“Just making you comfortable.”
He handed her a tin of crackers and fed one to her. When she bit into it and crumbs fell from her mouth, he caught them in his palm and licked them off his skin.
He reached into the bag of chocolates and fed one of them to her, licking his fingers again after they’d been touched by her lips.
“Will, what are you doing?
He cupped his hand behind her neck and pulled her closer. “I’m doing exactly what you want me to do, baby. I’m keeping you warm.”
 “God, I’m tired,” she said. “I can barely focus my eyes.”
He piled some of his clothes into the corner of the tent and pulled her back; she was limp. He kissed her cheek.
            “Is the tent spinning?”
“Mm-mmm.” He licked her neck.  He kissed the tip of her nose, then brushed his mouth against hers.
            “You’re lonely,” he said. He trailed his tongue from her hairline, around her ear and down to her jaw, then to her shoulder and then to her breast. He stroked her hair.

In truth, Davis and Elsner might even take exception to the tongue and breast; certainly Jane Austen wouldn’t have taken it that far. But then again, Ms. Austen didn’t live in the 21st century. Times are different. Mostly for the better, I think.

The Damnable Legacy of A Minister’s Wife is now available in print or digital versions through Amazon, Ingram (at your favorite independent bookstore), and a variety of other retail outlets.

G. Elizabeth Kretchmer holds an MFA in Writing from Pacific University. Her short fiction, essays, and freelance work have appeared in The New York Times, High Desert Journal, Silk Road Review, and other publications. When she’s not writing, she facilitates therapeutic and wellness writing workshops and spends time in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three sons. Visit her website at

Friday, June 13, 2014

Author Spotlight - Carol Rose

This week I'm pleased to introduce Carol Rose as our Friday author. I'm excited about her post. Hope you are too. 


It always helps that the heroes in most romances are muscular and hot, but we all know that not every buff guy is worth spending time on. For your heart to be grabbed, you need to care about the hero beyond whether he has broad shoulders.

In my book, Mr. Personality, Max is smart, successful and studly, but Max has a secret about which he feels terrible and can’t forgive himself. This one incredible mistake has led a terrific guy to snarling near-isolation. One of the things he finds most intriguing about our heroine, Nicole, is that she’s not afraid of him and stands up to his ugliness. But Nicole is also the woman who helps Max forgive himself.

Why does Nicole care about snarling, annoying Max? Yes, he’s hot and smart, but our heroine also sees his suffering. This is why we care for certain heroes. We warm up to guys when we see not only their good points, but their flaws, too. We need to see their struggles in order to like them. It’s a well-known reality that heroes with dogs and kids—even those with kitties!—are attractive, seeming like good guys. How can a hot guy with a baby not be a decent man? Right?

Flaws make us sympathetic about a man, but guy flaws can be scary. We’ve all met some pretty messed up dudes in our lives and romance heroes that have a chance to grab our hearts have to be redeemable. But that means they have challenges they must meet and nothing is more guaranteed to tug at the heart than a man who is changed for the better by the love of a good woman. This leaves us with an equation—guy needs to be changed for the better, which means he needs to start out with a problem.

Perfect looks good in a photo, but to be a hero, he’s got to start less than perfect.

Heroes need to be redeemable, though. Flawed, struggling and less than perfect, heroes need hearts. As readers, we want to root for him, to believe in him as the heroine comes to believe in him. Even though he doesn’t believe in himself all the time.

In this 3rd of the Holiday Romance Series, event coordinator Cheryl decides to abandon her safe life and learn to take risks. She first gets a fake boyfriend to deal with being dumped after surviving breast cancer, but Mark turns out to be the man she's always wanted and he's anything, but fake. The end of Mark's longtime marriage years back left him convinced that he's not relationship material and it takes loving Cheryl to change his mind.

Carol Rose is an award-winning author of contemporary romances. She has written twenty books, including Always and Forgotten Father. Her books have won numerous awards, including a final in the prestigious Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award.
Carol is an active member of the North Texas Romance Writers, the Dallas Area Romance Writers and the Yellow Rose chapter. A frequent speaker at writers' groups and conferences, she has taught workshops on characterization and, creating and resolving conflict. She works full time as a therapist.
Her husband and she married when she was only nineteen and he was barely twenty-one, proving that early marriage can make it, but only if you're really lucky and persistent. They went through college and grad school together. She not only loves him still, all these years later, she still likes him--which she says is sometimes harder. They have two funny, intelligent and highly accomplished daughters. Carol loves writing and hopes you enjoy reading her work.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Author Spotlight - Cathleen Dunn

This week's Friday Feature, come from Cathleen Dunn. Her book Chimera debuted last November and has received an all around 5 star rating. 

Author Cathleen Dunn has lived in Seattle for the last 20 years after growing up all over the United States. She's lived in Texas, California, Kansas, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, and truly likes variety: she attended college both in Washington and Arizona, has a day job at an engineering company, loves rescuing greyhounds, has been onstage with Seattle Opera, and has been known to paint faux finishes and murals inside homes for her friends. She also goes hunting and fishing with her husband occasionally, watches way too many old movies and educational television, and listens to both Baroque and Metal music.
Cathleen is the author of The Witches Trilogy series of full-length novels. She published the first installment, Chimera, in November of 2013 and is currently writing the second novel, Blue/Black, set for release in December 2014. She sets her stories here in Seattle, where the dark and rain create the witches' stories in her head. She just writes them down.

Cathleen not only is here to promote her series, but to delve into her writing process. Welcome Cathleen Dunn!

 I've gotten so many questions about my writing process that I thought I should answer those for you. I've been really busy on book #2 in the Witches Trilogy - Blue/Black - but to be honest, I'm half way through and just need a BREAK.  Funny how taking a break translates into more writing, but it's different when I’m talking to all of you. As for the questions about how in the world I go from idea to published novel, here you are. Enjoy!

1) How does your writing process work?

At first there's a lot of  living inside my head – you know, the stuff that everyone does when they think about writing a book. Coming up with ideas, visualizing scenes, deciding on names and such, and those cool ideas that wake you up in the middle of the night. For those middle of the night ones, I be sure and write down right then because I won't remember them in the morning.  After about a month I take those notes and everything I have inside my head and just start typing it all into a Word document as fast as I can. I don't worry about what order it's in – I just set the doc to bullet points and type in everything from my notes and what's in my head. Separate thoughts, scenes or ideas all each get their own bullet. I usually end up with 10-12 pages of bullet points. 
Then I arrange those in the order in which they should happen in the story. If there's a gap in the story line I'll stick a bullet point with XXXXXXXX's in there and keep on putting the rest in order.  After that's done I should have the outline of my story, and I read it through as fast as I can (ignoring typos and idea-generating) to see how it flows, and to see if there's any little tricks, questions, logic gaps, magical 'fails' or any other fails that I need to fix until I have a solid storyline that makes sense, is exciting, has a good arc and tension in it, and no gaps in logic or any other ‘escapements’.
When that's done, I take those bullet points and start typing the whole story bullet by bullet, expanding each bullet until it's completely fleshed out and I'm ready to go to the next bullet point and fill it in. I read and reread each section as I go along to gauge content, flow, errors, better word usage, delete repetitive fragments, etc… Then I delete the bullet notes I just finished and go on to the next one until I've done them all. 
After that, I read the manuscript through completely to see if it's awkward or cheesy anywhere and fix those sections.  THEN I put it away for a few months while I work on my next project or take a break so that I can get some distance away from my story and come back a few months later and read it through with a fresh eye. THAT'S where I catch some errors or passages that I was in love with when I wrote them but look stupid by light of day.  You know, kind of like that person you saw at the party when you were drunk and just loved, who looks far different in the daytime after you’re sober. After all, that's how a new reader would come into a book, not already dazed and in love with it, right?  I need that distance to really look objectively at my work.
At that point I cut, add, polish, and recraft the story until it's done and then send it to my group of Beta readers with a questionnaire to fill out after they're done. That way I can get some stats on how many people had the same problem with it or the same perception. At that point it's up to me whether or not I will make the changes.
After that, I send it to a professional copy editor and incorporate their edits – getting another professional, unbiased view is essential for a novel.
Then… I send it to several proofreaders to make sure there are no typos, gaps, hanging sentences, or anything else.
And finally, I have a professional format and upload it for printing – they will catch any formatting and other errors that anyone else has missed along the way.  I want the final product to be as smooth and error-free for my readers, so you can see all these professional additional looks at the manuscript are essential.

2) What am I currently working on?
Right now I'm in the middle of writing The Witches Trilogy, which follows an international coterie of witches with a wealthy and lavish lifestyle - and of course, supernatural dangers like demonic possession and a power struggle that pits vicious dark witches against the light ones. Since the light witches aren't supposed to harm with their magic, it takes some serious trickery and mind-games to overcome their dark counterparts. Additionally, what if a witch has both dark and light in them? Whose side are they on? And how do we know? There's a few humans who get mixed up in this as well - and end up on the wrong side of magic.
The overarching story includes TWT: Chimera, where Dantin - a very dark witch with a deeply psychotic crush on Olivia, one of the light witches, stalks and torments her because she doesn't love him back, but she can't use her powers to get rid of him. After he's killed her lover and apprentice, she can't take it anymore and might have to give up everything she loves to save everyone she loves. And not everyone gets out of Chimera alive. In book #2 TWT: Blue/Black,  one of the light witches is turning dark – and another named Malila is trying to help her, but is Malila dark or is she light? Maybe she's not as evil as she appears, but there's no way to know which side of her will prevail. In the third and final book, tentatively titled TWT: Step, some forgotten villains find a way to take revenge on the witches with some help from a human.
The first installment is called The Witches Trilogy: Chimera, the second is The Witches Trilogy: Blue/Black,  and as for the final title to The Witches Trilogy: Book #3, I'm going to let my readers decide what it will be called. Right now the working title is The Witches Trilogy: Step, but in January 2015 I'll put up a few more titles on my website and let people vote their choice at
Last year I had the readers vote on which cover art I should use and they selected the beautiful liquid covers you see here by a 75% majority. It was so much fun for everybody to have their say in the cover art!

3) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My witches have familiars called chimera (like guy-mere-uh) that are spirits who live in the realm of magic. But they're not all good – some chimera are perfidious, cruel, power-hungry, and can possess and enslave a witch if they can find their way in. They will use a witch to experience all the carnal pleasures and sensations of a human body.  Another kind will  protect a witch while they're tapping into all that power out there, and help them enhance their powers - if they follow the rules. 
And then there's the glitz!  These witches are rich – I mean like Beyonce/Jay-Z rich, and they jet to all the chi-chi places around the world and live lavish lives. Everyone I talk to when writing these books tells me "Yeah, make them wealthy – if I had powers like that I'd live a rock-star life! Why do other stories make witches and wizards live such ordinary lives?"

4) Why do I write what I do?
I love describing the magic, whether it's something beautiful, or decrepit and hideous. Fantasy allows me to tell how it feels to have magical power rush through you make up anything and what it looks like or. I also like the discipline of putting the magical world so close to the real world, where nobody knows these witches exist, and making it believable. And of course writing how it feels to be pampered and cosseted and fly in a private jet and go to all these wonderful places that they do is so fabulous and enjoyable to write.
 I want to make readers feel they're the ones that are doing the magic, or that they've been in the private jet, or been to Paris and Seattle and Monte Carlo and Dubai, and stayed in the most luxurious suites, and actually attended red-carpet events and lavish parties. I'd like them to experience having a private fitting of a designers new line tailored just to them in one of Paris's finest haute couture salons. But of course there's always a price for the luxury – nothing is ever given for free.

5) You have a full-time job; when do you find time to write?
 Some people can write a couple hours every day, but I can't switch from my day job where I have to be logical and sensible to my fantasy world very easily, so I write on Saturday and Sunday, and maybe an occasional Friday or Monday for ten to thirteen hours a day. I just stay in my world and write a bunch of pages and then go back to work during the week. My characters are never far away though; I think about them constantly and formulate the next weekend's work with my right brain while I'm using my left brain at my day job.

6) Where do you get your ideas?
Ever since I was little I loved superstition and ghost stories and magic. I remember getting a book of superstitions from the library and thinking about them all the way to school when I was in first grade. Things like: "If you see the full moon through the trees it is considered bad luck", or "if you walk through a spot of cold air, you have just walked through a ghost", or "never let a broom touch your head; it is bad luck". I also see stories in music; the feeling a particular song gives me might start a story there. For example, my niece gave me a CD by "Evanescence" - their "Fallen" album - and while listening to it I started to see Olivia and her problems, and how she was feeling about being hounded and isolated by what had happened in her past. Interestingly enough, her decision on how to handle Dantin came off a "Transformers" album. Go figure.

7) What kind of music do you listen to?
Almost anything, but I especially love harpsichord concertos from the Baroque era, and rock. Some of my favorite bands are Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Godhead, Nickelback, Rammstein, AC/DC, a little Alice Cooper, Evanescence, and almost anything from the Eighties. I also love big band - Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, the Andrews Sisters, almost anything from the Thirties and Forties.

Anything else?

 A huge THANK YOU to everyone who comes to see me, or to my blog or my FB, and of course, to everyone who has bought my book and tells me how much they enjoyed living the magical and wealthy life with Olivia, Alejo, Taylor, JaneAnn, and all the other witches in these stories. I will keep them coming for you!

Here's what they say about her work: 

" ...extraordinary debut novel...move over Stephenie Meyer, there's a new girl in town!"   -Reader, Ann S.

"Just when you think you've seen everything, something new comes along, and Cathleen Dunn has certainly brought that!   Chimera creates an unusual world of magic... Do not miss it."-Lee Witt, author of Become Unstoppable 

 Enjoy the following excerpt from book of The Witches Trilogy: Chimera

Olivia touched the petals of the iris in the outdoor market. So fragile – and beautiful. Their plum color faded to violet, then pale lavender at the very tips. These would be wonderful in the dining room on the old table, the only thing she had taken from the plantation house when it had burned over a century ago. She’d even posed her own death in the fire and had left the house to herself under another name…but she had never rebuilt. The charred bits were still there, overgrown and anonymous. She stuffed the thought, pushing away the feelings that came with it. She lived in Seattle now, not Louisiana.
She was paying for the flowers when she felt a tightness on the back of her legs, a tingling feeling that moved up her spine and made her scalp prickle with a rush of adrenaline. Another witch was close by and could be a strong one, but the feeling was not at all disciplined – usually a dangerous sign.
She looked around, careful not to focus anywhere. Don’t think about it, just feel. There was a pair of Northwesters in fleece, several well-groomed couples in jeans and button-down shirts, a well-dressed young professional… Olivia didn’t sense anything from them. Who is it? Why can’t I tell? An older couple browsed in the kiosk next to her. Ah! The gooseflesh still – could this be them? No… then a ratty group passed her, probably runaways, and she felt the tightness even more strongly down her thighs. It was one of them – a girl with dark brown hair and green eyes. The girl stepped around Olivia trailing a haze of magic, but nothing definite, no structure, no training. As a test, Olivia looked hard at the girl and directed a thought toward her: Turn around – look at me. No change. She doesn’t know; she has no idea. The brunette was now on the sidewalk with her group, who were laughing. The girl smiled languidly, not interacting. Classic born to the caul witch, Olivia thought. Always feeling a little separate from everyone else. She was positive; either this girl had no idea about her abilities, or she was unaware how to use them and of the hazards that came with the power.
She browsed her way down the street, following unnoticed as the girl and her friends went into Ruby’s Diner, a well-worn place that served strong coffee and large platters of greasy, old-fashioned breakfast. The food was so cheap and voluminous it was a favorite hangout in the Broadway district, especially for runaways.
There were so many runaways here on Capitol Hill, finding awkward acceptance amongst the residents. Some in the neighborhood had even pulled together to create the Home Alive program after punk singer Mia Zapata had been murdered there in 1993. Mia hadn’t been homeless, but like the street kids she had been out at two a.m. one morning and had ended up dead only minutes after her last contact with anyone. Olivia gave thousands to Home Alive even now. Still, that was just money, easy enough to donate. It was a whole different level of intimacy to take on an apprentice… Goddammit. The last thing she wanted was an apprentice, but she didn’t want this uncontrolled element in her neighborhood, either. She didn’t know anything about this girl and realized she would need to and very soon – before someone or something else got to her.
A few nights later Olivia sat atop the stone wall that edged the community pool and listened to its waterfall as she watched Taylor with her companions. She leaned back to look at the moonlight on her burgundy leather pants. Clouds intermittently trapped the glow in shadow, then released it again to paint a sheen on everything. The bluish haze and the dark sapped vibrancy from colors and made it the perfect setting to be invisible. Olivia loved being invisible and did it often. She could observe in solitude while people around acted without presumption. Being invisible also meant that people could pass through her, which was always revealing: for a moment they blended and Olivia could feel their memories, hopes, emotions, loneliness… A passing couple walked through her legs and gave Olivia a rush of their anticipation and sexual energy. Feeling their emotions was deeply personal, and she mentally looked away as they passed through but smiled at experiencing their mutual crush on each other.
Now she watched Taylor and her friends at the end of the Ave while they in turn watched a pair of feral cats hunting in the alley behind a restaurant. Occasionally the scruffy malkins stood immobile to bluff something living that came their way—other times quickly gulping down anything vile they found. Scraps or wildlife, either was fine when not much was around. They came out to where Taylor and company were standing, and one tried to lure the cats with kissing sounds and calls of “kitty, kitty, kitty.” Olivia laughed at that – why would an alley cat know the word “kitty”? The brown cat left immediately, crouching backward under a hedge and could be heard brushing its way off through the leaves. The other stood his ground and hissed, baring very long, sharp teeth. Then he turned glowering and strode into the bushes, tail straight up except for a kink at the very tip. After a minute more of talking Taylor and her friends turned and made off down the sidewalk. As Olivia crossed the street after them she saw both cats come out of hiding. Apparently one of them had snagged a treasure in the hedge – a pliable, drooping mouse was tucked into kinktail’s furry mouth. They trotted down the alley together, the brown cat trying to get her face close for a bite of the mouse and the other turning his face away right and then left, keeping it just out of reach. She smiled, watching as the duo zigzagged down the alley, then followed Taylor’s group receding down the sidewalk.
Several blocks later, Taylor split off from her friends onto a side street. It was thickly dark here, away from the streetlights on the Ave. Olivia was surprised to see the girl leave her group. Typically runaways sought the security of friends in the darkness when they were most vulnerable – helpless and sleeping. As they continued further Olivia alerted to a feeling of maliciousness. She saw a man in a hoodie, his hands in his sagging front pocket and his headpiece pulled down with his face in shadow, watching Taylor from a side street. The girl couldn’t see him standing next to a narrow juniper until she was a few yards away. He stepped out onto the sidewalk and walked toward her, passing innocuously as if uninterested, then turned once Taylor’s back was to him. As he moved toward her she turned and stared at him, her face expressionless except for baleful eyes. Stone cold still she stood and the man stopped, apparently unsure now of his intended prey. Taylor’s expression didn’t change as the hooded stranger took another step toward her and Olivia heard the distinct message emanating from her: “Don’t.” She watched the standoff, feeling intensity and anticipation. Both stood frozen, Taylor’s emotionless gaze fixed on him the whole time, and after three or four seconds the would-be assailant turned away. Olivia could tell the girl was not at all intimidated as she stared after the retreating figure before pivoting and continuing on her way. She never looked back. Good, Olivia thought. She’ll need to be tough. But which blood-tint did she have?
After another block Taylor stopped at an old craftsman-style house with a raised wraparound porch. In an earlier life it had been beautiful, built probably in the mid-1930’s. The porch was wide with thick stone columns at each corner and extended rafter beams that supported a broad, low-slung roof. Now, though, the porch was starting to sag and weeds filled the flowerbeds. Taylor stopped beside the corner column and looked through the window before slipping in the back door. Olivia crouched down and watched. The kinktail cat joined her as she observed, apparently winning the war for the mouse since he still had possession of it. He settled in next to Olivia to eat it, starting with the tender little mouse feet.
Olivia patted the cat on the head and sent her attention back to the porch. Narrowing her eyes and concentrating, she looked past the walls into the house and then relaxed to let the magic flow through her and give her what she desired. The wood seemed to disappear and the sight inside was visible to her as if in brilliant sunlight. Taylor paused alone in the kitchen, listening. In the living room Olivia could see a couple on the couch watching one of those cheap reality tv shows. The woman had overly processed blond hair and he had his filthy sock feet on a coffee table that was littered with junk, including long, brightly-colored fingernails the woman was gluing on. The man heard Taylor come in and yelled into the kitchen.
“Get in here – where the hell have you been?”
Taylor came just inside the living room. “With some friends.”
“Horseshit. You don’t have friends except those stupid street kids. Why do you do that anyway?”
Taylor stayed silent and he answered himself.
“Probably all you can get, you’re so goddamned dumb. Couldn’t even graduate high school.”
And whose fault is that? Taylor clenched her jaw to prevent a retort.
“Why don’t you go get a job? Oh, yeah…who’s going to hire a sorry stupid ass like you? You couldn’t keep the last one. Be more like your sister. She gets good grades and got into college – and as soon as she leaves next month your ass is out of here, too. Get out and find your mother, wherever the hell she is.”
Taylor stared at him. “As if you didn’t know – I’m sure you do.”
“I’d advise you not to go around saying that, you little bitch!” His threat was low, dark. Then he muttered: “I don’t know where she is.” He looked back at the television.
“Do you mind? I can’t hear my program.” Ms. Straw-for-Hair was now fanning her fingers to dry the glue.
He snarled at her. “Shut up.” While she looked mildly surprised he shouted toward the hallway opposite where Taylor stood.
“Karen! Get in here and clean the kitchen with your sister!” Apparently she didn’t appear fast enough because he got up and left the room, returning with a petite girl whom he held tightly by a handful of hair. She looked terrified and whimpered as he jerked her across the room.
Taylor was immediately between them grabbing his wrist, digging in her nails to try to make him let go. He did, but only to use that hand to slap her, the momentum bouncing her against the wall. She narrowed her eyes against the stinging tears, refusing to give him the satisfaction and pulled Karen into the kitchen away from him. He returned to the couch where the blonde sat in overt silence, still fanning her nails but with a little less gusto.
Olivia shook her head. What a piece of work he is… She watched Taylor comfort her sister then start to clean as they had been told. …and now there’s a sister to deal with, too.
In the kitchen Taylor smoldered. “I hate him. I hate him so much.” The sister tried to look at Taylor’s cheek, but she turned away.
“It’s okay.”
Karen hugged her. “Come with me to school.”
“How? You have to live in the dorm the first two years; I can’t afford anything on my own.”
“We’ll find something for you.”
“And what about Mom? I can’t leave here yet.”
Karen was silent a moment. “Come on, let’s finish the kitchen.” She started picking up dishes.
Meanwhile, kinktail finished his mouse, putting the head under a bush for later, and came over to Olivia purring. She scritched him under the chin while she watched Taylor and Karen finish their cleaning and quietly pass back through the living room, careful not to wake the man now sleeping on the couch. When they were both in bed she let the picture in front of her fade until it was only the wraparound porch again. Then standing up, she willed herself home and was instantly there, leaving nothing behind her but a shimmer in the night air. 

The Witches Trilogy Available @ Amazon

Here's the cover for Book 2