Thursday, 31 October 2013

Kristi Ahlers: The Trouble with Halloween

A big round of welcomes goes out to Kristi Ahlers who returns to use today to talk about her latest release in her wildly popular Trouble Series. Book #8 is released today, The Trouble with Halloween. No better day for it!

Kristi is a California girl at heart but has moved around not only America but Europe as well with her Marine family. Now, based on the US east coast, her husband is enjoying his retirement, but her two sons have now enlisted, following in dad's footsteps. No prouder mother than Kristi.

A retired flight attendant, Kristi has switched modes and now enjoys her time at home, making up for all those tours her husband made in the Marines and engaging in one of her passions--writing.

The Trouble with Halloween is the eighth book in The Trouble Series. Yes, you read that correctly. Book number eight. Seems there's trouble everywhere and Kristi has the knack for finding it!

Ever since Everly Treymore turned thirteen, she's been haunted by dreams. They come every year now, thirteen days before Halloween, which means they start on the 19th of October and last every night straight up to Halloween day. This year, she's ready to put it all behind her. She's tired for the troublesome dreams and needs some answers, but that means a trip to Salem, Massachusetts.

Alexander Danforth joined the military as a way to put the past behind him and bury the guilt he's carried since he was thirteen. He's forced home to Salem when his beloved grandmother has a stroke. He promises to help her in her tarot shop until she's well. Unbeknownst to him, she's thrilled to have him home. He must face his past if he'll ever stop running from it long enough to have a future.

When Everly and Alexander meet, they both realize they share a secret, but it's one they must get past if they're to find love.

Wow, wow, wow! There's a lot of story here, and it's still a novelette. This is a paranormal, and as it's set in Salem, we can't not take a trip into the past. Especially on Halloween. Kristi weaves the past and present wonderfully to create a wholly believable tale. Her characters are real people with real life issues they must both deal with in order to face a happier future. This story is full of action and adventure, and that signature building love story Kristi is so well known for. She can write a kiss like nobody else! And when you mean Alexander, you'll know why. There's a little of everything in this story -- romance, history, a little paranormal activity, and some Halloween fun. Definitely a mood lifter, even if it gives you a spine tingle or two.

Before we get to the excerpt, Kristi is giving away a copy of The Trouble with Halloween to one random commenter, so be sure to drop her a comment or question (*don't forget your contact email address so we can reach you) to be automatically added in the draw.

• • •

Everly Treymore has been haunted by a dream that started when she was thirteen and returns every year, thirteen days before Halloween. This year she is ready to put the past behind her and find a happy ending. First however she needs to confront what the dream really means. This means a trip to Salem, Massachusetts. When she meets Salem local Alexander Danforth she realizes that he’s part of her story—and maybe you really never do put your past behind you. At least not when it’s true love.

Alexander Danforth has been carrying the weight of guilt on his shoulders for since he was thirteen. He’s tried to do everything he can to ease that burden by joining the military. When his beloved grandmother has a stroke, he comes back to Salem to help her run her lotions and potions and tarot shop. She’s thrilled he’s back because time is drawing near where he’s going to have to finally face his past to make peace. When he sees Everly for the first time, it’s like a sucker punch to the gut. He’ll do whatever he has to in order to protect the one woman he’s been waiting all his life for.

Salem, Massachusetts, 1691
A fine sheen of perspiration covered their bodies. He bent his head and took her mouth in a deep, wet kiss, his tongue mimicking the movement of his hips, firing her desire and need. Oh, how she adored this man. He was everything to her.

She craved their time alone more than anything. They had talked earlier of their plans for the future once they told his family about their relationship. His family, well connected in the new world and in Salem Village, had very specific plans for his love and they needed to be cautious since she didn’t figure into those plans at all. It wouldn’t do for them to show their attraction too openly for fear of attracting censor from the puritan community. This she understood and soon they would pledge themselves to each other in front of friends and family.

Until this happened, their love would remain between them—a delicious secret.

She didn’t know where she started and he ended. It was perfect. They fit like two halves of a whole. She reached around and grasped his backside, holding him close as she relished the sensation of being surrounded by him, possessed by this man who made her desire him above all else. Was she under a spell as it had been whispered among the good people of Salem, was there an enchantment at work that would cause her to throw her beliefs and purity aside as if it mattered not? She didn’t know and she didn’t care, all she knew was she wanted this more than her next breath.

Before she reached completion the door to her house crashed open.

“Harlot, enchantress!”

Pain, frustration and shame seared her to her very soul as her lover was ripped from her arms, the blame for all on her shoulders.

“I told you good sir, she was working her black magic. This man was above repute before she came to town and darkened our village with her vile sinful self.”

“But I’ve done nothing wrong,” she exclaimed as men seized her and without a care for her modesty dragged her from her cottage.

“We must rid Salem Village of this deceiver and devil’s handmaiden.”

• • •
Kristi Ahlers is a California girl! She grew up in Northern California in a small city called Yuba City. Since then she's lived in Brussels, Belgium, and England along with a myriad of other locations. A former flight attendant, she was able to continue to feed her love of travel. This has greatly influenced her writing, allowing her to pen stories about places she's managed to visit and things she's experienced.

Kristi loves to hear from her readers.

Find Kristi Online --

Kristi Ahlers
Kristi's Blog
Tirgearr Publishing

Monday, 28 October 2013

Renee Wildes: Marek's New World

Today, Heart of Fiction welcomes Renee Wildes. Author of the outstanding Guardians of the Light series, Renee celebrates the publication of her first book outside the series and in a whole new world. In fact, it's also Marek's New World. (see what I did there? :-) )

Before we meet Marek, let's meet Renee. Everything in Renee's life has been a learning experience which has led to her becoming a much loved author. She grew up reading fantasy authors like Mercedes Lacky and Terry Brooks, finding these stories great escapism into new and unfamiliar worlds. She had horses most of her life so it was no surprise when she became a vet tech, something surprising to a family full of nurses. It's pretty similar though, right? Her fondness for animals led her to volunteer at the local humane society and become a passionate Chow advocate. She's now working as a dog groomer during the day, and spends evenings and weekends writing. Renee is a dedicated history buff with a fondness for the Dark Ages and Colonial America. One of her greatest influences came as a Navy brat and the daughter of a cop. She grew up with a passion for righting wrongs, doing good over evil, so it's also no surprise that her writing focuses on protector and guardian heroes and heroines. And you can bet, her stories include all of those life lessons Renee has learned through her life. Including a few critters.

Which leads us to Marek. A Native American thrust into a future new-to-him world, Marek is on the trail of an evil demon called the Reynak. He must train modern day warriors to fight and protect themselves against this creature. What Marek doesn't expect is to encounter Cheyenne Rafferty, a park ranger in the Montana wilderness. While out patrolling the park, Chey experiences a strong earthquake. Knowing quakes are rare in Montana, she's on high alert to ensure everyone in the park is safe. The last thing she expected was finding a Native American man who looks like he's stepped out of the past.

Chey is also a wolf shifter. No better woman for the job as park ranger, eh? She's immediately in tune with both human guardians of a natural park and Nature's own wilderness protectors, the wolves. It's like getting insider intelligence by having a foot in both worlds. It's a terrific plot element. And now a man from the past must teach this futuristic woman about an evil which has lurked underground for so many centuries and resurfaced with a horrible new mission.

Yes, this is also a romance, and a very deep one at that. The bond forged between Marek and Chey pulls at the heartstrings as their relationship intensifies. Will Marek return to his time if the Reynak can be stopped or will he forever be left in a foreign land? Can Chey return to his time with him, and does she want to leave behind the only life she's ever known for a place she's never seen?

This is a deeply moving story on many platforms. The reader will be pulled in from page one. This is a real page-turner. Sorry for the cliche but really, this is an engrossing read. You'll forget the time and suddenly you're on the last page looking for more. While a paranormal story, Renee has brought her characters to life. It's easy to see the Montana wilderness as the backdrop. And she makes it quite believable that something wicked lives just beneath the surface and can come out any time, in any place. For anyone who loves fantasy and wonderful love stories, this one is a must for anyone's TBR pile. Move it to the top.

We had a chance to sit down and chat with Renee about her life as a writer and pet lover --

• • •

Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Renee. Sounds like you have a very full life. With so much on your plate, which I understand also includes a very supportive husband and a couple kids, how do you find time for everything? You must have a routine if you're to fit in writing too. Do you have a writing routine? If so, what's it like?
Living in central WI in an OLD house, it's a challenge to stay warm these days. I most often find myself writing in sweats and slippers! (Sometimes wrapped in a blanket if the wind's blowing in the right direction!) I work part-time as a dog groomer, mostly mid-day shifts (11-7) so I tend to work on my social media interactions/promo stuff in the morning before work (after the kids go to school) and do most of my writing in the evenings and on my days off.

My dad got me Dragon software for Christmas that I like to play around with, and family and coworkers are used to me "talking to myself" plotting out bits of scenes or dialogue. The only thing I can't write in office/on computer are love scenes - those I have to write longhand first, then enter into the computer afterward. I guess I don't find computers sexy! LOL You can always tell what I'm writing by the music playing - love scenes mean Enya or Kate Price. For dark magic or battle scenes it's Nightwish and Axel Rudi Pell. When I'm immersed in one of my fantasy books it's Mediaeval Baebes. (The kids go running whenever they hear Enya...)
Funny about your kids. I wonder how they feel about your other selections. And yeah, I'm guessing using Dragon isn't conducive to writing those love scenes either, at least not when the family is around. Interesting that you still enjoy the old paper and pen method. In a day of modern technology, it's nice to see people holding onto the 'old ways' ;-)

So, once you're ready to input everything into your computer, where do you go? What's your writing space like?
I have a small office upstairs in my house with my desk, all my bookshelves, writing awards & book covers. I am a writing book junkie and have a lot of Dark Ages & pagan/magic references. I love scented candles (my favorite scent is amber-anything) and writing to music. For Marek's New World it was R. Carlos Nakai's Canyon Trilogy (Native American flute). When we cleaned out the garage of stuff we were storing for a former next-door-neighbor (they got evicted and after four years of silence we decided we wanted our garage back) we discovered a couple of swords and a "jeweled" long knife that are now my prized possessions!

The dog and cats come in and out at will, but the kids know when Mom's writing, do not disturb unless blood or bones are involved. They're teenagers, so can fend for themselves for stretches of time. Of course, there was the time when Tami banged on the door and cracked it open, waving a chicken bone and complaining "We're hungry and there's no more chicken left." (I should have been more specific!) I splurged on an actual office chair from OfficeMax - much easier to sit for long periods of time. I'm a coffee addict (dark roast ONLY) so pretty much have a cup in hand all day long. Brew a couple pots a day. I have to be careful to watch the cats - they like to wander over the keyboard when they're sick of being ignored - strange things appear on the computer screen when they do that!
Kids and animals are great like that, aren't they? Looks like a very satisfying workspace, especially having all of the paraphernalia around you reconfirming you're good at what you do. Chicken bones aside!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I love to wander through antique stores (I collect red Depression glass and we have a wonderful store in downtown Wausau on 3rd Street called Ginny's), scrapbook and hang out at the farm in Hatley where we board our horses. We have two gray half-Arab mares, my Morab Sassy and Tami's half-Welsh Moonlight. Moonlight's over 25 and not rideable anymore, so she takes extra care these days, esp. prepping for winter. Senior grain, joint supplement & blanketing. Riding through the woods during hunting season's always interesting--we have very glamorous day-glo yellow vests and saddle blankets. Once we saw a black bear on the trail--Sassy was NOT a happy camper! Horses HATE bears.

We also have a black Chow, Abby, (1/2 Chowminator & 1/2 Flufferina) and two cats - Ranger and Chandra. Ranger is only 3 mos. old, and Chandra's a cranky 11-year-old calico, so he drives her nuts. The family spends a lot of time "cat wrangling" b/c Ranger has no survival instinct at all and follows her everywhere. Abby tries to mother him and run interference but even she has her limits.

I'm also a voracious, albeit eclectic, reader. I LOVE research. Anything Viking, Celtic and/or Druidic and I'm gone for hours! When I do come up for air and "read for fun," my favorite fiction authors are Mercedes Lackey, Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Lori Foster, Sherrilyn Kenyan, JR Ward, Christine Feehan, Angela Knight and Mary Hughes.

We're gearing up for our 16th wedding anniversary on Halloween/Samhain Eve. We both have to work, but will probably escape the kids at least long enough for dinner. My favorite restaurant is 2510 - we do all our celebrating there, whether it's family or writing related.
How fun that you got married on Halloween! Sounds like you have a wonderful life though, filled with lots of smiles and laughter. With everything going on around you, it's both a wonder you have time to write AND a fabulous collection of experiences to draw upon if you ever get stuck for a scene in your stories.

Thanks for taking time out of what's obviously a crazy-busy day to talk with us, and good luck with Marek's New World. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

Before we get to the excerpt, Renee is giving away a copy of Marek's New World to one random commenter, so be sure to drop her a comment or question (*don't forget your contact email address so we can reach you) to be automatically added in the draw.

• • •

When park ranger Cheyenne Rafferty’s truck is destroyed by an earthquake, she doesn't think her day can get any worse. Until she runs afoul of a demon from the ancient past - and the compelling warrior who followed it forward in time.

Hero Marek awakens 2000 years in the future, to a world all but incomprehensible. Sent to teach modern warriors to combat the Reynak, he now finds the demon the only thing familiar. His people and their epic struggle have been lost to the passage of time. The only one willing to help him is a daughter of the earth, a beautiful shifter woman with the heart of a wolf.

Wrongness. The fine hairs prickled the back of Cheyenne Rafferty’s neck as she crouched beside the ice-laced pond and filled the small glass vial with water. Surveying the too-still northwest Montana forest, she sniffed the air, catching the normal scents of a Cabinet Mountains springtime—spicy Ponderosa pines, new quaking aspen leaves, and the mineral tang of mud-tinged snow. She strained to listen.

Silence. Dead silence. No animals, no birds. Weird for early afternoon, even in mid-April. She wanted to melt down into true-self and let Sister take over. The white wolf’s senses were more acute, but she needed to finish collecting water samples and report to her U.S. Forestry Service superiors. Hard to do either with four paws and a growl.

Frowning, Cheyenne pulled her handheld radio from her belt. “Eagle to Nest.”

“What’s up, Chey?” her cousin Sarah asked.

“You got anything from USGS on recent seismic readings?”

“Are you serious? Here? There’s no alert for Kootenai. Why?”

Cheyenne closed her eyes and reached for the inner stillness where soul touched earth. Wrongness. A single ripple on the water’s mirror surface. “Too quiet. Sister’s twitchy.”

“I’ll double-check.” Silence on the line, then “Crap! Hang on, Chey. We’ve got tremors coming.”

The earth shivered; a sigh building to a low groan. With a mighty heave, the ground arched like the back of a newly-saddled mustang and then dropped. Cheyenne lost her balance and tumbled to the ground. The pond crested into a single giant wave that crashed over her. Boulders cartwheeled down the mountainside toward her truck.

With the speed of thought Sister emerged. The nimbleness and claws of the white wolf gave her better purchase on the shifting ground than her human self.  As she danced amidst the rocks, Cheyenne’s thoughts buried beneath Sister’s instinct to stay up and keep moving. One rock with sharp quartz edges glanced off her flank. Sister yelped and ducked out of the way. It seemed an eternity but was over within moments.

Sister shook herself free of the debris. Now that it was safer, Sister retreated. Muscles stretched; joints popped as bones lengthened. Skin burst through split fur. There was a moment of pain, of dizziness and disorientation as Cheyenne straightened upright and rose in her wet filthy uniform. She grimaced as cold, clammy material clung to her skin.

This will teach me to leave my coat in the truck. If only she could shift into clean, dry clothes but that wasn’t how it worked. What you left was what you re-entered. A little extra fur made back into clothing. Minus badge and holster belt, radio and cell phone.

Why I haul the phone around in an area with no reception bars… Her older brother Brady would freak when he couldn’t get a hold of her. He’d raised her singlehandedly after their parents died and still took his guardianship seriously, long after she’d reached the age of consent.

“Chey? Chey? You there? You okay?” Sarah sounded breathless—and frantic. “Answer me, dammit.”

Cheyenne wrung out her dripping ponytail and tossed the scraggly ash blonde rope of hair back over her left shoulder. Her sturdy hiking boots squelched in the mud as she picked up her squawking radio. “Tell Brady I’m fine. You?”
“We’re okay, still here. Lights are gone; no phones. Kane broke out a flashlight to check the records vault down in the basement.”

“What’s the scoop?” Cheyenne struggled to buckle her belt one-handed.

“Four-pointer, but localized.” Sarah paused. “I think it just brushed Troy but didn’t make it as far as Libby; Evan’s checking with both towns, but that’ll take time. Phone and power lines are down. We’ve got broken windows, a crack in the north wall and also—yep, right down the middle of the parking lot. So much for the resurfacing. Crap—your mom’s ivy took a header off your desk…hang on…there. It’s a bit squashed. Sorry. What’s the damage out there?”

Cheyenne looked around. Rocks had carved jagged paths through the dripping underbrush. Evergreen trees lay toppled in every direction, the pond now a shallow, steaming mud puddle. Dead fish lay scattered across the bubbling surface of a newly-emerged hot spring. “Looks like an amateur logging event. The pond’s now hot. Total kill. I need to check my truck.” She returned the radio to her belt, snapped some photos—at least the phone was now good for something—and took another water/mud sample. Then she half-staggered, half-slid down the trail to the gravel road where she’d parked.

A moan sounded from nowhere, from everywhere, like a dying moose magnified a hundredfold building to a roar. A sense of glee, of malice and rage, hammered into her. Cheyenne drew her Smith & Wesson service revolver and looked around for the source of the eerie sound. Sister cowered deep within her. Cheyenne frowned. Sister didn’t cower from anything, not even a mama grizz with new cubs. Whatever that noise was, her inner wolf wanted no part of it.

She quickened her pace. Her hunting rifle was in the truck. This early in the season bears weren’t out unless they’d run short on body fat. For taking soil samples and measuring water depths she didn’t usually need weapons, just a pen, notepad, and test tubes—along with the occasional canoe.

Apparently this wasn’t the usual day.

• • •

Renee Wildes is an award-winning Wisconsin author, married with two teenagers. She grew up reading fantasy authors Terry Brooks and Mercedes Lackey and is a huge Joseph Campbell fan. Renee is a pagan & history buff who’s esp. fond of the Dark Ages and colonial America. Both a Navy brat and a cop’s kid, she gravitated to protector/guardian heroes and heroines. She’s had horses her whole life, so became the only vet tech in a family of nurses. She currently works as a dog groomer in her day job, volunteers at the local humane society, is a passionate Chow advocate and scrapbooks in her spare time. It all comes together in her books – fantasy, action, romance, heroics and lots of critters!

Find Renee online --

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Romy Gemmell: Midwinter Masquerade

Today we're welcoming back author, Romy Gemmell. She was with us back in May for the release of her book, The Aphrodite Touch, book one in the Aphrodite and Adonis Series. Today, we're talking about her latest release, Midwinter Masquerade.

For those who haven't discovered Romy, let me tell you a little about her --

Romy is a career freelance writer who decided to turn her attention to fiction in recent years. She calls herself a 'butterfly writer' because she flits between genres. To date, she has published historical romance, Dangerous Deceit with Champagne Books; paranormal romance, Mischief at Mulberry Manor; and her recent 'tween' novels as Ros Gemmell, Summer of Eagles and The Jigsaw Puzzle with MuseItUp Publishing. And of course The Aphrodite Touch with Tirgearr Publishing, and now Midwinter Masquerade.

Midwinter Masquerade is a unique take on the traditional Regency romance. Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, in December 1816, recently widowed Lady Lenora Fitzallen has just received an invitation from a man she used to love--Edward Montgomery. She thought they'd marry, but then one day he was gone. She thought she'd never see him again. Edward's invitation is to a masked ball to be held on the winter solstice. She reluctantly accepts the invitation.While visiting his estate, she befriends Edward's niece and ward, Annabelle, a young woman who frequently finds herself getting into trouble, which adds to the intrigue of the story.

As the solstice nears, another guest arrives in the form of Mr. Henderson. He's there to attend the ball to meet Annabelle, who doesn't like him from their first meeting. While trying to keep Annabelle out of trouble, Lenora is also dealing with her own rekindled affection for Edward. She's meant to remarry on her return home--Robert Masters--and tries keeping this in mind every time her thoughts wander in Edward's direction.

Behind the scenes, there is a secret, the clues of which are starting to unfold. And with the arrival of a mysterious costumed guest at the ball, Lenora must face some truths.

Wow! Lots of intrigue here. At the heart of this story is a sweet romance we've come to expect with Regency romances. But looking deeper, we have an intricate story which revolves around family drama, secrets, mysterious strangers, a troublesome teen, and a villain who must be unmasked, both in the figurative and literal senses. Readers will be pulled in from page one and become one of the costumed ball attendees enjoying a Highland soirée. There are no slow spots in the story to bog down reading. The short chapters will have readers saying, 'Just one more before lights out' but finally turning the last page in the wee hours of the morning. Regency fan or not, this is a lovely story, not just for the holidays and not just for those who love Scotland and Scottish set books. This book has something for everyone who loves sweet romance in a time and place which can only be imagined. Give it a try.

To wet your appetite, here's an extract from the book.

First though, Romy is giving away a copy of Midwinter Masquerade to one random commenter, so be sure to drop her a comment or question (*don't forget your contact email address so we can reach you) to be automatically added in the draw.

• • •

In Edinburgh, December 1816, young widow Lady Lenora Fitzallan accepts an invitation to the country estate of Edward Montgomery, the man she once thought to marry seventeen years previously. Until he left without explanation. Accompanied by her godmother, Lady Pettigrew, Lenora forms a friendship with Edward’s young niece and ward, Annabelle, who has a propensity for getting into scrapes and falling in love with the wrong man.

In the days leading up to the Masquerade Ball on the Winter Solstice, another guest arrives. Mr. Henderson has a particular reason for meeting Annabelle, who distrusts him on sight. Meanwhile, Lenora struggles with her rekindled feelings for Edward, while thinking of Robert Masters, the sophisticated man who hopes to marry her when he returns from abroad. As past secrets begin to unfold, Annabelle is rescued from harm, and a dashing, costumed stranger arrives at the Ball.

Once the past is revealed and the real villain unmasked, Lenora must decide where and with whom her future now lies.

As the carriage departed from her house in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square, Lady Lenora Fitzallan settled back in her seat and contemplated the change to her plans since receiving the unexpected correspondence.

“Let me read the letter again, Lenora, if you will.”

Lenora reached across the short distance and handed the well-folded paper to Lady Clarissa Pettigrew.

Lenora’s godmother read the letter twice over, then handed it back. “How mysterious, my dear. And you had no knowledge of this niece, Annabelle, whom he wishes you to meet?”

“Not only have I never heard of the girl, but I’ve had no contact from Edward Montgomery in seventeen years, which makes his invitation to a midwinter solstice house party and masquerade ball all the more intriguing.”

“One wonders how Mr. Montgomery knows you to be a widow. His invitation would not otherwise have been proffered.”

Lenora turned the letter over in her hand as if the answer to her godmother’s astute question could be found there. “I do not know, Godmother. It is exceedingly curious.” She fingered the firm, sloping signature before returning the missive to her reticule. She knew it by heart, especially the part concerning the unknown niece. A sudden vague remembrance surfaced of rumours about the birth of a child, and she recalled Edward had a younger brother but knew nothing of his life. But why should the girl be in Edward’s care, as the letter inferred?

“Annabelle is becoming even more unruly now she is almost of marriageable age. She appears to be forming an unsuitable attachment to Mr. Frederick Shaw. My purpose in writing is to ask if you might consent to joining a small house party we are to have at Marlings around the winter solstice as part of the festive period. Several of the large houses nearby will be celebrating midwinter with dances and concerts and I am concerned that Annabelle should be in good company.”

Lenora pushed aside her questions, and a niggling little doubt that refused be given substance. She would meet the girl herself soon enough when all questions would be answered.

As the carriage lurched over the cobblestones on its way through the New Town, Lenora had to admit to curiosity about Edward. She tried to picture how Edward Montgomery might now appear and could imagine only a more mature version of the handsome young man who had stolen her heart so many years ago. Now she was no longer a young girl in her first season with hope of an advantageous marriage, but a wealthy widow with several admirers. And yet, a deep part of her longed to fulfil the passion of which she was capable and that had been denied for too long.

As though hearing her thoughts, Lady Pettigrew spoke again. “I dare say Sir Charles Osborne will be nonplussed to find you gone over the festive period, my dear.”

Lenora sighed. “He must surely understand by now that I am not contemplating a future with him. I endured quite enough boredom in my marriage and will never marry again unless for love, for I have no need of security.”

She paused, then decided to keep her other thoughts to herself. There was one more reason for marrying again: to bear a child before she was beyond such a possibility. If she were honest, Edward’s description of a lively, wayward niece sparked more interest in her than the dull, gray streets of Edinburgh in late November.

• • •

A freelance writer for many years, Romy Gemmell’s short stories and articles are published in UK magazines, in the US, and Online and she has won a few short story prizes over the years. Her first historical novel, Dangerous Deceit, was published by Champagne Books in Canada in May 2011 (as Romy), and Victorian novella, Mischief at Mulberry Manor, was published on kindle in December 2012.
First tween novel, Summer of the Eagles, was published by MuseItUp Publishing in Canada in March 2012 (as Ros) and The Jigsaw Puzzle is now released in April 2013. She describes herself as a butterfly writer, as she writes in so many different genres and different styles. Rosemary is a member of the Society of Authors, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She indulged her love of literature and history by achieving a BA hons followed by a Masters in Humanities degree as a mature student. Happily married with two grown-up children, she loves to dance!

Find Romy online --

Tirgearr Publishing

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Madison Johns: Redneck Romance

Heart of Fiction is pleased to welcome Madison Johns today. Author of the wildly popular Agnes Barton senior sleuth mystery series, Madison brings with her to Tirgearr Publishing something a little different. We'll get to that in a moment. First, a little about Madison.

Hailing from Michigan, Madison was working as a care giver when the idea for the Agnes Barton series struck her. Senior sleuth, Agnes Barton, and her best friend, Eleanor Mason, headline this series in dramatic fashion. Agnes is 72, she drives a hot red Mustang, and shops in Victoria Secret. Critics have said she's like a cross between Stephanie Plum's Grandma Mazur and Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. I can see the connection! The books took off and have been insanely popular with her readers. And now, as her luck has it, Madison was recently able to leave her full time job in order to work as a full time writer. Every writer's dream! And now that she's home, she gets to spend more time with her two kids and her super cute dog.

Today, Madison is seeing the release of a book in a new genre for her -- Redneck Romance, which is contemporary romance. Don't let that fool you. This story is chock full of a similar humor has her sleuth stories, with vivid characters and snappy dialogue.

Kelly Gray is a city girl all the way from the Big Apple. She's a freelance photographer with dreams of getting her work into National Geographic (don't we all?!). It's the fall and the leaves are turning in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness area of North Carolina, and Kelly decides to leave the big city for quieter surrounding so she can take the best photos of her career. Or so she hoped. Almost no sooner does she cross the state line and her car conks out. Stranded, she's forced to accept help from a local, and he can't more more of a stereotypical redneck if he tried. Enter Jimmy Bob Willows, rescuer at your service. To both of their surprise, Kelly quickly adapts to the country lifestyle and finds herself falling in love with a redneck!

What a hoot! This story will pull you in from page one. Written in the first person, the reader will follow Kelly along at breakneck speed as Jimmy Bob becomes her personal guide into The Joyce. Quick repartee will elicit more than a few chuckles and outright laughs. The writing is clear, crisp, and  well-written. Madison's unique voice and the humorous storyline will drives the story to the last page long before you'll be ready for the story to end.

Madison took a much needed break from her very busy writing schedule to have a chat with us.

Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Madison. Thanks for taking some time to chat with us. I know from talking with you that you are one busy woman. How do you have time for it all? Surely you must have a routine. What's it like?

It’s constantly changing depending on the day. For the most part I get up at 10am and go through my email, work on marketing, and write from noon to 2:30pm. When the kids get home, I focus on them unless I have a promo going on. In that case, I focus more on marketing. I think it’s important to be there for my kids so everything else can be worked around. After the kids go to bed, I have time to hang out on Facebook for awhile and maybe get more words in. For me, it works best to really push myself on writing. At this point, I can’t work on one book for a whole year; I need to keep it going. I don’t want my readers waiting too long for my next book.

Sounds like a very busy day, but you must be in heaven now that you're working full time at your dream job. What can you tell us about the space in which you write?

I can remember seeing all the beautiful offices with amazing views — mine is not so glamorous. I have a small desk where I write, but that’s also where my PC is and my kids bump me out of there when they get home from school. That’s when I move my MacBook Pro to the dining room table. You’ll probably see me surrounded by open notebooks, Diet Coke, or wine glasses depending on the time of day. Nothing is organized, everything is cluttered. It’s something I constantly have to work on.

You mean work at building the clutter or work at keeping things tidy? I'm only asking because I've not met a writer yet who could function in a tidy environment ;-)

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I like to go to the movies, or watch television with my kids. If I ever got the chance to go out, I love to sing Karoke. I do a not-half-bad impression of Joan Jett. I love to go to concerts, monster truck shows, and rodeos! You could say I have a little redneck in me too. LOL

Hey! You said it, I didn't. ;-) But you know, those monster truck shows and rodeos are kind of fun. And one day, I want to hear that Joan Jett impression!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Madison.

Now, onto that excerpt I *know* you're jonesing to read.

Keep in mind that one lucky commenter today will win a free copy of Redneck Romance so get your questions ready for Madison and put them in the comment box below. Don't forget your contact email address so we know how to reach you.

• • •

Twenty-year-old Kelly Gray arrives in the mountainous area of North Carolina, deep in Redneck land, intent on journeying into the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness to take fall pictures, which she hopes to sell to National Geographic. That is until she runs out of gas and needs to enlist the help of Jimmy Bob Willows, a redneck with sexy blue eyes. While he filled her tank with gas, she threw caution to the wind and hired him as a guide, ignoring the fact of how dangerous it may be. Hiring a man whom she doesn't even know, a man who insists on calling her, City.

Experienced mountain man Jimmy Bob Willows leads the inexperienced Kelly into the mountains, teaching her how to survive in the wilderness. This is a new experience for Kelly as she has never been out from under her mother’s thumb before, but she embraces what Jimmy Bob is teaching her, and for once in her life, she’s on a real adventure, one that results in Jimmy Bob saving Kelly from a copperhead snake and moonshiners!

Kelly fights the growing attraction between them, but will it be a losing battle? 

She handed me a menu, and I glanced at it and wrinkled my brow. “No fried chicken?” I regretted opening my mouth the second I said it, from the looks they gave me. “I just thought it was a Southern thing.”

Ma clucked her tongue. “You're in the mountains now, gurl. We do things a bit different around here.”

“I'll have the Rocky Mountain Oysters. Do they come in the shell?”

Jimmy Bob looked ready to swallow his tongue, and his face turned a shade of red I hadn't seen before.

I added, “I had no idea you people had such culture.” I laughed. "I’m also pretty sure I’m in the Appalachian Mountains, not the Rocky Mountains.”

Jimmy Bob shot me a look like I had better shush, but I've never been very good at taking a hint.

“It's used for stew,” Ma said. “My brother moved to Montana and brings me a hefty supply whenever he visits. They are a delicacy, you know.”

“It sounds great. I never had oyster stew.”

“Jimmy Bob, would you like some oysters, too?” Ma asked, grinning widely.

“No thanks. I'll stick with the rabbit and collard greens.”


“It's right tasty, but not as good as the oyster stew.” He smiled encouragingly.

I'm pretty sure I had missed out on the joke or was the butt of it. I grabbed a biscuit and slathered it in butter. Ma brought me a glass of milk and I drank it, even though it could have been a bit colder. Maybe these folks lacked refrigeration. I didn’t want to offend anyone, so I kept my mouth closed.

Jimmy Bob seemed intent on avoiding my eyes. I wonder what I could have said to make him avoid looking at me.

Ma brought our food and it smelled delicious. It was also steaming hot. I dipped my biscuit in to try it out. I had never had oysters that tasted anything like this. I wondered what Ma's secret was.

Two more people showed up at the table—an older man that introduced himself as Mel, and his daughter, whom he called Sissy. She grinned at Jimmy Bob.

“Hey, Jimmy Bob,” she said. “Where have you been?”

“Running coon, but we never could find the dang hounds.”

“They ran off?” Mel asked.

Jimmy Bob nodded.

“I'll keep a look out for you and bring 'em back, if I catch the rascals.” He grinned in my direction. “Is this business or pleasure?”

“Business, of course.” Jimmy Bob nudged me under the table. “She's not my type; too skinny.”
“I'm too skinny?”

“Yup, you don't have the hips for proper childbearing.”
I didn't know what to say, but I felt offended. “That doesn't matter. I have seen smaller women than me...” I shut up after I realized what I was saying. “You're right, besides, I don't plan to have children.”

“Really?” Sissy asked. “Who wouldn't want to have babies with the man they luv,” she gushed in Jimmy Bob's direction. “You know, Jimmy Bob, Paw says I'll be about marrying age next Spring.”

I looked hard at the plain woman; she looked more child than woman. Her freckled face glowed and she would probably be a looker when she was grown, but that wouldn't be for some years.

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Mind your business, woman,” Jimmy Bob whispered between gritted teeth. He tried to say more, but Mel looked toward Jimmy Bob.

“No daughter of mine is gonna marry a Willow.”

“But, Paw, he's a good man and—”

Sissy dropped her eyes to her lap. “But heck, Paw. How am I gonna find a good man if you keep eliminating all of my potential suitors?”

“You need to finish schoolin' before you be talkin' like dat.” He smiled at his daughter. “Don't you worry none, honey, you'll find a man when the time is right.”

I admired how Mel took up for his daughter. I wondered how that felt. My mother had gotten pregnant at a young age and my dad was never in the picture. I don’t even have a name to put with the faceless sperm donor, as my mom referred to him the one time I asked. I sighed to myself. I had been too put off to ask twice. Maybe if Mom would share with me the details, I might not have felt so bad. I’m twenty now. I can handle the truth. It might also explain why she had a problem cutting the apron strings.

Sure, this trip was a stretch for me, but so far I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to take some Fall pictures. I could take them in northern New York, but how could I pass up an opportunity to have the mountains as a backdrop? It's interesting to learn about a new culture. I had often wondered how people lived in the mountains, and I was getting the chance to learn first hand. Not too many movies portrayed mountain folks in a positive manner, but I didn’t believe these people were all bad. So far, with the exception of back at the country store, everyone had been quite pleasant to me.

I spooned in the stew, which cooled nicely, and listened to the chatter between Jimmy Bob, Mel, and Ma. I did notice how Jimmy Bob's face paled when Sissy said she was near marrying age. So, he was still single at least. That thought made me smile at least, but I had no idea why. Lord, Kelly, you just met the man!

Breaking though my thoughts, Ma asked, “Anyone for dessert? I made fresh lemon meringue pie.”

“I'm stuffed from the Rocky Mountain oyster stew,” I said.

“Oysters?” Mel asked.

“Yes. They weren't in the shells, but quite tasty.”

“I'm sure they weren't no oysters either, more of a nickname.” He snickered. “Jimmy Bob, you rascal. How'd you get her to eat pig testicles?”

I felt nauseous and tried to will myself to hurl, but couldn't. I felt sweaty for a moment, and that's when I hit the floor.

• • • 

 Madison Johns burst onto the writing scene in 2012 with quirky books featuring a zany cast of characters, writing in both the mystery and romance genres.

She’s best known for her Agnes Barton senior sleuth mystery series featuring Agnes’ larger than life sidekick, Eleanor Mason. The series depicts two elderly ladies digging up clues with enough laugh aloud antics to make James Bond blush.

Madison Johns is a member of Sisters in Crime.

She was a voracious reader of historical romance in her teens and hopes to journey one day to England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Find Madison online --

Monday, 14 October 2013

Tony Black: His Father's Son

Today, it's our pleasure to welcome Mr. Tony Black to Heart of Fiction.

Tony is the author of the Gus Drury mystery series, the Rob Brennan mystery series, and a series of standalone thrillers, such as RIP Robbie Silva and Killing Time in Vegas. Tony is also well-known for his short stories which have been published alongside the likes of Ian Rankin, Irvine Walsh, Ken Bruen, and many other hard hitters. This hardworking writer has earned himself a well-deserved place amongst Scotland's top crime writers, and we're honored to have him with us today.

Okay, now that we've intimidated you a bit with his backlist, let's introduce you to the man. Born in Australian, his family moved to Ireland where he grew up. He then went to Scotland where he enjoyed a career as an award-winning journalist. Today he makes his home in Ayr, Scotland with his beautiful wife and infant son. And yes, he *has* picked up the traditional Scottish burr which makes it a treat listening to Tony read passages from his stories.

Today, Tony is here to introduce is to his first non-crime drama called His Father's Son, published by Black & White Publishing.

This story is told from two points of view -- Joey Driscoll, ostracized son of a famous Irish football hero, and Marti, Joey's young son.

Having lived ten years in Australia after leaving Ireland for a better life at the end of the 1960s, Joey's life isn't what he imagined it would be like. His once beautiful and outgoing wife, Shauna, now suffers from what Joey calls the black dog, which we learn is his meaning for depression. She spends countless hours sleeping or crying, rarely dressing or participating in the family. Joey is working hard to make a life for his young family, trying anything he can to cheer up Shauna, and giving Marti the life Joey never had in Ireland. But the black dog is persistent.

Marti is at an impressionable age and doesn't understand the black dog, only that when his mother has it, he wants to hide so she doesn't cry and smother him with the agonizing emotions that scare him. He clings to his father for support, which Joey gladly gives, but it's a hard homelife for Marti. He wants what other boys have -- his father home more and a mother shed of the black dog. He wants a happy family. From Marti's point of view, narration and dialogue are that of a young boy so it's easy to slip into Marti's sufferings, to not understand adult problems, to be pushed and pulled on adult whims, and to be taken away from the only person with home he feels safe.

One day, Joey comes home and Shauna and Marti are gone. Joey is sent into fits of confusion, anger, despair, and all the other emotions that go with losing your family. Joey had vowed never to return to Ireland. Sure, what was left for him there after being cast out by his family and shunned by the community? But Ireland is where Shauna has taken Marti. If he wants his son back, he needs to go home.

His Father's Son is an emotional story fraught with believable characters, a finely woven plot, and a mesh of two cultures expertly revealed. This story is written in a style reminiscent of the late Frank McCourt and should sit alongside Angela's Ashes as one of Irish literature's classic novels.

We had the good fortune to bend Tony's ear recently where he gave us a glimpse into his life away from the computer.

Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Tony, and congratulations on the publication of His Father's Son. It's quite a change from your thrillers, but a welcome one, I must say.

You're a busy man -- writing, promotions, book tours -- do you have a writing routine that keeps you on track?

Yes and no. When I was producing two books a year I did stick to office hours, but usually found myself working into the wee hours to get stuff finished. I try to do at least a thousand words a day and if I don't make that will do more the next day but I find I'm not at my best being so strict with myself. I think my best writing comes when I'm not up against a deadline but actually just exploring characters on the page.

Deadlines are a two headed cobra, aren't they? Great for getting the job done, but not really letting you be flexible when you need flexibility, especially when you're trying to balance writing with everything else that goes into having your book out.

What's your writing space like? I imagine you sitting behind a giant walnut desk with a pipe and a tumbler of Scotch at hand, and a deerhound beside the fire.

Well, at the moment it's a bit of a tip. I'm just putting out a book - HIS FATHER'S SON - and things have got a bit chaotic. My study is at the back of the house and tends to become a bit of a dumping ground for all my family's stuff too. For example, right now, there's a dog crate in front of my book shelves and my wife's new winter coat is hanging on the door, presumably en route to her wardrobe.

Hmmm . . . I'll pretend there's a walnut desk in there . . . somewhere!

I know you enjoy engaging with your readers on places like Facebook, but what else do you enjoy doing when you're not writing . . . or cleaning your study?

I try to chill out as best as I can. I'm a big movie buff and spend far too much on DVDs. I read a lot too, obviously a must for a writer, but I try to read outside my genre and a lot of factual non-fiction too.

I think books and movies go hand in hand for writers.

Thank you so much, Tony, for taking the time to chat with me and give our readers some additional reading material for the TBR piles.

So, who wants to get a glimpse into His Father's Son?

• • •

Australia is the Lucky Country and Joey Driscol knows it. It’s a far cry from his native Ireland but he believes this is the place he and his wife, Shauna, can make a new life and forget the troubles of the past. And for a time they do just that. There’s steady work, a new house and, in time, they welcome their new son, Marti, into the world.

But as the years pass, history comes knocking at the door. With Shauna battling the ‘Black Dog’ depression, the ghosts of the past take hold and, with their marriage floundering, Joey’s wife disappears one day taking Marti with her. Distraught, Joey finally hears word that they’ve returned to Ireland. Forced to follow if he wants to see his beloved son again, Joey must confront a past he’d rather forgot and along with it, the father he never wanted to see again.

In a beautifully written story where the tragedy and tenderness of the tale is balanced brilliantly by the light of comic imagery, former crime writer, Tony Black explores the bond between a father and son; the clash of culture and landscape between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ land and takes us on a journey into a family’s struggle with their past, present and uncertain future.


Marti didn’t get it. He knew when Dad said it was “just one of those things” it was because he couldn’t be bothered explaining.

“But why, Dad?” said Marti. It was burning hot outside and Dad was stretched out in the yard under the coolibah tree. Marti had seen him put the newspaper over his face when the sun broke out from the shade. He was still under the paper when Marti asked the question again. “Dad, why Blue?”

“Like I say, son, it’s just one of those things.”

Dad must know, thought Marti. He had never heard him say he didn’t know about something. He must know, really. “Just one of those things” was something grown-ups said when they couldn’t be bothered. It was like, “Go away and play with the cats’ eyes on the road.”

“But Dad, why Blue?” Why did they call Dad ‘Blue’? Pete, their neighbour with the swimming pool with the leaves in and the car with no wheels, had called Dad ‘Blue’ every time he passed by. And Pete wasn’t even a very good friend of Dad’s, thought Marti. Pete didn’t even support Liverpool, so Dad couldn’t really be good friends with him.

“Marti, it’s an Australian thing, all right. That’s what they call you in Australia when you have red hair like me, Blue.”

Marti really was confused now. “Well, why don’t they call you Red?”

“Because Marti, it’s Australia and they do things differently here. It’s the other side of the world.”
Marti knew Australia was on the other side of the world from Ireland. Dad had shown him on the map, and on the globe in the library he had shown him where the boat had come across all the ocean and how it was the best money he’d ever spent. He told him the story about how they needed men like him because the country was so big they had to fill it up and he paid all his money for him and Mam to come on a boat from Ireland.

“But why because it’s the other side of the world?” Marti knew he was pressing his luck. Dad put down the paper and tipped back his cap. It was bright sunshine outside and he had been trying to sit in the shade of the coolibah tree and read the news, but he was there so long the sun had followed him and the shadow was on the other side of the tree now.

“Right, Marti,” he said, and picked up the rug he was lying on and moved it into the shade again. “If I explain this thing for you, will you give me some peace?” Marti nodded. “Right, now first things first, get out of the sun – eleven to three, under a tree, remember.” Marti moved over into the shade of the coolibah tree with Dad.

“Now, in Australia everyone – well, mostly everyone in Australia – comes from Ireland or Scotland or the Other Place.” The Other Place was England; Marti knew Dad didn’t like England, except for Liverpool but that was as Irish as Molly Malone he said, whoever Molly Malone was. “So, Australia is on the other side of the world. Australians think this is a funny thing, it’s like everything is the opposite. It’s summer in Australia when it’s winter in Ireland and the water goes down the plughole the other way.” Marti’s eyes widened. “Ah now, forget that about the water, son, that’s a whole other story, but so you see what I’m saying; that’s why red becomes blue in Australia. Do you get me? Do you see it now, Marti?”

He kind of got it. He didn’t know why the Australians wanted to call red blue, but he got the bit about doing things the other way around. It made him wonder because he had black hair like Mam, maybe they would call him white.

He was still a bit confused, then Dad leaned forward and lifted him up on his knee. “Don’t worry your head about this nonsense, son. Sure won’t you get it all for yourself when you go to Ireland.”

“Are we going to Ireland?” said Marti.

“No, son, we’ve no plans to go to Ireland. Australia’s our home now, but sure, won’t you want to go and see the place one day, to see where your mam and dad were born and where the giants come from, and sure won’t you have to try the Guinness on home soil. There’s nothing like a pint of Guinness poured on Irish soil, son – when you’re a man, of course.”

“Will you come with me, Dad?”

“No, Marti, I won’t be going back to Ireland.”

“Never, not even when I’m a man and I get the Guinness?” He knew Dad would never go back to Ireland. Mam had said it was because he was too fond of foostering his days away in the sun, and didn’t Ireland only remind him of himself.

“No, Marti, I never will. Sure why would I want to – would you look at this place? Isn’t it God’s country entirely; you can’t grow oranges in your yard in Ireland.”

“Then I won’t go, Dad. I’ll stay here with you.” Marti hugged him and Dad laughed.

“Son, you’re choking me – that’s some grip you have there. Do you fancy yourself a wrestler?” Dad pretended to bite Marti’s arm, and the pair rolled around on the grass. “That’s enough now. There could be trapdoors around here,” said Dad.

Trapdoor spiders were sneaky bleeders, Mam had said. They bury themselves in the yard and then jump out of their little grass trapdoors to bite you if you’re not careful, she had told Marti.

“Do they have trapdoors in Ireland, Dad?”

“No, son.”

“Then could we wrestle in the yard if we lived in Ireland, Dad?”

“You’d be soaked through in a millisecond, Marti. Sure, there’s no sunny days over there. It’s all rain, rain and more rain. No, this is the place, Marti, God’s country, like I say. Now away and play.”

• • •
Find Tony online --

Website -
Facebook -
Twitter -
Blog -
Amazon US author page -
Amazon UK author page -

To purchase a copy of His Father's Son by Tony Black, please visit Amazon --

Amazon US -- digital or print (available soon)

Amazon UK - digital or print

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Kate Robbins: Bound to the Highlander

Today, Heart of Fiction welcomes Kate Robbins.

If I were to look at a map, and I have, Newfoundland is practically at Ireland's nine o'clock, which means if I were to stand at Mizen Head and wave, Kate just might see me!

In the short time I've known Kate, I've been amazed at the similarities between the Newfoundland culture and the Irish one. It's been fun chatting about similar foods, traditions, and even slang. Pretty cool, actually.

The one unique thing Newfoundland has that Ireland doesn't is Kate herself. She's a real spitfire, and from what I've seen, her amazingly positive attitude comes from the heart. Since accepting the contract for her book, Bound to the Highlander, she has gone nonstop with promotions and talking to anyone and everyone she can about the series. Probably not so much about the promotion but probably because she can't contain The Happy. I know this last week has about done her in. I'm sure if Newfoundland has been experiencing earthquakes recently, it's probably Kate's bundle of nerves resonating through the earth.

And today is finally here and that loud yelp you heard earlier was Kate seeing her book available on Amazon for the first time. Why so much excitement? This is Kate's debut novel! AND, before it was even published, it won the 2013 TARA Award for Historical Romance. Definitely worthy of a whoop-whoop!

Bound to the Highlander is the first book in The Highland Chiefs Series published by Tirgearr Publshing. It's set in the early 15th century under the reign of James Stuart. When Aileana Chattan's father dies, she learns of an old marriage promise made for her. She's promised to James MacIntosh, the nobleman she blames for her father's death. James is torn between the traditions he grew up with as much as he does for progress to help Scotland become a unified country. When faced with the marriage to Aileana, he must find a way to break the contract so he can move forward with his life and political aspirations. Only, he didn't realize the effect Aileana would have on him once he sees the woman she's become.

Bound to the Highland harkens back to classic Scottish romances written by the greats -- Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Iris Johansen, Elizabeth Stuart, Bertrice Small . . . the list goes on. This story delves deep into Scottish history but is equally played out against a love story so emotive you may find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat. Kate expertly weaves strong characters, rich culture, and a twisting plot that drives the reader forward through the story until the final page comes too quickly. For those who say Scottish romance has been played out in the industry needs to think again. This book is a fresh and welcome addition to decades long Scottish romance storytelling.

I think I misspoke when I said Ireland didn't have Kate. Tirgearr Publishing is fortunately enough to have Kate on its team, and as Tirgearr is an Irish company, I guess Ireland has Kate too!

We were fortunate to have caught a few minutes to chat with Kate. She's one busy gal. On top of the promo for Bound to the Highlander, she's also writing the next book in the series, Promised to the Highlander.

Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Kate, and congrats on the release of Bound to the Highlander.

It's been incredible watching your excitement grow for this book. As the days have drawn closer to publication, words in your emails have practically leaped off the screen at me. I can just imagine what life must be like in your house at the moment. Behind all the excitement for the release of your debut novel, do you have a routine you're trying to manage? What's it like?

I have a full-time day job and so spend some time every evening writing, blogging, or reading from my TBR pile. I do something writing related every day.

On the weekends I commit bigger chunks of time to my own work. It’s hard to flip in and out during the week but on the weekends, I negotiate with my family to sneak away and write to my heart’s content. They’re unbelievably supportive. I am blessed.

Newfoundland often is enveloped in a fog bank too, which means outdoor play is not always ideal.  On those days, it’s easy to justify staying in to write.

You work full-time too? Oh, my! Your coworkers must be just as awestruck by the whirlwind you're in at the moment. Don't know how you manage full-time and all the rest. LOL

So, when you've negotiated some time from your family, and you're not working, and you're dedicating some writing time, what's the space like you write in? Are you the 'starve for my art' writer with a dilapidated desk in the basement, or a Barbara Cartland writer with poodle on your lap and a secretary to take down your words?

I’m a nomadic writer. Depending on if I’m creating from scratch, revising a scene, or self-editing, I am either at my computer desk, on my bed, or in the dining room. Oh, and I sometimes snuggle up on the couch too. I also work on either our home desktop computer or my laptop.

I have two different portable laptop desks too; one has folding legs and the other is cushioned and rests on my lap. Hard core, I know. I think I’m all over the place because I’m affected by my environment when I write. I have various bits and bobs of Scottish inspiration scattered around the house for when the need to write strikes in that specific room.

I’m also an office supply junkie. Pens, pencils, note pads, and journals can be found at the ready at the locations listed above. I love lighting candles to get me in the zone too, and if the man-cubs are about, I sometimes use noise-reducing headphones.

My faithful feline, Freddie, can usually be found keeping vigil at my feet wherever I am.

Hmm . . . I was hoping for the poodle! LOL I think my hubs would draw the line at scattering the house with research info and notebooks, but then, I've done that with yarn so I guess we're kind of rowing the same boat on that score.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I’m a huge reader. And I read everything, including genre fiction, literary fiction, and non-fiction. Since acquiring my ereader over a year ago, I have read more books than ever before.

I love spending precious time with my family. We get up to all kinds of tomfoolery when we turn the world off and focus on each other. Battleship and Mastermind smackdowns are common during the colder months. We can often be found sitting ‘round our fire pit in the backyard during the summer roasting spider weenies and making S’mores.

I also have a neglected garden and a 5k power-walking route that beckons sometimes. Well, it beckons a lot, I ignore it far too often.

LOL Right behind you on procrastinating about the power-walk!

You're a gas character, Kate! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule . . . and you're whooping and cheering . . . to have a chat with us today.

Kate will be here through the day to answer any of your questions. And Tirgearr Publishing is giving away a copy of Bound to the Highlander to one lucky commenter. So get your skates on and be sure to leave your contact email address so we can get a hold of you if you win.

Want a look at the prize? Keep reading --

• • •

Aileana Chattan suffers a devastating loss, then discovers she is to wed neighboring chief and baron, James MacIntosh -- a man she despises and whose loyalty deprived her of the father she loved. Despite him and his traitorous clan, Aileana will do her duty, but she doesn't have to like it or him. But when the MacIntosh awakens something inside her so absolute and consuming, she is forced to question everything.

James MacIntosh is a nobleman torn between tradition and progress. He must make a sacrifice if he is to help Scotland move forward as a unified country. Forced to sign a marriage contract years earlier binding Lady Aileana to him, James must find a way to break it, or risk losing all -- including his heart.

From the wild and rugged Highlands near Inverness to the dungeons of Edinburgh Castle, James and Aileana’s preconceptions of honor, duty and love are challenged at every adventurous turn.

Near Inverness, Scotland, April 1430

A horse’s scream pierced the air sending a chill down her spine. Brèagha. Aileana Chattan quit pacing and dashed to the window. Thank God, they were home at last.

She strained toward the eerie quiet below just as the procession crested the hill beyond the gatehouse. She was right, it was her uncle’s horse Brèagha, but the poor beast hobbled as three men grasped his leather reins and struggled to keep the distressed animal in check. Bile rose in her throat when she spied the body face down across its back.

She tore through the hallway, down the winding stairs and raced out into the courtyard. Cold mud soaked her feet and her heart pummeled as the somber hunters approached. She looked to Andrews, her steward, to confirm her fear.

“I’m sorry, lass.” He shifted his weight, but did not look up.

Her gaze returned to the body. Fiery red hair hung in tangles and pale, limp hands were red streaked. Shivers coursed through her as she beheld his unmoving form.

Her uncle, their chief, was dead.

A soundless ‘No’ faltered on her lips. Men and horses spun around her, threatening her balance. She reached out to cling to something. Anything. Air slipped through her fingers as she stumbled forward. Andrews caught her the moment her knees buckled.

“I’ve got you, Lady Aileana. Come, we must get him inside.”

He placed one strong arm around her shoulder and kept her moving forward, her feet skimming the ground.

No one spoke as they entered the large stone and wooden stable. The huntsmen pulled her uncle’s body from the horse’s back and laid him at her feet. She dropped to the ground beside him. The foul stench of manure filled her nostrils and she fought the urge to retch.

“Why did you bring him in here?” The stable was no place for their chief.

“He ordered us. We had no other way to get the laird’s body home and he wanted us to save Brèagha for you,” Andrews said.
Her gaze shifted between her uncle’s body and the horse’s wild eyes. She swallowed the thick knot which had lodged in her throat.

“What happened?”

“We were tracking deer when something spooked him.” Andrews’s voice was low and grim. “Your uncle’s sword was drawn. They were both injured when they fell.”

The horse snorted and bobbed his head up and down. Aileana stood to view his injuries better. A deep gash oozed jagged crimson lines down his flank, pooling at his hoof. She moved to Brèagha’s side and buried her fingers in his mane. His coat was covered with a sheen of sweat.

“Dear God, you won’t see week’s end.” She must save him. “Andrews?”

“Get Argyle’s surgeon,” Andrews said. The stable hand took off to do his bidding.

There wasn’t much she could do for the faithful beast, but she had to try. Uncle Iain had wanted it. Aileana returned to kneel by her uncle’s side and brushed a lock of red, matted hair from his brow. She gathered his limp hand into hers and searched for any remaining hint of life, but there was none. Aileana closed her eyes, spilling tears onto her cheeks.

She pictured the two of them walking through the glen with the heather splashed mountains all around. She had loved his tales of legends and victories and could feel warm air caressing her skin and fluttering her skirts. He smiled, giving her all the comfort she needed.

Brèagha’s grunt brought her back to the present and her eyes flew open. In this story, there was no victory. Her velvet gown was no protection from the cold, uncaring earth beneath her, and the image of Uncle Iain and the colorful mountains faded to gray.

The men, her men, encircled her. They waited for her signal to move the body to his room for cleansing. Blood pounded in her ears as she struggled to do what she must, though she hated to release his hands. She cried out when she tried to fold them across his breast, but they slipped to the ground.

“Let me help, m’lady.” Andrews’ strong, weathered fingers covered hers and together they laid her uncle’s hands across his chest. Andrews pulled her up and held her close. His strong arms tightened around her, reassuring her as she tried to contain her grief.

“Move him,” Andrews said. “Now.”

Thank God for Andrews. He didn’t want his chief laying in filth any more than she did. The men nodded and encircled him.

“What’s this?” The familiar voice boomed from the doorway. “What’s happened?”

Gawain Chattan scanned the stable until his gaze landed on the body. His tall, thin frame was a silhouette against the gray sky and his expression was masked, even as he lifted his eyes to meet hers.

“The laird is dead,” Andrews said.

His words pierced her. This was really happening.

• • •

Kate Robbins writes historical romance novels out of pure escapism and a love for all things Scottish, not to mention a life-long enjoyment of reading romance. Her journey into storytelling began with a short screenplay she wrote, directed, and produced which was screened at the 2003 Nickel Film Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She has also written and directed several stage plays for youth.

Kate loves the research process and delving into secondary sources in order to give readers the most authentic historical romance possible. She has travelled to Scotland and has visited the sites described in her Highland Chiefs series.

Bound to the Highlander is the first of three books set during the early fifteenth century during the reign of James Stewart, first of his name.

Kate is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada with her hubby, the man-beast, and her two awesome boys, the man-cubs.

Find Kate online --

Kate Robbins
Tirgearr Publishing

Monday, 7 October 2013

K.A. Laity: A Cut-Throat Business

They're back! And by popular demand -- both K.A. Laity and Chastity Flame :-)

K. A. is often also Dr. Laity to her students and others she's known as Captain Kate, but to her Chastity Flame fans, we'll always know her as Lady Fleming. Why? Why not?! Chastity is the female embodiment of James Bond, the creator of whom was the late, great Ian Fleming. What more fitting tribute to the creator of the Chastity Flame series.

By day, Kate is a literary professor teaching courses in medieval literature, film, digital humanities and popular culture . . . though at the moment she's taken time off to live in Scotland! Kate loves traveling and recently spent a year in Ireland, teaching on a Fulbright Scholarship at NUI Galway. There seems no end to Kate's accomplishments. So, too, as a writer.

An author of dozens of noteworthy stories, Kate is becoming best known for her Chastity Flame series, staring none other than Chastity Flame herself. A hat tip to Bond and a wiggle to Modesty Blaise ( (c)1963 Peter O'Donnell and Jim Holdaway), Chastity Flame takes her cue from the start as a sassy, sexy, up-for-anything girl. She goes in with both guns blazing and takes no prisoners, to coin a few cliches, but it's true. She's the heroine we'd all like to be -- to stand up for what's right, honesty and justice, and let's face it, to bonk the brains out of some sexy men along the way ;-)

In her latest adventure, Chastity is confronted by two serious problems, both of which need equal attention, both standing a chance of changing her life forever. As with the previous two books in the series, A Cut-Throat Business, is full of action and adventure, and sexy, sexy Chastity. Readers will find such a gripping story they wont want to put the book down until it's done. I love it when I can immerse myself in such a way that everything around me fades away until the last page is turned. It's like a dream where I'm the heroine who must save the world, but to wake up with the alarm clock in the morning to realize I'd only dreamed it. Only with this series, one can return time and time again to relive the experience.

Kudos *must* go out to cover artist S.L. Johnson for her innovative cover designs on this series. They're retro-relevant, sexy, and eye-catching, much like Chastity herself.

FREE BOOK - Kate is available today for questions. Leave a comment or question in the comments box below, along with your contact email address, and your name will automatically go into a random draw for a free copy of A Cut-Throat Business!

So let's check out this latest addition to the Chastity Flame Adventure series --

• • •

There’s a killer loose in London, protected in high places. Chastity Flame needs to look in the places the police can’t — or won’t — while a rogue colleague dogs her steps, looking for the key to secrets in her past. Can she find the killer before his bloodlust rises again? Will she expose her bitter rival before he targets more innocents? And how will she cope with the most dangerous mission — moving in with her boyfriend, Damien.

Daddy's girl. That's what she'd always been. As she sprinted down the dark street, the phrase kept repeating in her head. Her heart beat a tattoo in her chest and her lungs burned as she raced along. Adrenaline filled her veins as she sought a way out, away from this, but she could still hear his footsteps behind her.

Daddy's girl. He had grinned as he said the words, onto her wavelength, her weakness, in just a few minutes of conversation. She had actually been pleased. He was smarter than they usually were, the men who fluttered around her like moths to a flame. She always found it easy to charm them, to make them desire her.

You'd hardly believe she had once been a plain tomboy. Her well-toned legs might be a legacy of that time, though exercise these days meant helping her maintain the look that turned heads. Right then she wished she'd worked more on pure endurance instead of shapeliness, because his seemingly tireless steps got closer as she grew tired.

She skidded around a corner and her terror exploded. It was a dead end. Panicking, her gaze darted back and forth, looking for some break in the brick walls that lined the narrow lane. With a glance over her shoulder, she stumbled forward into a ragged trot, eyes wild as she hoped there must be a way out of this. Someplace to hide would appear, like it always did in bad dreams, in movies, just when there was no more hope. Then a bin or a box would be there where you hadn't noticed, and behind it a narrow passage that led to freedom.

Her heart raced faster as the sound of his footfalls came closer.

Bricks, bricks, more bricks: up too high, a few windows with broken glass. If she had wings, a rocket, a fiery dragon—her thoughts were getting wild, hysterical. Isn't that the word they always used, the word only for women? She had such contempt for her gender. She had felt hunger and contempt in equal measures for men, those she desired and those who desired her.

He paused at the entrance to the narrow lane, staring at her. Earlier, she had preened as his interest became plain, but now she wished she had never seen him.

"Come to Daddy," he growled, in an obscene parody of the fatherly approval she craved.

There had to be some way out! She ran to the far wall, overly conscious of her own panting breaths. Her fingertips scraped against the bricks in vain, her overheated brain suggesting that there could be some kind of secret exit if she applied the right pressure. What was that movie where the bricks moved and opened, revealing a secret alley? When she realised it was one of the Harry Potter movies, a giggle began in the back of her throat.

This is what it's like to be hysterical

• • •

 K. A. Laity is the award-winning author of Rook Chant, Owl Stretching, Pelzmantel and Unikirja, a collection of short stories and a play based on the Kalevala, Kanteletar, and other Finnish myths and legend, for which she won the 2005 Eureka Short Story Fellowship as well as a 2006 Finlandia Foundation grant. With cartoonist Elena Steier she created the occult detective comic Jane Quiet. Her bibliography is chock full of short stories, humor pieces, plays and essays, both scholarly and popular. She also writes romance as C. Margery Kempe and Kit Marlowe.

Find K.A. Laity online at --

KA Laity
A Knife and a Quill
Tirgearr Publishing