Friday, 21 November 2014

Kate Robbins: Enemy of the Highlander

Today is a big day for Ms Kate Robbins. Not only is the third book in her Highland Chiefs series released -- Enemy of the Highlander -- in both digital and print, it's also her birthday!

This has been a big week for Kate too. Monday saw the release of a collection called the Scrolls of Cridhe, and Kate's inclusion is Spirit Stones.

And I hear she's working on a novella related to her Highland Chiefs series as her NaNoWriMo project.

Kate joins us today from St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, where she's been participating in great book signing events with fellow Newfoundland writers.

Enemy of the Highlander follows the story of Freya MacKay and Ronan Sutherland, who we briefly met in the previous book, Promised to the Highlander. We now learn their full history...what brought them together and what pulled them apart, and the circumstances which force Ronan to turn to her family for help, which also forces the couple to rediscover each other. Only, Freya is to marry Rorie MacKenzie. If Ronan forces his hand to take Freya back, it would not only destroy his chances at regaining the title of earl which his uncle has stripped from him, but it could mean his life.

Kate Robbins is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in Scottish historical romance. In a genre which is flooded with Scottish historicals, Kate has found her way to the upper echelon and is maintaining her spot in the top 10 Scottish historical romance authors and has a very respectable spot on the top 100 list for historical romance authors. Enemy of the Highlander is testament to this talented author. The story opens on high drama and continues through with action-packed scenes in every chapter. Kate's voice tells her story with quick dialogue and fast-paced scenes. All of her characters, even minor ones, are so well created that we believe they could exist. First time readers of Kate's books can rejoice that there are two previous books in the series, and seasoned readers can take satisfaction that this series doesn't end here, as there are two more titles releasing in 2015!

Happy birthday, Kate, and well done on this latest addition to the Highland Chiefs series!

Please join us in the comments where Kate and I will be chatting this afternoon. Feel free to leave your own questions or comments. And as always, there's a free book on offer today. All you need to do is comment with your email address to put your name into the draw for an ebook copy of this book. If you can't wait, just click here to grab your copy.

• • •

Two years ago, Freya MacKay walked away from the only man she would ever love, her family’s bitter enemy, knowing her clan would never accept their love. A fragile alliance has been forged and now he has returned to warn of a terrible threat. Freya MacKay is torn between the familiar surge of passion he evokes and her promise to wed another man.

Ronan Sutherland has lost everything to a cruel uncle who will lay the entire north Highlands to waste if he is not stopped. There is only one who can help—but seeking alliance with his former enemy, Fergus MacKay, means encountering the woman who left him two years ago, breaking his heart.

A bitter feud keeps their clans at one another’s throats and it seems nothing will stop one from destroying the other. Will Ronan ever forgive Freya for leaving him? Can he trust her again? Or will the decades of hatred and deceit between their families prevail?

Golspie, Scotland, 1432

A writ of bastardy.

For all his efforts and all he had put up with from his monster of a father, it had come to this. Ronan Sutherland stared hard at the unfolded parchment in his hand. Someone behind him coughed; another sniffed.

He should walk away, say to hell with Dunrobin Castle, the earl’s title, all the evil he had seen within these walls, and be done with it. What kept him here was beyond his comprehension.

“My lord, ’tis been validated.” Robert de Strathbrook, Bishop of Caithness fidgeted.

“By whom?” Ronan turned to see if the man would look him in the eye.

The bishop had been formidable in his day. Now instead, his robes dwarfed him, his cheeks hollowed by age. He would not have the stamina to travel to Edinburgh and engage the king’s council.

“My priests took it upon themselves to conduct the act in my stead. Sutherland is one of the oldest earldoms in the country. It was not easy, but their diligence was properly paid, I assure you.”

Ronan’s guts burned.


“The letter says the rightful earl will arrive in a sennight to claim the title. He said you should be out of the master chamber by then.”

Ronan shook his head. “And I am to wait until he arrives before I learn of his identity?”

“Aye, lad.” Lad? “He wants no one to speak of it until he arrives.”

“So be it.” Ronan turned to leave Dunrobin’s great hall. A scurrying sound in the corner caught his attention and he paused. Be damned if he would tolerate eavesdropping while he still ruled.

Ronan crossed the hall in three strides and whipped the large tapestry aside. John Sutherland. He might have known. The man slithered in and out of rooms unbidden. He was the last person Ronan wanted privy to his conversation with the bishop.

“What the Hell are you doing in here?”

John’s lips curled into a greasy smirk. “Watching your demise.”

Ronan grasped his face in one hand and squeezed. “If you breathe a word of this to anyone, I shall drive my blade through your gullet so fast you will not even feel it.”

John laughed. “I will not have to tell anyone. They already know. And you, bastard, will no longer prance around here undoing all the good your father did.”

Christ’s blood. This was worse than he thought. He had suspected some mutiny from those loyal to his father’s madness two years ago after his death. When they quietly fell in line to Ronan’s new and more tempered methods, he had accepted it. What a daft, green lad he had been. Was no one loyal to him at Dunrobin now? Allain surely still was. Always had been.

Ronan released John’s face and left the great hall in search of his captain. If there was one person he could rely on to help unravel this mess, it was Allain.

“We have trouble,” Ronan said, when he found Allain in the stable.

“Do we not always?” Allain grinned. “What now?”

Little ruffled the man, a trait for which Ronan was most grateful. He handed over the letter the bishop had delivered. His only ally at Dunrobin scanned the missive. A more legitimate heir to the Sutherland Earl’s title and clan chiefship had presented himself and was bent on tossing Ronan out on his ear. He had so many questions he did not know where to begin and thoughts of waiting around for a sennight to meet his usurper did not sit well. Still, he had to find out who this man was.

“There are only so many possibilities as to who this person can be.” It was as though Allain guessed Ronan’s train of thought.

“Aye. A brother or another son. And since another son would also be a bastard like me, it can only mean my father’s brother has returned from the continent.”

Bile rose in Ronan’s throat as he said the words. Alexander Sutherland made his older brother, Artair, look like a spring lamb. He had been banished years ago for his cruelty by Ronan’s grandfather and no one had heard from him in more than a decade.
Now, it seemed the prodigal son was set to return and claim that which Ronan had worked hard to reform. His own father had been a cruel, hard man who enjoyed the pain of others. If the truth of Alexander Sutherland’s own evil was half of the legend, Ronan feared the entire Highlands would be laid waste by fire and steel.

Allain folded the letter and passed it back. “What do you want to do?”

Ronan paced. He did not know. The news had come so suddenly he hardly had time to wrap his mind around it let alone formulate a plan.

“I will be here when he arrives. I have no intention of abandoning the people here to another madman. But, I cannot help them in the long run if my head is on a pike.”

Allain scraped his hand over his beard. “What do we know? I mean, did your father put anything into writing when he named you as heir?”

“Unfortunately, no. And I did not think to ask him as I slid my blade across his neck.”

“You know as well as I do, he deserved it. But as I told you that day, say those words where the wrong ears can hear, and you shall have more to worry about than a challenge to your title.”

Allain was right. Ronan had not spoken the words since the day he killed his own father. Thinking back brought Fergus MacKay to his mind; he had not thought of him in a long time. The man owed him a debt for releasing him from his father’s torture chamber. Those two had been bitter enemies for years. Surely, the people Ronan was responsible for, were grateful for the two years’ peace that had since followed.

A second vision passed before his eyes as he thought back to that day. The only woman he had ever loved had walked away from him. Ronan shook his head. He would not let himself dwell on her beauty, for the yearning in his soul was too much to bear. No, he would focus on this current problem and find a way to solve it.

“The letter says he will be here in a sennight,” Ronan said.

Allain’s brows knit together as he frowned. “Ronan, did you look at the date on the letter?”

His guts lurched. The bishop had led him to believe he had seven days from this day. Unfolding the parchment, Ronan glanced at the top corner. His heartbeat kicked up. It was dated eight days ago. His replacement would be on his doorstep at any moment.

• • •

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.

Kate loves the research process and delving into secondary sources in order to blend authentic historical fact into her stories. She has travelled to Scotland twice and visited the sites described in her Highland Chiefs series.

Her debut award winning novel, Bound to the Highlander, is the first of three books set in 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.

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Charlotte Howard: One Night in Edinburgh

While Charlotte Howard now calls Somerset, England home, she was actually born in Oman and spent her youth traveling between there and Scotland. She says she's always been a writer, and that's easy to believe, given her youthful travels and experience with various cultures. Charlotte has written poetry over the years, and now has three published novels to her credit.

When Charlotte visited us in July this year, we helped her welcome The Black Door, and erotic romance about a recently divorced woman with children who's finding it challenging to make ends meet. At 40, she struggles at work, as younger staff with more energy, and time, threaten her job security. When her boss gives her an account for an adult shop, her curiosity is piqued when she discovered the private club behind the black door in the shop.

Today, Charlotte steps up her game with her next release. This one is part of the City Nights series from Tirgearr Publishing -- One Night in Edinburgh.

City Nights is a unique erotic romance series with authors contributing to the collection. Each book title starts One Night in . . . and takes place within a 24 hour time frame in a city somewhere in the world. Previous cities include Boise, Idaho; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; New Orleans, Louisiana; San Francisco, California; Amsterdam, Holland; and today, Edinburgh, Scotland.

This story begins on a flight to Edinburgh. Chloe is headed to the city to meet a client. She travels a lot for her job so she only has one night in the city before turning around for home again. While her job means she flies a lot, she's a nervous passenger who wonders, on every take off and landing, why she ever chose such a career path for herself. When she meets the handsome Ethan on board this flight, he proves to be a delicious distraction to her normal anxious state while in the air, and on the ground.

One Night in Edinburgh is the perfect blend of classic Charlotte Howard storytelling and a wonderful edition into this really sexy series. Her characters are genuine and the storyline is believable. And though the series format is very short, Ms Howard packs a lot into a few short pages while giving us a full and well-rounded edition that balances the intimate scenes within the plot itself. A job well-done.

Please join us in the comments where Charlotte and I will be chatting this afternoon. Feel free to leave your own questions or comments. And as always, there's a free book on offer today. All you need to do is comment with your email address to put your name into the draw for an ebook copy of this book. If you can't wait, just click here to grab your copy.

• • •

Chloe Shard has travelled to Edinburgh to meet up with a potential client, and has just twenty-four hours to convince them to sign her contract. But when she meets the delicious Ethan, he proves to be so much more than an enticing distraction. It’s not long before Chloe has some life changing decisions to make, and less than a day to make them.

Chloe squeezed her eyes shut as the plane’s wheels bumped along the tarmac, and her stomach lurched into her chest as the brakes were applied. Her ears flooded with the sound of her own heart beating louder than the squealing and screeching of the landing gear. Pressure built in her cheeks as she clenched her teeth together.

The worst hour in her life was almost over.

“Welcome to Edinburgh,” said the captain over the speaker system. “We hope you had a pleasant journey and enjoyed the flight. Please remain seated with your seat belts fastened until the light is turned off.”

A chuckle emanated from nearby. Chloe opened one eye and peered at the man in the seat across the aisle from her.

“You can breathe again,” he said in an American accent, flashing her a grin.

“I think I’ll wait until my feet are actually on the ground if it’s all the same to you,” she replied, leaning back into the headrest.

A loud ping was followed by a Mexican wave of clicking as the passengers released their seat belts and fought to get their bags and rush off the plane. Chloe undid her own belt then hurriedly squished herself into the seat as an oversized belly, violently stretching at a pale green shirt, began its invasion of her breathing space. Her shoulder was nudged as the impatient woman beside her stood up, hunching under the overhead compartment.

She waited for the plane to empty. The impatient woman started huffing and tutting. Chloe looked up apologetically, but was met with a hardened glare.

“Here,” said the man from opposite. She turned her gaze towards him and was grateful to see him holding back a herd of cattle desperate to depart. She drank him in for a second. He was broad enough to act as a barrier between her and the crowd. A very attractive barrier. From the way his T-shirt stretched over his biceps, she could tell that his width was certainly not due to being overweight. Ink spiralled around his skin from beneath the short sleeve, tracing down to his elbow.

“Thank you.” She stepped into the aisle. Immediately, the woman from beside her shoved herself through the gap, knocking Chloe into the man’s chest with an oof!

“I’m so sorry!” she said, stepping back and turning to the overhead compartments, feeling her cheeks heat. Her fingers tingled with the memory of his muscular chest beneath them.

• • •

British author, Charlotte Howard, was born in Oman and spent much of the first part of her life flitting between Oman, Scotland, and England. Now settled in Somerset, Charlotte lives with her husband, two children, and growing menagerie of pets.

Her career as a writer began at an early age, with a poem being featured in an anthology for the East Midlands. Since then Charlotte has written many short stories and poems, and finally wrote her first full-length piece of fiction in 2010.

During what little spare time she has, Charlotte enjoys reading and writing (of course), spending time with her family, and watching action movies whilst eating curry and drinking tea.

Charlotte is an active member of Yeovil Creative Writers Group.

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Friday, 14 November 2014

EH Ward: The Mandarin Stakes

To say E. H. Ward knows his horseflesh, and about writing, is just a bit of an understatement!

E.H. has spent his life around horses. Growing up on a horse farm in the west of Ireland, he enjoyed everything horse related, from pony trekking (trail riding) to fox hunting. His love of horses took him around the world where he broke wild horses in Australia, set up a stud farm in Mongolia, and trained racehorses in Beijing. He spent many years with Coolmore Stud at their farms in America and Ireland. And now finds himself splitting his time between buying horses in Turkey for clients and his vineyard in the south of France. Ooh, la la!

When he's not working with horses, he's writing about them. E.H. writes analytical articles and horseracing and sale reviews for The Irish Field Newspaper, and for James Underwood's Racing and Breeding Digest in the UK. And in his spare time, he writes fiction.

And this year, he turned his hand to fiction. This past April, we saw the release of A Sure Thing, the story of a stud farm manager who's unwittingly pulled into the Mafia underworld, drug dealings, and murder.

Today, E. H. releases his next book, The Mandarin Stakes. The murders of the Turkish Jockey Club President in Instanbul and the Lady Chairman of the British Horseracing Authority in Newmarket, England set off a chain of events which quickly drag stud farm manager and bloodstock expert, Andrew Dixon, into the criminal underbelly of politics and horseracing.

This story takes readers on a high energy, high stakes journey around the world. Ward's expert storytelling ability and author voice captivate from page one. His protagonist, Andrew Dixon, is well-developed and one we want to follow through the story as he weaves his way through political dealings, both on the track and off. This is a fast paced story, with readers quickly turning pages on the way to a satisfying finish line. Another blue ribbon winner for Mr Ward!

Please join us in the comments where E.H. and I will be chatting this afternoon. Feel free to leave your own questions or comments. And as always, there's a free book on offer today. All you need to do is comment with your email address to put your name into the draw for an ebook copy of this book. If you can't wait, just click here to grab your copy.

• • •

When the Turkish Jockey Club President is killed in Istanbul and the first Lady Chairman of the British Horseracing Authority is murdered at Newmarket races, the two deaths appear random. But amateur jockey-turned-stud farm manager and bloodstock agent, Andrew Dixon, discovers the awful truth.

Andrew realises the relentless commercial pressure in modern racing and breeding is distorting the sport he loves into something more sinister, something his boss – an aristocrat who attended Eton and served in the SAS – is delighted to exploit.

With Europe still reeling from the financial crisis and the overproduction of racehorses, British racing’s coffers are all but empty. Harnessing the might of the Chinese Dragon is a sure bet for survival. But when billions are at stake, intimidation, blackmail, and murder are just means to an end.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, a quiet politician edges closer to China’s highest office.

On the eve of a major trade agreement between Britain and China, Andrew faces the terrible reality that ruthless forces, with high-level connections, have hidden agendas and shocking methods of persuasion to make the Chinese agree to a lucrative gambling deal.

As the stakes are raised, it becomes impossible to know who is manipulating whom.

His life on the line and his credibility in ruins, Andrew must team up with an old friend in the Met and defy the odds in a race against time to stop a brutal, public atrocity, which will send shockwaves far beyond horseracing – through Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, and around the world.

Istanbul. October 2009. 9pm

The restaurant bustled around him as Okan Yildiz forgot his troubles and smiled warmly at his daughter, who was cutting up kofte meatballs for her five-year-old son.

She glanced at him. Returned the grin. “That’s better, Father. I haven’t seen you look happy in months.”

Okan’s eyes flickered. “Jockey Club politics, my dear Sinem. It has got under my skin.”

“Then step down, Father. Please don’t get so stressed. It’s bad for your health. You should be enjoying life, family, and your horses.” Sinem put down her fork and gripped his meaty hand. “It’s what Mother would’ve wanted.”

With his other hand, Okan ruffled his grandson’s hair. Winked. Made the boy giggle.

“I know, my dear,” he said. “But I still have so much to do for racing in this country. If only they would let me.”

Sinem arched her brow. “Then just tell them what to do.”

Okan raised his palms. “Please. I am not a dictator, but I wish I could make people see the big picture. They only think about short-term gain.”

He sighed and pushed his plate of lamb away. Wiping his mouth and thin, greying moustache, he stared out the window at the Marmara Sea with the faint lights of Prince’s Island in the distance.

When he was elected President of the Turkish Jockey Club, he had vowed he would do better than his predecessor and invest wisely in the future of Turkish racing. But he knew, then and now, that the jealous in-fighting of the Club might undo him.

In the current dilemma, it was tempting to take the easy option, but he had never done that – even as a child in the harsh winters of Eastern Anatolia. No, he would have to do the right thing. By the Club and by Turkish owners and breeders.

A chiming in his pocket made him scowl. He pulled out the device and checked the name on the screen. Letting out a sharp breath, he silenced the call and tossed the device on the table. He stared at it. After a few minutes, he stood. His daughter looked surprised.

“I’m sorry, my dear, but I’ll have to cut our dinner short. I cannot eat until I settle the matter at hand.” He winked at his grandson again. “Grandpa has some work to do, my boy. We have to go.”

The boy nodded.

“But, Father!” Sinem protested.

He raised his palms again, a stern look bristling his moustache. “Finish your food, my dear. I’ll tell them to bring the car round.” He peeled several banknotes from the wad in his pocket, placed them on the table and made for the door, thanking the manager on his way. Outside, he gave the valet his ticket and paced beside the road, punching the numbers on his phone.

The Friday night traffic bustled by on the coast road. An endless river of cars: honking, screeching, roaring. Okan turned his back on them and put a hand over his free ear.

“It’s me,” he growled into the receiver. “I’m done thinking about it and there’s nothing you can do to change my mind… I’ll be telling the Board tomorrow… No, not a chance.”

He pocketed the device and lit a cigarette. Spinning on his heel, he saw his daughter coming out of the restaurant, hand-in-hand with her son. Okan’s face softened with pride, and he relaxed slightly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a car approaching. He turned, expecting to see his own black Mercedes pulling up. Instead, the car mounted the footpath and slammed into him, tossing him over its roof like a rag-doll. He was dead before he hit the tarmac and two other helpless drivers rolled over him.

Sinem’s screams cut into the night air.

Inside the restaurant, heads turned. People rubbernecked.

The security camera outside the popular restaurant revealed the car to be a black Renault, reported stolen hours earlier. The police found its smouldering chassis in a Western suburb the following morning.

Two days later, the investigating officer told a distraught Sinem that it was becoming standard practice for joy-riders to destroy all DNA evidence in stolen vehicles. A simple hit-and-run accident by unknown perpetrators. Sinem refused to believe it.

The cop rolled his eyes at her hysterics. He told her there was no evidence to suggest a conspiracy and declared the case closed, sparing himself months of tedious interviews, investigations and paperwork.

• • •

E.H. Ward was born in England in 1973 to a racehorse trainer father and a mother who studied speech and drama at the Royal Academy in London. He moved to his mother’s native Limerick in Ireland at the age of nine and grew up riding, pony clubbing, fox-hunting and working for local racehorse trainers and stud farms. After school and a brief stint in the British army, he returned to England to start full-time work with racehorses. He spent the ‘90s travelling the world working with horses and in the bloodstock industry. From England, he moved back to Ireland then down to the Hunter Valley in Australia where he worked on a large stud farm and travelled and spent time on a cattle farm, breaking-in wild horses.

From Australia it was on to Kentucky the home of American horse racing and breeding, where he began working for the US arm of Ireland’s renowned Coolmore Stud. He spent the next ten years working at Coolmore and was put in charge of their China/Mongolia project, spending six months creating a stud on the plains of Inner Mongolia and a year training racehorses on the outskirts of Beijing.

He was seconded to the Turkish Jockey Club for a year to upgrade and run the Turkish National Stud, before returning full-time to Ireland in 2001, as an area manager at Coolmore’s Tipperary headquarters .

In 2006 he went back to Turkey to build and manage a racing/breeding operation on the Aegean coast working with a local businessman who wanted an international standard manager/advisor.

He is married to a Frenchwoman, and they have one son aged five. He currently divides his time between the stud farm near Izmir and southern France. He writes analytical articles and horseracing and sale reviews for The Irish Field newspaper and James Underwood’s Racing and Breeding Digest in the UK.

Find Eric Online:

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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

C Margery Kempe: Spinning Gold

C. Margery is a very prolific author with many stories -- fans will also know her as Kit Marlowe (author of the Constance and Collier Series) for historical romance, and as K.A. Laity (author of the Chastity Flame Series) for whatever else suits her fancy. If that wasn't enough, she also dabbles in crime noir as Graham Wynd!

C. Margery has long been touted as the Queen of Erotic Fairy Tales, puting her own spin on the old classics.

In her series, Fresher Fairy Tales, we've already read The Swan Prince, a modern telling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans, where the heroine must knit a nettle shirt in order to save her lover. In a soon to be rereleased story, Love Me Like a Reptile, we revisit The Frog Prince tale as told by the more popular Brothers Grimm version doesn't involve kissing a frog. Fresher Fairy Tales are all erotic romances, so you know kissing is not optional ;-)

Today's release adds another tale to the series. Spinning Gold is C. Margery's interpretation of Rumpelstiltskin, another Brothers Grimm tale with a clever spin. In the classic tale, a miller tells the king his daughter can spin straw into gold, and she is summarily thrust into a tower in the castle and made to perform this miracle with the promise that if she can make gold from straw, he'll marry her.

In C. Margery's telling of this tale, Freawine finds himself in a similar circumstance as the miller's daughter. After his father's bragging to the prince, Freawine finds himself locked in the castle tower, praying his life will be spared...and better yet, that a handsome knight will come along and save him.

Yes, he. You see, his mother sought to protect Freawine's from the ravages of war and so had disguised him as a girl from very young. When she died, he carried on as he was raised, knowing no other life. But it came at a cost, as he was always considered odd, and he'd learned odd people should not stand out, so he kept to himself. It was his talent for weaving the finest cloth that got him into the current situation...his father bragging that he could spin straw into gold! It was by some miracle that he was visited upon by a strange little man who helped him fulfill his father's boasts. And by another miracle that the prince offered to marry Freawine if he could spin a chamber full of straw into gold. Freawine fell in love with the prince on first sight, and if the strange little man would visit once more, Freawine just might find a life with the long as he can keep his secret.

C. Margery spins her own golden tale with Spinning Gold. A familiar story with a twist, told for a mature audience. From page one, we're instantly brought into Freawine's life and a time in history when tender men were not only frowned upon, but often put to death. This is an added element in the story...will Freawine survive if 'she' is discovered as a 'he'? This is an excellently crafted tale and a wonderful edition to the Fresher Fairy Tales franchise. Freawine is a well developed character, and one we can't help love and cheer for his happy endings.

Please join us in the comments where C. Margery and I will be chatting this afternoon. Feel free to leave your own questions or comments. And as always, there's a free book on offer today. All you need to do is comment with your email address to put your name into the draw for an ebook copy of this book. If you can't wait, just click here to grab your copy.

• • •

It was bad enough that the prince had to see Freawine’s father making his wild drunken boasts. But he believed them! How long would it be before the dreamy but intimidating prince discovered Freawine couldn't really spin straw into gold—or that this "girl" was really a boy?

Freawine sat looking at the mounds of straw all around him in the tiny room. Panic rose to his throat like a choking hand. What to do? Only two options came to mind—he could continue to curse his braggart father as he had done for the last quarter of an hour or so, or he could begin to think what his new life might be like without his head.
Rather short, he imagined.

Freawine found it a challenge to think clearly when his life was about to come to an abrupt end. The cold gray stones around him stood impassively silent, like the guards who lounged outside the door. No one was going to rescue him. Still, he found it pleasant to picture a handsome knight charging up the road to the castle, his valiant steed’s hooves clattering across the cobblestones of the courtyard, then rushing up the stairs to this little room at the top of the tower and sweeping Freawine away to safety. Followed by a very hot and sweaty session of delightful indulgence, of course.

He twisted one of his long locks and sighed again. If he were a real girl this would never have happened. His life had been nothing but secrets and lies—now the price had come due.

If only his father had not made that stupid boast in the tavern yard! If only the prince had not been passing by with his entourage of noble ladies and gentlemen, falcons on their wrists and laughter on their lips. If only the prince had not taken it into his head to make a grand offer--and an ominous threat.

If wishes were horses, his mother would have said, then we would all ride with the nobles to the fair.

At the moment, Freawine preferred to imagine that wishes might be doves that could carry him far from this tower room and his troubles.

• • •

C. Margery Kempe is a writer of erotic romance distinguished by its humour, intelligence, and fearless sensual pleasures. Her stories range from contemporary thrillers to medieval era fairy tales.

An English professor by day, she also writes on medieval literature, film, creative writing and New Media, as well as humor, drama, mainstream and genre fiction under her real name and non-explicit romance as Kit Marlowe.

She's a weekly blogger at Lady Smut on Fridays.

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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Christy Nicholas: A Guide to Hidden Scotland

A great big welcome back to Christy Nicholas.

We met Christy back in June 2013 when she released her first travel guide, Ireland: Mythical, Magical, Mystical: A Guide to Hidden Ireland. This book was, and is, a fabulous collection of photos, history, and travel tips for anyone wanting to see Ireland.

Christy isn't your average writer. By day, she's a mild mannered accountant. On her off time, she's an incredibly accomplished beader who sells her designs in craft fairs; she's a talented artist who uses her own photographs and combines them with digital wizardry to create stunning images; and she's a talented writer on top of everything else (I've read some of her fiction too).

Today, Christy releases the second book in her Hidden Guides series, Scotland: Stunning, Strange, and Secret: A Guide to Hidden Scotland.

Like the Ireland guide, readers will find the Scotland guide chock full of wonderful information to help plan a trip to Scotland. This guide has sections for all sorts of Scottish details, from basic travel tips (airfare, car hire, room rentals, etc), to more traditional things like media (books, music, movies/tv inspired by or set in Scotland), bagpipes and traditional dancing, traditional food (yes, there's haggis!), and of course, listings by county (shires) for must see attractions.

This book is a must have for anyone traveling to Scotland, whether you're visiting for traditional attractions or wish to be swept back in time to a land fueled by bigger than life heroes and kilted warriors. And as an ebook, this makes the perfect addition to any smartphone or tablet.

Please join us in the comments where Christy and I will be chatting this afternoon. Feel free to leave your own questions or comments. And as always, there's a free book on offer today. All you need to do is comment with your email address to put your name into the draw for an ebook copy of this book. If you can't wait, just click here to grab your copy.

• • •

Do you find yourself drawn to the magic of Scotland? Would you like to see places beyond the typical tourist traps? Come, join me on a journey through the mists of legend, into the hidden places of mystery. Immerse yourself in the legends and myths, the history that has made this island precious in the hearts and minds of millions. Along with the tales and history, there is practical information on planning your trip, budgeting your costs, and finding the best places to while away the magical hours of your holiday.

History and Myth
Superstitions and Beliefs
Gods and Saints
Highland Hospitality
Ceilidhs and Flings
Stunning Shots
Haggis and Cullenskink
Plans and Mechanics
Discounts and Deals
Hidden Gems
Maps and Resources

Scotland – the name conjures visions of tartan covering every surface, hairy Highland cows, the deep glowing gold of a dram of whisky, perhaps even Mel Gibson in blue war paint and a kilt.  But beyond the tourist tat and the tacky gift shops, what is the real Scotland?  What is the soul of the country, the hidden spirit that draws people back?

In this book, I will explore many aspects of Scotland.  I will delve into the history and myths that shaped the culture, as well as the superstitions and beliefs that still hold sway today. Parts of that are, of course, the ecclesiastic traditions, the Highland culture, and the various invasions from Ireland, Scandinavia, and England.  I shall talk about the food, the music, the people, and, of course, the drinks.  Some practical aspects to planning your trip, and your photography, are next, as well as some discounts and tricks to save some money.  And, of course, a nice big section on hidden gems, places off the beaten track, to get away from the busloads of tourists and find your own special places.

• • •

Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she's a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were. She loves to draw and to create things. She says it's more of an obsession than a hobby. She likes looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or seeing a fragrant blossom or a dramatic seaside. She takes a picture or creates a piece of jewelry as her way of sharing this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus she writes. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.

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Scotland Guide - Grab your copy here

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Thursday, 6 November 2014

SL Kotar and JE Gessler: Strange Bedfellows

We always enjoy welcoming back the amazing writing duo that is S.L. Kotar and J.E. Gessler. We first met S.L. and J.E. back in January when they released their first novel, Pirate Treasure, book one in the Kansas Pirates Saga. Book two in that series, Strawberry Fields, was then published in July.

Before that though, in May, we saw the launch of their new series, The Hellhole Saga, with book one, First Draw, and then in August, the second book, Audition for a Legend.

Today the Hellhole Saga comes to a close with what's probably the best book in the series -- Strange Bedfellows.

Let me just recap who S.L. and J.E. are --

S.L. and J.E. wrote for Hollywood. One of their earliest sales was to the Gunsmoke franchise -- Kitty's Love Affair just celebrated it's 41st anniversary of its first airing, 22 Oct 1973. What makes this episode so important is that it was the first time ever in which a kiss was shown on screen for this series. Until then, hand holding was as steamy as Gunsmoke ever got. It was a good old shootem up western, not a romance. But we all know, Kitty and Matt had a thing between them since the series first aired in 1955. Kitty's Love Affair also earned the franchise their highest ratings ever! Well done, ladies.

Just last month, Kotar and Gessler were awarded the following certificates of recognition from the WGA (Writers Guild of America), for their contribution as writers to "101 Best Written TV Series" for Gunsmoke.


S.L. and J.E. went on from Gunsmoke to write pilots for William Shatner, who gave S.L. her nickname, Captain. They've both written for a number of magazines and periodicals, and as medical professionals in their 'day job', the pair have also written some very important medical texts which are used in universities today -- Smallpox: A HistoryCholera: A Worldwide HistoryThe Complete Guide to Ambulatory Cardiac Monitoring and Full Disclosure Telemetry; and their book, Yellow Fever: A History, is due out later this year.

If that wasn't enough, S.L. and J.E. also wrote and published historical nonfiction -- The Steamboat Era: A History of Fulton's Folly on American Rivers, 1807-1860Ballooning: A History, 1782-1900The Rise of the American Circus, 1716-1899; and Riverboat: The Evolution of a Television Series, 1959-1961.

AND I hear-tell they have about 150 novels in a shoe box under the desk! Fortunately, S.L. and J.E. are slowly revealing some of these gems.

That brings us to Strange Bedfellows. As with the rest of the series, this story is set in the old west of Kansas, post American Civil War. A strange man shows up in Hellhole and Marshal Claw Kiley sees trouble surrounding the man. He's ordered him out of town. Hellhole doesn't need more trouble. He first agrees to let the man's wounds be treated by Dr Ward, but then he's got to go. While in Ward's care, he endears himself to the old doc who discovers the truth behind the stranger who calls himself Red. Will Ward help him through his troubles, or let his tormenters find him and do what they will? Will Marshal Kiley help, or prevent the doc from getting involved?  Perhaps it's not helping Red that's so hard to deal with, but the skeletons in Ward's own closet.

Strange Bedfellows is a fast-paced, western action adventure story that brings the period to life. Kotar and Gessler's voice pulls us into the story quickly and keeps us there, wanting just one more chapter. This series as a whole, pulls readers in an old west movie on the big screen with instant visuals (as if we're there) and great characters one can't help but cheers for, and boo. I'm saddened that this series has come to an end. I'd like to see it go on, episode after episode, just like Gunsmoke. But I know, given the authors' previous works, that there's some great stuff on the horizon.

As always, there's a free book on offer today. All you need to do is comment with your email address to put your name into the draw for an ebook copy of this book. If you can't wait, just click here to grab your copy.

• • •

The expression "holy revenge" might seem a misnomer, as it is often believed that vengeance belongs to the Lord. When a race of people are cruelly and habitually enslaved, however, freedom means more than emancipation: it offers the opportunity to redress wrongs in a more earthly court.

Then a man called "Red" arrives in Hellhole with an aura of trouble surrounding him. Immediately sensing his presence meant bloodshed, Marshal Kiley orders him out of town but not before allowing him to have his wounds treated by the doctor, Fiz Ward. Even more intuitive than the lawman, Dr. Ward is quick to identify the stranger as a Southerner – not merely a man who fought on the same side he did during the Civil War – but one used to money and status, marking him as a plantation owner. Easily guessing why the man is on the run, he further deduces who is chasing him. It only remains to fill in the details.

Although Red denies he is being hunted to ground by former slaves, his fear is palpable. Just as a drowning man clutches at straws, he seeks Ward's help, placing the doctor in a moral dilemma that not only brings out the ghosts of his own past, but places him in the middle of a tragic and tangled web that can only end one way.

The stationary was a pale blue, like a clear summer sky. The aura of familiarity clung to it, like must, although it had been a long while since the writer had composed a letter.

The page lay before her, naked, empty, and cloudless. It awaited only the touch of a steel-tipped pen, the scratching of devil’s black ink, the transmission of thought to paper, as easy, one might suppose, as rain issuing forth from ink-black storm clouds.

But as so often happens, the rain did not fall, and the land, parched for want of water, dried and withered. So, too, did the writer’s heart.

The woman had every excuse not to write, she told herself, adjusting the hand-knit shawl around her stooped shoulders. She was unsure of the recipient’s name; uncertain, even, how the missive would be received, if ever it found its way into the intended’s hands.

She shivered, though the late summer day was warm, not chilly. That was a symptom of old age, she imagined: being cold while others complained of heat. While not elderly by chronological years, the would-be writer was worn, not by the wearing away of decades, but rather from the constant erosion of seconds.

Working through the perfunctory task of selecting a pen, the woman's ever-active mind calculated her age. If the year were 1868, which it was, and the month September, then she was forty-two years old. Not ancient by most standards, yet she felt the weight of time pressing down upon her rock solid, New England frame.

Born of parents recently immigrated from Scotland, in the year of Our Lord 1826, Ada Carter had been a hale, hearty child, with a jaw jutting out two feet in front of her, if her father’s oft expressed words were to be believed. She was known for her temper and her ability to stare anyone - man, boy or woman - in the eye, and never blink before they did. The game was called “owl,” and at age five, Ada Carter was the owl champion of three surrounding counties.

The oldest of seven children, she had become, in effect, a second mother to her siblings. Although of hot blood and fierce temper, Ada was never heard to complain of her lot in life. Everyone, her parents included, were surprised, therefore, when she announced late one evening in June, 1842, that she had taken an advert out in several Western newspapers, offering to hire herself out as a governess, domestic or other position suitable for a “woman of dignity.”

No one had ever heard of such a thing. Yet, once the extraordinary announcement had settled in, her mother dried her tears, her father went back to sharpening the blade of his plow and the smallest Carter began crying. No more was said on the subject, and for all practical purposes, it was a dead issue.

Until the letter arrived.

Very little information was imparted to the recipient. A stage ticket was enclosed, along with seven dollars, cash money. “Miss Ada Carter” was requested to present herself in one month’s time at the residence of one Mister Adam Burnham, where she would immediately assume “such tasks and duties as befit a woman of dignity.”

• • •

S. L. Kotar and J. E. Gessler's first writing success was an episode of the television series GUNSMOKE. The episode, "Kitty's Love Affair," guest-starred Richard Kiley as a gunfighter who saves Kitty's life and then becomes romantically involved with her. This was the highest-rated episode in the series' 20-year history. They published an iconoclastic Civil War magazine called "The Kepi" for many years, specializing in new historical perspectives of the battles and leaders as well as presenting detailed articles on life in the 1860's. Their published works include a detailed account of the series starring Darren McGavin, "Riverboat: The Evolution of a Television Series, 1959-1961" and historical non-fiction texts including, "The Steamboat Era: A History of Fulton's Folly on American Rivers, 1807-1860," "Ballooning: A History, 1782-1900," "The Rise of the American Circus, 1716-1899," "Smallpox: A History," and a cardiology textbook, "The Complete Guide to Ambulatory Cardiac Monitoring and Full Disclosure Telemetry." Their book, "Cholera: A History" is due out later in 2013 and they are currently working on "Yellow Fever: A History," due out in 2014. Outside of writing and cardiology, their main interest is baseball; they are close friends with Whitey Herzog, the great Hall of Fame manager, who inspired them to move to St. Louis and they have rooted for the Pittsburgh Pirates for many years.

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