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Friday, February 28, 2014

Taking Tea with... Angela Verdenius

It’s a great pleasure to welcome an ‘old’ friend, Angela Verdenius to my tea table this week. 

Angela and I first met way back when my first books were published through a small epress in the US. This was in the days when epublishing was viewed askance by the mainstream publishers and as for self-publishing... well that was "vanity" publishing and no self respecting author would do that! There was no such thing as an "e-reader" and I remember reading ebooks on my Palm Pilot (remember them?). So when was this "dark age" - 2007...not even 10 years ago!

Angela is offering a GIVEAWAY of her latest book, Adam's Thorn (more about that later)

So Angela, before we start, George is wheeling in the tea trolley, what is your preference?

Hmmmm…would you cringe if I said white tea with four sugars?!  (AS chokes and clutches her throat... strong sweet tea, good for shock!)  LOL  Can I add how honored I am to be sitting with you?  We go back a long way, we’ve seen a lot of changes, and I always feel a sense of meeting an old friend when I see you at conferences.  My Mum has never met you, but she knows your name! (AS: That's lovely! Thank you)

Angela, as I said above,  we first met many years ago as “epublished authors” with a small epress.  Back in the days before ereaders, epublication was definitely considered a lower form of publishing life.  What changes have you seen over the last few years?

Oh, so much has changed.  Ebook authors are now accepted along with the traditional authors, ebooks are being published by mass market publishers, ebooks are seen as an alternative to hard copies, and really, ebooks have paved the way for writing in genres that may not have once been accepted, and allowed us to push the boundaries.  Big-name authors have their works available in both ebook and hard copy formats.  I think it’s made us all equal and respected as authors.

It wasn’t that long ago that ebook readers were only known to a few people I met, now just about everyone knows what they are and owns one.  People love having so many books on one device without having to worry about space to put paperbacks/hardbacks.  

Can I mention how I used to have to cull my book collection every year because I ran out of room?  Heartbreaking! (AS: I pretty much only read fiction as ebooks these days... apart from anything else, my eyes can't take print particularly late at night and with an ereader I can adjust font size)

Am I right in thinking you started with writing science fiction romance (your Love, Heart and Soul series)?  What was the attraction of science fiction and are you still writing in this genre?

Correct, Alison.  I used to write science fiction romance, and wrote 18 full length novels in the Love, Heart & Soul series, as well as two novellas (not related to the LHS series).  I loved the freedom of science fiction, being able to make my own laws and cultures, not being forced to write according to what we all know and accept as normal.  Basically, my only limits were my imagination. 

Currently, I am not writing science fiction romance, but that’s not to say I won’t ever write more books for the Love, Heart & Soul series, I confess there are still a few characters I’d like to revisit and give their own story. 

In more recent years you have been writing contemporary romance with plus sized heroines – what led you on to this path?

I felt that my voice was getting stale and I wanted to try a different genre to ‘freshen’ my voice.  I started writing a contemporary romance featuring a plus-size heroine, and so Doctor’s Delight was born.  From there I had other characters coming forward and wrote their stories, and it went from there.

I really enjoy the plus-size heroines.  They are real - hey, we BBWs are out there!  Love knows no boundaries, and that includes size.  I know there are men out there who love a woman for who they are, not what they look like, and these are the heroes I value and want to write and read about.  And there are women out there who want to read about ‘real’ heroines finding love, women with whom they can identify.  Not every woman is a perfect size 12 (Aus size).  The heroines come in many sizes, with varying degrees of issues and confidence.  One thing I don’t do is mention exactly what size the heroine is, because I believe every reader will see her according to their POV.  As for the hero - well, who doesn’t love a strong, handsome hunk with eyes only for you?!  Everyone deserves a HEA!

I am in awe of your productivity level! Are you writing full time?  How do you organize your writing into your day?

Oh gosh, I wish I did write full time.  That’s the dream!  I work mostly shift work, with only two days per week of ‘normal hours’, so I always write before work or after work (depending if I’m on a late or early shift) and all day on my days off and holidays.  TV is only watched if there’s a program I really, really want to watch.  I only read in bed (or at the kitchen table for a stolen few minutes). Basically, I love writing, but it is my second job and I treat it as such, which keeps me disciplined.  I’m hoping to one day work part-time and write part time to make one living LOL.  Even better if I can just write full time! I’m still working on that million-dollar bestseller!

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Read!  I read in bed every night, never fail.  And when I’m having a break between writing books (usually a week off before starting a new one), then I read as much as I can, and I also tend to get horror DVDs and do a one-day marathon run .  Oh yeah, and I have this habit of browsing the internet, seeing what new books my favorite authors are bringing out, checking out other author websites to see what they’re up to, browsing Amazon, Smashwords, All Romance eBooks and other book places, checking out what new horror movies are coming out…basically playing guilt-free catch-up!

About every 4 - 6 weeks, I spend an afternoon with my friends and we hire a DVD, go to a movie, or have an early tea (evening meal) at the Dome and chat until the place closes .  It’s catch-up time for us all.

And finally, your cats.  So many authors are owned by cats (including me). Tell me about your two furry feline “mewses” and their importance in your life?

"Evie" short for "Eve of Destruction"
I actually have 9 furry feline “mewses”, but the one who keeps me company the most when writing is Evie (aka Eve of Destruction), mainly because she likes to try and pick a fight with me by lying all over the keyboard and doing weird things to my screen (AS: I have one of those... I am sure he thinks his name is 'B$##%^' Nuisance!).  I discovered a new program I didn’t know I had thanks to Evie and her habit of touching things!  She snoozes behind the computer, rolls beside it, lies on the hutch and looks down at me, accepts kisses and pats, and fights with me - that’s when we start shoving each other.  Okay, I push her away when she decides to start messing around with the keyboard, and she slaps back.  It really degenerates into a shoving match between us, but I love it when she’s there!  My other little writing buddy is Abby, who often flops on her back behind my chair and snoozes.  Now and again Lily will wander in and nap on the chair which I pull up beside me for her.


My cats mean so much to me.  They’re my furkids and I love them heaps.  They make me smile, laugh, and even shed a tear when something happens.  They relax me.  I just can’t imagine life without them.

Angela's latest book is ADAM'S THORN, a contemporary romance with a plus size heroine and, my favourite, a spook old house!

The arrival of Barbie Declan in his town brought up a lot of bad memories for Adam.  A lot.

The calm, controlled cop had Barbie acting like a shrew whenever he was near her.  Talk about guilt.

Now she had not only sparks of dislike between them, but something growing a little hotter.  As if that wasn’t disconcerting enough…

…there’s something very wrong with the spooky old house she’s inherited…

ADAM'S THORN is available from Amazon, Smashwords (all formats), ARE and Barnes and Noble. It will be coming out in print shortly.

ABOUT ANGELA

I live in Australia where I am happily ruled by my cats. When not working as a nurse, I can be found at my second job - pounding on the computer keyboard bringing to life the characters lurking in my imagination.  Oh yeah, and drinking Diet Coke, playing with the cats and pretending I’m not procrastinating!

Reading has always been my escape, writing my dream. Horror, myths, legends, fantasy and history, there are no limits to the wonders to be found. And romance? Well, that adds the spice, hope and happiness ever after…

Join Angela and I in a discussion on the topic of the kind of qualities we look for in a hero....

Angela is offering a free Ebook Giveaway of Adam’s Thorn to a lucky commenter.

We like our heroes laid back and comfortable in their own fur....









Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Joyce Proell's BURNING TRUTH: Excerpt and Giveaway


I am passionate about supporting other historical romance writers and BURNING TRUTH by Joyce Proell is my kind of book:  a cross genre historical romance with a touch of a murder mystery. This is the second book in the Cady Delafield mystery series. The first book is A DEADLY TRUTH

Joyce is on a whirlwind book tour and I am one of the lucky stops along the way. 

She will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

To enter the Rafflecopter just click HERE



There’s no shortage of deadly deeds in 1881 Chicago as school administrator Cady Delafield and entrepreneur Doyle Flanagan plan their wedding. When one of Doyle’s workers is brutally killed he must use his considerable power to stop a mysterious enemy bent on destroying his reputation and business empire. But as Cady and Doyle struggle to keep their marriage on track, the murder victims might not be the only casualties.

Excerpt from BURNING TRUTH

April, 1881

 “Why, it’s outrageous!” Cady Delafield said with a laugh.

In the soft glow of the carriage lantern, she glittered in the familiar way which delighted Doyle to his very core. He’d missed seeing her bright smiles and playful attitude absent these past few weeks.

“It’s almost midnight,” she added and crimped her mouth in mock disapproval, but failed to mask her teasing. “Surely, Mr. Flanagan, you aren’t serious about traipsing about in a lumber yard near the docks at this time of night?”

“It’ll only take a minute.” Happiness strummed through his body with each hopeful sign of her recovery from the recent tragic events. She was plucky, determined and stubborn. But the death of three women and seeing a man blow his head off left a person altered. He knew this for a fact. He’d watched the man pull the trigger too.

“Besides.” He dropped a hand over his chest affecting a bit of melodrama. “Aren’t you the least bit curious to see where the master potentate, the supreme leader, the Great Poohbah—”

“Oh, please.” She thrust up a palm forestalling any more joking. “Great Poohbah, indeed!”

He chuckled and angled his long legs on the carriage seat so his knee leaned against hers. It struck him as unbelievable he’d known her only five weeks. Time enough to fall in love and fall he did with both feet crashing through the floor. His familiarity and ease with her made it seem as if they’d been the best of friends since childhood. Soon, when he believed the horrific events were behind them, when she no longer complained of nightmares or jarring flashbacks, when the world was again solid beneath her feet, he’d propose marriage. The notion made him smile.

BURNING TRUTH is availabe from Amazon, Champagne Books, Barnes and Noble  and Kobo

~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Joyce grew up in Minnesota and attended college and grad school in Chicago. After working in mental health, she retired at a young age to write full-time. Her first book, Eliza, was published in 2012.  A Burning Truth is the second in the Cady Delafield series. When she isn’t writing mysteries or historical romances, she loves to travel, walk, read, and do crossword puzzles. She and her husband make their home in rural Minnesota in her very own little house on the prairie. To find out more about Joyce, visit her website or Facebook page

DON'T FORGET TO ENTER THE RAFFLECOPTER and be in the running to win a $20 Amazon voucher!  CLICK HERE!



Friday, February 21, 2014

Taking tea with... Lyn Horner and some very polite cowboys...



Ty Hardin
A few weeks ago my front hall was crowded with highlanders and today it is cowboys. I love cowboys - does anybody remember BRONCO?  I had a huge crush on Ty Hardin...but perhaps I am showing my age! (See gratuitous image of object of crush!)


My tea guest is Lyn Horner,  hails from Texas and writes Western historical romances with a difference (a touch of the fey!) and hails from Texas. 

Lyn is offering a giveaway (details at the end of the post)

A huge Texas “Howdy” to y'all. (Boys! Watch those spurs on my Persian rug!).  Lyn, are you a tea drinker and if so do you have a preference as to how it is served?


Thank you, Ms. Stuart. I’m delighted to be here and, yes, I love tea. May favorite is herbal mint, but I also enjoy Earl Grey.

At first glance you appear to write Western Historicals, but what I like about your books, Lyn, is that you are yet another of my writer friends who has crossed the genres… Yes, they are Western Historicals but there is a strong element of paranormal.   What have you found are the pros and cons of writing across the genres?

Crossing genres is fun. I love adding a glimmer of psychic magic and Irish myth to my western romances. It lends a sense of mystery to the stories and makes them unique. However, it also makes them a harder sell. Some readers love that dash of something different while others don’t. A few have complained that there’s not enough of the paranormal element. Can’t please them all!d

You have written a series of books (The Texas Devlins) which follow the fortunes (and loves) of three Irish siblings who come to the frontier country, bringing with them a touch of the Irish “faerie”. What was the inspiration behind this series?

True, as descendants of a secret line of Irish Celtic Druids, Jessie, Tye and Rose Devlin
each possess a special psychic talent. Jessie has the gift of second sight, an ability to look into the future. In ancient times she would have been called a Druidess or Vate. In Darlin’ Irish, Jessie heads west in search of a man she’s seen countless times in prophetic dreams. My own experience with such dreams (scary, not romantic) inspired me to give her that gift. This in turn led me to endow her brother and sister with their own particular gifts.

Tye Devlin, oldest of the three sibs, is an empath. He literally feels other people’s emotions, a painful gift he has learned to block most of the time, though not when he crosses paths with a certain Texas cowgirl in Dashing Irish. Tye’s psychic power is straight out of science fiction. An episode in the original Star Trek TV series inspired me to give him that talent.

Baby sister Rose Devlin possesses the most spectacular power. She is able to heal with her mind by laying her hands on the afflicted person. Think of all the reported incidents of such healing, whether true or fake, and you’ll know where I got the idea for Rose’s gift. This ability draws leads a half-breed cowboy named Choctaw Jack to kidnap her in DearestIrish.

You are an indie published author:  What drove that decision and what are main advantages/disadvantages you have found in the experience?

I tried for years to sell my first book, originally titled Darlin’ Druid, to a traditional publisher. I had no luck, even when agented. Disillusioned, I took time off from writing to pursue my interest in genealogy. Then, in 2010, my dear friend and critique partner Sharla Rae urged me to look into Amazon’s Kindle publishing program. I did, and I self-published Darlin’ Irish in November 2010. Dashing Irish came out a year later, a prequel novella titled White Witch in early 2012,and Dearest Irish in April 2013.

The advantages of going indie are twofold. First, I have control over what I write. If I choose to cross genres, I can. Second, there are no gate keepers (editors, agents, publishing houses) to stand between me and the reading public.

Disadvantages are pretty much the same but in reverse. I don’t have an agent or editor to tell me when I take a risky turn with my stories, although I do have fantastic crit partners. Equally important, I’m not backed by a publishing house, meaning I must do my own book formatting, cover creation, uploading to various retail sites and, most time consuming of all, my own marketing. True, I can hire people to do these things, but that costs money and I’d still have to do a lot of book promotion. One thing to keep in mind, though: publishers don’t help much with marketing these days unless you’re a top tier author. (AS: so true!)

I can’t let you go without mentioning cats.  I am owned by two - the Kat brothers, Toby and Oliver, who I adore and like to think adore me but you wrangle six of them, how did you come to be adopted by so many felines and what led to the writing of “Six Cats in My Kitchen”? 


LOL! You got it right, we don’t own our cats, they own us. Actually, I’m mom to only three of the little darlings nowadays. The original six have all gone to kitty heaven, although they live on in my heart. My current brood are foundlings, just as all but one of the others were (AS: All my best cats found me!). What led me to write about them? Well, I carried a lot of built up emotional baggage. Putting it into words while talking about how I came to have six cats, and the role each played in my family, served as a catharsis. Besides, I enjoyed sharing my furry children with readers.
Lyn and her furry companions

Dearest Irish (Texas Devlins, Rose’s Story) is the third book in a western romance trilogy set in the 1870s. This unique series features three siblings who descend from a hidden line of Irish Celtic Druids. Each possesses a rare psychic talent they hide for fear of persecution. Dearest Irish stars Rose Devlin, youngest of the three. Rose has an extraordinary ability to heal with her mind, a secret gift that has caused her great pain in the past. She also harbors another secret, one she can’t share even with her brother and sister, one that threatens her chances of ever finding love.
Choctaw Jack, a half-breed cowboy introduced in Dashing Irish (Texas Devlins, Tye’s story), straddles two worlds, dividing his loyalties between his mother’s people and the family of a friend who died in the Civil War. Like Rose, he keeps shocking secrets. If they ever come to light, he stands to lose his job, possibly his life. Yet, he must risk everything to save someone he loves, even if it means kidnapping Rose.
As Jack spirits Rose away into the heart of the Indian Territory, she comes to accept his reason for abducting her but fears his nearness and the unwanted feelings he stirs within her. Along the way they’re tested by natural forces and individuals, both white and red, who revile Jack and scorn Rose for riding with him. But far greater challenges lie ahead. Rose’s healing power and courage will be pushed to their limits, while Jack finds the greatest risk he faces is caring too much for his lovely paleface captive.

Lyn Horner resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” – with her husband and several very spoiled cats. Trained in the visual arts, Lyn worked as a fashion illustrator and art instructor before she took up writing. This hobby grew into a love of research and the crafting of passionate love stories based on that research.
Lyn’s Texas Devlins trilogy blends authentic Old West settings, steamy romance and a glimmer of the mysterious. This series has earned Lyn several awards, including two Reviewers Choice Awards from the Paranormal Romance Guild, the most recent for her 2013 release, Dearest Irish. She is now at work on her next book. Visit Lyn's Website for more information.


GIVEAWAY:  A free Kindle copy of Texas Devlins 4 Book bundle. This is a boxed set of the trilogy plus the prequel novella. Anyone who would like to enter the drawing should either leave their email address with a comment or contact me direct: lynhorner@outlook.com  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Writers Life: Some thoughts on Plagiarism

“I use Grammarly's plagiarism scanner because you are only cheating yourself!”



As writers we live in fear of plagiarism...our hard fought words appearing under another writer's name. Plagiarism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as: “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

We are told “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and if we are honest with ourselves we are probably all guilty of the occasional spot of plagiarism… the unattributed cut and paste from Wikipedia for example. I think, and this is the lawyer in me, true plagiarism requires “mens rea” and “actus reus”… a guilty mind and a guilty act. It is the deliberate act of setting out to take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. In my time on the committee of a writing organisation I have seen it myself… a book where the characters names were changed and odd bits where the original said “gold” changed to “silver” but in all other respects the SAME book, the same words. The plagiarising author had taken someone else’s book and passed it off as their own. That is pure,unadulterated plagiarim!

Some famous plagiarists:

STEPHEN AMBROSE: In 2002 Ambrose, a highly respected historian and writer, was accused of plagiarising the work of a little known historian, Thomas Childers. In 1995 Childers had written a history of a B24 Bomber crew Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down over Germany in World War II. Ambrose acknowledged the book in the bibliography to his own book, The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany but it was discovered by Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard that large slabs of Childers book had been reproduced by Ambrose without attribution. Further investigations by Mark Lewis of Forbes.com revealed that other Ambrose books contained blatant examples of plagiarism, a career that began with his own college thesis. Sadly all this emerged just before Ambrose died of cancer and he was never held accountable. However his long, and distinguished career, was forever tainted by the stain of plagiarism.

This chart comes from the Weekly Standard's article about Ambrose, written by Fred Barnes

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_17198_5-great-men-who-built-their-careers-plagiarism.html#ixzz2sadBQNb3



KAAVYA VISWANATHAN: Kaavya hit the headlines in 2006, as a young Harvard student, when her book “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” hit the NYT best seller list. A $1million book deal and movie rights were on the table and then the allegations began to surface. Huge chunks of work from Megan McCafferty were found in the book. Kaavya apologised saying she had been a huge fan of McCafferty at school and hadn’t realised how much she had “internalised her words”. That may have been plausible had not other chunks of work by Sophie Kinsella also been found in the book. Viswanathan was allowed to complete her studies and now practices as a lawyer. 

TS ELIOT: (and this for me is a personal disappointment because he is one of my favourite poets) Eliot's greatest work “The Waste Land” is largely plagiarised from the work of a lesser known poet, Madison Cawein. Cawein’s poem, also title “The Waste Land” was published in the same issue as one of Eliot’s and contains metaphors that appear word for word in Eliot’s poem of the same name. Cawein could take cold comfort in the fact Eliot also plagiarised Shakespeare and other poets in the same poem! Such flagrant “borrowing” from other work has long been justified as poetic allusion to the work of the other authors. Cawein died penniless, unacknowledged and unappreciated while Eliot remains one of the world's "greatest" poets. (AS:  I am grateful to the TS Eliot Society for responding to this post... you can see their comments on this allegation against the great poet in the Comments section below)


Sadly in these days of the world wide web and the pressure produce books to feed an increasing appetite for “instabooks”, it is all too easy to borrow bits and pieces from all over the place and pass them off as your own cleverness. 

Don’t do it… just don’t! 

You are cheating yourself and you are violating another author’s work in a way that is similar to a physical violation. I have seen examples of blatant plagiarism where the only things changed were the names and although it was not my own writing (thank heavens!), it sickened me. When you are found out, you will be publicly humiliated and your reputation for integrity will be destroyed. No one will ever take your writing seriously again. Is it worth it for the sake of a few bucks?

And it's not just books... blogs for example. I have seen a friend's blog post reproduced almost word for word by another blogger without attribution. That is plagiarism.

So to avoid plagiarism:

  • Always attribute your sources in blogs and journal articles (as I have done below)
  • If you have written a piece of fabulous purple prose and you have an uneasy feeling it may not be original, use something like Grammarly's plagiarism scanner.
  • If you are under pressure to produce a book and the quick way out is to do a quick cut and paste from another person's book... just stop and think! Writers take plagiarism very seriously. If you are found out you will be subject to a disciplinary hearing and expelled, your reputation trashed. It is particularly stupid to think readers won't notice. If you are writing in a genre specific area, hard core readers will know!

For more information on famous plagiarists: http://www.cracked.com/article_17198_5-great-men-who-built-their-careers-plagiarism.html and http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2012/08/21/5-famous-plagiarists-where-are-they-now/ and http://www.onlineclasses.org/resources/top-10-plagiarism-scandals-of-all-time/ )


Friday, February 14, 2014

Taking Tea with...Maggi Andersen (excerpt and giveaway!)

It is always a pleasure to welcome a writer of gentility and refinement such as today’s guest, MAGGI ANDERSEN. Maggi is a fellow writer of cross-genre historical romance novels. If you like your Regency stories with a good dose of adventure, then Maggi is the writer for you. 

GIVEAWAY:  Maggi is giving away an e-book copy: A Baron in Her Bed –The Spies of Mayfair Series (Book One) for a commenter who can answer this question:  WHO IS LADY SIBELLA'S SISTER? (hint - the answer is in the excerpt!)

My dear Ms. Andersen come in, and let me pour you a cup of tea.  Do you have a favourite blend that I can provide for you?

Thank you so much for inviting me, to tea, Ms. Stuart. We drank nothing but tea in our house. My mother’s parents were both English. Tea is one thing I could never give up. English or Irish Breakfast tea is my usual fare. I like a good strong brew, with a dash of milk. I’m fussy about the cup too, no mugs for me. It has to be fine china. (AS:  Of course... George - the Wedgwood please!)

Today is Valentine’s Day… What does this day mean to you and do you have anything planned?

Celebrating the print release of Taming a Gentleman Spy with a glass of bubbly I expect. (AS:  I would join you but I am enduring Febfast at the moment... George - the sparkling grape juice!)

You are primarily known for your Victorian/Regency set Historical romances (some with suspense and mystery) but there is more to you than that. You also write contemporary mysteries/suspense set across the world and some Young Adult as well.  
Following on from my recent discussion with Anna Lee Huber about writing cross genre fiction?  Would you describe yourself as a ‘cross genre author’ and if so how would you define the genre and what are the pros and cons of writing across the genres (and sometimes all in the same book)?

Being a ‘cross genre author’, used to make it hard for an author to be published in the past. Not so today. I find it impossible to define my genre. Historical romantic suspense, or contemporary young adult romantic suspense, or contemporary romantic suspense with a dash of mystery? J Publishers are growing more accepting of books which aren’t sharply defined by genre, because they can often be fresh, exciting and innovative. In the end, I write what fires my interest, because if I don’t, it’s dull.

You now write full time… what did you do in your life before writing?

When I left school, I worked in a bank, which I didn’t enjoy much because it wasn’t a creative pursuit. Although I did learn to add up huge columns of figures. After I married, I did a course in home decorating, worked in a decorating shop, which I found uninspiring because most of the customers were very conservative, and I suspect I am not. I later worked as a secretary in my husband’s law office, renovated homes and created gardens while raising three children. I also went to university and studied two degrees as an adult student.

Who or what sparked your interest in history and what was the inspiration behind your “Spies of Mayfair” series?

I was a great reader as a child and young adult. I read all the Georgette Heyer novels and still return to them. She paints a fascinating Regency world inhabited with great characters. Victoria Holt did the same with her Gothic Victorian novels. I also read crime and mystery novels. And the first book I wrote was murder mystery with a touch of romance. I was writing adventure tales when I was in primary school. Who knows where that came from? Writing is a mysterious process.

 I love to discover quirky historical facts and learn more about the way people lived back in the past. At a time which wasn’t so far removed from our own to be unrecognizable. So much change took place in the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods. It is reflected in the art, architecture and fashion too, which are my interests.

John le CarrĂ© is a favorite author of mine and I love James Bond movies. It was during the Regency period that Britain’s spy network moved closer to the MI5 of today. The first of these spies was a diplomat, Lord Stuart de Rothesay. He served during George IVs rein. I wanted to write a blend of romance and intrigue incorporating the social mores of the Regency era. The Regency was a brief, elegant period in history, full of colour, danger, and inhabited by men and women who are almost larger than life. So I wrote the Spies of Mayfair. 

Maggi and her kookaburra friends!
You are a great supporter of the RSPCA and live with your own private menagerie (including a lawyer husband).  Tell us a little about the animals in your life?

We recently lost our beloved cat to cancer. At present, I’m feeding the local wildlife and the birds. We plan to rescue another pet or two when we return from holidays. I also belong to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Australia. Last year it celebrated 30 years of finding ways to help rescue and protect animals. They do terrific work.


John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn, is on an urgent mission to find the killer of his fellow spy. Has the treasonous Frenchman, Count Forney, returned to England to wreak havoc? Or has someone new landed on English shores to stir up rebellion in the Midlands? After visiting the young widow of one of his agents, Strathairn strengthens his resolve. A spy should never marry. And most certainly not to Lady Sibella Winborne, with her romantic ideas of love and marriage. Unable to give Sibella up entirely, he has kept her close as a friend. And then, weak fool that he is, he kissed her... Lady Sibella Winborne has refused several offers of marriage since her first Season years ago -- when she first set eyes on the handsome Earl of Strathairn. Sibella's many siblings always rush to her aid to discourage an ardent suitor, but not this time. Her elder brother, Chaloner, Marquess of Brandreth, has approved Lord Coombe's suit. Sibella yearns to set up her own household. She is known to be the sensible member of the family. But she doesn't feel at all sensible about Lord Strathairn. If only she could forget that kiss...

TAMING A GENTLEMAN SPY is available on AMAZON and all reputable on line ebook stores.

Maggi Andersen lives in the countryside outside Sydney, Australia, with her lawyer husband. Her study overlooks the creek at the bottom of the garden where wild ducks gather. In spring, motorists have to stop to allow mother duck and ducklings cross the road. Kookaburras, currawongs and a variety of other birds visit for a feed. After gaining a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing, and raising three children, Maggi now indulges her passion for writing.

She writes in several genres, contemporary and historical romances, mysteries and young adult novels. You’ll find adventure and elements of danger in everyone.

More information on her website, blogTwitter (@maggiandersen) and Facebook (Maggi Andersen Author)

An excerpt from TAMING THE GENTLEMAN SPY
Linden Hall Yorkshire, 1818


            “I trust we’ll bag a few birds on the moor tomorrow, Chaloner.” John Haldane, the 4th Earl of Strathairn, glanced at the guests enjoying the Hunt Ball in his ballroom. Bright chatter rose in the warm smoky air as decorative ladies mingled with the more soberly dressed gentlemen. “My chef plans a grouse dish flavored with juniper berries for our dinner.”
            “Excellent.” The Marquess of Brandreth raised his glass. “We will be out at the crack of dawn, I daresay.” He took Strathairn’s arm and drew him into a quiet corner. “I don’t wish to strain a friendship I value, John, but I must offer a word of advice.”
            “Oh?” Strathairn eyed him warily. He had liked Chaloner better before his father died. The man seemed to lose his sense of humor after inheriting the title.
            “You are often seen in Sibella’s company. Don’t get too fond of her.”
            Strathairn moved his shoulders in a shrug of anger. He glanced over at Sibella in her white muslin, talking earnestly to Mrs. Bickerstaff. “Your sister is intelligent and good company. I enjoy our conversations. Nothing strange about that.”
            “I struggle to believe it is just that. I may not be privy to the details of the work you perform for the military, but rumors do float about the House of Lords. You must admit that due to those circumstances alone, you would not make her a good husband.”
            Chaloner’s determination put him in mind of a robin with a worm. Useless to argue. With a sigh, Strathairn acknowledged that he only strove to protect his sister from possible hurt. “No need for concern,” he said. “I have no wish to marry your sister, or anyone else for that matter. I do intend to ask Lady Sibella to dance, though. Unless you think my waltzing with her will ruin her reputation.”
            Chaloner huffed out a laugh and rubbed the back of his neck. “Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t enjoy having to say this to you, John, but it befalls me as head of the family. Sib has a love of home and hearth. She looks for a husband who will sit by the fire with her at night. That isn’t you, is it?”
            “She deserves the best, and no, it isn’t me, Chaloner.”
*
            After a fruitful day in the fields shooting grouse, Strathairn and his guests made their way over the lawns to the Hall.
            The gamekeeper, beaters and handlers departed for the stables with the hounds while servants came to take the birds to the kitchen.
            On the terrace, Lady Sibella, in a gown the color of lilacs, sat playing cards and drinking tea with the other women in the late afternoon sun. Strathairn mounted the steps, carrying his shotgun over his shoulder, intent on returning it to the gunroom. “I trust you ladies enjoyed your day?”
            “We did, my lord.” Lady Sibella’s sister, Viscountess Bathe, smiled. “Or at least those of us who have not lost our pin money at whist.”
            “I see you had a successful day, my lord.” Lady Sibella eyed his gun with a faint shudder. “I saw your kill on its way to the kitchens.”
He smiled. “I hope you’ll enjoy our efforts once served in a tasty sauce.”
            “I expect I shall. It’s contrary of me, isn’t it?” Lady Sibella frowned up at him. “But please don’t suggest that all women are so.”
            He eyed the expectant faces of the other ladies and held up his hands with a laugh. “I wouldn’t be so bold.”
            “Perhaps you would like a cup of tea, Lord Strathairn.” Lady Sibella gestured to the teapot a servant was refilling with hot water. “You must be thirsty after your arduous day.”
            She well knew how much he hated tea, for he’d been forced to drink it at a morning call at their house in Eaton Place. She had naughtily offered to pour it into a potted plant when her mother was distracted by another guest.
            Her playful smile was delicious, and he couldn’t help grinning back. Aware of the sharp-eyes on him from around the table, he shook his head. “I’m afraid I must decline for I’m not fit for company. But, thank you.” He bowed and entered the house leaving them to resume their card game.

            Strathairn cleaned his gun and left it on the rack in the gunroom. He’d enjoyed Lady Sibella’s friendship like no other lady of his acquaintance. Her humor seemed so in tune with his and he often found she understood his thoughts before he expressed them. Damn Chaloner, he was such a stickler for convention.

Just a reminder:  Maggi is giving away an e-book copy: A Baron in Her Bed –The Spies of Mayfair Series (Book One) for a commenter who can answer this question:  WHO IS LADY SIBELLA'S SISTER?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A story for Valentine's Day... Elise Ackers

"Seated amongst all that beauty, Reese stared at the front of the last yellow envelope. As expected, her Valentine’s Day had been nothing of note. These letters – these love letters to strangers – were the only points of light in an otherwise overcast day. She wished that there were other letters out there. If not thousands for just as many wanting, deserving hearts, then just the one, intended for her."
(Excerpt from DEAR STRANGER by Elise Ackers)


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As Valentine's day is almost upon us... it's my great pleasure today to welcome a fellow Escape Artist, Elise Ackers with a preview of her Valentine's Day novella - DEAR STRANGER

Elise is giving away three e-copies of Dear Stranger in her Rafflecopter giveaway... Just click HERE to enter Rafflecopter.




A beautiful love letter to the most troublesome of holidays...

Soft-hearted Reese Ahearn is single for Valentine’s Day. Again. But that’s not going to stop her from spreading the holiday’s sentiment on the streets of Melbourne with short, sweet, anonymous love letters, left for strangers to find.

The last thing she expects, however, is a reply…


Buy on Amazon, Escape Publishing and all reputable online digital bookstores

About Elise:

Elise K. Ackers is a romantic suspense and contemporary romance author based in Melbourne, Australia. She is a 2013 Romantic Book of the Year finalist, print and ebook published with Penguin Australia, Destiny Romance and Escape Publishing, and known to do some pretty strange stuff in the name of research. 
For more about Elise and her wonderful books, visit her WEBSITE.

Read an excerpt from DEAR STRANGER

AND DON'T FORGET TO ENTER THE RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY: Click HERE

Friday, February 7, 2014

Taking Tea with... Jason Aaron Baca

It is a truism that we do judge books by their covers and this is more than evident in romance fiction. That cover has to be "just right"... I know myself what a tortuous business it is finding just the right image and how devestating it can be when you feel that the image does not reflect the story. In the world of independent book publishing there is now a service industry of editors, formatters, designers... and cover models.

Ms. Stuart's gentleman guest today is Jason Aaron Baca, who is the gallant hero on many a romance cover.  She must confess to being in a little bit of a flutter and may spill the tea while pouring it... and if you hear girlish giggling...

Mr. Baca, do take a seat?  Do you drink tea or do you prefer a coffee?

I’ll take the tea with a little honey please… thank you for letting me come sit in with you. (AS: My pleasure!)

I see from your website that you dislike boring questions so the challenge is on to find some interesting questions for you… Let’s start with how you got into the modeling business and what was the break that drove you towards being a cover model?

I got into modeling by accident. I was on location for a movie where I’d been a double for one of the main actors. The photographer of the film had pulled me aside and asked if he could take a few shots of me. It turned out to be my first big break into modeling. From there fast forward a good 8 years and my career was all but over when I’d happened to walk into a book store that had romance novels. I glanced over at one and saw a guy that looked a bit like me. I thought, hey wait a minute! This is something I’d never gotten involved in… From there, my mind was totally focused… It was in my heart, in my eyes , in my mind and it became part of my entire body. And it was at that moment that I wanted nothing more then to be a Romance Cover model!

I imagine it takes hundreds of shots to produce that one “money shot”. Can you describe a typical shoot?

Yes , you are correct, it does take quite a few shots to get that one that has all the great qualities the cover artists look for.. The lighting is just right, the attitude fits, the overall feel of the shot. There are so many photos that just don’t make the cut. And as far as how the shoots typically go, it’s hard to say because each photographer does things differently. Some will take shot after shot after shot in split seconds while others make sure the lighting is just right or get me to move more to the left or flex.

You have some wonderful ‘intimate’ shots with female cover models which are perfect for use on a romance book.  To get a reader to “buy in” to the relationship that is portrayed in the shot (sensual/tender/romantic), how do you and your fellow model approach these sort of shots?

Well it’s basically a business agreement the co-model and myself have. We meet with the photographer and art director and they give us some concepts to look over then we get into our positions and they take the shots. We both know that if they are going to have any useable material then we have to act as though we are in love or desire one another. A lot of people see these shoots of me in intimate poses with the models think we had a romantic involvement of some kind, but these are the people that don’t understand romance cover modeling so it’s strange to them. Its just like it would be strange to me to get onto a motorcycle and try to drive up a steep hill that is a ½ mile long in 15 seconds. See that to me is strange, but to those that are professionals, they are passionate about it. 

Do you have any idea how many covers you now appear on?

As of today 196 with about 7 pending. I still have a long ways to go to reach my ultimate goal in the business…

As a small boy if someone asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” what was your reply?

A professional baseball player. And that dream stayed with me all through my high school and college years in the sport.

Finally, if someone is interested in purchasing your photos for possible book covers, where would they go?

They would go to my website http://jasonaaronbaca.deviantart.com  when they see something they want, they then look over my instructions in the journal section of the site.  

And all about Jason...
  
Jason began his short film career in Nash Bridges (1996) in 1996. He continued acting and residing in the Bay Area before moving on to modeling. He was discovered by a photographer on location for I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) where he had been doubling for Freddie Prinze Jr.. Jason went on to pose for some of today's top magazines including Industry , Men's Workout, Men's Fitness, YMLA Magazine, Hong Kong Silk, Joe Boxer Int., For Women UK, InStyle Magazine, Playgirl, and many others. He has been linked to actress Jennifer Love Hewitt as well as a former Miss Florida.

In 2005, Baca began modeling for romance novel covers. As of Jan 2014, he has graced the covers of over 196 romance and sci-fi novels. Jason is known best for his candid interviews with numerous author blogs expressing his concern for smooth skin and maintaining good health.

In 2011, he appeared in Men's Fitness Australia, Exercise & Health Magazine, Men's Workout, Optimyz Fitness,Natural Muscle Magazine and Scene Bay Area doing various interviews on how to stay fit and younger looking.


IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PROCESS OF MAKING A GOOD COVER OR THE LIFE OF A COVER MODEL... JASON WILL BE ONLY TO HAPPY TO ANSWER THEM!