This & That

M L Buchman and I Own The Dawn + Giveaway!

Winners: Rachel and Heather!

My guest today is ML (Matt) Buchman, author of I OWN THE DAWN, book 2 in The Night Stalker Series.

I am a true romantic suspense lover so when I get a chance to read and review a new author, I’m always excited about that. Then I discovered ML were the initials for a MALE romantic suspense author and was truly intrigued. I’ve never had any doubt men could and do write fabulous romance and sex…I’ve been teasing Harlan Coben about coming over to the dark side for some time now — the man writes some awesome sexual tension in those thrillers! — but I have wondered how men feel about writing in the genre.

Matt was up for the task of writing a post on the subject, which I’ll share with you as soon as I share my opinion on his newest release.  Sourcebooks is supplying 2 print copies of I OWN THE DAWN for giveaway! Be sure to enter!

First, the book:


When a special mission slowly unravels, it is up to Kee and Archie to get their team out of an impossible situation with international implications. With her weaponry knowledge and his strategic thinking, plus the explosive attraction that puts them into exact synchrony, together they might just have a fighting chance.

Name: Archibald Jeffrey Stevenson III
Rank: First Lieutenant, Dap Hawk Copilot
Mission: Strategy and execution of special ops maneuvers

Name: Kee Smith
Rank: Sergeant, Night Stalker Gunner and Sharpshooter
Mission: Whatever it takes to get the job done


Pick up your copy today at Amazon | B&N



My Review Style: I’m not a reviewer who cares to rehash a plot. The blurb tells you pretty much what happens in the book. What I want to tell you is how well it’s done and what the book, the story and the author has to offer you as a reader.

Overall take: If you love romantic suspense, if you love hot guys and strong women, if you love emotion with tense action, you’ll love I OWN THE DAWN.

One of the first things that resonated with me–within the first few pages of I OWN THE DAWN–was Matt’s heroine, Kee.  I loved her. She is strong and confident. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to tell the “boss”, in this case an Air Force General, that she expects nothing less.  Softening these strengths and making Kee the loveable character I couldn’t turn away from are the hints of insecurity beneath the bravado and touches of self-deprecating humor.  She knows when to be professional and when to be casual. She has quirks and issues and brains and guts.  And, then we learn about her childhood, and we just lover her more.

Kee’s background looks like an earthquake-ridden sidewalk with weeds popping through every crack as if to draw attention to the imperfection and remind her of the painful events that created it. Only she never uses this as a crutch. In fact, she won’t ever discuss it. But the memories have shaped her and when she is faced with the care of an orphaned Pakistani child, the way her empathy for the girl affect both the child and Kee is a beautiful thing to watch. Some people prefer novels without children. I often write children in when they fit the plot and move both character and plot forward, and this is what Matt did with I OWN THE DAWN. The effect is a rich tale of inner growth on many levels.

Archibald, the hero, is a delightfully complex character. Easy-going on the exterior, he is far deeper, more observant and talented than his unassuming exterior lets on. I enjoyed watching his inner struggle when it came to the decision of whether or not to become involved with Kee as well as how he opened up as a person in the dynamic family type unit he, Kee and the child made.

Matt’s writing is clean and sharp and fast. Even when there is no immediate action on the page, I was deeply interested in the character’s stories. And when there was immediate action on the page, it smoked!  While I’m a fan of military stories, more in movies than books, I am definitely no expert with the language. And Matt’s book is packed with sleek, accurate, detailed information. Yet the way he delivers that information, the context, the setting, the dialogue, the action…it all makes everything completely understandable. I never felt lost. I never felt as if I couldn’t picture something or imagine a scene. On the contrary, I found his style of military speak rich, giving the story and the characters an authentic feeling.

Pick up your copy today at Amazon | B&N



Now, Matt gives us a little glimpse into a man’s experience as a romance author.

Thanks Joan for having me. Oddly the same day I received your question of a man’s prospective on the fine art of romancing authoring, I was walking down the hall at work. I was in my mode, I’m a middle manager in a building of about 400 people. So there I was, in my mode, as I was saying, being efficient and getting stuff done, walking down the hall. And someone I know well enough to chat with but not by name stopped me and said, “There’s a rumor that there’s a male romance author in the building. And someone said it was you.”

Slam! Welcome to my other life in the midst of a mad workday. “Yep! That’s me.” (I don’t actually say, “Yep!” but I like to think I’m a bit like by heroes who sometimes try on a little Texas when courting their ladies. I don’t know why, but they do.)

So we chat a bit, and the next question comes sideways as they always do, “Who are you to be writing a romance?” Nice enough, but shocked that this type A+ guy in the hall who is in charge of rebuilding a department that had slipped into a sorry state of affairs, could have any knowledge of such things.

“Yep!” It’s that guy-romance-author moment. Like in 1996 when I was one of 7 men amongst 1,800 women at my first ever writer’s conference, Romance Writer’s of America National. It was like walking into the local RWA chapter last year right after I moved to Portland. “Yep! That guy-romance-author moment.”

First off, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want a love story in your book, even if it’s not a romance per se. What’s the most fun I ever had? Courting my wife. What’s the best thing I ever did? Asked her to marry me. Happiest moment? Well, there’ve been a lot, but when she answered with a “yes” that could barely squeak forth, that’s way high on the list. (I’d thought through the whole proposal, exactly a year from our first date, standing on our favorite island, etc. One thing I didn’t foresee was what that little “yes” would do to me. My knees buckled and I sat down squarely on a pricker bush. My then fiancé transplanted it to a very nice home on our front porch where it lived for many years until a passing deer ate it.)

Second, I looked at this still nameless person in the hall and said, “Well, I’m the romantic one in the family. End of Wizard of Oz? Gets me every time. That scene of 4 seasons in Notting Hill. I can watch that movie 5 nights running and cry every time.” Of course, the real trick is saying all that convincingly while wearing a button down shirt and good slacks, and checking my iPhone while we’re hurrying down the hallway together toward our separate destinations.

A little bemused, I slowly shift gears from the life I’m working towards back to the one that I like well enough and pays the bills. It’s another drive-by-guy-romance-author moment. I can’t wait for the next one.



M. L. Buchman has worked in fast food, theater, computers, publishing, and light manufacturing. It’s amazing what you can do with a degree in geophysics. At one point he sold everything and spent 18-months riding a bicycle around the world. In 11,000 miles, he touched 15 countries and hundreds of amazing people. Since then, he has acquired a loving lady, the coolest kid on the planet, and lives in Portland, Oregon. For more information, please visit

Leave a comment here for a chance to win a free copy. Also, be sure to check this Contest page for a chance to win a free, signed copy of I Own the Dawn.

 Sourcebooks is supplying 2 print copies of I OWN THE DAWN for giveaway! Be sure to leave a comment!


The Fabulous BRENDA NOVAK with When Lightning Strikes!

I’m thrilled to welcome Brenda Novak to the blog to celebrate the release of her new Whiskey Creek series with WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES! Brenda is giving away a copy below PLUS she has a FREE novella available in the series right now! Link is included here!

It was 1996 when I attended my first RWA’s national conference. I’d just finished an 800-page behemoth of a manuscript that didn’t really fit the market and was five months pregnant with my fifth child, but it didn’t matter that my novel needed to be completely rewritten because I felt as if I’d struck gold. I’d been toiling away in every stolen moment I could manage while my husband worked and my kids napped but I didn’t know how to market what I’d written once I typed “The End”—until I found RWA.

A friend of a friend told me about the organization and their annual conference and insisted I attend, and I owe that woman a great deal of gratitude because finding RWA made all the difference. In Dallas, I attended every publisher spotlight I could fit into my schedule, gave my very first pitch to an editor and an agent, learned of the Golden Heart, a national contest which helped launch my career the following summer, and connected with the Sacramento chapter, which could offer support at home. After almost a week, I returned to my family absolutely buzzing with excitement. I could hardly think straight for the next month! I’d found all the information and contacts I needed in order to get published. Now I could see a way to make my dreams come true.

That was sixteen years ago. Since then I’ve written more than forty books, hit the USA Today as well as The New York Times, and gone to national every year except one. Thankfully, it still holds the same magic for me. What I do while I’m there has changed a bit. I’m now too busy meeting with other authors and my agent and editor to attend the fabulous workshops they provide (except the ones I give myself), but I still come home completely enthused about my career and books in general.

This year was especially fun because my editor and I were preparing for the launch of my new Whiskey Creek series and we’d just gotten a glowing review on the first book, WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, from Publisher’s Weekly:
Gail and Simon’s heartwarming romance develops slowly and sweetly. The sex is fantastic, but the best part is how Simon and Gail tease and laugh as they grow closer.

We were also preparing for the release a 150-page digital novella, a prequel, called WHEN WE TOUCH, which is currently FREE at all e-trailers. You can download it HERE.

Many of my readers want to know if these books signal a permanent change in genre—but they don’t. I’m still writing suspense. As a matter of fact, I’m currently working on the first book in a new very chilling (pun intended ) series set in Alaska. Visit my web site for more details at


Olivia Arnold is arranging the festivities — and it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done. Because she should’ve been marrying Kyle Houseman. They were together for two years. . . But her jealous sister, Noelle, purposely stole him away — and now she’s pregnant.

All their friends in Whiskey Creek know as well as Olivia does that Kyle’s making a mistake. His stepbrother, Brandon, knows it, too. But Kyle’s determined to go through with it, for his child’s sake.

Olivia’s still devastated but surprisingly, Brandon, the black sheep of the family, is there to provide comfort and consolation. The intensity between them, both physical and emotional, shows Olivia that maybe Kyle wasn’t the right man for her. . .But is Brandon?

Download your FREE copy here: | | Website


Gail DeMarco left Whiskey Creek, California, to make a name for herself in Los Angeles. Her PR firm has accumulated a roster of A-list clients, including the biggest box office hit of all—sexy and unpredictable Simon O’Neal. But Simon, who’s just been through a turbulent divorce, is so busy self-destructing he won’t listen to anything she says. She drops him from her list—and he retaliates by taking the rest of her clients with him.

WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES will be available on August 28, 2012.

Preorder your copy here: |

LAUNCH PARTY ANNOUNCEMENT: Come help us celebrate the release of WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES, the first book in Brenda Novak’s new Whiskey Creek Series, at the Barnes & Noble in Citrus Heights (Birdcage Walk Center across from Sunrise Mall) on Saturday, September 1st (Labor Day Weekend), from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. The first 100 guests will receive a goody bag full of fun surprises. Each attendee will receive 5 free raffle tickets for a chance to win one or more of 10 fabulous gift baskets. And there will be food and drink. If you have any questions please contact Danita Moon at

Come Join My Fan Club

Visit my website at and join my Fan Club. You will soon have the opportunity to purchase items related to the Whiskey Creek series–like a fabulous Black Gold Coffee mug and an Amos Auto Body T-shirt. There will be a town tour, a blog and much more! To join Brenda’s fan club, all you have to do is email or snail mail your receipt for WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES showing it was purchased before September 4th. Not only will you receive access to the password protected part of the site, but you’ll get an exclusive, limited edition set of ten Whiskey Creek trading cards autographed by Brenda. (You can send your receipt to Danita Moon at or Danita Moon 3825 Little Rock Drive Apt 88 Antelope, CA 95843.


One lucky commenter will receive a signed copy of WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES before it hits the bookstores.
The winner will be chosen on August 18th.

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Casey Dawes with Character Interview + Giveaway!

I welcome Casey Dawes to the blog today, a true believer in love and contemporary romance author of the newly released CALIFORNIA SUNSET!  Casey interviews her heroine, Annie, and offers a giveaway of her novel to one lucky commentor!

Divorced mother Annie Gerhard spotted rugged new bookstore owner John Johnson at the worst possible time in her life. Her high tech company is threatening to lay her off if she doesn’t move from California to New Jersey and her 15-year-old son David is causing trouble. The recession has hit Silicon Valley hard and there are no jobs for a middle manager, no matter how good she is at her job, even if she hates it. This is no time for romance, no matter how good the man looks in his jeans.

John has escaped Montana memories of a deceased wife and betraying girlfriend by buying an independent bookstore in California. He’s got bigger problems than falling for a spunky woman with control issues. Keeping a bookstore afloat in a recession and finding a home where he can stable his horse are all he can handle right now.


California Sunset is the story of how Annie works out her problems and rediscovers something important in her life—music. Of course, there’s a little romance going on, too!

Let’s catch up with Annie and find out how she’s doing.

 Annie: How I’m doing? How do you think I’m doing? They…They’re threatening to lay me off…or send me to godforsaken New Jersey!

Casey: Well, I’m sure New Jersey is lovely. In fact, I was born, grew up there and went to Montclair State.

Annie: But my life is here!

Casey: Surely you can find another job.

Annie: You’re kidding. In a recession? I’m going to have to move. I’ve always done what needs doing.

Casey: Finding a new job can be tough. I’ve been laid off a few times, too. How long have you lived in California?

Annie: I moved here from Michigan after high school. I was so in love with Fred. He’s my ex. I didn’t know he was an alcoholic when I followed him here. It got worse after I had David, but I wouldn’t give up my son for all the corn in Iowa. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve got to do everything I can to protect him and make sure he goes to a good school. Berkeley would be good.

Casey: How do you think David’s going to take the move?

Annie: He’ll be fine. He’s a good kid. Kid’s are adaptable you know.

Casey: I have two sons. When they were younger I moved them from Pennsylvania to California. The fourteen year old boy wasn’t very happy about it.

Annie: David’s different.

Casey: We’ll see. Say, we heard you met someone new today.

Annie: (sighs) He’s gorgeous. Muscles. Great smile. Great butt. You know what I mean.

Casey: I sure do. Will you see him again?

Annie: Don’t think so. I’m moving…remember?

Casey: You sound determined.

Annie: I have to be. Fred does the best he can, but he’s no financial help.

Casey: What about your family?

Annie: Oh. No. I could never ask them for anything. There’s only my mom back in Michigan. And she’s…well..she’s got her own view of reality.

Casey: Sounds like there’s a lot you’re not saying.

Annie: No use crying over spilt milk. Forward! We’ll be fine. I just wish it could be different. (sighs again) He sure did have a nice butt.

For more info and excerpts, check out Casey’s website at

How about you? Have you ever been laid off from a job?
What did you do?

Leave a comment below and one lucky person will get a copy of California Sunset.

Julie Ann Walker, HELL ON WHEELS + Giveaway!

My guest today is Julie Ann Walker, author of the sexy Black Knight romantic suspense series.  I was lucky enough to get a hold of an ARC of HELL ON WHEELS, the first in this fun series via Sourcebooks, and will be telling you what I think of it here today.  Then Julie will pop in with fun background on the characters of HELL ON WHEELS and we’ll be giving away 2 print copies to US/Canadian entrants!

First a little about HELL ON WHEELS:


He’s the bad boy she’s always wanted…

Nate “Ghost” Weller has loved Ali Morgan nearly half his life. But he’s done something so heinous he’s convinced she’ll never forgive him if she discovers the truth, so he keeps his feelings and his secrets to himself. Then she blows into town with a mother lode of bad guys on her tail and Nate can’t deny she’s in serious trouble. Unfortunately, he’s the only one who can help her.

She’s the good girl he’s kept at arm’s length…

Ali knows Nate as the most solemn, aloof man on the planet. Sadly, he’s also the sexiest. For years she’s avoided him, unable to stomach his dark scowls and brooding silences… especially when she secretly yearns for his touch. Now she must rely on him to save her from the malevolent shadows ghosting her every move. When the bullets explode, so does their passion. But can love really conquer all? Or are some things just too terrible to forgive?  


My Review Style: I’m not a reviewer who cares to rehash a plot. The blurb tells you pretty much what happens in the book. What I want to tell you is how well it’s done and what the book, the story and the author has to offer you as a reader.

Overall take: HELL ON WHEELS is an action-packed, addictive adventure; an over the top fun escape. Sassy, humorous, and edgy, this romantic suspense is filled with witty dialogue, fresh writing and realistic characters you’ll want to get to know.

When I read, I read for escape and entertainment. I read to live through another person’s world–the character, via another person’s viewpoint–the author.  And when I pick up a military-type romantic suspense, I’m ready for action.

Not only will Julie Ann give readers action and a front row seat behind the special ops curtain, but she’ll make you laugh your ass off while you’re there. You might even snort a time or two. 

Since I’m ready for just about anything in a romantic suspense starring ex-military gone private sector, and since I’m braced and prepared for a thrill ride, the quirky combination of elite contract government team with biker chop shop front in HELL ON WHEELS struck me as just plain fun and fresh!

Julie Ann creates a rich, interesting cast of characters I could definitely see–and anticipate–in future books, which makes investing in a series all the more enjoyable for readers.  And, oh, I do so love my tortured heroes. Poor, poor Nate and his guilt and pain over a previous loss tugs at the heartstrings, making the already steaming sexy man truly irresistable. The fact that he and his heroine, Ali, share that pain make their love story that much more poignant and satisfying. And when it comes to the love scenes with Ali and Nate . . . s-i-z-z-l-e!!!

When you’ve got an assassin, a power-hungry politician and a clock ticking the seconds away, you’re going to have action on the pages. Julie Ann enhances that tight pacing with humor and fresh writing.

Now, let’s learn more about Nate and Ali! Here’s Julie Anne…

Meet Nate
“Ghost” Weller and Ali Morgan!

Hidey ho there, my beautiful romantic suspense lovers! Julie Ann Walker here on the fantabulous Joan Swan’s blog, introducing you to the hero and heroine of HELL ON WHEELS, the first book in my Black Knights Inc. series.   

Who are the Black Knights, you ask?  They’re an elite special ops team operating behind the facade of a tricked-out motorcycle shop.  Their mission?  To take on the jobs too hot for anyone else to handle.

Boy-oh-boy, you couldn’t find two people more opposite if you were trying.  Physically, he’s big and swarthy, she’s small and blond.  But that only scratches the surface.  Because while Ali is a Chatty-Kathy who often feels her mouth is attached to a motor, Nate is the picture of stoicism.

He usually smashes his words together like his bank account gets dinged for every syllable he uses.

 Ali spends all day with kindergarteners, coloring, making Play-Doh animals, and wiping runny noses.  And Nate?  Well, he can frequently be found bellying through some seedy, third world country with his sniper rifle strapped to his back, ready and willing to take on the planet’s most ruthless villains. Ali is a cock-eyed optimist, prone to laughter and light.Nate has seen too much in his life, and he often falls into dark, brooding silences. But if there’s one thing we know, it’s that opposites attract. And, baby, these two have so much chemistry, they fairly light the pages on fire!

Thanks to Joan for having me on today, and if you like stories about wounded heroes and the women strong enough to heal them, go out and grab a copy of HELL ON WHEELS!


Deep in the heart of the Windy City, three things can be found at Julie Ann Walker’sfingertips: a keyboard, a carafe of coffee, and a sleepy yellow Labrador retriever. They, along with her ever-patient husband, keep her grounded as her imagination flies high.

Look for the next two books in her fast-paced series: In Rides Trouble (September 2012) and Rev It Up(October 2012). For more information, please visit her website or follow her on Facebook or  Twitter @JAWalkerAuthor 


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Sharon Clare Talks Paranormal World Building + Giveaway

My guest today is paranormal and historical romance author Sharon Clare. She’s sharing a little wisdom on world building in the paranormal realm with an example from her book LOVE OF HER LIVES.

First a peak at the book!


Calum and Beth are soul mates who have lived many lives together, lusting, loving and dying for each other. While their lives are often turbulent, their eternal bond is secure—or so Calum thinks—until Beth decides to live a life on her own. Left behind in the Upper World, he sees a wrongful imprisonment in her future, so he bargains with Finn, an elven trickster to return to Earth, rescue Beth and reclaim her heart. Unfamiliar with the twenty-first century, he must determine who plots against Beth while playing Finn’s sensual game, a game designed to awaken her repressed passion and keep them on the run together.

Beth has no recollection of their lives together and didn’t ask this sexually-charged stranger to come to her aid. When she takes a risk to help an abused woman, she is horrified to find her house ransacked and her life threatened. With a secret to keep, she takes the greatest risk of all—trusting Calum. Her unfathomable attraction to the man is as much a mystery as the man himself. Her life soon depends upon re-evaluating everything she thought normal as her risk-taking behaviour pushes Calum to behave like a controlling buffoon. Their eternal bond is only saved if Beth can then rescue the man who spanned worlds to rescue her.

Pick up a copy at Amazon or wherever e-books are sold!


This is Not the Real World

By Sharon Clare

I’d like to thank you, Joan, for having me as a guest today.

In paranormal fiction, I would imagine, most authors build their worlds a little from their imaginations and a little from folklore or mythology or ancient beliefs. When writing my first paranormal novel, LOVE OF HER LIVES, I wondered how soon a writer lets the reader know they are not in the real world.

I pulled some books off my bookshelf to see how some of my favourite paranormal authors establish there’s something not normal in their world.

Kelley Armstrong does it in the first line. In Personal Demon she suggests right from the get-go we’re not dealing with an everyday woman: ‘There was a time in my life when the prospect of watching a man die would have filled me with horror. Now, as I shivered beside the cenotaph, knowing death was coming, what I felt was very different.’

Karen Marie Moning also establishes her paranormal world from the first line in Spell of the Highlander: ‘Aoibheal, queen of the Fae stood in the catacombs beneath The Belthew Building, concealed by countless layers of illusion, a formless projection of herself, beyond any Sidhe-seer’s vision, beyond even her own race’s perception.’

In Eve Silver’s, Sins of the Heart, we know in the second paragraph with this line: ‘Terror had a way of making mortals scream.’

In Claire Delacroix’s Fallen, by the seventh line, we know we’re not dealing with a mere mortal: ‘Feathers were falling, surrounding him with a curtain of drifting white. It took him a moment to realize that they were his own feathers.’

I wrote a paranormal love story set in contemporary times, but based on the premise that the hero and heroine have lived many lives together. Unfortunately for the hero Calum, the heroine Beth has decided to live her life on her own, leaving him behind in The Upper World since he’s become a bit over-protective.

But Calum can’t leave well enough alone. He scrys her future and learns an unwarranted jail sentence is coming her way. Desperate to return to Earth and save her, he begs a human body from an elf with a sketchy reputation.

In chapter one, from the opening line, I tried to establish a setting where past lives, Upper Worlds, and elves are all common enough stuff: ‘In Seraphina, the high city of the Upper World where souls dwelt in tranquility and the Old Ones ruled with wisdom, Calum was seriously pissed off.’

I tried to avoid the dreaded information dump by giving just a little back story on the elves when Calum charges into the Akashic library to get the information he needs to conjure an elf:

‘Calum unclenched his teeth and pulled the seventh volume of Studies of Supernatural Worlds off the shelf. He might lack the power necessary to bring about a change from spirit to human, but that fact was nothing more than a speed bump. He knew where to get

He thumbed the pages to the section on the Alfar. Although the Alfar shared the Upper World, they lived in Alfheim, an immortal realm, and were not considered divine. His interest was in a particular Alfarian named Finn, a potent immortal who’d suffered a fall from grace for his propensity to indulge humans. Finn possessed the alfatofrar powers Calum needed to shift into the human dimension on Earth.’

By the end of the first chapter Calum meets Finn and plans to heed his warning:

‘Be warned, mortal, as a spirit your guidance in Bethia‘s mind was a mere whisper she could easily ignore—no more than the Old Ones allow. In human form, your whisper in her mind will be stronger, enough to bend her will. Not to be used to your advantage. You will keep your thoughts to yourself and stay out of her mind.” Finn‘s high cheekbones rose in a chill warning that was no smile. “Do not think to disappoint me.”

At least Calum planned to heed Finn’s warning, but the heroine has a way of pushing Calum’s buttons, and Calum has a little issue controlling his temper. Although he does try.

Who are some of your favourite paranormal authors. Could you see yourself living in their worlds?

Sharon is giving away an electronic copy of her book LOVE OF HER LIVES today. Simply participate via the rafflecopter entry form below!


Author Bio:

Sharon Clare fell in love with writing at the University of Toronto where she graduated with a science degree in psychology and professional writing.

Inspired by prose, she completed a program with the LongRidge Writing Institute in Connecticut. She has published short stories, art reviews, newsletter and magazine articles.

She continues to feed her love of learning and develop her writing skills with outstanding Toronto Romance Writing workshops, wonderful critique partners and inspiring books of course.

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Judi Fennell’s MAGIC GONE WILD Review & Giveaway!

My guest today is author Judi Fennell, and I’ll be reviewing her newest release, MAGIC GONE WILD, but first, I want to let you all know, that Judi is also a phenomenal formatter!  As in ebook formatting. Judi worked on my first self published novel, INTIMATE ENEMIES, and she was absolutely fabulous! So if you or an author you know needs formatting work for their self-publishing or ebook work, send them to Judi’s site: Formatting4U. I highly recommend her! 

MAGIC GONE WILD, Book 3 in Judi Fennell’s Bottled by Magic Series

Every Time She Uses Magic Something Goes Terribly Wrong…

Vana wishes she hadn’t dropped out of genie training. Now she’s determined to get a grip on both her genie magic and her life. But the harder she tries to fix things for her intriguing new master, the more she drives him crazy…

Except There’s Nothing Ever Wrong About Him…

Pro–football player Zane Harrison finally has control of the family estate and is determined to put to rest his grandfather’s eccentric reputation. Until he discovers that behind all the rumors is a real, live genie who stirs feelings in him he’s never known before. The more Zane tries to help Vana harness her powers, the more her madcap magic entangles his heart…

My Review Style: I’m not a reviewer who cares to rehash a plot. The blurb tells you pretty much what happens in the book. What I want to tell you is how well it’s done and what the book, the story and the author has to offer you as a reader.

Overall take: MAGIC GONE WILD is a laugh-out-loud, occasionally downright freaking hilarious read. With likeable characters striving for goals that not only mean something to them but that tangle with their very identity, every step they make affects their internal battles. As I turned pages, I rooted for Vana and Zane to overcome their obstacles to become the best version of themselves by breaking through the restrictions of preconceived ideas. I cheered for them to find strength in the other and use that to better themselves. Judi gives the reader these feel-good opportunities throughout the book, creating a sense of excitement and hope.

I found Judi’s twists on the whole genie storyline creative and fresh and so incredibly fun. I adored her secondary characters in the form of magical creatures like a talking bird, shivering dishes, a magic carpet and more, delightfully entertaining. They added depth and richness to the plot and I found them fascinating, hilarious and heartwarming.

Of course, what is romance without great love scenes? You won’t have to wonder in this book. The sex between Judi and Zane is luscious and sizzling. Judi writes these scenes with a truly magic touch – no pun intended. In fact, the entire book is packed with sexual tension.

Judi has a real winner here, and while MAGIC GONE WILD is the first Judi Fennell book I’ve read, it will definitely not be the last. Pick up this book for a perfect end-of-the-summer read.

Pick up MAGIC GONE WILD HERE: Amazon | B & N | BAM | Indie Bound

Judi is giving away an ELECTRONIC copy of her Once-upon-A-Time Romance, BEAUTY AND THE BEST and Sourcebooks has generously donated two giveaway copies of MAGIC GONE WILD.

Thanks for having me – and for mentioning I’m have a great time helping other authors bring their books to their readers in this great new world of indie-publishing. And I loved Intimate Enemies – kept me up way past my bedtime to finish it!

Hi everyone,

As Joan mentioned, I’m giving away a copy of my first indie-published book, BEAUTY AND THE BEST. This book has been in several online contest similar to American Idol for writers, the first being the aptly-named American Title. Then it was in the & Schuster First Chapters Contest where it was the only Romance to finish in the Top 20.

So why did I indie publish it? Well, it’s a bit of a story. NY publishing likes tried-and-true. Things they know they can sell. When something’s a little out of the box, they tend to hem and haw. You’ve seen the success of Fifty Shades of Grey – you can bet that those folks in NY who passed on it are kicking themselves.

Does this mean I have something against traditional publishing? Absolutely not. Witness the book Joan read, MAGIC GONE WILD. It’s my sixth book with my publisher and I’m hoping to do more of them. But the indie pubbing world has opened up a whole new market for authors who have the “books of their heart” that NY just doesn’t want to take a chance on.

BEAUTY AND THE BEST is definitely the book of my heart. It’s about Jolie Gardener, a personal chef by day and an aspiring romance writer by night who has found her inspiration in Todd Best, a reclusive widowed artist who hasn’t painted since the death of his wife. His love story is sigh-worthy and Jolie does a lot of sighing.

She also does a lot of wishing. See, Todd is just plain yummy in the looks department and a sweet man who only wants to be loved. Who doesn’t? Jolie most certainly does as she’s gone through the foster care system and come out on the other side determined not to repeat her mother’s mistakes.

Todd is no mistake.

With the help of a guardian angel who turns himself into a cat, Jolie and Todd get to find their happily ever after, but oh what a ride it is getting there.

Starting off with the fact that he’s naked in the kitchen.

Did that grab your attention? I thought it might. The opening line of this book is:

There’s a naked man in my kitchen.

And I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from it.

Here’s that scene – just a hint. You can see the rest on the sample/look inside feature on the online retailers. The book is available now at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | AllRomance eBooks | Kobo

I’m off to the Authors After Dark conference in New Orleans today, and will be on a plane for most of the day, but I’ll check in when I can.

Thanks for reading, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for checking out my stories.

May all your wishes come true!



There’s a naked man in my kitchen.

The thought registered just as the terse, “Who the hell are you?” had Jolie Gardener spinning around faster than a figure skater on speed.

He had the nerve to ask this? He of the broad shoulders, six-pack abs, and other, nice, um, parts…

Really. A naked man. In her kitchen.

Well, technically, she was in a naked man’s kitchen. Even more technically, she was in a naked Todd Best’s kitchen—and there wasn’t one hint of self-consciousness or embarrassment on his part.

Of course with that body, there shouldn’t be. The guy should flaunt his nudity for the world to see. Which, at present, consisted of one single, solitary person: Jolie Gardener, aspiring writer and personal chef extraordinaire.

“Well?” His hands slammed to his hips.

“You’re naked,” she squeaked, which, really, was the only way to state that kind of obvious.

“I’m what?” Mr. Six-Pack Abs glanced down.

Jolie tried not to—so unsuccessfully it was pitiful.

“Shit,” he muttered. “I am. I, uh, fell asleep last night…”

As butter sizzled in the new super-slick omelet pan on the top-of-the-line range, Jolie’s gaze alternated between some rock-hard abs and a scruffy eight a.m. shadow while her fingers danced along the speckled granite countertop in search of a napkin, placemat, oven mitt… something.

Mercifully, they scooped up a thick dishtowel that, in her world, would constitute a very plush, very luxurious hand towel from The Ritz or The Four Seasons, but which, here, apparently, was used to soak up water from designer flatware. She dangled it in the direction of Mr. Au Naturel. “Here.”

He placed an empty bottle of Jim Beam on the island countertop with a clink, then took the towel with a grunt. “So, who are you, what are you doing in my kitchen, and would you mind turning around?”

She turned. “I’m the new girl the agency sent over.”

“Hell. There better be some aspirin left,” he muttered beside her, his bare (of course) feet making no sound on the limestone floor.

She peeked over at him.

His eyebrow soared skyward.


She turned back to the sizzling butter. Which had started to burn. Sigh.

He rummaged around in one of the drawers as she carried the pan to the sink. Trying to impress the new boss on her first day with his favorite omelet ranchero and she burned the butter. Not good, but then, it wasn’t exactly her fault because nowhere in those papers she’d signed with her employment agency, Domestic Gods & Goddesses, was mention made of an optional dress code. And she didn’t care how much they were paying her, nudity did tend to throw one off. As for the alcohol-before-breakfast debacle, she wasn’t even going to address that. His rudeness said it all.

And here, she’d been worried about making a good impression on him.

A click of plastic bottle cap followed by a shake of the bottle, the fridge opening, a gulp, then Naked Guy sighing punctuated the silence before she turned on the faucet. She cleaned out the pan, all the while the Naughty Girl side of her brain screaming, “Turn around!” with the other, Jolie side, going, “You want to keep this job?”

Self-preservation being the backbone of her existence since being dumped into the foster care system, she decided to listen to the Jolie side—no matter how much groaning Naughty Girl did.

Naughty Girl, however, couldn’t resist a peek, and was rewarded with a swish of his longish golden hair, a flex of his well-defined arm, and an accompanying sizzle to her own nerve endings.

So not good. Jolie had known he was a hunk before she accepted this position. Had had quite the crush on him, too. How could she not? The guy had been plastered all over every magazine in the country for years, most especially here in his hometown.

Todd Best. The Best, as the media had dubbed him. And rightfully so. The man’s landscape paintings were hanging in every high-end hotel, public library, and courtroom in the country. Even the White House, for Pete’s sake. Not that she had an eye for art, but when a painting looked like the scene down the road and made her think she was standing there, feeling the leaves rustling by, smelling the fresh cut grass, hearing the birds singing in the trees and the ducks quacking on the pond, the whole set-up, that, to her, was talent.

And, of course, there’d been his fairytale marriage. But then, sadly, his wife had died suddenly and he’d moved out of their home, turned the reins of his company over to his brother, and put down his paint brushes.

Yes, Jolie had known exactly who she’d be working for. That’d been half the incentive.

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Sophie Jordan with Lessons From a Scandalous Bride!


Sophie Jordan is here to give us lessons from her new release LESSONS FROM A SCANDALOUS BRIDE. How yummy is that?

She’s also giving away a signed copy of LESSONS to one random commenter!

Before our lessons start, let’s look at…



A life can change in an instant . . .

No one knows this better than Miss Cleopatra Hadley, who went from poverty to plenty when she discovered one of England’s richest men was her true father who wanted her to share his wealth . . . if she married into the upper echelons of Society. A high price to pay for someone whose mother taught her just how dangerous a marriage could be.

An imposing yet impoverished Scots nobleman, Lord Logan McKinney knows he must wed some vapid title-hunter with a substantial dowry in order to restore his once-thriving estate. Having the vibrant Cleo nearby, however, makes his task even more unpalatable for she tempts him like no other woman . . . just as he’s precisely the sort of man she most fears: exciting, unpredictable, fiercely passionate. But when attraction proves too powerful, they succumb to a kiss that quickly leads to lessons too scandalous for even the darkest nights . . .

Pick up your copy here: |

Now…Sophie teaches…

7 LESSONS from Cleopatra Hadley, the heroine of LESSONS FROM A SCANDALOUS BRIDE:

1) Avoid virile, attractive young men….

2) When a virile young man proposes, you’ve clearly ignored the first lesson. Run far away!

3) Make clear your interest in “older” gentleman … the more infirm the better…

4) Do your homework. Make sure the elderly, infirm gentleman you’ve got your sights on isn’t a letch …

5) Never find yourself alone in a garden with a aforementioned virile, handsome, young man.

6) If the aforementioned virile, young handsome man happens to possess a deep Scottish brogue that makes your toes curl … run away faster! FASTER, I say!

7) Whatever you do, don’t let the virile, young Scottish man KISS you …. if you do, all may be lost …

Tell Sophie what you love about historical romance and enter to WIN a copy of LESSONS!

Sophie Jordan took her adolescent daydreaming one step further and penned her first romance in the back of her high school Spanish class. This passion led her to pursue a degree in English and History. Sophie is a USA Today and New York Times bestseller. She also writes young adult fiction for HarperTeen and contemporary paranormals for Pocket.

Sophie resides in Houston with her family and loves to hear from readers. To learn the latest information about Sophie and her books, follow her on facebook and twitter or visit her website.

Alana Loren, New Release Excerpt + Giveaway!

I met Alana in the Colorado mountains between Denver and Boulder during a Margie Lawson Immersion Master Class and she’s here today to tell us about her new romantic suspense series–Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer Series! Alana has utilized her many years as an attorney in crafting reality into these novels and she’s also giving away one copy of each book, CONVICTION OF THE HEART and SECOND CHANCES. Plus, there are many ways to win on past blogs throughout the tour as well!

Here’s Alana!!

For two months, I’ve been sharing bits of myself and my stories out here in the blogosphere, and I’ve met so many lovely readers AND writers. The Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers blog tour has definitely made the rounds across America, Down Under and to the United Kingdom and back a couple of times, talking about the stories and the wonderful city of Pittsburgh, where they’re set.

As a lawyer, I have a window into my clients’ lives, often at a time in their life when nothing seems to be going right. It’s my job to help them navigate treacherous waters as the family life they’ve always known sinks beneath the waves and must be recovered. Sometimes that turmoil reaches over into my own world—as I said earlier in the tour, there is a bullet hole in my office window. I’ve been threatened over the phone, and even by one idiot who was stupid enough to write it down. People who feel desperate, like they’re losing everything, tend to act desperate, too. I hope I’ve brought that sense of urgent danger to these two romantic suspense stories.

In CONVICTION OF THE HEART, family law attorney Suzanne Taylor understands her clients’ problems—her own husband left her with two babies to raise alone. Now that they’re teenagers, her life is full. The last thing she wants is the romantic attentions of a police lieutenant, no matter how good-looking.

Lt. Nick Sansone is juggling the demands of a new promotion, and doesn’t need complications either. But when he sends a councilman’s battered wife to Suzanne for help, he realizes he wants to connect with the lovely, prickly lawyer on more than a professional level.

They are soon confronted with a different battle, when the abused woman’s husband threatens retribution. The powerful, well-connected councilman can damage both their careers—not to mention hurt those they love. Can they bend enough to admit they need each other in a time of crisis? Or will a husband’s revenge take them down before they ever get a chance?

(see the trailer: )

In SECOND CHANCES, Inessa Regan, a 10-year associate at a Pittsburgh law firm, gets a pink slip when the economy tanks. Insecure, her pride wounded, she flounders helplessly until she meets Kurtis Lowdon, a man 15 years younger than she, an Iraq War veteran with cancer. He helps her take the first steps back from the pit of despair after she loses everything that defines her.

First as her client, then as her landlord, then as her partner, Kurt shows her the power of believing in oneself. Their journey is tainted with secrets from Kurt’s own past, as well as some of the horrors of war that have followed Kurt and his friends home from overseas. When his cancer returns, she must take control of her own life and fight to survive. Can the lessons he’s taught her keep her strong enough to survive? How much will she risk to save him?

(See the trailer: )

The series has more strong women to share, more trials to get through, in the coming years. Thanks so much to Joan Swan and all the authors who’ve allowed me to share their blog space on this adventure! I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from CONVICTION OF THE HEART, in a courtroom scene where Suzanne has just gotten her client Maddie Morgan a restraining order against her abusive councilman husband:

          The judge took a recess. As he left the bench, Suzanne saw smug satisfaction cross Morgan’s face, and the look he gave Maddie, the one that said “You’ll be back.”

          The only minor blessing was that Maddie hadn’t seen the look. Through the whole hearing, she’d stared into her lap, where her hands twisted and pinched each other, white with tension. Even in a $500 suit and shoes at least half that, the woman hadn’t had the courage to do more than whisper an answer to anything the judge asked her.

          Suzanne stood as the courtroom cleared, doing the best she could to remain a physical barrier between the Morgans, despite her own distaste for the man. Frank Rosenblatt packed his papers into his briefcase without saying anything further to his client, ignoring Greg’s penetrating stare at the other table. Those eyes, so full of passion—be it obsession or hatred—had the power to frighten Suzanne. She didn’t want Maddie to have to deal with them.

          “Call me Tuesday,” Frank murmured to his client, then after a nod to Suzanne, he left the courtroom. As soon as he’d cleared the door, Greg walked right up to Suzanne, perhaps a foot from her. Well within arms’ reach. It was all she could do not to shove him away.

          “Don’t think you’ve won here, counselor. Our dance has scarcely begun. I’m going to take that bitch down. But that’s not all. You chose the wrong side in this case. I’ll destroy you, and yours. All of you.”

          Even before she faced him, Suzanne could feel his presence, a red-hot ball of anger. Since she didn’t have Maddie’s expensive wardrobe to act as a shield, she’d have to wing it. She turned slowly and looked Greg Morgan in the eye.

          “I’ve heard that speech before…where was it? Oh, yeah. The Wizard of Oz. ‘You and your little dog, too.’ As I recall, that character didn’t survive till the happy ending.”

          His hand, closed into a fist, came open as she finished speaking, and for a moment she thought he was going to hit her right there in court. She didn’t flinch, though, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of knowing he could get to her. She glanced inside the bar for the broad-shouldered bailiff, but he was occupied, flirting with the court clerk. By the time she looked back at Morgan, he’d stepped back with a wide smile.

          “Someone’s not going to get out alive here. That much is true.”

          He started to whistle then, and turned away, walking out of the courtroom as if he had no care in the world. Frozen, she watched till the door closed behind him. A little whimper behind her caught her attention, along with the shout of someone in the gallery. Maddie had fainted.

Last chance to win!




The first and Second books of the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer Series!

Simply leave a comment to enter!

Come by the tour blogs or live booksignings and leave a comment to be entered in a drawing—at the end of the tour, Alana will give away one ebook copy of each book and one paperback copy of each book—Four lucky winners!

Check out all the blog tour website stops at



About Alana:

Alana Lorens (aka Barbara Mountjoy) has been a published writer for over 35 years, including seven years as a reporter and editor at the South Dade News Leader in Homestead, Florida. Her list of publications includes the non-fiction book 101 Little Instructions for Surviving Your Divorce, published by Impact Publishers in 1999, stories in A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women, in December 2008, and A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Parents, in June 2009. Her Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series (as Lyndi Alexander) is available from Dragonfly Publishing; THE ELF QUEEN in 2010, THE ELF CHILD in 2011, and THE ELF MAGE in 2012.

Her newest release (as Alana Lorens) is CONVICTION OF THE HEART, in the Crimson Rose line from The Wild Rose Press, her sixth published novel, which will be followed in July 2012 with SECOND CHANCES, a women’s fiction with romantic elements story from Zumaya Publications. The Wild Rose Press is also publishing her contemporary romance novella THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE later this summer.

When she’s not busy writing, practicing law or teaching, she takes care of a husband and a bunch of kids and blogs on a variety of subjects, including autism, science fiction and life at Awalkabout.

Excerpt & Giveaway with Marquita Valentine!

Ready for some summer fun? I’m excited to have a fresh, fun author with me today! Marquita Valentine writes contemporary romance, and shares an excerpt of her recent release, TWICE TEMPTED! You’ll quickly see Marquita has an inviting voice and enjoyable sense of humor.

This is a fabulous, fresh summer read to pick up TODAY!!

But if you’re willing to wait to find out if you’ve won…Marquita is giving away 2 copies today! Lots of ways to participate!


Born into wealth and power, Christian Romanov is Hollywood’s favorite bad boy with a golden touch…until the day his agent receives pictures of the movie star celebrating his birthday in a not-so-legal way. Now he’s been ordered to find a small-town girl to be seen with in order to improve his partying image. He agrees, but for an entirely different reason-to protect the reputation of an organization that helps get teen off the street and back into the school. Not only is he the anonymous donor that’s been solely supporting the organization since its inception, he’s slated to be their newest spokesman.

What happens in Vegas,

Zoe Ambrose is a hopeless romantic masquerading as a realist. But she’s also a successful novelist, trying to fit herself into a staid life when what she craves is the adventure she found one night in the arms of a playboy who never knew her name. When her successful crime series is optioned by a major studio, she travels to Las Vegas to find that the prince of her fantasies and single night of pleasure is the main contender for the male lead. But for four years Zoe has been publicly eviscerating the man who left her stranded that night—he’s the villain in her series! Now the movie star doesn’t recognize her, and Zoe is determined to protect her heart this time.

Doesn’t Stay in Vegas.

When Christian braves the small town of Holland Springs and Zoe’s overprotective family to win the girl of his dreams, he finds that his Hollywood skills might not cut it—and learns a shocking truth he never imagined. Can he tempt her again and finally give her the epic love story she has refused to write for herself?

GET IT! Amazon | B&N


He pushed away from the wall, moving toward her. “Anyway, who are you to lecture me about spontaneity? I bet you’ve never done a crazy thing in your life. Hell, you probably sit in church every Sunday in a pure white dress, thinking pure white thoughts while some dumbass of a boyfriend is too busy to notice the naughty lingerie you’re wearing underneath.” His lashes lowered over his eyes, giving them a slumberous, sexy quality as he added, “And you do nothing about it.”

Had he hacked into her email account and read her messages to Melanie? His assessment of her relationship with her ex was so close to the truth that she wanted to throw her purse at him again. On purpose and at his head.

“I can be spontaneous,” she insisted.

“You need to let me spontaneously screw you.”

“Seriously?” She shoved a finger at his muscular chest. “You need to spontaneously combust.”

“Still not impressed,” he said, catching her hand with his large one. A thrill of heat emanated from where he touched her. “You can do better.”

“I spontaneously got in here with you, didn’t I?”

A smirk fit his lips as a teasing light entered his eyes. “Yeah, riding in an elevator with a man is so spontaneous. Someone alert Perez Hilton.”

“You… you.” She smacked her palm against her dress. Her purse fell to the floor with a thud, but she was beyond caring about something so trivial. “You are so irritating. You drive me insane with your cocky ego and dumb pick-up lines. You make me want to… to just… I want to…” This was her chance. She could tell him exactly what she thought of him. Tell him exactly what a pure asshat he was and let him fend for himself, no matter how nicely he asked her to help him.

He leaned over, lips parted in obvious invitation and she took a small step closer. He tugged her even closer. Heat from his body touched hers. Oh, God. All thoughts of telling him anything dissolved like sugar in hot tea.

TWICE TEMPTED, available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble (e-book)

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment to enter, and Marquita will give away two copies of Twice Tempted (e-book only) to randomly chosen winners!

Marquita Valentine writes small town romances that are anything but small. Lisa Kleypas, Carly Phillips and Rachel Gibson are among her favorite contemporary authors. Marquita met her husband aka Hot Builder at Sonic when they were in high school. She suggests this location to all of her single friends in search of a good man — and if that doesn’t work, they can console themselves with cheesy tatertots. She lives in North Carolina in a very, very small town with Hot Builder and their two children.

You can find Marquita all over the internet:

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Pamela Clare – The Making of a Book Trailer

Today I’m thrilled to have my Rock*It Reads sister, Pamela Clare, with me celebrating her new release, DEFIANT.  Pamela has a fabulous story of the making of her book trailer or DEFIANT which she’s sharing today…along with a giveaway of the book! Enter below via the Rafflecopter widget!



Major Connor MacKinnon despises his commander, Lord William Wentworth, beyond all other men. Ordered to rescue Wentworth’s niece after the Shawnee take her captive, he expects Lady Sarah Woodville to be every bit as contemptible as her uncle. Instead, he finds a brave and beautiful lass in desperate peril. But the only way to free Sarah is for Connor to defeat the Shawnee warrior who kidnapped her—and claim her himself.

Torn by tragedy from her sheltered life in London, Lady Sarah is unprepared for the harshness of the frontier-or for the attraction she feels toward Connor. When they reach civilization, however, it is she who must protect him. For if her uncle knew all that Connor had done to save her, he would surely kill him.

But the flames of passion, once kindled, are difficult to deny. As desire transforms into love, Connor will have to defy an empire to keep Sarah at his side.

Pick up Definat at AMAZON


Here’s Pamela…

I’ve always been frustrated with book trailers. As much as I’d like to see other authors’ books come to life — and as much I’d love to be able to bring my own characters to life, there’s only so much you can do with a trailer.

I’ve put together trailers since the release of my third I-Team novel, Unlawful Contact. In that instance, I got a photographer, an Army officer, and my good friend Libby together to re-enact Marc Hunter’s escape from prison one frame at a time. The Army officer let me cuff him, then went through the steps of escaping, even pointing his firearm — unloaded, of course — at Libby’s head. (I have very good friends.)

For Naked Edge, I used stock photos of sexy models and of Colorado to tell the story of Kat James and Gabe Rossiter. For Breaking Point, it was stock photos of Mexico, which I used to illustrate Natalie Benoit and Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride’s escape from a cartel prison.

But each time, it was the same thing: still images interspersed with carefully chosen text and canned music. Not very exciting.

It was after my son Benjamin Alexander had finished putting together another such trailer for my new release, Defiant, which tells the story of Connor MacKinnon, that he came to me and suggested we try shooting a live-action trailer. On deadline with my next I-Team book, I couldn’t quite imagine how we’d get the time — or the actors — to manage this.
But then fate seemed to take over.

Within a span of a few days, my friend Jenn LeBlanc of Illustrated Romance (search #StudioSmexy on Twitter) texted me with a photo of a sexy guy and a one-word message: “Connor?” And the next thing I knew Benjamin and I were getting up very early on a Saturday to meet Jenn and her crew — Cora Kemp and sexy model Karl Biermann — for a day of shooting.

We took some props including my Brown Bess 1757 musket, lead balls (ammo for the gun), a powder horn, a leather medicine bag to use as a parfleche, and some other odds and ends.

Now, when you’re in public and your plan for the day is to get someone mostly naked in a public place and to brandish large a firearm, you do wonder whether you’re going to end up getting arrested and making very awkward phone calls to family. We had this in mind as we reached the lake and hiked back to a less public beach. While Jenn, Benjamin and Cora talked about lighting, Karl took off his clothes, stripping down to a pair of swim trunks, and walked into the water.

God, I love my job!

Okay, I’ll admit it. I blushed. Yes, I blushed. I’m not used to watching sexy men just strip under the bright blue sky. Watch Karl bare all that delicious muscle and velvety skin pretty much erased every coherent thought from my head as hormones took over. I wondered for a few minutes how I was going to get through the day without acting like a 16-year-old in the midst of her first crush.

The water portion of the shoot lasted for close to an hour. There was chest washing, water trickling over pecs and abs, biceps washing. I gave Karl an overview of the story and what the hell Connor would be doing in a lake — taking a bath to wash away the blood of battle, it so happens — and then Benjamin coached Karl through some shots based on that bathing scene. It’s a good thing Benjy was directing, because I love men in water and would likely have kept reshooting those scenes until Karl’s toes turned to prunes.

While this was going on, Jenn was live tweeting it to an audience of our readers, who were waiting with photos on my Facebook page and on Twitter with the #StudioSmexy hashtag.

Then we drove high in the mountains to get some forest shots of Karl as Connor MacKinnon the Ranger. Now, a Colorado forest looks nothing like a forest from upstate New York, but we couldn’t replant the whole thing. We had to make it work. We got out our props, had Karl switch from swim trunks to breeches, and got out Bess — my musket.

Benjy directed, while Jenn took stills, and Cora helped with lighting, using a “bounce” reflector to direct sunlight where it was needed. And what did I do? I drew the tattoos on Karl’s arms. This was not a hardship for me. I confess that I rather enjoyed it.

The forest shoot lasted the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon as Karl was put through the paces of being Connor MacKinnon. Even though the costume was not historically accurate and the whole operation was ultra-mega-low-budget, there came a moment where Karl was running full-tilt through the forest when both Jenn and I got goose bumps.

There running through the trees was Connor MacKinnon in the flesh. As Jenn later wrote on Facebook, it was like being in the forest with my muse.

Karl took the job very seriously, doing everything that was asked of him and handling the physical demands of it well. Fortunately, he has firearms experience, so we didn’t have to show him how to hold the musket. Working with people who’ve never held a gun and making it look natural is a filmmaker’s nightmare. We didn’t have to deal with that.

We got home after having way too much fun and looked at the footage. And then it dawned on us that we could do more.
We met a few days later for pick-up shots in Jenn’s Denver studio, adding model Derek Hutchins to the mix to play the part of Lord William Wentworth. Karl wore what he’d worn in the forest scenes plus a period accurate-ish shirt. Derek was self-sacrificing and wore a heavy British redcoat officer’s jacket, tight pants and boots despite the humid heat of the studio.

Then Benjamin took over from there, directing the filming of three shots — one of Wentworth reading a letter from his niece, the heroine, Lady Sarah; one of Connor and Wentworth face to face; and one of Connor praying with his wooden rosary.

We had a bit of extra help this time, with Kati and Jamie from Romancing Rakes working as Jenn’s assistants — moving lights, moving furniture, um… helping the guys with costumes. It was hard work, but someone had to do it, right?

For these scenes, we’d hoped to have the guys act out the physical aspects, while using the voices of people with very posh British accents for Lady Sarah and Lord William. Of course, I had no idea who would do the voices. It’s not like I keep a Rolodex listing actors by accent. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Benjy directed the first scene — a thorough filming of Lord Wentworth’s ass. This involved getting a candle set up, adjusting lighting so that it looked like the scene was lit only by the candle and so on. Then Derek gamely proffered his well-dressed and very firm backside.

Cut. Done. Next shot.

This involved adjusting lighting a bit and positioning the camera and the guys so that we could see past Wentworth’s hip and arm across the desk to Connor’s abdomen. And because they’re having a bit of a heated exchange in this scene in the book, there needed to be physical motion.

And I have to say this was the highlight, because Derek really got into it. We weren’t using sound from the shoot, so he could say whatever he wanted. So to make his gesticulations feel real, he started lambasting Karl/Connor.

“You know I hate you, but I need you to find my niece. What? You’re just going to stand there?”

Derek was so funny that everyone was laughing, and you could tell from the footage that the men were laughing. So we had to do several takes.

Two days later, Cora, Jenn, Benjamin and I met up in the mountains and shot some footage of me dragging Cora up the mountainside. I felt evil doing this, but, hey, anything for the film, right?

Thanks to author Carolyn Jewel, I connected via Twitter with Kate McDermott and Mike Gamache, two actors with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. They recorded lines I e-mailed to them, then e-mailed the sound files back. When their emails arrived, all we had left was editing.

I know I’m biased, but I was pretty amazed at what Benjamin put together. It is absolutely the best book trailer I’ve ever had for one of my novels, and readers seem to enjoy it. It was a special thrill to be able to work with these wonderful people and to combine my art with my son’s — my book and his filmmaking — in a single project.

And now you get to see the results. Enjoy!

And make sure you enter to WIN your very own copy of DEFIANT here!

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