June 30, 2013

Reviews: Good Bad and Otherwise @cynnara #RLFblog

Love Games 
As the Reviews Come--the Good, the Hope and the Returns
By Cynnara Tregarth
Reviews can be a controversial topic on reader boards as well as writer boards. What's interesting is that there are many places where both overlap--a need to thank those who give reviews and figuring out ways to share the review without violating copyright of review site policies and the like. These days, there are a lot of hoops to jump and honestly, authors want to give credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, it's not always possible, which is a shame. Yet, there are many ways in which to thank those people who give out reviews, shout out about the reviews, and give honest thanks to our readers--because without them--published authors are writing to empty space.
Let's talk first about thanking those who review us. Whether they work for a review site, independently review us, or offer to review us--authors always need to thank that person. It's not an easy job reviewing a book. I know, I used to be a reviewer. In fact, I still do reviews from time to time, but not under my own name. There's a balance that reviewers must take, even with authors they love- they must tell the truth about the quality of the story, how it made them feel, and if they recommend the book to others to read. Often times, you'll see reviews where it's from "Anonymous." Most authors skip those reviews because many of them either love or hate the book and don't explain why. Plus, they're wary of anyone who won't sign their name or even their reviewer name to a review. I can't blame them, so if you want an author to respond to you--sign your review. It's that important. If you don't, you can't expect them to realize you're taking your job seriously.
Authors, you need to make sure you take the time once a week to go over any reviews you receive and to thank the reviewers. It's damn good policy, and if you're a newly published author, it's the best way to get your name in the door with established review sites. It's also good to respond on places such as Amazon, B&N, ARe, and the like whenever possible. Sometimes, I'll see a review and if there's an email addy, I might write the person to thank them for a review. Even if I think the review wasn't the best I ever had, it might point out something I can learn from it. That alone is worth thanking the reader.
How do you share the joy of great reviews? I think this is where most authors look at each other and shrug. It's hard sometimes to know how to effectively use reviews and the best places to use them. When I thank the reviewers, I ask if it's okay to blurb pieces of it for promotion. If it's a review from a review site, I know I can as long as I give credit and I don't use the whole thing. Pick two or three of the best sentences, make sure you include the reviewer's name, the review site and then include it on your emails, put it on your website, and you might even want to post it on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Why? Because showing that you're getting great reviews for your book will encourage people to buy the book and it'll help spread by word of mouth that people like the book, not just you and other authors.
Let me say one thing about Facebook and reviews. I've seen bunches of them over the past year or so. Some are fantastic because they're not the same old "Look at what So-n-So said about my book!" Personally, those get boring fast and people will scroll over them without looking. But if couch the review in such a way like '"Harley was one of the most exciting characters I've ever fallen for in a romance!" – says So-n-So from XXY Reviews Can you believe that she loved my character in ABC Romance? Check out how much she loved it!' Then you manage to both showcase the review and allow the person to go see more of the review. In turn, you know there will be a link to buy the book. It might result in a sale for the author or it can grow a readership for the review site as well. This is a nice thing for both author and reviewer. So please, mix it up out there with announcing new reviews for books. It's important to really pump it up so the reviewer's review is showcased, not just the book itself. I can't say that enough. Yes, we authors want to sell books, but we need the reviews to help us do that. Without them, we're basically selling on our own and we need their help to do more.
Sometimes authors get fan mail. It's exciting. It's fun, and occasionally, it can be scary. I think we have all heard the stories both good and bad throughout the years. In fact, visions of Stephen King's book, Misery, go through my head when I get fan mail at times. Authors love corresponding with readers by and large. Sometimes though, we're not sure what to say to some of the questions we get asked. I write erotic romance and once I was asked, "Do you practice all the positions you write about in your books? If so can you send me detailed descriptions on how to do them, so I can practice with my boyfriend?"
It took me a couple of days to figure out how to respond to that email. First, I had to get over the shock, then I had to decide how to answer the question without hurting the reader's feelings. This is a big thing to most of us authors. We're readers too. We wouldn't want the authors we enjoy to be rude or curt when writing us back. But at the same time, there are moments when we're very surprised by what we're asked behind closed emails. Authors try their hardest to be honest, yet kind to readers who email them, but occasionally, you have to cut off contact or tell the person not to write to them again, because they're delving into an area they don't belong. It's not often, but it does happen. It's sad, because it makes an author afraid to reach out to the next reader to emails them. So, let me apologize now, in advance on behalf of all authors who've had this happen to them. We don't mean to be slow in replying and hesitant in some answers, but please understand, sometimes there's a fine line between our author side and the private side our lives.
Occasionally, authors and readers email each other and from that, a great friendship grows. Over the years, I've been fangirl to many authors. I've been lucky to talk to them online, on the phone and in person at various conferences. It's something that many readers dream about. In fact, even authors have other authors they dream about wanting to meet and become friends with over time. My list grows exponentially over the years, I think. One of my greatest treasured meets was when I met Mercedes Lackey in person before I was published. She is one of the biggest reasons I write. When I met her, I burst into tears, because before me sat the one woman who I knew made it huge in the fantasy market and made a living in it. She was my dream made manifest. Over the years, she and I have emailed, I've talked to her husband (come to find out we went to the same high school, just missing each other by a year!), and she's always encouraged my writing path, telling me that I can do it, that the only thing I'm missing is believing in myself to take that step into submitting my fantasy work to one of her publishers. (She knows me well.) I think it's the penultimate of what an author and reader can share together.
Reviews are a way for reader and author to meet and talk about an author's work. It's a chance for an author to thank the reader for taking the time to read them and discussing what they liked and didn't like about the story itself. Don't forget that it's also good to let people know that you've gotten this review from this great reader. It shows that you care about the reader and it gives you a chance to show others just how much readers like the story and what their saying about it. Remember too, sometimes that contact between reader and author can go from review thanks to a possible long term friendship. It's happened to many people. Just as reviews come in--they show the good, the hope in us all, and the returns of many more to come.
---

Love Games

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June 29, 2013

Contemporary: Divorced, Free, and Single | Interview @LynchRosemary #RLFblog

Divorced, Free, and Single
Rosemary Lynch, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Let's talk about your book, Divorced, Free, and Single.
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Erotica
Publisher: Self-Published
Cover artist: Rosemary Lynch
Length: 218 pages
Heat rating: Hot
Tagline: Romance, Sex and Tragedy ~ but not necessary in that order!
Blurb: Recently divorced, and having just sold the family home, Jane Archer moves into her new two bed flat. She is 36, and her twin boys, Jack and Michael, aged 20 are at University. Now finally free of her abusive husband, Sam, she embarks on a new life of being, divorced, free, and single. Jane then does something she has never done in her entire life, she has a one-night stand with a man she meets at the bar of her friend's engagement party. She has the most amazing night of her life, with a man that shakes her heart, and shows her what is it to be loved, as opposed to just having sex. Jane's ideas about being single and just having fun are thrown out of the window, when her one night stand unexpectedly reappears in her life a week later and turns her whole world upside down. He has captured her heart, and she his, but life is not that simple for Jane and she fights against their mutual attraction, determined not to be under the control of another man again. Then Josh arrives to stay for the holidays, a 28-year old Australian, and a friend of her sons. Now she has two men in her life, and a decision to make, does she want to be free, and single and just have wild sex, or does she want her prince in shining armour to sweep her off her feet and love her forever. WARNING ~ Contains scenes of descriptive sex, strong language
Buy links:
What are your main characters' names, ages, and occupations?
Jane Archer is 36 and a PA
Alexander Hartley-Stone ~ 40 is a Director and owner of his own Publishing Company
Josh ~ 28 ~ Australian Student and her son, Michael's best friend from University
Sam Decland ~ 45 ~ Jane's ex-husband
Michael Decland ~ 20 ~ Jane's son
Jack Decland ~ 20 ~Jane's son
Elizabeth Hartley-Stone ~ 60 ~Alex's mother
Excerpt:
Sam and Jane had been divorced officially for two weeks, although separated for a year.  In that time, Claire and Sophie had tried, many times to fix her up with a fella, but she just could not bring herself around to the idea of sleeping with a complete stranger or doing it until she was official divorced and a free woman. Jane knew she had to either get over it or become a nun for the rest of her life, and the latter she really did not fancy.
Claire slapped her face, quite hard.
"What the hell did you do that for?" Jane yelled at her, holding her hand to her stinging cheek. The man at the bar looked over to them.
"You make me sick," she said, and then she promptly threw her glass of white wine over her dress.
"Claire!" Jane screamed at her. "This dress cost sixty quid!" Claire winked at her, turned around, grabbed Sophie's arm and dragged her off. They collected the fellas on the way through and disappeared out of the doorway, leaving Jane speechless and wet.
"Here," he said. She turned, and her legs wobbled as his deep, green eyes settled on hers. Close up, he was even more gorgeous, tall, dark, and incredibly handsome.
"Sorry?" she mumbled, as her voice caught in her throat.
"For the mess," he said, gazing at her. In his hand, he held a cloth napkin.
"Oh, right, thanks," Jane, said gratefully, as she took it from him.
"So what was that all about?" he asked, and his eyes skimmed her face, god, he thought, she was even more beautiful close up.
"I have no idea," she replied, wiping her dress and thinking that it did not look too bad.
"Can I get you a drink?" he asked with a smile, they had broken the ice, so he was not about to let her walk away. She caught her breath as he had a seriously sexy smile. "I'm Alexander by the way - Alex." He shortened.
"Jane," she replied. "Sure, I'd love a drink, thanks." She followed him to the bar and climbed onto a stool.
"What will you have?" he asked, as he sat next to her. He closed his eyes for a second and inhaled her, and he felt a surge of desire for her flood through his entire body.
"Champagne cocktail, please," she said.
"What the lady said and a pint, thanks," he said to the bartender. She blinked at she looked at him, never in all her life had she felt so attracted to a man as she felt right now, it was bloody ridiculous. The bartender placed a glass in front of her, and when she could finally pull her eyes way from him, she picked it up and took a sip.
"So where do you know Emily and Edward from?" she asked, making light conversation, and trying desperately to keep her body from trembling every time he looked at her. It must be the alcohol, she told herself, it was making her stupid.
Alex, felt a flush of heat surge though him, he took off his suit jacket and chucked it on the stool beside him. He lent towards her, and as he spoke softly, and quietly his voice sent delightful shivers through her entire body.
"I don't know either of them," he confessed. He sat back up, and lifted his pint to his mouth and drank.
"So what are you doing here then?" Jane whispered back, although why she was whispering she had no idea.
"I am here on business. I had a meeting this afternoon that ran over, so I thought I would stop over for the night. Do you have any idea how boring it is sitting in a hotel room all by yourself." She shook her head, and noticed he was not wearing a wedding ring. "I came down for a drink, saw the party, and thought, what the heck."
"That's bold," she said.
"Not really, what's that chance of everyone knowing everyone at a party?"
"None, I guess," she agreed, and she took another gulp of her cocktail, alarmed by how aroused he made her feel.
"Exactly, see no risk at all. So, Jane, what do you do for a living?" he asked, glancing at her. His eyes wandered over her shoulders, he looked at her beautiful neck, her cleavage, and then he took another sip of his lager.
"I'm a PA," she said, well she was almost, in other week. "You?" she asked.
"A Director," he said. She raised her eyebrows, impressed. "Very boring," he added.
"Why is that?" she asked. He shrugged.
"Been doing it for ever, you know. Sometimes I think it would be nice to do something else. I hit forty a few weeks ago and I guess I am having that middle age crisis people always talk about," he said, his eyes lifting to hers. "Are you married?" he asked. She shook her head.
"No, two weeks divorced," she replied, with relief in her voice and she looked up at him. "My husband had a mid-life crisis," she said, with a smile. "His answer was a blonde bimbo half his age called Urshula."
"I'm sorry," he replied, raising an eyebrow. He was, but he was also glad she was not married.
"Don't be, I'm not," she replied, swallowing at the realisation that she had actually spent a whole year without having had her face rearranged "He must have been mad," he added, and her cheeks burned, her heart pumping as she felt the intensity of his eyes on her. "You are very beautiful," he added, before he could stop the words coming out of his mouth. She looked away from him, her cheeks burning, was he flirting with her, as she had no idea? He smiled at her embarrassment; obviously, she was not used to having a man tell her she was beautiful, he liked that she did not realise how stunning she was.
"What about you?" she asked curiously, as she looked back at him. He shook his head.
"No, I never had the time. Kids?" he asked. She nodded.
"Yes I have two boys at University, Michael, and Jack," she said.
"Really, you don't look old enough," he replied. He had been trying to guess her age and had put her around her early thirties.
"Thanks. I had them very young. So if you could do what you wanted, what would you do?"
"Well, first it would have to be a worldwide trip. The US, Australia, so on. After that, I have no idea." Jane knocked back another champagne cocktail, even though her head was feeling dizzy, she was looking for a little Dutch courage, this man was seriously hot, and the more she looked at him the more she wanted to sleep with him. She had never had a one-night stand, Sam had been her one and only sexual partner, but she was ready now, to experiment a
little. They chatted for nearly an hour, ignoring the staff as they cleaned up the room behind them. She found Alex easy to talk too, and he made her laugh, a lot. The barman announced last orders and she sighed, as she was really enjoying his company.
Alex looked at her, and he was not ready to let her go just yet. This was not his thing, picking up girls in bars, but he found himself unable to stop.
"Fancy a nightcap?" he asked.
"Sure, do you want to come back to my room?" she offered nonchalant, but the heat flooding to her cheeks gave her true thoughts away.
"That would be nice," he replied, with a smile and he promptly brought a bottle of champagne.
Feeling a little drunk, she stumbled into the lift and leant against the side to steady herself. Alex put one hand on the lift wall, and he leant into her, he found her intoxicating, and so irresistible. Jane's heart was pumping ten to the dozen at the way he looked at her. Their eyes met and held, and lust smouldered like fire waiting to erupt.
Unable to control the urge, he kissed her, and for a moment, Jane gave into it. Then she pulled back sharply, when a slight wave of panic shot through her. What was wrong with her? She was practically throwing herself at a man she had known for an hour.
"Hey, who said you could kiss me?" she rushed, as her eyes caught his. For a second, Alex stood back as his common sense took over again.
Books by Rosemary Lynch

Interview

How did you get your start in the industry?
I started writing about three years ago after I had an amazing dream. That was how my epic fantasy 'Kainan' came about, and I have been having these dreams/images and writing ever since.
If you could change something about your first book, what would it be?
I think I would probably split it into two parts, as it is quite a big book!
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Bringing characters to life that would not had lived without you. As I write about them, they become so real, so intriguing, and I love it!
If you could give the younger version of yourself advice what would it be?
To take a steady breath and do not rush. Absorb as much help and advice as you can, and ask for it too. Some of the facebook groups I now belong to have some great people on them, and I have learned so much through them. In general, other authors are happy to help, support and offer you advice.
What is your work ethic when it comes to writing?
Just to enjoy it. I do not set a timescale, I write as it flows and I tend to have at least two stories on the go at once, so I can break from one, if I need too.
How do you cope with stress as an author?
I do not find being an author stressful; it is all the other stuff! Advertising and trying to get your book out there to the public, as it is so difficult. I find a bar of dairy milk also helps!
Do things your family or friends do ever end up in a book?
Erm, yes, but don't tell them! In truth, my characters Kainan and Arweyn in my fantasy trilogy, are a lot like my husband and I, soul mates and best friends.
After a few glasses of wine, and some giggles with my sister-in-law, I promised her I would write her an erotic, sexy, heartwarming romance book, and so here, it is, Divorced, Free, and Single.
What are some jobs you've done before (or while) you were a writer?
My line of work is secretarial and administration. I have taken this year off to finish my trilogy, which went so well that I have had time to write Divorced, Free, and Single.
Which of your books would you recommend to someone who doesn't normally read your genre, and why?
I definitely think if you are new to fantasy, then to check out my trilogy, The Deragan Sword Prophecy ~ it is a nice, romantic adventure fantasy that is not too deep or dark.
What kind of books do you read when taking a break from your own writing?
Anything and everything, I am currently reading and enjoying Jackie Weger's Beyond Fate
What was the proudest moment of your life so far?
Seeing my children grow into happy, responsible young adults. For myself, opening that delivery box and seeing my first book in print ~ you cannot describe how great it feels.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
Disneyland Paris ~ We try to go every two years as a family, it was the only time when my girls were younger that we managed a holiday without any squabbles! Everyone just loves it, but we only go at Christmas time, as we are a real Christmas, twinkly light family.
What do you like to do when you're bored?
Bored! I do not have time for bored! I write, read, paint, bake, and walk the dogs ~ and somewhere in between there I have my teenage daughter and my young son, as well as my husband. There is no time to be bored!
If your life became a movie, who would you want to play you?
Kate Beckinsale ~ She is gorgeous, and I would like to pretend I had her figure.
Please underline which statement is more like you:
"I am a vacation spa because I am laid back and relaxed."
"I am a ten-countries in ten-days tour vacation, because I do things as fast as possible."

Please complete the sentences

I love pizza with coleslaw.
I'm always ready for bed (don't know why I said that!)
When I'm alone, I dream.
Rosemary Lynch
You'd never be able to tell, but I am completely bonkers.
If I had a halo it would be spinning above my head.
If I could teleport, I'd go and see my mum in Scotland.
I can never give up because I am determined.

Previous Books

Kainan ~ Deragan Sword Prophecy ~ Book One ~ Romantic Fantasy
Meladrom ~ Deragan Sword Prophecy ~ Book Two
Analise ~ Deragan Sword Prophecy ~ Book Three
Katlin ~ Romantic Fantasy
Divorced, Free, and Single ~ Contemporary Romance/Erotica ~ New release

Books Coming Soon

Raven ~ Romantic Fantasy
As of net unnamed paranormal/horror/romance

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June 27, 2013

Contemporary: Beyond Fate | Interview @JackieWeger #RLFblog

Beyond Fate 
Jackie Weger, Welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Let's talk about your book, Beyond Fate.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
Cover artist: Amanda Kelsey
Length: 232 pages
Heat rating: Sweet
Tagline: Heartwarming, emotional, funny
Blurb: 
Raised by her grandmother, Cleo has lived her life in the shadow of her mother's sin. When she falls in love with a fellow camper in the tumbled-down fish camp in the Okefenokee Swamp she struggles to cast off the shadow and comes to terms with her past--and her future.
Buy links:
What are your main characters' names, ages, and occupations?
Fletcher Fremont Maitland, mid-thirties. Attorney.
Cleo Anderson, thirty, children's book writer.
Big Mamma Freeman, camp owner. Ageless, but in her seventies.

Excerpt:

The Old South! Heat and humidity, plantations and levees, rivers and swamps, bears, alligators, snakes, and wild hogs! If Cleo could get her hands on the travel writer who made Georgia sound so magical, she would've plucked his eyelashes out with tweezers. If only she had not made that left turn off of Interstate10! But there was the sign: SUWANEE RIVER. More imaginary magic had somehow drawn her to follow a hand-lettered sign that read: FISH CAMP. The sun was a blast furnace, and sweat dripped into her eyes as she struggled with the bracing strut that clamped the awning to her Play-Mor camper. If she didn't get the awning up, she'd bake to death.
A commotion in the overgrowth that surrounded her campsite distracted her. A wild hog? A deer?
She was on the verge of dropping the strut and stepping inside the camper for safety's sake when a man burst through head-high palm fronds. He was striding fast and looking over his shoulder. She realized she wasn't even on his radar.
"Hey!" she called, but the warning was too late. He caromed into her. The strut flew out of her hands. The canvas awning collapsed and enveloped them both. The sun was shut out, and Cleo found herself being dragged to the sandy earth, her arms and legs entangled with those of the man. Her first thought was of sand fleas and fire ants. Every site she had camped in from Texas to Georgia had been infested with the vile things. Once bitten, forever shy. In her imagination they were crawling over every inch of her skin.
"Christ on a crutch," he muttered.
"Move," she said to the man, panic a microsecond away. She kicked at his arms and legs and tried lifting the heavy canvas from her face.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "Be quiet for minute."
"Be quiet? Are you nuts? I'm suffocating. Get us out of here."
The sailcloth, stiff and unmalleable from its winter packing, defied her attempts to throw it off. She sucked in a lungful of hot, musty air. She heard herself breathing; heard him, too.
"Are you okay?"
"No, you broke my arm."
"Jesus Christ." He scrambled over her legs and burrowed toward fresh air. Cleo crawled behind and atop of him. She wanted out.
But he didn't crawl into the sunlight and heat-drenched air; he maneuvered out from beneath the awning, up the two pull-down steps, and right into her small camper. The screened door snapped shut, and the latch clicked.
"What the heck— Hey! Come out of there!"
"Lady, please," came his whispered, pleading reply, "tell them I kept going…"
"Who? Tell who?"
"Witches and warlocks. They'll be here any second."
Oh, God, a crazy. A moment later, unseen hands lifted the canvas. Cleo homed in on the light and scooted into sunshine and into two pairs of well-tanned legs. One pair was fat and solid, the other stick thin.
"Thanks." She breathed as she got to her feet. Rivulets of sweat were running down her face and dripping off her chin. She took a swipe at them. She checked herself all over for ants.
"Is Fletcher under there?" asked the chubby blonde. She stomped about the canvas until it was flattened. Finding nothing, she gave Cleo a sidelong look of reproach—a look designed to make its recipient feel mildly guilty.
At the moment it would take far more than a look to make Cleo feel guilty about anything. She stretched out her arm. Not broken, but she bet she'd have some bruises. "Who?" she asked, and got busy dusting twigs and sand from her shorts.
"The tall good-looking guy. He ran into you, didn't he? We heard you yell."
"Something ambushed me. I didn't notice what it looked like." She took in the women. Two against one. Since she was somewhat in control now, charity reared its head. Cleo avoided glancing at the camper. "This guy you're chasing, what's he done?"
"Did you see which way he went?" asked Thin.
Cleo shook her head. Well, she hadn't, had she? Now, if the woman asked, "Do you know where he is?" Cleo would have been obliged to tell. She had been raised to tell the truth, but sometimes it clotted in her throat and she could swallow it before it got out and did damage.
Ah, Cleo, you're fudging, said a small interior voice.
I can't talk to you now. I'm in a situation.
Sure you are, and the situation is there's a strange man in your Play-Mor along with your traveler's checks, your cash, your cameras and laptop, not to mention Gram's last four pieces of Limoges.
I'm just doing him a favor.
A man you don't even know?
Why not?
He might be a rapist, a thief, schizophrenic, or worse--married.
Cleo flushed and forced a smile. "Look, ladies, I don't want to get involved in a marital spat."
Blondie laughed. "This is no marital spat. Fletcher's the perennial bachelor."
Thin didn't look happy. "C'mon, Bev, if you pursue this, Fletcher will get mad and refuse to make a fourth at bridge next time we're here." Thin looked at Cleo, explaining, "Women have been hassling Fletcher ever since his book came out. Some want to convert him, and some want to kill him. Besides that, it's gotten terrible reviews. Not that any of us care."
"Book?" Cleo was trying to change the direction of her mind in mid-thought.
The man was a writer. An unmarried writer. His book had gotten rotten reviews. The poor guy. A writer herself, Cleo had an instant affinity.
The woman called Bev was thrusting a thin volume in Cleo's direction. She glanced at the title. For Men Only. 101 Ways to Stay Married. In very small print was, and Still Do What You Want by Fletcher Fremont Maitland.
Cleo blinked and read the title again. What utter gall. Her ire rose. Empathy for a fellow writer evaporated.
"No wonder he's the perennial bachelor. No woman in her right mind would tolerate him."
"Yes they would--and do. Fletcher oozes sex so thick you could eat it with a spoon," said Thin.
"For God's sakes, Clara, shut up," Blondie said. "We just wanted his autograph. He promised, and now he's trying to renege."
"You're looking for the guy who wrote this?" She was ready to tell them.
Clara scanned the clearing. "I guess we'll catch up to him next time we're here." She turned to go, stopping in midstride. "Say, you're new, aren't you? I mean this is your first time camping at Big Mama's."
"Yes." Cleo wanted to be rid of the women now. She also wanted to be rid of the clod hiding in her camper.
After the women disappeared around a bend in the footpath Cleo faced the camper and sang, "You can come out now, Fletcher Fremont Maitland."
"I owe you a world of gratitude," he said, emerging from the Play-Mor. "Those two make me miserable every time they show up in camp."
Cleo assessed him. His face was formed of converging planes--wide brow, straight nose--a little on the large side--square jaw, and deeply set brown eyes.
His teeth were of a peculiar whiteness and symmetry. The slight smile he gave her was irresistible. Clad in a black polo shirt, white walking shorts, and leather espadrilles, he exuded male magnetism, as if he was ready to take a swat at the world just to see where it'd land. It wasn't lost on Cleo he'd taken an inadvertent swat at her.
"Did I hurt you badly, slamming into you like that?" he said in an easygoing way.
"There must be a Neanderthal somewhere in your ancestry," she said, a little testily, almost before he finished asking the question, the tartness evidence of her rallying defenses. "But don't give it a thought; I'll survive."
"I should hope so. It'd be a shame if you didn't." His voice was vibrant, accented heavily on interior syllables, Southern fashion. He probably could make it do anything. Right this second he was making it sweep and enfold her like a caress. Was that going to be good or bad? Nice or not?
His eyes flickered, inspection over. He thrust out his hand; she hesitated. "Shake?" he asked. "I'm Fletcher."
"Cleo Anderson." His hand was warm, slightly sweaty yet firm, and his touch sent a rush of pleasure through her. Right then and there she determined never to bite her nails again.
Hold on, Cleo. You've only just met the man. You don't want to appear needy. Get a hold of yourself.
I am not needy. Not anymore, she told the voice.
Cleo, you're such a liar. You forget I'm right here, that I know everything.
"Since I knocked it down," said Fletcher, "let me help you get this awning back up."
"No, thanks, there's nothing to it," she said, extricating her hand from his and anchoring it on her rounded hip to disguise its sudden trembling. Oh, my God. He did ooze sex. Pheromones or male musk, probably. Maybe it was a Southern thing. The heat brought it out.
"I insist."
One could only allow a situation to go so far. She had to dilute the feckless reaction of her body to his looks and touch. "I insist not."
"Okay," he said. 'Have it your way. Just don't forget, I did offer."

Interview

Tell us about your story's world. What is it like in this period or place?
The Okefenokee is a fragile, magical place full of alligators, bears, snakes, mosquitos, wild orchids, thousand year-old Calusa Indian mounds, mangrove swamps and mystery.
The area was settled in the 1700's by runaway indentured servants and slaves and just plain independent, ornery folks who wanted to live outside society and government. For two-hundred and fifty years the swamp fed, clothed and sheltered the inhabitants--until the Forties when the Federal government moved them out onto the edges of modern society--but the old people held onto their habits, their myths and their language--Old English.
What inspired you to write this book?
I once found an elderly woman sitting on a bench outside a bus station in Midland, Texas. She knew where she was from, but not where she was going. I took her home with me until I could locate her family. She was from the Okefenokee and entertained my kids with stories of her early life. Her stories hung in my mind, but not her name. Ten years later I was camping on the Suwanee River in the Okefenokee and thought: What if?
No Perfect Secret
Which character in your current book do you think readers will like the most?
In Beyond Fate I think readers will adore Big Momma Freeman who is based on the elderly woman I found on that bench outside a bus station. But, there is also eleven-year-old Katie, and between the two they almost stole the book out from under me.
Why?
Big Momma Freeman is the epitome of those early settlers. She was born deep in the Okefenokee, speaks old English and is an independent woman. She wouldn't know a feminist if one climbed into her apron pocket, yet she asserted herself, owned her own business and brooked no nonsense from anyone. Big Momma is a writer's dream. I never had to scratch around for dialogue or action when she was in the scene.
Why do you write?
Same reason I breathe.
Who has helped you the most in your career as an author?
Actually, I never had a mentor. I didn't know one could have a career as a writer. I participated in a small writer's group. Most of us wrote non-fiction for trade or travel magazines. Someone snidely challenged me to write a romance novel. So I did.
When you write, what things do you want close at hand? (Coffee, water, chocolate... pictures of gorgeous hunks for inspiration...?)
Coffee, pots of it. If it's late at night, chocolate wine is nice. I don't have pictures of hunks hanging on my walls. The men in my books are man to the bone with lived in faces, lived-in bodies and they own a good sense of self. They have good jobs, stamina, know about women and when they drop their drawers, their tinker toys don't have to take a back seat to any muscle-bound, gym-built boy-toy.
When you're not writing, what would we find you doing?
Reading. If I'm stumped or need a break, I head down to a little fishing camp, Indianola—which is all that's left of a town after a hurricane washed the rest of the city into the bay. Other times I might camp out on the beach in Matagorda. I love Friday night Bingo. More than anything, I adore destination travel. My passport is always up to date. One of my granddaughters graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia in May and e-mailed me with her travel plans—which included Paris and Stockholm. Last line was: You coming? I had just signed a five book contract with Liquid Silver. Broke my heart to decline her invitation.
Are you a plotter, or do you prefer to make it up on the spur of the moment?
I'm not a plotter as in creating story boards or anything like that, but I know the gist of a story before I sit down to write. I usually know my characters strengths and weaknesses before I start. I know the setting, a few bits of dialogue, what annoys a character and what doesn't.
Looking back at your first book, what do you wish you had done differently?
I still like that story. It's a bit over-written—which back in the day was acceptable and now falls under Retro. I'd clean up some dialogue tags.
What's your writing schedule like?
It depends. If I'm in an emotional scene I may stay at my keyboard twelve or fourteen hours. Other times I spend five or six hours at my desk.
Any advice for new authors?
I don't. New authors today have far more sense about the publishing industry today and how it works than I do.
What aspect of your life do you write into your books?
Family--with quirky characters, subtle humor. Foremost is my love of nature, water and simple living. When I think back on it, I somehow manage to plot a way to get my characters on a pond, a lake, a creek, a swamp, a river, an ocean, an island or a beach.
Even a ditch with tadpoles blooming will do. I think I was water sprite in a past life.
When an idea hits you, what do you do to capture it?
Nothing at first, but if the idea or character keeps showing up, I make a note, write down what I've discovered or what the character is telling me. I don't keep diaries, but I have notebooks filled with tidbits of info that interested me at the time. And still do.
If you knew it would be a bestseller, what book would you write that you might not write otherwise?
I have one book that I think would be received nicely. I've done pounds of research, the characters are well-defined, the setting is in place, the plot thickened, but the story intimidated me. After a couple of months, I knew I had to better my craft before I told the story.
What's keeping you from writing that book?
Other books right this minute. I recently contracted with Liquid Silver to bring out five novels on backlist in digital format. I'm learning indie publishing and have just brought out another of my backlist. But the backstory is I thought all of my research and notes were lost in Katrina. I had stored it with a friend while I was living abroad and her house was destroyed. They showed up in a plastic tub last November when she and I were sorting through some debris in a storage shed which had somehow survived.
What other jobs have you held besides writing?
I was a department manager in large hotels. I worked as manager and Food and Beverage director for hotels and restaurants.
Which of your books was the hardest to write and why?
The most difficult book for me to write is always the one I'm currently working on. I've slogged through two hundred pages--know I have story--but really won't know the final structure or who in the cast of characters might get cut until I finish the first draft. Usually after that, it's smooth sailing. But the characters in this book are eccentric, mouthy and misbehave. Each wants to be front and center. They are driving me mad.
What are you currently reading for fun? I'm re-reading Randy Wayne White's The Man Who Invented Florida. Naturally, the main character lives in a stilt house in Dinkin's Bay on the East Florida Coast. It's all about water.
What's the best gift you ever received?
I really can't name the best, but I can tell you one that changed the direction of my life. I was packing to return to the tiny jungle village I called home in Central America when my daughter gave me a Kindle, which introduced me to e-books and renewed my writing career. I unpacked.
Do you believe in luck?
I do believe in luck--good, bad and indifferent. Good luck when I'm winning at Bingo. Bad, when I'm not.
What's your favorite movie?
My all-time favorite movie is the African Queen. I've watched it dozens of times and it never fails to thrill or chill--especially the scene in which Charlie Allnutt is covered in
leeches. "Arhh! The beasts!"
Are you the eldest, middle, baby, or only child?
I'm the oldest and only daughter--which played havoc with my life.
What's the strangest job you ever had?
Oh, boy. I once was briefly a single mother. I held down two jobs. The evening job was cleaning dressing rooms for headliners in a night club. I was getting a dressing room prepped for Jayne Mansfield when my boss stepped in and said, "Jayne's not coming for ten days. Her son was mauled by a lion. You're going to take her place." Jayne was a famous pinup during the War and after--very shapely. She could sing and dance. I could clean and change diapers and was so thin I'd have to borrow a mop handle to show up next to a toothpick. My boss ordered costumes from New Orleans--padded front and back with lots of shimmery threads. The pay was wonderful. So I shook my false bosoms and booty for ten nights. The audience thought I was comedy act.

Fill in the Blanks

I'm always ready for a game of Scrabble or a trip to the beach.
When I'm alone, I read, daydream, and read some more.
You'd never be able to tell, but I'm profoundly deaf.
If I had a halo it would be hung around my neck.
If I could hook rugs I'd recycle plastic bags into scatter rugs for my kitchen.
I can never sing because I can't carry a tune.

Previous Books

No Perfect Secret, Eye of the Beholder.
Jackie Weger

Books Coming Soon

Ebook: A Strong and Tender Thread, Count the Roses

Find Me Here


June 26, 2013

Taste of Summer: Chocolate Heath Bar Trifle @stacyjuba #RLFblog #MFRWorg

Chocolate Pie

Taste of Summer By Stacy Juba

If you're a writer, then you won't want to miss MFRW Summer Camp. This free event is sponsored by Marketing for Romance Writers, which began as a Yahoo group of a dozen authors who wanted to know how to market their books. Today the group has nearly 1800 members. One reason I love this group so much is because of its frequent free workshops, including the 2nd Annual Summer Camp slated for July 12-14.
What will you find if you join the Yahoo group? A supportive environment to focus on learning marketing and publicity. We seek ways to advance our careers, brainstorm new ventures and ideas, get feedback, and find others interested in working together. You can take a class or teach one.
While promotions are not allowed on the Yahoo group, news about pitch sessions and calls for submission are. MFRW coordinates pitch events with publishers for our members. On Facebook, we promote and share news. We link our blogs in blog hops, pin books by members on Pinterest, show off our cover models, and share tweets on Twitter. Those are just a few of the activities of this dynamic group. We're open to the entire literary community and we would love for you to join us.
What will you find during summer camp? Free classes, lots of them, in all areas of marketing and promotion. You can ask questions, pick up some new tools, and make new friends.
You can find more about the group and summer camp here. We hope you'll join us!
To help spread the word about MFRW and Summer Camp, a bunch of us are taking turns blogging about the group and sharing a recipe. Today I'm sharing my special dessert, Chocolate Heath Bar Trifle, which is sure to impress guests at summer barbecues. My husband loves this dessert so much that he recently asked me to make it for 50 co-workers!

Chocolate Heath Bar Trifle

Ingredients:
Shortening
1 box chocolate cake mix
2 boxes chocolate instant pudding
Package of crushed Heath Bar
2 small Cool Whip containers (8 oz)
Spread shortening over cake pan. Bake cake following directions on box. Then make chocolate pudding following the directions on box. Keep pudding at room temperature. Crumble up cake into chunks and set aside. In a large glass trifle serving bowl, layer half of the crumbled cake, half the pudding, 1 Cool Whip container, and half of the Heath bar candy. Repeat layers again. Refrigerate.
Note: Although this looks especially impressive in a glass trifle bowl, I've also used a disposable aluminum pan with a lid. It doesn't look as magnificent, but it will still disappear quickly!

About the Author

Young Ladies of Mystery
Stacy Juba has made numerous bestseller lists including GalleyCat's Barnes & Noble Bestsellers, GalleyCat's Mystery and Thriller Bestsellers, and multiple Amazon Top 100 lists, and she has also been ranked as one of the Most Popular Authors in Mysteries on Amazon. She has had a book ranked as #5 in the Nook Store and #30 on the Amazon Kindle Paid List. Stacy has written about reality TV contestants targeted by a killer, an obit writer investigating a cold case, teen psychics who control minds, twin high school hockey stars battling on the ice, and teddy bears learning to raise the U.S. flag: she pursues whatever story ideas won't leave her alone. She is a former journalist with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit.

Find Me Here

Permalink to Stacy's recipe post on her own blog:

June 25, 2013

Taste of Summer: Lemonade Pie @AJ_Williams #RLFblog #MFRWorg

Lemondade Graham Cracker Pie 
Lemonade Graham Cracker Pie
There is something about summer to me that screams sweet and tangy. Not sure where it came from or why and honestly I don't question I just know that when it turns May I start thinking of sweet and tangy deserts.
For Spring and Summer one of my favorite deserts is Lemonade Pie. This desert is quick and easy and trust me very mouth watering.
These are the ingredients you will need"
2 - graham cracker pie crusts
3 - 14 oz eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
1- 12 oz Minute Maid lemonade frozen
1 - 16 oz Kraft Cool Whip
It is best if you let your frozen lemonade thaw before starting. Once that takes place, get out your large mixing bowl. In your bowl combine the now liquid lemonade with the 3 cans of condensed milk, and the whole tub of Cool Whip. Mix all of it together till smooth.
When all the lumps are out and the Cool Whip is blending well, stop mixing and you may begin to pour the mixture into the graham cracker crusts and refrigerate for 3 hours or at least overnight.
If there are leftovers you can always take a cupcake pan, line it with cupcake liners, place one vanilla wafer at the bottom and pour in your mixture.
For Best Results let the pie sit in the refrigerator overnight.
I hope you enjoyed my taste of summer, if you are interested in learning more, stop by and sign up for http://marketingforromancewriters.org/, and guess what? It is completely free.
Summer Camp is going to be taking place July 12th thru the 14th, and let me tell you I am really excited to be attending this year. This summer camp is going to be a great opportunity to learn from other amazing authors about marketing, writing and genres. The camp is also going to have some great prizes.
If you are interested in also attending this great camp all you have to do is join Marketing for RomanceWriters Yahoo Group
Bounty for Hunter 
AJ Wiliams' Latest Release Bounty for Love
Alek Kairis is a man on a mission to keep those around him safe from the dangers of a lurking dirty cop. But, before he can protect everyone, Alek learns of a deep secret that could not just change his life, but change his ability to protect those around him.
Tess Michaels only wanted her brother's safety; she did not realize that she too would be placed in danger. Yet, the danger that is following her is not the only threat she faces. When she learns the truth of who her son's father is, not only will her life change, but so will her child's.
Once the truth comes out, there is no going back for Alek or Tess. What's worse is that their ever-growing attraction is a distraction that neither of them need. Can Tess and Alek work together, or will danger and secrets tear them apart forever?
Buy Links:

About the Author

AJ Williams grew up in a small southern town in Missouri. It was there that she discovered her love of writing. Having the ability to create a story from nothing into something, held her spell bound. She holds a bachelors degree, and will on occasion find it useful. Currently, AJ lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband and 2 small children and their small dog.
Her very first story was a poem about the sun ending and the moon beginning which she wrote when she was ten. Since that time her stories have taken on their very own life. She writes stories that make you think about real life, the 'what if' this happened to me scenario. "There is a story in all of us" is a favorite saying of AJ's.
AJ loves learning about new things, playing games with her family and listening to music. She loves romantic movies as well as science fiction. If truth be told, she loves fantasy and science fiction movies just a little bit more.
At given time she can be found reading to her kids, instilling in them the importance of a good story. Yet do not worry; she is also found by her kids, and husband at the computer at any given time typing away.

Find Me Here



June 24, 2013

Recipe: Summer Camp Salsa @scdanelove #RLFblog #MFRWauthor

Luna 

Salsa for Summer Camp

By SC Dane
Aah, summer. It has finally arrived, and with it comes the feast of the senses.
The touch of grass, a cool and lush carpet beneath bare feet, the sprigs tickling between the toes.
The sounds of dogs barking as they chase screeching kids high on the abandon of summer vacation. Screen doors slap, lawn mowers drone like flies.
The sight of tanned, bare chested men. Hands down the best part of summer.
The smell of warmth and lazy flowers, cut lawns and salty oceans, caressed aloft upon breezes that kiss the skin.
Finally, the taste. The tantalizing paramour to smell, who delivered to our taste buds the appetizing aroma of the backyard grill, watering our mouths for the dishes only summer can provide. Corn on the cob, watermelon, potato salad.
And fresh salsa, with bits of sun-kissed tomato, sharp onion, and cilantro stretching from the baked earth of the garden to the vast blue of a cloudless sky. An explosion of flavors worthy of being served on the Fourth of July.

Fresh Salsa

8-10 tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
1/2 bunch of cilantro
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup white vinegar
Juice squeezed from one lime
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste.
Dice, dice, dice your butt off. Don't cheat and grind the veggies up in a food processor. You want this salsa chunky. Let it sit overnight in the fridge, and stir it on occasion to get those veggies besotted with the vinegar and citrus.
Speaking of besotted, ahem. Summer is also the season of Romance. Strolls on the beach with your summer fling, and warm nights perfect for skinny dipping.
Which makes it the ideal time to give thanks to the gals at MFRW (Marketing For Romance Writers). Like a mini Amazonian army, they have recruited and led many a writing soldier onto the battlefield of marketing and swept them on to victory. They've done so with grace, humor that still leaves me smiling, and a loyalty to their fellow authors that makes me proud to be a comrade in arms.
Thank you. Not only have you provided the leadership, but also the forum with which we romance writers can compare and console and commiserate with our peers. You've given us shoulders to cry on and ears to gripe to, and oh yes! the steps from which to launch our passions.
They've also given me a place to roast my virtual marshmallows during this Summer Camp fun. Visit tinyurl.com/mfrwgroup to follow The Taste of Summer July 12-14th, and, because I know you want to, croon out your tuneless rendition of Kumbaya. We'll all join in (okay, we'll laugh and point), but it's still good times!
See you 'round the campfire.

Books by S C Dane

The powers that be at Amazon got my author name screwed up for my "Luna" book, but my publisher is working on getting that fixed.

Blurb for Luna:

Beth is a misfit struggling to be a responsible woman in human society. Then she meets Alec, a mysterious stranger, who knows by her scent that she is a rare Luna, the only being who can ensure the future of his wolf-pack. When human beings injure Alec, Beth retreats from the stagnant safety of her human world and surrenders her fate to the wolf-man.
Beth’s and Alec’s love for one another ignites the power of the Luna that courses through her veins, and she must learn the laws of being wild wolf if she is to live with Alec and his pack. But they are not the only wolf-people who covet the blood of Luna, and Beth must learn to harness the consuming power of her Luna and use it to safeguard her new family, even if it means giving up the very thing she was born to protect.
Set in the countryside of Maine, this novel unfolds as Beth surrenders her body to its absolute essence while she is protected by the loyal wolves she is destined to love. But their world is not only precious, it is also perilous, and Beth’s freshened passion for life just may be the catalyst for her death.
Buy link
No Little Thing
Luna: Book One of The Luna Chronicle

Excerpt for No Little Thing:

Griffyd couldn’t stand it any longer. He had been spying on the human woman while she slept, and had found himself inching closer to where she lay, snuggled comfortably in his bed. Yet one of her arms escaped her cocoon, where it draped over the edge of the mattress as if beckoning him, inviting him to run one of his fingers along the soft skin of her inner wrist.
He felt a purr flutter up through his chest, which surprised him. He had never purred before, and the sensation of it thrilled him, flurried his heart rate. As did the sight he drank in with his obsidian eyes.
His faemne had curled up like a little nestling and had burrowed deeper into the downy folds of his bed. Yes, he liked the sight of that a lot. She looked so peaceful buried in amongst his bedding, so utterly at home, that it sped his breathing so that his chest clenched.
Damn him for what he had the undeniable urge to do. Running his finger along her tender, forbidden skin only heightened his need to touch. He wanted to feel more of her, he desired to feel the weight of her body in his arms, upon his stomach; he desperately wanted to snuffle the dip of her neck where it met her collarbone.
Griffyd the vampire-killer, the monster he knew she thought him to be, got up off his knees and slipped himself beneath her sleeping form to cradle her like she was but a fragile fawn.
And squeezed his eyes shut against the bliss of it.
Buy link
No Little Thing

Find Me Here



June 23, 2013

Character Interview: Cassidy Novak @stacyjuba #RLFblog #Suspense

Young Ladies of Mystery 
Stacy Juba, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. We're excited to interview your character, Cassidy Novak from the book, Sink or Swim.
Genre: Mystery/Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Thunder Horse Press
Cover artist: Karen A. Phillips (through Mainly Murder Press as originally published in paperback)
Length: 241 pages
Heat rating: PG13 (Sweet romance subplot)
Tagline: For reality show runner-up Cassidy Novak, it's hard enough being famous and not rich. When a stalker shows up, reality TV has never been so real.
Blurb: A fun beach read endorsed by contestants from Survivor, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race. Ambitious personal trainer Cassidy Novak has gained fame for starring on Sink or Swim, a hit reality show. Not only does she lose and have to walk the plank, but after the game show ends, the terror begins. Upon returning home, Cassidy discovers she has attracted a stalker masterminding his own twisted game. She struggles to focus on her health club job and celebrity endorsement opportunities, but her stalker has other plans. As her former competitors get knocked off one-by-one, Cassidy refuses to play by the stalker's bizarre rules. She's also being shadowed by hunky photographer Zach Gallagher, who has been assigned to capture her personal moments for a spread in the local newspaper. She wants to trust Zach, but fears he may not be what he seems. When the stalker forces a showdown, Cassidy must once again walk the plank...this time for her life.
Buy links:
Barnes and Noble http://ow.ly/kEywi
iBookstore http://ow.ly/kEzdS
Also available as part of the Young Ladies of Mystery Boxed Set: http://stacyjuba.com/blog/young-ladies-of-mystery-boxed-set/
What are your main characters' names, ages, and occupations?
Cassidy Novak: 25, personal trainer and fitness director for a health club

Excerpt:

"Look! There she is!" A few hundred spectators pointed and gawked as Cassidy entered the ballroom of the Starlight Sensation. She gulped and smoothed down her sleeveless emerald pantsuit.
Deniz Jewell had called the other day with an offer for Cassidy's first public appearance, and conveniently, it was only forty-five minutes from home. A cruise line had asked her to headline the grand preview of a new luxury ship, docked at the Black Falcon Terminal in the South Boston Waterfront District. They wanted her to sign autographs and socialize with the guests who'd paid to attend a cocktail party and information session.
Cassidy would have preferred something more fitness-related, like an exercise video or sneaker endorsement, but Deniz said she was putting out feelers and that in the meantime, her client should take any work she could get.
Although a cruise ship wasn't what Cassidy had hoped for, she appreciated the marketing department's interest in her and liked that the event was in Boston. Even better, the cruise line had sent a black stretch limo for her and her companions from the Garrett Daily News.
Lynn, the cruise line's six-foot plus brunette director of publicity, rubbed her hands together in anticipation. Barrettes fastened sausage black curls off her rawboned face, lengthening her giraffe neck. Her springy ringlets bounced as she talked. "We're delighted to have you here, Cassidy, especially on such short notice. We just knew you'd be the perfect 'face' of the Starlight Sensation. When we have our maiden voyage this fall, we'd love for you to cruise with us. We could do a huge publicity campaign."
"Oh ... wow, that sounds like fun," Cassidy said.
First SOS. Then the cruise runner-up prize. Now this. How many ships was she doomed to ride?
"As you can see, you're a big hit." Lynn waved toward the guests murmuring and sneaking glances from round tables festooned with drinks and appetizers. "You'll sign autographs in here and our staff will be sure to keep the line orderly."
25 Years Ago Today
Good to know, but Cassidy half-wished she'd jumped out of the limo a few miles back at Castle Island, a spacious urban park and her favorite spot in Boston. She loved walking or jogging around Castle Island and the peaceful Pleasure Bay, enjoying views of the ferries and vessels passing in the harbor, the low airplanes descending toward Logan International Airport, and the tourists milling about the historic Fort Independence. She'd give anything for a hotdog and ice cream at Sullivan's, the popular family-run restaurant that serviced visitors. Alas, she'd get no relaxation today.
As Lynn conferred with a co-worker, Cassidy turned to her own personal news team. "Boy, does this beat the Atlantic Devil in the luxury department," she muttered.
"No kidding." Alison scrawled into her wire-bound notebook. With her sleek helmet of blonde locks and designer wardrobe, she looked more like a TV anchorwoman than a small-town newspaper reporter.
Zach Gallagher, her photographer, pulled his Nikon digital camera out of a padded bag and removed the felt Stetson from his wavy black hair. "I wouldn't mind taking a trip on this baby myself." His flash blinked, triggering a half-dozen cameras from other parts of the ballroom.
"Cassidy! Cassidy!" An acne-scarred young man rushed over to them. Lank greasy blond strands hung ragged past his shoulders, limp as a used mop, and a torn tee-shirt with Cassidy's blurred likeness fell to the waist of his ripped jeans.
He cupped a camera to his heart. "Please, could I pose for one picture with you? I know this is a huge favor, but I can't stay that long."
Lynn gave her a subtle nod. "Yeah, sure," Cassidy said.
She positioned herself beside the kid and Lynn snapped the photo with a cheerful "cheese."
His lip trembling, the kid stared at Cassidy. "You don't know what this means to me. You should have won. Reggie was a loser."
How could he say that? Reggie was dead. There were more important things than winning. Like living. Cassidy clamped down on her lip to keep from retorting. Telling off a fan wouldn't exactly endear her to the cruise line. Being the "face" of the Starlight Sensation could mean a lot of money in her bank account. They were already shelling out $1,000, plus the expense of a limo, for her to scribble her name and act amiable.
Luckily, the rest of the fans acted more restrained. Cassidy spent a pleasant hour and a half smiling and signing autographs. Afterwards, the last group streamed out the French doors, heading to the theater for the travel spiel. She snagged a finger sandwich and a couple wedges of cubed melon off a platter before strolling toward Alison, Zach and Lynn in back of the room.
Lynn gathered papers into a folder and stretched to her Amazonian height. "Thank you, Cassidy. That was fantastic. The next presentation should be starting if you'd like to watch."
"Great. I'm still shocked all those people waited in line to meet me. Thanks so much for inviting me today." Cassidy popped a piece of fruit into her mouth.
As Alison asked the publicist a few questions, Zach plucked a long-stemmed red rose off a vacant chair and extended it to Cassidy. "For you, my lady."
She looked at him over the blood red petals. Young face, mature eyes. Wisps of dark bangs straggled under the brim of his cowboy hat, which he had replaced after he finished taking pictures. He definitely improved the view around here. The harbor outside had nothing on him.
"Thanks," Cassidy said after she swallowed the melon.
Zach offered a sheepish grin, tanned olive skin setting off even white teeth. "It's not from me. I would have bought you a dozen if I knew you liked them. A little girl asked me to give it to you."
Cassidy read the tag taped to the stem. "You're the flower of my life. My love for you is blooming. Miles."
Hair on the back of her neck bristling, Cassidy dropped the rose to the hardwood floor and spun around. All she saw were white-jacketed waiters, glittering crystal chandeliers and their own reflections in the mirrored walls. "Was she with a man? What happened? What did the girl look like?"
"She was five or six. Long blonde hair pulled to the side, pink shirt, blue jeans. She came up to me on deck while I was walking around and said, 'This has to go to Cassidy.' I said, sure. I didn't see a parent, but I wasn't paying much attention. You okay?" Frowning, Zach touched her arm.

Interview with Cassidy Novak

Tell us about yourself.
I'm a personal trainer and fitness director for Spike's Muscle Madness. (I'm trying not to cringe as I answer.) I LOVE helping people to lead a healthier lifestyle and educating them about fitness and wellness, however, Spike is interested in his bottom line and not in advocating health. I have a hard time working anywhere that offers tanning beds, which can cause skin cancer. My goal is to establish my own chain of fitness centers, but I'm in debt due with my college loans. That's why I went on the new reality TV show Sink or Swim, because I was hoping to win enough money to start following my dream.
Tell us about (insert lover name here).
Zach Gallagher. He is a photographer for the local newspaper that's doing a series on my return home after my months competing on Sink or Swim. He's gorgeous and has this sexy Texas drawl. He looks cute in a cowboy hat, though who knew I was attracted to cowboys? He's so easygoing though, that it drives me crazy. We're complete opposites because I'm so driven. He's hiding something though, and I'm starting to wonder what's going on with him.
What do you think is your strongest point?
My determination and my vision. When I have a goal, I see it clearly in my mind and I do whatever it takes to pursue it.
What would Zach say is your strongest point?
He'd probably say that he admires how I want to help people have healthy lifestyles. He's always teasing me about how I nag my family to watch what they eat, but I think he admires how I want to take care of people.
What would Zach say is your biggest weakness?
He thinks I'm afraid of failure. Zach thinks I ought to start with opening one small fitness center and to forget about launching a chain of them, at least for now. He thinks I'm focusing on this unattainable goal that could take years to accomplish because I'm afraid to open my own business. Zach thinks I'm procrastinating. That's ridiculous. Did I mention that he thinks I'm stubborn, too?
Sink or Swim 
What was it like where you grew up?
I grew up in a small suburban town in New England called Garrett. My dad took off when I was four and I never saw him again. My mom, Pepper, is flaky but I love her. I was psyched when she married my stepfather Glenn, but they're divorced now. He's still an important part of my life, though. So is Bo, my younger brother.
What do you wish was different about your life?
I wish I had enough money to open that chain of fitness centers! I don't like working for other people. I really want to be self-sufficient and not have to depend on anyone else for my income.
If you were given your fondest wish, what would it be?
It would be for my dad to have stayed in my life instead of running away from his family.
Describe a place of perfect refuge.
Jogging around the track or lifting weights. Exercise helps me to escape from my thoughts and to be fully present in my body. It clears my head.
As a child, who was your best friend? Tell us about him/her.
I don't know if I ever really had a special best friend. I wasn't anti-social by any means – I did have friends. But a best friend? I guess it's sad that I can't answer it. I wish I knew Zach when we were kids. I wonder if he still wore a cowboy hat?
What do you wish I had asked you? Please ask and answer it now.
I wish you had asked me how I am dealing with the stalker who is terrorizing Sink or Swim contestants. I don't know who this psycho is, but he's messing with the wrong girl.

About the Author

Stacy Juba has made numerous bestseller lists including GalleyCat's Barnes & Noble Bestsellers, GalleyCat's Mystery and Thriller Bestsellers, and multiple Amazon Top 100 lists, and she has also been ranked as one of the Most Popular Authors in Mysteries on Amazon. She has had a book ranked as #5 in the Nook Store and #30 on the Amazon Kindle Paid List. Stacy has written about reality TV contestants targeted by a killer, an obit writer investigating a cold case, teen psychics who control minds, twin high school hockey stars battling on the ice, and teddy bears learning to raise the U.S. flag: she pursues whatever story ideas won't leave her alone. She is a former journalist with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit.

Previous Books

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today (adult mystery/romantic suspense)
25 Years in the Rearview Mirror: 52 Authors Look Back (essay anthology)
Dark Before Dawn (YA paranormal)
Face-Off (YA sports novel)
The Flag Keeper and the Teddy Bear Town Children's Bundle (children's picture books)

Books Coming Soon

A brand new romantic comedy/sweet romance inspired by the Cinderella theme.

Find Me Here



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