Thursday, March 29, 2012


Blurb - After recognizing her great-grandmother’s picture on the wall of a restored bordello-turned-museum, Tessa Steele sets out to track down exactly how Hallie became one of Miss Fanny’s ‘ladies’. Threatening phone calls and letters warning her that Nosy little girls get into trouble become the least of her worries when she meets Sgt. Dale McCord, a state police officer investigating a series of so-called ‘hauntings’ at Miss Fanny’s. Caught between her own curiosity about Miss Fanny’s and Dale’s disapproval, she goes ahead with her research. Each time she uncovers a new piece of information, she faces an even more sinister threat as well as Dale’s unexplained anger. She’s as determined to learn the truth as someone is to stop her. And Dale is determined to keep her alive—if he can.


On Monday afternoon, after dumping Lynn on our doorstep after school, I raced back to the courthouse before it closed at five. Within half an hour, I had a copy of Miss Fanny’s death certificate and her eight-page will and scuttled out just ahead of closing time. In my excitement, I ran up against the broad chest in a tan uniform.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I…”

“Well, well, Miss Sally Sleuth.”

I looked up into Dale McCord’s dark eyes, and my heart turned over.

“Oh,” I said, tightening my guilty grip on the papers in my hand, “it’s you.”

“What have you got there?”

“None of your business.”

He laughed. “I could arrest you.”

“On what grounds?”

“Interfering with an investigation.”

“You wouldn’t do that…would you?”

“If you keep on like you have been, you’ll be safer locked up in jail than on the streets.”
“What do you mean?”

“I know about your little sortie with Sandra Broome last weekend, and I’m guessing those papers you’re clutching to your heaving bosom have something to do with Miss Fanny.”

My temper rose. “You don’t have time to call me, but you’re spying on me?”

“I was out of town.”

“So you say.”

He shrugged. “And I needed some time to cool off after what happened.”

“I hope giving me the silent treatment for two weeks helped.”

He took my arm, a little roughly. “You’re playing with fire, Tessa. I don’t want to see you get burned.”

“Trite, trite, trite,” I taunted him.

He shook me a little. “I’ve asked you nicely. Now I’m telling you. Stay the hell away from that place.”

“Don’t talk to me like that. You have no right…”

He tightened his grip on my arm and pulled me down the steps. “Where are you parked?”

“In the back.”

Once he’d practically thrown me in my car, he said, “I need a woman, Tessa, not a little girl who plays games. If you ever grow up, let me know.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” I shot back.

He whirled and strode away. I wanted to run after him, tell him I was sorry, that I could be everything he wanted and needed. I had my hand on the door when my wounded pride kicked in and kept me frozen behind the wheel until he’d disappeared around the side of the courthouse.


Author bio:

Judy Nickles, writing as Gwyneth Greer, has been creating stories since she could hold a pencil and, later, peck on her father’s ancient Underwood. After retirement from teaching, believing that “Someday is here,” she began to pursue publication. Her love of history and long years of experience in genealogical research provide a boundless supply of story ideas. The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall is her fourth published novel. She is currently working on a series of cozy mysteries set in a small southern town.

Judy Nickles/Gwyneth Greer
Someday is here

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Tagline: Windmaster - Revenge set Ellspeth and the archmage, Dal, on the path to her destiny, but prophecy controlled the journey.

Blurb: Windmaster is a romance-filled, action-packed fantasy described by readers as a fascinating story that will keep you up all night turning the pages. Revenge set Ellspeth, captain of Sea Falcon, on the path to her destiny, but prophecy controlled the journey. Despite his insolent attitude, she is attracted to the dark-haired dockworker she hires to help unload the vessel's cargo. When the supposed dockhand reveals he is Lord Dal, the last member of the Council of Wizards, and her passenger, Ellspeth breaks a cardinal rule--fraternizing with the paying customers. Bringing him back from near-death releases Ellspeth's latent powers and threatens her captaincy. For to have magic she must give up the sea.

Dal has his own reasons for Ellspeth to embrace her powers. In accordance with an ancient prophecy, Dal allows Ellspeth to be handfasted to him without her knowledge or consent. However, the prophecy doesn't state whether she will return his love. A likelihood threatened as the deception is unveiled and Dal is captured and stripped of his powers by fanatical clerics bent on ridding the world of magic and those who wield it.

Trapped within the Oracle's Temple and marked for sacrifice, Ellspeth must choose between her own survival, saving the future of magic... or love.


From the mists of time, a prophecy awaits to be fulfilled.

Mountain and sea are bound together,
Then one will bind the other.
A heritage once denied,
Will become a source of pride.
A shadow lies upon the land
And evil confuses the mind of man.
Upon a journey two must go
To sing a song of pain and sorrow.
The final destiny remains unclear
Whether it will be filled with laughter or tears.

Calling a halt, Ellspeth wiped the sweat out of her eyes. The workers slid beneath wagons or into the sliver of shade presented by the ship’s shadow to escape the searing mid-day sun. Silently she counted the number of barrels and crates still on deck. “We need more hands,” she declared. Desperate to get her goods undercover before the heat ruined them, Ellspeth searched the bustling docks. She focused on a man. Not because he busily shifted crates, but because he lounged against a barrel placed in the shade.

His clothes seem of good quality. Maybe he’s a local tradesman. After a second look at the well-worn loose breeches, tight vest, and leather neckband, she corrected herself. Or, the younger son of a chieftain from the Mtwan mountain region. A few quick steps took her to the loafer who watched her approach, amusement sparkling in his light brown eyes.

“You look strong. I will pay you 10 coppers for the day. That is double the going rate. Payment when the Sea Falcon is unloaded.”

Accustomed to an immediate response from her crew, Ellspeth’s fists clenched at his insolent stare when he ignored her and took another bite of his meat roll. His gaze holding hers, he raised his earthen mug in salute and asked. “Do you even have 10 coppers?”

Several long swallows later, he clanked the drained mug down on the barrelhead. The slowness with which he wrapped the remnants of his meal in a small square of white cloth and wiped the foam from his lips with the back of his hand frustrated Ellspeth even more. Slipping the bundle into a small pouch hanging from his belt, he turned the movement into a courtly bow. His cool tones were at odds with the smile that never left his eyes. “Lead on. I’ll give you an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wages.”

Ellspeth paired herself with him as they worked to unload the ship. There was something different about this dockhand. But what? The heavy bolts of Nerevian silk seemed much lighter whenever he held the other end.

She felt her face warm at the image of his hands unbinding her hair.

Helen Henderson
Stories that take you to the stars, the Old West, or worlds of imagination

Monday, March 26, 2012


Novel length at 65-85,000 words.

Whispers of Mysteria --Mysteria Island, a small strip of land off the coast of Oregon, harbors many secrets. Nasty things hiding in the fog...

A new resident is drawn to the quaint hominess of the island, but can s/he survive the evil that lurks beneath the surface, or the residents bound to protect the secrets hiding within. Must include psychic elements in either characterization or town/island secrets.

Send your submission with complete package (see below for guidelines) to Judy Gill, at Call is open until all six books in the series are contracted.


Only submit finished, original works please. Be sure to proof read your manuscript thoroughly. Your manuscript should be double spaced, New Times Roman 12 point, with one inch borders. No footers or headers, but please include contact information on the top line of each attachment, so that we are able to contact you should your submission get separated from your query letter.

We no longer take simultaneous submissions, so please do not submit your manuscript to us if you have sent it elsewhere.

Your submission package must include the following:

1) A professional query letter which includes the title of your novel, word count, genre, a brief biography and your contact information. Include this in the body of your email.

2) A synopsis of your book that describes the story from beginning to end. Please keep it to 2-3 pages in length. Attach it to your email in RTF format. Please give your synopsis an appropriate title, not simply 'synopsis'. ie: Synopsis-The Winner.

3) First three chapters, saved in RTF format and attached to your email. Please name your partial manuscript appropriately, ie: Partial-The Winner.

4) A promotional plan, showing short term and long term goals. While your submission won't be won or lost on the basis of this 'plan', it will get you thinking about what you can do to help promote your novel. Saved in RTF format and attached to your email.


The Taste of Champagne I’m offering up this month is more like a magnum. Allison Knight, a veteran Champagne author, wrote the Song Series over the last several years. At this point, I must admit to knowing Allison personally. As President of our RWA Chapter, she worked tirelessly leading our chapter, establishing the new by-laws that RWA national required for all the chapters, and building our membership after Katrina decimated our membership. That said, I own the whole Song series because they are outstanding medieval reads.

The Song books are set along the borders of England ruled by the Marcher Barons – and rule they did. The Marcher Lords were powerful, usually trusted nobles, appointed by the Norman Kings of England to guard the dangerous English borders. Though they swore personal allegiance to the king as feudal subjects, these Norman lords had complete jurisdiction over their subjects, without recourse to the king of England. Marcher lords ruled their lands by their own law sicut regale ("like unto a king"), including building castles and administering laws in their own courts.

Allison knows her medieval history and weaves it into her story to create a rich setting for her vibrant characters. Historically, many of the Marcher lords contracted marriages with the Welsh nobility but there was always the potential for conflict. Part of the conflict stemmed from the role of women in Celtic culture of Wales as opposed to Anglo-Norman society. Unlike the Anglo-Norman women who were regarded as chattel, Celtic women historically could own property, hold important positions of power, and exercise a measure of personal freedom unheard of in Anglo-Norman society.

In Heartsong, Rhianna is captured by the English Baron deShay, who must conquer his attraction to the Welsh princess who would make a valuable hostage for King Edward to use – that is, if he can bring himself to surrender her. In Battlesong, when English baron Arthur ap Brynn Ffrydd is tricked into wedding young Laren Blair, the daughter of a Scottish laird, he abandons her at his keep only to return years later to discover he’s very attracted to the woman she has become. In Windsong, Milisent Mortimer is about to be married to a powerful lord known for his cruelty when she is kidnapped for revenge by Alwyn ab Brynn Ffrydd who believes she is his enemy’s mistress rather than his sister. How delicious! Happy reading until next month when our Taste of Champagne will come from the hot reads at Carnal Passions. Rita Bay


Heartsong Buy Link:

Battlesong Buy Link:

Windsong Buy Link:

Sunday, March 25, 2012


"Forever Just Got Longer."

Unable to resist the lure of finding her niece, Josie picks up the crumbs of clues left behind. With her old friend and savior, pod-hunter Quin Aguilar at her side, she seeks out Fern Bettencourt who is assumed to be sleeping for over a hundred years.

From an unlikely source, Fern’s location is discovered, and together with her husband, Josie seeks out her last link to her past. Will Fern want to be found? And will finding Fern be enough to bury the ghosts that haunt Josie? Can Josie bring herself to destroy her last remaining family in order to save herself?

The Eternal Knot, the final chapter in the Lancaster trilogy. Will Josie finally rest in peace in the new future she lives in?


John Lancaster wondered, for the umpteenth time, what to get his wife for her birthday.

He’d known her for two years. In those two years, the only thing she’d ever asked for was the tattoo that adorned both their fingers instead of traditional wedding rings. This did not mean that she didn’t want a present, not in the least. In the two years he’d known her, he’d learned the subtle art of surviving marriage—and a woman’s mind—like his life depended on it.

The first time he’d met her, it had been her birthday. She was a prisoner, accused of being a terrorist. Granted, she’d been his prisoner and he’d been doing the accusing, but that was beside the point.

Now she was his wife and his life had changed forever. To envision a life without her in it was impossible. Josie was indelibly linked to him, it seemed their paths were destined to cross. He smiled as he remembered her when they had first met. Scared yet wilfully arrogant, and the profanity that flew out of her mouth was shockingly refreshing.

Reeling his mind back to the present, he considered her again. While her tastes and preferences were very simple and relatively undemanding, he still wanted to get her something very special. In a few days, she’d be looking for a gift—and pretending very hard not to—and he still had no clue what to get. There would be a very long face at the end of it.


My Blog/Web:
Facebook: The Lancaster Rule • Written By T.K. Toppin
Twitter: TKToppin
Writer/Member: The Writer's Vineyard

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I was having a cup a coffee the other day when a female friend ventured by, tapped me on the shoulder, and continued to the counter to get her own mug of brew. For simplicity, let’s call her Joy. On her return passage by my table, Joy seat down across from me, and began to chat. I love it when my local friends and acquaintances offer idle chit chat. Joy is a sweet but mysterious young lady. She coveys a unique reflection about life and all its complexities. Behind those green eyes resides a spark and compassion that is missing in many of today’s lost souls. Finally she came to a topic we often discuss, my books. You see, she loves to read my stories. I’m not sure whether it’s because she really likes them or because I’m the only author she knows.

Anyway, she began to ask about a character in a particular story (TAINTED HERO) and discuss how touched she was at what happened to this particular person. Then she caught me off guard with the question, “Isn’t it hard to do that?” I smiled with pride, “A little.” Joy continued. “I thought so. I’m not sure I could do that. I thing I’d be crying over the keyboard.” Then I realized the insight of this young women’s inquiry. She wasn’t asking about the creativity process; she was probing into the nature of people to empathize with the plight of others, even if they were some fictional character that was conjured from their own mind. And she was right. I remembered back to when I struggled with that particular scene. I was moved, not to tears, but my throat actually tightened and I wanted to reach through the screen and help the character, and especially to strangle the villain. I was so moved, I actually changed the outcome. In my original outline the female character died, but I was so struck by her and all she had gone through, I couldn’t deal with losing her. She still suffered, but she survived.

Then I realized I had experienced this same heartstring relationship with fictional characters in all my stories. I guess they became so real I empathized with their plight. I know it sounds weird to be moved by a scene evolving out of your own head, but I really do. Some stories more then others, but always to some degree. Maybe that’s why I enjoy that first breath of the story when I initially create the scenes, and see it happening for the first time. I remember in one story (Shadow of Guilt) I was moved to such a degree, I literally had to stop and go outside to split some wood and relieve my anguish. The character was suffering so deeply, her path in life so sad, I couldn’t stand it.

I know that’s strange, especially for a big guy, and I’m not a wussy, but don’t most of us choke up when we see another human suffering. In this case I hated the outcome of the story, but I couldn’t change it. It was what the novel was all about. Without her history, what this poor girl experienced, you had no Shadow of Guilt.
I’m curious if other authors encounter this same heartstring response when their fictional characters undergo pain and sorrow. Or maybe it’s just me. Perhaps I need to get some testosterone injections to reaffirm my guyhood. My wife always did say I was too emotional (g).

Big Mike

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Call for Submissions

Novella length at 20k, for both our Champagne and Carnal Passions lines, which means both erotic and non-erotic romance novellas.

Dark Heroes--what happens when the man of your dreams has more than a few flaws?

When disaster strikes sometimes the man of your dreams isn't who you thought. For these heroines it's not the white knight riding in to save the day, he is the slightly tarnished armor-clad warrior who captures her heart. Give us your best dark hero, show us his flaws, his character, his need for the one woman who makes him tremble.

Send your submission with complete package (see below for guidelines) to Patricia Bates, Dark Heroes Coordinator, at


Only submit finished, original works please. Be sure to proof read your manuscript thoroughly. Your manuscript should be double spaced, New Times Roman 12 point, with one inch borders. No footers or headers, but please include contact information on the top line of each attachment, so that we are able to contact you should your submission get separated from your query letter.

We no longer take simultaneous submissions, so please do not submit your manuscript to us if you have sent it elsewhere.

Your submission package must include the following:

1) A professional query letter which includes the title of your novel, word count, genre, a brief biography and your contact information. Include this in the body of your email.

2) A synopsis of your book that describes the story from beginning to end. Please keep it to 2-3 pages in length. Attach it to your email in RTF format. Please give your synopsis an appropriate title, not simply 'synopsis'. ie: Synopsis-The Winner.

3) First three chapters, saved in RTF format and attached to your email. Please name your partial manuscript appropriately, ie: Partial-The Winner.

4) A promotional plan, showing short term and long term goals. While your submission won't be won or lost on the basis of this 'plan', it will get you thinking about what you can do to help promote your novel. Saved in RTF format and attached to your email.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Epicon, Day 1

So I am in beautiful San Antonio, Texas for my first ever Epicon, which is the annual convention put on by my digital publishing organization. Epic, which has been around for over ten years now, is a must for any author, editor, artist, publisher or other interested party, who is involved in digital publishing.

Anyway, staying at the Menger Hotel, which is a beautiful facility. It's very old and boasts a long history, right down to a bunch of resident ghosts who still call the hotel home. Go ahead and do a Google search. It's fascinating reading.

So far, I'm loving the conference. It isn't huge this year, likely because of the switch in venues, but you know, that's just adding to the charm of this whole experience. I'm meeting some very nice people, getting to talk face to face with some publisher colleagues that I've only talked to via email, and enjoyed some interesting workshops.

One of the highlights so far, is meeting Betty K (don't make me try and spell her last name, can't do it!), who is the president of Epic. She is so friendly and personable, and it's truly nice to have some on so excited about Epic and the future of digital publishing at the helm. Do you know, that of all the conferences and conventions I've been to over the last few years, she is the ONLY one who took the time to email me prior to the start of the con, to check and make sure I had my room taken care of and that travel plans were in order? I thought that was very nice, and it bumped up my opinion of her and her board immensely.

Attended a fascinating lecture by LTC (retired) David Blain, who discussed US military history. Learned a bunch of stuff not in the history books, plus a lot of other things that I'd never know. Didn't know that a submarine is called a 'boat', and not a ship. Heck, didn't ever think of calling it a boat, since it goes underwater! But there you have it.

Another really good workshop that will stick with me for a while was Marilyn Meredith's discussion on blogging and blog tours. It put a lot of food for thought into my already over stuffed brain! Yes, I know, my authors are cringing already, wondering what I'll have in store for them next. But that's for another day. I'll let them sweat a day or two.

Speaking of sweating, this poor Canadian gal is sweltering down here in the heat and humidity! I expected it to be warm but I didn't expect temperatures in the high 20's. (celcius). It's warm but I'm coping.

Lastly, we had a beautiful river cruise in the late afternoon. The cruise wound around about a 4 km route of beautiful bridges, fountains and historic buildings. And our guide was extremely knowledgable and could point out all sorts of interesting things. He even showed us where they have the river boat driver Olympics each year. I can't imagine trying to move a beach ball through a small area with a big-assed boat, but apparently it can be done! All in all, a very nice tour at the end of a busy day.

I'll try and post again tomorrow night, but no promises. Big night tomorrow with the ebook awards dinner and ceremony.

'Til next time,


Thursday, March 15, 2012

EXCERPT FROM STEEL EMBRACE by Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane


While coming to terms with diverse passions and consuming emotions, Raina and Steel are stalked by an assailant and discover a joint legacy that could end in their deaths.
(Erotic Suspense/BDSM)


“He bears the mark, Mistress Nubula,” the Neanderthal announced as
he released Titane.

Spinning about Titane clenched his fist. “And just what in hell was
that all about?”

“I needed to know for sure,” responded the cool, sensual voice of a
woman with a hint of a Scandinavian accent. Titane caught his breath as a
cloaked figure stepped into the cell. A hood fell away, revealing Nordic
blonde hair, scarlet lips and eyes cold as ice. Titane had never seen a more
beautiful woman. Too much arrogance haunted her countenance, too much
experience. Besides, despite the image of youth, there was something
synthetic about her. He suspected she was probably far older than she

“I’m Titane Hunter. What do you want of me?” he said in an
astonishingly controlled tone, as if they were meeting in a boardroom. He
braced his feet apart and held out his dirt-encrusted hand, fingernails rimmed
with the filth of his imprisonment. He knew the only things more appalling
than his personal stench was his mussed hair and untrimmed beard. Still, he
stood there, hoping he didn’t break down and beg for mercy. He wasn’t
proud of the thought, but if he had to spend another few months incarcerated,
he’d surely go insane. He’d passively crawl as if a submissive and kiss his
d’trix’s boots to avoid it and that sort of behavior wasn’t part of his nature.

“I know who you are,” she said. “I named you well before you were


“I named you well before you were taken.”

“Taken?” His face scrunched with utter confusion. “Named me?”

“Ja,” she said.


“As a child along with your brother, Steel. We were taken from


“Where is here?”


“No, home is back in the hills of Pennsylvania. This is a cold damn

She smiled. It held no warmth. “You are as dramatic as your father.”

“You know my father.”

Again, the cold numbing smile emerged. “Intimately.”

He didn’t respond, still fighting the fear that she’d soon be gone,
leaving him to flounder in puzzlement without ever knowing why he had
been abducted. Yet, he couldn’t bring himself to demand any answers. The
reality of the time within the prison walls had taken something from him
almost galvanizing him with trepidation. He never thought himself a coward,
yet he certainly wasn’t acting like the man he generally was. A distant part of
him remembered, remembered how he could take command. He was slapped
into a confused wobble by her claims.

Titane mustered some of his old strength. However, before he could
speak, she further blindsided him. “It is time you knew who I am.”

He lifted a brow as if in compensation for a verbal response.

She grinned. “Again, you show your father’s traits.”

“You knew him?” he reiterated.

“He, too, acted as if fear couldn’t touch him. We were married.
Though not matched at birth, he had charm to keep things amusing.”

“You were married to my father?” Titane couldn’t help blurting out.


“You lie.”

“Married and bore him children. You and Steel are two of them.”

“No,” Titane stated, fierce with emotions he couldn’t discern.

“It’s a truth.”

He gave a dismissive glare.

“Deal as you will with that.” She turned toward the exit, but
continued to speak. “You will spend another night here, but it’ll be the last of
your imprisonment. By tomorrow I will force the Sire, Zinc, to either
reinstate you as Rune, or kill you.”


We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us at (Write - Blog - in subject line) and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane

Angelica Hart and Zi
CHRISTMAS EVE...VIL ~ Christmas 2012


Sunday, March 11, 2012


An age-old method of enticing prospective customers to buy your new product is offering sample bites, free trials, movie trailers and test rides. Authors do it with excerpts, those selected passages lifted from text to pique the readers’ interest in the hope that they actually become book owners. The Boss and I devised a stretch to the excerpt theory with my collection, Gunshot Echoes.

From Gunshot Echoes (2008), a single complete story, “Mexican Holiday,” was extracted in 2011 as a stand-alone, promo-priced, short story volume complete with its unique cover. Since the story in itself is an excerpt from the parent volume designed to entice readers to the complete book, here I must resort to a second-level excerpt to convince the reader first to purchase the quick-read PDF, and depend on that acceptance to take them to the complete collection in paper print or full length ebook—a nibble, then a bite and then the whole plate.


“Mexican Holiday” is anything but, as it unravels into an international kidnapping and drug smuggling terror experience. The protagonist is a travel magazine freelance writer who, with the aid of some friends and fellow travelers, saves the day for, and most of the lives of, a tour bus full of panicked vacationers from north of the border.

EXCERPT, from “Mexican Holiday,” from Gunshot Echoes:

Our Mexicana Oro tour bus pulled into a restaurant in the border town of Sonoyta for the scheduled lunch stop. The last rest and shopping stop was arranged for San Luis Rio Colorado, 200 kilometers back and we were ready for a leg-stretcher. The newly refurbished bus was air-conditioned, obviously designed for the comfort of the nearly all-North American passengers. In fact, all passengers were American when the bus departed San Diego the day before for Ensenada and Mexicali. Following a leisurely morning around Mexicali after the first overnight stay of the tour, many of the American tourists were astonished and some offended when two surprise Mexican nationals responded to the driver, Carlos’s, “All aboard.”

…I did not pay particular attention to the two Mexicans during our souvenir-shopping stop earlier in San Luis, but did notice now they sat together in the restaurant, not sharing a table with any of the other passengers. Had I been alert to them at the time, I probably still would have dismissed any concerns, assuming it to be expected for two Mexican outsiders to bond with one another after having been thrown together in this assemblage of North Americans.

…I became uneasy when Carlos tooted for our departure, and a third Mexican man appeared and asked to join the tour. This newest member of our group did not dress as well as our earlier hitchhikers who were in sports jackets and ties. He was in workman’s clothes and carried a canvas valise, which likely contained his tools I deduced, unlike the earlier two who were traveling without luggage.

…All was right with the world—until I became aware that Carlos was bringing us to a stop in the middle of the highway.

Two police cars angled across the two-lane highway, with blue lights flashing on top, made a substantial and imposing roadblock. An adventurous driver with something to hide and who may have considered speeding past them on the open shoulder, and then outrunning them, would have to think twice. With one cruiser pointed in each direction, a rabbit would have a cruiser on his tail in no time. Carlos indicated no such notion: he was already reaching for his wallet when the two troopers climbed aboard.

…One of the uniformed policemen wandered through the coach, looking left and right, seemingly examining passengers’ faces for some particular recognition, but saying nothing. I was sure he was going to stop and question the three Mexican men who obviously were out of place on the luxury tour bus. The last of the three to board slouched low in his seat as the officer approached and tilted his hat further over his face. Ah, he’s the one they’re after, I surmised, but no—the officer walked on by. The officer stood at the back of the bus, hand on the sidearm at his belt, I noticed, somewhat suspiciously. The officer who remained up front with Carlos spoke:

“Ladeez and gentlemen: I warn you all to do nothing foolish and to cooperate. You will not be harmed if you do as you are told.”


Jim Woods has published some four hundred articles in nationally distributed print magazines, contributed to various fact and fiction anthologies, and is the author of sixteen print and e-books with treatments ranging from writing tutorial to fictional political assassination. He is a world traveler, so far having logged his presence in eighty countries. He also is a former Editor, Managing Editor and Editorial Director with Petersen Publishing Company of Beverly Hills; and Senior Field Editor with Publishers Development Corporation, San Diego. He’s a former big-game hunter and has written extensively on African safari, both the hunting and camera varieties. He lives and writes in Tucson, Arizona. Find him on line at:

Saturday, March 10, 2012




Picking up her head from the computer, Tattle gets Wrye’s attention by tossing a kitty cat eraser at him. “To quote Robin Williams, Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!’”

He catches the offering and stacks it atop his growing collection of oddities that Tattle has flung his way. Why she just doesn’t call him by name to get his attention is one of those mysteries Wrye has declined to unravel. “Is that your way of saying let’s indulge in a Love of Literature Leap?”

“You know me so well.” Standing, she swooshes her hand through the air in an elegant gesture, “After you.”

“Do you hear that?”

Wrye inclines his head, “A car crash?”

“No, music…like eerie music…like demons jamming with cobwebbed flutes.”

Wrye points to the replica of a demonic creature on the gate post, “That is stirring your imagination, m’scaredy Tattle cat.”

“Maaaaybe,” Penza Dona Tattle agrees, passing through the gate with Wrye on her heels, “After all, according to Special Agent Jason Tregarth, that’s the image of a lesser god of evil from ancient times.”

“And brings us right into the spirit of Book 1 of The Dagon House Series, TAKEN IN, by Jane Toombs, a contemporary paranormal.”

Once in the house, Tattle pokes around the like a spy on an urgent caper. “Speaking of spirit…make that plural, Dragon House boosts many, and Gail Sarandon becomes the catalyst to awaken those intent on revenge.”

“Actually, m’spooked friend, it isn’t her but the murderer.” Wrye runs his finger along the lines of a paragraph, and says. “Gail witnessed a murder, and the killer is now after her. It’s the murderer that rouses the ghosts and their nasty temperaments.”

“Oh, so that’s where Jason, our special agent comes in….”

“While she was running from the scene, it was Jason to the rescue, but a car crash brings them to Dragon House, where ghouls and secrets and vengeance reside.”

Hands fly to Tattle’s cheeks. “Oh my!”

“Add the hidden agendas and secrets of the house and its inhabitants and well…our hero and heroine find themselves in more dire straits than a simple killer can present.”

“Me thinks it is time for low lights, stormy skies and a good book like this to whittle away the eve.”

“Sounds like a ghoulish plan to moi!”

“But first….” They leap once more.

“Ut oh!” Tattle exclaims as they appear CC Kaufman’s THE INVITATION, a Carnal Passions contemporary erotica. “We popped into prrrivate time!”

Eyes wide and appreciative, Wrye grins, “Yup! It seems this little lady wants to do a little strip for Clarke.”

“Tsk…tsk, Mister Peeping-Wyre Balderdash!” Tattle lightly smacks his shoulder and turns him in the opposition direction. “This is personal, between Clarke and the woman.”

Wyre does his familiar shaggy brow lift. “And, of course, the reader! We’re readers,” he adds hopefully.

“That we are m’voyeur, but at the moment we are just snoopin’, and with the three Hs dancing around Clarke like a sizzling tango, this hero is truly fun to check out.”

“Clarke…Clarke…” Wrye adopts a thinking expression. “Ah, yes, the dreamer…the seeker…the….” Wrye pauses, “three Hs?

“Hot, handsome and hornnnnny!” Tattle exclaims, drawing the last word out as if savoring it. “Those fine qualities help him in his endeavor to find the lady of his dreams, but unfortunately, the dream is as elusive as trying to catch quicksilver with your fingers, for his dream keeps changing...until…” she pauses, and then offers, “Da…da…da…daaaaaa…until he meets Michelangela.”

“Alas, she is such stuff as dreams are made of,” Wrye poses like a Shakespearean actor.

“Perchance to dream but it may not be enough, for as much as he longs to lure her heart, he might be stunned by what he discovered.”

“Things are never as they seem.”

“So off with you and read, to be or not to be Clarke’s advocate in his pursuit of his dream.”

Wrye bows, altering another of the Barb’s quotes, “We go, and it is done; another book invites me.”

Visiting with these characters has been such fun. Come and join us next month when we change things up a bit. We will be gossiping about one of Champagne Books most prolific authors, ALLISON KNIGHT, her characters, her muse, and her historical stories, that are unforgettable.
Happy Spring!

Dona Penza Rutabaga Tattle, Esq.
and Associate Wrye Balderdash
of Blather City, Wannachat

Created and written by
Angelica Hart and Zi

CHRISTMAS EVE...VIL ~ Christmas 2012

Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Medieval Women and the Church

Over the years, I’ve smiled at some of the misconceptions written about the women of important medieval families, the Church, as well as how life in a convent is portrayed.

At the time, most women of titled families were considered only good for two things. They could marry someone who would increase their father’s position, holdings (property), influence or – they could pray. That was it.

Some of the clergy at the time insisted that St. Augustine in his correspondence to St. Jerome, declared a boy received a soul at the moment of conception and a girl didn’t get one until six weeks after conception. Disrespect for women didn’t stop there. She couldn’t attend a religious service after the birth of a child until she’d been ‘churched’ and if she died in child birth, she didn’t get a church burial. Women were considered inferior by many clergy and just a step above animals.

If a woman didn’t want to marry, or was widowed and didn’t or couldn’t remarry for whatever reason, she got to pray. Of course, if she couldn’t stay in her home, she was sent to a special place. These houses for these women, ‘convents’ were separate from the monasteries and in most cases they were governed by a man, usually a priest. It wasn’t until later that women governed themselves. Leaving the convent and caring for the sick, the poor, the infirm didn’t begin until the late 1600's.

Now, when a ‘virgin’ went to the convent, she was encouraged to take solemn vows, “take the veil”. She was called a nun and she couldn’t leave the convent, couldn’t talk to anyone but the other nuns nor could she see any family or friends. Her life consisted of fasting and praying, although she might be required to help with some menial tasks needed for survival, like food preparation. When widows came, they also accepted that kind of life. Late in the 1200's, a woman (usually a widow, or a woman whose husband decided to go to a monastery) would take ‘simple vows’, hence ‘sisters’. Their vows weren’t as binding and allowed a woman to associate with young girls who came to the convent to be educated. The education was not much more than learning to read the bible and their prayer books and in some cases, simple arithmetic.
Eventually they were allowed to leave to minister to people who lived around the convent.

The contribution of property or money to admit a woman to a convent and keep her there, didn’t come along until later.

Oh, it’s fun to stretch the truth in fiction, to glamorize the life of one of these women. However, medieval women in convents weren’t considered brilliant managers, many had only rudimentary skills in reading, writing. They wouldn’t have been able to govern a large estate until much later in history, whether they had the skills or not. No, most of the women of the time didn’t have much of a life, whether they were sent to a convent or married. There are of course a very few exceptions, but they were few and far between.

I like to write about the women of that time period, and yes, I like to portray these women as more than they were but I sure wouldn’t want to go back in time and live then.


Allison Knight
Heart-warming Romance with A Sensual Touch
'A Matter of Passion' A short story from Champagne Books

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

FOCUS A WRITER MUST HAVE IT' by Julie Eberhart Painter

Of all the skills I've learned in this last quarter of century’s worth of concentrated writing, it's that three elements are key to a successful piece of writing: Point Of View, story and focus.

POV is a learned skill. There are many articles around to guide writers through that tunnel. And story tells itself providing we stay true to it and the POV characters living it.

Today I'd like to talk about focus.

Focus is a slippery issue, easily lost when we are distracted by a cute joke or a sidebar kind of addendum. The “let's include this,” mind will not get a story past the first editor. I find flash fiction, which for me is similar to a shaggy dog story, a good place to put those little distracting asides.

But focusing, “Now there’s the rub.” With focus the writer must stay on point. Each character should speak as himself or herself, act in their own style and have a clear voice—so clear that very few dialogue tags are needed. The characters must dress and look like the person the writer is portraying. (No tart clothes on a nun.)

Some bit players will not be thoroughly described. The days of a person entering the room, followed by a full bio and inventory of their appearance are gone. Minimalism is in. Get to the point. Elmore Leonard says he leaves out the parts people skip over out. That might be extreme, but it's a good measuring stick to apply when you get verbiage in your wordage.

The focus is how is this character acting? What part of the back story must be included, IE: he just got out of jail, she's not wearing a wedding ring and is obviously expecting, or something as subtle as a physical disability that can only be caused by the back story itself.

Applying the disciplined pen to the focus of your piece will get your readers laughing in the right places and crying as you might have when you first wrote the scene. Weed out the extraneous details that clutter the point of the story. Especially, remember Tim O’Brien’s advice? “When you come to the end (of the story) stop!”

If all else fails, take that little gem you're just dying to use and make it the focus of a short-short or flash fiction story.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and CTRR award-winning Kill Fee. Web site at Check out to read Julie's latest, focused flash fiction.

Monday, March 5, 2012



Social worker, Candace Hudson wants a baby; Texas cattle rancher, Griff Calhoun needs a consultant for a special project. But neither one suspects that their collaboration will give them both the Wake-Up Call they need.


Candace Hudson slapped at the alarm clock, but the annoying noise continued. Remembering the wake-up call she had requested, she groaned and fumbled for the phone. “Thank you.”

A deep chuckle hummed in her ear. “Well, darlin’, you’re welcome.”

She jerked upright. The room swayed and her head pounded. “Who is this?”
“You knew my name last night, as I recall.”

She shivered and clutched the sheet around her naked body. I’m naked? I don’t sleep in the nude. Last night was fuzzy. She had attended the service awards dinner for the Kids World Summit where she had shared a table with five other people. Three women and the computer geek from California. No, he didn’t have a drawl. The only other man at the table was from Texas. What the hell was his name? He wore boots and a cowboy hat—a walking cliché. No one could have been more out of place. Name, name, name. She squeezed her eyes shut and tapped a finger to her forehead. Her breathing quickened.

She exhaled slowly. “I don’t know who you are, or what you’re trying to do, but….”

“Candy? You don’t remember. You downed a few glasses of wine, but not that much. I think that Randall fella got to you. I don’t know what he did to piss you off, but remind me to never do that. Maybe I should come back up there and refresh your memory.”

“No! Don’t come up here. And don’t call me Candy.” An image flashed: Someone removing her clothing and placing her on the bed. She shuddered. What happened to me last night?

The Texas drawl pulled her back. “Okay then, how about lunch? Maybe seein’ me will jumpstart your memory.”

“I…I’m hanging up now.” She slammed down the phone as her stomach convulsed. She tossed back the covers and pulled on the robe draped over a chair. In the bathroom, she looked in the mirror. Her smudged eye makeup gave her a raccoon-on-the-morning-after look. Honey-blonde hair spiked out wildly from her head, and her lips were swollen. An oval bruise glared from her neck. What the hell have I done? And who did I do it with?

She sat on the edge of the tub and closed her eyes again, mentally skimming the faces of her dinner companions. Taking a deep breath, she focused on the image of the man who had sat across from her. A black Stetson and boots—black leather with a thin line of silver trim. Spurs? No, of course not. She let her inner vision work its way up those long, long denim-clad legs. The etched belt buckle—a pair of letters. Double C? No. GC. Name, name. George? Greg? Come on. Come on. Griff…and something with a ‘C’. It figures. The egomaniac wears a vanity belt buckle.

Continuing her perusal, she recalled the expensive-looking white shirt that hugged a narrow, muscled midsection. A rugged but pleasant face bore a cleft chin and a square, shadowed jaw. A mustache? She hated a mustache. A slightly crooked smile pulled at full lips and revealed another dimple. Her lips parted and she licked them. Move on.

Hmm, nice nose. The slightest bump—probably an old sports injury or a bar fight. Cheekbones. Very nicely defined. Now on to the eyes. She gasped. Smoky-gray eyes looked down at her from beneath impossibly long, dark eyelashes. Down? Oh, my god. Her eyes flashed open. She pulled a tissue from the box on the sink and wiped the smeared eyeliner. A wave of nausea rolled through her. Who the hell is Griff?



Saturday, March 3, 2012

HOW IT ALL BEGAN by Allison Knight

Heartsong, probably one of my favorite novels, had the strangest beginnings of all my books. Usually when an idea pops into my head, it’s the beginning, the hook, so I have a place to start. Then I try and figure out what’s going to happen to my poor characters and what has gone before to make them the way they are. As the story grows, I often see the scenes in my head as I try to go to sleep. In fact a couple of those scenes have been so vivid I had to get out of bed and rush to the computer. I seldom have the end of the book in mind when I begin but not so with Heartsong!

I was on my way to teach an evening class on writing at a community college. It was fall, the weather was crisp, the leaves starting to turn and I had a forty-five minutes drive ahead of me. I tuned the car radio to my favorite classical station and let my thoughts drift to the plans for the evening’s class. Something, I’ll probably never know what, made me register the chorus coming through my car speakers. It was the end of the opera Faust, and the melody is a haunting thing.

Suddenly, I had a vision of a woman in medieval grab standing before a knight. She was crying and wanted her baby back. I was so stunned, I pulled into a service plaza and sat there for several minutes waiting for the picture to fade.

I don’t remember what my plans for class were for that night, but even as I was teaching I knew I had to pursue that scene and figure out what was wrong with that woman. As I lectured, in back of my mind, ideas fought for clarity. During our coffee break I wrote down as many of those ideas as I could.

For the first time in writing a book, I had to start at the end because what I saw while listening to the radio was the black moment of the story, the point toward which the whole book was leading. As I put plot points on paper, the story fell into place. By the time I got home, I had a book. Of course, I had an awful lot of research to do and there were still many details that needed to be flushed out but when I crawled into bed that night, I even had the name of the book. ‘Heartsong’ had been born. The name has never changed.

What's amazing is other authors since then have told me similar stories about what inspires a story. A book’s idea may not start at the beginning of the story, but someplace in the middle or even at the end. A nationally recognized author of best selling mysteries told me he always starts at the end. If he doesn’t know who did it, he can’t put the right clues into the beginning of the book. So when an idea occurs, be it the end of a book, or someplace in the middle, you may have the next best seller. Don’t discount a possible story because you envision the final chapter instead of the start. I learned that lesson with "Heartsong"!

Allison Knight
Heart-warming Romance with A Sensual Touch
'A Matter of Passion' A short story from Champagne Books

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Sometimes a man’s past resurges like a vengeful phoenix rising from forgotten ashes.

Such is the problem faced by the characters from Dragon & Hawk in the second book of the series, Out of Forgotten Ashes. Evan Jones, immigrant from Wales now living in the Arizona Territory of the 1880s, has had some wild adventures establishing a new life in his new country. Reyna, the woman who captured his heart, is as different from him as night is to day, and he has learned to open his mind to their cultural differences. For instance, he’s come to accept her explanation of totems, the animal spirit guides that reflect one’s strengths and weaknesses: his is the Red Dragon of his homeland while hers is the Red-tailed Hawk of the Arizona desert.

Unfortunately, Evan has a past the just won’t leave him alone. More than one phoenix arises from ashes he thought long cold to threaten his new life.

To thoroughly explain what you’d like to see as cover art in a way an artist can capture is a challenge anyway, but more so when you’re dealing with mystical or fantastical elements. One of the best “firebird” images I found is this one by an artist identified as “Angeliq/Jovana G.” from Serbia:

There is a scene in the book where Reyna (while she and Evan are staying in San Diego) makes a supplication to the Mayan goddess Ixchel, walking into the Pacific Ocean. I found this image on Big Stock Photos that almost fits (I would rather she had her arms raised but there were no photos like that):

My concept for the cover of Out of Forgotten Ashes would be to replace the sun with a rising phoenix and make the whole thing nearly blood red. This is a story of not only threats of past indiscretions coming back to haunt, but possible vengeance for perceived wrongs—and the woman of mystical power who stands in the way.

In searching for imagery it’s vital to respect copyrights. You’ll notice the watermark on Big Stock’s photo, and that I provide the web address for Angeliq’s original artwork. If I were the one actually making the cover for a book, I would purchase the photos and/or pay usage fees. I would contact the artist and tell her what I had in mind and see if it was available for purchase as cover art. Big Stock offers royalty-free images to use on book covers, within certain guidelines. They are a great source, though they don’t always have exactly what you might be looking for. As an author, I know I don’t want people pirating my books, so I take pains to make sure I follow the rules on using photos.

That’s why I truly respect folks who create cover art for Champagne’s books. While they may not always hit the nail on the head, it’s the author’s responsibility to convey their concepts as precisely as possible. Just make sure to credit any images not your own with the proper artist and/or source so rights can be purchased if needed.

Jude Johnson is the author of Dragon & Hawk, Book One of the Dragon & Hawk trilogy. Book Two, Out of Forgotten Ashes, is scheduled for release April 2, 2012, with Book Three, Dragon’s Legacy slated for July 2012.