Sexy Snippet: THE RUBY KISS

It all started with a magic knot, a mystical ring that contains the essence of its owner’s body, mind and spirit, an item capable of bonding two souls as one.

In The Ruby Kiss, the 3rd title in Helen Scott Taylor’s award-winning Magic Knot Fairies series, the fairy courts are off-balance, and only the fated bond between a powerful nightstalker and a fiery mortal can make things right.

Read on for a steamy glimpse into the magnetic relationship between Nightshade and Ruby, guaranteed to leave you wanting more—but don’t worry, you won’t have to wait long. The Ruby Kiss comes out later this month!

Warning: this sexy snippet is for mature readers only!

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NaNoWriMo Update: Day 18

Hey All,

We’re halfway to the NaNoWriMo deadline! I can’t believe it! While excitement is still in the air during this marathon writing session, I’m gathering that other NaNos are running into similar obstacles as I am. The task of writing a 50,000 word novel is a daunting one. At the beginning of this process, I thought I could manage work, life, and writing. I scheduled when I was going to write, where, and which part of my plot outline I would tackle each day. Apparently, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, or, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew…and all other applicable clichés. Or, there’s my grandmother’s theory: I don’t have any willpower other than when it comes to football. So, I confess—I’m not meeting my word count goal, and it’s all cable TV’s fault!

No, I can’t blame my TV. I can only blame myself. Well, I can blame the Giants for playing some really close and exciting games these past couple of weeks. It doesn’t help that the G-Men play the Eagles this weekend to continue their domination of the NFC East!

During this writing process, I’ve had flashbacks to my time in graduate school. You really have to be disciplined in order to succeed in NaNoWriMo. I procrastinated on some projects while I was in school, and that trait is rearing its ugly head during my writing now. So, to get myself out of a funk, I scour the Internet for fellow NaNos’ encouragement. My go-to-guy, Nathan Bransford, had a guest writer on his blog, author Shawn Thomas Odyssey. The post’s title, Success and Motivation, really struck a chord with me, as Shawn asks fellow writers to “take a moment every so often to remind ourselves what we are doing all of this for.” My goal for NaNoWriMo was to finally get a chance to write something fun. I want to enjoy the process and feel joy after accomplishing this goal. This has reminded me why I started all this madness. I feel rejuvenated, and ready to continue.

The Dorchester team has also been über supportive. Hannah even loaned me her writer’s block! There are even more people out there taking on the challenge with encouraging stories. Check out some of the inspiring stories of these Northwestern University students taking the NaNoWriMo challenge! I’m excited to keep on keepin’ on! Wish me luck NaNos!

Word Count: 13,488 and counting!

Thriller Thursdays: BLOOD KIN

There’s something to be said for vicariously experiencing suspense. You get that heart racing, edge of your seat, wide-eyed experience without being put in any sort of actual danger. If you know what I’m talking about, and you can’t get enough, well then let me introduce you to Judith E. French.

An award-winning author of over 30 novels, French writes suspense, she writes romance, she writes adventure-packed tales of intrigue. In her Blood series, of which the critically-acclaimed  Blood Kin is the first, the romance only serves to heighten the suspense. So if you’re looking for a thrill, read on suspense seekers, and thank the fiction gods that it isn’t you facing the dangers in these ominous pages.

Like what you read? Blood Kin, along with all of French’s contemporary suspenses, are the deal of the week! Snag each one for $3.99.

PROLOGUE

Tawes Island,Valentine’s Day

Frowning at the slash of orange that had caught his attention, Daniel eased off the marshy bank and out onto the surface of the frozen gut. Ice splintered ominously under his right boot, and he swore. The water here was at least chest-deep, with a good yard or two of black silt beneath—not a spot he wanted to claw his way out of in twenty-degree weather with a fifteen-knot wind. The Chesapeake Bay country was beautiful, but it could kill a man if he wasn’t careful.

Like the senator …?

Senator Joseph Marshall’s disappearance while duck hunting on New Year’s Day had launched a three-week rescue attempt that had drawn worldwide media attention. The coast guard, volunteer fire companies, and the national guard from three states had unsuccessfully searched the bay and every square inch of shoreline of the island and neighboring mainland, to no avail.

Daniel took another step toward the flash of color beneath the ice. Nausea rose in his throat. He exhaled slowly through clenched teeth and swallowed. Joseph Marshall’s face was pressed grotesquely against the underside of two inches of ice. Those shrewd blue eyes were open wide; his mouth gaped in a silent scream. The thick, dark hair he’d worn so fashionably cut and styled streamed out on both sides of flaccid, fish-bellywhite cheeks and a ragged protruding tongue.

Daniel let his gaze travel down the senator’s submerged body. His guess was that Joe Marshall’s political ambitions had been cut short by a single blast from a twelve-gauge shotgun.

Some might call it island justice.

CHAPTER ONE

June

Bailey clutched at the side of the boat and watched as the dark line on the horizon grew to a vivid patchwork of green and brown. “Is that Tawes?” She raised her voice to be heard above the chug-chug-chug of the smoking motor.

“That’s her.” The only other occupant of the shabby wooden skiff squinted into the sunshine from the shelter of a worn baseball cap, tucked a dab of snuff under his lip, and nodded. “Tawes Island. No other.”

The stubble-chinned skipper’s reply came out as “Nother,” but Bailey was beginning to understand his quaint speech patterns. He’d identified himself as “Cap’n Creed Somers, but Creed’ll do,” back at the Crisfield Dock where she’d left her car.

“Not what she was,” the garrulous waterman continued. “Ursters and cray’abs about played out. Not like the old days, when my daddy could make a decent living fer his family. You shoulda seen Tawes then. Real ferryboat run ever’ day but the Sabbath, hauling groceries, tray’ctor parts . . .”

Bailey nodded noncommittally as Creed rattled on, his words nearly drowned by the slap of waves and the chug of the noisy motor. She thought she’d smelled alcohol on Creed’s breath and never would have boarded his boat if she’d known that she’d be the only passenger. The trip from Crisfield had taken the better part of an hour, but the aging skiff, which had seemed disreputable back at the dock, had performed faultlessly.

Being out on the water was a novelty for Bailey, and she’d been captivated by the feel of the salt breeze on her face and the haunting cries of laughing gulls. Of all she’d expected to do on summer break, spending a few days on an isolated island in the Chesapeake was definitely at the bottom of the list; but now that Tawes was a reality and not just a name on the evening news, she felt her excitement rising.

Was it possible that she had been born and put up for adoption here on this tiny island? After years of intense curiosity about her birth family, receiving the letter from Attorney Forest McCready informing her of an inheritance seemed like the plot of a made-for-TV movie. Was it going to be this easy to find the answers she’d been seeking all her life? And how had Mc-Cready located her if her adoption records were sealed?

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Western Wednesdays—OUTLAW TRAIN by Cameron Judd

Outlaws, fugitives, rustlers, bank robbers, and all other villainous, adventuring characters roll through the small towns of the Old West in nearly every Western. But it’s not every day you encounter a Middle Eastern carnival—a travelling show full of the strange and unusual as well as the mythic and legendary—come to town in old time Kentucky.  Cameron Judd challenges the rough and tumble cowboys of the Old West with just such an outfit, led by a showman whose true ends are veiled by the stagecraft he orchestrates in Outlaw Train, an awe-inspiring Western blended with exotic mystery.

And what Judd does so well in this prologue is to provide the calm before the storm, to portray the mundane details of a mundane meal at the local saloon, with patrons harping about nothing in particular, taking for granted these peaceful days of their lives. And then, enter Professor Percival Raintree and his outlaw train…

Happy Reading,
Allison Carroll
Dorchester Publishing

PROLOGUE

Bug Otis looked past Ben Keely toward an obese man who sat in the far corner sloppily eating from a bowl of potatoes, beef, carrots, and onions. “Dry stew,” the proprietor of the place called that particular dish, the specialty of this dank and dirty dining establishment in the backwoods of western Kentucky. Most days, including this one, it was the only dish served.

Bug, a very skinny man with leathery, furrowed skin and bulging eyes that accounted for his nickname, swiped a filthy sleeve across his mouth and sighed.

“Lordy, Lordy,” he said. “I’m just like my old daddy, I reckon.”

“How so, Bug?” Keely asked. “I remember your father well, and you ain’t like him at all. You’re your mother all over again.”

“Yeah, but my old daddy, he always said it made him hungry to watch a fat man eat. And I’m the same way.”

Keely looked back over his shoulder toward the man Otis was watching. He turned back again, amazed and repelled. “Bug, are you trying to tell me it makes you hungry to watch that big old boar back there slopping himself?”

Bug frowned. “Well … yeah. Don’t it you?”

“You’re a sick man, Bug. Sick in the mind. Loco, as the Mexicans say it.” Keely tapped a finger against his temple.

Bug looked annoyed. “We’re all different, I reckon, but that don’t mean I’m crazy. Hell, Ben, me and you been different since we was boys.”

Ben Keely took a bite of corn bread and didn’t reply. But Bug was right. Ben always had been different from not only Bug, but most of the folks he’d grown up among. Didn’t think like them, act like them, want to be part of them for longer than he had to. Which, he supposed, was part of what had driven him away from home so early. He’d gone west when he left Kentucky, because that was the direction a man went in the post–Civil War United States of America if he wanted to get to something new and better and bigger. Always west. Ben had crossed the Mississippi with no firm plan to ever make a return trip. And until the death of his father two weeks back, he’d not done so. Once free of Kentucky, he’d settled and stayed in the little town of Wiles, Kansas, hiring on as town marshal (nobody else had wanted the job, and he’d been willing to lie about his credentials) and trying to forget his past.

Not that he’d had a bad life growing up. Good parents, intelligent, his father a schoolmaster and devotee of history, his mother educated as well. They’d raised him and his sister, Bess, with a respect for learning, a tolerance for difference, and a belief that they could rise above their narrow little backwoods world. The world is big, Ben’s father used to tell his children. Don’t let anybody keep you small in a world this big.

Ben had left home at age seventeen, hoping that big world his father talked about really was out there, and had wandered about for years looking for it. Sometimes he believed he’d found it, but most times had to admit that life as a town marshal in a little railroad stop Kansas town was not much bigger or better than the life he’d left behind in Kentucky. A more open landscape, certainly, a broader view and more distant horizon … but the world right at hand, the streets he trod while making his rounds, the saloons he dragged rowdy drunks from, and the simple little jailhouse where he kept his meager office and locked up his prisoners, these were as small and strangling as anything he’d left behind in Kentucky.

Ben was distressed when he pondered that he was living a mostly solitary life at a time when his youth was beginning to pass away. Before he knew it, he’d be halfway through his thirties, still unmarried, still tied down to an unproductive and unpromising job he’d intended to keep only for months, not years.

Ben refocused his attention on his food, trying not to hear the disgusting mashing and gulping noises made by the obese eater in the corner. For his part, Bug couldn’t resist staring hungrily at the hideous spectacle. Each round of observation brought him back to his own bowl of beef, potatoes, and onions with invigorated appetite.

Ben picked at his food and tried not to feel queasy.

Bug finished his victuals, wiped his forefinger around the bowl, and noisily sucked the finger clean. With that, Ben’s appetite died fully and he simply stared into the remnants of his food.

“You ain’t going to finish that?” Bug asked.

Ben shoved his bowl across the table. Bug’s eyes were all but bulging out of his skull. “You letting me have this?”

“Enjoy it, Bug. I’ve had my fill.”

At that moment the outer door opened, spilling murky sunlight into the dim interior of the log building from the drizzly, gray day outside. The muted backlighting allowed Ben a relatively clear view of the unusual man who entered.

He was clad in loose brown trousers that were tucked into high boots. Not the cattleman’s boots Ben saw so frequently in Kansas, but moccasin-styled boots that were strapped to the calves, nearly to his knees, canvas trouser legs plunging into them. His shirt was big and loose and made out of highly worked supple leather, styled like an old hunting shirt. The man’s face was smoothly shaven and had an olive tone that might have been Indian, Egyptian, or Mediterranean. Hard to judge in the light.

Oddest of all, the man wore a turban. Ben had seen pictures of turbans before in some of his father’s history and geography books that showed images from the Far East and the biblical lands, and he knew similar headgear had been worn by Indians in the region years earlier, and in times past by older slaves farther south. Ben did not know which kind of turban he was seeing here. Whatever it was, it was nothing he would have expected to encounter in rural Kentucky.

Bug noticed Ben’s distraction and turned to investigate. He gave a soft grunt. “Huh! Man’s got a rag tied around his head! And look there at his ears.”

Bug had noticed something Ben had missed. The edges of the stranger’s ears were discolored … blue. Tatooed, Ben decided. But the door closed, the light became as dim as before, and he couldn’t see clearly enough to verify it.

“Wonder who that is?” Bug said a little too loudly. Ben wished he hadn’t. He had an inexplicable bad feeling about the new arrival and didn’t want to draw his attention. Too late. The stranger heard Bug and looked in their direction.

But he didn’t approach. He found a table close to the door and sat down. Mutton Smith, who ran this establishment, came around and informed the stranger that the only item on the menu today was dry stew, but by gum, if you had dry stew available, what else could you want anyway? The man nodded to confirm his order. One more dry stew coming up.

At that moment, Bug stretched his legs and accidentally kicked over a closed crockery jar that sat under the table near Ben’s feet. It clunked and rolled. Ben bent to the side and quickly grabbed it, setting it on the tabletop.

“I be damned, Ben!” Bug exclaimed loudly, staring at the jar. “That’s the Harpe head jar, ain’t it! I didn’t know you had brung that with you!”

At Bug’s words, the man in the turban suddenly turned his full attention toward Ben and Bug’s table.

“Ain’t no call to tell the whole world about it, Bug,” Ben said, noticing and not liking the stare he was getting from the turbaned man. Something unnerving in it. “Keep your voice down, would you?”

Bug answered as loudly as before. “Hell, Ben, that there jar of bone ain’t no secret around here! Everybody knows that the Keely family has Harpe’s head! That’s been printed in newspapers before! I ain’t saying nothing everybody don’t already know.”

The man in the turban rose and walked toward their table. Ben tensed and put his hand on the jar, at which the man’s dark eyes were staring. It roused in Ben a strangely intense protectiveness toward his possession. This was a family heirloom, something his father had prized for its historical value and closely guarded all his life. The contents of the jar were unique and irreplaceable, and if they had no inherent monetary value, they were of value as a relic.

The turbaned man reached the table. Ben and Bug looked up at him, silent and unwelcoming. Bug studied the newcomer as if he were an oddity, a man with three heads or four eyes.

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Pardon the Interruption—Shakespeare vs Dr. Seuss

While both beloved icons in their own right, Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss hold court at opposite ends of the poetic spectrum. These two sovereign bards come face to face from across the ages and push the limits of civility in this Epic Rap Battles of History video.

See who comes out on top in this clever, if not a little absurd, definitely NSFW, rap battle after the jump.

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Casting call + giveaway!

Put on your director’s hat and send that assistant off for coffee, my dear blogging lurkers! It’s time to break out those resumes and get the camera rolling—we’re kicking off this Monday morning by casting your favorite books! As an avid film aficionado, I confess I’ve always indulged in literature with something of an eye for show business. If I were to direct the book adaptation, who would I cast in the leading roles? (This is all a bit of fun, of course—purely for entertainment purposes and my own wishful thinking.)

Ever since I first embarked upon the romance genre by traversing the pages of the Sylph series, I can’t seem to shake the stunning world out of my mind. Now, my soft spot for The Shattered Sylph and the rugged ruffians Leon and Ril begs that I cast them first—which is the most difficult! L.J. McDonald’s characters are so thoroughly layered that fitting any one actor into the role feels a bit constraining. I’ve finally settled on the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Go on, laugh! I’m certainly finding this amusing. Kevin Costner as the battle-worn warrior and Christian Slater playing the sarcastic, youthful right hand simply fit the bill, in my opinion. They have to work well together in order to fend off the opposition after all! Their at first strained relationship matures into one of trust and respect, mirroring the struggles of Leon and Ril.

Let me tell you, casting A Lily Among Thorns was equally challenging! Rose Lerner’s unlikely characters are worthy of catapulting an acting career into stardom. A hero with an eye for excellent tailoring and a staunchly independent business owner for a heroine? It was quite by accident that my final decision manifested itself in the form of Becoming Jane (2007), the film starring James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway, where the roles simply fell neatly into place. The scene where hasty confessions are made in light of the danger that is ever looming reminds me of Solomon and Serena’s late night rendezvous, coupled with a spy plot that will leave you reeling. Their quirky chemistry is undeniable, and who better to set the regency period ablaze?

Don’t think I’m letting you off easy! How would you cast your favorite book if you were in the director’s chair? I promise I won’t laugh. :) Reply to be entered to win a prize package of $20 worth of books in the genre of your choice!

Signing off—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

Doppelgängers, duplicity, and dowries, oh my!

Whether it’s tales of long lost siblings finally reuniting, blood relative rivals plotting against each other, or kin that declare they are anything but akin, readers can’t get enough of scheming twins! And so we commemorate today’s date (11/11/11) by delving into fascinating duos of popular literature. Explore the often heartwarming, sometimes tragic, and always complex relationships shared by the twins of these galvanizing novels.

As mentioned in my post regarding literary bromances, Rose Lerner’s A Lily Among Thorns explores the gaping void that arises when one twin passes. Elijah’s death weighs heavily on Solomon, who’s always relied on the special bond he shared with his twin brother. Will Solomon be able to persevere without the much needed support of his brother by his side? Or rather, will he find his own inner strength, and subsequently, be met with a pleasant surprise?

In Anna DeStefano’s Dark Legacy and Secret Legacy , the starring roles feature a pair of twins who must work together in order to preserve their family’s psychic legacy. The very fabric of their relationship is tested with the threat of betrayal all around, begging the question—can they trust in each other? With chaos surrounding them, the Temple twins must find solace and strength in each other to win the day, and their lives. (This makes for a lovely parallel with Lerner’s parted Hathaway brothers!)

Two sets of twins for the price of one! Deborah MacGillivray satisfies any double fixation in her series, The Sisters of Colford Hall, where the heroes and their heroines both happen to be twins! With devastating charm and an oath to avenge the death of their father, the Mershan brothers have every intention of wooing the Montgomerie sisters, the granddaughters of their enemy. Why not flirt with the idea of an entertaining revenge plot? That was entirely rhetorical and you know it.

Don’t forget to make a wish at 11 PM tonight! :)

Signing off—

Jillian, The Zombie Intern

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