Friday, November 29, 2013

Historical Background

Welcome again to Rosemary Gemmell, who tells us about the historical background of her latest release:

One of the reasons I enjoy writing historical romance is exploring some of the events that happened in different eras and using them as a backdrop to the story. Part of the reason I chose 1816 as the year in which to set Midwinter Masquerade was because of two significant circumstances.

The long wars with France came to an end with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Wellington finally vanquished Napoleon Bonaparte. But the end of the war, although a victory for Britain, left a whole army of soldiers without work or money and exacerbated the problems already looming across the country with rising prices and general unrest.

By the following year, 1816, further problems arose with one of the worst summers ever experienced, making it known as ‘the year without a summer’. Evidently, this was caused by the eruption of a volcano in a far off island, and the effects were felt in different parts of the world. This added to the growing discontent in Britain, when food became scarcer and corn prices rose too high.

Although Midwinter Masquerade is very much a romantic novel, I allude to these problems in the story to bring some reality and background to the period. Since the Winter Solstice is a pivotal part of the novel, I liked the idea of setting it in such a dark year. It also ties in with one of the themes of the novel – the choices facing my main heroine, Lady Lenora Fitzallan, the possible change of direction her life may take before the end of winter and the coming of another year.

In Edinburgh, December 1816, young widow Lady Lenora Fitzallan accepts an invitation to the Scottish country estate of Edward Montgomery, the man she once thought to marry seventeen years previously. Until he left without explanation. Accompanied by her godmother, Lady Pettigrew, Lenora forms a friendship with Edward’s young niece and ward, Annabelle, who has a propensity for getting into scrapes and falling in love with the wrong man.
In the days leading up to the Masquerade Ball on the Winter Solstice, another guest arrives. Mr Henderson has a particular reason for meeting Annabelle, who distrusts him on sight. Meanwhile, Lenora struggles with her rekindled feelings for Edward, while thinking of Robert Masters, the sophisticated man who hopes to marry her when he returns from abroad.
As past secrets begin to unfold, Annabelle is rescued from harm, and a dashing, costumed stranger arrives at the Ball.
Once the past is revealed and the real villain unmasked, Lenora must decide where and with whom her future now lies.

Midwinter Masquerade is available from:
Amazon UK:
Amazon US:
All e-formats from Smashwords:

Rosemary Gemmell’s short stories and articles are published in UK magazines, in anthologies, in the US, and online and she has won several short story prizes. She lives in the beautiful west coast of Scotland and is now a published novelist for adults (as Romy) and Middle Grade/tweens (as Ros) with three different e-publishers. Her BA (hons) in literature and history and MA in Humanities are put to good use in reading and research for all types of writing. Midwinter Masquerade is her new Regency era novel set in Scotland from Tirgearr Publishing.

You can find Rosemary at:
Main Blog:
Twitter: @rosemarygemmell

A FREE Holiday Anthology from Exquisite Quills containing Rosemary's short story, Highland Hogmanay, is available from Smashwords:
Thank you so much for being our Friday Friend, Rosemary. Midwinter Masquerade is already on my Kindle, and I'm looking forward to reading it, especially as I know your historical background will be accurate and authentic. Although I've studied that period of history, I never realised the volcano was to blame for the bad summer of 1816! You learn something new every day :-)

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Debra is heading out in a little while to have a day filled with...










Pumpkin Pie

Many blessings to you and yours!

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Paula asks: How predictable are your novels?

I would contend that all novels are predictable to some extent. Detectives solve their cases, criminals/murderers are brought to justice, mysteries are solved, the ‘goodies’ win and the ‘baddies’ lose. People want satisfying (and ‘happy’) endings, whether they are reading murder, mystery, thrillers, western, or whatever (unless they are reading tragedies, of course)

Why, then, are romance novels sometimes patronisingly referred to as ‘predictable’? What’s so different between a detective solving his case (happy ending), and a couple overcoming whatever problems confront them in order to be together (happy ending)?

Jane Eyre came back to Mr Rochester, Elizabeth and Darcy were reunited –were those endings predictable? Yes, of course they were, but does anyone complain about that?

A romance story, by its very definition, needs a happy ending.

Of course, the important thing is how we actually get to that happy ending, and this is where the unpredictability may come in. The reader should start to wonder how on earth the hero and heroine are ever going to resolve the problems or conflicts we’ve thrown at them in order to reach their happy ending.

In the case of Jane Eyre, she leaves Thornfield, certain there is no future for herself and Rochester once she learns about his wife. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet turns down Darcy’s proposal in the most scathing manner imaginable. These are the points where the reader, like the characters themselves, is left thinking that all is lost.

Of course, it isn’t, but readers don't need to turn to the last page to find out if the characters finally get together. They know they will, but this is where writers must use their powers of ingenuity to find a way to bring the heroine and hero together again.

It can’t be contrived or coincidental, and it can’t happen until the problems (either internal or external) have been resolved, otherwise it will seem too easy – and therefore predictable. Every romance needs a ‘twist in the tail’, something that will surprise the reader near the end – and not a fairy godmother who waves her wand to solve everything for them! Having the reader thinking, ‘Well, I didn’t expect that”, is the way to make your romance novels UNpredictable.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Celebrating a Book Birthday

Jennifer's book is turning 2!

All month long, I've been celebrating a book birthday on my blog and on other writer friend's blogs. I'm wrapping up the celebrations by posting here as well.

Welcome to my book birthday party! Skin Deep, a contemporary romance published by Whiskey Creek Press ( ) is turning two. 

First, here’s a blurb about it:

The last thing Valerie needs, after escaping an abusive marriage to an alcoholic and rebuilding her life, is a broody, secretive, standoffish man. But that’s exactly what she gets when she becomes a makeup artist on the set of a hit sitcom and draws the attention of the series’ star.
John Samuels hides a terrible past—a life of abuse and neglect. A successful acting career and the affection and support of cast, crew and friends, does nothing to convince him that he is anything other than an unlovable monster.
            Will he learn that the life he’s been living has been built on a lie or will he be doomed to repeat the sins of his father?

Here’s an excerpt:

That night, after all the scenes had been shot, Valerie waited for everyone to leave. She didn’t want to answer questions or receive pity.
She arranged and rearranged drawers and tools. The trailer contained three stations, each with its own make-up chair. A long table ran down one wall, with plenty of drawers for storage space. Well-lit mirrors hung above the table. Un-able to find anything else to do, and convinced by the silence that everyone had to have left, she took out her keys to lock up. She jumped as a knock sounded at the door, the trailer rattled, and a head peeked in.
“Oh, hi, John.” She expelled a deep breath and willed her heart to slow its frantic beat. “Do you need something?”
“No.” He entered and stood by the door. John Samuels played the lead. At almost six-foot three, he dwarfed the trailer and had to tip his head to fit. He folded his muscular arms across his chest and spread his feet apart. “Michelle told me you were not joining us tonight. I thought I would see if I could change your mind.”
Valerie rolled her eyes. “She is persistent.”
“You noticed.” John’s dark eyes twinkled. His mouth widened with a ghost of a smile. Valerie tried not to gasp.
He reminded her of a rugged cowboy—broad-shouldered, with a prominent brow, dark piercing eyes, high cheekbones, and a cleft chin. When he smiled, even a slight trace of one, his eyes looked like liquid velvet and his dimples twinkled like stars in the night sky. A five-o’clock shadow covered his cheeks. Her fingers itched to brush against their rough texture, to tease his mouth into a full-blown grin.
“So, what can I say to make you join us?”
As he leaned against the wall in well-fitting jeans and a T-shirt that left nothing to the imagination, Valerie’s mind said, “Sleep with me.” Heat crept up her neck, over her cheeks, and continued to the roots of her hair. A thin sheen of sweat dampened the space between her breasts. She felt the sudden urge to fan herself, like a damsel in distress in an old B-movie. Instead, she ignored her traitorous thoughts. Her balled fist pressed into her tight stomach.
“Tonight, not even chocolate will change my mind.”
She didn’t exactly lie. She had no intention of going to the bar, or of sleeping with him, no matter how her thoughts might try to sabotage her good intentions. She’d been fooled by surface finery before, and it had almost killed her. She wouldn’t let it happen again.
“I will remember that,” he promised. “But next time you will not get off so easy.” His eyes bored into hers for a moment, and then he turned on his heel and left.
* * * *
True to his word, John arrived the following day pre-pared for battle. With a cursory knock on the door, he dangled a bag of M&Ms inside the trailer, but snatched it back be-fore she could grab them. “We are going out for pizza. I will pick you up in ten minutes.” Before she could answer, he walked out.
Valerie shrugged as she finished her work. The new Val-eerie never allowed other people to make decisions for her, but she’d practically handed John a permission slip. And, he had M&M’s. How could she refuse?
Ten minutes later, he returned, ushered her out the door and down the steps. Although he didn’t touch her, she could imagine the warmth of his hand on the small of her back, and feel the gentle puff of his breath against her hair. The angle of his body steered her toward the others in the parking lot as if he had taken her by the hand and dragged her with him. An invisible electric charge pulled her. Or maybe it was his Dial-soap scent. That scent—soap and man—made her stomach flip flop. Her uncontrollable reaction to him disturbed her, especially since he appeared unaffected.
He remained silent, strode toward their meeting place, and studied his surroundings as if he expected someone to pop out of the shadows and yell, “Boo!”
Then she saw the brown bag of M&Ms sticking out of his white shirt pocket. Before he could stop her, she reached around and grabbed them, opened the bag and popped three in her mouth.
“Hey, those are mine!” He reached for the bag, but not fast enough to retrieve them.
“Not anymore.” As she danced away from him, she stuck another handful in her mouth.
He brought his hand up to his heart, as if she had wounded him deeply, but the twinkle in his eye gave him away. Valerie had all she could do not to burst out laughing.
“You did not have to take them, you know. I was plan-nine to give them to you later.” He pouted and his dark hair fell across his brow, but not before Valerie saw a flash of a smile turn the corners of his mouth up.
“Oh really? When?”
“After dinner, of course. I would not want to spoil your appetite.”
As if that were possible. Valerie laughed again and John grunted, a deep hoarse sound that climbed from the pit of his stomach and thrust its way out his mouth.

Skin Deep was published in November 2011. I want to commemorate its publication, but I’d like the commemoration to mean a little bit more. Of course, I’d love for you to want to buy the book (you can find links at Whiskey Creek Press, Amazon,  and Barnes & Noble ) and I’m also offering giveaways (described below), but in addition, I’d like the book birthday to benefit others.

Valerie, the heroine, is a survivor of domestic abuse. Her story has a happy ending. Not everyone, however, is so lucky. A portion of the royalties that I receive from each purchase of this book is donated to the Rachel Coalition, a local organization that helps victims of domestic violence. Here are some statistics that might interest you (from The Domestic Violence Resource Center

·      One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
(The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July     2000. The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, 1999)
·      Estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend to 3 million women who are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year. 
(U.S. Department of Justice, Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends, March 1998. The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, 1999)
·      Women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, men for approximately 15%.
(Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003)
·      Between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year, and between 100,000 and 6 million men, depending on the type of survey used to obtain the data.
(Rennison, C. (2003, Feb).  Intimate partner violence.  Us. Dpt. of Justice/Office of Justice Programs.  NXJ 197838. 
Straus, M. & Gelles, R. (1990).  Physical violence in American families.  New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.
Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000).  Extent, nature, and consequences of intimate partner violence.  National Institute of Justice, NCJ 181867.)
·      Women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)
·      Separated and divorced males and females are at a greater risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)
·      Intimate partner violence affects people regardless of income. However, people with lower annual income (below $25K) are at a 3-times higher risk of intimate partner violence than people with higher annual income (over $50K).* 
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)
*Please note that those with less resources are more likely to report incidents of violence
·      Studies show that access to shelter services leads to a 60-70% reduction in incidence and severity of re-assault during the 3-12 months’ follow up period compared to women who did not access shelter. Shelter services led to greater reduction in severe re-assault than did seeking court or law enforcement protection, or moving to a new location.
(Campbell, JC, PhD, RN, FAAN. Anna D. Wolf, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Protective Action and Re-assault: Findings from the RAVE study.)
For every comment I receive on this blog, as well as any other venue in which I celebrate the 2nd birthday of Skin Deep, through the end of the month, I will donate $1 to The Rachel Coalition ( ).

The Rachel Coalition is a division of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, and a partnership of nine northern New Jersey organizations working together to provide services and support programs for victims of domestic violence in Essex and Morris County. You can find more about them here.

Additionally, anyone who comments on my blog this month will be entered into a drawing. Prizes include: signed copy of Skin Deep, birthday gift pack or a Sephora gift card. For anyone who purchases Skin Deep, either in paperback or as an e-book and can show me proof of purchase (email copy of receipt to wilckjz @ yahoo dot com—no spaces and dot should be .), I will enter you into a special drawing for a massage gift card. Again, my goal is to help out victims of domestic violence while drawing attention to my book!

Good luck to everyone and thanks for celebrating with me!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rekindling my first love

Ana reminisces about her first love, and how he became the template for her first hero

My first love was an Italian boy named Ronny. He lived in walking distance from my grandparents' northern New Jersey home. I went to an all-girls private high school; he went to public school. His family was warm and boisterous; mine did everything but forbid me to see him.
One of Ronny's close friends was African-American. Steve had a deep, mellifluous voice and exceedingly polite manners on the telephone. My grandmother swooned when he called on the phone. Soon, she and my grandfather were urging me to date him, not Ronnie.
I was so tempted--not because I was attracted to him (though I am pretty sure he had romantic feelings for me), but to teach my grandparents a lesson.
I never did it. I couldn't go that far.
In college, Ronny met someone else. I'm pretty sure my family's prejudice impacted his decision, but maybe I liked him more than he liked me.

How does this relate to writing?
I am up to chapter four in my rewrite of my very first WIP. When I wrote it, my mental image of the hero was Ronny, embellished.
I am deleting scenes that don't advance the plot (lots of them) and making the heroine more mature.
Ronny will remain immortalized in a place where he fought to be with me.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Friend -- Emily Allen w/a Betsy Fox

Ana welcomes Emily Allen w/a Betsy Fox.

The Voices only Writers can hear….
Emily Allen w/a Betsy Fox
         I know what you are thinking… she hears voices, call the men in white coats and drag her off to the crazy house. But wait is it really crazy for a writer to hear voices? NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!!
         I hear them when I sit down to write with my pad and pen, then again when I’m putting my words into my computer, but those voices aren’t the helpful ones. No they’re the ones that tell me I’m wasting my time, I’m never going to get published so why am I wasting my time? I simple tell them to shut the hell up. I may never get published, but at least I’m doing something I love.
         Then there’s the  good voices that start talking to me (many of you are familiar with those), the ones that tell me I’m meant to finish my book and try to get that book in front of an agent who will love my book or the publisher that will grab at the chance to publish it.

         Then there are the voices that keep you up all night filling your head with new ideas (no wonder I need lots of coffee in the morning). But the one set of voices that we as writers really should listen to are the voices of our characters.  You know who I mean, the ones that just won’t leave you alone.
         They are  the ones that point out you need to do this or not do that or this will work, but that’s not going to work. Then they tell you I want to be with this hero, not that jerk you have me with.
So which voice should you listen to? I for one listen to the voices that push me to finish the book I’m working on. I also listen to the voices that throw me ideas as I finish one book or while I’m in the middle of writing a book. But the voices that seem to push me the most, is my characters.
So the question is, which voices do you listen to?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Resolution

Debra is looking ahead to the new year.

Now if you know me at all, you'll know I am all about giving each holiday its due. Each needs to wait its turn, and one can't jump in front of another. I stick to this rule especially regarding Thanksgiving and Christmas. With Christmas decs and other merchandise in the stores before Halloween, it's easy for Thanksgiving to get skipped over. This makes me sad. So I have a hard and fast rule about not thinking about anything that has to do with Christmas before Thanksgiving.

That I was thinking WAY ahead about a New Year's Resolution. Or maybe it's more of a goal.

I have a completed mss sitting in my computer doing nothing. It was one I'd queried and received a request from Harlequin for and then...nothing. Never heard from them even to say they'd rejected the story. I tried following up with an e-mail, and still nada. Well, it's been well over a year since the submission and several months since the follow up, so it's time to move on. It's doing absolutely no good collecting figurative dust sitting on the hard drive of my computer.

So, my resolution/goal is to do a read-through to refamiliarize myself with the intricate ins and outs of the story, add to the word count, polish up the mss again, and submit it to my editor at TWRP right after the first of the year. The Press closes for a couple of weeks over the holidays, so I figured that was a good time frame. It also gives me time over the upcoming holidays when I'm off for two weeks to actually spend time with it.

I'm going to need to come up with some type of progress meter or check list type system. Having something visual in front of me helps to keep my goal focused and in mind. And I'm thinking some type of reward for accomplishing this particular resolution/reward might also be in order! Whatever works, right?

And I'm hoping Thanksgiving will forgive me for thinking so far ahead...

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


FREE this week on Kindle, This Feels Like Home.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How important are the first lines, paragraphs, and pages of a novel?

Paula’s thoughts about the first lines, paragraphs, and pages of a novel.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
"My dear Mr. Bennet," said his lady to him one day, "have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?"
I know I don't need to tell you which novel starts like this. However, a modern editor would probably use the red pen on the first two paragraphs, the first being the author’s statement, and the second being telling, not showing. He/she would say the story should begin at the third paragraph – or maybe even later in the conversation between Mrs. Bennet and her husband. Thus, we would lose one of the most quoted ‘first lines’ of any novel.
The reason I’m thinking about first lines, first paragraphs, even first pages, is that I’ve tried several times to get the start of my current ‘work in progress’ right, and still can’t decide which version is the best.
But now I’m wondering whether it really matters. Do readers really get pulled in by the first few lines of a story? Do they decide whether to buy or not to buy based on the opening sentence?
I’m beginning to think the first line and first paragraph are probably less important than the ‘experts’ would have us believe. It seems to me that they are basing that advice on the image of someone standing in a bookstore and picking up a book. In that scenario, the back cover blurb and first page of a book are probably the most important ‘hooks’ for a reader. (In my case, if the back cover blurb doesn’t interest me, I don’t even open the book anyway!)
However, in today's world, more books are bought online, and with Amazon’s facility of ‘click to look inside’ i.e. a sneak peek at the first chapter (or more) of a novel, the reader is sitting at a computer, or using a laptop or tablet. They have more time – and therefore, in all probability, will read more than the person standing in the bookstore.
I’ve done this many times, and have invariably read far more than the first page (unless it happens to be riddled with grammatical errors or typos etc). Maybe I’ll write another post about what puts me off a novel when I do this, but for the moment, I’m trying to decide whether the ‘average’ reader is influenced by the first line, paragraph or page.
I’d hazard a guess that, assuming the book is well written and edited, the majority of readers will make their decision based on the whole of the Amazon excerpt. If this is the case, perhaps we should be looking at the whole of the first chapter. Are the main characters defined? Is the set-up/location established? Are the seeds of future conflict or problems sown? All these can make the reader want to buy the book to find out more.
In conclusion, I’ll say that the opening of my novel ‘Her Only Option’ is probably my weakest, and if I had the chance to rewrite it, I would probably start it about halfway down page 2. However, the Amazon sneak-peek allows the reader to sample two and a half chapters of this book, and recently someone made this comment on Facebook: “I read the whole of the free sample, and now I'm hooked. When does the movie come out?”
That reader wasn't put off by a weak first line or first page, so maybe the first lines/paragraphs/pages aren’t as important as the pundits would have us believe.

A Book and A Chat

Jennifer was on the radio

This past Sunday, I was interviewed for a podcast about my books. I’m always up for new publicity ideas, so I did some research into radio broadcasts about books and sent press releases out to several of them.

Barry Eva, the host, contacted me and we arranged to speak on Sunday. Barry is the host of A Book and A Chat, which is on BlogTalk Radio. He’s also a writer, so he’s very author friendly.

I called in five minutes before our appointed time, he gave me an overview of what to expect, put me on mute while the intro music played, introduced me and took me off mute. What followed was twenty-five minutes of a delightfully comfortable interview. The focus was my newest book, The Seduction of Esther, but he also asked about my other books and gave me time at the end to let people know where to reach me.

In addition to the podcast, he also puts it on his blog for people to link to. So, if you’re a writer looking to promote your work, I highly recommend him. If you’re a reader, I also recommend him—he’s interested in all kinds of books and he has a lovely British accent! J

Here are the links to my broadcast, if you’re interested:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pricing ebooks

I joined a loop dedicated to indie publishing recently, and I am amazed by the members' wealth of knowledge and their generosity of sharing.

One aspect that is constantly debated is pricing. Should first-time authors price their book at 99 cents to break in? Does giving a book away free build a fan base? Is is better to price your book within a long term business strategy--that is price at $4.99 or $6.99 and reserve some margin for promotional sales?

I have downloaded free e-books which, in my opinion, would have benefited from more editing.  Would I buy a second book from this author? I'm not sure. My first impression is set, even though I know writers improve with practice.

The golden rule of business is: 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers.

Getting that 20% fan base takes time and a well-crafted book.
If you are self-publishing, it also takes a eye-catching cover and proper formatting.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jo Grafford, today's Friday Friend.

Ana welcomes guest author, Jo Grafford.

A cursed island, a chilling conspiracy, and an unforgettable love story. The 115 colonists on Roanoke Island couldn’t GPS, skype or twitter their ultimate destination back to their families and friends in 16th Century England. But modern laser technology has finally uncovered a clue - hidden beneath a patch on an ancient map at the British museum - that leads us to their whereabouts. Considered “lost” for centuries, these brave pioneers finally reveal the rest of their story in Book One of the Lost Colony Series.

Rose Payne’s world is left in tatters after a disastrous betrothal, making her an easy target for recruiters to the Colonies. Using every cent she has, Rose sails for the New World and a fresh start, vowing to never again fall for a wealthy man.

Returning from a diplomatic tour in London, Chief Manteo is bewitched by the fiery-haired ship’s clerk and determined to overcome her distrust. He contrives a daring plan to win her heart – one that forces her, honor bound, to serve as a slave to his tribe – a plan he prays will protect her from a chilling conspiracy involving murder, blood money, and a betrayal of their fledgling colony so terrifying it can only be revealed in Breaking Ties. 

Jo Grafford is from St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author at Astraea Press, Jo writes historical fiction to spotlight unsung heroes and unsolved mysteries. She published her first poem in junior high, edited her high school newspaper while typesetting for a local news journal, and has been writing ever since.  She holds an M.B.A. and has served as a banker, a junior college finance instructor, and a high school business teacher. She is a PRO member of Romance Writers of America and From the Heart Romance Writers RWA Chapter.  The mother of three children and the wife of a soldier, she serves as a literacy volunteer for elementary school students.

Twitter: @jografford


It was ever writer’s dream come true…

I was writing Breaking Ties from a perspective of blind faith – on the premise that these amazing pioneers did not simply disappear into thin air, but that they lived and laughed and loved and had a whole rest of their story to tell the world.

Then it happened! Last October – while I was still writing Breaking Ties - the British Museum released the news of a clue discovered beneath a patch on an original Lost Colony map. After many false leads and rumors throughout the last 426 years, this sketch of a fort located fifty miles inland from Roanoke Island might very well prove to be the first conclusive proof of survivors!

As a tribute to their courage and heroism, I am dedicating a fundraiser called A Thanksgiving Wish to these First Colonists. Running November 1-28, each copy sold of my debut novel, Breaking Ties, first book in the Lost Colony Series, will help fund the upcoming archaeological dig of this newly discovered fort site beneath Scotch Hall Preserve in NC.

I am also holding a drawing for three gift cards to Amazon and Barnes and Noble – valued at $50, $25, and $15 - to appreciate my readers. Visit to enter the Rafflecopter. Winners will be announced Thanksgiving Day.


     Sometimes murder isn’t as messy, up-close, and personal as many people imagine it to be. Sometimes it is distant and impersonal – as simple as crossing a line through a name on a sheet of paper. Or one hundred and fifteen names in our case.

Portsmouth, England, April 26, 1587
     “Yer bum’s hanging out the window!” My brother banged his empty mug on the inn table. He ran both hands through his hair, as red as my own, standing each flaming lock on end.
     My lips turned up despite the heaviness in my chest. It felt good to hear him lapse into the Gaelic brogue of our childhood. “Och, Donnen!” I reached across the table to clasp his large hands and grimaced at the stench of salmon and sweat hanging in the air. “I dinna bring ye here to quarrel. ‘Tis my first job offer in weeks.”
     I dared not share my other reason for leaving.
     “Nay, ye can stay with me till ye find a different job. Crossing the Atlantic unwed is bad enough, but these—” He shook my upraised palms, “are ink stains. Blast it all! Ye’re a clerk, not a sailor.”
     “Indeed?” Saints alive, he acted as if I was still twelve instead of nineteen. “Well, good news. I shall be accompanied by other women – whole families of people, for that matter – and ‘tis a clerk they need.”
     “Only because—“ Donnen glanced around the room and lowered his voice. “The last one left in a frightful hurry along with half the crew all in the same night.” His glare was fierce. “Rumor has it the entire fleet is bound straight for Jonah’s watery vault. I don’t suppose that came up during the bloomin’ interview?”

     "You want my help." 'Twas an accusation.
     His eyes darkened. "I save your life. I give gifts. I offer marriage." He closed the remaining distance between us, his eyes burning into mine.
     I stumbled back.
     "You give nothing in return," he snarled. "You only ask for more."
     "I would had I something to offer," I whispered. "But I have nothing. I am nothing."
     "Then what use are you to me?" He wheeled away.
     I sagged against the door, eyes stinging. I blinked rapidly and pressed a hand to my stomach. Nausea rolled at the thought of informing the others of my failure.
     Manteo circled the cabin like a hawk stalking its prey. 'Twas a fine room with ornately carved shelves lining one wall. Bunks were built into the next wall. A generous desk jutted from the third, overflowing with maps and navigational devices. I recognized the compass and hourglass but could not identify the other instruments. I jerked in surprise when Manteo swooped down upon me.
     "I know our location." His arms shot out and slapped the wall on either side of me, hemming me to the door. "I could swim ashore from here."
     "Then why do ye stay if ye can leave and save yourself?"
     "Governor White gave his word to deliver me home."
     "We are going to starve, Manteo. 'Tis only a matter of days now."
     "Nay. You alone starve. The others eat."
     "I have no appetite."
     "You act as one already dead."
     I straightened my back. "I accept what I cannot change."
     "And I change what I cannot accept." He shifted his weight to the wall, one arm propped over my head. He drew his fingertips down the side of my face in a feather-light caress.
     I closed my eyes against the rush of unbearable sweetness. He made me long for things forbidden. "'Tis within your power to help us. I am begging you."
     "Very well."
     My eyes flew open. "Ye will do this for us."
     "For you." His voice was silken, his features as hard as granite.
     I smiled tremulously. "I thank thee, Manteo. Chief Manteo, that is." The new title felt strange on my lips. I beheld him with a mixture of awe and pride.
     "I have yet to name my price."
     I stared, confused.
     He grunted in disgust. "You refuse me as both husband and lover, so you are left with the hiring of my services."
     I worried my lower lip between my teeth. At least he was willing to negotiate. His eyes flashed with lust as he followed my movements.
     "I will entreat the Dares for payment."
     "Nay. You are the one in my debt."
     I raised and dropped my hands helplessly.
     "You serve this company, no? You can serve my people, too."
     "Ye would hire me as clerk?" Hope leaped in my chest at the possibilities. I would not have to part from him so soon.
     "My people have no clerks." His eyes narrowed. "We have slaves."
     My breath hitched. "Ye wish to punish me, humiliate me?"
     "Nay, I only wish to marry you."
     I briefly closed my eyes against the pain. He already knew the reason for my refusal.
     "Say no more. I will do it. 'Twill be punishment enough to see you so often and—“ I clamped my lips.
     Exultation flickered briefly across his face. "You would give up your freedom to save your friends?"
     "Without question."
     "Swear it," he said grimly.
     "I swear it."
     His eyes flared with emotion. He bent slowly 'til his breath stirred my lips. My eyelids fluttered closed. Heaven help me, for I had no will left to resist him.
     "Now you will eat," Manteo commanded hoarsely. He stepped back, surveying me from head to feet.
     "I have no slaves so thin and weak. Go. Collect your rations." He turned from me and bent to pore over a map on the table.
     I reached for the door handle, disbelieving at the curt dismissal.
     "And send for Anthony. I have need of him."
     I glared at his back. Faith, should I press my face to the floor as well? "Aye, master." I bit the words out and fled.

(To be continued...)