Monday, December 31, 2012

The Day of the Dodd, Jillian Dodd

Over this past year I've had the privilege of getting to know author Jillian Dodd.  Not only is she a wonderful person to get to know; she is also a very talented author.  I took part in an amazing author promotion with her last month as well. It is because of her hard work and effort (not to mention the two straight days she stayed up during the promotion) that we decided to create a special day for Jillian as a way to say thanks and to promote her fabulous work which you all should be reading.

As an introduction to Jillian and who she is (for those of you who don't already know her), she is a best-selling author in the YA genre.  Her books are excellent and she has thousands of devoted fans.  She writes, among other things, The Keaton Chronicles.  Book one in the series, Stalk Me, has 141 reviews and an excellent ranking average. 

Here's a little more about the first book in the series:

Gossip girl meets Hollywood in this new series by That Boy author, Jillian Dodd. Keatyn has everything she ever dreamed. Her life is following the script she wrote for the perfect high school experience. She’s popular, goes to the best parties, dates the hottest guy, and sits at the most-coveted lunch table. She’s just not sure she wants it anymore. Because, really, things aren’t all that perfect. Her best friend is threatening to tell everyone her perfect relationship is a scam. Her perfect boyfriend gets drunk at every party they go to. It’s exhausting always trying to look and act perfect. And, deep down, she isn’t sure if she has any true friends. To add to the drama, her movie star mom has a creepy stalker. A hot, older man flirts with her and tells her they should make a movie together. And she’s crushing on an adorable surfer. Dating him would mean committing social suicide. So she writes a new script. One where all the pieces of her life will come together in perfect harmony. But little does she know, there's someone who will do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen. *A mature YA romance.

To see all of Jillian's books, click HERE.

And for more about Jillian:




Friday, December 21, 2012


I am thrilled to be a part of the 99 authors, 99 books, 99 cents one-day promotion.  And that day is TODAY everyone.  Most of these authors are best-sellers and usually price their books a lot higher than this, so don't miss out.  You may not see these books at 99 cents again. 

In ADDITION to the wonderful books offered, we are also giving away $990 worth of prizes INCLUDING one $500 Amazon Gift Card, Two Kindles, and four other gift cards. 
Here is my 99 cent offering (click to purchase):
And click on the 99 cent logo above to be directed to the main site. 
What are you waiting for?!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Grayson Manor Haunting - Chapter One

During the holidays I get an itch to set aside my series novels and write something entirely different.  This year, I decided to do something I've always wanted: write a ghost story.  Thus began Grayson Manor Haunting. 

I wasn't very far into the story when I became so immersed into it, I knew a novella just wouldn't do.  The character, Addison Lockhart, is gifted in ways that make it easy for me to create a series just for her.  I will keep on writing my other series, of course, but I am having a lot of fun with this.  I am about 20K into it, and with discipline on my part, I am hoping to have it out by February 2013.  But for now, I hope you enjoy chapter one!
Addison Lockhart watched the cab dart back down the country road, leaving nothing but a small dust cloud in its wake.  She squeezed her eyes shut, taking a deep breath before spinning around on the heel of her boot.  When her eyes reopened, she wasn’t prepared for the image before her.  The house was much older than she thought it would be.  It was dingy and needed work—a lot of it.  Several of the wood shingles were missing from the exterior.  A piece of railing on the left side of the porch had been partially ripped off, its jagged pieces forming splinter-worthy spikes.  Still, there was a sense of grandeur behind the tattered facade—something regal in the architectural beauty of the domed turret and multi-gabled, steep-pitched roof.  But even with all of its flaws, none of the windows on the house were broken, not even the magnificent stained-glass one in the center of the top floor.    
            The property surrounding the Queen Anne style house was heavily wooded, its thick, mature trees stretching over the back of the mountainside.  Addison stood silent and still, taking it all in, hoping she’d made the right decision in coming here.  An owl sounded off in the distance, making her aware of his presence.  She glanced into the trees, knowing he could see her, even though she couldn’t see him. 
Addison looked over the acreage to the house next door, noticing what appeared to be the pitch of a roof peeking through the trees.  There was a good distance between the two houses, which was exactly what she was looking for.  Peace and quiet.  Serenity.  No horns honking, no traffic jams, no sirens…just the faint sound of water coming from what she assumed was a nearby lake. 
            One week earlier Addison had been seated in a stuffy lawyer’s office, only half-listening to the man on the opposite side of the desk as he rattled off what had been left to her according to her mother’s will: money, jewelry, the autographed record collection that she’d never been allowed to touch, and a house. 
A house?
And not just any house.
“I don’t understand,” Addison had said.  “My mother owned a house in the country?” 
The lawyer simply nodded, his eyes scanning the document for additional information.
“But my mother never mentioned it to me before.” 
The lawyer gazed over the rim of his glasses, staring at her like she was a child who asked too many questions.  “From what I understand, it was the home your mother grew up in.  Are you sure you’ve never been there before?”
            Addison shook her head. 
“Says here your great-grandmother owned the house outright,” he continued.  “It looks like it has been passed down over the last two generations from mother to child—the child always being a female.”
Addison slouched back into the sofa.  “My mother was an only child, so was I.  There wasn’t much of a choice.”
“Well, I suppose you could just deed it to your father if you don’t want to bother with it,” the lawyer suggested.  “Or you could sell it.”  
Addison snapped out of the memory and stared back at the house again, wondering why it had been abandoned for so long, forced to deteriorate year after year.  If no one wanted it, why hadn’t it been sold?  It seemed a shame for such a thing of beauty to go to waste.     
She placed a foot on the front porch step, testing its durability by tapping it with the toe of her boot a few times until she was confident it wouldn’t cave in when she applied more pressure.  When she felt certain that it would hold her weight, she stepped forward, continuing the ritual on the next step and the next one after that.  She made it onto the porch and walked to the front door, stopping to notice a metal nameplate that had been drilled into place over the mailbox.  It was too grimy to read.  She looked around, seeing nothing she could use to clean it off.  She pulled the sleeve of her sweater over her hands and wiped the nameplate down, reading the words aloud: “Grayson Manor.”
Addison reached into her pocket, pulled out a key ring, and inserted the largest of the keys into the door.  It clicked, unlocking instantly, but when she pushed against the solid mass of wood, it didn’t budge.  She tried again, this time ramming the side of her body into the door, shoulder first.  It hopped forward an inch, but it still wasn’t enough.  She backed up, gripped the handle, and tried again, this time with more force.  The door swung open, almost flinging her to the floor in the process.  But she didn’t mind—she’d gotten what she wanted—she was in.
The inside of the house was as run down and charming as the outside.  Addison expected to find rooms full of furniture with sheets thoughtfully placed over the top, preserving their integrity.  Instead pieces were haphazardly strewn about in piles, many of them broken.  The place appeared to have been looted—maybe more than once.      
Off to one side was a kitchen, but it didn’t look much like one.  All of the appliances were missing, and the drawers and cabinets contained nothing but layers of dust and rat droppings.  Addison ran a finger across the front of a cabinet door, wiping the dust off on her jeans.   The dark walnut cabinetry was simple, yet refined and beautiful.      
She left the kitchen and entered a large, open living space with wood floors.  The room reminded her of a dance hall and was large enough for a banquet or a large party.  A trio of sullied chandeliers was suspended from the ceiling, the one in the center being far more grandiose than the others.  It may not have been what she expected, but with a lot of restoration work, she could create the house she’d always wanted.  A house she could call her home.  It felt good to finally be alone.  The only problem was: she wasn’t.

Sunday, December 9, 2012




Welcome to your first stop on the Ho Ho Hop blog tour. I hope you'll all take the time to visit each author's page--there are many, many prizes to be won--something on every author page you visit, and entries for our grand prizes as well.  Now that you're here, let's get to mine ;)
I am giving away a total of FIVE prizes.  To enter, all you have to do is one little thing...follow my Facebook author page by clicking HERE
Then come back here and add your name in the comments section below. 
You'll be entered to win all five prizes.
Here's what's up for grabs:



To purchase any of my books, just click on the book photo. 
And click HERE to return to the hop :)
 *If you already follow my Facebook author page, enter your name in the comments below*   

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Last week, talented author Suzanne Tyrpak (who I will always admire not only for her talent, but because of my jealousy of her friendship with equally talented Blake Crouch) tagged me in her "The Next Best Thing" blog post.  I feel like I've just boarded a train with friends that never let's see if we can keep it chugging right along, shall we? 

For my part, I will be answering a series of questions and then tagging five other authors to do the same one week from today. 

Here we go...(I keep wanting to say "choo-choo," but that would be entirely childish of me)

1) What is the title of your next book?

I've just released a new book, called Stranger in Town, and I'd rather discuss Stranger over what I am currently working on, since I've got at least three irons in the fire right now.  How's that for rebelliousness? ;)

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I knew this question would come sooner or later, so why not sooner? 

When I was a girl, about the age of sweet Olivia, the girl in my story, I had a frightening experience that could have ended much worse than it did.  In my story, I took Olivia and put her in the same situation, except I changed the outcome.  I am all about the "what if's" of life, and this seemed like a good opportunity to draw on the fear I still feel when I recall the experience today.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Mystery, suspense, thriller, romantic suspense...shall I go on?

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I am never able to answer this question.  No matter what I say, the actor is never quite right.  Therefore, I cannot answer this.  Sorry!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence will not suffice.  So here's a few.

Six-year-old Olivia Hathaway tiptoes down the center aisle of Maybelle's Market, stopping once to glance over her shoulder and make sure her mother isn't watching. But Mrs. Hathaway is too preoccupied to notice her daughter has slipped away. Moments later, a frantic Mrs. Hathaway runs up and down the aisles, desperately searching for her missing daughter. But little Olivia is already in the arms of a stranger.

Makes you want to go back and read how I answered question two, doesn't it? 

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am represented by Pixie Publishing, but I own the rights to my books.   

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Four months from the first line to the publish date.  Dilly-dallying does not exist in this dojo.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Truthfully, I don't know.  I haven't ever read anything that reminds me of my story to any great degree.  Maybe a really, and I mean really, loose version of Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark.  But, I only started that book and never got around to finishing it, so...

As a side note, I love Mary Higgins Clark with a capital L.  I never finished it because life got in the way, and by then, I'd forgotten a lot of what I'd already read and had moved on to about three other novels.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I believe I answered this in #2, but I will add to it.  I wanted to take my main protagonist, private investigtor Sloane Monroe, and throw her into a case that's very different from what she's used to.  I also wanted to get her the hell out of Utah and felt introducing her to the dashing Cade McCoy was an excellent idea, since he will be having his own series ***spoiler alert***.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The ending isn't common.  The reader will NEVER guess until I point them in the right direction when I'm ready.  And readers love that.  I like taking a plausible, realistic situation and then turning the tables.  If I can find a way to spin a story so what the reader thinks is going to happen ends up being completely different than what they've assumed (because readers love to see if they can figure out the ending before it comes), I've done my job. 


And now to throw five more irons into the fire...sorry gals, but you've been tagged.  What are friends for?  Look for me to link their posts from here next Wednesday...and may none of them be too angry with me over this.  It is, after all, holiday time.

Christine DeMaio-Rice

Julia Crane

JCarson Black

Carol Davis Luce

Elle Chardou


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Chapter One Submissions: December


What is it?

A contest for authors.

Each month I will be looking for the BEST first chapter of a novel.
The winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card AND will be interviewed on both my reader and writer blogs which have had over 35,000 page views in the past year.
In addition, I will tweet about your book to my 25,000 followers and do a write up about why I chose your novel as my "chapter one" pick of the month.
Read about the Chapter One winner for November HERE.

For this month, I will be accepting 50 entries.
Once I receive 50, I will announce at the top of this post that submissions are closed for the month, so if you don't see that above, there's still an opening. 


Comment on this blog post below. If you are one of the first fifty to comment, send the first chapter of your novel to my EMAIL ADDRESS.

In the subject line of your email put: CHAPTER ONE
And then please paste your chapter in the body of the email, and NOT as an attachment.

The winner will be emailed by the last week of the month, and look for their interview (and hopefully YOUR interview) the first week of the following month. If you were not chosen, you may submit the first chapter of a different novel the next month. Short stories are also eligible. BUT! Your book must be published to qualify.

Why am I doing this? Because once upon a time someone held my hand and showed me the way, and now I want to pay it forward. One of my favorite things to do is promote up-and-coming authors.

Best of luck to everyone!

November Chapter One Winner: Adrienne Thompson

Think fresh and new and you'll understand why I chose Adrienne Thompson's first chapter from her novel Been So Long, as the winner for November's Chapter One contest.  Her writing style is unlike anything I've ever seen before and it drew me in.  The main character is vivid and comes alive on the page.  You get a real feel for her personality right from the start, and readers love that kind of connection. 

I hate my name. Always have. Mona-Lisa Dandridge. What kind of name is that? Oh, I know that the Mona Lisa is a famous work of art. I know that Leonardo DaVinci was one of the greats, a genius really. Maybe I should be honored to have the name, but I’m not. Maybe it would’ve been better if Mona was my first name and Lisa was my middle name. But no, Mona-Lisa is one name, hyphenated. My middle name is DaVinci. Yeah, you heard me right, Mona-Lisa DaVinci Dandridge. My name is concrete proof that sixteen-year-old girls shouldn’t have babies—or at least they shouldn’t be allowed to name them. There are other reasons why a girl that young shouldn’t have kids, but I won’t go into them right now.
Anyway, I used to wonder why my mom didn’t just give me her name. Christina is a pretty name. I could’ve dealt with
that. But no, I got stuck with a stripper’s name. Maybe if my father had stuck around long enough for me to be born, he would’ve stepped in and given me a normal name like Tasha or Andrea. But he disappeared as soon as the plus sign showed up in the window of the home pregnancy test. Mama said his name was Michael Tolliver. I met him once, I think. Well, that’s a long story. One I’ve tried not to remember.
Michael’s a nice name. Maybe he would’ve named me Michelle. That would’ve been nice. Michelle Dandridge has a nice ring to it. Oh well, I’ve been Mona-Lisa Dandridge for thirty-three years now. I may as well accept it. At least my name isn’t Cleopatra, like my younger sister. Cleopatra Egypt Williams. I guess twenty is not a good age for motherhood either, if you use my mother as an example. My mother loved to read, and she loved art and history, but I think that she may have misused her knowledge.
I shook my head, trying to shake my own thoughts loose, as I pulled my Chrysler Pacifica to a stop in front of the junior high school and unlocked the doors.
“Bye, Mama,” my sons said in unison as they jumped out of the truck.
“Bye, boys. Have a great day,” I called after them. But by then, they were already halfway across the yard, on their way
to the double entry doors. I sighed. They were growing up so fast. It seemed like just yesterday their father and I were changing their diapers and fixing formula. Now they’d both outgrown my 5’6” and were in the ninth grade. Morgan was even beginning to grow facial hair! That made my mind go tilt for real. What was I going to do when my boys were all grown up?
Morgan and Blair. I’d named my twin sons after my two favorite actors. They were fraternal twins and best friends. Morgan was just a hair taller than Blair. Blair was almost a carbon copy of their father, barely resembling me at all. He was Wasif all over again, from his brown eyes, to his keen nose, right down to his dark olive skin and thick wavy black hair. Morgan took after my side of the family for the most part. He had my hazel eyes and fine curly hair. He even had my ears and full mouth. His nose was a little larger than mine. His skin was a shade lighter than my medium brown. They’d both inherited their father’s tall, lanky build.
I headed back to our house on Scherman Oaks Circle. I had plenty to do before the school day ended and no time to waste. I had to make sure the house was spotless before Wasif made it home. Wasif was a neat freak, and since I didn’t work, he would throw a fit if he came home to messy house. I had to pick up some dry cleaning, take the dog to the groomers, and then fix dinner. I definitely had a busy day ahead of me.
The day zipped by, as all busy days do, and before I knew it, Wasif had arrived. “Your dad’s home!” I yelled from the kitchen. The boys were in the living room playing a video game. I’d just heard the garage door open.
“We hear him!” Blair said excitedly.
I pulled the baked chicken from the oven and laid the pan on the counter. I turned around to find Wasif standing in the kitchen doorway holding a bouquet of yellow roses. “Hello, beautiful,” he said. Wasif’s beauty far outshined that of the roses he held. With chiseled features and a gorgeous white smile, he was perfection.
I walked over to him and planted a long kiss on his lips. “Hey, baby. For me?” I pointed to the roses.
“No, they’re for Lizzie,” he said with a wide smile.
“Well, Lizzie’s already enjoyed a trip to the groomer’s, so I’ll take the flowers.”
He shrugged. “That’s between you and Lizzie.”
I rolled my eyes and turned back to the counter. Wasif grabbed me from behind and kissed the back of my neck. “You know they’re for you. How was your day?”
I turned around and hugged him. “Busy. How was yours?”
“Tiring. Three bypasses today. Three. I’ll be dreaming about hearts and arteries tonight for sure.”
I kissed his cheek. “Mmhmm. I guess I’ll have to work extra hard to put something else on your mind then, huh?”
He smiled down at me and stroked my cheek with his finger. “You know just what to do, don’t you, babe?”
I nodded. “Always. Did you miss me?”
He leaned in and planted a slow kiss on my lips. “What do you think?”
“Mm, I missed you, too.”
After dinner, Wasif and the boys played video games for a while. I smiled as I watched him interact with them. Wasif was a great father, and it made me feel so good that my boys had him in their lives. Like I said before, I’d only met my father once in my entire life, and it wasn’t under the best of circumstances. I’d always been determined for my children to have better, and I’d succeeded. I was proud of my family.
I announced bedtime at 9:30, and the boys grumbled all the way to their rooms. I sat down on the sofa next to Wasif and laid my head on his shoulder. “I love you so much, Wasif.”
“I love you too, babe. More than you’ll ever know.”
We sat there for a few more minutes, enjoying each other’s company, and then he stood from the couch and reached for my hand. “Come with me, pretty babe.”
I smiled and took his hand. He led me to our bedroom where he showed me exactly how much he loved me over and over again. The next morning, when he left for work, I felt that familiar pain in my heart that I always felt on Tuesday mornings. It would be a week before I saw him again. He was going home to his wife that evening.**

Q&A with author Adrienne Thompson

1.       Tell me about yourself: Where are you from and how long have you been writing?
I currently live in Arkansas with my fifteen-year-old daughter. I am a registered nurse who has always loved to read and write. I've also always been a natural storyteller. When I rehash an event, people crowd around and listen as if it's a radio soap opera or something, lol. About three years ago, I found myself dissatisfied with my station in life and seeking to find my true purpose because, although I was a good nurse, I knew that was not my calling. After a lot of soul searching, I decided to develop my writing craft. I’ve now published 5 Amazon best-selling novels. I think I’ve found my calling!

2.       Tell me about the novel—what inspired it?

Honestly, my inspiration came from a former co-worker who had a huge crush on a handsome doctor who bears a similarity to one of the main characters. With that little spark, I began to write and the story developed on its own.

3.       What genre do you write in and why?

I write Realistic/Edgy Inspirational Fiction. I write about broken women who eventually find healing and love. I write about these types of women because their lives mirror my own.

4.       What’s the next project for you?  Tell the readers about it.
I am waiting for my editor to complete her work on Little Sister (a companion novel to Been So Long) and I hope to release it by the end of this year. I am also putting the final touches on Been So Long 2 (Body and Soul) and I’m in the middle of working on Rapture (a Been So Long prequel). The characters from Been So Long have taken over my life, lol

5.       Let’s put the novel aside and talk about YOU for a minute—what are your hobbies and what can’t you live without that’s non-book related?  What do you do when you are not writing?  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

My favorite hobby is photography. I especially love to take photos of sunrises and sunsets. I even have a Deviant Art account to which I have uploaded some of my photos. I absolutely cannot live without music. I am a music fanatic in every sense of the word. I can listen to most any genre of music as long as it’s good music. When I’m not writing, I’m more than likely watching a crime drama or crime documentary on TV. I’m a big fan of all of the Law and Order series’ and of the BBC series Luther. If I could live anywhere in the world, I think I’d live in London. Don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to live there.

6.       If a reader asked you to recommend the three BEST books to read, aside from your own, what would they be?

Running From Solace by Nakia Laushaul, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and any of the early Alex Cross books by James Patterson.

      7.       If you could have dinner with one author, who would it be and why?

James Patterson—because I need to know just how he became such a prolific and successful author. I’d love to mirror his success.

8.       Post where you can be found—website, blog, twitter, facebook, etc.
Blogs:  and
Jeff Faria -
Kevin Domenic -
Do YOU have an excellent Chapter One? Enter the December Chapter One Contest HERE.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday Weekend Extravaganza!



In celebration, I am offering two deals for my readers.
First, my Sloane Monroe series boxed set is half off for THREE DAYS ONLY, 
between Friday and Sunday, November 23-25. 
To purchase for $3.99, click on the book below or click HERE.

Second, anyone who purchases my new novel, Stranger in Town, between now and November 27 will be entered to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card.  To purchase, click on the book below or click HERE, and then be sure to return to this blog and add a comment in the comments section so I know you purchased it.  Please note: a book purchased and returned will be disqualified. 
Best of luck to everyone, and happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Authors Give Back: My Donation to the Red Cross

It hasn't been easy watching the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on television.  Seeing images of wrecked homes and heartbroken people who have lost everything is never pleasant.  But there is one remarkable thing that takes place when these things happen: we all come together, remembering who we are, and what we can do to help.

This month I will be donating $1.00 from every ebook purchase of my new mystery, Stranger in Town, to the Red Cross. 
He only needed her to look away for a few seconds...

Six-year-old Olivia Hathaway tiptoes down the center aisle of Maybelle's Market, stopping once to glance over her shoulder and make sure her mother isn't watching. But Mrs. Hathaway is too preoccupied to notice her daughter has slipped away. Moments later, a frantic Mrs. Hathaway runs up and down the aisles, desperately searching for her missing daughter. But little Olivia is already in the arms of a stranger. Will PI Sloane Monroe find Olivia before it's too late?
To purchase the novel, click HERE
And if mystery and thriller novels aren't for you, consider a donation of your own to the Red Cross today.  Even the smallest donation helps those in need.     

Stranger in Town Book Review Giveaway!!!


It's finally here!  The new release of my latest novel, Stranger in Town, book #4 in the Sloane Monroe mystery/thriller series. 

To kick things off, I am running a contest for anyone who reads the novel and leaves a review on Amazon between now and November 29th.
Every person who leaves a review will receive his/her choice of a keychain from one of the Sloane Monroe series books and a signed bookmark. 
But that's not all...
You will also be entered to win a $30 Amazon Gift Card. 

To enter, read Stranger in Town between now and November 29th, leave a review, and then EMAIL ME or leave a comment below.  That's it!

The winner will be announced on my blog on November 30th.
To purchase Stranger in Town, CLICK HERE.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chapter One Submissions: November


 What is it?

A contest for authors.

Each month I will be looking for the BEST first chapter of a novel. The winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card AND will be interviewed on both my reader and writer blogs which have had over 30,000 page views in the past year. In addition, I will tweet about your book to my 20,000 followers and do a write up about why I chose your novel as my "chapter one" pick of the month. Read about the Chapter One winner for October HERE.

For this month, I will be accepting 50 entries. I might change this later...I need time to write after all ;) but I will do what I can to maintain this number. Once I receive 50, I will announce at the top of this post that submissions are closed for the month, so if you don't see that above, there's still an opening. Last month it was only open for two days, so don't wait around ;)


Comment on this blog post below. If you are one of the first fifty to comment, send the first chapter of your novel to my EMAIL ADDRESS.

In the subject line of your email put: CHAPTER ONE
And then please paste your chapter in the body of the email, and NOT as an attachment.

The winner will be emailed by the last week of the month, and look for their interview (and hopefully YOUR interview) the first week of the following month. If you were not chosen, you may submit the first chapter of a different novel the next month. Short stories are also eligible. BUT! Your book must be published to qualify.

Why am I doing this? Because once upon a time someone held my hand and showed me the way, and now I want to pay it forward. One of my favorite things to do is promote up-and-coming authors.

Best of luck to everyone!

October Chapter One Winner: Donna Cummings

From the moment I started the first chapter of Lord Midnight by author Donna Cummings, I knew it was "the one."  The one I'd choose as the winner, and after looking over them all, it was.  Donna has a talent for making the reader visualize what's going on in the story.  She also knows how to string words together in such a way that her prose flows effortlessly.

Lord Midnight: Chapter One

Yorkshire, 1812

Only a miracle could halt the wedding now.

Marisa Dunsmore whispered another hopeful prayer, though it did nothing to slow the carriage racing toward Westbrook Hall, the home of her betrothed. Soon she would have to abandon dreams of aid, divine or otherwise, but for the moment optimism was still a comfort.

She glanced at her brother Bernard, sleeping across from her, his head lolling in a most undignified fashion against the gold silk interior. He would be horrified to learn his meticulously arranged blond curls had flattened on one side, while his cravat was crushed beyond repair. Marisa bit back a grin. Since Bernard had refused every appeal to help her escape the wedding to Lord Westbrook, she would not inform him of his sartorial fauxpas.

After all, betrayal did have its price.

They were still several miles from Westbrook Hall, though there would be no further stops, or chances to escape. Freedom had been so near at hand at the last posting inn. As soon as the carriage had stopped, Marisa had exclaimed the interminable trip from London had shattered her nerves, putting her in dire need of the necessary. She had clapped a hand over her mouth and run to the back of the inn. Once there, she detoured for the stables, ready to borrow one of the horses awaiting its turn in the traces. She reached toward the nearest mount, her heart leaping with elation, until Bernard's hand clamped around her arm, a triumphant expression lighting his features.

Marisa closed her eyes, weary at the reminder of her latest setback, and what it meant for her poor Aunt Althea. She tugged her red wool cloak closer, though the chill she tried to ward off was not due to any deficiency in Lord Westbrook's carriage. In truth, the coach's only defect was its inability to speed her away from the upcoming nuptials. Was it too much to hope for a small portion of divine intervention?

A single gunshot exploded, piercing the stillness with a loud crack.

"Stand and deliver!"

The coach skidded to a halt, the coachman yelling out to the York horses squealing in protest. Marisa bounced on the bench seat, grabbing for something, anything, to keep herself in place. She flew across the carriage, landing atop her brother, her elbow slamming into the side of his head. Bernard sat upright, blinking as he rubbed the newly inflicted injury.

Marisa's stomach tumbled with excitement.

Her prayers had been answered, and so quickly.

She darted toward the side glass, eager to glimpse the highwaymen accosting them. The carriage lamps reflected little except her own likeness, and she was not at all interested in the blue eyes and unruly blonde curls mirrored there. She rubbed the glass for a better view. The moon proved to be a brilliant lantern, illuminating the dozen or more brigands as they galloped from the surrounding beech trees, positioning their mounts around the coach.

"It is fortunate Lord Westbrook insisted on covering his crest on the carriage door," Bernard said in a tight voice.

Marisa swiveled to look at her brother. He tugged the ends of his cravat, frowning as the ruined linen drooped even further.

"Why should the crest matter? They have stopped the carriage regardless."

"You are quite valuable to your future husband," Bernard said, running his fingers through his hair.

"Do you think they will abduct me?"

"I apologize, poppet." He stopped primping and reached his hand to her. "I did not mean to frighten you. I can assure you that will not happen."

"Oh." Marisa sagged against the silk cushions.

Bernard laughed. "Any other female would be clawing through her reticule for her smelling salts. Yet, rather than being terrified, you are irrationally hopeful."

"I am quite serious about not wedding Lord Westbrook."

She could see he was ready to retort, most likely something he had uttered earlier, such as the maddening "You must marry some man, why not a wealthy one?" or the infuriating "I suppose you must insist on marrying for love".

Before he could incense her with the phrases again, the carriage door was thrown open, flooding the coach with the chill of a spring night, and the exhilarating prospect of freedom.

"Come join me under the stars this evening," a seductive voice invited.

Marisa's heart raced. Some deity had heard her prayer, and answered it in a most extraordinary fashion. She stepped forward, eager to set eyes on her rescuer.

Bernard's arm shot out and blocked the doorway.

"I shall descend first," he said.

"Of course," Marisa demurred, retreating to her side of the carriage.

Bernard's eyes narrowed. "Do not attempt anything foolish, poppet."

Marisa donned her most innocent expression. The widened eyes and raised eyebrows often deceived her father into believing she had submitted to his will. However, her brother had experienced it too many times to be duped anymore.

"I am serious," Bernard warned, but the corner of his mouth tilted up, spoiling the admonition.

Marisa fought off her own grin. "As am I, Bernard."

He studied her a few moments before vaulting through the open door.

She heard Bernard's boots hit the hard ground, followed by the highwayman's cultured tones. "Thank you for your cooperation, my good man. And your traveling companions? Have they been overcome by shyness?"

Marisa giggled. She had been labeled many things in her twenty years, but shy was never atop the list. "Headstrong" and "hoydenish" were frequent descriptors, as was "devil's handmaiden", particularly when she refused to agree to her father's demands.

Such as his insistence on this wedding to Lord Westbrook, a man twice her age.

She placed a gloved hand at the opening of the carriage, her stomach fluttering with renewed optimism. She stretched her foot down to the metal step, but it had managed to disappear in the darkness, and she tumbled toward the paved roadway.


The highwayman sprang forward, before Marisa's own cry of dismay was past her lips. His gloved hands caught her at the waist, and in the next heartbeat Marisa's arms reflexively encircled his neck. Once assured that she was safe, the rogue should have placed her feet on the ground, and stepped away. Instead, he slid his arms around her, placing her flush against his chest in a very scandalous fashion.

Marisa's heart pounded, most likely with relief at avoiding disaster, though she had to admit her pulse raced anew at being held in such a protective embrace. She felt the muscled strength in the way he cradled her, yet it was tempered with gentleness, banishing any fear.

A hint of sandalwood rose from his warm skin, mingling with the virile scent of a man accustomed to doing whatever he wished with his life. It was a combination both exotic and comforting. For the first time in a long while Marisa felt safe, and she had to fight the urge to lay her head on his shoulder.

She closed her eyes, thankful he could not see her reddened face, or divine her wayward thoughts. He was a means to freedom, nothing more. If only Aunt Althea had not filled her head with romantic notions throughout her childhood. . .

The highwayman lowered her until her half boots touched the ground, and only then did he release his hands. Marisa nearly sighed her disappointment.

"I must thank you for preventing a most disastrous episode," she said.

"I am delighted I could be of service to you, Mistress."

The merriment in his voice caught her off guard. She glanced up, impatient to see this man who had been heaven-sent to aid her.

Her breath stopped in her throat. In the next instant, she could not remember the correct sequence of breathing, or how to restart it now that it had halted.

He was beyond handsome. Her brother Bernard was considered handsome, as were her other five brothers, so she was accustomed to seeing comely men on a daily basis.

This man was in a category of his own making.

His strong jaw and elegant cheekbones denoted noble bloodlines, yet it was unlikely a man of aristocratic lineage would become a knight of the road. Perhaps he had been born on the wrong side of the blanket, and his only opportunity in life was to take up this lawless profession. Still, he wisely wore a strip of leather to conceal his identity, though it did nothing to disguise his appeal.

His long blond locks fluttered, as if the light breeze found them as irresistible as Marisa did. His thigh-high leather boots, and the black cape which swirled around him, made her heart skip more than once. She glanced again at his face, to see amusement sparkling in his blue eyes. He tossed her an impudent wink.

Clearly he enjoyed her detailed perusal.

Her face heated, earning her a broad smile. The dimple accompanying his upturned lips completely captivated her.

The highwayman executed a magnificent bow, never taking his eyes from hers.

Delighted, Marisa sank into a formal curtsey, as though they were ready to commence a stately minuet for the entertainment of the brigands surrounding them.

"Come, Mistress.” The highwayman extended his hand to her, and Marisa took it, glad for his assistance. Her knees wobbled more than she anticipated when she impetuously responded to the highwayman's gallant gesture.

"Poppet, perhaps you should stand here with me."

Marisa glanced over her shoulder at Bernard, reading the unspoken warning in his expression. His mouth was pursed with annoyance rather than fear, so she dismissed his silent reprimand. She would not be dissuaded from her purpose.

"I should so hate to be deprived of her company," the highwayman said, his lips turned down in a mock pout. He kept her small hands in his, the twinkle in his eyes demonstrating he felt no urgency to release her. Marisa was in no hurry either.

"I can scarce imagine you stopped our carriage merely to clasp my hands."

The highwayman smiled, bringing a great deal of bliss to Marisa's heart when his dimple reappeared. He touched one of her errant blonde curls, seemingly enchanted as he twirled it around a gloved finger. Marisa felt her heart speed up once more, and she was grateful the cool night air soothed the heat threatening to overtake her body.

"Had I but known what a jewel resided in this coach," the highwayman replied, his voice a caress.

Bernard coughed, but before Marisa could investigate, the highwayman captured her full attention again.

"Perhaps I should receive a small boon in return for my heroic deed," he suggested.

Before she could respond, he turned her hand over, exposing the pale skin of her wrist above the kid glove. He raised it to his lips with infinite slowness.

Marisa's knees trembled, but she had yet to swoon in her short life. She did not intend to do so now, lest she miss the heady experience of being kissed by a knight of the road.

His eyes never left hers, daring her to call a halt to his audacious act. She returned his gaze, her breathing ragged, her feverish skin impatient for his touch. When his lips finally brushed against her, she closed her eyes and allowed the exhilaration to wash over her.

Why had she not been forced to wed a man such as this one? There would be no need for defiance or escape plots if her father had decreed this man was to be her husband.

A horse nickered in the background, diverting the highwayman's attention, ending the kiss much too soon for Marisa's taste. Her eyes fluttered open, and she ached to return to that delicious moment of pure sensation.

Bernard stepped forward to retrieve her, but a rogue with unruly red hair waved him back with a large pistol. Her brother frowned, unhappy at being bested by a young man whose menacing glare was accompanied by a rash of freckles.

Marisa turned to hide her smile, but the highwayman saw it and he chuckled.

"You have distracted me from my original purpose, angel." He brushed her hand with a quick kiss before releasing it.

"You have done the same to me," she replied.

"Indeed? And how might I serve your purposes?"

"Poppet," Bernard growled. He shot her another warning glance, but she ignored it as before. He had left her with no option, despite her repeated pleas. Marisa's future was not the only one at stake.

"I am to wed Lord—"

"Here," Bernard said in a rush, reaching inside his greatcoat. "Take these. They are all we have in the way of valuables." He extended a jewel case toward the highwayman. "You may have these so long as we are free to resume our journey."

Marisa gaped at her brother. He was a younger son, one of many in her large family, and not likely to possess jewels of any kind. The majority of his meager allowance was spent on ensuring he was in the first stare of fashion. How had he—

Realization knocked the air from her chest. Bernard could have utilized the jewels to finance a very comfortable life for both of them, preventing her upcoming nuptials. Yet clearly he had not been motivated to do so. His betrayal stung, for he had allied himself with Father, even knowing how desperately she needed his help.

The highwayman grasped the case and opened it. He stepped back a pace, his eyes wide. Surely jewels and jewelry cases were the norm, indeed, the raison d'etre, for a man who robbed the king's highways each night. Yet this man appeared as astonished by their presence as Marisa had been.

The rogue guarding Bernard raced to the highwayman's side, eager to view the treasure. Bernard clutched Marisa's arm, and pulled her toward the carriage. She twisted away from him, dragging her heels, determined to depart with the highwayman. He was her only remaining chance at freedom. She had to find her way back to London, before it was too late.

She curved away from her brother, but he was too quick. He tightened his grip and hurried her to their equipage, determined to leave before Marisa divulged her valuable status.

Marisa glanced back at her erstwhile rescuer, but he was transfixed by the jewel case in his hands. She opened her mouth to call to him, but Bernard propelled her into the coach, slamming the door behind them. The coachman slapped the reins against the mounts, eager to make up for the time lost during their misadventure. Perhaps the horses sensed the driver's fright, for the carriage bolted down the highway, leaning precariously to one side.

Marisa spied the highwayman in the coach's path ahead of them, oblivious to the danger speeding toward him. She swallowed her scream. Was this part of her dire future too? Not only must she wed a man she feared, she must also witness the destruction of this cavalier, the embodiment of her romantic dreams.

In the next instant, the red-haired brigand grasped the highwayman's cape and dragged him to safety.

Marisa's heart fell back into place, resuming a somewhat normal rhythm, though it would be a while before the pangs of disappointment subsided.

Yet another failed attempt at escape.

At least the knight errant was in no further danger. He would live to steal kisses from another impressionable miss one day. Perhaps, if she were lucky, he would include their midnight tryst in his memoirs, when he was in his dotage, recalling the stirring adventures of his youth.

She peered out the side glass once more, craving a final look at the dashing highwayman as they raced past. Their hasty departure twisted the covering on the carriage door, exposing Lord Westbrook's crest. The highwayman's eyes lit up with instant recognition. He looked up at Marisa, and his lips curved into the most delicious smile.

A heartbeat later, the darkness erased him from her sight. Marisa was once more racing to Westbrook Hall, certain she had imagined the entire escapade. She wiped away a tear before Bernard could see her in a rare weak moment, and report on it to their father.

Why had the Fates dangled the hope of escape in front of her, only to wrench it away in such a cruel, heartless fashion?


Q&A with author Donna Cummings:

1. Tell me about yourself: Where are you from and how long have you been writing?
Right now I am from Massachusetts, but I've lived a lot of places, from the Seattle area, to the Midwest, and the Hamptons. I've been writing for about 20 years, although I took a ten-year break in there.
2. Tell me about the novel—what inspired it?
I've always loved stories with highwaymen. They were known to be dashing and witty and charming, even though they were actually robbers. But they did it with such panache! So I knew I was going to have a highwayman as the hero, but I needed a reason for him being in this career. I was reading a newspaper article about how the U.S. vice-president's political fortunes depended on something horrible happening to the president, allowing the VP to move up the chain. And it made me wonder what if somebody wasn't willing to wait to move up? That's when I decided my hero's uncle would be that impatient sort, and decided to kill his nephew to steal his title and estates. Fortunately the uncle was not successful, but he doesn't know that yet!
3. What genre do you write in and why?
I write romance, and what I call "humorously-ever-after" romance. I love knowing there is a happy ending awaiting my characters, especially when they have to go through so much to overcome their doubts and fears and trust issues. I love having humor in my stories. Not only is it fun, but humor can be very disarming, allowing characters to trust each other a little more easily. My hope is that my books can provide a little respite from the travails of everyday life.
4. What’s the next project for you? Tell the readers about it.
I have a few projects in the works, but I'll mention a book that's releasing next month. It's called I Do. . .or Die, and it's a romantic comedy/mystery involving a commitment-shy heroine who gets shot at during a wedding in which she's a bridesmaid. As it turns out, that's the best thing to happen to her love life. Prior to that, she's had colds that lasted longer than her relationships.
5. Let’s put the novel aside and talk about YOU for a minute—what are your hobbies and what can’t you live without that’s non-book related? What do you do when you are not writing? If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
My hobbies. I'm not sure I have any! But as for what I can't live without -- coffee, and Twitter! I'm totally addicted to Twitter, and I love talking about coffee on there. When I'm not writing, I usually feel guilty about not writing, or I'm "getting ready" to write, which usually means chatting on Twitter. If I could live anywhere in the world, I'd be greedy and have a few residences. One would be in England, because I fell in love with it on my one-time long-ago visit. It felt like I'd lived there before, so I know it would be no problem to settle there now. I also love tropical places, so I'd have a house in Hawaii, which I've visited a couple times, or the Caribbean, which I'm sure I *need* to visit. Oh, and New Orleans holds a special place in my heart for a lot of romantic reasons--and they have the best food in the world there.
6. If a reader asked you to recommend the three BEST books to read, aside from your own, what would they be?
Ack! I don't know how to answer this. I could list the last three books I read. Or the ones I re-read even though I don't have time to read everything waiting patiently for me on the mountainous TBR pile. (Did I distract you yet from the fact I didn't exactly answer this? LOL)
7. If you could have dinner with one author, who would it be and why?
There are many current authors I'd love to dine with, but I know I'd leave after dessert feeling like I could never reach their level of greatness. So I'll go with something else completely: Jane Austen. Of course, it would be in her era, and I would do my best not to snicker at her irreverent comments about everyone we met throughout the course of my visit. I know it would be great fun time-traveling to an era I love to write about. It would also be fun telling her about the infamous "Darcy emerging from the pond" scene that makes modern-day women all aflutter! I know she would get a kick out of that.
8. Where can you can found?
Website ~ Pinterest ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook

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