Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Critique Groups plus The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel #giveaway

Posted by Susan J Berger on 3:00:00 AM with 1 comment
Today my Romance Critique group met in Culver City. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel fairies lunched in the same restaurant. They were on a publicity mission. We were on a 'make my writing better' mission.
MY critique group are the ones not in pink.
Me, Tema Merback(writing  as Belle Ami), Therese Gilardi, Kelly Hartog and her companion, Bronte
The Maisel ladies gave us roses and souvenir notebooks. I am giving you a chance to win mine. (The notebook. The rose wouldn't mail well.)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel got 16 well deserved Emmy nominations and is my current favorite series. You can binge it on Amazon Prime. All. Nine. Episodes.  I wept when I realized there were no more to watch. I can't wait for season 2.
If you haven't seen the show here's the premise:
It's the late 1950s and Miriam "Midge" Maisel has everything she has ever wanted -- the perfect husband, two kids and an elegant apartment on New York's Upper West Side. Her seemingly idyllic life takes a surprising turn when she discovers a hidden talent she didn't previously know she had -- stand-up comedy. This revelation changes her life forever as she begins a journey that takes her from her comfortable life on the Upper West Side through the cafes and nightclubs of Greenwich Village as she makes her way through the city's comedy industry on a path that could ultimately lead her to a spot on the "Tonight Show" couch. The series was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino ("Gilmore Girls").
The premise doesn't do justice to the wonderful scripts, terrific acting, the fabulous period sets and costumes, and a score I can't get out of my head.
I'll put a Rafflecopter for the notebook at the end of the post.

Critique Groups
If you are a writer, you probably belong to a critique group. A good critique supports each other, and makes each other's work better. My group is fantastic. None of us write the same kind of novel. Therese Gilardi usually writes young adult. Tema Merback writes romantic suspense under the pen name Belle Ami, Kelly Hartog writes women's fiction and I jump all over the place. I know when two of them point out the same thing, I must pay attention.

Right now I am working on a novel that starts in Victorian England and jumps to 1940 wartime England. The heroine is a real person from history. Ada Augusta Lovelace - Lord Byron's Daughter.

Lord George Gordon Byron was a leading poet, politician and scandalous rake. His wife left him shortly after Ada was born. She saw that her daughter was given an excellent education in science and mathematics, hoping to avoid the strain of madness Lord Byron exhibited. Ada grew up to be a brilliant mathematician. She invented the first computer language in way back in 1843 for a machine that was a mere an idea - Charles Babbage's Analytical Machine. Her story has fascinated me since I learned of her in my first computer history class. I wanted to time travel her to 1940 when Alan Turing, hero of the movie, The Imitation Game first made his machine to break German codes. I knew he had used Ada's work. Thus my novel.

Here is an example of how a critique group improves a story.
Lord Byron’s Daughter 
2nd draft - the first being unreadable to anyone but the author.
Papa would not have approved of her current situation. But then Papa never stuck around long enough to approve anything.
Ada pushed her away out of Baron Mountjoy’s embrace. “Sir you go too far.”
“No, I must have you. You are my light, my sta,r my fortune.”
Well that at least rang true.
“Sir, perhaps you are unaware of the fact that papa’s will specified that I married an Englishman I would be cut off without a penny.”
  Baron Mountjoy stepped back, his codfish eyes gaping. “Why would an Englishman make a will like that? Even a demmed caper merchant like Lord Byron?”
Mountjoy stank of whiskey and days old perspiration. Was he so sure that the spinster daughter of Lord Bryon was so desperate to marry that he didn’t bother to change his shirt?
Stains of Handel’s Water Music drifted in from the ballroom.
“Papa didn’t approve of Englishmen. My fortune is contingent on my marrying an Italian.”
“Good lord the man was even dottier than he was rumored to be.”
True. Ada smoothed her skirts, wondering how she could induce the man to leave the library.
She’d only allowed herself to be persuaded consented to let her mother drag her to this ball at Lord Stanley’s house in hopes of examining his mathematical treatises. She’s heard from Babbage that he had works of Pythagoras that had never been read. Babbage lamented his inability to translate ancient Greek.

This is the current first page after my critiqu group's input. I think it's better.
Lord Byron’s Daughter
London, April 1840
The massive library door shut, muting the strains of shrill conversation from Lady King’s overcrowded ballroom.
Ada Byron’s taffeta skirts rustled, disturbing the cathedral-like silence which called to her soul. She’d only allowed her mother to drag her to the Countess of Lovelace’s ball in hopes of examining her ladyship’s son’s collection of mathematical treatises. When she heard from Charles Babbage that William King had a rare untranslated work of Pythagoras, she knew she had to read it. She was convinced it held the final key to her new language for Mr. Babbage’s probability machine.
Plump arms stole around her waist overlaying the intoxicating scent of old books and rich leather with the stench of garlic. Allowing Baron Mountjoy to escort her into their hostess’s glorious library was an error in judgement.
Ada pushed her way out of Baron Mountjoy’s embrace. “Sir, you go too far.”
Mountjoy stank of days-old perspiration. One would think a man planning to court a woman, even one so far on the shelf as she was, would bother to change his shirt.
 “No, I must have you. You are my light. My star. My fortune.”
His fortune? Well, that at least rang true.
May you find a book to love today. Happy Reading.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Hot #SummerRead by Brenda Sparks for the Paranormal Romance Reader

Posted by Susan J Berger on 3:00:00 AM with 1 comment

Meet paranormal author Brenda Sparks and her latest book, Alpha Pair. Born in Virginia, Brenda Sparks now resides in the Sunshine State.  
Balancing her professional commitment to the local school district with her writing is challenging at times, but writing suspenseful paranormal romances is a passion that won’t be denied. Her idea of a perfect day is one spent in front of a computer with a hot cup of coffee, her fingers flying over the keys to send her characters off on their latest adventure.  renda, I have a question or few for you.
I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your book.
I was sitting at home when I received an email stating that the senior editor at The Wild Rose Press wanted to contract a short story I sent her. I was so excited my hands shook while I opened the attachment and read the contract. I could barely type my email reply to her accepting the offer. When you are an author trying to be published, there is nothing like that first contract offer. Knowing someone in the publishing industry values and enjoys your work is priceless. 
What is the most exciting moment, so far, in your writing career?
 Hearing from a fan is always exciting for me. I have friends and family who enjoy my stories, but a little part of me wonders if they are biased. When a total strange leaves a 5-star review or likes my work enough to contact me through social media or via email, I'm thrilled. Hearing from readers is the most exciting thing about writing for me. 
What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?
I was a music major when I started at the university, so it’s probably no surprise that music is my favorite pastime. When I graduated from high school I could play 13 different instruments. Today I mostly just play the piano and clarinet. Wow! I am impressed. I can’t even play my computer keyboard well. #WorstTypistEver
Any advice for new writers just starting out?
Join a writer’s group. They are invaluable. You learn a ton by attending the conferences and speaking to published authors. We all have stories to share and advice to give. New and experienced writers alike can benefit from the knowledge of others in the business. Agree. I get so much out of my writing groups.

What’s your current WIP?
 Alpha Revealed is my current WIP. It is the next book in the Alpha Council Chronicles Series. It features Vlad and his heartmate. There is a surprise around every corner in this story, and I can’t wait to finish it. 
Alpha Pair Blurb:
How strong is the blood that binds? Tatiana Bolovich is a beautiful femme fatale with a haunting history. Having recently discovered the brutish Demetri Romanoff is her heartmate, she spent the past year avoiding him, but the Fates have other plans. 
Demetri commands every situation. A strong, valiant warrior, he’s used to being in control, that is until he is kidnapped by demons. Forced to endure unspeakable experiments at the hands of his enemy, the Alpha discovers just how out of control life can get.
Summoned by the Alpha Council, Tatiana grudgingly helps track Demetri down, promising herself that she will disappear from his life forever once the job is done. But matters of the heart are not so easily ignored. Will she give him a chance to prove himself, or will she deny her nature and slip away into the night?

Buy Links:

Book Excerpt:
The Alpha swung a leg over the motorcycle and tugged on his helmet. “You coming anytime this century, woman?”
Tatiana pulled her helmet down over her dark hair, the blunt ends sticking out from under it like twigs in a nest.
“Hold your horses, Romanoff.” She straddled her bike.
Demetri shifted the bike from its stand and rousted the thing with a kick of his booted heel. He gunned the throttle. “My horses want to go,” he called over the roar of the sports bike.
Tatiana started the motorcycle she borrowed from Marcus with a push of a button. The black beast growled to life. “Well, what are we waiting for then? I bet I can get to the counseling center before you.”
The howl of her engine made further conversation impossible when she revved the machine.
They tore off down the gravel drive, the bikes fishtailing. Bits of gravel spit out behind them. Demetri gunned his engine and took the lead. He flashed her a brilliant smile when he passed, making it almost worth being second place. But not quite.
As they rounded out of the gated fence onto the road, Tatiana cut under him to regain the lead.
He shook his head. Life will never be dull with you, tigress warrior. You are a fierce competitor, but then so am I.

Wonderful excerpt. Thanks for being here, Brenda. Brenda loves to connect with readers.  Please visit her online or stop by her website to say hi. Happy Reading, all.
Author Links:
Twitter Handle: @brenda_sparks https://twitter.com/brenda_sparks

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Meet New Mexico, the romantic hero of your dreams #Giveaway

Posted by Susan J Berger on 3:00:00 AM with 4 comments

Please welcome guest poster and one of my favorite funny, romance authors, Patrice Locke. Patrice is giving away two eBooks of Exit Signs.  Her latest book, Fresh Start has one of the most hilarious love scenes I ever read. I highly recommend both of them. Rafflecopter is at the end of the post.

Meet New Mexico, the romantic hero of your dreams

Love the ‘bad boys’ in romance novels?
Meet New Mexico—as wild, brooding, mysterious, and oh-so-deliciously gorgeous as any romantic hero—too hot literally and figuratively to be relegated to the background. New Mexico demands star billing.
I picture the fifty states lined up like Chippendale Dancers.
New Mexico saunters on stage, eyes as blue as the azure sky, rocking a Stetson, black leather vest, and ragged Levis, a six-shooter in each hand.
He sizzles. Believe me. I know. I’ve met him. He scoffed when I tried to make him the backdrop for my two books, Exit Signs and Fresh Start. “No way,” he said, and elbowed himself into a starring role.
In Fresh Start, narrator Miranda finds herself stranded in Albuquerque. The high desert landscape looms like a rugged anti-hero, magnifying her sense of isolation until she falls victim to his robust charms and puts down roots.
And in Exit Signs, native New Mexican Tracy tells her handsome rock star about her birthplace as if she’s reminiscing about an ex-lover—someone like Mr. Darcy, Jamie Fraser, or Rhett Butler. Those iconic characters melt our hearts with their troubled pasts, enigmatic quests, and tortured dark brooding.

And they have nothing on New Mexico.

Talk about a troubled past. I challenge any star-crossed lovers to produce a plot as fraught with agony and ecstasy as New Mexico’s relationship with the United States of America. They were engaged in 1850 when the U.S. batted her eyes and claimed the NM territory. But she balked at offering statehood.
She was scared off by New Mexico’s wild reputation for lawlessness and corruption. Outlaws like Jesse James and Billy the Kid personified The Land of Enchantment. New Mexico was good for a fling, not a serious commitment. But after sixty years of dating, the U.S. finally smiled demurely and said, “I do.” She walked down the aisle for the forty-seventh time with the Land of Enchantment as her handsome renegade groom in 1912.
How’s that for a circuitous route to romance?
NM still lives in the shadows, on the edge, never fully accepted. How would you like it if your hundred-and-six-year-long committed relationship constantly came under question?
Happens to New Mexico every day.
In fact, New Mexico Magazine has plenty of fodder for a regular column aptly named ‘One of Our Fifty Is Missing.’
The kind of misunderstandings that drive classic romantic plots are New Mexico’s daily fare. Visitors and residents are still asked: “Have you changed your money to pesos?” “Don’t you need a passport?” “How did you learn to speak English so well?”

Here’s the bottom line: When I read a romance, I want to be mesmerized by the hero. I want him to show up in my dreams, and I want to wonder what he’s up to when I have to put the book down.
I may not love him right off, but by the final chapter, he better be tattooed behind my eyelids and I better long to know more about him. He needs to grow on me the way New Mexico has.

I was a Michigander until destiny made me a New Mexican and The Land of Enchantment wrangled a starring role in my life and in my books.

But, just between us, I’m moving to Idaho soon. I hope Mr. Potato Head can measure up. Please don’t tell New Mexico I’m leaving. I hate tearful goodbyes, and he’s suffered enough already.


--When all you have left is a guilty conscience.
Miranda’s life is falling apart.
She’s lost her beauty and charisma, along with her family’s money and their affection.
She knows it’s her fault when she finds herself in Albuquerque, sixteen hundred miles from home, broke, friendless, and abandoned.
All she has left is a guilty conscience and a to-do list her sister swears will change her life.
It’s a tough list. It requires her to ignore her natural instincts and do the opposite of whatever she feels.
That’s a big problem when Miranda meets Dean.
He’s a force of nature. He’s stubborn, disciplined, and determined—everything Miranda isn’t.
If she follows the rules on her list, will she do the right thing if Dean is the wrong man?

Excerpt from Fresh Start Chapter One

Miranda finds herself abandoned in an Albuquerque motel room. When she ventures into the empty parking lot outside, a man with a clipboard tells her she doesn’t exist, which she is pretty sure isn’t true. We join her in progress…

In a cacophony of voices, the only distinctive one came from the faceless figure now approaching the covered walkway where I was hugging the door frame. Out of the sun, the figure came into focus.
It was a man, complete with a face. Smile sold separately. He was not happy to see me.
This helmeted, clipboard-wielding mountain rifled through a wad of paperwork. When he raised his head he caught me in his sunglasses, two tiny mirrors that showed my hair was sleep-wild and my eyes were smudges circled in black, not my best look.
Why would it be? This hadn’t been ‘my day’ so far.
“You can’t be here. Safety regulations.” His tone said he took it as a personal insult that I didn’t disappear now that I knew the score. “Did you hear me? You are not supposed to be here. This wing is empty.”
“I did hear you.” And so did everyone west of the Mississippi and at elevations up to and including Venus. “You’re right. I’m not supposed to be here. But I am.”
He opened his mouth to reply, but I beat him to it, repeating my question, speaking slowly. “Where. Is. The. Car?”
“What car?” His voice echoed off the mountains to the east, ricocheted around the parking lot and shot me in the ears.
I recoiled, dinging my shoulder on the edge of the motel room door, which I was holding open.
“Sorry,” he said, turning down the volume since it hadn’t made me vanish. Yet.
He took off his orange hardhat, wedged it under his right arm and swiped his left forearm over his sweaty head, creating a fresh, tousled look a salon couldn’t have replicated. Nor could the finest stylist have produced the subtle mix of silver highlights that punctuated his spiky dark hair. The impressive effect made me consider a career in cosmetology. Hours might have passed.
“You were saying?” he coached me.
“The car that was parked here – a classic ’57 Chevy, with a white tail panel. Convertible. Shiny.”
“Shiny?” His laugh was a bark. “You mean red? It was here. Guy threw in a couple suitcases, put the top down and drove off. Checked out, see?”
He held out his clipboard with a reverence usually reserved for stone tablets delivered with the crack of thunder on a mountaintop. Was there a god of cheap motels? “Empty,” he said. “See?
“Okay. But the guy? What did he look like? The one who took the car.” I was sure it was Lance, but it wouldn’t hurt to confirm.
“Tall, dark, and handsome, okay? Congratulations on that. Or, maybe not. He’s gone.”
That wasn’t good. In fact, it was very bad, but, like Scarlett O’Hara, I’d think about that tomorrow, or later today. Or never.
If only that were possible.
I’d only survive if I had a distraction. And an excellent diversion was standing in front of me. He was perfect, despite his negative attitude toward my existence. He was tall with finely carved features and a muscled, sweaty physique beneath a t-shirt that had once been black but had faded to gray. It had a fat yellow cartoon ‘D’ on it and the words ‘Big D’s. Your on-the-scene building and maintenance machine.’ He shifted his weight from his left to his right foot and the muscles in his thighs tightened through jeans, which were worn to a soft blue perfection.
“Ma’am?” He had noticed I was staring, which reminded me that men should not smirk. It’s not polite.
And they shouldn’t call gorgeous young women such as myself ‘ma’am.’ That is the height of bad manners.
“Sorry,” I said. Let him decide if I was apologizing for staring at him or for being a blight on his empty wing. “I’m still a little asleep. Um. What did he say?”
“Tall, dark, and handsome? Not much. Drove off. So this wing is empty.”
“So you’ve said. A few times. But it’s not.
He shrugged, stubborn. “The motel says it is.”
“Pretty opinionated for a motel,” I said.
With his left forefinger, he lifted the earpiece of his reflective sunglasses to his forehead, revealing eyes like two soft milk chocolate dots. He had Richard Gere eyes. Bemused. Luscious. Delicious.

I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before, but the hunger I felt wasn’t coming from my stomach.

Buy links, etc. below:
Order Fresh Start: https://tinyurl.com/yblsm6pz
Buy Exit Signs: https://goo.gl/nMLdfY
Webpage:  https://www.bypatricelocke.com 
Twitter: @patricelocke 

Thanks for the post, Patrice. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Exit signs was one of my favorite books of the last two years. Thanks for offering a couple of lucky readers a chance to win copies. Happy week and Happy reading.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Meet Caroline Warfield. Her Regency series made it into Victoria's Time. #Giveaway

Posted by Susan J Berger on 3:00:00 AM with No comments

Carol Roddy writes Historical Romance as Caroline Warfield. 
Her Children of Empire series began in the Regency era, but, what with children growing up and demanding their own books, she’s now up to 1839. The Unexpectied Wife comes out tomorrow, July 25th. Carol is offering a giveaway of  the first book in the series, The Renegade Wife. An eBook and a paperback. (paperback is US only. Rafflecopter at end of interview.) 

Carol, please tell us a little more about yourself.
In previous lives I have been many things: stay at home mom, technology director, librarian, army brat, nun…Nun! Seriously? I must know more. But now I live in the Philadelphia suburbs up to my elbows in history, and sit at a desk surrounded by windows that overlook bird feeders so I can watch the foxes chase squirrels up trees and birds compete for space on the suet and seed feeders. I tell stories. That’s what I do now.
I’ve been married since the dinosaurs roamed so you might guess I’m a big believer in happily ever after. Beloved and I look after one another, enjoy our nearby grandson, attend Bible study, and love to travel. I like gardens, but hate gardening. I’m fascinated by birds, especially owls, I can’t pass a historical marker, and I never visited a boring place. Me neither! I love traveling.

I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your book.
It came in email. After many years of rejections (and yes, self-publishing was not for me), I had about given up on my romance books and begin to write middle grade historical novels. I happened to notice that Soul Mate Publishing was accepting submissions. I sent Dangerous Works off with a shrug and low expectations.
The response came in email, and I stared at it with open mouth for a considerable period before leaping to my feet to tell Beloved and immediately informing my writers’ group friends.  I have been grateful to Debby Gilbert ever since. Soul Mate has been very good to me.

If it isn’t too nosy. How about the first time you kissed your true love?
Hmm. The lake, the blanket in the grass, the fireflies, the stars…maybe I’ll keep it to myself.

Other than your own, who are your favorite (heroes/heroines/writers) in your genre?
Heroes? I adore Sebastian St. Cyr in CS Harris’s series with his name. Ok, those are mysteries, but she brings the Regency to life, and he is just yummy. 

My favorite romance writers are Carla Kelly, Grace Burrowes, Jude Knight, and Mary Balogh, all Regency authors.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?
In the past year I’ve been to Orkney, the Highlands, Singapore, Malacca, and New Zealand. I’m not sure whether Hobbiton counts as an additional country. Travel is our big luxury, and I’m already looking at 2019 and 2020 for plans. I love your travel choices. I want to do Wales next. Then back to Scotland, and Ireland and London.

Any advice for new writers just starting out?
The best advice anyone ever gave me is, “If you want to be a writer, you have to write.”  Just do it. Sit down and write the book. Get feedback and don’t run from criticism. Keep writing.

Tell us about The Unexpectied Wife
The Unexpected Wife is Book 3 in my Children of Empire series. The hero almost took over Book 1 in the series (The Renegade Wife) and wrapped readers around his fingers in Book 2 (The Reluctant Wife). 

Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane, doesn’t expect to find his great love when he accepts an unofficial fact-finding mission to Canton on behalf of the queen. He certainly doesn’t expect to confront his wreck of a marriage in such an exotic locale. Zambak Hayden follows her brother to China to escape pressure to make a suitable marriage. She finds the brother drawn into the world of greed, smuggling, drug, and corruption; she resolves to both sort out the truth and protect her brother from becoming prey to all of it—if only she could stop yearning for the one man she can’t have.

Here’s the trailer:

The prequel to The Unexpected Wife, in which Charles and his cousins appear as boys, A Dangerous Nativity, is always free at various retailers.

To binge read the series, start with Books 1 and 2. They are free with Kindle Unlimited or can be purchased at:

What’s your current WIP?
The Bluestocking Belles publish a box set of novellas once a year. My story last year’s box set, Never Too Late, “Roses in Picardy,” was set in 1916 and ended with happy-for-now as they faced two more years of war. I’m currently working on the sequel for this year’s set. It is 1919 and they are dealing with the Spanish Flu and the chaos that follows war.  Harry’s interfering father is not helping. I have to get this to the team by June 1. The book comes out in November.

I also recently handed in a novella for the Marriage Maker series from Scarsdale Press.
 And finally, where can we find you?

Thank you for being here, Carol/Caroline. 
Here's the Giveway Rafflecopter for  The Renegade Wife.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here are some reviews:
Crowned Heart for Excellence, InD'Tale Magazine ...the characters leap off the page and into the reader's heart...Warfield weaves a delightful tale that leaves one sitting on the edge of their seat during most of the novel.
Five Stars Top Pick The Romance Reviews...Her attention to detail is stunning and her passion for literature is apparent on every page. Ms. Warfield immerses the reader in a landscape of vivid, sometimes gritty, details through which the plight of her richly-developed characters is made harrowingly real.
Night Owl Review Top Pick  Caroline Warfield is the ultimate storyteller that makes the reader feel immersed in the life of the characters and the surroundings...will stay with my heart for a while
I think I'll enter myself  Happy Reading, to all of you.