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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Re/Viewed (Doms of the FBI 6) by Michele Zurlo

I have a new release out this month, the sixth installment of my Doms of the FBI series.

As a writer for The Eclectic Traveler, adventuresome daredevil Tru Martin indulges her penchant for travel and thrills of all sorts. After her discovery of a murder victim brings two sexy FBI agents into her life, Tru suggests combining their efforts instead of letting their interest in her divide them.

With a murderer on the loose and a crime ring known as The Eye to bring down, Jed Kinsley and Liam Adair are game to give it a try. Though Liam is new to the lifestyle, Jed is an experienced Dom, and the trio goes undercover to a private, fetish-friendly inn and there assume the roles of a submissive and her two Doms. As the investigation heats up, so does their chemistry. Jed and Liam soon discover they want more from this uniquely sensual woman, and they’ll do whatever it takes to make her fall in love with them.

Warnings: Menage, D/s, anal sex, double penetration, base jumping, and an unpredictable sixth sense 

PG Excerpt/Tru's POV:
A low chuckle vibrated from his chest, and he resumed his quest for a kiss. His lips had barely grazed hers when they were interrupted.

“Seriously? This is how you keep an eye on her?”

Tru looked over to see Liam standing two feet away, hands on hips, and waves of anger emanating from his tight expression. She hadn’t expected to see him ever again. Her jaw dropped, and she jerked away from Jed’s kiss. “Liam?”

“I see you do remember me.” He came closer and directed the entirety of his ire at Jed. Rage simmered below the surface, giving her a first glimpse at just how powerful he could be. She’d known he was strong, and she’d suspected he was dominant, but she hadn’t realized that he had a dangerous edge. “I asked you to watch her, to be there for her, not to make a move on her.” His fists clenched and flexed, thick tendons clamoring to make contact with Jed’s face.

Though it looked like they were evenly matched, Jed didn’t appear concerned about the physical threat Liam posed. He released one of her hands in order to face Liam, but he kept hold of her other one. “You left. You didn’t bother to tell her you were going, and the two times you’ve called, you haven’t asked about her. We both assumed you’d moved on.”

“Well, I didn’t.”

Shocked that Liam thought he had a claim, Tru didn’t know what to make of his jealousy. She’d liked him, but he’d left, exiting her life without saying goodbye. Whatever the issue and her role in it, she didn’t want to see them come to blows. “Liam, it was one kiss, not a promise or commitment. I mean, you said you’d see me for breakfast, and when I stopped by your room, I found out that you’d gone.”

“And that’s when Jed moved in. He sensed a weakness, and he took advantage of it.” His blue eyes flashed like a storm in the night.

“Hold up.” Jed put up a cautioning hand. “That’s not how it happened. I told her that you were gone, and later we went kayaking together. We hit it off, and the rest is history. You know the saying—once you have black, you never go back.”

Liam’s lips became a slash, the lightning of his internal storm. “You’re half Asian, asshole, a quarter white, and only a quarter black. That saying is stupid for a lot of reasons, and not just because it’s on the list of crap you say.”

Tru had wondered about the ingredients of Jed’s multiracial makeup, but she hadn’t asked because she felt it wasn’t her business unless he wanted to tell her. Right now she had other concerns. Jed dropped her hand and took a step toward Liam. Sliding between them, she parked one hand on Liam’s chest and the other on Jed’s. “Gentlemen, let’s not hurl insults. Really, there’s nothing to get upset about.”

“He moved in on my territory.” Liam’s lip curled, a sexy growl that made her want to rub her body against his. Damn, but these were two very attractive men—and dominant to boot. She imagined what it would be like to be sandwiched between their naked bodies, and a tingling began at the apex of her thighs. Alex, her former Master, had often indulged her love for ménage sex.

Shaking the thought away, Tru forced herself to focus on the real problem. She narrowed her eyes in Liam’s direction. “I’m not your territory.”

“Yeah, she’s mine.” Jed’s chest puffed out, pushing against her palm.

Tru hated to burst his bubble, but it had to be done. “I’m not yours either.”

He tore his glare from Liam and turned it on her. “What?”

It took a supreme act of will not to step back or lower her gaze. “Tonight is my last night here, and then I’m moving on to my next job. You’re almost finished here as well, and who knows where your investigation will take you next? It’s a fling, Jed. Neither of you has a claim to me.”

That seemed to take the wind out of both their sails, and though each man relaxed, neither backed off. They studied one another, and Tru had no idea what either of them was thinking.
“You’re friends, right?”

Silence greeted her question. After a time, Liam managed a curt nod, though his steady gaze remained glued to Jed.

“And you work together? You’re a team?”

This time she didn’t have to wait as long for a reply. Without seeming to move, Jed answered. “Yes.”

“Then maybe you should look at this as an opportunity to work together in a different way.” The need to keep them apart had passed. She slid her palms down each man’s chest as she let her hands drop away. “I’m game if you are.”

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Friday, March 24, 2017

When Setting Is a Character

Can setting be a character in a story? You bet. Some places naturally are so exotic, exciting and beautiful that they cry out to star in a movie or book.

I’ve read books, wonderful books, set in faraway places. But the settings served only as a backdrop, mentioned, but forgotten. I’ve always been a little disappointed that I didn’t learn more about the locale during the stories. I love stories where the setting is the framework that holds the story, especially when the story is set in a beautiful place I want to visit or one I want to revisit.

When I traveled to Rome, Italy, in 2006, my second trip there, I was again blown away by the city’s beauty, vibrancy and history. All four of my grandparents came from Italy, so the country itself holds meaning for me.

Rome was bustling as always that June, especially with World Cup fever all around. We stayed at a hotel on one of the most popular and crowded streets, Via Corsi. Trevi Fountain was a short walk away. The Pantheon was around the corner. And so was an amazing gelato shop where we bought too many luscious gelatos, the Italian ice cream. Yum. Kiwi Melon was my favorite. My husband and I ate at least two gelatos a day. Good thing we walked all over the city to shed those extra calories.

Italy is magical and begs to be its own character in books and movies. As we walked the ancient cobbled streets of Rome, ate amazing food (saffron gnocchi with fresh-shaved truffles, anyone?) and drank lots of delicious wine, I just knew I had to set a story there. And I knew the richness of Rome could never fade into the background. It had to be a character.

In the fall of 2009, The Wild Rose Press announced a new romantic suspense series, Jewels of the Night. The stories could be set anywhere in the world, but had to involve a stolen blue diamond. The proverbial light bulb went off in my head. I’d write a romantic suspense set in Rome. My novel, Murder, Mi Amore, was released in December 2010. I’ve since gotten the rights back and have published it myself.

Imagine if you were a young American woman vacationing in Rome to get over a painful breakup, and your Roman holiday is suddenly disrupted by jewel thieves, murder, and one very hot and mysterious Italian guy who may or may not be involved with the strange goings on around you.

That’s the premise of Murder, Mi Amore. Rome and other parts of Italy are as important to my story as my hero and heroine, Dominic and Lexie. Every scene in Murder, Mi Amore is authentic. Even the meals Lexie ate are the same ones we enjoyed on our trip. The hotel on the Via Corsi where Lexie stays is the one where we stayed, but with a different name. I remember well how I felt as I shouldered my way through the throngs of tourists and natives on Via Corsi. I used those feelings to describe Lexie as she makes her way on this same street after she buys the handbag that launches her wild adventure. When Lexie is dragged through dark and narrow streets by her would-be kidnapper, I pictured the little alleyways dotting Rome.

As I wrote about Lexie and Dominic meeting for the first time at Trevi Fountain, I could hear the chattering of the crowds and the snap of cameras and feel the sun’s heat. I could almost taste the wine Lexie orders. When you see pictures of this iconic fountain, it looks as if it’s in the middle of a very wide street. Nope. It’s set in a corner of a narrow cobblestoned street.

While writing Murder, Mi Amore, I was once again in Rome – running my fingers over the walls of the Coliseum, tramping through the Ancient Roman Forum, eating luscious pizza and drinking rich red wine at outdoor cafes while motor scooters darted around us.

A chapter in Murder, Mi Amore is set in the Abruzzo town where my grandparents were raised. Writing that chapter brought me back to the beautiful, mountainous, rural region of my ancestors. On our trip, we traveled the same road to Abruzzo as Lexie and Dominic. However, unlike them, no one was trying to run us off the road into a deep ravine.

Could my story have taken place anywhere else? Yes, but I would have lost a major character – an exciting and exotic character, and one a little bit dangerous. Italy.

My husband and took a Viking River Cruise up the Seine in June, 2016. I plan to write a Gothic romance set in Normandy. The rugged, rainy coast of Normandy is perfect for a dark Gothic.

We spent time in Paris, one of the world's great cities. Here's a picture of a gargoyle at the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Because our son lives in Las Vegas, we go there at least once a year. My husband suggested I start writing stories set in Vegas. I loved the idea. I now have two novellas set in Las Vegas, and I’m currently writing a marriage-of-convenience novel set there.

Anyone who has been to Las Vegas knows the place has its own character that can’t be duplicated. The story possibilities set in Vegas are endless.

What do you think? Do you like having a setting as a character in what you read and write?

Here’s the blurb for Murder, Mi Amore:

Danger. Deception. Desire.

Murder, jewel thieves and terrorists intrude on an American woman's Roman holiday; can she trust the sexy, mysterious Italian man who comes to her aid?

Lexie Cortese is in Rome to forget. The last thing she expects is to meet a sexy Interpol agent who suspects her of being part of a terrorist plot involving a stolen diamond. Suddenly thrust into a world of murders, muggings, and kidnappings, Lexie doesn’t know what to think—or who to believe.

Dominic Brioni’s assignment is simple. Befriend the American and bring her to justice. Only Lexie seems the most unlikely terrorist Dominic has ever met. Sweet, determined, and direct, she faces life with courage and fire, a fire that sparks his protective instincts and a longing for something more—something he allowed himself to hope for only once before.

But that woman betrayed him, and his boss isn’t about to let him forget it. With his career on the line and Lexie in danger, will Dominic learn to trust his heart before they both get killed?

  Here’s a little about my Las Vegas story, Bad Luck Partners, in the anthology Season of Promises Holiday Box Set.

Holidays have never brought Las Vegas hotel concierge Laney Sikora anything but bad luck in the romance department. The worst was her fiancé dumping her on Valentine’s Day. Via text. She’s determined to spend New Year's Eve alone with no romantic entanglements. But when her hunky new neighbor locks himself out of his apartment, she can’t leave him standing in the hallway. What's a girl to do?

Las Vegas is just a pit stop for Chicago native and radio personality Chance Carlisle while he waits for his agent to land him something bigger in L.A. But in the meantime, he keeps bumping into—literally—his adorable, but accident-prone, neighbor. Their private New Year’s Eve celebration leads to a plan: they’ll become the Bad Luck Partners, dating only on holidays and special events, avoiding holiday heartbreaks and matchmaking mamas.
But Fate might have something else in mind for the klutzy cutie and the hotshot talk show host. Can their temporary partnership become a forever deal?

And from A Very Vegas Christmas in the anthology Holiday Magic, from The World Romance Writers.

A Las Vegas event planner in need of luck meets a mysterious guy who might be her winning ticket. Will his secret split them apart?

Can things get any worse for Las Vegas event planner Amanda Moreau? Her boyfriend dumped her for a stripper; she’s arranging a Christmas wedding for a Bridezilla; and her mother is playing matchmaker from 2000 miles away. When she meets hunky and ever-so-sweet Erik, who’s in town for a conference, she begins to hope her luck is changing. But Erik has a secret that threatens to split them apart. 


Murder, Mi Amore:

Season of Promises Holiday Box Set:

Holiday Magic:

Visit my website: for more on all my books.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Letter To My Treasured Readers... by Author Renee Vincent

Recently, I attended a three-day youth conference with my teen daughter and was literally moved to tears. Among a mass of people—over twenty-three thousand to be exact—I was touched by the kindness of strangers, their uplifting happiness, their utmost respect for human life, and their genuine consideration for others. In a world filled with hatred, selfishness, and violence, this experience was a breath of fresh air. It amazed me that among so many, not a single person expressed any kind of negativity. It reminded me that we are all capable of bringing joy and peace to everyone around us if we just put forth the effort and remember that we’re all in this together.

As a mother and positive role model, this experience has made me think about my own life, and the choices I’ve made along the way. As an author who writes for the purpose of moving readers with an unforgettable love story, I started to consider my current audience and the path of my career. Could I do better than this? Could I touch more readers if I made my love stories more appropriate for the general public, instead of a mature audience only? Could I inspire more people to pursue their dreams, as I have, and use their God-given talents for the better of others?

Because I answered “yes, I can” to each of the questions above, I’ve made a careful and conscious decision to edit and rewrite some of my romances.

There will still be adult characters in adult situations, which may or may not include sexual tension, intimacy, occasional profanity, and in some cases with my historical romances, violence because of battle scenes. However, you will no longer find "open-door sex." In fact, eventually, you’ll no longer find it in any Renee Vincent romance novel.

Rest assured, my books will be the familiar, timeless, and unforgettable love stories you’ve come to expect from a Renee Vincent novel. That will never change.

As much as it pains me to lose some of my readers because of this, and I know I will, I hold fast to my decision. I can only hope you, as my treasured reader, will understand and support me as well.

To those who had their heart set on a romance novel containing explicit sex scenes, and are unwilling to read on, I wish you the best in finding your next favorite author with absolutely no hard feelings on my end.

To those who are ready to read an exciting, heartwarming love story, and are eager to stay with me through this journey, I cannot thank you enough! Know that I’m humbled by your loyalty and continued support. I’m a blessed author indeed!

Sincerely yours,
Renee Vincent

Changes Coming To My Viking Romances:
Since my Viking romance novels have never truly had a real professional edit, I've decided to give them to my fabulous editor. During this thorough editing process (as explained above) I've also rewritten them, gave them new covers, and brand new titles. What do you think?

Old Titles | New Titles:
Raeliksen -- Sunset Fire
Mac Liam -- Emerald Glory
The Fall of Rain -- Souls Reborn
The Temperate Warrior -- Tempered Steel

The release dates for these new books will be coming soon, however I don't have any definite dates yet as we're still in the rewrite and edit stage. As soon as I narrow down a date, I'll let you know. My goal is to have them ready by the end of May 2017, especially for Lori Foster's "Reader & Author Get Together" reader conference in June. Fingers crossed!

Stay Up To Date:
Don't want to miss the release of these books, or any other Renee Vincent release, giveaway, or news? Sign up for my author newsletter!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Doing It Right by Sharon Hamilton

I was listening to an excellent podcast yesterday while cleaning my desk. She was speaking about voice and how a writer has to find hers. (By the way, I love listening to podcasts or audio books when I do something like that. Keeps me on task!) And, as often happens, the subject matter made me think about the things that are unique to each of us, as writers.

Every writer loves the feel of finding their own voice. We love it when readers find it and get us. It feels like a home run when you get those heart-felt letters.

But finding the right way to market yourself as a writer is a more difficult path. Once we have our voice, our subject matter and our story arc down, we go with that until it no longer calls to us. When that happens, we change up, alter our genres, do things to stimulate the muse back into position. Sort of like training a wild horse, I guess.

There are hundreds of ways to set up your business and get your name, your book out there. We are pitched things every day. We join loops with authors who give good advice. Sometimes that works for us, sometimes it doesn't. The bottom line is, just like an author's voice, there is no One Size Fits All when it comes to marketing and promotion. What one person says is a must do, is a non-starter for others.

What does an author do? Well, interestingly, when I thought about how I found my author voice, I just wrote until I found it. I listened to myself, to things I'd written. Set them down and looked at them later. And then I began to find my footing by trusting my own instinct. I could go by what judges and reviewers and editors said. All that information is valuable. But it didn't get my voice. I had to find that on my own. And yes, all that feedback helped me to discover that, but the major lifting was done on my end, not theirs.

So, when it comes to doing the activities we need to do to be successful, we have to find our own way. Like Michael Gerber said in e-Myth. How We Do It Here. That means, we take the advice of others, search what's available, and then MAKE OUR OWN DECISIONS. What a concept! Some of us don't think spending $5000 a month on ads to make $6000 in income is smart. Some of us don't think hiring expensive gurus who claim to have the secrets of success is smart. Some of us don't think we should listen to every author who has the magic pill. There are promotional sites, VAs and PAs - everyone has an opinion and a reason for those opinions. And sometimes they can be just dead wrong.

Notice I said we don't have to listen to everyone? We don't. Somehow we feel we have to try and listen and work our tails off or we're "doing it wrong" if our sales don't soar.

So who do we listen to? OURSELVES. We learn to trust ourselves, be our authentic selves, tell the truth, and give up worry. We just keep moving. We may not be the best-selling author out there, but we can be the hardest working author: hardest working for our fans, investing in our craft, understanding and being aware of trends and marketing, knowing who to reach out to and who to listen to.

AND WHEN TO SHUT IT ALL OUT. I'm telling you, the best thing I've done this year is TUNE OUT more than I've tuned in. Weeding and culling, triming down, and just writing and promoting. Those are my two jobs.

Success is a daily mindset, and only we control that one.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fun facts! Or are they?

Simon debuted March 10th and is now available at all the usual places, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., including my publisher, MuseItUp.

Troy won't give up on clearing Simon's name, and it's not an easy job. They both run into unexpected danger and......I love this book, hope you do too.

I'm an avid reader so never lack for a topic to blog about. I found a book that contains information about things we've long believed that might not be true. A bit on Lady Godiva caught my interest. Did she really ride naked through the streets of Coventry?

She was the wife of Leofric, earl of Mercia., in the twelfth century.  She was also wealthy in her own right, supporting several monasteries. So why did she ride naked through town? Supposedly she asked the Earl many times to lower the oppressive taxes on his subjects. He finally replied he'd do so the day she rode naked through Coventry. She called his bluff, he kept his word, and she became a heroine. She is still celebrated in Coventry, where her statue stands in the center of town.

But it's hard to find out if this is true. There was a real Lady Godiva, but the story only appears about 150 years after her death, and in the annals of a not-well credited historian, Roger of Wendover. Roger is now regarded as more of a teller of folklore. Through the centuries details have been added, like the stories saying she cover herself with her long golden hair. Other stories say she ordered the townsfolk to stay indoors and shutter their windows. One version has the town folk all complying except for a tailor named Tom, who peeked through his shutters. This angered the gods so they blinded him, but it does give reason for the term 'Peeping Tom'.

Love these crazy bits of information.  Hope you do too!

'Til next month.......Jean

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Making it Real by Suz deMello (#iamwriting #writingcraft #setting)

Outstanding books are memorable for a variety of reasons. Perhaps in one it is the romance we find so compelling.  In another, the characters stay with us for a long time. 

But for many readers, the sense of "being there" is the aspect that draws them into the book and keeps them there despite distractions.  I call this a sense of place, or setting.

Its importance can't be underestimated.  Some genres, such as certain subgenres of romance, are based totally on a unique or special setting, such as the English Regency or American West.  Some readers will purchase nothing but books placed in their favorite setting. People will read books in their favorite setting--Middle Earth, Hogwarts--over and over again just because they want to again experience the feeling of being there.

While I was editing professionally, I sometimes came upon a submission in which it was impossible for me to know where the book was set because the author assumed way too much. In one, for example, I had to go to the author's website to discover where her werewolf/vampire series was set. 

Fortunately for any of my readers who like to feel deeply grounded in a book, I love to travel and then put my observations and experiences into my writing.
I set a couple of recent re-releases in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I lived for about five years and still visit frequently. Here are a couple of snippets from those books:

...she took the handset and walked to the window, hoping to see a street sign so she could tell her partner where she was. Unfortunately, the view four stories below showed only a small back garden, typical of homes in San Francisco. It was beautifully landscaped with Japanese maples and azaleas, which were in bloom. A small stone bench sat by a pond.

The above is from Phoenix and Dragon, a novel set in San Francisco, and the description of this courtyard is based on one I saw years ago, in the Marina District, I believe.
And here's one from Spy Game, which takes place farther south. This clip describes Skyline Drive, which is off Highway 17 between San Jose and Santa Cruz, which I call Santa Laura in the book. It's best not to be too tethered to reality when writing. Otherwise one gets letters from irate readers stating that "I've been there and it's not like that!"

The wooded, two-lane road wound up a hill past a playground and a park. A swing set and a jungle gym were nearly invisible in the night, lit only by a few dim streetlamps. At the lane’s crest a row of mailboxes sat with a whimsical stuffed or carved animal perched atop each. A wooden bird with brightly painted, outstretched wings roosted on the box marked #2730...a little cottage that screamed “hippie heaven.”

I would never have dreamed up the mailboxes with the sculptures, so visiting the area while I was writing was a really good idea. Touches like those add a sense of reality to a book, which is really an imaginary construct even if it's a contemporary set in a recognizable place.

It's hard to make it as an author these days, and every aspect of the writer's craft must be well-honed and perfect, including setting in the novel.

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