Sunday, October 30, 2011


Happy Hallowe'en!
Here we are on the last day of our SPOOKTACULAR GIVEAWAY HOP and it's Hallowe’en. Please remember to leave a comment which includes your email if you wish to be entered in the giveaway. I'm giving a free pdf of one of my books (winner's choice) to one lucky commenter as I have each day of the SPOOKTACULAR GIVEAWAY HOP. This includes international readers. A follow, signing up for my newsletter, and/or subscribing by email count as additonal  entries, so be sure to tell me if your participation includes any of these. But to be entered, all you have to do is leave a comment. I'll announce my winners tomorrow. The SPOOKTACULAR GIVEAWAY BLOG organizers will announce the winners on November 2nd.

As promised, I have a scary tale alleged to be true. From TEXAS TEARS AND TEXAS SUNSHINE: VOICES OF FRONTIER WOMEN, edited by Jo Ella Powell Exley, this is the book's only incident involving a this sort of fright. Are you ready?

Amelia Edith Barr
 In early summer of 1868, yellow fever came to Galveston, Texas. Scottish transplants Amelia and Robert Carr moved their children to a home away from the city. The house they rented on the beach had been falling down. But a Mr. Durr repaired the stonework and refurbished the building with fresh paint and wallpaper. Nevertheless, Amelia--a psychic--found the house radiated an unclean feeling. Even with two large lamps lit in the parlor, she said the room remained dull, gloomy, and full of shadows. A sense of foreboding hung heavy on Amelia as she moved into the house, but all was well for a few months.

Tiny frogs by the thousands
filled Galveston's streets
(Yes, this is a tree frog, but
he's so cute I used his photo)

By July, the fever had progressed within two or three blocks behind the house. Soaking downpours alternated with distressing heat. The result was streets full of grass alive with tiny frogs in such quantities that pedestrians could not avoid crushing them as they walked.

In August, Amelia strolled with Robert into town. The beds of the dying were drawn to open windows. Hardly a dwelling remained without someone in the process of expiring. Everywhere they walked, the fetid smell of yellow fever greeted them.

Jean Lafitte
 That same month, they learned their home was once a pirate's nest inhabited by Jean Lafitte in the days when Galveston was called Campeachy. Mr. Hall, the man who told the tale, said the house was painted blood red in those days. The vilest of men lived there, engaged in the foulest of deeds that included the slave trade. In fact, Mr. Hall said Lafitte sold slaves by the pound. 

Mr. Hall continued, "...for I know what fiends once made Galveston Island their home. Do you think they have forgotten the place of their sins and cruelties? No, Furies of ancient crimes are here, revengeful souls full of unsatisfied hatreds..."
 After midnight on the 20th of August, Amelia was too restless to sleep. She sat in a rocking chair facing an open window screened by green blinds made of thin wooden slats. She heard a faint stir among the leaves of the Japonica hedge that surrounded the place.

There fell upon the closed blinds--on which my eyes were fixed--a blow so tremendous, that I was sure they must be shattered...before I could rise, another blow of less intensity followed, and then a third not quite as crashing as the second. I never for an instant thought the blows were made by any instrument. I was sure they were made by a hand.”

Afraid to approach the window, Amelia kept her back to it. She checked on her husband and children, but they were sleeping. Until dawn, she prayed for God’s mercy. When Robert awoke, she told him what had happened and together they examined the window. The thin wooden slats were not broken. The shape of a hand twice as large as any human's left an indention in the slats!

In her autobiography, ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE, Amelia wrote, “Why were the blinds not broken to pieces by three blows from a hand like that? And how could the thin strips of wood be made to bend and take an impression? This evidence of physical force made by some spiritual entity remained for every one to see as long as I lived in the house.”

Yellow Fever
 Tragically, the entire family soon contracted yellow fever. Due to space constraints, I am forced to omit many eerie details. Sorry. Robert and the two sons died, and an unknown "man" spirited them away. In November, Amelia and her daughters moved to New York City where she wrote several books.

Do you believe Lafitte’s ghost dwelled in the house? Do you believe an unknown demon attacked the window? What do you think made the indention on the blinds?

Don't eat too many treats. Have a Happy Hallowe'en!
Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Spooktacular Giveaway Hop is still in force. My participation is a pdf of one of my books (winner's choice) to one winner per day from comments, including international readers. If you follow this blog, subscribe to my newsletter, and/or subscribe by email, those count as additional entries. Please include your email in your comment so I can contact you if you win. No salesman will call.  I'’ll announce all the winners on November 1st after the blog hop closes. You can participate by clicking on the  SPOOKTACULAR graphic at the right. Hey, read this blog first, please! And don't forget to comment to enter the drawing.

Now that's out of the way. Readers, please welcome author, Claire Ashgrove, who writes as herself and as Tori St. Claire.

Claire Ashgrove/Tori St. Claire

Caroline: Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up. Share anything that lets readers get to know the real you.

Claire: I grew up an only child in suburbia Missouri and am in rural Missouri now, though at one time I seriously considered a move to Atlanta, Georgia, and my heart is firmly rooted in Ireland. I’ve never been shy a day in my life, unless it comes to making phone calls to people I don’t know. I’d rather go twenty miles to the store and find out if they have something I want than call and ask a stranger. I’m just weird that way I suppose! I’m also a divorced mother of two young boys who keep me running, and we currently reside on a farm, where critters are our daily life. We all love horses and spend our evenings curled up with cats and dogs. Or, more specifically in my dog’s case, wiping off the drool from our Newfoundland, who has no concept of the fact 100+ pounds does not equal a lap dog.

Caroline: Our little Shih Tzu really is a lap dog. But my oldest daughter’s large dogs--an Australian red heeler and one who has a lot of Great Pyranese in her--have trouble with the concept of lap dog, too. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Claire: My favorite authors… I never can answer this question, and it’s highly likely I have a different response each time.

Karin Tabke and Shayla Black have been the most influential on my career. I admire them and from day one wanted to write with the success they’ve found. I simply love the heat they weave into phenomenal plots.

Steve Berry is also someone I consider a mentor. I’m fascinated with his ability to create speculative fiction, and that fascination led me to write my paranormal romance series, The Curse of the Templars. Book one releases in January – IMMORTAL HOPE.

Caroline: How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?

Claire: I haven’t read a book through in ages. My deadlines are currently too tight. But I skim-read a lot, and right now I’ve been grabbing up Berkley HEAT books like hotcakes. I’ve found a new fascination with Maya Banks and Anya Bast. Love them lots!

Caroline: When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?

Claire: Sleep. Seriously… I’m almost always writing. When I’m not, I’m miserable, so writing is not only a job to me but a hobby. It could be on my blog, in my newsletter, writing actual novels, or emailing my distant friends – doesn’t matter. I also like to spend time with our critters, but as it’s been unbearably hot this year, I haven’t spent a lot of time outside lately.

Caroline: Describe yourself in three or four words.

Claire: Upbeat, confident, fun-loving and loyal.

Caroline: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?

Claire: Chocolate. Chocolate. CHOCOLATE. How’s that? Laugh! My muse refuses to work without some sort of chocolate fix.

Caroline: I can identify with that! How long have you been writing?

Claire: I have been writing since I was small, but I made the decision to turn hobby into profession in 2008. Since then I’ve written over twenty titles that are in stages of publication and a handful of others that are waiting in the cue. Three remain beneath my bed to gather dust-bunnies.

Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

Claire: Depends on the story really. I can write my Templar Series in total chaos, I become so immersed in the story and the characters. My Black Opal series – not so much. It takes a lot more concentration to delve into characters who are borderline criminal, and the minds of the criminals themselves. I have to work on them in virtual silence. The darker, edgier the story, the more quiet I prefer.

Caroline: I need classical music. Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Claire: Plotter 110%. I detail every book in outline form, by chapter, with a paragraph or two on each. I also write with a GANTT chart for the year – perhaps I’m a little anal.

Caroline: Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Claire: Persons – never. Events? Usually it’s an event that could have turned out differently, if they make an appearance in my writing. Something I experienced that my mind said, “Oh, if you twisted this and shifted that you’d have an awesome story!”

On the other hand, there’s one exception to this, and that’s my coming release, A BROKEN CHRISTMAS. It was inspired by a true injury one of our military personnel suffered in Iraq. The gentleman is a friend of someone who’s close to me, and he was injured gravely. I shared my friend’s concern and worry, and found myself hoping for his recover as if I knew him personally.

When word reached us that the gentleman’s leg would be saved, but it would take several major surgeries to do so, Kyle, from A BROKEN CHRISTMAS came into my head.

I’m not entirely certain what triggered Kyle. But I requested permission to use the injured gentleman as inspiration, gained it, and we were off and running. I like to think that this soldier’s recovery at home went/goes as well as Kyle’s. That he has someone as devoted to his survival as Aimee. That beneath all the broken stuff, all the scars, he will be whole and happy.

I also hope that in the future I will have the opportunity to meet this gentleman and shake his hand. It’s funny how people can mean so much, though you’ve never seen them or shared a conversation.

Caroline: What a nice story. Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?

Claire: Both. I will do the core research for the basic plot, but research details (like hotels or locational landmarks) as I go along when I’m hit with the: “I need XYZ here. Let’s see what’s available.”

Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

Claire: I write daily. Usually 2500 words or more a day. As I mentioned, I write with a GANTT – it is my project planner and a throwback from my project management days. Everything is linked with start dates, finish dates, and I do everything possible to make those dates for each project. Sometimes I have to adjust, sometimes we have to tear it apart and start over because a contract has demanded different deadlines than what I planned months before. But I write to the GANTT and I LOVE checking off the boxes and filling in percentages.

Sickening isn’t it?

Caroline: Whatever works for you is what you should do. Do you write full time or do you have a day job. If you have a day job, what is it?

Claire: I consider myself a full-time author. On the side I do some free-lance editing and some contractual web design work, but the hours I spend doing that don’t come close to the hours invested in my novels and my primary focus.

Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Claire: Inspiration.

Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Claire: Writing is a job, even if you have another job paying the bills. If you treat it as such, and you make the time to write daily; if you commit yourself to your writing career, you will succeed. But if you allow yourself to fall into the trap of “I can do this later” or “I’m too tired”… you’ll rarely reach the goals you’ve set forth.

Caroline: Good advice. Sometimes easier to tell ourselves than convince our friends and relatives that since we’re home, we’re not free all day. Tell us about your latest release.

Claire: Two of my novels were released October 26th: A BROKEN CHRISTMAS, a contemporary novella about a soldier’s homecoming Christmas struggle, and CURSED TO KILL is the first of my new paranormal series, Inherited Damnation.


The truest gifts are damaged ...

Fourteen months ago, Aimee Garland had the perfect marriage—until her husband blindsided her with a divorce. Now, he’s home and she intends to get her answers. Yet the crippled man she confronts bears scars her years of nursing cannot heal and the secret he’s hiding is tearing him apart.

Delta Force operative Kyle Garland divorced his wife to protect her. His top-secret missions expose him to constant danger, but the threat to Aimee doesn’t come in the form of insurgents or bombs. Rather, his soul-deep love and dreams he silently nurtures are her greatest hazard. When a career-ending injury brings him home for Christmas, he must bury his feelings and hide the monster he’s become.

As she forces him to confront his demons, will the holiday shred the fragile bonds they share, or will the spirit of Christmas heal their broken hearts?

Caroline: Intriguing. What about an excerpt?

Claire: Here’s the excerpt:

“You need to go,” he murmured. “Away from me. I’m a monster, Aimee.”

The ache behind her ribs intensified, and Aimee leaned in close to press a soft kiss to his cheek. “No. I’m staying right here. Go back to sleep, it’s not yet five.”

As his gaze locked with hers, she read the anguish behind his eyes. His whisper sent chills rolling down her spine. “I don’t want to hurt you. I shouldn’t even be here, but I needed clothes, then I fell on the stairs. I couldn’t make it back to the couch. Thought I’d sleep a little here…” He trailed off with another disbelieving shake of his head.

The man sitting before Aimee resembled nothing of the man she had married or the solider she’d sent off to war. This one was on the verge of total meltdown, and the fact it was Kyle broke her heart. She slipped her hand into his, entwined their fingers. “Tell me about the dream?”

He lifted his gaze, his eyes pleading with her to understand. “I can’t.”

For the first time since she’d been issued the standard party line, she heard the truth. Not can’t. Wouldn’t. Kyle’s silence didn’t come from covert orders. The broken quality of his voice told her he didn’t want her to know.

Tonight wasn’t the time to push the issue of what happened in Afghanistan. Lifting his hand, she brought his knuckles to her lips, then tucked their joined palms into her lap. “Is this why you said you don’t sleep so well anymore?”

Kyle looked to the window and answered with a short nod.

“How long has this been going on?”



One of eight children born to an ancient Celtic priestess and sired by a demonic incubus, Cian McLaine suffers from a centuries old curse. Though his immortality allows him to enjoy the pleasures of mortal life, he is plagued by the desire to kill. As long as he doesn't fall in love he can keep the compulsion at bay.

When Cian walked into her rare bookstore months ago, Miranda Phillips never imagined she'd lose her heart to the handsome playboy. Her reward for doing so was abandonment. Cian left as mysteriously as he appeared, in the middle of the night with no explanation, no goodbye. Now he's back, and passion flares just as hot.

But Cian has secrets. If Miranda is to survive, she must uncover the truth and free his darkened soul.

To Learn More about the Inherited Damnation series, READ HERE

Caroline: Where can readers find your books?

Claire: As I write for three publishing houses, it’s easier to point everyone to Amazon You can search under Claire Ashgrove or Tori St. Claire

Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

Claire: I’d really just like to thank everyone for staying behind me and supporting the works I’ve published. Your enthusiasm feeds me and makes me work even harder.

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Claire: My websites are and I also have blogs established as both pen names too: The Muse and Dangerously Naughty

Thank you, Caroline, for having me here today. It’s been fun!

Caroline: Thanks for sharing with us, Claire. Continued success with your career.

I'll have a scary, frightening, blood curdling post for you on Monday to celebrate Hallowe'en. Well, maybe not too frightening. Please return for the last day of our Spooktacular Blog Hop on Monday.

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Please remember that we are still on our Spooktacular Giveaway Hop. Click on the graphic at the right for the participating blogs and prizes. I'm giving away a pdf a day of my books (winner's choice), and winners will be announced on November 1st. International readers are included in my part of the blog hop. A comment is an entry, if you follow my blog, subsctibe to my newsletter, and/or subscribe by email, that's an extra entry for each. Be sure to mention in the comment, and please include your email.

Readers, I’m excited today to welcome a very special guest, Dac Crossley. I first "met" Dac online through my friend Celia Yeary, and Dac has posted on Celia’s blogsite and on Sweethearts of the West. He’s a fascinating man and his bio follows this interview.

Renowned Entymologist
and Award Winning Western
Author, Dac Crossley
Caroline: Tell us about growing up near Texas’ famous King Ranch and Kingsville. Are you related to the ranching family? Do you have siblings? Spill it all.

Dac: I'm from old Texas stock but not part of the King Ranch empire. From my front porch I could see the big white King Ranch headquarters. I had one younger brother, a chemical engineer. We lived at the end of a caliche road, way out beyond house numbers. Dad raised chickens.

Caroline: Did you write fiction while you were at Texas Tech before you changed majors from English to biology?

Dac: Not fiction. I named some new species of mites when at Tech. My room-mate and I wrote a short comedy, once.

Caroline: What’s a story you remember your grandmother telling you that readers will enjoy?

Dac: I learned the night sky from my grandmothers. One taught me the constellations in the northern sky, the other, in the southern sky. Knowing the stars allowed you to navigate on the plains, and to tell time at night. Both grandmothers spent part of their childhood on ranches, and knew the brush country quite well.

Caroline: Do you return to Texas often? Without revealing enough to invade their privacy, tell us about your family.

Dac: I go back to south Texas whenever I can. I no longer have family there, but the memories linger, and I visit the old places in San Antonio and Corpus Christi and environs. And meet with friends from my childhood. I have deep roots in south Texas. The sights and sounds, the feel of the brushlands strike a chord deep within me.

Caroline: I noticed that GUNS ACROSS THE RIO was a finalist in the 2008 National Indie Excellence Awards. Where did you get the idea for that book? Did it require a lot of research?

Dac: It began with stories my father told me, of growing up on the border, of bandits and railroads, fast horses, slow automobiles. I prowled the border area for locales for my story.

Caroline: National Indie Excellence Award 2009 winner, RETURN OF THE TEXAS RANGER, is a sequel and I notice the same three characters are included. Did that book spring from the first, or did you have to dig it out?

Dac: In fact, I wrote RETURN first. I had an agent for that one, who was unable to sell it altho she tried hard. GUNS was actually a "prequel" that happened to be published first.

Caroline: I love the premise of your latest book in which someone escapes the Alamo to fight again. Was a particular event or experience inspiration for your 2011 National Indie Excellence Award winner, ESCAPE FROM THE ALAMO, or is it simply from the experience of being a native Texan?

Dac: Honestly, any Texan author just has to write an Alamo story. The Alamo history is very much a part of my upbringing. My mother was a historian.

Caroline: If you could go back in time for a brief visit, where and when would you choose?

Dac: That's easy. San Antonio in 1836, and the fall of the Alamo. I want to see for myself!

Caroline: What fiction are you reading now?

Dac: A DISTANT FLAME, a Civil War story by Georgia's most accomplished writer, Philip Lee Williams. I am plotting a post-Civil War story for South Texas, so this counts for research as well.

Caroline: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Dac: My customary advice is read, read, read and write, write, write. Tell me a good story.

Caroline: Your blog on chiggers made me laugh. Do you have any stories to share about the pesky little red devils?

Dac: Listen, I enjoyed those days. Touring the west, south and southeast, trapping rodents, shooting birds, catching snakes and lizards, sleeping under the stars. Couldn't do that today.

Caroline: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

Dac: Today it's easier to publish your book than it ever was. You have a story in you, don't you?

And from a western writer - "Timing is the most important part of a rain dance."

Caroline: I love that quote! Thank you for being my guest.

Dac: It's been my pleasure.

Dac' bio:
D. A. Crossley, Jr., is a retired professor at the University of Georgia, and his nickname is “Dac.” He's an emeritus professor of ecology and a curator emeritus of ticks and mites in the Georgia Museum of Natural History. Even better from our viewpoint, he writes great western fiction!

Dac grew up in Kingsville, Texas, the home of the famous King Ranch. It was also the home of railroad shops for the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico railway company. Dac says everybody in town worked for the railroad or the ranch, or did business with them.

Dac received his undergraduate degree from Texas Tech in Lubbock. Yay! That's where Hero graduated and I attended for two years. Dac's doctorate was in Entomology at the University of Kansas, where--you will no doubt be surprised to learn--Dac studied the classification of chiggers - redbugs. He thinks he's still the U.S. expert.

After university he worked at Oak Ridge National Lab as an ecologist. Which he says he surely wasn't. In those days (1950's) almost nobody was. He studied the effects of radioactive waste on forests and fields. A fortunate turn brought him to the University of Georgia, where he had the privilege of working with some excellent ecologists.

With retirement looking him in the face, he turned to his first career choice - writing and hit his stride in writing about South Texas in its pre-civilized days. The Old West lived on for decades down near the Border and in the Wild Horse Desert. Family stories and tales he was told as a child form the basis for his Texas novels.

Buy link for Dac's books at Amazon is

Please return on Friday for a visit with Claire Ashgrove. Don't forget the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop lasts through midnight on Hallow'en. Leave a comment to be entered in my daily give away, including international readers.
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Before I introduce my intriguing guest for today, please take note of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop badge at the top of my sidebar. Over 400 blogs have combined--with the concept and planning by blog owners at “I’m a Reader, not a Writer” and “The Diary of a Bookworm.” For my participation, I’m giving away a pdf of one of my books (winner’s choice) each day of the Hop! Winners will be announced on November 1st. After you read the interview below, click on the graphic at the right to be taken to the list of participating blogs. Comments on this blog will be entered in my daily drawing and announced on November 1st. Please include your email. If you follow my blog, subscribe by email, and/or sign up for my newsletter, that counts as extra entries, so be sure to mention those.

Now . . . on to today’s guest, author Jennifer Wilcks.

Jennifer Wilck, Author

Caroline: Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up.

Jennifer: Except for college, which I attended in St. Louis, I’ve been a Jersey girl all my life, and despite my best attempts, probably have the accent to prove it. I’ve no siblings, although I’ve always wished for an older brother, and I’m fairly shy in person (snarky on paper). I’m married with two girls and a dog.

Caroline: We also have two girls and a dog--and two cats--and I love snarky on paper! Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Jennifer: My favorite author is Lynn Kurland. I love reading anything at all, but prefer women’s fiction and romance. Although I write contemporary romance, I prefer to read historical.

Caroline: As someone who frequently writes historical romance, I love to hear that! How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?

Jennifer: My reading goes in spurts, depending on my time. Right now, I’m reading about a book a week. I just finished reading THE BEACH TREES by Karen White. It’s set in New Orleans and Biloxi, and it was fantastic! I highly recommend it.

Caroline: Sounds interesting. I loved her books set on Tradd and Legare. When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge?

Jennifer: I don’t have a lot of time to relax and recharge. I have two girls, aged 10 and 12 and they keep me very busy. When I’m not writing, I’m volunteering with my Temple, volunteering at their schools or trying to work on my to-do list, which is huge at the moment, due to my older daughter’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. My hobbies (the rare times I get to engage in them) are refinishing furniture and craft projects. I enjoy hanging out with my husband and family.

Caroline: I remember when our girls were that age. I loved it, but they did keep me busy. Describe yourself in three or four words.

Jennifer: Wife, friend, mom, snarky

Caroline: Love the snarky part. How long have you been writing?

Jennifer: Forever. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I started professionally in journalism, and made the switch to fiction about 5 years ago.

Caroline: I was a journalist for a while and loved it. Having deadlines is great training, as is writing whatever you’re assigned. Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

Jennifer: I use a laptop. I need quiet, so most of my writing is done when the kids are at school and the husband is at work.

Caroline: Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Jennifer: I’m a total pantser. I tried to be a plotter for my current WIP and I’m paying for it now with a ton of editing.

Caroline: Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Jennifer: Hah! I just wrote a piece about this for a blog I contribute to . My stories are fiction, but I usually add a snippet or two of real life to them. For example, in A HEART OF LITTLE FAITH, the heroine tells a story about how, as a child, she used to give her dad back rubs and pretend his back was a pizza pie. She’d knead the dough, swish on the sauce, sprinkle the cheese and smack on the toppings. She’d have a pizza and he’d have a limber back. I used to do this with my dad when I was about 3 or 4 years old. In my latest book, SKIN DEEP, the heroine’s family goes to the racetrack every Thanksgiving and her mom has a particular betting strategy (you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is and if it works for you). My family and I used to do this every year and the betting strategy was actually my great-grandmother’s—yes, we’re a bunch of degenerates!

Caroline: When my youngest was 3 or 4, I used to have her walk barefoot on my back. Really helped. Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

Jennifer: I try to have a writing schedule, although it often gets disrupted. In general, Mondays are when I write my blog posts and edit my critique partner’s work. I try to write a few hours each of the other weekdays. I have goals in my head—a chapter, a scene, etc.—but I’m more flexible with those.

Caroline: How clever to do blog posts all in one day. I believe I’ll try that. What do you hope your writing brings to readers?.

Jennifer: I hope it brings rich characters and stories that stay with them forever.

Caroline: Don’t we all? What long-term plans do you have for your career?

Jennifer: That’s a tough one because I never really thought I’d be here. I’ve always written stories, but they were for my own pleasure. I was fortunate to have two of them published, but it wasn’t necessarily something I planned on happening. I guess long term, I’d like to continue with the way things are now and have more of my stories published and possibly expand into women’s fiction.

Caroline: Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?

Jennifer: Love to! I’m working on another contemporary romance, but this one has a Jewish theme. The story is based loosely on the holiday of Purim and involves a hero and a heroine who hide their true natures from themselves and from those around them. When they are able to trust each other enough to reveal themselves, they fall in love.

Caroline: That sounds intriguing to readers whether they’re Jewish or not. Blossoming awareness and romance are always interesting. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Jennifer: I’d advise them to write what they love and to do it for the pleasure of writing. Don’t get bogged down by the “rules” and don’t write only to be published. If you like what you write, others will too and eventually you’ll realize your dreams.

Caroline: Excellent advice! Tell us about your latest release.

Available in November
From Whiskey Creek Press
Jennifer: My latest release is SKIN DEEP, coming in November from Whiskey Creek Press.

Here’s a blurb: The last thing Valerie needs, after escaping an abusive marriage to an alcoholic and rebuilding her life, is a broody, secretive, standoffish man. But that’s exactly what she gets when she becomes a makeup artist on the set of a hit sitcom and draws the attention of the series’ star.

John Samuels hides a terrible past—a life of abuse and neglect. A successful acting career and the affection and support of cast, crew and friends, does nothing to convince him that he is anything other than an unlovable monster.

Will he learn that the life he’s been living has been built on a lie or will he be doomed to repeat the sins of his father?

Caroline: You’ve hooked me already. Care to give us a peek?

Jennifer: Here’s the excerpt:

The square, plastic bottle crashed to the floor, the white cap skittered under a cabinet, and bisque-colored foundation splattered across the tile floor, where it made a Rorschach pattern within the large white squares. With a groan and a roll of her eyes, Valerie searched under the makeup table, found the errant cap, replaced it on the bottle, and returned the foundation to the tray. She grabbed a damp rag and wiped up the mess.

She looked at the shooting schedule and smiled as she ran her fingers down the smooth laminated page. Only three weeks into this job, she loved working as assistant make-up artist on “Oddballs,” a Top-10 weekly TV sitcom. She double-checked her kit for the supplies she’d need that day. So engrossed in her work, she didn’t notice her boss’ purple-spiked head in the door of the make-up trailer, or the ever-present smell of hair gel that hovered around her, until Michelle called her name.

“Hey, Valerie, a bunch of us are going out after work. Wanna come?”

Flashes from her past competed with images from the present at the sudden voice and Valerie stiffened. She shook her head to clear the jumble of images.

“Where are you going?” She wiped the remains of the foundation on the short cotton apron over her turquoise shirt and faded denim jeans. Eyes closed, she inhaled. The thick weave of rough fabric scraped her fingers and anchored her in the present, despite her body’s momentary lapse.

“Tico’s for some drinks. There’s about eight of us going. It’ll be fun and you can meet some of the crew.”

Valerie’s hands shook and knocked into the plastic bottles on the tray. They clinked together as the tubes slid into the scissors and destroyed their recent orderliness. She kept her face down, eyes averted, as her cheeks heated and her palms became sweaty. She had dreaded this moment. If they’d been going anywhere but a bar, she’d have joined them, but she couldn’t bring herself to go there. So, she had to perform a delicate bal-acing act. Somehow, she had to refuse this invitation, but leave open the possibility for others. Despite their different personal styles, she and Michelle had formed an instant bond. The last thing she wanted was to hurt their new friendship.

“I can’t tonight. Thanks for asking though. Maybe another time.” She took a deep breath and pasted on a smile.

“Hot date?” Michelle raised a perfectly plucked black eyebrow and grinned. Valerie grinned back. “Just with my laundry.”

“You’re turning me down for laundry? Come on, you can do that tomorrow.”

Valerie shook her head. “I really can’t tonight, Michelle. Next time.”

Michelle muttered under her breath as she left. Valerie sighed as the door banged shut and left her alone with her memories.

* * * *

That night, after all the scenes had been shot, Valerie waited for everyone to leave. She didn’t want to answer questions or receive pity.

She arranged and rearranged drawers and tools. The trailer contained three stations, each with its own make-up chair. A long table ran down one wall, with plenty of drawers for storage space. Well-lit mirrors hung above the table. Un-able to find anything else to do, and convinced by the silence that everyone had to have left, she took out her keys to lock up. She jumped as a knock sounded at the door, the trailer rattled, and a head peeked in.


“Oh, hi, John.” She expelled a deep breath and willed her heart to slow its frantic beat. “Do you need something?”

“No.” He entered and stood by the door. John Samuels played the lead. At almost six-foot three, he dwarfed the trailer and had to tip his head to fit. He folded his muscular arms across his chest and spread his feet apart. “Michelle told me you were not joining us tonight. I thought I would see if I could change your mind.”

Valerie rolled her eyes. “She is persistent.”

“You noticed.” John’s dark eyes twinkled. His mouth widened with a ghost of a smile. Valerie tried not to gasp.

He reminded her of a rugged cowboy—broad-shouldered, with a prominent brow, dark piercing eyes, high cheekbones, and a cleft chin. When he smiled, even a slight trace of one, his eyes looked like liquid velvet and his dimples twinkled like stars in the night sky. A five-o’clock shadow covered his cheeks. Her fingers itched to brush against their rough texture, to tease his mouth into a full-blown grin.

“So, what can I say to make you join us?”

As he leaned against the wall in well-fitting jeans and a T-shirt that left nothing to the imagination, Valerie’s mind said, “Sleep with me.” Heat crept up her neck, over her cheeks, and continued to the roots of her hair. A thin sheen of sweat dampened the space between her breasts. She felt the sudden urge to fan herself, like a damsel in distress in an old B-movie. Instead, she ignored her traitorous thoughts. Her balled fist pressed into her tight stomach.

“Tonight, not even chocolate will change my mind.”

She didn’t exactly lie. She had no intention of going to the bar, or of sleeping with him, no matter how her thoughts might try to sabotage her good intentions. She’d been fooled by surface finery before, and it had almost killed her. She wouldn’t let it happen again.

“I will remember that,” he promised. “But next time you will not get off so easy.” His eyes bored into hers for a moment, and then he turned on his heel and left.

* * * *

True to his word, John arrived the following day pre-pared for battle. With a cursory knock on the door, he dangled a bag of M&Ms inside the trailer, but snatched it back be-fore she could grab them. “We are going out for pizza. I will pick you up in ten minutes.” Before she could answer, he walked out.

Valerie shrugged as she finished her work. The new Val-eerie never allowed other people to make decisions for her, but she’d practically handed John a permission slip. And, he had M&M’s. How could she refuse?

Ten minutes later, he returned, ushered her out the door and down the steps. Although he didn’t touch her, she could imagine the warmth of his hand on the small of her back, and feel the gentle puff of his breath against her hair. The angle of his body steered her toward the others in the parking lot as if he had taken her by the hand and dragged her with him. An invisible electric charge pulled her. Or maybe it was his Dial-soap scent. That scent—soap and man—made her stomach flip flop. Her uncontrollable reaction to him disturbed her, especially since he appeared unaffected.

He remained silent, strode toward their meeting place, and studied his surroundings as if he expected someone to pop out of the shadows and yell, “Boo!”

Then she saw the brown bag of M&Ms sticking out of his white shirt pocket. Before he could stop her, she reached around and grabbed them, opened the bag and popped three in her mouth.

“Hey, those are mine!” He reached for the bag, but not fast enough to retrieve them.

“Not anymore.” As she danced away from him, she stuck another handful in her mouth.

He brought his hand up to his heart, as if she had wounded him deeply, but the twinkle in his eye gave him away. Valerie had all she could do not to burst out laughing.

“You did not have to take them, you know. I was plan-nine to give them to you later.” He pouted and his dark hair fell across his brow, but not before Valerie saw a flash of a smile turn the corners of his mouth up.

“Oh really? When?”

“After dinner, of course. I would not want to spoil your appetite.”

As if that were possible. Valerie laughed again and John grunted, a deep hoarse sound that climbed from the pit of his stomach and thrust its way out his mouth.

“What’s so funny?” Lara, from editing, asked as they joined the group of friends clustered outside the lot. All other conversation stopped as everyone waited for the answer.

John looked at Valerie and his ghost of a smile disappeared. He remained silent and backed up a pace, as if need-in to put distance between them now that there were others around. Lara rolled her eyes and walked on ahead as Valerie bent over and massaged the stitch in her side. She watched his feet walk away from her, listened to the crunch of gravel be-Neath his shoes as the warm, funny man disappeared.

“What, no laundry tonight?” taunted Michelle when Val-eerie looked up. She smirked and headed down the street with the rest of them as she stared at the broad expanse of John’s back up ahead and wondered about John’s sudden coldness. The connection she’d started to feel between them disappeared. He walked a pace or two in front of her, his back stiff, his arms held at his sides. With a shrug, she joined in the conversation around her and put John’s odd behavior out of her mind.

Three blocks later, they approached a dark, noisy pub. Valerie’s stomach clenched as the door opened and the smell of beer floated outside. Spots floated in front of her eyes and for a moment, she thought she would faint. Her throat con-stricter and she paused as she clamped her mouth shut against the bile that rose in her throat. She leaned against the cool brick wall and willed herself to breathe, even as the rough surface dug into her back. Her gaze darted down the crowded street, but before she had the chance to flee, John towered behind her.

“Don’t back out on me now,” he whispered. “I already gave you the M&Ms.” His warm breath blew against her shoulder and she took a jagged breath.

She turned, grateful for the distraction, and stared at his massive chest. Rock-hard muscles confronted her beneath his black T-shirt and for a moment, the clink of glasses on the bar and the grainy smell of beer faded away. All she could see was his immense body; all she could smell was his fresh, soapy scent; all she could feel was his solid chest in her imagination. Imagination wasn’t enough.

She lifted a trembling hand to touch him and he backed up just out of her reach. Blue eyes met gray and held for a moment. She swallowed, the gulp audible, and the spell broke. The sights, sounds, and smells rushed back to her. She ran her tongue across her lips, tasted the waxy flavor of her lipstick, and closed her eyes as she swayed.

John frowned and placed himself between her and the crowd at the bar. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched him nod to one or two people who smiled in recognition, but he remained at her side. Together, they walked across the sticky floor and past the loud band up front to their table in the back. He pulled out her chair and sat next to her, and she released a pent-up breath. She felt safe with him close to her. It’s not a bar, she told herself. It’s a restaurant that happens to serve drinks. She’d be fine.

John turned to her and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. He clasped his large hands together and looked into her eyes. He held her gaze and as she stared into his thunder-head-colored eyes, she relaxed. “So, how do you like things so far, Valerie?”


“Well, I actually meant at work, but here too.”

Valerie blushed as she tried to focus on his words. “Oh, well, I love working on the show. I was a huge fan before I got the job, so it’s amazing to be a part of it now.” I sound like a babbling idiot.

John smiled. “What may I order for you?” He flagged down a big-bosomed, tight-shirted waitress with bright orange fingernails. She walked over, pen and pad ready. Every-one ordered beers. Valerie ordered a diet soda.

“Not ready to let loose yet, huh, Valerie?” asked Miguel, one of the crew, with a soft chuckle. Valerie smiled, but her cheeks felt as if they would crack and she looked away. John caught her eye and smiled at her. His unexpected warmth re-assured her almost as much as an arm around her shoulders.

She sat back and listened to the conversation at the table. All around her were people from work—Harry, the first AD; Ken, from production; Lara, and Tony, from wardrobe. Tina and Jeremy, John’s costars, had joined them as well. She crossed her fingers and joined in.

The waitress returned with their drinks and took their orders. Her ballpoint pen scratched across her pad as each person ordered a personal pizza, but changed the sauce, type of crust, and combination of toppings.

When the waitress turned to her, Valerie ordered a mushroom pie and a house salad.

The waitress paused, expectantly. As the silence continued, she raised an overly tweezed eyebrow.

“Is that it?”

“Yes,” Valerie answered.

“Are you sure?”

Valerie furrowed her brow. “Of course.” With a shake of her head, the waitress turned to John. She asked for his autograph and after he scrawled his name across a napkin, gave her his order, also simple but large—two personal pepperoni pizzas. During the course of the evening, John kept an eye on Valerie, made sure her drink never ran out, and that she par-tic pated in the conversation. When talk turned to something unfamiliar, he filled her in.

When they finally left, the muggy night air wrapped around Valerie like a cocoon and muffled the smells and sounds from inside. She stretched her spine and threw her shoulders back as she inhaled deeply for the first time all evening. John fell into step next to her and offered to walk her back to her car.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” she asked, as they crossed the street.

“No one should walk by themselves at night.”

“Thanks, that’s really nice of you.” Although they walked next to each other, John left plenty of space between them. In spite of that, his size made her feel smaller than her five foot six frame. He didn’t intimidate her, and she peered sideways at him as she considered her lack of fear. Maybe because of the physical distance he maintained around her—he couldn’t hurt her if he were far away—or maybe his manners and the careful way he spoke put her at ease. Whatever the reason, she felt as comfortable walking with him as she would have with Michelle.

“Here’s my car.” She pointed to a blue Honda Civic parked under a lamp. “Thanks again for walking me out.”

“See you tomorrow.” He waited, hands deep in his pockets, feet spread apart, while she started the engine. He watched her wave and pull away. Something about her intrigued him—more than just her mysterious nerves or her simple pizza order, although those things contributed to it. She didn’t behave like the typical LA actor crowd who usually surrounded him. Her vulnerability aroused his protective nature. Not that she’d asked for his protection. She’d never ask him to take care of her, no one would. But still...

Caroline: Wonderful storytelling, and love both covers. Where can readers find your books?

Jennifer A HEART OF LITTLE FAITH and SKIN DEEP are available from the following:
From the publisher (Whiskey Creek Press):

From Amazon (SKIN DEEP will be posted there shortly):

From Fictionwise (SKIN DEEP will be posted there shortly):

Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know? How can readers learn more about you?

Jennifer: I love to hear from readers and writers. You can reach me at my website:, on
Facebook: and on
Twitter: @JWilck.

I also write a blog, "Fried Oreos" and contribute to a group blog, "Heroines With Hearts"

Caroline: Thank you for being my guest, Jennifer, and sharing with us today. Best wishes for continued success in your writing career.

Readers, don’t forget to leave your email in your comment so that I can enter you in the daily drawing for a pdf of one of my books in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop. If you join as a follower, that counts as a second entry as does signing up for my newsletter.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Please welcome fellow The Wild Rose Press author, Alyson Reuben to the blog. Alyson has graciously offered a free pdf of BEAUTIFUL CAGE to one lucky person who leaves a comment. Please remember to include your email address!
The many faces of Alyson Reuben
Caroline: I love the montage of photos above. Great shots. Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up.

Alyson: I’m the oldest in my family. You know those ugly stories that younger siblings tell about the oldest? Well, we have our share of those. Especially coming from my brother, Dereck, two years younger than me. He swears I led him around on a leash and made him do my bidding. Swears I intentionally got him into trouble, then stood back and laughed. Is any of that true? Of course not… but do you really think I would tell if it was? LOL My baby brother, Brandon is eleven years younger. I babysat him while my parents worked, so our sibling relationship is different from most, simply because there’s an element of nourishing that is more of an exception than the norm.

We grew up together in Brown County, Indiana, known as ‘little Tennessee’, a very rural, beautifully scenic area of Indiana. We moved to our current small town when I was a teenager, and although we’ve all moved away a couple of times, we find ourselves right back here again.

Caroline: I babysat for my brother who's just over ten years younger than I am. Were you the shy kid or the tomboy? Share anything that lets readers get to know the real you.

Alyson: Growing up in the country, I was a happy medium of princess and tomboy. I could make mud cakes and play with toads as easily as any boy. At the same time, I loved my dolls, collected 36 of them, and rotated their names on a list that hung from my wall, taking whichever doll was next on the list with me wherever I went. So I guess you can say I’ve always believed in diplomacy, fairness, and equality. Ha! And this attitude has carried over to my ten-year old daughter, who owns a gazillion Barbies and takes turns playing with them all!

 Caroline: I was a tomboy/princess also. Best of both worlds, right? When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?

Alyson: When I’m not writing, I’m usually spending time with my fabulous family. But I do have other hobbies. Lots of them, in fact. Besides being an author, I’m also an artist. In fact, I thought at one time that I would pursue art as a career, but later changed my mind. I love to sketch and paint. Sometimes I paint wall murals. I also enjoy sewing and quilting. Antique shopping is high on my list. There are so many ways to use, refurbish, or reconstruct the vintage goodies I find. Touring old houses is another hobby — I like to visit and learn about them (they provide excellent settings for my stories, also). Reading is probably my best way to relax. Unfortunately, I don’t do it as often as I used to, since I became seriously involved in writing. However, I’ve recently committed myself to reading someone else’s book for at least an hour a day, which usually ends up being longer. While reading, I like nothing more than to curl under a warm blanket with a cup of hot tea or coffee at my side. Sometimes, my cat Benji settles on my lap to join my peaceful escape.

Caroline: Sounds as if we have a lot in common. Describe yourself in three or four words.

Alyson: Four words that describe me: Passionate, scatterbrained, loving, eclectic.

Caroline: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise readers.

Alyson holding a copy
Alyson: I have directional dyslexia. I can’t distinguish my directions — not even left from right — without pausing to think about it very carefully. A handy trick I’ve learned is to form an ‘L’ with my thumb and index finger, indicating my left. Embarrassing, but totally true.

Caroline: I know others with that problem. Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?

Alyson: Guilty pleasures? Does excessive coffee-drinking and eating chocolate and pretzels count?

Caroline: Eating chocolater a guilty pleasure?  Of course not! Chocolate is a necessity. Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Alyson: I’m a little bit of both. For the detailed historical parts, I have to rely on research and careful planning. But for the human interaction and romance scenes I’m totally a panzer!

Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

Alyson: Yes, I set goals. I try to finish a rough draft within a certain time frame. Sometimes I make the deadline. Other times I don’t. But I’ve discovered that I can’t rush my stories too much.

And, yes, I write every single day. I write at crazy hours. I write in my sleep. Well, not really. But I do dream about characters sometimes. And I often wake up at absurd hours to jot down inspired scenes.

Caroline: What is it about a lot of us writers who keep late hours? What long-term plans do you have for your career?

Alyson: My long-term plans? I may have to write one or two more books before making it to the NY Times Bestseller list. Just kidding.

Making it to the top of the shining list has never been my number one priority. My first one goal is to tell the best story I can, and to leave my readers with lasting impressions of the characters and their story. To me, that’s what being an author is all about. I hope to continue sharing my stories for the rest of my life.

Caroline: Well said. Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?

Alyson: I’m currently working on two stories at once. The sequel to A BEAUTIFUL CAGE, tentatively called A BEAUTIFUL TEMPEST. It centers on Rebecca’s American cousin Anna Bloomberg and Holden Ellsworth, an American soldier fighting in WWII Italy. Also, I’m writing a story that’s very different from my others. I consider it women’s fiction. In CASTLES WE BUILD, set in the roaring twenties, Julia finds herself in the impossible situation of being married to her second husband, a wealthy Industrialist, when her first husband, supposedly dead in WWI, returns for her.

Caroline: Both sound intriguing. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Alyson: Most important - keep writing! This sounds simple, but most writers know it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Especially those who are closest to you. Criticism or a sense of disinterest coming from family and friends can be crippling— but only if you allow it to be. Also, in between writing, build your internet presence by blogging and participating in author/reader events.

Caroline: Oh, yes, building your brand is necessary. Tell us about your latest release.

From The Wild Rose Press

Wanted by the Gestapo, Rebecca Bloomberg is on the run for her life. Sheltering in the home of a reporter who writes absurd lies for a Nazi propaganda newspaper is hardly an ideal solution. Irresistibly drawn to the man, she dares not trust him, until she discovers his journalist position is a mask for involvement in an anti-Nazi resistance ring.

Gustav Von Furst has done all he can to perfect his mask. Neither his family nor his close friends know the truth. Hiding a Jewish girl is the most foolish risk, yet there is something about her that makes him want to protect her.

Eager to forget the outside world, Rebecca and Gustav are caught up in a private world of forbidden passion—until unexpected danger lands on their doorstep and they’re faced with a decision that will change everything. Will love demand a sacrifice too great to give?

Caroline: That sounds exciting! World War II and the Nazis are so important in our history, but many young people know almost nothing about either. Can you give us an excerpt?

Alyson: Here's the excerpt:

Splaying his hands across her bottom and mid-back, he pinned her tight.

She froze, motionless, staring up into his shadowed face, into eyes that glittered in the low light. How did he manage to look both irritated and roguish at the same time?

“Let me go, I—” But the words were smothered in her mouth as his lips plunged down over hers. She pushed at him, but he was unmovable. And with each passing second his lips ravished hers, she grew weaker, reserves fading. Even while she thumped his shoulders with her fists, her traitorous mouth opened wide for him.

At what point had she started losing control of her life? Was it when she lost her family? Lost James? When she was assaulted in the alley? Or when it was decided she must stay inside the von Furst home?

Well, there were some things she could still control. And this was one of them. With that resolve, she shot up on tiptoe, angling to bite his lips, digging her fingers into his back. She was going to take control of this kiss, dammit, whether Gustav liked it or not.

Caroline: This sounds like a timely book. As I mentioned earlier, I believe it's important the world remember the Holacaust. Where can readers find your books?

Alyson: Buy links:


Barnes & Noble:

The Wild Rose Press:

My author links:
blog site:

Caroline: Alyson, thank you very much for sharing with us today. I can hardly wait to get my copy of A BEAUTIFUL CAGE and start reading!

Alyson: Thanks again for inviting me to on your blog!

Remember that Alyson is giving away a free pdf. of A BEAUTIFUL CAGE to one person who leaves a comment and email.

Prizes! Fun! Join In!
Please join me Monday when the Spooktacular Blog Hop begins, sponsored by the blogs "I'm a Reader, Not A Writer" and "I'd Rather Be Reading." From October 24-31, comment on any of over 400 blogs to be entered in a drawing on each blog. Click on the graphic at the top right sidebar to see who's participating. Winners will be announced on November 1-2. My blog will be offering a free pdf of one of my books (winner's choice) each day during the Blog Hop. And my giveaway includes International participants.
Readers, thanks for stopping by!