Friday, May 31, 2013


Drum roll, please! I’m happy to announce the release of TABITHA’S JOURNEY, a sweet novella about a substitute mail order bride. 

Sometimes characters stick in a writer’s head and just won’t leave until we write their story. That’s what happened with Bear Baldwin from BLUEBONNET BRIDE. He was only a minor character, barely a mention, but he kept nagging at me to find him a wife. I remembered a short story I’d written a couple of years ago and reworked it into a novella with Bear as the hero.

Would you have been a mail-order bride?  I’m not sure whether or not I would have. 

In addition to so many men heading west for gold, fame, and fortune in the mid 1800’s, the Civil War further decimated the male population. More men were killed in the Civil War than in World War II.  The combination of events meant that marriage-aged women far outnumbered marriage-aged men.

Women who did not marry had little choices. Women of good families were not supposed for a living. In a pinch they might become a governess, a companion, perhaps teach school, or be forced to live with relatives. Those from lower income families might choose to work in a factory or as a servant, To either group, one more option existed . . . sign with a matrimonial agency to become a mail-order bride. 

In Chis Enss’s book HEARTS WEST, she shares the stories of a variety of real-life women who opted to become a mail-order brides. Some were successful, some were disastrous and heartbreaking. I love reading fictional mail-order bride stories, but this is the first one I’ve written. This one is set in 1874 and starts in Boston and them moves to Texas. 

Here’s the blurb for TABITHA'S JOURNEY:

Would you become a mail-order bride?

Tabitha Masterson is certain whatever awaits her in Radford Springs, Texas will be better than what her brother and that awful William have in mind in Boston. After her father’s death, her brother has become a tyrant. She escapes to begin her new life in Texas, but danger can’t be far behind. She believes if she’s married when trouble arrives, she’ll be safe.

Tobias “Bear” Baldwin is crushed when he receives a wire notifying him that the woman with whom he has corresponded for almost a year has passed him off to her friend. Do the two women believe he’s like an old shirt to be handed down? His mother urges him to give the substitute fiancée a chance, but his pride is stung and he hasn’t decided.

And how did that come about? Here’s the excerpt that explains part of Tabitha’s problems:
Tabitha sat in the Witt family’s parlor and wiped tears from her face. “I’ve never been so miserable. Prissy, what am I going to do?”
            “Are you certain he’d send you to an asylum if you resist?”
            “Yes, but I don’t know which would be worse—being married to William or being locked away. The man gives me shivers in the worst way.”
            “Me, too.” Priscilla paused and smoothed the folds of her yellow and black plaid taffeta skirt. “I-I’ve had another letter from Tobias.”
 Her attention captured and anger deflected, Tabitha leaned toward her friend intent on hearing the missive’s contents. “Did her send for you?”
            “Yes.” Suddenly, Priscilla’s face puckered as if she, too, might cry. “Oh, I don’t know what to do.”
            “Prissy?” She leaned back to stare at her friend. “What do you mean? I thought you’d accepted his proposal.”
Tabitha was half in love with Tobias Baldwin herself. Already she knew they shared many interests. Priscilla had shared each of his letters, and Tabitha had assisted Priscilla in answering them. Assisted so much, the writing became Tabitha’s heartfelt missives to him.
            “I was all set to leave, just as I said. But…oh, Tabbie, Virgil Allsup has finally spoken to Papa for me. If only Virgil had come forward sooner I never would have answered that mail order bride agency’s advertisement.” She sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. “You know I’ve yearned for Virgil ever so long. By now I thought he didn’t want me.”
            “What are you going to do?” Tabitha knew what she’d do. In her way of thinking, a man who dragged his feet as Virgil had all these years couldn’t begin to measure up to Tobias as a husband.
            “That’s just it. I-I accepted Virgil’s proposal.” She sobbed into her handkerchief.
            Tabitha couldn’t help her own tear-filled eyes widening in surprise. “You’re engaged to two men? Prissy, that’s—“
“Unethical? I know.” Priscilla waved her handkerchief. “I think it’s even illegal. Breach of contract or something.” Priscilla met Tabitha’s gaze. “But don’t you see? This could be a solution for your problem.”
Tabitha sighed and shook her head. “I don’t think mine has a solution.”
“Since you hate living with David and Bertha, and you always thought so much of Tobias, maybe you’d like to take my place.” She chewed at her lip as she glanced at Tabitha.
            “Me? Go to Texas and marry Tobias?” Incredulous as the idea sounded, already Tabitha’s mind considered the option.    

I hope you’ll give TABITHA’S JOURNEY a chance. The buy links are:

And while you're here, please let me tell you about a new blog called Smart Girls Read Romance at that is starting June 2nd. Bestselling and award winning authors dish about books, romance, love, and life! And there will be giveaways all through June, with the Grand Prize a KINDLE FIRE HD TABLET on June 30th. To qualify to win, all you have to do is leave a comment.

Smart Girls Read Romance!

Another event is The Romance Reviews' Sizzling Summer Reads. If you click on the button on the sidebar, you'll be taken to their site for the list of participating authors. 

Whew! Isn't June an exciting month? 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Monday, May 27, 2013


Readers, please welcome a special friend, Denise Eagan. It seems to me as if Denise and I have been good friends for the many years we've been on a private e-loop. In fact, I’ve only met her in person once many years ago at an RWA National Conference. I love her sense of humor and her writing. Now, here’s our interview:

Caroline: Where did you grow up?

Denise: I grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts, which is a small town on the Northshore, bordering Salem. I was a very, very shy kid. My junior year in high school, however, I joined our school’s drama club, and the people in that pretty much dragged me out of my shell. I’d formed some pretty strong female friendships at that point. We lost track of each other after high school for awhile, but came back together at a reunion and have hung out every since then. I expect we’ll be friends for life.

Denise in a high school performance
Through Facebook most of the people in that drama club--Stage One--hooked up again, and recently we all got together for a reunion. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we were a group of creative people who don’t always seem to have a place in regular culture (never mind high school!) or if we just click, but being with all of them together felt as natural as if we’d just graduated. I think part of the comfort level is the same I find among writing friends--we’re just all a little bit nuts. The difference between my drama friends, though, and my writing friends is that the former are extroverts, and the latter are introverts. When I got to writing conferences, everybody comes home afterwards and nobody talks (through email or social media etc) much for several days. The drama club reunion? People were posting pictures before I even left the hotel! Took me days to recover--they were energized for days.

So yeah, I have those wonderful people to thank me for bringing me out of my shell. I’m still pretty shy—I’m just super good at faking it. All that acting experience, I guess!

Denise receiving Drama Club graduation
points that made her an official Thespian.

These days I live about an hour from where I grew up. I was an accountant for 5 years, then had a couple of sons and stayed home to raise them and write and make money that way. Hah! It took me 17 years to publish that first book. I console myself with the knowledge that at least I gave my sons a very strong example of perseverance. And a lot of historical background, because I was always dragging them off to history sights. Worst ever in their eyes? A farming museum in Iowa. It was one of my favorites!

Caroline: I was also very shy and took drama in my junior and senior years. And I’m still shy but can fake being outgoing. ☺Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Denise: I grew up on Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt. I loved the combination of mystery and romance (and usually murder), and with the last, the history. Later, I glommed on to Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss and Laurie McBain, the romance writers who, I believe, are responsible for throwing open the door to the bedroom in romance novels. I was about 15 at the time. You can imagine how happy I was to see that bedroom door open! I think these are the women who got me really interested in historical romance.  Not sure if it was just history or if it was that bedroom door. . .

Caroline: What’s your favorite way to relax and recharge?

Denise: Cooking. Cooking is my thing. It’s the only other creative thing I do. Give me a sewing machine and I’ll break it. A needle and I’ll stab myself and probably anyone else near me. Glue, clay, anything like that--I’ll drop, spill and then grind into the carpet. As for art--I can’t even draw a decent stick figure. But I love food, I LOVE eating and I love to experiment with it. To me cooking is edible chemistry. Happily, years ago my mother bought me an upright freezer for a housewarming present. It’s a saving grace because I can cook lots of stuff and freeze it. That way a batch of cookies can last for a few weeks. Soup for months. The only downside is the cleaning up. Man do I ever hate that! Of course cooking isn’t really relaxing per se, but if I get anxious or nervous, the first thing I do is head to the kitchen. It always calms me down.

Caroline: Do you have a favorite quote that sums up how you feel about life?

Denise: “Nothing is good nor bad, but thinking it makes it so.” Hamlet. I went through a Shakespeare phase fifteen or so years ago. I’ve always wanted to love Shakespeare, but it never really hit home until I found Kenneth Branagh’s film Much Ado About Nothing at the library one day. I love, love, love that movie. After that I went on to watch Henry V (which I mention in THE WILD HALF by the way--and Lilah actually names her horse Calais) and then Hamlet. When I heard that sentence in Hamlet, it sunk in like nothing else ever has: basically that nothing has any value without somebody (even an animal if it’s food) thinking of it’s worth. Gold is just a rock until somebody says it’s pretty and a very useful soft metal.

 It’s true about the circumstances of our lives too. For example, if I get a nasty review, it’s just words until I decide it’s bad. The good thing about understanding that is that you can change your view as in “Hey, look somebody read my book and it touched them enough to comment on it! Cool!” Yeah, I don’t really do that, not to that extent. Over the years, though, I’ve managed, to turn some things around, knowing that it’s really just how I think of things that gives them an emotional impact. I can, if I work at it, choose what that impact is going to be.

Caroline: You are a wise woman. How long have you been writing?

Denise: I started when I was 12 or so, I think. A friend of mine and I were raking leaves and started giggling and coming up with a strange story about a mysterious island and three guys, Tom, Dick and Harry, being stranded on it. I think we sat down and wrote a scene or something later. That was the first time I really could remember making up something just for fun. The next thing I remember is I had come up with a real story and borrowed my mother’s old royal typewriter and started typing.  I finished my first book when I was 14. It was really terrible.  What I remember most is that the heroine, Deidre, had Rainy Days and Mondays stuck in her mind. That book promptly went into the trash basket. I wrote another after that, a romantic suspense. I don’t know if I ever finished that. I think it was called TERROR BY NIGHT. The third was this book—THE WILD HALF—which was WESTWIND for a long, long time. Obviously it’s gone through tons of changes since then. Basically it grew up with me. I finished it a lot of times and went on to other books, but every time I learned something new, I went back and played with it. Finally, though, it was time to send it out into the world to find readers. It was really hard to let it go, let me tell you!
Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

Denise: I work on a laptop, which I move around. I’ll write in one place for several weeks or months, but then I get bored of that space, and I move somewhere else in the house for weeks or months. It drives my husband nuts, because when I move, I bring my research books with me. He calls it “migration”.  My current workplace is on the sofa in the living room, and he’s beginning to wonder if he’ll ever get his living room back. I have notes, books, pens and pads of paper everywhere!

As for sound--I go back and forth. Sometimes I like quiet. A lot of times, though, I’ll have a playlist going, on repeat, with songs that have, for me, an emotional connection to the story.  For example, for THE WILD HALF, I have Human by the Pretenders, and Linger by the Cranberries, both of which express the pain and fear that Lilah has about her relationship with Rick. On the other hand for Rick, I’ve got What’s Left of Me by Nick Lachey, because Rick feels broken by the death of his wife, and he thinks he’s got nothing left to give Lilah (in truth, he’s afraid of falling in love again).  I’ve heard the songs so much that I don’t hear the words when they’re playing, unless I have a certain scene where I’m having trouble with the emotion. Then I sit and listen and the music will center me again.

Caroline: I write in my office, which I call my pink cave. Love that place. Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Denise: If I were to lean one way or the other, I’d say pantser. I don’t write from the beginning to the end. I write the scenes that come to me first--they’re always the most interesting anyway. I usually have to have about 5 scenes figured out in my mind and a general idea of the plot and conflicts before I start, though, and those scenes are usually the turning points in the book. I write them first. Then others will come to me, generally related to those scenes, and I’ll write them next. Eventually they fit together enough that I put in some chapter breaks. Finally when I’m at about 50k of words, I start to fill in, often from beginning to end, the missing pieces.  So I do plot--I know something, just not everything. I like “discovering” as I go along. I usually know the end before I start writing, but I don’t always know the beginning!

Caroline: I think that’s called being a plotzer. Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Denise: A lot of times when I’m researching, I’ll go off on tangents and find out cool and not-useful-for-the current-WIP information, and I’ll just store it away. If it’s interesting enough, and if I can find characters that I like enough who will fit in, I’ll start stories around it. It’s not a conscious thing, though.

Caroline: Oh, that sounds like me. I get carried away when researching. Do you set daily writing goals?

Denise: Sometimes. But I rarely follow through. My creative energy is erratic, coming in fits and starts. I’ve tried to smooth it out, and near deadlines I have to force myself to work, but I’ve yet to really get a handle on it. I keep trying, though!

Caroline: All we can do is our best, right? What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Denise: Escape. A chance to escape from problems or boredom or irritation, and sink into fantasy for awhile to recharge their batteries. I try very hard to create a world for my readers to do that. I think delving into history is useful in that regard--it’s a quicker escape.

Caroline: What long-term plans do you have for your career?

Denise: I would like to get to a point where I write and e-pub a couple of books a year. That’s really my only long term plan. I would like to sell lots of books, of course, and create a huge fan base because I feel like writing is sharing romance and adventures with other people, and the more the merrier. But I don’t have a whole lot of control over that, so I’m trying to focus on what I can control. I can control how much I write, what I write, and the amount of exposure I get.

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

Denise: Sure. Coming in June--looking like at the end of the month right now--I have RUNNING WILD, which is sort of a sequel to THE WILD HALF and THE WILD ONE. In THE WILD HALF, we meet Nick McGraw, the owner of the ranch that Rick and Lilah work on in THE WILD ONE. In RUNNING WILD, 9 years later, we meet up with Nick again, and we meet Star Montgomery, who is a Boston aristocrat and a woman’s right’s activist. 

RUNNING WILD is their story. Here’s the blub:

Desperate to atone for her guilt over her best friend’s death, Boston aristocrat Star Montgomery has pledged her life to women’s rights, resolutely rejecting the institution of marriage. One cannot, after all, fight male supremacy when one is legally bound to obey one of them. And yet, with the hot Montgomery blood flowing through her veins, she’s determined to experience the sensual aspects of marriage. Six uncooperative fiancés—and one creepy secret admirer later—she and her family journey to Colorado, where she meets handsome, rugged rancher Nick McGraw, the perfect man for the job.

Nick, though, refuses to be Star’s latest plaything. An honorable man does not ruin his friend’s daughter or sister, no matter how seductive she is; a respectable woman’s answer to sexual desire is marriage. Not that a Boston blue-blood would ever marry a crude, unsophisticated Colorado rancher. Still he can’t resist Montgomery's invitation to spend the summer with them posh Newport RI, where he finds himself falling in love with Star’s wild spirit--and tortured by desire. To keep his honor, he can’t stay. But he can’t leave, either, because Star’s secret admirer is no longer just writing creepy letters pleading with her to leave the women’s rights movement. He’s acting--stealthily, menacingingly and possibly murderously. . .

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

Denise: Before you sit down and start writing, picture your perfect reader. Picture her (or him!) reading your story, loving your characters, gasping over all the exciting parts, sighing over the sweet parts--all of that. And then write for that person. Don’t write for agents or editors, for the market or contests or even for critical critique partners. Write for her, edit and revise for her--she’s the best guide to what you need to fix. If you do that, you’ll not only love writing, but you’ll write the best story possible. In this new world with an e-publishing option, you don’t have to write for an editor or agent. You don’t have to sell tons of books to make money. You can create your own little niche and make money that way--as long as you make your stories the best they can be!

Caroline: That is terrific advice! I love the idea of picturing a reader and writing for that person. Now, what’s a fun fact readers wouldn’t know about you?

Denise: Hmmm. . .I have an obsession with astrology. And tarot cards. And runes. And psychics if I could afford them. I’ve always been interested in astrology (I was shy and it made me feel like I could understand people better) in a general way. The luck factor in this business, though, makes a lot of us a little nutty. I started looking for ways to understand blind luck, and into the predictive end of astrology, and then tarot cards etc, is the way I went. In the long run, I don’t know if I believe in any of it. I sure wouldn’t stake my life on it. But there are days when it seems like everything is going wrong and I need some “specific” knowledge or hope for the future, so I fool around with that stuff and delude myself into believing it’s true.  It gets me through rough spots.

Caroline: I’m fascinated by psychics and astrology, too. I do believe in psychics, but not sure about the other. What’s something about you that would surprise or shock readers?

Denise: Hmmm, I sort of thought the new age stuff was surprising? No? I guess I’m neither shocking nor surprising. Really, there is not a shocking thing about me.

Caroline: As I understand it, your book is part of a series—is that correct?

Denise: I haven’t labeled it a series per se. Or a family saga per se. On the other hand, as I said, the characters in THE WILD HALF do enter into other books, like THE WILD ONE. I’m pretty attached to Rick and Lilah--and Jim and Melinda and Nick. And even the tertiary characters. I can’t let them go, so they become friends with my new characters, and we all get to sit around occasionally and laugh and joke and party. Honestly, I’ve know the characters in THE WILD HALF longer than I’ve known my husband. Am I going to give them up just because the book’s done? Never!

 As for how long this will go on. . .I don’t know. I thought I’d let them go (and try not to cry!) after I finish RUNNING WILD, but then I got an idea for two other stories and well, Rick is just perfect for one, and Nick has got to be in the other. I’ve even considered a re-incarnation contemporary story with them.  Nah, I won’t do it--but it does prove that giving up my “friends” is hard (I don’t do it with my real-life friends either, some of whom I’ve known for 40+ years).

Caroline: Can you give readers a blurb about THE WILD HALF?

Denise: Of course, here it is:
Lilah Martin is a hunted woman who has roamed the West for three years, staying one step ahead of men who are trying to kill her. Fear is her only friend; staying alive is her only goal. Then she lands a job at the Bar M, a prosperous and well-protected ranch in Colorado, where she finds friendship, sanctuary and a life that is almost normal. Or so it seems until she falls prey to the wildly seductive and dangerously inquisitive Rick Winchester.
A former outlaw, Rick has spent five years searching for distraction from guilt over his wife’s death. He finally finds it in the simmering sexual attraction between Lilah and him, and the dark intrigue surrounding her. But the more he delves into her secrets, the more of a mystery she becomes, until, frightened, she flees the Bar M. Determined not to lose this woman, Rick races after her, catapulting them into a clash of wills, which can only end in the discovery of a deadly secret locked away in Lilah’s mind. A secret that could make them both rich. Or get them both killed.

Caroline: Sounds like a great book. How about an excerpt from THE WILD HALF?

Denise: This comes after the second time Rick and Lilah have made love. They spent the night together, on the ranch, and she’s just woken up from a very, very bad nightmare. Rick still knows nothing about her, and he is becoming more and more frustrated that she won’t talk to him about her past. On the other hand, he’s still not certain he wants to get deeply involved with a woman who is obviously very, very troubled.

          Lilah awoke with a start, a cry still lodged in her throat. She shoved it down and scoured the glade for danger—for the men. A few feet away coals from a dying fired sizzled. Overhead the rising sun turned the arms of the pine trees from black to green. No tower of rock, but a hill. No horses, no men. It was just a dream.
          The man sleeping behind her was not.
          His bare skin warmed her back, and his breath on her neck stirred her hair. He’d draped one corded tanned arm over her chest, protectively. Not the man in her dream, but Rick Winchester, a powerfully built man with striking intelligence and a frightening, rough-edged arrogance. Frightening, yes, but he would never leave a girl alone in the wilderness. A girl would be safe with him.
          Physically, she thought as the shaking subsided. Her pride, though, was another matter. She recollected all too well the cruel cut of his words after the last time he’d seduced her. How much worse would the sting be after she’d slept with him? She wasn’t going to find out. Careful so as not to wake him, she sidled out from under his arm.
          It tightened. She stilled. He pulled her back. “In a hurry?” Rick murmured in her ear.
          Treacherous little shivers ran along her neck. “I didn’t know you were awake.”
          “I’m aware of that.” She felt him hardening against her hips. He made no move to act on it, however, or to lift his arm.
          “Aren’t you going to let me go?”
          “First,” he said after a short pause, “tell me about that dream.”
          She inhaled sharply. “What dream?”
          “The one that made you cry out.”
          Cry out. Oh Lord, had she said something? What? “It’s not important.”
          “Was it about the scars on your back?”
          Several seconds passed. “Then there’s something else you’re afraid of?”
          A whole host of things, none of which she wished to share with him. She narrowed her eyes, searching her brain for a way to derail his current train of thought.
          “What is it, Lilah?” The warmth was draining from his voice, the honeyed drawl lost as the dark, menacing side of him emerged. Lord, but she ought to never, ever have stayed the night with him.
She squared her shoulders. “It was nothing. I dreamed I was camping. Some strangers came along. They had guns and they threatened me.”
          “Threatened what?”
          “I was a woman alone. What do you think they threatened?”
          “Rape.” A picture of the men’s faces and of what might have been filled her vision, setting her to trembling. He pulled her closer. “Has that actually happened to you before? Was it more than a dream?”
          “Once,” she answered, toeing the line between honesty and deceit, but who could blame her, for wasn’t he toeing the line between protection and kidnapping?
          “I killed them.”
          He stiffened, his grip weakened, and she rolled away. She sat up, turning her hideous, scarred back to him—maybe it would revolt him and he’d leave her alone—and yanked her dress over her head. After shaking her hair free, she buttoned the bodice. He lay silent behind her, and she could feel him scrutinizing her, damn it.
          “What else happened?” he asked.
          “Rick. . .They threatened me. I shot them. They died.”
          “I don’t doubt that, but there’s more to that dream or you wouldn’t be scared.”
          Oh for the love of God, why wouldn’t he stop? He’d seduced her; she’d surrendered. Twice. Why start another Inquisition as well?
          Pivoting, she faced him, throwing an icy scowl his way as she braided her hair. “You’re not a woman. What would you know about that kind of fear?”
          “Lilah, darlin’, you not only carry a gun with you most of the time, but you’ve proven painfully adept at shooting one, even while suffering from a concussion. I don’t doubt you killed those hombres without a moment’s hesitation.”
          She lifted her chin. “Is there something wrong with that?”
          “No,” he said. “And I expect you were scared, but not nearly enough to be haunted by a dream. Especially one that makes you yell and shake.”
          “Well in the dream, I didn’t have a gun.” Not daring to meet his gaze, she sat down and pulled on her boots. When she finished, she mustered up enough courage to face him. He was sitting now, regarding her with understanding eyes that held no trace of condemnation. His brow was creased with concern, all of which made her tremble and caused a lump to rise in her throat.
          “What is it, Lilah? Tell me what’s driving you so hard. I may be able to help.”
He seemed to care, really care. And if he did. . . she took a shaky breath . . . she’d been alone for so long . . . but to tell him the truth, she must face it herself. . .
          An image of him leaning against the Golden Nugget’s doorframe, his belt slung gun-fighter low on his hips, jumped into her mind. Followed by the echo of his words from the last time he’d seduced her. It doesn’t matter. . . You better cut dirt before we have more to regret.
          His concern was a lie. He was a dangerous man who he didn’t give a damn about her. He only wanted to learn her secrets to use them against her. “It’s none of your business!”

Caroline: Where can readers find your books?

Denise: THE WILD HALF is at amazon, kindle and at Barnes and Noble

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Denise: My website is I’ve got a link there to a blog I set up recently. I’ve got a few posts there, and I hope to do more. Just haven’t got the hang of it yet.

Oh, and I hang out on occasionally where I try to do posts on Victorian Slang. Haven’t been all that great in the last couple of years, but I hope to get back to it.

The Author

Award Winning Author, Denise Eagan

Denise was born too long ago to mention on the web.  The daughter of a sociologist and physicist, she grew up in the suburbs of Boston, which she decided at an early age was the most boring place on earth to live.  To combat that boredom—and avoid doing schoolwork—she read and read and read.  As a shy, awkward teenager, she focused her reading energies on romance novels because the heroes were a great deal less confusing than teenage boys.  Eventually she ran out of books by her favorite authors, though, and started writing to entertain herself. She’s been writing ever since.

Writing, however, is a difficult way to pay the bills, so Denise went to college and got a practical financial degree from Northeastern University.  For several years afterward she worked in accounting, but eventually gave it up to have children and to pursue a career in writing.  A few months before the birth of her second son, Denise sent out her first query letter, gleeful at finally starting her writing career.  And received her first rejection letter, which made her not quite so gleeful.  Nor did the many rejections that followed over a period of many years. During those long years she joined RWA, finaled in the Golden Heart, and learned interesting things, like romance novels shouldn’t be 205,000 words long.  Her critique group taught her even more interesting things, in much kinder and more amusing ways, and became very good friends in the process. .

Finally after being an American Title finalist in 2005, Denise got “the call” from Kensington Publishing in 2006.  The two books published by Kensington, Wicked Woman and The Wild One have finaled and won various writing awards, including being nominated by Romantic Time for Best First Historical.  The Wild Half is Denise’s first foray into e-publishing.

Denise is still shy and still lives in suburban Boston (but a different suburb!) with her husband, who is both cheerleader and “manager”.  The town is just boring enough for her to keep writing her Victorian romances, generally with a mystery/murder element because nothing says romance like a dead body.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 24, 2013


Most of us have read stories in which the villain or the protagonist is trapped in quicksand. My first encounter was in a Nancy Drew book, where she sank to her thighs or waist. Then, one of the villains in a Sherlock Holmes story died in quicksand. Since then, I’ve read other accounts—fictitious and authentic—in which someone became victim to the engulfing, suffocating medium.

I live in North Central Texas near the Brazos River and not that far from the Red River. As a child, we visited my grandmother just over the Red River into Oklahoma. I always wanted to stop and play on the river’s red sand and water. My parents talked of people, animals, even wagons being lost in the river’s sands. I had doubts, for I knew they didn’t want to take time away from our visit.

When my husband and I moved to North Central Texas, I heard the same tales of quicksand in the Brazos River engulfing the unsuspecting. The water appears tranquil and the banks firm. I have to admit I was a skeptic. However, now I’m a believer. I have a friend who is almost 105 years old whose mind is still sharp even though her body is betraying her. Let me share her parents’ story with you.

Her Dalton parents were married in Weatherford TX and lived there for a year with her grandparents. They decided to move to Mineral Wells, which meant crossing numerous creeks and the Brazos River. By this time, Mrs. Dalton was six months pregnant with their first child.

They loaded their belongings into a wagon and set out for their future home. When they reached the Brazos, Mr. Dalton drove the team across a low area. Suddenly, the horses started squealing and sinking. So did the wagon. Mr. and Mrs. Dalton were able to leap from the back of the wagon onto firm ground.

The Brazos River near Mineral Wells
Unfortunately, the horses, wagon, and belongings sank into quicksand and out of view. All they salvaged were the clothes on their backs and a tiny bundle Mrs. Dalton grabbed as she jumped. The couple had to walk the fifteen miles back to Weatherford and the parents/in-laws. What a blow, but at least they survived and lived to raise a family of nine. Most of their children lived at least into their nineties and a couple passed the century mark.

Since my friend told me this story, I’ve heard of other families who had the same or a similar misfortune involving quicksand at the Brazos. One family cut the harness so the horses escaped, but lost the wagon. Another involved the wagon driver sinking into the quicksand while trying to free the animals. Being a pioneer was tough!

These stories caused me to speculate, as writers always do with any new kernel of information. Because I am somewhat claustrophobic, the mention of quicksand terrifies me. Even writing about the sucking, suffocating goo that swallows up indiscriminately creates shivers and a knot in my abdomen.

Since it terrifies me, I decided to use it in my latest series, Men of Stone Mountain. So far, two of the books mention or involve quicksand. If I have to be frightened, why shouldn’t my characters, right? (cue fiendish laugh) All three books also involve poison, but that’s another article.

The three Stone brothers are Micah, Zach, and Joel. These men are heroic, loyal, handsome, and want to settle near one another. They live in or near the fictitious city of Radford Springs near the Brazos River and in the real Palo Pinto County and Palo Pinto Mountains of Texas.

In the first of the series, BRAZOS BRIDE, Micah’s cattle are dying of thirst from the drought that has dried up all the natural springs and his tanks. Hope Montoya’s huge ranch borders the river, but she is being poisoned and fears she won’t survive without help. She and Micah make a deal that gives him land between his and the river in exchange for entering a paper marriage with Hope. While their union frees her of a guardianship, the wedding makes them both targets of the murderer’s escalating attacks. BRAZOS BRIDE is available from Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, etc.

Zach Stone’s story is HIGH STAKES BRIDE. Poor Zach has been jilted for the second time, this time by mail. He vows never to speak to another woman unless she is a relative. But then Alice Price crosses his trail. She’s on the run from her worthless stepbrothers who have wagered her in a high stakes card game with the meanest man in Texas. Zach thinks he has a plan to help himself avoid his brother’s ribbing about his lost mail-order bride and give Alice a place to hide. Zach changes his mind about the ease of protecting the event-prone Alice when one complication after another arises. HIGH STAKES BRIDE is available from Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, etc.

BLUEBONNET BRIDE is Joel Stone’s story. By this time, Joel is the Radford Springs Sheriff and keeps a safe town with his by-the-book law enforcement. He is quite smitten when widow Rosalyn Dumas and her daughter Lucy step off the stage. Lucy admires “Mister Sheriff” but Rosalyn wants nothing to do with the man who could destroy her new life. Back in Pearsonville in East she was convicted of murdering her husband and only escaped the gallows due to a tornado sweeping through town. Trouble always follows, doesn’t it? Joel fights to save the woman he loves from prison. BLUEBONNET BRIDE is available at Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, etc.

Currently, my work in progress is TABITHA’S JOURNEY, a novella about six foot six Bear Baldwin and his attempt to find a mail-order bride. Tabitha Masterson leaves her Boston home to escape a forced marriage to a man she despises and arrives in Radford Springs expecting to marry rancher Bear Baldwin. Or maybe not. Their story will be available very soon.

If you enjoy series books about the Old West, please give the Men of Stone Mountain a try. They are available in print and e-book from most online sources.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013



When Eleanor Brice unexpectedly wins the heart of Gregory Desmarais, Crown Prince of Cartheigh, she's sure she's found her happily-ever-after. Unfortunately, Prince Charming has a loose grip on his temper, a looser grip on his marriage vows, and a tight grip on the bottle.

Eight years of mistreatment, isolation and clandestine book learning hardly prepare Eleanor for life at Eclatant Palace, where women are seen, not heard. According to Eleanor's eavesdropping parrot, no one at court appreciates her unladylike tendency to voice her opinion. To make matter worse, her royal fiancé spends his last night of bachelorhood on a drunken whoring spree. Before the ink dries on her marriage proclamation Eleanor realizes that she loves her husband's best friend, former soldier Dorian Finley.

Eleanor can't resist Dorian's honesty, or his unusual admiration for her intelligence, and soon both are caught in a dangerous obsession. She drowns her confusion in charitable endeavors, but the people's love can't protect her from her feelings. When a magical crime endangers the bond between unicorns, dragons, and the royal family, a falsely accused Eleanor must clear her own name to save her life. The road toward vindication will force a choice between hard-won security and an impossible love.

The Cracked Slipper is a book club friendly fairytale retelling in the vein of Gregory Maguire, with a dash of romance. Set in a pseudo-renaissance, corset-and-petticoats enchanted kingdom, The Cracked Slipper brings a magical twist to women's fiction.

"He tugged at his earlobe. “I can’t, Mistress, and I would, just to get you out of this hallway, but Prince Gregory is not here.”

“Not here? What do you mean? It has to be—”

“Two in the morning.”

“Two in the morning,” she said. Something icy formed in her chest, and it wasn’t from the cold tiles beneath her feet. “I see. Well, I’ll be going.” She turned slowly.

“I’m sorry, Mistress.” The gruff voice followed her, but she didn’t want to turn around and see the sympathy on his face. She started up the steps but stopped midway.

There must be an explanation. She could not face tomorrow not knowing. She would wait and see, and it would all be revealed. Probably just some late-night meeting with his advisers, a problem that must solved before the wedding. She would wait until he returned, and then go back to bed happy.

Exhaustion caught up with her and she sat on the bottom step out of view of the guard. She wrapped her arms around her knees and in spite of the cold she nodded off. After some time, maybe ten minutes or maybe an hour, she heard voices. She sat up.

They were male voices, and some of them sounded familiar. She rocked forward on her numb toes and peered around the corner again.

She recognized Dorian first, and then Brian, Raoul, and several of Gregory’s other friends. Dorian struggled to hold someone up. Her heart sank as she recognized Gregory’s auburn hair.

He could barely stand. His legs kept buckling underneath him. Each time they crumpled he reached up with both arms. He grabbed Dorian’s neck and nearly dragged them both to the floor. The other men kept up a constant stream of harassment. She lost track of who said what, but their words rang painfully clear.

“What’s that Gregory? Those two Talessee girls where too much for you?”

“We should have quit after the redhead. She took care of him quite nicely.”

“Did you see the tits on that one?”

“Old Greg was probably seeing four of them. He was so smashed he was already falling over.”

“But his flagpole was standing up!” They all roared with laughter.

“A fine tribute to Cartheigh!”

“Tell me, Gregory, how will your sweet little maid compare with those last two?”

Gregory’s head swung up. “See, what you boys don’t realize…is I can have the sweet little maid and still bang as many whores as I see fit. Benefits of the crown.”

Eleanor could barely breathe. She head Dorian’s voice for the first time. “All right, all

right, let’s get you to bed or you’re liable to pass out on the altar.”

Gregory spoke again. “And you know, boys, little Eleanor is not quite as sweet as you may think— I’ve already had my hands on her—”

“Enough, Gregory,” Dorian said. He thrust the stuttering prince off on Brian and Raoul. He took the keys from the guard, who gazed resolutely at the wall.

“Tonight was just practice for tomorrow—”

“Enough!”Dorian exclaimed.

Eleanor couldn’t take any more. Without any further thought she stepped out into the hallway.

They all froze, a bunch of possums blinded by a woodsmen’s torch. Eleanor couldn’t speak. She simply stood there, staring at Gregory strung between Brian and Raoul like a pair of wet stockings left out to dry. Her hands clenched at her sides in tight fists. Blood roared in her ears, but her eyes were dry.

Dorian finally broke the silence.“Eleanor.”

Gregory cocked his head. “Sweetheart, how good to see you.”

His body jerked and he vomited. It covered his boots, and the sentry’s. The guard never moved. The acidic scent hit Eleanor’s nose and broke her paralysis. She fled up the steps. She heard Dorian calling after her but she didn’t stop. She brushed past her own sentry, threw the door open with both hands, closed it and drew the latch. She leaned against it. She had left her candle in the hallway, but she’d built the fire well and it still burned. She jumped at a gentle tap on the door behind her.

Dorian’s voice through the thick wood loosened the tears that had not come downstairs. “Eleanor,” he said, “please open the door. Let me explain.”

“No, go away.”

“He’s just drunk. It’s just talk among men. He didn’t mean any of it.”

“So where were you all? You weren’t out pitching lawn bolls!”

“I don’t deny it, or defend it. But Gregory loves you. He never meant to hurt you. ”

She leaned her head against the door. There was no way she could open it. “I don’t know what to believe,” she said. And then, louder, “Please go away, Dorian. Please.”

“As you wish.”

She sensed him standing on the other side, and then his footsteps moved down the hallway."

Stephanie Alexander


Stephanie Alexander grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, the oldest of three children. Drawing, writing stories, and harassing her parents for a pony consumed much of her childhood. After graduating from high school in 1995 she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the College of Charleston, South Carolina. She returned to Washington, DC, where she followed a long-time fascination with sociopolitical structures and women’s issues to a Master of Arts in Sociology from the American University. She spent several years as a Policy Associate at the International Center for Research on Women, a think-tank focused on women’s health and economic advancement.

Stephanie embraced full-time motherhood after the birth of the first of her three children in 2003. After six wonderful years buried in diapers and picture books she returned to her childhood passion and wrote her own fairytale. Her family put down permanent southern roots in Charleston in 2011. Stephanie is an adjunct professor of Sociology at the College of Charleston.

twitter: @crackedslipper

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