Archive for the ‘romance’ Tag

Monday’s Friend: Robbi Perna

Today I am pleased to welcome fellow Muse author Robbi Perna to the blog as this week’s guest.

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

Robbi at the Victoriana Ball1 - Copy (2)RP: This is a tough question that fits in with when did you learn to cook or sew. I can’t remember a time I couldn’t write and have been a writer all my professional life. I started writing fiction five years ago on a serious basis, but I wrote stories to amuse my friends and family from my grade school days at St. Peter and Paul’s. Catholic nuns are the world’s best educators and I owe a lot of my success to the lessons in English and grammar I learned in their classes.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

RP: As writers we tend to mimic those authors that we enjoy. I loved Emilie Loring’s romance stories. They are out of date and politically incorrect now, but for their time, they were magic. Later, Elsie Lee starred as one of my heroines. Her books of gothic, romantic suspense are classics and I own almost all of them. Today’s authors that I list as favorites and who have an influence on my writing are Susanna Kearsley, Nora Roberts, and Mariah Stewart.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

RP: Don’t fall into the trap of believing you need a group of people you don’t know and may never see again influence your writing. I had a bad experience with a writers group that nearly torpedoed my first attempt. I never repeated it. Find one or two beta readers and let them give you feedback.

SJT: When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser?

RP: I have a very meticulous procedure for my writing. An instructor once told me if an author works from an outline, then he/she knows the story arc and never has to worry about writers block. I take it a step farther. After I have my basic story line set, I make a very preliminary outline using a 15-step method that begins with Line 1 (story opening) and then moves to Line 15 (story closing). I then alternate between first lines and last lines ultimately meeting in the middle. One of the benefits of this method is it helps with the sagging middle a problem with which many writers have to deal. Knock on wood—hasn’t happened to me yet. Once I have this basic outline, I pull out the main points and use them to make my video trailer. Only after I’ve finished these steps do I sit down and start writing my story.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

RP: My latest book “Where the Lion Dwells”, which Muse will release in electronic and print formats in September, takes place in the horse country of Middleburg, Virginia. The heroine, Joanna Sansone, returns to Virginia following her civilian deployment in Iraq as a political advisor. A disfigured left forearm and the loss of her fiancé, Renzo Moretti, are the scars she carries from the experience. Now, she asks for nothing more than the peace of her new home. The U.S. government has other ideas. A large defense contractor calls on her services. A new English language training facility in northern Virginia’s horse country needs a registrar. Then, one of the students, the son of an important tribal sheikh, becomes seriously ill.

Mick Riliuni is a brilliant physician renowned for his work in tropical diseases that the family engages to consult on the case. When he meets Joanna, he accuses her of prejudice when she questions the need for the expertise of the student’s mysterious uncle. The arrogant Doctor al-Najid is a painful reminder of her losses and an irritating presence in her life.

Caught in the crossfire between two strong personalities, Joanna discovers her passions’ reawakening, but she has questions. A trip to a mountain fortress in Sicily may yield the answers. Will they give her a future or will her heart remain buried in the grave with Renzo?

SJT: Your website says that growing up in an Italian-American family gave you a “unique insight into the Italian male psyche”. Do you think cultural background shapes a person’s personality, and if so how has the Italian psyche influenced your stories?

RP: Absolutely…cultural background shapes a person’s personality and worldview. Italian life revolves around family, friends, loves (and lovers), and, of course, good food and wine. My stories have all these elements, I guess because like many authors, I write what I know and that forms the foundation upon which I spin my tales.

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

RP: Since I’m a defense contractor and technical writer in addition to a romance author, I’m always writing something. When I have downtime, I read other authors’ works, travel, and spend time with my favorite guy—Santino the parti-poodle.

SJT: What’s next for you, writing wise?

RP: I have two sequels planned in my “The Vines of Bordessi” series. The first one (for which I have completed two of the steps in the procedure above) is “Triumph without Glory.” I’ve posted the video trailer on my website if anyone wishes to have a sneak peek. The next story in the series, as yet untitled, is waiting in the wings. The inspiration for it is two stuffed bears. One is a tough Army ranger dressed in camouflage, which belonged to my late brother, and the other, a lovely white bear I found to keep him company. Paolina, the Bearness of Mezzogiorno, is a gorgeous white velvet creature complete with black lace gown, diamond earrings, and a sparkling tiara made for me by my very talented friend, Julie. That story will be a corker…stay tuned!


Award-winning, multi-published author Robbi Perna started penning romantic fiction as a respite from her career as a military analyst specializing in strategic communications. Her historical romance, “My Heart Still Surrenders,” won first place in the Florida Writers Association’s 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition. Her time travel adventure, “The Roman Phalera” is a finalist in the 2015 competition. Robbi grew up in a strong Italian-American background in Colorado where she spent the first half of her life before she moved to Virginia. She has since moved to central Florida where she claims snow is a figment of her overactive imagination. Her parti-poodle, Santino, manages the house while she works on her latest manuscript, “Robes of Destiny.” Readers may contact her through website,


Monday’s Friend: Lisa Lickel

Today I am pleased to welcome the multi-talented author and editor Lisa Lickel to my blog.

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

LL: Ooh, destined – such a better phrase than “knew.” After a few years of writing and selling articles and newspaper features, getting far in a contest and signing an agent and two contracts for novels within a few months at the end of 2007, I set out on that path of destiny of calling myself a professional writer.

SJT: We don’t choose writing, it chooses us – hence why I refer to it as ‘destiny’! Who would you cite as your influences?

LL: In the authorial world, I am heavily influenced by the lingua of Ray Bradbury, dramatic Louisa May Alcott, and the hominess of Michael Perry. As far as dedication to craft and tenaciousness, the likes of Phyllis Whitney and all her personas; those authors who have a steady audience which they are able to feed regularly.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

LL: What I would have liked to have known, though I’m not sure I would have understood then, is that this is a business, folks. There is no nice, no kind, no oops that’s not on purpose. Get your audience together, be aggressive without being annoying, be enthusiastic and fold a cadre of encouragers around you. That’s every bit as important as churning out excellent material.

SJT: Tell us about your forthcoming novel, HEALING GRACE.

Healing-Grace-v2b (3)LL: To clarify first, Healing Grace is forthcoming in print, and actually a third edition. It is the story of my heart, the second novel I ever wrote, and as such needed extensive work and it took much faith from my second publisher who overrode her pub board to take it after the first publisher pretty much ruined the experience for me. The story is about a reluctant faith healer who is running away from her home and gifts. She cannot run far enough, of course, and ends up exactly where God wants her—doing the impossible. Even if it costs her life.

SJT: What inspired you to write about a healer?

LL: I was inspired to write about a healer partly due to my fascination with all things medical, partly as an exploration of the biblical gifts of the spirit, as in, what would they look like today? Even the medical community will often use the word “miracle” in describing breakthroughs and cures. At the time I wrote the story, my brother had been suffering from a wholly puzzling and unique illness. While I was researching (out of curiosity and I’ll admit, some anger) his symptoms, I came across some intriguing medical issues which I was able to use for my male protagonist and his fate. My brother and his family live in Michigan and shared their experiences, many of which I was able to incorporate into the story, so it’s really a family book. And my brother has recovered and is doing well.

SJT: Where can readers buy HEALING GRACE?

LL: It can be bought direct from the publisher, from Barnes & Noble and from Amazon.

SJT: When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

LL: I’m a mix when it comes to SOP or Plotter – I say I’m a flexible plotter in that I usually start from a synopsis or outline, chapter goals and character and setting sheets, which are allowed to change and grow and adapt as the story moves along. I also don’t need to write in order, but tackle issues and scenes when they hit me.

SJT: Cat person or dog person?

LL: Definitely cat.

SJT: Me, too. I have two of them. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

LL: I love to travel, read of course, watch movies and sci fi television, walk in the State Forest around our house and kayak on the many little lakes.

Thanks so much for having me here today.

Author Bio:

Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. A multi-published, best-selling and award-winning novelist, she also writes short stories and radio theater, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, a freelance editor, and magazine editor. Visit

Connect with Lisa on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.


Monday’s Friend: Marsha R West

Today I am pleased to welcome Marsha R West back to the blog, with some useful tips on how to write a series.

Writing a Series! Agghh!
By Marsha R West

Marsha West (2)Thanks for having me Sara. I’m excited to tell you about my third book, SECOND ACT, which is the first in The Second Chances Series. My first two books were stand-alones, so series writing has been a new experience for me. SECOND ACT is the 6th book I’ve written, and with each book I’ve learned a few more things to help in the writing process. So far, in my experience, this is a continuously evolving process. Maybe not for others, but for me it is.

In The Second Chances series, we meet four women, now in middle age, who’ve been friends since they met when they were kids at summer camp. Whether they realize it or not, they all need a second chance.

The hero in SECOND ACT was a supporting character in VERMONT ESCAPE, my first published book, the fourth I wrote. I thought I had everyone figured out, and the story was flying along. All of a sudden, Mike Riley kept stepping out in front more and more. Mike and I had a serious talk. I told him if he’d back off, I’d give him his own book. I already had a hero in VERMONT ESCAPE, and it wasn’t he. Fortunately, he agreed. SECOND ACT is his book.

By the time I wrote Mike’s story, I’d frankly forgotten stuff about him. I’d written another book, TRUTH BE TOLD, that was published in the interim. Because VERMONT ESCAPE was already out there, I had to make sure not to contradict anything I’d written about Mike in VE when I wrote SECOND ACT.

All of this is to say, you have to keep your characters straight when you write a series. Mike couldn’t show up as a blond if he’d had brown hair in VE. If I said what color his eyes were, they couldn’t change. Readers catch that kind of thing.

So I had some idea of what I was getting into when I started this series because of my relationship with Mike. But now, there are four women. Part way into writing SECOND ACT (which I just called Book 6 for the longest time), I realized I was in trouble if in my own mind’s eye, I couldn’t tell which woman was which.

Internet searching is my friend. I found an actress to suggest each woman. Julia Ormand with long flowing black hair for Addison, an executive director of a theatre in SECOND ACT. Elizabeth Shue in CSI Las Vegas suggests Kate in the second book, ACT OF TRUST, who lost her husband on 9/11. She inherits land in Maine.

Red headed Marcia Cross suggests Devon, who has her own small make-up company in Dallas in ACT OF BETRAYAL. Mariska Hargitay suggeste Kim, a wealthy socialite who lives in Wichita Falls, TX in the final book, ACT OF SURVIVAL.

The photos are numbered to help me keep up with whose story I’m working on. I have a chart with what they each like to drink.

The second book is finished. (Well, it needs rewrites and editing, but the basic story is down.) But before I do more with it, I’ve got to get the bones of the third book written. I don’t want to have something in the second book that I can’t make work for the third book. I’d just be flat up the creek without that proverbial paddle.

I do charts for each of my main characters looking at their description, characteristics, fear, strengths, likes, dislikes, etc. I have a chart for the internal and external conflict for each character. It’s really from that, the action flows. It’s just that with a series. All of that becomes so much more important.

The most concrete example of all of this is the wine I mentioned earlier. I personally enjoy Merlot. Most of my friends drink something else. I think that’s pretty common. I was halfway through the second book in the series when I realized everyone was drinking Merlot. The idea of all four women drinking Merlot, just seemed odd to me. I had to figure out which drink went with each woman and then stick to it.

Do you enjoy series? I know I do. One of my favorite authors is Carla Neggars. She had a huge series set in New Hampshire and Tennessee. I was amazed at her ability to intertwine several families. As with hers, in my books, while we meet characters that we’ve met in earlier books, a different person is the lead in each book. So you don’t have to read the books in order, but if you’re like me, you really like to do that.

Let me know some of your favorite series or tell me why you don’t like series. Love to hear from you.


Second Act 200x300 (2)When a member of the board of a non-profit arts agency in Fort Worth turns up dead, the homicide detective assigned to the case looks at everyone involved in the organization, including the Executive Director.

Addison Jones Greer, divorced mother of two teens, is the Executive Director of Cowtown Theatre. When a board member is found in the costume room murdered, suspicion rests on everyone involved with the theatre, including Addie. She has angered some board members because she wants to fire the Artistic Director. Although she’s warmed him several times, he continues to go over budget for productions.

Mike Riley, Fort Worth homicide detective, hates that he caught this case. His sister-in-law dragged him to a theatre fundraiser where he met Addison, the first woman he’s wanted to pursue a relationship with in a long time. Not about to happen now.

Addison hasn’t ventured into romance since she caught her now ex-husband in their bed with his secretary. As a result she doesn’t do trust. How could she trust someone who seems determined to think she’s capable of murder? Or worse, thinks her kids might be involved.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KOBO, and iBooks.


Marsha R. West, writes Romance, Suspense, and Second Chances. Experience Required. MuseItUp Publishing released her first book, VERMONT ESCAPE in July 2013 and TRUTH BE TOLD, in May 2014. Marsha formed MRW Press LLC to provide a print version of her books. VERMONT ESCAPE is available at Amazon in pint or from her in person. SECOND ACT, The Second Chances Series, Book 1, follows up with a secondary character from VERMONT ESCAPE and begins a four-part series. Find out more at She’d love to hear from you.

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Monday’s Friend: Brent Archer

My guest today is erotica writer Brent Archer. Welcome, Brent!

SJT:  When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

BA:  I’ve loved writing since I was in grade school. I drew and wrote a cartoon strip in fourth grade, wrote a short story about the same time, composed poetry in middle and high school, and wrote a story for a Young Writer’s conference in high school. I worked to become an actor during and after college, but I wrote plays and screen plays throughout college when not writing papers. I never tried to sell any of it, but it always gave me a lot of pleasure. After some dismal days in the accounting world, in 2012 I was down visiting my grandmother in Arkansas, and one of my writer cousins told me she knew I could write and why not try romance writing. So I found a submission board and wrote a short story called Dear Bryan published with Ravenous Romance about a former boyfriend of mine and how I’d like to think his summer in England actually went during our senior year at university. I sent it in and was shocked to get notified it was accepted. How many authors get their first effort published?! So I was definitely hooked at that point, and I haven’t regretted a moment of this journey so far. My cousins were trying to figure out how I’d done it. It took them 3 and 4 years to get their work published intitally.

SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

BA:  I grew up reading Madeleine L’Engle and Clive Cussler novels. I have a deep appreciation for believable science fiction and the ocean, and like to find ways of putting water in my books, whether it be ocean beaches or river banks. Madeleine L’Engle also turned me on to stories about time and space travel. Because of her I became an avid Doctor Who fan!

SJT:  What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

BA:  I’ve been very lucky to be able to ask my romance writer cousins many questions as situations come up. The biggest piece of advice is don’t be afraid of your editor. They are there to strengthen your story, but if you don’t agree with the edit, be willing to say hey, the reason I wrote it that way was this. It is a collaborative process, and most editors are not my-way-or-the-highway kind of folks.

SJT:  When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

BA:  Oh my goodness, I’m mostly a panster. I might start out with a plot outline, but something will come to mind as I’m writing and change the whole direction of the story. I also tend to write the end first and work my way backwards. It is a bizarre way to write, and I find the filling in the middle is not easy. My current three book series started out as a short story about a blind date. Then I got the idea the main character might be in trouble and the whole series took off from there.

SJT:  Tell us about your latest release.

TheBastardsKey_333x500 (2)BA:  This spring I’ll have my first novel release thanks to Muse It Hot. It is called The Bastard’s Key, and it is book one of the three-book The Golden Scepter Series. My hero Heath Firestone becomes targeted for death by an assassin who is out to annihilate his entire family. Fortunately his blind date set up by his co-worker Violet turns out to be Anton Barrett, international crime fighter. It comes out in the course of the book Heath is descended from a bastard son of the Hapsburg royal family, and his line inherited large portions of the crown jewels hidden by his ancestors. He skirts death many times, barely escaping from an exploding train, missed by a sniper’s bullet, escapes from an avalanche, and that’s only the first part of the story. His journey takes him from Seattle to Paris, then on the Orient Express to Salzburg and on to Vienna before he really knows what’s going on. The final clue is unlocked by the key his mother game him and told him to guard with his life.

SJT:  Judging by your education, you have an interest in history. Are there any particular eras or historic periods that fascinate you, and has this influenced your writing?

I love the Victoria and Edwardian Periods in British history. The concept of a “Grand Tour” undertaken by many of the British blue bloods during that period definitely influences my writing. My favorite of the short stories I’ve written was for Rob Rosen’s Men of the Manor anthology with Cleis Press. The story is Seducing the Footman, and I have plans to continue their story. I’ve also studied a bit of Viking history and will have short story coming out likely next year with Cleis Press set in Viking times set on the Orkney Islands.

SJT:  I understand that there are three romance writers amongst your group of five first cousins. Why do you think there are so many romance writers in this generation of your family?

BA:  Honestly, I think it’s in our genes. Our great grandmother was extremely talented: master storyteller, singer, letter writer, artist, amazing cook, and musician. Many of our cousins have some sort of talent, but our grandmother, who is also a master storyteller like her mother, had three of her five grandchildren as writers. The girls, Delilah Devlin and Elle James, got me started in romance writing. When I told Elle I’d gotten my first story published, she smiled and said, “Welcome to the dark side!”

SJT:  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I am an actor, singer, and dancer, and I love being on stage. So far of all the roles I’ve had, my favorite by far was being Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I also enjoy genealogical research and gardening, but my number one passion hands down is world travel. I love to visit new places and soak in the culture around me. I post my travels on my Twitter account @brentarcherwrit.

SJT:  Since my amateur sleuth is an actress, singer and dancer, I may well be coming to you with research questions at some point in the future! What’s next for you, writing-wise?

BA:  I have three novels plotted out just waiting for me to finish up with The Golden Scepter series, and I’m nearly finished with the last story. The first of the new ideas is a continuation of my Muse It Hot short story Halfway Out of the Dark, but it is set at the end of WWIII and its immediate aftermath. The second is a period piece based on a story my grandmother told me about her home town in rural Montana. It is a bit of a murder mystery / wild western set about 1910. And the third is a piece inspired by a ramshackle Victorian house in Alameda, California. My happy couple is going to buy the house, but discover that home rehabilitation will strain their relationship and we’ll see if they can stay together long enough to finish the house.


Brent Archer smaller (2)Brent Archer was born in Spokane, Washington, and lived there most of his adolescent life. At 18, he left for Seattle to attend the University of Washington for Electrical Engineering. Quickly, it became apparent that he hated his science classes, and so he switched his major to International Studies with a minor in history. After graduation, he got several accounting jobs as he pursued an acting career in musical theater and dance. Once thirty hit, however, he decided to focus on numbers, getting a certificate in accounting, and became the Financial Controller of a non-profit arts and music organization.

Though writing most of his life, he never thought to submit his work for publication. In 2012, he visited his cousin Delilah Devlin in Arkansas and she prodded him to write a story and submit it. So, he did and it sold right away. With the encouragement of Delilah, his other writing cousin Elle James, and his husband, Brent left his stressful job and embarked on a writing career. He’s loving the journey, finding inspiration and a story everywhere he goes, whether it be the local coffee shop, driving through the U.S., or riding the train exploring the world.

He is published with Ravenous Romance, House of Erotica, Cleis Press, and Muse It Hot.

Learn more about Brent by visiting his website, and at his author page at MuseItHot. You can also follow him on Twitter.


Monday’s Friend: SS Hampton, Sr

I’m pleased to welcome Stan Hampton back to the blog for his second appearance this year.  His new book, SHARING RACHEL, an erotic romance, is rather different to his last release. Let’s find out more about it.

SJT:  Your new novel is a bit of a departure from your previous work. How did the concept come about?

SH:  Yes, SHARING RACHEL is different from my first story, BETTER THAN A RABBIT’S FOOT, both from MuseItUp Publishing (MIU). During research for my writings (horror, fantasy, science fiction, erotica, and military fiction) I often come across information that I think would make a good foundation for a story. SHARING RACHEL is the first contemporary erotic romance novel that I have written, and that is a far cry from my previous MIU writing, BETTER THAN A RABBIT’S FOOT, which is a military short story. One thing about writing that I do not care for is the necessary evil: editing. Editing a novel is more time consuming and requires even more attention to detail than a short story.

Sharing Rachel coverSJT:  When is SHARING RACHEL released, and where can we find it?

SH:  The novel will be released before the end of 2014, and it can be found in the MuseItHOT bookstore of my publisher, MuseItUp Publishing.

SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

SH:  Various influences, fiction and non-fiction authors. They include Frederick Forsyth (The Odessa File, The Dogs of War), Jean Larteguy (The Centurions, The Praetorians), James Michener (Centennial), and those whose works are too many to mention, HP Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Cornelius Ryan, and Bernard B. Fall.

SJT:  What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

SH:  Recognize and understand the importance of marketing and public relations. More and more unless you are a successful big name writer, getting the word out about yourself and your writing has become the writer’s responsibility. The various small publishers help to a certain extent, depending on the publisher, but first and foremost, it is on the writer’s shoulders. In some ways this has become more important than the actual writing.

SJT:  Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?

SH:  No. Fictional characters in different times or places were never based on anyone I knew, just because. Fictional characters represented in current military fiction—stories taking place during the Global War On Terrorism—will not represent anyone I know. It may sound a little superstitious, but though I may add a trait or two from various people I know, no character is based on a real person. If I write that a character is killed or crippled in combat, I would feel like I had cursed the real person to such a fate. And I know plenty of people who still serve, and will serve overseas in a combat zone. So, no.

SJT:  When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

SH:  I would have to say more of a “framework planner.” I start out with an outline and characters, but as my story progresses I will readjust as necessary. Sometimes a story (or even a character) needs to progress in a different direction than I had planned. I learned a long time ago (though I do not always pay attention, usually to my regret) to listen to my “gut feeling.”

SJT:  Have you got any works in progress on the go?

SH:  Plenty of story/novel ideas and outlines with research—the problem is I cannot make my mind up as to which one to start on. Additionally, I am still unpacking from my move, and recovering from the financial devastation visited upon me because of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service sitting on the 3-months military retirement backpay I was owed. I could start on the second sequel to SHARING RACHEL (the first sequel has been submitted, but no word of acceptance or rejection yet). There is a story about a haunted German Tiger tank in North Africa during World War II; a science fiction writing that asks what makes a man “great” in the eyes of others; an “alternate history” or perhaps fantasy visit to the Crusades, and more stories about the Global War On Terrorism, most being military-supernatural based (one of my favourite combinations).

SJT:  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

SH:  Have a beer or Smirnoff Ice Screwdriver, watch Netflix or YouTube, and listen to music. Sometimes I meet a friend or two for drinks and dinner. After I have my 16-year old car looked over and worked on (very reliable foreign made car), go for drives and listen to music while exploring what lies over the horizon, around that bend in the road, or at the end of the old, narrow Las Vegas street—all of which are useful for scouting locations for my photography. Okay, add some painting and drawing. And, that’s about it.


Sometimes people choose to live life to the fullest…

Burt and Rachel Markham are ordinary small business owners of a seed & feed store in a small Kansas farming and ranching community. Many years before, as young university graduates eagerly anticipating exciting overseas employment, a lifetime in Kansas was the furthest thing from their minds, particularly Rachel who was raised overseas and dreamed of going back. By July 2013 their twin 18-year old daughters, having graduated high school several months before, go east to attend a university. Burt and Rachel settle into their new life of an empty house and a predictable and unchanging routine that threatens to stretch far into the future. One summer evening Burt has an idea—but will Rachel accept the idea? If she does, will the idea add new excitement to their marriage, or destroy it?


She stood and grasped his hand. “It’s a little windy out, but it looks like there’s only a slight drizzle. We won’t get too wet walking home.”

Burt glanced at the steaming dancers again and smiled. “It’s been a long time since we walked in the rain.”

“It has been,” she said and leaned against him.

“I always liked walking in the rain. A light rain that is. A slight drizzle is better.” They stepped into the cool twilight. “Anyway, when your blouse is soaked your nipples really stand out.”

“Oh God,” Rachel giggled. Silent lightning lit the wet road as if showing the way home.

Burt slipped his arms around her and kissed her cheek.

“Hi,” he whispered in her ear. She responded with a little sigh and reached back to place her hands on his hips.

The greeting was their signal when in public that one or the other was horny. They began whispering “hi” to each other shortly after they became lovers; now they also whispered it after he slipped into her or when she seated herself on him and they were looking into each other’s eyes.

The storms passed and the humid summer heat returned. The feed store remained busy. The trains rumbled past Four Corners, past their home, as they had done for the past two decades. Burt always thought that the late night train whistle that echoed across the moonlit prairie was one of the loneliest sounds he ever heard.

One night during their dinner walk they passed by the dark school. Rachel paused and stared at the small wooden building. Twinkling fireflies floated through the schoolyard.

“Are you going to volunteer this year?” he asked. Classes would start in a few days.

She was silent for a few moments before shaking her head. “No. I enjoyed being a volunteer teacher’s aide, but with the girls gone…” Her voice trailed into silence. “It wouldn’t be the same.”

Burt brushed her long hair away from her face. “What about soccer?”

“They asked me and I said I’d help on special occasions, like the end of season awards banquet.” She folded her arms around herself as if she were cold, though a warm breeze blew across the moonlit prairie. “But otherwise, no.”

“It wouldn’t be the same?”

“Jah, jah,” she whispered.

“Well, okay. I mean, there’s been a big change in our lives, but it doesn’t have to mean cutting most ties.”

When they returned to the farmhouse Rachel announced she was going for a swim. She poured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc for herself and picked up a CD player. She usually listened to classical music, waltzes, and operas when floating in the pool. There was a chakra wind chime hanging near the pool for the times when she felt like floating in near silence except for the chimes and the sound of the prairie wind.

A few moments later Burt followed with beer in hand. Maggie trotted behind him, rawhide bone in her jaws. Classical music floated through the night; fireflies played hide and seek among the neatly trimmed hedges along the perimeter of the yard. Others drifted in and out of the nearby cornfield, while the insects of the night droned on in disharmony.

He saw Rachel drop a dark robe to her feet. In the silvery light of the moon her nude fleshy form had a ghostly white sheen to it. She glanced over her shoulder, flashed a lusty smile at him, and dove into the pool. He stood by the edge of the pool and watched her gliding beneath the sparkling moonlit water. Then she surfaced, rolled and floated on her back with closed eyes. A pair of fireflies circled above her face.

It was the second time she was skinny dipping. It was like she was shedding the older, busy exterior of motherhood so that her younger carefree personality could reassert itself.

He sipped his beer and watched her face with Bettie Page bangs plastered to her forehead, surrounded by a fan of long hair and the glimmering water. She looked so content.

A thought was born.

A surprising thought.

A thought he never entertained before about his wife of 21 years—and the mother of his children. He walked unsteadily to a wooden chair with thick cushions and sat down heavily. He gulped his beer. A warm breeze flowed through the night; the trees rustled and the field of corn swayed like watery currents. Fireflies sailed past him.

“Dammit,” Burt whispered to himself in disbelief…disbelief and excitement. And trepidation. What would her reaction be? What would she say? Could he even find a way to suggest it?


He returned to the poolside. Her eyes were open. Moonlit water droplets on her beautiful face sparkled like tiny diamonds.

The thought wouldn’t let go. It took root…

SHARING RACHEL will be available from the MuseItUp hot bookstore later this year.



Author Bio:

Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).

After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.

SS Hampton can be found at:

Melange Books
Musa Publishing
MuseItUp Publishing
Amazon UK
Goodreads Author Page

Monday’s Friend: Mary Waibel

Today my guest blogger is fellow MuseItUp author Mary Waibel to the blog, to talk about one of her favourite subjects – romance. Welcome, Mary!

Romantic at Heart
By Mary Waibel

Sara-Jayne, thank you so much for letting me come and visit with you on your blog to talk about romance.

Mary Waibel 1I’m a romantic at heart. No matter what I read, I want a touch of hearts and flowers, sweet kisses, and romantic evenings under the stars. Even in my fairy tales, I’m enchanted by a prince waking a princess with a kiss, or two strangers dancing at a ball, and then falling in love and living happily-ever-after.

Mary Waibel 2A heated glance across a crowded room, the touch of a hand, a special endearment. Watching all these things play out as the hero and heroine fall deeper in love keeps me turning pages well into the night, my heart fluttering in anticipation of the time they confess their love.

Last week I released a new novella on the world, a Cinderella retelling titled The Mystery Prince. Fascinated with fairy tales, I decided to take this familiar tale and twist it a bit, hoping my love of romance shines through in this tale.

The Mystery Prince, a novella

Mary Waibel 3

Cover by C K Volnek

Book Blurb:

Tristan enjoys being in the shadows as Prince Rand’s bodyguard. Similar in looks, the two often exchanged places in their youth, but he never expected the king to order him to impersonate the heir to the throne in order to win the hand of a princess.

Princess Zoe needs to find a husband. After a year of searching with no success, her father insists on hosting a masquerade ball for the eligible princes of the nine kingdoms. Not one prince piques her interest, until she meets the mysterious stranger who won’t tell her his name.

When Tristan meets Zoe he finds the girl of his dreams. The only problem? She’s a princess and he’s impersonating a prince―a crime punishable by imprisonment and floggings. Unable to tell Zoe his real name, he gives her a special navigation device. One that leads to the owner’s true love. Will this magic device lead Zoe to Tristan, or will her true love forever remain a mystery prince?

Buy Link:

Author Bio:

Author Photo- Mary WaibelMary lives with her husband, son and two cats. When she isn’t twisting fairytales, she enjoys reading, playing games, watching hockey, and camping. Her Princess of Valendria series (Quest of the Hart, Charmed Memories, Different Kind of Knight) are available from MuseItUp Publishing and other major retailers. Her novella, The Mystery Prince, is available at Amazon. Her Faery Marked (book 1 in the Faery Series) will be available from BookFishBooks this summer.

You can find Mary Waibel at:

Monday’s Friend: Susan A Royal

Today I’m doing a blog swap with fellow MuseItUp author Susan A Royal.  So she’s chatting to me here on my blog, and I’m reciprocating over on hers (do go there when you’re finished here!).  Welcome, Susan!

SJT:  When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

SAR:  It’s really funny. I don’t think I ever really spent much time thinking about it. I’ve just had this compulsion to put my thoughts down on paper ever since I was a child. I even have my first attempt at writing. It’s and written on notebook paper and bound with a red ribbon. I even illustrated it. I think I was about five or six at the time.

I have this long-time love affair with words and how they can be woven into stories that spark the imagination.

SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

SAR:  Ray Bradbury painted pictures with words. I yearned to live in his fictitious Greentown, Illinois. Mary Stewart’s Merlin series created ‘real’ characters living in the middle ages, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series made time travel very believable, Susanna Kearsley has the ability to engulf the reader in a love story, and Maggie Stiefvater has a unique talent for reminding the reader what it’s like to be young. They are all my inspirations.

SJT:  What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

SAR:  Write, edit, submit, learn about the craft, join a critique group, rewrite, edit, learn some more and never EVER give up.

SJT:  When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

SAR:  Most of the time I’m a fairly organized person. I have lists and goals. I have schedules. You would think I’d be the same way about writing, wouldn’t you? Nope. I try. I start out doing research to get the setting. I gather ideas. I even write an outline. But somewhere along the line, the story will veer off the tracks when one of my characters decides she/he doesn’t like what I planned and goes off in an entirely different direction. What can I say?

SJT:  Tell us about your new release.

SAR:  FROM NOW ON is a time travel adventure with romance and is the stand alone companion to Not Long Ago, the story of how Erin’s travel to a medieval world where she meets Sir Griffin, her ‘knight in shining armor’

FromNowOn_200x300Griffin has traveled across centuries to reunite with the woman he loves, but he and Erin may not get their ‘happy ever after’. Not if Lady Isobeil has anything to do with it. She forces Griffin to leave Erin behind and travel to eerie Manx Island. When he goes missing, Erin and his friends set out to find him. Followed by his strong-willed sister, Kateryn, they ride to Swansea and secure passage with the notorious Captain Akin.

Erin sees firsthand how the island earned its dark reputation when she battles freakish weather, encounters a race of little people known as “Prowlies”, and experiences ghosts of the long departed. She discovers “ley lines” crossing the island’s mountain peak and making time travel possible.

Yet these obstacles pale in comparison to the secrets Erin uncovers while determined to rescue the man she loves.


I am a stranger in this world, even though I’ve traveled this way before.

Fate and not design brought me the first time. It hurled me into a distant future, with no idea how or why, taking me from an existence dependent upon modern technology to a place where people fear such things and those who use them. While searching for my way home from this harsh and sometimes violent world, my admiration for its inhabitants who valued honor and duty above all else grew into admiration and respect. I found myself drawn to one in particular, a man who saved me more than once. Only I never expected to fall in love with him.

Torn between my feelings and a longing for home, I returned to my time with only vague memories of my experience. My life went back to normal, but part of me sensed the loss of something more precious than anything I’d regained. Until one day, I saw him again.

This time I’ve come by choice, and it is where I’m going to stay.

Fate willing.

SJT:  Your bio says you live in a house with a ghost. Has this inspired you to put ghosts in your stories?

SAR:  I love ghost stories, don’t you? The unexplained always gives me goose bumps and the circumstances that make them come about are sometimes even creepier. I do have a ghost in FROM NOW ON. It takes place in an abandoned church on Manx Island and is the story of Moirrey and why she haunts the graveyard there.

SJT:  Yes, I love a good creepy ghost story too! Your time travel romance series must have required a great deal of research. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done in the name of research?

SAR:  Nothing weird, not that I can remember. But I do a lot of research because I don’t want my reader to find something that takes them out of the story because it’s inaccurate or misleading. I’ve researched details about medieval fashion, wedding customs, the food and how it’s prepared, what a squire is required to do, what a seneschal does, common phrases and religion. In From Now On, I did research on ley lines, legends, the Isle of Man, radar and hand-held explosives. Above all, I want my story to be believable and in order to do that, I have to do my research.

SJT:  You were born and raised in Texas, but your latest novel takes your characters to the British Isles. Is it the location, the history or the mythology that attracts you to this part of the world?

SAR:  How about all of the above? I love reading about medieval times. There’s something about imagining what it was like, living then. It boggles the mind. I love history. Reading about the people, their customs and how they lived. It’s fascinating.

SJT:  What’s next for you writing-wise?

SAR:  I’m in the final stages of a young adult fantasy titled XANDER AND THE MISSING PRINCESS. Xander is a little person and former constable of Battington, who comes out of retirement to investigate the disappearance of Princess Mena. Rumors of romantic entanglements lead him in circles, trying to discover what happened. For one thing, there’s the love potion she bought from the apothecary. Who was it for? As if all that isn’t bad enough, Xander has to deal with secrets, half-truths and outright lies.

SJT:  Thank you for stopping by, Susan!

You can buy all of Susan’s books from the MuseItUp book store, and find out more about her writing from her website and her blog.

Monday’s Friend: Margaret Fieland

Today I am pleased to have fellow MuseItUp author Margaret Fieland as my guest. Welcome, Margaret!

SJT:  When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

MargaretFielandMF:  LOL, I never realized I was destined to be a writer – I fell into it. I’d written poetry for years, collecting it in notebooks stacked in my attic when I wrote one I wanted to keep. This led me to several online sites and ultimately to discovering the Muse Online Writers Conference where I hooked up with Linda Barnett Johnson and joined her writers forums. She required everyone to write both fiction and poetry, so, with much trepidation, I started writing fiction. Then I got hooked on it, wrote a chapter book, took the ICL course and actually learned how to write it. Then in 2010, I was seized by a desire to write a sci fi novel, so I spent six weeks or so on world building, mostly, with a bit of plotting thrown in for good measure.

SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

MF:  I’m a way-back sci-fi fan, and Robert A. Heinlein influenced me heavily. I took a lot away from his writing, notably the value of surprising one’s reader. I also love Lewis Carroll, both his Alice books and his poetry. I can still recite several stanzas of Jabberwocky from memory. Isaac Asimov and James M. Barrie are also early influences.

SJT:  What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

MF:  Don’t let your vision of yourself as a writer be limited. I never, other than for English class, wrote a word of fiction before I joined Linda’s writing forums. It simply never occurred to me that I could – or that I wanted to. A clear failure of imagination.

SJT:  You bio says you read a lot of science fiction aimed at boys when you were growing up. There is a myth out there that science fiction is written by, and for, men. Do you think any progress has been made in the last few years about raising public awareness that women write, and read, science fiction?

MF:  Well, there is certainly lots more sci fi written by women now-a-days, and I do believe more women are reading the genre. But there were actually women sci fi writers when I was growing up – Andre Norton and C.L. Moore, to name a couple. Do notice, however, the androgynous names. Things have indeed improved a bit since then. But I do believe that sci fi is viewed as a largely male preserve, just like, sadly, computer software engineering.

SJT:  Where do think the human race will be a hundred years from now – utopia, dystopia, or the same place we are now?

MF:  About the same place we are now, truthfully. However, from a writers’ point of view, this is probably the least interesting alternative {grin}, so my writing certainly won’t reflect this rather mundane view of our future. As a writer, predicting disaster of one kind or another is a much more fruitful source. In my Aleyne novels, the backstory includes a collapse of technology here on Earth in about 100 years, due to riots that brought down the government and destroyed infrastructure.

SJT:  Tell us about your latest release.

Geek GamesMF:  The latest release was Geek Games, which is actually the second Aleyne novel, in terms of chronology. It features a fourteen-year-old main character, Martin Samuels, who foolishly brings down the spaceport computer network, thus enabling the terrorists to set off a bomb which kills his friend’s father. The third novel in the series, Broken Bonds, was released in July. It features Brad Reynolds, who is the Major in charge of the Federation Guard base on Aleyne. It takes place roughly four years after Geek Games.

SJT:  What are you working on at present?
I’m finishing up the fourth book in the series. It’s another adult novel, a sci fi action-adventure romance, and the main character is Colonel Robert Walker, the man who (spoiler) arrests Brad for treason in Broken Bonds. I’ve been calling it Rob’s Book as a working title, but I’m going to have to get busy soon and pick out a real one.

I also just started plotting out a fantasy. It takes place some unknown hundreds of years in the future where we’re experiencing another ice age. My main character and his clan are living in caves.

Author Bio:

Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. Her poems and stories have appeared in journals such as Turbulence Magazine, Front Range Review, and All Rights Reserved. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines, was published by Inkspotter Publishing in November, 2011. She is the author of Relocated, Geek Games, and Broken Bonds, published by MuseItUp Publishing, and of Sand in the Desert, a collection of science fiction persona poems. A chapter book is due out later this year.

Find Margaret online at the following links:


brokenbonds_200X300Blurb for BROKEN BONDS

Sex with aliens? How about romance with aliens? A treason accusation? Brad Reynolds has his hands full. When Major Brad Reynolds is assigned to head the Terran Federation base on planet Aleyne, the last thing he expects to find is love, and certainly not with one of the alien Aleyni. How can he keep his lover, in the face of political maneuvering and of Ardaval’s feelings for his former partners — and theirs for him?

Buy Links:

Publisher’s website
Barnes and Noble


When fourteen-year-old Martin lets Tom, a charismatic bully, persuade him to bring down the spaceport computer network, he never considers someone will place a bomb resulting in the death of his friend’s father. Nothing will bring Captain Frey back, but if Martin can help locate the terrorists’ drug lab, perhaps he’ll be able to forgive himself.

Buy links:

Publisher’s website


Monday’s Friend: Gemma Brocato

Today I’m pleased to welcome romance writer Gemma Brocato to the blog, promoting her new book COOKING UP ROMANCE. Welcome, Gemma!

A Love of Reading
By Gemma Brocato

Thanks for hosting me today Sara. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Gemma BrocatoIt’s possible that I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I remember a paper I wrote in fifth grade. It was springtime in the Midwest, which meant the weather was cool and often rainy. I wrote about how I loved the way the newly budded trees stood out against a stark gray sky, highlighted by the sun as it peeked out once the storm had passed. My paper came back with a comment from the teacher that I had a gift for description. However, I received a bad mark on the report, because I was supposed to write the building of the Panama Canal. Oops!

Even as long ago as the fifth grade, I’ve loved to read. I cut my teeth on Dick and Jane books, admiring their adventures, feeling bad about the trouble they occasionally got into. I think I wanted to name our first dog Spot.

By the time I was in third grade, I was checking out Nancy Drew Mysteries from the school library, then moved on to the You Were There Series (anyone remember Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys?). In junior high school, I’d moved on to Georgette Heyer and found I was spoiled for anything except sweet romance stories.

By the time I hit college, I forced myself to expand my horizons by vowing to read one biography for every five novels I read. I discovered Ingrid Bergman and Edith Piaf the same summer I stumbled on to Stephen King, Bram Stoker and Dean Koontz. Trust me when I say my imagination was significantly scarier than any movie produced from those books. It’s no small wonder that I switched back to reading romance novels when my mother let me read her copy of Ashes in the Wind, by Kathleen Woodiwiss.

At that point, I was toast. My nose was constantly buried in a book, almost always a romance novel. It’s no small wonder I chose to write romance. Many exceptional authors have influenced my writing style; Johanna Lindsey, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Elizabeth Lowell, Sophie Kinsella, Nicholas Sparks, Gemma Townley, to name a few.

And I’m still reading. I love my Kindle, because when I travel, I no longer have to find room for three or four books in my suitcase. I can take the hundreds I have in my carousel. And that leaves room for me to pack extra shoes (my other passion).

Gemma’s contemporary romance COOKING UP LOVE is now available from Lyrical Press. 


Jemima George leads a charmed life as a personal chef and assistant to reality television’s latest darling. But that changes in a New York minute when her Aunt Caro dies under odd circumstances, bequeathing her a small restaurant. Jem plans to sell the café and continue her life in NYC, until a dramatic phone call from her cheating boyfriend convinces her to experiment with the ingredients for happiness and accept her Aunt’s legacy. Throwing herself into remodeling the restaurant with the help of the town’s delicious contractor, Jem revamps the menu and renews her faith in herself.

Jack Kerrigan considered Caro a surrogate mother and hates the idea that the café could be sold. He doesn’t need the remodeling project, but if it means Caro’s beautiful, fascinating niece will stay to run the restaurant, he’s all in. He wouldn’t mind being savory to Jem’s sweet.

Jack’s brassy ex-wife is cooking up a scheme of her own, where Jack tosses Jem like a salad and comes back to her. Fold in a creepy attorney hiding secrets of environmental mayhem, add Jem’s claustrophobia, half-pint niece and nephew twins, one mysterious lockbox, and bring to a boil–a recipe for romance.

A Lyrical Press Contemporary Romance

Excerpt From Cooking Up Love

Jem sighed and gestured to herself. “Look at me! Jack, I’m a mess. Suddenly, I’m living in an upside-down world. I liked my life in New York, and now I’ve willingly traded it for operating a business I have no real experience at, in a town whose entire population is roughly equivalent to the number of residents on the city block where I use to live. I don’t know anyone here, except for you. And Sam. And, I don’t know you all that well.” She folded her arms across her rib cage and gazed at the ground. “I never thought I’d be the kind of woman a man would use and cheat on. What pisses me off is how he made me feel when I ended it. Now, instead of riding into the sunset with the man I thought I’d share my life with, in the city I called home, all I’m left with is doubt.”


“I don’t trust–”

“Me?” he asked softly.

She lifted her head sharply, surprised by the hurt in his voice. How could he think that? She had more faith in him than in herself. She shook her head vehemently, eager to make him understand. “No! Me. I don’t trust me. And you don’t want that. You don’t want me.”

“As you said, you don’t know me well enough. How can you possibly know what I do or don’t want?” He stepped toward her.

She took a step back, maintaining their distance. “Let’s just say you shouldn’t want me. Wanting me comes complete with my neuroses. I hate small spaces and feeling like I’m trapped. I’m ‘freakishly’ tall–Phil’s words, not mine, built more like a boy than a woman worth touching. I no longer trust myself when it comes to making relationship decisions. Honestly, I don’t know when or if I ever will. For now, we should just stick to business. It’s safer for me. It’s safer for everyone.”

Panic clouded her vision and she wished her words back in her mouth. God, what was she doing? Was she really pushing away this wonderful, charming and sinfully gorgeous man? Shivers raced through her at the knowledge that she might be more damaged than she thought.

Her regret about her feelings had to be obvious, but she prayed the resolve she felt was as unmistakable. Phil’s infidelity and harsh words had shaken her normal self-confidence. She hadn’t lied when she told Jack she didn’t trust herself.

She dragged her eyes away from his and whispered, “You should be grateful. Hell, you should be running out the door, thanking the gods you escaped involvement with someone as messed up as me. I’m not going to change my mind. Please make this easy on both of us, Jack. Walk away.”

His challenging look told her he thought she was wrong; his grip on the kitchen chair in front of him turned his knuckles white. Looking across the barrier of the table, determination clearly readable in the set of his lips and tension in his shoulders, Jem knew she hadn’t convinced him.

He glanced away and rolled his shoulders. “Everyone has issues to deal with, Jem. I’ve found it’s easier if you share with someone, and deal with them together. As far as Phil’s ridiculous judgment that you’re too tall and built like a boy, the man’s a douchebag. I say we fit. You fit perfectly in my arms. I’ve never been attracted to any boy the way I’m attracted to you.”

He laughed. “Yeah, that didn’t come out quite the way I meant it. I can be whatever you need me to be: contractor, friend…lover, I hope. When you get to know me better, you’ll know how patient, how determined I can be.” He closed his toolbox and pulled on his jacket as he spoke. “For now, I’ll settle for business associate, and hopefully, friend. I don’t know you, but I like you. And this might be an understatement, but I’m attracted to you. More than attracted.” He glanced over his shoulder at her a last time as he walked through the kitchen door. “And this, between us, this attraction…this heat? It’s a long way from over.”

Author Bio

Gemma’s favorite desk accessories for many years were a circular wooden token, better known as a ’round tuit,’ and a fortune from a fortune cookie that said she was a lover of words; some day she’d write a book. All it took was a transfer to the United Kingdom, the lovely English springtime, and a huge dose of homesickness to write her first novel. Once it was completed and sent off with a kiss even the rejections, addressed to ‘Dear Author’, were gratifying.

After returning to America, she spent a number of years as a copywriter, dedicating her skills to making insurance and the agents who sell them sound sexy. Eventually, her full-time job as a writer interfered with her desire to be a writer full-time and she left the world of financial products behind to pursue an avocation as a romance author.

Her gamble paid off when she was a 2012 Finalist in the prestigious Golden Pen contest for Romantic Suspense and she received contracts for her first and second book.

Connect with Gemma on Facebook, Twitter, @gemmabrocato or on the web at

Buy Links



Barnes and Noble


Monday’s Friend: Rie Warren

Today I’m interviewing romance writer Rie Warren. Welcome, Rie!

SJT:  When did you realise you were destined to be a writer?

RW:  I started dabbling with erotic poetry in college—which came as quite a surprise to my college professor, lol! I became more serious about writing in the mid-nineties when I was living in England and on a visa restriction that didn’t allow me to work for six months. After buying my first computer—a ridiculously huge Apple Mac—I spent the next four months writing my first novel. It’s around here somewhere…

 SJT:  You have a degree in Fine Art, but now you write instead of paint.  What do you think are the differences and similarities in these two forms of artistic expression?

 RW:  I believe the similarities stretch to all of the arts and include the ability to visualize a scene and to create that vision so others may view it no matter what medium you use. The difference for me is in the medium. I stopped painting and took up writing because I was no longer able to create the picture I wanted with brushstrokes and paint. The end product stopped matching what I had in my head. Words became easier to manipulate, and even when they took on a life of their own, they inspired awesome new events or plot twists.

 SJT:  Are you a meticulous plotter or a seat-of-the-pantser?

RW:  I’m a meticulous combination of both *wink*. I loosely plot all the chapters first, and I usually already have quite a few snippets of dialogue, scene placement, important events scribbled down that I slot into specific chapters. Now, once I start writing, I do stick basically to my script but as I mentioned above, there’s always a shocking surprise or two that happens during writing! I love those moments. I’d say there’s always a structure to my stories and amid that, there’s an organic flow of creative juices.

 SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

RW:  This is a tough one. I don’t aspire to be the next ‘such-and-such’ author, but I do pay very close attention when I read a book, studying plot and pacing, world building, hero vs. heroine characterization, and I’m a sucker for kick-ass verbs! I read across a lot of genres…as a writer I think that brings a layer of richness to my own work.

in his comman revise--COVER FINAL FINALSJT:  Tell us about your new release, IN HIS COMMAND.  What’s the story behind this story?

RW:  IN HIS COMMAND is the ultimate forbidden love story! In the dystopian future where homosexuality and deviant sexual behaviors are outlawed, two men are thrown together when a revolution rips through their city. They are forced on a month-long trek to a secure outpost, fighting sabotage, secrecy, and intense attraction for one another along the way.

The story behind the story is pretty simple (you know, once I pare it down, shave it back, and pretend I didn’t angst for months and months over it *grins*). I’ve always been in love with the dystopian genre…and m/m stories. After my year-long phase reading The Hunger Games, etc., I decided to write my futuristic series, but make it for adults. The oppressive regime I created was a direct offshoot of this being a m/m novel, and once I had that in the bag, the characters, the worlds, the intense scenes and high stakes love story all started speaking to me. In fact, they wouldn’t shut up!

The second book—ON HER WATCH–is already complete, with my editor at Forever Yours, and will be released in April, 2014.

 SJT:  As an American girl with a British husband, it seems you’ve got a bit of an international household.  What cultural differences have stood out for you in your travels?

RW:  Easy things to point out are: Americans like it bigger ;). We like our huge appliances, cars, and meals. True story. One difference I really loved about living abroad was the ease of travel without having to own a car. I walked everywhere (part of that was sheer terror at the idea of driving on the wrong side of the vehicle on the wrong side of the road, not gonna lie). And when I wanted to travel, I just hopped a bus or train!

I read a recent update from a friend traveling in Europe, saying, ‘Why don’t they have ice? Why do they drink everything lukewarm?’ Ha, ha, ha, I thought that was really funny. But, of course, if you live anywhere long enough, these little quirks become entirely normal. Except for the weather. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t handle the rain after several non-stop years of it. I need the sun to function.

 SJT:  We don’t like it much either – there is a reason why it is a British tradition to complain about the weather!  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

RW:  Sleep! Sleep, sleep, and more zzzzzz…… I love to read, and I really love getting hooked into a fantastic series. Newest guilty pleasure: I can’t stop watching Hell on Wheels on amc. Just do yourself a favor and go Google Anson Mount/Cullen Bohannon, then come talk to me about him.

Thanks so much for having me today, Sara-Jayne! I had a blast and I’ll be around to reply to any comments.


 Find Rie on SOCIAL MEDIA: