I’m delighted to be taking part in the virtual book tour for Haunted Laird by Tara Nina. This is the fourth book in the Cursed MacKinnons series.

Lynn is ghost-hunting in Scotland when she’s kidnapped by some men rambling on about curses and a brotherhood. During her escape attempt, she falls over a cliff and when she comes to she’s in a cave being guarded by a ghost, who insists she’s the key to freeing a man who has been cast in stone by an evil curse.

And what a man he is!

Padon has been imprisoned in stone for 200 years. He’s still stone in the daytime but all man at night. He and Lynn make the trek to Padon’s family castle to try and free him from the curse. But with the kidnappers in pursuit it’s not going to be an easy trip …

Enjoy reading the first chapter of this exciting, sensual book.

Chapter 1
By the time they finally took a break, Lynn had heard enough. The three men bickered worse than a group of old women sitting around with nothing to do but complain about what ailed them. She still couldn’t believe one of them was Fin, Travis’ partner at MacShain’s Guided Tours. The tour company she’d employed to explore the greatest haunted locations in Scotland. If she’d known one of them was a kidnapper, she never would have joined their group.

Travis! Where was Travis? He’d completely slipped her mind. What had they done with him? It made her stomach churn not knowing if her friend were dead or alive. Though she’d listened closely to every word they’d said, they never mentioned what happened to him. And she had been so intent on fighting them when they took her captive, she hadn’t noticed if he lay unconscious or in a pool of blood at their campsite.

She fidgeted but couldn’t move much being they’d tied her hands and feet, then secured her to a makeshift litter with the sleeping bag from her tent that they wrapped thick tape around until she was wedged tight. All she could think when she looked at the contraption they had her in was one word. Papoose. She was being hauled up a mountain in a giant papoose. They’d covered her mouth with a piece of the same tape so she couldn’t scream. Though she tired, she couldn’t push it off with her tongue or wiggle her lips enough to loosen it.

So she resolved herself to lie there, listen, and reserve her strength. They were bound to make a mistake and when they did, she planned to use it to her advantage and escape.

Fin had hidden his face at the campsite she shared with Travis, by keeping his hood tucked low over his head so she didn’t get a good look at him then. Now he didn’t even try to hide from her as she glared at him while he carried the foot end of her prison. The other two, named Lonnie and Timothy, she couldn’t see well from her position. One of them was at the head end of the litter while the other apparently led the way. From what she’d overheard, she was beginning to piece together some of what they were up to, but still didn’t understand why it involved kidnapping her.

What did they want with an American from Texas?

If they planned to ransom her off, the joke was on them. Her family wasn’t rich. The only surviving blood-related member was her sister, who was married to a small town pharmacist and they had a set of triplets. Definitely no money left there. Absently she shook her head. As to her, when Eddie died, he left her comfortable but not extremely wealthy by any means. If she lived frugally, which she did, the money would last for years. So as far as exchanging her for money, they were out of luck, but she didn’t think they had taken her for money. There was this one thing they spoke of several times.

Who or what was this brotherhood they mentioned?

Lynn inhaled deeply through her nose. Apparently this brotherhood wanted something they were willing to pay steeply to obtain and didn’t care what methods were taken to get it. But these guys were out of their minds if they thought she had anything of worth for this brotherhood. She doubted it was her they wanted. It sounded like something was hidden somewhere on this mountain. If they thought she knew where it was, they were crazy.

Unless… She scrolled through everything she’d learned so far. What if they were after something in the cave Travis was taking her to visit? Had they captured her as a trade-off for the cave’s location? Did they think that particular cave held whatever it was they were looking for? Did they think Travis shared the coordinates with her and she’d be able to lead them there? Questions tumbled through her head as she swallowed the lump of growing fear in her throat. She didn’t know anything. She closed her eyes, wishing she’d never taken Travis’ offer to introduce her to a ghost.

She lay there reliving the conversation she’d had with Travis several nights earlier. She must have looked like the biggest sucker going sitting across the table from Travis at a pub after their tour of the underground vaults. Lynn inwardly reprimanded herself for hanging on to his every word as he’d shared his tale of a night he’d spent in a cave with an ancient Scotsman’s specter. Travis claimed he would take her there and she’d be able to communicate with a ghost. The one thing she had yet to achieve in all her years of seeing apparitions was actually speaking with the dead and somehow he’d figured that out and used it against her.

Had he noticed her reactions to the lingering souls wandering the vaults? There had been so many, she felt certain she hadn’t been able to suppress her excitement from her facial expressions. Had he read her desires and played her for a fool? Throughout the tour, she’d noticed Travis seemed to watch her more intently than any of the others. At the pub, he’d explained he’d been waiting for the right person with which to share his spiritual find. She’d fallen for it completely and even did her best to assure him she was the one he needed, a true believer in everything paranormal.

Was he somehow a part of this whole kidnapping ploy? Lynn shivered inwardly. She hadn’t thought of that before. Was Travis not really her friend but an instigator in this ruse to capture an American? She couldn’t think straight as ideas of subterfuge and dastardly deeds tormented her thoughts. No! She refused to believe ill of Travis. He was innocent in this whole scenario.

Damn! The predicament she’d managed to get herself into all in the name of ghost chasing. This addiction of hers was finally going to get her killed.

“Lonnie,” Timothy griped, loudly. Lynn stirred from her musings and concentrated on their conversation, hoping for a thread of information she could use in her favor. “We need a break. Carrying this chick up the mountain isn’t easy.”

“Yeah,” Fin chimed in, “when’s your turn ta help carry her?”

“Quit your grousing,” Lonnie snapped. “We don’t have much farther and we’ll be at the campsite.”

“This better be worth it,” Fin stated heatedly. “The society offered a tidy sum. How do we know this brotherhood will keep their promise? The society will pay, there’s no question there. But this brotherhood seems a bit shady ta me.”

“You’ve pointed that out before, Fin. How many times I got ta tell you?” Lonnie’s growing frustration was evident in his tone. “Me and Tim helped save Brother Leod from a fire at a club in London. He promised ta make us rich if we joined his group.”

Lynn felt the foot of the litter lower as Fin set her down. He moved to stand face to face with Lonnie, who now stood near her shoulder. It was apparent he was the one in charge of this operation. She could sense the tension between them. This was something she could use to her advantage. Fin didn’t speak much during the week of her guided tour through the haunts of Edinburgh. He’d let his partner Travis do all the tour guide stuff while he drove the bus. Now he didn’t seem to hold his tongue.

“I just find it mighty strange this Brother Leod knows so much about the clan we swore ta protect.”

We,” Lonnie screeched, leaning to within millimeters of Fin’s face. “I don’t know about you, but I took no oath. It was a fairy tale, a myth handed down from our forefathers that suckered us into believing in a curse on a clan that no longer exists.”

“It must be some truth behind it or why would so many before us stand together united?” Lynn saw Fin’s stance change as if making ready to fight. “And best o’ all, why would this newfound friend o’ yours be so interested in what the society protects? Think maybe he’s up ta no good?”

Lonnie shook as he waved his hands in the air in frustration. “I think you be backing out on us, Fin. You be in too tight with the society.” He poked Fin in the chest with his forefinger as he bellowed, “Are you with us or are you not? You might want ta be thinking about it afore you answer.” He nodded toward the side of the path that was a steep drop-off into a ravine. “Looks ta be a mighty long fall.”

Fin’s shoulders tightened and it appeared as if he reined in his anger, taking a step back. She heard his heavy exhale as he replied, “I’m in.”

“Good,” Lonnie spat back at him. “Now pick up your end and let’s get going.”

Lynn couldn’t help but wonder about Fin’s connection with these two.

Silence fell between them, which gave her time to sort through the limited details. Apparently they all belonged to some sort of society sworn to protect some nonexistent clan. Lonnie had a new friend with lots of money and a desire to own something the society protected. But what? None of them had let that slip.

Fin wouldn’t look at her. Instead his gaze seemed to glance occasionally behind him as if expecting to see someone there at any moment. Travis maybe? Momentarily a spark of hope for his safety gave her an instant of relief that Travis might be tracking them or gone for help. When Fin wasn’t looking behind, his eyes stayed straightforward and she could only imagine the hole his glare would bore through Lonnie’s back if he had such a power.

And from what she’d figured out, Timothy did whatever Lonnie told him to do. So even if Fin had changed his mind about being a part of this team, he was out-numbered. She focused on Fin. He was the weak link. Something didn’t seem right with him and this little adventure. Something she hoped she could twist in her favor when the time was right.

It was after dark when they reached the designated campsite on the ridge. Tents were already erected. It appeared as if they had set up camp before they invaded her campsite and took her captive. They set her down. Timothy stacked wood in the pit to build a fire. Fin disappeared into one of the two tents. Lonnie plopped onto a large rock beside the pit.

When Fin came out of his tent carrying a lit lantern, she tried to talk against the tape to get his attention. Though it was nothing more than a mumbled noise, he squatted beside her and sat the lantern on the ground near her head. In a low tone, he spoke to her, “I’m going ta remove the tape. If you scream, I’ll have ta put it back. You no going ta scream are you?”

Lynn shook her head and he slowly removed the tape from her mouth. She wiggled her jaw and wet her lips. It felt good to have that off her face. Now if she could just get him to unwrap the tape that bound her to the stretcher and release her arms from behind her back her shoulders would be forever grateful.

“Can you untie me please?” she asked softly, “I need to go to the bathroom.”

Fin glanced at his partners then pulled out a pocketknife and started cutting the tape. He hadn’t gotten far when Lonnie jumped up and ran over to him.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Fin didn’t stop. He continued cutting without looking up from his task. “The lass is in need o’ a bathroom break.”

Lonnie commanded, “Then she’s your responsibility. Make sure she doesn’t get away.” He turned on his heels and stomped over to the other tent and went inside.

“Real friendly guy,” Lynn stated coolly. Fin smiled at her wisecrack and the tension in the back of her neck eased. Once he freed the tape from across the sleeping bag, he lifted it off her and helped her sit upright. After cutting the tape binding her ankles, he untied the rope from around her wrists.

“You okay ta stand?”

“I think so. I’m a little stiff.”

“Here, I’ll help you,” Fin offered as he took her hands and guided her to her feet.

Lynn’s legs were fine. She wiggled her toes in her boots trying to loosen the tightness in her ankles. Rolling her shoulders and moving her fingers helped relieve the dead sensation and numbness in her arms and hands. The small of her back ached from lying on her hands balled beneath her. The only good thing from being carried up the mountain, she’d laid there listening, learning their motives and reserving her energy. As soon as the tingling quit in her arms and feet, she knew she’d be ready to make a break for it.

She took a step toward the trees when Fin cut her off. “Nay, lassie. I’ve got ta keep you from running.” He held a longer rope, which he secured around her waist.

“Really,” Lynn said with her eyebrow cocked and a hand on the rope.

“It’s either this or I hold your hand while you pee,” Fin stated point-blank. Lynn opened her mouth to protest then shut it. He was serious. He grabbed the lantern and held it out so she could see where she was going.

They walked several feet away from the tents. Fin stopped her and turned her to face him. He hung the lantern on a branch so it bathed the area in a low glow. He took hold of her hands as he spoke in a whispered tone so only she could hear.

“Listen, Lynn. Things are not as they seem. Please abide by Lonnie’s rules for now and I’ll see ta it you make it home safe.”

Lynn swallowed her excitement. She was right about Fin. He really wasn’t part of this, but somehow had gotten roped into it. Keeping her voice low and her tone even she asked, “Why are you helping them?”

“That be a question I cannot answer now.” He nodded toward the campsite. “You best be doing your business quickly or Lonnie just might come looking for us. He may not be the brightest but he does have a mean streak.”

She nodded and scooted behind the trees out of his view. Indecision warred with her insides as she relieved herself while at the same time loosening the rope. She wasn’t a liar, she really had to go but she had no intentions of missing the opportunity to escape. When she stood and secured her jeans, she turned and walked face first into a hand over her mouth and an arm around her waist.

“Don’t scream, Lynn. It’s me, Travis,” he whispered in her ear.

Fear filled her. In her panic, his words didn’t register. She bit his hand and kneed him in the family jewels. Adrenaline rushed making her run faster than she’d ever run in her life. Limbs slapped her face and left behind stinging scratches. Darkness surrounded her, only the occasional light from the stars and moon filtered through the canopy of trees. Limited line-of-sight didn’t stop her. She kept on running. Several times she tripped and miraculously she managed to stay on her feet, blindly grabbing hold of branches or trees to break her fall.

Voices echoed behind her making her push onward even though she gasped for air. Her lungs hurt. There wasn’t an uncovered patch of skin that didn’t burn from being attacked by objects in the dark. She knew if she didn’t slow down she was going to get severely injured. When she couldn’t hear the voices behind her anymore, she slowed to a stop and bent over with her hands on her knees trying to clear her head and breathe.

Wheezing in and out, she thought she was going to be sick even though her stomach was empty. Her capturers hadn’t fed her. Dizziness made her head spin, causing her to crumble to her knees. Uncontrollable tears gushed and for the first time since the whole thing started, she felt completely helpless. Sob after sob croaked from deep inside her before she finally curled into a ball on the soft forest floor.

She lay there for several minutes more, trying to calm her frazzled nerves. The sensation of warmth cocooned her, soothing her, clearing her thoughts as the faint sound of her dead husband’s voice flowed inside her head. Think, Lynn. Think. There’s got to be a way out of this. Lying on the ground won’t save you.

Lynn sat upright, dried her eyes and gathered her wits. Eddie reached out to her in her time of need just as he’d done whenever she was down or distraught over the past three years. This she knew in her heart. Whether she imagined it or not, it was his whispered words of encouragement that sparked her drive to survive and pulled her back together. He was the reason she’d come on this trip to Scotland, to fulfill their ghost hunting dreams. She’d be damned if she’d let some two-bit kidnappers ruin her life. She struggled to her feet and straightened her clothes as best as possible.

Up ahead through the trees, she thought she saw a break in the woods. Maybe there was a meadow and quite possibly a house with people who could help her. Slowly she worked her way in that direction. The sound of male voices from somewhere behind her scared her. They were still coming after her and getting closer. She dug deep for any energy she had left and ran.

The moment she cleared the tree line, the ground went out from under her. She landed on her backside and began a torturous slide, bouncing off saplings, rocks and underbrush as her speed increased. Afraid she’d break her neck if she didn’t stop, Lynn kept grabbing onto anything that would slow her descent. Several times the thin saplings she managed to grasp pulled out of the soft ground, slowing her some but not much. Digging in her heels helped, but the moist soil gave away until she hit a solid mass, a well-embedded rock that stopped her downward spiral.

Lynn came to a bone-jarring halt, leaning into the side of the mountain and praying the rock beneath her feet didn’t pull out of place. Once the dirt around her stopped shifting, she evaluated her condition. It didn’t seem as if anything was broken but it was hard to tell through the total body numbness. Breathing deep, she calmed her overwrought nerves and forced her trembling hands to search from side to side for anything that would help support her. Peering down the length of her body, she realized she’d slipped into a ravine and from her position, it looked bottomless. It wasn’t an open meadow she’d seen, it was simply an optical illusion caused by the way the moonlight played upon the countryside.

Damn! She closed her eyes and it hit her. She was living the dream she had the first night of this ghost hunting adventure. Dead tired from hiking into the Grampian Mountains, cozy and warm in her sleeping bag, her imagination ran wild in her sleep and she had awoken all hot and bothered by the images fired to life in her brain. Thinking back, it replayed as if she were asleep and the dream reoccurred.

Don’t look down, whispered through her head as she gasped for a full breath. She clung on for life in her dream just like she did now. Dirt slipped from the mountain, crumbling around her with any movement. Lynn kept her eyes closed tight, listening to the echo of a rock as it rolled into the deep crevice beneath her. It sounded so far away. She tried desperately not to think on the ‘what if she fell’ scenario and let the memory of the dream temporary control her thoughts.

She’d had help then whereas now there was none. As she’d reached upward, a hand had grabbed hers. If she remembered correctly, warmth had shot down her arm as a strong hand wrapped around hers. Lynn leaned back into the mountain, letting the vision of hope live in her mind in a valiant effort to relieve the tension of her reality.

One hand held hers, while the other reached and grabbed her backpack, tugging her into the mouth of a cave without so much as a grunt from the effort. Once certain of her safety, she’d lifted onto her knees, turned on a flashlight she couldn’t remember from where she’d gotten it, after all it was a dream. Several seconds passed before she could actually focus. But when she did, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

A gorgeous hunk of a man dressed in full-scale, ancient Scottish regalia stood staring down at her. The way the light played across the plains of his face gave him a dangerously rugged appeal. She couldn’t decide if his eyes were green, blue or a mixture of both. A firm jaw held a set of perfect male lips. Waves of dark hair thick with amber highlights hung loose about his broad shoulders.

He was bare-chested except for the leather strap that crossed from left shoulder to right hip, which held the sheath for the sword she saw the handle of above his shoulder. The man’s abdominal muscles were unlike any she’d ever seen. Ripped was the only word that came to mind, but even that didn’t do him justice. A red and green plaid kilt slung low across his hips lay perfectly to his knees. Laced boots covered from his calves to his toes, but from the snug fit hid nothing about their musculature. His legs befit the rest of him, muscles on top of muscles.

For a split second, wonder if he’s true to his kilt flashed inside her brain and she’d had to fold her hands together to resist the temptation to lift the plaid and take a peek. She swallowed hard, then forced her brain to work and made her mouth form a sentence.

“Thank you for saving me.” She remembered speaking as she held her hand out to him.

He’d stared for what seemed like an eternity before he reached for it and helped her to her feet. She stumbled on weakened legs and fell against the solid wall of male flesh. His arm wrapped around her waist, holding her closer along the warmth of his form. His other hand’s fingers gently touched her chin and guided her face upward. He seemed to study her before his eyes met hers.

The low sultry baritone of his words washed over her as he spoke. “Nay, milady. ‘Tis ye who hath saved mi.”

In the dream, his arm tightened around her waist as he lifted her without any effort. One of her hands held his thick, bulging biceps while her other hand landed on his waist for support. Never had anyone lifted her to kiss her. Nerves fired to life that she’d thought were dead. The closer his lips got, the more she wanted his kiss. This slow motion event was killing her. The heat of his breath caressed her lips just millimeters apart. The warmth of his body set her on fire with desire.

Lynn caught herself craning her neck trying to reach his lips. Opening her eyes reality set in. She truly clung to the side of a mountain for life. She tilted her chin upward, but saw nothing much in the darkness. Was there a handsome man waiting to rescue her? Nervously she laughed at the ludicrous thought. There wasn’t anyone who knew where she was or would risk their life to save her.

This wasn’t a dream. This was her reality.

No, it was up to her to save herself. She dug deep, brushing away the perfect hero-saves-the-day dream from her thoughts and struggled for survival.

Cautious in her movements, she inched along the rock, turning until she was face first against the dirt. Should she try to climb down or was it easier to go up? Lynn moved her hands palm flat along the ground searching for any point of support, anything she could grasp. The fingertips of her right hand brushed something rough and solid. Lynn rotated her head in that direction. It appeared to be a ledge. God, she hoped it would hold her.

With slow, careful movements, she worked her way toward the lip in the rock, hugging her body to the mountain for dear life. She used the plants for leverage, holding on but not pulling so their roots wouldn’t break and jerk free from the ground. It seemed like an eternity had past before she reached the ledge. Every muscle ached and trembled but she refused to give in to the exhaustion that threatened to tear her from the mountainside. Nope. She didn’t plan to fail. That ledge was her salvation, her place to rest and recuperate until sunrise.

She gripped the rocky edge. When it didn’t break off and slide away, relief made her smile. Now all she had to do was pull herself up onto it. Toeing her boots into the dirt, she tried to push upward using her legs. The ground slid out from beneath her right foot and she slipped, leaving her dangling by her hands. Her shoulders screamed in pain and her arms shook, but she tightened her grip refusing to lose this battle.

Sheer will helped her find a sturdier foundation. Her left foot located a rock and her right she planted between the base of a bush and the dirt. Spread-eagled wasn’t the best position but it kept her from falling any farther. The rock didn’t feel as sturdy as the bush so she pushed up on her right leg and glided her left leg closer to the right until it found a secure spot stuck in a hole a wee bit higher than the bush. She struggled inch by inch until she was able to hoist herself onto the ledge.

Lynn rolled several feet away from the edge and onto her back. Breathing heavily, she lay still trying to evaluate her condition. Nothing felt broken. Her legs and arms trembled from the excessive exertion she’d placed on them. This definitely was more exercise than she’d ever gotten. Seconds turned into minutes as she simply lay there. The pounding of her heart resumed its normal pace and the tension in her body relaxed, giving her a chance to reflect on the events that led up to her precarious predicament.

Don’t scream, Lynn. It’s me, Travis.

The words rolled around inside her head and the sudden realization of what she’d done surfaced. Ohmygod! Travis! She’d attacked Travis, the one person who she thought was on her side. Or maybe he wasn’t. She truly didn’t know for sure anymore. Hysterical laughter rose from her chest.

What had she done?

She rolled onto her side and curled into a ball. The laughter slowed and exhaustion took over. Everything hurt. Both arms and legs trembled uncontrollably. A deep-seated ache bloomed from her core and spread outward until every ounce of her was thoroughly sated, causing her muscles to spasm at will. Her body gave her no other choice but to sleep. If she saw the morning light, it would be a miracle.

Invisible, strong, gentle hands caressed her, lulling her to sleep. Warmth surrounded her. The handsome man reappeared in her dreams, giving her comfort in her time of need. She snuggled closer into the imaginary heat of his body. He surrounded her, coddling her against him as if he alone would protect her from the elements. Sensing he stood watch, Lynn relaxed further into the depths of sleep, letting his sexy image renew her desire for life and for him.

He appeared to be tall with wide shoulders and thick arms that would hold her for as long as she needed to be held. Long, dark hair with rich shades of red was pulled away from his face, making her wish to untie what bound it and set it free to landscape his rugged features. Deep, blue-green eyes stared at her filled with wonder and wisdom beyond his years.

In this dream, he said nothing nor did she. He simply held her while she slept, keeping her close and away from the edge of the ledge. His imaginary heat warmed her and warded off the cool night air. A sensual dream not sexual guided her into a peaceful place where the hazards of her day no longer existed. It was just her and her hot, dream-walking man.

 

Tara Nina

 

For USA Buyers of Double Dilemma, Portal to Passion and  Night Prey will be mailed both a signed cover flat and a signed book plate for their book. All other USA buyers Tara Nina books purchased will get a signed book plate.  Please email a copy of your purchase receipt to [email protected] along with your mailing address.

Giveaway:  2 $20.00 Amazon Gift Cards  signed books 1- Eyes of Stone, 1- Silken Delights, 1-Portal to Passion.

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Stone Kisses by Tessa Stokes is a gentle yet very sensual paranormal romance. Stella makes a trip to the garden centre, and takes a fancy to not only to a stone statue of the handsome Mercury but also to the assistant there, Justin. However, Mercury is well out of her price range but Justin sees how struck she is with the statue and so delivers it to her. An act of incredible kindness? Yes, and no. There’s an ulterior motive and a bet which involves Greek and Roman gods winning the hearts of mortals. Stella is caught up in this, but not detrimentally. She loves both the men who enter her life, even though one is a garden ornament. Little by little he becomes more than that, and the fun and adventure really begins. Mercury goes missing and it’s surprisingly tricky to find a large, lost statue.

This is a quirky and very imaginative story. Tessa Stokes has a rather understated style, so the whole story appears more simple than it is. It develops slowly but surely and the reader is pulled into this modern fantasy. We gradually learn more about our sympathetic characters and become very involved in their lives, mortal and immortal. There’s plenty of fun at the heart of this story, but there’s sadness, seriousness and real tension too at times. It’s entertaining, unique and far from predictable thanks to the author’s bright creativity. A highly enjoyable novella.

Pure Healing by Aja James is a paranormal romance. It is initially very slightly confusing in that the book starts with Sophia, the Queen of the Pure Ones, as narrator but she soon becomes a secondary figure in the rest of the book as the relationship between Rain, the healer, and Valerius, an immortal Protector. There has been sexual tension between them for over a decade but finally Valerius asks to become her consort and help regenerate her powers by allowing her to feed on his blood and his body. But he is not to fall in love with her. Valerius suffered brutality in his youth and is full of self-doubt and handicapped by his resulting fear of intimacy. Rain also is constrained by her past and who she is but somehow between them they achieve fulfillment. The counter-plot runs alongside centred on Sophia, a student at Harvard, who makes friends with the mysterious Ere, a teaching assistant, but you have to wonder if there’s more to him than meets the eye. And in the background is an impending war between vampires and the Pure Ones. Vicious attacks by vampire assassins are taking place all too often.

This is a very intense, gritty book that really grips you. The author creates an intriguing yet overtly dangerous world. As with all series starters, there is quite a lot of groundwork to cover to set the scene for all the action that is to come, in this book and later ones. However, Aja James keeps the pace moving and keeps our appetites whetted. Plenty of questions are raised and issues touched on that are still to be resolved. In summary, you’ll be hooked!

 

I’ve just read Chrissie’s first novel, Living Sensitive, and I loved it. I enjoy paranormal romance and this is a particularly original and fun book of this genre. And great news! There are more books to come in this series.

Here’s my ‘official’ review:

Delia Rhodes is a feisty and fascinating heroine who shares her flat with a ghost. She works at a waitress at Katzenjammer’s bar (German for hangover!) alongside humans, pixies, vampires and hybrids. She’s fun, strong and sensitive. A sensitive, in fact. She can sense people’s emotions and from touching, relive experiences they have gone through, a gift which she doesn’t always appreciate but others do. She also does a little shapeshifting on the side. From being single for a long while, suddenly two men enter her life – Seamus, long-time friend and sexy Irish vampire-human hybrid, and Draven, another drop-dead gorgeous hybrid, new employee at Katz. Delia now finds herself torn between two lovers who between them drag her into a dangerous situation. Draven has chosen to fight in the Cage as a sort of ritual and suddenly Delia finds she is forced to fight for her life. And how does this tie in with pixie kidnapping?

This book by an exciting young author is an interesting and entertaining take on the paranormal romance theme. Pixies certainly don’t crop up very often in this genre. The dialogue is modern and spirited, the characters are complex and credible and the settings and situations are intriguing and well thought out. It’s not just surface entertainment. The issues of loyalty and trust are strong subthemes. Good versus evil and tolerance versus discrimination are explored. There are a few sinister hints in little things like the way everyone is categorised at birth, with some sort of secret system reserved for vampires. And the characters face death. There is darkness to match the lightness of this novel. It’s a great read and an impressive start to a series. I thoroughly recommend it.

And now let’s meet Chrissie. She’s a busy mum and determined perfectionist, as you’ll see.

I asked her rather a lot questions about Living Sensitive, writing and herself and she was kind enough to take the time to answer them all.  Thanks Chrissie!

 1.      What inspired you to write Living Sensitive?
The idea for the story has been stuck in my head for awhile now. It’s actually based off of a dream I had a few years ago.

 2.      Which character from the book are you most like – Delia, Eli, Seamus or Jocelyn?
I think I’m most like Delia. We both have a pretty sassy attitude. I enjoy writing her and Eli the most.

3.      Living Sensitive has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?
Thank you. Yes, I designed it. I bought the background and tweaked it in Photoshop.

4.      Would you like to have supernatural powers? And if so, which ones?
I would love to have supernatural powers! I think I would want to be a vampire-human hybrid. I’d have super strength, speed and hearing but I wouldn’t have to give up the sun or coffee!

5.      Which of your personal qualities help you as an author? Which ones don’t help?
I have a lot of determination. Once I set my mind on something, I have to see it though. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, which helps and hinders my writing. I have deleted entire chapters before, multiple times because I wasn’t satisfied with how they turned out. The thing that helps the least is that I’m easily distracted. You might say I have the attention span of a squirrel. That makes it very difficult to write sometimes.

6.      You have two daughters. Is it easy finding time to write on top of being a Mom?
My girls definitely demand attention. They decide how I spend my days. I usually wait until they’re in bed before I sit down to write. I’m a night owl anyway so writing all night, in to the early morning, is pretty normal for me.

7.      What are you writing now?
Right now I am writing the second book in the Delia Rhodes series. She has a lot going on in the next book. I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

8.      Are book reviews important to authors, in your opinion?
I think they are very important. Unfortunately, they aren’t that easy to get. In my opinion, reviews can make or break your book. People are less likely to give your writing a chance if you have bad reviews, or no reviews at all.

9.      Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?
I talk to myself when I’m writing. It helps me workout scenes I’m having trouble with. I’ve also used dolls to help me keep track of ‘what’s where’ when writing steamy scenes. The last thing you want, when you’re reading a sexy scene, is to end up confused about how certain things are happening or how they got there.

10.     When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?
I have been thinking up stories for as long as I can remember. It was just a matter of getting the confidence to share them with others. It’s a scary thing, putting your heart into something you love and then showing it to the world. One day it just clicked, I woke up and I had my mind set on making this happen.

11.     What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
I would say to stay persistent. Don’t get discouraged if you hit a few bumps, just plow right through them and don’t give up. It’s not easy, and you will have your bad days, but if this is your dream It will be worth it.

12.     OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?
Cheesecake, Brownies, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos…. and I know it’s not a food technically, but I can’t live without my coffee!

13.     And finally, what would you not be seen dead wearing?!
Crocs, hands down, ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen in my life. I hear they’re comfortable, but there is no amount of comfort on this planet, to convince me to wear them.

Chrissie has a website at www.cmrawdon.blogspot.com.

 

There are two approaches to writing. One is to write for the sake of writing – to let free those ideas and stories that are whirling around in your head. The other is more pragmatic – write to sell and make money. That might seem an unidealistic and mercenary way to go about writing, but there’s a limit to art for art’s sake. A little – or, if you’re lucky, a lot – of extra income is always welcome.

Let’s stay with this second approach. Write to sell. You need to know what’s hot, what’s topping the sales charts. Here are the current most downloaded books on Smashwords.

1. Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide

2. Short Erotic Tales by Carl East

3. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, Mark Coker again

4. 101 Degrees Fahrenheit by Eva Gale (erotica)

5. Zombie Nights by Tom Licttenburg  (sci-fi with a touch of paranormal)

6. Fryupdale by Mark Staniforth, fiction short story anthology

7. The Seduction of Gabriel Stewart by Eva Gale (erotica)

8. We Don’t Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore by M David Blake (sci-fi)

9. A Letter to Justin Beiber’s Hair by German Alcala (poetry)

10. The Mating by Nicky Charles (adult rated paranormal)

We can ignore the two Mark Coker books since they’re what every Smashwords author has to have. So let’s another two to the list. We now have.

11. Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson (historical romance)

12. A Bride for Tom by Ruth Ann Nordin (romance)

So what do we have? 3 erotica, 2 sci-fi, 1 paranormal, 1 general fiction, 2 romances, 1 poetry. Note: These books are all free apart from Justin Beiber’s Hair which is a relatively pricey $6.99 so that has done extremely well. Being free can skew results a little.

 

Erotica

I guess we’d better start with erotica then. This isn’t for everyone. It might be you don’t approve of it or it may be that it just gives you the giggles. Possibly you’d love to write it but are embarrassed about your children finding out! Anyway, readers love it. Readers love sex so if you want readers, well, it’s something to think about. Here are a couple of good places to start: http://writing.helium.com/how-to/14484-how-to-write-an-erotic-romance and http://www.writesex.net/

 

Science Fiction

Alternate realities, the ultimate in escapism, always make for popular reading. Personally I feel you have to be quite methodical and analytical to write sci-fi. You need to have your new universe all mapped out – its inhabitants, politics, morals and so forth. So this is quite a challenge to write but, if you’re successful, there will always be demand for your writing. My own favourite science-fiction writer is self-published R Peter Ubtrent with his amazing Dark Pilgrim series. Read some of these to get a feel for this genre at its best.

 

 

Paranormal

I was frankly surprised that there weren’t more of this type of book in the top ten. This genre is so hot at the moment, in particular paranormal romance. The romance element frequently veers towards the erotic. It looks like we’re all interested in going to bed with vampires or other demons! Vampires are the most popular supernatural characters you’ll come across, but shapeshifters, werewolves and ghosts aren’t far behind. These books generally feature a very strong heroine and have a happy-for-now, if not a happy-ever-after, ending.

Here is a brilliant article about writing paranormal romance.

 

Romance

These books will ever go out of fashion. Everyone loves reading a heartwarming tale of the girl and guy, who usually hate each other at first sight, finally getting together, after overcoming various huge obstacles along the way. The romance can be set in any time period and feature straight or gay love, and, since paranormal is a subgenre of it, we’re not limited to just writing about humans either. A growing trend is for what I call homme-rom – romance from the man’s point of view. (I’m based in France which explains the ‘homme’ element – it’s French for man.) Mainstream publishers tended to fight shy of this but now that we have indie authors self-publishing, there are more and more examples of this subgenre around. It’s as enjoyable for women to read as men. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the excellent Song in the Wrong Key by Simon Lipson or The Wake-Up Call by Jonas Ericsson.

So a few handy tips for what to write if you’re wanting to sell well.

A fantastic cover too

This is such an incredibly good book! Risking Eternity follows cop Hayden Farrell as she begins to investigate the murder of a young prostitute whose blood-drained body is left outside a church. She’s being watched at the murder scene by a mysterious figure, whose thoughts about her we share. Is he the murderer? Certainly the murders seem personal to him, but he also appears to have some sort of tie to Hayden as well.

Hayden distrusts the supernatural. Her mother was a fake psychic who involved her in her deceptions. Hayden likes concrete facts and ends she can tie up. She prefers to live in the real world. While her friends are happy to watch handsome heroes and beautiful heroines making out in films, Hayden would rather be taking part in the action!

The brooding figure of vampire Valentin both scares and attracts her. But they need each other. Valentin can help Hayden solve the murders and she can help him wreak revenge on a killer from the past who has resurfaced. But need becomes exploitation…

This is a fascinating, dark paranormal romance. The characters are rounded and complex, flawed and believable. There is simmering sexual tension between Valentin and Hayden from the start, even though he’s adamant at first that she’s ‘not his type’. You simply can’t predict what will happen next in the story.The plot is original and ingenious with skillfully created suspense and a denouement that smacks you in the face.

This intelligent, atmospheric, sexy novella is the first in the new Timeshifter series from this amazingly talented writer. Do put this book on your ‘to read’ list. If not, you’re missing out on a very rare treat. I for one will be reading everything from Gwenan Haines, now that I have discovered her.

 

Fate’s Design by Lola James is an intricately woven paranormal romance that it’s hard to put down. Twins Megan and Morgan travel to Italy after Morgan wins a prize that brings them to fashion school in Bologna. The girls are very different personality wise, but very close. Later in the story a further link between them emerges. In Italy, Megan literally bumps into a mysterious, handsome stranger, Alexandros DiPiero, that she has seen in her dreams. Her visions, though, become increasingly nightmarish and feature threatening, frightening figures. Is this fate, or is someone somewhere pulling strings? The romance element of the story is very well handled. So too is the paranormal, with vampires, dhampirs (half-human, half-vampire) and guardians. The story takes many original and inspired turns and flits between locations in America and Italy. It is complex but never overly complicated.

Pararnormal romance is probably the hottest genre in fiction at the moment, and books like this illustrate why. There’s the fun, curiosity and escapism of the supernatural combined with human emotion and a cracking good plot. Lola James creates rounded, fascinating characters who grow and develop, and places them in a recognisable, modern world. There is clever dialogue, some steamy sex scenes and never a dull moment. Danger and evil lurk, but there is fun and a lighter touch too. James includes deep issues with her choice of of fate, destiny and predetermination as themes, but handles them in a sensitive and intriguing way. This is an ambitious book but extremely successful and definitely work reading.

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the virtual book tour for Lola James’s Bound to Remember, a paranormal romance and mystery. It’s a modern, fast paced book with interesting  characters and plenty of twists and turns along the way.

Toni is a young doctor, with a deadly reason for forgetting her past. Ben, Nurse Hero, who has a tragic past, is forced from the secluded life he yearns into the public eye. When the two meet, Ben sees a strong resemblance in Toni to an old friend, while Toni can’t resist  Ben.

Kevin, Toni’s jealous ex, gets mixed up in events, and so do various friends and witches. Yes, I said witches! A quick magic spell looks like it might be the solution to a dangerous situation, but there’s a lot more action to come, especially when Hades makes an appearance …

The ending is totally unexpected – and brilliant.

I asked Lola some questions about her book and writing … and shoes!

1. What inspired you to write Bound to Remember?

I wanted a story that included the elements of vampire’s, witches, and the Greek Myths. I love all three and I thought a book like this should have a story.

2. Which character from the book are you most like – Toni, Dawn, Ben, Annie?

I would have to say Dawn. I am not from the south like she is, nor do I have blue eyes or blonde hair, but Dawn is a true friend and a matchmaker which I believe I am as well. =)

3. How has your love of Greek mythology influenced your writing?

I fell for the Greek gods in high school, I mean who wouldn’t, but I am just fascinated by how they can control everything from emotions to elements. I don’t read many paranormal romances with Greek gods in them so I took my chances and wrote the untold story!

4. Bound to Remember has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

I wish I were that talented. I just picked it from an eBook cover site at random. I only asked that the color of the cover girls eyes be changed to compliment my character Toni.

5. Deep down, would you like to be a vampire? Or a witch?

Haha! I love witches BUT I would love to be a vampire, they are just so cool to me!

6. How many books will there be in the series? Please say ‘lots’!

Ok, lots… lol… I had originally thought of making this series a trilogy (because trilogies are awesome) but some other plans came up when I finished Unbound the book two in the series. So yes, lots!

7. Another book you’ve written is Fate’s Design. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Yes, Megan has very strange and realistic dreams and some come true. Well she and her twin sister embark on a trip to Italy but it’s not fun, wine and relaxation like the one they had hoped. It is a paranormal romance so it gets juicy!

8. Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I am late of the Fever series boat but I just fell in love with that series by Karen Moning and I am patiently waiting for the next book in the Sookie Stackhouse Series (you know True Blood).

9. I love how you’ve created blogs for the characters in your books! (http://spellboundseries.blogspot.com/ and http://thefateseries.blogspot.com) But how do you find the time to write all these blogs (including your own) as well as books and maintain a Facebook page on top of everything else in your life? Where do you get your energy from?

Thanks you! They are very fun because you learn a little about the characters personally.

I have a special relationship with coffee and he keeps me wired! Lol Seriously, I wake up between 4 a.m., 6 a.m. (just depends on the morning), and I try to post and schedule all of my blog post for the week on Monday morning. Facebook, I never really log off it (code word addict). I try to interact and connect with my fans or the fans of my book rather, so it’s worth it!

10. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

I was young when I decided to write a book but it didn’t become real until I bought my eReader and I discover the Indie route of publishing.

11. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

This will sound cheesy but it’s true… Just do it! Never let anyone talk you out of your dream. Get a great writing group/partner and let the words flow.

12. What’s the best thing and the worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?

Having to do it all would be the hardest I wouldn’t say worst, and I mean everything from marketing, publishing, to PR, but on the flip-side I love having my creative control with my books and characters.

13. OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favorite foods?

Thai food, I could eat it every day! I went through a period when gelato was my favorite but the extra pounds quickly helped me get over that.

14. And finally, please describe your dream pair of shoes!

A tall heel about four or five inches, strappy, and hot pink! Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if they were Christian Louboutin!

 

Do buy this great book from a really lovely author.

 

 

Paranormal romance is fast emerging as a very popular ebook genre. Some people consider it a subgenre of fantasy and others of romance. However, I think it deserves its own separate niche since it blends elements of not just these two previously distinct genres of fantasy and romance but also often science fiction and even horror. It grew up out of gothic fiction. Probably the most common feature is a romance between humans and ghosts, vampires, shapeshifters or other fantastic creatures. Also, psychic powers often come into play.

So you couldn’t wish for a better introduction to this exciting genre than a book by Hope Welsh. I have just read her book Linked, and it’s a brilliant read. It’s about Lana, a feisty young woman with psychic powers and a sad secret, and shapeshifter Cole, a private detective with special powers. There’s a third crucial character, The Evil One, who poses a terrifying threat and has a connection with Lana. The book is very well written. The hero and heroine are persuasive and likeable, and their relationship is neither predictable nor plastic, as can be the case with the romantic thread of a story sometimes. There are interesting twists and turns in the plot. I ended up reading the book in one go, leaving my youngest son dissolving in the bath (it’s OK, he’s 10 and he was quite happy to have an hour-long bath!) and the bedtime hot chocolate unmade. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did. And if you do, then please put up a review in all the usual places. Authors need reviews!

Hope kindly agreed to do an interview for me and so I’ll hand over to her now.

1. What inspired you to write Linked?

Linked was written for a contest, but I liked it so well, I decided to publish it instead. It was offered on by the first publisher that read it, but I decided to self-publish on Amazon instead.

2. Which character from the book are you most like – Lana, Cole or The Evil One?

Hmm… I’d have to say I’m most like Laura, Lana’s mother. Certainly not The Evil One! Unlike Lana, I’d love paranormal abilities.

3. Linked has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

I knew what I wanted – to show the evil and time running out on the lovers – but my daughter did the design. She did an awesome job, didn’t she?

4. Would you like to be a shapeshifter? What animal would you turn into?

Oh, definitely a panther, I think. Sleek and beautiful. Although, I’m rather partial to tigers…

5. Is there a story behind the book? Why did it demand to be written?

It was a dream. Most of my stories start that way. My daughter worked on it with me, though. SHE did all The Evil One. It was written very fast – less than a month.  I was obsessed and wrote non-stop for days and days.

6. Please tell us a little about your other books, The Storm Within, Forbidden and Once Bitten.

The Storm Within is a romantic suspense. The heroine is running from a boyfriend that’s framed her for murder. I loved writing it – another of those that kind of just took off with a spark of an idea.

Forbidden & Once Bitten are a little more risqué. They are connecting stories with vampires, but not your traditional vampires.  One was a born vampire, and the other was created. I had a blast writing them, though. I can’t wait to get my rights to them back so I can put them up at a more reasonable price – and put up the third story in the series.

7. You’ve created a book review website http://books2lovereviews.blogspot.com. Can you tell us a bit about that please?

As an author, it’s very important to get reviews. As I’ve struggled for my own reviews, I decided to offer a site with honest reviews of books I’ve enjoyed.

8. Does reviewing books help your writing, do you think?

I don’t think reviewing helps my writing – but reading does. I read in many different genres. A good writer has got to be a voracious reader in my opinion. I’m lucky that I’m a very fast reader. I can easily read a book in two hours.

9. Are book reviews important to authors?

Book reviews are imperative for authors. It’s how we know that our work is enjoyed – and how we let others know about our books. They are also helpful in that we can learn; sometimes we just don’t hit the mark and we learn how to improve with future books.

10. Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?

When I’m on a roll – I write sometimes up to 24 hours non-stop.  I’ve been known not to eat or sleep when I’m really in a story. I also tend to let my characters tell me the story. I rarely have an end in mind when I start. I have never plotted a book – I just write and see where it goes.

11. When did you first realise you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

When I was eight. I wrote a play for school at age eight, and have been hooked ever since. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.

12. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Read before you write.  Learn to promote your work and to take constructive criticism – and for goodness sake, please learn to format and edit! I’d also suggest a writer join either a critique group or a writers’ group. Beta Readers are very important as well.

13. OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Chocolate, Butter Pecan Ice Cream–and steak.  Can I add Diet Coke?  Cannot survive without Diet Coke.

14. And finally, what would you not be seen dead wearing?

Leather – or a bikini, LOL.  My character in Once Bitten is wearing a leather number I affectionately call her “Sluts R Us” outfit in the book.  It’s actually similar to an outfit a friend bought my daughter when she was 18. I was less than enthused – though I must admit she made it look good.

Buy Linked here.