Blogiversary Guest: Elizabeth Andrews

Hello my friends, and happy weekend to you! I can’t believe this is the last day in January. How nutters, right? Time has been zooming by as usual, but we’re still on … blogiversary! In fact, today we have newbie (to ALBTLABS) author Elizabeth Andrews! As she hasn’t been here before I hope you’ll show her lots of love. :) In fact, she responded to a twitter call about posts, and look how it all worked out. Plus she has all the bases covered, so there will be no more commentary from me! So without further ado … Elizabeth!

First of all, I’d like to thanks Limecello for hosting me today. Happy blogiversary! Here’s to many more!

I’ve been pondering celebrations. There are so many reasons for them: anniversaries, weddings, new jobs, retirement, births, birthdays, holidays. Heck, I’ve been known to celebrate just having a day off from my Evil Day-job.

The next ‘celebration’ sort of day is Valentine’s Day in a few weeks. Kind of a big deal in many places. Unless you’re a romance writer, in which case you must torture your hero and heroine for as long as possible, keeping them from their happily ever after until they’ve defeated their issues or villains or both. That means not very many couples in romance novels get to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Not that they’re not taking any opportunity they get for intimacy. But celebrations? Not so much.

I’ve been trying to imagine how Valentine’s Day might go for Andi and Kallan, the hero and heroine in my first book, Hunting Medusa. After they’ve defeated their villains and issues, that is. I’m not sure either of them is especially sentimental, though their relationship changes both of them more than they could have guessed anything would, particularly after all they have to endure for that relationship succeed. In my house, Valentine’s Day is lovely with some chocolate and a little gift or two. Last year, it involved a nice framed poster of my book cover that hangs in our living room now where I (and any female guests) can admire it constantly.

We’ve had some great celebrations in our household over the years–first birthday parties for our kids, a really fun party when my husband turned forty, a lot of champagne when I finally sold my book, and more when the ebook came out last January, still more this month when the paperback was released. I just realized we like champagne quite a lot in my house.

At the time, celebrations sometimes feel like big moments, but when looking back at them, sometimes they’re not as important as you thought. They’re just little steps along the way. Does that mean we shouldn’t enjoy them? Of course not. Personally, I think we don’t celebrate nearly enough. A celebration doesn’t have to be a big party with a hundred guests. An intimate little celebration with just a few important people can be even more meaningful–a few quiet moments to mark something good. Now that I think about it, that’s probably how Andi and Kallan would mark Valentine’s Day, with a quiet evening together, celebrating the simple fact that they’re together.

So, how do you celebrate? Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or just a little victory. I want to know. And everyone who comments with their method of celebrating will be entered into a drawing via Randomresult.com for an ebook copy of Hunting Medusa. I will do the drawing on February 3, 2015, and I will get him or her the ebook format of their choice.

Happy blogiversary, Limecello! I hope your celebration has been epic!

About Elizabeth: Elizabeth Andrews has been a book lover since she was able to read. Almost as long as she’s been enjoying great books, she’s been attempting to write her own. When she found her mother’s romance stash as a teenager, it was a natural progression to write romances. Along with her enormous book stash, she lives with her husband of twenty years, two young adult sons, and belongs to two cats. When she’s not buried in her personal library, writing, or at the day-job, there’s a garden outside with flowers, herbs and vegetables that requires occasional attention.

So once more with feeling… ;) (and you know, book information)

Hunting Medusa, The Medusa Trilogy, Book 1

One murderous mission. One killer case of PMS. Who said “the curse” was a myth?

When Kallan Tassos tracks down the current Medusa, he expects to find a monster. Instead he finds a wary, beautiful woman, shielded by a complicated web of spells that foils his plans for a quick kill and retrieval of her protective amulet.

Andrea Rosakis expects the handsome Harvester to go for the kill. Instead, his attempt to take the amulet imprinted on her skin without harming her takes her completely by surprise. And ends with the two of them in a magical bind–together. But Kallan isn’t the only Harvester on Andi’s trail…

Exclusive excerpt from Hunting Medusa:

He dug through the same archives he’d dug through during the night, hoping his tired brain had missed something. Anything.It hadn’t.While he skimmed obscure texts and more modern lore, Andrea sat at the table, an open book in front of her. Kallan knew she wasn’t reading though. She hadn’t turned a page in more than half an hour, instead staring down at the book blankly.He debated emailing one of his cousins about the problem, but he didn’t want anyone to know he had found the Medusa. Or worse, that he hadn’t yet killed her.

Goddess, he’d never find the solution this way.

“Let’s go for a walk.”

Her head shot up, blue eyes wide. “You think you can keep up with me?” she asked after a second.

He smiled. “I didn’t say you’d be walking freely.”

Her mouth flattened when he pulled the handcuffs out of his pocket.

To his surprise, she didn’t say anything when he bound them together again, just averted her face.

He led the way out of the house, pausing on the front porch to survey the surrounding area. “This way.” He strode toward the pathway just visible to the rear of her car. Into the forest.

Andrea kept up with him easily as he climbed over fallen trees and rocks in their way. It would have been simpler, perhaps, if he hadn’t handcuffed her to himself, but in addition to keeping her with him, this way she was occasionally forced to accept his assistance, which he enjoyed.

Perhaps he was a sick bastard, he mused, slowing his pace as they went deeper into the woods and the trail narrowed. Realizing the woman he wanted most was his enemy had just turned his world upside-down. His family’s enemy, a monster created by the Goddess.

He frowned up at the dark canopy of leaves above them. He wondered if any other Harvester had ever been tempted by his quarry. Or had surrendered to the temptation. If so, he was certain he’d never find that in the lore.

“Wait.”

He stopped walking at her quiet command, his gaze shifting in the same direction she looked. A doe and her fawn looked poised for flight several yards away, the mother watching them closely. Kallan held his breath as the fawn bent back to the small patch of grass. From the corner of his eye, he saw Andrea’s smile. He caught her hand in his without thinking about it first.

Her fingers were stiff in his for a long moment, then relaxed a little.

He turned to look down at her, studying her. The top of her head reached his chin, her dark hair curling in the slight humidity. Her bright gaze stayed fixed on the deer, but he knew she was aware of him by the way her pulse skittered in the hollow of her throat.

“Did I hurt you?” He kept his tone low, trying not to frighten the nearby animals.

She didn’t move anything but her eyes, shifting her questioning gaze up to his face.

“Earlier. Was I too rough?”

Color washed up her cheeks, and she swallowed, turning her attention back to the doe and her fawn. “No.” It was barely a whisper, her reply.

His heart pounded a little harder as he thought about taking her here, right here in her forest. It was foolish. He couldn’t. She would never agree to it anyway.

But he couldn’t stop the images behind his eyes, not now that he knew what she looked like, what she felt like around him, the way she sounded.
When she turned to look up at him again, he realized he’d tightened his grip on her fingers. Her expression was quizzical, then awareness surfaced, turning her eyes darker, like midnight velvet.

Kallan lifted their joined hands slowly, giving her time to stop him. When she didn’t, he dragged his open mouth along her knuckles.

Her lips parted slightly.

He bit one of her knuckles lightly and felt her shiver. “Maybe I am sick,” he breathed. “But I still want you.”

She shut her eyes, her throat working as she swallowed. “Bad idea, Harvester.”

Remember! One lucky commenter gets a copy of Hunting Medusa in the ebook format of her (or his!) choice!

Blogiversary Guest: Fiona Lowe!

My doves I am so happy to be writing this post and not doing anything else! If only I could turn playing with you all into a career. Alas, this is a money pit instead of a money maker. But I guess that’s why they call things a labor of love, yes? >.> Ahem. ANYWAY – no downers here! Today we have Fiona Lowe! Whee! To my shock, she’s a first time ALBTALBS guest! Everyone give her a really super warm welcome! Now, Fiona’s got all the good stuff – giveaway etc – covered, so this is the last you’ll hear from me! :D Yay copy and paste! ;)

Sing Happy Birthday, blow out the candles! Happy 4th blogiversary to Limecello!

Alien CakeI’m a big believer in celebrating birthdays, milestones and rites of passage such as becoming a teenager, an adult, graduations etc. These are the things that bind family together. These are the things that provide significance in our lives, because let’s face it, as an adult sometimes the big and amazing things are few and far between so hey, I hang onto the birthday. I expect cake! ;-)

Family traditions are often connected with these celebrations. My growing sons associate certain foods with certain events and they look forward to them; it’s part of the celebration and woe betide if I dare change the Christmas menu! As little kids, they’d spend hours pouring over the ‘birthday cake book’ agonizing over which cake they’d have. I’ve made a pool, a train, a castle, a ghost, Pokemon, a dinosaur, an alien, a campfire…you get the idea.

Truly Madly MontanaFamily can be a source of great joy and abject despair and sometimes you can ride that pony on the same day. In my novel, Montana Actually, the first book in my new Medicine River series, the McCade family has ranched for generations in northern Montana. It’s a hard life but a good life. Katrina McCade, the eldest daughter has lived away for eight years but when everything she believed about her life turned out to be lie, she came home determined to start over and avoid repeating the same mistakes she’d made with men out east.

Coming home isn’t easy; especially when you’re almost 30 and suddenly your father’s back treating you as if you were 17. Her mother, Bonnie, doesn’t seem her usual dynamic self and her elder brother, Beau is a lot quieter. Home isn’t the haven she’d expected and to add to her discombobulation, the new doctor’s arrival in Bear Paw has her questioning her new resolve.

As the McCade family deal with the biggest crisis they’ve ever faced, Katrina’s forced to make some hard decisions about her life and her future.

To celebrate Lime’s blogaversary, I’m giving away a signed paperback copy of my latest release, Montana Actually along with a bookmark with the cover of Truly, Madly Montana, the second book in the Medicine River series, which releases July 7th. You get a sneak peek of the cover!

To be in with a chance just leave a comment telling me about one of your family’s traditions.

Montana ActuallyA big city doctor in a small-town Montana practice… A former nurse who has sworn off doctors forever… The scene is set for passions to ignite in Big Sky Country. For readers of Robyn Carr and Sherryl Woods.

City doctor Josh Stanton and his sports car don’t suit the country but with his medical school debt about to bury him, Josh has to make the best of a bad situation. Adjusting to his new job and life in the middle of nowhere isn’t easy, but at least the views of the mountains –and one distractingly attractive local–are stunning…

 After eight years away, Katrina McCade is back in Bear Paw for a break from her life, bad choices–and men. But when a broad-shouldered stranger bursts into town, she finds herself unexpectedly saddled with the town’s sexy new doctor as a tenant. Katrina doesn’t need a man to make her happy, especially a disgruntled physician. But try telling her body that.

Montana Actually received a Publishers Weekly starred review.
To read an excerpt from Montana Actually, click here.

Fiona Lowe is a RITA® and R*BY award-winning, multi-published author with Berkley Penguin USA,   Carina Press and Harlequin Mills & Boon. Whether her books are set in outback Australia or in the USA, they feature small towns with big hearts and warm, likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she’s not writing stories, she’s a distracted wife, mother of two ‘ginger’ sons, guardian of 80 rose bushes, slave to a cat and often found collapsed on the couch with wine. You can find her at her websiteFacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Blogiversary + Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: Ahead in the Heat by Lorelie Brown

Hello darlings!!! I can’t believe January is coming to a close. Meep! So, I’m glad everything has continued on as scheduled, and fingers crossed for a fabulous 2015! Along those fabulous lines, we have our good friend Lorelie Brown with us today, sharing a very tasty excerpt of her newest release Ahead in the Heat (which just came out on January 6th). Whoo! Enjoy! <3

Ahead in the HeatSean Westin finds himself on the beaches of San Sebastian as he recovers from a bad break. But he’ll need more than sand and swells to heal his heart….

The surfing World Championship Tour is under way, and Sean Westin is desperate to make his mark—until a stupid display of machismo in Bali leaves his shoulder busted. He has six weeks to get back on the waves or he may be looking at the end of his career.

Annie Baxter is the best physical therapist in the business, and she knows it. After almost joining the pro circuit herself, she’s wary of working with big stars and their huge egos. But Sean is making her an incredible offer—full funding for her after-school skate center for underprivileged kids—and she’s finding him hard to resist….

As intense therapy sessions turn into passionate intimacy, Sean unleashes a wild side of Annie that she’s suppressed for years. Only, Sean’s keeping secrets, and when his hidden history comes to the surface, everything—even Annie—might get torn away.

Sean wasn’t even looking at her. He had pulled up two computer screens, plus he had just put his phone to his ear. If she left, he wouldn’t notice.

Except for some reason, she couldn’t do it. This was the last place she should be . . . but she couldn’t think of anywhere to go.

She slipped off her heels instead.

Hey, bro,” Sean said into the phone. “Crisis mode over here. And no, I’m not overreacting.”

She turned her attention to a different set of charts, these ones color coded and covered in names she’d heard. Slater. Wright. Crews. These were all the members of the ’CT. Westin had all their stats posted, from all their points down to their height and approximate weight. He had listed the types of boards they rode and where they got them from. He charted sponsorships, team divisions, and coaches.

It was all there. Charts and spreadsheets. Covered in ink from handwritten annotations.

Didn’t I ask you to stay in the kitchen?” said Sean’s curling, stroking voice over her shoulder.

She spun. Her skirt whirled out. She kept her arms locked over her stomach by pure force of will. “Sean . . . you’re a fucking fraud, aren’t you?”

I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, but you’re not supposed to be in here.”

Why? Is it your private space?” She made her eyes wide and, leaning forward, dropped her voice as if she were telling a secret. “Have I stumbled into the bat cave? You’re not hiding a cape and a utility belt, are you?”

He lifted a single eyebrow. “You’ve got a fetish for superheroes, don’t you? Tell me, Annie. Does Superman get your panties wet?”

She made a dismissive noise, wrinkling her nose. “God, no. That guy wouldn’t know his way around Lois Lane’s panties if she tied them to a stick and waved them like a flag.”

Rather than laugh at her, he buried it. “If I’m remembering correctly, I left you in the kitchen.”

All you said was ‘Feel free to get a drink.’”

He crossed his arms over his chest, only to realize that meant he was mimicking her posture. He didn’t shift, though. There was no sense in giving her more power than she already had. “I did. When I left you in the kitchen.”

I didn’t realize it was a prison.” Apparently she could give her mouth a stubborn cast when she wanted. The babydoll bow disappeared, leaving behind a sultry, displeased woman. “You’re going to have to work on your skills if that’s how you mean to keep women confined.”

I don’t generally intend to go into kidnapping as a hobby,” he said, rubbing the back of his head. “It didn’t seem like that much for you to stay where you were while I made a call.”

Her mouth opened, then closed again. She pinned him with a look from under her straight-line brows, but dashed it away.

Spit it out.” He wanted to touch her. But she had all the signs that said Hands off, and for all his shortcomings, he’d never once touched a woman who didn’t want it. There was enough nasty shit in his history, things he’d done that made him an awful human, without adding taking advantage of women on top of it.

She shook her head.

Spit it out,” he repeated.

She dropped her hands to her hips with a heaving sigh. “You didn’t leave me when I needed you.”

You were nearly having a panic attack. I wasn’t about to leave you alone.” He sputtered as the rest of the implication caught up. “And I most certainly do not need you.”

Dark hurt flashed in her eyes, but she quickly buried it. Here and gone in a second. She was a woman who knew about hiding behind a mask. “You got shit news tonight, Sean.”

Thanks for the reminder, Baxter.” He had done what he could for the night. His call to Max Sherwood, his manager, would start the ball rolling in a hundred directions. The rest he’d have to deal with in the morning. Including a visit to Tanner Wright. When Tanner’s half brother kicked up a giant storm of scandal, Tanner had managed to coast through and ride it out. He might have advice for Sean. That Tanner had left the circuit made Sean slightly uncomfortable, but at least he’d be a trustworthy, unbiased source.

If Sean had anything to say about it, heads would roll. He’d shut down this documentary and do it instantly. There was too much in his past that needed hiding. He’d had a major fuckup, and he’d gotten lucky when it was time to tidy it up. More than lucky. But there was one thing he could say with one hundred percent assurance. “I’m clean.”

I know,” she responded instantly.

His chest blew wide on a deep breath. Fucking hell, that had felt good. A weight stripped from him that he hadn’t even known he’d been carrying. Max had been on his side, but that felt like a given. Max was paid to be on his side. He was paid a hell of a lot of money, as a matter of fact, a percentage of Sean’s greater earnings. So it was in Max’s best interest to ensure that Sean’s career progressed in a positive manner.

Annie had no reason to believe him. No invested motive. But she looked up at him with wide, sincere eyes. Her lips were slightly parted in a serene smile.

How do you know?” He couldn’t help but ask. Faith was something he’d never managed, not easily. Definitely not blindly. But she seemed like she had it for him, and they’d known each other what? A week? That was kind of hard to believe in itself. He’d have thought he’d known her longer.

This room.”

You said this room made me a fraud.” His office was probably the most cluttered room in his house, but that wasn’t saying much. He had two shelves of reference manuals, most of them pertaining to climate and weather patterns. The multiple computers were an indulgence. Technically he could do what he needed on a single screen. But the setup made it easier to monitor conditions in three different areas at once. He not only needed to know about where he’d surf the next week; he liked to keep an eye on the next two ’CT destinations as well.

She spun away, leaving him with a view of her shoulders. She dressed relatively conservatively, showing little skin until tonight. He wondered if she realized what a temptation even her shoulders were. She was made of muscle and elegance, and when she lifted a hand to touch the list of his competitors, she created a divot at the cap of her shoulder. “How much work do you put into these rankings?”

He shrugged, then reminded himself that she couldn’t see that. “Some. Most of the process is automated. Downloading information from the Internet.”

You’re a competitor, Sean Westin. Not a playboy.” Her head tilted, and dark hair shifted across the tops of her bare shoulders. She was cream and chocolate, blending her personality’s sharp edges. Her hair was thin, but it looked butter soft. Touching it would be like touching spider’s silk.

Can’t I be both?”

For some reason, that made her turn around. The gentle oval of her face was tempered with that silken hair. Her eyes were widely spaced, her cheeks soft. “Don’t you eventually have to decide what you are? Isn’t that part of growing up?”

He knew better, but he put a hand on the wall by her head, right between his analysis of Rowdy McMillan’s second heat at the Hurley Pro and the overall standings of the last Billabong event. Leaning in was so damn stupid that he tried to stop himself, but he couldn’t. She didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. Kept staring at him with those eyes that he wanted to drown in and that mouth that he wanted to taste.

He tested the tight limitations of his right arm to let the ends of her hair skim like feathers over his fingertips. She was worth the pinch of pain. “Growing up is bullshit. That’s why everyone wants to be done with it as soon as possible.”

Her head tilted. “I don’t think that’s true. There are lots of people who hold on to their high school years with an iron grip.”

The star football players. The homecoming queens. The ones for whom everything worked.” The words spilled out with a hefty dose of bitter ashes.

You weren’t one of those, were you, Sean?”

When his shoulder pulled with fatigue, he put his hand on her waist, framing her in. She shied away from his touch as if she weren’t the one in charge. He’d seen that when he tried to take her hand at the party. Even in the middle of a crisis, she’d held safe within herself. But crowding her meant that maybe she’d stop asking stupid questions about his background. He wasn’t ready to answer, because the answers blew. There was nothing lovely about being trapped in a house with a crazy woman. “No. I wasn’t.”

You’re certainly making up for lost time lately then, aren’t you?” She lifted her face toward him, defiantly lifting her chin. She wasn’t completely unaffected, though. Her hands flattened against the wall at her hips. The pulse at the side of her throat fluttered like a butterfly’s wings. “Putting on the playboy act. I don’t think that’s real. I don’t think that’s who you really are. Maybe a hard-drinking, bar-fighting surfer would take drugs to try to catch up. But you’re this Sean Westin, the one who devotes hours to research. Who knows your competitors inside and out. Who’s made himself an industry. You wouldn’t risk any of it by doping. Steroids would defeat the purpose.”

You don’t know anything about me,” he growled. Fuck, he needed to shut his own mouth up, because what was he arguing for? She was saying good things about him. But at the same time, it felt like she was going too far beneath his surface. Crawling under his skin. He didn’t know what to do with that. How to respond. She assumed his biggest concern was doping rumors. How cute.

She smiled serenely. “Sure I don’t, Sean,” she agreed, except she laced her words with doubt, teasing him. “But I also know you’re about two seconds away from kissing me.”

The hand he had braced against the wall clenched into a fist. He dropped to his elbow, crowding her even more. He had to pull back his bad arm, which made the nerves across the back of his skull crawl with frustration. She smelled like pure skin and soap and the faintest hint of flowers. No perfume for her. She didn’t put that type of work into herself. “Shouldn’t you run, then?”

Her head fell back against the wall. Her breasts pushed out with the move, her hips bending away. “Do I seem like the running type?”

He hated when other people were right about him. He’d made it his mission to defy expectations in so many ways. Otherwise he’d have a house piled to the rafters with trash, if he’d even had a house at all. He might have been homeless. It came close to being a viable option more than once when he was young. He broke stereotypes about surfers being laid back and lazy. He was neither of those.

But Annie was right about him. He was transparent as glass, because he couldn’t think about anything but kissing her, not anymore. Part of him wanted to blame it on her because she’d planted the idea in his head, but he knew it wasn’t true.

He’d been fixated on her mouth for hours ever since she’d shown up at his front door in her demure dress with the gold straps. She was a demon meant to torture him.

So he kissed her.

If he’d thought she’d melt, he had another thing coming. She made a welcoming sound, a gasping moan in the back of her mouth, and rose on her toes so that she pushed up against his mouth. Her breasts brushed his chest, but he didn’t touch. He didn’t move his hands from their fisted position at the wall.

Kissing her was like kissing a whirling dervish cloud. She was energy and fire, but if he tried to grab on, he thought she might flit away. Disappear like so much mist. She trembled under him. Her bones were made of wire and held together with lace. But the lace was made of steel as well.

He tasted vodka on her and regretted it. He wanted only her pure taste. She was wet velvet against his tongue. Every move of his lips across hers was temptation. Keeping his hands still became harder and harder with the pounding echo of his blood in his ears.

The roar was almost enough to drown common sense. He wanted to tell himself to move on, to take more, to cup her breast in one hand. Or at the very fucking least, her tight, slim waist.

But he didn’t move. Only poured his every thought into their mouths, into their kiss. They were something incendiary.

And she was someone who’d been bruised at the edges. He’d suspected it before, but the way she moved and sighed at his kiss confirmed it. Her hands fluttered at her waist, as if she wanted more but didn’t know how to take it. That didn’t sound like Annie in usual circumstances. The way she stood boldly and challenged the world to come at her was one of the things he dug about her.

Sean was used to women touching him, used to them immediately twining their arms around his neck and pressing lithe bodies against him. Hell, sometimes they wrapped their leg around his hip before he’d even gotten to the point of opening his lips.

Not Annie. She was waiting. She was hesitant.

And he was the worst shithead in the world for liking that.

I don’t think you understand how much I love excerpts, and that this is a long and whee! :D So tell me, what’d you think? And guess what? One lucky commenter will win a paperback copy of both Riding the Wave and Ahead in the Heat. So go on, chat away!

And if the excerpt and everything wasn’t enough (well then you’re kinda demanding …) ;) but here’s the info for Riding the Wave which is also up for grabs!

Riding the WaveThe gray-green swells of San Sebastian haven’t changed in ten years, but Tanner Wright has. The last thing he expects to find back on his home turf is the love of his life….

With a make-or-break world championship on the line, professional surfer Tanner Wright has come back to the coastal California hometown he left a decade ago, carrying only his board and the painful knowledge of his father’s infidelity. Now that Hank Wright is dead, Tanner intends to keep the secret buried to spare his mother and sister the burden.

The last time Avalon Knox saw her best friend’s brother, she was fourteen and he was a twenty-year-old surfer god. She’s never understood or respected the way Tanner distanced himself from the family that has embraced her. But now she has the professional chance of a lifetime: to photograph Tanner for the competition—if he’ll agree.

Out on the waves, they find in each other passion that’s impossible to resist. And Tanner’s not the only one trying to move forward from his past. As the competition heats up, secrets get spilled, and lust takes over. How close can Avalon get to this brooding surfer…without getting burned?

Blogiversary AND Birthday Girl Guest: Leslie Kelly!

My dears, I’m so excited about our guest today!!! Not only do we have the fantastically fabulous Leslie Kelly for Blogiversary, it’s also her birthday! You know how I love birthday guests, and this is double the fun! And you know, Leslie Kelly! So everyone jump on in for the fun!

Fifty?! ME?!?
by
Leslie Kelly

Leslie KellyI’m so happy Lime invited me to be her guest-blogger here today, as she marks the anniversary of her blog. Because I’m actually commemorating an anniversary today, too. Right this minute, I’m in Las Vegas, with most of my family members—from my 19 year old daughter, to my 82 year old dad, and all the siblings, spouses and children in-between. You see, it’s become a tradition in my family (I’m one of six kids) that we all get together to celebrate one particular birthday. I’m the fifth daughter—and the fifth one turning fifty.

Ouch.

Yes, I admitted it. Fifty. It’s hard to believe, considering that I still think of myself as somewhere in my thirties. My thirties rocked—they were my favorite decade, better than my twenties or forties. Actually, my teens were pretty good, too. So I’m hoping I just have an “odd-number-decade” thing going on, and 50s will be the best yet.

I’m not one of those people who freaks out about a number, so it’s not the big 5-0 that intimidates me. I guess mainly what I am thinking about when it comes to this birthday is that I’m more than halfway through this journey of life. That makes me stop and take pause. There are more days behind me than ahead of me.

I Dare YouWhen I think of my favorites of those days, however, I know I have a lot more of them to look forward to.

The best part of my life has been my family—and I still have lots of wonderful times ahead with them. (Including this weekend in Vegas—did I mention there’s a porn convention in town at the same time? Oy—I envision Smith family shenanigans…what happens in Vegas, as they say!)

My dad is the hippest 82 year old around–funny, smart, sassy–and to this day when I hear him sing, I’m thrown back to childhood, remembering Sunday afternoons sitting beside him at the piano, singing my heart out. And although I’ve missed and longed for my mother ever since the day we lost her 25 years ago, I am happy that I have a lovely stepmother who’ll be right there with us as we celebrate tonight.

I have four beautiful, loving sisters, and one super-smart, super-adorable brother, all of whom I adore. We’re not just siblings, we’re the best of friends, and I know if I am ever in need of anything–from a chat to an airplane ticket–I can pick up the phone and any of them will drop everything to be there for me. And vice versa.

New Year's Resolution: Romance!I am still madly in love with my husband, Bruce, who is not just my partner but my very dearest friend. Thirty years ago today, when we had just met, barely knew each other, and were both involved with other people, he led a crowd of people in singing Happy Birthday to me on stage at a dress rehearsal for a play we were doing. One year later, exactly twenty-nine years ago today, he dropped to one knee and proposed to me. Yeah–maybe it was whirlwind, but oh, was that “Yes,” the best word I’ve ever said. I look forward to our 30th anniversary next year—and my long-dreamed-of trip to Paris (fingers crossed!) And I hope we have far more than 30 more years ahead of us.

I am lucky enough to be the mom of three  daughters, all of them remarkable. I loved watching them grow up, and enjoyed every minute of being the mom of little girls. But lately I’ve realized I also really like being the mom of women. They’re funny and bright, all of them gifted in her own way, and I can’t wait to see the amazing things they accomplish. And now that one of them has married a great guy, I’m lucky enough to have a son at last.

Maybe one day there’ll even be babies in my life again. One of my three girls has promised me grandchildren…someday.

I have amazing in-laws who’ve adopted me as a member of the family, and dozens of fantastic nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, who I love watching grow and prosper.

Fade to BlackI have wonderful friends, many of whom are also going to hit the big 5-0 this year. (I’m looking at you: Julie, Janelle, Karen, JulieK, Lori, Kim, Rick, Linda…et al!) I’m testing the water for you, my dears…I’ll be here to catch you when you make the leap.

I have the kind of job that doesn’t really have an age limit. My imagination has only grown as I’ve gotten older. Sometimes the brain cells are a bit slower, but I think I’m a better writer now than I was when I started out 18 years ago. I dream that I’ll become an overnight success in my 50’s and start seeing some leaps and bounds in my career, hopping out of that mid-list to something spectacular. Hey, it could happen…you’re never too old, right?

In all, I’m feeling great about today. I’m upbeat and positive about the future. I try not to look at the past, focused only ahead. As long as I’m surrounded by the people I love, and supported by the amazing readers who’ve followed me along my twisting career path that has gone from sexy romance to dark, bloody thrillers, and back again, I think my fifty and I are going to get along just fine.

Happy happy 50th birthday, Leslie!!! What a milestone! I hope you and your family are having an amazing time in Vegas – with hopefully some stories to tell us, despite the “What happens in …” ;) Especially with that porn convention – oh my! :X Anyway, I hope it is on odds thing for you and your 50s are your best decade yet! <3

Oh and you know what? Leslie has very generously offering an ebook of any of her available books to two different winners! So go on – tell us about your milestone birthdays along with any birthday wishes for Leslie that you want to pass along!

Guest: Shannon McKenna!!!

You! GUYS!!!! As you can see today we have the lovely and wonderful Shannon McKenna guesting with us! Whee!!! I mean, does she really need an introduction? (I say no, but if yes…) She writes romantic suspense – and Out of Control and Meltdown are two of my most favorite romances ever! Shannon is also a total sweetheart and I’m super excited to welcome her back to ALBTALBS!!!

Hello, and thank you so much, Lime, for inviting me onto your site! I’m so very excited to be guest posting on the birthday of this lovely blog! And thank you, as always, for the very fun and unique questions. You have a marvelously twisted mind. Please take that as a compliment. One twisted mind to another.

What is the strangest/most twisted thing you’ve Googled for a story?

Out of ControlI’m kind of nervous about my Internet search history, to tell you the truth. I’m sure the nature of my Googling has put my name into a file somewhere in some government agency, and maybe more than one. I’ve read about dirty bombs, I’ve looked up the places where one might buy radioactive thermal generators abandoned by the Soviets after the fall of the Iron Curtain, I’ve pondered the pros and cons of pulverizing the Strontium-90 for my bomb (the pro being, you kill way more people with your bomb, the con being, you kill yourself, too.) I can rattle off a winning recipe for a fertilizer bomb, and tell you how to rig a cell phone to detonate it. I could even tell you how to make a bomb out of a bag of flour. The kind you make cookies with! And put to it, I could probably make a Molotov cocktail, but I hate getting gasoline on my hands. Now, ahem. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get some sugar cookies and a nice cup of decaf tea with honey and cream, and put on my bunny slippers. (Hey, NSA, if you’re listening! It’s just fiction, I promise!)

What kind of interesting people have you met doing research? Along those lines, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever learned doing research?

Oh, it’s hard to choose! Everyone is interesting if you look closely enough. But the first person who springs to mind was this man I met some years ago, a Kung Fu master who was half German and half Sicilian, who was also a criminal who had spent a good long stint in a tough prison. He told me that he never slept more than two hours a night, particularly not in prison. He got all the rest that he needed doing about four or five hours a night doing kung fu forms. I’m not sure if he was just really exceptional, or crazy. Kind of hard to tell sometimes! But oh, my God, the man was superhuman when he did Kung Fu. He looked like your normal middle-aged man, around sixty, but when he started to move, you realized that he was at a whole other level of perception of time and space. Fascinating. A little scary, too.

And to answer the question of the most interesting thing I’ve ever learned—well, it’s that any discipline that I’ve ever tried to fake being expert at, even superficially, is absolutely fascinating and could absorb me for a lifetime. Like the poem says, hills peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise. In Behind Closed Doors, my first book years ago, I started learning about surveillance devices, and was just gobsmacked by the technology, the possibilities. And that was fifteen years ago! Imagine, if I tried to research that book now. It would all be brand now, and exponentially more complicated and sensitive. So very cool.

Have you ever based any of their stories in factual events/crimes?

Not directly, but here are always hints and echoes of what’s happening in the world, and in my neighborhood, too. Sometimes re-reading them reminds me of things that happened around here years ago that get woven in. For instance, while I was writing Ultimate Weapon, Tam and Val’s story, some young local boys fell into an ancient cistern that was designed centuries ago to collect rainwater. It was deep in the countryside, far from anyone, thirty meters deep, and bell shaped, so there was no way for them to climb out. The story had the worst possible ending, I regret to say, and it really touched and saddened me. So at one point in the book, without ever consciously meaning to, Val ended up crawling through an ancient abandoned sewer system on an old estate somewhere in Eastern Europe, and he ended up dangling from a rusted-out ladder rung, one-armed, legs flailing, over one of those deadly oubliette-like cisterns.

Behind Closed DoorsOne doesn’t have to dig too deep for scary stories, or fodder for nightmares, and the world is full of evil that requires men and women of courage to fight for it. I always dreamed of being a superhero/dragonrider/ringbearer/etc in my bookish youth, because the world needs heroes! Just like the world needs happy endings. There are just too damn many sad ones.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

That’s a tough one, because I think I kind of AM all of them, or at least aspire to be! But the one that I have the most emotional complexity with can only be Tam Steele, the heroine of Ultimate Weapon. She’s been there from the very first book in the series, making snide comments over my shoulder about everything I wrote, said, did, thought. I got curious about her from the very beginning of Behind Closed Doors. Tam was the most difficult and problematic heroine I have ever dared to write—a bad Bond girl crossed with Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. She is a mysterious, dangerous figure with hidden scars and an unfathomable agenda, and I was as fascinated with her as I was terrified of her. If she ever met me, she would take one look at me and see all my insecurities, weak points, dull spots, the ways in which I’m not completely honest with myself, and instantly dismiss me as not worth her time. To say nothing of what she would think of my clothes, shoes and level of physical fitness. But let’s not even go there.

Why would I create such a scary bitch and make her the heroine of my book, you may well ask? I asked myself that question for years, dancing around it as her character slowly took form in all the other books in the series. Since I hadn’t thought of her as a heroine in the earliest books, I had followed no rules or conventions when dreaming her up. I’d been bound by no romance genre expectations. Heroines usually have to be likable, at least. It’s sort of a rule. But Tam is a rule-breaker. Some way into the book, I realized I was writing about my own shadow self, a bad girl that I secretly wanted to be. Powerful, crafty, smart and fearless, unabashedly sexual, not giving a shit what anyone thought of her. So free. Apologizing to no one, ever. An outlier and an outlaw. But how to make this scary, almost god-like creature human enough to write a love story for her, and give her a happily-ever-after? That was a hell of a question that took a whole big scary, hard-to-write book to answer! And Tam still gives me, and all the rest of the McCloud Crowd, no rest. “I spare no one, as Sam here will soon have cause to know,” she says, in the last book of the series, In For The Kill. My meek and timid side REALLY wants to be Tam, particularly when someone cuts in front of me in a line at the grocery store.

Ultimate WeaponAre you “planning to write any books featuring Zan’s hot brothers?” (This last one is courtesy of @Kaetrin67)

Kaetrin, I am desolated to disappoint you! But I have no current plans to write any books about Zan’s brothers at this time. I’m playing with a bunch of different new ideas. I’ve come to understand that my readers fall into two camps, those who love the paranormal elements in the last few McCloud books, and those who hate them and want straight romantic suspense like before, no funny stuff. So, I must figure out how to write faster, and try to do both, because I really like both, and I love all my readers who appreciate the McKenna vibe. I wish to serve both groups well, with books that delight and satisfy! I’m dreaming up two different series. I am keen to try some self publishing, but I still want to enjoy the advantages of a publishing house’s support as well, so I aspire to be what they call a “hybrid author.” I’m dreaming up a series now that features, as heroes, a group who as young people were swept up into a secret experimental program in which they were being groomed with implanted techno-enhancements to be super-agent/soldiers. They realized just in time the criminal lengths to which their experimenters were willing to alter them, and banded together to rebel, and escape. Now they’re all adults, with new identities and lots of complicated issues because of their enhancements and their problematic special abilities—to say nothing of the looming menace of their nemesis, the powerful secret organization from which they fled. That’s my more paranormal flavored series idea, and I’m having great fun with it! I could go any number of wild directions. which means, freedom, scope, and wild, outrageous plots by the handful! My idea of heaven

In for the KillI’m also coming up with some straight romantic suspense series ideas, but it’s too soon to write about them yet! But you can bet that they will be intense, steamy and over the top fun.

Thank you so much, Lime, for the fun questions and for the hospitality of your lovely blog on its fourth birthday! I wish everyone a lovely winter, with lots of tea or cocoa sipped in front of a crackling fire while reading something juicy and fun that you never want to end.

And just so you all know, the very last book of the McClouds & Friends series, In For The Kill, comes out on January 27! It’s Sam and Sveti’s story, and it finishes out the series with a big loud bang and a shower of colored sparks.  So check it out, and enjoy!

All best,

Shannon

So, what questions do you have for Shannon?

Blogiversary Guest: Joely Sue Burkhart

Hi friends!!! Whee!!! We’re back on track for blogiversary with a giveaway and fun and YAY! … One of these years I’ll get it all right. And I’m so thrilled to welcome back Joely Sue Burkhart. She’s such a sweetheart and always a friend to ALBTALBS. Anyway, I know you’re not here to listen to me babble when there’s a giveaway on the line … ;)

Silver Haired Characters

I’ve been going gray since I was a freshman in high school.  A boy named Troy used to sit behind me in science and daily count how many gray hairs he could see.  Needless to say, I’ve colored my hair a LONG time!

So I’ve never written characters who might consider coloring their hair.  It’s too close to reality for me.

But Virginia demanded her story be told.  If you’ve read the other Connagher books, you’ve heard about Mama Connagher for a long time.  She’s tough.  She’s hard.  She doesn’t take shit off anyone.  She’s been alone for twelve years, ever since her beloved husband, Tyrell, passed away.  She doesn’t need anyone.  She doesn’t want anyone.

Dating is for young people.

She’s had her time in the sun.  She had years and years of happiness and that time is long gone.

Even when her family FINALLY convinces her to date again, she can’t begin to envision the kind of man she’d consider.  She doesn’t want a young man and she doesn’t have the patience to deal with trying to break in someone to suit her.

That’s exactly the tiny crack in her cold, stone-walled heart that her best friend of forty years has been waiting for.

~ * ~

Never Let You DownA breath of a second chance can bring a slow-burning flame roaring back to life.

The Connaghers, Book 4

Virginia, Matriarch of the Texas Connaghers, has been alone twelve years since the great love of her life passed away. Tyrell loved her sadist’s heavy hand and the hard inner core she’s dared not show anyone since.

She lives in the past, clinging to all those memories except one. The one she’s determinedly blocked out of her heart and mind for nearly forty years. The one time she was almost unfaithful to her then-fiancé with her best friend, Jebadiah Garrett.

That was a long time ago. They both married and moved on. She has three adult children settling down with their own families. Besides, it was just a kiss. One kiss.

One unforgettable kiss that brought Jebadiah to his knees at her feet.

Now he’s back in town and determined to finally, once and for all, tell her how much he’s loved her all these years. Or, even better, show her by going to his knees once more. If she’ll only give him the chance.

Warning: Friends to lovers, older characters with a second chance at love, and a hard-as-nails matriarch who finally succumbs to a forty-year-old unrequited love

“Girls,” Miss Belle declared, “I’m charging you with a most solemn duty. You must find a man for your mama.”

Virginia jerked so hard she couldn’t stifle a moan at the grating pain in her busted arm. “What? Are you insane?”

Ignoring her, Miss Belle continued. “It’s high time Virginia starts dating again. I’m sure between the three of you brilliant young ladies you know a handsome, courageous man dumb enough to come wrestle with her.”

A speculative gleam shone in Vicki’s eyes.

“No,” Virginia said firmly. “Dating is something young people do. I’ve had my time.”

“Now who’s the fool?” Miss Belle snapped. “You’ve got half your life ahead of you still. It’s high time you start living it.”

Virginia could only stare at her mother, both moved and amused by her concern. Most people had feared her father, Colonel Healy, and yes, he’d been a tough old Marine who didn’t take shit off anyone. But it only took one look from Miss Belle and that man would have taken San Juan Hill singlehandedly or died trying. Miss Belle wore big hats and frivolous pink dresses, but when push came to shove, she was the one who ran the family with a gay laugh and her wickedly keen mind. She used to joke that God had known exactly what He was doing when He’d put her in a small female body, because if He’d made her a big strapping man, she’d have been one mean bully.

“I bet Mal will know someone,” Vicki said.

Virginia groaned. “Don’t get the Mistress of Dallas involved or I’ll never have any peace. You know very well what kind of man that woman would try to set me up with.”

Vicki laughed, a knowing chuckle that spoke volumes. “A good-looking boy willing to do anything you say for a chance to kiss your toes? What’s the harm in that? Although I suspect she’s involved with someone herself right now. I don’t know if she’s still got her finger on the pulse of Dallas’s submissive male scene or not.”

Rae stared at Virginia a moment with those big, startled eyes. “Oh. Oh.

“Where do you think Victor and Conn got their hard side, Rae Lynn?” Miss Belle said.

“But that doesn’t mean I want some boy running around my house saying, ‘Yes, Mistress, how may I serve, Mistress?’” Virginia didn’t try to keep the disgust from her voice. “Good lord. I’ve got boys older than Mal. I sure don’t want her to set me up with anyone of that age.”

“Cougar,” Vicki said teasingly.

Virginia growled in response. “Grizzly bear is more like it, mean and nasty after getting woke up too early from hibernation.”

“And hungry,” her daughter replied, still teasing, but with a growing understanding in her eyes that made Virginia look away.

Hungry. They have no idea. She didn’t want them to know exactly how lonely she’d been. How many nights she’d paced and practiced with the whip or crop just to exhaust herself, or drank herself into a stupor just to find a few hours of peace.

“What do you want in a man?” Shiloh asked.

I want Tyrell. Virginia made herself shut the mental door on what she couldn’t have any longer, the fuzzy memories she’d clung to all these years. “If I were to date again, and that’s a big IF, he’d have to be older, more my age. A man my age would already be mature and confident. He’d know exactly what he wanted with the rest of his life and he’d do anything to get it. The same as me. He wouldn’t need coddling or teaching or patience, which I don’t have patience for! A man used to hard work, who’s probably already seen and done more than you children ever dreamed about. Someone who can stand up to me and tell me when I’m being a fool—” she said that with a smile for Miss Belle, “—and won’t get his ego bruised when I tell him the same.”

“Now that will be the challenge.” Laughing, Miss Belle stood and started herding everyone toward the door. “Even Tyrell got his ego bruised on occasion.”

“All men do.”

“Let’s finish up dinner so our patient can get some rest. I’ll see what we can do about your man, Virginia. You’ve placed a tall order.”

Virginia settled down deeper into the pillows, her eyes already heavy. She’d done hardly anything but sleep at the hospital, but there wasn’t anything like coming home to her own bed. Tall, she sighed, slipping into sleep. He should definitely be tall

~ * ~

You can read more about the book here including another excerpt or buy a copy here.

~ * ~

Joely Sue Burkhart has always loved heroes who hide behind a mask, the darker and more dangerous the better.  Whether cool, sophisticated billionaire, brutal bloodthirsty assassin, or simply a man tortured by his own needs, they all wear masks to protect themselves.  Once they finally give you a peek into the passionate, twisted secrets they’re hiding, they always fall hard and fast.  Dare to look beneath the mask with delicious BDSM in a wide variety of genres with Joely on her websiteTwitter and Facebook.  Be sure to check out her free reads!

Whee!! Thanks so much Joely Sue! And everyone just guess how generous she is?! One of you will win a $10 gift certificate to any online book retailer and a copy (print or e) of Never Let You Down!

TBR Challenge Review: Three Little Words by Maggie Wells

Three Little Words by Maggie Wells
Contemporary romance novella released by Lyrical Press on December 15, 2014

Three Little WordsIt’s never too late to make the best impulsive decision of your life.

Jo Masters isn’t the party girl she used to be, but now that she’s a woman without obligations, she’s ready to recapture a little of her misspent youth. Her niece’s wedding, with its open bar and dark dance floor, proves to be the perfect opportunity to let loose.

Gregory Stark is just trying to make it through his son’s wedding day… and make some time with the gorgeous brunette on the bride’s side of the aisle. His kid’s wedding probably isn’t the best occasion to put the moves on the sexy woman, who introduces herself only as ‘Josie’, but his best friend is closing in on her too and he has to act fast. With a couple of tequila shots under his belt, Greg propositions Josie — and neither wants to refuse.

I saw this in my library collection, and I liked the idea of an older, responsible heroine, having some fun. Also you know, I’ve been all about the novellas lately. I don’t have time necessarily to read a novel, and I have a thing about reading from cover to cover, so it just works out perfectly.

Jo – who was Josie in her party days – recently turned fifty. I wasn’t expecting that, but it was actually nice to read about older characters that are frisky and fun. (Or maybe I’m just old now? XD) It was nice that Jo is such a regular person. This could be anyone at any of the weddings you attend. (Although we should all be so lucky as to have this much fun.) Personally I also liked Jo because she has a thing for threes … and I do too. Although I’ve never had the policy of always having three tequila shots when I party. Which was also a bonus – who doesn’t want an aunt that’s willing to throw back the tequila?

Gregory Stark is a really good guy, and I loved seeing the responsible always dependable dad character let loose. Good for him! He’s got a sense of humor, and realizes how ridiculous ” ” he’s acting, but Greg knows he wants to go for Josie. This is your unusual hero. The man who was happy to settle down and take care of his family, the one who sacrifices for others and is only now going a little crazy… at his son’s wedding.

I give kudos to Ms. Wells for this not being skeevy at all. I mean, the bride is Jo’s niece, the groom is Greg’s son … but the focus is definitely on the Jo and Greg hookup. And hookup they do – complete with all the scandalous wedding behavior including a  bathroom tryst you’d expect from a character in his or her 20s. (And in real life “that trashy one.” Come on – you know you’d judge.) But instead of  it being smarmy, Ms. Wells manages to make the scenarios not only hot, but fun. The characters are self deprecating, but so into it.

I did think some things were just glossed over – Jo seems to have gotten the short stick in life. Her sibling(s) just dumped the care of her mother on her. You get that Jo’s life hasn’t turned out the way she wanted, but geez it was a lot to pack into a few glib sentences.

Another thing is the secondary character, Will. I loved him and … well you know when you kinda want to hate someone but just can’t quite do it? That. He’s Jo’s ex … and Greg’s best friend. Small world. He’s such an ass, but not. Will is a player, and not someone who ever settles down. Imagine him as … I suppose the George Clooney pre-2014. Jo even acknowledges Will is (deep down) a good guy. I liked that Will worked to get Jo and Greg together … and the pang of regret he experienced when he said Jo was “the one who got away.”

There’s so much packed into this novella. I know I’ll be re-reading it. I only wish there was more. The whole thing really just takes place in a few hours, but based on the characters and their actions, you can see it going forward. I wish I could just be sure of it. Ms. Wells implies a longstanding romantic relationship between Jo and Greg at the end … but that’s a lot to hinge on a few hours. Most of which they spent passed out. Regardless, I quite enjoyed Three Little Words and I’ll definitely be looking for more of Ms. Wells stories.

Grade: B

You can buy a copy here.