Archive for March, 2013

Tomorrow, check out my Facebook page www.facebook.com/EllaQuinnAuthor. I’m having my first contest!

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Another fabulous post.

Writers In The Storm Blog

By Sharla Rae

No, I’m not discussing sharks. We’re discussing the jawline, and writing facial descriptions and emotions. And …  I have another description list for you, too.

Recently in her blog, When Writing Is A Full Body Workout, Orly confessed being caught acting out what she happened to be writing, that is, she was making faces and performing her characters’ body movements. Perhaps not so surprisingly is that many of you identified with her and this peculiarity – myself included.

It’s also not so surprising to learn “why” we do this either subconsciously or deliberately. Writers want fresh descriptions that hit the mark and don’t sound hokey.

What’s hoaky? Going overboard.

We all laugh at the facial contortions made by monkeys in a zoo, but we don’t want our characters making monkey faces! I touched on this in my blog, Body Language: An Artistic Tool.

When describing…

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Regency Author Regan Walker

Regency Author Regan Walker

Ella: Please join me in welcoming Regency author Regan Walker who is here to promote the second book in her Agents of the Crown series, Against the Wind…

Regan nudges Ella, and says in a whisper, “You’re supposed to interview the dowager duchess, Muriel, Lady Claremont, not me.”

Ella: Drat, sorry. It’s been that kind of week. Umm,<turns to her ladyship and smiles> Lady Claremont, I’m so very pleased to welcome you to my blog.

Lady Claremont inclines head: “I’m delighted to be with you, my dear. So lovely of you to invite me.”

Ella: I was my pleasure. Ms. Walker tells me you make an appearance in both her books, Racing with the Wind and Against the Wind. Is this the first time you’ve played a literary role?

Lady Claremont:Ms.? I believe you meant to say Mrs. Walker?

Ella:  Oh, yes, of course. Please go on.

Lady Claremont: Actually, I believe Mrs. Walker made possible my introduction to that very attractive knight, Sir Martin Powell, in her novel Against the Wind. But my annual ball was featured in Racing With The Wind. It’s an important event of the Season, you know. And then there were the two short stories, The Shamrock & The Rose and The Holly & The Thistle which feature my favorite pastime, matchmaking.”

Ella: Oh, I wasn’t aware.

[the dowager duchess raises her quizzing glass and peers at Ella wondering if she’s been in the country for too long]

Ella mumbles: I really need to get out more. She smiles: Well then, what do you like most about the stories you’ve been involved in?

Lady Claremont: “Really, dear, you must know it is the wonderful people I meet. We have such fun. And I am rather fond of those handsome men Mrs. Walker keeps brining to my balls and to parties in my home. She has such good taste in gentlemen.”

Ella: I think we can all appreciate a well-looking man. I understand that you have a penchant for interesting people. What draws you to those who are a bit different from the rest of Polite Society?

Lady Claremont: “Well, my dear. At my age one has to consider how short life is, and interesting people add such richness to one’s existence, don’t you think? <Ella nods> Why spend time with the ordinary when the mischievous, winsome and even difficult often have so much to commend them? Of course, the rogues must have the right woman and be properly reformed.”

Ella: I absolutely agree, my lady. Ms er, Mrs. Walker tells me you have some ability as a matchmaker. What makes you decide that two people should come together, and how do you go about, er, convincing them.

Lady Claremont: I always begin with thoughts of the late earl. We had such a warm, wonderful marriage. And I dare say he was quite the rogue. When I see a man that reminds me of my husband I am instantly intrigued. I do not like my female acquaintances to be alone in the world. So when Mrs. Walker presents me with a handsome rogue, a diamond in the rough so to speak, and I see great character within his soul, I am always tempted to make a good match. Sometimes one must assist fate and I’ve had to use my influence at times, but in the end I am pleased with my nudging.”

Ella: I agree. There are many times when a couple requires the assistance of others to help them realize how they feel about each other. Can you tell us what role you played in bringing together Martin and Katherine?

Lady Claremont: “Sadly, this is not one I can claim for my own, except I will note that Sir Martin was reunited with the Lady Egerton at my ball. I understand Sir Martin rescued the lovely redhead from a cur who was in pursuit of her with evil design. But, of course, I only discovered this later. The Marquess of Ormond, a very dear friend, informed me of the events once the couple were wed.”

Ella: Very interesting. Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you.

Lady Claremont: “Anytime, my dear. Anytime! Mrs. Walker informs me that I shall be a guest at William and Lady Stephens home in Scotland at Christmas in a few years so perhaps I will see you there.”

Ella: Yes, you will. I am so looking forward to it. Thank you again for visiting with me today.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for, the blurb and an excerpt of Against the Wind.

Against the Wind

Against the Wind


A night in London’s most exclusive bordello. Agent of the Crown Sir Martin Powell would not normally indulge, but the end of his time spying against Napoleon deserves a victory celebration. Yet, such pleasure will not come cheap. The auburn-haired courtesan he calls “Kitten” is in truth Katherine, Lady Egerton, a dowager baroness and the daughter of an earl as elusive as she is alluring. She flees a fate worse than death. But Martin has known darkness, too, and he alone can touch her heart–as she has touched his. To the English Midlands they will steal, into the rising winds of revolution.

Excerpt of Against The Wind:

Chapter 1

London, April 1817

She is dead.

Katherine, Lady Egerton, stared at the still form lying on the bed. Beloved sister, friend of the heart…Anne was gone. One minute she was struggling for breath, the next she lay silent and still. The only person in the world Kit loved more than life had left her.

They are all gone now. The sudden solitude tore at her heart.

Kit smiled sadly, gazing through eyes filled with tears at the frail body lying before her. The brown mouse. Anne’s name for herself. Delicate even as a child, she had not long survived her marriage to the cruel Earl of Rutledge. Kit knelt at her sister’s bedside, assailed by grief and guilt, and reached for Anne’s hand. Could she have done more to save her sister from the dread disease? Could she have done more to protect Anne from the heartless man who was her husband?

Pale in death, Anne was still beautiful. Kit had often sketched that heart-shaped face. Not a mouse, but a much-loved sister with a kind, unselfish heart.

Kit had seen the end coming in the last few months, months through which she’d faithfully cared for Anne. The coughs that wracked her sister’s slight frame had grown worse as Anne seemed to fade before Kit’s eyes. Kit knew she was losing her even as she willed that weak body to heal. The physician said he could do nothing; each time he left shaking his head and telling Kit to make “the poor girl” comfortable as best she could. Kit had tried to save Anne, doing the only thing she knew by giving her syrup of horehound and honey. But such a small measure was not enough. Then, too, her sister had seemed to welcome death.

Suddenly, the room grew cold. Kit felt his presence, a looming evil behind her. She took a deep breath and summoned her strength.

“Leave her and come to me.” Rutledge’s tone was harsh and demanding. Kit had no need to see him to know his face would be twisted in an odious scowl, his lips drawn taut. “It is time.”

“I must see to my sister.”

“You need do nothing. I have arranged for the burial. Come away now.”

Kit knew what he wanted, for she had seen the lust in his dark eyes. What at first had been sideways glances became leers and unwanted touches. Though she’d lived in his home since the death of her husband the baron, Kit had avoided the earl, rarely leaving her sister’s bedside. She had been thinking of a way to escape, but her exhaustion in caring for Anne these last days left those plans incomplete. With meager funds, her options were few.

When she failed to rise at the earl’s direction, his hand roughly gripped her shoulder. She stiffened at the pain of his fingers digging into her skin.

“I have waited long for you, Katherine, enduring that mockery of a marriage to your sister while all the while it was you I wanted, you I was promised. Now I shall have what is mine.”

“No!” She rose swiftly, stepping back as she turned to face him. Revulsion rose in her throat. What did he mean by those words? She never had been promised to him!

His smirk transfigured what many thought of as a handsome face. Hadn’t Anne at first been fooled by his aristocratic features and wavy brown hair? One had only to look closely to see his nature reflected in those thin lips and narrow eyes now focused on Kit. A deep furrow between his brows bore witness to his long having insisted upon having his way. When Kit sketched him, it had been as an attacking hawk.

“What will you do?” he asked smugly. “Where will you go, m’dear? You are alone and without funds. I am the one who has provided food and shelter for both you and your weak sister, though I wanted only you. You are mine, Katherine, and I will have you.”

Terror seized her. Cornered, her eyes darted about like an animal snared in a trap. His tall figure blocked the door to the corridor; the only way out led through his adjacent bedchamber. She fled toward it.

She hastened into the room as he stalked after her, knowing she had but seconds, and her eyes searched for a weapon, something to hold him at bay. At the side of the fireplace were tools, short bars of iron that could fend off a man. But could she reach them in time?

He lunged for her just as she ran toward the fireplace. His body collided with hers, and she fell upon the wooden floor with a thud. Pain shot through her hip. His body crashed down upon hers, forcing the air from her lungs. She gasped a breath just as his mouth crushed her lips, ruthlessly claiming dominance.

Tearing away, she pushed against his shoulders with all her might, but his greater strength held her pinned to the floor. His hand gripped one breast and squeezed. She winced at the pain, but that was quickly forgotten the moment a greater terror seized her: His aroused flesh pressed into her belly.

Violently she struggled, but to no avail. His wet lips slid down her throat to her heaving chest as his fingers gripped the top of her gown and yanked at the silk. Kit heard the fabric tear as he ripped her gown and the top of her chemise, and she felt the cool air on her naked breasts. Frantic, she mustered strength she did not know she had. Twisting in his grasp, she reached for the iron poker now a mere foot away.

His mouth latched onto her breast where he voraciously sucked a nipple. Lost in his lust, he did not see her grasp the length of iron, raise it above him and bring it crashing down on his head. Stunned by the blow, he raised up, his eyes glazed. Kit let the bar fall again, this time with greater force. Blood spattered her chest and face as his body went limp. He slumped atop her.

Kit’s heart pounded in her chest like a bird’s wing beating against a cage. Frantically she shoved his face from her breast and rolled his body to the floor.

Unsteady at first, her breath coming in pants, Kit rose and looked down at the crumpled form lying before her, every nerve on edge as she gazed into that evil face, now deathly pale. Blood oozed from a gash in the earl’s left temple. There was no sign of life, no movement.

I have killed him!

Fear choked off her breath as she wiped blood from her face with a sleeve, and with one last look toward her sister’s bedchamber she raced from the room. Footsteps sounded down the hall. Alarmed at the prospect of encountering one of the earl’s servants who would summon a constable, Kit knew she must find a place to hide, and there was nowhere to hide in the house. Quietly stealing into her bedchamber, she grabbed her cloak and reticule, stuffing inside it the one piece of her jewelry that could be sold to sustain her, and fled the dwelling.

Out on the street, she paused to draw her cloak tightly around her, desperate to cover her torn and bloody gown. Where could she go? Who would shelter her in the state she was in, given the deed she had done?

Only one name came to her.

Willow House.

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Against-Wind-Agents-Crown-ebook/dp/B00BXIJ6QM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364565497&sr=8-1&keywords=Against+The+Wind+regan+walker

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Against-the-wind-by-regan-walker?store=allproducts&keyword=Against+the+wind+by+regan+walker


As a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors thought her suited to the profession of law, and Regan realized it would be better to be a hammer than a nail. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.

Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.


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Good post.

Writers In The Storm Blog

Last Fall we started the WriterStrong series to delve deeply into the strengths writers must have for strong careers.

Social media and internet savvy is part of the job requirement for today’s authors.  Today’s post gets to the nitty-gritty on one important aspect of your author website or blog.

Jami’s two-part series of how-to tips will help make you “TechStrong” (plus we’ve got a great deal for WITS readers at the bottom of this post!). Part 1 is here today, Part 2 is ather place tomorrow.


Tech Talk: What’s a Hosting Company and Why Are They Important?
by Jami Gold

Writers should have a website and blog.” If you’ve been around agents, editors, or other writers online, you’ve probably heard that advice. We need to have an online home, get our name out there, and start building a marketing platform. Great, but where do we start?

Many writers start…

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Another great post from WITS

Writers In The Storm Blog

by Jenny Hansen

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
~W. Somerset Maugham

Novel writing isn’t for sissies.

I know we’ve talked about this before. I’ve even brought you people like Margie Lawson, Susan Mallery and Stephen J. Cannell who know way more than I do on the subject.

However, since this is Spring, it felt right to step out of my happy little pre-published cozy zone and share my “3 Writing Commandments.”

We’ll see if y’all agree (or disagree) that these three babies will help you keep your sanity while you go through the long, often lonely process of penning your stories. Just so there’s no ambiguity, I even put them in my order of importance. *drumroll please*

Commandment #1~ Thou shalt not quit.

“The only way to guarantee failure is to stop trying.”

Susan Mallery was the one who…

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We all know how important it is to entice a reader with a good blurb. Come by and post yours. If the book has released, feel free to add your buy links. If it has not, post your blogs or websites.

Here’s mine from The Seduction of Lady Phoebe, the first book in my series, The Marriage Game which will be on pre-order next month.

LADY PHOEBE STANHOPE, famous for her quick wits, fast horses, and punishing right hook, is afraid of nothing but falling in love. Fleeing a matchmaking attempt with the only man she despises, Phoebe meets a handsome blue-eyed stranger who sends her senses skittering. By the time Phoebe discovers the seductive stranger is the same arrogant troll she sent packing eight years ago, she is halfway to falling in love with him.

LORD MARCUS FINLEY last saw Phoebe striding regally away, as he lay on the floor with a bruised jaw and a rapidly swelling eye. Recently returned from the West Indies, Marcus is determined to earn Phoebe’s love, preferably before she discovers who he is. Determined to have Phoebe for his own, Marcus begins his campaign to gain her forgiveness and seduce her into marriage.

Can Phoebe learn to trust her own heart and Marcus? Or is she destined to remain alone?

Now, let’s see yours!

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This is always an interesting question for me.

Writers In The Storm Blog

by Sharla Rae

The first thing writers learn about Point of View, or POV, is that it refers to whose head we’re in.

In other words: through whose perspective will the reader experience the sounds, smells, actions and emotions of a story/scene?

Seems simple, but as writers it isn’t always easy to decide which character should be showing the story at a given point.

First, decide the type of POV you want to use.

Author omniscient or Omniscient narrator is when the all-knowing author narrates the story. Currently it’s out of fashion.

First person POVs are viewed from one person’s perspective, the character who is telling the story.  It’s not always to easy to write, but when it comes to choosing POV, it’s simple; there’s only one choice.

Third person is especially popular in romance, and it’s not unusual to see three or more character POVs. We learn what’s happening through…

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Please help me in welcoming my guest author today, multi-published author in several genres, including erotica Suzi Love. Suzi is giving away a copy of her latest release, Embracing Scandal to one lucky commenter. All you have to do to be eligible is to leave your email address.

Ella: Suzi, thank you so much for being here today. I rarely read erotica, but I truly enjoyed The Viscount’s Pleasure House.

Suzi: Oooh, thank you so much for your kind words, Ella. I’m glad you enjoyed my book.

Ella: Tell us a little about yourself and what prompted you to start writing.

Suzi: I’d always longed to have time to write books, yet when I was confined to home after a dental accident and the chance to fulfill my lifelong dream opened up, I was stunned. But I’ve always believed every dark cloud has a silver lining, so I grabbed hold of the opportunity, threw myself into learning everything I could about the craft of writing, and haven’t looked back. I love writing!

Ella: You write historical, erotic historical and medical contemporary. How did that happen?

Suzi: LOL! Yes, I write a crazy mix of genres, don’t I?
My medical stories happened because, as a nurse, I was involved in hundreds of dramatic medical situations in our Australian outback. But while red dust, kangaroos, and remote hospitals gave me loads of plot ideas for contemporary medicals, it was my years living in South Pacific countries that led to my fascination with adventurous characters and my obsession with history.
I discovered that the old saying… ‘truth is stranger than fiction’, is really true. People living in countries distant from their homelands ( England, France, Holland, Germany etc) battled disease, dealt with shipping disasters, traveled back and forth across the world, and against all the odds, survived and flourished.
The erotic part of my writing came through research into life in London during the very early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. Though people often think of the Victorian years as staid, formal, and morally upright, there was also another, and far more seedy, side of London. There had been huge population growth and London was bulging at the seams.

Brothels existed on every corner in many areas of the City and thousands of women were forced to work anywhere they could to earn enough money to feed their starving families. People of all social levels earned money through brothels, prostitution, theft etc so I wanted to show how a Viscount could be forced into not only owning a brothel but having to cater to the whims of his morally corrupt peers as a way of earning enough money to search for his lost family.

I have so much fun writing stories about extraordinary characters put into extraordinary situations. And being able to show readers that there were other parts to the Regency and early Victorian eras than fashion, balls, and indulgence. The best part about being an author is tossing large doses of romance into an eclectic mix of exotic places and exciting characters and ending up with, hopefully, a story full of emotion and excitement.

Ella: How do your story ideas come to you?

Suzi: As part of my history obsession, I’ve become a huge lover of museums. Each time I visit one, whether it’s a collection of early machinery in outback Australia, exquisite art in Russia, or the harshness of a child’s life being educated at one of London’s Ragged schools, I picture how people lived and invent some characters to inhabit that world and then, just because I like to stretch people to their fullest, I toss every drama I can think of at them and watch how they cope.

Ella: Your latest book Embracing Scandal is the first of a series. Tell us about it.

Suzi: I love the inventions, expansions, and steam engines around the 1840s in England so I asked myself… ‘How would five siblings from an upper class British family survive financially if they were thrown on hard times and only had their intelligence to save them?’

The answer? They’d learn about machinery, railways, and stock trading. Then, just to make life interesting, unscrupulous stock traders appear and threaten the family.

So my scientifically minded siblings clamored for their own love stories. Their own battles, their own romances. Sigh!

Embracing Scandal is Becca’s story. As the eldest sibling and the mathematical genius, she stirs the others to apply their intellects to save themselves when their self-absorbed father drifts away on yet another archeological dig.

Ella: Thank you so much for joining me today.

Suzi: Ella, thank you for having me. It’s been wonderful to visit your part of the world.

Ella: Without further to do here is the blurb and an excerpt of Embracing Scandal.

Embracing Scandal

Embracing Scandal

Book Blurb
After Lady Rebecca Jamison, a mathematical genius, saves her family from financial ruin by secretly investing in railway stocks on the London stock exchange, a greedy syndicate, desperate for Becca’s calculations and predictions, murders her friend and threatens the Jamison family, forcing Becca to beg assistance from her childhood friend, Cayle St. Martin.

The newly titled Duke of Sherwyn has returned to London after five years on the continent extending his family’s shipping interests. He’s shunned his privileged London life and his father’s unbending attitudes, and becomes committed to employing the spying tactics he learned on the continent to help Becca indict the syndicate—and using his skills as a lover to seduce her into his bed.

But how will Cayle be able to convince Becca, a determinedly self-sufficient spinster, that he can be more to her than just a protector?

Book Excerpt

Lady Rebecca Jamison watched Cayle. Under the rules of etiquette, she must remember to address him as Your Grace or Sherwyn in public, despite knowing he’d abhorred the bowing and scraping expected by dukes, including his father.

Becca tried to judge his level of inebriation and his reaction to her news, though she was wise enough to stay out of arm’s reach. In the past, her knight in shining armour had constantly overreacted if he thought her adventures, or misadventures, placed her in harm’s way.

“Please, my dear.” The new duke’s fists unfurled as he flung his arms wide in a dramatic gesture. “Go ahead and clarify that terrifying statement.” His voice lifted another octave. “Before my hair turns completely white. Or my legs give out.”

Neither Cayle’s fury nor his towering size frightened Becca. But she was terrified that the city would awaken and the streets fill with people before he became calm and rational and listened to her plea for his help in collecting the final proof that would send at least a dozen of their peers to prison for illegal trading practices.

“Or even worse.” He voice was a low snarl as he pointed at the floor. “I misplace the contents of my heaving stomach all over the duchess’s prized carpet.”

Becca winced. For the tenth time she listed to herself the reasons she’d bravely bearded this particular panther in his lair.

To protect her family.

To secure the nest eggs saved by the fallen women at the shelter.

To save her own life.

As the new Duke of Sherwyn, Cayle was her best, or possibly only, chance to do all that and to keep her promise to Scotland Yard. She hoped he’d listen with an open mind. Hoped he’d comprehend how much danger her family and friends were in without realising how close she had come to also being murdered.

“I’d gone to Peggy’s cottage to collect some letters she’d written on behalf of our Women’s Society. The door was ajar. I knocked but Peggy didn’t answer so I went inside.”

Peggy had been sprawled across the floor, her sturdy legs protruding at odd angles from her yellowing nightgown. Her hair had been matted with blood and tangled in the strings of her dislodged nightcap and her plait had been a rusty red mess instead of a neat tail of plain brown.

“I can’t sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I see the murderer standing over Peggy’s battered body. But he runs towards me. Not away.” She shuddered and closed her eyes.

Fingers brushed her cheek. “Becca, I’ll not let anyone harm you.”

“If I’d only arrived at Peggy’s cottage a few minutes earlier.”

“Stop it. You mustn’t blame yourself.”

“How can I not? One life has already been destroyed because of me. My friend was killed. Her body discarded like a tattered rag doll.”

His bloodshot gaze narrowed on her face. “So, knowing how your mind works, you’ll try to focus the consortium on yourself, and thereby keep everyone else out of danger.” He raised a brow. “Am I correct?”

Damned man was still a mind reading menace. “You’re wrong. I’ve little wish to confront those men by myself. But neither will I allow anyone else to be hurt.”

“And who protects you from the current set of fire–breathing dragons?”

She raised her chin. “I’ve outgrown such childishness.” She lowered herself to the closest settee, a demonstration of ladylike maturity and a reprieve for her trembling knees.

Author Bio

Suzi Love now lives in a sunny part of Australia after spending many years in developing countries in the South Pacific. Her greatest loves are traveling, anywhere and everywhere, meeting crazy characters, and visiting the Australian outback. She adores history, especially the many-layered society of the late Regency to early Victorian eras. In and around London, her titled heroes and heroines may live a privileged and gay life but Suzi also likes to dig deeper into the grittier and seamier levels of British life and writes about the heroes and heroines who challenge traditional manners, morals, and occupations, either through necessity or desire.

The Viscount's Pleasure House

The Viscount’s Pleasure House

Book Buying Places
Barnes and Noble
Crimson Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

Author links –
Suzi Love’s Daily Gossip Newspaper – http://bit.ly/11iv1Ql



Web / blog – http://bit.ly/OuEIXA
Pinterest – http://bit.ly/SoevJG
Goodreads – http://bit.ly/SXqWcS
Suzi Love Face Book – http://on.fb.me/OyiYbU
Suzi Love’s Face Book Author Page http://on.fb.me/NGeZcp
Twitter – http://twitter.com/suzilove

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Have you caught yourself doing this? I have.

Writers In The Storm Blog

by Orly Konig-Lopez

The other day my husband stayed home and was working on the couch so I decided to work at the kitchen table to be close. (Cue the “Awwww“… okay, are we done?)

So here I am, typing away, lost in the world I was creating in my head with “real” people who live only in my imagination. And I was in the groove. Until…

You know that feeling of being watched? Yeah, sometimes it’s really happening.

I looked up and my husband was staring at me with something between interest, confusion and pure panic.

“What?” I demanded.

“What are you doing?” He asked, looking rather worried.

“Writing.” Duh!

“What’s with the …” and he proceeded to twitch and jiggle and flail…and toss his head.

“I’m writing.” Seriously, what did he think I was doing?

We don’t just communicate through words, right? Facial expressions, body language, and…

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Here is your chance to shine. Post an excerpt of whatever you have published, with buy links, or that you’re working on. Please do not post more than one excerpt, keep them to a reasonable length, and PG rated.

Here is mine from The Seduction of Lady Phoebe which goes on pre-order at the beginning of April and releases in September.

Late June 1806, Worthington Hall, England

Lord Marcus Finley poured his third glass of brandy and strolled back to the library window. The sunlit terrace and lawn provided a stark contrast to the dim, wood paneled room in which he stood contemplating his bleak future and imminent banishment to the West Indies.

His gaze was drawn to the petite figure of Lady Phoebe Stanhope. The sun caught her reddish-blonde curls, creating a halo effect as she laughed and played with the Worthingtons’ young girls. Simply seeing her joy eased some of his pain.

Everything about Lady Phoebe was perfect, from her curls and deep sky blue eyes to her small feet and neatly turned ankle. There was a connection between them. He’d felt it. She was the only one who had tried to understand him. He wanted to marry her, but it seemed impossible now. Why had he met the only woman he’d ever want just days before he left?

He wondered what their children would have looked like. Another rush of anger swept through him, and he forcibly loosened the fingers he’d tightened around his glass.

“Marcus, there you are.”

He turned as his friend, Mattheus Vivers, heir to the Earl of Worthington, strode towards him. Vivers was the only reason Marcus was at the house party.

His friend pointed at the brandy. “That’s not going to help, you know.”

Marcus stared at the glass for a moment, watching the sun catch the amber shades of the liquid before downing the drink. “I’m going to hell in any case. What does it matter how I do it?”

Vivers rubbed a hand over his face. “When was the last time you were completely sober?”

“When my father told me I was being banished—and to where.” Marcus turned back to the window, his anger consuming him. Even his brother, Arthur, hadn’t defended Marcus. That had been the worse betrayal.

Vivers joined him at the window. “What’s so interesting out there?”

Marcus went back to the view of Lady Phoebe. “My last unshattered dream.”

Vivers glanced out. “Lady Phoebe Stanhope? Give it up.”

Scowling, Marcus replied, “Why? I may be a second son, but I’m still eligible. Once I reach my majority, I have the inheritance from my mother’s aunt.”
His friend ran a hand through his hair, disordering its fashionable style. “Very well, I’ll list the reasons. You’re a minor and need your father’s consent to wed, the same father, by the way, who is banishing you to the West Indies before you embroil yourself in a scandal here that can’t be smoothed over. The most important is she is not yet out.”

Marcus’s stomach clenched as if he’d been punched. “What do you mean she’s not out?”

“Not. Out. Not old enough to be on the Marriage Mart,” Vivers enunciated clearly. “At twenty you’re five years to young yourself. Do you really imagine that her father would consent to you marrying her? Ladies marry at twenty, not gentlemen.”

Marcus shook his head, trying to clear it. Why was she at this house party then? Was this some joke fate was playing on him? Or was it more punishment? “How old is she?”

“I don’t really know,” his friend shrugged. “Sixteen or seventeen, maybe. She has a great deal of countenance, so it’s hard to be certain. It’s a shame you won’t be here when she does come out,” Vivers mused. “I don’t expect she’ll last long on the Marriage Mart.”

Marcus felt like he was dying. By the time he was five and twenty, she would be married and have children. “Perhaps Lady Phoebe would go with me to the West Indies. God knows I love her.”

“We’ll have dinner at the tavern and attend the cock fight,” Vivers said. “That will put you in a better frame of mind. She leaves early tomorrow. Better if you don’t see her.”

Marcus poured another glass, tossed it off. “There must be something I can do.”
He went to add more brandy to his glass, but Vivers snatched the tumbler from Marcus’s hand.

“You’ve had more than enough to drink. Good God, man. Get it through your head. You cannot marry her. Now go to your chamber, and sleep it off before you do something stupid.”

Vivers left, and Marcus went to follow. He wobbled a bit as he took a step.
Lady Phoebe was waving as she made her way to the house. He would intercept her and make his case. This was his last chance to win her. In nine days he’d be on a ship to the West Indies, but first he’d take her to Gretna Green.

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