Monday, January 31, 2011

Guest -Jeffrey Carver

Good morning, everyone! Today's guest is science fiction author, Jeffrey Carver. Mr. Carver was a Nebula Award finalist for his novel Eternity's End. He also authored Battlestar Galactica, a novelization of the critically acclaimed television miniseries. His novels range from the adventures of the Star Rigger universe (Star Rigger's Way, Dragons in the Stars, and others) to the ongoing, character-driven hard SF of The Chaos Chronicles—which begins with Neptune Crossing and continues with Strange Attractors, The Infinite Sea, and Sunborn.
Jeffrey has taught writing in a variety of settings, from educational television to conferences for young writers to MIT, as well as his ongoing Ultimate Science Fiction Workshop. He has created a free web site for aspiring authors of all ages at Learn more about the author and his work at or visit his blog, Pushing a Snake Up a Hill, at


First of all, thanks for inviting me to visit your lair here, especially given how cold it's been outside lately. I'm a little off my beaten path here, so forgive me if I sit in the wrong chair or something. You see, I'm generally considered a writer of hard SF or sometimes space opera, not a romance writer or even a science fiction romance writer. That notwithstanding, I thought it might be fun to see what interests I have in common with you romance types, rather than focus on the differences.

Let's start with this business about being a hard SF writer—or, as writer Melissa Scott and I once agreed we should really call ourselves, "high viscosity SF writers." Meaning, we take our science seriously, but not as seriously perhaps as some of those fellows who actually do science and engineering when they're not writing stories. The thing is, we high-viscosity writers take our characters as seriously as we take our science—maybe even more seriously. And where you have characters—by which I mean living, breathing, believable characters who can steal your heart—there you're also likely to find passions, and among the passions are romantic and sexual love. Not thrown in just to sell more copies, but integral to what makes the characters real, part of what drives them.

In a novel I wrote called Eternity's End,  a star rigger named Legroeder discovers love in the unlikeliest of places, a den of interstellar pirates. A star rigger is a kind of star pilot chosen for his or her exquisitely trained imagination and sensitivity, essential qualities for someone who must steer a ship along the misty and changeable Flux that underlies the light-years between the stars (in this particular universe). Star riggers tend to be romantics deep down, emotionally vulnerable visionaries. In Legroeder's case, he's a little raw because of some terrible things that have happened to him, on top of which he's caught trying to sneak into a pirate outpost to gain information. And that’s where he meets the chief law-enforcer of the pirates, an edgy young woman named Tracy-Ace/Alfa who carries even more cyber-implants in her head than Legroeder. Later, the implants prove to be an interesting facilitator of a romantic encounter, slightly condensed here...

He peered down at their clasped hands and found he wanted to squeeze her hand tighter, to renew the sensation of physical touch. Her eyes brightened as he squeezed, and he felt a second wave pass through him. This time it came from his hand and went straight up his arm. It was accompanied by a strange itch.
It took him a moment to realize that the itch was a tremendous spike of uplink/downlink. They were exchanging knowledge in a great exhilarating rush...
Snippets of his childhood play, on the long rolling beaches of Claire Marie—pleasure darkened by a certain melancholy, and by his unease with the water. Flashes of the joy and release of an unrestrained dash through the streams of the Flux...
Entwined with his flashes were hers—early memories of a farmhouse and grandparents, then coming of age in an utterly alien place, a culture in hiding. Achieving at an early age, mastering the inner life of the intelnet, of the implants and the knowledge systems...
Legroeder was filling like a vessel with her challenges and fears, and also her excursions into hopefulness. And against that, his own joys and friendships blazed into relief...
Legroeder was teetering on the edge of a complete surrender to the exchange....
She wanted him. And he wanted her.

The connection through their implants catalyzes a union that comes together with a speed and intensity that would be astonishing if not unbelievable in ordinary interaction. It proves an essential component of their unlikely trust in each other, eventually leading to friendship and love.

I'm currently writing in another universe, a series called The Chaos Chronicles, which started with Neptune Crossing and most recently touched down with Sunborn. This series is closer to true hard science fiction, inspired by chaos theory, though you also wouldn't be wrong to call it space opera. A human, John Bandicut, has by the second novel become an exile from everything he's known, including a woman he loved. He's become part of a small band of aliens and robots living in a vast ship-world at the edge of the galaxy, when they're not being called on to execute impossible missions. John must make his peace with his exile, and also with the noncorporeal alien who has taken up residence in his mind. He also needs to forge new bonds of friendship, to replace those he has left behind. He cannot possibly carry out the work he needs to do, basically saving worlds, without these new of whom is a humanoid female, smart, beautiful, and empathic.

How is he supposed to know that his human lover may be offered a similar path to the stars?

It's hard to say which is the more challenging part of writing these stories: the world-building, the creation of interesting and believable aliens, the often complex storylines, or the interpersonal, inter-species relationships that drive and hold the stories together. I'm pretty sure, though, that the most satisfying part to me as the author, when all the pieces come together, is the relationships. That's what I care about the most; that's what drives me.

Featured Books

Eternity's End -- A tale of the Flying Dutchman of the stars. Star pilot Renwald Legroeder undertakes a search for the legendary ghost ship Impris and her passengers and crew—whose fate is entwined with interstellar piracy, quantum defects in space-time, galactic coverup conspiracies, and deep-cyber romance. A finalist for the Nebula Award.
  • "True love, cognitive dissonance, divisions among the enemy, ambitious schemes, another mission—this one deeper than anyone has ever gone before into the substrata of the Flux—and a final resolution that leaves the reader both breathless and satisfied." —Analog SF

The Chaos Chronicles: Books 1-3 -- An omnibus of three novels: Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractors, and The Infinite Sea. When John Bandicut encounters alien sentience on Triton, his life changes forever—from sacrificing everything to save Earth, to confronting a malicious entity at the edge of the galaxy, to fathoming the abyss of an alien ocean.

  • One of the best SF novels of the year — Science Fiction Chronicle
  • "Jeff Carver is a hard sf writer who gets it right—his science and his people are equally convincing... from a chilling look at alien machine intelligence, to cutting-edge chaos theory, to the pangs of finite humans in the face of the infinite." —Gregory Benford
  • "Masterfully captures the joy of exploration." — Publishers Weekly
These books and all of Carver's novels are available as ebooks, in various formats. For listings, visit:

-- Lynda Again,
Thanks to Jeffrey for a very interesting article. I had the good fortune to read his Neptune Crossing, Book 1 in his Chaos Chronicles. I enjoyed it and would recommend it for anyone who loves science fiction. Click here to read my review Neptune Crossing Review

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review – Neptune Crossing

Neptune Crossing
By Jeffrey Carver

Because of a past injury, John’s ‘mental’ link to the ‘datanet’ has been cut leaving him vulnerable to silence-fugues. These fugues can and do jeopardize his job and his life. But when he stumbles across an alien life form deep in an ice cavern on the Neptune moon, Triton, he finds a connection that mimics the one he's lost. The bodiless quarx melds with his mind to inform John that its mission is to save the Earth and humanity…but it’s unsure what the danger is. A comet is the most likely answer. But the caveat is...John can tell no one. The quarx must remain hidden from other humans. John is torn between suspecting the alien of dangerous intentions to the Earth and needing the deep interior contact that prevents his silence-fugues.

The quarx, dubbed Charlie, has very little understanding of humans and has most of its somewhat meager knowledge from monitoring old television programs accidentally beamed into space. As it inhabits John’s mind, it learns but it doesn’t always comprehend. John, while trying to discover the source of danger to Earth, also has to educate the quarx about humans.

John also reaches out to Julie, an exo-archeologist, in a way that horrifies his alien co-inhabitant. Apparently Charlie, though he’s lived with many alien life forms through its eons of 'life', is xenophobic when it comes to its host’s intimate relations.

It’s been a long while since I’ve read a straight SF novel. While the plot in Neptune Crossing is straight forward, the book is dubbed as hard science fiction. I won’t argue semantics but I will say that I found it to be a fast, easy read. Yes, there is a lot of ‘technology’ but the author does not spend pages extolling its nuts and bolts as some Hard Science Fiction authors do. Instead, we get good human characterization that makes us empathize with John and Charlie. We want them to win, to save the day and to resolve all their problems.

All in all, it’s a very good read. I’m looking forward to the next in the series. Mr Carver will be stopping by to visit Star-Crossed Romance tomorrow. Be sure to stop by.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Literary Lessons

Today I was working on an entry for a local contest sponsored by the Friends of the Library. The theme of the annual contest is usually about a book that's chosen for discussion. This year they branched out and are allowing entries to talk about themes, like lessons from grandparents and reactions from a close death in the family.

I'd written something a year or so ago for a submission that fit the requirement. But I wasn't sure it got to the heart of the issues, and it didn't seem to have bite. That certain something that catches attention and makes reading my entry worth the time. It was sweet, had meaning and painted a nice picture. So...I decided to do something else. It has grit, maybe to the point of being overly attention grabbing. It is honest, truthful and in first person. It got me thinking...

I usually always have some type of book around, at the beach, at work, in the car. I had a book with me when I spent time at the hospital with my dad, my grandmother, my grandfather and mother. All those times I used the story to get away. Not necessarily from the moment, but to pass the time spent in waiting areas for hours on end. It gave me a way to escape from my set of issues.

What was I reading? When my grandfather was in a coma I was still in college and reading about an artist for a class report. When I was trading places to watch over my grandmother I had a Harelquin Romance. During my mom's surgery I had a comedic single title.

I've also learned many lessons from characters in books, and not just how romance worked :0) I learned about family dynamics, how strong women could be, and how it felt to visit places beyond my little town (when I was addicted to Harelquin Presents for example). I've read about working in Manhattan, riding a motorcycle, making a Molotov cocktail, surviving in militant cities, running a ranch in the Old West, not to mention a very detailed romance about training for the Olympics.

Now I'm curious. Where have you taken a book and what have you learned?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guest - Judi Fennell

Good morning all! Today's guest is a favorite one. But she'd been doing so many blogs that she'd gotten short on blog topics, so I was asked :-) Well, research on paranormal subjects is fascinating to me and, I think, you might agree. So I asked Judi about her research. Here's her answer. Oh, and check below to see how you might enter the drawing for a free copy of Judi's latest book. (You can see my review of it here.)

First, thanks so much for having me back, and thanks for such a great question.  I LOVE doing research! (Where was this gene when I was in high school????) But these days, I can get lost on the internet for hours looking up one obscure fact. And I got lost quite a bit for I Dream of Genies, my January 2011 release. It’s the first in my Bottle Magic series and soooooooo different from my Mer world. As different as night and day—or ocean and desert, as the case may be. I knew a lot about the ocean before I started writing the Mer series, and I knew a lot about Greek gods and goddesses. For the Genies… notsomuch. I mean, I am familiar with Egyptian mythology, so that was easy, but I didn’t want to pull a lot of that. I wanted to stick with the origin of the djinn: the Middle East. I don’t know a lot about that area, so I was on a major fact-finding mission.

Plus, if you read the story, you’ll see that gems and flowers play a big part in the story and while I’m fairly conversant on those topics, there were nuances that I had to clarify. Tough job looking at beautiful flowers and sparkly gems, let me tell you. :-)

Anyhow, first order of business was to call my best friend from high school. You’ll remember her from Wild Blue Under, where she lent her name to my heroine, Valerie. Well, my Valerie (the real-life version) is married to a guy born and raised in Egypt. Arabic is his first language. Tarek and I have become GREAT email buddies, let me tell you. And then there was the night the 3 of us went to a Moroccan restaurant for research for Genie Knows Best (but that’s the next book, in stores in November 2011. Hubs was out of town, in case you’re wondering.)

Tarek was my first line of questioning and after I’d talk to him, I’d have some direction to look online. What I utterly LOVE about research is when I need something to be a certain way to fit the story, something that I’m positive I made up in my imagination, and voila! It actually exists. The Hadhayosh in this story is one instance. I wanted a creature, similar to a bull that would challenge my hero and heroine, Matt and Eden. I found the Behemoth in the Bible, but I didn’t want to go Judeo-Christian. A little more digging and I found the perfect counterpart: the Hadhayosh. Things like that not only tickle my funny bone, but also let me know that I’m on the right path with the story. It’s as if the Universe is saying, “Yes, that’s it, this is the way to go with your story.” (I should probably mention that I’m a pantser versus a plotter, so a lot of the story surprises even me as it’s written.)

When it came time to design Al-Jannah, the magical djinn city in the middle of the Sahara, again, I wanted to pull from Middle Eastern history/architecture/design. I didn’t have far to go for research because I’d lived in Spain at one point which has HUGE Moorish influences. I simply looked at my twenty-year-old photographs, brought up a map of old Sevilla and planned my own town.

The one truly truly surprising thing I found out was about a plant. I needed something like hemlock, and I was planning to go with that or nightshade, but I dug a little deeper (no pun intended—unless you laughed; then it was intended), and I found the Mandragora. Now, imagine my surprise as a huge Harry Potter fan because I’d thought J.K. Rowling made that up. I mean, who didn’t giggle over the screaming creepy baby-like things? But, lo and behold, they’re Actual Plants. But I couldn’t use them because everyone would think I’d stolen her idea, right?  Right.

HOWEVER… It turns out that one of the common names of Mandragora is “djinn’s eggs.” All. Bets. Were. Off.

If the Universe is handing me a deadly plant called “djinn’s eggs,” I’m using it. I figure, J.K. Rowling put her own spin on it; I’ll put mine. But that coincidence/karma/serendipity/whatever you want to call it just shocked the heck out of me. So you’ll see the “djinn’s eggs,” but don’t expect screaming baby genies; that’s not what the plant is used for. (The word “deadly” might be a clue…)

It’s always sad when I finish a story because I’ve lived in this world, know these characters, fall in love with the hero and heroine, and laugh at the wise-cracking sidekicks, but the beauty of doing a series is that I get to live in the world a little longer, fall in love all over again, and hopefully out-sarcasm some of the secondary characters.

It’s also sad because then I have to come back to the real world and the pile of laundry has turned into a mountain…

Here’s a scene in Al-Jannah, but at the Egyptian goddess, Bastet’s, temple. Obo, the smart-aleck sidekick talking cat has come to see her about gaining her favor for his Afterlife.

You’ll see with Obo, things never quite go as planned:

      Obo crawled out from under the aqueduct’s lowest arch and into the shadows surrounding the goddess’s temple. The moon reflected off the water in the fountain before the portico, bathing Bastet’s statue in jade from the stones that surrounded the pool.

      Coast clear, Obo raced across the plaza and hid beneath the lip of the stones. A pair of dodos pecked near a pomegranate tree on the opposite side, but he wasn’t worried about them. If they even saw him. There was a reason the name had crossed over into everyday English.

      A cloud passed in front of the moon, casting enough of a shadow for Obo to run across the plaza and up the steps of the temple without the birds seeing him, and he zipped behind Bastet’s statue before the cloud drifted away.

      His paws made no sound on the lapis lazuli mosaics that led into the worship chamber within the temple. Pyrite, carved into tiny statues of every breed of feline, dotted the tiles in a haphazard pathway. When the moonlight hit them, the gold flecks in the mineral gave off soft, twinkling light like the strands mortals put on trees for the winter solstice. It was a nice ceremonial touch, and tonight, goddess knew, was all about ceremony.

      At the altar, Obo stopped. For all his talk, this meeting was nothing for him to be flippant or sarcastic about. It would determine his Eternity.

      He removed the bag’s cord from around his neck, slipped Cleopatra’s amulet from it, and placed it on the floor. The Egyptian queen had been a favorite of Bastet’s, and vice versa. Whichever way the favor went, Obo would take all the help he could get.

      “Oh mighty Bastet,” he said, bowing before the marble statue of the goddess, a human with a cat’s head seated on a throne.

      He felt her essence enter the temple. Saw the statue shimmer as she inhabited it.

      “Ah, Obo.” The goddess tsked—never a good thing. “You cannot hope to gain your Eternal Reward by bribery.”

      “But goddess, the amulet is what you said would earn me Celestial Paradise.”

      “That is true, Obo. But not to buy my favor. That works for corrupt politicians, not gods of the realm you seek to enter. What were you thinking?”

      Obviously not what she was.

© Judi Fennell, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2011

      “The nonstop cinematic gee-whiz results will keep the reader enraptured. Fennell also tosses in sultry sex scenes, a bubble-gum-sweet but passionate romance, quick-moving action, and a variety of puns and riddle-making beasts.”
      —Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW
He needs to change his luck, and fast!

Matt Ewing would gladly hunt down a fortune in lucky pennies if he thought it would help save his business. But for all his hoping, Matt’s clueless when his long-awaited lucky charm falls in his lap in the form of a beguiling genie. He just can’t believe that this beautiful woman could be the answer to his prayers…

She’s been bottled up for far too long!

Spending 2,000 years in a bottle would make any woman a little stir-crazy. So when Matt releases Eden from her luxurious captivity, she’s thrilled to repay him by giving him the magical boost he needs…

But for all her good intentions, Eden’s magical prowess is a little rusty and her magical mistakes become more than embarrassing. And though Eden knows falling in love will end her magic and immortality, she can’t help but be drawn to the one man who wants her just for herself…
About the Author

Judi Fennell is an award-winning author and writes what she calls “fairy tales with a twist.” Her romance novels have been finalists in's First Chapters and First Chapters Romance contests, and have won numerous RWA Chapter Awards, including the FF&P Prism Award, and the New Jersey Golden Leaf Award. Judi lives with her family in suburban Philadelphia, PA, where she is working on the next book in the Genie Trilogy, Genie Knows Best, set for release in November 2011. For more information, please visit

-- Lynda Again

Wasn't that a great answer to my question? How other authors do their research always fascinates me. I hope you found it interesting as well :-D

As I mentioned above, Sourcebooks has offered a copy of I Dream of Genies to two Star-Crossed readers. Here's how you can enter the drawing.

By Friday, Jan. 28
Send me an email at
Put Genies in the Subject line
In the body, answer this question: What is the name of the smart-aleck, wise talking sidekick cat?
Include your name and address
Leave a comment for Judi so she'll know how much we appreciate her visit :-)

Have a great week!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview with KELLY GAY

Kelly Gay is an average bookworm who turned her love of spending time in make believe places into an award winning series. The Charlie Madigan series made her a double RITA finalist, not to mention she was already a three time RWA Golden Heart finalist. Previously she’d received an NC Arts Council Fellowship grant in Literature. And under the pseudonym Kelly Keaton she’s branched out from Urban Fantasy into the YA realm.

Before becoming an award winning paranormal author, she learned to drive a backhoe, tar and shingle a roof and frame a house as a construction worker. She’s also waited on tables, threaded film projectors, managed a horse farm and sold men’s underwear.

Kelly loves ancient history, mythology and Pre-Raphaelite art. Like many people, she dreams of attaining magical powers and discovering the secret to immortality, though some might also come knocking in NC if she finds a way to rid a home of pet hair.

When she’s not writing or doing promo and appearances she might be found watching The Fifth Element, Legend, Indiana Jones, The Mummy, Star Trek, Ladyhawke or The Black Stallion. If she’s curled up with a book, her taste runs toward Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anatole France, Alexandre Dumas, Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, Kim Harrison, Jenna Black and Stephen King to name a few!

I met Kelly several years ago as a member of HCRW, a powerhouse RWA chapter that has many published writers. At the time she was unpublished, but hungry to get her manuscripts accepted for publication. I still remember the day I sat across from her at Chili’s and we chatted about her upcoming trip to the RWA National Conference as a first time Golden Heart finalist. Of course she was ecstatic, but also nervous like any writer would be in her position.

Jump ahead and she’s got three books on the shelf (with another release coming up in 2011) and is cranking WIPS out for her editor and agent as fast as her hands and brain can go! She’s worked hard to earn her spot, and I never cease to marvel when I see her novels at my local store. Of course I don’t screech like a fan girl, but I do think, “I know her!” Though she’s rubbed plenty of elbows with publishing royalty in NC, Kelly is a brightly shining success in her own right.

What led you to create Charlie Madigan and her version of Atlanta ?

Charlie came about because I wanted to write a different kind of UF heroine, a single mom. In the UF world, it seemed very natural to me that there would exist heroines that could doll out the whoopings and also have family, a child, a marriage, a tight support group. I wanted to see what would happen if I placed that kind of character, one juggling a kid, an ex-husband, and work into the urban fantasy mold. I was hoping it'd bring a lot of conflict, relatability, and emotion into my alternate version of Atlanta -- a place where the beings from two other dimensions (the basis for our myths of heaven and hell) have come out of the closet and have been living and working among us for over a decade. Atlanta fit the bill nicely because I needed a southern city, one large enough to support the world building and in the influx of new settlers from other worlds.

Out of all the genres you dabbled in as a fledgling writer, how did you single out Urban Fantasy as your niche?

I dabbled in several genres when I started out. Mainly just writing things that spoke to me and not really making any conscious decision on specific genre. But it's funny because everything I wrote, no matter the genre, had strong heroines and paranormal elements. I don't think I could write a story with some supernatural element! The only thing I hadn't done was write in first person. Once I did, I found that the 'voice' coming out of me fit the urban fantasy mold. Charlie was born and everything seemed to come together. I knew it was the perfect fit for me and there was a sense of excitement I hadn't felt before with my other works.

How do you think your life experiences have translated into making your writing better?

I've translated my life experiences into my writing not from using actual events, but by taking from the emotions of those events. Being able to pull from my own dark or uplifting experiences have enriched my writing, I think. I hope! With Charlie, I pull a lot from my own feelings and emotions about being a mom and wanting the best for my kid--making good choices and sometimes making mistakes, too, all the hopes and fears, etc...

If you could spend the day in any make believe place, one you’ve created or someone else has, where would it be?

Narnia! (as long as Prince Caspian was there to show me around) :D If not, then Hogwarts!

Out of all the good things that have happened since you became an author, what still sticks out as a moment you’ll never forget?

One that held a lot of emotion and excitement, and made my heart pound, was getting the RITA call. It was so unexpected -- I never thought in a million years that an urban fantasy had any chance in hell in the NRE category. There was much celebrating between me, my editor, and family. And then hours later when a second call came in -- it was total and complete astonishment. Yeah, that's a moment I'll never, ever forget.

Do you have anything coming up in 2011 that fans need to know about?

Yes! My first young adult title, DARKNESS BECOMES HER, is coming out next month (Feb 22nd). It's set in one of my favorite places on the planet - New Orleans. Only this NOLA has been destroyed and left abandoned -- so creepy and lush and decaying all at the same time. Then, I have my third Charlie book, THE HOUR OF DUST AND ASHES, coming out Aug. 30th.

To find out more about Kelly and her work check out!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Stephanie Rowe Update

Hi all, I just got this update from Sourcebooks and thought I'd share. Good luck!

Stephanie Rowe is celebrating the release of the first book in her Soulfire series, with the Kiss at Your Own Risk Contest. Together, with The Knight Agency and Sourcebooks Casablanca, Stephanie is asking you what the riskiest thing you’ve ever done for love is… The grand prize is a $100 Amazon gift certificate! There are four ways to enter. More info below and Good Luck!

Share the riskiest thing you've done for love (or what someone has risked for you) via Twitter or Facebook status updates, commenting on The Knight Agency's official KISS AT YOUR OWN RISK Contest blog post, or emailing with your entry.

The contest period begins on Monday, January 17th at 12:01am Eastern Standard Time and ends on Thursday, January 20th at 1pm Eastern Standard Time. The winners will be randomly drawn and announced at Stephanie Rowe's author chat on Thursday, January 20th @ 9pm ET in The Knight Agency chat room.

·         Grand Prize Winner:  $100 Gift Card to
·         6 Runners-Up will receive a copy of Kiss at Your Own Risk

Be sure to check out the website for full contest rules and how to submit multiple entries (including how to TRIPLE your contest entries J). Have fun and feel free to share this information with your readers!!


He needed a killer woman…
Blaine Underhill is one lucky man after having recently escaped a century and a half of imprisonment at the hands of an evil witch. Now he’s determined to save his still-enslaved friend, but in order to do so, he’ll need the help of one of the world’s most lethal women.

She was drop dead gorgeous, literally…
Trinity Harpswell is sick and tired of being a Black Widow. Having managed to go three years without accidentally killing anyone she loves, she’s one short week away from freeing herself from this killer curse forever.

When Blaine tracks her down and convinces her to help him, little does Trinity know that the next seven days are going to be murder!

Four-time RITA Award nominee and Golden Heart Award winner Stephanie Rowe is a nationally bestselling author, and has more than twenty-five contracted titles with major publishers such as HarperCollins, Dorchester and Harlequin. Stephanie has charmed reviewers with her unique blend of humor and otherworldly magic. She lives outside Boston, MA, where she is working on the next two books in the Soulfire Series: Touch if You Dare (July 2011) and Hold Me If You Can (September 2011).  For more information, please visit

Review - Kiss At Your Own Risk by Stephanie Rowe

Kiss At Your Own Risk
Stephanie Rowe
Sourcebooks, Casablanca
January 2011

After a century of torture, Blaine Underhill and his friends finally make a bid for escape but just as they near their goal, their arch torturer, Angelica, arrives to stop them. All of them escape except Blaine's life long friend, Christopher. Blaine vows to return and save his buddy. The question is how can he save Christopher and haul the both of them out of the Den again? The answer is, he can't. If he goes back in, he needs to find a way to kill Angelica. He needs a Black Widow who can find the secret to killing anyone.

Trinity Harpswell is on the verge of curing her curse with just one week to go. All she has to do is NOT fall in love with AND kill another man. Being a Black Widow is hell on a girl's love life. But if she can keep from killing for this one week, she'll be free to have a normal life. Then an old boyfriend shows up and the Black Widow comes to life. Luckily, her father rushes in to keep her from killing the poor guy. Unfortunately, the poor guy gets killed anyway and her father is accused of the crime. The only way she can save her father is to find a creature known as the Chameleon. The problem with that is she'll have to kill the Chameleon before the week is out. Bad news for her, good news for the Black Widow in her.

Then she meets Blaine, a man at once honorable and with a lack of concern when it comes to killing that she finds dreadful and curious. Blaine sympathesizes with Trinity and offers an exchange. She tells him how to kill Angelica, he'll kill the Chameleon for her. Blaine is pure warrior but all that time in Angelica's clutches have given him certain...oddities. He can tell the difference between lavender and apricot scents, has appreciation for colors...and can do needlepoint. He's also been trained in how to please a woman. Well trained. Very well trained, if you know what I mean.

Lest you think this is standard paranormal romance fare, let me assure you, it's absolutely fresh and totally funny. Funny? Oh yeah. One of the evil minions is a schnoodemgon, a magical cross between schnoodles, demons and dragons. While Angelica is the big bad, these little mutant puppies are pretty nasty in their own right. But Angelica has her own problems and it's not just her escapees. You almost feel some sympathy toward her but then you think about the schnoodemgons.

Ms Rowe gives us a hugely imaginative world that will grab you the minute you open the pages. The dialogue is brisk and snappy and shows a wealth of humor. Best of all, Blaine and his friends are simply...yummy. If you see Kiss At Your Own Risk, I suggest you buy it. It's a fun, hot read for a cold, snowy January.

Guest - Stephanie Rowe

Good morning everyone! Today we have a new to me author but one I hope to see more books from her as her career progresses. I asked Stephanie what inspired her books and got a very interesting answer. Sourcebooks has offered a giveaway of two copies of Kiss At Your Own Risk  Read my note at the end to find out how to enter the drawing.

Now, grab your coffee and danish and enjoy :-)

My answer isn't going to be what you might expect.

The question seems innocuous enough: "What inspired your new series?"

It's a series about tortured heroes, fiery but vulnerable women, a psychotic but somewhat endearing villain who just happens to be the grandma of Death, but that's not what I'm going to talk about. I'm going to talk about what inspired my series on a deeper level.

See, a couple years ago, my life kinda of imploded. You know, the kind where you sit blankly on your bed, numb with shock, terrified beyond words about how you're going to recover? Well, my life blew up both professionally and personally at the same time, and it pretty much eviscerated any sense of myself that had currently been in residence at that time.

So, in response, what does a girl do? Well, I hunkered down and poured myself into my writing. I was so determined to recover, to write that amazing book, to springboard into greatness, and then everything would be better. If I could just fix that one thing, everything would start to fall into place.

Didn't happen. Oh, sure, I wrote a ton, but I couldn't sell anything. Turns out, I was writing from a place of sheer, unadulterated terror and desperation. I had nothing inside but desperation and fear, and it showed in my writing. My writing was forced, it was my attempt to "fit in" and write what I thought someone might buy. I was so scared to tap into my inner self, to let my passion fly, unable to let go of my death grip on the safety of the known.

I realized, at that point, that I had two choices. I could give up on the writing and try to find a safe, predictable career that would give me the security I was craving, OR I could let go of the fear and the desperation, allow myself to relax, and begin to write from love again. And so began the process of writing with irreverence, with freedom, and with no judgment or goals, other than to enjoy myself. It was incredibly difficult to let go of all the fear when everything in my life was still fragmenting, but I knew that it was the only way to emerge from the dark place I was in.

But I did it. I started a new document, and I began to brainstorm. I let go of judgment, I let go of fear. I released the need to write something that would sell. Instead, I opened my heart and listened to my soul, and I began to create with freedom and peace for the first time in perhaps my whole life. And this story, this series, was the result of that process. When I got my author copies, I felt the most amazing sense of accomplishment. To me, this book is my triumph, my ability to tap into that well of creativity and non-judgment at a time when I thought I would never get there.


He needed a killer woman…
Blaine Underhill is one lucky man after having recently escaped a century and a half of imprisonment at the hands of an evil witch. Now he’s determined to save his still-enslaved friend, but in order to do so, he’ll need the help of one of the world’s most lethal women.

She was drop dead gorgeous, literally…
Trinity Harpswell is sick and tired of being a Black Widow. Having managed to go three years without accidentally killing anyone she loves, she’s one short week away from freeing herself from this killer curse forever.

When Blaine tracks her down and convinces her to help him, little does Trinity know that the next seven days are going to be murder!

Four-time RITA Award nominee and Golden Heart Award winner Stephanie Rowe is a nationally bestselling author, and has more than twenty-five contracted titles with major publishers such as HarperCollins, Dorchester and Harlequin. Stephanie has charmed reviewers with her unique blend of humor and otherworldly magic. She lives outside Boston, MA, where she is working on the next two books in the Soulfire Series: Touch if You Dare (July 2011) and Hold Me If You Can (September 2011).  For more information, please visit


-- Lynda Again
Make sure you check out the review I've done for Kiss At Your Own Risk. It's a great book and, if you like urban fantasy, I'm sure you'll like it. 

As I said earlier, Sourcebooks is offering a giveaway of two copies of Kiss At Your Own Risk. To enter the drawing, leave a comment AND send me an email ( ) with KISS in the subject line AND the answer to this question in the body: 

Trinity Harpswell is sick and tired of being _______________

Include your snail mail addy and on Friday, Jan 21, I'll put all your entrie

Friday, January 14, 2011

The World Wide Web...Reconnected

I have never been so happy for a Google page to load! Tuesday marked the end to our internet connection drought....after two weeks! The day it flaked out my hubby disconnected and reconnected the cables, router, etc. You name it and he tried it. Nothing worked. I told him from the get go it was Time Warner fiddling with something, especially since the outage came right after the new year. Then like magic, during the latest snow storm, bam it's back up. I guess they decided not to leave us destitute if our phones quit working so we'd have some way to get help :0)

Regardless, in those bleak days when I couldn't surf to my hearts content, I learned that I've started relying on the the Web for tons of stuff. I have my browser set to open to, so I can check words when I need to. It meant no fact checking. I couldn't see if I had new e-mails or Facebook posts. No researching publishers or agents either, which I'd planned to do on a day off from my full time job.

I'd resorted to checking the connection via my new Kindle around bed time during the first couple of days. Every time I sat down at the computer, I'd click the IE icon, only to see the page can't be loaded message. I'd try Yahoo after Google. No go.

What did I do instead? I wrote! In fact, I started a new book. Today I'm proud to say it's up to 13,000+ words! I've been setting a timer each day so I can get in at least 30 minutes of writing time. If I'm on a roll I keep going until I'm at a stopping point or I have to do something else. I can't say every day has been easy, especially when I got frustrated and had to leave asterisks as a reminder to fill in facts, but I've enjoyed the time. Especially because I got use to the freedom of not being connected.

Gone was the pull to see what people were up to, to see if I had a new message, to read all the headlines or just look up things I wanted to check into. I simply couldn't...unless I used my super brief breaks at work. Which could've opened a whole new can of worms.

Now it's back to the normal grind, but I'm trying to stay as unconnected as I can. :0) I don't want to mess up the good writing thing I have going.

What couldn't you live without if you lost your internet connection?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review - I Dream of Genies by Judi Fennell

I Dream of Genies
Judi Fennell

Sourcebooks, Casablanca
January 2011

Eden, a genie confined to her bottle for over a thousand years, has very little to look forward to every day...a visit from a smart-mouthed feline, Obo; playing with Humphrey, a dragonlet she's fostering; and ogling the tall, dark and handsome jogger who passes the display window where her bottle sits.

Matt needs luck or a miracle to make his business a success but he's determined that he'll do just that on his own with help from no one. Not even from the sexy, gorgeous 'genie' who lands on top of him when he's jogging past the antique store. Not even when the 'genie' poofs a donkey into his livingroom. Or when the same 'genie' throws herself at him with wanton enthusiasm.

So begins the typical genie story. However, the similarity pretty much ends there. Eden is being chased by a powerful vizier djinn who fancies her for himself. Her goal is to get the magical bracelets, the symbols of her servitude as a genie, off her wrists and be gone before he gets there. She also needs to find her bottle and its stopper because whoever controls her bottle controls her. When Matt offers to help her find the bottle, it amazes her that she trusts him not to take advantage.

Matt knows it isn't a good idea to take the woman home or to become emotionally involved with her. He's done that before and the rescued damsel left him high and dry. But something about Eden makes Matt want to help her. To be honorable. To be her knight-in-shining-armor.

When it becomes clear that the only thing keeping Matt from responding to her advances is his unwillingness to take advantage of her, Eden gives him one last chance. He can't turn her down and their lovemaking is hot, and tender and fantastical with soaring butterflies and flying comforters.

Eden fights to keep from falling in love with Matt. That would be disastrous. Falling in love is how her mother lost her own magic and that eventually led to the premature deaths of both her parents. But Matt is so compassionate and so honorable, she can't help falling in love just a little bit. But when Matt risks his life to save her from the evil vizier djinn, the fall is complete. Now Eden has to figure out how to escape the vizier and be with the man she loves.

I found this book to be filled with the same fun and adventure and compelling emotion as her previous series. Eden is a strong but vulnerable woman who isn't afraid to fight for her freedom from the Servitude of being a genie. The only thing she fears is the loss of her magic if she falls in love. To be honest, I'm not sure why saying it out loud would cause her to lose her magic but I was willing to accept it. Matt, the hero, is just that - heroic. There's no way he can defeat a magic-wielding djinn and he knows it. That doesn't stop him from trying.

My one quibble is Obo, the ancient, smart-mouth cat. We get tiny glimpses into his past - he was human at one time, knew Cleopatra and had crossed the same evil vizier djinn trying to capture Eden. But as a cat, Obo is attempting to atone for past transgressions before the end of his ninth live. He does this by assisting Eden in her attempt to evade the djinn. However only a few sentences end his portion of the story and they leave this reader wanting to know more about Obo and his fate.

Other than that, though, I found I Dream of Genies a thoroughly fun and enjoyable read. If you've enjoyed other books by Ms Fennell, I'm positive you'll enjoy this one.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Guest - Pauline Holyoak

Good morning everyone! I hope you're all having a very good 2011. As for Star-Crossed Romance, we're moving right along with a full schedule of fascinating guests with great books. Our first guest is Pauline Holyoak and she's offering a giveaway for one lucky reader so make sure you find out how to enter the drawing. Enjoy!


I grew in Southeast England, in a coal mining village my husband calls, “The place that time forgot.” It is nested between the notorious city of Canterbury and the medieval town of Dover. I came to Canada as a nanny, when I was 21. This vast and majestic country has served me well, but England will always be home. I live in Alberta (western Canada) with my sports crazy husband, adorable Sheltie dog and cantankerous ginger cat. We have two grown children. They are the gems in my treasure chest. I love this part of the world, except for the winters. It can be a chilly minus -30 for days on end. Burr…..          
Although I have been freelance writing for many years Merryweather Lodge is my first published novel. Since it’s publication in October I have been inundated with questions and demands. I know now that being a published author isn’t as glamour’s or as easy as one might imagine.

Here are some of the questions I get asked and lessons I’m learning along the way.

Years ago you would write a book, get it published then sit back and collect the royalties. But it’s
not that way any more.  Most authors are not salesmen, public speakers or comfortable being in the limelight but we are expected to promote ourselves, as well as our books, even by the big publishing houses. I’ve already participated in three book singing events, been interviewed by a newspaper reporter and was a guest speaker at our local library. It’s all a little nerve wracking, for an introvert like me. But I know I must come out of my shell and face the world, if I want to promote my book. The internet of course, is the most powerful tool an author has and not nearly as intimidating. There are literally hundreds of sites that will promote ones book, some are free and some are very costly.  I blog, do online interviews, reviews, facebook and try to keep a consistent online presence. It can be extremely time consuming but I know it’s an important element in establishing my writing career. 

   I’m learning that it’s not wise to criticize another author’s work, argue with my editor or debate with critics. As my dear grandmother would say, “Be careful of the words you say, keep them soft and sweet. You never know from day to day, which ones you’ll have to eat.”   
I know now, that unless your name is Margaret Atwood, or Stephanie Meyer chances are you’re not going to get rich from your writing. Even some of the authors I know, who have a dozen or more published books, barely make a living on royalties alone. And a lot of us spend more money on advertizing, then we make on our books. I must write just because I love to write, not with the assumption that I’m going to get rich.           

I’ve been asked, “Do you consider yourself successful now?”.... Well, that would depend on how you define success. It may seem cliché to say that ‘success’ isn’t just about money or fame, but obviously that’s the way the world defines it, including the publishing industry. But, if that’s how we define our ultimate success, most of us are going to be doomed to disappointment. Ever noticed that the ‘top ten’ bestsellers list, by definition, only have ten spots. JK Rowling’s usually has at least two of those spots. Ask anyone on the street to name a successful author and their likely to mention Steven King or JK Rowling’s, yet nether of these people strike me as being any happier than the average Jo and certainly not as people who have been ‘made’ happy by their success. I have this quote framed and sitting on my desk. “Successful, is the person who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much, who has gained the respect of children, who leaves the world a better place than they found it, who has never lacked appreciation for the worlds beauty, who never fails to look for the best in others or give the best of themselves.” If and when I become that person, then I will be successful.          

People ask me “Do you have a routine for writing?”... I write long hand in my purple room, at my antique desk, under a large picture window. Then I type it into the cold inanimate piece of equipment I call my computer and edit as I go. Young people think this is weird, but the blank screen does not inspire me to write, the view outside my picture window does. I tend to compare my writing routine to my eating habits. Sometimes I graze, jotting down tasty morsels throughout the day. Other times I binge, feasting greedily, at my desk, for a long period of time, on something scrumptious, devouring every delicious word that comes to mind. Then, I find myself looking down at my work or my waist line and having to edit and revise. 

I have learned that it can be, at times, extremely difficult to work from ones home, there are so many distractions. You have to be determined not to let anything tare you away from your desk, not the phone, not the washing machine, not the door bell. I try to be oblivious to it all but it isn’t easy.   
I’m learning to sieve through the numerous advice from so called experts well meaning people. We are all different; we all have our own way for deciphering information, our own idiosyncrasies, and different writing styles. What works for me might not work for you. So I read and listen, keep what works for me and disregard the rest.

I have leaned that rejections, are part of the writing life, how to cope with them and how to move on. At first they were like nagging little gremlins, suggesting that I didn’t measure up. I had to learn how to distinguish myself from my work, to set up boundaries between myself and my creation. My writing was like a child to me, but like my own children, I had to send it out into the world to succeed or fail on its own merit. We all get rejections, JK Rowling’s received 14 rejections before finding a publisher for Harry Potter. I wonder what ‘their’ thinking now? Steven King first book Carrie was tuned down 31 times, it took him ten years to get it published. And look at him now. I have discovered that perseverance, patience, and bold determination are what most published authors have in common.  
So I write, not for success, not for money, not because it’s easy. I write to explore my inner world. I write because some mystical magnet draws me to my desk. I write to escape the mundane world of people and things. I write because I need to write. To me it’s a sort of innate longing, to get my thoughts, wild fantasies, opinions and stories on paper. I write because I love to write.

Paranormal Suspense Author – Pauline Holyoak -  

Merryweathger Lodge – Ancient Revenge.. The first of a trilogy.. ”A supernatural thriller that keeps you on the edge.”

   When Emily Fletcher meets the gorgeous Jonathan McArthur she is infatuated and consumed with lust. Will he go with her to the dreaded wood-lot, to remove the bloody ancient curse, before it’s too late? In the first half of my story Emily is fourteen years old. In the second half she is forced to return to the cottage, at the age of twenty. My novel contains elements of horror, humor, fantasy, romance and sex. I have created a world into which my readers can escape and an atmosphere that will evoke their imagination, stir their emotions and engage their senses. This book was inspired by my own experiences in a remote little cottage near Stonehenge….Available at…
”Let’s go somewhere privet.” She said, grabbing my arm. She guided me to the passage and plunked me down on the bottom step of the attic stairs. My back straightened. Panic rose within me as an icy shiver ran down my spine. It was as if I had been lead to an old cemetery, sat on a grave and left among the tomb stones. 

“That was her room you know.” She said as she pointed up the stairs.   


“Mary Eliss.”    

I turned my head ever so slowly and drew eyes up to the portal at the top of the stairs. I shivered and quickly looked way. “I know it was.” 
In a low voice she whispered. “Do you suppose she’s still up there?” Then she grinned mischievously.   
I looked into her strange glassy eyes. “She was, the last time I was here and I have a feeling she hasn’t left.”                 
Merryweather Lodge – A quaint little cottage, steeped in history, shrouded in secrets, its aura a paradoxical essence of heaven and hell. This book contains elements of romance, passion, fantasy, horror, humor and sex. It comes from my own experiences in a remote little cottage near Stonehenge. Available at            

I'd like to offer a free eBook to one person who can guess the name of the village where I grew up. You can find it on my website 

Email the answer to me,  , by Friday, January 14. I'll post the winner's name here.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Lynda. 
Happy New Year! To you and your readers.


Thank you for visiting us Pauline and Happy New Year to you and yours as well! And good luck to our readers!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Review for Heartstone

Wow! I just discovered a great review for my novel, Heartstone, over at Long and Short Of It Romance Reviews.

It makes an author's heart warm when she sees a good review :-)