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Archive for August, 2012

Friends, in the ALBTALBS world, I like to make things a little fluid. Here, it’s a lot fluid. (In fact, way more fluid than even I’m comfortable.) As in, let’s all agree this post is as dated. Please indulge me – and know that I am very sorry and contrite. 

That being said, let us all welcome the wonderful (and patient) Nico Rosso! Today (ahem! September 30th) is his wife Zoë Archer’s birthday! His post was actually supposed to go live the Thursday before this one but… well you know. Real life hasn’t been my best friend lately. And I thought it’d be super cute that this post went up on Zoë’s birthday. (Somehow it was really underlined thus in my mind.)

Anyway, I think we have a great post here. And also? Please respond, and ask him all the questions you have. Because I can’t imagine Mr. Rosso will be coming back to visit any time soon – all my fault. (Although I do try my best to keep things running here!) So anyway, give him a warm welcome, and please make up for my shortcomings, okay?

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Limecello.

When I’m writing, I try not to lose sight of the final goal: telling a good story to the reader.  I’ll try to put myself in the reader’s shoes as the book unfolds.  I’ll ask myself questions as I go along: Is everything making sense?  Are the characters compelling?  Am I using the senses so the reader can feel, smell or taste the environment I’m creating?

But writing is also the journey for the writer.  Every day isn’t easy, but there’s always something to be created or learned.  And sometimes it’s more than that.  Life throws a lot of adversity at everyone.  Nowadays, it seems like a heavy rain of trouble has been coming down on a lot of people I know.

Just like reading fiction can be an escape for a reader, the process of writing it has helped me deal with the burdens of the world.  In my latest steampunk Western, Night of Fire, the hero, Tom Knox, and heroine, Rosa Campos, must defend their home town from an evil mining company’s rolling fifty foot rock eating machine.  This device starts out a few miles from town and seems unstoppable through most of the book.  As I was writing it, I was able to centralize my concerns in the world into that one villain.  And I could use my hero and heroine to stand up to that threat.

It isn’t always that simple in life, and I think that’s why reading fiction is important to us.  Hope is a strong salve, no matter if it’s given to us from the so-called “real world” or a book.  Writing it was the same for me, giving me a sense of a clear struggle between good and evil where good always prevails.  At least during the time while I was writing, there was relief from the nebulous troubles of the world.

Life will continue to bring ups and downs.  Through it, we readers and writers can find escape and hope in the romance and adventure narratives that pit our heroes and heroines against great evils, giving them the stage to prove how extraordinary they are, while showing us that the ability to persevere is in all of us – written or real.

So here’s my question for you: Is there a particular book that has helped you through tough times?

One lucky guest will win a free paperback copy of Night of Fire.  Good luck!

Night of Fire can be found at AmazonBarnes and NobleIndie Bound

Nico can be found here: Website, TwitterFacebook

Seriously – this question is almost scarily apt – at least for me: So here’s my question for you: Is there a particular book that has helped you through tough times? 

I’d like to know too. Maybe I can add some keepers to my reading list! (And remember, there’s a prize up for grabs!)

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Hi Everyone – I know I’m behind and I know I desperately need to announce winners. [Um … anyone wanna take over that task?] But – today we have Kira Brady visiting with us! Yay! [Sorry for not more enthusiasm and intro – I’m kinda tapped out. Kira is adorable and pretty awesome though.]

Some like it wet.

In Seattle, we joke that Alaskans have forty words for snow, but we have forty words for rain. Read the weather forecast and you just might believe it: cloudy with rain, mostly cloudy with showers, rain tapering to showers, clouds limiting sun with frequent showers, periods of rain showers, heavy rain, light rain with afternoon sunbreaks. What’s a “sunbreak” you ask? It’s that brief moment of glory when the clouds part and a shaft of glimmering, golden sunlight spills through to light our world. Seattleittes live in hope of those sunbreaks. Day after gloomy day, we wait in perpetual faith that we will get that one moment of zen. And when it hits, illuminating the surrounding mountains, shimmering off the water, and casting the world in lighter shade of pale, it makes all the time spent in the gloom worth it.

August, alone, is a month of sunbreaks. It’s like a hot love affair after a long, lonely drought. We have sunny day after sunny day. For the other eleven rainy months, all we have is hope. We live in faith that August will come, just as we know that somewhere behind that thick wall of clouds, the sun still shines.

Seattle weather is a great romance: It starts off in the doldrums; the heroine and hero are in a Bad Place. They meet. Things go from bad to worse. There are sparks (sunbreaks!). May or June tease with the possibility that they might carry summer on their winds, but the clouds and the bad guys close in. Toward the end of July, it seems like all hope is lost for our hero and heroine. They start to believe they’ve been transported to Ray Bradbury’s Venus, where the sun is only seen for two hours once every five years. This is not that year.

And then like a thunderbolt from the heavens, August comes roaring in. Hot, raging sun all day long. Our hero and heroine remember what it is to be too warm. They realize perhaps they might survive the rainy season if they team up. Together, they might occupy themselves inside, away from the damp, warming each other up and watching in hope of that rare, perfect moment: sunbreak.

Seattle in the Deadglass Trilogy is its own character: wet, insidious, and seductive. I had a great time writing about it, in part because I do love the city, rain and all. While I love my sunbreaks, August finds me running for the shade. What’s your favorite time of year? Do you like the sound of rain on a hot tin roof? Or do you prefer the caress of sun day in and day out?

 Bio: A native Seattleitte, Kira spent her childhood hiking the rainy forests of the Pacific Northwest and drying out by the fire with a good book and a mug of something hot. She graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, where she met her real life Prince Charming and promptly dragged him back to sunless Seattle. She fell in love with historic, haunted cities in graduate school. Now she writes about the twisted cities of her imagination, where wraiths and shape-shifters stalk the night and love redeems even the darkest heart. When not writing, she can be found drinking inordinately large mugs of Assam tea, knitting wool socks, and raising a wee heroine-in-training.
Kira is giving away either a print, kindle, or nook copy of Hearts of Darkness to one lucky commenter who answers her question. Ready? Go!

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Hi friends,

So… a lot of things going on. More unfortunate than fortunate, sadly. I wanted to let you know the timing and updates to the blog and posts will just be… off. I’ll try to do the best I can, but, for example, this is the first time I’ve touched my computer in three days. Literally. (You know how sometimes people say that but they snuck in time or are exaggerating? Not so here.)

The people who have scheduled posts – those will appear, just don’t set your watch by it. However, reviews? I think those will have to go by the wayside for now. My apologies.

Okay?

Thanks for your patience, understanding, and support everyone! ❤

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Friends, this post is fantastic. We’ve got Olivia Waite visiting! I wanted to preface it with what is (obviously the truth) in a positive message first. For me, I’m drinking right now. [Fill glass with ice. Add as much mango absolut as you like, then fill with limeade. You’re welcome.] Life is … is. But this post totally made me smile. And wish I was a) close enough and b) good enough friends to stop by and visit Olivia. And demand ice cream.

Most of the time, I’m not much of a cook, but that’s because one cannot live on ice cream. (Though one has considered trying.) And ice cream is the thing that will get me to spend significant time in the kitchen.

It began with vanilla, the most underrated of flavors. Then strawberry, a delight. Then I got fancier and tried a mint-chocolate-chip recipe. This resulted in a disastrous, drippy brown log studded with powdery pillow mints that was the least appealing dessert I have ever seen in my life. I actually brought it to the party anyway, just to hear others confirm its repellant qualities. By tweaking the recipe, driven by fury and disappointment, I managed to produce a tasty green ice cream with tiny chocolate flakes in it — and then my roommate of the time suggested adding rum.

Her suggestion was inspired. And it started me thinking about ice cream as something other than an innocent children’s dessert.

Further experiments followed with varying success. Pear-ginger sorbet for a vegan friend’s wedding: marvelous! Orange-avocado sorbet: finicky! One batch failed, another was delicious. The whole time I was trolling for recipes on the internet, learning the ways of a new canister-based freezer rather than my old-fashioned ice-and-rock-salt electric churn, and feeling like I’d hit a plateau in terms of my ice-cream-concocting skills.

A chance conversation with the lovely Limecello on Twitter led me to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. The flavors were daring and sophisticated — sweet corn and black raspberries! Cherry lambic sorbet! And she had a cookbook full of recipes! I immediately promised myself I’d order a copy from my local independent bookstore the next time I was in.

Then a lightbulb burned out. I went downstairs for a new one, opened a drawer, and as if by magic there lay a copy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. An inscription on the inside cover told me it was a bridal gift that I had put away in a flurry of wedding-related stress and promptly forgotten.

I ran back upstairs, gleefully reported to Lime what I’d found, and arranged to try a recipe and blog about my results. I chose the Toasted Brioche Ice Cream with Butter and Jam in honor of my most recent release, Hell and Hellion — released yesterday! — which features a scene where my incubus hero discovers the pleasures of toast with butter.

Readers, this recipe was brilliant. I was anxious at first, since there were so many unfamiliar steps and ingredients. Corn starch and corn syrup? Was I really supposed to bring the cream to a boil? And was butter ice cream really a good idea in the first place? Jeni’s instructions were precise and detailed and I decided to trust her — grinding bread crumbs and clarifying butter and whipping the cream cheese in with the salt. By the time I poured the base into the freezer I was starting to grow optimistic. When I finally added the bread crumbs and raspberry sauce and took a bite, I’m not going to lie: I teared up a little.

This ice cream is thick and creamy and comforting. The bread crumbs add a savory note without being at all gritty. The raspberry sauce is bright and adds just the right balance of tart and sweet. It is the dessert equivalent of a jam sandwich and one of the most wonderfully British things I have ever tasted.

And the best part: I have enough ingredients left over to try a second recipe! As soon as the canister refreezes…

Olivia Waite writes historical and paranormal romance for Ellora’s Cave. She can’t decide which ice cream she wants to make next: Chamomile Chardonnay or Goat Cheese with Red Cherries.

Ms. Waite is also giving away a copy of Hell and Hellion – isn’t that an awesome title? So, what do you think of ice cream? Ever try to make it on your own? Ever have the opportunity to have Jeni’s Ice Cream? I personally have tried, and not done that well, but I don’t have a copy of that cookbook. I have been to Jeni’s before though, and if I could I’d move into one of her shops. 

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Hi friends! First of all, my apologies to Ms. Snow that I’m hi-jacking her post, and I wanted to let you know there is a lot going on right now, so I might be off with the scheduling.

As you see, we’ve got Heather Snow visiting with us today! I haven’t had the chance to read her debut book yet but it’s near the top of my TBR universe. It sounds awesome. (And her second one too, of course!) And pay attention – Ms. Snow has a question for all of you, and a prize up for grabs! NB you have to answer the question to be entered to win! 😀

Miss Smartypants

Hi! My name is Heather Snow and I’d like to thank the lovely Limecello for inviting me for my very first visit to “A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet”. I’m thrilled to be here.

I’ve recently returned from the Romance Writers of America® Conference, where I got to participate in my very first publisher book signing and Literacy Autographing (a charitable event where all proceeds from books sold go to promote literacy worldwide).
Now, when you are a debut author trying to peddle her wares amongst a thousand other great (and I mean great!) authors in a huge room full of lovely books, you really have to be able to express in just a few words what makes your book stand out. For my historical romances, I knew it was two things: my science-savvy heroines and the mysteries they had to solve. I needed to let readers know that my heroines were not your average debutantes.

At my first large signing at the RT convention in the spring, I hadn’t quite figured this out ahead of time, but I quickly did some guerilla marketing MacGuyver style, using only scrap notebook paper, a signed by author sticker and my trusty blue pen.

It worked! People stopped long enough for me to kiddingly ask them if they liked Miss Smartypants heroines, and I was thrilled when they enthusiastically cried, “Yes!” Then I got to tell them about my regency-era lady scientists: the lady chemist from my debut and the heroine of my latest, a regency-era lady criminologist who also dabbles in forensic science. And do you know what? I found readers were as excited to hear of a ‘different’ type of heroine as I had been to write about them.

So, for all of us who love our historical heroines brainy and brilliant, I thought we could share some other of our favorite Miss Smartypants. Here are a few of mine:

For older books, you can never go wrong with Amanda Quick. But here’s another you can try:

My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth: Caroline Grayson is a brilliant, independent lady whose true passion is botany.


For some more recent titles, how about:

Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas: Bryony Asquith rebelled against society by becoming a doctor

To Sin With A Scoundrel by Cara Elliott: Lady Ciara Sheffield is a reclusive widow known for her scientific scholarship. (The other two novels in her Circle of Sin trilogy feature an antiquities expert and a lady botanist)

A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare: Lady Minerva Highwood’s passion is geology, and her personality is just so adorably scientific.

And finally, I humbly offer my first two novels:

Sweet Enemy: Beakers and ball gowns don’t mix, so when a lady chemist goes undercover as a husband hunter to investigate the earl whose family she suspects murdered her father, romance isn’t part of her formula. But it only takes one kiss to start a reaction she can’t control…

Sweet Deception: A lady criminologist finds herself tangled up in the dangerous final mission of a spy who just happens to also be her long-lost first love. But when deception, however sweet, is the name of the game, no one can be trusted. And every love—and every life—is at risk…

For excerpt and buy links, please visit Heather’s website books page.

Do YOU like Miss Smartypants heroines? And if so, please share some of your favorites! I’d be happy to give away a copy of my debut, Sweet Enemy.

Bio: Heather Snow is a historical romance author with a degree in Chemistry who discovered she much preferred creating chemistry on the page, rather than in the lab.  She is forever trying to wrangle her left and right brain to work together (some days with more success than others!), but if her two sides had to duke it out, left would win every time—which can be a creative challenge.  Luckily, she loves challenges…she just goes about solving them analytically.
Heather lives in the Midwest with her husband, two rambunctious boys and one very put upon cat.  She sincerely hopes you find her stories have just the right chemistry…

Beyond her website, you can also find Heather on Facebook, and Twitter.

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Today we have totally awesome author Alyssa Day visiting with us, and she’s also a life saver. She’s a rock star that saved my bacon at the last minute, so yay Ms. Day!

She answered a few questions, obviously opting for the ALBTALBS style author interview. Without further ado, the questions! (I also gave her a strict time line – kinda like – negative time – so… pretty impressive, huh?)

What do you think is the best commercial of all time?
The Sprint herd of dachshunds commercial. “STAMPEDE!” Cracks me up every time.

What’s the most unique/strange silly skill your possess?
I can sing the French national anthem in French and the national anthem of the Philippines in Tagalog. (!!!)

Did you go to prom? if so – describe your dress. Would you admit to wearing it today, much less actually wear it? 😉
Didn’t go. Was DESPERATELY shy in high school, and was dating an older guy (out of HS). (I dunno, I think if you were dating a  guy out of HS you weren’t that shy… since you had a older boyfriend ;))

What was the first type of alcohol you tried to drink? How was that experience? Do you still drink that?
Beer.  ICK. Hated it. Like some beers now, but more of a wine girl.

Do you have any writing rituals or superstitions? Either for before you begin a book, while you’re writing it, or around the time the book is released?
Yes, every new release day, my family and I go “visit” my new book at the bookstore and then go out to dinner.  It’s a welcome bit of celebration in a crazy industry.  While writing, I listen to one music CD over and over and over during the mad rush at the end of the first draft. (Norah Jones, Come Away with Me.) I’m like Pavlov’s dog: put that CD on and I start drooling.  Er, writing.

What would you put in your ideal candy bar?
Dark chocolate, caramel, and pecans. And possibly nacho chips & jalapeños.

What tv show do you wish was still on the air?
FIREFLY FOR THE WIN!!!

Did you ever read under the covers at night as a child with a flash light or night light? [So your parents wouldn’t know you were awake?] Ever have any mishaps with it?
YES! OMG, yes! Read The Exorcist when I was only 10 and living in the Philippines and scared myself so badly I had to sleep with the lights on for weeks!

What’s the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to you at school? What about the most embarrassing thing to happen at a conference?
You don’t have that kind of money. (Guys, I think that’s a challenge! Anyone want to start up a fund? :P)

Do you collect anything? If yes, what and why?
I have an involuntary snow globe collection, thanks to my crazy husband. Also, we have a tradition between us that whenever one of us travels for work, we bring the other one a gift to try to win the “Most Tacky” prize. The item must be no larger than 1 or 2 inches tall/wide, so we don’t fill up our house with this crap.  Judd (aka Navy Guy) is currently ahead with the sumo wrestler he got me in Japan.

What’s your favorite hair care product? shampoo, conditioner, and other?
My Paul Mitchell Smoothing Serum. Could never time travel to the past–my hair would be a frizzy mess without it.

If you could be a character in any children’s literature book – which book would you choose, and who would you be?
Prince Caspian. Or Batgirl.

Ms. Day is giving away TWO prizes today! One person will win a print book from her Warriors of Poseidon series and another will win an audiobook to the series! Wow!

So – have you read any of her books? Do you like Atlantis, or Greek Mythology? Does the name Poseidon mean anything to you? Or in general – have any questions to ask Alyssa? Remember, the zanier, the better. Outrageous questions are encouraged! 😀

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Liz’s Review

Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady
Paranormal romance released by Kensington Publishing on August 7, 2012

In the first of a dazzling new romantic trilogy, one woman’s courageous search plunges her into a millennia-old supernatural war–and an irresistible passion. . .

Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister’s murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies. . .and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He’ll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what’s left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.

As an avid sci-fi/paranormal fan, I knew when I began reading Hearts of Darkness that I was in for a wild ride.  Set in present-day Seattle, the story opens from first hero Hart’s POV and then heroine Kayla’s POV.  Werewolf Hart has only one thing on his mind and that’s finding the key to the Gate so he can get out from under his blood-debt to his boss.  The only thing on Kayla’s mind?  Identifying her murdered sister’s body.

Kayla Friday is a unique character in a book filled with incredibly unique characters.  On the surface, she is simply a human woman filled with grief and determined to find out who killed her sister and why.  Underneath that, we find that she is a strong-willed, compassionate woman who trusts too easily.  When she is first given a glimpse into the supernatural world all around her, she is struck with disbelief.  She powers through that disbelief, knowing that the secret to her sister Desi’s demise came at the hands of someone in this newly revealed world that is invisible to humans.  Hart tells her to run as far and as fast as possible, but true to her character, Kayla stays, desperate to know what happened to her sister.  She’s attacked, drugged, taken against her will, and betrayed, but still she finds the strength to keep going.

Hart is a werewolf.  There are several groups of shifters, including the new-to-me Thunderbirds (think human-sized black birds).  An outcast, Hart has a chip on his shoulder the size of California and is only doing what he has to do to free his soul.  Blood-bound to Norgard, a dragon shifter and all-around bad-guy, Hart must complete tasks in order to free his soul and escape.  Complex on a hundred different levels, Hart is a mercenary that thought he needed no one but himself.  A classic look-out-for-number-one sort of man, he finds himself surprised at Kayla’s ability to trust in him and just how much he likes her faith.  Hart was a sexy, likeable, frustrating character.  At times I wanted to both hug him and strangle him.

At war in this world are the Kevarti and the Drekar.  The Drekar have vowed to help humanity, the Kevarti just want to rule the world.  Shifters abound, both in the furry and feathered form, and in the dragon form as well.  In the world that Kira created, the humans are unbelievably obtuse to everything supernatural that is happening around them, explaining away things they don’t understand.  I really, really enjoyed the world because she turned everyday things into supernatural occurrences.  The need for gaslights?  It’s because the aether (which is a supernatural thing) causes the lights to go out.  Cars won’t start?  Ghosts.  It was clever and added a touch of realism to a completely unrealistic world, which is just exactly what a paranormal book needs to be plausible.

I love mythology.  As a teen I devoured books about ancient Greece and the gods and goddesses.  Hearts of Darkness treads heavily in the world of ancient beings, and in some ways it bogged the book down for me.  So many names and histories and words that needed explanations.  It felt at times that I should be taking notes so I would remember the players’ names and connections.  Ancient history lessons abound as Kayla is let into the world by slow degrees, learning about curses, other realms, possessions, ghosts and what happened to her sister, Desi.  And in a world where even the good guys do bad things, it was hard to know just whose side who was on.

I’ll be blunt:   the book is complicated.  But it’s also wonderfully written, engaging, and sexy.  This isn’t a book you can flip through casually, because it’s enchanting and complex and worth every minute that you’ll spend devouring it.  As a lover of all things paranormal, I felt right at home in Seattle with Kayla and Hart as they tried to reconcile their growing attraction and face an uncertain future where life hangs in the balance.  I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series.

Grade:  A-

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

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