Sunday, March 29, 2015

Medieval Monday: Ashley York and The Bruised Thistle

Welcome to the last installment of Spring's Medieval Monday 2015. I wrap up in style with my friend, Ashley York's exciting Scottish romance THE BRUISED THISTLE. I hope, during these past Mondays, that you've met some new authors and discovered great new books to enjoy.

Blurb: Iseabail MacNaughton, the orphaned daughter of a Scottish laird, is forced to flee her home and seek assistance against her lecherous uncle who has usurped her family’s land. When she meets Seumas, a strong and valiant mercenary, she cannot help wondering if he could be the one to stand with her again her uncle. But with a price on her head and enemies on all sides, her trust is not something she can afford to give lightly…

Seumas MacDonell is a man wounded in body and soul, driven by guilt. When he rescues Iseabail from one of his own men, he cannot deny the attraction he feels for her, despite the wound that left him unable to act on it. In the hope of finding redemption for his sins, he agrees to help Iseabail…but will his feeling for her prove to be the ultimate obstacle to his salvation?

“Methinks ye wish to place a curse on me with that look of yers… What is yer name?”

Though she jumped at the sound of his voice, she could not help watching as he poured water from a pitcher to a bowl sitting on the table beside the fire. Mesmerized by the motion and the play of firelight over his expansive chest, she did not notice right away when he stopped his movements. She met his eyes. Her heart beat faster and that strange heat centered in her belly again.

He quirked a brow. “I asked ye a question and I expect an answer…or do ye not know how to act with yer betters?”

Her better? Though she seethed inside, Iseabail bit her tongue before she gave herself away. If he but knew how much land her clan called their own…

Nay, Iseabail. Remember the part you play here.

Lowering her eyes, she quietly answered him. “Forgive me, m’lord. I forget myself.” Unsure what else the charade called for, she curtseyed slightly.

“Yer name?” He still didn’t move. His brows were raised in expectation yet again.

“My name is Iseabail.”

He nodded, apparently appeased. “And my name is Seumas.”

His face settled into a slight smile and he continued with his washing. His muscles flexed as he rubbed across his chest and down his arms, scrubbing the soap into lather then rinsing it clean until his skin glistened. When he finished, he reached for the cloth beside him but turned his face to her.
She exhaled slowly.

“Come here, Iseabail.”

His tone was coaxing, as if speaking to a newly harnessed foal. She took the few steps toward him. When he reached for her face, she tensed and her mouth went dry. He was no better than her uncle, after all, and disappointment washed over her. She glanced down, steeling herself for the imminent assault, before facing him. His hand stopped just short of her face. Their eyes met and she could tell he was insulted by his tight lips and furrowed brow.

He wiped her cheek with a wet finger. “Ye’re filthy,” he said with disgust. “Make use of my water and be quick about it.” Seumas walked away, rubbing his hands dry.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple

Monday, March 23, 2015

Andrea Downing on Writing Contemporary and Historical Westerns

You're in for a real treat for you today. Award winner Western historical author Andrea Downing's latest book is--a contemporary.  I always wondered what it would be like to switch from historical to contemporary, and Adrea is sharing her vision of the evolution. Any you know what I learned? You still have to research!

The research and the path may be different for historical and contemporary novels, but the objective is always the same:  accuracy and veracity—and a novel readers will enjoy. 
When I got the idea for DANCES OF THE HEART after writing three historical western romances, it never occurred to me that I was heading into new territory—contemporary fiction!  You would think you needn't give a second thought to writing something that takes place in your own time period, that the words would just flow out of you, and all you need worry about was creating the setting, the characters, and goals, motivation and conflict. And, for the most part, you'd be right.  For the most part…  But if you live and breathe the nineteenth century the way I do, sometimes it's not quite as easy as it would seem. Take language, for instance.  While writing an historical you are constantly checking the etymological dictionary to try to avoid anachronisms.  No, they didn't talk about men's abs or accessorizing an outfit.  The trick is to recognize which words and expressions have to be checked.  In contemporary, you feel you don't have to check the language—but you'd be wrong.  Texans use different words than New Yorkers, southerners talk differently to northerners.   I've never heard a New Yorker say they were "fixin'" to do anything. 
With a contemporary novel, you don't have to worry about what clothing they're wearing because that's something you see every day.  No corset or union suits, no muffs or slouch hats, not a pelisse or separate collar in sight.  But there is still going to be a sense that individuals from different parts of the country dress slightly differently.  A New York woman's wardrobe will be (and believe me, I live here) nine-tenths black. On a trip to Charleston, SC, a few years ago, my daughter and I were amused to see the bounty of floral dresses in the shops.  Southern women seem to have a style of their own.  In fact, someone who lives in San Antonio recently told me they could spot the women down from Dallas because they all carried huge handbags.  A writer has to think of details like that. 
But the biggest difference comes in family dynamics and the rights and lives of women.  Back in the nineteenth century, a married woman had few rights.  Divorce was rare, and if a couple did divorce, most likely it was the woman who lost everything.  Men took a woman's finances on marriage, and women would lose the children in the event of divorce.  An independent woman was rare, and any independence she had was soon lost on marriage except, perhaps, to the most accommodating man.  The idea of a 'single parent' was unheard of, and the jobs available to women were limited.  If you write a western historical novel, you're virtually restricted to school marms and madams, unless you have your heroine disguise herself as a man.  Writing contemporary, you know immediately you've got a pretty independent heroine; her goals and motivation are going to be entirely different from a nineteenth century gal's.  Read any western historical romance and invariably the heroine is a woman seeking to keep her independence against all odds; read a contemporary and you'll find a slew of other problems the heroine must overcome. 
Finally, there's sex.  There's a poem by Phillip Larkin which begins, ""Sexual intercourse began/In nineteen sixty-three/(which was rather late for me) -/Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban/And the Beatles' first LP…" While few authors of romantic fiction need an excuse to write a love scene, if they are keeping within the bounds of historical accuracy, a certain modesty of the heroine would be needed.  She certainly is not going to make a play for her man, nor is he likely to fling her across the kitchen table.  But some authors do write those scenes, and write them well and believably.  Now, of course, we live in a time when just about anything goes, short of a public display, and we have contraception—although I've noticed few authors include the application of a condom in love scenes. Our independent women are all on the pill and, in the world of fiction, no one is worried about the transmission of STDs.  An historical heroine would be very worried about conceiving, while the contemporary woman has no qualms about one night stands. 
So, is there less research for a contemporary novel?  For DANCES OF THE HEART I traveled down to Hill Country, Texas, just as I traveled to Loveland, Colorado, for my first book.  I had a Texan check my language and give me a few idioms to use just as I checked my historical language for previous books. Scene setting is the same no matter the book.  And an author wishes to get people and places right whatever the time period, whatever the setting.

The research and the path may be different for historical and contemporary novels, but the objective is always the same:  accuracy and veracity—and a novel readers will enjoy

 Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancĂ©.
Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name.                                    
On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover.    


“You know how to Texas Two-Step?” he asked.

 “No,” she said, laughter just below the surface.

 “Well, sweetheart, you have come to the right place. Or at least got yourself the right man. By the time I finish with you, you’ll be the best dang stepper on the floor.”
Carrie looked around. “There isn’t anyone else on the floor at the moment, Ray.”

“Well, heck, I know that. That’s perfect for learning.”

As soon as his hand closed around hers, the leather of his palm a strange glove over her own fingers, a sudden frisson of connection ran through her she hadn’t known in a very long while. He moved her to face him squarely on, a small smile tipping the edges of his mouth, the dark, impenetrable eyes shining with his captured prize.

“Just follow me,” he said as his right hand went to her back. A cover of a Vince Gill ballad started, the mournful tune setting a moderate tempo. “Perfect.” He held her right hand high and applied slight pressure to move her backwards. “Fast fast slow slow, fast fast slow slow.”

Carrie felt a light bulb go on. She got it. It was good. It was fun. And she relaxed in his embrace. He was an excellent teacher, a fabulous leader on the dance floor. Would wonders never cease?

 “You’re doing well. You’re doing fine,” he assured her. “We’re gonna try a little promenade now, and then a twirl, so get ready.”

Carrie couldn’t stop herself from smiling, anticipation bubbling for just a second. And then out of the corner of her eye she caught Ty watching them, beer half-raised in salute and a smirk plastered on his face. A moment’s hesitation and she missed the step.

“What happened there?” asked Ray, oblivious to the effect the on-looker had on her.

Other couples were finally joining them on the dance floor, but despite the company, Carrie’s discomfort increased. “That boy, that Ty,” she told him. “He was watching us. It made me feel…uneasy.”

Ray scanned the sidelines, but Ty had gone, nowhere to be seen. “Oh, don’t pay him any mind. He’s harmless enough.”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Medieval Monday: Cathy MacRae and THE HIGHLANDER'S OUTLAW BRIDE

It's Medieval Monday and welcome to Cathy MacRae. Cathy bring us her latest exciting Highland tale, THE HIGHLANDER'S OUTLAW BRIDE.

Thrust into the role of laird upon his father's unexpected death, Connor MacLaurey returns home to find his cousin has usurped his lands and title. Furthermore, his betrothed--a lass he barely knows and certainly did not agree to marry--is hunted by the sheriff, accused of stealing cattle. His plan is to petition the king for clemency for the foolish chit, break the betrothal, and take his castle back from his treacherous cousin. Marriage is not in his plans.

Brianna Douglas has no use for men. Widowed young, berated daily for failing to give her husband a child, and sent home in subsequent disgrace, she devotes her life to holding her family's land for her young brother as their sotted father drowns his sorrow in whisky over her mother's death. Raiders have hit her clan hard, and to save them, she finds herself betrothed to Laird MacLaurey's absent son to seal a pact of protection with the MacLaurey clan.

Forced into a marriage neither wants, it will take a king's edict and sacrifice from both to discover what love means. But can they accept their losses and learn from their mistakes before Brianna marries another?

Her step quickened and she fled the room to the stairway leading to her chamber. An iron grip on her arm yanked her to a stop and she whirled to face him, his expression black with fury.

“Let go of me!” she hissed angrily.

Conn released her arm, but did not move away. “What do ye think ye are about? Are ye dead set on being hanged?”

“The king pardoned me.”

“Aye, for reiving. Disobedience to the king is treason and will also get ye hanged.”

Brianna eyed him narrowly, unable to quell her toe as it tapped the stone floor impatiently. “I dinnae want to marry.”

“Well, there will be none to wed ye from the gallows.” He loomed over her, his expression darker still. “And I could have refused ye for yer lack of respect.”

“Lack of respect? I said naught that is not on any other’s tongue, m’laird.”

“Ye know naught of me or my past year in France.”

“Enough to know I dinnae want to be shackled to a skirt-chaser like yerself. I dinnae want such disrespect in my marriage, either!”

Conn exhaled a long breath. “Why are ye so against this marriage?”

“Are ye daft? What is there to recommend it?”

“The reivers—“

“Have stripped my clan of their wealth.”

“Yer dowry is of no importance to me. However, I do find myself in need of an heir.”

Furious, Brianna tossed her head. “Ye would do better to find a woman ye know will give ye one. I have no desire to be that woman.”

“Is that so?” The soft tone of his voice did not match the fire she saw in his eyes. She shook off the frisson of longing before it woke the passion his voice ignited in her, and did not flinch as she spoke the lie.