When I started writing, hitting this publishing milestone was a distant dream. Though I’d been an avid reader all my life, I knew nothing about how to write a novel and spent months trying to reinvent the wheel. Then I realized it wasn’t enough to have an idea for a story. I needed to master the craft of writing.

I joined my local RWA chapter, went to the meetings and started educating myself. (See my Recommended Reading at the bottom of my Workshops page.) I started winning writing contests and then my 2nd full manuscript sold. (My 1st manuscript richly deserves the obscurity it enjoys with the dust bunnies under my bed!)

One of the things I had to learn was how to write a “first kiss” scene that was unique to each story. In Plaid to the Bone, Adam Cameron and Cait Grant were pledged to wed without having even met each other. Here’s a bit from their first private conversation:

Plaid to the Bone“Lass, I want to put your mind at ease. Ye have no reason to fear me, and I’ll see that ye never do.”

She met his gaze then, her eyes enormous. “Maybe ye should fear me.”

Adam laughed again, a little surprised by the number of times she’d managed to make him do that in the space of their short acquaintance. “Maybe I should, but I dinna think I will.”

He cupped the back her head and bent to kiss her lips.

At first, he meant to only brush her mouth with his, but her lips were so soft, he lingered. She stiffened, but didn’t object. Then he felt her melt. Her lips parted and he dived into the warm wetness of her mouth.

____________________
What a shame Cait is oath-bound to send her new husband to an early grave!
If you can’t wait, Plaid to the Bone is at: Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo
And for my international friends: AmazonUK | AmazonCA | AmazonDE

 Norah Wilson

When I let my writing friends know I was planning this 20Days/20Books reader appreciation event on my blog, one of the first to offer to help me was Norah Wilson. A national bestseller, she’s a Rock*It Reads author, like me. (Rock*It Reads is a group of traditionally published authors who are committed to bring the same professional standards to their self-publishing work.) Norah writes romantic suspense and sexy vampire romances, as well as the popular Dix Dodd mystery series as N.L. Wilson (Janet Evanovitch fans take note!)

Norah is kind enough to offer a random commenter one of her Rock*It Reads ebooks, Guarding Suzannah (which I have read and loved!) Thanks, Norah!

Guarding SarahThere’s no love lost between criminal defense lawyer Suzannah Phelps and the Fredericton City Police Department. Now she’s being stalked, but she won’t turn to the police, fearing a) they’re behind it; or b) that she’ll lose face and it’ll cost her in court. But when Det. John Quigley learns of it, he’s determined to protect her no matter who is harassing her, and despite the flak he takes from colleagues.

They’ve struck sparks off each other in the courtroom, and now he’s burning to see if they’ll do the same in the bedroom.

You might win a copy, but why trust to chance? Buy it here: Amazon

Maidensong

Plaid to the Bone is my 20th book. Maidensong was my first. It was originally published by Dorchester in 2006 and when that house went under, my agent retrieved the rights for me. Maidensong is out again now as a Rock*It Read .

Maidensong

Click to order!

Maidensong—a love story. Forbidden in some realms, skalds who are brave enough to compose one risk death, for love is the most powerful force on earth. And often, the most treacherous.

When Rika sings the Norse legends, every other voice falls silent. She lives for the joy of her art, until the terrible day when she’s taken captive and made a slave to Bjorn the Black. She vows to hate him forever, but love doesn’t always recognize the enemy.

Maidensong is Book 1 in the Songs of the North series. It’s followed by Erinsong and coming this November, the series concludes with Dragonsong!

The Prize

Today your comment enters you to win Plaid to the Bone from Kensington Publishing, Guarding Suzannah from Norah Wilson or Maidensong from me. You’ll also be entered in the drawing for the Grand Prize–a Kindle Paperwhite!

Here’s the question: Cover art is so important to readers & authors alike. Please click over to Norah’s book page and my Book Page to check out our covers. Then come back here and share your two favorites! Enjoy!

 

RagnarDid you happen to see the pilot of Vikings on the History Channel last Sunday? If you missed it, you can view the first two episodes online. I haven’t been this excited about a TV series since I discovered Downton Abbey.

Of course, I have a soft spot in my heart for those Nordic barbarians. My first two novels, Maidensong and Erinsong, are set in the Viking world. (Dragonsong, the final book in the Songs of the North trilogy will be out later this year!) And this new series shows so many things that captivate me about this time period.

MaidenSong

Click to read an excerpt!

History is usually told by the victors, but in this case, much of what we know about the Vikings came from their victims. Once they began raiding outside the Scandinavian fjords, they showed up in the chronicles of the day and every Christian soul in ‘civilized’ Europe began to pray “Deliver us, O Lord, from the fury of the Northmen.”

But they weren’t simply mindless raiders. In the late 8th century, they were making technological advances like a keel for their sleek, beautiful longships and a sun compass that allowed them to calculate latitude. And while the rest of Europe bathed once a year whether they needed it or not, the Vikings bathed once a week and took great pride in their appearance.

They were the last population group to convert to Christianity, but that didn’t mean they had no moral sense of “ought-ness.” The Norse had a detailed collection of laws with punishments for specific crimes carefully laid out. They had a rich mythology, as complex as the Greco-Roman system of gods and goddesses. It’s a fascinating culture and I’m so glad the History Channel is doing such a good job of recreating it.

Of course, it’s not the Regency. The women don’t wear gorgeous gowns and there are no fine balls. But the Vikings knew how to love and how to hate and they thought a man’s chief duty was to provide for and protect his family. In my book, that’s hero material.

Erinsong

Click to read an excerpt!

For years, the historical romance genre has shrunk to mean only stories set in England and then only in the Georgian-Regency-Victorian eras. With the success of Downton Abbey, I expect the late Edwardian, early 20th century to creep into the mix, but that still leaves a mammoth portion of the world and its history left unvisited by the romance world.

What do you think? Are you willing to read outside the box? What unusual setting has captivated you? Or if you are a historical purist, please share why you love the Regency. (Don’t worry, I love it too. But I do enjoy dabbling in other times and places as well.)

Zoe Archer

Update: We have WINNERS! Congrats to Leann, who’ll receive Zoe’s LADY X’S COWBOY, and Denise Chase, who’ll receive my MAIDENSONG!

If you haven’t read this fabulous author who mixes plenty of adventure with her romance, you are in for such a treat! Zoë and I first met back when we were both debut authors for Dorchester in 2006. We’ve each moved on since then, but have always kept in touch. Here’s your chance to listen in on our latest gabfest:

Mia: From the looks of your website, you’ve got some great books coming up. Tell us about your newest hero.

Zoë: On October 9th, my steampunk romance SKIES OF STEEL will be released by Avon Impulse. The hero is Captain Mikhail Mikhailovich Denisov, a rogue Man O’ War. A Man O’ War is a man who has been enhanced through technology to be stronger and faster than a normal man, plus he is able to power and fly and airship. Several years ago, Mikhail left the Tsar’s Imperial Aerial Navy in disgrace, and now he’s a mercenary, hiring himself and his airship out to the highest bidder. Skies of SteelHe’s definitely a bad boy complete with attitude and a Mohawk. Which makes him a perfect foil for Daphne Carlisle, a seemingly straight-laced anthropologist who hires Mikhail to help her rescue her kidnapped parents. Mikhail thinks he has the prim professor all figured out, just like she thinks she understands just who this scoundrel Man O’ War is, but they’re both in for some surprises during their adventure.

Also out right now is LADY X’S COWBOY, my debut romance which I’m now self-pubbing as an ebook. The hero of LADY X’S COWBOY is Will Coffin, a Colorado cowboy who comes to London in search of his long-lost family. Will is an awesome hero! He’s honorable, funny, and tough as nails. And he falls hard and fast for Lady Olivia Xavier, a wealthy Society widow trying to fend off an aristocratic rival from her brewery. Olivia happens to be a secret reader of penny dreadful novels, her favorites being stories about cowboys. Olivia offers Will an unusual proposition: in exchange for helping her protect her brewery, she’ll help him find his family. And he’ll be staying under her roof during all the while. As the danger grows to Olivia and her business, society is soon all abuzz with the scandal of the lady and the cowboy.

I guess you could say I’ve got a thing for opposites attracting!

Lady X's CowboyMia: I’m so glad to hear that Lady X’s Cowboy is now available as an ebook. Welcome to the ranks of the self-published. What’s been the biggest surprise for you so far?

 

Zoë:  There’s a lot of hard work involved, even if the book is already written. When you self publish, you’re responsible for EVERYTHING, from the editing, the proofreading, the formatting and the marketing. And it’s up to you to make sure the book looks as clean and professional as anything published by a digital or New York publisher. It’s all on your shoulders. I think there’s a misconception that self publishing is fast, easy money, but nothing could be further from the truth. You have to work ten times as hard to make sure your book gets into readers’ hands.

Mia: Unless you’re James Patterson, that’s very true. I’d so love to see a romance author–any romance author–get that kind of publisher support.

One of the things I love about your writing is that you’re so versatile. You dabble in paranormal, steam punk and sci-fi. If you could write any story you wanted and knew for certain it would become an international bestseller, what sort of story would it be?

Zoë:  I’d really like to get back into writing historical fiction. I have several ideas for novels that I want to work on. I do love romance, and have no plans to leave it, but I have other stories that aren’t romance I’d like to tell, also.

Mia: Six years have passed since you and I were debut authors together. What do you wish you’d known then that you know now?

Zoë: The road isn’t straight. Be prepared for bumps, detours, and unexpected changes in direction. This isn’t the line of work if you want job security!

Mia: Tell us about your ever expanding boot collection.

Zoë:  The sad thing is that summer comes late in Southern California, so I haven’t been able to wear any boots for a while now. One of these days, I’ll do a count of my boots, but it would take a long time and involve some serious closet ripping-apart. Yes, I have a problem. But if loving boots is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

 Mia: I hear you. I feel the same way about my art. There’s no need for me to paint my walls because the paintings and prints I’ve collected pretty much cover them all. Just for fun: Who’s your favorite actor?

Tom HiddlestonZoë:  I’m weird in that I don’t go to the movies or watch a lot of scripted television, so there are actors I like to look at, but as much as I enjoy looking at Liam Neeson or Hugh Jackman, their presence in a film isn’t enough to make me go see it unless I’m already interested in the movie. I’ll be seeing The Hobbit because I love the world of The Lord of the Rings, not because Richard Armitage is in it (though that doesn’t hurt!). I’ve always been a sucker for British/Irish/Scottish actors–not just because of their accents, but because most of them are theatrically trained, so they tend to be a little more intellectual than American actors. The geek girl in me can’t resist a thoughtful, well-spoken man. The fact that Tom Hiddleston can talk at length about Loki’s internal motivations, and also play Henry V, makes a fellow like him very appealing.

P.S. I love you, Nico (my husband)!

Mia: Thanks for dropping by today, Zoë. Can’t wait for SKIES OF STEEL

THE GIVEAWAY
Ok, now it’s YOUR turn to ask Zoë a question or leave a comment. She and I are doing a double giveaway today. One lucky winner will receive a digital version of Zoë’s Lady X’s Cowboy. And since Lady X was Zoë’s debut title, I’ll offer my debut book as well. A second winner will be chosen to receive my Maidensong in either Kindle or Nook format.