Thursday, February 16, 2017

Night Owl Reviews Tea Party & Books: Feb 16-March 8, 2017

Hi Readers,
I've got a treat for you. I'm one of the sponsors of the Night Owl Reviews A TEA PARTY & BOOKS Scavenger Hunt.
During this event I'm going to help you find some great new books. Make sure to check my featured title out along the way.
The grand prize is a $100 Amazon Gift Card. The total prize pool is over $1000.
Look for my newest release!

The Haunting of Hotel LaBelle
by Sharon Buchbinder

When hotel inspector, Tallulah Thompson, is called in along with her pug, Franny, to investigate renovation delays, she meets an extremely annoyed and dapper turn-of-the-century innkeeper. The only problem is he’s in limbo, neither dead nor alive, and Tallulah and the pug are the first to see him in a hundred years. Cursed by a medicine woman, “Love ‘em and Leave ‘em Lucius” Stewart is stuck between worlds until he finds his true love and gives her his heart. When he first sees Tallulah, he doesn’t know what he’s feeling. Yet, her stunning beauty, and feisty attitude pull him in. With the fate of Hotel LaBelle on the line, Tallulah with the help of a powerful medicine woman turns Lucius back into a flesh and blood man. She and Lucius team up to save the hotel, but Tallulah can't help but wonder if he will ever let go of his past love and learn to love again.

A book flew at his head—and sailed through him, bouncing off the wall and landing on the floor.
Mouth agape, the woman stared from him to the book and back to him again. “You’re a ghost.”
“Not exactly. Shall we start over?” He leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest.
“After a hundred years of being invisible to everyone except you, I’d like to know who you are and what you’re doing here.”
“Of course. Why not? Could today get any weirder?” She sank into the desk chair, shook her head, and sighed. “My name is Tallulah Thompson. I’m a hotel inspector, hired by the current owner as a consultant to find out why the renovations are delayed and what he needs to do to fix it. He’s teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.”
“What tribe are you?”
She jerked her head up and those doggone lapis lazuli eyes of hers sparked as if she’d strike him with lightning and kill him with one look. “No one asks that. It’s not politically correct.”
“Well, I guess you haven’t been talking to the right people. And I don’t know what you mean by that last part. I’ve never been involved in politics.”
“Nowadays, it’s considered rude to ask about another person’s national origins.” She threw her hands up. “Why am I giving a ghost an etiquette lesson? What am I thinking?”

BUY: The Wild Rose Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Bookstrand

Sunday, February 5, 2017

2016 Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewer's Choice Award Nominee: VOTING IS OPEN

I am thrilled to announce that THE HAUNTING OF HOTEL LABELLE has been nominated for a Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewer's Choice Award in the Paranormal Romance category. There are a lot of great books and authors in the Paranomal category. 

Readers can vote on this award here.

Tallulah, Lucius and Franny say thanks, too!

BUY: The Wild Rose Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Bookstrand

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Jezebel: Horrible Warning or Good Example?

Jezebel. Why is it that this name is often associated with the following epithets: whore, slut, evil, harlot, seductress, scheming, manipulative, and murderess? How many of us have actually read that portion of the Hebrew Bible closely? I hadn't until recently when I picked up Alice Ogden Bellis' book, Helpmates, Harlots and Heroes: Women's Stories in the Hebrew Bible.  Bellis' book is an eye-opening, feminist review of women's stories in the Hebrew Bible. The author employs the latest critical thinking in feminist literature while simultaneously reminding the reader of the realities of women's lives in that era, as well as the fact that men wrote the bible.

Warning: If you are offended by feminist interpretations of biblical tales, don't read the rest of this post.

Here's the real deal about Jezebel: she was Queen of Israel and came from a different kingdom. She was an outsider, a daughter of the King of the Sidonians.  An independent and strong woman, she brought her religion with her to the marriage. She worshipped Asherah (the goddess found in many cultures of that time) and Baal, the son of Asherah.  Elijah, the prophet, told everyone to abandon their idols for Yahweh. At the time, Yahweh was a new concept, an invisible god, competing with a lot of other visible gods and goddesses.  Elijah called upon Yahweh to destroy the false prophets.

This was in no small part because Queen Jezebel had already knocked off a bunch of Elijah's followers. These were not forgiving people, nor were these accepting times. The power struggle between Queen Jezebel and Elijah was a fight to the death.

1 Kings 18:19 Now therefore send, [and] gather to me all Israel unto mount  Carmel, and the prophets  of Baal four hundred  and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's  table.  (The Blue Letter Bible )

Only the prophets of Baal were destroyed--none of the "prophets of the groves," i.e., the goddess, Asherah. Elijah declared himself and Yahweh the winner.  But Jezebel  was one tough cookie. You had to be to survive in those times. When she saw her husband, King Ahab, was depressed because he couldn't  buy some land from two men, she arranged to have the men killed via the council of elders' decree. (Some experts suggest she was not behind this move, that it was King Ahab's action). Her husband got the vineyards and lands.  Years later, after King Ahab dies, the son of one of the men she had killed for his vineyards became the new ruler. Elijah backed the new king. When Jezebel realized she was about to die, she put on her make-up and fine clothing, looked out the window at the mob below and spoke to them defiantly.  Three eunuchs grabbed her, threw her to her death, and then she was trampled by a horse.
When someone called for a decent burial, all they could find was her skull and a few bones. Elijah wanted this woman and her influence completely erased. He said to let the dogs feast on her. He also said:

1 Kings 9:37 And the carcass of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; [so] that they shall not say, This [is] Jezebel. (The Blue Letter Bible )

Elijah did not want a martyr's grave for Jezebel.

The early kings did not acquire their thrones and kingdoms by being nice. They took things by force and grew alliances through marriage, which is one of the reasons Jezebel was married off to King Ahab. She was the daughter of a powerful ruler. She was also a pawn in a biblical game of thrones.

Yes, Jezebel was scheming, manipulative, and possibly murderous, because her husband's throne was at stake. There is no evidence that she was a harlot, whore, or slut. Was she evil? Were her actions any different from the men of the times? Or was she deemed evil because she was a woman? Take a moment to reflect on how King David sent Uriah to the front to be killed after Bathsheba became pregnant. Yet, David is still held up as a role model and Jezebel as a terrible example. In a patriarchy, women are not supposed to think, have power, or do anything except have male babies and obey their husbands. Have times really changed that much?

Many of the same epithets used against Queen Jezebel are still being used against modern women. When all else fails, it seems, some men will call a woman a slut. So, what do you think of Jezebel? Horrible warning or good example of a strong woman living in tough times?

If you are interested in Biblical stories, check out my latest novel, Kiss of the Virgin Queen, Book 2 in the Kiss of the Jinni Hunter Series. I think it will give you some new perspectives on the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon myths. And here's the book trailer to tease you a bit more!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Interview with Holland Rae, Author of A Duel of Hearts

What made you decide to be an author? I don't really think I had a choice. I've been telling stories as long as I can remember, and no matter where my interests stray, it always, always comes back to writing. When my wonderful parents realized where I was headed, they supported my creative writing education, and continued to support me through the ups and downs of my writing career. I started out writing poetry, but the stories just kept calling my name, and I finally listened to them.

What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? My goodness, writing is fun. Part of what I love most is that I get to learn about so very many topics. Right now I'm knee deep in the laws of Renaissance Italy regarding women's property ownership. For my current work in progress, I had to get really well-acquainted with the world of art theft and Delft Porcelain. There's no telling what information I might learn in my travels, and that's always really exciting.

As for what I like least? I'm almost constantly distracted. I'm very lucky in that I rarely experience "writer's block" and so there's always some next story knocking on my brain. If I were to tell you how many books I plan on writing in the near future, you'd laugh at me. It's not a bad thing to have the next one planned out, but having the sixth one outlined in your head when you haven't finished your WIP can be a little overwhelming.

How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? I come from an art family, and there are several wordsmiths to boot. I've been consistently supported, read to, and nurtured and that has allowed me to dive right into the deep end with my writing career. Knowing what I wanted to do from a young age helped me focus my efforts, and I had some really great mentors along the way. We also traveled as much as possible when I was little, which helped me get a larger perspective of the world something a writer needs! I spent a semester living abroad, and that definitely inspired the setting of Amsterdam for my current WIP. Studying journalism in college helped me to find a happy medium between research and story, and also to understand the value of humanity at the base of every good tale.

Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with? Eek. This is so much better than a runner's high. I've grown quite adept at typing, and I know I'm in a really good flow when I find myself looking around the room even as my fingers fly along the keys. It certainly doesn't happen all the time, (and heaven forbid if you're off by a single key on the keyboard), but it's mighty satisfying when it does. The best day I ever had, I managed 20,000, split between two books I was working on. I wish I could pay for that kind of inspiration, but it's fickle.

You've written 4 short stories, 7 novellas and 3 novels. What is your favorite time management tip? I really enjoy writing books in a series, so I don't have to go through the process of a new outline or story building every time. Mostly, the characters are introduced or at least pretty clear in my head from the previous book, which definitely helps. I'm also kind of a freak when it comes to to do lists, and that is a major help. Otherwise I always feel like I'm missing something. I break my word count up for the day into smaller chunks, and that makes it seem more reasonable, while still keeping the goals high.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an organic writer? I have to plan. I tend to write longer books and there's a lot of stuff that it's better to know in the beginning that find out you missed when you're already halfway through. My current project had a major plot change (Read: I gave it a new plot after I hit the halfway mark) and that was a series of challenges, writing scenes that were needed and ensuring the continuity and timeline all added up. I'd much rather see the larger map than follow the directions as they come to me.

If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Write! I am *so* guilty of sitting on my laptop and researching things about writing or character traits or books or whatever. The truth is, reading and writing are the best things a writer can possibly do. Research, planning and editing are all fundamental, but the more you read and write, the better at writing you become.

Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? I'm the worst. I can't even write if someone is watching a video on their phone across the room. If it's a soundtrack or I don't know the lyrics, then it's generally okay, but for the most part I prefer silence and, if possible, solitude.

Tell me more about A Duel of Hearts.
When Lady Mary Elizabeth Anne Paramour runs away from an unhappy engagement, her options are limited. Soon, she finds herself at the doorstep of a favored cousin's temporary home, the estate of the most debauched lord known to the aristocracy, Nathaniel Arlington. The charming and handsome Lord Arlington's perpetual house party is infamous across England, and fodder for instant disownment if Mary's prudish mother, Countess Helena, ever finds out where she is.

But Mary, with a rebellious streak of her own that led to a lifelong interest in fencing, comes to realize that maybe not everything is as it seems. Over late-night sword fighting and whiskey, she begins to develop an unlikely friendship with the lord, who might just have more behind the rakish facade than he lets most people believe. But just as Mary thinks their unusual friendship might turn to more, she finds herself facing the unexpected, something that might just ruin her chance at happiness forever.

How about an excerpt from  A Duel of Hearts?
Cumbria, England
18 March 1797

   WHEN Lady Mary Elizabeth Anne Paramour had been very young, her nanny had read her fairytales. From the very first, Lady Mary had soaked in tales of knights and dragons and quests, and the whole wonderful world of fantastical romance. She’d grown into her young womanhood, and while the words beautiful, kind, and lovely had all been whispered in the great ballrooms of the English aristocracy, Lady Mary had never let go of her childhood fascination with true love, knights in shining armor, and princesses to be rescued by their heart’s mate.
    Surely, growing up with her mother, she’d never voiced these particular fantasies aloud. Countess Helena Eleanor Blanche Paramour would not have taken lightly to the notion of fairies and mermaids and true love, and most especially not in regards to her only daughter. The countess herself had met Mary’s father only three times before the day of their wedding, which had been the talk of the tonne, naturally, and she made a point of reminding Mary, as often as possible, that one can be a dutiful and loving wife to a man without having to ever get to know him. As it stood, Count Jonathan Paramour and his wife were rarely seen together in public or in private, and to the best of Mary’s knowledge that had suited them both just fine.
    But that simply wasn’t the kind of marriage she wanted for herself, regardless of her mother’s insistence on the matter. Countess Helena had preached many things to Mary throughout her life, nearly of them relating back to themes of piety, conservative values, and the ability to retain an impeccable reputation. And for nearly twenty-three years Mary had abided by those rules of her mother’s home to the very best of her ability. She never spoke out of turn, never got involved in illicit relations with the local farmers’ sons, and never once voiced the opinion that she might like to perhaps marry for love. Countess Helena would have sent her away had those impetuous words ever manifested outside of Mary’s own mind.
    That wasn’t to say that Lady Mary Elizabeth Anne Paramour was entirely well-mannered all of the time. Rather, she was particularly well-versed in playing the attentive and perfectly bred daughter of a countess, and utterly fantastic at pretending she wasn’t.
    Though her fascination with fairytales had started young, she had only grown into them as she aged. By the time she was old enough to understand that life didn’t happen such as the stories had said it, Mary had also learned that there were some elements that could be practiced, if one only knew how.
    His name had been Jean-Paul San Martin, and he was known as one of the greatest swordfighters that the continent had ever produced a birthday gift for her eldest brother, Malcolm. She had been barely older than twelve, and she had watched them duel, watched the dance of feet and fingers and knowing eyes, as Jean-Paul taught Malcolm with all the finesse that Mary had known she’d never be privy to. Eventually, Lady Helena had learned of her escapades, and even the view through the fencing room keyhole had been blocked from her.
    But luck, though Mary often considered the possibility of white magic, even if she had never voiced the thought aloud, had been on her side. Some weeks into Jean-Paulo’s residency at the estate, she’d stumbled upon him and a scullery maid in the first floor hall closet. Knowing her mother’s sense of propriety as she did, even at that age, Mary had promised to keep the man’s secret for a price.
    It was a small act of rebellion, in the grand manner of things, but it kept Mary’s head clear, and allowed her the vaguest hint of individuality, which was more than could be said for most of the women who frequented the society parties of which her mother was so fond.
None of that, however, explained exactly what she was doing on the doorstep of the most debauched kin of royalty known to the tonne. Truly, Helena would have herself heart palpitations at the very mention of the man’s name Lord Nathaniel Arlington. He was beyond infamous, beyond scandalous. By name, Lord Arlington and his raucous, depraved house parties were likely more myth than fact, but she would find out the truth on that matter soon enough. If she managed to keep her courage about her long enough to get through the front door.
    At that exact moment a young butler opened said door. He didn’t seem the least bit fazed by her lack of formal invitation or earlier notice, and simply welcomed her into the house, introducing himself as Harker before taking her riding coat. She handed it to him, pleased to finally be out of the carriage and hopeful, so desperately hopeful, for a friendly ear.
    “I am Lady Mary Elizabeth,” she began, cutting herself off before revealing her family name, not that it would have likely made much of a difference. “I’ve been informed that Lady Amalie Bronwyn is currently residing here.”
     Harker nodded. “Shall I inform the lady of your arrival?” he asked.
    Mary nodded, afraid that much more speech would result in the tears she’d had not let fall all throughout the carriage ride, and all throughout the last days.
    “Very well, then,” Harker told her, performing his proper butler’s duty of not commenting upon the glassy sheen she knew was in her eyes. “I’ll show you to your chambers, and have the lady called for.”
    Mary had been in her chambers no longer than five minutes when the door burst open and a brilliant rush of blonde hair came running into the room.
    “Cozeen!” she heard Amalie shout before she wrapped her thin arms around Mary and gave her a surprisingly strong embrace. “How are you doing? Why are you here? Oh my goodness, oh my goodness.” Her natural French accent was heavily enhanced with her excitement, and she wrapped her arms around Mary’s middle once more before finally settling down on the bed, patting the space beside her.
    “I did something terrible, Amalie,” Mary told her cousin slowly. “You.” She paused. “You’re the only one who would understand.”
    Amalie had been born in Paris, the second daughter of Mary’s cousin, on her father’s side. She was beautiful and lovely and sang like a lark, and her father had paraded her before every suitor in the land. She had been lured in by one of said suitors, and her reputation had been smirched, burned, and utterly destroyed. Even in France, it remained unacceptable to be found half-undressed on the hostess’ pianoforte, the head of a marquis buried somewhere under your many skirts. Somewhere in Amelie’s story she had befriended Lord Arlington, and when her blackened reputation ensured she was no longer fit for the life of a lady, she had made her home at the Dacre Estate. None of this seemed to be of any bother to her.
   “I can’t go home now,” Mary told her cousin. “I’ve.” She paused. How to put into words the madcap story of all that had passed over the last two days? “I was set to be married,” she blurted out. “This morning.” It was the first time she was saying the words aloud, and her mouth went dry, and her eyes grew hot.
    Amelie’s expression of love did not waiver, but she looked at her cousin with seriousness in her eyes.
   “Did you run away?” she asked, her sweet, continental accent rolling over the foreign sounds. “Does the countess know you’re here?”
   Mary let out a small laugh, but it quickly turned into something else, and soon tears were falling freely. “Lord Constance truly wasn’t so bad,” she said miserably. “It’s just that I couldn’t stand the thought of marrying a man for whom I didn’t care in the slightest. Mother’s always saying you can be a dutiful wife, and leave emotions out of the matter. But I knew I simply couldn’t do it.”
    Amalie took her cousin’s hand and stroked it gently. “Shall I call for some tea?” she asked, and Mary nodded. “Tell me everything,” she continued.
    So Mary told the tale of how she’d begged three footmen to rent a carriage from a wealthy local merchant, then sneak her trunk off to it two days prior. Then she’d recounted how she’d snuck out before dawn, how they’d stayed at an inn some days’ travel from home, and how she’d come looking for the one person she knew wouldn’t send her back to the sweaty arms of Lord Constance.
    Amalie didn’t interrupt once, except to pour the tea when it arrived, and when Mary finally finished her tale she felt a weight lift off her shoulders, as if she’d suddenly put down the world she had been carrying. It felt so completely wonderful to know that someone was on her side.
    “You’re going to stay here as long as you like,” Amalie said. “I’ll have one of my girls come to help you until we can find you a proper maid.” She looked at her cousin, and Mary saw complete honesty in her eyes. “I don’t know what you’ve heard of Lord Arlington’s estate, Marie,” she said, using the French nickname she’d given Mary when they were children, “but this is a good home. You will be safe here.” And those words, for the moment, were all Mary needed to hear.
                                                                    * * * * 
    True to her word, Amalie sent up one of her maids, then utterly insisted that Mary join them for dinner. She was feeling as though she were trapped in a dream, some strange, altered-body experience, where she could bear witness to the events unfolding around her, but as though they were happening to a stranger, rather than herself. She, well-bred, perfectly mannered, never-a-peep Mary Elizabeth Anne Paramour, had run away from home, left a would-be earl all but at the altar, and arrived uninvited to a house so notorious that brothel workers supposedly blushed at the name. At least, that was what Mary had heard she didn’t know any brothel workers.
    She didn’t really want to come to dinner either. But her mother’s impossibly good manners rattled within her. And far more than politeness, she was certain that she didn’t want to sit in her room by herself all evening. It was what she had done at the inn the previous night, and it had been hours of pacing, guilt, and regret. No, it would be better to make an appearance of sorts at the dinner table than to wallow.
    So she allowed Amelie’s maid Lucille to dress her in an elegant silver gown with a modest bust line and a smattering of lace. She had brought some of her more daring gowns with her, but that was relative. Perhaps she’d ask to borrow some of Amelie’s, since it was likely that her version of daring was quite tame in this den of iniquity.
    Her cousin met her at the bottom of the stairs, and the women walked toward the main dining room together. Now that Mary had a clearer head than when she arrived, she was able to fully take in the decor of this so-called infamous estate. Truly, she had been blithely ignorant, before arriving, that there were so many naked statues in the world, outside of Greece, though she was beginning to recognize an image here or there, owing to Jean-Paulo’s interest in the more intimate history of art through the ages.
    The sheer, overt sexuality was beginning to edge her into worry, however. She tried to calm her racing mind, imaging herself preparing for a duel the way Jean-Paul had taught her, but it did little to still the thoughts now occupying her mind. She was in the house of Lord Arlington, debaucher, lecher, absolute Lord of Sinan she was about to enter the fray.
Author bio:Holland Rae is the author of several works of erotic and romantic fiction in both the contemporary and historical genres, and enjoys pushing the limits of freedom, feminism, and fun in her stories.  She has been an avid writer for many years, and recently moved back to her home state of New Jersey from Boston, after completing her education in journalism and creative writing.

In her free time, she loves to travel, and spent several months living in a 14th century castle in the Netherlands. When not exploring the world, she likes dreaming up stories, eating spicy food, driving fast cars, and talking to strangers.

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Holland, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.