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.

Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?

Website: https://hollandrae.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollandRae/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@raeromance/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hollandraeromance/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/hollandraeroman/

Buy Links:

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Valentine's Day Work in Progress Contest! Enter NOW!

 Three cash prizes:      
1st prize - $100.00
2nd prize - $50.00
3rd prize - $25.00
Our team of anonymous judges is comprised of PRG Reviewers and Beta readers.

We want each author’s work to shine on its own, so all entrants will be assigned a number. No author names will be known to the judges.

We will be accepting the first 50 entries that follow the rules to enter.

Winners to be announced on or about Valentine’s Day.

To Enter:

1. Send an email to prg.wipcontest@gmail.com

2. Subject: PRG Valentine’s WIP contest
3. Attach the first two (2) chapters of your WIP on a Word document. (One entry per person) The first line of the document should include the title, and if this is part of a series, the book number in the series. For check in purposes, your name should be at the top of the document as well. (The person checking your entry in will black out your name on the document and assign a number.)

4. You will receive an email stating we are in receipt of your entry and you will be given a link to the PayPal buttons. The fee for entry is $5.00 if you are a PRG paid author member in good standing or $10.00 for non-paid author members. You have 24 hours after receiving the confirmation email to pay your entry fee. Your entry will not be finalized until payment is received. If payment is not received within the specified time limit, your entry will be terminated.
Once the contest has ended and the winners announced, all entrants will receive the score cards for their WIP from the judges. The judges' names will not be released under any circumstance.
Good luck!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Stoking the Flames: 13 Tales of Dragons, Destiny and Desire

Surrender to the Desire…
Embrace your Destiny…
Soar with the Dragons…
Stoke the flames that 13 of your favorite NY Times, USA Today and International Bestselling authors have ignited with their fiery tales of the scorching passion that erupts when a dragon is united with their soul-mate.

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon 

Soul Fire by Kelly Abell
Sometimes breaking a curse leads to an unforeseen destiny

Desired Revenge by Solease M. Barner
A throne lost.. Centuries of debt.. A new threat arises that not only jeopardizes her lost kingdom but also her heart. Sometimes vengeance isn't vengeance once the heart is involved. Will Carmen have her Desired Revenge?

Devon by Kathi S. Barton
Kelly was finally taking the vacation she had been promising herself for years... and escaping her crazy family. But as fate would have it somethings are worse than insane relatives.

On Wings of Time by Linda Boulanger
One man with a dragon’s soul. One woman with the key to unlock his powers. With six hundred years separating them, Fate’s carefully woven web is about to be tested with a kiss and the flip of a coin.

Dragonslayer, Dragon Heart by Isobelle Cate

Heart of a Dragon by L.J. Garland
When an unimaginable evil rains down from the sky, fate demands action from the most unlikely place--a terminally ill woman. But even with a fierce warrior at her side, does a single dragon stand a chance at saving the world?

Promised to A Dragon by Darlene Kuncytes
When you're promised in marriage to a dragon shifter like a piece of chattel... what will it be - fight or flight?

The Dragon's Sacrifice by Andi Lawrencovna

Sadie’s Shadow by Julia Mills
Long forgotten secrets, ancient curses and a prophecy she's been running from for over a century. Fate and Destiny battle for Sadie’s soul but only her Shadow knows the truth...

I Dream of Dragons by Tricia Owens
When a genie in a bottle seduces her inner dragon, a sorceress must decide if the attraction is real or if she is being tricked.

Fire and Ice by Kate Richards
The battle for Crossroads rests in the hands of an ice dragon who has yet to shift and isn’t sure she can. Is his fire enough to set her desire ablaze and free the dragon within?

Curse of the Dragon's Eye by Kali Willows
When reality is just an ancient curse in disguise, an Egyptian Pharaoh fights for her soul & her flight of dragons

Scorched Hearts by Victoria Zak
One lost heart and another ready for love collide with burning desire. One of them is bound to get SCORCHED.