Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Little Taste of Love

My journey as a romance writer has had an exciting beginning, including publication of my short story The Long Road Home in this year's Shades of Pink romance anthology. I'm so grateful for all of the new fans and writer friends I'm making as I approach publication of my first romance novel My Brother's Keeper, scheduled for Summer of 2015.

With that launch goal being less than a year away, I thought it was high time I share an excerpt of the book for my new friends and fans. What happens when a good family takes their son's troubled best friend under their wing? Well, he's not supposed to fall in love with his friend's sister, especially when the Griffins are the only real family he's ever had. But Jack and Samantha can only deny their feelings for so long, until the death of her brother---and the best friend that has been Jack's brother too---forces them into each other's lives again.

There were six people who had Jack’s private cell phone number. Five of them had the last name Griffin; the other one was Miles. His agent thought he had the private number. And so did Vivian Moray, Executive Producer of “Game Day,” the pregame football commentary show he’d been co-hosting for the past five years. And he did have a cell phone dedicated especially to them.  Jack found it amusing to watch them both behave as if they were members of some exclusive club, telling each other at one time or another to try to reach him on his cell—“the private one.” Yet a third cell phone was provided by the network, and that was the one he used for the rest of the outside world.  He almost never answered it, and had the messages routed to his assistant’s email to handle. Sure, it was somewhat of a pain in the ass to keep track of three different cell phones, but the peace of mind it brought him to be able to ignore two of them, was worth it.
The first one, the private, private one was never far from him, and always on.  But it had rung so infrequently these past few months, that he started to leave it in his office when he went to meetings, and turn it off at night.  Of course he always got his Sunday call from Georgie, no matter what. Yesterday’s had been short, but sweet. She was preparing for a new gallery show; the ranch was in full swing and kept Lorne busy; Corey had just started his sophomore year at college; Samantha was fine, getting a photography award; and Keith had recently enjoyed a sellout crowd in San Diego.  He’d sounded on top of the world the last time Jack  had spoken to him.  His new album had gone gold in less than a week, and he’d been clean for several months.  They were all hopeful that it would stick this time.
He  reached for his duffle bag. For the sake of the family, he and Samantha had tried to maintain the platonic affection of siblings. Holidays at the ranch were strained, but he’d never disappoint Georgie and Lorne by not coming home. And if he was honest with himself, he’d never deny the chance to see Samantha at least once a year, even if it was torture. He suspected that the love he still saw in her eyes for him meant she felt the same way. It wasn’t like he couldn’t call her to see if she’d gotten the flowers, and to congratulate her.
To hell with it, he thought, and dug into his leather duffle bag for the phone.  He hoped the flowers had arrived before she left for the award luncheon, and he’d paid an exorbitant extra fee to be sure that they had. No way would he call the florist if there was a chance he could talk to Samantha instead.
But when he activated the phone, there were four messages waiting for him: one from the Griffin ranch, two from Georgie’s cell phone, and one from Miles. It only took an instant for his heart to fall to his feet. Even before he heard the quietness of her broken voice in the messages, he knew what had happened. His rage at Keith for not saving himself was brought up short by the thought of Samantha.  She would be devastated.  He pulled her number up in his contacts.  He wanted to call her, hear her voice, and then he wanted to get on the first flight to Los Angeles.  But Georgie had called him, not Samantha. He dialed Georgie’s cell number.
Even in sorrow, she caused a smile to break across his face; he would never tire of the way she pronounced his name with a soft French “J.” He should have had better control of what came out of his mouth, but he couldn’t hide his true feelings from her.
“Damn him.  I’m so sorry, Georgie, but damn him.”
“And yet, I’m still his mother. I think I’ll be looking for ways to get him back, save him, for the rest of my life.”
They were both silent for a long moment, and Jack heard the only woman who had ever been a mother to him take a deep breath and let it out.  What she told him next made him want to put his fist through a wall.
“Corey found him.”
Jack listened to Georgie recited the chain of events, as he reached over and turned on the television. As he suspected, the story was out in its full-blown horror. There was of course, video of Keith’s apartment building from both the front where police presence secured the main entrance, and then footage of a helicopter landing on the roof.  Then he saw Samantha stepping out of it, along with security detail. At that moment, he tuned back in to what Georgie was saying:  she’d have to sign off so that she and Lorne could get to the airport.
“Is Samantha alright? I think they just showed her getting out of a helo on the roof of Keith’s building.”
“Yes, that was the only way she could get into the building safely.  I’m not surprised they still managed to get her on camera.”
“I should get a flight—“
“By the time you get to LA, we’ll be back at the ranch.  The day’s almost over there.  Don’t exhaust yourself taking a red-eye.  If you show up in LA, it will just add to the media circus, and there’s nothing you can do there. Fly out Wednesday, and come to the ranch. She’ll need you there—we all will.”
Wait an entire forty-eight hours with his hands folded? Was she nuts? And yet, she was his mother too, and he had to listen to her.  When he thought about it later, he realized she was right.  He might want to be there just to be near them all.  But it would only give the paparazzi more incentive.  Not to mention Lorne and Georgie had to be the ones to sign any paperwork and take care of formalities, and they also had Miles there for support.  He’d just have to hang on until he could get to Samantha, as much for his own comfort as for any he might be able to give to her.
“I love you, Georgie.  I love you all.”
“I know, cher.”
As he disconnected the call, he walked over to the desk and buzzed his assistant.
“Get me the earliest flight out to L.A.—“ he stopped himself and pinched the bridge of his nose. “make that Las Vegas, on Wednesday. I’ll need a rental car; better get it for the week. I’ll book my return flight from there. Thanks.”
He hadn’t even noticed Vivian leaning against the door frame.
“Unscheduled vacation, Jack?”
To most men, she would have been a delectable sight.  At 5’7’, with a curtain of glorious red hair that fell over one shoulder, she was stunning.  She wore a black pinstripe suit with a red carnation in the breast pocket, and she’d skipped the blouse altogether.  She stalked into the office on her black satin stilettos looking like she’d just as soon stab you as smile at you, and she smiled at Jack with all of her teeth at that moment.
“Family emergency.”
“And when were you going to tell me?”
“Well, I would have come to your office right now, if you hadn’t barged into mine.”
“You don’t have a family—you’re an only child, remember?”
“The Griffins are my family.” God, but she could be a bitch sometimes.
“Look, Jack, this is a horrible tragedy. That’s why I came straight to your office as soon as I heard.  But you can’t just take off. Maybe two days tops—“
Before she could blink, he crossed the room, and stood with his face just inches from hers.
“Vivian, I am only going to say this once. A man who has been a brother to me is dead, probably by his own hand. I’m taking leave to go and be with his family—my family. Period.”
While she stood there fuming, he started packing up his things to leave for the day—and apparently the week. Jack took the rare opportunity of her inability to form a comeback to smooth it over.  He wasn’t stupid.  She may not be able to fire him, and she’d have a hard time proving that his leave wasn’t legitimate, since he’d been in the legal care of the Griffins since high school.  But she could make life very, very difficult for him if he got on her bad side, especially since he’s ended their sexual arrangement.  He had to throw her a bone.
“I’m not leaving until Wednesday, so I’ll work on getting a guest co-host.  We could get Pete Murray.  He’s poised for the Heisman, a young blood.  Giving a kid like that a chance to weigh in on the pros would be a great twist, ratings for sure.” He paused to zip up his duffle bag, and grab his jacket.  “Or you could not hire a guest host at all. There’d be so much sympathy for me by the time I got back for the next show, that ratings will go through the roof.”
Jack paused at the door to look at her.  Vivian’s eyes had started to glaze over ever so slightly. She could always be counted on to put business above everything.  He just hoped she didn’t choose the second option, because that would mean a commentary on his friendship with Keith—a rock star and a football legend. No one, himself included, needed the extra media attention.  He mentally exhaled as he saw on her face that she was calculating how long she’d have to pay homage to his loss after he returned to the show.
“Fine. Either get Murray, or don’t plan on missing the show.”
Jack shook his head as he strode toward the door. He’d take the week off either way, and they both knew it.  But she had to appear to be in control at all times. A bitch to the end. And she never gave up.
Vivian grabbed his arm as he crossed the threshold. “You said you’re not leaving until Wednesday—I could come over tonight—“
Jack pulled his arm out of her grasp. “Don’t linger in my office, Vivian—and lock the door when you leave.”

Samantha felt every jagged piece of rock impress itself into the bottoms of her feet as she walked, first down the long drive, then out onto the main road.  Sudden wisps of the last cool breezes of late morning dawdled in the hair that fell around her face. The sun was high in the cloudless azure sky. Some birds kept up their morning zeal in distant trees across the property. The horses had been let out into the meadow, and Prince found her as he always did and trotted along the fence as she walked the drive. He stopped and gave a whinny when she reached the road; he could have followed her along it as well for a few hundred yards, but instead he just stopped and looked after her.  Since their arrival two days ago, they’d all played at a routine that would never be quite the same.  Samantha knew that at this hour, her father would be in the barn or repairing a fence, or anything to keep himself going.  Her mother would be in her studio, painting every thought, or just sitting. And Corey . . . had not come out of Keith’s old room since they’d arrived.  He let Georgie bring him food, and Samantha stood by in case he decided he needed her.
When she wasn’t helping Georgie with the memorial, or preparing a meal for them, she escaped to the barn.  The only horse who remained from days gone by was Prince.  Midnight had died peacefully in the meadow one morning, and the collection of rescues and boarders had varied over the years.  Prince always stirred when she came, no matter how long she had been away.  She always managed to get back to the ranch a couple of times a month, except for her occasional jaunt to Europe. That she couldn’t even speak quietly to him as she usually did upset her, but she hoped the apples she brought him for treats, and the strokes she gave him on his nose let him know that she still loved him.
None of them spoke except when they had to.  Everything seemed stuck, clotted, clogged.  Samantha knew, if the rest of them didn’t, that they were all waiting for Jack, the last brother, to come home. Without him, they could not fully grieve, could not really move forward. And he was almost there.
After fighting her fatigue for as long as she could, Samantha had finally gone to her old room. She tossed and turned in a sea of her own tumultuous thoughts of Keith and Corey until she finally fell into a fitful sleep in the pre-dawn hours.  Evidently, her last thought before sleep found her had been of Jack, because instead of the recurring nightmare of that horrible night six years ago, Samantha dreamt of how he’d made love to her.
A few short hours later, Samantha heard herself sigh, and she awakened with tears gliding down her cheeks.  She lay just as she’d fallen asleep, with her face toward the window, eyes on the sky.  It was the best dream she’d had in months, and only left her feeling more empty than ever. There was no believing that they could ever bring that dream to life again, but at least Jack would be there soon.  To see him again would never be enough, but she still needed him more than ever.
Today was the day. Georgie had told her back in L.A. that they could expect him Wednesday, and later she fretted that he was arriving in the morning—on the red-eye, just as Georgie had advised him not to do.
It had already been nearly ten o’clock when Samantha woke up from that wonderful, horrible dream.  He’d landed at eight if there were no delays, so she got out of bed, and without putting on a robe or even shoes, she walked downstairs and out the front door. She passed Prince in the pasture and turned out of the drive onto the main road.
She knew the gravel on the drive had cut into her feet, but she felt nothing.  She looked ahead without seeing.  Jack was coming—she had to meet him.  She’d walk all the way to Vegas if she had to.  She had no idea if he was still one hour away, or one minute away.  She only knew that she couldn’t wait any longer.  She couldn’t hold back her anger at Keith or her sorrow that he’d lost his battle with addiction. She couldn’t deny her desperation to reach Corey and take back the years she’d missed with him. Jack was the only one with whom she could let go, and she needed him.
Samantha didn’t know exactly how long or how far she walked.  The sun was warm and she felt sweat beading at her temples as late morning edged closer to midday. She was aware that at least one car passed her and honked a horn.  Probably someone from town, she thought.  Then out of the ripples of heat on the road emerged an SUV.  But she couldn’t pay attention to that.  She had to keep walking until she met Jack.  The SUV flew by her and swerved so as not to clip her.  There was no horn, but Samantha stopped when she heard the sound of screeching brakes as the SUV skidded into the gravel along the shoulder of the road.  She looked over her shoulder and was about to turn back and resume walking, when she saw Jack jump out of the vehicle. His hair was longer now, almost past his collar in the back.  He began to run toward her as he ripped his sunglasses from his face.
“JACK!!” She immediately ran to him.
“Samantha?!?! What the fuck are you doing out here?!”
Samantha catapulted into his arms so hard, that he fell into the side of the truck holding onto her. Her breath caught for an instant before a long sob escaped.  She stood on her toes on top of Jack’s tennis shoes. She wasn’t going to fall, because he held her so close that not even a breeze could have passed between them.
“Shhh, baby.  It’s okay.  I’m here.”
Samantha took huge breaths between hard, broken sobs.  Her grief and anger tumbled out as she clung to him.  She cried for Keith, for the brother they’d both lost.  And she cried with relief that he was finally there, holding her.  She shuddered against him as his hands alternately cupped the back of her head, and rubbed the length of her back. Feeling his touch, his arms around her was a balm for her soul and she never wanted it to end.  She didn’t know how long they stood there before he finally, gently pulled back from her.
She looked up at him. God, she must be a mess. But he just wiped her tears away with his thumbs as he held her face in his hands.  It had been too long since she looked, really looked into those silver steel eyes of his. They were filled with utter concern.
“You could have been hit out here.”
“I know.” Samantha’s voice threatened to break again. “I knew you were on your way, I just couldn’t stand it anymore.  I haven’t been able to cry, th-there’s just been this . . . this stone sitting on my heart for the last two days.  I can’t let myself think what Maman and Daddy are going through, and Corey, he’s just shut down, God knows how much he’s been damaged by finding Keith . . . God, Keith . . . he’s just . . . gone, and it feels like you’re all that’s left Jack.” A fresh stream of tears began to flow down her face, and he pulled her close again, so that her forehead rested on his chest.
“And I’m here now, baby.  We’re gonna get through this, all of us together, okay?”
She nodded against his chest, but couldn’t hold back a new wave of sobs that overtook her and racked her body again.  Jack made no move to stop her or pull away from her.  He just held her.  And held her.  It must have been another half an hour easily before he finally spoke again.
“We’d better get you back to the ranch,” he murmured against her hair. “Georgie must be worried. And I need to get there too—I need to be home with all of you.” He kissed her lingeringly on her forehead.

Dinner was a quiet affair.  Corey had eaten in his own room and watched a DVD. Georgie put some Count Basie on the sound system. It helped drown out the silence, and no one felt obligated to carry on a conversation if they didn’t want to. What a contrast to the first steak dinner he’d eaten with them that Sunday, and almost every other meal he’d eaten at that table.  The food was just as fantastic as it always had been, but Keith’s absence almost made it bitter.  Even after he’d left home, and all the times he’d been in rehab, there was always hope. He always came back, because he’d still been alive.
He sighed, and stood before turning off the television. He left his laptop where it lay, and crept upstairs.  He saw a soft blue light under Corey’s door, but it was quiet.  The kid probably fell asleep in the middle of another DVD.  There was no light under Lorne and Georgie’s door. They had each other, and as awful as losing a son was, they would pull through.
Jack took a breath, and stopped at the end of the hall.  The door to Keith’s old room was cracked.  It was hardly still his.  Georgie had made it into a guest room not long after they’d asked him to move out.  But it would always be Keith’s old room.  And Georgie wasn’t the type to lock it up now.  That wasn’t how she dealt with things.  All would be open, including doors, for everyone to process this in the best way they knew how.
He pushed the door all the way open, and flipped the light switch as he walked in.  He felt himself inhale sharply.  He had forgotten how much Georgie had changed the room, and also at how much of a tribute it was to him.  She’d chosen a light grey for the walls, and a brand new suite of furniture, including a bed, dresser, and desk had been installed.  That was all the same, but she’d added back things of his over the years, too.  Three of his old guitars hung on one wall like art pieces, along with some of his gold records, and photos of him with his various Grammys.  The shelf above the desk held some of his old personal belongings, like school awards, yearbooks, novels, and photos.
Jack drew near the shelf.  His heart pounded as he picked up the photo on the bottom right.  It was of the three of them, him, Keith and Samantha, who they’d lovingly wedged in between them. It had been taken the day they’d brought Keith home from rehab the for the third time. Georgie had snapped it right after they’d gotten out of Keith’s old pick-up truck.  They’d walked arm in arm up the porch steps.
They’d been on top of the world.  Keith actually had them all believing he’d beaten his demons at last.  Jack had been on fire with the Vikings—he huffed to himself when he thought about how invincible he’d believed himself to be.  And Samantha . . . she’d been riding high herself, at the top of her modeling career. It was a little crazy, but it made sense to her, and here she was now, an award-winning photographer who managed to almost bury her former career as a model.  God, he wanted to know what had happened.  Even though things had turned out the way she wanted them to, something was amiss, and not even Lorne and Georgie knew what it was. 
He placed the photo gingerly back on the shelf, and left the room.  He still needed to check on Samantha before he turned in for the night.
He found her curled up on her old bed with the bedside lamp still on.  She was breathing softly, and her expression was peaceful. For that he was grateful. He crept quietly across the room intending to cover her up and turn the lamp off. But when he reached for the blanket at the foot of her bed, she stirred.
“Jack?” She looked at him and smiled through her sleepy blue eyes.
“Hi, sweetheart.  I didn’t mean to wake you. I was just checking on you—I wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m alright.  Or at least I will be, now that you’re here.”
He leaned down to kiss her forehead, and that was all he could allow himself to do right now. But when he tried to straighten again, she clutched his arm.
“Don’t go. Please.”
“Samantha . . .”
“I’m not asking you to make love to me again. Just hold me, Jack. When you found me on the road today I could finally let go . . .  you’ve always been the one to comfort me.  I need you . . . please?”
He couldn’t refuse her even if he’d really wanted to, which he didn’t.  And he would have made love to her again right there in her old bed too.  But that’s not what either of them needed at that moment, not really.  But he did need to be near her, and vice versa.  And that was something he could give them both.
He lay down next to her, and he turned the lamp off and pulled the blanket over both of them. She sighed and pulled his arms tighter around her. God it felt right to hold her. He hadn’t wanted to let go of her out on the road that morning, and he didn’t want to let go now.
“Don’t let go,” she whispered, echoing his thoughts.
“I won’t, baby,” he whispered back.  He felt her relax against him, and only when he heard the rhythm of deep sleep in her breath did he succumb to the same beautiful relaxation and allow himself to drift off. He slept then, with his heart full of equal parts love and sadness, and his arms full of her warmth.

Hope you enjoyed it! Please visit me on facebook to find out how to pre-order your copy today!


Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ninawritesromance and on Twitter @ninadaygerard for continued news of the book and other projects.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Love in the Office

As a first-time contributor to the Shades of Pink romance anthology, I'm honored to be published alongside these other talented romance writers. As part of my promotion for the anthology, I'll be sharing my interviews with my fellow SoP authors.

My fellow Shades of Pink author Cynthia Sax knows just how to turn up the heat in her workplace tale The Right Decision. She tells me about her inspiration why she likes to write in first person.

NDG: Office romances can be so sexy! Do you have a corporate background? And have you ever fallen in love with a former boss?
CS: I DO have a corporate background. I played in new product development (new product lines, M&A, system rollouts, etc) for years. I spent a bit of time in the boardroom and have met a few billionaires. I’ve had some extremely hunkalicious bosses but I’ve only loved one man in my life – my dear wonderful hubby.

NDG: To me, writing in first person, especially a romance novel, is fearless. What made you choose first person over another point of view?
CS: All of my contemporary erotic romances are written in first person. I originally wrote He Watches Me (my first published contemporary erotic romance) in alternating third person and it didn’t work. First person, one point of view, the heroine’s perspective, gives readers the dating experience. There’s mystery around the hero. Is he who he says he is? What are his intentions?
NDG: How did you come to write romance? Is this your first time contributing to Shades of Pink?
CS: I read two types of books – business and romance. I love the happy ever after that comes with romance, the optimism, the hope. Yes, this is my first time contributing to Shades Of Pink! I didn’t hear about Shades of Pink until this year.
NDG: Has breast cancer affected you or someone you know directly? What inspired you to become a Shades of Pink contributor?
CS: Cancer is the number one charity I support. I received a four year full scholarship (tuition and residence) to the university of my choice based on my volunteer work with cancer charities. Sadly, the number of people I know with breast cancer is too lengthy to list. I didn’t hear about Shades of Pink until this year or I would have contributed.

NDG: What other romance writers have inspired you? 
CS: I have a group of fabulous writers that I email almost every day. Christine d’Abo, J.K. Coi, Amy Ruttan, and Wylie Snow keep each other on track, inspired, focused. Writing, as with any success, is definitely a team sport. No one is successful on her own.
NDG: Your hero in The Right Decision is extremely confident and self-assured. Does he have a softer side, and if this were a novel, would we see it?
CS: I give readers a hint of Roch’s softer side. Clearly he loves his parents and his extended family (he wishes to take Lisa to meet them). He carries Lisa’s button around with him. He hangs the ads they worked on so he can look at them all day.
NDG: What are you working on now?
CS: I’m midway into Sinful Rewards (http://www.amazon.com/Sinful-Rewards-Billionaires-Bikers-Novella-ebook/dp/B00I7V89H0 ), my 12 novella contemporary erotic romance serial from Avon. The first 4 have released. I’m completing revisions for Sinful Rewards 10 this week, to send to one of my editors. This weekend, I hope to complete the line edits for Sinful Rewards 6.

Last week, I  completed the submission draft of my story for Mastered 2 (http://www.amazon.com/Mastered-Ten-Tales-Sensual-Surrender-ebook/dp/B00NUUO7G0 ) releasing in April, for pre-order now. I’m super excited about this BDSM contemporary erotic romance!

You can find out more about Cynthia's books at http://cynthiasax.com/. You can also find her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/cynthia.sax) and follow her on Twitter (@CynthiaSax).

All proceeds from the Shades of Pink anthology go to breast cancer research to find a cure. For a small donation of $5 you can download the book (PDF or e-book) and read all of the wonderful stories in full, here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vroom Vroom!

As a first-time contributor to the Shades of Pink romance anthology, I'm honored to be published alongside these other talented romance writers. As part of my promotion for the anthology, I'll be sharing my interviews with my fellow SoP authors.

It's time to get your motors revved with Paint it Pink! My fellow Shades of Pink author C. Deanne Rowe.

NDG: I was reading a little bit about your background on Kallysten's blog. Clearly your becoming a writer was a journey with deep a deep personal connection. I know you did poetry and short fiction, but what motivated you to focus on romance writing?
CDR: The first book I remember making a huge impression on me was The Shivering Sands by Victoria Holt.  I can remember the exact feeling of awe I had when I finished.  I knew I wanted to write like her.  I really didn’t focus on romance writing but it seems the stories I have to tell lend themselves to the Romance Genre.  I love to read a good mystery, but I don’t think I would have a difficult time writing one.
NDG: How did you become a contributor to the Shades of Pink anthology?
CDR: I saw a post from Kallysten asking for contributors for Shades of Pink in 2013.  I am a breast cancer survivor so I felt a deep need to contribute a story and help raise money.  So many people helped me during my journey.  I want to do whatever I can to pay it forward.  I have been cancer free for a little over three years now.  Someday I hope we can find a cure.  Anything I can do to contribute is very meaningful to me.
NDG: Who are your favorite romance authors to read?
CDR: Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to read.  Not as much as I would like.  When I do have time, I love to read Nicholas Sparks, Fern Michaels, Lori Wilde. Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins.  There are several Iowa authors I love to read also.  I would love to leave my day job and just read and write.
NDG: Your story centers on a classic car. Is this a subject you've written about before, or been interested in?
CDR: The idea for the story came from a plotting session with a friend.  I had to do some research, so I learned quite a bit.  I might have to pick up classic cars as a hobby.  Actually, in my book Southern Sophistication, the heroine is a classic car lover.  I guess I did learn quite a bit. 
NDG: What are the most important attributes you like for the heroes and heroines in your books and stories to have?
CDR: I like to write strong and confident heroines and Alpha male heroes.  I usually end up with a crush on all my heroes.     

Here is an excerpt from my story in Shades Of Pink Anthology, volume 2:

“Welcome, Maddie.”
Her perfume filled the room. It was a nice change from grease and sweat that normally permeated in the air. 
“Mike.  Let’s get this over with.  I have meetings.”
“Can I get you a cup of coffee?”  Mike asked.
“No, thank you.  I’m fine.”
Mike watched as she tried to convince him she was still mad at him.  Her stilettos tapping lightly on the concrete floor, her arms crossed over her body, not too tightly so not to wrinkle her expensive dress.  One hand clutched a matching handbag. 
“The reason I asked you to come here is because I have a surprise for you.”
“You’re giving me back my car?”  Maddie asked.
“Not exactly,” Mike replied.  “Something almost as good.”
The expression on her face turned from one of anger to intrigue. 
“I’m listening.  Continue.”

You can find out more about Deanne's books at www.cdeannerowe.com. You can also find her on Facebook (/cdeanne.rowe ) and follow her on Twitter (@cdeannerowe).

All proceeds from the Shades of Pink anthology go to breast cancer research to find a cure. For a small donation of $5 you can download the book (PDF or e-book) and read all of the wonderful stories in full, here.

Tatooed in Pink!

As a first-time contributor to the Shades of Pink romance anthology, I'm honored to be published alongside these other talented romance writers. As part of my promotion for the anthology, I'll be sharing my interviews with my fellow SoP authors.

There's nothing more fun than a romantic tale involving tattoos . . . except one that's written by a husband and wife team! My fellow Shades of Pink author JJ Ellis tells me what it was like to write her featured story with her husband.

NDG: So far, you're the only romance author I've encountered who writes with her husband. How cool! What was that like? And how did he as an optician, become interested in writing romance?
JJE: Writing with my husband was fun, hard, rewarding, and did I say hard?  The bonding time was great. The disagreements about what we liked and didn't like or what we wanted to do with certain characters was difficult. I would be lying if I said we didn't fight. But boy oh boy when the story clicked for us, it was one of the best feelings ever and it is great to share that with someone you love. 

NDG: Combining a military hero and tattoos makes for a very sexy story. Do you and your husband have ink as well?
JJE: My husband was in the Marines and the Army and he does have a tattoo. He's still trying to decide if he wants more. I may get one some day but I just can't make up my mind.  

NDG: When you are reading other romance novels, what makes you connect with the hero and heroine? 
JJE: I have a thing for everyday heroes/heroines - The guy/girl next door, the guy you want to take home to your family. I like characters that seem real. 

NDG: Did I read correctly on Kallysten's blog that you have self-published several of your books? What advice would you have for your fellow romance writers who choose the self-publishing path?
JJE: I have self published a series of 5 books and a standalone prequel for that series (This one with my husband). The biggest piece of advice I can give fellow romance authors is to research the industry. If you go into this adventure blindly, it will be really hard to keep your head above water. Know how long it takes the average indie author to start to sell books regularly, know how to find reputable editors, cover designers, formatters etc.  And make friends with other authors/aspiring authors. Without these great people I wouldn't have made it through my first year in the business. 

NDG: So what's next for you as a writer? Any more books planned with hubby?

JJE: Next up for me is a series of three books about the sexy Harper brothers. Each novel is a stand alone but all take place in the same town of Harper's Rock, WY. Many people will recognize the Harper Matriarch from my stand alone Prequel to my other series and there are characters from my first series who will make cameo's in this one.  I always say it's one big happy romance series family! And yes, my husband is co-authoring these too.  We have a great thing going and I don't want it to end.

Here's an excerpt from JJ's and TJ's story Tatooed Hearts:

Jack pulled away when he felt her trembling. “It’s okay sweetheart. There’s no reason to be scared. I’ll take care of you.” That was when he noticed the tears in her eyes. “Francesca, what’s wrong?” 
“I missed you,” she sobbed. “So much. And I’m so sorry…” 
“Shh,” he whispered, putting a finger to her lips. “It’s over and we’re back together. Please don’t do this to yourself.” 
“But I feel so bad,” she murmured through tears. 
“Don’t,” he stressed. “Please don’t. I love you Buttercup, and I missed you too, but that part of our lives is over. Now we move on. Okay?” 
Fran nodded and dried her tears. “Every moment that you were gone was like a year in hell. Sometimes I couldn’t catch my breath when I read your letters or looked at your picture.” 
“I know how much you missed me,” he smiled, gently taking her face in his hands. “Because I felt the same way.” 
Their lips met again, this time softly. When they pulled apart, Jackson took her hand and led her over to the bed. He sat on the edge and pulled her to stand between his knees. 
Fran reached out tentatively to touch his arms. She began to trace the outline of the tattoo of the buttercups and smiled. Looking to Jack, she could see him smiling too. “So, if this was to remind you of me, then why is there more than one?” she teased. 
“There’s one for each month I thought about you.”
“That’s so sweet,” she replied as she turned her attention to the other arm, running her fingers over the empty area. “Why is this area blank? If you don’t want to tell me, I understand.” 
“That is for my heart, whether whole or broken, to be decided when I got home," he replied as he ran his fingers up her side, sending shivers through her body. “Seeing you waiting for me completes my heart.”
You can find out more about JJ's books at www.writerjjellis.com. You can also find her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/writerjjellis) and follow her on Twitter at @mommyof5crazies. 
All proceeds from the Shades of Pink anthology go to breast cancer research to help find a cure. A small donation of  $5 you can read all of our wonderful stories, here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Interview in Pink

Here is an interview about my story in the Shades of Pink Romance Anthology, reprinted from Creativity from Chaos:

Shades of Pink Writer Shares an Excerpt

The Shades of Pink romance anthology, now in its second year of raising funds for breast cancer research, features 22 authors coming together for one cause. First-time SOP contributor Nina Day Gerard shared an excerpt from her story with me, below, along with some insights into why she loves her characters so much.

RAVEN: What made you want to submit to this anthology?
NDG: A dear friend of mine went through a double mastectomy this year, and just completed her reconstructive surgery. When this event came across my radar, I knew I had to write something for it.

RAVEN: And what made you become a romance writer?
NDG: I started out trading Harlequin romance novels with my girlfriends in high school, so I’ve been reading about love for a long time. Now I love to write about it too. It was just a natural transition.

RAVEN: Tell us a little bit about your Shades of Pink story.
NDG: Well, unrequited love seems to be a theme I enjoy writing about. But in the end, the couple always finds their way back to each other. In The Long Road Home, our hero Dane McCall has grown up to become the Sheriff of the small town in Oregon where he grew up. He’s loved his best friend Carter’s baby sister Catie for as long as he can remember. But he and his friend have become estranged since high school, and well, Dane never really got the chance to act on his feelings for Catie at all. But a high school reunion right there in Anderson rekindles his feelings and presents a possible opportunity for him to act on them.

RAVEN: And what about Catie? Does she reciprocate?
NDG: She does, but has never thought herself to be worthy of a man like Dane. I really related to Catie as I was writing about her, because in some ways, she’s like me. I grew up in a small rural town, and never thought I was pretty or popular in high school. And I still suffered insecurity in my adult years, and never thought I’d meet Mr. Right.

Catie sat across from her brother at a secluded table in a very expensive Mediterranean restaurant in San Francisco. Not that she didn’t like coming into the city from Oakland; and she liked eating in nice restaurants as much as the next person.
            But Carter was always insisting on spoiling her in extravagant ways, saying that she deserved it since she’d sacrificed making a decent living to become an elementary school teacher. She’d rolled her eyes at that, and she often complied with whatever Carter had up his sleeve just to get him to settle down so she could get on with life.
            Once he’d given her a fur coat, and it wasn’t even Christmas. She reminded him that she didn’t believe in wearing real fur, so she gave it to charity, only to have a top-of-the line designer faux fur show up on her doorstep within a few days.
            Then he’d insisted on paying for her Master’s Degree. She agreed to only accept whatever she couldn’t get in loans, and on buying her own text books, knowing full well that he would probably try to pay off her student loans for her at some point anyway. He’d tried to rent her an apartment in a “decent” part of town, but at least he saw that she wanted to be in the inner city and helping those kids, not the privileged kids in the suburbs. So he’d had a state-of-the-art security system installed in her apartment building as well as her individual unit. The manager was grateful, but Catie was entirely embarrassed.
            Short of hiring private security for her, Carter called her several times a day to be sure she was safe, even when he himself was traveling overseas.
            She’d drawn the line at him buying her a car, or tried to anyway. At first she flat-out refused. When she saw that she wasn’t going to deter him that easily, she tried to assuage his burning desire to spend money on her by stipulating that he could buy her a used car. A really used one. He wouldn’t hear of it. He claimed that higher end foreign cars were safer than the average economy sedan. She cleverly pointed out how much of the wrong kind of attention she’d be drawing to herself driving a Mercedes or a BMW around her neighborhood. Finally, they’d settled on a brand new Toyota sedan. She’d chosen a muted color and on the outside it didn’t look particularly fancy. But it was still a lot of car for her, and Carter had insisted on getting it armored, and adding an alarm system, and a SYNC phone system, which also meant he’d gotten her a brand new smart phone to pair with it.
            It was no surprise that Carter had done well for himself. Even in high school, he was quite the entrepreneur. Every student committee wanted him to do fundraising for them. He could sell anything, convince anyone to do anything. As president of the student body, he even got the school board to approve a process whereby students could reduce their detention time for good behavior. Of course it was thrown out when the next student president was elected, but it was great while it lasted.
            By his senior year, Carter had his own marketing business; he’d gone from school fundraisers to helping local businesses come up with new campaigns. And when he left their small town of Anderson, Oregon to attend college down in Sacramento, he expanded his business down there, even getting one of his clients to sponsor his MBA.
            Eventually, he brought his company Thompson Enterprises to San Francisco. He’d missed Catie terribly, who had opted to stay in Oregon to get her education, and asked her to come to the Bay Area to be near him. Their father had passed just before Carter finished graduate school, and now their mother was in need of extra care. Catie had tried to convince him that she could care for her mother in Oregon, but even she knew that Carter’s financial support would make a huge difference, and it would do both of them good to have him nearby where he could visit them regularly.
            So here she sat across from him. Something was off. Even when he’d invited her to dinner earlier that day—insisted on it as a matter of fact—he’d seemed edgy, anxious about something. Now, for all of his good looks, he just seemed tired, ragged. He’d hardly said two words since they’d arrived, aside from ordering his dinner. Catie’s discomfort with the situation increased, and she was almost afraid of why he’d brought her there. It was definitely more than his usual magnanimous weekly gesture to take her out for a meal. To hide her anxiety, and perhaps to delay hearing his explanation, Catie chattered on, which she knew annoyed him, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself.
            “This one little boy in my homeroom, Edwin, is so adorable. You know they’re at that age when they’re still learning to pronounce everything, and he always says ‘see you tomowow, Miss Tomp-thun.’”
            Catie’s comments about her mundane life fell like bricks around their table. Though she knew Carter was always happy for her success and the joy she took in teaching the children, it had to be incredibly dull compared to the glamorous life of a business mogul that he led. It was quiet now, and he just stared at her across the table. She swallowed hard and was about to ask him what in God’s name was going on with him when he leaned forward and practically shouted at her.
            “You know, Catie, we need a vacation!” It was as if he knew that he had to engage with her before they both went mad. But he startled her so badly that she nearly knocked over her water glass.
            “A vacation?” she asked sheepishly, as she regained her composure.
            “That’s right,” he continued, snapping his finger in the air as he leaned back into his seat. “We both work very hard. As a matter of fact, you probably work harder than I do.” Well, that was a lie, although Carter did seem to turn pale every time someone mentioned settling down and having kids to him.
            “I’d much rather deal with the Board of Directors than the finger painting and cookie crumbs that you’re plagued with on a daily basis.”
            Catie did have to smile at that. She almost laughed outright at the visual image she got of the kids at the kindergarten she taught at  climbing all over his designer suit with their sticky paint-covered hands, and then trying to kiss him with their mouths ringed in cookie crumbs and milk mustaches.
            “Look, the point is, sweetheart, I think we could both use a break. So that’s why I made arrangements for us to go to our high school reunion in two weeks.” She blinked at him. She knew she had that deer-in-the headlights look, but it took her a minute to process what he was saying. Her illustrious twin brother, who had worked so hard to get her and their mother out of Oregon, and basically swore he would never go back for any reason, now wanted to attend their high school reunion.
            “Reunion? You?”
            “Well, I wouldn’t trust anyone else to escort you back there.”
            “First of all, why would you want to go back to Oregon for a vacation? As I recall, you have pretty much avoided going back there for any reason.”
            “True, but I thought maybe this would be fun.”
            “Fun? Come on Carter. I’m your twin sister. I know you. And your idea of fun is more along the lines of gambling on the French Riviera, not making small talk over punch in our old high school gym with people you barely remember.”
            “Ah, the Riviera. If that were my plan, would you be more excited?”
            “Yes. No! Are you nuts? It’s April. I can’t go anywhere with you right now. What about school, what about my students?”
            “I’ve already made arrangements. Your boss has already found a substitute.” Her “boss” was Barbara Collins, or Miss Barbara, as the students like to call her. Barbara owned the private kindergarten where Catie had taught for going on five years. She was a wonderful, generous woman—who had now fallen under her brother’s spell.
            “What?! What did you say to her?”
            “Just that I needed you to accompany me back to our home town on some family business. And it’s true.”
            “A high school reunion hardly qualifies as important family business!”
            “No, but . . . I thought we could take a look at the old house—“
            “Which we don’t own any more.”
            “—and see a few old friends.”
            “We don’t have friends there anymore. You haven’t been in touch with anyone since you left.”
            “And I need to make amends for that. Dane is my best friend. At least he was. I owe him a visit. I need to get reacquainted again.”
            The mention of Dane McCall brought her up short. Dane, who had been Carter’s best friend all during high school. Dane, who she’d basically been in love with since she was fifteen.
            “What if I don’t want to go?” she asked quietly. “Did you ever think of that?”
            Now it was Carter who fell silent for a moment, and then he looked at her wearily again.
            “Not really, no. I’m sorry if I’ve crossed a line here, I just wanted to plan a surprise for you. I thought we both deserved a break, and yes, it’s not my usual cup of tea, but maybe I should reconnect with where I came from. I really just need to get away, and . . . you’re all I’ve got Catie. I really need you to come with me.”
            At that moment the food arrived, but Catie couldn’t look away from Carter. There was a sadness in his eyes that she hadn’t seen before, not even when their father passed away. This ruse about going to the reunion was bad enough. She’d have to find something to wear, and not one of the eleven pink dresses in her closet was suitable. After all, she’d been living in the big city, so she couldn’t very well show up in the lace and flowers she’d been teased about so much in high school. And it wasn’t just her old peers she was worried about impressing. She’d have to face Dane. Hopefully, he’d be too busy being the Sheriff to actually attend the reunion. But there was something else, she knew, and Carter wasn’t going to tell her what it was. She had no choice but to go along with him, and at best support this scheme of his, wherever it led.
            Though she really wasn’t hungry any more Catie picked gingerly at her pasta. She glanced up at Carter, who was eating like it was his last meal. Her stomach rumbled at the unknown—and especially thought of seeing Dane again.

RAVEN: It sounds like there may be a little more to getting Dane and Catie together than meets the eye.
NDG: Oh, there always is. That’s the fun of it. A situation arises that requires not only the best of Dane’s law enforcement skills, but facing what’s in his heart at the same time—not an easy task!

RAVEN: Thank you so much for sharing an excerpt from your story with us. Where can SOP readers find more of your work?
NDG: Well, the first 100 people to like my Facebook page will receive a sneak-preview excerpt from my novel My Brother’s Keeper.

RAVEN: Thank you Nina. And details about the Shades of Pink event are listed below.
NDG: Thank you.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Last year, the first Shades of Pink event raised over $10.000 for research through more than 1300 donations! To become part of this very special event and download your copy of Shades of Pink Volume 2 (e-book or PDF), visit SOP Editor Kallysten’s blog now through November 15th.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SEALed in Pink

One of the huge benefits of being a contributing writer for the Shades of Pink Romance Anthology, which funds breast cancer research, is that I get to read more great romance stories!

Seal It In The Past is a great way to begin the anthology, and fellow #SoP14 author Natasza Waters had me at "SEAL"!

Nothing is sexier than a hot, handsome hero who is also devoted to family.

Wanna read it? Well, you should! Especially if you love Navy SEALs, love to read romance, and have been affected, directly or through a loved one by breast cancer. Please turn that cup of designer coffee or that extra movie ticket into a donation today. Or just make your next great read the Shades of Pink Romance Anthology, Volume 2, 2014!