Sign Up for My Newsletter and Cure Breast Cancer!

Okay, okay, you probably won’t cure breast cancer singlehandedly, but you can make a difference :).

As many of you probably know, my fellow romance writer and friend, Jennifer Haymore, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. In support of her fight and that of so many other women, I’ll be donating a dollar in Jennifer’s name to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for each person who subscribes to my newsletter during the month of May. (Note: If you’re already subscribed, you don’t need to sign up again. If you’re not sure–and I couldn’t blame you if you’re not, since I haven’t sent one out yet!–you can try it as you won’t wind up being subscribed twice unless you use a different email address than you did the first time.)

ToSAlso, as serendipity would have it, I wound up with two copies of Jennifer’s latest release, A Touch of Scandal. One of them’s mine, mine, all mine, but I’ll be giving away the other to one lucky newsletter subscriber. I’ll draw the name of the winner on May 15th, so the sooner you sign up, the better.

Musing on Monday: Opening Paragraphs and a Giveaway

After sending my latest proposal to my agent (it’ll be going out to some editors in the next week or so…commence nail-biting), I decided it would probably be a good time to open up a erotic short I started writing at the end of the summer then set aside in favor of other projects when I reached an “OMG, I think this sucks” moment.

Rereading what I had so far, I don’t know WHY I came to the conclusion that it sucked. It’s actually–dare I say it myself?–pretty good. Yes, the scenario is far-fetched and, yes, given that I’m trying to keep it short (15k or less so it can go to Spice Briefs), the HEA might come (pun intended, lol) a trifle quickly, but I have to admit that as I was reading what I’d written, I completely BOUGHT that these characters were meant to be together and would have an HEA.

Okay, so now, having meandered far from the subject line of this post, I have to say that one of my favorite things about this manuscript is the opening paragraph. Although I’m not one of those who believes the opening of every book has to be mind-blowingly good, I am well aware that the first paragraph(s)/pages of a book can strongly influence how I feel about the characters and a great opening will make me want to read more as fast as possible. It’s also the case that opening paragraphs, even if well-written and catchy, can spoil a book for me. I won’t name the book, but there is one highly acclaimed romance that I simply never liked, and I think it’s because the first paragraphs distanced me from the characters and I just never came to care about them as a result.

Because I like this opening so much, I thought I’d share it with y’all:

It was a truth universally acknowledged that Lady Grace Hannington was the most inaptly named young lady in all of England, if not all Christendom. Within two months of her debut, she had ruined at least a dozen gowns—none of them her own—and half as many cravats by spilling tea, wine, or some sort of sauce upon them, trod heavily upon many a gentleman’s slippered toe, and broken the nose of one unfortunate chap with a misplaced elbow during a reel. That list of missteps did not encompass the full measure of the lady’s sheer gracelessness, however, for she was herself forever nursing some sort of self-inflicted injury, ranging from a sprained wrist and a stubbed toe to this evening’s glorious and ill-concealed black eye.

So, how do you feel about openings? Any books in particular that you think have stellar openings (or really bad ones, lol)? Or, if you’re a writer and motivated enough, share your favorite opening paragraph from one of your books. From all the comments, I’ll pick one poster at random to receive a copy of Erica Ridley‘s wonderful debut (with some great opening paragraphs), Too Wicked to Kiss, which officially hits the shelves next Tuesday.

Guest Author–Leigh Court

secretsToday I’d like to welcome guest author Leigh Court to the blog. Leigh has a Victorian-set novella, THE BET, in the latest Red Sage anthology, Secrets Volume 27. She’s here today to talk about her book and about writing with me. She’ll also be giving away a copy of the anthology to one lucky commenter!

Jackie: So, how did a television news reporter become a romance author?

One particularly bad week at work turned me into a romance author.  A good friend of mine — an ABC World News Tonight reporter — was killed in a helicopter crash on his way to cover a story (the cameraman and helicopter pilot also died). My NBC news director assigned the tragic story to me, since I knew him (and his family). As you can imagine, that was a difficult story to do, but later that same week, I had to cover the particularly gruesome death of a New York State trooper. At the end of that week, I went home thinking, “All I do is bad news.” That’s when I picked up my first romance novel, to try and cheer myself up. It worked! (And it was cheaper than therapy, LOL.) So I thought, “Hey, I write for a living, maybe I could write one of these!”  After all I’ve seen of life and its tragedies, I’m thrilled that now I can *guarantee* readers a happy ending!

Jackie: Wow, that really sounds like a horrible week! I would definitely give up my day job in your shoes.
 
So, you decided to write romance, but why historical romance? What drew you toward the historical sub-genre as opposed to, say, contemporary or paranormal romance? Or, dare I say it, romantic suspense, which you would seem to be eminently qualified to write?

LOL, ironically, I think the reason I write historical romance is exactly because of the harsh realities of my experience as a news reporter. I set my stories in the Victorian era because I think men were more noble and gentlemanlike at that time, although that probably wasn’t true of every man, of course. It also lets me play with the delicious dichotomy of a repressive sexual era into which Richard Francis Burton introduced the Kama Sutra to England!  That books plays a big part in my novella THE BET in Secrets Volume 27 — in fact, it’s crucial to the bet.

Jackie: Oh, well I think with that teaser, you’re going to have to tell us a little bit more about this “bet.” Because I’m definitely intrigued!

In my story THE BET, two drunk friends make an outrageous wager. My hero, Damian Hunt, Viscount Atherton, claims that he can, um, er, satisfy a woman using just his words. The contention is so scandalous and implausible that his friend George Beringer wagers his London townhouse that Damian can’t do it, and the woman George chooses for the bet is not only a virgin, she’s also George’s prudish sister Claire! Damian is forced to accept the bet or lose his prized racehorse in forfeit, but he rightly fears that a virgin wouldn’t know what the heck his erotic words mean, so he uses the visual of the Kama Sutra to help introduce Claire to the ways of the flesh. But the end result of THE BET is nothing that Damina or George could ever have imagined!

Jackie: Wow, what a great premise! So, tell us a little bit about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a pantser or a little of both?

I’ve always been a pantser, but whenever I get stuck in the middle of a story, I do dearly wish I was a plotter, LOL!  Seriously — the more stories I write, the more I realize the value of being a plotter. It hasn’t yet made me one, but I do admire them!

Jackie: Do you have any plans for a sequel to THE BET (I’m thinking maybe George needs his own story, but that’s because that’s how I think!)? If not, can you tell us your next project or release? Or anything else you’d like to let readers know?

In my opinion, George is a bit of a cad. I don’t know if he’ll be reformed in a future story, but in the meantime, I’ve sold a story to Samhain Publishing — a contemporary novella that will be included in their Binding Ties anthology. The story comes out on September 29, and yes, there is um, er, a bit of bondage involved!!
 
I also have a Victorian novella in Secrets Volume 15 called The Disciplinarian. And despite the naughty title, the story is not what you might think!
 
Thanks so much for letting me visit with you, Jackie!  If any of your followers would like to read an excerpt from my Victorian romance THE BET, which releases on July 15, please have them to visit my website at www.leighcourt.com. And if they buy the book I’d *love* to hear what they thought of Damian and Claire’s story!  An excerpt from The Disciplinarian is on my website as well :-).


Thanks to Leigh for being my guest today, and for offering up a copy of the book as a prize. I’ll draw and announce the winner, selected from the commenters on this post, on Thursday, the 9th.

On Friday the 10th, Candace Havens will be here to talk about her new book, Dragons Prefer Blondes.

An Interview with Evangeline Collins

hlcToday, I’d like to welcome historical romance author Evangeline Collins! I just finished reading her debut release from NAL Signet, Her Ladyship’s Companion, last week, and I loved it. Evangeline has a beautiful voice, and her love scenes are exquisitely crafted and emotionally rich. If you like your romances lush and sensual, you have to give Evangeline’s book a read!

In the Scottish countryside of Selkirk, Lady Isabella Stirling resides at Bowhill Park, serving penance for a sin that nearly ruined her family. For five years she has been condemned to a loveless marriage and confined to the estate where she does little more than tend her rose garden. With her husband absent for months at a time and few visitors, Bella lives a lonely existence, denying the passions that burn within her very soul.

Then her cousin comes for a visit and makes an outrageous suggestion: what Bella needs is a lover. A hired lover. Despite her need, Bella says no. But soon Mr. Gideon Rosedale arrives—and he is at her service for two weeks. Indulging in what she intends to be a harmless flirtation, Bella is overcome by Gideon’s intoxicating presence. And when she at last permits him to satisfy her desires, she discovers she’s done the unthinkable—she’s fallen in love.


Jackie: The hero of your debut release, Her Ladyship’s Companion, is a male prostitute (albeit a very high class one!). It’s not unusual to see courtesans as romance heroines, but male escorts are pretty much unheard of, I think. What made you choose to write such an unconventional character?

Evangeline: First and foremost, I like ‘different’ in romance novels. I like to push the boundaries, to challenge myself to try something that’s not usually done and see if I can find a way to make it work. When it comes to deciding on a hero and heroine for a book, I like to go with opposites – two people who appear totally different on the surface but actually go together perfectly. So when I was mulling over a hero for Bella, a woman who looks like an ice princess but has a heart of a tart, I couldn’t resist giving her a man like Gideon. And well…I have a thing for spice in romance novels, and casting a man like Gideon in the role of hero would be sure to guarantee many opportunities to heat things up.

Jackie: Bella, the heroine, is a rose breeder. Although there isn’t a lot of technical detail about rose breeding in the novel itself, I sense you did a lot of research into that aspect of your heroine’s interests. Could you tell us a little about how you went about it and what you learned?

Evangeline: I’m not a gardener at all. Seriously. I have these two little bushes in front of the house, below a window, and this is the third year in a row where I’ve had to dig up dead bushes and plant new ones. I’m hoping I won’t kill them this year. So I had to do a lot of research to figure out what would be in Bella’s garden and how she would care for them. Primary sources for research include the internet (American Rose Society has a wonderful site) and my mother, who is an avid gardener with a particular interest in roses.

The main thing I discovered was that there’s a big difference between the roses we know today and those in the Regency. While Empress Josephine’s love of roses led to an increase in popularity of roses and to rose breeders developing new varieties, the major advances in hybridization didn’t occur until after the Regency, so with the exception of Chinas, roses only bloomed once a year. China Roses continuously bloom, but are not very hardy to cold temperatures, so they could only thrive in Bella’s hothouse.

Jackie: Madame Rubicon, the owner of the brothel in which Gideon was raised, is quite a ruthless woman. I know you’re planning to do more books that feature her employees. Do you think she has any redeeming qualities or is she just a straight-up bitch?

She’s definitely not the most pleasant individual, but she’s not a straight-up bitch. In Seven Nights to Forever, you’ll see that she treats the female employees a bit differently than her male employees. Rubicon used to be a whore herself, so it made sense to me that she’d be a bit more sympathetic/understanding of women, but not so with the men. Still, she’s not what one would call a genuinely nice person.

Jackie: Can you tell us a little more about your next book, Seven Nights to Forever?

Evangeline: It features another employee from Rubicon’s brothel, except this time the employee is a beautiful young woman named Rose (yeah…I’ve realized I seem to have a thing for roses now). She’s the daughter of a respectable country gentleman who’s been forced by circumstances to find a lucrative line of work to support her younger brother. Rose first tried life in the demimondaine, but after her experiences with an unpleasant protector, she relocated to Rubicon’s, where she works one week out of every month. When she returns from her country home to London to start a new week of work, she meets James, a wealthy merchant who was forced into an aristocratic marriage of convenience to gain entry into the ton. And their seven nights together lead to a chance at forever. ….all right, it’s more than a chance. They will get their HEA.

Jackie: You also write Regency-set m/m romance under the pen name, Ava March. Could you tell us a little more about your Ava March books? How did you get started writing m/m romance and how do you think it differs from m/f romance (if at all)?

Evangeline: The main differences between Ava and Evangeline are that my Ava books are significantly hotter, they are all novellas, and the books feature two heroes instead of a hero and a heroine. Other than that, I think the writing feels the same – same time period, both character driven, and heavy on the sex and angst. Well, Ava’s a lot heavier on the sex. *g*

The heroes are always my favorite characters in romance novels. I’m a woman and I know how a woman thinks – no great mystery there – but men are a different beast all together. I find them very fascinating. I also am quite the fan of m/m romances. So one day I decided to try to write my own. Well, it actually was a bit of a dare between a friend and I – we each started writing m/m books at the same time (there is definitely courage in numbers. LOL). I think the main differences between m/f and m/m are in the character and power dynamics, and that’s why m/m romances appeal to me. In them, men can be more…vulnerable, I guess is the right word. You can see a different side of a man in a m/m relationship than in a m/f relationship. It’s hard to explain, but once you’ve read a couple m/m books, you’ll see the differences and they are not just physical differences (…get your mind out of the gutter!*g*) – it’s in the way the men relate to each other. I love the challenge of keeping my Ava heroes strong men who fall in love with each other, in the Regency era when such love was punishable by death.

But my first love was m/f historical romances, and I love to write m/f romances which aren’t quite as heavy on the sex. Hence why I have both Ava and Evangeline.

Jackie: What draws you to the Regency period? Are there any other historical time periods that interest you as settings for future books?

Evangeline: It’s hard to define exactly what draws me to the Regency period. Maybe it’s because the first batch of historical romances I ever read were regencies. I do adore the adherence to proper behavior coupled with the element of indulgence. I also enjoy reading medieval and Victorian romances, but I don’t think I’d ever write outside the Regency. For some reason, all my ideas for books and characters take place during the Regency.

Jackie: How and when did you start writing “for real”? I think all authors can divide their careers into “before I got serious” and “after.” When and how did you cross that divide?

Evangeline: When I joined my local RWA chapter. I had been writing in complete and utter ignorance for about a year, just scribbling in my notebook with the vague idea that I’d try to write a book, and then I discovered there was a local romance author group in my area, and from there discovered RWA. Talking with other writers about writing really gave me the drive to get serious about it.

Jackie: As an author who’s both epublished and NY print published, can you tell us what you see as the advantages (and/or disadvantages) of both? Do you recommend starting in epublishing as a step on the way to a print career, or do you see it as a goal in its own right?

Evangeline: I actually sold to Berkley before selling to Samhain and Loose Id – it was when I was submitting HLC to agents that I decided to try to write the Ava books. I truly see e-publishing as a goal in its own right. In fact, I see them both as very worthy avenues for an author’s career. It all depends on the particular author and where they want their career to go, and what fits best for them. Some authors use e-pubs as a step to a print career, some use them as their end goal, and others, like myself, would like their career to include both.

Jackie: Our readers may or may not know this, but it just so happens that we share an agent, Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. I’d love to hear how you landed her as an agent and also a little about your sale of Her Ladyship’s Companion to Berkley.

Evangeline: Quite honestly, I’m still amazed that as a newbie, unpublished author, I was able to land her as an agent. I sent her the first 50 pages and a query for HLC, and she replied back with a request for a full. Six weeks later I got a request for some revisions. We talked on the phone about the book, about the agency, about her and how she works – pretty much the conversation gave me a good feel that we’d work very well together. I revised a couple chapters and sent them to her, to make sure I was on the right track. And that evening I got an offer for representation. It was March 17th – yes, it was a very good St. Patrick’s Day! I, of course, accepted her offer and went back to work to finish the revisions.

Once those were done, Kevan gave the book another read and then she sent it off to editors. And on May 15th, I accepted an offer from Berkley. I know I’ve been very lucky to have landed an agent with the first book I ever queried, and to have made a sale with that same book. That’s why when asked to sum up my path to publication with one word, I always say ‘lucky’.

Jackie: What’s the best thing about being a writer? And what’s the worst?

Evangeline: The best part is coming up with new book ideas. I love mulling over concepts, fleshing out characters, plotting out books. I was one of those kids who could play with my Barbies by myself all day and be happy as a clam, so I love to just think up new books. I also love having written those books I was excited to write. But actually writing them…not always the height of fun. Weird, I know. I love writing, but I hate writing the first draft. Sometimes it can be painful to get the words to go onto the page the way I want them to. But once the words are there, it’s back to being fun again and I can edit and tweak and mold the thing into the book I envision it to be.


So, if you didn’t want to read Evangeline’s book before, I’m betting you do now! Lucky for you, she’s generously agreed to give away a copy to a random commenter. You have until next Monday (when I want the blog back because it’s release day…whee!) to post your comment and be entered into the drawing.

Also, if you have any questions of your own for Evangeline, rumor has it she’ll be around to answer periodically.

Winner of AHOW, and More Chances to Win Prizes

All right, it’s Thursday. The randomizer spit out Sara Hurt as the winner of the copy of A Hint of Wicked. Sara, please email me at jackie at jackiebarbosa dot com with your snail mail address, and we’ll get it out to you!

Disappointed that you didn’t win? Well, there’s still a chance to win more prizes.

  • Jennifer Haymore has an interview with me on her blog today and a chance to win a copy of Behind the Red Door.
  • I’m also being interviewed by the lovely Beverley Kendall. If you enter her contest, you could win a copy of my book or a $15 gift certificate to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Fictionwise (winner’s choice).
  • Tomorrow, Evangeline Collins, author of Her Ladyship’s Companion, will be here for an interview. She will also be giving away a copy of her book. You’ll be able to enter by commenting through next Monday. I’ll draw a random winner on Tuesday night and post on Tuesday.

Finally, official release day for Behind the Red Door is next Tuesday, but I am hearing rumors that it’s already appearing on bookstore shelves. So, in honor of the first books “in the wild,” I’m offering up a $15 gift certificate to my new favorite online and brick-and-mortar bookseller, Books A Million, to the first person who sends me a photo of Behind the Red Door on a shelf in a real, live bookstore. (I love their coupon deals!)

Also, since I’m currently in Dallas on business, I will give a $40 certificate to the retailer of your choice to anyone who can point me to a bookseller in/around downtown Dallas with copies on the shelves, as I will go there and sign stock tonight. You have to get to me by 5pm today, though, since I’m only here through tomorrow morning.

An Interview with Jennifer Haymore

hintofwickedToday, I’d like to welcome Jennifer Haymore, author of A Hint of Wicked, to the blog. When I first heard about this book a few months ago, I was instantly intrigued. The premise was just too unusual not to spark my interest.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

CAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND DESIRE . . .

Sophie, the Duchess of Calton, has finally moved on. After seven years mourning the loss of her husband, Garrett, at Waterloo, she has married his best friend and heir, Tristan. Sophie gives herself to him body and soul. . . until the day Garrett returns from the Continent, demanding his title, his lands-and his wife.

TORN BETWEEN TWO HUSBANDS . . .

Now Sophie must choose between her first love and her new love, knowing that no matter what, her choice will destroy one of the men she adores. Will it be Garrett, her childhood sweetheart, whose loss nearly destroyed her once already? Or will it be Tristan, beloved friend turned lover, who supported her through the last, dark years and introduced her to a passion she had never known? As her two husbands battle for her heart, Sophie finds herself immersed in a dangerous game-where the stakes are not only love . . . but life and death.

As soon as I read that hook, I was hooked. I just received my copy in the mail a few days ago and am itching to sit down and dive into it. In the meantime, I asked Jennifer a few questions about her book and writing in general. So, without further ado, here are my questions and her answers.


Jackie: Tell us a little bit about your upcoming release, A Hint of Wicked. What sparked the idea for the story of a woman who has remarried only to discover her first husband is still alive?

Jennifer: Way back in 2007, my husband and I were discussing plotlines for a new story. I told him how I love getting my characters into horrendous, impossible-to-solve problems and then helping them to figure out a solution, no matter how impossible it might sound. The upshot: The bigger the conflict, the more fun I have as a writer.

My husband thought about it a while and finally said, “What about a man returning from the grave to return to the woman he’s loved forever, only to find her with another guy?”

Hmmm…(I actually think my first verbal reaction was, “Hmmm…”) what an idea! I took it and ran with it, and haven’t looked back since. 

highlandobsessionJackie:  You’ve been writing under the pen name, Dawn Halliday, for some time, and have quite a few books out with Samhain and Ellora’s Cave, and NAL will be releasing a Dawn title soon. Could you tell us how your “Dawn” books differ from your “Jennifer” books?

Jennifer: The Dawn books, while being romances first and foremost, have a stronger erotic element than the Jennifer books do. My first New York title as Dawn, Highland Obsession, will release from NAL/Signet Eclipse in August.

[Editorial comment: Ooooh, hot cover. I’d like one to go, please :).]

Jackie: How do you write a book? Are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between? Do you start at the beginning and write straight through to the end, or jump around and write scenes that are clear to you regardless of where they appear in the book?
 
Jennifer: I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle. Now that I’m contracting books on proposal, my editors want to see a complete synopsis before I finish a story. So I write synopses now, and I do find them to be a beneficial loose guide when I’m on deadline and working hard to finish a book. However, if the characters decide to take a radical turn, I usually hand them the reins and let them take the story where it needs to go. Characters often surprise me! So I still very much follow my characters’ leads as opposed to shoehorning them into a plot I’ve laid out in advance.
 
Jackie: What’s your favorite scene in A Hint of Wicked and why?
 
Jennifer: That’s a really difficult question to answer, since I like different scenes for different reasons! I’d have to say one of my favorites is when Garrett walks in on Sophie and Tristan in bed. It’s a painful scene for all of them for a variety of reasons—I think I’m a little bit of a sadist when it comes to torturing my poor characters! <grin>

Jackie: You know I have to ask this. Tristan or Garrett?
 
Jennifer: Um…both?


So, want to find out who the heroine of A Hint of Wicked actually chooses (since Jennifer is clearly too wishy-washy to choose for herself)? Well, you can! Jennifer has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of the book to one lucky commenter to be chosen at random. To enter, just post a comment below. Winner will be announced on Thursday at noon PST!

Interview with Victoria Dahl

rakesguideToday’s We Heart Historicals feature is an interview with the super-talented, super-funny, and super-angelic Victoria Dahl. (Hey, I’m not kidding about the angelic part. She even has a halo! I’ve seen it on her TwitterPic.)1

She’s going to be giving away a copy of her awesome historical, A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure, so be sure to stop by and comment for a chance to win!

weekloversAlso, be sure not to miss Victoria’s upcoming August release, One Week as Lovers. I’ve been hearing some early Twitter buzz about this book, and I am really looking forward to it.

1Hey, are you snickering behind your hand? Surely, you are not suggesting there is any PhotoShop hanky-panky involved in that Twitter avatar!