Welcome to my blog!

I'm so excited that my lifelong dream of becoming a published author has come true. If you'd like to go straight to excerpts, descriptions, and buy links for my books, click on the covers below on the right.

I love to hear from my readers! If you have a comment for me or if you'd like to submit a character for published character interview or unpublished character analysis, please use the form below or email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Character on the Couch: Dante from Wandering Soul

Today I'm excited to welcome Cassandra Chandler and her hero Dante to the blog. I can't wait to read her book, which is a new riff on the Phantom of the Opera story. We share a publisher, editor, and cover artist, so it's like we're author sisters!

Isn't this gorgeous?
A leap across time is easy...if you throw your heart first.

A woman with a secret…

Elsa Sinclair’s ability to bring stunning realism to her historical novels is a secret she must never reveal. She does her research first-hand—by traveling back in time.

When she stumbles across the man behind the legendary Phantom of the Opera, she is moved by his strength, his kindness…and the moments when his solitary existence seems unbearable. She can’t simply sit by and leave him to his fiery fate.

A man out of time…

Dante Lucerne is shocked to find himself pulled from certain death and carried to another time and continent. The new world is full of wonders, not the least of which is the woman who saved him. 

A darkness threatens…

As Elsa helps Dante adjust to his new world, she makes a terrifying discovery—she is falling in love. And it is Dante who must find a way to help her let go of secrets that run deeper than her power. Into the very heart of what they could lose if he fails…

Product Warnings
Contains a fiery heroine, a brilliant hero, and a love passionate enough to span a century.

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

I think Dante would be willing to visit a psychologist, but the irony there is that he needs it the least of all the characters in this series (except maybe Winston). Most likely, Dante would end up going to support Elsa if she ever dared to work on her issues with someone, and she would only go if her friends badgered her into it.

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Elsa has trust issues that have clouded every relationship she’s managed to build (which isn’t many). Her friends just think she’s a control freak because she’s never opened up to them even a tiny bit about her past. They don’t realize she exists in a state of constant fear and tries to control every situation in an attempt to feel safe. Dante is the first person she lets past her guard, and even that is out of necessity. She has limited options—either bring him back to modern times or let him die in a fire. But if she brings him back with her, he’ll know about her ability to time travel. Taking the chance on rescuing Dante at the beginning of Wandering Soul, knowing that he’ll then share her secret, is the start of her journey toward learning how to trust.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Elsa would hover by the door so she could make a quick exit if needed. Dante would remain standing, politely waiting for you to invite him to sit, and even then he’d wait for Elsa to be comfortable enough to sit down first. His posture is so good, any time I picture him I feel compelled to sit up straighter.

CD: I am sitting up straighter just reading that. Perhaps I need to write more characters with good posture to cue me.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

Getting Elsa to talk would be extremely challenging. She’s adept at deflection, and would feel threatened by what she would perceive as someone trying to pry into her life. Dante might talk more than usual to help her not feel pressured to open up. He would have tons of questions about the field of psychology and be a delightful conversationalist. If Elsa ever thought that the conversation was making Dante uncomfortable, though, she would jump in. Her internal fearfulness and hesitation vanish when she thinks her loved ones need her help.

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

It would be hard to get Elsa into a bar. She and Dante would only go if they were meeting Garrett, Jazz, and Rachel for something special, like listening to live music (probably jazz). Elsa would get water and Dante would order a beer, at Garrett’s urging. They would all sit around a big table and Garrett and Jazz would work on educating Dante about their favorite type of music while Elsa quietly looked on. Jazz would try to prod Elsa to join into the conversation and Elsa would pretend to be annoyed by it, but actually be extremely happy to have Dante bonding with her surrogate family.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

I talk to my characters in my head all the time—standing in line at the grocery store, trying to fall asleep. If I’m struggling with a scene, one of my favorite exercises is to put myself into that moment like I’m directing the story as a movie. I let my imagination run wild in a stream-of-consciousness visualization. I’ll imagine myself yelling, “Cut!” and the characters stop what they’re doing to talk things through. They’re still the same people that they are in the story, but aware that they’re fictional characters. We go over plot and character points, and I learn quite a bit about them and the story that way. It’s also a really fun exercise.

CD: Oh, that does sound fun! I may have to try it with my next book, which is in the conceptual stage at the moment.

Thank you so much for stopping by, and congratulations with your new release!

Cassandra Chandler has studied folklore and mythology for her entire life and been accused of taking fairy tales a bit too seriously. In her youth, when not reading or watching science-fiction movies, she could be found running through the wilds of Ohio and Florida. Raised in a household where tarot readings and viewing auras were considered mundane, she spends her time writing and trying to appear normal. At least the writing is working out.

Her romances range from sweet to scorching, set in extraordinary worlds and driven by characters searching for a deep and lasting love. Her sincere hope is to make her readers look twice at that knobby old tree and perhaps decide to keep salt packets within easy reach, just in case...

She has always seen the starry sky as a destination rather than a matte painting. Her primary residence is on earth, where she lives with her amazing family and a wide variety of stuffed animals, many of whom have multiple PhDs. You can follow her thoughts on writing, life and mostly writing at www.cassandra-chandler.com or see her real-time ramblings on Twitter (@casschandler). She loves to hear from readers through email at cassandrachandler15@gmail.com!

Buy Links:


Just a reminder - my first urban fantasy book, The Mountain's Shadow is currently on sale for 99 cents from all ebook retailers through tomorrow, July 24. Click here for more information and an excerpt.

You can also buy it directly from:

Samhain Publishing
Barnes & Noble

If you're interested in reading more about my books, wine, sleep, or psychology, please consider signing up for my newsletter. I'll only send one to two per month. Thank you!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Mountain's Shadow - on sale for 99 cents through July 24!

In anticipation of Eros Element coming out in August, my urban fantasy series will be on sale, one book at a time, one week at a time this summer. Yes, Eros Element is steampunk, but there are a lot of readers - like me! - who like both.

Here are the buy links for the first, The Mountain's Shadow, which is on sale for 99 cents now through July 24:

Samhain Publishing
Barnes & Noble

Some mistakes can literally come back to bite you.
The Lycanthropy Files, Book 1

First it was ADD. Then pediatric bipolar. Now the hot behavioral disorder in children is CLS, or Chronic Lycanthropy Syndrome. Public health researcher Joanie Fisher was closing in on the cause in hopes of finding a treatment until a lab fire and an affair with her boss left her without a job.

When her grandfather leaves her his multimillion-dollar estate in the Ozarks, though, she figures her luck is turning around. Except her inheritance comes with complications: town children who disappear during full moons, an irresistible butler, and a pack of werewolves who can’t seem to decide whether to frighten her or flirt with her.

Joanie’s research is the key to unraveling the mysteries of Wolfsbane Manor.  However, resuming her work means facing painful truths about her childhood, which could result in the loss of love, friendship, and the only true family she has left.

Warning: Some sexy scenes, although nothing explicit, and adult language. Also alcohol consumption and food descriptions that may wreck your diet.

Here's an excerpt, the first time Joanie sees the wolves and recognizes that CLS might be more than a psychiatric disorder:

At three o’clock I was wide awake. Sure, I felt like someone had hit me over the head with a wine bottle, but something had awakened me, and for once it wasn’t the usual nightmare. Although at that time of night, it seemed like bad dreams couldn’t be too far away. No, it had to be something else, something external. I listened and discerned voices coming from outside. For a moment, I dismissed it as the usual hubbub outside my apartment, but then I jerked fully awake. I was at my grandfather’s manor in the middle of nowhere, Arkansas. The only people in the house were me, Lonna and the butler.

I put on my robe and slippers and tiptoed down the hall and stairs. My feet remembered the location of the creaky boards and avoided them. Instead of going through the front door, I crept through the kitchen and out the side door to the small kitchen garden.

The almost full moon illuminated the lawn and surrounding trees with weird shadows. I paused and crouched behind a hedge and tried to still the beating of my heart so my ears could pick up the voices again.

“Let Ronan make the kill,” one of them, a female argued. The voice sounded familiar. I peeked through the shrubs and saw a pack of wolves too large to be Arkansas red wolves or coyotes. Two of them, the largest and smallest, were black, and they were accompanied by a silver wolf and a golden one. They circled a deer, the animal’s eyes wide with fear at having been driven out into the open and surrounded by predators.

“He’s messy.”

“He’s young,” another replied.

Talking wolves? Am I dreaming? I shut my eyes and opened them after a few seconds. Nope, still there.

“I don’t know, guys. We shouldn’t be here.”

“The old man always let us hunt here. Why should now be different?”

“His granddaughter—”

“Is a flat-chested, elf-faced ivory-tower academic who won’t even know we’ve been here.” It was the female’s voice again. “If you’re careful, Ronan.”

The golden wolf lunged at the deer but misjudged its angle, and two of the others leapt aside as the animal crashed through their circle, hooves flying.

“We’ve got to figure out how real wolves do this,” panted the silver one as they took chase.

Real wolves? I shook my head. It was too incredible. What were these things? And what did my grandfather have to do with them?

I waited five or ten minutes to make sure they wouldn’t come back and staggered to my feet, my head still reeling from what I’d just witnessed. Especially the last comment by the gray wolf. If they weren’t real wolves, what were they?

“Amazing night, isn’t it?”

The voice shocked me, and I wheeled around. For a moment, it sounded like my grandfather, and I was transported back in time to my childhood as he and I stood on the balcony and found constellations. I was never good at it, my brain already bent to the reality of math and science rather than fanciful creatures in the stars.

A flicker of flame and then the smoldering ash of the end of a cigarette brought me back to the present. I coughed.

“Thought I’d light up while you thought about your answer.”

Leonard Bowman stood there, leaves stuck to his sweater and jeans. The light of his cigarette and the moon flickered in his dark eyes.

“What are you doing here?”

He raised an eyebrow. “I could ask you the same question.”

“It’s my grandfather’s house.”

No answer, just a long stream of smoke.

“It’s my house,” I finally said. The words felt awkward on my tongue, and I became aware I was standing in my nightshirt and boxers in a flimsy robe on a cool night. I shivered.

“So your lawyer says.”

I tried my best imitation of a Gabriel shrug. Leonard smiled and dropped the cigarette, which extinguished with a hiss in the dew-damp grass.

“So do you always lurk in the bushes of your own house?”

My cheeks burned with the flush that crept up my neck. “Not always. Sometimes I lurk in the trees.”

“I’d be careful if I were you, then.” A smile flickered across his lips, but his eyes remained serious. “You never know what might be in the woods around here.”

Thank you so much for reading the excerpt! If you would like to know when the next two books in the series will be on sale or to find out more about my other books, sleep (I'm a behavioral sleep medicine specialist), and wine, please sign up for my email newsletter.

To purchase The Mountain's Shadow, please visit one of the following or anywhere ebooks are sold:

Samhain Publishing
Barnes & Noble

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Character on the Couch: Cecilia Tan's Timothy Frost

I am so very excited to welcome author Cecilia Tan and her character Timothy Frost to the couch today. Timothy is a character in her Tales from the Magic University series, which is definitely on my TBR list. She reveals what makes Timothy tick and talks about the series below.

Spellbinding: Tales from the Magic University 
by Cecilia Tan

With contributions from Deb Atwood, Lauren P. Burka, Julie Cox, Rian Darcy, Sarah Ellis, Elisabeth Hurst, D.K. Jernigan, BriAnne Searles, and Frances K. Selkirk

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

I imagine Master Brandish probably *did* send Timothy Frost to a psychologist after the events of Magic University: The Tower and the Tears, and probably she had to threaten him with expulsion or academic probation to force him to go. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Brandish: If you won't tell me what happened between you and Kyle, you have to talk to *someone* about it.
Frost: Do I? If it's against the law to keep secrets you'd best lock me away now and throw away the key.
Brandish: (pained) You know that isn't what I mean. In fact, that's the point. Talk to someone impartial, who'll keep your secrets as a professional.
Frost: A professional what?
Brandish: Psychologist. Here. I've got just the one right here in my contacts.
CD: Note to self - Get in Brandish's Rolodex.
Frost: (sneering) You can't make me.
Brandish: As your house master, I most certainly can.  

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Frost's hangups are definitely central to the book series and the unfolding quest for true love. Our hero, Kyle, has fallen in love with him, a consequence of some very powerful sex magic that the two of them worked together in book two. Frost refuses to speak to him, though, because he fears intimacy. Frost has many secrets, about both his past and his prophesied future, and although he's actually powerfully attracted to Kyle, too, he thinks the only way to keep himself safe is to keep Kyle out of his life. In SPELLBINDING, there are a few short stories about Frost that tell the reader Frost's secrets, but he's still trying to keep them from Kyle! Among them: Frost was born female but was magically transformed male at age 10, and before that was sexually abused by his uncle.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Frost would slink in like a feral cat, cautious and silent, eyes scanning everywhere, and then once he's sussed out the room, stride haughtily to chair, sit, and stare down his nose at you. He'd barely move a muscle once he was sitting down, though, holding himself very rigid, very controlled.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

I would say he is not very open, and yet some of his wounds are so glaringly obvious that even when he tries to hide what he's feeling, he won't completely succeed. I find it not unlikely that as the therapists asked questions he might lie outrageously and make up stories, though, spinning fabrications that probably tell the therapist plenty about him, but still avoiding the things he holds close to the vest. If the therapist asked him why he was there or what he was there to talk about, here's the answer you'd get:

"Did Brandish tell you anything about me? Only that if I don't do this I'll never graduate? Fine. This all goes back to what happened between me and Michael sophomore year. Michael has a streak of sirenic blood, which give him incredible telepathic powers while he's having sex. Best sex of your life, really. It becomes an addiction. But he was addicted to me, too, to feeding off my sexual energy. Sirens can be ravenous, though, and he went into a feeding frenzy of a sort, leaving me in a coma and effectively ending our relationship in the worst possible way. I've already been through magical addiction rehab. Perhaps you'd care to pick up the pieces from the psychology angle? Not that there are any pieces left of my shattered heart big enough to pick up without tweezers."

CD: Note to self - Stay out of Brandish's Rolodex. Don't have competency in magic injury recovery.

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Hm, if this was right after The Tower and the Tears, Frost's still only 20 and therefore not old enough to drink alcohol. So he goes into The Russell House Tavern, gets an isolated corner table in the dimly lit downstairs dining room, orders a cup of hot tea, and then cries into the crook of his arm for fifteen straight minutes. He never remembers to take the tea bag out of the hot water.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

When characters come to me, they pop fully formed out of my head and the way I dig into their psyches to find out more details is by writing the novel they are part of. A complex character like Frost also inspired several short stories and I'm so blessed my publisher went along with my idea of having a short story collection be part of the Magic University series. Sometimes I later take the Myers-Briggs as my character, or I do associative storytelling using Tarot cards. Frost is an INFJ in the Myers Briggs system: strongly altruistic but also highly sensitive to criticism and deeply private. He has a secret crusade and he will let no one dissuade him from it.

CD: I do that, too! And INFJ is my personality type. I can relate.

Thank you so much for being here! This new addition to your series sounds absolutely fascinating and with something for everyone.

When lovers meet, it's magic--literally--when your characters are studying at the Magic University and erotic magic is the most powerful of all. In these 17 short stories featuring characters from Cecilia Tan's Magic University LGBT new adult romance series, erotic energy heals wounds, lifts curses, bonds some people together, and tears some people apart. Tan and a merry crew of nine writers explore the intriguing secondary characters, unanswered mysteries, and background stories of Veritas.

Spellbinding includes 7 stories by Cecilia Tan--including two never before published!--and 10 by authors and fans she invited to come "play in her sandbox." The stories range from fanciful "what ifs" to explorations of the backgrounds of characters we don't fully learn in the course of the main novels. Through these tales we see Frost's rescue as a child, the tumultuous relationship of Dean Bell and Master Brandish, what Kyle did on his summer vacation, and much more. Representing a range of sexualities, the stories include lesbian, gay, bi, and heterosexual pairings.

The Riverdale Avenue Books edition of Spellbinding will be the first in paperback and contains two never-before-published stories by Cecilia Tan. Any lover of magical erotic fiction will find much to enjoy, and any fan of Magic University will find these stories revealing.


Michael and I met in Enchantment class. We were lab partners; is that a cliche? How do most people meet their first boyfriend?

I suppose most people have already met their first boyfriend by the time they are in college. But remember, I was raised by wolves. At first, anyway. I'd actually spent my teen years living with two nice old ladies who were happy to foster a magical foundling, just a few blocks from the campus of Veritas. From no protection at all to overprotected, in other words. Neither one is conducive to dating.

Michael and I were both wide-eyed and quiet as church mice that first semester, though perhaps part of that was no one wanted to upset Professor Cross. She was a brute when it came to practice and homework and grading on a curve. Fail her class and you could forget being an enchanter.

"Put your hand in mine," Michael said in a quiet, quiet voice. We were sitting facing each other, working on an exercise from the syllabus. Around us everyone was paired off and doing the same thing, while Cross stalked up and down, looking for mistakes or lack of focus. He held up a hand, his palm open.

I hesitated for a moment. Physical contact wasn't something I'd had much of in years. It wasn't something I'd ever remembered wanting, and since moving to Cambridge, it had never been forced on me.

This wasn't forced, though. It was an exercise for a class. Michael's eyes were large and round and expectant.

I put my hand in his.

It was all downhill from there. 

 Cecilia Tan is the recipient of the 2014 Pioneer Award and the Career Achievement Award in Erotica/Erotic Romance given by RT Magazine. She is not only the author of the Magic University series, but also Slow Surrender, The Prince's Boy, Daron's Guitar Chronicles, The Hot Streak, Mind Games, and many other books and stories. Susie Bright called her "simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature." Tan was inducted into the Hall of Fame for GLBT writers at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in 2010. She and her partner corwin (and their three cats) live in Cambridge.

If you're a published author who would like to send a character over to my couch for a profile or an unpublished one who's struggling with a character and who would like help from a psychological perspective, please fill out the contact form to the right.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cover Reveal: Eros Element, Aether Psychics Book One

I first found out about steampunk when my friend and fellow author James Bassett suggested I submit a story to his and Stephen Antczak's steampunk fairytale retelling anthology Clockwork Fairy Tales. I did, and they rejected it, which goes to show that having friends in the industry doesn't necessarily get you anywhere, but I was hooked. I started reading more of the genre, got a little horrified at the number of head injuries the heroes of early works like Infernal Devices sustain, and stumbled into Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. I went from hooked to in love.

So of course, being a writer, if there's a genre I love, I'm going to give it a shot. I penned a short story The Clockwork Boy to submit to Buddhapuss Ink's 2012 Mystery Times Ten contest, which I'd won the previous year, and didn't even final. That goes to show that being a contest winner doesn't necessarily get you anywhere in future years, either. Can you see the theme? But this one did get accepted to ezine Abyss and Apex and came out this spring. You can read it here.

After that acceptance, I was ready to write a novel. I love archaeology and independent women, so heroine Iris McTavish was born. I also get annoyed by overly perfect heroes, so I decided to give Professor Edward Bailey some Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder aspects, which he developed as a defense after his heart was broken. I also named him after my beloved cat Bailey, who died last year. As for the title, it's the thing they're after, the Eros Element, which they think will help harness the power of aether. Of course there are problems, as you can see through the blurb:

If love is the ivy, secrets are the poison.

After enduring heartbreak at the hands of a dishonest woman, Edward Bailey lives according to scientific principles of structure and predictability. Just the thought of stepping outside his strict routine raises his anxiety.

Adding to his discomfort is Iris McTavish, who appears at his school’s faculty meeting in place of her world-famous archeologist father. Worse, the two of them are to pose as Grand Tourists while they search for an element that will help harness the power of aether.

Iris jumps at the opportunity to prove her worth as a scholar—and avoid an unwanted marriage proposal—while hiding the truth of her father’s whereabouts. If her secret gets out, the house of McTavish will fall into ruin.

Quite unexpectedly, Edward and Iris discover a growing attraction as their journey takes them to Paris and Rome, where betrayal, blackmail and outright theft threaten to destroy what could be a revolutionary discovery—and break their hearts.

Warning: Allergen alert! This book was produced in a facility that handles copious amounts of wine, tea and baked goods. May contain one or more of the following: a spirited heroine, a quirky hero, clever banter, interesting facts both made-up and historical, and lots of secrets. It is, however, gluten free.

And here is the gorgeous cover, again courtesy of cover artist Kanaxa:

It will be released on August 25 and is now available for preorder from all retailers including the following:

Samhain Publishing

And here's a brief excerpt:

South of Huntington Station, 10 June 1870

Edward looked up when the compartment door opened and saw a white-blond fairy with a reticule and valise followed by Johann carrying a trunk. No, it’s not a fairy, it’s Miss McTavish with her hair down. Why are her eyes so bright and her cheeks flushed? He looked down when an answering blush bloomed hot in his own cheeks. It’s not proper to see her so disheveled.

“Look what I found,” Johann said. “This young lady arrived in Parnaby Cobb’s personal racing steamcart.”

“That’s remarkable,” Edward said. “How did he bring a racing steamcart into town without my knowing? What model is it?” He twisted around, but the station and the vehicle had long disappeared from view, and now they rolled through the south part of town.

“Didn’t get a chance to check the number. But even stranger—Miss McTavish was being chased by a handsome coach and four perfectly matched chestnuts. Do you have any idea who that might be?”

“I don’t pay attention to horses,” Edward said. “I imagine it was one of the gentry. You almost missed the train,” he told her. “We wouldn’t have waited for you. But how did you enjoy the racer? My brother only has a standard steamcart.”

“I’m afraid I didn’t have much time to take notes on the experience,” she told him, and he wondered if she would have taken notes if given the opportunity. Perhaps he had underestimated her. “But I believe it was the Prancer 457. That’s the only explanation for how fast it went. I didn’t know they had them outside the States.” She twisted her hair in her fingers, and a few metal objects fell out with pings. The hairpins seemed to disappear into the variegated surface of the coach floor. “Oh, no, now I’ll never find them.”

Edward couldn’t stop looking at her. Was this the same prim and proper miss he’d met a few days ago, the one who hadn’t been cowed by the dean or that strange American? And a Prancer. He’d often dreamed of seeing one in person and wanted to examine its engine to see if he could adapt it to run on aether someday, once they’d discovered the crucial steps to stabilize and harness the energy of the substance. He twisted around again like he could wish the rumbling miles between him and the steam-engine driven coach away.

“Don’t you have something in your bag that could help the young lady find her hairpins?” Johann asked, bringing Edward back to the disappointing present.

“I might,” he said. He rooted around in his valise, pulled out a cloth, set the cloth on his lap and the valise on top of it, and with the case now stable, felt around in the reinforced pockets along the side. His fingers closed around a hard rectangular object, which he handed to Johann.

“What is it?” Johann asked.

“Surely you musicians aren’t that dense. Don’t you recognize a magnet?” Edward asked. “If the hairpins are metal, this should attract them. Just be sure you clean it off after. No telling what’s on this floor. And you’re not going to put those dirty pins in your hair, are you?”

Miss McTavish looked at him with a similar expression the duchess used when he said something that demonstrated how little of children he knew. “I have to put my hair up, and I don’t have any other options.”

“Oh, wait a minute,” Johann said and reached into his trousers pocket. He drew out a handful of women’s hairpins. “Will these work?”

Now Miss McTavish looked wide-eyed at the musician. “Dare I ask why you’re carrying those?”
“I spent yesterday evening with an actress of my acquaintance. She prefers her hairpins to not end up in the bed—they prick you at the most inopportune times—and she was, well, she forgot to ask for them back this morning.”

Now Edward felt his face flush, but he wasn’t sure if it was darker or lighter than Miss McTavish’s blush. “Really, Johann, there’s no need to be crude. And how clean could those hairpins be?”

“They’re fine, I’m sure,” Miss McTavish said and held out her hand.

“Allow me,” Johann told her. “I’ve done this for my friends. It’s part of a musician’s life, having to step in at performances when a singer’s coif goes askew.”

The thought of his friend’s fingers tangling in Miss McTavish’s hair made Edward’s cheeks heat again and an uncomfortable tension come to his chest. His mind wanted to interpret the sensations and attach a label to them, but he stopped it. He’d long ago given up that part of him, the piece in the middle that wanted to connect with the piece in the middle of someone else like two complementary elements that combined to form something new and exciting. No, his was an existence best left to himself. Relationship-driven change hurt, particularly if the other person wasn’t interested in the results.

If you liked the excerpt, please consider preordering the book. Here are the links again:

For more excerpts, cover reveals - there will be one for the sequel soon - and info about sales, wine, and sleep, please consider signing up for my newsletter. I send them out one to two times per month.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Secret Worlds blog tour stop

Today I'm excited to be a stop on the Secret Worlds blog tour. Two of my author colleagues from the Georgia Romance Writers, Debbie Herbert and Linsey Hall are included in this set. My review of Debbie's book is below, as is a Character on the Couch interview of her hero Keelan. I'm super excited about this set, and I'm also happy to bring you the opportunity to find out more about it and enter to win a Kindle!

Review of Debbie Herbert's Changeling:

Whenever I get one of Debbie's books, I always make the mistake of saying I'll just take a little peek and then getting sucked in for much longer than I intended. Changeling was no different. Herbert does a great job of tackling the new adult genre with her two characters Skye and Keelan, both of whom are struggling to find their place in the world and are seeking to assume their true identity, whatever that may be. 

Skye is a witch who isn't very good at it. Keelan is a changeling who is trapped working for the fairies, which seems like it would make a good reality show if it wasn't so awful for him. Although I figured out one major twist pretty quickly, I did find the story to be well-paced and extremely entertaining, and I loved the characters. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but let's just say that all those dreams I have about flying? I'd be extra nervous about them now if I wasn't as old as I am. Plus, my feelings about absinthe indicate I have no fairy blood in me whatsoever, so I'm probably safe.

Overall, this is a really fun book, and I enthusiastically give it five stars.

And now, meet Keelan, who is a Changeling and my character on the couch this week:

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? 

It would take a court order for sure! Kheelan knows himself and is very clear on his life's goal: escape from the Fae realm at all costs. He's also clear on what prevents him from achieving this goal: the Fae want to keep him enslaved to assist them in their petty wars with one another and to do menial errands for them. If you asked Kheelan about seeing a psychologist his response would be: "You want to analyze someone? Try talking to one of the sociopath fairies I have to deal with everyday."

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself? 

It's a combination of both. Kheelan meets the heroine Skye and quickly realizes he can use her to gain his coveted escape. The only problem? He's falling in love with the quirky witch. 

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Kheelan would walk around the room and take a peek out the window to assess if any nosy fairies were about. 

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?

He wouldn't be open a bit unless he thought you could help him in his quest for freedom. If he told you the truth, you would think he was crazy anyway!

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next? 

He wouldn't have more than one Irish whiskey. Irish whiskey because most of his guardian fairies are of Celtic descent and this is their drink of choice when they shape-shift to human form. Kheelan would only drink one because he needs to keep his wits about him or the Fae could trick or punish him for a trangression.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

I probably do less than most writers. I figure out what their life goal is, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what's the conflict that keeps them from preventing their goal? How will they have to grow or change to reach their goal. And since I write romance, I'll choose a mate that is the exact opposite, one that will challenge him and force him to change and grow.

Thank you so much for bringing Keelan by, Debbie!

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Character on the Couch: Markhat, Steampunk Detective

Happy Thursday! Today I'm happy to welcome Markhat, who is the creation of Frank Tuttle, who would probably be an interesting character himself. He has a steampunk series with my publisher and even shares my editor.

Here's the blurb for the latest book in the Markhat series, The Darker Carnival:

When Dark’s Diverse Delights arrives by night to set up shows and rides that promise fun and excitement for one and all, the outskirts of Rannit begin to look disturbingly like the nightmares that plague Markhat’s sleep.

Mama Hog has sent him a new client, a cattle rancher with a missing daughter. Markhat’s search reveals genuine terrors lurking amidst the carnival’s tawdry sideshows, where Death itself takes the main stage every evening, just past midnight.

The orchestrator of the murderous, monstrous mayhem is the mysterious carnival master, Ubel Thorkel. And after Buttercup the Banshee is threatened, Markhat is in a race against time to find the carnival’s dark heart and strike it down once and for all—or die trying.

And now I present Markhat and his creator, Frank Tuttle:

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid  answer.

I can think of two instances which might prompt Markhat to seek out the services of a psychologist. One would be gentle prompting from his wife Darla; if she expressed genuine concern over his mental state and asked him to seek help, he would. The only other coercion Markhat would likely respond to would be Mama Hog's incessant nagging. Mama Hog, for all her feigned ignorance and backcountry speech, is a brilliant and perceptive woman who knows exactly which of Markhat's buttons to push.

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Markhat is a war vet. He spent his hitch in the Army as a dog handler, working to locate and root out hidden pockets of Troll troops deep underground. He survived, but suffers from what his people call 'war madness' and we call PTSD. Through the books, he's drifted deeper and deeper into the darkness, and his actions are sometimes influenced by the trauma of the war.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

I know precisely what Markhat would do. He's a smart-ass, with a deep distrust for authority figures.

Markhat's world is one in which magic is rapidly being overshadowed by gunpowder and steam. Whereas magic is expensive and notoriously unreliable, the emerging technologies are proving deadly and efficient. Markhat carries a vampire-built revolver. Gas-lamps light Rannit's streets. Gangsters use repeating rifles. Iron bridges and tall buildings are going up all over. There are newspapers and restaurants.

So I'll just assume he knows what a psychologist is, and he is also aware of the familiar cliches -- the couch, the notebooks, all that.

He would walk in smiling, hat in hand. If you offered to shake his hand, he would do so, neither too hard or too soft. He'd be cordial and direct.

Then he would walk right to the couch, lie down upon it, lay his hat on his chest, and say "It all started with my mother. Better get two pencils. I had a long childhood."

CD: LOL. I actually find it to be somewhat diagnostic when someone flops on the couch rather than sitting.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?

Getting Markhat to talk wouldn't be the problem.

Getting him to talk about what's really bothering him would. He would evade. Deflect with humor or sarcasm. Change the subject. Intentionally misdirect.

Markhat's way of handling his issues is to ignore them. To redirect his energies. To dive into someone else's problem. Deep down, he doesn't believe he can be fixed, and that the best he can do is make sure Darla never finds out just how deep the damage runs.

Also, there are things he can't tell anyone without placing them in danger. Markhat's activities have left him tainted with a dark form of sorcery, and if Rannit's rabidly insane sorcerers ever learn his secret, it will doom him and anyone else who knows what he knows.

 5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

That's easy. There's a bar called One-Eyed Eddie's. Markhat would find his usual stool. Eddie would, without a word, bring Markhat a tall glass of dark beer (Upland Dark). Markhat would slide a coin across the stained bartop and it would vanish into Eddie's apron and that would the extent of the conversation.

Eddie is a vet too. Both Markhat and Eddie appreciate the silence. Markhat would drink a beer, maybe two. Maybe have a sandwich, because Eddie doesn't skimp on the ham. There might be a hello or a goodbye exchanged between the regulars as they come and go, but, on the whole, One-Eyed Eddie's is a quiet place in a loud, rude world.

Now, before Markhat met Darla, he might have stayed for a third or a sixth or a ninth beer. But not anymore.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality
 system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

Nothing so formal. I just picture them, imagine them doing whatever it is they do. I use aspects of real people I've known -- Mama Hog, for instance, is based my paternal grandmother. Markhat is a combination of every film noir tough guy detective I know, with a lot of me mixed in.

CD: I would never have guessed.  ;-)

I do have extensive histories built for all my characters. Most of the details never make it into the books, which is fine, as long as I know and understand how each will likely react to a particular situation. Dark, damp places make Markhat's heart pound. Darla hates the sound of trumpets. Mama Hog loathes priests to the point of outright homicide. It's important to not only give characters a history, but to bring it to life, even in small things.

For me, speech is the most telling aspect of a person's true nature. I'm a shameless eavesdropper. I listen to strangers, watch how they say what they say. Then I usually imagine their motives and inner struggles until the waiter taps me on the shoulder and says the people at Table Six have complained that I am staring.

Thank you so much for stopping by! This was fun. Both you and your character have very entertaining voices.

Frank Tuttle first began writing under the woefully mistaken impression doing so would release him from the burden of ever doing honest work. “It turns out writing is hard,” said Frank as he pulled out great handfuls of hair. “That was never mentioned in Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.” Frank’s first published works appeared in print magazines such as Weird Tales and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine in the late 1990s. Since then, Frank has published nine Markhat novels and a variety of shorter works. Frank rarely resorts to hair-pulling these days, preferring to weep inconsolably while affixing his toupee. Frank invites you to visit his website www.franktuttle.com.

CD: And if you'd like to get first peek at the cover, blurb, and excerpt from my upcoming steampunk, please sign up for my monthly(ish) newsletter. I'll also talk about the best devices for reading at night to minimize impact on sleep and my current favorite summer wine.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Published Characters on the Couch: Evangeline and Remiel

Woo hoo! It's couch character Thursday. That sounds like a cocktail special, doesn't it?

Today I'm excited to welcome Nancee Cain and her characters Evangeline and Remiel. Here's the blurb for their story:

Evangeline is the town pariah. Everyone knows she’s crazy and was responsible for the death of her last boyfriend. Even her mother left her and moved cross-country. Lonely and desperate, Evie decides to end her life.

Rogue angel Remiel longs to return to earth, but there’s just one problem. He tends to invite trouble and hasn’t been allowed back since Woodstock. The Boss sends him to save Evangeline, but there’s a catch: he can’t reveal his angelic nature, and he must complete the task as Father Remiel Blackson.

Forced together on a cross-country trip, a forbidden romance ignites and love unfolds. A host of heavenly messengers tries to intervene, but Remiel and Evangeline are headed on a collision course to disaster. Will his love save her, or will they both be lost forever?

Saving Evangeline was just released on Tuesday. Woo hoo! Congratulations to Nancee and welcome to all, er, three of you.

1. If your characters were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

NANCEE: Hello, thank you for seeing us. I hope this session will be beneficial for my star-crossed lovers. I’ve brought them with me.

Evangeline throws herself on the couch, shrugging out of Remiel’s grasp, crossing her arms in front of her chest, glaring.

REMIEL: wearing his clericals, grins and holds out his hand: What’s up, Doc?

Evangeline: Oh, that’s original. How many times a day do you think she hears that one?

REMIEL: I’m here willingly—

Evangeline: Speak for yourself.

REMIEL: We’re here to explore Evie’s idiotic, selfish ideas about suicide. So, the way I see this going down, we can kind of tag team her. You give her the official medical mumbo jumbo, and then I’ll throw in a little spirituality about the sanctity of life. I have to tow the company line. *runs a finger around his collar and glances toward the ceiling*

Evangeline: I’ve seen and talked to therapists since I was in grade school. Been there, done that, got the stupid t-shirt. I’m just here because they insisted I come, otherwise, you’d have to court order my ass.

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

NANCEE: I’d say—

REMIEL: Exernal. Crazy Girl here wants to off herself. It’s my job to save her. Cut and dry.

EVANGELINE:  Would you please tell him that calling me crazy might not be in the best interest of my mental health?

REMIEL: Just keepin' it real, sweetness. It’s called reality therapy, right, Doc?

EVANGELINE: Well I disagree, I think there are underlying internal issues. I’m not the only one unhappy with my current situation...

*Nancee and Evangeline both give Remiel a pointed look*

REMIEL: Next question, please.

NANCEE: May I add—


Cecilia: LOL, I love how feisty they are.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

EVANGELINE: If I’d been court ordered to come alone, I would’ve wandered around the room, getting my bearings and remain standing, ready to leave at any moment.

REMIEL: I’d act no differently alone. What you see is, what you get. Do you have an ashtray? *takes out a cigarette*

EVANGELINE: Ha! What you see is not what you get where you’re concerned...

NANCEE: Put that cigarette away, you can’t smoke in here.

4. Do your characters talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?

EVANGELINE:: Not if I can help it. Or, I might tell you what I think you want to hear. No one ever believes me anyway.

REMIEL: No one?

EVANGELINE: *smiles* Well, except Remi. He does listen to me; I’ll give him that. *takes his hand in hers*

REMIEL: I, uh, can’t say much about myself. I’m bound by certain constraints from the Boss. If you think HIPPA is bad, you should see His rules...

Nancee nods in agreement.

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

EVANGELINE: I’ll order whatever someone is buying. I may or may not go home with the buyer, depends on my mood.

REMIEL: *frowns and flames flicker in his pupils* No one else is ordering you anything, and I’m certainly not going to just stand there and watch you leave with some loser who doesn’t appreciate you...

EVANGELINE:: *Grins* I love to crank his tractor.

REMIEL: Don’t do that to me. I need a cigarette. And a beer. Let’s go find that bar.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

NANCEE: I do like Myers-Briggs, but don’t adhere 100% to it. Evangeline and Remiel made it plain they were going to become involved, no matter the consequences. Music is key for me getting into their psyche. I have a playlist and I plot best when driving. I listen to the playlist over and over. Sometimes one line from a song can influence an entire chapter. However, when I write, it has to be silent.

REMIEL: What the heck are you talking about? Tell her about my playlist. I made it special, just for Evie.

NANCEE: Remiel, please don’t get her started...

EVANGELINE: Jerk. He has an entire playlist he listens to all the time. Every song has the word crazy in it. She was talking about that test Nancee had us take; you know, the one with all those stupid questions. You were an ENFP, The Inspirer.

REMIEL: What does that stand for?

NANCEE: Extrovert, Intuitive, Feelings and Perceiving

EVANGELINE: *snickering* I think it should stand for Evie’s Naughty F’n Priest

REMIEL: *grins and waggles his eyebrows * That sounds about right. Which one were you?

EVANGELINE: ISFP, The Artist. Introvert, Sensing, Feeling and Perceiving. It basically means I’m intense and a loner, you’re idealistic and an over the top. Not the perfect match, but... *shrugs*

REMIEL: *smiles and kisses her hand* I think yours should be Insatiable, Sweet, Freaky, Pervert, just my kind of girl. I don’t care what those tests say; you’re perfect for me. We’re a match made in heaven, Crazy Girl.

EVANGELINE: *face softens before standing abruptly, tugging on Remiel’s hand* Yeah, I think we are, too. Let’s get out of here. I’m tired of true confessions.

REMIEL: Yeah, I need a smoke.

NANCEE: I’m sorry. Thank you for trying. I’m afraid those two are headstrong and determined to do things their own way, no matter what.

Cecilia:  No worries. They were quite entertaining, and I can't wait to read the book. Thank you so much for bringing them by!
Author Bio:

During the day, Nancee works as a nurse in the field of addiction to support her coffee and reading habit. Nights are spent writing paranormal and contemporary romances with a serrated edge. Authors are her rock stars, and she’s been known to stalk a few for an autograph, but not in a scary, Stephen King way. Her husband swears her To-Be-Read list on her e-reader qualifies her as a certifiable book hoarder. Always looking to try something new, she dreams of being an extra in a Bollywood film, or a tattoo artist. (Her lack of rhythm and artistic ability may put a damper on both of these dreams.) Her ultimate book hero will always be Atticus Finch.

You can find her at the following links: