Author Archives: nicolacameronwrites

Why I Wrote It: Palace of Scoundrels

This is the second blog post where I do a deep dive into the backstory of each of my books. Why, you may ask? Well, because the beautiful and talented Liana Brooks made the following brilliant comment: “Being an author is being in a fandom of one. The whole point of writing the book and publishing is getting more people in your fandom.” I want to get you all excited about my imaginary friends and interested in plating with them, so I’m going to explain how exactly they wound up on the page.

Palace of Scoundrels — “What do you mean, series?”

I already posted about how I, the writer who loathed the LOTR books and didn’t enjoy fantasy in general, wound up writing a fantasy romance. To say that I was surprised by the success of Empress of Storms is an understatement — I was shocked shitless, if I’m being brutally honest.

I was even more shocked when all of those lovely, lovely people who bought Empress all started asking the same question: “So, where’s the next installment in the series?”

Buh … wha … I … series?

It was laughable, truly, because I didn’t DO fantasy. Except, oops, I did — I’d just proved that with Empress, tra la. Talk about being hoist upon one’s own petard. Worse, Empress was always meant to be a one-off, so I never really bothered to work out things like geography, politics, religion, social strata, how exactly magic works, different countries, languages, etc. — all the things you kinda have to know if you’re writing a series and want it to remain consistent.

But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of continuing the story of Danaë and Matthias, because let’s face it, there was always going to be more there. They had internal disputes to deal with, threats of war, they still had to produce heirs for both countries, there was the whole issue of Luna’s parentage and the fact that she was an astoundingly powerful Aeris mage, etc. So yeah, there really was lots of stuff to work with in the twinned countries of Ypres and Hellas.

Which is how I sat down and wondered, “Okay, then — what would be the biggest problem for a pair of newlyweds whom everyone assumes don’t see each other more than twice a year?” The answer, of course, is pregnancy. According to the terms of the treaty that led to their marriage, Danaë is supposed to provide heirs for both the throne of Hellas and the throne of Ypres. Now, my happy couple have that nifty magic mirror that allows them to spend nights together and they were certainly working on the whole “Let’s beget heirs” thing, hur hur, but that didn’t change the fact that if Danaë got pregnant outside of the time she was supposedly visiting Ypres or Matthias was visiting Hellas, all kinds of political problems would follow because said magic mirror is only known to a select few.

Which is how Prince Marcus of Illium, briefly mentioned in Empress, came back to the scene. Marcus is a fourth son who knows he has no shot at the throne (and frankly doesn’t want it), so he spends his days entertaining himself by being a spymaster. My goal with Marcus was to create a clever, snarky, politically adept nobleman with a curiously rigorous moral code, even if other people didn’t see it that way. After being accused of his eldest brother’s attempted poisoning, he has to go on the run by smuggling himself and his body servant Roylus in with his grandmother’s retinue on a visit to Hellas. Et voila, we have our handsome troublemaker in Danaë’s palace (hence the title), which then opens a big ol’ can of worms — Danaë now has to deal with both Illium (which wants its wayward prince back) and the exceedingly clever Dowager Queen Atilia, who thinks that slipping Marcus into Danaë’s bed in order to produce an heir for the Ypresian throne is just the best idea ever because it gives her a hold on Danaë.

Robert James-Collier May 2014 (cropped)But that only covered matters in Hellas — I also had Ypres to deal with. Making Matthias jealous of the handsome young prince, while apropos for a romance, also seemed too easy, somehow, so I wanted to throw an additional problem in his lap. Since he’s still consolidating his power after the attempted coup by his late sister-in-law Margot, I decided to give him a big political headache in the form of internal strife between Ypresian noble families.

Now, I’m going to be bluntly honest here and admit that I mentally cast all of my characters because I’m a frustrated screenwriter, and I’d been watching Downton Abbey during this time and liked the chemistry between Robert James-Collier’s Barrow and Jessica Brown Findlay’s Sibyl Crawley during the WWI episodes. For some reason they made me think of Hades and Persephone, which led to my creation of the brooding Lord Tomas Villiers and the sunny Lady Sibeal Le Clerq (okay, maybe I just liked the idea of James-Collier being all cranky and stalking around in black leather and furs). Unlike my Greek gods, however, Tomas and Sibeal are very much in love despite the machinations of Sibeal’s mother to marry her off to a rich nobleman’s heir in order to clear a massive debt. So now I had the big problem facing Matthias — how to let the lovebirds stay together without triggering a potential civil war between three powerful families.

This is also the point where Sibeal’s older sister Amelie, a powerful Terra mage and the original bride-to-be until she told the boor where to shove it, made her appearance and begged for royal help in saving her sister from being married to an asshole. I had no idea how to resolve this until it hit me — legally, all titles in Ypres belong to the crown and are held by noble families with the crown’s permission, and a title cannot be passed to someone outside of the direct line of succession without crown approval (my world, my rules). But if Maman decided to pull an extremely subtle fast one and marry Sibeal off to a rich boor by promising that his family would inherit the Le Clerqs’ province upon Maman’s death, that would 1) run counter to Ypresian law, 2) give Matthias the wedge he needed to stop the wedding, and 3) prompt Matthias and Tomas to come up with a way to help her pay off her debt. At which point my clever lawyer Alain LaPorte made his entrance and advised the king on how exactly to pull all of this off, Amelie shows up to request a royal assist, and everyone races off to Lierdhe to stop Sibeal from having to marry the schmo.

With all the plot points in place, it was “write it like you stole it” time. Which I did, with Matthias getting his noble lovebirds married off and Danaë managing to smuggle Marcus out of her kingdom without incurring the wrath of the Illian military. She even wound up pregnant in the end and it coincided with Matthias’s visit to Hellaspont so there would be no question about paternity, all of which wrapped up the book nicely. Even better, Alain and Amelie unexpectedly set off sparks in my head (probably because I mentally cast James Spader and Michelle Dockery — as I described it to my editor, it was “Lady Mary Crawley goes head to head with Alan Shore and hijinks ensue). I had to put them to one side while I finished Palace of Scoundrels, but when it came time to write Book Three in the series they came roaring back and demanded that I tell their story.

To find out how that happened, stay tuned for my next “Why I Wrote It” post.

Why I Wrote It: Empress of Storms

Hey folks! I’m starting a new weekly post here on the blog where I’m going to do a deep dive into the backstory of each of my books. Why, you may ask? Well, because the beautiful and talented Liana Brooks made the following brilliant comment: “Being an author is being in a fandom of one. The whole point of writing the book and publishing is getting more people in your fandom.” I want to get you all excited about my imaginary friends and interested in plating with them, so I’m going to explain how exactly they wound up on the page.

Empress of Storms — The Book That Was Written On a Bet

Set the Wayback Machine for September 2015, Sherman. That was when I decided to write Empress of Storms after a certain michigas in Romancelandia caused a writer to throw out a challenge on social media for authors to write an 80,000 word novel, get it edited, have a professional cover made for it, get it formatted, and put it up for sale in six months. For reasons I still don’t understand, I replied, “I’ll do it in six weeks.”

I promptly realized that I’d hoisted myself on my own petard because writing this book meant that I would have to come up with a plot that wasn’t associated with any of my Evernight Publishing series, as it had to be independently published. Frantically rummaging through my idea folder for inspiration, I found a 3,000 word story fragment I’d written after watching Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers back in 2002. Why it had remained a fragment was threefold: I don’t write high fantasy, I certainly didn’t read it, and I wasn’t aware at the time that there was such a thing as fantasy romance. The only reason why I’d written this snippet in the first place was because I thought Bernard Hill was hot as King Theoden, which had prompted an amusing little fantasy about a widowed king who had to wind up marrying and bedding a much younger queen for, ahem, Reasons (hey, one of the nice things about being a romance writer is that you can monetize your celebrity crushes).

Anyway, the fragment had been languishing in my idea folder since 2002. Now, however, I had a goal and a hard deadline. Better yet, I knew all about fantasy romance and could turn this into a decent plot. Thus began one of the most insane six weeks of my life, where I was running on multiple tracks in order to win the bet. On the writing track, I freely admit that I dug out an old elemental-based magic system from my college D&D days, draped fantasy drag over Belgium and Greeze, and threw caution to the wind as I nailed my ass to a chair every single day until I made my word quota of 2,667 words minimum. I’d calculated that I would have 80K at the end of four weeks plus the original 3K story kernel (this, by the way, was the baptism by fire that taught me how to write fast). Despite coming down with a sinus infection, I managed to finish the book within time limits.

On the editing track, well, you know how veteran writers tell you to put a newly finished novel away and not even look at it for a month so that you can come back to it with a fresh, critical eye for editing? Yeah, didn’t have time for that. So I did a super fast second edit and recruited the amazing Michelle Muenzler for actual editing while the sainted Ceit Kelly, Peter White, Lisa Trainor-diNorcia, and Cecilia Tan acted as betas. Michelle has an eagle eye and is ruthless when it comes to editing, which is exactly what I needed. She not only did an amazing job but got the edited MS back to me within a week, as did my beloved betas. That last week, I frantically added in their edits and recommendations, put the MS through a spelling edit, a weasel word edit, and a final polish. As you can guess, I didn’t sleep much during that time.

On the cover art track, I was extremely lucky that the lovely and talented Jay Aheer had some spare time and could fit me into her schedule. She emailed me after I asked her to do the cover and said, “I know you wanted Danaë and Matthias on the cover, but I found this absolutely amazing picture that I’d like to use instead.” She sent me the picture — after I stopped squeeing, I emailed her and said go for it. After some tweaking, she sent me the final cover file plus promotional materials, and I had never felt more blessed.

On the production track, well, this is where I lost time to that damned sinus infection. A few days before the deadline I literally couldn’t sit up for more than a few minutes at a time and finally had to go begging for antibiotics. Luckily for me, my doctor was totally booked so we wound up going to a fancy new urgent care place where the introduced me to the concept of a steroid shot in addition to the antibiotics. Hoo boy. I don’t know exactly what was in that syringe other than it was a two part formula where the first part would kick in immediately and the second part would be time-release over the next twelve hours, but I felt GREAT. Went home and spent the next twelve hours formatting the final version of MS in Scrivener, then generated the files that would form my very first independently published novel.

On November 5th, I uploaded Empress to Amazon and Smashwords, then got stuck into doing promo for the book. To be honest I didn’t expect much — it was an indie publication, I didn’t have a house behind me helping with promotion, it was fantasy romance, God help me, and I didn’t DO fantasy romance, plus it was also my first MF romance so I couldn’t even count on my MM fans buying the book. I figured I won the bet — if I made enough money back to pay for the cover art, that would be icing on the cake.

And the first two months were indeed a bit blah. At that point we were having a bit of a financial crisis on the home front so I didn’t really pay much attention to my sales until January, when I sold 466 copies of Empress on Amazon. The next month, I sold 884 copies. To say I was boggled is an understatement. And of course that’s when people started asking, “So, where’s the next book in the series coming out?”

Series? Cue Nicola’s unintelligible gargling as she tried to come out with a polite way to say, “This is a one-off, I’m not writing a sequel, it was written on a BET, are you crazy?” But then I sold 1,126 copies the next month and thought, “…ya know, I’m a creative person. I can do more with this world.” Why, yes, the money may have had something to do with it — I have bills to pay, after all, and the beloved was unemployed at the time. But it also dawned on me that if enough people liked this book enough to buy it, they might want to read about the continuing adventures of Danaë and Matthias. Plus I thought it would be fun and kinda interesting to create a fantasy world that wasn’t a direct riff on Tolkien and included LGBT+ and POC characters.

Oh, I was a sweet summer child, wasn’t I? But that story will have to wait for the next installment when I talk about Palace of Scoundrels and how I apparently walked right past Rory McCann in a hotel hallway in San Antonio (I could kick myself now, I really could).

The Merry Month of May … and Yard Work

Hoo boy. So I’ve spent the last two weeks working on the front and back yards in a last ditch attempt to stop our place from looking like the “After” pic of Coachella. I’m not joking — the front left yard is badly eroded due to the tree that was there until January, the flower beds are weedy disasters, and I have an overgrown rose bush that someone decided to plant underneath the kitchen bay window so it has to reach out into the sunlight to get any Vitamin D. What can I say — yard work is not my favorite thing.

But it needed to be done, so a few weeks ago I hied my way to Calloways and Home Depot. One wheelbarrow, ten bags of mulch, seven bags of compost, one bag of bermudagrass seed, and a bunch of bacon and eggs lantana and varigated verbena later, and … well, it’s not done.

So what has been done, you ask. I’m happy to answer:

  • The enclosure around the now-gone tree was filled with mulch and planted with lantana and verbena. In hindsight I should have layered topsoil in it before adding the mulch, but the plants seem to be doing okay. if they start failing, I’ll transplant them into one of the other full sun flower beds and we’ll have the whole damn thing ground out in the fall.
  • The badly eroded front left yard has been reseeded and covered with compost (why compost? Because I read an article where a rancher had brought back all the grass on his almost dead land by spreading compost. Not only does it fertilize everything and encourage grass growth, but it locks higher amounts of CO2 into the grass than if you just use regular grass fertilizer or topsoil. Works for me).
  • The right front shrub beds have been mulched.
  • The little breakfast nook window bed has been mulched, and begonias and orange celosia have been planted.

Still to do:

  • Mulch the left front shrub beds (five bags)
  • Reseed gaps in the back yard grass along the pool and cover with compost.
  • Mulch the garage flower bed (two bags) and plant more lantana and Mexican heather (the lantana has already been purchased and is sitting on the bed ready to go).
  • After a thorough weeding, fill the side flower bed with two bags of topsoil and three bags of mulch, then plant salvia and yarrow or perennial wallflower.
  • Trim back the rosebush. In February, prepare the shady corner of the yard and transplant it there.
  • Add three bags topsoil and three bags of mulch to the shrub bed that hides the pool pump equipment. This will also require reseating six stepping stones.
  • Trim back the decorative grass plant next to the pool heater, which will require digging into the roots to pull the damn thing out

Possible plans:

  • Add a rotating composter to the front corner of the yard. The ground there is rocky and won’t grow anything, so I may as well stick the composter there.
  • Install a butterfly garden in the opposite corner next to the pool pump. It’s a weird little triangle of meh grass — I’m sure I can do something more creative with it.

So, yeah, kind of busy. But I’ve been writing along with all the yard work so I’ve got that going for me. As you may have noticed, Grading the Curve was finally finished and re-released, and I’m currently working on Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2) and King of Blades (Two Throne 2). And er, I may be writing a wee GoT fanfic because, well, I want to.

So it’s Thursday and TO MY MUSE didn’t make the RITA finals

And I didn’t expect it to, if I’m being bluntly honest. But I did get a call from Houston this morning and my heart leapt into my throat until I saw the words SCAM LIKELY on the screen. Damn you for getting my hopes up, scammers. Congratulations to all the RITA and Golden Heart finalists, and best of luck!

Anyway, I’ve been quiet here lately and I’m sorry about that. It’s been a combination of problematic health due to allergies, trying to get various projects done and out the door, trying to get my office set up so that I can write up there (long story short — I prefer to write on my laptop, but there’s no comfortable place to do that in my office. After ten years of living in this house I have finally rectified that by consolidating all the printers and computer equipment onto one shelving unit and moving my wing recliner into my office), and general ennui. Oh, also, the climate is going to hell, US politics are a dumpster fire, UK politics aren’t much better, and I wish my ovaries would just die already.

So there’s that. But spring is officially here, I’m close to finishing the massive rewrite of Grading the Curve (oh, man, that needed work and way more backstory) and getting that re-released, and then I can get back to work on King of Blades, Uncertainty Principle, and the still untitled romcom (I’m trying to come up with an amusing marriage-related pun, but nothing has worked so far). If that wasn’t enoigh to keep me busy, I’ll also be signing books at the Home Run Author Event this Saturday in the Jack Daniels Club in Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX. VIP tickets are already sold out, but tickets will still be available at the door for $20 and parking is free.

Also, I’ve been busy creating graphics for the various book series, which I’m making available on mugs, t-shirts, and stickers because 1) it’s cool and 2) everyone needs a Trickster Tech t-shirt. So in addition to the Olympic Cove merch I now have the Trickster Technologies company logo/tag line, the Mayhew Plants and Nursery company logo/tag line, and I have an idea for a very cool graphic for the ship/AI from Two to Tango (which will be renamed Stealing Dmitri when I get the rights back this summer). What can I say — it’s fun for me to come up with logos for imaginary companies.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work, tra la…

So I’m making honey and rosemary ice cream

I know this doesn’t look like much to you because we don’t have Tastagram yet (Chrissy Teigen, could you get started on that, please?) but this is rosemary and honey ice cream. It is the bomb. I would send a container to you all if I could, because it’s guaranteed to clear up your blemishes, teach your kids math, and make your sex life great.

And in response to people who wanted the recipe, here you go (it’s modified from this amazing thyme and honey ice cream recipe):

Ingredients

  • the peel of one lemon (yellow part only)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 10-12 inches of fresh rosemary (this can be in parts)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

  1. Cut off ends of lemon, use spoon to scoop out pulp down to inside of peel. Cut into eight slices.
  2. Add lemon, heavy whipping cream, milk, and rosemary pieces to medium saucepan, bring to boil. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep 2 hours.
  3. Once the cream mixture has finished steeping, add honey to cream mixture. Simmer over medium heat until honey dissolves.
  4. Whisk eggs and sugar in medium bowl. Gradually whisk cream mixture into egg mixture (DO THIS SLOWLY, otherwise the hot cream mixture will cook the eggs and turn them into scrambled egg. This is called “curdling” if you’ve watched GBBO and wondered what that was).
  5. Return cream and egg mixture (aka the custard) to original pan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens enough to coat spoon. If you’re using a candy thermometer, it should read 170°F to 175°F, about 4 minutes (do not boil).
  6. Strain custard into clean bowl and whisk in vanilla.
  7. Cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.
  8. Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze until firm. Optional: add sprig of rosemary to top of ice cream for added scent/flavor.

Reorganizing the office (or: Nicola is reminded yet again that she’s not 16 anymore)

I am a lucky writer because I have my own office in my home. Since we moved into this house my office has been where I work on graphic art, website design, and jewelry. It is not, however, where I work on my writing because I prefer to write on my laptop and the office is not structured for me to be able to do that (it’s a long, complicated story involving weird ergonomics, bad eyesight, my office being the place where we plug into our internet, and me having a day job when we first moved in here).

Anyhoo, for about a year now I’ve had a plan to reorganize the office so that I could write in there. This would involve shifting our printers and routers onto one shelving unit (at the moment they’re on separate stands at opposite corners of the room. Don’t ask), allowing me to move other furniture around and open up a space next to the window. I could then stick the wing chair-cum-recliner that’s currently in the library in that space, giving me 1) an ergonomically comfortable place to sit and write 2) in my office, which 3) has a door that I could close when I need some peace and freaking quiet from the J Crew. (Also, we now have a 3-D printer which apparently is going to live in the breakfast nook/cat dining area. Since that is about five feet from where I’m currently sitting, it behooves me to find another place to write.)

The Issue — in order to move things around and do some very necessary vacuuming/dusting before I set up the heavy duty shelving unit that would hold the printers/servers et al, I would have to disconnect the internet router for about an hour. Ramón works from home, and then he spends the rest of his time online so, yeah, this was problematic. BUT — he has a regular D&D game every couple of weeks where he’s out of the house for six hours or so. The next game was tonight, so as soon as he headed off to slay orcs and bicker with his friends over loot I headed out to pick up everything I would need for Operation: Help Nic Write.

First stop — Office Depot, for a storage box that would match one I already have in my office and would hold all the paper, forms, and other detritus we have for the printers (you would not believe some of the weird forms we have). Next up was Home Depot, where I wandered around for a good half hour because I knew damn well they had an HDX Decorative Wire Chrome Heavy Duty Shelving Unit, but none of the clerks seemed to know where it was if it wasn’t in Aisle 7 with the rest of the closet organizing stuff. Turns out it was at the back of the store where they keep all the storage boxes and other metal shelving units, so if you ever need a bad boy that can hold over 3,000 lbs worth of stuff, check there first.

On a side note, it’s 70 pounds. Getting it into the car was a joy. I wound up “walking” the box from the car to the door, which I’m sure amused the neighbors.

Next up, World Market for the lumbar pillows I would need to make the wing chair comfy again. I’ve been working in the living room since December because the wing chair was starting to make my legs ache and the arm chair and footstool in here are perfect for a lap desk and my laptop. But it’s the living room, aka a public area, and it’s right next to the open plan kitchen — quite apart from the cats regularly slugging it out for my attention and the whole “let’s put the 3-D printer in the breakfast nook” thing, the living room is not really the best place for me to work seeing as someone else in this house also works from home and likes to watch anime while he eats lunch. Which he is perfectly entitled to, because I have my own freaking office where I SHOULD be working.

The last two stops were Pet Supplies Plus for wet food before the J Crew devoured us in our sleep, and Kroger so that we ourselves could have something to nosh on tonight and tomorrow. By the time I got back to the house I was already tired from all the walking around I’d been doing, so I took a break to load books into my new store at Eden Books (more on that in another blog post, but they’re a new online vendor for romance and women’s fiction and look to fill the gap that the implosion of All Romance eBooks left) before girding my loins and getting to work. I knew I had one absolutely mandatory task tonight — I HAD to get the shelving unit upstairs and put together as well as all the computer stuff reconnected before Ramón got home from the game, because he has to do a cut at 6 AM tomorrow morning.

I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty details — suffice it to say that there was much cursing and sweating, as well as dealing with a certain orange cat who lives to sprawl directly in my path while I’m carrying stuff. But the shelving unit is up, all the printer/computer stuff has been transferred there, I successfully reconnected everything, I now have a BUTTLOAD more storage space in my office, and Ramón is thrilled because the stand that used to hold the printers is the perfect size to hold the 3-D printer and he won’t have to hunt around for something else. Mind you, my office is still a torn-apart wreck because I haven’t finished moving furniture around to open up that gap for the chair, I desperately need to dust and vacuum everything, my body is currently cursing at me in fluent Sumerian for humping heavy stuff up and down the stairs multiple times, and I’m drenched in sweat and desperately need a shower before I turn in. But I can already tell that this is going to be very good for my productivity.

Assuming I can still move in the morning. Whee…

A look into the cover process

Here’s a look into how an author’s mind works when it comes to coming up with covers for indie publications. As you know, Bob, I wrote Grading the Curve back in 2013. It was my first MF romance, and if I’m brutally frank it shows. I also had a few issues with the original cover, so I came up with the graphic on the left for use in ads and other promo. While the models weren’t a perfect match, I felt they represented Alex and Ellen a bit better than my cover (e.g. an impoverished scholarship student working multiple jobs would not have a spray tan and a French manicure. Just sayin’).

Fast forward to 2018, and I got the rights for Grading back. I immediate set into gutting the story and rewriting it because hoo boy it needed it, and in my spare time I played around with turning the 2013 ad graphic into a new cover. One eensy problem — while I still liked the female model, the male model I used had turned into the 21st Century Fabio. He’s absolutely everywhere, on everything from romance novels to HIV test kits (I’m serious). We’re talking ridiculously ubiquitous. Plus he didn’t really look like Alex, whom I described as looking like Daniel Craig if you shoved a big stick up his ass. Call me fussy, but I like having my models bear at least a faint resemblance to the characters in the books, and since I do my own covers I can call the shots.

GradingtheCurveSmSo off I went to Deposit Photos to start searching for a new male model. Luckily my Google fu lends itself to coming up with good search terms so it only took me an hour until I hit the jackpot on the gentleman at right. Not only does he look far more like my cranky, sexy English professor than 21st Century Fabio, but he also was in the right position for me to do a composite with the female model’s pic (in an aside, I love photographers who use blank backgrounds with their subjects. They make my life so much easier). After much tweaking, shading, adding of effects and whatnot, I’m happy with the final result for Belaurient Press’s edition of Grading the Curve. Now I just have to finish editing the story–

Well, no, let’s be honest — I’m gutting and rewriting the story using the skills I’ve picked up in the last five years. It’s gone from 15K words to approximately 30K words, with far more backstory for both Alex and Ellen and some new characters such as Alex’s English department colleague Amar, who is trying to get Alex to let go of his guilt over his late wife’s death. Personally, I like Amar — he’s like a Sikh Jiminy Cricket, a good friend who’s more than willing to call Alex on his bullshit but still wants to see him happy. I’ve also relocated them to my favorite imaginary college Lake Michigan University, which allows me to use Hyde Park as a setting and puts GtC in the same setting as my short story “Tied with a Bow.” Because I like meta stuff like that.

Marvelous Monday Reads: If You Can’t Handle the Heat

Welcome to another edition of Marvelous Monday Reads, darlings! Today I’m featuring H.K. Carlton and her delicious new re-release If You Can’t Handle the Heat, now available from Amazon and other purveyors of fine online romance. Take it away, H.K.!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog today. I’m doubly excited to share not only the re-launch of, If You Can’t Handle the Heat, but this re-release is also my first self-publishing venture.

This story was previously published with the title If You Can’t Stand the Heat. Though there is a little bit of added content, the story remains relatively the same.

In this erotic story, two very different professionals are brought together as celebrity judges on a reality-based cooking show. Sesto Théodore—the celeb chef that the show is built around—meets walking cliché, Syn Fully, erotic novelist. Though there is an immediate conflict in personalities, there is also an instant sizzling attraction. A classic clash and burn.


An unlikely couple is brought together as celebrity judges on a new reality-based cooking show.

Sesto Théodore, is an arrogant yet well respected American-Italian chef, with several five-star restaurants.

Once bitten, twice shy, Syn Fully, is a jaded author of erotica, rocketing her way up all the best sellers lists.

From the moment Syn and Sesto meet, their personalities clash, yet behind the scenes sparks fly. Getting together would be a recipe for disaster, but hot sex with no-strings couldn’t hurt. At least not until real feelings get involved.

But just when Syn considers opening her damaged heart to the cocky chef, video of rather personal content is leaked online. Sesto immediately jumps to conclusions and accuses Syn of the privacy breach.

Can the arrogant chef forgive and forget, or will his pride leave him out in the cold?

Somebody’s about to get burned…

Possible Triggers: Please note one scene contains borderline bdsm and dubious consent/forcible confinement. Also in this story intimate video is obtained without the knowledge or consent of the participants involved, and later distributed online

Author’s Note: This erotic story has been previously published with the title, If You Can’t Stand the Heat. Though there is a little bit of added content, the story remains relatively the same. It has been re-edited and re-formatted for re-release, and has a sizzling new cover thanks to Studioenp.


Story Excerpt

Sesto took the opportunity to turn his wrath on Syn. “May I speak to you out in the hall, please!” he demanded, shooting to his feet.

“Of course,” she responded, haughtily, as though she hadn’t just been giving him the initial stages of a hand job under the table.

Sesto allowed Syn to take the lead. He was momentarily captivated by her long shapely legs, as she stalked across the space, confident and oh-so fuckin’ sexy in those red stilettos. Sesto pulled level with her and couldn’t resist the urge to place his hand to the small of her back, left bare by the severe cut of her dress. If he wasn’t mistaken, she’d trembled at the contact. Or was it his hand that quivered?

In the corridor, Syn rounded on him, at the same moment he blurted, “What the fuck do you think…”

The words died on his tongue, as she once again stroked his shaft through his trousers. Her gaze settled on his mouth. Her breathing was shallow.

“Where’s your dressing room?” she asked, backing him up.

Sesto grabbed her other wrist and dragged her into the green room, before slamming the door behind them.

He yanked her hand, above her head and forced it against the door. He half-expected her to fight. What he wasn’t prepared for was the brazen little smile that hooked her sinful lips, as she raised her arm to join the other. With both hands stretched above her head Syn arched toward him, thrusting her beautiful tits, right in his face.

“What the fuck are you doing?” he asked again. “We don’t even know each other.”

“I know. Isn’t it wicked, how our bodies want to though.”

He groaned, shifting uncomfortably foot to foot, yet he couldn’t focus on anything but her lovely breasts.

“Go ahead, Théo, set them free,” she tempted, her voice barely above a whisper.


Where to Buy

Books2Read


About the Author

H K Carlton is a multi-genre Canadian author of romance, with over thirty titles in publication. From naughty to nice, historical to contemporary, time travel to space travel, and everything in between.

Variety is creativity’s playground—It’s where you’ll find me. Join me for the ride:

Pick a Genre Already | Breaking Genre | Pick a Genre | Outrageous Girls (contributor)
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Fabulous Friday Reads: His To Protect

TGIF! Let’s kick off the weekend with Maia Dylan’s hot new paranormal romance His To Protect (An Alpha’s Claim 2). Take it away, Maia!

Thank you for hosting me for His to Protect – An Alpha’s Claim, 2. This book released in November with Evernight Publishing. If your readers would like to they can post questions to me on Twitter tag me using @MaiaDylanAuthor and I will answer them as I see them.


Kaea Hemopo was a man on a mission. He planned to kill the bastard who killed his grandmother, and nothing was going to stop him. He had the man lined up in his sights, his finger on the trigger, and was prepared to die to get it done, but then Kaea found out that he was following the wrong man.

Xavier Mulligan had been stalking his own prey the night he met his mate. He’d been shocked to discover that Kaea was not only there to kill him, but thought he was the asshole who’d murdered his own father. Xavier would just have to make his mate see him for what he was, and accept his very nature. How hard could that be?

Can Kaea and Xavier find a way to work together to avenge those who were taken from them, and retrieve that which was stolen from Kaea’s family, or will Xavier’s need for control be the one thing that could tear them both apart?

 


Story Excerpt

Kaea moved a little beneath him, and Xavier had to bite back a groan as his hips nestled a little closer to his.

“Do you—wait, am I naked?” Kaea asked incredulously, and Xavier couldn’t hold back a grin.

“That you are, my lovely. You were damp and dirty from being out in the forest and trying to kill me. I couldn’t very well pop you into bed like that, now could I?”

Kaea frowned as he leaned slightly to the side and looked at Xavier lying on top of him. “And you’re naked because…”

“I was in the shower.” Xavier shrugged. “Again, not somewhere where clothes are necessarily all that helpful. I came out of the bathroom when you woke up. Didn’t have time to go throw any clothes on.”

Kaea nodded, and a delicious red heat swept over the dark skin of his cheeks. “That makes sense, but you could let me go, get up and throw some clothes on now that I no longer want to hurt you, right?”

“But I like it where I am. Do I gotta?” Xavier had never pouted in his life, but he tried in this moment just to have fun with his mate.

Kaea’s laughter was quick and genuine, and had Xavier’s heart doing strange somersaults inside him. “Yes, you do. Come on, it’s very distracting having you lying on top of me.”

Xavier grinned, and knew it was just as wicked as he felt. “I love that you find me distracting, love, because the feeling is most definitely mutual.” Kaea’s eyes darkened, and Xavier knew he liked that particular revelation. “But, you’re right. I’m hungry, and healing this gunshot wound I seemed to have acquired recently has taken a lot of energy.”

Xavier pushed up from the bed, and grinned when he watched Kaea’s gaze wander down his abdomen, but shot back to the puckered scar of the wound on his shoulder. “Crap. Did I apologize for shooting you?”

Xavier resettled the towel around his hips. “No, you did not, and that was very remiss of you. I’ll expect you to make that up to me very soon. Repeatedly.”

Kaea’s soft laughter followed him as he stepped toward the back of the room where he’d put his bag. He grabbed a pair of sweats and pulled them on under the towel, then dropped it to the floor. He turned back toward the bed and laughed himself when he saw Kaea up on his elbows as if to get a better view.

“See something you might like, love?”

Kaea grinned at him, and Xavier could have sworn he felt his heart stutter in his chest. “Maybe, but I’m not a man who gives all his secrets away when he’s just met a man. I prefer a slow build up to a quick flash that’s over too damn soon.” Xavier scowled. “What’s put that look on your face?”

“I don’t like to think of you with other men.” Xavier heard the possessiveness in his own tone, but wouldn’t apologize for it. He was a dominant Alpha bear, and one who did not play well with others. Kaea needed to know and understand that. “I don’t share. You’re mine.”

Kaea arched a sardonic brow in his direction, and it irritated and aroused him at the same time. “Yours?” Xavier could practically feel the temperature in the room fall. “I don’t remember ever being asked if I’d be yours, or even if I wanted you. You presume too much.”

Xavier growled, his anger rising within him. “It’s not a presumption when I could feel your fucking arousal just as sure as you could feel mine, Kaea.”


Where to Buy

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Evernight | Bookstrand


About the Author

Mother, wife, author, and all around crazy…

I write the kind of books that I love to read. Love stories between strong men and their independent soulmates. Usually, their path to Happily Ever After is a bumpy one, but there is always a Happy Ever After.

In the world’s I create there is someone (or two, or three) for everyone! Love comes in many forms and I believe it is all beautiful and should be celebrated!

I live, love and write in New Zealand, married to my husband of fifteen years with two beautiful children who I truly believe were sent as a blessing, but sometimes to try my patience, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Wicked Wednesday Reads: Snowflake Wine

Happy Wednesday, darlings! Today I’m here with Elodie Parkes and her hot new M/M romance Snowflake Wine, now available from Encompass Ink and other online sellers. Take it away, Elodie!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog with new release, MM romance, Snowflake Wine.

The story is contemporary gay romance with an edge of fantasy, especially written as a sweet but sexy Christmas treat.

Jamie Snow and Nathan Bloom, my characters are as usual, dear to me.

Jamie has battled all his life with his strange, fantastic gift. His is the character that brings the element of fantasy to the story. The inspiration behind the creation of this character came, weirdly enough, in the summer, when I visited a ruined abbey. In the grounds were flowering shrubs that I’d never encountered before. From a distance, the flowers looked like frost, and as I drew close, into my mind came the idea of Jamie, a sprite who loves cold, ice, frost, and to comfort himself in the warm weather, he decorated the shrubs with frost flowers.

Nathan Bloom is the perfect partner for Jamie—gorgeous, calm, loving and open. He’s looking for love. He’s onto Jamie’s gifts long before he lets Jamie know it. This is a love story—romantic, sexy, hopeful.


Hunky Nathan Bloom works late for the company putting up the town Christmas lights and decorations.

Gorgeous, enigmatic, Jamie Snow works late forecasting the weather from his desk in the meteorology office.

Nathan sighs over the prospect of a holiday season with no one to love.

Jamie wonders if he’ll ever find a man to love who will accept his mysterious origins and talents.

One cold night, as Nathan finishes hoisting the wreath lights up the building where Jamie works, they meet.

The brilliant festive lights aren’t the only things to sparkle as the two men connect on a deep level.

Be delighted by a delicious, contemporary, gay romance with an edge of fantasy this season.

Sometimes being different is awesome.


Story Excerpt

Jamie Snow sat alongside Nathan. He glanced across at the man who stirred his frosty heart. He’s so attractive. Jamie hadn’t loved in a long time. He felt more than ready for it—longed for it on lonely nights. He wasn’t about to give up on the chance that this man might want a lover, that he was gay wasn’t in question. No straight guy looked the way he had at another man.

“My name’s Jamie, Jamie Snow.” He softened his voice as he spoke. The man beside him inspired tenderness and he felt a little prick of guilt. Using the weather to flirt with him had been inspired but maybe a little naughty.

Nathan drove the truck into a wide car lot that Jamie hadn’t known existed behind the furniture store on the end of the main street. “Here we are. The store allows us to leave the bigger rigs here every year. Jamie Snow—that’s an interesting name for a meteorologist—mine’s Nathan Bloom.”

Jamie’s smile infused his tone. “Yes. People tease me sometimes at work, they’ll know we’ve forecast it and as I walk by they’ll say, ‘here comes the snow,’ but I don’t mind. I like this name.”

“You’ve had others?” Nathan asked with a laugh.

Jamie didn’t want to reply. He waited. I won’t be lying to this lovely guy if I don’t answer.

Nathan turned off the truck engine and twisted to talk to Jamie. “It’s a cool name. Where do you live?”

It appeared he’d forgotten his question.

Happiness trickled into Jamie’s soul that the attractive man beside him liked his name, and used the word, cool. Eagerly, Jamie told Nathan his address on the outskirts of the town.

Nathan grinned, his eyes reflecting Jamie’s emotion. “I know it well. I live a couple of streets south from there.”


Where to Buy

Amazon


About the Author

I’m a writer who is in love with happy endings, currently based in southern UK. I write for Evernight Publishing, Siren, Hot Ink Press, Encompass Ink, and eXtasy Books.

I love music, art, flowers, trees, the ocean. I work with antiques by day and words by night. Like a vampire, darkness is my friend, that’s when the silence is only broken by an occasional hoot of owls in the woodlands opposite my home, and I write.

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