Guest Author: Flo Fitzpatrick & Giveaway!!


I’m very pleased to welcome Flo Fitzpatrick to the blog today. Flo was a dancer and an actress, earning a BFA in Dance and an MA in theatre.  She now writes mystery and romance, and has two new books out.  Clearly, Flo is a very creative woman!  Let’s find out what’s going on in her writing life.

Two books out in one month!  Yep.  That’s what happened this summer -through no great planning on my part.

The books are Aria in Ice and Cold Wind to Valhalla and they’re numbers two and three in the Abby Fouchet mystery series. People always ask me “where do you get your ideas?” and/or “How long did it take you to write the book?” so here’s the answer to both questions –at least for these books.

Aria in Ice started life as Cold as Ice and the original intent was to make it a follow-up to Hot Stuff, a romantic suspense I’d set in Mumbai, India.  Hot Stuff had been optioned for film (still is!) and the independent producer who bought the option (and has since left the project) thought it’d be cool to have a sequel in the wings.  Then an agency, Rolling Seas Promotions, got involved.  They asked if I had any other books that might work for a combination mystery/comedy.   I told them about Cold as Ice but also said it was literally in the stage of “I want to set this in Prague at a spooky castle.”  Not a single chapter had been written. They liked the idea but didn’t like the idea of a sequel and wanted to know when I could send the book. 

Aria In Ice Harlequin jpg

That’s when I lost my mind for the second time as a writer.  I’d written Hot Stuff in eight days (there’s a whole story behind that that includes massive amounts of Indian food delivered to my door for inspiration) and figured if I did it once I could do it again.  So I told the agent I’d get them the book but was changing the title to Aria in Ice (because there were too many books named Cold as Ice) and it would NOT be a follow-up to Hot Stuff.  I decided to go with Abby Fouchet since she has these great  ‘gifts’ of second sight and I thought, “Let’s add ‘ghost-listener’ and see where that takes her.”   I sat down and wrote it in six days (which was tough without having any kolache -a wonderful Czech pastry- delivery places around) then edited it for the next two weeks and sent it to Rolling Seas.  The screenplay has been written.  Waiting for – you guessed it – financial backing! As speculation still runs rampant as to who’ll play Abby and Johnny (at least between the agent, screen writer and me!)  the reprint for Aria in Ice was released in mass market paperback through World Wide Mysteries (Harlequin) about three weeks ago.

Fast forward to 2012.  I’d released a time-travel romance a few years ago called Haunting Melody. It was kind of weird because I sent my heroine back to 1919.  Not the Civil War. Not the American Revolution. Not the Stone Age or the age of any Tudors or Lancasters. No Druids hanging out during the building of Stonehenge. Nope.  This was New York City and the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919.  I had so much fun researching this I wanted to do something else in this time period but wanted my heroine involved in the silent movies of that era.  To do another time travel to a similar time seemed a bit redundant but to have my heroine be an actress in a TV series that DID time-travel would give me the best of both worlds.

Cold Wind Kindle Cover

Several readers had written me asking, “when is Abby coming back?” and since Abby is involved in show biz — be that theatre, film or the way-too-fun-to write-about soaps.  I stuck her back into the daytime drama Endless Time and came up with a plot within a plot about stolen patents and Latin Lover Movie Stars a la Rudolph Valentino in the early days of movie making in Fort Lee, New Jersey.  Added a murder (or two) and that was that.  This one took more than six days though.  Make that more like six months.  But finally, Cold Wind to Valhalla was released – about three weeks ago –same time as Aria in Ice.

And I swear I didn’t notice the references to chilly weather in the titles until both were released.  Cold Wind to Valhalla comes from a title of a Jethro Tull song and is used to help Abby with clues (second sight can’t do everything!) 

Just hoping now that it’s August looking at the titles will cool everyone off a bit.

Thanks so much for the cool blog post, Flo!  Both books sound fantastic.  Readers, Flo is giving away a copy of Cold Wind to Valhalla and Aria in Ice to some lucky readers.  Just tell us what are some your favorite historical periods and/or settings for mystery and romance.  Two people will win a copy of one of Flo’s books!



The New Year Blog Hop & Giveaway!

The New Year Blog Hop!

Vanessa Kelly writing as VK Sykes

Today, over 60 authors are talking about their favorite New Year’s memories! What does that mean for you folks who are stopping by the blog today? Well, these authors are giving away gift cards, books, and other swag goodies throughout the day, and that includes me!  Each author will chose her own winner – so that means over 60 winners! And you can win on multiple pages, which is really cool.

And the best thing? The authors have put together TWO fabulous grand prizes.  One being a Kindle Fire to a lucky winner!

Our second grand prize is a $80 Amazon gift card!

So what am I giving away?  Two people who comment on the blog today will win one of my books:  one person will win My Favorite Countess, and another person will win a copy of my VK Sykes contemporary romance, Hardball.  Plus some fabulous chocolates to go along with the books!  All you have to do to be entered is tell me what your favorite New Year’s memory is.  Then, do the blog hop links at the bottom of this post and enter on as many other pages as you want.  The more blogs you leave comments on, the greater your chances of winning one of the grand prizes.


So, what’s my favorite New Year’s memory?  I think it had to be when I was still in grad school, studying English Lit.  I went to stay with some friends in New York City and we decided to throw an impromptu party on New Year’s Eve.  We called around, left some messages, got in some food and alcohol, and hoped for the best.  Really, though, we didn’t expect many people to show.  To keep ourselves from feeling like complete losers, we hit on a silly but amusing party game – trying to figure out which celebrity we thought each of us most resembled.  Once we assigned ourselves those roles, we decided to stay in character for the rest of the evening.

I should add here that most of my friends worked in theatre or film at the time, so role-playing came naturally.  Anyway, we also decided that for each guest who arrived – if they arrived – we would assign that guest a celebrity persona too.  After a few glasses of bubbly or a few beers, this seemed like a really great idea.  So when other people actually did start arriving we tagged them with the appropriate designation:  movie star, stage actor, musician, politician, even a few historical figures thrown in for good measure.

Much to our surprise, every new arrival seemed to think this silly game was a great idea.  Soon we had an apartment packed to the rafters with a bunch of party-goers acting out their new personas.  Maybe we’d all had a little too much to drink or maybe we were better actors than we gave ourselves credit for, but by the end of the night you would have sworn you were actually talking to Al Pacino, King George III, or Marilyn Monroe.  Okay, the libations were flowing very freely, but for one night it was great fun to pretend to be someone else.  Years later, I still remember that party with a great deal of fondness.

Oh, and what was my celebrity identity that night?  I was Sigourney Weaver.  No wonder I had such a great time at that party!

Now, tell me about your favorite New Year’s memory, and start the blog hop at the links just below.  Good luck!

Inspiration, And Then Some

Let’s talk covers, shall we?  As most romance readers know, writers often look to actors and actresses for inspiration when developing their characters.  It’s a fun way to bring the hero and heroine to life in our imaginations.  Typically, a writer spends months on a book, imagining the hero looks remarkably like Gerard Butler, for instance.  Said writer may have even been asked by her editor to provide detailed descriptions of her hero (and heroine), which is then passed along to the art department.  With crossed fingers, the writer then spends the intervening weeks praying the cover will at least remotely match the descriptions she provided to her editor.

Finally, the day arrives and that much-anticipated cover jpg. lands in the writer’s email box.  With pounding heart, the writer clicks on the jpg. and then…well, sometimes they get it right.  Often they don’t but it’s still a great cover, and every once in a while it can be an unmitigated disaster.

How have the cover gods treated me?  Extremely well, IMHO, thanks to the fantastic art department at Kensington Publishing.  The models didn’t always match what was in my head, though, so I thought it might be fun to look at what I imagined and what actually happened – particularly with my heroes.  So here are my covers, starting withMastering The Marquess at the top of the page.  Let’s see how they match up with the actors I used for inspiration.

For Stephen, the Marquess of Silverton, I imagined him played by the beautiful and tragic Heath Ledger.

Now glance up and compare that to the guy at the top of the page.  Not so much, although I think MTM has a great cover.  But the hero looks more like a cross between Brad Pitt and a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, which more than one person pointed out to me.  Whoever he looks like, he does have a great set of abs.

In  my next book, Sex and the Single Earl, I imagined the hero, Lord Trask, to look much like Christian Bale.

And here’s the cover.

Pretty good matchup and, again, great abs.

For my novella in An Invitation To Sin, I based the hero, Captain Christian Archer, on Sean Bean in Sharpe’s Rifles.

And, the cover…

Oh, well.  Pretty, but a distinct absence of abs.

For my last book, My Favorite Countess, I used the gorgeous Hugh Jackman to provide me with inspiration for Dr. John Blackmore.

And the cover…

I was surprised when I got the email because I was expecting another clinch cover, but I certainly wasn’t unhappy.  MFC is a gorgeous cover and since I had imagined Bathsheba played by Kate Winslet, the artist definitely got the vibe.

My next book, which will be out in 2012, has a tough and handsome former soldier as its hero.  When I pictured him in my head, this is who I saw.

Yes.  Uber-handsome Henry Cavill from The Tudors.  I won’t see my cover for some months yet, but I surely a girl can dream, can’t she?

What about you, readers?  Do you cast actors for certain characters when you read a book?  Does it bother you when the cover doesn’t match the description?

The Naughty List Ladies & Giveaway!

I have a real treat on the blog today:  three fantastic authors for the price of one, and just in time for Christmas!  How is this possible, you might ask?  Well, take a look at today’s featured book.  It’s The Naughty List, a contemporary seasonal anthology with stories by three of my favorite authors, Donna Kauffman, Cynthia Eden, and Susan Fox.  I love Christmas anthologies, and this is a really good one.  It received a 5 blue ribbons review from Romance Junkies, which called it “a perfect feel good book for any time of year.”

Here’s the blurb for The Naughty List:

Naughty But Nice, by Donna Kauffman

Businessman Griffin’s never believed in luck…until sassy-sweet small-town baker Melody turns his world around. Except there’s a catch: There’s no way he’ll be able to build his empire and hold on to her. His new “lucky charm” could destroy all his dreams…or make this Christmas better than he ever imagined possible…

All I Want For Christmas, by Cynthia Eden

Good girl toy inventor Christie takes a walk on the naughty side when she sparks a no-strings fling with Santa—actually, sexy cop Jonas in a Santa suit. She loves her new “bad girl” persona, except as the holidays approach, she starts falling, and hard, for this known’ “love ’em and leave ’em” ladies man…

Tattoos And Mistletoe, by Susan Fox

Charlie returns to her hometown to fix up her aunt’s B&B, but she doesn’t count on LJ handling the renovations. Nerdy LJ pined for her in school, but now he’s grown into the town’s hottest bachelor. Charlie’s been burned before and won’t let him get close. But LJ’s determined to break down her walls and make her dearest Christmas wish come true.

Luckily for my readers, I was able to score an exclusive interview with the authors of this fun Christmas anthology.  Let’s see if we can get to know these ladies a little better!

Donna Kauffman

We all know that writing is hard work. What do you do to fill the creative well?

Donna: In addition to writing full time, my “play job” is freelance teaching arts/craft classes at a local craft shop here in northern Virginia.  My mom owned a craft shop while I was growing up, so it’s something that has always been a part of my life. I love the balance of creating things with my mind…and with my hands.  And teaching others has its own special joys as well.  (Plus it has the added benefit of getting me out around “non-fictional” folks for at least part of my week! 🙂  My other love is hiking.  I live right near the Potomac river and there are many wonderful trails literally in my backyard.  You’ll find me on them for some part of pretty much every day, year round.  I am also close to the Blue Ridge mountains and the Shenandoah Valley and hike there often as well.

Cynthia:  Writing is hard, but, to me, incredibly fun work.  When I need to replenish that creative supply, I talk long walks, watch some great movies (I am big into escapism) or head to the beach. I’m very fortunate because I live just 45 minutes away from the beach—definitely close enough for a creative excursion!

Susan:  The biggest thing for me is reading. I’m addicted! Other than that, I love watching a little TV, getting outside for a walk, exploring nature with my camera, and sharing dinner and a bottle of wine with a good friend. I try to exercise regularly and do my stretches, though that’s more about keeping in decent shape than filling the creative well. Man, I’m a pretty boring person, aren’t I?

Cynthia Eden

When you’re not writing “naughty” stuff, what do you like to read in your down time? Do you read in the genre you’re working in at the time, or does that mess with your head? What’s your favorite type of relaxation read?

Donna:  I read all sorts of things when I’m writing, which is pretty much all the time.  I don’t take any real breaks between books, so if I only read my own genre when I wasn’t writing it, I’d never have the chance to read it again. 🙂  It doesn’t mess with my head at all.  After 20 years in the business, I am very comfortable with my “voice” and feel confident that when I write it’s coming from my own well, and not influenced by anyone else’s work.  However, all reading, in all genres, definitely keeps me well immersed in the variety of storytelling that’s out there.  There are so many author’s voices I truly love and admire, across all genres.  If anything, reading their work only helps me define my voice even better.  You see how distinctly different we all are, and it helps me realize just how distinct and unique my brand of storytelling is.

For relaxation, my favorite kind of book is the kind I write, meaning “feel good” stories.  My editor once described my books as “humor with heart…and a lot of heat!”  Which…I’m good with that!  And that’s what I like when I sit down to read, too.  On my “anxiously awaiting list” is The Next Forever, the first in a new trilogy from Nora Roberts.  She’s been a friend of mine for more than 20 years now, so I am personally attached to this particular series as it’s based on her own Inn BoonsBoro, which I saw come to life in reality over these past couple of years.  I can’t wait to see how she’s brought something so dear to her heart into her fiction.

Cynthia:  I love to read paranormals, romantic suspense tales, and horror novels.  When I’m working on a particular story, I try not to read within that same genre (it just helps me to better distance myself). So I save all of those in-genre reads as rewards for when I finish my story. Once I’m done writing, I dive in for some prime reading time.  And my favourite type of relaxation read? I enjoy funny tales that can take me away.  Funny stories are great for relieving stress!

Susan:  Mainly, I read contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and romantic suspense—and then a smattering of everything else. At least everything else that’s fiction. I’m not much of a non-fiction reader. Give me escapism every time! But I do like to escape with characters and worlds I can relate to, so I’m not big on paranormal. When choosing what I’m going to read next, I like mixing things up. For example, I just read The Help, and now I’m on a gritty Lisa Gardner suspense novel, and I’m sure next it will be a romance. No, it doesn’t mess with my head to read the same kind of thing I’m writing. Reading is entertainment for me. I’m not analytical about it and I don’t compare other authors’ writing to my own. For a pure relaxation read—like to enjoy in a bubble bath at the end of a long day (which is sounding like a very good idea at the time I’m writing this!)—it will usually be romance or a more “lightweight” women’s fiction without a lot of angsty issues. Not that I don’t love those more angsty books, but not when I want pure R&R.

Susan Fox

If you were stranded on a desert island with just the basics for survival and you were allowed only one luxury item, what would it be?

Donna: Mark Harmon. 🙂   If he’s not available (given he’s been married forever to Pam Dawber and all…) then please substitute George Clooney.  He’ll always be single. 🙂

Cynthia:  Chocolate!  Oh, yes, that would definitely be my luxury item. I just can’t live without it!

Susan:  The longest book in the world! But no, I don’t count books as luxury items. For me, they’re necessities. So, how about a very fit, very hot, very smart guy? Or, no, maybe he falls more in the necessity category too. LOL. For pure luxury, I’ll settle for a fountain with an unending supply of chilled pinot grigio wine. Care to join me?

Vanessa, here.  Chocolate, men, and a glass of chilled pinot grigio…I like the way you ladies think!  Thanks so much for joining me on the blog today.  And I can’t wait to read The Naughty List.  Now that I know how y’all think, I know your stories are going to be lots of (naughty) fun!

And for my readers today, we’ll be giving away a copy of The Naughty List.  Just tell me the one luxury item you would bring to a deserted island.  One person who comments will win a copy of this fab book.


No Explanation Required, Part Two

On Monday I talked about some of the things that have inspired me while creating the heroes in my books – lovely things like this:

Yes, that’s the awesome Sean Bean, who was the mental stand-in for my hero, Captain Christian Archer, in my novella, An Invitation To Sin. Here’s some more heroic inspiration that served me well when I was writing my other two books.

For your viewing pleasure, I give you Christian Bale, who helped me vividly imagine the hero of my second book, Sex And The Single Earl.

Well, hello Lord Trask!  He certainly looks ready to head out and do some manly work around the estate, doesn’t he?  Aside from being a truly gifted actor, Mr. Bale has just the right kind of smoldering, intense sensuality I was looking for in that particular character.

Inspiration, indeed!

The hero of my first book, Lord Silverton in Mastering The Marquess, was partly based on a very special person – the impossibly talented and tragic Heath Ledger.

I loved Heath from the moment I saw him in A Knight’s Tale.  I fell in love with his talent and his intensity, and his truly devastating male beauty.  It was very easy to imagine him in the role of Regency hero.

And Ledger was enormously talented, as his performances in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight so ably demonstrated.  His death was a terrible tragedy for his family and a loss for his fans, but his legacy lives on in a fairly short but very impressive list of movies.

Christian Bale and Heath Ledger:  gorgeous and talented men, who provided this particular writer with plenty of inspiration.

Long live the hero!