Guest Author: Mary Campisi & Giveaway!

I’m so pleased to have contemporary and historical romance author Mary Campisi visiting with us today.  Mary has been published with Kensington Publishing, Carina Press, The Wild Rose Press, and Jocelyn Hollow Romance. Two years ago, she began digitally self-publishing her front and backlist books. In October, four short months after she offered her contemporary romance, A Family Affair, as a free download on Amazon, Mary had over half a million downloads!

Wow, that’s amazing!  Let’s have a little chat with Mary and find out what else is going on in her world.

You have both contemporary romances and historical romances under your writing belt – do you prefer one genre over the other?  What attracts you to these two different genres?

I began with historicals for the pure joy of falling into romance through a fairytale setting. The beautiful young women, the wealthy men, the titles, the gowns, even the villains are pure fairytale material reminiscent of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty. The historical lifts me up and carries me away into happily ever after. And here’s a confession; I watch Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice at least once a month. (The Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley version.) I know many Austen critics say it’s not true to the story, but I can’t help it, the chemistry is there for me. I love the scene in the rain when Mr. Darcy professes his love for Elizabeth and proposes — she rejects him and then there is the ‘almost’ kiss. And when Mr. Darcy hands Ms. Elizabeth into the carriage and squeezes her hand, I can feel that emotion.

Writing contemporary romance comes naturally to me. Most of my contemporary works are hybrids; combination contemporary romance and women’s fiction. I love to explore relationships and how they are affected by things like betrayal, deception, death, or dealing with the aftermath of a difficult decision. I’ll toss these things at the main characters and see how they do or do not deal with these issues. Once they’ve struggled enough, I’ll follow them along on their character growth trail and cheer as they find that second chance at life and love.

Your books have a lot of heart and you don’t dodge the tough stuff.  Why is that?

I guess I write about tough situations because I’ve lived through quite a few of my own. I know what betrayal feels like, and loss—of dreams, hope, a marriage— and I understand the pain, the self-doubt, the not knowing if you’ll ever feel whole again. I use these emotions to create my characters and to explore relationships that are less than perfect – but are real life as I see it. It’s interesting that you should mention this because I’ve recently begun analyzing the recurrent themes in my books and I’m compiling a collection of short stories with a commentary tied to each which addresses the reason behind the story and the novel/s with like themes that grew out of those stories. My biggest and most used theme is second chances. And of course, I often write about that one true love that surpasses time, situation, and circumstance.

What can you tell us about your upcoming release, Simple Riches?

Simple Riches is a contemporary romance set in a small town much like the one in northwestern Pennsylvania where I grew up. Here’s the blurb…

Alexandra Chamberlain is a cosmopolitan woman whose uncle taught her to discard everything but the bottom line on a balance sheet. She’ll do anything to earn his approval and prides herself on excelling at her job, which is selecting small towns to buy up, flatten, and replace with luxury resorts. When Alex decides to investigate Restalline, Pennsylvania as a potential site for the next resort, she enters the town under the guise of a researcher gathering information for a documentary. It should be easy, just like all the others. But this town is different, from Alex’s zany landlord to Nick Androvich, the town doctor with a battered heart who questions Alex’s motives yet can’t deny his attraction to her. As Alex and Nick explore their growing relationship, they must face the truth about each other and themselves as they search for their own Simple Riches.

And now for the fun question:  If you were stranded on a deserted island with the man of your dreams, what two luxury items would you bring along with you?

A razor? Hmmm. A toothbrush and Colgate Total Advanced Clean toothpaste? Oh, no…my very favorite Caribou coffee – decaf and regular, depending on morning or evening. And I’ll need cream. Or are there animals that produce milk on this island? Black coffee bothers my stomach. I guess I can forgo the coffee machine because there won’t be electricity but the man of my dreams is highly intelligent and capable of constructing an apparatus to brew coffee. I suppose I can craft a mug of some sort – I’m quite crafty…Ooops..forgot about soap. I’ll need quite a bit of that. Maybe a tube or two of Bath & Body mentha chapstick and moisturizer…and shampoo. Did I say dental floss? Hmmm. Where will we sleep? And what about pillows? We can share T-shirts but not shorts – I am a bit curvier than the man of my dreams! Do you know what kind of food will be available on this island? Exotic fruits? Veggies? Fish? I bet I’ll have a lot of time to write, so will need several notebooks and pens. I think that’s it. Let me think. Oh, no. What about toilet paper? I bet THAT’s not provided. Well. I’ll have to think about that. I’m not going to ask the man of my dreams if he’ll need anything, because he’ll have me – what else could he possibly need?!

So, I can really only pick two things? Okay. Two suitcases stuffed with all of the above!

Clever, Mary!  I just might let you get away with that.  For my readers today, Mary is giving away a copy of Simple Riches.  For a chance to win, just tell Mary and me what are a few of the simple riches in your life.

Simple Riches – Amazon  B & Ni-Tunes

Paradise FoundAmazon,  i-TunesB&N,   KoboSmashwords





Guest Author: Janis Susan May & Giveaway!

I’m truly honored to have a very special person on the blog today – romantic suspense author, Janis Susan May.  Janis is such an interesting person and has so many accomplishments to her name, that I barely know where to begin.  She’s been writing romance novels for years, and in 1980 she was one of the founding members of the Romance Writers of America, now one of the biggest and most prestigious writing organizations in the world.  Whew!

In the intervening years, Janis has lead a fascinating life.  She’s traveled all over the globe, spending much of that time in the Middle East, where she indulged in her “deep and abiding love of Egyptology.”  Her Naval officer husband even proposed to her on a moonlit night near the pyramids of Giza–sounds like Janis’ life belongs in a romance novel!

Janis now writes for Harlequin’s digital first imprint, Carina Press, and she has a new romantic suspense novel coming out in less than two weeks.  She’s here today to tell us all about it.  Take it away, Janis!

A Single Candle in an Upper Window

I confess.

I love the old-style Gothic romances. You know the kind I mean – mostly published in the late 60s and 70s, the cover was almost universally dark, with a great brooding castle or manor house set out in the middle of a foreboding landscape. In the foreground there was a pretty young thing, usually in something voluminous and ruffly, running for her life and sending a terror-stricken glance back over her shoulder. The big castle/manor house is totally dark, save for one brilliantly lit window high up under the eaves.

Even at the time I could appreciate that the covers were more than slightly ludicrous – I mean, the ruffly voluminous thing was obviously supposed to be nightwear, but who could get to sleep inside all that pouffy yardage? Not only that, if she wanted to get away, isn’t it silly to run like mad while you’re looking over your shoulder? That’s more likely to send you sprawling down on your face than help you escape.

There’s no accounting for true love, though. Some of the stories were wonderful, more were monuments to words-by-the-foot predictability, some were unabashed dreck, and I read them all. Some of them I still do. Through several moves and cleaning out my late mother’s home, I got rid of thousands of books, but my beloved Gothics stayed around.

Good or bad, the stories were basically simple – a young woman pretty much alone in the world takes a position – governess or companion were the most popular – in a big, creepy house. There is a varied cast of characters, usually including the brooding, misunderstood master of the house and a nice young handsome man. Sometimes the nice young handsome man was the villain, but most of the time no matter how badly he was misunderstood the dark master was the hero – almost an archetype of the tortured hero. The heroine is invariably plunged into the mysteries of the past and nearly suffers death before the villainy is uncovered, the truth revealed and sunshine and light reign thereafter.

While drenched in heart-palpitating romance, the stories – at least the ones I loved – were always squeaky clean, with nothing more than clasped hands, touching sighs or the occasional chaste kiss.

At the time of first reading, during those long-ago days, I supposed I liked them because they represented a promise. I was young and reasonably pretty. I wanted adventure and true romance. If it happened to that (generally) air-headed fruitcake of a heroine who followed an anonymous note into the dark cellars at midnight after three people had been mysteriously killed, what could I – smarter and blessed with a caring family – expect?

Yes, I have always been among the reality challenged. Don’t ask me about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

However… now I am no longer young and hope I am a great deal wiser than the innocent young woman I used to be, and I still love these old Gothic stories of love and danger.

Perhaps it is because they represent a time in my life that was incredibly happy, or perhaps it is because the good ones, the ones that I have kept and continue to reread, the ones with plausible stories and good characterization, are simply the best of what is admittedly a wildly uneven genre. Or perhaps it is that they, in the main, are more human in scale and pacing than most anything you can find today. While they are exciting and have a deep mystery, there is no gratuitous gore or horror or sex. Everything is kept to a sedate, mannerly pace one can enjoy reading instead of the exhausting (and more often than not boring) bang-bang-bang unending chase/machine gun tempo of more recent romantic suspenses where one can hardly draw breath between one crisis and another.

I have said for years what a pity it is no one writes that kind of story any more. Fortunately, I can’t say that any more, because I have just published a modern Gothic called INHERITANCE OF SHADOWS.

True, there is no pretty young thing tearing madly across a darkened lawn on the cover, but there is a wondrous creepy old house. I guess Carina Press metaphorically paid the electric bill, because in my cover house every window is blazing with light – and it’s still creepy.

It’s funny – I never cared much for high fantasy and certainly never intended to write any, but… In INHERITANCE OF SHADOWS the heroine Aurora has come to Merrywood, the estate of her late father’s friend, to attend a convention honoring her late father’s books. She never knew her father and was raised with little or no knowledge of him. He wrote a series of high fantasy novels that have spawned a rabid fandom, intellectual debate and a series of conventions. He also committed suicide in front of her when she was barely three years old.

Things at the convention go wildly awry; first of all, Aurora’s former love shows up, intending to write a book about her father – the very thing that broke them up in the first place. Aurora begins having strange dreams where she is taking part in ceremonies her father wrote about. His friend, her host, and his colleagues are annoyingly possessive of her. The conventioneers regard her as a-not-quite-human icon, the essence of the books come to life. And she is not the only being from the books come to life; creatures from the books begin to appear, creatures that appear to be real and not just costumed conventioneers. Aurora realizes that not only her sanity, but her very life may be in danger… but by then it is too late to leave.

During editorial conferences (some call them editorial combat) with my wonderful editor Mallory Braus, we both found that the idea of a snippet of one of Aurora’s father’s books at the beginning of each chapter would set the mood of that chapter wonderfully. I had wanted to do this from the beginning, but had not mentioned it because (1) I didn’t think it would sell and (2) I had no idea of or inclination towards writing high fantasy. However, with Mallory’s enthusiastic urging I tried, and was astonished when the varied stories of the non-human creatures of my imaginary world flowed easily from my fingertips. So easily, in fact, that some of these chapter head ‘snippets’ were two and three pages long!

After a lot of internal debate – and urging from both Mallory and my trusted beta readers to go ahead and write the seven book series – I agreed to rein in the snippets to a reasonable length instead of eliminating them. However, the idea of taking on the series – seven books!!! – is a bit daunting. I am much more comfortable with my good old-fashioned Gothics. As I should be. After all, one most intelligent and perspicacious reviewer said I was the obvious successor to Phyllis A. Whitney and Victoria Holt!

I’d like to know your opinion. INHERITANCE OF SHADOWS is being released by Carina Press on March 12, so let me hear what you think. (And keep an eye out for my new Gothic, THE CURSE OF THE EXILE, which is very nearly complete – Scotland, an ancient family curse, two handsome brothers, a ghost who isn’t one, revenge, greed and a female librarian in a crumbling castle during the mid-19th century…What’s not to like? Hopefully some nice publisher will buy it!)

Vanessa, here.  Janis, I can’t wait to read this book, because I also loved those old Gothic romances–Victoria Holt was one of my favorite authors, as was Mary Stewart.  I’m so glad you’re revitalizing this wonderful genre!

Well, readers, you heard the lady.  What do you think?  Do you like Gothic romances as much as we do?  What are some of your favorites?  One of mine was Mistress of Mellyn, which is pictured above–which ones do you remember?

And don’t forget to stop by Janis’ website for details on all her books, and to read an excerpt.

Guest Author: Jody Wallace & Giveaway!

I’m very pleased to have multi-published romance author Jody Wallace guest blogging with me today.  Jody writes in several genres for Samhain Publishing and Carina Press, and most of her books have what she calls a “fantastical bent.”  Jody has a new book coming out this month called Pack and Coven, and it’s a paranormal romance.  I’d like to hear more about it, so take it away, Jody!

The Same but Different, or Different but the Same?

Let’s talk about werewolves in romance fiction. Certainly werewolves didn’t start out as hero or heroine material. Poor, unfortunate souls savaged by other werewolves and condemned to terrorize the neighborhood during the full moon, this guy was not the one you wanted leaving his boots under your bed. Or his pelt.

It wasn’t until the paranormal romance genre increased in popularity in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s that wolves and their kin began appearing as desirable lovers. They often came packaged with loyalty, mate bonds, the ability to transform their lovers into wolves, pack politics, and enhanced, ah, abilities. You know…strength and eyesight and hearing. That’s all I’m talking about!

One might even say that in 2012, werewolves, along with vampires and other supernaturals, have become ubiquitous. The classic romantic triangle lends itself so perfectly to the paranormal genre that you’ll probably find more triangles with a vampire, a werewolf and some lucky lady (and do they walk into a bar??) than three regular humans. This is, of course, when the triangle is a standard triangle and not a threesome of hair, teeth and hijinks.

And male werewolves? Down, boy. Are they ever alpha! Some paranormal romances and urban fantasies portray werewolves as existing in a structure somewhat like actual wolves, with an alpha male and an alpha female at the head of the pack, while others take different paths. However, I don’t think I’ve read any werewolf romances in which there were no alphas, particularly those romance staples, the alpha males.

It’s an excuse to write an alpha male so alpha he’s actually Alpha instead of just a Duke who’s used to getting his way, know what I mean?

So why write another paranormal romance with werewolf characters? What have I done in Pack and Coven that’s the same but different, and different but the same? For one, there are no vampires in Pack and Coven. Instead, I’ve got witches who use organically-based magic. For two, no triangles…unless you mean the scrumptious shape of a slice of pie. For three, our hero Harry might be an alpha genetically, but no WAY does he want to be in charge of some whiny pack of quarrelsome shifters. For four–see, I promised, no triangles–our heroine June is the plot instigator in the beginning, rushing in on her white horse, which looks an awful lot like a Smart car, to save her friend Harry when the local pack tries to conscript him.

So hopefully those and other aspects of Pack and Coven will be different enough to set my werewolf and witch tale apart, while being familiar enough to interest paranormal romance readers. Maybe even Regency readers! Hey, an author can dream.

Thank you, Vanessa, for inviting me to your cyber-house today. You must all be sure to check next week at my blog when Vanessa is going to be interviewed by Meankitty (the alpha of the Wallace household), and then Meankitty, who took a liking to Vanessa despite her catless state, is going to “fix” one of Vanessa’s books and covers with a spot of cattification.

Vanessa, here.  Jody, thanks for the fantastic post!  I must admit to being a little nervous about my interview with Meankitty, though.  I hope she takes pity on me!  Meanwhile, here’s the blurb for Pack and Coven:

Harry Smith is a lone wolf, and he likes it that way. When he’s targeted to be co-alpha of the local pack, there is only one thing he can do to maintain his freedom: flee. But it’ll take a miracle to stay a step ahead of shifters in their own territory.

June Travis has been in love with Harry for years, but he doesn’t know her real identity. He sees her as the sweet owner of the local tearoom—the facade June presents to humans and werewolves to keep them from finding out she’s a witch. She may not be able to offer Harry a miracle, but she can help him escape.

Harry is drawn to this new side of June, and not just because he’s grateful for her help. With her magic temporarily hiding Harry from his pursuers, the witch and the wolf explore their mutual attraction. But there are consequences for witches who bed down with wolves…

For more info on Jody’s books, check out her website.  You might also want to stop by her blog and see what’s happening with Meankitty!

For my readers today, Jody will be giving away a copy of Pack and Coven.  Let’s talk paranormal heroes, to continue the theme of Jody’s post.  Who’s your favorite alpha paranormal guy from books, TV, or movies?  One person who comments will win a copy of Jody’s book.

Guest Author: Liz Flaherty & Giveaway!

I’m very pleased to have fellow Carina Press author Liz Flaherty on the blog today.  Liz writes wonderfully emotional contemporary romance, garnering accolades from both reviewers and readers.  Liz has a new book out, called One More Summer, and she’s here to tell us a little bit about it, and about herself.

ONE MORE SUMMER sounds a little bit quirky and a whole lot wonderful. Where did you get the idea for the book?

My people came first–they always do! And we visited my sister-in-law in beautiful, beautiful Tennessee, so setting came next. In all honesty, I’m not sure where the story came from–it just fell, little pieces of my heart, into place.

What genres do you read in when you’re writing a book? Does reading contemporary romance/women’s fiction mess with your head, or does it help you find your story?

Genres don’t mess with my head, but certain voices do, ones that I particularly love. If I’m writing, I can’t read Kathleen Gilles Seidel or Robyn Carr or Kristan Higgins or Jenny Crusie, because next thing you know, I’m using something that was theirs. It’s never intentional, but it happens. However, anything they write is super-treat for me when I’m finished with my own stuff!

Do you play music when you write? If so, what was the play list for this book?

I can’t play music. My empty nest is a quiet place and I’ve learned to write that way, so now sounds from outside my head distract me. However, I will admit that were it not for the Eagles (oh, be still my heart, I love them so!), I’m not sure ONE MORE SUMMER would have been written. The songs and the emotions in Don Henley and Glen Frey’s voices found their way to my keyboard, for which I remain eternally grateful.

If stranded on a desert island, what two luxury items would you bring along?

Luxury? Hmmm… Is a fully loaded Kindle a luxury or a necessity? Whichever, that would be one. The other–oh, this sounds goofy, but it’s true–would be very-high-speed internet. We live way in the country, where it isn’t available, and when I do get to use it, it’s FUN!

Here’s the blurb for One More Summer:

Grace has taken care of her widowed father her entire adult life and the ornery old goat has finally died. She has no job, no skills and very little money, and has heard her father’s prediction that no decent man would ever want her so often she accepts it as fact.

But she does have a big old house on Lawyers Row in Peacock, Tennessee. She opens a rooming house and quickly gathers a motley crew of tenants – Promise, Grace’s best friend since kindergarten, who’s fighting cancer; Maxie, an aging soap opera actress who hasn’t lost her flair for the dramatic; Jonah, a sweet gullible old man with a crush on Maxie.

And Dillon, Grace’s brother’s best friend, who stood her up on the night of her senior prom and has regretted it ever since. Dillon rents Grace’s guest house for the summer and hopes to make up for lost time and past hurts – but first, he’ll have to convince Grace that she’s worth loving…

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Be sure to check out Liz’s website for all the details, and for info on her other books.

Readers, Liz is giving away a copy of her new book.  Let’s talk about vacations.  If you could only take one thing away with you on vacation, what would it be?  And feel free to use your imagination!  One person will win a copy of One More Summer.


Reader Rally!!

Here’s something really cool – a reader’s rally.  Along with a group of authors and bloggers, I’m part of a blog hop sponsored by Random House and their Romance at Random column.  Each participating blog, including mine, will host a book giveaway for our readers.  And Random House will be offering a grand prize!

Readers can enter the GRAND PRIZE drawing on for a random drawing of free books, the winner to be announced on 2/1/2012.  The Romance at Random contest page also lists all the participating blogs, so be sure to check them out.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  So what am I giving away?  Two books!  The first is a copy of my latest Regency-set historical romance, My Favorite Countess.

The second book I’m giving away is a digital copy of CaddyGirls, the Carina Press contemporary romance that I wrote with my husband under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.

All you have to do to enter my part of the contest is tell me what book you’re reading right now.  To enter for the Romance at Random grand prize, check out their contest page.  Easy peasy, right?  So, tell me what you’re currently reading, and then get to hopping!