Guest Author: Claire Delacroix & Giveaway!

I’m really thrilled to have my good friend and acclaimed historical romance author Claire Delacroix visiting the blog today.  Claire – who also writes paranormal romance as Deborah Cooke – has published more than forty-five romance novels and a whole slew of novellas.  The Beauty, part of her successful Bride Quest series, was the first book to land her on the New York Times bestseller list.

I’m going to turn the blog over to Claire, so she can tell us all about her new series.

Galloping Back to Medieval Scotland

One of the most exciting things to happen in my writing life this year has been the opportunity to return to medieval Scotland. I’ve missed the Middle Ages and I’ve missed that family at Kinfairlie, so it was wonderful to review all of their stories in order to continue writing the series.

The story at Kinfairlie begins with my book THE ROGUE which is the first book in my Rogues of Ravensmuir trilogy. This trilogy of medieval romances are a bit more gothic in tone than the rest of my work – they remind me of those wonderful gothic romances I gobbled up when I was a teenager. The heroes are enigmatic and more than a little bit of trouble, and each heroine needs to get to the bottom of some mystery in order to be happy forever with the man she loves. That series begins at Ravensmuir on the east coast of Scotland and continues at Inverfyre in the Highlands, but we also encounter Ravensmuir’s neighboring estate of Kinfairlie.

The Jewels of Kinfairlie is a linked trilogy of medieval romances. These three books are more tightly linked – they star three of the eight siblings at Kinfairlie and their respective quests for an HEA. Madeline found her match in THE BEAUTY BRIDE; Vivienne fell head over heels in THE ROSE RED BRIDE; and Alexander married the love of his life in THE SNOW WHITE BRIDE.

These books are reminiscent of fairy tales to me, although they have lots of realistic medieval elements, too. There are battles and feuds, injustices to correct, and the camaraderie of a large family in a large household. There are the magnificent black warhorses bred at Kinfairlie’s sister-estate of Ravensmuir, the mysterious ravens that live at Ravensmuir, and some troublemaking faeries underfoot. That series ends with the oldest brother – Alexander – promising to let his unwed younger sisters marry for true love. Their aunt, Rosamunde, subsequently found her HEA in the short story “The Ballad of Rosamunde”, now also available in a digital edition. (It’s included in the new print edition of THE SNOW WHITE BRIDE, too.)

Over the past few years, I’ve had a lot of mail from readers who wanted to hear the stories of the other siblings at Kinfairlie. I always intended to write those stories, and now I am, in a new series called The True Love Brides.

THE RENEGADE’S HEART is the first book in this series and is Isabella’s story. Isabella – which you’ll know if you’ve read the series so far – is the outspoken sister, the one who is always ready to take a chance and the one most determined to set wrongs to right. She’s not the next oldest, but her character is such that she’d jump line! (And her older sister, Annelise, would let her.) I’ve always wanted to write a Robin Hood hero, and I knew that Isabella would be the kind of heroine who would see right through to such a man’s hidden truth – no matter what he insisted was his plan.

In THE RENEGADE’S HEART, we meet Murdoch, a man who is determined to see an injustice against his family corrected, and a man who believes the Laird of Kinfairlie is the villain responsible for the trouble. When Alexander denies any knowledge of this crime, Murdoch knows he is lying and sets to persuading Alexander to tell the truth – no matter what he has to do to convince him. Little does he expect that the curious sister of the laird (the one who tempts him to kiss her) will become his most stalwart ally inside Kinfairlie’s walls. The two work together to solve the crime and name the villain, even as Alexander becomes more vexed with the renegade occupying his forest. Of course, Isabella has no idea that Murdoch has been cursed by the Fae, and that even if she wins his heart, she will have to fight the Elphine Queen for Murdoch’s very soul.

It was great to travel back to Kinfairlie, to dig out my maps and notes and family trees. My office floor was covered! Of course, spending time away from even a fictional realm means that you see it differently when you return. I was struck by how Kinfairlie has always been rumored to be a portal between the realm of the Fae and that of mortals. There were lots of stories of the Fae meddling in the lives of those who lived at Kinfairlie – I chose to make some of those stories happen to the siblings. I love having paranormal elements in medieval romances, because I think the sense of magic works perfectly with a tone that is evocative of fairy tales. As a result, in THE RENEGADE’S HEART (and in the rest of The True Love Brides series) that portal to Fae is kicked wide open. I’m having a wonderful time with these books.

So, now my question to you is this: do you like to read historical romances with paranormal elements or not? Do you only like paranormal elements in certain time periods of history – like medieval or Regency? Tell me what you like and why.

One person who comments today will win a signed copy of the trade paperback edition of THE RENEGADE’S HEART. Good luck!

And thanks to Vanessa for inviting me to visit!

Thanks for being with us today, Claire!  Your new series sounds awesome and I can’t wait to read it.  Readers, be sure to visit Claire’s website to read the blurb and an excerpt from THE RENEGADE’S HEART.  And don’t forget to visit Claire’s blog and her Deborah Cooke website!

We Have A Winner!

The winner of Robin Covington’s debut book is bn100.  Congratulations!  I’ll be in touch.

Thanks to everyone for stopping by the blog.  My guest author later this week is the fabulous Deborah Cooke, writing under her historical romance pen name of Claire Delacroix.  See you then!

Possibly The Best Romance Contest Ever!

WARNING:  Masssive Romance Reader SQUEE Moment Ahead!

There comes a time in a romance reader’s life when something amazing happens. Something awesome. Something really, really cool that makes you emit a high-pitched shrieking sound which then causes everyone around you to gape and stare. That shriek often sounds something like SQUEEEEEEEEE.

Dear friends and fellow romance readers, you might have a SQUEE moment ahead in your future.

Five huge romance fans who just happen to be romance authors as well have decided that we want to give you the opportunity to receive complete, SIGNED backlists of one of your very favorite authors (and yes, that means EVERYTHING they’ve ever written).

The romance fans/authors who are participating are: Ashley March, Shana Galen, Lila DiPasqua, Heather Snow, and moi, Vanessa Kelly.

The complete, SIGNED backlists they’re giving away are books from the following authors (henceforth known as “The Amazing Authors”):

Lisa Kleypas

Julia Quinn

Elizabeth Hoyt

Cynthia Eden

Julie Garwood

Before we can give these awesome prizes away, though, we need you to show how fanatical of fans you are. Since we know that you’re already following The Amazing Authors on Facebook (you are, aren’t you??), all you need to do is follow the authors who want to give away these complete, signed backlists to you. We all have to reach a certain number of followers; once that happens, then we will run a Facebook giveaway on our individual pages where you can enter to win the complete, signed backlists from the Amazing Authors.

(Please note, you must follow and enter on each of the five Facebook pages to be eligible to win each backlist. The giveaway won’t happen until AFTER the goals are met for ALL of us, and the giveaways will be open to US and international residents! All books will be in English as print books; if any books in the Amazing Authors’ backlists are currently our of print, used books will be purchased for those titles so that the backlist will be complete.)

Ashley March (must reach 2500 total “Likes” in order to give away Lisa Kleypas backlist)

Shana Galen (must reach 2000 total “Likes” in order to give away Julia Quinn backlist)

Lila DiPasqua (must reach 3500 total “Likes” in order to give away Elizabeth Hoyt backlist)

Vanessa Kelly (must reach 2000 total “Likes” in order to give away Cynthia Eden backlist)

Heather Snow (must reach 2500 total “Likes” in order to give away Julie Garwood backlist)

Those are the rules! Tell your friends, tell your family, tell any fellow romance fan you know. Soon, 5 lucky winners will win a complete, signed backlist from a favorite author that will make you SQUEEEEE!

And in other contest news…the winner of Deborah Cooke’s historical romance, The Beauty Bride, is Kathleen.  Congratulations!  I’ll be in touch soon.

Now, y’all get out there and start “liking” those Facebook pages!

Guest Author: Deborah Cooke & Giveaway!

I have a fabulous guest today, an incredibly talented, New York Times bestselling author who writes across genres and under two different names.  I’ll turn the blog over to her, and let her tell us what it’s like living with an alter ego!

Lessons from My Alter Ego

By Deborah Cooke

Also writing as Claire Delacroix

Once upon a time, I sold my first book – a medieval romance called THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE – and my editor suggested that I take a pseudonym. I hadn’t really thought much about that strategy at the time, but it didn’t sound as if it were optional. And in way, it sounded like fun to have an alter ego. I suggested some French names – not only did they fit the book, which was set partly in medieval France, but I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to have a French name. My editor rearranged the choices and came up with Claire Delacroix. Presto – I had an alter ego with a glorious French name!

Truth be told, I still didn’t think about it much. I never imagined that I would still be using that pseudonym almost twenty years later, much less that I would come to rely upon “Claire” for so many things. Here’s just a partial list of the things she’s taught me:

• How to be an active self-promoter

I am one of those writers who would be perfectly content to just hide in my spare bedroom and write book after book after book. Unfortunately, publishing is geared for authors to self-promote their books – which means leaving the tranquility of that office for the big wide world, chatting up strangers, teaching workshops and being a confident public persona. Yikes! What’s an introvert to do?

It started out innocently enough. I played a game with myself that the fabulous successful Claire Delacroix was going to do that booksigning (teach that workshop, talk to those readers) and that I would just watch. The amazing thing was that I had fun with it. Once I got over my initial terror of promoting my books and myself, I started to enjoy it. Over time, Claire just kicked my butt into that first five minutes, and I took over from there. Now I do it without her.

• How to look the part

People have expectations of what successful authors should look like. They also have expectations of what successful romance authors should look like. Some really do expect Barbara Cartland to swan in, wearing a negligee, fake eyelashes and carrying a small frilly dog. In real life, I don’t match any of these expectations. I look like a house renovator, or a gardener, a student or (maybe) an artist, probably because I am all of those things. I needed a better look and Claire knew what it was.

Again, it started simply. I’d see a pair of red shoes and think “I’d never wear those gorgeous shoes, but Claire would.” So, I’d buy them and wear them to a booksigning, where Claire would fulfil everyone’s ideas of what kind of shoes a romance author should have. Soon Claire had half my closet claimed (my poor husband lost out to TWO female wardrobes!) and had jammed the racks with bright silk suits, frilly skirts, beaded evening jackets and elegant cocktail dresses. It was exciting to pack for conference and take all these clothes for Claire to have her moments.

You know what happened next. Just like a naughty sister, I started to steal her clothes. After all, I knew they would fit.

• How to get great covers

I’m not really sure how Claire does this, but she does it virtually every time. Claire has always had great mojo with cover art – it seems that fabulous covers spontaneously manifest when Claire delivers a book. I think it’s because Claire and I love cover art so much and think about it a lot, and that enthusiasm does seem to influence people.

Even though I don’t know how she does it exactly, her touch seems to have transferred to me and my own books. That’s all that matters!

• How to reinvent yourself

Any publishing career of almost twenty years duration will have had its ups and downs. Claire has had some glorious successes and she has also been affected by market changes. But Claire always has another idea up her (fuschia silk) sleeve and she’s always ready to try something new. She’s inventive and daring and isn’t interested when people say she can’t write something because she hasn’t written in that subgenre before. Claire has published medieval romances, paranormal medieval romances, time travel romances, contemporary romances (some people called them mainstream with romantic elements), future set Apocalyptic romance and fantasy with romantic elements. She’s written novellas and books and short stories, and she’s always got another story to tell. The wonderful thing, though, is that there is commonality across her books and that her readers follow her across subgenres. That’s a neat trick. (I’m not sure she even knows how she does that, though.)

Claire doesn’t give up, and that persistence is a very handy trait for an author.

• How to move with the times

The thing with Claire is that I never expected her to hang around for so long. I always thought that eventually I’d write under my own name. Now that I do, I keep expecting Claire to disappear into the history of my life. But Claire doesn’t do disappearing acts – it’s becoming clear to me that she’s not going anywhere. This is more than reinventing herself – this is about adapting to changes in the marketplace. When I teach workshops, I always say that change is the only constant in publishing, and Claire is really good at dealing with change. She’s sure-footed and (ahem) smart and she seems to have a knack for figuring out just how to strategically position herself and her work.

For example, Claire is the part of me who is exploring digital self-publishing, that powerful new trend in the market. This year, she’s on a mission to get a lot of the reverted Claire Delacroix backlist available in digital editions. The most recent digital release is THE BEAUTY BRIDE, book #1 of my Jewels of Kinfairlie series. The next two books in that trilogy (THE RED ROSE BRIDE and THE SNOW WHITE BRIDE) will be digitally released in August and September, respectively.

And you know, I’m glad Claire is sticking around. I’ve gotten used to her and I’m pretty sure she still has some more things to teach me. I’ve taught her a few things, too, but that will have to be saved for another post!

Do you write under a pseudonym? Do you like it, or would you rather write under your own name? As a reader, do you follow favourite authors across subgenres, or do you tend to read only under one of their author brands?

What’s your answer to Deb/Claire’s question?  Are you happy to follow authors across subgenres?  One person who comments will win a signed, print copy of The Beauty Bride!


We Have A Winner!

The winner of Miranda Neville’s latest book, The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton is Tina Simon.  Congratulations, Tina!  I’ll be in touch soon.

Thanks to everyone for stopping by the blog.  Tomorrow I have a special guest blogger – Deborah Cooke!  Deb is a NY Times bestselling author who also writes as Claire Delacroix.   You’ll all want to be here for that, as Deb talks about the joys of writing with two alter-egos.