Saturday, August 23, 2014

Outlander and the Greatest Scottish Historical Romance Author

Photo from Starz

We all have it, and it's highly contagious. What is it? Outlander fever.

I must confess that I've never read Diana Gabaldon's epic tale nor will I be reading it anytime soon. Now hear me out before you judge because there is a method to my madness.

As a Scottish historical romance author, I pretty much make it a point not to read other Scottish authors because I don't want to be influenced by someone else's idea. I want my stories to be fresh and know that the crazy ideas I come up with are my own.


There was no way on God's green earth that I was going to miss watching the magnificent Scottish countryside, and I sure as heck wasn't going to miss men in kilts speaking Gaelic! Och, I've watched, and I've DVR'd so that I can long for Scotland again and again. 

I've been watching Outlander every week with my daughter and she always provides commentary during the show. I especially enjoy the 50 questions asked in the middle of conversations between Jamie and Claire.

"You write this stuff. How would you write it? What would you write next? Would you have written that scene that way?"

These are the types of questions asked ALL THROUGH THE SHOW. You the point I'm sushing my lovely teenager. As we sat and watched the latest episode, my daughter continued her interrogation of me.

"There isn't enough of Jamie and Claire together in this episode. Is that what you would've done?"

I'm not sure why I did this, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity. We get to a point in the show where I've seen that particular moment in a clip a million times on-line. I recited about four lines from memory and spoke at the same time as Jamie. My daughter's eyes widened, her jaw dropped, and she said, "How in the world did you know that? Seriously. How did you know? That was incredible!"

I shrugged with indifference. "I don't know. You asked me how I would write it. Scottish historical romance author, remember?"

"Mom, you are AMAZING! I knew you were good, but that was GREAT! You are really awesome!"

What she doesn't know won't hurt her. I know. I'm verra bad.

Want an autographed copy of ANY of my books? Order now through Turn the Page Bookstore and I'll sign them for you at the September 13th event. Turn the Page will mail the books out to you that week.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

First Chapter Teaser

Rain, rain, go away. Seriously, go away.

It wasn't too long ago that we were all complaining about the frigid temperatures and the white stuff that refused to leave. I swear that was the longest winter ever. Now we find ourselves blessed (or cursed) with humidity and rain that won't quit. Ugh. I'm a 70 degrees kind of girl. If you can adapt to that kind of weather, more power to you. I guess that's why I hide behind my computer and the air conditioning.

I hope you're enjoying your summer. I'm getting pretty excited about the upcoming release of My Highland Spy, the first in my new Highland Spies' series, and I hope you are too. I still sigh when I see that dreamy Jon Paul cover.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you can expect in September.

* * *
London, England, 1609

She had made a deal with the devil, King James to be precise.

Lady Ravenna Walsingham silently cursed her liege as she stood huddled against the darkened wall of an alley near the London docks. She closed her eyes as a light rain misted her face. Although she felt miserable, she knew the information she sought would assist the Crown in discovering the latest conspiracy against it.

She pulled her heavy cloak tighter around herself, shivering from a sudden chill. The cold could have been due to the scantily clad clothing she wore underneath, but she quickly pushed back the thought. All she needed was to catch a glimpse of who dastardly Lord Cobham was conversing with in the latest string of unsavory establishments.

She wiped the drops from her face and had just taken a step forward when a couple of drunken men walked out of the Devil’s Tavern. As the sound of laughter approached her, she backed hastily into the shadows. The men passed her and she studied them closely. To her regret, neither man was Lord Cobham. Although the light barely illuminated their features, she knew the man she sought was shorter—at least a head shorter than she was.

The rain hardened as Ravenna quivered against the wall like a drowned rat. Lord Cobham was more than likely not coming out any time soon. That’s when she decided to hurry things along and make her move. Besides, if she didn’t meet her driver, George, within the hour, he would undoubtedly come looking for her. The faster she could determine the person or persons with whom Lord Cobham was conspiring, the better. She was tired, cold, and wet, and wanted to be home where a warm bed awaited her.

She made her way toward the back of the brick building. The stairs leading to the door were dark. Of course they were. Was it too much to ask for at least one assignment that worked in her favor? She climbed the steps carefully and tried not to stumble over her own two feet. Fumbling for the door, she found the latch and discreetly entered.

The small room looked like a crowded hovel, and she suddenly had a strong desire to bathe. More than a handful of women readied their hair in the looking glass as the sound of boisterous laughter came from the adjoining room. The women wore little clothing, which reminded Ravenna to remove her cloak. She tossed her protective garment into the corner and placed her arm over her chest. She suddenly felt very open to the view of others—not to mention that her laced bodice left very little to the imagination.

A large-bellied man came into the room and waved the women out. “Make haste, ladies. My customers need to be served. You can’t do that if you spend all your time in here pampering yourselves.” As one of the women walked by, the burly man slapped her on the bottom. He looked up, and his cold, dark eyes met Ravenna’s. “You’re the new girl, but you will quickly learn your place. Don’t just stand here staring at me. Get out there.”

Ravenna nodded and rushed past the man, feeling his gaze upon her. She followed the lead of the other women and picked up a tray from the table. As she looked around the smoke-filled room packed with men, she noted the large barrels and ship masts built right into the structure. Being so close to the River Thames, she could see why. The tavern was often frequented by men of the sea, but she knew not to be fooled.

The Devil’s Tavern held many secrets.

The establishment was notorious for housing smugglers, cutthroats, thieves, and pirates. If Lord Cobham was meeting anyone here to further promote his illicit behavior, she was going to find out.

Without warning, Ravenna was roughly pulled down onto a lap. The man’s breath reeked of ale and he smiled, fingering her locks.

“This place keeps getting better and better. I haven’t seen you here before.” He lowered his head and sniffed down her body. “Mmm…you smell of lavender.”

She didn’t think it wise to tell the man what he smelled like so she politely nodded. When she tried to stand, he pulled her back down and held her with a firm grip.

“Let me tell you a little secret.” He lowered his voice and leaned forward. “I think you are by far my favorite.” His hand encircled her breast, and it took all of Ravenna’s might not to slap him. And that’s when she looked up and noticed the men.

Dear God.

Lord Cobham was walking straight toward her. She hastily glanced to Cobham’s right and saw Charles Paget. What was he doing here? She couldn’t risk being spotted, so she did the first thing that came to mind. She turned in the lap of the man who held her and brought his lips to hers.

The man’s comrades cheered him on, and his hands roamed all over Ravenna in places they shouldn’t. She had to endure quite a repulsive kiss and felt as though she needed a cloth to wipe away the slobber that had escaped the man’s lips. How she despised this part of the masquerade! Only when she was confident that the two men had departed did she dare pull back, attempting not to think about the bile that rose in the back of her throat.

She placed her finger to the man’s lips. “I have something for you. I’ll be right back.” When the man nodded, as she knew he would, she made her escape to the back room. She didn’t want to spend another moment in that place. Grabbing her cloak from the corner, she bolted out the door.

She did not look back.

What was Lord Cobham doing with Charles Paget? She thought Paget was still in Paris. No matter, she would simply give the information to her uncle. She wrapped her cloak tighter around herself as the cool breeze whipped her cheeks. She walked with long, purposeful strides, clutching the dagger in her pocket. She didn’t like walking the streets of London by herself, let alone by the docks in the darkened hours of the night. One of these days her luck was going to run out. She prayed it was not at this moment.

Her uncle’s carriage waiting at the end of the dimly lit street was a welcome sight. George climbed down upon her approach and extended his hand. He was a large man with graying hair at the temples and stood well over six feet tall. He always aided her when she needed protection from places like the Devil’s Tavern.

“Lady Walsingham, did you find what you were looking for?”

“Thankfully, yes.”

“Home, my lady?”

“Yes, please.”

Ravenna climbed into the coach and breathed a sigh of relief. She sat back, closed her tired eyes, and fell asleep to the gentle, rhythmic movement of the carriage and the sound of clomping hoofbeats. When the carriage suddenly stopped, she was jolted awake.

“My lady, we have arrived.”

She took George’s hand and climbed down. “Thank you. Could you please ask my uncle to pay me a visit on the morrow?”

He nodded. “Of course. Have a pleasant evening, Lady Walsingham.”

Ravenna walked to the front of the manor house and quietly opened the heavy door. It was nearly midnight and the house was silent. Her sisters were already in bed. She hated when she had to be away from them, but at least she would be there in the morning as the girls broke their fast.

She lifted her cloak and climbed the steps on the tips of her toes. As she made her way down the hall to her bedchamber, she passed the family portraits that hung on the wall. She could feel her father’s gaze upon her and couldn’t help but wonder what he would think of her now. She closed the door to her chamber, and when she heard the soft click of the latch, she sighed. Removing her cloak, she tossed it onto a chair as a faint smell of smoke invaded her senses.

A voice spoke from her bed and Ravenna jumped.

“Where the hell have you been? And what in the name of God are you wearing?”

My Highland Spy is now available for pre-order! 
Barnes & Noble
Chapters Indigo

Monday, April 21, 2014

X Marks the Scot Wins Big

Aye! That's my Highland hero!

Imagine my surprise when Declan MacGregor and Lady Liadain Campbell's story was nominated for a 2013 RT Reviewers' Choice award for Best Medieval Romance. Yep, I was thrilled. I had already planned on traveling to New Orleans, LA in May to attend the RT Booklovers' Convention so this nomination was clearly an added bonus. 

Funny story about that...

My sister is coming with me to the convention, and she was thrilled when she heard that X Marks the Scot was nominated. However, when my 13 year old daughter found out, she wasn't too happy. She was ticked off at mom because she wanted to travel to New Orleans, too. Not wanting to hear the sob stories of a teenager, I did what any mom would do. I told her that if I win, she could come along. Who would've thought in a million years... And that was the end of it. Nothing more, nothing less. I thought I was the smartest mom in the world.

And then I won...

I was so excited to hear the news. Declan and Liadain won the RT Reviewers' Choice award! Apparently, I wasn't the only one elated. When my daughter found out that I'd won the award, she jumped up and down, gave me a hug, and she was so happy.

"We're going to have so much fun in New Orleans! When are you going to buy my ticket?"

Och, aye. Need I say more? Little did I realize that wee slip of the tongue would cost me plenty. First, I booked her flight, and then I realized said teenager had no clothes for New Orleans. She also kindly reminded me of that fact, many times. 

"How can I go to the awards ceremony without the perfect dress and shoes? I'm your daughter." 

I think you get the picture, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm so honored that my sister and my daughter will be able to share this moment with me. I was even more thrilled to discover that my daughter decided to bail on me at the Giant Book Fair, only to stalk Charlaine Harris. *shakes head*   

If anyone is going to the RT Convention, please make sure you stop by and say hello. I hope you'll attend the awards ceremony and will be there to cheer me on! I'm a wee bit nervous.

He was a Highland Rogue—Wicked with a Bow and Just as Wicked with the Ladies.
Declan MacGregor hadn't a care in the world beyond finding a soft bed and a willing woman...until he had to escort Lady Liadain Campbell to the English court. The woman needles him at every turn, but he can't just abandon her to that vipers' nest without protection.

She Never Asked for a Bodyguard... 

Liadain wasn't thrilled to be left in the care of her clan's archrival. It was as if the man never had a lady tell him no before! And yet as whispers of treason swirl through the court and the threat of danger grows even sharper, her bitter enemy soon becomes the only one she can trust...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cover Reveal for My Highland Spy + Giveaway

Pray allow me to introduce you to my cover for My Highland Spy. *sigh*

Before I had even started taking my writing career seriously, I had forever been a fan of Jon Paul Studios. Hands down, Jon Paul does the most beautiful romance cover art in the industry. I've secretly prayed to have a cover specifically created for me by this fabulous artist because I've literally been mesmerized by Jon's artwork for years. The man simply catches the true essence of romance. 

I've followed Jon Paul on Facebook and drooled over his historical covers more often than I can count. In addition, I've often shared his images on my Facebook page for readers to appreciate the fine quality of work that Jon Paul delivers time and time again. But imagine my surprise when I shared Jon Paul's image below and immediately received an e-mail from my editor. 

"I was going to call you, but then I thought I'd just send you tha bomb... I noticed on FB that you like Jon Paul. Do you know something I don't know?! Because... That Highlander cover JP posted IS YOURS!!!!"

When I read my editor's words, my entire clan thought I was nuts. I flew to my feet, did a little happy dance, and I think that I even screamed at the top of my lungs. Not only that, but I found out the next day that Jon Paul was doing ALL the covers for my new Highland Spies' series! Woot! Can you imagine how elated I am? 

Needless to say, I didn't think that I could top Jon Paul's news for my new book/series, but I quickly realized how I should never assume anything.

Most of you know that I only read my first romance novel in my thirties. Hannah Howell's Murray brothers to be exact. Hannah was one of the Scottish historical authors that sparked this, passion in me. When the gifted Hannah gave me a cover quote, I darn near died.   


—Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author of Highland Master
So without further ado and before I overload on all the excitement, please enjoy the back cover blurb for Laird Ruairi Sutherland and Lady Ravenna Walsingham's story, My Highland Spy

Laird Ruairi Sutherland refuses to send his only son 
away to be educated by the English. And he most 
definitely will not appear in Edinburgh to pay homage 
to a liege who has no respect for Scotland or its 
people. So he does what any laird would do—he lies 
to the king. The last thing Ruairi expects is a beautiful 
English governess to appear on his doorstep.

Lady Ravenna Walsingham is a seasoned spy who is 
sent to the savage Highlands to uncover a nefarious 
plot against the Crown. Playing the part of an English 
governess—a job easier said than done—she infiltrates 
the home of Laird Ruairi Sutherland, a suspected 

Ravenna soon discovers that the only real threat 
Sutherland poses is to her heart. But will the proud 
Highland laird ever forgive her when he discovers the 
woman he loves is an English spy?

Now Available for Pre-Order!
Barnes and Noble 

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment for a chance to win a Highland Spies' t-shirt and an autographed postcard.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two Years and Passing

I know many of you have seen me post this picture of my mom before, but this particular pic captured one of my favorite moments with her so perfectly. We were so happy and had such a great time in California.

It's hard to believe my mom passed away two years ago today. She lost a three month battle with breast cancer. Everyone told me the pain would be easier to bear, but truth be told, there is still not a single day that goes by that she isn't in my thoughts. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sitting for hours on end in the depths of despair, but I do think about her every day, even if only for a moment or two. 

My mom was the strongest woman I knew. In fact, my sister and I used to tell her that she was one tough bitch. lol When she passed, there was no funeral because the last thing the woman desired to be was mourned. Instead, she wanted everyone to celebrate her life. She was a class act up until the end. Many years ago, our elderly neighbor had passed away and his family held a good old-fashioned Irish wake. Although we weren't Irish, that was my mom's wish. How could we possibly refuse such a request?

We threw her a "Celebration of Life" party. Pictures of my mom's life played on a big screen, Motown (Mom's favorite) played in the background, and we knew she would've been proud. We had her friends and family come up to a podium and tell their favorite stories and memories of her.

I thought posting the speech I had written for her party would be fitting for today. 

* * *

Although I feel a tremendous loss upon the death of my mother, I am thankful that she lived to see her daughter's marry, have children of their own, and she had an opportunity to know her grandchildren. My mom was here for every major event in my life, except one.

As most of you already know, my first novel will be released in September. Even though Mom passed away before she was able to share this new adventure with me, I am comforted by the fact that she read my first two bookswhich leads me to an interesting story.

For anyone who knew my mom, the woman was a fan of suspense and mystery-related works. You know, anything from Stephen King to James Patterson. Needless to say, she was not a fan of romance novels. In fact, if one of her favorite authors wrote something remotely close to a scene of an intimate nature, everyone knew Mom paged through the book until she cleared the pages of passion. She'd often say, "I get it. Move on."

When I e-mailed her my first manuscript to read, she called me four hours later and the phone call was sort of like this.

"I finished your manuscript."

There was a heavy silence.

"Once I got through all the romance crap, I could not put it down. Dad came home and I even told him to be quiet until I was done reading it. I have no idea how you did it and kept everything straight. I really enjoyed it. Oh, and I even read the 'intimate' scenes and did not have to page ahead. It was really well-written. You tell a good story."

Now after Mom read my second novel, the conversation was a little different. You see, my hero was a complete rogue who had been known to share many a bed. Mom proceeded to tell me that one of my scenes needed beefed up because if my hero was that much of a rogue, he should be able to go all night long. After I stopped laughing, she went on to say that she'd like me to change the fate of my heroine's mother because she couldn't stand her. I believe Mom's words were something like "she needed to get what was coming to her."

Mom was so incredibly proud of me for this new adventure. On the last day she was fully conscious and lying in the hospital bed, I tried to convince her not to leave us. As any selfish daughter would do, I tried to say anything to keep her here and blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

"You can't leave. You promised you'd be here for my book signing," I said, tears welling in my eyes.

She reached over the rails of the hospital bed and grabbed both my hands. "I will be there. I promise. Always."

I knew she meant in spirit form and Mom was so feisty that I knew she'd be there, too. There are really no words that can accurately portray how I feel about losing my mom. I do know that a part of her will always live in me, pushing me to be better. It is with a heavy heart that the ones left behind must continue to live, but Mom would expect nothing less. She wanted her life to be celebrated and not mourned. She wanted a party and not a funeral. And she wanted everyone to remember her with a gentle fondness and to be able to give her a heartfelt goodbye.

* * *

In loving memory of Rita L. Spak, an autographed copy of X Marks the Scot (Mom's favorite bad boy) and a Bad Boys of the Highlands t-shirt is up for grabs to one lucky commenter. Winner will be chosen on Friday, February 28th.

What's the funniest thing your mother ever did or said? My mom and I had a food fight with Boston Cream pie.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cold Winter Nights

How many of us are tired of this scene? Cold days, cold nights, what's a girl to do?

These sub zero temperatures are just what I need because when the temperature is above twenty degrees, I have a tendency to feel guilty that I should be doing something other than curling up with my laptop in front of the fire. Yet, I long for the days of walking on the beach with sand between my toes.

This weather is far from desirable, but the cold winter nights are a writer's paradise. Love scenes in front of a raging fire. Being stranded in a deserted cabin to shield your loved one from a storm. A Highlander removing his kilt as a makeshift blanket. Och, aye. What was I saying? Oh, yes. The weather can definitely inspire an author.

But sometimes we're fortunate enough when an idea comes out of nowhere. I love those! In my latest novel, To Wed a Wicked Highlander, this was a scene I created in order to torture Lady Sybella MacKenzie. And yes, I had a strong desire to bathe after this one. I was kind enough to leave out the bug scene in the excerpt below. lol

* * *

In the middle of the night, she walked through the darkened halls in her bare feet dressed in nothing more than a nightrail and a blanket. She shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold. The pit was where her father threw the most unsavory of men…until they died. Their faint screams could sometimes be heard from the kitchens. Perhaps her father only had the men escort her to frighten her. Of course, that was it because her sire would never treat her this way. He couldn’t. She was his daughter. The daughter of the MacKenzie laird. A lady.

Sybella quickly pushed back the thought when they descended the cold, damp stairs. The smell overwhelmed her senses, reeking of bodily excrement and making her gag. The guard reached down and lifted the gate from the floor while the other lowered a ladder. They forced her to climb down.

She took one step and tears welled in her eyes. “Please donna do this. I beg ye.”

“We donna question our laird’s command. Please climb down, m’lady.”

With no choice but to descend into the devil’s dungeon, she reached the bottom and the men lifted the ladder. The gate locked over her head and she was embraced by darkness. Muck of unknown origin squeezed between her toes and when she tried to step, she slid and fell into something thick and wet.

She screamed.

The hole was dark and foreboding, and she felt a wretchedness she’d never known before. A raw and primitive grief overwhelmed her. She pulled herself to her feet, and when she slid again on the slimy floor, she sat down.

Sybella felt something move on her lap. She reached down and grabbed a ball of wiry fur, whipping it away from her body. Dear God, her father left her alone with the rats. She gulped hard, hot tears slipping down her cheeks. Perhaps Mary or Colin would hear her.

“Please help me! Please help me! I’m here! I’m here!” she screamed. “Mary! Colin! Help me! Let me out!” When she heard no response, she bellowed, “Mo mhallachd ort!” My curse on you!

When cursing her father didn’t work, Sybella’s tears choked her. Her throat was raw from her screams of terror, her teeth chattered, and her body trembled. A sensation of intense sickness and desolation swept over her.

She jumped.

“Where is the stone, Sybella?” Her father’s voice echoed from above. “Tell me where ’tis and I’ll lower the ladder.”

“Cha leig thu leas.” Don’t bother.

Temptation in a Kilt  2012 RT Reviewers' Choice nominee

X Marks the Scot     2013 RT Reviewers' Choice nominee

To Wed a Wicked Highlander  RT Book Reviews and Night Owl TOP PICK