Monday, February 13, 2017

History of #ValentinesDay ~ Happy #Valentines Day!

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and in the tradition of dedicating my blog to a bit of history about certain holidays and traditions (See New Year'sSaint Nick and Santa ClausFinding Easter's Date, and Saint Patrick for a few others), I decided to look into the facts behind St. Valentine and the reasons we celebrate love and romance on February 14th.  Turns out, there is quite a bit of conflicting information regarding this particular saint and the holiday named for him. Disclaimer: as always, please keep in mind I am a romance author by trade, not a historian!  

The name Valentine comes from the Latin word "valens" which means healthy or strong.  The derivation Valentine was a popular name between the 2nd and 8th centuries AD, which could explain part of the confusion surrounding this saint.

St. Valentine Kneeling in
Supplication by David Teniers III
Public Domain *Attribution below
The Valentine remembered on February 14 was a third century Roman Saint martyred and buried in a cemetery on the Via Flaminia, an ancient Roman Road.  It's possible that early references to Saint Valentine actually referred to several saints with the same name.  Sources including The Catholic Encyclopedia mention three Saint Valentines connected to the February date: a Roman priest and a bishop, both buried along the Via Flaminia, and a saint in a Roman province of Africa. Some information points to the first two Valentines actually being the same person.

The details surrounding the acts and eventual martyrdom of Valentine are also hazy.  Common threads point to an account of Valentine performing a miracle (restoring the sight of a young girl), aiding Christians and encouraging others to embrace Christianity.  While imprisoned, he refused to renounce his faith and was executed.  

Pope Gelasius I established the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14 in 496, acknowledging that while not many details were known about Valentine, his acts were known to God.

The more modern traditions connecting Saint Valentine's Day to romantic love date to the fourteenth century and are generally attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer, "the Father of English Literature", and his circle of friends.  In the Middle Ages, birds were thought to pair in mid-February, and in his poem "Parliament of Foules" there is mention of February 14th being the day birds as well as humans find a mate.  

Now that St. Valentine's Day is linked to celebrating romance, common themes include cards, flowers, candy, hearts, and of course, a focus on love stories.  Why not download a page-turning romance novel and enjoy the thrill of the characters' journeys as they fall in love?  For steamy romance mixed with spooky suspense, try #1 Kindle Bestseller GULL HARBOR, where a medium encounters both a dangerous ghost and an ex-boyfriend in a sleepy Cape Cod town. SILVER LAKE also involves a haunting mystery as a group of estranged friends reunite to try to solve their friend's disappearance...and two star-crossed lovers fight for a second chance.  In DIVINE FALL, an award-winning Young Adult Paranormal Romance, forbidden first love meets supernatural secrets as the last Nephilim seeks his revenge.

A little teaser from GULL HARBOR...

You can also send an ebook to a friend to enjoy for less than the price of a card!  (Note - Feb. 14th is also International Book Giving Day!)  Just check on the right hand side for "Send as a gift" and fill in the email address.

Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Reading!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Cape Cod #ValentinesDay #Book Event! #CapeCod #Romance

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special Cape Cod literary event offered by A Book in The Hand!  “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” will feature readings of romantic scenes by eight local authors, everything from flirty to steamy.  I can’t wait to share some of my favorite sexy scenes, as characters I cherish finally succumb to their desire, despite all the obstacles in their way!  The only problem is – which books do I choose?  I’ll probably share some passages from GULL HARBOR and HAUNTED SOULS, since those are my steamier stories, and they are also the two novels set on Cape Cod.  For more info on this event, please read the official flier from ABITH below!  Hope to see you there.

"Hot damn, these two are smokin' hot!" ~
Romance 4 the Beach review of HAUNTED SOULS

ABITH (A Book in the Hand) will meet on Monday, February 13, from 7 to 8:30 pm, at the Jacob Sears Memorial Library, 23 Center Street, East Dennis. This time, ABITH will celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special program: *Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered* and we will explore love in all its literary carnations: good, bad, happy, sad, unrequited, reunited ― and red hot sex.

Eight local authors: Jennifer GostinKatie O’SullivanKathryn Knight, Claudia DillaireArlene KayWilliam H. Richmond, Barbara Struna, and Elizabeth Moisan, all novelists, will read from their published works, and you’ll hear the soft, shy, first flutterings of new love all the way to the steamy afterglow.

There will be time for some Q&A and a bit of discussion. Plus, there will be some Valentine goodies which you may enjoy as the evening progresses.

February 14 is also “International Book Giving Day”. Designed to encourage children to read, it’s a reminder that books make fabulous gifts for people of all ages. All the participating authors will have books for sale ― and they will make great presents for others, and for you!

A little teaser from GULL HARBOR ~ this scene will probably be read!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Love #Romance? A #ValentinesDay #Bloghop #Giveaway! #Rafflecopter

A Time For Love Blog Hop ~ 

Steamy Romance 
Spooky Suspense

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Hop!  February is a time to celebrate love, thanks to St. Valentine's Day on the 14th.  As it turns out, there are conflicting stories regarding the identity and works of the actual Saint Valentine, but what is known for certain is that Pope Gelasius I established the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14 in 496, acknowledging that while not many details were known about Valentine, his acts were known to God.

So how did that turn into a holiday associated with romance, paper hearts, chocolates, and cupid?  These more modern traditions date to the fourteenth century and are generally attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer, "the Father of English Literature", and his circle of friends.  In the Middle Ages, birds were thought to pair in mid-February, and in his poem "Parliament of Foules" there is mention of February 14th being the day birds as well as humans find a mate. In the eighteenth century, it became common for lovers to exchange flowers, cards, and sweet treats.

Cupid is the God of Love, and in Roman mythology he is the son of Venus (Goddess of Love) and Mars (God of War).  In Greek mythology, his counterpart is Eros.  Cupid's power came from his bow and arrow:  those he shot would be struck with overwhelming desire.

Desire, passion, and love are present in all novels in the romance genre, of course, but there are many, many subgenres within romance which serve to appeal to a variety of reader tastes and to create unique stories.  My specialty is steamy romance meets spooky suspense.  I write sexy, tension-filled romance spiked with haunting mysteries to send a few shivers up your spine as well.  It's a mix of genres known as "paranormal romantic suspense", and my #1 Kindle Bestsellers are bound to leave you breathless!  And for lovers of more traditional paranormal romance and/or less heat, I have a Young Adult title as well, featuring a rogue half-angel bent on revenge.

My latest title, Haunted Souls, combines a damaged military hero, a secret baby, and a haunting mystery into a page-turning read set on the shores of Cape Cod.  One of my favorite reviews of this new release came from Romance for the Beach: "Hot damn, these two are smokin' hot!".  Yes, the chemistry is there, but this is also a tale of forgiveness and redemption, "packed with angst, turmoil, danger, and romance" (Splashes Into Books).

You can find this title on: Kindle ~ Nook ~ iTunes.  

A sexy teaser from GULL HARBOR!

And as a thank you for stopping by, I'll gift one lucky commenter an e-copy of either Gull Harbor (a dangerous ghost and an ex-boyfriend await Claire...) or the YA novel Divine Fall (Revenge, romance, and a rogue fallen angel...) for Valentine's Day!  Please remember to leave an email or Twitter handle in the comments if you'd like to enter, so the winner can be reached.  And for our overall blog hop giveaways, we have TWO $50 gift cards, which will go to two lucky entries into our Rafflecopter below (click the arrow on the top of the Rafflecopter to make sure you enter that one too!).  And don't forget to Hop along all the blogs involved for more prizes and Valentine's fun ~ list of links is below.  Good luck and Happy Valentine's Day!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To WIN prizes, collect freebies, and meet awesome authors simply visit each page below

1.The Perfect Time For Love ~ Casi McLean2.Spunk & Hunks ~ Anna Durand
3.Love in the Month of February ~ Mary Morgan4.Love Potions and Charms ~ Sorchia Dubois
5.He said he wasn't the romantic kind of guy, but... ~ Peggy Jaeger6.Love and War ~ Gini Rifkin
7.Sexy Chocolate Cakes ~ Kayden Claremont8.50 Great Date Ideas ~ Devon Mckay
9.Hearts Abound ~ Tena Stetler10.Love Every Day ~ Darlene Fredette
11.Importance of Valentines Day ~ Maureen Bonatch12.Souls Forever Bound ~ Judith Sterling
13.Mysterious Origins of Valentine's Day ~ Barbara Bettis14.A Romantic Valentine Dinner ~ Jana Richards
15.Steamy Romance Meets Spooky Suspense ~ Kathryn Knight16.Book Bling ~ Elizabeth Alsobrooks
17.Sweet Romances ~ Katherine McDermott18.Historical Heartbeats ~ Brenda B. Taylor
19.An Awesome Bewitching Author Valentines Day ~ Lisa Voisin20.Idea City ~ Kitsy Clare/Catherine Stine
21.Welcome to the ABA Valentine Hop ~ Linda Nightingale22.Bridie Hall YA Author ~ Bridie Hall
23.A Time For Love Valentine Blog Hop ~ Amber Daulton24.'Out Of This World' Romance ~ Hywela Lyn
25.Time Travel For Love ~ Karen Michelle Nutt26.Valentine's Day - A Family Tradition ~ Holland Rae
27.Historical Heartbeats

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My 5 Favorite #Ghost #Movies ~ #haunted house #haunting

I have a bit of an obsession with ghosts, as anyone who has read my books knows -- three of my novels feature a haunting as well as some steamy romance (HAUNTED SOULS just released as of June 2016!).  I've made lists before of my favorite ghost stories in terms of books, but I do enjoy the movies as well...whenever my sister comes to visit, we usually have a marathon watch of creepy films.  Anything paranormal will do, but the ones with a spooky and convincing ghostly presence get top billing.  Over the years, a few have really resonated with me, and helped inspire my novels.  Keep in mind, I'm no movie critic...I just found these films to have the solid backbone of a believable ghost story, with a decent mystery behind the haunting, as well as a lack of the plot holes I find in so many others.  The suspense kept me guessing, and certain scenes gave me serious chills.  I'll try to throw a little blurb out there for each one without revealing too many spoilers, in case you'd like to give one a try!

Such a spine-chilling scene
The Changeling - 1980 - George C. Scott stars as a widower who moves into a spooky old house in Seattle in the beginning of this film.  The ghost of a young boy inhabits the house, and the tragedy that befell him will eventually expose a cruel plot.  Now, the ghost wants justice, and Scott's character, plagued by scary surprises and terrifying noises, begins to investigate the mystery.  Admittedly, it's an oldie...and at the risk of dating myself, it was one of my favorites when I was in middle school.  In fact, my best friend had an upstairs bedroom that opened upon an attic that bore a spine-tingling resemblance to the one in the movie...late at night, we'd scare ourselves silly imagining that ball bouncing down the stairs.

A Stir of Echoes - 1999 - a film starring Kevin Bacon, loosely based on a novel by Richard Matheson (also the author of Hell House and I Am Legend, among others).  Bacon's character, Tom, has a son who seems to possess the ability to speak with the dead...and there is something in their house that wants to be heard.  After being hypnotized at a party, Tom begins to experience visions as well, of a violent altercation which is tied to a neighbor's disappearance.  Clearly the desperate spirit wants its body found, but there are others with a vested interest in making sure that doesn't happen.

Such a creepy poster!

What Lies Beneath - 2000 - starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford (two of my favorites!)  Claire (Pfeiffer) and Norman (Ford) are a married couple living in Vermont; Claire is suffering from a memory lapse due to an accident.  When strange occurrences begin plaguing Claire, she investigates a possible killing in the neighborhood.  There is a ghost trying to communicate with Claire, but it's not who she first believes it is...and the spirit is not the only one hiding dangerous secrets.  (Update: a reader recently left a review of my debut novel SILVER LAKE, saying if you liked What Lies Beneath, you'd like this book.  I was thrilled with the comparison!)

The Orphanage - 2007 - a Spanish film set in...yes, a closed orphanage...along the Spanish coast in 1975.  My sister and I watched this one with subtitles, but I believe a remake is in the works.  This movie is dark, but full of creepy atmosphere and amazing cinematography.  The basic plot involves a couple and their adopted son returning to the orphanage where the mother once lived.  The family's plan is to reopen the old building as a home for disabled children, but their son soon claims to have befriended a boy named Tomas.  Terrible things happened here, and the truth will come out before the spirits can rest. (Side note - I recently signed a permission slip for my son to watch this in his high school Spanish class!  I was so jealous and of course, he, being a fan of ghost stories like his mom, loved it.)

The Others - 2001 - Nicole Kidman plays Grace, a mother residing in a remote manor with her two young children after World War II.  Both children must avoid exposure to sunlight due to a rare condition, so as you can imagine, the shadowy, secluded house presents itself as the perfect gothic setting for the mysterious events to unfold.  There's quite a bit of psychological suspense in this one too, so I don't want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoilers. 

In most of these movies, there is a very similar theme: a desperate spirit who cannot rest because of unfinished business.  The ghost seeks revenge or justice, or wants its story told or its remains found.  Barriers to communication make this difficult, but not impossible.  These are all ideas that inspired my first two novels, SILVER LAKE and GULL HARBOR.  Of course, there are many other ghost movies I've enjoyed that rely more on terrifying imagery than an underlying mystery to ramp up the screams, or that veer more into what I would categorize as demons/possession tropes.  Still fun to watch, but my mind usually can't stop looking for an answer to the question, "Why is this happening?" (ie, motive - even ghosts should have one imho).  But even if the motive turns out to be shaky, or the plot leaves a few unfilled holes, I'll take a creepy thriller over gunfights and explosions any day!  So please share your favorite ghost movies below, especially any "lesser-known" ones, so I can add them to my list!  Thanks for stopping by :)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Fiction #Writing Course in #Falmouth Cape Cod #amwriting

Short and sweet post - my latest Fiction Writing and Publication course begins soon!  This one is offered by the Falmouth Community School, and the description and registration info can be found here:  Course link.  

Writers at any stage of their journeys are welcome.  The course is a 5-week evening class from 6-8 pm.  If you're in the Cape Cod area, and writing a novel has always been your dream, check out the link!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"Kept me on my toes" L&S #Review of #Haunted Souls #romance

Reviews are hard to come by these days, so I was thrilled to see Long and Short Reviews, a prominent and popular review site, chose to review Haunted Souls, and even more thrilled, of course, that the reviewer enjoyed the story!  The reviewer said it "kept me on my toes wanting to know more" and that the author "didn't disappoint."

Haunted Souls was one of the Top 3 Books of 2016 at Read!

I particularly love the introduction, which points out that the title refers to Haunted Souls as "both the paranormal ghost variety and live souls/people with pasts that haunt them day and night."  There is a desperate spirit in this book, but the main characters, Emily and Brett, both have had experiences and made choices that haunt them.  
The link the review is below, and the Amazon link can be found here.  If you're looking for "a great romance with a hint of mystery", give Haunted Souls a try!

Steamy Romance + Spooky Suspense ~ "a perfect combo"

Thursday, January 19, 2017

#Books for Boys~ Teen Version Upper #YA #amreading

My younger son, attempting
to read while standing up
on the crowded tube in
London (the A Song of Ice
and Fire series)
Hands down, my absolute favorite pastime is reading...even more so than writing.  I've literally never been bored in my life, thanks to my love of reading, and things like waits in airports and doctors' offices make me happy, because it's an excuse to read.  I've done my best to instill my love of reading in my kids, but it hasn't always been easy.  It requires a bit of work on my part, in terms of searching out the type of books that capture their attention fast, and that can actually compete with all the technology available to kids today.  But I'm up for the challenge!

My first Books for Boys post (written in 2014, when my boys were 12 and 15), was so popular, in terms of hits, that I followed it with More Books for Boys a few months later.  Now, my kids are 15 and 18 (how did that happen?), so I thought I'd write about a few other series that have been favorites of my sons in the past few years.  Both boys are very picky, one because he's a reluctant reader, and the other because he's such an avid reader, with an author for a mother, that he's able to quickly vocalize things he doesn't like...i.e., he'll tell me there's no hook, the pace is too slow, etc. -- what can I say to that?  Those are all valid complaints, and I can't argue that he's at least picked up some of the topics I teach in my writing classes.  So hopefully these suggestions will work for other teenage boys looking for page-turning entertainment!  Fair warning, me, my boys appreciate some pulse-pounding, life-or-death action, as well as some scary scenes that up the stakes for the characters.  Younger teens or those who don't like that sort of thing might want to avoid the scarier titles.

The Loners (Book 1 of The Quarantine series) by Lex Thomas: a YA dystopian thriller series described as "Lord of the Flies in a 21st century high school setting".  When a high school devolves into chaos following a military quarantine, survival becomes a desperate challenge.  With no adults left inside to fill the vacuum of authority, violent gangs form as social cliques band together to maintain strength in numbers.  But protagonist David Thorpe and his younger brother, Will, have been always been loners...and now, it's just the two of them against the rest of the students.

My kids could NOT put these books down, even my older reluctant reader.  In fact, when I packed the second in the series for him for our trip to London, he finished it in a few days and I had to download the next one and share my Kindle!  Comparisons have been made to popular YA novels The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and Gone, so any fans of those books might want to give this series a try!  The books are: The Loners, The Saints, The Burnouts, and the latest release, The Giant.

These covers alone are super creepy!

Lockdown (Book 1 of Escape from Furnace series) by Alexander Gordon Smith: another survival-type thriller, this time set in a hellish prison for teen offenders called Furnace.  There are many terrors lurking in the prison, and when the protagonist Alex realizes justice will not help save him from this nightmare, he devises an escape plan--but the secrets he learns about the Furnace soon put him in even more danger.  Fast-paced action and enough scares to keep readers engaged.  Books in the series include Lockdown, Solitary, Death Sentence, Fugitives, and Execution.  

There have been a few different covers
for these amazing books

A Game of Thrones (Book 1 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series) by George R.R. Martin: *not* a YA series, but the inspiration for the very popular HBO show featuring the dark high fantasy series filled with amazing characters, dramatic plot twists, epic battles, and unrelenting action in the quest not just for power and control, but for human survival as well.  

As I mentioned, this is not a YA series, and there is heavy subject matter and scenes with sex and violence.  Unfortunately, actual history is filled with similar incidents, so we use these topics as a springboard for conversation (for example, the main plot is loosely based on The Wars of the Roses in England). So, yes, I let my teens watch the show, which certainly employs some racy scenes.  But there are only a few things my two teen boys want to do with me, and watching the show based on books I raved about is one of them.  The show veered away from the books in a number of very significant ways, so I mentioned they might want to read the novels to not only see what happens in the books, but to discover plot points, backstories, and characters that never made it into the show.  This worked on my younger son, and he tore through all five huge novels, and now we both anxiously await the sixth.  The books are: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons.  These books were also part of my annual "Favorites Books" post for 2012.

The Gunslinger (Book 1 in The Dark Tower series) by Stephen King: Another epic high fantasy series with a memorable cast of characters on a quest to find The Dark Tower, complete with touches of the spine-tingling horror King is known for.  The journey through this world, which has "moved on", takes readers through bleak landscapes, deserted cities, desolate beaches, and magical spots that connect to our own world.  While my kids haven't read these yet, almost everyone I know who has liked Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire has also enjoyed The Dark Tower.  It's now being made into a movie, so I've purchased the first book to get them started before it comes out.

So there you have it, what my teens have been reading this past year.  Feel free to add your own suggestions in comments below!