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First Chapter Excerpt – Guarding Suzannah

Excerpt from

Guarding Suzannah

Book 1 in the Serve and Protect Series

by

Norah Wilson

Copyright © 2010 Norah Wilson

Published by Norah Wilson

 All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 Detective John Quigley stepped inside Courtroom 2, closing the door quietly behind him. One or two people in the small gallery glanced up at him briefly, then returned their attention to the front of the courtroom where a young patrol officer was being sworn in.

Quigg took a seat, glancing around the drab, low-ceilinged, windowless room. Provincial Court. Nothing like the much grander Queen’s Bench courtrooms upstairs or the Court of Appeal chambers on the top floor. But aesthetics aside, they did a brisk business here. In the fifteen years Quigg had spent on the Fredericton force, he’d been responsible for sending quite a few customers through these doors. Doors that all too often turned out to be the revolving kind, the kind that spit offenders right back out on the street to re-offend.

On that thought, Quigg glanced over at the accused. Clean shaven and neatly dressed, he sat off to the right, beside the Sheriff’s deputy. His long hair, drawn back into a ponytail, glinted blue-black under the fluorescent lights. If he were conscious of Quigg’s scrutiny, he didn’t betray it with so much as a twitch of a muscle. Rather, he kept his flat, emotionless gaze trained on the witness.

“Your witness, Mr. Roth.”

At the magistrate’s words, Quigg faced forward again.

“Thank you, Your Honour.” The Crown Prosecutor adjusted his table microphone and directed his first question to the witness. Mike Langan, the impossibly young looking constable in the witness box, responded, his answer clear and concise.

Over the next fifteen minutes, the prosecutor methodically built his case with one carefully chosen question after another. Constable Langan’s manner in the witness box was confident and assured. He referred often to his notebook, which appeared to contain copious, comprehensive notes. Quigg unclenched his fingers and leaned back into his seat. What could go wrong?

Everything.

His gaze slid to the one area of the courtroom he’d so far managed to avoid, the defense table. Suzannah Phelps. There she sat, primly erect, all that straight blond hair pulled up into a knot at the back of her head. Even under the black tent-like court robes, she still managed to look model elegant. His pulse took a little kick.

Dammit, why did he do this to himself? He didn’t have to be here. He was off today. He didn’t have even a glancing involvement with this case, or with Constable Langan.

Because you’re a bloody masochist.

“Any questions on cross, Ms. Phelps?”

The magistrate’s voice cut into Quigg’s thoughts.

“Just a few, Your Honour.”

A few? Yeah, sure.

“Please proceed.”

Quigg glanced at Langan, saw the younger man tense. Relax man. He tried to send the thought telepathically. Don’t let her get to you. Don’t let her see you sweat.

“So, Constable Langan, you didn’t actually see my client flee the crime scene?”

“No, ma’am. Not from the actual scene. But I did see a man fitting the robber’s description running just four blocks from the scene.”

“And who provided this description?”

“The shopkeeper.”

“And the description was…?”

“Native … er, First Nations individual, average height, stocky build, long black hair worn in a ponytail.”

“Were those the shopkeeper’s precise words? First Nations individual?”

“Huh?”

“Did the shopkeeper describe the perpetrator as Native? Native American? First Nations?”

“Not exactly.”

Quigg sank lower in his seat, suppressing a groan. This was gonna be a train wreck and Langan didn’t even know it yet.

“Exactly how did he describe him, then?”

“He made it clear that the individual was Indian.”

“Those were his words, then? Indian?”

“No.” Constable Langan shifted, glancing down at his notebook.

“What were his precise words, Constable?”

Langan glanced at the judge, then back at Suzannah Phelps. “I believe his precise words were, wagon burner.”

“Which you took to mean a member of the First Nations?”

“Yes.”

Quigg massaged his temple. Ah, Christ, here we go.

“Thank you, Constable.”

Her voice was polite, prim, even. Which just served to show that sharks came in all kinds of guises.

Suzannah glanced down at her notes, then back at the hapless witness. “So, Constable Langan, could you take a guess how many males from our Native population would fit that description?”

“Objection, Your Honour. We have eye-witness testimony from the shop owner that the accused is the individual who committed the robbery. He was picked out from a lineup containing no fewer than ten Native men of similar ages and builds.”

Finally! An objection from the Crown. Quigg resisted the urge to rake a hand through his hair.

“As my learned friend knows, I could cite dozens of cases where eye-witness identification put innocent men behind bars,” responded Suzannah. “And those were cases where the perpetrators’ faces were not partially obscured by a kerchief.”

“Point taken.” The judge leaned forward. “Your objection is overruled, Mr. Roth. You may proceed, Ms. Phelps.”

“Thank you, Judge.” She turned back to the witness. “Again, Constable Langan, in your opinion, can you tell me how many males of Mi’kmaq or Maliseet descent could answer to that description: medium height, stocky build, black hair?”

A pause. “Quite a few, I would imagine.”

“A majority of them?”

“Possibly,” Langan conceded.

“Then any Native male observed within a reasonable radius of the crime scene might have fit your description?”

“Maybe. But then again, there aren’t a lot of them in this particular shopping district.”

Mother of God. Quigg sank even lower in his seat.

“Ah, so my client shouldn’t have been there in the first place, in an exclusive shopping district?”

“That’s not what I meant.” Langan’s face hardened. “This particular Native male was fleeing capture.”

“Is that so?” She made a show of reviewing her notes. “Was my client running when you first spotted him?”

“No.”

“When did he start running?”

“When I cut him off with my vehicle. He was walking fast—I mean, real fast—down the sidewalk, in an easterly direction. I pulled into an alley, blocked him off.”

“And then he fled?”

“Yes. He turned and fled back in a westerly direction.”

“Were your red and blue bar lights flashing when you executed this maneuver?”

“Yes.”

She shuffled some more papers. “Is it conceivable that my client’s flight might have been an ingrained response to perceived police harassment?”

“No!”

“No? Constable Langan, are you a member of a visible minority?”

“No.”

“Objection!”

The judge held up his hand in the prosecutor’s direction. “Overruled.”

“Imagine for a minute that you are a member of a visible minority. What might you do if a police cruiser were to suddenly swing into your path like that?”

Constable Langan bristled. “The guy had the money on him. The exact amount that was later determined to be missing from the cash register.”

“Ah, so now we have a First Nations male, walking where he ought not to, with more money in his pocket than he should have?”

“Money he stole from that shopkeeper at knifepoint!”

Damn, the kid was losing it.

“Ah, yes, the knife.” Suzannah flipped the page on the legal pad in front of her. “A knife which bore no fingerprints and which you haven’t been able to tie to my client.”

“He dumped it down a sewer grate a block from where he was apprehended, two blocks from the scene. He still had the polkadotted blue-and-white handkerchief in his pocket. Give or take the coins in his pockets, he was carrying exactly the amount of money that was stolen. He was ID’d by the shopkeeper…”

Quigg closed his eyes, pressing a thumb and forefinger against his lids. Inside his head, he heard the theme from Jaws.

“Thank you for that summation, Constable, but I think the Crown was planning one of its own.” She flipped another page on her yellow pad. “Since you’re feeling so loquacious, maybe you can answer this question for me—do you yourself ever carry a handkerchief?”

Langan blinked.

“Would you like me to repeat the question, Constable? When you’re off duty, wearing your civilian clothes, do you ever carry one of those polkadotted handkerchiefs? Shoved in a front pocket of your jeans, maybe, or in your coat pocket?”

Five more minutes. That’s all it took to completely decimate the Crown’s case. Not that Roth surrendered without a fight. He called the shopkeeper and adduced his evidence. Evidence which the defense challenged effectively. But by the time Suzannah finished her summation, she’d planted more than just the seed of reasonable doubt. No one in the courtroom was surprised when the judge pronounced his verdict without even a short recess. Not guilty. The prisoner was released.

Quigg stood and slipped out the door as quietly as he’d slipped in.

 

* * *

 

Suzannah stood, turning to scan the gallery. The seats had emptied out, apart from her client’s two female cousins. Certainly the owner of the gaze she’d felt boring into her back for the last half hour was gone.

“Congratulations.”

She turned toward Anthony Roth, whose lean, dark features were wreathed in resignation. Fiercely competitive, he hated to lose, but he was a good prosecutor. He knew his role wasn’t to secure a conviction at any cost; it was to get to the truth.

“Thanks.”

“And you made yourself a brand new friend on Fredericton’s finest, too. Quite a day.”

She grimaced.

When young Mike Langan had finally been excused from the witness box, his body language as he jammed on his hat and tugged at his Kevlar vest had screamed exactly how he felt. Suffice to say he wouldn’t be joining the ranks of the Suzannah Phelps Fan Club any time soon.

That’s how it goes, Suzie-girl. You didn’t get into this business to make friends.

“Couldn’t be helped,” she said lightly. “You know I had to play the cards I was dealt.”

“Of course. I’d have done the same thing in your shoes.” Roth swept his briefcase from the desk. “Fair warning, though. It’ll be different next time we cross swords over this guy.”

“There won’t be a next time.”

His lips lifted in a cynical smile. “Right.”

As soon as the Crown Prosecutor moved off, her client moved in. Gripping her hand in a two-handed clasp, he pumped it enthusiastically. “Thank you, Ms. Phelps.”

“You’re welcome, Leo.” Suzannah withdrew her hand.  “You still interested in a job at the graphics studio I mentioned?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I am.”

She plucked a business card from her briefcase and handed it to him. “Give this lady a call. She agrees you have talent, but you’d have to prove yourself.”

The card disappeared into Leo’s huge hand. “Thanks, Ms. Phelps. This is great.”

“And you’d have to stay clean, Leo. You understand?” She caught his gaze and held it. “Squeaky clean. No more altercations with the police.”

“I understand.”

“I hope you do. You put a foot wrong after this, they’ll be watching.”

He cast a sideways glance at his cousins. “Gotcha.”

“Good. Now get out of here.”

He grinned and was gone.

Suzannah turned back to the desk, her smile fading as she began packing her note pads, law books and files back into the big hard-sided court bag.

Dammit, she’d won, hadn’t she? Why didn’t she feel better?

Made yourself a brand new friend today …  Roth’s words echoed in her head.

“Oh, for pity’s sake.” She was such a baby sometimes. Shoving the last file into her bag, she glanced around the courtroom. Normally, she’d adjourn to the ladies room to remove her court garb, but she could do a striptease in here today and there’d be no one to witness it.

One tug and the white tabbed collar came off. Then the robe, over the head like a choir gown. She ran a hand over her hair to make sure it hadn’t come loose. Satisfied, she folded the robe carefully, stuffed it into a blue velvet sack and pulled the drawstring tight. There. Street ready. She smoothed her pinstriped skirt, slung the sack over her shoulder, hefted her bag and headed for the exit.

Despite the quick change, her getaway was not as clean as she would have liked, however. In the corridor, she ran into Renee LeRoy, half-assed reporter and full-fledged pain-in-the-ass. Suzannah searched her mind for the name of the local weekly Renee worked for, but it eluded her. Not that it mattered. She avoided reading her own press if she possibly could, especially anything this particular woman might have to say.

Well, at least this explained the sensation she’d felt of being watched back there in the courtroom. Suppressing a groan, Suzannah tacked on a pleasant smile. “How’s it going, Renee?”

The other woman didn’t smile back. In fact, her face was set in grim lines more reminiscent of a Russian forward in the ’72 Canada/Russia hockey series than a female reporter. As soon as the thought crossed her mind, Suzannah chastised herself. Her dislike of Renee LeRoy had nothing to do with the other woman’s appearance and everything to do with her attitude.

“I see your client walked away a free man.”

Oh, hell, here we go again. The woman was a broken record. “The burden of proof always rests on the Crown, Renee,” she said reasonably. “This time, they failed to meet that burden.”

“Thanks in no small part to you.”

“Why, thank you.” Suzannah offered a wide if disingenuous smile. “I’d be flattered, except I think any reasonably competent criminal lawyer would have secured an acquittal under the circumstances.”

The reporter’s eyes narrowed. “Doesn’t it keep you awake at night, Ms. Phelps? Doesn’t your conscience ever bother you, knowing you’re helping guilty men go free?”

Suzannah’s lips thinned, along with her patience. Was a little open-mindedness from the press too much to ask? “What would bother me is to see a conviction entered on the quality of the evidence we saw today. My client deserved to be acquitted. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a schedule to keep.”

A minute later, she descended the steps of the Justice Building and crossed the parking lot. The sun had already begun to dip behind the tallest buildings, casting long shadows. Even so, heat rose from the asphalt in shimmering waves.

All of southern New Brunswick had been gripped in a heat wave since the July 1st Canada Day holiday. Like the rest of her pasty-faced compatriots, Suzannah had welcomed the first real taste of summer. Now, almost three weeks later, she cursed the humidity that made perspiration bead between her breasts before she’d even reached her car.

She thought briefly about stowing her case in the BMW’s trunk, but decided that would require too much effort. Instead, she hit the button on her remote to release the door locks. She opened the back door on the driver’s side and tossed the garment bag onto the back seat. She’d started to swing the heavy bag into the vehicle when a flash of color from the front passenger seat caught her eye. She lost her grip on the handles, and the bag collided with the car’s frame and thudded to the pavement.

Oh, God, no. Not again.

 

* * *

 

“Can I give you a hand with that?”

She seemed to just about come out of her skin at his words, whirling to face him. Wide blue eyes locked onto him, and for an instant, Quigg saw fear. Not surprise. Not your garden variety momentary fright when someone startled you. This was real, raw fear. Then it was gone, and she wore her smooth Princess face again.

“Thank you, no. I can manage.”

Her voice was cool, polite, completely assured. Had he imagined the blaze of fear?

Bending, she righted the briefcase, deposited it on the car’s seat and closed the door. She must have expected him to move on, or at least to step back, because when she turned, she wound up standing considerably closer than before. Closer than was comfortable for her. He could see it in the quick lift of her brows, the slight widening of her eyes. But she didn’t step back.

Neither did he.

Damn, she was beautiful. And tall. In those three inch heels that probably cost more than he made in a week, her gaze was level with his. Throw in all that long blond hair that would slide like silk through a man’s hands, and a body that would…

“You’re that cop.”

He blinked. “That cop?”

“Regina vs. Rosneau.”

“Good memory.” They’d secured a conviction on that one, but her client had taken a walk on appeal. Though in truth, Quigg hadn’t minded over much. The dirtball had done it, all right, but strictly speaking, the evidence had been a bit thin. One of those fifty/fifty propositions.

Regina vs. Haynes. That was you, too, right?”

Okay, dammit, that one still stung, although the insult was almost two years old now. Two defendants, separate trials, separate representation, each accused managing to convince a jury the other guy’d done it. Of course, Quigg could take consolation from knowing the noose was closing yet again around Ricky Haynes’ good-for-nothing drug-dealing neck. Haynes had since moved outside the city limits, beyond municipal jurisdiction, but Quigg had it on good authority that the Mounties were building a rock-solid case against him.

Yes, he could take some consolation in that. Some small consolation. Not enough, however, to blunt the slow burn in his gut right now.

“Keep a scrapbook, do you, Ms. Phelps? Or maybe you cut a notch in your little Gucci belt, one for every cop you skewer?”

Something that looked astonishingly like hurt flashed in her eyes, but like before, it was gone before he could be certain he’d really seen it. Then she stepped even closer and smiled, a slow, knowing smile that made him think about skin sliding against skin and sweat-slicked bodies fusing in the dark, and he knew he’d been mistaken. When she extended a slender, ringless finger to trace a circle around a button on his shirt, his heart stumbled, then began to pound.

“Definitely not the belt thing,” she said, her voice as husky and honeyed as his most sex-drenched fantasy. “At the rate you guys self-destruct under cross, there’d be nothing left to hold my trousers up, would there, now, John?”

Then she climbed in her gleaming little Beemer and drove off before his hormone-addled brain divorced her words from her manner and realized he’d been dissed.

Against all reason, he laughed. Lord knew it wasn’t funny. Certainly, young Langan wouldn’t share his mirth.

Of course, the whole thing defied reason, the way it twisted his guts just to look at her. She was rich. She was beautiful. She was sophisticated. She was the daughter of a judge, from a long line of judges. She was … what? He searched his admittedly limited lexicon for an appropriate term. Kennedy-esque.

Meanwhile, his own father had worked in a saw mill; his mother had cleaned other people’s houses. Suzannah Phelps was so far out of his league, there wasn’t even a real word for it.

She was also the woman not-so-affectionately known around the station house as She-Rex. And worse.

Much worse.

Except she hadn’t looked much like a She-Rex when she’d spun around to face him, her face all pale and frightened.

Quigg turned and headed for Queen Street, where he’d parked his car. What had spooked her? Not his sudden appearance. He was sure of that. She might not have much use for cops, but she wasn’t scared of him.

Maybe it was something inside her car.

He’d reached his own car, which sprouted a yellow parking ticket from beneath the windshield wiper. Great. He glanced up, searching traffic. There she was, at the lights a block away.

What could be in her car to make her look like that? Or was he completely off base? Was it a guilty start, not a frightened start? Hard to say. She’d masked it so quickly.

Damn, he was going to have to follow her.

Climbing into his not-so-shiny Taurus, he fired it up, signaled and pulled into traffic.

Even at this hour with the first of the home-bound traffic leaving the downtown core, tailing her was child’s play. As he expected, she headed back to her office. No knocking off early for Suzannah Phelps. She probably put in longer days than he did. Two blocks from her uptown offices, she pulled into another office building’s parking lot. Quigg guided his vehicle into the gas bar next door and watched Suzannah drive to the back of the lot where she parked next to a blue dumpster.

Pretending to consult a map he’d pulled from his glove compartment, Quigg watched her get out of the car and scan the lot. Then she circled the BMW, opened the passenger door and pulled something out. The car itself blocked Quigg’s view, but he saw a flash of mauvey/pinky floral patterned paper. Then she lifted the dumpster’s lid and tossed the object in. Quickly, she rounded the car, climbed in and accelerated out of the lot.

Quigg watched her vehicle travel east along Prospect. When she signaled and turned into her office’s parking lot, he slipped his own car into gear. Thirty seconds later, he lifted the lid to the dumpster.

Flowers? She’d been scared witless by flowers?

More likely by who sent the flowers, he reasoned. Maybe they still had a card attached. Out of habit, he patted his pockets for latex gloves before remembering he didn’t have any on him. He wasn’t on duty. He had some in a first aid kit in his car, but he wasn’t about to dig them out. This wasn’t an investigation.

Well, not a sanctioned one.

Grimacing, he retrieved the prettily wrapped bouquet with his bare hands. The florist’s paper appeared pristine, undisturbed, as though Suzannah hadn’t even looked at the contents. Carefully, he peeled the paper back. Then he dropped the bouquet back into the dumpster.

Holy hell! Long-stemmed red roses. Or rather, what he suspected used to be red roses. Now they were more brown than red. Rusty, like old blood. Dead. Probably a dozen of them.

His mind whirled. How had she known? She hadn’t even opened the wrapper.

Because it wasn’t the first time, obviously.

Because they’d been deposited in her car, right there in the barristers’ parking lot, while she was inside defending Leo Warren. While a commissionaire kept an eye on the lot. While her car doors had no doubt been locked.

No wonder she’d been spooked.

He picked up the bouquet again and examined it closer. No card. There’s a surprise, Sherlock.

Why hadn’t she told him? She knew he was a cop.

Domestic. The answer came instantly. Had to be. She knew the source, but wasn’t prepared to make a complaint because she didn’t want to make trouble for the jerk who’d done this, thereby increasing his rage. How many times had he seen that age-old dynamic in operation?

Except he hadn’t expected it from Suzannah. She was too much of a fighter. What could be going on in her head?

Quigg tossed the bouquet back in the dumpster and closed the lid. Climbing back into the Taurus, he sat for long moments.

He should leave this alone. He knew it.

He also knew he wasn’t going to.

“This, you dumb-ass, is how careers are ruined.”

But she’d called him John. Back there, outside the courthouse, she’d called him by his Christian name. Nobody called him John, except his mother. It was Quigg, or Detective Quigley, or Officer, or even Hey, pig! But back there, while her index finger had traced delicate circles on his chest, she’d called him John.

Stifling a sigh, he keyed the ignition and slipped the Ford into gear.

 

Buy Guarding Suzannah here:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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Workspace Wednesday Welcomes Kris Kennedy

It gives me no end of pleasure to bring you Kris Kennedy today as my Workspace Wednesday guest. Kris is a fellow Rock*It Reads author. I’m looking forward to meeting her in person one of these days, but even electronically, Kris’s personality shines through. She’s smart, insightful, energetic – just the kind of person you want to be around. And she’s extremely talented too! You may have read recently that her book DECEPTION just won Romantic Times’ K.I.S.S. Award for Best Historical Hero earlier this month. Without further ado, here’s Kris…

 

KRIS KENNEDY   When I think about my workspace, I feel ambivalent. I feel happy, for me. I have lots of workspaces, and can move around as the mood strikes me. I also feel sad, for my husband. Because I can move around as the mood strikes me.

I’m what you call a ‘spreader.’ I spread out. These pictures will not capture my utter spreadability. I’m like butter.

I’m also a researcher. A mad researcher. Writing medievals and Elizabethans requires a lot of research, and not all can happen online. I need big, heavy, beautiful books, and they too must spread. All over the house.

Then I must write notes, and mark up the big heavy books, so I can capture the information and be able to find it again. All this paper must move too.

We tried to set me up in an office in our extra bedroom. Bought a nice, big desk, set it front of a window, cleared out all the exercise equipment (at which point I bought a treadmill. My poor husband.) As an office, it totally works. See? I’m all set up.

 

Except, I rarely use the desk. I think it’s the chair. What I do use, without a doubt, is the treadmill desk.

 

Note my high-tech approach to ‘desk’–I laid the cardboard packing materials that came with the treadmill across its arms. It works fabulously! I can’t write fiction on it, but I can do all my online stuff, and burn 500-1000 calories, depending on how long I’m on Twitt— I mean, how long I’m on the treadmill. :)

Oh, that black splotch on the wall at the head of the treadmill? It’s a dress I WILL fit into again—it’s motivation. Or shame. Which is highly motivating. :)

 

Here you can get a peek-a-boo view of the approximately 6,549 research books (only a few are showing here), maps, folders, and scribbled sheets of paper I metabolize. Usually about 298 books are open and in use at any one point (if you look close, you’ll see copious post-it notes.) I write a lot of thoughts down by hand—I’m far too spatial to have everything be online or on the computer. I have old maps on England and Ireland on the walls, my husband got my covers framed, and index cards are taped to another wall, plotting out various plot timelines for stories. (Which I never use. Silly plotting.) I also have my son’s microscope there, as he sometimes brings in fun and exciting items to examine more closely.

 

Downstairs, we see the real nerve center—the dining room table. My husband loves this.

I have to admit, this picture reflects a false reality—there’s usually a lot more books and papers piled up. Over the last weekend, I cleaned up and moved a lot of stuff off the table, since we’re having about 30 people come to a potluck next weekend, and my husband was getting pale at the sight of mountains of research books and paper. “And so…are we gonna get this…when? Were you thinking, what was that? Today?”

Yes, sweetie, today.  :)

I love writing in the dining room, really. Way more than upstairs. And it only takes about 5 minutes every night to shift all the books and papers to the far end of the table so we can eat dinner, so why the heck not use it??  :)

But the sunlight is great (when we get sun), the kitchen is right behind me (probably a bad thing), I can let the dog in and out whenever needed, and when school & work are over and everyone’s home, I’m still part of us. Although seriously, I should probably rethink this approach, because it’s not the most work-conducive. But it is family-conducive, and I guess that’s more important right now.

 

 

Note the accoutrements I get rained down upon me if I stay connected in this way—Playmobil and Legos characters appear in random places at random times, scattered across my keyboard and research papers.

I see I haven’t taken any shots of the living room couch & table in front of it, which is my other workspace. (Refrain: My poor husband.) I sit there and write while they play splash-ball hockey around me, or toss balls over my head.

So if you read any of my books, know that as I try to transport you to another world in the story, I’m probably also transporting you around my house. My family seeps in. My dog, the Lego characters, my son’s laughter as he plays out back with friends, my husband calling to my son to come have a catch, the scent of dinner cooking and the touch of my husband’s hand on my back as he walks by. All because I’m sitting in the dining room aka: nerve center, not in my ‘office.’  :)

Silly offices.

I’ve got TWO books to give away to two commentors! Either THE IRISH WARRIOR or DECEPTION (your choice)! THE IRISH WARRIOR won RWA’s Golden Heart Award just before it was published, and DECEPTION just won Romantic Times’ K.I.S.S. Award for Best Historical Hero just last week!

So, fire away!  Do you think I’m nuts with this set-up? What does your husband/co-workers think of your work environment? Are they properly horrified, or are you the one they wish they could emulate? Is your workspace important to you, or could you write in a box?

 

Kris’s Website   |   Kris’s Twitter   |   Kris’s Facebook   |   Kris on Goodreads   |   Kris’s Amazon Author Page

 

Thank you, Kris. Silly offices, indeed. And great questions. I’m looking forward to reading the comments. Of which I’m sure there will be lots. Here are the two books up for grabs.

 

As his men are slaughtered around him, legendary Irish warrior Finian O’Melaghlin is held captive by the despised English Lord Rardove. Struggling to break free, Finian finds aid from an unlikely source: the beautiful Senna de Valery, who is also trying to escape Rardove’s bloodthirsty grasp. Risking both their lives, Senna releases Finian from his shackles so they can both flee, but their plight has just begun…Seeking safe refuge, Finian and Senna have only each other to depend on for survival. Neither can deny their immediate attraction, but indulging their desires will put them both in grave danger. Finian vows to protect the woman who saved his life, but he soon learns she is a pawn in a much larger battle. For Senna has an unbreakable link to a priceless treasure many centuries old. It is the stuff from which dreams are made and for which men will kill – and not even Finian may be strong enough to save her.

Award-winning author Kris Kennedy brings the treacherous world of thirteenth-century England to life in this scorching romantic adventure!

A dashing con man

Breaking and entering to reclaim her corrupt late father’s ledger comes surprisingly easily to Sophia Darnly. But is it mere coincidence that her misdeed unexpectedly reunites her with Kier, the outlaw lover who abandoned her years ago?

A lady skilled in trickery

Time has not erased Sophia from Kier’s heart, nor tamed her fiery spirit. She boldly insinuates herself into his plans. But Kier is on a mission of revenge, and can’t allow even the woman he once loved to stop him.

A game that could get them both killed

The danger mounts as they lure the leader of a powerful consortium who needs the fabled Darnly ledger—and all its damning details about the wealthiest merchants of England— to execute his nefarious plan. Their rekindled passion burns hot, but when they discover they too are the targets of a deadly deception, the fate of their love, and of England itself, lies in the balance.

 

Workspace Wednesday welcomes Gail MacMillan

I am so pleased to have one of my local buddies, Gail MacMillan, join me today for Workspace Wednesday. And when I say “local”, that’s relative. Gail lives on New Brunswick’s north shore, while I’m way down here in Fredericton. But we’re fellow NBers, fellow romantic suspense authors and fellow dog lovers.

Gail’s Bio:  A three-time recipient of the prestigious Maxwell Medal, Gail MacMillan is author of twenty-two books. A graduate of Queen’s University with post graduate work in Expository and Narrative Writing at the University of Western Ontario, Gail has had numerous short stories and articles published in Canada, the United States, and Europe, several of which have won awards. Her three books about Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers (the first co-authored with Alison Strang) have met with excellent reviews and are selling well worldwide. Two of her canine books, Biography of a Beagle and Ceilidh’s Quest have won Maxwell Medals from the Dog Writers’ Association of America in NYC as the Best Dog Books in their category in 2002 and 2007 respectively. Gail also writes romantic suspense.

Welcome, Gail! Take it away!

 

 

GAIL MacMILLAN: Thank you, Norah!

When Norah invited me to be her guest on one of her Workplace Wednesday’s spots I was delighted.  Then, as I read more and more about her celebrated guests’ workplaces and saw more and more of their well-appointed and even glamorous writing areas, I began to panic.  I have no such designated place. In fact, I’m more than slightly nomadic in the locations where I choose to write. So, after giving the matter consideration, I decided that honesty is the best policy.  This is my workplace story.

I’ve always written from the time I could first form letters into words so I’d have to say my first workspace was my bed where I sat huddled against my pillows in the glow of a small lamp scribbling in secret long after lights out.  These tales I hid under my bed, afraid to admit to anyone that I dared to attempt to emulate actual authors.  Authors, I believed, were next to the gods on Mount Olympus with their gifts of conjuring stories out of thin air in an absolutely enthralling fashion. I had no right to try to attempt to enter their exalted realm.

But I continued to be a closet (or under the bed one) writer for years.  When I married my husband Ron he discovered my secret addiction and insisted I join a writer’s group.  That did it.  Spurred on by that enthusiastic gathering, I wrote at every possible moment, my favorite spot being the front steps of the two room shack we called our camp in Tabusintac.   I filled notebooks and every scrap of available paper with stories and even short novels.   I bought a second hand manual typewriter and began to write boldly, openly at the kitchen table where any passing neighbor might come upon me.  Third page headlines in the Moncton Times after my first book was published dubbed me the kitchen table novelist.

Later, in attempt to find a quiet place to write, I set up shop on a wobbly-legged card table in a corner of our unfinished basement.  When the kids were finally all in school, I moved my shaky writing centre upstairs to our bedroom.  There I wrote two more books and a bunch of short stories for religious (now called Christian, I believe) magazines.  And just before I moved again, I began to write the dog stories that would take me in a whole new direction.

Two years later we finished our basement.   This remodeling included a small office for me behind the furnace and the room where we were to store our winter’s supply of fire wood.  Thus isolated, I felt I’d be undisturbed to write and write and write.  My husband, bless him, in support of my elusive dream, even built me a beautiful roll top desk that took him an entire winter to complete.

 

 

It didn’t work out.  I soon discovered my imagination couldn’t flare locked away below ground level behind several cords of hardwood with only one small window.  I found myself holding a tablet or notebook on my knee in various brighter, more convivial locations.  Later I’d force myself into that cube in the basement where, thanks to a modest inheritance, I now had a miracle machine…a self correcting typewriter…to transcribe my stories.

These days, a laptop accommodates my moods and fancies.  Summers at our cottage in Tabusintac, I set up in the gazebo out back where I have a lovely view of fields and trees, birds and squirrels, and the occasional fox.  When the chill of late October drives me indoors, I once again become a kitchen table novelist.

 

 

Winters in Bathurst I mostly write at the dining room table (apparently you can take the table away from the girl but you can’t get the girl away from the table).  From my vantage point I have a lovely view of both my backyard and the street in front of the house.  My dogs are my associate editors, always ready to tell me when it’s break time, waiting patiently when it isn’t.

 

 

My office sits alone and uninhabited except for floor-to-ceiling, well-filled book shelves, filing cabinets, and bulletin boards.  We’ve moved the beautiful roll top desk upstairs to Ron’s office.  The expensive typing chair my doctor insisted I needed to keep arms and shoulders pain-free sits gathering dust in front of my old desk top (which still comes into play whenever the laptop is ailing).  I really should be sitting in that chair, in the book-lined office, isolated from the rest of the house and neighborhood, working like a rented mule, but I just can’t seem to get the hang of it.  Instead, I sit at the dining room table, then sometimes in my grandmother’s rocking chair in the living room and dream up handsome heroes and unstoppable heroines, often in pj’s and slippers.

 

 

I admire the other authors who have been Norah’s guests.  How organized, how professional, how in control they all are.  Maybe someday when we finally build that sunroom we’ve been talking about for years, I, too, will settle down in a single location.  But until then, like the Littlest Hobo, I’ll just keep movin’ on.

 

Thank you, Gail! My favorite thing? That sweet pug. Is he the star on the cover of Holding Off for a Hero by any chance?

 

 

Here’s another of Gail’s romances, set in the wilds of northern New Brunswick.

 

 

She also has some wonderful, award-winning non-fiction books about dogs, like this one:

 

 

Okay, now it’s your turn. Please leave us a comment for a chance to win an ebook copy of Holding Off for a Hero.

 

 

Workspace Wednesday welcomes Roxy Boroughs

Some days I just have to marvel at what a great job I have. I get to create stories for a living! And if that’s not enough, I also get to talk to lots of wonderful authors and persuade them to open up their homes to us so we can peer around their work spaces. Today’s guest is Roxy Boroughs, a fellow Canadian whom I “met” through social media. Some people just shine in that milieu for the genuine, smart and likable people they are. Roxy is one of those people. I am also a fan of her books. But it wasn’t until I researched her bio for this introduction that I realized she is also an accomplished actress! In addition to her appearances on stage and in commercials, she also appeared in the beloved Canadian-produced Degrassi Junior High. I’m so impressed!

Okay, Roxy, over to you!

 

ROXY BOROUGHS:  Thanks so much, Norah, for inviting me to share my workspace. It’s in the second bedroom of the condo I share with my husband. Since the walls are a coffee color, I picked off-white furniture, to brighten things up.

Like many writers, I have a lot of books. And my husband is a university professor, so he has a lot of books. Together, we have a TON of books. We also like movies and music, and own quite a few CDs. I’ll often put on a movie soundtrack when I’m writing to set the mood.

 

 

 

I store DVDs in the closet to the right, along with my scrapbooking materials. You might be able to spy some operas by Richard Wagner on the bookshelf to your left. Those are my husband’s. We went to Seattle a few years ago to see Wagner’s Ring Cycle and I became a convert. Hubby jokes to his students that, after 30-odd years together, I finally understand what he’s talking about.

Above the door are some posters for shows my husband has directed. We met at theater school when we were struggling actors. Now he teaches and I write—both novels and plays.

 

 

Here’s the corner by the closet. And more CDs! Those pink squares on the floor are part of my step exercise equipment. I have a variety of workout tapes and do them in my office when the mood strikes. Though it hasn’t struck recently, I must confess. Lately, I’ve been a fitness slug.

Do you see the stack of plush animals in the corner? I used to have what I call a job-ette, working in a teddy bear shop. We sold tons of Beanie Babies and I collected a few. Mostly white ones. Above those hangs a photo of Marilyn Monroe, who fascinates me. She came so far so fast and then was consumed by fame. In spite of her star quality, she had such vulnerability on the screen. Those opposites make her an intriguing personality to me.

Above the CDs is a life mask of Beethoven, my husband’s #1 hero. Beside him is my filing cabinet, where I keep receipts, articles on writing, and notes for my novels. Above that, and beside Beethoven is a painting of my husband. It was done several years ago when he still had hair! (I often tease him, saying I only married him for his locks.) Here, hubby is striking a melodramatic pose, but I like to think he’s pointing at my chair and telling me to settle my butt in it and get typing.

 

 

I’ve got three other bookcases in the room. Here’s one that holds many of the resources I use. Also quite a few cookbooks. (More are in the closet.) I developed an interest in cooking in the last ten years, after I bought a slow cooker. Until then, I pretty much made spaghetti or pork chops. Now, I’m much more diverse.

A couple of my awards sit on top of this shelf, along with busts of Beethoven, Wagner and Mozart. Behind the door to the room, I keep a calendar with my writing schedule and due dates.

 

 

 

One of the things I particularly like about my office is that the fourth wall is a sliding glass door and I can walk out to a terrace.

 

 

Though not today. I live in Calgary, Alberta and we just got a big dump of snow. But don’t worry. We’ll soon have a Chinook. It’ll be balmy and all the snow will melt. In the summer, I’ll plant my container garden here, with flowers and a few herbs. On nice days, I pull out my little patio set and take my laptop outside to type. For a backdrop, I’ve got a wonderful view of the city center and the Rocky Mountains.

 

 

And because the weather is so changeable in Calgary, I have both an air conditioner and a space heater. (Note another bookcase in behind.)

But where, oh where is my desk in all this? Could it be here?

 

 

I’ll just open one of the doors and…

 

 

May I have a drum roll, please?

 

 

Voila!

I used to have a huge, squat desk that took up the whole wall. When I decided I needed another bookshelf, a tall, thin desk seemed the way to go. And, when my desktop computer died, I purchased a laptop to replace it, so that I’m portable. I just plug it into a large screen.

Around my work area, I have photos of my parents, my big brother and my wonderful husband. There’s a sign that says “Love” to remind me of my theme, a bust of Shakespeare for inspiration, and a little sign to the right that says, “Quit Piddling and Write Your Book.”

Exactly what I’m off to do now.

* * *

Links:

 

A Stranger’s Touch

When her seven-year-old son is kidnapped without a trace, a by-the-book policewoman must put her doubts aside and learn to trust the only man who can help her pick up the trail—a handsome but troubled psychic.

61,000-word Romantic Suspense. Adult language, some violence, sexual situations.

 

Crazy for Cowboy

She’s through with cowboys. But this one’s the ‘reel’ deal.

Equine veterinarian, Emily Grant, has had her share of cowboys, and they always break her heart. After vowing to give them up forever, Brandon Hollister strides into her life.

He’s a different kind of cowboy, one that works on the silver screen. But is he just playing the part when it comes to love? Or can this gorgeous hunk get past a case of mistaken identity, and escape from the “Houston” character he’s portraying, to become the man to win Emily’s heart.

A 50,000-word sweeter romantic comedy.

 

Thank you, Roxy! That was a lovely tour. So many very cool things! But I have to say I adore your hideaway workstation. What a great way to tidy up in a hurry. And what a view from the terrace. I’d love to see it in summer with the container garden.

Okay, on to the giveaway! Roxy has generously offered two prizes:

  1. A $10 electronic gift card from the online bookstore of your choice (e.g., Amazon, B&N, iTunes) PLUS your choice of either A Stranger’s Touch or Crazy for Cowboy in the electronic format of your choice;
  2. Your choice of either A Stranger’s Touch or Crazy for Cowboy in the electronic format of your choice;

As always, all you have to do to qualify for this contest is leave us a comment below. Tell us what you love best about Roxy’s writing workspace. Alternatively, tell us what you think of Roxy’s awesome 80′s perm in that Degrassi clip!  :-)

Workspace Wednesday welcomes Caroline Fyffe

 

I am so happy to have with me today RWA Golden Heart® winner Caroline FyffeI first met Caroline on a indie author loop, where I was impressed by how pleasant, professional and talented she was. I was not a bit surprised when Montlake Romance acquired her wonderful historical western romances, making her a Montlake sister. Take it away, Caroline!

 

Hi! Happy Workspace Wednesday! Thanks, Norah, for having me here. I’m excited to share my world with you and your followers.  

 

 

First, my desk, where I begin around 7 am, break for lunch and run on the treadmill, then resuming until 5 pm  Don’t let the photo fool you! Usually, it’s pretty darn messy, but I did take some time today to straighten it up. What is cool, but I failed to get into the picture, is a big window in front of the desk. I have an awe-inspiring view of a forested area across the street.

 

 

Here you have Caroline’s Corner—as my husband likes to call it—where I go to read, meditate or plot. Sometimes my hubby sits here when I have something troubling me with my WIP and we brainstorm. I call him my ‘plotmeister’. He comes up with some unbelievably creative stuff and has given me several of my secondary storylines! It may look neat now, but I wished I’d opened the armoire to take a photo of the insides. It’s crammed full of writing books, craft manuals, signed novels from my author friends, whatnots and gizmos t’ boot. I love it and couldn’t live without it! It holds the mess that used to live on the floor, desktop, etc.

 

 

Some awards that keep me motivated. Whenever I’m in doubt, sure my story is the lamest thing going, I glance over at the wall to bolster my confidence.

 

 

When I need a mega dose of inspiration I try to get out and do something fun, different, challenging. Here I am with my 22-year-old son, spending the day at Natural Bridge. If you haven’t been there yet, be sure to visit sometime. It’s beautiful and looks just like the scenery in The Last of the Mohicans! (I love that movie!)

 

 

Thanks for letting me visit with you and your readers today, Norah! Love the idea of seeing authors in their workspace, as they create. Before I go, I’d like to ask a quick question. If money were no object, what is the one thing you’d most like to incorporate into your office? I’ll offer a $10 Starbucks Gift Card to one lucky commenter as a ‘Thank you’ for stopping by! For me, I’d love to have a floor to ceiling book shelf, the kind that needs a ladder to reach the top shelf!

 

Montana Dawn - Book One in The McCutcheon Family Series 

Montana Territory, August 1883 – When Luke McCutcheon finds Faith Brown about to give birth in her rickety wagon, his first instincts are to ride for help. Instead, he stays and delivers a beautiful baby girl. Unable to leave the pretty young widow and her little son and newborn unprotected in the Montana wilderness, he brings them along on his family’s cattle drive, to the absolute delight of the other friendly cowboys.

 

Where the Wind Blows – A Prairie Hearts Novel

In the free and untamed Wild West, love might blossom in the most unexpected place…

When the man from the orphanage mistakes Chase Logan for Jessie Strong’s husband, the least Chase can do is help Jessie adopt the child she so desperately wants, the little girl who will be Jessie’s only family in the Wyoming wilderness. Three days are all she asks. Three days pretending to love a woman who is unlike any he has ever known…

Jessie knows it’s chivalry, plain and simple, that spurs Chase Logan to come to her rescue the day little Sarah arrives at her door. A man like him isn’t made for settling down; he is as wild as the land he roams. She should know better than to let down her guard, to allow herself to long for a family and a life with someone she hardly knows. And yet she dares to hope that maybe, just maybe, Chase Logan is the man destined to make all of her dreams come true.

 

Caroline can be found on the web here:

 

Thank you, Caroline! I loved the tour of your office, but I especially love the shot of you at your desk. Gorgeous! You could use that as a publicity photo!

 

As for your question, I’ll play – What I’d love to see in my office is an assistant. LOL!

 

Okay, folks, let’s hear your answer to Caroline’s question. From you comments, we will randomly choose a winner for the covered $10 Starbucks Gift Certificate.

Workspace Wednesday welcomes Kim Law!

 

I met Kim Law when we became sister Montlake authors. Besides being a total sweetheart, Kim is a very talented writer. A multiple Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® finalist, she won her category (contemporary series) in 2009.

 

Take it away, Kim!

 

Welcome, welcome to my lovely (messy) office. And thank you for having me on Workspace Wednesday, Norah! I LOVE seeing other people’s workspaces so I’m thrilled to hang out and show you mine. I just wish I could show you what’s in my mind for my workspace instead of what is in actuality. But alas, since I’m currently stuck with it as is, I figured you all should be too!

 

First, here’s a view from the door. So many of my favorite things! For example, the purple futon. I love purple. Not sure if you can tell, but the walls are a light purple, the curtains are clearly purple, so yes, the futon had to be purple, too. I sit there to write on my laptop sometimes. When I’m drafting, most of the time I do it away from the desktop, so it’s either the futon, my treadmill desk, or propped up in my bed.  Those little pillows on the futon are what I use to shove behind my back to keep me sitting up straight-ish so I can actually stand upright when I get up (yes, back issues. *sigh*)

 

There’s also a mostly full bookshelf to the left with random piles of crap on top, the white board for brainstorming plots (LOVE!!!!) and the mini-fridge hiding in the corner. The fridge contains my…rewards, I’ll say. Mint chocolate M&M’s in the freezer area, and the occasional bottle of wine or two down below. The stuffed animals all came from the husband. The white bear when my very first story got published in a small magazine, and the kissing bears beside it…well, because they kiss. Every romance writer needs kissing bears for inspiration, right?

 

 

Next is the wall on the opposite side of the room. It currently holds the book I just turned in. I plot out my books in a similar but condensed fashion in Excel, but sometimes when I’m struggling in the middle of the story, I need to see the whole big picture, so this was created a couple weeks ago to help me figure out where I needed to weave a bit more of the threads into my story. Behind it is the closet where I’m soon going to install shelving and organized storage space. It’s going to be awesome!! It’s currently a mess. I won’t show you.

 

You’ll also see part of a framed poster behind the right section of the pretty sticky notes. I asked the husband to get this for me for Christmas the year I started writing. It’s a lighthouse entitled VISION, and says: We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by every passing ship. I wholeheartedly agree with this! Do not worry about everybody else, or compare yourselves to them. Figure out what you want and make your path and go get it! In front of the poster is my basket of receipts for 2012 taxes. Yeah, I’m behind in getting those organized.

 

 

Next is my desk. And no, sorry, I didn’t clean it up for this visit. This is pretty much how it typically looks when I’m writing. To the left are spreadsheets and notes on the story I’m working on (along with misc receipts my husband gave me to log yesterday), my many pads of sticky notes, and a pencil cup you can just barely see that reads “My Spreadsheets Kick Ass.” A plotter friend of mine (who totally gets my need to spreadsheet everything) got it for me. On the right is the arm band I sometimes wear  for my “mouse” (i.e. tennis) elbow. And if you’ll notice my mouse, it’s on a little shelf above the keypad of my keyboard. This is much better for you elbow and shoulder than having the mouse out to the side. Trust me. Three months of physical therapy on the elbow is not fun. Also, note the monitor sitting up on that pretty round box. It was the perfect size to make the top of the monitor even with my eyes. This helps to keep from overstraining the neck. I’ve already had issues and I figure I’m going to be doing this for years to come, so I had to make some adjustments!

 

 

And finally, the messy corner. The shelves hold how-to and reference books, articles I’ve collected for ideas, and printouts and notes from workshops I’ve taken. And a shelf of wine glasses. If you were a Harlequin book club person in the mid nineties, you likely got a lot of those purple wineglasses too. Since they’re purple, they are in my room. J I also have a coffee mug on that top shelf representative of my 2009 Golden Heart group of finalists. We’re the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. It’s the black mug with the red high-heeled shoe on it.

 

In the floor is an odd assorted of writing related things that need to be filed/stored somewhere, but that I just haven’t gotten around to doing yet. There’s also a really old typewriter because I think they’re cool so my mother-in-law gave that to me. Again, I haven’t found a good place for it, so it goes in the corner.

 

 

And if you want to see my treadmill desk (which is in another room), here’s a shot. I have a monitor mounted on the wall (I don’t want to strain my neck by looking down at a laptop all the time), I built a custom desk to fit across the handles, and I have a shelf on the wall to the right that holds another computer. Yes, that make three different computers that I may use at any given time to write. Also, there’s a timer to the left of my keyboard. I can’t edit very well on the treadmill, so I try to use that time only to vomit out words. The timer helps me to stay focused and do this better.

 

 

And that’s it! Hopefully within the next month or two a lot of those piles will magically disappear and the space behind those closet doors will become a personal little organized heaven.

 

Today I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner! Thank you all for stopping by, and thanks again for having me, Norah!

 

 

Sugar Springs is book one in my small-town contemporary series that released from Montlake on December 24th. It’s also my 2009 Golden Heart winner, so I’m really stoked to finally see this one out there!

Lee Ann London thought she’d seen the last of Cody Dalton when he hit the road years ago. Now he’s back and looking to make amends…and he just might find the family he never knew he wanted.

 

 

Caught on Camera is a sexy contemporary, and was my debut novel. Don’t you just love that cover?!?! Also note that this book is currently on sale for only $1.99 for the Kindle version!

When a beautiful videographer haunted by scandal catches the eye of a handsome and charismatic politician, she must choose between continuing to play it safe and finally taking a chance on love.

 

 

Thank you for the tour, Kim. That was awesome! Also awesome? Those covers! I especially love the Sugar Springs cover. It’s so warm and inviting. I can almost hear the crickets singing. But Caught on Camera blows me away too, in a totally different way.

 

By the way, congratulations on having Caught on Camera selected to be part of the 100 under $3.99 January promo at Amazon! With that special $1.99 pricing and that cover, it’s going to be FLYING off the cyber-shelves!

 

Before I turn it over to comments, I’ll just give you some of Kim’s coordinates, so you can get to know her a little better.

 

Okay, on to our giveaway! Comment for a chance to win Kim’s $10 Amazon gift certificate.

 

Workspace Wednesday welcomes Joyce Lamb!

 

I am delighted to have as my guest today Joyce Lamb, award-winning author of romantic suspense novels. Joyce is also the curator of USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog, which is must-read material for romance novel lovers everywhere.

 

I met Joyce at the Romance Writers of America national conference in New York City in 2011. She was celebrating after just having won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for her book True Vision. My first impression was that she was extremely quick-witted, funny, warm, grounded and interesting. She also seemed to be genuinely interested in the people around her. Of course, at the time I didn’t realize that Joyce Lamb the author was also Joyce Lamb, intrepid reporter. She comes by that interest/curiosity naturally, I guess! I’m happy to say my initial impressions of Joyce proved true, and then some!

 

With that intro, here’s Joyce.

 

 

JOYCE:  Thanks for having me, Norah! I’m thrilled to be here. : )

 

Exploring my workspaces for this post was eye-opening. I had no idea that I actually work all over the place!

 

 

The sofa is where I do a lot of my writing, but while I am indeed sitting right in front of the TV, it’s not on when I’m writing. Too distracting! Especially if a show on The Animal Planet about cute puppies or kittens comes on. Instead, I have my iPod Touch docked and cycling through four seasons’ worth of Battlestar Galactica soundtracks (the version revived in 2004, not the one from the late ’70s). Composer Bear McCreary is a master at creating tension, and the tone of the music is perfect for writing romantic suspense.

 

As you can see from the quilt draped over the back of the sofa, I’m helped along by Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. I love Tigger! The wonderful thing about Tigger …

 

 

I also have a home office, for when I’m feeling the need to behave like a professional writer. Best desk chair ever! I feel very “executive” when I’m sitting in it – just not nearly as rich. And it’s perfect for one of my kitties, Maddy, who likes to perch on the back. She’s only fallen onto the back of my neck twice.

 

 

Sitting on my desk is my pink Safe Sex Monkey. (And, yes, that is indeed a shameful plug for my books sitting right next to SSM.) The story behind SSM: Fellow writer friend Diane Amos, author of the fabulously funny Getting Personal (a $2.99 e-book!), has spent much time teasing me about the “wild monkey sex” in my books. Several years ago, she sent me the pink monkey with condom in paw as a joke (which my mother quite enjoyed when I opened the package while she was visiting). Now, SSM sits on my desk to remind me to make sure my characters always have safe sex. : )

 

 

I also have workspace at USA Today, where I work on the Happy Ever After blog devoted to all things romance novels (happyeverafter.usatoday.com). As you can tell, I have some toys on my desk – I wouldn’t be a real copy editor if I didn’t. So I enjoy my Mr. Potato Head (at right) as well as my Tickle Me Elmo key chain, which giggles REALLY loudly, much to the consternation of some of my co-workers. What you can’t see on my desk is that to the right, there’s a TV. Yes, it’s true. I have a TV on my desk at work. It’s rarely on, but it’s actually quite necessary at those times when breaking news is happening. The last time it was on was during the Super Bowl in February, because USA Today does a huge thing about the ads that play during the Big Game. So I got paid to watch TV during the Super Bowl. Kinda cool!

 

You might also think from what you can see of the background in this photo that the USA Today newsroom looks as though it was decorated by IKEA. And you would be right.

 

 

One of the favorite things on my desk at work is a book called Boo: The Life of the World’s Cutest Dog. I prop the book open to different pages, but this one here is my favorite, because it looks as though Boo is lounging on a chaise lounge in a very “come hither” pose. Very romantic! When things at work get stressful – and they do often, considering it’s the news business – I have Boo to turn to to make me smile. Boo never fails me!

 

Do you have any toys or stress relievers on your desk at home or at work?

 

A commenter here will win a signed collection of my True trilogy, which includes 2011 Daphne winner True Vision and 2012 RITA finalists True Colors and True Shot. (International commenters eligible, too!)

 

 

Thank you for that tour, Joyce. Why am I not surprised that I had a smile on my face all the way through it? Oh, and my stress reliever is a tiny bottle of essential oils (bergamot, grapefruit, orange and ginger) that I keep on my desk. When I think about it, I pop the cover off and and inhale.

 

Okay, before I turn it over to comments (and holy smokes, GREAT prize!), let me just pimp Flash Heat for you. It’s my current read on my Kindle.

 

 

You can connect with Joyce as follows:

 

Website

Facebook

Twitter

USA Today HEA Blog

USA Today HEA Twitter

 

Okay, let the commenting begin! Joyce’s question for you was, “Do you keep any toys or stress relievers on your desk at home or at work?”

 

Workspace Wednesday welcomes MJ Fredrick

Today, I am delighted to have MJ Fredrick as my guest for Workspace Wednesday. MJ is another member of my Wet Noodle Posse (writers who finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart® contest in 2003, and who have hung together ever since).

 

Here’s the thing – every time I read one of MJ’s books, I think, “Damn, I wish I’d written that!” She writes the kind of fast-paced, sexy romantic suspense/adventure that really floats my boat. The kind I try to write. She can also write a straight contemporary (like Bluestone Homecoming) with the best of them, a skill I envy.

 

 

She is also one of the few bloggers I follow religiously. I think I learned everything I know about blogging/social media best practice from watching MJ. I don’t do it as well as she does, but she embodies what we all should be doing. She shows us all the facets of her life, not just her writing. Besides being a damned fine writer, she’s a teacher, an avid reader, a wife, a mother, a cat-lover, a talented crafter, a Supernatural fan, a TV and movie aficionado, etc. Basically, she’s the kind of all around awesome person you want to feel connected to. I recommend you check out her blog and subscribe to her newsletter so you don’t miss anything.

 

Okay, now that I’ve spilled all that syrupy lurve all over the place, I’ll turn you over to MJ while I clean up the joint.

 

 

MJ FREDRICK:  I tried, really I did, to have an office. When I first started writing on a computer, I had one, the third bedroom in our old house, with an old XT my uncle had put together, with an amber monochromatic screen. After my son was in bed, I’d go in there and write for a couple of hours while my husband watched TV in the living room. I eventually finished my first book, but it took me months.

 

We replaced the XT with an old PowerBook we got for $300, with a modem that screeched. No more writing in the bedroom next to where my son was sleeping, so I started writing and surfing in the living room in front of the TV. We replaced the PowerBook with the first generation of iMacs, and it was also in the living room. So I got in the habit of writing with lots going on around me.

 

BUT I didn’t feel guilty, because I was still a part of what was going on, if you get me.

 

We moved into this house, a four-bedroom, 13 years ago. I tried several spaces as my “office,” the bedroom off the kitchen, the mud room area next to that, which looked out on my backyard, the middle bedroom (which has since become Craft Central). NONE of those worked for me. I’d get up a million times to go see what was going on in other parts of the house. Eventually, we parked the iMac in the living room and that was my workspace.

 

And then…I got a laptop. Oh, the freedom I had with a laptop! I wrote outside, I wrote in my big comfy chair, I wrote EVERYWHERE!

 

Now, I live in Texas, and the past two summers have been crazy hot, even early in the morning, so I don’t write on the patio. But this house is blessed with a sun room, and that is my favorite room in the house, especially since my baby brother helped me rearrange it a couple of years ago.

 

I have a big comfy couch and a big comfy chair that we bought when we moved in. They’re a little worse for wear, but did I mention comfy? (Also, excuse the cat hair. I AM the Crazy Cat Lady, but getting cat hair off chenille is a PAIN!)

 

In the morning, as soon as I finish eating, I unplug the laptop and curl up on the couch in the sun room. (This is what it looks like in the summer. When I’m teaching, it’s dark dark dark, with only the light from the screen.) Note the Diet Coke–a staple in the early mornings.

 

 

I usually get a cat or two curled up with me, no matter what time of day. Here you see YaYa beside me and Stormy on the floor.

 

 

My exercise bike is right there, taunting me. This summer I’ve had to leave my little area when the boy wants to exercise, which would make me mad if he wasn’t moving out this week.

 

 

I prefer this view, though because of the drought, there’s not a lot to see.

 

 

In the evenings, I join the family in front of the TV, but I’m usually still working on SOMETHING. This is my corner, complete with a blanket, because the AC works pretty well.

 

 

The bonus is, my baby kitty thinks it’s his mama.

 

 

So I don’t stay in one spot and I clearly like to be comfortable. Also, I like green chairs and cats.

 

 

Thank you, MJ! Loved the tour of your space! I am so in awe of anyone who can work with a laptop primarily. After all these years in admin support, I’m a desktop kind of gal.

 

MJ Fredrick is the author of 17 books, including this one, Guarded Hearts, published by Lyrical Press.

 

 


 

Now it’s your turn. Do you remember modems that screeched? Did you ever have an XT? Ever meet an author who didn’t even pretend to maintain an office, whilst she wrote in various spots around the house? Have you read one or more or MJ’s books? You know the drill – a comment will earn you a chance to win today’s prize, which you’re going to want. It’s a $10 gift certificate from either Amazon or B&N, at the winner’s call.

Workspace Wednesday welcomes Lina Gardiner

Please help me welcome award-winning author Lina Gardiner. Lina’s Jess Vandemire Vampire Hunter Series have netted her both a Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense and a PRISM award (best first book). She is published by Imajinn Books and The Wild Rose Press. As well, she recently published her first indie effort to very positive reviews. 

 

Lina has given me some fantastic photos of her workspace, and I am going to ask her to narrate them for us. Take it away, Lina!

 

Norah, thank you for coming up with the great idea for Workspace Wednesday. I’m really pleased to be your first guinea pig (er…) author.  In all seriousness, I can’t wait to peek into other author’s offices to see what motivates them and feeds their muse.

 

In this photo (below) you can see I’ve surrounded myself with things that mean something to me.  First and foremost, on the wall is a watercolor painting by my friend and artist, Rik Hall.  He actually painted two of these cemetery paintings based on a moody, spooky picture I used on my website.  The second painting sold very quickly at an open house.  I actually wanted the second one too, but was too slow making up my mind. The photo of the cemetery was taken by Troy MacLellan, a co-worker who kindly gave this picture to me for my website.  I liked it so much the picture ended up in the background of my first book, Grave Illusions.   Some of the other things I have on my desk besides my Oxford dictionary J my Prism (Crystal Pyramid) – best first book award, and my Washington, DC Globe from my friend Joyce, my fuzzy frog from my friend Amy, the skull pen from my son and his fiancée, they got it at the vampire club in Melbourne, Australia and I was totally jealous that I didn’t get to go.  The skull, the mug and little red bag of stones are from my friend Cathy Boone, who just came back from Salem, Mass. where she had an honest to goodness ghost experience in her hotel. 

 

 

This photo is me pretending to be busy at the computer.  LOL  In reality, I don’t have to watch the keys when I’m typing.  I’ve been typing for over thirty years.  I always liked the image of Stephen J. Cannell typing on his old typewriter and pulling the sheet of paper out of the platen at the end of each of his TV shows.  Maybe that’s why I like the picture this way. 

 

 

The bookshelves on the wall were built for me by my husband, Iggy.  Everyone who comes into my office raves about them.  They’re gorgeous and they showcase my library of books to perfection.  And they often remind me how many books I still haven’t read.  I need to carve out a little more reading time. 

 

 

I see this wall the minute I enter my room.  You can’t miss the three giant posters of my first three books in my Jess Vandermire Vampire Hunter series.  My husband had the posters made for me and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see them as a reminder that I’ve actually not only published ‘a’ book but several books.  The beautiful carved owl in the center of the desk was done by my ex-boss and friend, Brian Dykeman.  He does the most amazing carvings and he has a website if you’d like to see more of his work – just Google his name.  The little vase came from a co-worker, Chris Maund, who went to the Galapagos Islands years ago and brought it back for me (I’ve always treasured it), and the Baying Wolf was a gift from my husband when my newest book, Black Moon Awakening – a werewolf/shifter story was published.  Then there is the award on the desk, on the left side — My Domino Divas award.  We decided years ago, actually it was Norah who came up with the idea, that the writers in our little group were like dominoes; after one sold the rest would follow.  How right she was and is.  The two gorgeous wing back chairs were a gift from my niece Tracy and her husband Roger.  They are very comfortable and I often sit in them to read or review and revise my WIPs in comfort.  Wow, until I started naming the things in my office that mean something to me, I’d almost forgotten how lucky I am to be surrounded by reminders of my wonderful friends and family.

 

 

This wall to my left is my award wall (sort of).  I have the Prism Award and Daphne DuMaurier Award, as well as my RWA Conference badge.  These things remind me at all times that I want to be professional and I want to excel in my field.  They remind me that I must always work hard to improve my writing skills, and to keep moving toward my next goal.  On the filing cabinet below I’ve put pictures of my friends (my go-to place when doubt-devils are nipping at my heels).  Looking at the friendly, smiling faces always lifts my spirits.   I have a white board next to the filing cabinet, the place where I plot, usually after I’m well and truly into my book.  I start out as a pantser and then have to plot out the bones to keep everything cohesive.

 

 

Thank you, Lina! I am officially in love with your office! It’s gorgeous! And I love how you’ve surrounded yourself with various talismans and symbols of your journey, as well as very concrete evidence of your accomplishments! Totally inspiring! Thank you for sharing your space with us today.

 

You can check out Lina’s newest release from The Wild Rose Press, BLACK MOON AWAKENING (my current Kindle read!) or her self-published romantic suspense WHAT SHE DOESN’T KNOW.

 

Okay, what’s your favorite element or object in Lina’s workspace? (You’re not allowed to say Lina because that’s a given.)