Guest Post by Rachel McClellan

As part of the Unleashed blog tour, here’s a guest post by Rachel Mclellan! She has a bit of advice for you lot…

Why You Should Go Skydiving

If you are having a hard time in your life, maybe worried about work, stressed about kids, a feeling that you don’t know who you are anymore, or simply just tired of the same routine, then I highly recommend you go sky diving.

Wait!

Don’t freak out and immediately say “You’re insane!” Hear me out. My nonsense makes sense.

Here are some totally sane reasons why you should go:

It resets you. Jumping from a plane makes your heart pound, your pulse race, your breathing quicken until you think you can’t take it anymore. And then you land safely on the ground, feeling like you’ve been re-born.

It’s the ultimate confidence booster. Once you’ve accomplished this you’ll feel ready to take on any challenge.

Gets your mind off the stresses in your life. Leading up to the jump all you’ll be thinking about is jumping from a moving plane. You won’t be worrying about your raggedy, naggy boss, the bills you have to pay, your mouthy teen, the mounds of laundry and dishes, and on and on.

People will think twice about messing with you. Once others know you’ve gone sky diving, they will think twice about approaching you with anything negative because if you’re crazy enough to go sky diving, what else will you do?

Puts life into perspective. Flying at 18,000 feet in the air makes you see things in a different light. Whether it’s the thinner air or the fact that the earth is only a blur of browns and greens, prioritizing what’s important in your life becomes easy.

Lastly, I just want to say that there’s nothing like the threat of death to make you feel more alive. Go skydiving. I promise you won’t regret it.

Day 5 – The Sullivans Tour

Day five of The Sullivans tour through Novel Publicity! This is the last day I’ll have anything to combine with an excerpt, so here it is: the third guest post and the excerpt for If You Were Mine. Remember the giveaway and today’s event!

 

Enjoy the following excerpt for IF YOU WERE MINE…

There were half a dozen girls in bikinis waiting in Zach’s garage, but the woman laughing with his dog in her arms, wearing a sweaty, long-sleeved T-shirt and muddy shorts, with a messy braid trailing down her back, put them all to shame.

He couldn’t think of a time he’d ever seen eyes that color, brown with so many flecks of gold that he couldn’t look away. And, Jesus, that mouth of hers, rosy and full, made a man want to do crazy things…like grab the puppy and kiss it all over its drooly, disgusting little face for bringing Heather here today.

He’d been pissed off at Gabe and Summer for dumping the dog on him for two weeks. Now he realized he should thank them, instead.

Unlike most women, however, he could tell Heather wanted nothing to do with him. Fortunately, her dog didn’t seem to have any of the same qualms, especially when he sniffed the glazed sugar on Zach’s fingers from the donut he’d been eating for breakfast.

“Hey, mutt,” Zach said, thinking fast, “I left the rest of my donut on the counter inside. You want it?”

The huge dog’s ears twitched as if he understood, but he didn’t move. Instead, he looked up at Heather for approval.

Clearly, she was gearing up to refuse. But, man, that huge dog could play up the puppy dog eyes when he wanted to. Zach was impressed. He’d have to remember how to do that in the future.

Her dog let out a low whine and Heather finally sighed and said, “Okay, fine. Go.” As she let go of his leash and the enormous dog loped off toward the garage, she followed him, still carrying Cuddles.

“I get that you weren’t prepared for a puppy, but I can’t leave her with you if you’re going to put her in a crate all day. She needs to understand how to stay with you so she doesn’t get hurt by something in the garage. You’re going to need to work on training her to understand your commands. And you’re going to have to do it without yelling at her.” She shot him a hard look. “Ever again.”

He would agree with whatever Heather said just as long as she stayed long enough for him to convince her to give him a chance. He couldn’t remember ever wanting a woman this bad, this fast.

“Hey Chase,” he told his brother, “I’ve got to call off the shoot.”

The models looked at his brother in confusion and Chase told them to take five before saying, “Chloe is going to have the baby any day now, and then I’m out of commission for a while. You sure you want to reschedule?”

Despite her ongoing protests that she was fine, Zach was already kneeling in front of Heather and gently wiping at the open skin on her knee with an antiseptic wipe from a nearby First Aid kit.

“I’ve got to clear my schedule for puppy training.”

“Seriously?” Heather blinked at him like he was driving on three wheels. “That’s why you’re sending everyone home? Isn’t your boss going to be mad?”

“Agnes didn’t mention my last name, did she?”

Her eyes widened with disbelief as she looked from him to the sign on the wall, then back again. “You’re the Sullivan in Sullivan Autos? This is your garage?”

“Don’t worry, I know cars a lot better than I know dogs.”

But he knew women best of all. And, he thought as he slid a Band-Aid strip over her left knee, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on more than Heather’s knees. Because even as he cleaned and bandaged her cuts, her skin was so warm, so soft, so responsive to his touch.

After he slid another Band-Aid strip over her silky smooth skin, he held out his arms. “Now that the shoot’s off, I’m all yours to train.”

Most women would have been pleased by the sensual undertones in his words, or would at least have blushed, but she simply glared at him with icy cool eyes.

Cuddles yawned and curled closer into her chest. What Zach wouldn’t do to be where the puppy was.

She shifted her legs out of his reach. “You can’t cancel your photo shoot. You’ll lose too much money.” She stood up and grabbed her dog’s leash again. “Atlas, it’s time to go.”

Damn it, she was going to leave. Panic gripped him, even though he’d only just met her, even though he could easily find another woman to have sex with. “Heather

She frowned as she looked down at where he was still kneeling on the cement floor. “Since you can’t keep Cuddles here while you’re” She paused to look at the models chain smoking and talking on their cell phones in the parking lot. “—working, I’ll take her to my office. When she wakes up, she can play with Atlas until you get there for our first session.”

She told him the address, then made a clicking sound that had her huge dog following her out of the garage with an adoring look on his furry face.

Zach understood exactly how the dog felt. One sign from her and he’d happily do the same thing.

His brother moved beside him and, together, they watched Heather leave, her long braid swinging behind her, her legs strong and tanned in her shorts.

“Who’s that?”

Zach grinned. “My new dog trainer.”

And, hopefully, a hell of a lot more than that real soon.

 

…Excerpt from IF YOU WERE MINE by Bella Andre ©2012.

Please enjoy this guest post by Bella Andre, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of the contemporary romance series, The Sullivans. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards!

Why I Love Family-Based Romance Series

A guest post by Bella Andre

I love reading romance (I read one book a day when I can!), and one of my favorite tropes is the family-based series. I absolutely love Julia Quinn’s historical romance Bridgerton series and have loved taking that idea of the big family into present day with my Sullivan contemporary romance series.

What I love when I read – and what I want my readers to get from The Sullivans – is to feel like they’re a part of the family, and to know each of the characters so well that they can begin to know anticipate what the will start saying and doing at family gatherings. I love it when I’m reading a big family scene and I know, “Oh, this character is going to react like this” or “This character will hate this!” I love it even more when the characters surprise me and I learn new things about them.

One of the advantages of writing a series about a large family is that even as the hero and heroine are having conflict with each other, we can see them being loving towards their families, so we know the depth of love they’re capable of.

There are plenty of big family scenes in my Sullivan books for you to get to know each character, what they’re like, and how they feel one another. Just like a real family, every Sullivan has a special relationship with each of the others. Smith and Sophie are extra close, as are Marcus and Lori. Ryan and Zach are so close in age that they spent a lot of time together as kids and have a special bond as adults.


fall in love

The Sullivans are on tour with Novel Publicity. Follow along for your chance to win amazing prizes. We’ve got special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards. WOW!

You’ll also get introduced to this amazing contemporary romance series via excerpts as well as interviews with and guest posts from New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, Bella Andre. You’ll definitely want to learn more about the family that has captured the world’s heart.

All the info you need to join the fun and enter to win amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase any of the Sullivan ebooks by Bella Andre for just $4.99 (optional)
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity (go here)
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event (that’s where the HUGE prizes are)

About The Sullivans: In this sexy, emotional and funny contemporary romance series, each member of the Sullivan family will eventually find true love…usually where he or she least expects it.

Get the eBooks via Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, the iBookStore, or the Kobo Store.

Audiobooks are also available for the first five in the series (with more coming soon). Plus, keep an eye out for paperback editions coming from Harlequin Romance starting Summer 2013.

All Sullivan Covers

Bella Andre_1About the Author: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Bella Andre has always been a writer. Songs came first, and then non-fiction books, but as soon as she started writing her first romance novel, she knew she’d found her perfect career. Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly) about sizzling alpha heroes and the strong women they’ll love forever, nearly all of her novels have appeared on Top 10 lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo.

Her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine “Red Hot Reads” twice and have been translated into nine languages. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post has called her “One of the top digital writers in America” and she has been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. She has given the keynote speech at Book Expo America on her self-publishing success and has sold more than one million books.

If not behind her computer, you can find her reading her favorite authors, hiking, swimming or laughing. Married with two children, Bella splits her time between the Northern California wine country and a 100 year old log cabin in the Adirondacks.

Day Four of The Sullivans Tour!

Happy Thursday, everyone! It’s already the fourth day of The Sullivans tour! I honestly can’t believe it’s zooming by so quickly! Today, you get to read an excerpt from I Only Have Eyes for You and another interview with Bella Andres, this one being targeted at writers. And, of course, the rafflecopter giveaway is still running, and I hope you enter today’s event!

Enjoy the following excerpt for I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU…

Jake decided to steer completely clear of Sophie for the rest of the wedding. A little distance from all those soft curves and plump red lips would help him get his head back on straight.

“I’ve got this,” he told Sammy, one of his best bartenders at the original McCann’s in the city. “You can circulate with the trays.”

Fortunately, the wedding guests were thirsty, clearly needing some vino or hops to wash the taste of the syrupy vows from their tongues. Pouring drinks for strangers was as natural to Jake as breathing, and he immediately got into a rhythm in the middle of the vineyard as the meal was served and people kept a running line behind the bar between courses. He couldn’t remember a time he hadn’t been drying clean glasses, rearranging bottles. As a kid, when his dad had been the one running the taps, Jake had been in the back loading and unloading the dishwasher for a few extra bucks while the cooks at whatever pub they were at slung together plates of fish and chips and colcannon.

When the female guests flirted with him at the bar, he flirted back. So what if none of them were even half as pretty as Sophie? The Sullivans might be pairing up one after the other like they’d been infected by the same virus, but Jake had had his shots.

Love wasn’t going to take him down.

He knew better than to think that love meant a damn thing when the going got rough and it was easier to split. No wife, no kids, plenty of pretty women, but no rings, was what Jake’s future held. He’d play with all the kids the Sullivan clan was bound to pump out, would enjoy being Uncle Jake, but he wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking he’d ever be a good husband or father.

McCanns didn’t come with those genes.

“You haven’t had anything to eat yet.”

The slightly husky female voice reached in and grabbed him a split second before he looked straight into Sophie’s eyes. Her soft sensuality in that pink dress, the sweet smell of her perfume, were a one-two punch straight to a gut that hadn’t yet recovered from watching those tears slip down her cheeks, or the radiant smile that had followed.

Without waiting for an invitation, she put a full plate on the back table for him and moved around the bar to stand next to him. “Scoot over. I’ll help out while you eat.” She bumped her hip into his, his body not giving a damn that she was OFF LIMITS.

How could her brothers have let her out looking like this? What were they thinking? Didn’t they care even a little bit about their sister’s welfare?

While he was standing there losing his mind, Sophie took drink orders and deftly poured glasses of wine and mixed drinks for the wedding guests. She was a librarian, not a bartender. She shouldn’t be so good at serving drinks. And no librarian should ever be this hot, either, Jake thought as he clamped his jaw so tight his temple started throbbing. He’d let her help for five minutes, and then he’d send her back to her table to celebrate with the rest of her family and make sure she stayed there for the rest of the reception.

Even if he had to tie her to her seat.

A beer bottle nearly slipped from his grip as Jake was hit with a crystal-clear vision of Sophie in his bed, begging for him to—

“I hear you’re a librarian. Read any good books lately?”

Jake surfaced from his triple-X daydream just in time to notice a male guest leaning on the bar and looking down the top of Sophie’s dress.

She didn’t seem to notice any of that as she smiled back at the guy. She was too innocent to realize when a guy like this was aiming for one thing, and one thing only.

“Mmm,” she said in that seductive voice, still slightly hoarse from her tears. “I’m always reading great books. What do you like to read?”

The guy shrugged, not seeming to care that there was a huge backup of thirsty people bottlenecking behind him. “I’m a doct—”

“What are you drinking?” Jake broke in.

The guy shot him a look that said, Can’t you see I’m about to score here?

“Corona,” he said to Jake before turning back to Sophie. “As I was saying, I’m a doctor, so I don’t have too much time to read. But when I do, I usually read medical thrillers.”

Jake couldn’t believe it when Sophie leaned over the bar and said, “Oooh, how exciting. Medical thrillers always leave me breathless.”

Didn’t she get that this loser was way beneath her? She should be throwing a drink in his face, not giving him a better view of her body as she leaned down to grab a bottle of beer. Dr. Dickwad looked like he’d hit a home run, was counting the minutes until he could strip that dress from her tanned skin and find out if she tasted as good as she smelled.

Like hell. Jake would kill him first.

Jake snatched the bottle from her hand. “Here’s your beer. Time to let everyone else get a drink.”

He could feel Sophie frowning at him as he pinned the guy with his hardest look. If she couldn’t pick good from bad, he was going to have to save her. Whether she wanted him to or not was irrelevant.

Although the guy flinched at Jake’s silent promise of violence, it didn’t stop him from saying, “Be sure to save a dance for me, gorgeous,” before he walked away.

Jake held on to his control by a very thin thread. Nothing would feel better than to jump over the bar and tackle the guy to teach him what happened when he flirted with the wrong girl. A girl who was too sweet, too pretty, too damn perfect for him to ever even think of touching one hair on her head.

“You’re not dancing with him,” he growled. “Not tonight. Not ever.”

“I’m a big girl, Jake. I’ll dance with whomever I want.”

Serving the customer always took priority. But not this time. “Sammy,” he called out across the reception area, motioning for his employee to take over the bar again. He didn’t wait for Sam to make it to the bar before wrapping his hand around Sophie’s wrist and pulling her out from behind the bar. He didn’t stop walking until they were hidden behind a large storage shed, just on the edge of the reception area.

“You are not getting within a hundred feet of that guy again.”

Anger flared in her eyes. Eyes that had been full of happy tears, full of pure joy, just a short while ago. “You can’t tell me what to do.”

“Like hell I can’t.”

She yanked her arm from his and started to walk away, but he couldn’t let her go. Not when she was bound to do something stupid, like kiss a smarmy doctor. Furious at the picture of anyone else touching Sophie, instead of just grabbing her wrist or her shoulders, this time Jake wrapped his arms all the way around her and pulled her into him. He held her tight, her chest pushing into his forearms, her height matching his so that her hips fit perfectly between his open legs, her soft hips pressing into his groin.

“Let go of me.”

“No.”

The word was muffled by her hair, so soft, so silky against his chin and lips. And the truth was, he couldn’t have let go of her for the world. Not just because he didn’t want that other guy touching her…but because he’d never wanted to hold anyone more than he did Sophie.

How long had he dreamed of holding her? Too many years to keep count. And yet, he’d never had a clue just how incredibly good she would feel in his arms, her dangerous curves pressed into him, her chest rising and falling against his arms.

“I’m not going to let you go until you promise me you’ll stay away from him.”

Now it was her turn to say, “No.”

He shifted his hand enough to slip a finger beneath her chin and turn her face so that he could look into her eyes. “Promise me, Sophie. It’s for your own good.”

Sophie yanked her face away from his hand, then her whole body, and when she turned to face him head-on, her eyes were flashing. “I can’t believe you just said that! Especially since you of all people have no idea whatsoever what’s good for me.”

“Wanna bet?”

His mouth was on hers before he could put the brakes on his desire.

…Excerpt from I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU by Bella Andre ©2012.

  Please enjoy this interview with Bella Andre, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of the contemporary romance series, The Sullivans. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards!

Interview with Bella Andre

about her writing habits and success

1. Tell us about writing and publishing your very first novel. What were your expectations when you first waded into the self-publishing pond? Is there anything you would do differently if given another chance? I honestly had no expectations other than some of my loyal readers would finally get a chance to read my book – and that was enough for me. Meeting so many new readers and fans has been icing on a cake I had no idea was being served.

2. You’re an icon in the indie publishing community. Your success is something we all aspire to. What do you believe has been the greatest contributing factor to the success of your novels? Thank you, that’s lovely to hear. I’ve so enjoyed self-publishing these past couple of years, and I’ve been lucky to have the most wonderful fans with me every step of the way. There are so many things that go into success, but I think my focus and determination – along with the best readers in the world – have been the biggest factors.

3. What was your reaction when you first found out you broke onto the New York Times and USA Today best-sellers’ lists? How did you celebrate? Actually, it’s kind of a funny story. I was on my way to the RWA National conference last summer and was sitting in the airport in Albany, New York when I found out I had three books on the USA Today bestsellers list. I called my husband and we had a mini celebration on the phone. I flew into Atlanta where I was switching planes for Anaheim, and when we landed I turned on my phone and checked my email. An agent (not mine, I was agentless at the time) had emailed me with the title “CONGRATULATIONS, New York Times!” That was when I found out I also had three books on the New York Times bestseller list…and I started crying. On the airplane. With a very conservative woman sitting next to me. She must have thought I was losing it, because she promptly turned her back on me. 🙂 Of course I called my husband and cried happy tears some more. That night when I got into Anaheim, all of my closest writing friends came up to my room and we celebrated. It was AWESOME!

4. You’ve recently shared some very exciting news—Harlequin MIRA has optioned the print rights for The Sullivans in a record-breaking seven-figure deal. Congratulations! How did this transpire? And how does it affect your writing and publishing plans? Thank you, I’m beyond thrilled about it and Harlequin have been a dream to work with. They are so incredibly enthusiastic about putting The Sullivans out in paperback in English all over the world, with a simultaneous launch in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia starting this June and going back-to-back each month with the first eight books through April 2014. My ebook sales numbers for the self-published Sullivan series had been growing bigger and bigger in the year since I’d started publishing the series, and I knew a print-only deal was going to happen soon. When so many Sullivans hit the New York Times and USA Today all at once, that was when the publishers started calling and making offers. I truly feel that Harlequin is the *perfect* publisher for my sexy, emotional contemporary romance Sullivan series. Because I retained all of my ebook, audiobook, foreign translation and film/TV rights, I am continuing to put out my Sullivans, and other future books, as self-published ebooks and audio books. I have released seven Sullivan ebooks so far and the eighth (ALWAYS ON MY MIND, Lori Sullivan’s story) will be out this spring…and I have a great idea for a brand new series that I hope to start writing this year as well. I have licensed the series in Brazil, France and Portugal so far, and the first two books are already big bestsellers in Brazil, which is very exciting.

5. You write fast! Not only do you produce several novels per year, you produce several well written, polished novels per year. What is your writing process like? Do you have any advice for other wordsmiths struggling with productivity? Thanks for the great compliment. I work so hard on my stories to make sure they’re emotional and fun and sexy and that they take my readers out of their lives for a little while. I write every day, everywhere, no matter what. I don’t wait for inspiration or a muse to come calling. Fortunately, my favorite thing is writing. In fact, today as I was sniffling over my keyboard during a really emotional scene between my hero and heroine, I was thinking how very happy it made me to be able to write books all day…and to know that I have the best fans in the world waiting to read them!

6. In the early days, what did you do to market your books? Would you recommend these strategies to writers in today’s market? I took a really personal approach. Because I had started digital publishing in response to my readers who had emailed asking me for books, whenever I released a book, I individually emailed each and every single reader to let them know about it. Now, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I can interact with my readers in other ways that let me spend more time on actually writing, and I recommend doing anything that puts you in touch with your readers.

7. How has making it big changed your approach to writing and marketing your work? Has it changed your approach? I truly believe that my fans want me to spend more time writing and less time gabbing. 🙂 So I always err on the side of writing…and then once I’ve met my page count goals for the day, I go onto twitter and Facebook and answer emails.

8. You’ve connected with a large international fan base. Do readers abroad respond differently to your novels than those in the USA? Which countries in particular have fallen in love with your work? I’m having a love affair with my Brazilian readers, and I also love love love my Australia/New Zealand, UK and Canadian readers as well! They’re so passionate and supportive of The Sullivans – but I’ve been really fortunate to find readers everywhere have been kind and amazing.

9. You attend a lot of conferences. Recently, you delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Book Expo America. How have conferences contributed to your writing career? Conferences are an amazing opportunity to stay abreast of what’s happening in the business. I get incredible value out of networking in the lounge and hearing what people are up to and what ideas they have. The thing is, I truly love this business and everyone I’ve met had been wonderful…so it’s really not work at all for me. In fact, going to a conference and meeting with people is always such fun.

10. My, you are a busy bee! How do you find balance between writing, publishing, and promoting your books and the rest of your life? Any tips for the rest of us? Give up sleep and sanity…and have an awesome husband who is happy to take care of absolutely everything non-book-related in your life! 🙂 But seriously – get a good team behind you. I have a team of beta readers, editors, proofers and digital file producers, I work with great bloggers, and I also have the love and support of my family. Everyone thinks “indie publishing” means being independent, but it’s not the case at all. While you get to be charge of your own career and your own vision, you also work with tons of great people to put your book out there!

fall in love

The Sullivans are on tour with Novel Publicity. Follow along for your chance to win amazing prizes. We’ve got special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards. WOW! You’ll also get introduced to this amazing contemporary romance series via excerpts as well as interviews with and guest posts from New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, Bella Andre. You’ll definitely want to learn more about the family that has captured the world’s heart. All the info you need to join the fun and enter to win amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win! To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase any of the Sullivan ebooks by Bella Andre for just $4.99 (optional)
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity (go here)
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event (that’s where the HUGE prizes are)

About The Sullivans: In this sexy, emotional and funny contemporary romance series, each member of the Sullivan family will eventually find true love…usually where he or she least expects it. Get the eBooks via Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, the iBookStore, or the Kobo Store. Audiobooks are also available for the first five in the series (with more coming soon). Plus, keep an eye out for paperback editions coming from Harlequin Romance starting Summer 2013.

All Sullivan Covers

Bella Andre_1About the Author: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Bella Andre has always been a writer. Songs came first, and then non-fiction books, but as soon as she started writing her first romance novel, she knew she’d found her perfect career. Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly) about sizzling alpha heroes and the strong women they’ll love forever, nearly all of her novels have appeared on Top 10 lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo. Her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine “Red Hot Reads” twice and have been translated into nine languages. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post has called her “One of the top digital writers in America” and she has been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. She has given the keynote speech at Book Expo America on her self-publishing success and has sold more than one million books. If not behind her computer, you can find her reading her favorite authors, hiking, swimming or laughing. Married with two children, Bella splits her time between the Northern California wine country and a 100 year old log cabin in the Adirondacks.

The Sullivans Tour – Day Three

Good morning, folks! As you well know, it’s the third day of The Sullivans Novel Publicity tour! Today I bring you yet another excerpt, this one from Can’t Help Falling in Love, and an interview with Bella Andre targeted specifically at readers. And, of course, don’t forget about the giveaway!

Enjoy the following excerpt for CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE…

Gabe Sullivan’s captain, Todd, stepped into the room.

“How’re you feeling, Gabe?”

“Good, Captain.”

He moved to sit up straighter on the bed and Todd shook his head. “You’re fine just like that. I know your skull must hurt like hell.” He nodded back to the doorway. “Are you ready to see Ms. Harris and her daughter, Summer?”

No, he thought, he’d be better off never seeing those eyes again.

He’d thought about Megan and her daughter one too many times for comfort. Not just because he was reviewing the rescue, trying to look for what he could have done differently, to have gotten them out faster and more safely—but because he hadn’t been able to forget her strength, how hard she’d fought to stay conscious, and what a fighter she’d been every single second of the harrowing journey from her burning apartment.

Still, he understood that fire victims often felt compelled to say thank you to the men who had saved them. Especially in a case like this, where they’d just barely held death at bay.

“Sure.” He began to nod, but a sharp shooting pain stopped him halfway into the movement.

Catching his grimace, Todd said, “I’ll ask Megan and her daughter to come back later.”

Her name fit her, Gabe had found himself thinking one too many times. Megan was pretty and strong all at the same time. It would be better to think of her as Ms. Harris. Although, he had to wonder, was there a husband? And if so, where had he been during the fire and why wasn’t he here with them now?

“No,” he said, “it’ll be better if I see them now.”

She’d say thank you, he’d tell her he was happy to see her and her daughter doing so well, and that would be that. No more being haunted by her eyes, by the surprising strength she’d shown him as she’d crawled on the floor of her apartment and down the stairs.

A couple of minutes later, Todd walked back in with the mother and daughter. Ignoring the pain in his head, Gabe sat up higher and forced a smile on his face.

And then, his eyes locked with Megan’s and his smile froze in place.

My God, he found himself thinking before he could shove the thought away, she’s beautiful.

The last time he’d seen her face it had been through a thick haze of dark smoke and the knowledge that one wrong move meant their lives were over. Her eyes were just as big and pretty, her limbs looked as lean and strong as they had when he’d been helping to move her along the floor, but now he could see the softness in her, the sweet curves of her breasts and hips in her T-shirt and jeans. He couldn’t stop staring at the startling green of her eyes, the silky dark hair falling across her shoulders, and the way her pretty young daughter was a carbon copy of her, the only difference their hair color, one dark, one light.

She seemed just as stunned as he and for a long moment, the two of them just stared at each other in silence until her daughter ran over to him and threw her arms around him.

..Excerpt from CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE by Bella Andre ©2012.

Please enjoy this interview with Bella Andre, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of the contemporary romance series, The Sullivans. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards!

Interview with Bella Andre

about her best-selling series, The Sullivans

1. You create characters beautifully and are an absolute master of plot twists. It seems like you could write in almost any genre and do a bang-up job of it. What made you decide to devote your efforts to the romance genre in particular?

Thank you so much for the compliments! I’ve always been a huge romance fan – I’ve been reading nearly a book a day since I was a teenager – so it was a natural fit for me when the characters starting appearing in my head one day. 🙂

2. How did the idea for this interconnected contemporary romance series first come to you? What was your inspiration?

I love the family series that have always been popular in historical romance – like Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and Nora Roberts’s MacGregors – and I was also inspired by my husband’s large family. It seemed like a natural fit to combine the funny and sweet family dynamics into an overarching series of sexy contemporary romances with the alpha heroes that I love so much.

3. Everyone seems to have a favorite Sullivan. Now I know this is like asking you to choose between your own children, but who is your favorite? And who’s most like you?

I’ll have to plead the fifth and pick Mary Sullivan – the family matriarch – as my favorite Sullivan. She’s the heart that keeps the family together and I get emotional whenever I write a scene with her. In fact, in COME A LITTLE BIT CLOSER (Smith Sullivan’s story), the scene where he calls his mother to ask for love advice is one that so many readers have told me is their absolute favorite scene in any Sullivan book.

As for who is most like me – maybe Sophie Sullivan from I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU. She loves to read (and is a librarian) and when she wants something (in her case: bad boy Jake McCann), she goes for it! Of course, I’m also a lot like Lori Sullivan (aka “Naughty”) with her big mouth and constant laughter.

4. In your opinion, what ingredients are needed to make up a good love story? Is life the same as fiction in this respect? Why or why not?

I love to love my characters and when I write a story I need two heroic, nice, good people (and why not gorgeous, too?!) who deserve love and have a lot of love to offer in return, but who are flawed partially because they haven’t found that perfect someone who complements them like no other. I like my fiction to be a little bigger than life – the Sullivans are extraordinarily hot, sensitive and attentive – but at their heart, they’re all very real.

5. How has your own love story with your husband informed the Sullivan series? Are there any scenes that are directly taken from your own life?

I have the best husband in the entire world. Sweet, loving, sensitive…and super hot! He’s always supported me in everything I’ve ever done and I think his strength and capability to love is at the core of every hero I write.

With that said, none of the scenes are ever taken directly from my own life. I have a very active imagination. 🙂

6. Let’s pretend for a second that you are a single woman living in the world of the Sullivans, which of the six brothers would you be most likely to fall in love with and why?

Ohhhh, now THAT is a fun fantasy! I would fall in love with each and every single one of them – and do, while I’m writing each of their stories! If I had to pick one, I might have my eye on Marcus (FROM THIS MOMENT ON) – because while all of my Sullivans are sweet, sexy and sensitive – Marcus is the only one with his own endless supply of wine from his winery. And there’s just something about the oldest brother…. Then again, Zach Sullivan is such a great combination of cocky and sweet. And Ryan Sullivan has all those muscles. And Gabe is such a hero as a firefighter (and I love his dirty talking between the sheets). And Chase is so sexy and protective. And then there’s Jake McCann (who falls in love with Sophie Sullivan) with his tattoos and big muscles. Not to mention Lori’s hero in the upcoming ALWAYS ON MY MIND which will be out this spring. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Lori’s hero just might be the hottest hero I’ve ever written.

See, what did I tell you earlier? I’m no good at picking just one. So let’s just say, yet again, ALL OF THEM!

7. The Sullivans and their beaux have some pretty interesting careers. From photographers and sculptors to professional actors, musicians and ball players all the way to firefighters, librarians and business owners, they lead very exciting lives! What type of research did you have to do to capture these jobs so well? Do you have any interesting research anecdotes to share?

I’ve written firefighters and athletes in previous series which helped with my firefighter, Gabe (CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE) and my baseball player, Ryan (LET ME BE THE ONE). I also live in Sonoma and have a lot of experience with wine and wineries which was ideal for winery owner Marcus (FROM THIS MOMENT ON) and as a writer I’ve been blessed to work with many librarians who served as information points for Sophie (I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU.)

For books where I need inspiration, the internet has been amazing and when needed, I also call on the help of professionals. Even though I’d written firefighters before, I still sent all my firefighting scenes to a professional and for Smith’s book (COME A LITTLE BIT CLOSER) I sent all the acting-set sequences to a local film producer.

8. I was very touched by the inclusion of Yorkie puppy, Cuddles, and Great Dane rescue, Atlas, in book five, If You Were Mine. Are you a dog person yourself? If you have pets, I’d love to know more about them!

I *love* animals. I had the best time writing the two dogs in IF YOU WERE MINE. They had their own little love story in that book, which pleased me to no end. There’s a cat that plays a very important role in ALWAYS ON MY MIND (Lori Sullivan’s story, coming Spring 2013). My whole family loves animals, and we’ve recently adopted a beautiful cat. Or more accurately, the cat has adopted us, smart little minx.

9. The Sullivan series is currently seven volumes long. How many more books do you have planned, and which other family members will get the spotlight in their own books?

Lori’s book (ALWAYS ON MY MIND) is up next, and there are 5 Seattle Sullivans who are ready for love – I will start with Rafe Sullivan’s book this summer! Plus, I have something *very* special planned for Mary Sullivan, their mother, planned to release for the holidays in 2013.

10. And lastly (for a bit of random fun), what has been the most amazing/ touching/ validating interaction you’ve had with a fan of your books?

Everyone who has ever written to me on Facebook or Twitter or Goodreads or via email to tell me how much they love my books and that the Sullivans have moved them in some way has touched me. I love my fans, so, so much! I have the very best time in the world writing about my Sullivans… and knowing that I have so many absolutely wonderful people waiting to read them as soon as they’re released is a total thrill every single day.


fall in love

The Sullivans are on tour with Novel Publicity. Follow along for your chance to win amazing prizes. We’ve got special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards. WOW!

You’ll also get introduced to this amazing contemporary romance series via excerpts as well as interviews with and guest posts from New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, Bella Andre. You’ll definitely want to learn more about the family that has captured the world’s heart.

All the info you need to join the fun and enter to win amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase any of the Sullivan ebooks by Bella Andre for just $4.99 (optional)
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity (go here)
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event (that’s where the HUGE prizes are)

About The Sullivans: In this sexy, emotional and funny contemporary romance series, each member of the Sullivan family will eventually find true love…usually where he or she least expects it.

Get the eBooks via Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, the iBookStore, or the Kobo Store.

Audiobooks are also available for the first five in the series (with more coming soon). Plus, keep an eye out for paperback editions coming from Harlequin Romance starting Summer 2013.

All Sullivan Covers

Bella Andre_1About the Author: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Bella Andre has always been a writer. Songs came first, and then non-fiction books, but as soon as she started writing her first romance novel, she knew she’d found her perfect career. Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly) about sizzling alpha heroes and the strong women they’ll love forever, nearly all of her novels have appeared on Top 10 lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo.

Her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine “Red Hot Reads” twice and have been translated into nine languages. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post has called her “One of the top digital writers in America” and she has been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. She has given the keynote speech at Book Expo America on her self-publishing success and has sold more than one million books.

If not behind her computer, you can find her reading her favorite authors, hiking, swimming or laughing. Married with two children, Bella splits her time between the Northern California wine country and a 100 year old log cabin in the Adirondacks.

Sullivans Tour – Day Two!

Good morning, folks! It’s the second day of the tour, as I’m sure you well know. Today I bring you an excerpt from From This Moment On and another guest post from Bella Andre! Enjoy, everyone, and have a wonderful day! Oh, and don’t forget about the giveaway; good luck!

Enjoy the following excerpt for FROM THIS MOMENT ON…

Marcus Sullivan was known for his patience. After helping to raise his seven siblings, he’d learned to wait out tantrums, fistfights, even tears.

But tonight, he was all out of patience.

He’d come to the club tonight to find a woman, to proposition her, to claim her for one no-holds-barred night, but he’d been watching the dancers for long enough to know that he wasn’t going to take a single one of them to bed. None of the women who’d walked in through the thick red curtain in the past thirty minutes had been contenders, either.

Until, suddenly, the curtain parted…and she walked in.

Marcus felt like a fist had slammed straight into his gut.

The woman was young, mid-twenties probably, and so beautiful it almost hurt to look at her. Her black leather dress left nothing to his imagination, fitting her like a second skin with wide cut-outs that ran down the side of her insane curves.

She was the one.

As she stood in the doorway and slowly scanned the crowd, every eye in the room was on her. She was magnetic, had that special something that made it impossible to pull your eyes away from her.

And then her eyes met his, illuminated by a beam of light in the dark room, and although Marcus hadn’t drunk nearly enough at Chase’s engagement party to be unsteady on his feet, one look at those clear blue eyes had him fighting for balance.

What was wrong with him?

He needed to remember, at all times, what tonight was about. Pleasure. Not emotion. Not a relationship. It was okay for certain parts of his body below the waist to react like a match had been lit from nothing more than looking at the woman. Everything else was off-limits. He wasn’t looking for a woman to respect.

And he definitely wasn’t going to fall in love.

The dangerous curves began to shift beneath the thin layer of leather as she moved straight toward him, never once breaking stride, even in impossibly high heels. Marcus couldn’t miss the challenge in her gaze, a look that asked if he was man enough to handle her.

He’d always liked his women tall and slim, not barely coming up to his chest like this one. A voice in his head told him she was way too young for him, young enough that if this were any other night, he’d walk away from her now.

But he wasn’t planning on walking away from whatever this woman offered. Not until first light.

And definitely not until he’d had his fill of those curves.

 

…Excerpt from FROM THIS MOMENT ON by Bella Andre ©2012.

Please enjoy this guest post by Bella Andre, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of the contemporary romance series, The Sullivans. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards!

Alpha Heroes & Happily Ever Afters: The Perfect Combo

A guest post by Bella Andre

Alpha heroes are my favorite kind of hero: sexy, rugged, independent and take-charge. Yum!

Take Chase Sullivan, the hero of THE LOOK OF LOVE, the first book in my best-selling Sullivan series. He’s a jet-setting photographer, a mind-blowing lover, and is surrounded by gorgeous models all day long. But it isn’t until he meets Chloe Peterson on the side of a road during a rainstorm in the Napa Valley wine country that he falls in love.

One of my favorite things about an alpha hero falling in love is that all those alpha traits – his single-minded determination, his focus – are then devoted entirely to the woman of his dreams. Chloe’s been burned by men before, but Chase is determined to show her that he’s worth trusting. What follows is his relentlessly sexy pursuit of Chloe, because now that Chase has found love, he won’t accept anything less.

Each of the Sullivan heroes is an alpha in his own way. Marcus (FROM THIS MOMENT ON) is the de-facto family patriarch. He looks after the rest of his family and takes care of them. Gabe (CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE) is a take-charge firefighter. He rushes into danger to save lives – what’s not to love? Zach (IF YOU WERE MINE) is a handy, self-sufficient mechanic and businessman. In addition to being wealthy and successful, he’s useful with a wrench.

What’s hot is when those alpha traits are turned towards pursuing – and catching – the women of their dreams.

fall in love

The Sullivans are on tour with Novel Publicity. Follow along for your chance to win amazing prizes. We’ve got special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards. WOW!

You’ll also get introduced to this amazing contemporary romance series via excerpts as well as interviews with and guest posts from New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, Bella Andre. You’ll definitely want to learn more about the family that has captured the world’s heart.

All the info you need to join the fun and enter to win amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase any of the Sullivan ebooks by Bella Andre for just $4.99 (optional)
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity (go here)
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event (that’s where the HUGE prizes are)

About The Sullivans: In this sexy, emotional and funny contemporary romance series, each member of the Sullivan family will eventually find true love…usually where he or she least expects it.

Get the eBooks via Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, the iBookStore, or the Kobo Store.

Audiobooks are also available for the first five in the series (with more coming soon). Plus, keep an eye out for paperback editions coming from Harlequin Romance starting Summer 2013.

All Sullivan Covers

Bella Andre_1About the Author: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Bella Andre has always been a writer. Songs came first, and then non-fiction books, but as soon as she started writing her first romance novel, she knew she’d found her perfect career. Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly) about sizzling alpha heroes and the strong women they’ll love forever, nearly all of her novels have appeared on Top 10 lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo.

Her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine “Red Hot Reads” twice and have been translated into nine languages. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post has called her “One of the top digital writers in America” and she has been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. She has given the keynote speech at Book Expo America on her self-publishing success and has sold more than one million books.

If not behind her computer, you can find her reading her favorite authors, hiking, swimming or laughing. Married with two children, Bella splits her time between the Northern California wine country and a 100 year old log cabin in the Adirondacks.

Novel Publicity Tour – The Sullivans (Day 1)

For my first post dedicated to Bella Andre’s books, I’ve chosen to combine an excerpt from The Look of Love and a guest post from Bella!

As most of you know, romance really isn’t my thing. I have not read Bella’s books, but for those of you that enjoy them and those of you who become interested during the tour, I hope you enjoy the tour! Now, without farther ado…

Enjoy the following excerpt for THE LOOK OF LOVE…

Chase almost missed the flickering light off on the right side of the two-lane country road. In the past thirty minutes, he hadn’t passed a single car, because on a night like this, most sane Californians—who didn’t know the first thing about driving safely in inclement weather—stayed home.

Knowing better than to slam on the brakes—he wouldn’t be able to help whomever was stranded on the side of the road if he ended up stuck in the muddy ditch right next to them—Chase slowed down enough to see that there was definitely a vehicle stuck in the ditch.

He turned his brights on to see better in the pouring rain and realized there was a person walking along the edge of the road about a hundred yards up ahead. Obviously hearing his car approach, she turned to face him and he could see her long wet hair whipping around her shoulders in his headlights.

Wondering why she wasn’t just sitting in her car, dry and warm, calling Triple A and waiting for them to come save her, he pulled over to the edge of his lane and got out to try and help her. She was shivering as she watched him approach.

“Are you hurt?”

She covered her cheek with one hand, but shook her head. “No.”

He had to move closer to hear her over the sound of the water hitting the pavement in what were rapidly becoming hailstones. Even though he’d turned his headlights off, as his eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, he was able to get a better look at her face.

Something inside of Chase’s chest clenched tight.

Despite the long, dark hair plastered to her head and chest, regardless of the fact that looking like a drowned rat wasn’t too far off the descriptive mark, her beauty stunned him.

In an instant, his photographer’s eye cataloged her features. Her mouth was a little too big, her eyes a little too wide-set on her face. She wasn’t even close to model thin, but given the way her T-shirt and jeans stuck to her skin, he could see that she wore her lush curves well. In the dark he couldn’t judge the exact color of her hair, but it looked like silk, perfectly smooth and straight where it lay over her breasts.

It wasn’t until Chase heard her say, “My car is definitely hurt, though,” that he realized he had completely lost the thread of what he’d come out here to do.

Knowing he’d been drinking her in like he was dying of thirst, he worked to recover his balance. He could already see he’d been right about her car. It didn’t take a mechanic like his brother, Zach, who owned an auto shop—more like forty, but Chase had stopped counting years ago—to see that her shitty hatchback was borderline totaled. Even if the front bumper wasn’t half smashed to pieces by the white farm fence she’d slid into, her bald tires weren’t going to get any traction on the mud. Not tonight, anyway.

If her car had been in a less precarious situation, he probably would have sent her to hang out  in her car while he took care of getting it unstuck. But one of her back tires was hanging precariously over the edge of the ditch.

He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Get in my car. We can wait there for a tow truck.” He was vaguely aware of his words coming out like an order, but the hail was starting to sting, damn it. Both of them needed to get out of the rain before they froze.

But the woman didn’t move. Instead, she gave him a look that said he was a complete and utter nut-job.

“I’m not getting into your car.”

Realizing just how frightening it must be for a lone woman to end up stuck and alone in the middle of a dark road, Chase took a step back from her. He had to speak loudly enough for her to hear him over the hail.

“I’m not going to attack you. I swear I won’t do anything to hurt you.”

She all but flinched at the word attack and Chase’s radar started buzzing. He’d never been a magnet for troubled women, wasn’t the kind of guy who thrived on fixing wounded birds. But living with two sisters for so many years meant he could always tell when something was up.

And something was definitely up with this woman, beyond the fact that her car was half-stuck in a muddy ditch.

Wanting to make her feel safe, he held his hands up. “I swear on my father’s grave, I’m not going to hurt you. It’s okay to get into my car.” When she didn’t immediately say no again, he pressed his advantage with, “I just want to help you.” And he did. More than it made sense to want to help a stranger. “Please,” he said. “Let me help you.”

She stared at him for a long moment, hail hammering between them, around them, onto them. Chase found himself holding his breath, waiting for her decision. It shouldn’t matter to him what she decided.

But, for some strange reason, it did.

…Excerpt from THE LOOK OF LOVE by Bella Andre ©2012.

And now for the guest post!

Please enjoy this guest post by Bella Andre, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of the contemporary romance series, The Sullivans. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards!

The Many Types of Love & How They Manifest in My Life

A guest post by Bella Andre

You know that saying – kindness begets kindness? Well, I think love begets love, and the more love you have in your life – of all types – the more you learn about how to love yourself and others. The first kind of love you learn about, soon after you’re born, is love for your family. Then comes love for your classmates and friends, then various dates until you meet the one.

Family love is so important to me. My husband is incredibly supportive and we’re both equal partners in everything we do. Since I’ve always got a new book to write, I try to get my pages in while the kids are at school. But since my daily to-do list often spills over into the evening, I often take my MacBook Air into the living room and write or answer emails while my kids play on the carpet.

In fact, just at this very moment, my son is organizing his baseball cards on the floor while my daughter sits beside him and colors…and my fabulous husband cleans up the kitchen. (Hooray for men with cleaning skills!) I hope we’re creating a loving, nurturing environment so when my kids grow up and find partners of their own, they know what true love feels like.

Mary Sullivan is an example of love for her eight children, the talented siblings of the Sullivan series. Because she cares so much for them, and they care for each other, they’re unwilling to accept less than that level of devotion and affection in their partner. The family is also so intuitive, they learn to recognize when the others are in love.

In my latest release, Smith (COME A LITTLE BIT CLOSER) falls for his co-star’s sister. But Valentina is determined not to be the kind of woman who falls into bed with a sexy movie star. Only, when Smith’s family meets Valentina and Smith, they’re immediately able to see that Valentina is different than any other woman Smith has ever been with – and that Smith is happier because of her, too.


fall in love

The Sullivans are on tour with Novel Publicity. Follow along for your chance to win amazing prizes. We’ve got special romantic swag baskets for each book, an iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Kobo eReader, and Amazon and iTunes gift cards. WOW!

You’ll also get introduced to this amazing contemporary romance series via excerpts as well as interviews with and guest posts from New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, Bella Andre. You’ll definitely want to learn more about the family that has captured the world’s heart.

All the info you need to join the fun and enter to win amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase any of the Sullivan ebooks by Bella Andre for just $4.99 (optional)
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity (go here)
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event (that’s where the HUGE prizes are)

About The Sullivans: In this sexy, emotional and funny contemporary romance series, each member of the Sullivan family will eventually find true love…usually where he or she least expects it.

Get the eBooks via Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, the iBookStore, or the Kobo Store.

Audiobooks are also available for the first five in the series (with more coming soon). Plus, keep an eye out for paperback editions coming from Harlequin Romance starting Summer 2013.

All Sullivan Covers

Bella Andre_1About the Author: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Bella Andre has always been a writer. Songs came first, and then non-fiction books, but as soon as she started writing her first romance novel, she knew she’d found her perfect career. Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly) about sizzling alpha heroes and the strong women they’ll love forever, nearly all of her novels have appeared on Top 10 lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo.

Her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine “Red Hot Reads” twice and have been translated into nine languages. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post has called her “One of the top digital writers in America” and she has been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. She has given the keynote speech at Book Expo America on her self-publishing success and has sold more than one million books.

If not behind her computer, you can find her reading her favorite authors, hiking, swimming or laughing. Married with two children, Bella splits her time between the Northern California wine country and a 100 year old log cabin in the Adirondacks.

Thank you, Bella, for the guest post, and I hope you enjoy the tour!
Readers, don’t forget to check out the giveaway, and good luck!

Happy Monday,
Cate

Melissa McPhail Guest Post!

My final post for the Cephrael’s Hand tour! ❤ I’m so glad I still get to participate. And, of course, thanks to Melissa McPhail for allowing us this opportunity! Now, please enjoy this guest post my Melissa, and don’t forget about the giveaway!

My Take on Magic Systems

A guest post by Melissa McPhail

One of the most enticing aspects of writing fantasy is developing a magic system. The author’s magic system is inextricably woven into their world and contributes greatly to the reader’s vision of the world overall. The way a system is created either makes the world seem real or unreal, depending on how well the author has grounded the system with laws and limitations.

For example, scientists in our own world have defined laws—inertia, gravity, the periodic table—that describe the physical limitations and properties of energy. We don’t expect a stone to rise upwards when we throw it, but we might believe it could float if it were somehow made of helium. Likewise in a fantasy world, it’s important to codify the system with laws and rules (and to stick to those rules once established), to set boundaries for what the magician can and cannot do with magic, and to establish consequences for and ramifications of magical misuse.

This all shows that magic systems require significant thought and research on the author’s part to develop realistically. Yet for all of this, the manner in which one might design and describe the magical process is potentially limitless—there are as many magical systems as there are fantasy novels, and equally as many readers eager to pontificate on their pros and cons and/or to organize the systems into categories and types.

The one thing most magic systems have in common, however, is that they all handle energy. Whether that energy is spiritual, omnipotent, corporeal, or derives from physical objects or living things, the working of arcane arts surrounds the manipulation of energy.

I designed the magic in Cephrael’s Hand based on scientists’ existing understanding of electrical fields. The process of thought has been scientifically proven to produce energy, and human bodies are known to generate electrical fields. For the magic in Alorin, I proposed that all living things produce a metaphysical energy which is formless but which flows across the world in natural currents. This energy is called elae. This is the energy a magician of Alorin uses to produce arcane workings. How he does this is the creative part.

In Cephrael’s Hand, all things are formed of patterns. A single leaf derives its pattern from the larger pattern of its motherly oak. The snowflake harbors the pattern of a storm. Rivers form patterns that mimic the pattern of the world, and a living man harbors within him the pattern of his immortality. These inherent patterns collect and compel energy (elae) toward a certain purpose—growth, action, states of change.

To compel energy, a magician of Alorin (called a wielder) must learn to first identify and then usurp control over the pattern of a thing in order to command it. This is a laborious process requiring a lifetime of study.

Unlike wielders, the Adepts in Cephrael’s Hand are born with the ability to manipulate certain patterns. Adept Healers can see creation patterns (life patterns) and mend them where they’ve become frayed. Truthreaders can hear certain thoughts and read minds to see what a man saw versus what he says he saw. Nodefinders have the ability to move long distances with a single step by traveling on the pattern of the world. And Wildlings tap into a variant aspect of the lifeforce called elae to shapeshift or even skip through time, among other intriguing talents. The last type of Adept can sense the patterns of nonliving things—stone, air, water, fire, etc.—and use those patterns to compel the elements themselves.

Adepts are limited by nature of their birth—they can only inherently work one category of patterns. They are limited by their training, their inherent intelligence, talent and ability. And of course, like us in real life, they are limited by their own vision of their capabilities.

Above all of these limitations, we find Adepts limited by “Balance.” The concept of Balance draws from my studies of Eastern philosophies. It is the high governing force, the yen and yang, karma, cause and effect, fate. It’s as esoteric and arcane as these concepts imply. How far can the Balance be pushed in one direction without lashing back at the wielder? Which actions stretch it and which ones defy it? Balance is a complex and complicated subject—as difficult to define as our own world’s myriad competing religions. The only real agreement on the subject of Balance is that all magical workings stretch the Balance to some degree. Understanding how far they can be stretched without snapping is central to survival in the arcane arts.

The concept of Balance provides, well, the “balancing” force to all magical workings in Cephrael’s Hand and is central to its plot. You see, the entire realm of Alorin is out of Balance and magic is dying—and the Adept race dies along with it.

Cephrael Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Cephrael’s Hand eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Cephrael’s Hand for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Cephrael’s Hand: Two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a great battle, neither knowing the other is alive… A traitor works in exile while preparing for the disaster only he knows is coming… A race of beings from beyond the fringe of the universe begin unmaking the world from within… And all across the land, magic is dying.Cephrael’s Hand is the first novel in the award-winning series A Pattern of Shadow and Light.Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Visit Melissa on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Melissa McPhail interview and Giveaway!

My second post for the Cephrael’s Hand tour! :3 Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

This is the interview with Melissa McPhail, author of Cephrael’s Hand.

1. Your debut novel, Cephrael’s Hand was the winner of The Written Arts Award for both the best fiction and the best Sci-Fi/Fantasy categories–congratulations! So tell us, what was the inspiration behind this story, and can you tell us a little bit about it?

I started the first version of Cephrael’s Hand when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I needed the cathartic joy that I’d always found in writing. I didn’t set out to write a novel—just to write. That first draft had no planning, no world-building, no design. It was pure creative inspiration. And it was awful!

But the characters… I had brought them into being, and they insisted that they had a story to tell. It took my growing as a writer—and over a million words tossed into the trash—to finally tell their story properly.

Cephrael’s Hand is the result of a philosopher’s approach to fantasy. It’s the story of one man’s steadfast determination to save the realm he swore to protect, and his willingness to do anything it takes to accomplish that end—even to betray those he loves. It’s the story of the unlikely pieces (men and women) who unknowingly fall beneath his shadow, and of the players who follow him. Ultimately, it’s a story of salvation.

I see fantasy as a metaphor for life in this world. We all face tests of our honor. We’re all working to accomplish our goals and flourish and prosper. Few of us set out to do evil. Yet evil is done. Goals are abandoned. Integrity is compromised. We totter precariously on thin wires as we move through the labyrinth of life. I strive with my series to illuminate those wire-thin paths, that we might find solid ground beneath them.

2. Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open Cephrael’s Hand?

If you listen to my critics—too many characters! But this is an epic fantasy dealing with a conflict that spans multiple kingdoms. It takes a team to save the world. 😉

Hopefully you’ll meet interesting characters and a world you can easily find your own place within. You’ll discover pirates, princes, star-crossed lovers and philosopher-soldiers. You’ll see many characters who are not as they appear, and a few who are exactly as they seem. You’ll find adventure on a perilous road with prince Ean val Lorian, and farcical escapades with Trell of the Tides and the pirate Carian vran Lea.

You’ll often wonder who is good and who is evil—because most villains in real life are cloaked in shades of gray.

3. Can you tell us more about some of the key concepts that inspired the world of Cephrael’s Hand?

The story is crafted out of many of the philosophies I’ve studied. As I was planning Cephrael’s Hand, I had been reading about game philosophy. Game philosophy speaks on the importance of games in our lives and takes a look at their composition (barriers, purposes and freedoms) and their anatomy (pieces, players, maker of games). It’s a compelling concept with abundant applications, and I became immediately interested in exploring the ideas more via the story of Cephrael’s Hand.

Balance is another concept that threads throughout the story. Exploration of this idea comes out of my study and practice of yoga. If ever a concept permeates our lives, the pursuit of balance is one. Whether seeking to balance work and parenthood, our social commitments and our private lives, or even just the juggle of that list of a thousand things we’ll never get to, every one of us is seeking balance in some fashion. Placing this concept within the framework of a fantasy story embellishes it with a magical lure.

4. The Cephreal’s Hand constellation plays an important role in the book. Is there a real life constellation that plays a similarly important role in your life?

I can’t say that a particular constellation is important to me personally, though I’ve studied Astrology for many years. But I’m drawn to the idea, both scientifically and philosophically, that we are all connected somehow with each other and the broader universe. String Theory and General Relativity play to this idea from the perspective of science. Certainly, if we are connected to the stars in some esoteric way, then the actions of the stars can impact us. Astrology believes this, and the graphing of natal charts proves an underlying truth in this ancient, mystical and often misunderstood science. Philosophies far and wide declare that we’ve descended or separated from a universal oneness and teach karmic values with the intent of helping us return or re-ascend to that harmonious state.

The concept of Balance in Cephrael’s Hand stems from this idea of universal connectivity.

5. Ever since a linguist named Tolkien came along, language has been a very important aspect of the epic fantasy genre. What inspired the various languages in Cephrael’s Hand?

The desert languages are based on Farsi or Arabic, depending on the tribe. Farsi is one of the oldest languages still in use today, and its traditions lent themselves well to the Kandori culture, which is one of Alorin’s oldest races. Likewise Arabic, being originally a language of the nomadic tribes, seemed the correct base from which to draw the language of the Akkad.

Even older than both of these languages in my novel is Old Alaeic, which is the original language of theangiel, the Maker’s blessed children, and of the two original races: the zanthyrs and the drachwyr. Old Alaeic draws primarily from Gaelic root words. I chose Gaelic because the language maintains some of the earliest roots of our Indo-European linguistic heritage. Its spellings and pronunciations are almost universally reminiscent of mythological beings from ancient times and are often associated, especially in the fantasy genre, with elves, Druids or other mystical races.

6. Which other authors have served as influences and inspiration for your own work?

I love lyrical writing, so my bookshelves host an eclectic mix (albeit heavily weighted with fantasy and science fiction). Those who first come to mind from the fantasy genre are Anne Rice, Patrick Rothfuss and Jacqueline Carey, all of whom carry on a great and fabulous romance with the English language, much to the ecstasy of millions. Being able to string words like pearls into a story that reads at times like poetry in motion seems the greatest pinnacle of storytelling skill.

7. It’s been said that one of the most time-consuming processes of writing epic fantasy is world building. Without giving too much away, what are a few of your favorite world aspects and what inspired them?

As I wrote in a recent guest post, world-building and the magic system developed for the world are intimately connected. We can’t really describe a fantasy world without talking about the magic that rules it, because so much of what we understand about the world derives from our understanding of how the physical laws of the world work.

In creating my world of Alorin, I established five “strands” of the lifeforce known as elae. These strands are a way of describing and codifying the lifeforce which is the source of energy in the world, but they are only one way of describing it. While most of the viewpoints I am writing from agree with describing the lifeforce in terms of “strands,” there are other races in Alorin who have codified it differently, darkly, or with less purity for lack of philosophical simplicity.

I love exploring different viewpoints and imagining how each would describe a universal energy. I love examining the cultures that seek to describe this energy and how their ideals might alter their understanding of it. For example, the Adept race believes that Adepts are born with the ability to work one of the five strands, but only one. Yet some of the “Wildling” races are known to be able to innately work more than one strand.

The Fhorgs race works blood sacrifice to fuel their magic. Would their magic work without such sacrifice? The Adepts believe that it would. Yet within the Adept philosophy, a working of magic requires faith both in the existence of power and in one’s ability to manipulate it. If the Fhorgs don’t believe themselves able to wield the lifeforce without letting blood, it follows that magic would become unavailable to them simply because of their lack of belief. Moreover, because the Fhorgs don’t limit their ideas of their magical ability to a five strand approach, it’s possible they might achieve more through the wielding of it–or not. These are existential questions for these two races, questions which set them at odds with each other. Questions from which derive conflicts and persecutions, intrigues and betrayals.

Such explorations fuel both world-building and magic-system building, because their delineation establishes how the world works, how the people of the world interact with the energy that fuels it, how they interact with each other, and how they use the energy itself to work arcane acts.

8. You grew up in a house full of musicians, but your creativity emerged in the form of writing. Have you always felt called to write?

I always thought I would end up with a career in music like the rest of my family. I grew up harboring such an appreciation of these accomplished, classical musicians all around me, it seemed a natural course to follow in their footsteps.

Instead, I stumbled into writing the way one sometimes bumps into providence, colliding with it accidentally. I happened to take a creative writing class in high school. My creative writing instructor believed the best way to teach writing was to send her students out to actually write. So I did—hundreds of pages over the next few years. Writing became both an outlet for my creativity and the escape reading had always provided. I know I share that love affair with many authors.

9. At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?

Usually I turn to music—either composing it or listening to it. If I can find a great new song, sometimes that will help inspire me out of the hole. When a scene just isn’t working, I’ve learned to go back to where I was last doing well in the story and scrap everything that came after. It’s an agonizing process, but often necessary.

10. The Dagger of Adendigaeth, Book 2 in your series, has just been published. How has your vision expanded from book 1 to book 2, and what kind of creative growth have you experienced in your process this second time around?

We grow as writers with every novel—at least I believe that’s the goal. Many of the things I gained in writing The Dagger of Adendigaeth are intangible, ineffable understandings of myself and my creative process. I think of those times of being fabulously, fantastically stuck and the final moment of inspiration that launched me out of that depressing well. I think of the plot twists that came to me completely without warning, and the absolute magic that is the creative process.

The thing I loved most about writing this book was being able to explore so many viewpoints—especially the viewpoints of those characters who might be viewed as antagonists. But I don’t and never have seen them that way. It’s my greatest purpose in writing this series to be able to show the motivations and ideals that mold and shape each character. The more we can understand each other, the closer to a peaceful coexistence we will find, whether in the microcosm of our lives or the broader political and religious zones.

Cephrael Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Cephrael’s Hand eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Cephrael’s Hand for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Cephrael’s Hand: Two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a great battle, neither knowing the other is alive… A traitor works in exile while preparing for the disaster only he knows is coming… A race of beings from beyond the fringe of the universe begin unmaking the world from within… And all across the land, magic is dying.Cephrael’s Hand is the first novel in the award-winning series A Pattern of Shadow and Light.Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Visit Melissa on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Aside

Yesterday, I FINALLY posted my review of Blackened Cottage by A.E. Richards. Tonight, I give you my interview with the amazing author and a little treat at the end. :3 Enjoy, loves!

1. What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?

Blackened Cottage is like another main character. Using memories of a cottage I know intimately, I darkened these mental images, or ‘blackened’ them, building a sense of the sinister and portraying the cottage almost as a prison for Lisbeth. For me, this accentuated the ghostly feel of the story while nuancing the gothic horrors soon to attack. Blackened Cottage becomes a symbol for the evil that pulses through the novel. Its blackness represents depravity and loss. To Lisbeth, the cottage is an alien place yet one she knows too well, and ultimately, one she must escape.

2. What specific themes did you emphasize throughout the novel? What are you trying to get across to the reader?

Sanity versus madness. Can anyone ever be fully sane, or are we all susceptible to the pull of insanity? Depending on the trauma of our experiences, we can be closer to madness than we believe possible. Real versus imagined. How far can the subjectivity of our perceptions blur the ‘truth’? No-one’s perception of, and reaction to, the world is identical. We are all prone to dreaming, fantasising, using different ways to escape – at least for a little while – the terrible realities that confront us.

3. Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?

I would say that every character is authentic, but of course suspense of disbelief is required on the part of the reader to a certain degree because Lisbeth’s life is threatened time and time again throughout the story. I can relate to Lisbeth’s loneliness and sadness, and to the warmer aspects of other characters, but I can in no way relate to Mortimer. He is purest evil. The loquacious Mary does remind me of one relative in particular who can talk for England!

4. How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?

Lisbeth journies through a huge rite of passage, discovering sense of self, the fact that she has lost her memory, that things are not quite as she believed them to be and as a result her identity evolves. Her life changes dramatically, transforming from a stifled, static one to an adventurous one filled with friendship and peril. Lisbeth’s change of place triggers an enormous change in her and propels the story into action.

5. In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of your world view?

I suppose Lisbeth’s journey from isolation and entrapment to freedom and happiness reveals my view that life can change for the better if the person suffering makes one brave step to alter the present state of affairs. It also exposes my view of life as an unpredictable, chaotic thing affected and directed by those you come into contact with throughout your life in minor and major ways. People influence the experiences that shape us in positive and negatives ways, and difficult times make us stronger ultimately. As long as we have the loving support of people, we will prevail.

6. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?

The darkness of the book made me realise how much I have changed over the last few years. I can now see more deeply into the negative aspects of people and of life. At times, I heard my old self in Lisbeth’s bleaker contemplations and this disturbed me a little, but I think my experiences have enabled me to see more deeply into the sadder truth of things.

7. Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else?

There was only Lisbeth’s character who evolved in my mind and had a voice before I even opened the blank page. Perhaps she grew unconsciously within me over the last few years.

8. What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?

I researched preachers and sermons of the time, the evolution of hypnosis and psychoanalysis, nineteeth century costume and customs. I gained a great appreciation for the oratic powers of the famous nineteenth century Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

9. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method?

I usually start with a character who has a problem and the story builds from there. I try to write 1,000 – 2,000 words daily and try to add at least something to the story every day. If I get bored when writing, I know I am going wrong, because if I get bored, the reader will.

10. How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?

I play hard and work hard. If I am truly stuck, I take a deep breath, re-read the last section and just start to write without stopping for as long as I can, telling myself that if it’s crap at least I’ve tried to write something and maybe a sentence or two will be worth keeping. If not, at least I’ve practised writing.

11. Favorite book from childhood.

‘The Worst Witch’ series by Jill Murphy when I was seven, R.L.Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ aged nine, Francis Hodgeson Burnett’s ‘A Little Princess’ at eleven, ‘Daddy Long Legs’ aged thirteen and Harry Potters aged fifteen.

12. What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.

My lap top, a Winnie-the-Pooh mug, chocolate crumbs, framed photographs of my parents and boyfriend, a pot of highlighters, a pink stapler and three edited drafts of my latest novel.

Amazon link:
http://www.amazon.com/Blackened-Cottage-ebook/dp/B008XM3TUK

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/BlackenedCottage

Blog:
abbyrichards.wordpress.com

Thank you so much, Abby, for the interview!

I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did! And now…

Opening Chapter

Chapter 1

Father

Dear Mama,

If it were not for little Eddie, I fear I would lose my mind.

Father has not spoken once since you left us. In truth, he barely glances in my direction and, if he comes near, which thankfully is a rare thing indeed, a frightful tension accompanies him and I have to fight the urge to flee the room.

I am confined to the new house for the foreseeable period and I do not know why. I just know that Father’s brief note carried a warning tone that could be dangerous to ignore.

We are hidden away in the countryside far from anyone, in a hideous place rather aptly called Blackened Cottage, for its outer walls are painted entirely black. Sadly, the cottage is about as welcoming as the Reaper’s smile. Inside, the walls are the colour of jaundiced skin. A cloying odour of rancid milk permeates the air, and dust muffles every surface as if the building has not been lived in for one hundred years.

For me, the floorboards are the cottage’s one redeeming feature. They are finest oak, beautiful when shaved of dust. You would admire them Mama.

Downstairs there is a study that I have never entered, a small, dank kitchen and a medium-sized living room with a bricked in fireplace. A narrow staircase leads upstairs to just two bedrooms so Father sleeps in the study. I gave the bigger bedroom to Eddie. He needs it more than me.

Father’s silence does not merely estrange me, it scares me. Though Eddie says nothing, I know it disturbs him too. Occasionally, I catch Father staring at his reflection with a strange intensity. His eyes seem darker these days, and my spine prickles when he enters the room. Mostly he keeps to his study, for which I am glad.

I spend my days tutoring Eddie in Mathematics and English. He is a good pupil. He works hard and asks a lot of questions. Fortunately, he has ceased asking about Father. It is almost as if Eddie has accepted our new reality far more readily than I.

Loneliness burns my chest, but I cannot leave – not while Eddie is so young. We celebrated his eighth birthday yesterday. Just he and I. I made him a puzzle. It was his only present. Either Father forgot or he no longer cares, but I dare not approach him to ask.

Oh Mama, I cannot believe you have been gone a year. Would that you could return and take us away from all of this.

Father’s footsteps are on the landing! I must hide this. ‘Til tomorrow Mama,

Lisbeth

*

I hide my letter just as Father’s footsteps pause outside my door. My heart drums even though I am almost certain he will not enter my room. The floorboards creak once, twice, thrice. He is moving away. I let out a sigh and unclench my fists. He has never hurt me or Eddie, but I can feel his soul darkening. His mind slipping.

Eddie is in the garden but it is getting dark so I gently open my door and tiptoe down the staircase. Every board creaks and gives a little underfoot. I wonder how long it will be before a step gives way. A tiny part of me hopes that when that day comes, Father will be the one who crashes through the floor. Things would be so much easier if he were not around.

Immediately I feel guilty for the thought and bite my lip until it stings.

I creep past Father’s study. As usual, the door is firmly shut.

With bare feet and strumming heart, I hastily exit the living room. In this house, I cannot walk slowly.

Eddie is play-fighting with Jack. Jack is his imaginary friend.

Jack is also eight years old. He has carrot-orange hair and freckles. He wears an old-fashioned sailor uniform. Eddie says Jack wears the same thing every day.

“Time for supper, Eddie.”

“Can Jack come too? Please, please, please?”

I search his delicate, innocent face. His brown hair flops down over his right eye. He always reminds me of a puppy. Unconditionally loving. My heart twinges. I brave a smile.

“Jack can most certainly join you – as long as he minds his table manners.”

“Yes!” Eddie exclaims, “Come Jack, you can sit next to me.”

Not for the first time, I glimpse a form beside Eddie as he hurries into the cottage. I shake my head, certain I am imagining things.

Following quickly, I leave the garden with its dark cords of ivy and enter the kitchen.

I decide to explore the garden tomorrow in the daylight when Eddie takes his afternoon nap. Eddie tells me it is far bigger than it first appears.

*

My Dearest Lisbeth,

Times are hard. I miss you and Eddie dearly. I am sorry for leaving you with that soulless man, but you are strong, kind and good and I am hopeful that your loving spirit will ferry you through the loneliness that you speak of.

With regards to your Father, do you remember what I told you before I left? DO NOT TRUST HIM. If he is electing not to converse with you this is a good thing. Believe me. He is a dire man. His soul dissolves by the day; I could feel it then, and now, so can you. Be careful. Trust your instincts.

I will write again shortly. All my love,

Mama

*

Afternoon birds beckon me outside. Their song is a lullaby strangely hypnotic.

Despite the chill air, the sun is blinding.

I pull my black shawl tighter and exhale a misty steam. My feet are bare on the long, cold grass but my toes remain warm. My gown sweeps the earth picking up damp soil that is almost black.

I turn around and stare at the cottage. Four unblinking eyes surrounded by darkness. The queerness of its ebony coating stills my heart for a moment and I shudder. Why would someone paint a house black? Who would paint a house black? My mind creates a figure shrouded in black. Its face is hooded, but underneath its curling lips grin wickedly.

Dispelling this unnerving image, I gather my dirtied skirts and slowly descend.

I walk slowly between sapless oaks; dusty branches like broken limbs; a throng of dead daddy long legs on their backs. A sad thought occurs to me: Winter is starving the garden of life, just as loneliness is depriving me of hope.

The grass tickles my ankles and calves. Crisp brown leaves cringe, crunch. The sound is satisfying but the scraping feeling irritates. Still, I feel freer with my soles bared. I always have and always will. It is something Mama loves about me so I cling to it.

A jackdaw brazenly lands, stabs at the earth, rips out a worm, chokes it down. Strolls a little. Stabs at the earth again.

I freeze and stare at it. Black beetling eyes in a puddle grey face. Sharp, stabbing black beak. Strong, hulking black body. Glossy feathers. Arrogant. Aloof. Superior.

As I advance, I wonder how to portray such a creature, even though I know I will never capture the bird’s complexity with my charcoal.

I lift my hands to inspect the state of my fingernails, and the movement disturbs the jackdaw who laboriously lifts from the ground and soars away.

The nails of my left hand are worse. Black grime sits there. Something reddish-brown also fills the space between fingertip and nail. Perhaps it is residual dirt from cleaning the brass. I taste the tip of my index finger. The flavour is distinct: dried blood. A stinging sensation draws my attention. I pull up my sleeve and gasp. A nasty slit runs from wrist to elbow. I realise I must have ripped it on a branch and not noticed. The pain is not much so I decide to rinse it when I have finished my walk.

I begin to take a step and hear a scream. It is coming from the cottage. The scream belongs to Eddie!

With storming heart I abandon my search and tear back to the cottage.

*

Dear Diary,

I am sitting in my study as I write this. As always, I am tired. I am tired of this life and of the man I have become.  Evil thoughts are upon me every day, nay every hour.  Of slashing and tearing, of ripping and slicing.  In my imagination I see blood everywhere and I fear, dear diary, that my imagination will all too soon become my reality.  And when it does then what will come of me, and what might my anguish cause me to do?

My daughter and my son are of no help. I wish they were gone from my life, buried deep underground and forgotten by all. My wife I feel sure has gone forever and I am beginning to accept it. But my children still haunt me. It is when I feel at my most melancholic and, yes, my most dangerous, that it seems their voices are at their loudest.  It might be the simplest thing. My son calls: ‘Where are my shoes Father?’ and I hear it clearly and the sound grates on my soul.  I cover my ears but I feel my hands turn to fists and I want to strike out. To stop their noise forever would be a blessing.

Am I a bad man? I believe so. My children should mean everything to me I know. I should be being kind to them, speaking softly to them, playing with them. Instead I wish them gone. Gone forever so that I hear their entreatments no more. I can no longer bear the thought of them.

My wife has left me. Some would say she has done badly by her children by what she has done and where she has gone.  And yet she has at least found a way of escaping reality, whereas I am caught in a place where my brain cannot cope and where my anger rises more fiercely with every waking hour.  If my children came into my study at this moment I fear what I might do.

And yet there is a chance she may return to me.  Sustaining even this infinitesimal fraction of hope is draining, but I cannot give up. Not yet. Not while hope remains. So I continue to exist in this empty shell. I cannot be a good father any more or a loving husband so now I am simply a man hanging by a thread. Control of my temper is essential but difficult, oh so difficult.

She, of course, cannot be a mother or a wife any more either, but I cannot persuade myself to enter her world. I am frightened about what will happen if I do. Fearful of what I might do if I learn that all hope is gone. I just need more time. She needs more time. Time is a great healer, so they say.

I know she feels like I am abandoning her but it really is better this way. Or at least I think it is. If I were to go to her…who knows what would happen? We are both capable of doing awful things. Terrible, unspeakable things. Of that I am certain.

Sometimes, when I am out of sorts, visions flit across my mind’s eye. Visions so despicable that I dare not put them on this parchment for fear that writing them down may somehow transform them into reality. They are visions of me acting upon this heinous rage that torments my soul. They are visions of my merciless nature, savage, driven by aggression. Indeed, knowing that I am capable of conjuring up such notions scares me. It makes me aware of a dark part within my mind and of what, if pushed, I could do. I used to contain a gentle soul, but this thing that haunts me is beginning to possess my thoughts and impulses. Soon I fear I may lose myself.

At times, I wake as if from a dream even though I have not been asleep. I wake and I see red. Literally. I see red, the hue of congealed blood.  The colour taints my vision, twists all logic. And if I were to look upon her in that one moment of suspended reason, I fear I would know her as the she-devil and act accordingly.

Am I going mad? Am I in danger of losing control and damaging the one thing I have left in this dismal world? Then again, I do not really have her anymore: her mind soured against me a long time ago and she has gone. She is the bitter fruit I dare not touch. Nothing I do would persuade her I mean no harm because even I cannot be persuaded of this; I am at once rankled that she will not let me go to her and yet relieved. Every day I grow more wary of the passage of my thoughts for they trek an increasingly menacing path spiked with thorns and spite.

It is better this way, for now. Better if I stay away. If not for her safety, then for my own sanity.

But there is Lisbeth, outside my door again, scuttling past like a frightened rabbit. She does right to stay away. And I must do the same otherwise my anger could explode into her like a hundred arrows laced with poison.

I must away.

Charles Cutteridge

She had me hooked from the start! What about you?

Until next time!

Catherine Knox

Interview with Abby Richards