Tormented by Darkness comes out next week on December 7. Enjoy a sneak preview of Chapter One.

Chapter One

“Oh that’s right, we’re pretending your dead. Like we do every year when your birthday rolls around.”

Rhiannon McLaine shot a glare over the top of the flower arrangement in her hands. It landed on her brother, Dáire. He lounged in a metal folding chair, one ankle across a knee, his grin as devilish as the dark blood that flowed in their veins.

She chose to keep silent.

“How old are you now? Two thousand one hundred and ninety-nine or twenty-two hundred, even? It’s been so long since we’ve celebrated, I think I’ve forgotten.” He folded his arms over his broad chest, cerulean blue eyes glinting with wicked amusement. A casual toss of his head had his deep auburn hair dusting his shoulders.

He knew exactly how old she was. He was, to the night, exactly eighteen months older. And their polarized birthdays—she on Mabon, he on Ostara—forged bonds only rivaled by true twins of the womb. Those intimate ties made it possible for him to understand the barbs that flew from her narrowed gaze held no conviction.

His grin broadened as he kicked back, balancing on the chair’s rear legs. “Come on, sis, it’s just a camping trip.”

“I have things to do here, Dáire. Look at this stack of orders.” She gestured at a long line of hanging tickets on the wall beside her. “Homecoming is next weekend. There’s some big funeral tomorrow night, and I have a dozen out of town arrangements to put together. And Missy Soffet is getting married next Sunday too.”

Turning her attention back to the bright array of carnations, lilies and lush ferns in her hands, Rhiannon did her best to ignore the temptation of a weekend get-a-way. With the Mabon ritual so close, she was already a bundle of restlessness. Energy spiked, spirits drew closer to the veil between the realms, and the bits and pieces of her magical Celtic soul hungered for the rising power. An escape in the quiet mountains would make it easier to resist the calling, the dark desire to kill.

“So I’ll pop in next week and help you snip together all those homecoming corsages.” He paused, then cajoled, “It’ll be fun. Marshmallows. Chocolate. Wieners.”

Damn him, he knew she had a soft spot for S’mores. For just a heartbeat, she considered agreeing. Her chin even dipped. But before her head could lift and fully execute the nod, she held it in place, narrowing her gaze on a disobedient bloom. “Not going to work.”

“Cian and Miranda are going to come keep me company, but you won’t? I can’t believe my favorite sister’s going to abandon me on her birthday. My half birthday.”

Lips pursed, she tossed him a nonplussed look. “Don’t. Don’t even go there. I’m immune to your ability to influence my mind.”

He spread his hands before him, his expression innocent despite the amusement that glinted in his eyes and animated the intricate tattoo across his high cheekbones. To Rhiannon’s shame, a grin threatened to spoil her false look of annoyance. She fought the pull at the corners of her mouth and turned her back on Dáire to keep from laughing. He’d never been innocent. Not for one day out of his centuries-old life.

And resisting him, his charm, his wit, his beguiling teasing, was something she’d never done well.

“It’s my birthday. Shouldn’t I get to spend it how I want?”

“Yes, but you want to go camping. I can feel it.”

Double damn. Sometimes she wished they didn’t share the ability to sense each others’ feelings. She did want to go. She just couldn’t justify the time away from her flower shop.

Never mind that seeing her now-mortal brother, Cian, and his fiancée Miranda, made facing her reflection absolute torture. Cian had escaped the taint of their father’s dark blood, freed himself from their inherited damnation.

Rhiannon had hoped she and Dáire might discover the same blessing. But with one day left before her birthday, clearly this year wasn’t their year to experience the gift of freedom.

“Hey, ease up,” Dáire’s voice assumed sincerity. “I didn’t mean to bring you down.”

Rhiannon shook her head and pulled in a steadying breath. “I’m okay.” Just sick to death of what we are, of fighting this demonic nature of our father’s.

A shadow fell across her worktable, and a heavy hand settled on her shoulder. Dáire’s fingers squeezed gently. “Come with us, Rhiannon. I don’t want to leave you alone on your birthday, and I can’t fight the call in the city. It’s too strong anymore.”

That too, Rhiannon felt. The agitation in Dáire’s soul stirred hers. The relentless need to take life grew more intolerable each year that passed, and the Sabot nights were always the hardest. It had been a long time since she’d caved to it—since they both had. But she sensed, for her twin-like brother, this year might make him falter.

She couldn’t tell him no. Couldn’t send him off with Cian and Miranda to battle the vile half of his soul and struggle to hold on to the light their mother infused within him. She glanced at the finished flower basket, reached out to straighten the electric blue bow. “Do we have to go with them?”

The shrill peal of the phone halted conversation. Rhiannon wiped her hands on her apron, tucked her long thick braid over her shoulder and scurried to the front of the shop. “Rhiannon’s Creations, how may I help you?”

“Rhiannon.”

The gravelly voice she’d dreamed about one too many times poured over her. With it came a vision of thick black hair, a sultry mouth, and eyes that were as dark and fathomless as a starless sky. A pleasant chill crawled down her spine, and Rhiannon clutched the phone a tiny bit tighter. “Mick Farrell, how good of you to call.”

From the corner of Rhiannon’s peripheral vision, she caught Dáire leaning against the doorframe, amused smirk once again intact. Turning sideways, she sought to hide her reaction to Mick’s phone call, though no doubt, Dáire could feel the excitement that thrummed in her veins.

Mick cleared his throat. “Yeah, listen, I know it’s late notice, but…” He paused, a harsh breath drifting through the receiver. “Can you fill an order before you close?”

Rhiannon glanced at the clock. Ten till four—she still had another arrangement to finish before they closed, but Mick’s usual half-dozen “something pinks” or “something yellows” wouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes. She grinned as a chuckle escaped. “Another lady friend, huh? What happened to last week’s flavor?”

Though the question was lighthearted, a pang of envy rose on its heels. Mick Farrell was the single-most breathtaking man Rhiannon had ever laid eyes on. He was tall and athletic, fine-tuned for the rigors of his work. The touch of wickedness in his smile promised he knew how to use that muscular body for other, more pleasurable purposes. He could melt a woman with a single look. Mick also knew it. And though he flirted shamelessly with her every time he came in to pick up his flowers for his endless rotation of women, she didn’t even register on his horizon.
Not that she wanted to. The whole falling in love with him and having to kill him curse put a damper on the giddy way his fathomless dark eyes made her feel.

At his harassed sigh, a frown pulled at her brow. No smart comeback? This wasn’t like Mick. She swallowed her smile. “You want roses, carnations—or I have some really pretty fresh-cut wildflowers. They aren’t all pink, but they’re a great date mix.”

“No. No flowers. Well. Not those kind.” He sighed again, and something on the other end of the phone thumped heavily. “A plant maybe. I’m sorry this is such short notice, Rhiannon. I don’t know, what’s easy? What can you do in triplicate?”

Triplicate? Rhiannon blinked. With an hour until closing and another arrangement already promised by five, Mick was seriously pushing her abilities. But something else deepened her frown. A sense of something not quite right. Mick was never this unsure. Never so…distracted. He knew what he wanted, almost down to the type of filler, no questions asked, no reservations.

“Mick? Are you okay?” The question popped out before she could stop it.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” Again, something thumped in the background. “Look, I’m sorry, I’m a bit disorganized right now. My stepfather passed away. The arrangements are for his wake tonight. I completely forgot about flowers until someone called.”

In a small town the size of Petersville, Pennsylvania, it didn’t take much to put visitation and funeral together and realize the swamp of orders she’d received for Steve Prescott were for Mick’s stepfather. In a heartbeat, compassion rushed forth. “Oh, Mick, I’m so sorry. Yes, I can have those done for you. I’ll have to deliver them though, what time is the wake?”

“Seven.”

Rhiannon nodded as she pushed aside the bottles of herbal remedies she’d neglected to put on the shelves and grabbed a pen. “Where to?”

“Here. My house, I mean. 1327 Watson.”

She scribbled the address down and laid the pen back on the countertop. “Anything in particular?”

“You pick. I trust you.”

“Okay. I’ll stop by your house then.”

“Thanks, Rhiannon.”

“Sure thing.”

Disconnecting, she edged past her brother’s watchful gaze and retreated into the cooler where she pulled an array of muted salmon, yellow, white, and tangerine blooms. Halfway out the door once more, a pot of lavender lisianthus caught her eye, and she plucked six long-stems. She bustled back into her work area and dropped the selection into holding tanks of water.

“Mick Farrell, huh? You’re going by his house?” Dáire’s voice teased as he once again assumed his relaxed position in the chair. “Bet he’d give you a birthday present worth remembering.”

“Dáire!” Goddess help her, she wanted to scold. But that infuriating gleam to her brother’s eyes made it impossible to be offended. His intricate tattoos danced with silent amusement, and she found herself merely shaking her head, bemused.

“Oh, come on, you aren’t a prude no matter how you try to mimic our saintly sister, Brigid.”

That got Rhiannon chuckling. “Would you stop? Mick Farrell doesn’t know I exist beyond my ability to fill his flower orders. He’s not giving me any birthday present, darling brother.”

He lifted one dark eyebrow, and a smirk played at the corner of his mouth. “But you want him to.”

“Hush.” Turning, she reached into a high cabinet for a block of floral foam, glad Dáire couldn’t see the heat that rushed to her cheeks. “His stepfather died. I’m just helping out a good customer.”

“Uh huh. And what about that basket?” He inclined his head toward the one she’d finished.

“Damn! I forgot, I was supposed to get that out the door. Can you do it for me? It goes up to the hospital, room 207, Mrs. Jentzen.”

The low laugh that issued from her brother’s throat as he swung out of the chair and unraveled his rangy frame mocked her. “Keep telling yourself that, Rhi.” He rapped a closed fist over his heart with a mischievous wink. “Remember, I can sense you as easily as you sense me.”

Still smirking, he grabbed the basket and sauntered out the front door. As bells tinkled in his wake, Rhiannon stared at the lump of foam on the table before her. Helping out a good customer—Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Rhi.

If she said it enough, maybe she could actually avoid falling for Mick further and thwart the curse all together.



~~~~~~


Come back Monday for a chance to win an advance copy of Tormented by Darkness!

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Monday Pick Me Up Winner

0 Comments Posted by Claire Ashgrove at 9:49 AM

 



Congratulations to Tara Woods for winning this weeks Monday Pick Me Up -- Cursed to Kill.

I hope you all will come back and play again!

 



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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With the release of the second Inherited Damnation book just around the corner (December 7), I’m giving away a copy of the first book today, Cursed to Kill

The Prize:

A digital (.pdf) copy of Cursed to Kill












The Game:

Email me the name of the Celt tribe Cian is part of. (Hint! Read the information on Inherited Damnation, in the links at the top of the page.)

I will randomly draw a name from the people who email and send the copy over. Winner’s name will be posted in the comments section below.

Good luck!

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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The Inherited Damnation series follows the Celt Sabots, and book III, Destined to Die, releases on December 21st--Yule.

Check out this stunning cover, once again designed by the fabulous Rae Monet!

















If that's a demon, I want my own!

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Congrats to ainfinger!
  
  

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Gearing up for the release of the second book in the Inherited Damnation series, this week’s teaser takes us back to book one, Cursed to Kill.

Cian opened his fingers and dropped the sandwich on the tabletop. He’d hurt Miranda. After he’d poured his soul into her, along with his tainted seed, he had shredded her to bits. He didn’t need words to tell him this – her expression said everything. Pain. Betrayal. Sorrow – all of it shone in her eyes, gutting him until he bled alongside her. It might have been easier if he had just carved out her heart.

If he ever had the chance to make this right again, he would fall to his knees at her feet and beg. She would never believe he was over two-thousand years old, that his blood was half demonic, and all the other fantastic reasons he had forced her away. But maybe, just maybe, he could find something right to say. Something that mended all the bisected bits of her heart.

Angry with his fate, frustrated with his impossible choices, he kicked the chair opposing him. It skittered across the kitchen floor, clanged into the counter, and topped sideways. The clatter satisfied a portion of his agitation.

“You’re in love with her,” Rhiannon observed quietly as she stepped into the doorway.

Cian swore beneath his breath, in no mood for his sister’s well-intended badgerings.

“That’s what this is about isn’t it? The brooding. The indecision. The inability to do anything but rage.” She moved across the room and eased into the chair at his right. Her warm hand fell on his arm, her touch soothing to his agitated skin. “Why didn’t you tell me, Ci?”

Tell her what? That their curse was ripping him in half? That for the first time in his immortal creation he loathed what he was? What they all were? He clenched his teeth and looked away from her probing blue eyes.

“Now I understand why Belen was so mad about you disappearing into your room with her.” A soft chuckle accompanied the wry shake of her head. “You have something he wants.”

“Sibling rivalry at its damnedest,” Cian muttered.

She cocked her head, watching him with keen intelligence. Perhaps a touch of higher wisdom. Cian didn’t know exactly what she latched onto, but he resented her intuition. Her ability to read him so well.

“Miranda,” she murmured thoughtfully.

He glanced sideways at his sister. Not once had he revealed Miranda’s name. Unless they’d been eavesdropping on his encounter in the hall, no one should know.

“Belen knew her name. He’s met her, hasn’t he?”

Visions of the one evening the three of them had spent together flashed before his eyes. Belen sugarcoating his voice, wrapping seduction around Miranda in attempts to draw her away from Cian. Coercion meant to entice, pleasure he would grant, all the while plotting how he intended to draw out her death.

Surprising even to himself, a low growl rumbled in the back of Cian’s throat.

“Cian, tell her.”

He slammed his palms down on the tabletop and rocketed to his feet. “Tell her, what exactly, Rhiannon? That I’ve envisioned methods of killing her that make acts of torture look like child’s play?”






~~~~~~





Come back Monday for a chance to win Cursed to Kill!



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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It's Monday again -- time to start the week with another free-read!

The Prize:

A .pdf copy of A Broken Christmas











The Game:

Post a comment, any comment, about either the Broken Christmas Teaser last Tuesday, or sound off if you have family or friends currently serving in our Armed Forces (or similar capacities).

Names will be collected, and one person will be randomly chosen by my youngest demi-demon. The winner’s name will be posted in the comments section tomorrow morning. Winner will need to email me to claim his/her prize.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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I've said it many times, A Broken Christmas is a very special story to me. It is probably my current favorite piece I've written. I hoped that it impacted readers as much as it affected me.

I'm beyond thrilled that the first review it's received came in at 5 Blue Ribbons from Romance Junkies.

Here's what Suzie had to say:

"A BROKEN CHRISTMAS is one exceptional book! Mere words can’t express how much I fell in love with this story."

"For anyone who appreciates a book with which you will develop an emotional bond then A BROKEN CHRISTMAS is just the book to satisfy your needs."

To read her full remarks, visit Romance Junkies





~~~~~
A Broken Christmas is available in digital format at The Wild Rose Press and all major digital booksellers, including as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Congratulations to "ainfinger" -- the winner of this week's Monday Pick Me Up!

Thank you, everyone, for playing, and I hope you'll come back next week for another chance to win.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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With Christmas coming, it’s time to break out the sentiment. And A Broken Christmas is a book that’s full of sentiment.

A BROKEN CHRISTMAS is a passionate powerhouse of a story. Have the tissues ready!” ~Stephanie Cage, author of Desperate Bid

Falling into his ingrained household routine, Kyle used his cane to pull himself out of the couch and hobbled to the thermostat. He kicked it up from sixty-two to seventy-three. Multiple surgeries had changed one thing permanently—he no longer possessed a tolerance for cold. A slight chill cramped the muscles in his injured leg and spread a dull ache all the way up his spine.

When the heater kicked on, he made his way into the kitchen for a cup of hot coffee. Aimee glanced at him while she furiously beat eggs in a bowl. He lifted an eyebrow at her obvious agitation.

“Something wrong?”

She shook her head then tossed the whisk into the sink. It clattered noisily against the porcelain. Uh-huh. Everything was as right as rain.

“Thank you for the blanket.”

Aimee acknowledged his thanks with a curt nod. “Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes.” She
gestured at the skillet of sausage patties. “Those are almost done.”

As a rule, Aimee liked mornings. She got up, bustled around the kitchen, dodged him until he had a chance to fully wake up. Once he spoke, however, she chattered endlessly while he sucked down coffee by the gallon and tried to make sense of what she said.

This was not his normal, smiling, aggravating, morning-person wife.

Ex wife.

He took another long sip and leaned his good hip against the counter top as she stabbed her two-pronged fork into a patty with a little too much zeal.

“Aimee, you’re killing the sausage. Care to tell me what’s on your mind?”

“Yeah.”

The way she methodically set the fork down, turned off the burner, and reached for something tucked behind the sugar canister tripped him into high alert. He knew how to read her signs loud and clear, and this one said he was in trouble. As she slowly turned around to face him, Kyle eyed the clenched fist she dragged across the countertop.

Her palm smacked against the Formica. Something he couldn’t identify fluttered to the ground and disappeared behind her long robe. Her voice rang with a hard insistence he’d never heard from her before. “I want answers.”

As she lifted her hand, Kyle stared at the pile of ripped up photographs he’d tossed into the trash.

Oh, shit.




~~~~~~




Come back Monday for a chance to win A Broken Christmas



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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The Prize:

A digital (.pdf) copy of Seduction’s Stakes























The Rules:


1. Answer the following question: “What are Maddie and Riley both trying to win?”
2. Email me the answer at: Claire@claireashgrove.com
3. I will put all the participants’ names in a hat tomorrow morning, and my oldest demi-demon will draw one. I’ll then contact the winner via email and send the .pdf. Winner will also be posted here.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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I'm pleased as punch Misunderstanding Mason is being received so well.

Here's what Vicky at Sizzling Hot Book Reviews had to say,:

"I like just about everything in MISUNDERSTANDING MASON. The feeling of the characters are easy to get into..."

"Mason isn’t giving [Kirstin] up and his winning her back is so romantic, if a little on the nerdy side (well, he is a computer programmer after all)."

Sizzling Hot Book Reviews, Vicky -- 5 Hearts


To read the full review, GO HERE.



~~~~~~
Misunderstanding Mason may be purchased in digital format through The Wild Rose Press and all electronic booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Welcome everyone!

Today I'm pleased to bring you, Kathy L. Wheeler, a romance writer from Oklahoma, who comes with an impressive bio in the romance industry. She's been President of OKRWA, President Elec for RWA, a member of RWA PRO, and is currently a member of the Dallas RWA as well as OKRWA's Program Director. She's got a great foundation in writing, and it's exciting to be able to share her insight with all of you.

So, Kathy, tell us a little about yourself – what genre you write in, how long you’ve been writing, what do you do in your non-writing time?

KLW: I primarily write contemporary with an element of suspense. It’s light and (hopefully) a little humorous. I started writing about six years ago. I love pro football, so in my spare time, outside of Jazzercise, reading, and karaoke, I play fantasy football. Last year was my first year to acquire season tickets for NBA Thunder basketball.

I'm impressed you are knowledgeable enough to play fantasy football. I tried once--laughable. I think my team came in dead last (perhaps beyond last) at the end of season rankings.

How did you come to the decision that you wanted to write? And, how did you determine what genre best fit you?

KLW: My first story was not a contemporary. I ran across a Google prompt regarding a spin on Cinderella, and thought, I love Cinderella, I could do this. So in a strange twist of fate, I found some deep part of me took to writing. In five and a half years, I’ve completed nine manuscripts, six of which are over 50k words. So I jumped right in—and I’m still at it.

What steps did you take to get to where you are now, and which do you think was the most important?

KLW: I was reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Chicago Star Series, and as a pro football fan, I was hooked. I started digging around and it was on Ms. Phillips website I found the first link to RWA. I joined the Oklahoma Romance Writers, whose members included, Gena Showalter, Merline Lovelace, Sharon Sala, PC Cast, Maggie Price, Janice Reams Hudson, Jill Monroe, Linda Goodnight, Jordan Dane, Brooke Taylor…well, you get the picture.

Impressive. That's a whole passel of talent to pull from. Lucky lady! I bet you had some excellent insight early-on. But it goes to show--RWA can be so beneficial.

What’s your favorite thing about being an author?

KLW: I can make my characters do anything I want…wait! They sort of take over my head. I can try to make my characters do anything I want. Wait! Nevermind, they just take over my mind. Apparently, I thrive on mind-ebbing chaos. It seems to work.

Laugh! Isn't it great having a legitimate reason to listen to the voices in your head and talk to yourself? Amazing how once folks realize you're an author they stop looking at you funny. If they only knew what happens when those voices start fighting amongst themselves... shew!

What’s the most challenging thing about being an author?

KLW: Submitting and rejection. I know. I know. It’s all part of the process. But it’s tough.
Agent: We love the idea, we didn’t love the story. Editor: Nothing
Agent: While we read this story with great enthusiasm, it just isn’t something we feel is a right fit… Editor: nothing. Agent: blah blah blah. Husband: what are you going to do? Quit writing? Of course, not. Me: Of course, not!

It is part of the process, and as authors, we repeat that mantra to everyone going through it. But it doesn't take away from the fact it is, indeed, scary and heartbreaking at times. Don't lose hope, don't get caught up in negatives. My submission log reads around 300 rejections before my agent signed me. At some point you just have to shrug and say, "Next!" right?

In three sentences or less, tell us what you’re currently working on. What makes you love this particular project?


KLW: After the death of his mother, Kenny Buford finds out his name isn’t what he thought it was. When he tries to find his father, he’s two weeks too late. He’s dead. And learns he’s inherited the majority of stocks where his father was CEO. Someone is determined to take those shares. Dead or alive.

Oooh! That gave me the chills. Nicely done!

Tell us one story related to your writing endeavors. Amuse us, make us cry, make us cringe or make us smirk – your choice.

KLW: Well, there’s the time a group of us met at Panera Bread for our weekly critique meeting and started talking about laser’s (yes, lasers—different colors, swords swinging about) The conversation took a downward, or was it upward? turn….it took about two minutes for the area to clear out…Oh, I’m not sure that’s what you meant….

Laugh! Oh gosh... I can just imagine... You probably don't want to know what I'm imaginging. My alter-ego writes erotica. Smirk. Combine that with the paranormal... yup... I can so see Panera bailing out the door.

What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received about writing, and the pursuit of publication?

KLW: Funny, but it comes from my husband, who is an attorney, musician, and all-around incredibly intelligent, creative man. “The time is going to come and go anyway, what are you going to do? Quit?”

Very inspiring. It's nice (and a rare treat) to have a spouse who is so supportive and who can truly understand the drive to have to write.

What would you advise authors who are working toward publication?

KLW: You can read all the books you want, and should. But until you sit your tail in the chair and write you are limiting yourself. This is a case of having to “do” in order to learn. Can you finish? You don’t know, until you do it.

Amen. 'Nuff said.

Last but not least, is there a place we can keep up with your publication endeavors?

KLW: I try to keep my website updated with links to new postings and articles and short stories I’ve written. You can visit Kathy L. Wheeler

Thanks, Kathy, for stopping in! Keep us posted on Kenny's struggle, would you? Best of luck in your endeavors, and come back soon.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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This week's Monday Pick Me Up winner is Catherine Bybee.

Sandy -- email me directly please.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Going back in time a bit, today’s teaser is from my first book, Seduction’s Stakes

Seduction's Stakes Excerpt


Stumped, he led Mister Spoilsport back into his stall, threw him some more hay, refilled his water bucket, and stared down at the end of the shed row where Maddie and Archie looked like they were saying their goodbyes. She bounced her keys in her hand and kept backing away despite their conversation.

Why was Archie staying with the horse? Where was her groom?

“Scott?” he called to the young man mucking out Jumpin Jess’ stall.

The boy poked his head out of the stall. “Yeah, Boss?”

“I’ve got some business to take care of with Miss McCleery. Go down there, and offer your services to Archie. That man’s too old to be bedding down with horses.”

For a moment, Scott looked like Riley had just asked him to put a saddle on backwards. But he snapped his slack jaw shut and narrowed his widened eyes as he cleared his throat. He bobbed his head. “Sure thing.”

Riley knew Archie wouldn’t accept. He’d sleep near the horse out of devotion and duty. Just as Riley would have if Scott weren’t with him. Still, it made Riley feel a little better about seeing a respected trainer sleeping in a stall, to know he’d offered.

As Maddie backed farther away, Riley jogged down the row after her. Behind him, Scott’s boots crunched against the fine gravel. Passing Archie, Riley tossed the esteemed trainer an acknowledging nod and hurried on into the parking area. “Maddie?” he called out.

She stopped, but it took her a moment to turn around, as if she debated whether she would or not.

Scared rabbit, he mused.

When she did turn to face him, her bright smile sent whatever he’d planned on saying into oblivion. It went straight to his gut, turning it over on itself. “Where’s your groom?” he managed. Brilliant. Yet another stupid question that made his inability to think entirely too obvious. What was it about this woman that erased his ability to function beyond cave-man intellect?

Her puzzled expression said she hadn’t anticipated that question either. With a slight frown she answered, “He’s flying in tomorrow. He had some things to take care of.”

Riley slowed to a stop less than a foot in front of her and shoved a hand in his jeans pocket, doing his best to appear casual. “Archie’s staying with your horse then?”

She nodded.

“Why don’t you let me take you to your hotel. Leave Archie your truck in case he gets cold out here. He’s too old to be sleeping in barns.” Better. His voice sounded indifferent, almost confident, to his ears.

Her lips parted, but no sound came out. With a little laugh, her gaze skated across the narrow alley to her truck. When she looked back at him, her eyes flickered with apprehension. He cocked an eyebrow, waiting for her answer.

“Ah,” she stammered.

He’d have laughed if she didn’t look so damned cute gnawing on her lower lip. As it was, the nervous gesture only reminded him of what a delightful little mouth she had. His gaze fastened on it as he added, “I’ll bring you back in the morning.”

She shook her head. “I better not. I’m not so friendly in the mornings, and I have to pick up my groom and Sybil at the airport, first thing.”

A grin tugged at his mouth as a chuckle threatened to escape. She’d been pleasant enough the other morning, but he sensed she wouldn’t be glad he pointed it out. “You don’t have to say a word to me in the morning,” he coaxed. “I’ll bring coffee, and we can pick them up together.”

Her gaze fell to her hands, and she turned her keys over, and over, studying them.

Convinced she’d find yet another reason to refuse him, he goaded, “C’mon now, Maddie. You aren’t afraid of a six mile truck ride with me, are you?”



~~~~~~

Check back Monday to win a digital copy of Seduction’s Stakes!



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Also starting a new Monday routine – Contests. They won’t always be for a book. But this week we’ll start there. And we’ll make this one super easy.

The Prize:

A .pdf copy of Misunderstanding Mason











The Game:

All you have to do is leave a comment below. Names will be entered into a hat. My eldest demi-demon will select one, and I’ll post the winner here in the comments section tomorrow morning. That person will need to email me to receive his/her prize.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Keeping up the momentum from Halloween, I'm super-excited to share information on the second book in the Inherited Damnation series, and a gorgeous new cover.

Tormented by Darkness
Inherited Damnation, Book II


Cursed by her incubus father centuries ago, the last thing Rhiannon McLaine wants is to fall in love.

The night she delivers flowers to detective Mick Farrell, however, everything changes. Deep-seated attraction flares into untamed passion. In the morning, Rhiannon awakens to find she’s lost her heart. Now, unless she can convince Mick of her secret past, she’s destined to take his life.

When Rhiannon asks Mick to go camping with her, instinct warns him to refuse. Though he hungers for her love and the goodness she represents, he’ll do anything to keep her from discovering the darkness within his soul. Yet a weekend in the woods is the perfect place to indulge in temporary desire…until he finds himself bound against his will.

Surrounded by ancient Celtic rites and magic, can Mick see beyond Rhiannon’s duplicity and recognize her love? Or will the revelation of her true demonic nature doom Rhiannon to a mortal life alone?

Tormented by Darkness will release on December 7, 2011.




~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Welcome, everyone, to your Thursday installment of Voices to Pay Attention To!

This week, I'm bringing you someone I've worked closely with over the years, a mentor in many ways, and someone who is an absolute treat to call friend. She's past-president of Heartland Romance Writers, she works her tail off in her real life, and even when life throws her curveballs she always manages to make someone laugh.

Welcome, G. Aliceson Edwards

What were some of your first experiences with writing?

GAE: You sometimes hear the term, “It came to me as natural as breathing.” That’s what the art of storytelling in both the verbal and written forms are to me. I was raised in a small rural community in a town that featured two main streets, no stop signs, and could be cut off from most of the rest of world if the creek was out. My teachers in the art of storytelling were my “sly as a fox” overall-wearing family members and the men who sat on benches outside the feedstore or bank that you passed by on your way to the post office or grocery store for your free candy bar. Our town never had much true excitement. Somebody’s new truck or relatives from out of town, or the burning of a barn were our town’s big events and they had to be presented in such a way as to spellbind the listener. And I was. Spellbound.

I must stop here. Everybody back up and reread that paragraph. In one brief introduction, she's painted an incredible visual. If I could write like that...

I hate you, G. :)

Why did you decide to become a writer, yourself?

GAE: My childhood dream was to become a reporter and travel the world. However, when I reached the age to do this I was married with two small children. Instead I became an English, Speech, and Theatre teacher in the public school. I loved this profession because it enabled me to use my storytelling abilities to travel the world with my students through literature.

I will be around fifty when I can retire from teaching. I want to find a career allowing me to continue working with books and literature. I thought of writing.

I have always loved the art of writing. Like other true writers I have dabbled throughout the years. I have the requisite old notebook with my first and only handwritten romance novel. You know the kind where love burgeons between the “handsome, displaced corporate city dweller” who finds he cares for the “raised in the country and proud of it” school teacher. Did their romance make it? Yes, right under my bed in a storage box never to see the light of day again.
But I have been writing some works during my years as a teacher. Homecoming skits galore and plays for my students to perform. I even went through the “angry at the world” blogger phase, published a more entertaining travel blog about my trip to England, as well as, maintaining a blog to keep my bi-costal family up to date with pictures and written summations of our lives here in Missouri.

One day with retirement options still looming I realized I had to commit to writing if there was to be a future in it for me, so I searched online, found a local writing group, and resolved to attend a meeting.

Then what happened?

I sat in the car in the parking lot the day of the first meeting as I tried to convince myself to go inside. Yes, I can face down over a hundred eighth graders daily and work in a job never fails to get this response, “You couldn’t pay me to do what you do!”, but I very nearly drove away those big, bad writers!

Finally I shakily gathered myself together and went in the building to my first meeting. How relieved I was to find friendly and welcoming people who were willing to share their knowledge on writing craft and publication. Then I went to another meeting and another and starting working with some critique groups.

That floors me, G. Of all the people I know, I never would have thought you were that worried... I'm so glad you've become a leader for the rest of us.

Other than getting in the building the first day, what were some of your other challenges or successes?

GAE: The all too real specter of self-doubt has been my greatest nemesis. I am very self-assured in my work and with my family, but I suffered terribly from fear that I was not a good writer. Additionally, I think I was typical of new writers in that I wasn’t too patient with myself as I was learning the process.

I also had to learn to say “no” to protect my writing time. I still struggle with the demands of my life interfering with the joys of my writing.

I consider the opportunity to travel to conferences over the past years to have been tremendous boost to my personal motivation and to my writing abilities. Once I meet actually my favorite authors at conferences and get over my fangirl hyperventilating, I have found authors to be very helpful to the novice writer.

Yes, they are. Many were to me, and that still amazes me so many people with so many obligations were willing to listen to a newbie.

What do you write?

GAE: After trying unsuccessfully to write a humorous suspense novel, I decided to tackle what I know best-The Young Adult market. After twenty six years in the classroom, I know what students want in a book and do not want. Recently there was the focus on paranormal and fantasy, but I have noticed more and more students are interested in mystery or suspense novels. This genre has always been a favorite of mine since I read Lois Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall in fifth grade. I still read quite a bit of this genre and recommend books to my students frequently.

The book I have out on submission is a middle grades/young adult thriller, Mirror Images, based on the life of Marty Jamison, who along with his twin brother Max and his girlfriend Kayla, is simply trying survive high school. The lives of these teenagers prove the point that being young is much more stressful than adults remember. They are dealing with death and desertion and alcoholism and the true minefield of the teen years…Dating! When a serial killer begins drowning the little girls of the town and one of these three characters is accused of the crimes, loyalties are tested and hard choices have to be made.

One unique technique I have used is to start each chapter with a short except of what is going on in the killer’s mind or testimony from other individuals about the crimes. These excerpts give insights and foreshadow upcoming events. I have seen this technique used before and it heightens the reader’s need to keep going forward in the book.

Sounds interesting--really very interesting. Well, actually, considering I've read some of it, it's terribly interesting and the tactic works wonderfully. Could you share an example?

GAE: Sure. This is how Mirror Images begins.

This one was harder to kill than the others. You would think a skinny little second grader wouldn’t be so hard to drown. I mean really! The other ones it was just hit ‘em in the head with a rock, smear a little blood, on the pool’s edge, and then roll ‘em in the water.

None of this fighting to the top stuff. And I can’t be waiting around forever. Sun’s coming up and I need to get home before I’m missed.

Time to take the plunge. Literally.

That IS intense, but what would you say to parents who might object to such a dark subject as serial killings?

GAE: I would say parents have every right to object to any book topic for their own child. I consider it to be the responsibility of every parent to review what their child reads. If they feel my novel is not appropriate for their child, then take it away from them.

However, I would also point out that my novel, Mirror Images, doesn’t glorify the serial killer. I wanted this novel to help the teens who do read it to realize that even though they are sometimes thrust into difficult situations not of their own making, they ARE able to make choices.

Sound advice, and really the truth of teen-life. So many get caught up in not standing on their own two feet. It's great to have someone bringing that to the forefront of YA Minds.

What are you working on now?

GAE: I am currently researching and plotting for my next YA work tentatively called, Pretty Little Monsters. In it a group of students are learning to deal with a variety of tragedies that have left them with missing body parts, disfiguring scars, or other visibly transforming illnesses.

I got the idea from my own students who have had to learn to live with unplanned and unpleasant transformations that have left them struggling to find their place in a group of people who focus on having perfect bodies. I hope I find a way to communicate some the inner courage I have seen these students exhibit over the last twenty six years. Many of these students could have given up, but instead, chose to live useful, vibrant and happy lives.

Another focus for me right now is setting up some writing events for both students and adults to help support them achieve their writing goals for next month’s Nanowrimo contest. People can check out a free joint writing and creativity event my colleague, Julie Brunner, and I have planned at my blog, http://thewritewaygalicesonedwards.blogspot.com

NaNoWriMo is an excellent opportunity to feed the creative mind and inspire authors. Excellent job, G.

Finally, what is your favorite part about being an author?

GAE: I would have to go back to a quote I often hear in conjunction with teaching. It involves the idea that people touch more lives than we ever realize. To me, this is what books do. Everything I read is an example of how someone had an idea and put it into words to share with others. Then someone shared those words with others or used it for a basis to write their own words. That exchange of and building of ideas is what makes me spend hours in my recliner, dressed in my pajamas, glass of tea at my side, and computer on my lap. I want to continue to touch the lives of those around me, and being an author gives me that opportunity every time I tap the keys.

I love that--once again you've inspired me.

Thank you so much, G., for stopping in and talking to us about YA, about your projects, and sharing your insight. Do come back when Mirror Images is published!



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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I’m starting a new event on Tuesdays – Teaser Tuesday. For the most part, it will be excerpted bits from my novels. But now and then I’ll change things up just to keep it interesting.

And, since Misunderstanding Mason has been received so well, I thought I’d start there.


Misunderstanding Mason Excerpt

At ten fifteen the next morning, Kirstin stumbled through the damp grass to her—make that to Mason’s—back patio door. It stood open, the heavy scent of bacon grease and fried eggs wafting out to blend with the lingering chill that drifted off the nearby lake. Her stomach rumbled.

She pushed the door open and fled the cool morning air. The last thing she expected to see, however, was Mason still at the skillet, dressed in only his boxer-briefs, his hair as disheveled as if he’d just rolled out of bed. For him, ten-fifteen was going on lunchtime. He was up and moving like clockwork, at five, even on the weekends. By the time she found the ability to confront morning, he’d taken a run around the lake, showered, and managed to crank out three good hours of design.

He glanced over his shoulder at the same time he flipped an egg. “Morning.” He gestured at the coffee pot with his head. “It’s fresh.”

Doing her best to ignore the broad expanse of his muscular shoulders and the way jersey cotton
hugged his tight butt, Kirstin trudged to the coffeepot. She plucked a mug off the cup-tree in the
corner and filled it to the brim. Slowly, she turned around, sipping the piping hot brew as she leaned against the countertop. Her gaze traveled over Mason’s backside, untamed butterflies stirring in her stomach.

The last time she’d been up for his definition of breakfast had been in that tiny apartment. She’d
forgotten how simply amazing he looked in the morning. How incredibly nice it was to wake up to the flutter of her heart when she realized she’d succeeded where no other woman had. She won Mason. Without even really trying. They’d met through a friend, and from the night he phoned to ask her out a week later, they’d fallen into each other naturally. Yet, it had never failed to make her pulse skip when she stopped to acknowledge plenty of other women had flitted through his life, bending over backwards to convince him to stick around.

She’d been lucky. He stuck for five years. Five incredible, frustrating years.

Realizing she was staring, and he couldn’t possibly be ignorant to that fact, she cleared the
cobwebs of sleep from her throat. “You’re quiet.”

He tossed her a lazy grin and gestured at her coffee cup with the spatula. “How many is that this
morning?”

Her brow furrowed. “My first. Why?”

“Your inner bear doesn’t sleep until after two.”

Was she really that bad in the mornings? She’d never enjoyed getting up, true. But by the time she had coffee in-hand, she was usually sociable as long as it wasn’t some ungodly hour of morning.

“I’m fine,” she mumbled as she took another sip.

“You’re better after two.” Turning, he passed her a plate filled with two eggs, wheat toast, and three slices of bacon. “And even better with something in your stomach.”

Kirstin blinked. Uncertain what to make of that remark, she accepted his offered breakfast and moved to sit at the small table near the wide bay window. Did it really take two cups of coffee to shed her morning grumpiness? How could Mason know that, if she’d never stopped to count?

Keeping with his conviction of silence, he joined her at the table and took the seat across. As he dunked one corner of his toast in his coffee, he used his free hand to spread open the morning paper.

While he read, absorbed in the business headlines, she picked up her fork and stabbed into her eggs. Gooey yolk spread over her plate—heaven. Three bites and the cramping in her stomach eased enough she didn’t feel the need to shovel in food. She looked up through her eyelashes and studied the lines in Mason’s face.

Fine wrinkles set in around his eyes, the only hint he’d turn thirty-five this year. Grey hadn’t set into his dark hair, and though stubble shadowed his chin, his face still held boyish youth. He looked tired.

Probably up late working on some new game.

Typical Mason.

With a soft sigh, she scooped up another bite. This time, when the flavor soaked into her tongue, she stopped chewing at the subtle taste of garlic. Her mouth watered in an instant. Eggs without garlic just weren’t eggs. They were poor substitutes, flat and otherwise unexciting.

That Mason still knew how she preferred her eggs despite the fact they hadn’t shared breakfast in years, wasn’t lost on her. The discovery ranked right up there with his comment about the recliner—and caused the same uncomfortable tightness around her lungs. In one hasty gulp, she downed the rest of her coffee and scooted out of the chair to refill her mug.

Mason didn’t notice when she bought new clothes, but he remembered how she liked eggs. Weird. Too weird.

“Mason?”

The paper rustled. “Hmm?”

“What’s my favorite color?”




~~~~~~




Come back Monday for a chance to win, Misunderstanding Mason.



~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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"Victorians used the term 'limbs' as a euphenism for legs, which were thought to be so sexually exciting to a man, even a glimpse of a table leg could incite him to sexual frenzy. Table skirts were invented to prevent any unnatural unions between men and furniture."
~
(History Channel International)

IMMORTAL TRUST is
AVAILABLE for PRE-ORDER




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