Thursday, 29 September 2011

Challenge 21 - RFW - Fearful Heart

Romantic Friday Writers hold weekly challenges. The base line being whatever the theme (named and prompts given) we can post up snippets from novels, ongoing WIPs, write a piece of Flash-Ficton or poetry. My contribution this week is a Flash-Fiction piece.  Maximum word count is 400.

The Prompt: "Fearful Heart."   

382 words: MPA.

Jack had said he would be back before dawn, but a storm had blown in before dark and worsened over night. Waves taller than a house had crashed on the shore and pounded the headland. First light of dawn now streaked the horizon in ghostly pallor, and although the sea fallen calm and ebb tide barely lapping the sands she nevertheless walked the beach, her petticoats and skirt leaving a faint drag-trail.    
   It was all so unfair. Jack, who had survived the war, who’d returned home safe and in one piece, and now lost at sea. She could not fault his setting sail, for the man he had gone to warn of impending trouble had saved his life at Waterloo. But Billy was a smuggler, and someone had reported seeing lights out at Hart Point.  
   The local excise men and the militia had been out and about as soon as overnight winds had subsided. They’d already searched the creek and several coves the other side of the headland with lamps long before dawn.
   If the militia had found man or boat or contraband on the beach they would have said, would have been overjoyed in proof of guilt whether men found dead or alive. But there was nothing bar for driftwood and seaweed scattered in heaps. The militia had moved on to the next cove, so why had she come to the beach? It was madness. Yet something kept pulling her toward the headland, to the cavern . . . The cavern.
   She hitched up her skirts and ran and ran as if the very devil on her heels. The tide was not yet clear of the headland but she waded in to the sea, the chill of the water momentarily caused sharp intakes of breath. Soon waist deep, struggling to keep her balance, the entrance to the cavern lay within hands reach. She rounded the corner with difficulty, for pull of the tide on her skirts much like an anchor holding fast on a ship. 
    Fearful though her heart at finding nothing, a hand touched hers and a voice said, “So you do love me.”
    She willingly succumbed to the salty tang of his commanding mouth on hers, and his tongue emulated promised pleasure already indulged in as man and wife. 

To see entries by other members of RFW go here.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Perfected Imago - Campaigner Challenge No.2

This challenge is a tough call because oscitate is not a word I'd heard before. Oscitation, yes: as in noun formal. In the event of oscitate's absence from the Oxford English dictionary I sought it from within Collins Concise Dictionary: again absent. So, when did oscitate become a word? I'm guessing it's an American usage! Needless to say I kept thinking of oscillate... But, in the spirit of any challenge I chose Oscitation as my guide, though refer to required word "oscitate" within the text.

199 words, and snippet from a historical romance circ 1800s: adapted to accommodate the required words for the challenge.

Perfected Imago.

Putrid miasma of strange fungi lingered in the woodland and drove her to the tower in haste. Trespassing as usual she climbed the stone steps to the very top, where the air was fresher and the view spectacular.
       A strange dream the night before had come to life with every step taken, though akin to lacuna for she could not define every aspect of the dream. And, as in the dream, a butterfly emerged from a crevice and alighted on her shoulder. Perhaps the warmth from the sun or the pale lemon colour of her gown caused it to spread its wings and oscitate. Inattentive to the glorious view and enchanted by her brightly coloured companion, a barely noticeable whisper of air brushed her face in passing. But a glimmer of bright reflective light caught her eye as it crept eerily across the inner parapet of the tower.
       “Yours I believe.” The deep timbre in voice caused her heart to stall. 
       She turned to see Lord Devonish sporting a tiny hand mirror, the one she had lost from her drawstring purse weeks beforehand.
       “Serendipity, Miss Davenport, or sychronicity of like minds seeking sanctuary within this Godforsaken folly?”  

To see entries by other participants, go here.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Challenge RFW - Blue Moon!

This week's theme Blue Moon struck a nostalgic note! Hence I snatched this snippet from a modern historical I've had kicking its heels in a cupboard. It's set in 1964 twenty years after a wartime incident that changed the life of one woman in a shocking way, and left an American Army Air Corp pilot thinking he'd been dumped. It's a heart-wrenching re-union love story, in more ways than one.
This is part of the opening chapter. 

399 words: code MPA.

She slipped the record on to the turntable with infinite care: a few good winds of the handle, and then needle to outer groove. She could have placed it on the automatic triple-deck player, but this was a once in a blue moon treat. She hugged herself, swayed to the gentle rhythm, the words alone wiped away twenty years. Memories of another life another time flooded to the fore. In one sense it was pure nostalgia, in another unmitigated hell. Tears brimmed. She fought them back.
       She glanced at the letters on her desk, the sheer amount unbelievable. Why, why had her mother kept them? And why, in all these years had she never said a word, never revealed the fact that he’d come back? That he hadn’t died on that secret mission in forty-four. Oh God, how different things might have been had she received the letters when they had first arrived at the farm. Had she known then that he’d survived capture and in a German prisoner of war camp she would have waited, and hoped and longed for a happy outcome. To be denied that knowledge, utter cruel. To then be sent away in disgrace, unforgettable and unforgivable. 
       She leaned on the desk, tears spilling forth. It was all very well to think back to what might have been, but what about the person who’d helped her through her banishment and resulting distress. If her mother had stood by her instead of seeing pregnancy as shameful she would never have met David, and how fortunate she was to have loved twice and twice loved in return. David now taken from her, too.
       Out of love for an American pilot she’d gained a daughter. Her love for David had brought forth a son. And what of David, her rock, the man who had become her every thing? She could not now deny the love they had shared for fourteen years.
       She snatched at the heavy needle head and scratched the record in haste to obliterate the song and kill the music. She cursed the memory of a crowded dance floor, those oh so blue eyes, and his tight possessive hold. Now, with the letters in her possession, she knew Sophie's father had meant those three little words he had uttered so often when alone together: I love you.  Blue Moon had a lot to answer for.

To see entries by other participants go here.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Awards, Awards, Awards - My Oscar?!

Gotcha!  No, this post isn't about winning an Oscar, but I do have one question:  

Apparently MGM art director Cedric Gibbons designed the statuette of a naked knight standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword, but why?  

Anyhoo, to more realistic awards, lovely awards bestowed by lovely people such as Diane over at The Patient Dreamer   To say I'm thrilled to receive this is understating the obvious. Thank you, thank you Diane.

There are stipulations attached to acceptance of this award, so I'm going to direct you to my awards room where I display all my awards plus things about me you may not already be aware of. 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Romantic Friday Writers Challenge No 19 - Bouquet!

This week I've selected a snippet from a previously published novel: paired down to fit within word count of 400 max. 
Brief: An awful lot of drama, angst and stark realisation between a bride and groom has preceded this snip, and things are not going according to plan for the big day. There is so much more to this piece, what with the bride's mum convinced the wedding is definitely off and already repacking wedding gifts, while the man of the house is convinced the florist's box is a peace offering from the bridegroom. I guess one could say it's a steamy hunt'n shoot'n rom-com, and believe it, the fires of lust are stoked big time when the cast attend a hunting weekend in the West Country. 

398 words: code MPA.

The florist’s box lay on the kitchen table, and it was just like Suzanne to be late down for breakfast when such as this sitting and awaiting her personal attention. Were they from Phil? Was the wedding on again? Temptation kept eating away at Geraldine, and about to prise the lid enough to peep inside Suzanne burst through the door.
     Nuance of guilt etched on her face Geraldine stepped back from the table, declared, “For you, according to the florist’s delivery girl.”
    The suspense was unbearable, as Suzanne unravelled the ribbon and finally opened the box. “Wow,” she said, leaning forward, “and scented as well.”
    “Twenty-four,” exclaimed Geraldine. My goodness, they must have cost . . .” She sensed air of trepidation: a little envelope now between fingers as Suzanne extricated a card from within. “Well?”
    “I’ll stand them in water for a while,” said her daughter, heading for the sink with the box, “and arrange them after breakfast.”
    Geraldine then knew Suzanne had no intention of revealing the identity of the sender, and it was obvious the wedding presents would have to be returned. She angled her head and strained her eyes to read the card:
Nelson. 11 a.m.

Two minutes to eleven. She was early when she had intended to be a few minutes late rather than appear too keen to meet him. There was no denying a spark had ignited mutual flames of desire, each knowing they would end up meeting like this. She kept walking, and spied him, his back to her as he scanned the square: one hand in grey suit pocket and rolled up magazine in free hand. He could hardly turn up in full dress cavalry uniform, as much as she would have liked that.
    Talk dark and handsome her mother had said, and will make for a dashing best man. If only she knew how true those words. Once the intended best man, he now had the bride all to himself. The bridegroom was no better, and on a date with a stable girl.  
    Her heart double somersaulted as Nick swung round and glanced her way, for he immediately came striding across from his vantage point beneath Nelson’s column. Face lit with a smile, his hazel eyes laughed as he slipped one hand inside her unbuttoned coat and drew her close: his lingering kiss a silent hello.

To see entries by other participants go here.     

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

‘If I Could Be Anyone, I’d Be" - Watching Willow Watts Launch Party. - Glitters

A fancy dress book launch party. What could be better than that.  And, our gracious host Marilyn Monroe aka Talli Roland is handing out virtual bubbly at this very mo. Excuse me while I reach for a champers flute and wish her all the luck in the world with Watching Willow Watts.  

So, who did I come as?
If I could magic myself into Keira Knightley I'd be a very happy bunny. You see, I'm passionate about historical romances. In particular swashbuckling romances, and Keira has had some plum roles in the field of historical movies, not least The Duchess. Not only that, she's starred opposite some really dishy men! 

If ever my historicals could be made into movies, well, she'd make for an excellent Emerald Lady Penhavean in Her Favoured Captain, and perfection for Diamonta Whitaker in The Highwayman's Mistress.     

To see who else is at the book launch party, pop along to the main party room

Friday, 9 September 2011

Romantic Friday Writers Challenge/Blogfest - Lunch Date!

The image below is The Savoy, London.

This Flash-Fiction piece is written first-person POV, not a POV I normally indulge.

394 words: MPA.

This was ridiculous. A lunch date with a stranger, and someone who had the audacity to send roses by florist first thing in the morning with card. Albeit invitation to lunch, then sends a car to pick up his date, swish maybe, but what sort of man does that? What sort of man writes words like that?
   The car stopped, a concierge stepped forward to open the car door. It was only lunch, what could happen over lunch?  
    Hardly before setting foot inside a waiter stepped forward, asked, “Ms Stevens?” And, without awaiting reply, further said, “This way, please.”
   Oh my.
   He got to his feet, blue eyes sparkling, hair as dark as night, his towering height daunting. “Good to see you again.”
   “Do I know you?”
   “Not exactly but I owe you an apology.” He gestured to the seat opposite his.
   “For what?”
   “For that unexpected shower you received yesterday evening.”
   “Oh, so you’re puddle man. Of course, I should have recognised the car.” How was it possible for a man to smile as he was smiling, and not have every woman in the restaurant at his feet?  It was good to sit down before falling to the floor in swoons. “What I mean is  . . .”
   “I’m a git, a bolshy git for sending you roses, and for writing words that should only be said face-to-face.”
   “I was a little surprised at the words written and almost didn’t take up your offer, but curiosity got the better of me.”
   “I thought it might,” he said, settling to his seat. “So, am I out of line asking you out on a date?”
   “Is that what it is?”
   “I figured a lunch date might score more points than a dinner date. You strike me as too shrewd to be easily led.”
   “Fair assessment, so what’s on the menu?” 
   His expression said it all. He was pushing boundaries, treading unknown territory in true spirit of an adventurer, a man of daring-do. So, it was a must ask. “How did you acquire my name and address?”    
   A chuckle. “Cut and thrust why don’t you.” Another chuckle. “I just knew you’d be a challenge.”
   A romancer’s hand across the table, fingers toying fingers, teasing the senses, a big grin on face. “Let’s just say I’d like to get to know you better. Shall we menu?”
To see entries by other participants go here.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Platform-Building Campaign - Flash Fiction.

If you're here looking for Lady Gwen's Judge & Jury Blogest, it's directly below this Challenge.

Here we go with the first challenge set by Rachael Harrie

Mine's a contemporary piece!

The door swung open, as though beckoning her to greet the morn. Raw scent of man replaced by salty air drifted through her cliff-top cottage. He was gone, but he’d be back. They always came back if she wanted them to. 
   How strange, though, that the sound of the sea crashing on the cliffs seemed closer than usual, almost surreal, as though swirling beneath her. True enough, pilot officer Brett Master’s had made the ground move all right, and maybe this time she might hang around longer than just for the weekend. 
   She smiled, the local lovesick barmaid leapt to mind, whom, according to village gossip a bit of a witch on the side. Funny really, the silly girl had cast an evil eye in their direction and mouthed some whispered curse as they’d made to leave. They’d naturally laughed and left the pub arms about each other.
   She stretched cat-like, languidly slid from the bed and walked naked toward the door.
   The lawn, the road . . . What?
   The ground had moved: moved for real.
   She stood there, nothing beneath but swirling water, and Brett gone for good, no doubt about it.
   The cottage was teetering on the edge of the cliff, and suddenly the door swung shut behind her.  

To see entries by other participants go here.

Judge & Jury Blogfest!

This blogfest is hosted by the lovely Lady Gwen.

For this blogfest I've snatched two snippets from my latest historical romance novella:
The Highwayman's Mistress.

As you will gather there's a highwayman on the loose, and while Diamonta has it in mind Francois - her beloved -  might be a highwayman, doubt suddenly enters play! So, who do you think might be the robbing culprit who very nearly caused a Duchess to fall vagary to the faints, or is this a devious author's red-herring?   

“Diamonta, Diamonta,” squealed Leohne. “Mother has just returned from town, and you will never believe what has happened.”
    “Oh do stop dramatising and just tell me.”
    “Well, it seems a highwayman was shot today.”
   Her heart lurched. “Our highwayman?”
   “No one knows for sure. He was shot on the London road not far beyond Malmesbury.”
   “Killed?”  Oh God, please, let it not be Francois.
   “No, not dead. He escaped, but it was said he near fell from his horse so it was thought he was badly wounded.”
   Sense of nausea and dizziness overwhelmed her. She dared not stand, dared not display any sense of concern as to the highwayman’s welfare, yet her need to know finite details of the man’s escape a must.    “Who shot him, and which way did he go?”
   “In this direction, I suppose, because mother said a horseman rode past her carriage at the gallop and barely keeping to his saddle. It wasn’t until she reached town she discovered what had occurred a few miles ahead of her.”
   Oh Francois, what have you done?
   “Diamonta, are you all right, you’ve turned as white as the sheets on our beds.”
   “I have a bit of head pain, and need to go and lie down for a while.”


The grand masked ball at its peak she noted her mother now in conversation with Lady Fortnum and barely a glance in their direction. About to ask Richard a leading question about Francois, he declared in hushed tone, “I think I’m bleeding.”   
   “I have a wound in my shoulder, and I swear blood is running down my arm.”
   She instinctively glanced the length of his arm to hand, and indeed his fingers were blooded and blood dripping to the floor. “Oh Lord.” She snatched his lace-trimmed kerchief from his sleeve, and discreetly wrapped it around his hand to cover his blooded fingers.  “Just keep walking toward the garden doors.”
   “Damn fool, I’ve been such a damn fool,” he said, as they hurried out into the cool night air, stars in abundance and as yet no moon. “We can go round to the stables and perhaps slip back into the house unseen.”
   As they hurriedly made their way around the house aided by light casting through windows, she asked, “How did you come by this injury?”

To see entries by other participants go here.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Romantic Friday Writer Challenge - Heart-Stopper Highwayman!

For this challenge I've selected a snippet from my latest historical novella: 
"The Highwayman's Mistress".

Brief: Richard Courtenay Viscount Somerton, gallant as heroes come, has agreed to see Miss Diamonta Whitaker, safely delivered to the Palace of Versailles. Half French by birth and daughter of a once French countess, Diamonta has more than one reason for accepting a gracious invite to stay at the Royal Court at Versailles. Her heart lies at court, with Francois de Boviere, Count of Saint Mont Marche. But, tide of Revolution has swept from Paris to Versailles. Heads of French aristocrats are seriously under threat of Madame Guillotine and Diamonta's coche is still en route to Versailles! 

Believe it, nothing is as it seems, and Richard has a dark secret, too.

Over word count. Ahem, not telling: code NCCO.

The coche suddenly slewed to the right, as though in avoidance of something or someone on the roadside. It then began to slow until finally the wheels ground to a standstill. Richard opened the door, and about to call out to the coachman he held his tongue, for a pistol came level with his face. They both looked up at masked face of man on horseback, and brief moment of agonised silence hung in the air.
    “As you can see, I have the advantage,” broke the silence, the rider’s French tongue proffered with cool aplomb. “You will stay where you are and give forth possessions of value.”
    About to reply in her mother’s native tongue and declare herself devoid of valuables of any merit, and assured her jewels secret hidden aplenty within her luggage, Richard said in polite English, “We are English and of modest means. We have little of value between us, with exception of silver snuffbox and gold fob watch.”
    The highwayman, for he was without doubt a vagabond of the highways, either understood fully the English tongue or had guessed Richard’s declaration, for he pressed to see Richard’s offerings by waving the pistol in manner most impatient. Afraid of the rider’s commanding position and in realisation Richard did not want her to utter a word, she felt him to be sacrificing his valuables to save hers. But would this villain be satisfied with what her companion had to offer?       
    Once handed over, the rider barely glanced at the snuffbox or fob watch and secreted them within his gauntlet. He glanced at her then, and leaned forward and indicated for Richard to move to the far side of the coche. Richard did as bid, and the highwayman’s interest fell solely upon her. His scrutiny disturbed her, his dark eyes as though boring into her very soul.
    “Remove your gloves and show me your hands, young miss,” he said, in perfect English with refined French lilt.” 
    He obviously suspected rings on her fingers. Well, he was soon to be disappointed. She removed her gloves in haste, and displayed ring-less fingers and not a jewelled bracelet did she have upon her person. She sensed no disappointment, and he even chuckled as though it was all a game.
    “Give me your hand,” he said, holding his right hand forth, his pistol held in left hand, and reins loose about his horse’ withers.
  Why request her hand when no jewels to wrench from her fingers? Though once her hand cupped in his gauntlet-clad hand he leaned forward and placed a kiss upon her fingers, his eyes so close and intense in scrutiny her heart stopped.

As a special treat: the book trailer for - The Highwayman's Mistress. What do you think?

However, the book won't be on Kindle for a few days.

To see entries by other participants go here

How well is your book doing on Amazon? Marketing Guru tips!

Are you happy about your book's sales figures on Amazon? 
Did you self-publish or did you clinch a publisher contract? 
Either way, Amazon sales can cause your heart to blip for two reasons: great or lousy sales figures. 

I'm amazed my historical novella is selling so well as it is with so few reviews. It is, after all, only a novella. No one in the blogosphere has made mention of it so I'm guessing (a) they haven't bought it, or (b) didn't like it. Have I begged other bloggers to buy it? NO! Have I begged for reviews? NO! I've made mention of it in passing, nothing more. It's advertised on my blog, and I gather few people notice what is in a sidebar. So, "Her Favoured Captain" is reliant on the few who do notice sidebar content, and those whom browse Amazon looking for historical romances.  

Now, here's a funny thing, the times I've had someone say in a private e-mail, I've bought loads of books by fellow bloggers to support them, posted reviews to Amazon, and some couldn't even be bothered to say thank you. I think I may have said that, too, on occasion. Yeah, well, that pretty much sums up the "self, self, self" promotion junkies. It's kind of interesting to see who reciprocates and who doesn't on the blogsphere re marketing of books. 

So. Do glowing reviews sell your book? Good question. 
Some authors say yes, of course it matters how many reviews I get. It's what sells my book. 
But, is that really the case? 

Take the next piece in what ever way you like, but there's more than a ring of truth to it.

A short while ago I was reading a piece by a marketing guru on one of Amazon's own forums: to do with marketing books on blogs and other social media outlets. This marketing guru pointed out that too many reviews of your book on Amazon etc., (basically overt glowing reviews by fellow authors, friends & family) can put off the general reading public. In that, very few readers out of millions of people who shop at Amazon and other on-line retail outlets will bother to return to post a review, unless they hated the book and have a grievance about content, or they're an out and out fan of a particular author! The majority of shoppers return to buy more books. He stated, when Joe or Josephine Public discovers a long list of reviews it means nothing to them, and often as not a book's sales slow considerably once sales to friends and family etc,. have ceased. Meaning, Joe & Josephine Public suspect it to be a hyped book and tend to avoid it. 

The guru further claimed personal recommendation has more clout, i.e, someone mentions in passing at work "I really loved this book" or "I bought this yesterday and couldn't put it down".  What he was effectively saying, is that reviews on Amazon are impersonal to Joe & Josephine Public but do provide authors with sense of feel-good-factor on the basis that their friends, family and circle of fellow authors love them. Which of the former do you prefer, mere sales to family friends and close fellow authors, or that of Joe & Josephine Public? Bear in mind the former might reach a thousand sales, the latter beyond your wildest dreams!  

Food for thought?

I'm thinking short short short reviews, i.e. "I bought this and couldn't put it down" and "Ooh, it kept me turning the pages" type of review. Perhaps, much better than the *long-winded* variety that often as not reveals the plot and blows the suspense that might otherwise have existed whilst reading the darn thing. I tend to ignore reviews and go by a book's blurb, and yeah, too many reviews set my lovey alert button off big time. If the blurb is well-written and well-presented it's the make or break of a sale for moi!