Monday, April 29, 2013

Showcasing Author Missy Michaels on Open Mic Monday


Today I'm happy to host a fascinating author, Missy Michaels, for Open Mic Monday. She's been kind enough to answer a few of my questions and share a bit of her new novel, To the Swift. Welcome, Missy!
Thank you for taking the time to stop by Kisses, Caresses & Whispers in the Night today.  I really appreciate your time.  Can you tell us a little bit about your newest release? 
To the Swift tells the story of Monica LeBlanc, a Louisiana native, who moves to Memphis, TN in an effort to save her marriage. Daniel LeBlanc needs a fresh start to prove to Monica that he loves her more than the gin and vodka that’s available at the nearest liquor store. They easily make friends in their new city but one of their new friends has a twisted obsession with Monica.

What inspired this novel in particular? 
Stories my grandmother told from her youth, my own experiences and my fascination with the city of Memphis, TN.

Who is your favorite character in this novel and why? 
Felix is my favorite character because his actions are intriguing.

What comes first--characters or plot ideas? 
In this book the characters came first.

How important is setting? Does it play an integral role in this story? 
Setting was very important to the story. It is set in two real cities, the characters eat in real restaurants and visit places that really exist in Breaux Bridge, LA and Memphis, TN.

What motivates your main characters? 
Wanderlust, obsession, love and independence.

What is the central conflict? 
A marriage that’s in trouble, a twisted friendship and misplaced trust.

What is your favorite aspect about being a novelist?  
My favorite part is getting to know the characters and their motivations.

What draws you to this particular genre? 
I write the type of stories that I’ve always loved to read.

Are there any other genres you can see yourself writing and why/why not? 
I will write a ghost story. I grew up listening to my family tell stories of supernatural experiences.

What’s your goal as an author? 
By that, I mean...why write? Why is it important to you?  I’m observant, creative, blessed with a good memory and a fantastic imagination.

If you could snap your fingers and transport yourself anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?  
I would go to the mountains in Colorado because the view would be amazing. Or into a bank vault because that’s where the money is.

Tea or coffee? Tea.

Night person or early riser?  
I’m definitely a night person. Sometimes the alarm clock makes me sad.

Tell us 5 little known facts about yourself. 
1) I collect Hot Wheels
2) I own a 1992 Chevy Camaro RS 25th Anniversary edition
3) My favorite movie is Disney’s The Lion King
4) I’m learning to speak French
5) I meet the qualifications to be on Worst Cooks in America on Food Network

I love your 5 things! Whenever I ask that question, I'm not sure what I'll get but I'm rarely disappointed. Thanks! Now let's take a peek inside "To the Swift". 


Book Blurb:
         Publication Date:March 22, 2013

         Monica Jerome grew up wealthy, pampered and carefree in Lafayette, Louisiana. Daniel LeBlanc grew up poor in the nearby town of Breaux Bridge. Daniel meets, pursues and marries Monica after only a four month romance. After nearly ten years of marriage and the birth of their daughter and two sons they decide to leave the bayou country of Louisiana to move to Memphis, TN. After settling into a front office position with a luxury hotel in her new city Monica finds herself being preyed upon by an obsessive stalker. Unbeknownst to her, it is someone she trusts and considers not only her co-worker but a new friend. A spur of the moment decision to save a marriage has totally unexpected repercussions. What happens when a friend quietly and persistently unleashes his own agenda to make devastating changes to the outcome the couple desperately seeks?

Excerpt:
Monica rehearsed how she would present this turn of events to her parents as she drove to work. She was taking them to dinner at Mulate's while her kids spent the evening at Melanie's. Monica had explained to Daniel that it would be much better to sit down to talk with them than to springs a call on them from Memphis.
     She was still reeling from that experience herself.
     That evening her parents both dined on the Stuffed Catfish Cecilia and their petite daughter dove into the Fried Alligator Platter. While they decided if they had room for Atchafalaya Mud Cake or Key Lime Pie for dessert an air of expectancy lingered over the table. And it wasn't over what their next menu selection would be. Jack remembered very well the distinct change in his daughter's demeanor the day before.
     Monica let her eyes wander from their fellow diners to the musicians. As the band played several couples had been enticed onto the dance floor by the upbeat tunes. Monica knew this was one of her parents favorite restaurants for both the delicious menu and the lively Zydeco musicians.
     As she turned back to the table she realized that her parents were watching her. And waiting.
     "This was delicious as always, they never disappoint. Monica thank you for dinner sweetheart," Adrienne stated as she sipped her iced tea.
     "I know. This food is so good I can't stop. I really want Key Lime Pie even though I'm stuffed." Monica patted her stomach while she sighed softly.
     "We can buy a whole pie to take home. That way the kids can enjoy it with us," Jack suggested. Keep the small talk coming Monica thought gratefully.
     "Monica, are you pregnant?," Adrienne asked abruptly. Okay then. So much for the light banter.
     "Pregnant...umm, no. I do have news though," Monica responded slowly while collecting her thoughts. Her parents were observing her intently. Monica looked at her iced tea glass to the right of her plate and started counting the melting ice cubes.


Connect with MIssy on Goodreads and Facebook:

   

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tortured heroes

Tortured heroes.  We love 'em, hate em', sometimes want to smack them, but those brooding romantic leading men have something we absolutely adore.  Am I right or am I right?

This goes beyond the bad boy who just wants to get laid and oozes sex appeal. A tortured hero is a man who is haunted by something, who has a vulnerability he masks with indifference, and who usually has a broken heart that he's unwilling to risk again.  

Speaking from a personal point of view, I like a man who knows what it's like to hurt.  I find them to be compassionate confidantes whose strength transcends whatever wounds they've endured.  It's refreshing to be with a man who's been deepened by life rather than someone who's only dwelt in the shallows.  

Perhaps that's why I enjoy writing about tortured heroes. In Kiss Me Slowly, Jonathan Alexander was a man without connection, who'd lost his mother and who didn't trust anyone around him (for very good reasons).  In Riptide, Noah Reynolds has been isolated by success, endured the death of his fiancee, and feels people only want him in their lives because of his money and connections.  In Reckless Endangerment, Michael Cedars, a war veteran, has lost many friends, has been partially paralyzed in a war zone, doubts his abilities with his 'new normal', and isn't quite sure how to transition into civilian life.  Yeah...they're complicated.  

But complications and vulnerabilities are what makes a character interesting.  When a hero knows his imperfections and deliberately hides them, we know he's scared no matter what his outward appearance suggests. That's the beauty of a good story--peeking behind the curtain to see who the Wizard really is.  

Vulnerability is difficult for most people in real life, but it's essential to show it in fiction.  If we're all honest with each other, we know what our vulnerabilities are and we also know when we're masking them.  Perhaps that's why fictional characters who are flawed impact us so significantly.  We relate.  Maybe that's why women read about a tortured hero and fall in love with him a little bit while immersed in the story.  

Who's my favorite tortured hero that I've written about so far? I'll never tell.  I love them all for various reasons. (see how I wimped out of answering that one?)  What about you?  What makes you fall for a guy after the initial physical reaction? For me, it's all about him opening his heart, showing me his hurt and trusting me enough to accept him fully.  

Here's a scene from Reckless Endangerment where Michael is struggling with his hurt.  He wants Hope, but he's afraid that she pities him rather than loves him.  As a marine, the last thing he wants is pity.  As a civilian, the last thing he wants is to hold her back.  As a man, he wants more than anything to let her back into his life...but is terrified of hurting her so pushes her away.  

Excerpt:

      “Screw you.” She wanted to shake him, make him see that he was wasting away like this. She’d been so lonely without him, had ached for him, and had been tortured by his silence. “I’m done giving into your wishes.  I left you alone for five months and went through my own personal hell because of it.  No more.”
      “I hate you.”
      “I love you,” she whispered.
      “I wish I’d never met you.”
      “Me, too, damn it.” She looked at him, no longer strong enough to stop a tear from escaping.  “But we did meet. We loved each other.  We got married on a cliff in Greece with our friends by our side and we laughed through our vows because we were so goddamn happy. I’m not leaving here until you acknowledge that.  You married me.  You loved me.”
       “The man you loved died a long time ago.”
         Frustration clawed inside her skull, aching for the right words that would break his resolve.  She rubbed trembling hands over her hips and struggled for clarity.  This was one argument she intended on winning...and it had been a long time coming. 
       “None of us are who we were.  Do you think I’m the same person I was before seeing my best friend killed?  Before stepping over Marishka’s body and the bodies of her murdered children?  Before seeing you face down in the dirt?  Do you think I don’t see corpses in my sleep?  Do you think that hasn’t changed me?” she asked.
        “You look the same.”  His gaze flicked over her before sliding toward the window. 
         “Maybe I’m still walking on both of my feet, but that doesn’t mean other parts of me aren’t paralyzed.” She scrubbed her fists against the tears and hated herself for being weak.  “I’m pissed at you for denying me access to you in Frankfurt.  You have no idea—none—how much I needed to be with you when you were hurt and you made me out to be a liar.  I’m your wife, for God’s sake.”
         “Stop saying that word.” 
        “You’re a selfish bastard.”  She shoved her hands through her hair and counted silently to twenty.  “Say what you want, I don’t care because I’d rather fight with you than mourn you. I’d rather you hate me than feel nothing.”
        “I do hate you.”
        Blowing a strand of hair from her face, she grabbed the ouzo bottle, opened it and slammed cabinet doors open looking for a glass.
      “I know you’re lying,” she said.
      “Get the hell out of here,” he yelled.
      “Where are your goddamn glasses?” she asked between clenched teeth.
      “How would I know?  I’ve been here less than six fucking hours.”  
       “Who needs a glass, right?”  She took a long swig of the liquor. The alcohol burned her throat but felt damn good. She took another swig before meeting his gaze. 
       “Is that how you’re dealing with your guilt?  Drinking it away?” he asked.
        She held the bottle out toward him.  “Want a taste?”
        He looked at her through narrowed eyes, muscle working overtime in his jaw.
        “C’mon, soldier boy, look at it this way…maybe a taste will kill you,” she said. 
         For the first time since entering the room, a flicker of humor shot through his eyes.  With a shrug, he grabbed the bottle and drank without breaking eye contact. 
        “I’m still alive,” he said.
        “Sorry to disappoint you…again.”  Needing to touch him, she reached for the scar that zigzagged across his forehead.
         He flinched away from her touch.
        “You need to leave. You don’t owe me anything,” he said without looking at her face.
         She caught her lower lip between her teeth and studied his bent head before answering.  “This isn’t about owing you anything.”
        He met her gaze then, annoyance flashing in the brown depths.  But there was something else there, too...pain so intense she took a step back.
       “What is wrong with you?” he asked. “Just because I’m in this chair doesn’t mean that you can bully me.”
        “Am I bullying you?” She grinned at the idea of bullying him.  He’d always been the badass marine with more arrogance than necessary.  Her independence clashed with his attitude more often than not, but that had been a good thing.  Maybe...just maybe...he’d missed it.  “I brought you fast food and alcohol.  We even had a fight.  I think you like that I’m here.  I’m livening things up.  You looked pretty bored when I walked in.”
         He grabbed her hand before she could snag another fry.  He squeezed her fingers so hard she thought her bones would snap.  “Look at me.  I’m not the man you married.  I’m not even a marine anymore.  Look at me.”
      She only saw the man she loved who stared back with desperation in his eyes. She saw his hair thicker and longer than she’d ever seen it before and liked it. She saw his teeth sink into his lower lip and wanted them sinking into her skin.  She only saw Michael.  
       “You’re still the sexiest man on the planet,” she said.
       “You’re delusional.”  He dropped her hand as if the mere touch of her skin sickened him.
      “Maybe I am.”
      “What are you getting out of this?”
       “A headache.”
       “I can’t…I’m changed.  We’ll never be able to be like we were.”  He looked at his legs.  “Not like how you remember me anyway. I’m different now.”
       “So am I.  We’re all different.”
        “It’s more than that and you know it.  You and me...sex...there will be...expectations.”
        “I see, so I should pretend you don’t exist because you feel awkward about sex? You must not think much of me, Colonel.”  She bit out his rank between clenched teeth. 
          “When I see you that’s what I want, are you satisfied now?  Right now I would like to throw you up against that counter, rip those jeans from you and fuck you.  I remember how we were together.  That’s what I want.  I can’t do that.  Do you hear me?  I can’t have what I want and seeing you is torture for me.  I can’t have you.”
           Silence quaked in the room.
          She put both of her hands on his knees, conscious that he couldn’t feel her touch. “You keep talking about what you’ve lost, but you haven’t lost me.  Don’t you see that?  You may not be a marine anymore and you may not be able to walk anymore, but you have me.  I love you.  I need you.  Can’t that be enough? And you have your son. What about him? He needs you, too.  You haven’t lost him.” 
         “I wish you hadn’t come here.”
         “Too bad, I’m here. Deal with it.”  She moved onto his lap and moved her hands over his shoulders. “What’s the problem?”
        “Stop this,” he whispered.
        “You want me to kiss you. You want to kiss me back.”  She could see it in his eyes, the need, the desire, the question.  “Is that what you want, Michael?”
        “What would that prove?”
        “Does it have to prove something?  Can’t a kiss be a kiss?”
        “No.”
         “Typical man.”  She leaned within a fraction of his lips.  “Don’t you remember high school?  Don’t you remember when a kiss meant everything?”
          In a sudden move, he grabbed the back of her head and ground his mouth against hers.  She knew the intensity was meant to shock her so she matched it with her own.  She sat on his lap and plunged her tongue into the recesses of his mouth until he moaned.  His free hand squeezed her breast through the thin material of her blouse but, instead of hurting, it ignited her blood.
         The Michael she knew still lived inside this man.  She felt him in the warmth of his mouth, the strength of his hands on her body, the restrained power of his touch.  
           She couldn’t stop touching him, hands moved through his hair, over his face, along his shoulders.  Alive.  Here.  She fought back a Hallelujah.  


Buy now at Amazon or Smashwords

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spotlight Saturday features Author Jan Romes

Today I'm hosting a talented romance author, Jan Romes.  Not only did she answer my hard hitting interview questions (okay, not exactly hard hitting), she's also sharing a bit about her newest release, Stella in Stillettos. Welcome, Jan!


Thank you for taking the time to stop by Kisses, Caresses & Whispers in the Night today.  I really appreciate your time.  Can you tell us a little bit about your newest release?

Thanks for having me on your blog today, Amber! I’d love to tell you about, Stella in Stilettos!

I have two themes for Stella:

Sometimes the love of a lifetime is right under your nose; the heart knows it, the brain denies it.

We all do things we normally wouldn’t when it comes to love and friendship.

 
Blurb:

Stella Matson has had it with handsome guys who schmooze their way into a woman’s heart and walk out the door when they get a better offer. As far as she’s concerned, she needs to focus on the one thing that won’t leave her teary-eyed on a Friday night – her job with the lingerie company. When drop-dead gorgeous, Alex Clay, is assigned to her department, the plan to focus on work is threatened along with her heart.

Alex Clay is trying to find his place in the business world. His boss seems to be grooming him for big things by giving him a taste of everything from the mail room to the board room. When he does a short stint in the advertising department and meets hardheaded but intriguing, Stella Matson, she challenges his convictions and stirs an unwanted desire. He doesn’t know whether to kiss her until they’re both breathless, or find a new job.


What inspired this novel in particular? I love to write about heroines who have been hurt and aren’t ready to love again. Of course, I always throw them in the path of someone they can’t stop thinking about that has the potential to turn their life upside down yet again. I had this vision of Stella and her personality in my mind for a long time, so I had no choice but to give her an adventure that would test her to the point she either has to stop fighting the attraction for Alex and walk away, or give into it even though it makes little sense. 

Who is your favorite character in this novel and why?

Definitely, Stella. I love Alex, but Stella helps him become the man he’s wanted to be all along. Stella is intelligent, guarded, and lonely. I throw a secondary character – her friend, Trish – into the mix of Stella’s life to expose her quirks, fears and loyalty. 

What comes first--characters or plot ideas?

Sometimes characters. Sometimes plot. For this book, it was Stella all the way. I knew her before I gave her a situation to handle.

How important is setting? Does it play an integral role in this story?

Setting is very important in this story. It causes major conflict. Without the office setting, Stella and Alex would have never met. The office was a barrier to their attraction yet it provided ample opportunity to scale that wall. 

What motivates your main characters?

At first, Stella is motivated to stay away from handsome men. She has a history with one who shattered her heart. And she’s afraid of being put in another lather-rinse-repeat situation.

In Alex’s case, he’s restless and trying to decide the right path for his career. He doesn’t need the headache of a relationship right now and he certainly doesn’t need to deal with the attraction of a co-worker.

 
What is the central conflict? Letting someone in again.

What is your favorite aspect about being a novelist? Getting the happily-ever-after for my characters, but making them work for it. I love to step out of the box and give them unusual, but realistic situations.

What draws you to this particular genre? I’m a sucker for love!

Are there any other genres you can see yourself writing and why/why not?

I’ve dabbled in romantic suspense, but it was lighthearted. I’ve considered challenging myself with suspense that is a little darker and deeper. Not sure when that will happen.

What’s your goal as an author? By that, I mean...why write? Why is it important to you?

My goal is to write stories that will make my readers laugh or smile, and give them that moment of ‘ahhhh’! 

If you could snap your fingers and transport yourself anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

The sunny Caribbean. It’s one of my favorite areas in the world. I love the warmth of the tropics and the scenery is breathtaking.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee, mostly. I would never turn away a cup of tea though.

Night person or early riser?

Night person and early riser, both. I don’t sleep a lot.  

Tell us 5 little known facts about yourself.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve gotten braver.

I used to be painfully shy.

I am a champion for the underdog.

Love to sing, but can’t carry a tune.

Wouldn’t mind selling my house to live in an RV (to discover the continental U.S. It won’t happen, but a girl can dream).

Jan, have you ever heard of the Facebook page "Road Trips"? I liked their page and now my scrapbook of "must see" places is growing. They post amazing pictures. It sounds like something you might enjoy. Now let's take a peek inside your newest release, Stella in Stilletos.


An excerpt of Stella in Stilletos: 

A sudden knock at the door sent Stella scrambling from the tub and into the misshapen terry-cloth robe. She ventured a look in the mirror to re-tuck the few stray locks of hair that cunningly escaped the giant claw-clip on top of her head, and she noticed the hot water made her face blotchy pink. “Excellent, Matson. Ragged and well-done is not a good look.”

Her only consolation was it couldn’t possibly be Alex since his apartment was at least twenty-five minutes away; maybe longer, depending on traffic.

She padded in bare feet to the door and squinted into the peek-hole. Dark hair and violet eyes filled her line of vision. She squinted a second time.
      
Her hands flew to her tousled mop and she glanced down at the shabby robe. Last night she’d wanted to fill him with regret by looking like a million bucks. Tonight the regret part would come into play, only in reverse. He’d take one look and wonder what the heck he was doing there.

When she didn’t answer the door right away, Alex fell into a series of persistent knocks. “I know you’re in there.”

“Oh well,” she mumbled. This was the real Stella, uncluttered and unbeautiful. He might as well see her for who she really was. It would probably make whatever he had to say a little easier. She took a deep breath and unlocked the dead-bolt.

Even though the take-me-as-I-am attitude sounded good, her heart was still pumping erratically. She plastered on a congenial smile, braced for a frown and opened the door.   

Amazingly, Alex smiled instead of frowned and cautious joy danced its way through her.
“Bet you weren’t expecting me so soon, were you?”

She cinched her robe tighter and shuttered her eyes suspiciously. “How’d you get here so fast?” 

“You obviously didn’t catch it when I asked if I could come up. I was in your parking lot when I called.”

Stella held back a smile. “Yeah. Missed that. As you can see, I thought I had some primp-time. Since you’re Johnny-on-the-spot, what you see is what you get.” When he grinned, she realized she shouldn’t have used the word get. It was clearly suggestive, like the tub invitation. 
 
Alex was still technically in the hallway. “Can I come in?”

Stella took him by the hand and tugged him in.

Once the door was closed, he swung her around so they were chest to chest and he kissed the tip of her nose. “I’ve been driving around for half an hour trying to figure out if I should call or stop by, or what. The car seems to have a mind of its own and pulled into your parking lot.”

His words made her insecurities kick in and her thoughts went into overdrive. He was going to slam the door on them. In the twelve or so hours they were apart, he must’ve had a change of heart.

A firestorm of emotion burned its way through her. She’d done it again. She’d given herself freely because she foolishly thought he was the one. He obviously wasn’t.

The heavy cynicism continued. Was Alex going to go off to find himself too? Was she still too inhibited? What lame excuse would he offer up? Argh! Her heart wasn’t ready to be snapped in half again.

“I’ll be right back.” She rushed to the bedroom and wilted against the closed door. So what if he slows things down, or breaks things off completely. Nothing should’ve happened in the first place. That rationalization didn’t help.   

Salty tears rimmed her eyes, she blinked them away. She’d been an idiot. Actually, they’d both been idiots, but he was going to step up to the plate and fix things. He was going to make her listen to the voice of reason; the one her heart chose to ignore all day, the voice she should’ve been listening to all along.

I love it, Jan! This is definitely on my must read list. I'm going to get it ASAP.  

More about Author Jan Romes: Jan Romes grew up in Ohio in the midst of eight zany siblings. Married to her high school sweetheart for more years than seems possible, she's also a mom, grandmother, and mother-in-law. Jan writes stories with sharp, witty characters who give as good as they get. When she's not writing, Jan likes to read all genres, find new ways to stay fit and healthy, and while she in no way has a green-thumb, she likes to grow pumpkins and sunflowers.