I've been going on and on about how cozy mysteries have joined ranks with my all time favorite genre, romance! But this is the first time I've ever hosted an actual cozy mystery writer on my blog -- so exciting! Following her very fun and interesting post, you'll find an excerpt from her book Death by Sample Size, as well as a link for a very useful swimsuit fitting guide. Enjoy! Susie Black, thank you. The post is yours!
How I Became a Cozy Mystery Writer
by Susie Black
As a newbie author, I was advised by those far more experienced than me that the best way to build a following is to develop a relationship with readers by sharing personal things about myself with them and let them get to know me. The marketing webinars all preached show your vulnerability, your humanity, who you are, and the readers will lap it up. Truthfully, I didn’t see why anyone would be all that interested in my bio. Trust me, other than the possible exception of my mother who was compelled to find my life story fascinating or risk admitting she had been a failure by having raised a bore, even I didn’t find it particularly riveting. But enough colleagues I respect all suggested I do the same thing, so when people began asking how I became a writer, I realized I’d been wrong. I would be foolish not to put myself out there, right? What’s the worst that could happen? Ok, maybe we won’t go down that rabbit hole. This is it, so buckle up; it’s gonna be a heck of a ride. Like most journeys of mine, this one’s a bit convoluted; sort of like going to Cleveland by way of Cairo. That said, I hope you enjoy the ride.
With its ups and downs, hills, valleys, and sometimes unexpected curves, life itself is the ultimate story. What makes us all storytellers stirring the stew in the cauldron, is a point of view. Life is all around us. Sit in the food court at the mall and pay attention to the crowd. In the time it takes to order and consume a burger and soda, an observant people watcher will have enough subject matter to write a series.
Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit murder mystery series, I am a ladies’ apparel sales exec. From the start of my career, I have kept a daily journal that chronicles the quirky, interesting, and often challenging people I’ve encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. The journal entries are the foundation of all my writing. The most critically important skill a sales exec must have in order to succeed is to be a good storyteller. Fortunately, I’ve been telling stories since I learned how to talk. Since I’d never written a novel before, the only thing I knew to do was to apply the same story-telling skills I’d successfully used hawking bikinis to writing a tale. So, where did my story ideas come from? My mother didn’t raise stupid children. I paid attention to the mantra. Write what you know. With a dollop of imagination, a pinch of angst, and a decades-long career chocked to the gills with juicy characters, I had more stories itching to be told in my daily journal than time to write them.
One thing I’d been told over and over as a sales exec was to know your product inside out. I heard the same thing when I started writing cozy mysteries: write what you know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it, or don’t dare to write it. Whether you’re an author or a sales exec, you’re selling yourself, and readers, like buyers, can sniff out a phony in a heartbeat, and then you and whatever kind of story you’re telling are toast.
I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. Who could push a sales exec to dream of murder and mayhem? Who else but a buyer? After completing a rather challenging conversation with an important, but difficult account, I imagined how good it would feel with my hands around her scrawny neck, squeezing the life out of her. While the notion of knocking off my annoying customers was wildly appealing, a horizontally striped prison uniform making my four-foot, nine-inch body look like a barbershop pole and a fire hydrant had a child wasn’t a pretty sight. The viable alternative? Writing humorous murder mysteries set in the Los Angeles garment center. Brilliant and cathartic! In one fell swoop, eliminate a pain- in- the- patootie buyer, avoid life in prison and still get the order. It doesn’t get any better than that.
About the Author
Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.
She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.
Looking for more? Reach her at email@example.com
To connect with Susie:
Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?
“The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer. Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge. Get ready to laugh out loud as Susie Black’s Death by Sample Size takes you on a rollicking adventure ride through the Los Angeles apparel industry.”
Excerpt from Death by Sample Size
Angela Wellborn and I nodded politely to one another as we entered A Jolt of Java together the next morning. I cautiously wished her a good morning and took it as a good sign when Angela told me to have a nice day. With any luck, maybe I’d save the account.
I worked my way around the table distributing the group’s coffees. When I handed Sonia her cup, the good vibe I had from Angela quickly disappeared. Sonia’s complexion was gray as day-old oatmeal. Her red-rimmed eyes said it all.
I squeezed her arm. “What happened?”
Sonia’s eyes filled. “I didn’t get it.”
“Did they tell you why?”
Sonia twisted her lips into a bitter smile. “My references didn’t pan out.”
Bunny Frank sat at a table across from us sipping a latte and reading the West Coast Apparel News. Sonia walked the short distance to Bunny’s table. Bunny folded the paper and gave Sonia a shit-eating grin.
Sonia growled, “You’re a miserable excuse for a human being. You couldn’t bring yourself to do the right thing for once in your life. You had to lie and destroy a fabulous opportunity because you could.”
Bunny drew a circle in the air and put her index finger through it. “Bullseye, Wilson.” She wiggled her thumb and flashed an evil smile. “Gotcha right under here and I always will.”
Sonia grabbed the latte out of Bunny’s hand and poured the drink over Bunny’s head. The concoction flowed slowly like lava down Bunny’s face and meandered into her cleavage. Too stunned to react, Bunny sat still as a statue as the foam seeped from her décolletage and stained her white knit top.
Sonia crushed the empty paper cup and threw it on the table. The crowded room was silent as a tomb as all eyes swiveled to Bunny’s table. Not a soul missed Sonia snarl, “I promise I’ll get even with you. I will make you pay if it takes me forever.” Sonia spun on her heel and stomped back to our table. She pointed to the barista’s station. “Anyone for a refill? This round is on me.”
A Gift from Susie: Choosing the Right Swimsuit
I am proud to welcome extremely talented Anise Eden to talk about her new book, Dead Sound. Hi, Anise. Happy Launch Day and congratulations! Dead Sound! What an intense, amazing book.
Thank you so much for having me back, Anastasia! I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you enjoyed Dead Sound. Thank you so much for reading, and for wanting to talk about it—which is one of my favorite things to do, as you can imagine!
This book – the action. Wow! Will you tell us a little about it?
Hah, yes! The action! Kind of ironic to think that so much action was generated by a person sitting in front of her computer, moving only her fingers! 😊
Here’s a quick introduction to Dead Sound:
In Washington DC, even the hospitals are political—and politics can be deadly. When a young psychotherapists’ patient tells her she must stop her boss from triggering the apocalypse, she turns to a friend, a world-wise Irish doctor, for support. But when the pair uncovers a Byzantine political plot that leads from their hospital directly to the White House, their struggle to uncover the truth suddenly becomes a fight for their lives.
Dead Sound was my first thriller, so writing it involved a great deal of learning, most of it in the form of trial and error! Thankfully, the team at Tangled Tree Publishing saw the potential in the story and helped me through a wonderfully productive editing experience, refining the book into the final form it’s in today.
I’m still stunned by the plot. What sort of research did you have to do and how much?
I worked on this book over a four year period, so it’s difficult to quantify how much research I did. I think “an awful lot” is an accurate description, however!
I had personal knowledge of some aspects, such as working in hospitals, living in Washington DC, dealing with chronic pain, and being a psychotherapist. However, I had a lot to learn about endocrinology, hacking/computer technology, and White House security. There were also a million little things that came up throughout the book where I needed to deepen my knowledge. Some examples are hospital communications technology and how specific types of injuries might be sustained.
Basically, when I’m writing, I have a web browser open all the time to look things up! Also, beta reader feedback was particularly key with this novel.
How will this series, Things Unseen, compare to the Healing Edge series? Granted, Dead Sound is very different from the Healing Edge books. But I’m familiar with your beautiful writing. There’s a sensitivity in your characters that’s so appealing, and I can see some recurring themes, particularly your emphasis on seeing – and loving -- the whole, real person. Would you elaborate on your themes?
It is so lovely to know that you think highly of my writing, Anastasia, because the feeling is 100% mutual! You have definitely put your finger on one of my recurring themes, there. The main character, Neve, is someone who sees beyond the surface and cares about people for qualities that may go unseen by others. At the same time, Neve, too, has her blind spots, and in Dead Sound, I explore these a bit in the context of mental health care. For example, what is it like for a provider when they become the patient?
Also in Dead Sound, I explore abuses of power, the question of how to discern truth, and the places where faith and logic sometimes collide. I’d say these themes tend to run through most of my work, including what is perhaps my most consistent theme, the healing power of love. Having said that, I don’t write with themes in mind, as such; I tend to glimpse them after I’ve written the story, often when others point them out to me. Also, each individual reader has a unique experience with every book, so they take something entirely different from the story.
I completely agree about the healing power of love. What a marvelous theme and one that is close to my heart. So, all things considered, you wouldn’t say that the Healing Edge series directly inspired Dead Sound? You consider it something completely different?
Dead Sound was conceived from a totally different place than the Healing Edge series. After finishing that first series, one day, I engaged in a thought experiment. What would happen if an Old Testament-style prophet were to be born into the world today? How would they be treated? How would they be categorized and managed by society? I realized that most likely, they would end up in mental health treatment. That was the germ of the idea for the story.
Also, unlike the Healing Edge series, this book is a thriller with no overtly paranormal events, so it has a different feel to it. In both the Healing Edge series and Dead Sound, however, I do explore similar themes, albeit from different contexts and angles, and with different characters. The more books I write, the more I discover what weaves them all together, just by virtue of having come from my brain! I’m learning that my creative imagination is drawn to certain ideas and topics—so far, at least. We’ll see what happens in the future!
This book is certainly a thriller -- and still so romantic! I loooove Neve and Con together, the intensity of their relationship, the beauty of their friendship. Their love for each other runs so deep. Neve is such a natural, authentic lamp of a person -- her inner beauty shines throughout the story. And Con is just delicious -- protective, utterly capable, and respectful of Neve's strengths and boundaries. For me, the romance in this story is even more amazing because the thriller/suspense level is just as powerful. Neither aspect is subdued by the other. How in the world did you manage it? Please, share with us your feelings about your main characters and their relationship.
It's wonderful to hear that you responded so strongly and positively to Neve and Con! I did, too, when they appeared in my head, so I'm glad that who they are as I imagine them came through successfully on the page. In many ways, they're very different people. You see some of those differences in Dead Sound, and they'll be revealed even more in the sequel, Dead Keen. The drama of their love story lies in discovering whether (and how), in spite of their differences, the things they have in common will truly bring and hold them together -- commonalities like their feelings for one another, their commitment to providing the best possible treatment for their patients, and their instincts for caring, which brought them to their respective fields.
As to the question of how I balanced the suspense and romance aspects, that's a little hard to answer, since I don't think analytically like that when I'm putting a story down on paper. As a writer, I'm what's known as a total "pantser," as opposed to a "plotter" who makes outlines, etc. In the case of Dead Sound, I think the intensity of the love story and the suspense both fed into each other, swirling around each other and building in parallel until the ending. However, the fabulous editing process with Tangled Tree Publishing included some terrific beta readers, so I took their suggestions when they said they were hungering for a little more "Neve and Con" here, or a little more "thriller-like tension" there. That kind of feedback is invaluable to me, and I absolutely love collaborating; it always makes the story better!
The combination sure works for you.
Before leaving the subject of Con altogether, I have to tell you that he just might be one of my new favorite heroes, and I love that he's Irish. Are you still living in Ireland? Please, will you tell us a little of your experience there?
Yes, my husband and I moved to Ireland a few years ago, and we absolutely love it! We live in a beautiful town with a vibrant and supportive writing community, which has been very important to me. In fact, the first friends I made when we moved here, I met in our local writers’ group.
This has been my first experience of living outside of the US, so as do must expats, I suspect, I have learned a great deal, simply by virtue of viewing the world from a different vantage point. Of course, when we moved, we weren’t expecting a global pandemic! It was incredibly difficult being so far away from many of my loved ones over the past year and a half, going through all the anxiety that came with it. But our community here has really pulled together and been very supportive of one another.
Just as an example, in those early days of COVID when we didn’t know much about how it was transmitted, as someone in a medically high-risk group, I was very anxious about going to the pharmacy to pick up my regular prescriptions. I spoke to the pharmacist, who suggested I call our local police (called the Gardaí, here), since they had offered to take pharmacy prescriptions and other essential deliveries where needed. I felt a bit silly about doing that, to be honest, but I took their advice, it turns out the Guards were more than happy to help. Later that day, they brought my prescriptions to my home, and they couldn’t have been more gracious about it! That kind of warmth, kindness, and ethos of taking care of one another made the past 18 months much easier to bear.
Beautiful. It does seem that you’ve had a wonderful experience, despite everything. Thank you for sharing a little about your life with us.
What’s on the horizon for you? Can you tell us about your next book? Will it be the sequel to Dead Sound and will it be set in Ireland?
I’m so glad you asked! Indeed, I am currently working on the sequel to Dead Sound. Book 2 in the Things Unseen series, called Dead Keen, picks up shortly after the end of my first book, and begins with Con taking Neve to Ireland to follow up on a storyline from Dead Sound in which Con’s brother seeks his help with a medical issue. Without giving you any spoilers, I can tell you that Dead Keen will be another high-suspense thriller with unexpected twists and turns, making rich use of the wonderful setting and showing how Con and Neve’s relationship continues to develop.
I can hardly wait! Anise, thank you so much for joining us today and also for the excerpt from Dead Sound, which follows. I wish you all the best with Dead Sound and with all your endeavors!
Thanks a million for having me, Anastasia! I really appreciate your good wishes and am very grateful to you for hosting me on your blog. I wish you all the best, as well!
Excerpt from Dead Sound
The rich aromas of roasted coffee beans and steamed milk stood in welcome contrast to the sharp smells of the ICU. What a way to start the morning. Something had unraveled inside me, seeing Amos lying unconscious on that bed, as helpless and out of place as a starfish stranded on a dry beach. And I’d never seen Con so uncertain about the reasons behind a patient’s clinical presentation. Frankly, it scared me. After all, he was a leading expert and knew Amos’s case well. If he couldn’t figure out what was going on, what hope did anyone else have?
Ruminating about it would do no good, however. I forced myself to focus not on the things that were out of my control but on what I could do—specifically, what I could do for Amos. It was time to stick my neck out. I cleared my throat and leaned in close to Con.
“Do you know any hackers?” I whispered the last word, not wanting to be overheard by the barista.
She didn’t seem like the gossiping type, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
Con’s head snapped up. “What?”
“Hackers,” I hissed. “Do you know any?”
As his eyebrows rose, he leaned back against his chair. The wood made a sharp cracking sound, but it held. “Why on earth would I know a hacker?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you don’t. But you seem to know a lot of computer people, and I didn’t know who else to ask.”
“Ah, Jaysus.” His expression darkened. “You’re not being harassed online, are you?”
“No. Why would you think that?”
“Then what kind of trouble are you in?”
I shook my head. “I’m not in any trouble.”
“What in hell’s name do you need a hacker for, then?”
“It’s not for me.”
“Ah, well.” His expression flattened into a perfect poker face. “In that case, I don’t know any hackers.”
“Oh for God’s sake.” I wrapped my hands around my mug and stared down at the table. “Fine. Forget I asked. I’ll just figure out how to get on the dark web and hire one myself.”
I could feel Con’s eyes drilling a hole in the top of my head. “Oh no you won’t.”
“Oh yes I will.” I raised my gaze to meet his. “It’s for Amos.”
Rarely had I seen Con so taken by surprise. “What?”
“The homework he gave me. It’s encrypted, and I need someone to un-encrypt it.”
“You mean decrypt it.”
“Yeah, okay. That.”
“Even unconscious, Amos can’t stop making trouble, can he?” he asked with a mix of affection and frustration. “What’s this homework?”
To purchase Dead Sound
Following the advice to “write what you know,” ANISE EDEN is the author of suspense novels with thriller, romance, and paranormal elements. Her qualifications include growing up in countryside where rattlesnakes and cougars jumped out of nowhere; living with family members who are a little bit psychic; and having her life saved on more than one occasion by her SEAL Team of guardian angels.
After college, Anise soaked up life in NYC, Washington DC, and points in between. She tried her hand at grooming horses, scooping ice cream, and designing billboards before returning to school to become a psychotherapist. Though she left that field after many rewarding years, Anise remains a passionate mental health advocate.
Continuing her real-life adventures, Anise is now exploring life in Ireland with her husband and her small canine writing companion. While her books have won multiple awards, Anise’s propensity for dropping glass objects while barefoot makes it highly likely that her next win will be a Darwin Award. Member of ITW, RNA, SinC, and the Irish Writers Centre.
To connect with Anise:
Buy Links for Dead Sound: https://books2read.com/deadsound
Are you wondering if one of us has the wrong blog? This past year, I've come to love cozy mysteries. Like the romance genre, there are plenty of subgenres. For me, the cozier the better. I love the wonderful settings, the loveable characters, and the way everything is tied up nicely by the end. Moreover, my favorite cozies have a hint of romance. I've noticed a certain cross-over trend. Lots of romance writers have been known to pen irresistible cozies.
Many of these mysteries are set in a particularly picturesque area -- the Cotswolds, for example. Other's focus more on the career or hobby of the main character, one that is terribly appealing -- coffeehouse owner, gardener, librarian, baker, knitter... You get the idea. You are given the chance to immerse yourself in an enjoyable setting with characters you like, learning about things you find interesting or already love, and to solve a mystery that usually spares you the gore.
I realize that, as with any genre, not everyone enjoys cozies for the same reason. From my point of view, they are feel good books. Why anyone would find that description objectionable, I don't know, but some do. Just because a book has you smiling happily at the end doesn't mean that the writing isn't wonderful, the research thorough, and the mystery well-crafted and clever. The books I enjoy have all of those things and I couldn't be happier.
So if you are a romance fan -- and since you are here, I must assume that you are -- you might wantto give cozy mysteries a try.
Today is Launch Day for Jana Richard's latest, Unexpected. Don't miss the stunning excerpt!
A marriage of convenience. An unexpected love.
Single dad Ben Greyson wants only to retain custody of his two stepdaughters. A dysfunctional childhood has made family the most important thing in his life. When his late wife's parents sue for custody, a desperate Ben is left with two choices – run away with his girls or marry his next-door neighbor.
Jamie Garven wants to be a mother. She's intrigued by her handsome new neighbor and falls in love with his little girls. Then Ben is faced with losing his children, and Jamie agrees to marry him for a chance at motherhood. They're determined to show the world, and the girls' grandparents, two loving parents.
Their marriage of convenience turns into unexpected love. But Ben interprets Jamie's efforts to save their family as betrayal—they could lose everything, including each other.
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Excerpt from Unexpected, by Jana Richards
He wrapped his arms around both girls. Jamie watched, uncomfortable to be intruding on such a private moment. Something about the tender way this big man held these two tiny girls hit her square in the solar plexus.
Not every man behaved like her ex.
She cleared her throat. “I should get Rex and Sammy home. It was nice meeting you, Bella and Sophie. I’ll see you around.”
Her neighbor rose quickly and extended his hand. “Thank you for helping me find the girls. I’m Ben Greyson, by the way.”
“Jamie Garven.” She accepted his handshake. Again, she had the sensation she’d seen him before. In the lights illuminating the playground she could see his eyes were a mixture of green and brown and were framed by long, thick lashes. This close to him, she noticed the dimple in his cheek for the first time and caught the scent of a delectable men’s cologne. For a moment, Jamie’s heart wobbled like a washing machine with an uneven load.
Or a hormonal teenager with her first crush.
The embarrassing thought made Jamie tug on her hand. He released it immediately and she forced herself to smile politely.
“It was nice meeting all of you. Goodnight.”
Once she and the dogs rounded the school and were out of sight, Jamie urged them into a run. They raced all the way home. As if the hounds of Hell were on their tails.
Or perhaps her own unsettling thoughts were chasing her. Jamie stifled a groan. She was being ridiculous. She’d been momentarily dazzled by a pretty face. Any red-blooded woman with a pulse would have reacted the same way.
Anyway, there was likely a Mrs. Ben Greyson somewhere in the picture. Men who looked like him generally weren’t single.
And men who looked like her hot new neighbor didn’t give plain women like her a second glance.
About the Author
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com
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New Orleans, hot sultry nights, and an ancient evil who makes the French Quarter home.
Cassanne Thomas returns to New Orleans to start her life over and becomes the target of a supernatural serial killer. Escaping her close call with death, Casi is the only witness to the crime and finds herself placed in protective custody by a handsome Cajun detective. But with her dark, troubled past, trusting the police is the last thing she wants to do.
Detective Lucas Avery, the top homicide detective in NOLA, is unaware of the supernatural world surrounding him. With the killer stalking the streets, he vows to shield the beautiful, enigmatic, Casi with his life while fighting his growing attraction to her. He's been burned before.
Danger chases Lucas and Casi from the streets of the French Quarter to the wilds of the bayou. Will they be able to stop a monster, straight out of a nightmare or become victims themselves?
Casi screamed and covered her ears, though too late. The loud boom made her ears ring. Who was shooting at them? She tried to see, but Luc’s weight had her effectively pinned. Squealing tires along with a string of Cajun curses from Luc, had Casi guessing the shooter had fled.
Luc holstered his weapon when Casi spotted the blood dripping off his arm.
“Oh my God!” She pushed at him. “Let me up. You’re hurt. You’re bleeding!”
Luc rolled off her and did as she asked, while gripping his thigh with both hands. Her gaze left his arm drawn to the blood oozing out between his fingers. The thigh wound appeared much more serious. She tugged her phone out and quickly dialed 911. But before it connected, Luc’s bloody fingers grabbed her phone and disconnected the call.
“We can’t call this in.” Luc exhaled harshly and gritted his teeth as once again, he applied pressure to his leg.
“You’re shot. You’re bleeding from multiple places. We need an ambulance!”
He shook his head. “Can’t. We need to leave. Now.”
About the Author
First published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Sword & Sorceress" anthology, C J was bitten by the writer's bug and hasn't stopped since. The Wild Rose Press published her award-winning first novel, "Walking Through Fire"— a Scottish ghost romance. She is currently working on the fourth book in the interconnected standalone series, The Fire Chronicles, as well as a new Urban Fantasy starring a kick-ass Time Enforcer.
When her pen isn't scribing, you can find her busily cutting and tracking music for film and television. With over thirty years of music editing experience, her credits range from "Northern Exposure" and "The Muppets Christmas Carol", to "The Kill Point", "The Following", and ABC’s hit comedy, "The Middle".
In her downtime, you’ll find her curled up with a cup of tea, her cats and a great book in Tarzana, California.
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I'm pleased to welcome Wendy Rich Stetson, author of Homeward. Enjoy her post and don't miss the sweet excerpt at the end!
In the stifling heat of a Manhattan summer, a fresh-faced woman huddled in a garret, awaiting the opportunity that would change her life. The air was rank, rife with the scents of summer in the city. Brushing a mop of red curls from her eyes, she stared through the grime-streaked window, longing for more than a sliver of sky. She’d fled the tiny town where she grew up, leaving lush fields and rolling green ridges for dirty sidewalks and towering skyscrapers. As the days dragged on, she grew restless, nagged by a feeling that instead of chasing her dreams, she was treading water, barely keeping afloat as a murky eddy of shattered hopes threatened to drag her under…
If my journey to writing a romance novel was, indeed, a romance novel, it might begin something like that. The time was the early 2000’s, and the place was a sixth-floor studio apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I’d just finished my Master of Fine Arts in Acting, and I was ready to make my Broadway debut. Little did I know…that momentous event wouldn’t take place for another ten years. Every student actor is told repeatedly that the odds of making a living in the theater are slim at best. Nonetheless, thousands follow their dreams, believing surely, they will be the exception. And with lots of hard work and tenacity, many actors do carve out a career in The Biz. But progress is slow and hard won, and for lots of young artists, the urge to keep creating—to keep telling stories even during dry spells—tugs at our insides until we branch out into other disciplines.
I remember lounging on the blue and green plaid sofa that sat a mere six inches from my bed and a foot or so from the dining table, watching Oprah Winfrey interview successful romance writers who found purpose and joy weaving heartwarming tales of love. “I could do that,” I thought, every bit as naïve as I was to think a starring role on Broadway would arrive on my doorstep all wrapped up in shiny paper and tied with a satin bow. Still, I cracked open a notebook and gave writing a whirl.
I never set out to write “Amish Romance.” Indeed, in the early oughts, the genre was nowhere near as large and popular as it is today. Encouraged by those Oprah guests with the often-heard truism to “write what I know,” I came up with a simple premise: what if a girl went back to her hometown in central Pennsylvania and fell in love with an Amish guy? I dove into my story with the pent-up fervor of a frustrated actress, holing up in coffee shops and teaching myself the art of writing as I went. Over the course of many months, I researched, brainstormed, and revised, until my heroine finally achieved her happily ever after.
Hometown sat on my hard drive for decades as my acting career took off. I performed at theaters around the country and in New York City. I dipped a toe in commercial acting, film, and television. I narrated over twenty audiobooks and taught Shakespeare workshops to high school students. I had a child. I started running. I twiddled my thumbs.
Then one day I thought…hey, what about that book I wrote? Could now be its time to shine? As nervous and hopeful as that young performer who first acted on the crazy whim to write, I approached small, romance publishers, hoping the story of a red-haired girl trying to find her place in the world, would, in fact, find its place in the world.
Much to my delight, it did. “Hometown” is coming August 11, 2021, from The Wild Rose Press.
Oh, and, Oprah? Thanks.
When all roads lead home, choosing one is far from simple…
When Tessa's big-city plans take the A Train to disaster, she lands in her sleepy hometown, smack in the middle of the most unlikely love triangle ever to hit Pennsylvania's Amish Country.
Hot-shot Dr. Richard Bruce is bound to Green Ridge by loyalty that runs deep. Deeper still is Jonas Rishel's tie to the land and his family's Amish community. Behind the wheel of a 1979 camper van, Tessa idles at a fork in the road. Will she cruise the superhighway to the future? Or take a slow trot to the past and a mysterious society she never dreamed she'd glimpse from the inside?
The girl entwined her fingers in her skirt and tugged the fabric tight. “Your hair is the same color as my cat, and she’s the best cat in the world.” In [w1] a heartbeat, she fled and buried her face in the man’s lap.
“My goodness. What a compliment. Thank you.” She fumbled with the clasp of her wallet, discovering only then she smooshed her thumb deep into the whoopie pie.
The elfin child giggled and bounced on bare toes.
Standing, the man swept her into his arms and smiled down at Tessa. “Rebecca has not seen many women with ginger hair.”
Ginger hair. For years, she was tormented by boneheaded boys shouting, “Carrot Top” and “Flame.” No one ever called her mane ginger. Beneath his candid gaze, her curls heated like embers, warming her from top to toe. Who was this man?
The girl wriggled, knocking askew his straw hat.
He tossed her under one arm like a sack of flour and righted it, loosening a tawny curl that escaped the wide brim and fell over one brow. His gaze passed over Tessa’s face.
Her unruly hair and short shorts tweaked at her consciousness. What did the Amish call outsiders? English? She was definitely dressed like an English woman. And not one from a Jane Austen novel.
He deposited the giggling girl right-side up on the floor and approached the table. “I’ve rarely seen hair that color myself. Like a copper penny.”
She stared at the mangled whoopie pie and blushed even deeper. For a brief moment, she felt his gaze trail down her body like a caress. Or did she?
About the Author
Wendy Rich Stetson is a New York City girl who still considers the Central Pennsylvania countryside to be her home. She grew up road tripping in a 1979 VW camper van, and she keeps a running list of favorite roadside attractions from coast to coast. Now an author of sweet, small-town romance, Wendy is no stranger to storytelling. She’s a Broadway and television actress, an audiobook narrator, and a mom who likes nothing more than collaborating on children’s books with her teenage artist daughter. Wendy lives in Upper Manhattan with her family of three and rambunctious Maine Coon kitty. Follow Wendy’s journey at www.wendyrichstetson.com
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Today, I am honored to host Historian Steven T. Dunn. He is host and webmaster of Fjorn’s Hall, a spectacular online resource and treasure trove for Norse research. It’s organized and easy to navigate. The information is abundant and understandable. Mr. Dunn not only shares his vast knowledge, he also points us to still further resources. Steven, many thanks to you for your benevolence and for taking time out of your packed schedule for this interview. Welcome!
I have so many questions! Vikings have been a source of fascination almost forever. What initially drew you to Norse and Celtic history? Please tell us a little about your education and studies.
First of all, many thanks for having me! It’s an honor to be a guest in your hall.
Strangely enough, I ended up studying Norse and Celtic history on a whim, seemingly. I was picking my classes for the Spring 2015 semester when I saw a course called ‘Viking History.’ All I thought at the time, however, was: Oh, I don’t know anything about that. Why not take it? That class was phenomenal, not only because of the passionate instructor (Dr. Jennifer Knight) , but also because it showed the complexity of Norse culture in a way that I never even considered before. It certainly wasn’t only a culture of brawn and braided beards.
What really drew me in, though, was when we read The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki (or Beowulf, but I choose Hrolf). After reading that, I wanted to know more about their stories and why they told them, so it wasn’t long before I was taking independent studies with Dr. Knight to learn more. During those studies, we read saga literature (especially Njal’s Saga, but also a collection of Irish sagas) alongside academic work seeking to unravel them. I continued to pursue those studies, mostly independently, through my Master’s program, which culminated in a thesis about cheese and clothing (and their surprising significance) in medieval Icelandic literature (which you can read here).
You've been to Iceland! That must have been an amazing experience. Please share a few impressions with us.
Stunning and scrumptious! While it might be cliché, my fondest memories are of the breathtaking scenery (I even painted some of it) and the delicious seafood (especially at Tjörhúsið, which served fish fresh off the fjord). I’ve lived most of my life in the horrendous, flat swampland known as Florida, so you can imagine the impression fjords and arctic winds had on me (delight, not dread). Back in the summer of 2018, I stayed in the small town of Ísafjörður in the Westfjords to study Icelandic for three weeks. It was far sunnier there than in Reykjavík (which was dreary beneath a drizzle most of the time), and I spent much of my free time wandering. My favorite place to wander was on the mountainside overlooking the fjord from the west; and the view I had was best captured by this picture, I think.
Yet, I’d be a poor excuse for a scholar of saga literature if I failed to mention that I also got to visit a site from Gisli’s Saga! It was, of course, nothing but an ‘empty’ fjord. A farm was there, but certainly not the farm that once lay there in the medieval period. Nothing of that remained, but still the aura of that place was steeped with the history and legend that once was. I won’t forget it anytime soon, nor the sheep I nearly befriended there.
A truly spectacular trip! These photos are gorgeous.
Have your feelings about the Norse changed over the years? What have you learned that’s surprised or amazed you?
Indeed they have. At first I was captivated by that (very modern) ‘Viking’ aesthetic: fearless, axe-wielding heathens who went off ‘adventuring’ where few others would. Since then, however, I’ve actually come to loath that image of the Norse because it’s such a sliver of what they were actually like. So many of them were peaceful, enjoying their crafts and storytelling far more than plundering and fighting. The idea that all Norse dreamed of going to Valhalla by dying a warrior’s death was, after all, a dream mostly for the aristocratic. I now find myself more enamored by the men and women who shared their stories by the hearth while the winds of winter kept them indoors. It’s their worldview that I now admire, for they dealt with fickle land-spirits, feuds born from love triangles or grave misunderstandings, and many more relatable human experiences.
I suppose one thing that’s surprised me the most is just how much a person can learn about a culture when they look more closely at the ‘mundane’ parts of it, rather than the flashy bits. Norse mythology and Viking raids get all the attention, but the depth of life you can glean from their stories about farmers is far more fascinating (and amazing). I’m still taken aback whenever I consider how much social and cultural meaning is contained within a single piece of cheese in Njal’s Saga. It may sound strange, but that cheese embodies so much. Women were in charge of making dairy products, so when a woman steals cheese from a neighbor who not only refused to help them during a famine (even though they were capable of doing so) but also insulted her husband (who refused to retaliate properly by taking the food by force), it says so much about what women were capable of doing even within their domestic domain. This saga was warning men that women could find ways to feud like men with cheese, because that was an object that they had authority over. Sword and axes may be more interesting, but women learned to weaponize clothing and food when feuding with neighbors and lovers—and that is far more fascinating (even if it is a bit obscure).
It’s all fascinating, and I couldn’t agree more that we can glean a more complete picture of a culture from the mundane aspect of day to day living rather than the glorified parts.
You know I love your website. It is an amazing, astonishingly generous, thorough resource. I thought it was amazing years ago, when you first began. But “The Hall” has changed and grown in every direction! How did it all come about?
The Hall actually began as a Pinterest-turned-Tumblr blog called The Viking Life. That blog’s ‘birthday’ was September 29th, 2015; and it was five years later on that very day (Sept. 29th, 2020) when I launched the new website that it has since become. Back then, however, it was simply a place to share small bits of information on the Vikings and reblog posts or pictures that formed a pleasant aesthetic. Yet, by March 2016, I was starting to write more substantial blogposts that collectively formed informal crash courses covering Viking History. I made it as far as lesson 27 (a total of 45 posts) before starting graduate school and losing time to write them. I nevertheless persisted, trying various new things (albeit sporadically) while working on my studies. Among them was starting a podcast (in July of 2018), as well as a Norse-themed tea shop called The Northern Herbalist (in March 2019).
Both of those projects ended up faltering as my focus shifted to other things, though, such as creating the Hall that stands today: an affordable (and accessible) place to learn Norse and Viking history from a reliable, high-quality source. In order to pursue that goal more professionally, I started writing lessons again, but also providing videos, podcasts, ‘databases,’ and digital maps for people to use alongside them. As a result, the Hall has become an online ‘school’ of sorts, but more casual (being free from academic jargon and unnecessary pressures, such as deadlines and mandatory assignments). People from around the world can access the Hall’s hoard of wisdom without having to apply to a University, move vast distances to attend them, or accumulate debt to cover their tuition. Instead, they just need an internet connection and be willing to pay a modest subscription of either $5 or $10 a month (thus becoming a Companion of the Hall). Considering the alternatives, it’s not a bad deal! But I suppose I’m a pretty biased source.
It's a great deal and not just a great deal; it's a gift! I can't say enough in praise of this amazing resource, this space for knowledge and learning that you've created.
I can’t decide on my favorite page, either – the raids, the resources, there are so many wonderful opportunities to discover and learn. Is there an area of the Hall that is more work than the others? What are you concentrating on now? Is there a part of your website that you are extra-proud of?
My favorite page, and the one that involves the most work, is definitely the one for Raids. They are, after all, the heart of the Hall. Each Raid is a short ‘course’ containing concise lessons and videos that get right to the point. So instead of enduring long courses with deadlines, time limits, and mandatory assignments, people can raid our material whenever and however it suits them. It’s a more casual approach to online learning, and perhaps a bit less ‘prestigious’ as a result, but it’s better than boring people to death or overwhelming them with rigorous schedules and assignments. But with them being so short and casual, I believe they become more accessible. Most of us are, after all, swamped with a long list of things vying for our attention.
The reason these Raids are so much work, however, is because they accommodate various modes of learning. Rather than forcing people to sit through lectures, I offer both written lessons and lectures. While this doubles my work, it nevertheless provides people with multiple options and therefore increases accessibility. People who need to read in order to learn may do so without having to watch a single video, while those who learn best by watching or listening to videos may do so without ever having to read a lesson. And once they finish a Raid, they can choose whether or not they’d like to take the quiz or test that I provide.
Admittedly, these Raids are slow to develop. I’m only one historian, after all. Yet with support and time, these Raids will add up and collectively produce Campaigns, which are what the Hall considers to be ‘proper’ courses because they take Raids and use them as modules. For instance, we have Raids that introduce the Vikings, Norse mythology, and even agriculture in the Viking Age. These can stand independently as Raids, but our Viking History Campaign brings them (and others) together by placing them in an order where each Raid builds on the last. The result is a longer, more structured course that covers larger themes.
But I suppose that’s enough of an answer… If your readers haven’t glazed over yet, I’ll simply end by saying that I’m proud of my Raids because they can accommodate so many different types of learners.
It's extraordinary -- brilliant, really -- the way you make it all so accessible and, I daresay, fun. I feel like an explorer when I visit the Hall!
What is “Discord”?
Discord is an app that creates servers for communities, thus offering a place for those people to gather, chat, organize events, ask questions, or whatever else they feel like talking about on the go. These servers have various channels within them, as well, which help organize the topics. The Hall’s Discord, for example, has a ‘Companion’s Hearth’ channel for general chatter between Companions, but an ‘Ask Fjorn’ channel for questions. In the near future, we’ll also be planning and conducting reading groups on our Discord, which I will guide with discussion questions and insights. Their app is free, but the Hall’s Discord is exclusive to subscribers (who get sent an invitation link upon registering with the Hall).
I did warn you that we romance fans tend to see those fearless Northmen as romantic heroes. But do you, as a scholar, see them as particularly romantic? How about the women? Can you tell us a little bit about their social norms?
The Norse certainly had a romantic side—but, like all people (both in the past and the present), that romantic aura varied considerably. Nevertheless, they told several romantic stories themselves, with the foremost being (in my opinion) The Saga of the People of Laxardal (which may have been written by a woman). It’s essentially the story of a deadly love triangle, wherein two formidable Icelandic foster-brothers, Kjartan and Bolli, end up quarreling over a woman named Gudrun. I won’t spoil how things turn out, but Gudrun delivers one of my favorite lines from Old Norse literature at the end. When asked who she loved the most, she replied: “I was the worst to the one whom I loved the most.” The saga never explicitly says who that may be, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if you happen to read it!
That said, women weren’t always allowed to choose their own marriages, for that was arranged between her father (or nearest male kinsman) and the prospective groom. While women could divorce their husband of their own accord (though not as easily as men could divorce their wives), their consent in the arrangement was not required. It wasn’t until much later (13th century) that a woman’s consent became necessary, and that is something we can see developing (and being discussed) in the sagas. They also couldn’t attend legal assemblies, and their primarily responsibilities on the farm were milking livestock, making dairy products, managing food and household affairs, working wool, and making clothes. But while much of that may sound grim and dull (especially when compared against shield-maidens), there are examples of women who overcame those boundaries and did things beyond those limitations (and received praise for doing so). After all, much of our source material comes from later, Christian hands, which were working to reshape the culture of the North. The story of women’s history in the Norse world is thus complicated, and I couldn’t possibly do it justice here alone. I will end by saying that women often found ways to participate in the activities of men (both directly and indirectly), who in turn responded with praise and admiration (occasionally). If you’re curious about that, you might want to read my thesis (or any number of books dedicated to their side of Norse history).
Certainly, there is good and bad in every culture. Do you ever feel the need to defend the Vikings? I am very impressed by your “stance”, for which you have assigned its own page on your website. Would you care to elaborate?
I won’t defend the restraints their culture placed on women, nor the code of masculinity upheld by many in their time, but I do defend the Norse against certain groups (i.e. white supremacists) that misconstrue the past to support their toxic ideologies in the present. To claim that ‘Vikings’ vigorously defended their culture and ‘race’ against other ethnicities (and even Christianity) is simply folly that ignores contrary evidence. What made a Norse person ‘Viking’ wasn’t their blood or ancestry, but rather the activity they were engaging in: raiding. After all, their word víkingr was used also for people who weren’t even Scandinavian. Yet, more than race alone, the Hall stands to be a welcoming and safe place for everyone, regardless of race, sexuality, gender, or any other form of possible discrimination. The history I teach in the Hall may not always be comfortable, but I nevertheless stress the importance of evidence regarding gender fluidity, ethnic mingling, and other ‘progressive’ ideas that are, in fact, attested in the past.
That's so well-expressed. Thank you.
I was delighted to see your “Hire a Historian” notice. As I’ve mentioned to you before, I don’t know how you ever sleep! But it would be such a boon -- both in comfort and time –- to be able to put questions directly to a trusted historian. I’m speaking as an author, but I’m sure there are others who would also find such help invaluable. Would you please tell us about your consultation services?
I’m glad to hear that! The Hall is a great resource for people to learn Norse history, but sometimes people need more specific information and guidance. Companions can always ask me questions, but to those who need more devoted attention I offer consultation services (and they don’t have to be subscribed to the Hall, either). Research, after all, can often be daunting and tedious to undertake, but a trained professional can do those things much more swiftly and safely (for there is much out there that is problematic and misleading). Rather than shrugging off such responsibilities, I would much rather give authors (and other creators) the opportunity to work with a historian directly so that they may represent history responsibly and avoid repeating toxic and harmful ideas inadvertently.
I know all too well, however, that creators usually work within a nonexistent or negative budget. My consultation rate (as of answering this question) is $20/hour, but I’m flexible and willing to work within set budgets. If you don’t need my full attention, however, you may choose to become a Lore Seeker for $5/month and have your questions answered as my time allows. I wouldn’t be able to answer as many questions that way (nor work as closely with your project), but it would nevertheless provide a cheaper alternative, if nothing else.
If you wish to know more about the quality of my consultation work, simply ask Bjørn Larssen, whom I’ve been working with (on and off) since May.
This all sounds fantastic. Thank you.
Aside from your fabulous website, consulting work, art, and writing, you do podcasts! Please tell us about them.
I do, yes! The podcast I host now is called Fjorn’s Hall: Skald Edition, and it’s actually a fairly new ‘branch’ of the Hall. The goal of this podcast is to present all of the content from our Raids (aka courses) in bit-sized, audio-only formats that are useful for people who want to learn Norse history but don’t have time to sit and work through our Raids. Yet, because it is part of the Hall, not all of those episodes are free to download and listen to. Nevertheless, several are (and shall be)! I upload new episodes every Wednesday, but occasionally I release bonus episodes for my Skald-in-Training Companions ($10/month subscribers) that cover content not found in our Raids. Most recently, those bonus episodes have covered some of my consultation notes for Bjørn Larssen’s forthcoming book Land.
Do you breathe Norse? It seems to me that such extensive and fascinating studies and work combine to form a distinct and distinctive way of life. But I don’t think that many academicians are as open to the public as you are. Isn’t that true? How do you manage it (sleep-deprivation aside)?
At one time, yes—but not anymore. When I was still in my graduate program, I had thought for nothing beyond my studies and research papers (that would, I hoped then, become articles for publication). It was a bit toxic, honestly. Traditional academia leaves little room for ‘free time.’ There are so few ‘academic’ jobs available to medieval historians that one feels they must devote all hours of their day to the cause of standing out and clinching that one lucky job—and even then, victory is far from assured.
Needless to say, I eventually found myself feeling frustrated and unsatisfied. It was quite sudden, too, because I was preparing to apply to PhD programs at the time. Yet I came to resent not having time to focus on Fjorn’s Hall, because I was passionate about engaging with everyone, not just fellow academics. I still find myself annoyed occasionally by how academics seem to talk to each other more than they reach out to engage with the public (books and articles simply aren’t enough). But stronger still was my frustration at losing time to paint, write, and express my non-Norse interests. I realized that a large part of who I was had faded in order to survive that traditional academic way of life.
I still don’t sleep as much as I should, but since ‘leaving’ academia, I’ve been able to write a tale (~50k words) set in my fantasy word, as well as bring those characters to life through illustrations (which I post about on my personal Twitter and Instagram). On top of that, I’ve been able to focus on growing Fjorn’s Hall, reaching and helping even more people. I still feel inferior to most academics since I don’t devote as much time to studies as they do, but I feel happier and more well-balanced—and that, I believe, is more important.
Bravo! But could it be that your studying just looks a little different? Even from a distance, it's evident that your knowledge is a living, vivid, growing thing, even more so because you share it. May it always be so.
Last question! You do have a historical fantasy on the backburner? Can you share any little tidbit about it with us? We won’t tell.
Gladly! Surprisingly, despite being a historian, I’m not working on a historical fantasy, per se, but rather an epic fantasy set in a world I’ve been studying just as long as the Norse world (if not longer). That world is called Älthren, and it has a deep history. As of responding to this question, I have over 440 pages of handwritten lore in my journals—yet I’ve only just begun to feel as though I truly know what this place is like. Parts of it feel Norse, of course—and much more of it feels Celtic (to my own surprise)—but it has since grown into something of its own. I’m happy to share a bit from the tale I’ve been working on recently, though, which is called The Tale of Fëor and Ërna. I wouldn’t call it romance (confidently), but the love and bond between Fëor and Ërna is indeed what helps them survive a devastating war. Here’s a passage from the third chapter:
No matter what he did, the fog failed to lift. His garden still drooped with dejection, and none of his crafts could ease the burden of his anxiety. Even music failed to stir the shroud which hung heavily upon the Glade, for the sounds of his ocarina were muffled and quickly subdued. The comforts of his home were now powerless, deprived of their previous warmth.
He had tried to escape, settling back into his garden as if nothing had happened; but that was now impossible. His familiar comforts faltered because something from beyond the Glade had stirred his wind. He had changed. For reasons beyond comprehension, his heart felt compelled to leave, to search for a stranger he had only just met.
It was absurd.
Or so it may seem.
For as they had spoken, a thread unseen was woven between them, a gift from the gylfëár twining their winds together. Such a connection seems absurd only because it is unfathomable, and yet it is more profound than any stream of logic. It transcends Ánor, connecting the ancient seeds of ethýr within every life. Indeed, it is a bond braided in Ethýría by Gylthra and is thus beyond the perception of our borrowed minds. Yet it can be felt within the depths of one’s heart, and so Fëor now felt the tugging of that thread, which led to Ërna.
That's beautiful-- and beautifully romantic. It's clearly also a deep and luxurious triumph of worldbuilding.
I look forward to interviewing you in the future about your newly published epic fantasy. Thank you again for sharing your time with us, Steven. It's been a pleasure. I wish you the best in all your endeavors. See you in the Hall!
Steven T. Dunn (nicknamed Fjorn the Skald) is a public historian and forthcoming author of epic fantasy. In 2019, he obtained a master’s degree in History from the University of South Florida, which he has since used to create and grow his educational website, Fjorn’s Hall. As a graduate student, he studied abroad in Iceland (for a short time) and presented papers on Norse history and literature at various conferences, including the International Congress on Medieval Studies. His academic goal is to help the public (globally) learn Norse history, literature, and lore through the convenience and accessibility of the internet. All the while, he (not-so-) secretly studies a ‘fictitious’ world called Älthren, to which he has devoted over 440 pages of handwritten (and illustrated) pages in his journals.
What a beautiful story! Judith Sterling's Flight of the Raven is truly romantic, deliciously medieval, and a very satisfying read, especially knowing it's part of a series.
Ordered to marry by the king, Emma, Lady of Ravenwood, and William l'Orage (the Storm) enter the marriage with reservations. Due to a mortal curse, she will not willingly agree to consummate their marriage unless they truly love each other. Of course, he scoffs at the notion of a curse. They are mutually attracted, and he wants sons. But he won't force her. He'll woo her, instead. And oh, his efforts are magnificent.
Emma and William are noble individuals. Their situation is tense, but they treat each other reasonably and respectfully. There's not a lot of unnecessary angst between them, and that's a refreshing change. It made me all the more eager for the moment these passionate people would give in to their feelings for each other.
Of course, not everyone wishes them well. Curse or no, they have enemies who will stop at nothing, including murder, to get what they want. Emma and William could lose everything before they surrender to their love for each other.
I love this couple, and I'm also quite attached to Wulfstan and Robert, wonderful characters that I look forward to seeing again. Hints of magic and mystery enhance the gorgeous medieval setting.
Flight of the Raven is an absorbing, enchanting romance.
I am happy and proud to host one of my favorite authors as she does a tour with Silver Dagger! We have a guest post, a DELICIOUS, not-to-be-missed excerpt, links, and a Giveaway! So exciting! Welcome as always, Mary!
The Wolves of Clan Sutherland Book 2
by Mary Morgan
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance
The Dark Seducer is known throughout Scotland as a man who charms many women into his bed. Pleasure is his motto as he obtains information for his king. Yet Rorik MacNeil harbors one secret buried beneath his heart of steel. An unfulfilled conquest plagues both man and his inner wolf, and Rorik would rather suffer death's sharp blade than confront his greatest fear.
As the Seer for the Orkneyjar Isles, Ragna Maddadsson confronts an unknown destiny when she travels across the North Sea to Scotland. In her quest to deliver a message from a powerful vision, she fears the warrior will not listen. If Rorik ignores her warning, Ragna must find a way to forestall his impending death. If unsuccessful, she risks having her heart cleaved in two.
To unravel their true fates, Rorik and Ragna must trust in the power of the wolf.
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8 Reasons You Should Read RORIK
1. The Vikings had their ancient laws, but you will also learn the Wolves of Clan Sutherland had their own called the Nine Noble Virtues of Wolf Lore.
2. You’ll get to meet a powerful Seer and wise woman from the Orkneyjar Isles who does not get along with a certain wolf in the elite guard.
3. You learn several ways how Rorik can shift magically into a wolf—from swiftly and quietly, to uttering a chant and transforming into the animal.
4. You’ll have a chance to revisit characters from the first book, Magnar.
5. Find out the other magical gift Rorik possesses.
6. Experience a Viking sporting game over a raging river.
7. Learn what happens when Rorik surrenders control to his inner wolf.
8. Norse Mythology comes alive within the pages of this story, and when you’re done, you’ll feel transported into Rorik and Ragna’s world.
I absolutely loved the book, especially Rorik! Following is my review.
She’s done it again! Master storyteller Mary Morgan has woven history, magic, and very human emotions into an unforgettable and poignant romance. Rorik transports readers back to the ancient lands of Orkneyjar and the Scottish Highlands, during the reign of King William the Lion of Scotland. Reading the story feels like a sublime form of time travel. The author is not only thorough in her research; she has visited the beautiful, mystical places she describes.
Rorik and Ragna are among the most compelling characters I have ever read – ever. He is intense, beautiful, tortured. She is simply magnificent.
This couple has a history, and they fight hard against their feelings for each other. But their hearts – and his wolf -- won’t be denied. The love scenes are passionate, beautiful, and deliciously sweet.
Love this couple.
I love the story, too. There’s lots of action, tension, and satisfaction.
It’s a boon and delight to catch up with Magnar and Elspeth. They are still their strong selves and more in love than ever. There is nothing soft or sweet about Magnar except when it comes to Elspeth. He does something for her – I won’t say what – that is so dear, so meaningful.
It’s also great to be reacquainted with some of the other fascinating characters from Magnar.
I am enthralled by The Wolves of Clan Sutherland and already waiting eagerly for the next book in this spectacular series.
Hats off, Mary Morgan. Five stars!
Award-winning Celtic paranormal and fantasy romance author, Mary Morgan resides in Northern California with her own knight in shining armor. However, during her travels to Scotland, England, and Ireland, she left a part of her soul in one of these countries and vows to return.
Mary's passion for books started at an early age along with an overactive imagination. Inspired by her love for history and ancient Celtic mythology, her tales are filled with powerful warriors, brave women, magic, and romance. It wasn't until the closure of Borders Books where Mary worked that she found her true calling by writing romance. Now, the worlds she created in her mind are coming to life within her stories.
If you enjoy history, tortured heroes, and a wee bit of magic, then time-travel within the pages of her books.
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads
Okay, just... swoon!
“Have you been eating the fresh berries in the meadow, Ragna?” asked the male voice behind her.
The man rolled her name off his tongue, sending shivers down her back. She knew him well, often staring at him while she traveled into the nearby village of Kirkjuvágr.
Doing her best to compose herself, she wiped the palms of her hands down the front of her gown and turned around. “I have yet to find any. Why do you ask?”
Rorik stepped forth from the shadow of a tree. His smile came slowly as he approached her.
She tried to control the fierce beating of her heart as the man loomed over her with a dark and hungry gaze.
“Your lips are as red as the berries that grow in abundance in the meadow,” he stated softly.
“’Tis only an apple I have been eating.” Unable to move away, Ragna studied the man’s features—from his deep green eyes to the dimple hidden within the dark facial hair covering his chin. To suppress the urge of twining her fingers into his long ebony hair, she dug her fingers into her gown. She thought the warrior had to be chiseled from the Gods.
Rorik lifted his hand and gently pressed his thumb against her bottom lip. “Beauty.”
An ache grew within Ragna. His nearness made her weak and without breath. When his hand slipped around her waist, she collapsed into his embrace, placing her palms against his broad chest.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to taste your lips, Ragna. I have thought of nothing else these long summer days.”
She tried to breathe, finding it difficult within his strong embrace. “Why me?” she blurted out on a gasp.
He lowered his head near her ear. “Why not you?”
$25 Amazon gift card and a signed print copy of RORIK
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