The Curse of the Saggy Middle

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When you first start writing, there’s an excitement that keeps your fingers flying. Everything is new and you’re eager to get your characters onto the pages to begin their journey. By the same token, when you reach the end of the story, the resolution is in sight, and you’ve labored with your characters for days, weeks, months, and you can’t wait to write, “The End.” But, somewhere in the middle, things start to lag. Not just the words and creative juices, but there is also a lot of self-doubt going on, too, questioning about whether the story is truly worth writing, and if you’ve done it justice.

It’s the saggy middle curse!

I’m going to share with you some of my own tips on how to deal with a saggy middle—and get over that hump!

  • Every scene should have a goal of moving the story forward—even if that scene is to push the character’s further away from their goals. Re-evaluate your stalling scene to see if it is holding its weight.
  • Conflict! When you’re finding the words are lagging, add in more conflict. Could be a minor bump or a major one, but it will get the words and excitement flowing again—also will pick up the pacing. Up the conflict that is already within the book.
  • Increasing tension goes right along with the conflict, but make sure your characters are wound up tight! No time for relaxing until the end!
  • If you feel your story is lagging, often times pacing can be the issue, its draggy, slow. Dialogue is a great way to pick up the pace of the story.
  • A reveal—give us something interesting.
  • Up the stakes. Make it really personal to those characters and watch the emotions fly.
  • Go back to the beginning. Somewhere around the halfway mark, I tend to go back and read the first few chapters. It helps me to realize where I’m going and get me reinvested.
  • Ask a crit partner to read a few chapters to see if you’re on the “write” track.
  • Somewhere in the middle of your story, your character is going to realize something—it’s going to be a revelation that begins to change them—the arch in that story arc. Let’s see it!
  • Introduce a new character.
  • Kill a character off.
  • Add a plot twist.
  • If you’re writing romance, sensual tension along with conflict and emotional turmoil are awesome ways to keep those pages turning!
  • Surprise your reader—and your characters! Take us in a direction we did NOT think the story was going.
  • As for self-doubt—Tell that little devil to shut the front door! (And this is why I go back and read the beginning and get advice from crit partners—I either feel better in the end, or figure out a way to fix the issues!) Self-doubt is unfortunately a hard-core disease we all suffer from at some point during a manuscript. But, seriously, IGNORE it. Figure out a way to slap that biatch!
  • Take a short break—and I don’t mean longer than a day or two! Sometimes you need to step back and let the story marinate in your mind before you can dig back in. Don’t take too long of a break or you’ll end up forgetting important info.
  • Plot it out—break your story down chapter by chapter so you have a map to follow. When you start heading in the wrong direction, or feel lost, break out that map and get your butt back on the road.
  • Cut the crap—if you’re  bored with what you’re writing, chances are your reader will be too. Cut it, and move on.
  • Don’t complicate things. Has your story grown into the massive, tangled, viney, thorny mess that surrounds Sleeping Beauty’s castle? Sometimes we have too many plot turns. Take a step back and evaluate. Does it work? Or should you eliminate some? Maybe your story is too, simple—ramp it up!

Take a moment to evaluate your story, and get those words flowing again! Don’t let the beginning and end be the only places your story is exciting and page-flipping-worthy. Readers want to be excited and on the edge of their seat through the book.

Happy writing!

Eliza

Check out my new release!

DImageesire tempted them, but love conquered all…

Laird Jamie Montgomery is a warrior with a mission. When he travels to the northern Highlands on the orders of William Wallace, temptation in the form of an alluring lass, could be his undoing.

Lady Lorna Sutherland can’t resist the charms of one irresistible Highlander. Though she’s been forbidden, she breaks every rule for the pleasure of his intoxicating embrace.

When their love is discovered, Jamie is tossed from Sutherland lands under threat of death. But danger can’t keep the two of them apart. No matter what perils may try to separate them—Lorna and Jamie swear they’ll find a way to be together.

A SHORT EXCERPT…

(Take note, this is from the prologue and the hero is young lad of fourteen in this scene…)

The laird and his men raised their swords in the air, roaring out their battle cries. Jamie raised his sword to do the same, but a flash of gold behind a large lichen-covered boulder caught his attention. He eased his knees on his mount’s middle.

What was that?

Another flash of gold — was that blonde hair?

Jamie turned to his father, intent to point it out, but his sire was several horse-lengths ahead and ready to engage the outlaws, leaving it up to Jamie to investigate.

After all, if there was another threat lying in wait, was it not up to someone in the group to seek them out? The rest of the warriors were intent on the outlaws which left Jamie to discover the identity of the thief.

He veered his horse to the right, galloping toward the boulder. A wee lass darted out, lifting her skirts and running full force in the opposite direction. Jamie loosened his knees on his horse and slowed. That was not what he’d expected. At all. Jamie expected a warrior, not a tiny little girl whose legs were no match for his mount. As he neared, despite his slowed pace, he feared he’d trample the little imp.

He leapt from his horse and chased after her on foot. The lass kept turning around, seeing him chasing her. The look of horror on her face nearly broke his heart. Och, but he was no one to fear. But how would she know that? She probably thought he was after her like the outlaws had been after the man, woman and lad.

“’Tis all right!” he called. “I will nay harm ye!”

But she kept on running, and then was suddenly flying through the air, landing flat on her face.

Jamie ran toward her, dropping to his knees as he reached her side as she pushed herself up.

Her back shook with cries he was sure she tried hard to keep silent. He gathered her up onto his knees and she pressed her face to his leine shirt, wiping away tears, dirt and snot as she sobbed.

“Momma,” she said. “Da!”

“Hush, now,” Jamie crooned, unsure of what else he could say. She must have just watched her parents and brother get cut to the ground. Och, what an awful sight for any child to witness. Jamie shivered at a loss for words.

“Blaney!” she wailed, gripping onto his shirt and yanking. “They hurt!”

Jamie dried her tears with the cuff of his sleeve. “Your family?” he asked.

She nodded, her lower lip trembling, green-blue eyes wide with fear and glistening with tears. His chest swelled with emotion for the little imp and he gripped her tighter.

“Do ye know who the men were?”

“Bad people,” she mumbled.

Jamie nodded. “What’s your name?”

She chewed her lip as if trying to figure out if she should tell him. “Lorna. What are ye called?”

“Jamie.” He flashed her what he hoped wasn’t a strained smile. “How old are ye, Lorna?”

“Four.” She held up three of her fingers, then second guessed herself and held up four. “I’m four. How old are ye?”

“Fourteen.”

“Ye’re four, too?” she asked, her mouth dropping wide as she forgot the horror of the last few minutes of her life for a moment.

“Fourteen. ’Tis four plus ten.”

“I want to be fourteen, too.” She swiped at the mangled mop of blonde hair around her face, making more of a mess than anything else.

“Then we’d best get ye home. Have ye any other family?”

“A whole big one.”

“Where?”

“Dunrobin,” she said. “My da is laird.”

“Laird Sutherland?” Jamie asked, trying to keep the surprise from his face. Did his father understand just how deep and unsettling this attack had been? A laird had been murdered. Was it an ambush? Was there more to it than just a band of outlaws?

 There would be no meeting, if the laird who’d called the meeting was dead.

“I’ll take ye home,” Jamie said, putting the girl on her feet and standing.

“Will ye carry me?” she said, her lip trembling again. She’d lost a shoe and her yellow gown was stained and torn. “I’m scared.”

“Aye. I’ll carry ye.”

“Are ye my hero?” she asked.

Jamie rolled his eyes and picked her up. “I’m no hero, lass.”

“Hmm… Ye seem like a hero to me.”

READ IT!  Amazon / Barnes and Noble

 

 

Mistletoe Madness Blog Hop — My Favorite Christmas Cookies

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I’m going to be baking a lot this week! Cookies for Santa, cookies for the Princesses classmates and teachers, cookies for the family and of course, cookies for me! I love to turn on sappy holiday movies while I bake–makes it so much more fun!

Here are a my top 5 favorite holiday cookies…

5. Peanut butter kiss cookies

4. Chocolate peppermint cookies

3. Cookie/brownie bars

2. Sugar cookies w/frosting

1. Pecan snowballs!

What are your favorites?

IImagen my holiday novella, A Kilted Christmas Wish, Darla loves pretty much anything chocolate!

Check it out…

Down on her luck with men, Darla Strider wonders if she’ll ever meet her own kilted hero. Considering she lives in present day New York City, the likelihood of that happening is nil. She’s certain only a Christmas wish could make her dreams come true. Until the day Aaron Sutherland walks into her café, and changes her whole world.

Leaving his pain in Scotland for life in the States, the last thing Aaron has in mind is hooking up with a city girl. But one look at Darla and she’s got him singing All I Want for Christmas is You…

Read it! Amazon / Barnes and Noble

Leave a comment for your chance to win an ecopy!

But there’s more!!!!

Grand Prize from the core sponsors is a $200 Best Buy Gift Certificate!

For a chance to win the grand prize and to see other authors on the tour, click HERE!

 

Not Ready to Let Go…

deez

At about two years old.

If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen some posts by me over the last 6 months about my dog having cancer. He has two different tumors–one around his heart and one in the lower lining of his stomach. Six months ago, we were told he’d have a month or two, and that hopefully the meds would help him to feel better.

They did! He was better than better–outside playing soccer and basketball, stealing the kids food from the table and even making a flying leap to snatch a Lemonade Girl Scout cookie. He was doing awesome. He gained weight, his coat looked beautiful, all the allergies he’d suffered from for the first 9 years of his life disappeared. He was the miracle dog.

And then overnight, everything changed.

This week :(

This week :(

When we returned from Thanksgiving, we found that his belly had bloated, like he’d eaten four dozen donuts. He wouldn’t lay down, he paced, he started vomiting and having diarrhea again. He’s lost interest in food (even the crazy expensive organic canned dog food I feed him!), though we’ve been able to entice him to eat cheese, ham and chicken (and Girl Scout Cookies!). I took him to the vet and they did x-rays. His tumors are bigger. Things are going down hill so fast. The vet gave us a few more meds to help. That night, he collapsed from exhaustion–since he wouldn’t lay down. The vet then gave us some pain meds for him. We figured out how to prop him up on pillows and cover him with blankets to get him to lay down for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour, but that was it. Is it. Now his leg and foot are swelling up…

We were told at this point, he’s not going to get better, that we’re basically making him comfortable until its time to make THAT decision. But the thing is, he’s not comfortable. He’s in pain. He isn’t sleeping.

deez as a pup2

Deez at about 6 months–that’s how I found him in the morning :-) That’s all the paper her annihilated!

And yet today, when I came home from the store, he wagged his little nub tail like crazy. I bought him a toy and he actually played with it for five minutes.

So… he’s happy, even if he’s in pain?

How do you make the decision to put your dog to sleep forever when they still wag their tail when you walk into a room?

I grew up with dogs, dealt with their passage–I was sad, I cried, but this is different. This is MY puppy.

deez as a pup

My Hubs and Deez as a puppy

On Mother’s Day 2004, my husband took me to a boxer breeder’s house to pick up my baby. There were two puppies left–one sassy girl who kept biting my ankles, and then this adorable little puppy with the biggest underbite I’d ever seen. Already he was a tough guy. Being a Vin Diesel fan… I named my dog Diesel, cuz he’s a big tough guy. (Nicknames: Deez, Deezy-wheezy, Deez-nuts, and Doidle <–this last one coined by Princess#3 who couldn’t pronounce his name).

We brought him home and things were never the same again. I have had a love/hate relationship with this dawg. And he with me–you see, he gains enjoyment out of driving me crazy! lol

sobber isicle

Slobber icicle

First, the hate: He tore apart my wedding bouquet that I’d carefully preserved. He ripped up a new pair of shoes (only once for some odd reason). He humped a giant Tigger doll which forced me to throw it away. He is a master escape artist–give him five minutes and he can dismantle any crate, he can open outdoor gates, can dig up a lead and yank it out of the yard, and he knows how to open doors, freaking genius. He was also an expert at opening the diaper genie…not pretty. He shredded the molding around a door in our new house. He’s never learned NOT to beg at the table. He snores LIKE A CHAMP causing me many sleepless nights. If he’s mad at me, he sh*ts in the house. He smears his slobber all over everything. He lifted his leg and PEED on me during the fireworks…Poor dog suffered from TERRIBLE allergies…the vet told us he was probably allergic to himself (which I could understand since I got hives from petting him sometimes). When I talk on the phone he stands behind me and barks. When I sit at my computer, he stands behind me and barks…  Needless to say, there’s been a lot of hating going on.

deez hike

On one of our many family hikes…thank goodness he didn’t jump into the lake this time since he CAN’T SWIM!

Just one of the kids!

Just one of the kids!

BUT–he is the best damn dog I’ve ever had, and here’s the reasons why I love him so much: He’s a boss and he knows it. He is very loyal and protective–one time he head-butted a man out of the house. Coincidentally, the man was warning me that my deck was on fire. He is AMAZING with kids, and willing to dress up like a princess and play tea party. He loves to cuddle with the kids, and lay on my lap until my legs go numb. He is yard trained–he’d stay in the yard no need for an electric fence. He cleans up all the food under the table. We taught him to air lick kiss, so instead of slobbering your face, he licked the air around your face! Although, every once in awhile he’d make a leap in the air and get you right in the mouth! He makes the best faces–you can almost see what he’s thinking (I mirrored Frosty’s personality in THE HIGHLANDER’S CONQUEST after him). He is always glad to see me, no matter what. He loves to play ball–soccer, basketball, anything, he loves to run and jump and chase it with you. I love that he likes to hike and explore with us. He’s fun to play with. I love to watch him mangle his new “pets” when we give him stuffed animals. I love the way he finds any scrap of fabric

Curling up with one of his "pets"

Curling up with one of his “pets”

and lays on it–even socks, and how he finds the places in the house where the sun shines in to lay down and relax. I love that he follows me around, that he wants to be with me all the time. I love when we get in the car, he sits on a seat like all the humans and doesn’t think its weird. I love the way we could make him “speak” at us. I love his energy, his fascination with life and his never-ending optimism that we’re definitely going to give him whatever it is he wants, and he’s not afraid to bark at us until we do. I love that he isn’t allergic to chocolate, because lord knows he’s sneaked into plenty of candy boxes. I love the way, when he yawns sometimes, his lip gets stuck on his teeth and he ends up making this really funny face.

deez2

Taking a ride in my sister’s Jeep. She let him sit up front :)

I hate that at some point I’m going to have to say goodbye.

And that point is coming quicker than I thought.

My dear friend’s aunt showed her this poem and she passed it on to me… It has helped me to feel better, but not 100%. I’m not ready to let go…

THE LAST BATTLE

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

— Unknown

**UPDATE** Thank you all so much for you kind words and support! It means the world to us. We sadly had to let go of Diesel on Friday. He was in so much pain. But we know he is in a much better place now–Rainbow Bridge. He’ll always be in our hearts, never forgotten.

No Tofurkey for me!

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We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year at my house! And can I just tell ya how many people were like–”but we need a real turkey!”

Yes, I’m a vegetarian. No, that doesn’t mean you get a fake turkey…

In fact, I’ve enlisted my sister and brother-in-law to make TWO turkeys, and from what I hear they are going ALL out! And everyone that’s coming is bringing something delicious that they love to have every year.

So what, you may ask, am I making???

Here’s my Thanksgiving menu…that everyone will be able to enjoy AFTER we play a friendly, family game of soccer :-)

Appetizers

“Crab” Cakes

(my meat-eating friends have devoured these in the past)

“Cheese” Log

(along w/some real cheese…)

 Bread Bowl w/Hummus and Veggies

Main Dishes

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Pumpkin and Caramelized Onion Baked Ziti

(from Veganomicon)

Asparagus, Portabella, Sundried Tomato & Grains served in a roasted butternut squash w/a savory lime/evoo sauce

Side Dishes 

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Mashed Potatoes

Vegan Sausage Stuffing

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Garlic & “Cheese” Bread

Herbed Pumpkin Knots

(from Oh She Glows)

Dessert

Pumpkin Brownie Pie

Looking for a sweet, holiday treat? Check out my new novella release, A KILTED CHRISTMAS WISH.

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A KILTED CHRISTMAS WISH is a sexy, contemporary novella of about 20,000 words.

Down on her luck with men, Darla Strider wonders if she’ll ever meet her own kilted hero. Considering she liv
es in present day New York City, the likelihood of that happening is nil. She’s certain only a Christmas wish could make her dreams come true. Until the day Aaron Sutherland walks into her café, and changes her whole world.

Leaving his pain in Scotland for life in the States, the last thing Aaron has in mind is hooking up with a city girl. But one look at Darla and she’s got him singing All I Want for Christmas is You.

Read it! Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Smashwords

HARD AS IT GETS by Laura Kaye

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HARD AS IT GETS smaller release graphicI am so excited for you all to check out my good friend Laura Kaye’s new book, HARD AS IT GETS! I had a chance to read an early copy and it was AWESOME!!! She’s here today to talk about a thing we both love in addition to romance and hot heroes–CHOCOLATE!!!

Enjoy!

 

Five Favorite Chocolates

e5516-laurakaye-21I’m thrilled to be at my good friend Eliza Knight’s place today celebrating the release of my new book, Hard As It Gets, the first in the Hank Ink series. This series has ex-military guys, a tattoo parlor, intrigue, mystery, a kick-ass heroine, and a three-legged dog. And it also has a couple of sexy scenes caused by chocolate. LOL! So, first, I’m sharing my own personal favorite chocolates, and then second, I’m sharing an excerpt in which chocolate is featured.

 

My favorite chocolates include:

1) Snickers. This candy has always been my absolute favorite. And, really, any chocolate paired with caramel ranks pretty high for me.

2) Godiva chocolate. Godiva makes the best hot fudge you’ll ever have. And the best chocolate dip for strawberries. And incredible truffles. And…and…

3) Chocolate chips. I love the way they crunch, and enjoy them by themselves, in cookies, in ice cream, in muffins – you get the picture!

4) Chocolate ice cream. In pretty much any form, I love the chocolate frozen stuff!

5) Nutella. The delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread is incredible on pancakes and even better in crepes. Anything would probably be better with Nutella.

 

HardAsItGets mm cNow for a chocolate-inspired excerpt:

 

Becca opened the fridge and surveyed the shelves and drawers. After all, the last thing Nick had said to her before they’d gone their separate ways at bedtime was “Make yourself at home. What’s mine is yours.” Which had left her mind churning on exactly what the full practical application of that principle might include . . . But, at the very least, she assumed it included midnight raids on his fridge. One of her worst and most favorite habits.

 

But the contents primarily fell into one of four categories: beer, other drinks, restaurant takeout and general leftovers, and meat.

 

Wrinkling her nose, she closed the lower door and opened the upper one. Icy air blasted out as her gaze landed on a two-deep stack of ice cream tubs, the double chocolate fudge brownie catching her eye in particular.

 

“That’s more like it.” She pushed the door shut and turned to the counter.

 

And screamed.

 

Nick was standing like a silent phantom at the edge of the dim light. The half-gallon

container flipped out of her hands and did a triple somersault in the air before she dove for it at the same time Nick did.

 

They crashed and she shrieked, her hands flush against a mountain of bare, hard flesh, and the tub of ice cream fell at their feet. His arms came around her, his greater weight nearly knocking her over and making them stumble until he’d all but pinned her against the counter.

 

Time froze for an instant, then Becca burst out laughing, the ridiculousness of the past ten seconds growing in hilarity the more she thought about what had just happened. She covered her mouth with one hand as her head fell back and her laughter devolved into a series of choked chortles she couldn’t control. She gasped for breath, her forehead falling against Nick’s chest.

 

His chest. Holy crap, the man was half naked and she was touching him. Her hand. Her face. Her stomach against his. The details of their position finally registered in her sleep-deprived brain.

 

He was all over her.

 

Do you have a favorite chocolate?

 

Thanks for reading!

Laura

 

“Edgy, sexy, and full of suspense! A great read from a great new author!”

~J.R. Ward on Hard As It Gets

 

About Hard As It Gets:

Five dishonored soldiers.

Former Special Forces.

One last mission.

These are the men of Hard Ink.

 

Tall, dark, and lethal…

Trouble just walked into Nicholas Rixey’s tattoo parlor. Becca Merritt is warm, sexy, wholesome–pure temptation to a very jaded Nick. He’s left his military life behind to become co-owner of Hard Ink Tattoo, but Becca is his ex-commander’s daughter. Loyalty won’t let him turn her away. Lust has plenty to do with it too.

With her brother presumed kidnapped, Becca needs Nick. She just wasn’t expecting to want him so much. As their investigation turns into all-out war with an organized crime ring, only Nick can protect her. And only Becca can heal the scars no one else sees.

Desire is the easy part. Love is as hard as it gets. Good thing Nick is always up for a challenge…

 

Read an Extended Excerpt of Hard As It Gets

Buy at Amazon | B&N | iTunes

About Laura Kaye:

 

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

 

Website | Blog | Facebook | Hard Ink Puppy FB | Twitter | Newsletter SignUp

 

Want to visit more stops along the HARD AS IT GETS tour? Click HERE

New Release — A KILTED CHRISTMAS WISH

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I love kilts, Christmas, chocolate, hot chocolate and even hotter heroes. Add all those together with heaping spoonful of love and you have my new Christmas novella–A KILTED CHRISTMAS WISH! (Oh and guess what??? The hero–Aaron Sutherland–is a descendant of the Sutherlands from my Stolen Bride series!)

ElizaKnight_AKiltedChristmasWish2500Down on her luck with men, Darla Strider wonders if she’ll ever meet her own kilted hero. Considering she lives in present day New York City, the likelihood of that happening is nil. She’s certain only a Christmas wish could make her dreams come true. Until the day Aaron Sutherland walks into her café, and changes her whole world.

Leaving his pain in Scotland for life in the States, the last thing Aaron has in mind is hooking up with a city girl. But one look at Darla and she’s got him singing All I Want for Christmas is You.

Want to read an excerpt? How about all of Chapter One??? Enjoy!

Highlanders. Oh, she wished.

Darla Strider, hopeless romantic and cynical love hater, tossed the Scottish romance novel she’d been reading aside. Highlander’s Reward… Ultra alpha hero, fiercely loyal, powerful, hot body, good in bed, not to mention his kilt… When was she going to get her reward? The Scottish hero from the novel certainly wasn’t going to leap from the pages, long sexy hair flowing, sword glinting, eyes filled with desire and ask her out to dinner followed by mind-blowing sex—except in her fantasies. And in her fantasies, she would say, yes, a thousand times yes, throwing herself into his waiting, muscular arms.

Leaning an elbow on the counter of her gourmet deli and resting her chin in her hand, she gazed out the paned glass onto the busy, holiday-adorned Manhattan street. Any minute the lunchtime rush would begin. Thank goodness her chef was in today. With Amanda, her hostess/waitress, out sick, the counter was going to get crazy. Reading time was over for the next few hours. What did it matter, anyway? She was beginning to be overly bitter about romance and a reminder of that was the last thing she needed.

One miserable, failed date after another. A couple of meaningless relationships and a series of messy nights bumping uglies. Romance, for Darla, was dead.

What she wouldn’t give to have a Highlander walk through her door that very moment. At least a free year’s supply of her prized veggie and goat cheese panini. To hear his brogue stroke her like a caress while he told her how beautiful he thought she was. She smirked. For that, she’d throw in a daily glass of sangria.

Never going to happen.

She glanced over at the miniature Christmas tree tucked into the corner near the window. Stockings hung from its branches, all in the name of holiday cheer. A little bronzed Santa sat nestled in the branches, surrounded by twinkling white lights and silver tinsel.

“Santa,” she murmured. “Please bring me one of these Highland heroes for Christmas.”

Oh, God, now she was resorting to talking to inanimate objects. Hopeless.

The bell over the door dinged. Swiping her hands on her snowman-covered apron as she stood straight and plastered a smile on her face, Darla resisted the urge to gasp at the gorgeous man who walked through the entrance. Dressed in a dazzling fitted, charcoal-gray suit, with a light blue dress shirt and shiny black tie, he looked like he’d just walked off a billboard titled, Every Woman’s Dream. Dark hair, slightly on the longish side, clean shaven, chiseled features—and those eyes. Gray as storm clouds and just as unpredictable.

Darla swallowed her shock and cocked her head slightly. “Welcome to City Café,” she said, silently cursing the slight shake in her voice. She clutched her fingers together behind her back, then quickly brought them around front when she realized she’d thrust her breasts forward, too.

A delicious grin curled his lips and his eyes raked over her making Darla wish she’d chosen her good jeans today. The ones that made her butt look bootylicious instead of I-eat-too-much-chocolicious.

“Thanks,” he said.

Darla did a double-take, her mouth falling open at least an inch. She definitely detected some sort of accent. Her heart sped up and she gave a furtive glance at Santa. Sounded Scottish, but it was hard to decipher from one syllable. There was no way… She was delusional, that was all.

“Would you like to eat in or carryout?” she managed.

He studied her for a few skips of her heartbeat. There was a wicked glint in his eyes. The kind that would normally make her melt. Okay, fine. She admitted it, the way he was looking at her, she was bound to go boneless if he didn’t look away.

“I’d like a table,” he said.

Holy, fucking, Santa Claus!

The man spoke with the most discernible Scottish brogue. Knees going weak, Darla gripped the counter to hold herself up. She blinked, staring at him and then back at her Christmas tree. Was this a joke? No. Couldn’t be. Just a coincidence. A huge coincidence. No stars-aligning, tragic romance bull, just chance.

“Is that all right?” he asked, staring around the café when she didn’t respond.

The door opened, bell dinging, as a group of three walked in, dusting snow off their sleeves. The noise pulled her out of her trance, and Darla jerked into motion, grabbing a menu.

“Yes, yes, of course.” She skidded around the side of the counter and took him to the table closest to her—selfish really. She wanted the ability to stare at him while she worked. Ugh. Maybe she should convince him to take his order to go?

“Would you mind if I sat by the window?” He shrugged, having the adorable awareness to look charming. “Just got into town and I do love to people watch.”

Darla managed to find her wit somewhere buried beneath the shock and drool. She gave a throaty laugh—hi-fiving herself for being sexy. “I love people watching, too. No problem.”

She led him over toward the Christmas tree, glaring at Santa as she went. Not fair for him to play such a cruel joke on her. “How’s this?”

“Perfect.”

Lord, was he ever…

A clearing throat behind Darla reminded her the line was starting to build. She felt her face heat. She might as well just strip off her clothes right then and there and offer herself over to her hot customer.

Instead, she handed him the menu and said, “I’ll be back in a moment to take your order.”

“Thanks.” He smiled at her.

Not the usual, thanks for the menu now leave me alone smile. No, this was a charming, I want to ask you to dinner smile. And if he asked, she might just find it impossible to say no.

Darla whirled back toward the counter, practically running behind it. Her limbs were tingling, going numb and she could barely catch her breath. Just a coincidence she kept telling herself.

And no dates. Even if he oozed sex on a platter. She wasn’t going down that road again. Besides, she had a half dozen people in line to attend to. Daydreaming about Mr. Hot Scotsman was only going to ruin her business. A chance she couldn’t take. The café was all she had. Her family was scattered across the country, and it wasn’t like she was going to beg a couch to crash on.

Jorge peeked his head around the corner from the kitchen, raising his brow. Darla pressed her lips together, suppressing a smile. Her chef knew her too damn well.

After taking the orders of those in line, she used the brief lull in traffic to rush back to her Scottish gentleman.

“I’m sorry about the wait. What would you like to have today?”

He flashed her that smile again and she gripped tight to her pen to keep from flinging it as her fingers twitched. Yeah, the last thing she needed was to poke out one of his gorgeous eyes.

“What is your favorite?” he asked.

“Hands down the roasted veggie panini, but if you’re in a meaty mood, the turkey and spinach pesto is amazing.”

“I’ll give yours a shot. If it’s not to my liking, I’ll have to come back tomorrow for the turkey.”

Her breath caught. He’d come back?

“That sounds great,” she rushed out. A blush crept up over her chest, a smile frozen on her lips. “I’m going to go put this in.” She hurried back to the kitchen, cursing herself for not being able to say something clever and witty, knowing she must look like a complete moron, mooning over the stranger like a woman who’d never seen a man before.

She’d been staring at him like a deer caught in the headlights. He probably thought she was crazy.

Plates started popping out of the kitchen window, and between taking more orders, she served lunches to those who were staying—including Mr. Hotstuff—and bagged up the to-go’s. Every time she looked toward the hottie by the Christmas tree he was watching her. A few times he tried to look away, pretending that he’d not been staring, but other times he smiled.

She was supposed to be the one staring—not him.

Damn. Double damn.

She’d vowed no more dates. Not one man was going to take off the metaphorical chastity belt she’d chained to her nether-regions. Not until she’d met a man worth it. Not until she felt that spark of love. No matter how much of a Scottish accent he had, or how much she wanted to stare into his stormy gray eyes.

“Excuse me?”

Darla jerked her gaze to the annoyed looking woman. The sound of her customer’s foot tapping in front of the counter made Darla’s eye twitch.

“Welcome to City Café, how can I help you?” She plastered on her snappy customer service smile and listened to the woman complain about how she’d said hello to her about five times before Darla answered.

“So sorry, we’ve been swamped. My apologies.”

“Take out order for the Simpson Firm.”

Darla rummaged through the called in to-go’s and handed the woman two large recycled paper bags, filled with hers and Jorge’s famous paninis. She rang her up, exchanging cash and change with the woman was painful as she seemed to have an affinity to rolling her eyes.

“Enjoy.” Darla handed her the bag.

The woman didn’t bother to say thank you, but stormed out at such a jerky pace, making Darla fear she’d drop the order.

“Guess not everyone can be pleased.” Her Scottish friend had somehow managed to leave his chair and approach the counter without her noticing.

“Not always,” she said with a smile. “Are you all done?”

“Yes, best sandwich I’ve ever had. You run a great café.” He winked. “Very charming. Just like its owner.”

Her mouth fell open. Charming? He was starting with the compliments already?

“I didn’t catch your name. I’m Aaron.” He held out his hand.

She stared down at his hand for a little longer than was appropriate, but finally snapped out of it, slipping hers against his palm. His hand was warm. Fingers long.

“I’m Darla.”

“Are you open for dinner, Darla?” he asked.

Her stomach did a little flip and she nodded. “Um, yes, we are.”

“Darn. I was going to see if you were free to go out with me this evening. Maybe some other time.” He picked up one of the restaurant deli cards and stuck it in his pocket.

She opened her mouth to speak, but only succeeded in nodding. He flashed her one more heart-throbbing smile before walking out of the door, and potentially out of her life forever.

READ THE REST!!! 

Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Smashwords

In Person Workshop Hosted by Maryland Romance Writers!

MRW Fall Workshop

MARYLAND ROMANCE WRITERS is excited to announce its 2013 Fall Workshop

WRITING FROM THE GROUND UP

Learn the Steps Involved in Writing a Novel

This dynamic workshop will walk you through the creation of a novel from the opening hook, through plot points, world building and character building . . . all the way to the all-important black moment and The End.

We will cover the following topics:

DATE: Saturday, October 26

TIME: 1-5 P.M.

PLACE: Catonsville Library, 1100 Frederick Road, Catonsville, Maryland

COST: $30 for MRW Members and $35 for non-MRW Members.*

TO SIGN UP: Visit http://www.marylandromancewriters.com/

Outside the Lines by Kimberly Kincaid

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I had the pleasure of meeting Kimberly in NYC at the RWA Con in 2011… when we went to the sex museum and sipped on crazy beverages at the bar there. She’s a wonderful author and a sweetheart! So excited for her new release. Check it out!

Portrait of young attractive happy amorous couple in bedroom

Outside the Lines

By: Kimberly Kincaid

Releasing July 30th, 2013

Blurb

As an ivy-league ER doctor who eats double shifts for breakfast (and lunch…and dinner), Blake Fisher has little appetite for anything other than work. Being on the staff at Brenstville Hospital means taking care of people, a need Blake understands all too well from losing his brother to cystic fibrosis eight years ago. When he’s asked to coordinate a carnival fundraiser for the cause, he jumps at the chance to help others with the disease…until it lands him side by side with the one woman he never thought he’d see again: his ex-fiancée.

Streetwise and rough around the edges, Jules Shaw is no stranger to earning a living through hard work. But when her job as the restaurant manager of Mac’s Diner puts her shoulder to really broad shoulder with Blake Fisher, she nearly balks. She’d rather dodge and deflect than admit the real reason she broke things off, but the catering contract for the carnival means big business for Mac’s, and feeding people is Jules’s lifeblood.

As Blake and Jules join reluctant forces, they quickly rediscover the spark between them. But the possibility of a future together hinges on coming clean about the past, with potentially devastating consequences. Can Blake and Jules overcome their drastically different backgrounds and learn to love again, or will they always be outside the lines?

 

Link to Follow the Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2013/06/now-booking-release-day-tasty-book.html

Buy Links

 

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18070953-outside-the-lines

 

KimAuthor Info

Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she’s not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber”, she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a 2011 RWA Golden Heart® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. She has written two digital novellas, Love On The Line and Drawing The Line, about hot cops and sexy chefs, with a third novella, Outside The Lines, due this summer. She is also thrilled to have collaborated on a Christmas anthology with Donna Kauffman and Kate Angell, titled The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap, to kick off her Pine Mountain foodie series with Kensington this October. Kimberly’s first full-length novel, Turn Up the Heat, will follow in February 2014. She resides in northern Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.

Visit her any time at www.kimberlykincaid.com or come check her out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kimberly.kincaid1) and Twitter (@kimberlykincaid).

Author Links

www.kimberlykincaid.com

www.facebook.com/kimberly.kincaid1

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6938229.Kimberly_Kincaid

 

Countdown to RWA — Pitching

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Happy Monday!

With the craziness of packing, etc… this post got away from me! But I still want you all to be prepared. Here is my Top 10 list for pitching at a conference.

TEN: Have a one line hook/pitch ready. Could be a sentence or a question, but gives the idea of the book.

Example:

A Highland warrior steals the intended of an English noble only to fall in love. — THE HIGHLANDER’S REWARD

Gabrielle thought sleeping with her brother’s best friend in college was a colossal mistake–until he becomes her rebound and shows her what real love is. — THE REBOUND PACT

What happens when an emotionally damaged woman travels back in time, into the arms of a dangerous, sensual Highland warrior, who challenges her to let go of her inhibitions? — BEHIND THE PLAID

NINE: Memorize your one line pitch.

EIGHT: On an index card, write down your title, one-liner, and your blurb. Carry this with you everywhere. You never know when an editor at a bar or in the hallway might ask for your pitch.

SEVEN: Be prepared to take 5 minutes to talk about your book and your characters. Why is it unique? Why should they bother paying for it? Make sure your pitch shows this.

SIX: Practice your pitch with friends. It helps to actually talk it out with someone else, rather than just what’s on the page.

FIVE: Don’t offer them your printed manuscript!

FOUR: Prepare some questions for the agent/editor you’re pitching to. Show that you are interested, and that you’ve done your homework. Make sure they acquire what you are pitching

THREE: Be prepared with a second pitch! They may ask for another book!

TWO: Take a deep breath and relax. They are people, too.

ONE: When you’re finished, don’t ruminate on anything you think was a mistake to say, or what could have gone wrong. Pitching is hard, but they are used to people being nervous. Don’t beat yourself up. Revel in the fact that you did it! Go chat with your friends!

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