Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lazy Days of Summer

The middle of August already! Are you on vacation? Have you had a vacation? Where’d you go and what did you do?
I'm paying my first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
So along with a beautiful, historic city in Scotland, I’m getting all the theater you can imagine. The printed program is almost an inch thick! And in among all those comedies and dramas, there’s this talk – The Romance Novel as High Art.
Here’s the description:
Anyone can write a romance novel. Or can they? Amy Burge (University of Edinburgh) did a whole PhD on romance novels (yes, you can do that) and reckons there’s more to them than you think. Come along and join Amy in this 60-minute brainstorming session and decide for yourself if romance novels deserve more esteem. Amy will introduce you to popular motifs and you’ll get a chance to suggest characters, costumes, settings and even the title! Will you leave with a higher opinion of this seemingly frivolous genre?
You can bet I’m going to be there. And good for Dr. Amy Burge, who blogs, seriously, here. I look forward to meeting her.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Diversity in Romance

But first... The first book in my Edwardian series for Sourcebooks is on sale now! Thornbrook Park $1.99 for Kindle... go get it! The price is already back up at Nook and Google Play. I hate for you to miss a good sale. 

Now, back to diversity. I've been on a Young Adult kick and I finally read Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park. I loved it. It's not just for the teens. The themes and feelings inspired are universal. 

After I read it, I raved to my daughter (a younger adult), who informed me that she has been in some discussion groups that were highly critical of Rowell's depiction of Park, a Korean and Irish American, and mostly, Park's mom, a Korean woman in America. I thought Rowell's depiction was fair enough, but I'm not a Korean American. My knowledge is limited. And that might be the problem of writing about people different from your own culture and experience. 

But what's the solution? I am not a man, but I write male characters, and I think I do it well. I want to fill my fictional worlds with people of all races, colors, sexual preferences, identities... because that is our world. The Romance Writers of America organization is currently promoting diversity in romance, and I applaud. We owe it to ourselves to learn, grow, and read books by diverse authors, books with diverse characters. We live in a diverse world. Embrace it! Read, learn, grow! 

Check out Book Riot's Diverse Historical Romance List (Jade Lee/Kathy Lyons is on it!). 

Have you read Eleanor and Park? Would you read a Young Adult book or do you think they're mostly just for teens? What are you reading now? 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Navy SEALs...

Because you can never have too many Navy SEALs, the first three books in my SEALs of Coronado Series are now available in a boxed set!

But it’s only available at the SPECIAL PRE-ORDER PRICE of $3.99 until August 22nd, so make sure to grab your copy now!
Find out why readers are saying the books in this series are “full of adventure, romance, and heroes to die for” and will “keep you on the edge of your seat.”

Dive in! :)

SEAL for Her Protection

He saved her once. Can he save her again? 

When investigative journalist Hayley Garner is kidnapped by terrorists, she’s sure they’re going to kill her. But in sweeps handsome Navy SEAL Chasen Ward to the rescue. After getting her to safety, he disappears into the night before she can even thank him. 

Weeks later, Hayley runs into Chasen again and finds herself falling into a fiery romance with the hunky hero out of her dreams. But ever since she got back home, Hayley has had the feeling someone's watching her. Is it post-traumatic stress or does she have a reason to be afraid? Good thing she has a Navy SEAL to protect her.

Strong Silent SEAL

He does what any Navy SEAL would do—saves the girl and takes out the bad guys.

Mercenaries are holding Felicia Bradford’s sister hostage and threatening to kill her unless Felicia helps them steal top secret information from the Navy’s Special Operations Headquarters. Having no other way to access the base, she pulls a gun on the first man in a Navy uniform she finds, demanding he get her through the gate.

When a beautiful woman shoves a gun in his back and begs him to do something she clearly doesn’t want to, Navy SEAL Logan Dunn does what any Navy SEAL would do—saves the girl and takes out the bad guys.

But their actions kick off a crazy chain of events, including a fast-burning whirlwind romance, an out-of-control sister, an insane covert plot involving a defecting Russian pilot, and a mercenary bent on revenge. Getting through her sister's kidnapping will look like a piece of cake compared to what comes next. 

Texas SEAL

He never could say no to a beautiful woman.

When a woman from his past shows up on his doorstep, Navy SEAL Trent Wagner isn’t sure what to expect. The little sister of his best friend back in high school, Lyla Torres is all grown up now and even more beautiful than he remembered. He’d always had a thing for her back then, but that damn bro code meant she was off limits.

Before Trent can act on the sparks that obviously still exist between them, he’s going to have to use his SEAL training to help find her brother. His old friend has messed up his life since they were teenagers, getting into drugs and doing time in jail, and now he’s missing. Trent knows it’s not a good idea to get involved in someone else’s problems, especially when they could end up getting both him and Lyla thrown into prison—or killed. But Trent has never been able to say no to a beautiful woman, especially one he’s had a crush on since high school.

Thank you to the awesome Janet Juengling-Snell for the gorgeous cover! :)


Saturday, August 12, 2017

And the winner is...

The August 8th "It's in His Kiss" blog post by Gina Conkle (me!) had a random drawing for any copy of my book. Thank you to each of the readers for taking the time to take a look at Lord Marcus kissing Genevieve and Jonas kissing Livvy.

You all weighed in and here are the results:

Lord Marcus won 12 votes with his steamy, sexy kiss and for letting the heroine take charge

Amazon    B&N

Jonas came in second with 10 votes with comments about his hands in her hair (love!) and his appealing backstory

Sooooo... The winner is Amanda Clavette!

Amanda, please email me with the title of your choice (can be any one of my books).

Keep an eye out for more giveaways. I love to share books (mine and others).

Happy Saturday!
Gina Conkle

Friday, August 11, 2017

Summer into Fall

I adore the summer, just as everyone does I guess. But living in the mountains of North Carolina means that in August the mornings start to get cool and we start thinking about the fall. One of the things I love best as the days cool off is to go for long walks in the forest. We have a lot of forests around here, and a lot of waterfalls, and one of my favorite places is the state park at Chimney Rock.

                                                                      Hickory Nut Falls

Another thing I love to do when the weather gets cooler is to go to bookstores. We have a beautiful two story Barnes and Noble at the Asheville Mall and I am going to be part of their regional book festival on Saturday, August 19th. So if you happen to be in Asheville that afternoon, come on by. We'll be there from 2-4 PM chatting about books of all genres and generally having a great time.

Store Image

Whatever you do as summer turns to fall, I hope it brings you joy.

Ever since Christy English picked up a fake sword in stage combat class at the age of fourteen, she has lived vicariously through the sword-wielding women of her imagination. Sometimes an actor, always a storyteller, Christy works happily with Sourcebooks Casablanca to bring the knife-throwing women of her novels to life. A banker by day and a writer by night, she loves to eat chocolate, drink too many soft drinks, and walk the mountain trails of her home in western North Carolina.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Charlotte Brontë: She Persisted.

I’ve been fascinated by the Brontë sisters since my teens when I stumbled across the book ‘Wuthering Heights’. I’d never really heard of the word wuthering until then. All I knew was that it sounded mysterious and romantic and just a little bit dangerous. I holed myself up in my favourite section of the school library, poring for hours over the works and lives of these extraordinary women who seemed to defy the very era they lived in, achieving so much from a tiny, barren corner of West Yorkshire.

Such is the power of the pen.

Though I loved Emily’s poems—what shy teenage girl wouldn’t enjoy her reticent outpourings of grave inner turmoil—it was Charlotte I really admired. Charlotte had Gravitas.  

Unlike Jane Austen, an earlier literary big hitter who lived a relatively sheltered existence, the sister’s lives were far darker. They grew up in Haworth, a tiny industrial town where the average life expectancy was just twenty-five years old. Last summer, I was lucky enough to visit the town—a place I’ve wanted to go since those early days when I began reading about them in the library. I’ve been to quite a few writer’s houses over the years—I love seeing where great masters penned their works—but this place blew the others out of the water. Simply put, there is an atmosphere, a brooding intensity that can be felt both on the cobblestone streets of Haworth and the parsonage turned museum where they lived. As I trailed through the rooms and took the path down to the churchyard at the bottom of their garden, I could feel the inspiration behind their works, a heavy, indomitable force of human spirit, light and dark in equal measure. Good and bad, it’s a place like no other.

Much like the graveyard at the bottom of their garden, death was a permanent resident in the sister’s lives. When Charlotte was five years old, their mother, Maria died. It was the first death in her family, but sadly by no means the last. By the time Charlotte herself passed away at age thirty-eight, she’d lost each and every one of her five siblings.

But it wasn’t just bad living conditions and death which darkened the world around her. During her lifetime, she witnessed the decline of her alcoholic brother, Branwell, and when she sought escape, which she did to Brussels in 1842, she was left heartbroken by an unrequited love for her professor. Like Anne, she worked as a governess for a time, a vocation renowned for isolation and ill treatment, but it was not to last. For Charlotte and her two beloved sisters, their true passion was writing, the light in their all too often gloomy lives.

In 1846, the sisters self-published a small book of poems under the assumed names, Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Charlotte revealed in a letter the decision to change their names was borne from the probability that as women they would face prejudice and that the books they wrote might not be considered ‘feminine’. But it wasn’t fear of judgement which ultimately led to the name change, rather the desire to be taken seriously, to be judged by the same set of standards a man would be. Charlotte wrote of female authors; ‘we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise.’ There is a wonderful line in a recent BBC adaptation about the sister’s lives where Emily asserts, ‘When a man writes something, it’s what he’s written that’s judged. When a woman writes something, it’s her that’s judged.’ Arguably, this is something that still stands today. We only need look at our most successful authors, from J K Rowling to Stephanie Meyer to know that women come under much fire in the literary world, perhaps more so than their male counterparts.

Though their initial venture wasn’t a success—they only sold two copies of their poems—it paved the way for future works, providing them with the grit and determination to navigate the publishing world. Charlotte’s first manuscript, The Professor, was rejected. It must have been a huge blow for Charlotte, particularly as her sister’s novels, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, written by Emily and Anne respectively, were accepted for publication. Charlotte, however, persisted, and sent them ‘Jane Eyre: An Autobiography’, a novel destined to become one of the greatest literary works of all time. Jane Eyre was ground-breaking in that it was written from the perspective of a strong-minded female who, after enduring a difficult childhood, goes on to find both tragedy and love with her foreboding employer, Mr Rochester.

Jane Eyre was different from other literary heroines at the time. She was a character with opinions, a woman who demanded to be treated as equal by those around her, regardless of social status. I’ve always liked to imagine that through Jane, we get to see what Charlotte might have been like—a strong undercurrent of hope fighting against a tide of adversity in a world which was not quite ready for her tour de force.

Charlotte may have died at thirty-eight, but she lived a full life, leaving behind such a remarkable legacy that the Brontë sisters are remembered amongst the greatest novelists of our time.

Persistence is a characteristic we writers often speak of—the persistence to finish a novel, the persistence to keep trying publishers and agents when every door seems to slam closed in our face. But although I admire Charlotte for this determination, it isn’t the main reason I find her so inspirational. There was a light inside her that would not be extinguished, a light that refused to give into the darkness despite all the heartache and sorrow life brought her. She poured that light into her works, fighting the shadows that tried to drag her under. There must have been so much sadness, so much grief, but she persisted, and ultimately, she won.

Charlotte and her sisters never allowed the world to define them. They defined themselves, following their hearts and using their heads and never letting the light go out. As such, they continue to inspire women and writers throughout the world, and if that isn’t a happy-ending, I don’t know what is.

By Juliet Lyons, author of the 'Bite Nights' series.

This post was first published in the Wattpad anthology 'She Persisted' project in March 2017.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

It's in His Kiss... by Gina Conkle

It's been fun this year to see two very different heroes come into their own: Lord Marcus Bowles, a second son and Jonas "Bacon" Braithwaite, man of business for the Earl of Greenwich.

Both men appear as key secondary characters in the Midnight Meetings series. Now they get their own books, but as men, they couldn't be more different.

So, here's a reader poll for you. Which hero archetype appeals to you the most?

A) A handsome wastrel, drowning in his unhappy but privileged life?


B) A stoic blue-eyed commoner, once the village rebel, facing his past?

Then again, maybe the cover helps you decide. Try this:

Option A


Option B

There's another way to pick a man. Aretha Franklin sang her wisdom, telling us It's in His Kiss.

Let's put Aretha's wisdom to the test, shall we?

Kiss A (the hero let's the heroine take over):

She flattened a hand on his chest, her fingers spreading wide. Wool scratched her palm, but a profound, mysterious connection grew. “A kiss…a kiss ought to be unique. It ought to say ‘I’ve paid attention to you.’”
“How would you kiss me?”
His ragged voice rippled over her skin. More thunder rattled the heavens. Her heart thudded, renewing deep-seated aches.
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t be a coward, Miss Turner,” he said softly. “You started this.”
His hand covered hers on his chest and gave her fingers a squeeze. Her nipples peaked inside her stays. She had started this the moment she stepped outside instead of hiding safely in her room. This was not a quick kiss in the barn. She wanted to rub against Lord Bowles, ease the torment, and whisper her thoughts to him.
How dangerous to have a man want to know a woman’s body and her mind.
Longing built inside her, surging, threatening to take control. Lightning flashed, and white light shot through a crack in the barn door. Her senses sizzled hot, needy. Both her hands slid up his coat. She freed one button from its mooring and another and another. Lord Bowles’s hands fell to his sides, silent permission for her to have her way with him.
She touched his forearm. “I’d stroke you there. Your tattoo.”
His intense stare traced her hand on him. Tense muscles relaxed underhand…easing, giving in.
She inched closer, her breasts pillowing him. “Then I’d go higher.”
“All very nice, but not earth-shattering.” His thick voice shredded confident words.
“Want me to stop?”
Nostrils flaring, he locked his satyr’s gaze on her mouth. “No.”
Her hips wiggled. Between her legs, the fleshy folds were heavy with need. “Then I’d reach up here,” she whispered, hooking a finger in his neckwear. “Just enough to expose your skin.”  
The rain-soaked cravat drooped lower, showing pebbled skin. “And?”
“I’d push this down.” The cambric gave another inch.
Lord Bowles’s gold-tipped lashes hovered low, leaving a crescent of his eyes exposed. Hazel eyes gleamed through his lashes. She rose on tiptoes, rubbing against him, taking her fill. The whiskers on his jaw. Sun-burnished skin from long rides. His tempting earlobe tempting.
Her finger toyed with the golden curl. “You have a lock of hair,” she said against his neck. “You ask me what I’d do. I’d kiss you here.”
His body tensed. “Do it,” he growled.
She nestled into him, her lips brushing his earlobe. His breath hitched. She grew bolder; her tongue tasted his neck—mildly salty, warm, and firm.
And she bit gently on the lobe and sucked.
Shuddering, he grabbed her hips.
“And right…here.” She nuzzled under his ear.
Wet hair was cold on her face. Her mouth caressed sun-grained skin, and she planted a slow, sweet kiss where the rebellious curl hung. She leaned away, finding his eyes shut, a pained expression tightening his face.
“Don’t stop.”
They clung to each other, swathed in damp, heavy clothes.
“Lord Bowles?”
He squeezed her hips. “Please. Say my name. Say…Marcus.”
His hoarse voice pulled her heartstrings. She stayed on tiptoe and sought the sensitive spot behind his ear, her lips moving. “Marcus.”
Lord Bowles ground his hips against her. Friction was everywhere. Her chest against his. Their hips and thighs. His whiskered chin tickled her neck, her collarbone. A wool collar rubbed her cheek. He moaned and buried his face against her, holding her tight.
She gave, and he received.
“I’d keep kissing you here,” she murmured between breathy kisses. “And not stop.”
His chest billowed. Maddening sensations swirled inside her. This being against him, the rubbing, felt good despite layers of wool. She had a taste of him…of warm skin, of northern wind and leather and rain, his unique scent. Her mouth opened wider, offering slow kisses near his hair. She licked a delicate line behind his ear, and he groaned.
His hand slid around and palmed one of her bottom cheeks. The tight grip nudged her leg over his, and she straddled his thigh. Through layers of skirts, her mons brushed his hip boot.
She gasped her pleasure, her legs gripping him. The sweet pressure…the heat between her quim’s wet folds. Eyes half closed, she scattered kisses along his jaw until she came to the corner of his mouth. He opened for her, his breath hot against her cheek.
Her breath came in fits. “And then I’d kiss your mouth.”
“Finally,” he moaned.

 Kiss B (the hero reacquaints himself with a childhood friend now a grown woman):

            “I’d better go.” She spun around and whipped on her cloak.
Behind her, boots crunched snow and pebbles. Light snow had fallen on Plumtree, sprinkling the world clean and white. She fastened the first frog when a firm hand touched her shoulder.
“Let me help you put that on,” he murmured in her ear though his voice said let me take that off.
Flesh pebbled across her bottom. His baritone strummed delicate nerve endings of her inner thighs. Eyes closed, she willed composure.
“Livvy,” he whispered and her knees weakened.
Was it possible a woman could sink in a sea of lust with a childhood friend?
Big hands grasped her shoulders and turned her around. She opened her eyes to Jonas. Moonlight limned ink black hair not long enough to be tied in a queue. He had to have shaved his head and was growing it again. And his gold earring…it winked at her.
Yes, they both had their secrets.
Inside the house, the fiddle’s music ebbed. Silence curled as mysterious as the crisp winter air. The Captain and his friends rumbled a new song without the fiddle, their solemn voices blending for the first time.
“God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay…”
Jonas cracked a smile. “At least they don’t sound like howling cats.”
Their bodies shook with gentle laughter. She could lose herself in him, the comfort and the thrill. Jonas dipped his head, his vivid blue gaze taking her breath away. Infinite stillness lit the depths of his eyes. Her lips parted to announce she was leaving, but Jonas slipped both hands into her unbound hair. Her breath hitched at large, warm hands cradling her head. She wanted him…his touch, his friendship…whatever morsel of happiness he could give during his short stay in Plumtree.
Carnal lips rubbed hers, softly coaxing her mouth open. Gentle heat melted her, sending exquisite messages to her limbs —you were made for his kisses.  
Jonas tasted of sharp cider. He teased her, his tongue skimming her lower lip before slipping into her mouth. She gripped his coat, her body swaying into him. Her mouth opened, and her tongue touched him back. Tremors rocked her from head to foot. Yearning deepened with the long kiss. Wet heat shot anew between her legs, but the strongest ache banged inside her heart.
Kissing Jonas, she tasted life as it was meant to be. Vibrant. Complete. His mouth on hers was an invitation.
And she was ready to say yes.

Now you tell me which hero would you choose? Tell me in the comments section below: Option A or B (and why you chose him). Do that and you're in Saturday's drawing* for one of my books. 

Gina Conkle writes lush Viking romance, sensual Georgian romance, and steamy contemporary romance. Her historical romances always offer a fresh, addictive spin on the genre, with the witty banter and sexual tension that readers crave. Her writing career began in southern California and despite all that sunshine, she prefers books over beaches and stone castles over sand castles. Now Gina lives in Michigan with her favorite alpha male, Brian and their two sons, where she occasionally gardens and cooks.

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*Random drawing August 12th at noon ET*