Author Archive

The Fitness Instructor’s Guide to Writing Fast
by Our Guest on June 3rd, 2010

Note from Jessa: I got to dance with Marie-Claude Bourque at RT in Columbus this year, so I can attest to her fitness!  She’s willing to give away a copy of ANCIENT WHISPERS to one lucky commenter, so you can experience her wonderfully evocative writing yourself!

mcb-photo-verysmallWhen it comes to writing fast, face it, unless we are specially gifted, it all comes down to motivation and how much time we spend putting words on the page.

I spend 15 years as an AFAA certified fitness instructor, the last 5 of those as a coordinator and trainer of instructors. I learned a thing or two about motivation, because really, taking the steps to stay fit and healthy requires a lot of motivation.

So here is what I taught my fitness clients and class participants and how you can adapt it to find the motivation to be more prolific in writing (and, as bonus, learn some fitness tips).

Keep your goals intrinsic:

Fitness: This means that your goals should be things that you can do something about as opposed to goals that involve someone else or external factors. I can have a goal of losing 10 pounds by next month or looking like Heidi Klum by my birthday but I’m fighting a lot of things here, my metabolism and my genetics. It is impossible with that goal to reach success. If I say I’ll exercise 4 times this week, or take my latte nonfat for now on, the goal is completely under my control. If I do fail, it’s my fault.

Writing: Similarly if my goal is to sell my first book within the year, hit the NYT list in 5 years or become as famous as Nora Roberts, I am not setting myself up for success.  However, I can be quite successful if I chose to submit my manuscript to ten agents this month, or my proposal to my editor by next week or finish my 2 completed novels by the end of the year. It’s all under my control.

Write it down:

Fitness: Most successful fitness professional write down their progress. In an exercise or a food log, in a notebook, calendar or on a smart phone, it doesn’t matter but it seems that people who track down what they are doing tend to think more about what they are about to eat and are motivated to see their progress on paper. I lost 40 pounds of baby weight twice by writing down everything I ate. It works.

Writing: We can do this in writing to. Track your daily word count or pages written, whether on a calendar that you see every day or in a special notebook, by coloring blocks on a chart, using a word count meter online or posting your accomplishments to your social networks, whatever works for you. Seeing the number add up every day is very motivating.

Make it social:

Fitness: I always tell my participant to make dates with friends at the gym. If you know your best friend is there, you can’t change your mind at the last minute. She might be upset. Planning for coffee afterwards with a bunch of pals makes you more likely to go because it’s fun. Having a running buddy who picks you up at your house also gives you no choice but go ahead with your exercise.

Writing: Writing is more solitary but you can make it social. Why is Twitter so popular with writers? You can meet a writer friend at the coffee shop to write, you can have a writing buddy that you email in the morning then at the end of the day to encourage each other or you can belong to goal oriented group like Amy Atwell’s Goal in a Month groups. It’s a lot more fun when you are not alone.

Get your stuff ready ahead of time:

Fitness: I like to keep my gear close by and accessible. If I am not spending 15 min. looking for my gym socks, I am much more likely to stick with my daily walks. I like to have my clothes ready if I know I’ll exercise in the morning and I would always pack my gym bag in my trunk in the morning when I used to work outside to head straight to the gym before going back home. In college, I would pack my locker with a fresh supply of all my gear for the week including swimsuit and rackets, so I could just go there and decide what kind of exercise I would do on the spot.

Writing: I write first thing in the morning and I am not blessed with an office. I found that when I put my notebook, pen, and laptop all ready for me to write, I am much more likely to do it. If you keep your material organized and easily accessible in an obvious reminder that you need to write now, you are more likely to do it.

If all fails, buy something.

Fitness: I used to tell people to go buy some nice exercise wear when they felt their motivation slipping. Yes exercise it hard, but we might as well look pretty while doing it. Trust me, it works. Plus if you’ve invested some money, you’re imposing a little guilt on yourself to actually use the stuff.

Writing: I cured my writer’s block last summer by downloading a song each time I would finish a scene. I figured the most it would cost me would be $75 for a whole book. Pretty cheap! It worked for me. Soon I was writing one-two scenes a day and even started to forget to buy songs because I was having so much fun writing. Find a little treat that you can get once you’re done, it might help!

Just do it

Fitness: In the end, there are no tricks. That’s why Nike got its trademark bang on. You just have to get there and do it. Don’t think. Learn to shut that part of your brain that moans and complains that you are tired and will start tomorrow. Get out there and exercise. Do it first thing in the morning (early exercisers are more successful at keeping up with it) or head to the gym straight after work. Don’t get comfortable, do it. Do it for 5 minutes, hey you might actually stick with it for 30 min. but if not, at least you got into the habit of doing it. It does get easier.

Writing: BIC: Butt in Chair. Is there any other way? Again, just do it. Don’t think about it. Sit and stare at the blank page. Even if all you do is sit there for your allotted time and think about your book, you are being productive. Find times to do it when you are so tired there is nothing more you’d like to do than sit down and daydream (I like early morning and right after my run).

So now, make a date with yourself and write!  (or exercise or both!)


mcb_ancientwhispers-original-mediumMarie-Claude Bourque is the American Title V winner and author of ANCIENT WHISPERS, a sensual gothic paranormal romance filled with sorcerers and Celtic priestesses in search for eternal love in modern time. She worked as a climate research scientist, a scientific translator and a fitness expert until she turned to fiction writing. She draws her inspiration from the French legends of her childhood and a fascination for dark fantasy.

ANCIENT WHISPERS, a Dorchester -Love Spell release is available now wherever books are sold. Find more at and don’t forget to enter the contest for her month-long virtual release party at

The Draw of the Dark Side
by Our Guest on May 20th, 2010

Note from Jessa: When Elisabeth Naughton told my writing group about her first adventure romance trilogy, she called it “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone,” which is like saying chocolate ganache meets dark chocolate.  And now she has a new series paranormal romance starting, which is like saying chocolate ganache meets dark chocolate with chocolate sprinkles.  And she’s giving away a copy today, so read up and leave your comment.

elisabeth-naughtonThanks so much to the gang at Silk & Shadows for inviting me to be with you all today! 

If you’ve read any of my previous books you know that I’m a romantic suspense author who has recently shifted to the dark side and is now writing paranormals as well. The first book in my Eternal Guardians series – MARKED – released this month. Someone recently asked me, “Why the change?” and I thought about the question for a minute, but couldn’t answer. It’s a simple question, I know, but the only answer I could come up with was not one I knew the questioner wanted to hear. I mean, authors are supposed to know why they do everything they do, so to have an author say, “I dunno. I just write the books that come to me,” I knew my answer just wasn’t gonna cut it. 

That, of course, is a cop out answer (even if it’s true). And since readers seem to want to know why things change (as my editor says… “Okay, why is this happening again?”), I’ve decided it would be in my best interest to have a list of answers ready and waiting for just such a question. 

So here it is, my top ten list for shifting to the dark side. 

marked-final-400x60010. Look at that cover. Do I need to have another reason for wanting to write paranormals?!

9. Special powers come in really handy in the climax of a paranormal book. As an author who ALWAYS gets stuck here trying to make everything work out, I can tell you it’s much easier to throw in an electrical storm or zap someone with lightning fingers to get out of a bind than it is to save the day with plane ol’ Tom, Dick & Harry. 

8. Superhuman sex. (I do write romantic paranormals, after all.)

7. I get to write about snarky gods. They seem to be able to get away with anything they want. Who knew? 

6.   Looking for a little danger? You don’t need a serial killer on the run to amp up the tension. That’s sooo over done. Throw in a seething daemon instead. Seven feet tall, horns like a goat, face like a cat, ears off a dog and lots of claws? Oh man. So much more fun! 

5. Sure, romances are great, but when the two main characters are fated to be together and hate each other at the same time? That just adds an extra level of tension that makes the whole romance that much more interesting. 

4. The fact I can throw in a Fury (or two or three) whenever I feel like it (Yes, I am Fury obsessed). And this time they’re real winged creatures with snakes in their hair, razor sharp teeth and a rabid need for blood, not simply stone carvings of the creatures. 

3. I can write really twisted scenes and blame the genre. (“What? You think that’s too sick? Yeah, but it’s a paranormal. My readers will expect it.”) 

2.  Superhuman sex (did I say that before?) 

And the number one reason I decided to write paranormals: 

1. They’re just plain freakin’ fun! 

I never expected I’d have so much fun writing this series, but every day I’m excited I get to take my world one step further. While I love romantic suspense and don’t plan to give up writing in that genre (as soon as I turn in TEMPTED, book 3 in my Eternal Guardians series, I’m jumping back into a romantic suspense novella for Kensington), I’m thrilled I get to write about heroes and gods and prophecies and soul mates. The possibilities in a paranormal are endless, the danger is epic and the romance seems a thousand times more intense when other-worldy dangers are lurking around every corner.  

So why did I shift to the dark side? The answer is clear: Why the heck wouldn’t I?   

What do you love most about paranormal novels? What draws you to them again and again? I’ve got a copy of MARKED to give away to one lucky commenter today! 



Your browser may not support display of this image. A previous junior-high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her debut release, Stolen Fury, heralded by Publisher’s Weekly as “A rock-solid debut,” was recently nominated for two prestigious RITA® awards by Romance Writers of America in the Best First Book category and the Best Romantic Suspense category. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park or dreaming up new and exciting adventures. Learn more about Elisabeth and her books at

TOO WICKED? Inconceivable!
by Our Guest on February 25th, 2010


Today, Silk And Shadows welcomes Erica Ridley, whose debut TOO WICKED TO KISS has a dark hero to die for. 

Breaking News: Win an autographed copy of Gothic historical TOO WICKED TO KISS this week only, just by answering the daily kiss question on Twitter #2w2k or Facebook!


Although release day for my debut Gothic romance is Tuesday, March 2, today I received a text from a friend who saw a stack of copies on the new release table at Borders (!!!) and sent me a photo with her iPhone. So exciting! Too Wicked To Kiss is also a Barnes & Noble book club pick for the month of March, and I’m hoping to get news of 2W2K sightings in those stores soon, too. I’m also getting ready for my first-ever signing next week, at a local independent bookstore. Definitely a scrapbook moment! But enough about me… let me introduce you to the book!

I absolutely love the cover. I think the art department did a spectacular job at evoking both Gothic darkness and sensual romance. The back cover reads:

too-wicked-to-kiss_erica-ridleyHIS TOUCH HOLDS HER CAPTIVE…

From the ravens circling its spires to the gargoyles adorning its roof, Blackberry Manor looms ominously over its rambling grounds. And behind its doors, amid the flickering shadows and secret passageways, danger lies in wait.


Evangeline Pemberton has been invited to a party at the sprawling estate of reclusive Gavin Lioncroft, who is rumored to have murdered his parents. Initially, Gavin’s towering presence and brusque manner instill fear in Evangeline…until his rakish features and seductive attentions profoundly arouse her. But when a guest is murdered, Evangeline is torn. Could the man to whom she is so powerfully drawn, also be a ruthless killer?


I had absolutely zero to do with the creation of the back cover copy, which turns out to be a good thing, because I think the copywriter did an amazing job at evoking the Gothic tone and hinting at the hero’s darkness.

The heroine’s first impression of his mansion does not exactly go over well:

Despite the tall arched ceiling with its bowed wooden beams curving at the creases like so many rib bones, the air was thick, heavy, oppressive, as if she had not stepped into the foyer of an aristocrat’s mansion, but a long forgotten sepulcher untouched by anything but death.

Were there no windows? Evangeline craned her neck to peer upward, just beneath the rafters. Ah, yes. Several. But not the kind to let in light.

The narrow slashes high above her head were the sort suited for medieval castles, for skilled archers to aim their deadly arrows at those who would trespass below, not for illuminating entryways for members of Polite Society. This evening, no archers crouched at the ready, just as no sun hung in the sky. Only the slipperiest, blackest of shadows filtered through the thin cracks to fall upon her upturned face like the cool caress of ghostly hands. The wisps of damp hair on Evangeline’s neck fluttered nervously, touched by a breeze she could not feel.

Nor does her first impression of the man himself:

He stood at the landing above the spiral stair, cloaked in shadow. Tall. Unnaturally so. Was it the angle, the skewed perspective of being so far beneath him? Or was his towering stature undeniable, evident in the width of his shoulders, the muscular length of his legs, the long pale fingers curved around the banister?

Evangeline swallowed a gasp.

Not because of the obsidian eyes framed by equally black lashes. Nor because of the angry slash of cheekbones, the flash of bared teeth, or the scar just above the edge of his jaw. Those things, though separately terrible, together formed a face of cold, cruel beauty. A face for statues, for frescoes, for—

Another flutter of orange light as he reached the final stair, and Evangeline could no longer breathe.

He was angry. Horribly angry. Livid. Enraged. Furious. His eyes glittered like a wolf’s because he was a wolf, a beautiful, powerful, violent wolf, prowling toward his unsuspecting prey.

Miss Evangeline Pemberton has her own dark secrets to keep, some of which are linked to the psychic abilities she’s tried so hard to hide–which is hard to do when she’s bombarded by visions and debilitating migraines at the slightest skin-to-skin touch. Before he discovers her secrets, the hero has his own unsettling encounters with the heroine:

For several long moments, Gavin watched her, unnerved by how still she held herself, how statue-like she posed. Her body was as lifeless and beautiful as an ivory sarcophagus molded in her image.

She stood so quiet and unmoving he might well have been in a room with two dead bodies. The unwelcome sensation of watching a pair of corpses had his muscles twitching in trepidation.

Gavin shifted his weight, uncomfortable in his own skin, even less comfortable with the motionless woman a few feet before him. Her fingers no longer shook, so frozen did she stand. He could not hear her breathing, even in the unnatural silence of the dank chamber. Her breasts no longer rose and fell. Even the folds of her gown held no ripples, no motion, as if they too were carved of stone and impervious to both breeze and life.

These two have a lot to deal with, but don’t worry–there’s still plenty of time for romance! Here’s a snippet from just before their first kiss:

He coasted his open mouth just above her flushed cheek, his breath steaming against the curve of her cheekbone, the dip below her earlobe, the length of her exposed neck.

Her body writhed between the hard wall and the even harder man before her. A sudden urge to force his lips upon her thrummed in her veins, but her dimming sense of self-preservation cautioned her to flee while she was still able.

You can read the full kiss scene on my blog at:


Erica will be hanging out at the blog today, so please leave comments! And don’t forget to check out the kiss contest on Facebook or Twitter and win an autographed copy of Gothic historical TOO WICKED TO KISS!

Get extra content and bonus features for Too Wicked To Kiss on the Unauthorized Scandal Sheet at:

For contest, blogs, embarrassing photos, and other fun stuff, check out Erica’s author web site at:

Please join Erica for lots of games and prizes in the Facebook community at:

And if you have Twitter, please come tweet with Erica at:

Conflict with Keena Kincaid
by Our Guest on December 17th, 2009


Conflict. It’s an inescapable part of life—especially when you’re a character in my stories. In TIES THAT BIND, a second-chance story released this week by The Wild Rose Press, the conflict between my hero and heroine isn’t so much about what happened in the past but how they each dealt with it.

r didn’t.

AEDAN ap OWEN and TESS, LADY OF BRIDSWELL each deal with their anger in hot and cold ways, respectively. This difference means each approaches conflict differently and often at odds with one another.

My heroine
is icy in her fury, more likely to walk away from conflict than resolve it. In a prequel to this book, when Tess learned about Aedan’s misuse of his magical abilities, she appeared calm on the outside, as if the hurt didn’t quite touch her, and she told him to go away rather than deal with the hurt and anger of his betrayal.

Aedan, on
the other hand, acts on his anger. When he learned Tess had married within a few months of his leaving, the drinking, fighting, whoring binge that followed kept medieval gossips talking for years.

For both characters, how they
handled this conflict changed the course of their lives, and when they meet up five years later, they are both very different people from when they first met—a fact they both recognize immediately.


Tess stiffened at his words, and another gust of cold air blew between them, tangling a fine lace of curls that had escaped her braid. Her hair was darker now—a deep reddish auburn highlighted by strands the color of cinnamon. A memory of twining one of those curls around his finger pushed forward. The ache that followed surprised him.

“My lady.” Aedan bowed low, suddenly,
keenly aware that neither of them was the raw youth who had loved so carelessly years before. “How do you fare?”

She tucked away the beckoning curl. The
movement set a row of tiny copper bells along her sleeve ringing. “Well enough.”

“Who is this, Tess?” The dark-haired woman
at William’s side sounded as suspicious as she looked. When Aedan gave her his best grin, her dark blue eyes glinted like the sharp edge of broken sapphire.

“I am Aedan ap Owen.”

“The king’s minstrel?” Excitement and disgust
warred in her expression. “We have heard about you.”

Aedan flashed his most innocent smile. “Have

“Yes.” Tess looked at him as if he’d run down
her dog. “The gossips say you are rich in coin and women.”

They exaggerate.”

“Do they?” Her inflection carried a challenge.
“They also say the Duchess of Burgundy measured your sword with both hands and found it sturdy. Now the duke’s weapon no longer leaves its sheath.”


I had fun exploring how Aedan and Tess’ core personalities would influence the way they handle conflict—although I must admit, Tess’ reaction surprised me. She’s very outspoken except when it counts most.


In your writing or reading, have you come across any interesting ways characters handle anger and conflict?
How does it affect their story?

Keena Kincaid, the author of three historical romance novels with The Wild Rose Press, is celebrating the release of TIES THAT BIND, the second of her Druids of Duncarnoch series. To learn more about her or her stories, go to: You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.


Running Amok
by Our Guest on November 19th, 2009

This week, Silk And Shadows is thrilled to have Judi Fennell with us.  Wondering how such jewel-bright covers could hide a Silk And Shadows-style darkness?  Well, when you’re that far under the waves…  Make sure you read all the way down to learn about Judi’s fabulous getaway contest for the series. 

judi_fennellWhen I was invited to do this guest blog, Jessa said I could “run amok.”

She must not know me very well, ’cause if you tell me I can run amok, well, I’m pretty much going to go with it.

Which, actually, ties in well with my latest release, Wild Blue Under. There’s lots of “amok-ing” going on. Lots of “muck” too. (That is what happens when you get a couple flocks of birds together, you know?)

But what do birds have to do with Mermen, you ask? After all, Wild Blue Under is about Mer Prince, Rod Tritone, who has to travel to land-locked Kansas to bring the half-Mer Princess, Valerie Dumere, back to Atlantis so that he can claim the throne. But Atlantis is under water, and, aside from penguins, there aren’t exactly a plethora of birds under the sea. So where do the flocks come in?

Wild Blue Under is the second in my Mer series. In In Over Her Head (released June 2009) we have a Human named Erica end up in the sea where she discovers a Merman named Reel. He’s Rod’s brother, and, yes, I do see the humor in their names. I hadn’t actually planned it though; Rod showed up when Erica heard Reel’s name for the first time. “You got a friend Rod around here anywhere?” she asked. To which Reel shot back, “As a matter of fact, he’s my brother. He’s in charge of the South Atlantic.”

I sat back and looked at my computer screen and said, “Really? He does? He is?” and that’s how Rod came into being.

wbuBut I couldn’t write the same Human-in-the-water story that I’d done for In Over Her Head, so this time I decided to play on all the fish/water puns I’d had so much fun with in the first book and make Wild Blue Under a true fish-out-of-water story. Best way to do that was to bring Rod onto land. But once I did that, I needed a bad guy and since Humans aren’t supposed to know about Mers, it had to be someone from the ocean. But how do I get him on land?

Without stretching credibility too far (I know, kinda hard NOT to do when you’re talking Mermen…), I used birds. Hired guns, as it were. Mercenaries. Thugs.

Birds can do all sorts of things on land that we Humans can’t, by virtue of their ability to fly. Dropping fish bombs from fifty feet up? Yep. Swooping down into your face only to cut away at the last second, leaving you to drive into a field? Definite possibility. Dive bombing your car so you’ll crash? Oh, yeah, baby. They got that in spades. It was Amok Heaven.

And of course, all that life-and-death amok-i-ness just makes it that much easier for the hero and heroine to band together to defeat the bad guys. Or rather, it should… unless the hero happens to mention that he’s taking the heroine to the ocean. You know the ocean? The one she’s allergic to?

So now she thinks he’s trying to kill her, too. As I said, amok.

But, as with all romances, this tail has a happy ending. I mean, this tale. No. Wait. Which one do I mean? I’ve written those words over and over so much lately that it’s hard to remember which one it is.

Will Valerie get a tail? Or is Rod’s tall tale just that? Do they get tails? Do they get tail? (Oops, sorry. It’s that “amok” thing, you know…)

But beneath the wild blue under, amid the “amok,” you’ll find the answers.

Just watch where you step. :)

*          *          *

So thanks, Jessa and ladies, for having me. I was thrilled when you offered today’s post because today is a special day to me. If you read the dedication page, you’ll see that I’ve dedicated Wild Blue Under to my grandmother. She’s been one of my beta readers for my stories and has always been one of my biggest supporters all along, never doubting that the stories would see the light of day.

I’m happy to say that she’s still with us, and today is her birthday. The 60th anniversary of her 29th, though to look at her, you definitely wouldn’t believe it (it’s those Italian genes. They keep you young looking!)

So I’d like to say thanks for having me here today and happy birthday, Nan! (And, yes, she is internet savvy, so hopefully she’ll be popping in to read this. Whether or not she’ll comment is anyone’s guess…)

Here’s some of the “amok” for you to enjoy:

*          *          *

“Get ready to slam on the brakes, Valerie.” Rod sat back.

“Brakes?” At this speed, the car would spin out, and having already done its lifelong quotient of Indy driving today, that probably wasn’t a good idea. She’d been a cabby, not a stunt driver.

Rod braced his hands on the dashboard. “You wedged in, Livingston?”

“As well as possible. How much longer?”

Rod leaned over as far as the belt would allow, which, in her small car, was pretty darn close. “Twenty seconds.”

“Okay, Valerie.” It felt weird to be taking directions from a voice beneath Rod’s tush. Not that anything was odd about this situation to begin with…

“… to let them fly past.”

“What?” She shook her head. Mind off his butt, Val.

“Fish, woman, weren’t you listening?”

“Livingston-” Rod’s interjection was harsh.

“Right. My apologies. What we need you to do, Valerie, is slow down at the last possible second. Apply as much pressure to the brakes as you can without spinning us so the peregrines miscalculate. Their missiles tend to be other avians, which are more dangerous than JR’s small fish. Got it?”

“Yeah.” She exhaled. She so did not want to be doing this. But then, she wasn’t exactly into cleaning roadkill-airkill?-off her roof either.

“Ten.” Rod braced his palms against the dash.

Val scanned the road ahead. No more cars, thank God.

“Nine… eight…”

Val swiped her palm against her side, wrapping the fingers of her left hand around the steering wheel.

“Seven… six…”

She then dried her right hand on the other side of her shirt and curled her hand over the stick shift.

“Five… four…”

She inhaled.


“Now!” Livingston screeched.

Wanting to close her eyes, amazed she was going to do this yet again, and still hating that screech, Val took her foot off the gas, stepped on the clutch, swung the car out of gear, and slammed on the brakes.

Two slate-blue projectiles shot inches above the hood of the car. Whatever the birds were carrying had missed them by a hairsbreadth.

“Go go go go go!” Livingston roared.

A seagull could roar? Val shook it off, reversed everything she’d just done, and forced the protesting engine back to work.

But peregrines could turn on a dime and they weren’t known as some of the best hunters for no reason.

“Guys, we can’t keep doing this,” she panted, a bead of perspiration trickling its way down her temple.

“They misfired. They’ll have to reload. That’ll give us some time.”

“What if we just pull over and talk to them? Maybe offer them more than whoever-it-is is paying them?”

Rod looked at her as if she’d suggested a transgender operation, and even Livingston poked his yellow beak out from under the seat.

“What?” she asked the two testosterone-spouting males.

“We do not negotiate with terrorists.” Rod said it so low that, by rights, she shouldn’t have been able to hear it, but the timbre of his voice vibrated the words through her very bones.

That was silly. They were just birds. Okay, birds with dead things in their talons, but still… “Terrorists? Let’s be real here, guys.” Guy and bird… Whatever.

The bird popped out from under the seat. “Look, chicky-”

“Valerie.” Rod gripped her arm. “I don’t think you comprehend the seriousness of the situation. They are-”

“You’re right.” She yanked her arm away, then had to straighten out the car because being manhandled did not gel with high-speed driving. “I don’t comprehend it, because you won’t explain it. I don’t see how falcons can be terrorists. I don’t see how any of this is even possible. Yesterday I’m minding my own business, worried about seagulls, and now I’ve got albatrosses and peregrines and God-knows-what-else dropping dead stuff on me! And you’re acting like I’m supposed to think this is normal!”

“Enough chitchat, people!” Livingston was back to peering out the rear window. “We can discuss it later. Right now, I’ve got avians on the wing, starboard, coming in low. Two missiles each. I repeat, two missiles each.”

“I heard you the first time,” Val muttered under her breath. She took a deep one, re-gripped the steering wheel, and pushed the gas pedal down, getting ready for whatever the Universe–and the birds–threw at her next.

© Judi Fennell

Wild Blue Under
Judi Fennell
Sourcebooks, Inc.
November, 2009

Rod Tritone is all set to take over the Mer kingdom when his father retires, until the ruling council tells him he has to marry first. The council gives him legs for the duration of his mission, as well as his future queen’s address and phone number.

She’s Valerie Dumere, the daughter of a Mer father and a human mother who raised her in landlocked Kansas. When devastatingly handsome Rod Tritone shows up and tries to tell her about the kingdom under the sea, not only does she think he’s crazy, she’s determined that’s the last place she’d ever want to go.

Then a vicious squad of seagulls tries to stop the Mer Prince from inheriting his throne and Val finds out about her true nature. Now she has to make the choice of a lifetime–stay on land, or follow Rod to his underwater world…

What people are saying about Wild Blue Under:

“Fennell returns with another underwater adventure, her second story about the Tritone brothers. She’s proving herself to be a solid storyteller, and this tale is an enjoyable and pleasant read.”
-Devon Paige, RT BookReviews

“Wild Blue Under” is the second book of author, Judi Fennell’s Mer Trilogy, and the first of hers I have read and definitely won’t be the last! This book was such a fun, delightful read.”
-Jaime, Revenge of the Book Nerds

“Judi Fennell is a bright star on the horizon of romance.
-Judi McCoy, author of Hounding the Pavement

“The best Mer book I’ve ever read.”
-Rowena Cherry, author of Knight’s Fork

“Bubbly fun! Judi Fennell whips together talking birds, princely peril and a sexy Mer man in this sparkling ‘under the sea’ tale.”
-Virginia Kantra, USA Today best-selling author

 What people are saying about In Over Her Head:

“Nora Roberts? Danielle Steel? Much acclaimed romance writers should step aside. There is a new romance writer in town and she is certainly causing a great splash with her debut novel, In Over Her Head.”

“I truly found a pearl in my oyster when I read this delightful tale. I was surprised how good of a book In Over Her Head is. It is extremely well-written, the storyline flows and I was hooked from the first page.”

“IN OVER HER HEAD is a delightful, quirky blend of humor, adventure and passion. All in all, this is a fast, fun read and a great way to spend a snowy afternoon or a sunny day at the beach.”
-Lynda K. Scott, Star-Crossed Romance

“The beauty will draw you in, the action will get your pulse racing and the sensual scenes will keep your eyes glued to the pages.”
-Katrina, Bloody Bad

“In Over Her Head is a heartwarming, but action-packed story of two people-one human and the other of the seaworthy body-joined together in an adventure. I enjoyed this story immensely.”
-Dawn M. Ekinia, Armchair Interviews

“A delightful underwater adventure… full of good-natured humor and fun. A strong first effort by a promising new talent.”
-Romantic Times

“A playful debut… sincere wit.”
-Publisher’s Weekly

About The Author:
Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to “get outside!” instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did–right into Dad’s hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she’s more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she’s still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends’ books.

A three-time finalist in online contests, Judi has enjoyed the reader feedback she’s received and would love to hear what you think about her Mer series. Check out her website at for excerpts, reviews and fun pictures from reader and writer conferences, and the chance to “dive in” to her stories.

To celebrate the release of each of her books, Judi Fennell and the Atlantis Inn ( and the Hibiscus House ( bed and breakfasts are raffling off three romantic beach getaway weekends. All information is on Judi’s website,

The Golden Heart, The Void & My Hussy Muse
by Our Guest on September 3rd, 2009

Golden Heart finalist Sharon Lynn Fisher ( writes sci-fi romance and battles writerly angst with baked goods, Irish tea, and champagne (not always in that order).

I live in Seattle. There used to be this spooky old abandoned school next to I-90 East, and every time I passed it I thought how sad it was that someday, someone was going to tear it down and build condos. Because the place just oozed personality. It looked authoritarian and cranky.

But, lo and behold, the city held onto it and transformed it into the Northwest African American Museum, and it looks pretty much the way it always has, without the boarded up windows.

I took the following photo this past spring, and over the course of this post I’ll explain how the picture - or rather the process of taking it - helped defeat a particularly nasty case of writer’s block.


Just before my birthday this year, I found out my science fiction romance manuscript, Ghost Planet, was a finalist for RWA’s Golden Heart award. Shortly before that, I had signed with an agent. Soon we’ll be submitting to editors. This is a terrific place to be.
But it’s also a hard place to be. A celebratory, hopeful sort of limbo. All your dreams tied up in a much-loved manuscript you are DYING to share with other people, if someone will pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top-and-did-I-mention-I-will-name-a-child-after-you give it a chance.

With each step in the writing and publishing process, there is waiting. And more waiting. And extra helpings of waiting. The best thing you can do to maintain your sanity is - buy whole cases of wine so you get the 10% discount. But that’s not so good in the long-term, so eventually you have to sit down in the freakin’ chair and start again.

Most people, I think, write their first manuscript(s) in a vacuum. You follow your passion and write what you feel because that’s what it takes to produce a great story. From the time you e-query your very first agent, you are no longer a virgin. Really, from the time you start reading publishing industry blogs - which is hopefully long before you e-query your first agent - you are no longer a virgin.

Your head starts getting filled up with stuff about trends and marketability and what editors are and aren’t buying and OMG DROP EVERYTHING AND WRITE STEAMPUNK NOW … And pretty soon every idea that comes to you sounds like something someone else would write. You notice your muse has started collecting moving boxes.

The thing is, you STILL have to *follow your passion and write what you feel because that’s what it takes to produce a great story*. How do you do that when your head is full of all this educational but distracting noise?

I researched writer’s block for days. (HOW did we survive before Google and Wikipedia?) I wrote 30 pages of a new story before I realized the heroine was the same person as my last heroine, with shorter hair. I stared out the window. I shed tears. I got so desperate I made myself try freewriting … and it worked.

I’m not endorsing freewriting per se (mine was peppered with four-letter words and self-abuse) - but when you’re in that cold, dark creative void, you MUST do something to get out of your normal head space. Draw sing walk travel knit dance meditate. Make cupcakes. Eat them until you’re sick. Read other people’s books.

For me, freewriting led to the vaguest spark of an idea, and an intriguing setting - a cranky old ghost of a building I’d passed a hundred times on I-90. Armed with digital camera, I set out to find my characters, and the rest of my story.


I took a zillion pictures, playing with light and angles to explore the moods of my setting. I ate catfish and cornbread in the little cafeteria. I talked to the cook about the bright, collage-style artwork hanging in the dining room. I strolled through the museum exhibit not really seeing any of it, because in my world - in the new world my brain was creating - the building was going to serve a very different purpose.

When I pulled out of the parking lot on that sunny day in April, my whole outlook had changed. Everything I encountered seemed to fuel this new spark, from the deserted chapel in the park across the road, to the random CD playing in my car. I had a vision of a man stretched across a narrow bed, out of place and time. Dying. Yet still lethally dangerous to the stranger hovering over him.

That unreliable hussy of a muse was back. (I love you, sweetheart, but you’re gonna be the death of me.)

Allison’s Winner
by Our Guest on July 19th, 2009

Valarie P. has won the set of my Blackheath Moor books. Congratulations Valarie!

Thanks, everyone, for all your good wishes! Hey, if you’re ever looking for me, you can always find me at Allison Chase’s News & Views. Kim, Jessa, Annette and Sharon, thank you so much for including me here. It’s been a fantastic experience and I’ll always be a huge fan of all of you. Au revoir for now! Well, sort of, because in the words of the great Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back!”

Love to all,

Xanax for the Soul
by Our Guest on July 16th, 2009

I used to think I was pretty eclectic in my musical tastes, but after reading Sharon’s post yesterday, now I’m thinking not so much. Still, depending on my mood you might catch me listening to Chant, with the Monks of Santo Domingo, or Ray Charles or Floggy Molly or Renaissance music or Mozart or the Beatles or Caruso or Los Lonely Boys. At the moment, the Cranberries are singing “Ode to My Family.” Love the vocals. I’m not by nature a meditator — just can’t turn those thoughts off — but certain music, like Chant or Live The Legend by the New World Renaissance Band, gives me a temporary vacation that some days helps save my sanity. Like a sedative for the soul, this is my form of Xanax. So soooooothing.

For writing, I especially like music with a strong emotional message, and that’s why I also tend to find inspiration in movie soundtracks, as Jessa talked about on Monday. There’s a really good reason for that. Soundtracks, whether compiled or written specifically for the movie, are designed to highlight the rising tension of the story, arcing from the inciting moment to the resolution. It’s an emotional journey in sound following the emotional journey of the characters, and whether you realize it or not you are swept along. My favorite movie composers are James Horner - Braveheart, Zorro, Titanic, to name a few (I love the Celtic touches) and Patrick Doyle, who did all the Kenneth Brannagh Shakespeare movies among other things.

One of my favorite compiled soundtracks is Garden State, a movie about learning to accept and find joy in the dysfunctional nature of life. It’s quirky and sweet and poignant, and the music reflects that. When my daughter downloaded the songs onto my Ipod (because I am categorically incapable of doing so for myself), they somehow loaded in reverse order. I said, “Can’t you fix it?” and she said, “What difference does it make? You have all the songs.” Whereupon I demanded, “How do you expect me to embark upon an emotional journey backwards? Huh? I’ll end up all neurotic.” She just looked at me and shook her head. But I had a valid point.

Oddly though, I don’t hear every bit of the music playing in my head while I write. My own thoughts take precedence and I find myself in a kind of cocoon - just me and my characters with all their angsty adventures. The rest of the world could blow up for all I’d care. Yet at the same time, and mostly on a subconscious level I guess, the emotional content of the songs does find its way into my psyche and translate onto the page, occasionally veering a scene into territory I hadn’t originally intended — in a good way. I like those kinds of surprises, when characters are suddenly inspired to take matters into their own hands. Maybe it’s because they can hear the music too.

So if not music, what do you do to stay focused at work…or to keep your sanity intact?

Giveaway This Week
by Our Guest on July 12th, 2009

Hey, everyone! As I mentioned in Thursday’s post, this will be my last week at Silk and Shadows, :sad: and as a parting gift I’ll be giving away a set of my Blackheath Moor books to a randomly chosen commenter from any of this week’s posts. :lol:

I’ve really loved being part of this group. Thank you Jessa, Kim, Annette and Sharon for including me, and thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on our posts. Rest assured, though, I’ll be back to visit often for much needed doses of “dark and sexy,” and you can always find me on my website and blog, or on Facebook and Myspace. It’s not goodbye, it’s see ya around!

What’s That Name?
by Our Guest on July 9th, 2009

I don’t typically chooses names with layers and layers of meaning. Which is not to say I don’t put a lot of thought into the process, which usually involves poring through one of my favorite name resources, A World Of Baby Names, which categorizes according to nationality and gives pronunciations, origins and definitions.


What I search for is hard to quantify, because it’s really an emotional response that for some inexplicable reason says to me, “Yes! That’s it! That’s my character!”

I do, however, try to follow a few guidelines:

1. Easily pronounceable. There’s nothing worse than having to skip over a name because your mind just can’t make it out quickly enough. There should never be any ambiguity attached to your characters’ names.

2. No two characters’ names begin with the same letter - because the brain tends to make quick assumptions based on that first letter, and will easily mistake one name for another.

3. Historical accuracy. But I have to admit I have so stretched the limits of this one. I know, it’s wrong and I should be ashamed. Neither Grayson nor Chad appear to have been used much in the 1800s, but can I help it if both names shouted the above message when my tired eyes alighted upon them? Actually, I figured Grayson could easily have been a family surname, and using the same reasoning, I lengthened Chad to Chadwell…and then immediately shortened it to Chad again for nearly all of the book.

Call it manipulation if you will. So far I haven’t had any complaints from readers or my editor.

4. The hero’s name should convey strength. Such names usually begin and end with a hard consonant and contain only one or two syllables - generally. Again, in historicals this rule can also be stretched.

5. The heroine’s name — I usually go with something that in my mind evokes the time period and says something about her personality. I chose Sophie for the heroine of Dark Temptation because to me it sounds like a woman who’s cute and quirky, slightly naive and who walks her own determined road without much thought as to what others think about her.

Sometimes names I hear stick in my head and I’ll just have to use them. The heroine in Dark Obsession was named after one of my husband’s ancestors, Honora Whyte from Kilarney, Ireland. Not that my Honora was Irish, but she did have a good touch of the stubborn spirit Irish lasses are known for, and she never stopped seeing the honor lurking beneath Grayson’s tortured exterior.

In my upcoming series, Her Majesty’s Secret Servants, the identities of the four sisters, who will each be a heroine in her own book, are very much in question. So I wanted names that suggested the possibility that these could either be aliases or simply names chosen according to their parents’ fancy. What I came up with were names one might choose if one were standing in the garden of one’s country estate - Laurel, Ivy, Holly and Willow - and the mystery surrounding those names will continue throughout each book.


And that brings me to another matter. At my editor’s request, this new series has taken my writing in an entirely new direction. The Blackheath Moor books were dark paranormals, and while the new books will have their dark threads, they are much more in keeping with traditional historicals. No more ghosts, no more unexplained occurrences. This has been a hard decision, but as I step out of the mist and into the light, I feel my books will no longer quite fit in with the themes here at Silk and Shadows.


I’ll miss it here. A lot. Jessa, Annette, Sharon and Kim are all amazing individuals with wonderful talents, and I have to say I’ve learned valuable things from each of you. I’m so looking forward to the release of Jessa’s and Annette’s first books. I know they will be incredible, exciting, sexy reads. And you will continue to find me here, lurking in your formidable shadows and leaving the occasional comment. Or maybe not so occasional!

However, I will be back one more week and will give away both Blackheath Moor books, Dark Obsession and Dark Temptation, to one of our commenters. So see you all next week, and hey, sorry for the long post today!