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and Fearless Friday as told by my guests and me.

Monday, May 21, 2018

#HistoricalRomance, Scotland, and a Highlander by Mageela Troche


History buffs as well as romance readers will love today's guest post!
Years ago, after I saw the movie, I was hooked on Scotland. Naturally, my new interest led me to the library to learn more of Scottish history. It was then I learned about the time when Scotland had a king—Alexander III—before war waged. 
Alexander III of Scotland was born in 1241 to Marie de Coucy and Alexander II. When he was seven years old, his father died and he was crowned at Scone in July 1249. His minority was dominated by the struggle ofrival factions yet Alexander was a boy of great will. In 1251, Alexander married Margaret of England, the daughter of Henry III of England and sister to Edward who would come to be known in history as the Hammer of the Scots. 
Because of the marriage, Henry saw an opportunity to demand homage from the young king. But Alexander showed his shrewdness and only gave homage for his English lands that he inherited from his father. 
In 1262, Alexander reached his majority. Now the young king sought to fulfill his father’s wish and get ownership of the Isles off Scotland’s coast. During the middle ages, the Western Isles also known as the Outer Hebrides were under the rule of Norway. King Haakon of Norway sent a large force that landed on the Isle of Arran and began negotiations with the Scottish king. Alexander though stretched them out until autumn when storms raged off the isles. The Norwegian navy was destroyed by these storms and Haakon sailed away to the Orkneys, where he died in December. 
Alexander now had the chance to grab the isles and with the Treaty of Perth, Scotland now owed the Western Isles and the Isle of Man only the Shetlands and Orkneys remained under Norway’s control. 
During this time, Alexander and Margaret produced three children, Margaret, Alexander—the heir—and David. His daughter went on to marry Erik II of Norway and produced a daughter also named Margaret and known as the Maid of Norway. Alexander married but no children were produced. Only David never married. But by 1284 all his children were dead along with his wife Margaret. 
In 1285, Alexander married Yolande de Dreux. Months after his marriage, the king was in Edinburgh meeting with his advisors. Alexander decided to ride through the night to be with his wife. His advisors begged him not to ride through the night because of bad weather. He did nevertheless and some time through the journey, he died. He was found with a broken neck. It is assumed that his horse lost his footing. 
His wife, pregnant, either miscarried or the child was stillborn and the crown now rested on the head of the child, the Maid of Norway, who died on her journey to Scotland to take the throne. These deaths left the Scottish throne empty. And many factions including Edward I of England to wage war for it. 
And I found a place that has captured my imagination that lives in my Highlander romance novels. 

Book Blurb of Claiming the Highlander 
First came marriage...will love come next?  
As children, stoic Caelan MacKenzie married feisty Brenna Grant for a parcel of land and an Earldom. Then the child bride and groom went their separation ways. 
Years later, Caelan is the feared Viking Highlander, a great warrior. His father lies on his death bed and now Caelan must return home to take his place as the Chief of Clan MacKenzie. Time has come for him to face his past and the secret he has carried. Some believe him unworthy to lead. 
All but his wife—Brenna knows the true man that he is from the letters they had been exchanging since childhood. Now at Castle MacKenzie  anticipates her husband's return.  Brenna must use her influence to protect the Grant clan or have her life destroy. And that she refuses to happen. 
From the Scottish Highland shores to the rugged glens, the alpha male and his brave heroine must battle against outside forces to save their wedded life even as they succumb to their sensual desire. 
Can they save all they hold dear including their growing love? Or will they be defeated and betrayed? 
Claiming the Highlander Excerpt 
Brenna shut her chamber door. The smoke from the wall torches filled the turret stairs and stung her eyes. She waved away the cloud as she descended from the top floor. That chamber had been her own since she was seven, when the laird and lairdess first fostered her. Brenna loved the space, since Caelan once rested his head there. Being in the chamber was the closest she came to sharing a bed with her husband.
Learning her role as the future Lairdess of Clan MacKenzie, her life consisted of watching, waiting and being a help or a hindrance. Lately, she had been a help. Only that mattered to Brenna, especially after she intruded upon the Lairdess weeping in the garden. That was her place of refuge. Brenna had moved forward and then stepped back, leaving her to her sadness. What did one say when death hovered near? The truth was, Brenna wished she could make the laird survive. Brenna took pride in her healing skills and knowledge of herbs, but in this instance, those skills were meaningless, so she strived to lessen the Lairdess’ burden. This day, the duties had been split between her and Rowen.
Rowen would see to the household, the meals, the cleaning of it, and other duties. Whereas Brenna was to assist the clan and handle any issues the clan-folk faced this day. Today, she would take her place as the Lairdess of Clan MacKenzie. Last night, she hadn’t gotten much sleep. Though, she had been trained in her duties, that knowledge did nothing to stop her from fretting. If only Caelan were here with her…with him beside her the day would be easier. He should return home soon. Perhaps this day or the next.
She reached the last step and halted. The smoke must have conjured images. Caelan stood at the end of the corridor. She blinked, believing the vision would vanish into nothingness. The arched doorway framed his muscular form, which was draped in plaid. His head hung down. His long locks draped around his face and blocked him from her view. Light flickered over his Viking blond hair. She blinked a few times, waiting for him to notice her standing here. She must have moved because his head flew up.
He faced her. A smile spread across her face and her cheeks hurt from it. She wanted to throw herself in his arms. Instead, she buried the urge. She even squeezed out a couple of tears.
Her feet skipped over the floor as she raced to him. She threw her arms around him and squeezed him tightly. She lacked the strength to hold him as she wished. Caelan was all hard muscle. He smelled of the outdoors—greenery, and of the fresh wind that whirled about him and caught in the weave of his plaid, along with a manly scent that was his own. She stroked her cheek against his plaid. The scratchy wool scraped her skin. An itchy tingle spread through her cheek.
She ran her hands over his thick arms. He had come for her. She linked her fingers with his. She leaned her head to the side to look at the shut chamber door. Last night had been a difficult one. The healers and servants had been going in and out through the night. Their muffled voices floated to her chamber along with the groans of pains coming from the laird—aye, the laird would be leaving this earth soon. Her smile dimmed along with the heady delight within her. You have finally returned.”
Caelan arched a brow, revealing his blue eyes. She loved his pure, blue hue that shined bright with shards of white, unlike her plain, brown ones. He pulled his hand away. She tucked her empty hand within the pleats of her dress. This was not the reunion she had imagined since she learned he was returning home. Caelan was supposed to grab her in his arms and swing her about. After holding her close for a drawn-out moment, he was supposed to slide her down his body, and then kiss her. After he ravished her mouth, he was to stare deep into her eyes.

Claiming the Highlander Purchase link:

You can connect with Mageela here:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#Vengeance On #Bullies...a Writer's Glee by Kat Henry Doran


One benefit of being a writer is we're able to do things on paper we might not get to do otherwise. Be careful with might end up in their book. And to add more fun today, Kat is giving away a copy of her book to one lucky person brave enough to leave a comment. Tell us about it, Kat!
A number of years ago I had the honor to be part of a group of out-standing authors who created a series of contemporary romantic novellas called the Class of '85. The series centered around a high school reunion so of course the opportunity to create a couple of bullies arose. I dove in with a vengeance.
            I like to base characters, both lead and secondary, on people I know, like, admire or loathe. Sometimes the likenesses are only vague; at other times the only difference is the names I choose to give them.
            Since it would take a note from the Pope, buckets of money, or weapons to induce me to attend my own reunion, I needed reasons why someone wouldn't attend a reunion. Maybe they look nothing like they did back in the day, such as the morbidly obese girl who has transformed herself into a runway model doesn't want to hear the fat jokes. The former school bully, now an advocate for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised, fears having to face former victims but at the same time feels driven to make sincere amends. The class bad boy, aka the Scourge of Summerville, has better things to do than be reminded of his former behaviors.
            Of course I needed to spend as much time creating the bullies as I did with the heroes and heroines. In retrospect it wasn't as difficult as I feared it might be. We all had a mean girl in our class so inventing “Ready Betty” Baumgartner came easy. I even made her look like the mean girl I once knew: tall and thin, blonde and well-to-do, and as sneeringly self-absorbed as they came. Then came the dorky, socially inept dweeb who ruined the grade curve. We all had one of those in our class, too. To make Richard “Dickhead” Heade, I thought about a former high ranking police official for the city where I live. What an opportunity to get back at a man so ego-driven he'd never consider that the former pain in his butt would dare put him in one of her books. Especially as a bad guy and not the white hat savior. Gotcha, pal.
            The three stories became an adventure which I'm now thrilled to have together under one cover. It's titled Vengeance Is Mine.           
Ever think about going back to study hall to face down the school bully? The mean girls?  The brainless jocks who made your life a pure misery?

For Dru Horvath, Gypsy orphan turned Pulitzer Prize winning photo-journalist; Rafe Archangeli, the Scourge of Summerville who now heads a multi-million dollar trust; and Fiona “Fat Aggie” Thorpe who recreated herself into a top model with her own A-list agency, the opportunity to exact revenge is too good to pass up.
Will they find the vengeance they crave? Or something more valuable?

Vengeance Is Mine, a contemporary romantic trilogy by Kat Henry Doran, can be found at:   
Author Bio:
            Legal nurse consultant, victim advocate, sexual assault nurse examiner Kat Henry Doran has been there and done that--too many times to count. She often travels to the wilds of Northern New York State, witnessing the wonders of mother nature at her best. from the shores of Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River to the historic Adirondack Mountains. She creates stories  featuring strong women, the men who love them, and occasionally some pretty nasty villains.
            When not writing, she can be found lashed to one of her sewing machines--or chauffeuring the four brightest stars in her life: Meredith and Ashlin, Owen and Kieran.

For more information on Kat, go to:

Friday, May 4, 2018

#FearlessFriday and the Great Leap of #Faith by Connie Johnson Hambley


I love where inspiration comes from and how it kicks you into fearless. Please welcome Connie Johnson Hambley with her fearless tale.

Thanks, Brenda, for having me on your blog today. I love the concept of Fearless Fridays. For me? My fear tank is nearly full. To be without fear isn’t movtivating. I’m more of a “Face Your Fear Fridays” kind of girl.

On the cusp of sending three kids off to college, I quit my job as a VP in a Boston Bank to write. No, I was not laid off or otherwise restructured out of gainful employment. I stood on the precipice of the most expensive years of child-rearing and swan-dived into the void.

Oh, I had my gigs. I taught finance to MBA candidates, help found a children’s furnishings company, and ventured into biotech recruiting, but I always made sure writing remained at the core of my efforts. I’m a lawyer by training, so my writing was fact-based. Marketing, promotion, and journalism pieces gave my brain that endorphin bath writers understand. I’m a bit of a geek, so writing for Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Nature was fun!

Then, one night I woke up and a character skittered through the shadows across the ceiling. No, not in a horror story or paranormal kind of way, but she projected herself as if on a movie screen. I saw her and immediately knew who she was. Jessica Wyeth – world-class equestrian and star-crossed heiress who was being framed for murder – beckoned me into her world.

I had a problem. I was a left-brained writer – all facts and rational thinking – with a right-brained idea – one of creative adventure and fiction. I was afraid of what would happen if I grabbed that brass ring. I tried to push her out of my mind, but she proved herself to be a formidable adversary.

So, I took another leap and looked fear dead in the eye. This time, I gave myself permission to write outside analytical and objective lines, but logic still prevailed. I had always inhaled information and exhaled legal briefs or marketing proposals. This time, I kept the facts true, but exhaled a new world populated by terrorists, money launderers, assassins, and tortured souls, and wrote the first installment of my suspense trilogy,

A fiction junkie was born.

CONNIE JOHNSON HAMBLEY began to steadfastly plot her revenge against all bad guys, realThe Jessica Trilogy, The Wake, joins The Charity and The Troubles, and her titles have won Best Fiction at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City in 2016 and 2017. Her short stories, “Giving Voice” and “Black Ice,” appear in Best New England Crime Stories: Windward and Snowbound, respectively. Connie is Vice President and Featured Speaker of Sisters in Crime New England.
and imagined, at the ripe age of six when an arsonist torched her family’s farm. When receiving her law degree didn’t provide satisfactory tools for retribution, she turned to fiction writing and became immediately satisfied with the varied ways to kill and torment evildoers. Her third thriller in

In THE JESSICA TRILOGY, world-class equestrian Jessica Wyeth becomes a target of an international crime syndicate after uncovering how family secrets link her to the power behind a Boston-based terrorist cell. In this gripping, multi-generational tale, the bonds of blood and love are tested through times of war and peace.

The Charity: Witness to a gang-style slaying, a young woman is hunted to stop her from exposing the money and the people behind a Boston-based terrorist cell.

The Troubles: Deceived by her family, a rebellious woman seeks to unearth
how Northern Ireland’s Troubles are buried in her mother’s secret past.

The Wake: A shattered heiress’ family secret is exploited by her spurned lover to blackmail her into engaging in international terrorism.


THE CHARITY: click here
THE TROUBLES: click here
THE WAKE: click here

Short Story Anthologies:

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

#Wicked (Fast!) #Fudge for Wednesday or Any Day by Ann Parker #chocolate #recipe


Chocolate reins supreme. And one of the best ways to eat it is in the form of fudge. Wait until you see the recipe Ann has for us today. And she's a mystery author. Her series looks amazing, too. But first, a wicked delicious chocolate extravaganza!

Who can resist chocolate? Especially while writing or reading?
Chocolate’s irresistibility definitely puts it in the “wicked” camp for me! And fudge—the creamy, rich, over-the-top homemade variety that melts in your mouth—is top of my list. 
If you feel the same way, then this recipe for fast fudge (made in the microwave, no less) is for you. 
What makes it doubly amazing is its simple ingredients, the non-fussy instructions (no candy thermometers, double boilers, etc.), and the speed with which one can make a batch. 
Alas, I cannot claim credit for the basics of this recipe… I found it loooong ago in a now-tattered and splattered copy of the Sunset Microwave Cookbook, and tinkered from there. 
1 box (1 lb.) powered sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ cup (1/4 lb.) cold butter
¼ cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla (ßor almond or orange or peppermint extract, depending on what calls to you!)
¾ cup coarsely chopped nuts (ßoptional!)
Some butter or coconut oil for coating the pan 
Tools of the Trade
8-inch square baking dish
2-quart glass mixing bowl and microwave-safe lid
Aluminum foil
Wooden mixing spoon
Heat-resistant spatula
Marching orders:
Line the square baking dish with aluminum foil (I’ve heard other folks use plastic wrap. But plastic wrap and hot, melted chocolate?? Nuuuuuhhhh, don’t go there...). Coat the foil with butter or coconut oil. Set the square dish aside, and turn your attention to the glass bowl...
Dump the entire box of sugar into the bowl. (You can sift it in, if the possibility of having little unmixed sugar bits in the final result offends your sensibilities).
Add the cocoa.
Mix chocolate-sugar with your spoon.
Cut the butter into smallish cubes, scatter over the chocolate-sugar mixture. Pour in the half and half and your choice of extract.
Grab that spoon again and mix it up. (Don’t worry if it’s not “well mixed.” It’s all going to be blasted in the microwave anyway.)
Cover the bowl with a lid or a microwave-safe plate, if you don’t have a proper lid at hand.
Rev your (microwave) engine and get ready to roll…
Put that covered glass bowl of chocolate goodness into your microwave oven and nuke on “high” for two-and-a-half minutes.
Pull out the bowl, grab your whisk, and whisk the contents vigorously until the butter melts. Continue to whisk until the gloss begins to fade.
If you choose to add nuts, mix them in now. (Or you can wait and press them into the top when you’re done.)
Then—quick! quick!—take your fudge and “pour” (I use that word advisedly… I usually have to scrape it out with a spatula) it into the square baking dish. Using the spatula (or the back of a spoon) spread the fudge to fill the pan.
Very important step, not to be skipped à With the spatula or spoon, scrape the leavings out of the mixing bowl and devour. Call it taste-testing, if you need to justify it to the drooling hordes in your household. But the truth is, you did the work, you reap the rewards!
Refrigerate, uncovered, for an hour or two, if you can wait that long. (I dare you!)
Cut into pieces. Take a few choice pieces for yourself and refrigerate the rest.
Return to your reading/writing with truly wicked fudge in hand.  
Ann Parker (website writes the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series and a serious chocolate junkie. The newest book in her series is A Dying Note.

Friday, April 27, 2018

#Fearless Belly Dancer, Not Cave Dweller


At least one Friday a month, I have a guest with a great tale of fearlessness. It's about time I offered up something, but then I think what have I done in my life that's fearless? What is brave to one person is no big deal to another. When FDW and I picked up and left Minnesota to farm with our son and his family, a friend said "Wow, you're brave." I just thought it was an adventure.

No, this isn't me.
So, I put on my thinking cap (as Daddy used to say), and came up with a couple of things that might fit into the fearless category. And I certainly wouldn't try all of them again.

Once upon a time, I took belly dancing lessons. It was great fun and great exercise. I might do that again, if I had time, but the fearless part is performing. Twice. One night, my group performed at half-time at a Phoenix Suns basketball game. Another time, we performed on stage at the Arizona State Fair. Will never again do belly undulations in front of hundreds of people!

Once upon another time, I hitched hiked from Genoa, Italy to Monte Carlo in the rain. Our car broke down on the way to the
Grand Prix. We weren't about to miss the event, so we stuck out our thumbs. A wealthy French woman in a very small yellow car, drove us all the way there. Then we braced ourselves on the side of a muddy hill and watched the race and the celebrities. We tried to get into the famous Monte Carlo Casino, but jeans were forbidden. I don't suppose the muddy feet helped either.

My last thought about fearless concerns caves. I'm claustrophobic. I tried, really, but when the entrance disappeared and walls narrowed around me in the Oregon Caves, I panicked. I turned around and ran. Poor FDW could barely keep up with me. When I made it back to the entrance, a gate of bars were locked. Tears! FDW had to turn around and find his way back to the group so the leader could radio out for my escape. On this one, I failed the fearless test.

Do you have a fearless story, success or failure, you'd like to share?

Monday, April 23, 2018

It's a #WritersLife Thing #Craft #Monday


It's Sunday afternoon, and I'm finally sitting down to watch the Diamondbacks. I love our Arizona baseball team. I am composing a post for Muse Monday. FDW is sitting in the recliner next to me, and I'm hoping I can get this post out of my head and on the page before he catches me. This is definitely a writer thing, not a Brenda thing. We don't take full days off our craft without a degree of guilt. So we rarely take a complete day off. Writers Life.

The weekends really don't feel different than any other day if you write. It's a rare author who goes on vacation without a phone and/or her laptop. I've been known to sneak into another room when FDW isn't paying attention to check my emails.

There's one thing he can't call me on and that's writing in my head. Most of my writing is done without a computer in front of me. Actually, I've been caught in cerebral writing mode a few times. "You're thinking about your book, aren't you?" Did the faraway look in my eyes give me away, or that I didn't respond to anything he said in the last twenty minutes?

The voices in my head don't know Sunday from Wednesday. How can I explain my inability to shut them down? Then there's promotion. Yes, I've known for months that the next book would eventually get released, but there were edits and those voices. And I didn't have everything I needed to approach promotion in a meaningful way. So, when the email comes with the release date for the next book, as it did last week, there is a mountain of work to do. Because until you get that date, the ISBN number, and a book that has been edited to death, you can't do much of what has to be done.

It's push time. Sunday isn't a day off.

But before you think this all sounds like no fun, there are benefits. The biggest thing is flexibility. I can take my office to the chair in front of the TV and watch the boys of summer while I work. I can work a long day and get ahead of the game so I can go play with my granddaughter. And the only one who's keeping track of my "to-do" tasks is me. I can cheat today and make up for it tomorrow.

Yet...those voices in my head are always there. Luckily, no one knows but me (and now you) and I like it!

The Worldwide Release date is coming up this summer for the fifth book in my Love and Murder Series. Look for The Deep Well of Love and Murder on June 18.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#Wicked Delicious #Recipe by Linda O'Connor


I don't get recipe posts here often enough, so I'm loving this one. Please welcome my guest Linda O'Connor. This recipe sounds like it's to die for...and her book Behind the Bench sounds like a good read.
Behind the Bench is set in Clarington and one of the best desserts in town is a wickedly sinful Turtle Pie. It’s a decadent combination of chocolate and caramel and a fav of Danni and her friends – especially freshly made by the chef at the new café at Bibbington Bowling Lanes. The chef was kind enough to share the recipe. Yum!! Enjoy!
Turtle Pie (Gluten-free!) 
Baked Coconut Crust
1 c sweetened flaked coconut
¾ c ground almonds
2 Tbsp butter
Combine and bake at 350° F for 15 minutes. Cool. 
Double Chocolate Mousse Filling
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 c butter
½ c granulated sugar
½ c half and half cream
1½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
4 eggs
Preheat oven to 350° F. Melt chocolate, butter, sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Whisk eggs separately in a large bowl. Slowly beat warm mixture into eggs until well blended. Pour into 10-inch greased spring-form pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from the edge comes out clean. Cool. 
Crunchy Caramel Topping
1 c chopped pecans
1 c sweetened flaked coconut
½ c granulated sugar
½ c evaporated milk
1 egg yolk
3 Tbsp butter
½ tsp vanilla
Toast pecans (~8 min) and coconut (~6 min) on separate baking sheets in a 350° F oven, stirring once, until golden. Transfer to same large bowl. Cool.
Meanwhile, in saucepan, whisk together sugar, milk, and egg yolk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until consistency is slightly thickened (like a thin pudding) about 8-10 min. Stir in butter and vanilla. Stir into pecan mixture until butter is melted. Let cool. Spread evenly over pie. 
 Alternative Smooth Caramel Topping
In small pot over medium heat, simmer 1 can of Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche caramel-flavoured condensed milk for 5 minutes to thicken. Cool and pour over pie.
Behind the Bench (In the Game Hockey Romance series, Book 2) by Linda O’Connor
Dr. Danni Angelo is the team physician for the Clarington Quakes hockey team. She’s worked hard to earn the players’ respect, but the new coach, Trey Mason, is stirring things up, and Danni’s worried her job may be in jeopardy. 
Trey finds Danni…distracting. Beauty, brains, and sexy moves on the ice have him uncomfortably attracted. He’s the new guy on the block. He has a reputation to build and a standard to set. The last thing he needs is a complication. 
When the team spirals out of control and Danni and Trey get caught up in a drug scandal, things heat up on and off the ice. It’s a whole new game plan…Behind the Bench. 
Buy links:
Behind the Bench is part of the Coming in Hot: Rescue Me medical romance collection.
Author Bio
Linda O’Connor started writing a few years ago when she needed a creative outlet other than subtly rearranging the displays at the local home décor store. It turns out she loves writing romantic comedies and has a few more stories to tell. When not writing, she’s a physician at an Urgent Care Clinic (well, even when she is writing she’s a physician, and it shows up in her stories :D ). She hangs out at
Laugh every day. Love every minute.