Monday, October 26, 2015

Executioner, Death, or The Devil Himself? The Legend of Jack Ketch

Jack Ketch in The Plotters Ballad (1678-9). Ketch is seen right of center holding a rope and an axe.
Jack Ketch, otherwise known as John Ketch or Richard Jaquet, began his twenty-three year career as London’s leading executioner in 1663. He was not the only executioner dispatching the condemned at Tyburn, but he was the most infamous, earning a reputation for brutality remarkable even for a man in his profession. Even after his death in 1686, his name became slang for any executioner, the devil, and even death itself. Overtime, his reputation took on such epic proportions until that he became a sort of bogeyman. So who was he? 

Like many executioners, Ketch spent much of his early life on the wrong side of the law, and is known to have spent time in Marshalsea Prison. Little is definitively known about his origins. He is first mentioned in the Old Bailey proceedings in January 1676 in the case of a man who was executed for a murder taking place in Whitechapel, and who also killed the bailiff charged with arresting him. The mention is a small one, but the meaning is clear: “the jury brought him in guilty, and Jack Ketch will make him free”. 
Coleman drawn to his execution.

The first public reference to him appeared in the broadside The Plotters Ballad two years later. In the Receipt for the Cure of Traytrous Recusants, or Wholesome Physicke for Popish Contagion, he is represented in a woodcut depicting the execution of Edward Coleman. Accused by Titus Oates of being involved in a “Popish Plot”, he was executed for treason in December 1678. In the woodcut, Coleman is saying “I am sick of this traitorous disease.” Ketch, illustrated holding a rope and an axe, replies, “Here’s your cure sir.” (see top)

Ketch was paid for his services, and even went on strike in 1682 for better wages and won. In addition to his wages, he received bribes, but he would have made most of his money by selling off pieces of the condemned. As a matter of course, executioners were given the clothes of the dead and the rope, which they sold for significant profit. A used noose could be sold for as much as a shilling an inch. 

Grizzly as it sounds, execution paraphernalia was widely believed to carry serious magic and was in high demand. Even so much as a strand of a hangman’s rope was believed to cure any number of ailments when it was worn around the neck, and gamblers sought pieces to improve their luck. The noose had even been used to cure headaches by wrapping it around the temples of the afflicted since ancient Rome. The efficacy of these cures was not in question, and the public was willing to pay for whatever they could get. 

Jack Ketch had a reputation of brutality and incompetence, but the truth might be more complicated than that. Although executions were highly ritualized, there was nothing in place that we might think of as “quality control,” and bribery was a more than frequent occurrence--it was the norm. Apart from his wages and the money he made from selling off pieces of the deceased, Ketch would have received a great deal of money in bribes. If the condemned had the coin, they would attempt to bribe the executioner for a swift and merciful death. Given the fact that there was no mechanism in place to break the neck of the condemned upon hanging at this point, many died at Tyburn of slow strangulation, a process that could take an agonizing forty-five minutes. It would have been up Ketch to set the pace of their death and to limit--or draw out--their suffering. 

The execution of the Duke of Monmouth
The condemned were not the only people bribing executioners. Following the horribly botched executions of Lord William Russell in 1683 and the Duke of Monmouth in 1685, rumors ran rampant that although both men paid Ketch to be merciful, their enemies paid him more to make them suffer. He denied the rumors, as anyone surely would, but one has to wonder how a man who made his living executing people for twenty-three years could fail at his task so spectacularly. He was no amateur, yet during the execution of poor Monmouth, Ketch struck him five times with an axe Monmouth himself is said to have proclaimed “too dull,” and in the end had to take the Duke’s head with a knife. Although much of the crowd was not crazy about Monmouth, the spectacle had been so horrific that Ketch had to make his escape under the protection of a military guard to avoid being lynched. 

For every botched execution Ketch presided over, there were several that went off without a hitch. He was said to have known ways to tie the rope that would alternately cause the victim’s neck to break quickly or to merely render them unconscious. Indeed, if the body was moved swiftly to a coffin or intercepted by friends or relatives before it was snatched by surgeons or torn apart by the blood-thirsty crowd, there was a change they might later be revived with peppermint oil. If a person was lucky enough to survive their execution, they were typically allowed to carry on living, as this was very rare. In 1709, years after Ketch’s death, John Smith was hanged at Tyburn and left there for some time before he was cut down and revived. He made a full recovery. He was allowed to live out his life and from that day was known as “Half-Hanged Smith.”

Ketch died in November of 1686. For at least the next two hundred years, his name was applied to a whole host of things related to execution. Apart from his name becoming slang for any executioner, “Jack Ketch’s Kitchen” was a name given to a room in Newgate prison where they boiled the severed limbs of those quartered for high treason. A “Jack Ketch’s Pippin” was a candidate for the gallows. A noose became, rather uncreatively, “Jack Ketch’s Necklace”, while the slum around Turnmill Street in Clerkenwell became “Jack Ketch’s Warren”. 

Jack Ketch makes an appearance in my book, Tyburn, as an acquaintance of highwayman Mark Virtue. For more on Jack Ketch and the history of Tyburn as a place of execution, please check out my article on The History Vault here.

Sources: 

Ackroyd, Peter. London, The Biography.
Brooke, Alan and Brandon, Peter. Tyburn: London’s Fatal Tree
Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang
The Old Bailey Online
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Katherine McIntyre Gets Purse-onal for #ProjectPurseDump

When offered the chance to get purse-onal, I jumped on it. (Grin and bear it, I love my puns!) I have to admit though, it wasn’t until I spilled the contents out on the floor for the picture that I realized what a wonderful metaphor it was for myself. For any purse carrier, what you choose to put in that small space is a reflection of you, in some shape or form. After all, anyone with a heavy purse knows the burden of the beast weighing down your shoulders. 

Without further ado, here’s mine and the contents:



First, note the ratty canvas bag that I’ve had for a couple years now. It’s frayed and covered in a splatter of fake zombie blood that just won’t come out. In case you hadn’t gathered, I’m quite a tomboy, and perfectly content toting around a functional bag I got for fifteen bucks at Big Lots. Although, I may need a new one soon as the bottom’s getting pretty worn.

Obviously, my wallet and keys are the essentials. To be noted, that Gamecube lanyard was given to me by one of my first boyfriends, well over ten years ago. Yep, since the time of Nintendo Gamecube. Hey, if it’s not broke, I don’t need to fix it. When I was a teenager, I used to wear boy pants and would always lose my keys from the pockets, hence the lanyard received. Same with my wallet—it was a hand-me-down from someone. I’m the queen of Goodwill and hand-me-downs.

Next in the queue of importance: my notebook, my planner, and my Kindle. Let’s be honest folks, a Kindle is a book nerd’s best friend, and the second I’m waiting somewhere or have a break at work, you can bet I’m tearing through another book. And the notebook is an author’s best friend. Likewise, if I’ve got time and a scene sneaks up on me, I’ll start jotting things down. As for the planner, I’m a Leslie Knope planning queen, even though I’ve got the memory of a goldfish—so the planner’s essential. 

Now to tackle my weird nitty gritties. On the right hand side, I have a thumb drive loaded with pictures of our recent trip to Canada—my husband and I brought it with when we went to visit my folks. As for the little white square next to it, that’s my Square Reader that I take to events with me. Though, I have a couple floating around.

Next to those? The business cards are for my massage business—a massage therapist has to always be prepared. Underneath the cards is a sample of ginger from a different vendor than I normally use for tea. I’ve been meaning to take it out of my purse for awhile now, but it got sucked into the vortex. And of course, a pad—I mean, what lady doesn’t have some sort of pad or tampon in her purse? As for the pens, self explanatory due to the notebook. On top of that is my little name tag for work—if you squint and see the LMT, it stands for Licensed Massage Therapist. 

But the oddities aren’t over! I’ve got a rock in the bottom of my purse, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out where it’s from. When I was a kid I had a huge rock collection and when I see cool ones or ones from important places, I like to pick them up…however, that’s useless if I can’t remember where it was from. (See, goldfish memory.) And bobby pins, which I just discovered how to use a year or two ago. Quit those appalled looks, I’m terrible at traditional ‘girl’ things. A hair tie is important, because when I give up on my half-assed effort at styling, I usually just throw it back into a ponytail. And the coin floating around is one from Canada, now useless to me here!

Finally, we’ve spotted something girly in my bag—makeup! But as with everything, for me it’s the bare essentials. I’ve got two chapsticks, an awesome lipstain that for as inexpensive it was works so wonderfully, and a dark brown eyeshadow crayon that I use to give my eyelids some contour. When I put on makeup for work it’s….either the lipstain or the eyeshadow. I don’t usually do both, because as we’ve stated before, I suck at dolling myself up on a day to day basis. Doesn’t mean I can’t commit for weddings or parties and whatnot, but on an average day, I’d rather spend the extra time reading or writing. 

As for the contents of my purse, that’s all folks! But the fun doesn’t stop here—a bunch of fantastic blogs are participating every Friday, so keep tabs on #PurseDumpProject, and tag your own photos!

Author Bio

A modern day Renaissance-woman, Katherine McIntyre has learned soapmaking, beer brewing, tea blending, and most recently roasting coffee. Most of which make sure she’s hydrated and bathed while she spends the rest of her time writing. With a desire to travel and more imagination than she knows what to do with, all the stories jumping around in her head led to the logical route of jotting them down on paper. Not only can her poetry and prose be found in different magazines, but she’s had an array of novels and novellas published through Decadent Publishing, Boroughs Publishing, Hazardous Press, and Jupiter Gardens Press. For more casual content, she’s a regular contributor on CaffeineCrew.com, a geek news website.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Regency Fairy Tales: Guest Post and Giveaway by Ally Broadfield


Have you ever wondered about the popular fairy tales available in Britain during the Regency? Today I am delighted to welcome Ally Broadfield to the blog with a terrific post that will shed light on that very subject! Pay attention, dear Reader, as M. Perrault will come up again in Book 3 of The Southwark Saga! 

Please give Ally a warm welcome and be sure to add her new release, Say You'll Love Me, to your TBR list! Take it away, Ally!
***
Stories Within A Story

Lady Abigail Hurst, the heroine in Say You’ll Love Me, is a victim of unfortunate circumstances. She has waited patiently for her childhood sweetheart to finally propose, but on the night of their betrothal ball, she discovers he not only has a mistress, but may also be guilty of murdering her. Though Abigail wishes to cry off immediately, her parents insist that she must maintain the engagement and support her betrothed until the true murderer is discovered. As you can imagine, this is a difficult position to be in.

Soon after I began writing this book, Abigail made it known that she needed some sort of escape from her dire situation, and revealed that her chosen method of escape was reading fairy tales. Of course, I thought it would be easy. Throw in Snow White and Cinderella and we’d be all set. Except, once I did a bit of research, I discovered that many of the fairy tales we know and love now either weren’t around during the Regency period, or were very different than the stories we’ve become accustomed to.

I immediately thought of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, but though their first book was published on December 20, 1812, which is well within the Regency period, it didn’t work for the story for several reasons. First, it was published only in German and wasn’t translated to English or published in Great Britain until 1823. Also, the book, titled Children’s and Household Tales, contained stories that were very different from the tales we know and love today. The stories were written for an adult audience to promote German nationalism and were, in some cases, quite brutal. They certainly wouldn’t qualify as an escape for my heroine, even if she had been able read them.

Next, I stumbled upon a lovely site called SurLaLune Fairy Tales, which included a timeline of fairy tales through history. Many of the fairy tales popular today were first written or recorded in France during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. I belatedly remembered one of my own books, a reprinting of some of Charles Perrault’s stories published in his book, Mother Goose Tales, which had first been translated into English in 1729. Prior to Perrault’s book, fairy tales had been written largely as cautionary tales for adults, but Perrault was a widower who recorded the fairy tales he told his own children. Perrault is credited with introducing the Fairy Godmother character to the tale of Cinderella, and his is the version Lady Abigail reads in Say You’ll Love Me.

SurLaLune also introduced me to Madame D’Aulnoy, who wrote four volumes of fairy tales which were translated into English in 1699 and included the story of Princess Mayblossom, which played an important role in Say You’ll Love Me since it mirrored some of the conflict Lady Abigail faced. This is a brief excerpt featuring the story:

She pulled Madame D’Aulnoy’s book of fairy tales from her bookshelf and settled on the bed. Baxter jumped up and lay next to her, placing his head in her lap. She fondled his ears and tried to absorb herself in the story of Princess Mayblossom, but it was no use. She leaned back and closed her eyes. Mayblossom had at first fallen for the wrong man before she found her true prince. Abigail feared she had done the same, but there would be no other prince coming to rescue her from her fate.

Bibliography:

The Publication of Grimm’s Fairytales: http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/publication-grimm%E2%80%99s-fairy-tales

SurLaLune Fairy Tales: http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/

Perrault, Charles. Perrault’s Fairy Tales. New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1969.

Countess of D’Aulnoy. The Fairy Tales of Madame D’Aulnoy. Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, 2003.


Say You'll Love Me
By Ally Broadfield
Out Now

She may be his favorite mystery...

All of Lady Abigail Hurst's dreams seem to be coming true when at long last her childhood sweetheart asks for her hand. But when a maid is found dead, and her betrothed is the chief suspect, Abigail begins to wonder just what manner of man she's marrying...

The Marquess of Longcroft, Edmund Townsend, has always preferred complex mathematical equations to the trappings of society. And love? Love is a non-quantifiable concept. Still, Lady Abigail is his sister's friend, and he finds himself drawn into the mystery of her affianced... even as he begins to anticipate Lady Abigail's company with unfathomable pleasure.

Investigating the murder may reveal more than the sordid truth. It may just reveal the love Abigail always wanted... a little too late.
Buy Links


Ally Broadfield lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with her husband, three kids, four rescue dogs, two cats, a rabbit, and assorted reptiles. She likes to curse in Russian because few people know what she’s saying, and spends most of her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She writes historical romance set in Regency England and Imperial Russia, and middle grade and young adult literature as Ally Mathews. To keep up with her new releases and giveaways, join her newsletter.


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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tara Quan: Guess What My #Cat Discovered in My Purse Last Friday! #ProjectPurseDump


Since my kitty decided to photo bomb my Purse Dump picture, I figured I’d attempt to describe the contents from his point of view.


Now for the boring version. 

Chew Toys:

1. My lunch money pouch, which I bought during a trip to San Francisco many moons ago. It’s made from recycled plastic, and it might just be the hardiest coin purse I’ve ever owned.
2. My credit card holder. The wallet itself I bought from Thailand. It contains my ATM card, learner’s permit (I have yet to learn how to drive), and one lone business card (just incase I bump into Nalini Singh on a roman sidewalk one day).
3. My Italian ID card—it’s a laminated piece of paper, and it’s a smidge too big to fit into my wallet. I usually have it loose in my purse.

Treasure Boxes:

1. Eye glass box. (Warby Parker is awesome for cheap online specs).
2. Mini-clutch. It usually holds everything under “Chew Toys,” along with my phone. As you can tell, my purse is humongous, so I occasionally have to streamline in a hurry. It’s really easy to do when the essentials are already in a single container.
3. Empty lunch box. I always pack a salad and eat it at my desk, perpetuating the stereotype of the “crazy Americana.” Italians take their lunch and coffee breaks very seriously.
4. Mint Box. It once actually held “relatively strong mints,” but it is now a container for Eclipse gum and Altoids.

Teeth Sharpeners:

1. My specs. If I ever leave them lying about, my cat arrives to chew on them without fail.
2. Lip balm. One for the Mini-clutch, and one for my actual purse. I have a weakness for Clinique chubby sticks.
3. Wacom Bamboo tablet. My day job involves managing a website and making graphics for it, so I shlep my graphics tablet to and from work. I also find it a lot more comfortable than a mouse. At home, my cat chases the pen around as I use it and attempts to wrestle it out of my clutches. 

Dangly Toys:

1. Keys. One for the outer gate, one for the building, one for my apartment. 
2. What girl can leave the house without her phone? I listen to podcasts on my walk  
to work, so the earphones are a must. (By the way, can you guess what my favorite color is?)
3. [Not on my cat’s list] Mosquito repellent—I have O+ blood. It makes me a magnet for mosquitoes. Yes, there are mosquitoes in Italy. I didn’t realize how many until I got here.
  
There you have it, the contents of my purse last Friday. If you’re a fan of comics starring cats, check out the book trailers I made for my A Witch’s Night Out series: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ68qla6xrPE8a69mh9iV3g/videos  
(You may recognize the cartoon kitty. I have a tendency to recycle graphics.)

About the Tara Quan
Globetrotter, lover of languages, and romance author, Tara Quan has an addiction for crafting tales with a pinch of spice and a smidgen of kink. Inspired by her travels, Tara enjoys tossing her kick-ass heroines and alpha males into exotic contemporary locales, paranormal worlds, and post-apocalyptic futures. Her characters, armed with magical powers or conventional weapons, are guaranteed a suspenseful and sensual ride, as well as their own happily ever after. Learn more at www.taraquan.com




Friday, October 16, 2015

M.S. Kaye's Born From Death Series: Haunted Blog Tour

Today I am delighted to welcome M.S. Kaye to my blog with the latest stop of her Haunted Blog Tour, a post about the inspiration for her character, Mick Fadden. Enjoy!
***

Ghost stories—what better inspiration for character names can there be? Follow this tour to find the background for the character names of the Born from Death series.

Casper the friendly ghost

Although this book series isn’t exactly “friendly,” how could I resist using Casper as inspiration? Though only with minor characters. 

Ilona meets a little boy in the hospital named Joey Reit, whom she helps, with Lettie’s assistance. A good friend of Archer’s, a sweet, somewhat unstable, homeless man, is named Harvey. Someone from Archer’s past, whom he thought to be a friend, is named Mick Fadden.

The inspiration for the name:

“Everyone’s favorite friendly ghost (Casper McFadden) was created in the late 1930s as a character in a story book, but was soon adapted into animation. Casper was created in the late 1930s by New York City native Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo, the former devising the idea for the character and the latter providing illustrations (Harvey Comics). The New York-accented ghost was desperate to make friends after he got tired of scaring people all the time, much to the annoyance of his pesky uncles, The Ghostly Trio.” (www.toptenz.net)


Awaken from Death
Book 2 of the Born from Death series

The only emotion Ilona can muster is anger for the death of her mother. Barely engaged in life, she focuses all of her energy on finding and punishing her mother’s killer.

Since Ilona can see ghosts, Archer has to find unique ways to hide while watching over her. When Ilona is in danger of being mauled by a dog, he desperately tries something that shouldn’t be possible. And yet he succeeds. This is just the beginning of his discovery of who—what—he truly is.

Lettie continues to interact with Ilona, her one friend, even when a Messenger warns her. Eventually, Lettie remembers the ancient connection Archer and Ilona share, as well as her part in the punishment Archer bore as a result of that connection.


Sneak Peek at Awaken from Death

The blond boy didn’t walk up to a urinal or into one of the stalls, or even up to the mirror. He stood in the middle of the room.

Invisible, Lettie watched curiously.

Something moved backward away from him. Out of him.

She recognized Archer’s shiny black hair and strong frame even before she could see his face.

She gasped. But ghosts can’t inhabit people.

The blond boy shook his head and looked around. “Fuck.”

“I’m sorry,” Archer murmured so the boy wouldn’t hear.

Lettie stared at both of them.

The blond boy turned, leaned his hands on the counter, and looked at himself in the mirror…not the way people usually looked at themselves. It was more like he was trying to see something more than was in the reflection.

Archer watched him, as if waiting for him to see something.

Then Lettie understood. Archer hadn’t merely inhabited the boy—he’d possessed him. But there were only a couple ways that’d be possible—if he were half ghost, or if he…

A memory struck Lettie like a horse galloping across a battlefield. An ancient memory. Lettie had been around since the beginning of time on Earth, but most of those thousands of years she let slink around the crevices of her mind. It was mostly just walking the bridge with the newly deceased. There were a few memories, though, that burned into her every time she let herself pull them forward. And burned was precisely the right word.

She knew—or rather, remembered—why Archer would never leave Ilona.
***
Strong as Death
Book 1 in the Born from Death Series

Ilona runs from her sheltering mother in order to find the truth, why she’s seeing people who are invisible to everyone else. A mysterious boy named Archer guides her through Brooklyn and introduces her to Hendrick, the man who claims to be her father—though he died in 1890. Ilona must discover not only what she must do to rid the city of Soll, a sadistic and powerful spirit, but also what it means to be half ghost. She proves what her mother told her—love is stronger than death.

M.S. Kaye has several published books under her black belt. A transplant from Ohio, she resides with her husband Corey in Jacksonville, Florida, where she tries not to melt in the sun. Find suspense and the unusual at www.BooksByMSK.com.


Follow the Haunted Blog Tour 

10/5/15 - Colleen Laughlin - Estes http://www.csmyersmusings.com/
10/6/15 - JM Maurer - Mary http://www.jmmaurer.com/blog.html?m
10/9/15 - Calisa Selfridge - Marwell Hall http://wp.me/p1tz0T-1nQ
10/14/15 - Rachael Kosinski - Balete http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com
10/16/15 - Jessica Cale - Casper http://www.authorjessicacale.com/?m=1
10/19/15 - James DiBenedetto - Turner Ingersoll http://writingdreams.net/blog/
10/22/15 - Kimbra Kasch - Kate Morgan http://www.kimkasch.blogspot.com/
10/24/15 - Angela Scavone - Dorothy Walpole http://angelascavone.com/
10/27/15 - Helena Fairfax - http://www.helenafairfax.com/
10/30/15 Tina Gayle - non-ghost http://www.tinagayle.blogspot.com/
10/31/15 - Rosanna Leo - Ilona Raynham https://rosannaleoauthor.wordpress.com

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Author Rosanna Leo Braves The Bottomless Pit For #Project Purse Dump


When I heard about #ProjectPurseDump, a part of me rejoiced and laughed out loud. After all, what an original idea for a blog hop! 

The other part of me shivered in horror. After all, this means I'm offering viewers a look inside my purse. Some days, even I don't know what's in there. And I swear, sometimes, in its deep recesses, things move...

I can only attribute it to the fact I have what my sons call a "mother's purse." In other words, a bottomless pit of useless items that you very well might need in a life-or-death situation one day. I can't find my wallet most of the time, but if you randomly pick three items from my purse, you'd be able to MacGyver your way out of many situations.

OK, I suppose I am exaggerating a tad. Every good storyteller does (my story and I’m sticking to it). And I will freely admit I did a little clean up. With an industrial vacuum. You see, every time I look in my purse, I feel a little like Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple. It’s not that I’m messy. I just don’t clean up … right away. However, for the purposes of this post, I removed the “unidentifiables” from the bottom of my bag.

Thanks to Tracey Gee and Jessica Cale for allowing me to be part of this interesting tour. I am only a little scarred, and after you take a closer look at my belongings, you might be as well.

So (deep breath). What do I have in my purse? Well, fair traveler and lover of the weird, let's have a look.


1 - Yogurt (usually two small tubs). I often eat on the run. Bad for you, I know, but mornings are hard and I don't usually sit down for breakfast. Instead, I cart yogurt around with me. It does grow warmish, I concede, but I like it that way. If it's too cold, it hurts my teeth. One of the yogurt tubs did once explode, covering the contents of my purse. It was gross. I did clean that mess, but I smelled blueberries for weeks. 

2 - Spoons (for afore-mentioned yogurt). A girl needs spoons! My problem is I often forget to take them out of my purse at the end of the day. This means, by week end, my purse is a bacteria-riddled cutlery stomping ground. Seriously, I swear they're multiplying. 

3 - Tissues. I blow my nose a lot. I hate drips. However, where most neat and tidy ladies carry those cute little Kleenex pouches, I tend to stuff a bunch in my purse willy-nilly. So, yeah, some of them might be old...and used. I did warn you, didn't I???

4 - A wallet full of reward cards I always forget to redeem. The only one I use religiously is Starbucks. Seriously, don't touch my St. Arbuck's card. I really should throw out the other cards for Payless, Hallmark, Cineplex, Hane's, Ricki's...you get the idea. Someone, cut me off. 

5 - Five lipsticks and a lip balm in the shape of a pink skull. My mother always said, "Never go out without lipstick." I have heeded her words since I was 18. My preferences are reds and pinks.

6 - Paper calendar/writing notebooks/pens. I'm a writer. What can I say? I always have a notebook and writing utensils with me. And my paper day timer is a godsend. I'd be lost without it. Although I am tech savvy (enough), I still like a paper calendar. And I always write my name and number in the front, like a third-grader, in case it gets lost.

7 - A discreet black pouch to carry maxi pads. I’m in my forties. Things are unpredictable. 'Nuff said. 

8 - My glasses case. It may look fancy with the Versace label, but it is covered in blue ink...because I carry pens for scribbling in my notebook. Sigh. I am constantly covered in ink, dairy products and old, wrinkled tissue bits.

9 - My cheap Walmart sunglasses. I never buy expensive sunglasses because the minute I get them home, I accidentally sit on them and break them. Whenever I buy them at Walmart for $10.99, they last forever. I could jump up and down on those suckers and they’ll refuse to break. 

10 - Oh, and a very basic phone (with which I am photographing this mess) so I can stalk my children on Instagram. Seriously, boys. You have no secrets, my friends. I know everything and I see what you "like." And, by the way, you're grounded.

Rosanna Leo is a multi-published, erotic romance author. Several of her books about Greek gods, selkies and shape shifters have been named Top Picks at Night Owl Romance and The Romance Reviews. 

From Toronto, Canada, Rosanna occupies a house in the suburbs with her long-suffering husband, their two hungry sons and a tabby cat named Sweetie. When not writing, she can be found haunting dusty library stacks or planning her next star-crossed love affair. 

A library employee by day, she is honored to be a member of the league of naughty librarians who also happen to write romance. Rosanna blogs at www.rosannaleoauthor.wordpress.com

Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Tsu | Pinterest | Facebook | Twitter

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card with Miss Merton's Last Hope, Sizzling New Regency Romance by Heather Boyd


Miss Merton's Last Hope
by Heather Boyd
Book Three, Miss Mayhem Series
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Genre: Regency Historical Romance
Length: 40,000 words novella
Heat Rating: Sizzling

Over the years, Melanie Merton has used every trick and ruse to repel overeager gentlemen callers without ever revealing the real reason she won’t say yes to an offer of marriage. When neighbor Walter George jumps to her defense against slurs cast by suitor number twelve, he also pries into her past—uncovering the circumstances around a tragic loss in her childhood and her aversion to being touched by anyone. But even protective Walter must be kept at a distance for his own good, because despite a growing attraction between them, Melanie must deny him too.

Unlike other men his age in Brighton, Walter George hadn’t considered Melanie Merton for a wife because he was convinced he’d never have a chance to impress his haughty neighbor. But that was before he understood her better, before he uncovered why she kept friends and suitors alike at bay. The right husband could restore the woman he sees into some semblance of the fun-loving child of his memory, but would Walter stand a chance or become just another unlucky suitor?

Excerpt

Melanie Merton hated her life. She hated the clothes she wore. The house she lived in that was no longer hers to manage. The smiles she had to bestow upon her brother’s friends while overlooking their scowls. Even without the responsibilities she’d always enjoyed, and the hours on her own, she never had a moment’s peace. She just wanted a quiet morning, and that never seemed to happen lately unless she confined herself to her bedchamber.

Today, she was entertaining Mr. Linus Radley until his sister, Julia, her new sister-in-law, came down that morning. The forms of proper behavior that had been drilled into her head since she was a young girl made it impossible for her to say what was really on her mind, even when she wanted to. She was too polite to ask Mr. Radley to go away until a more reasonable hour of the day, and had ordered tea and cake to fill the endless minutes until Julia relieved her of this duty.

“It looks to be a lovely day for a stroll,” Mr. Radley said suddenly. “Might I entice you to venture out with me to look upon the sea? With your maid, of course.”

Melanie sighed with what she hoped sounded like regret and not irritation. She would not go out walking with Linus Radley, with or without a suitable chaperone. She had seen enough of him in the past weeks not to want anything more to do with him than she absolutely had to. He was a bully. “Unfortunately, I am otherwise engaged today.”

“Oh?”

Dear God, the man wants particulars.
***
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About Heather Boyd

Bestselling historical author Heather Boyd believes every character she creates deserves their own happily-ever-after, no matter how much trouble she puts them through. With that goal in mind, she writes sizzling regency romance stories that skirt the boundaries of propriety to keep readers enthralled until the wee hours of the morning. Heather has published over twenty novels and shorter works. Catch her latest news www.heather-boyd.com. She lives north of Sydney, Australia, and does her best to wrangle her testosterone-fuelled family (including cat Morpheus) into submission.


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Monday, October 5, 2015

Recipe: Chai Spice Gingerbread Cookies

Between working and writing, I always feel like I'm really busy, and this week has been more
stressful than most, with family drama unfolding far away and a literal hurricane looming on the horizon. Fall is here, but instead of pumpkin patches and changing leaves, we've had two weeks of solid rain. Baking is something I like to do to have fun and try to relax, so today my best friend, Jen came over, and we baked some things with my husband. 

I say that we baked, but that's not exactly how it went. Mostly we sat around talking and drinking tea...okay, they sat at the bar drinking tea while I baked sausage rolls--a favorite of my husband's that are tricky to get outside of the UK--and cookies. This is not a complaint, I just really like to feed people. So we talked and drank tea and it was just like a cooking a show starring yours truly, except that I was wearing pajamas and my hair is a mess. Nigella, I am not. Still, the sausage rolls came out great and I managed to modify the classic gingerbread cookie recipe to something even better: Chai Spice Gingerbread. 

These cookies were amazing. We had a few with hot apple cider and forgot that it was raining outside. I'm pretty sure this was the most comforting comfort food I've ever had. The calming effects were immediate and dramatic--even though the tea adds a little caffeine to these cookies, we were all ready for naps. Better than NyQuil!

These cookies are just the thing to spice up a dreary autumn afternoon, and would work well as Christmas cookies, too. Adjust the spices to your taste and enjoy! 

You will need:

1 cup all-purpose white flour
2 cups all-purpose whole wheat flour
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 3⁄4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 Chai tea bag (I use Twining's Ultra Spice)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1⁄2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla

Method:

1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and tea. 
2. In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and egg. Add molasses and vanilla and continue to mix until blended.
3. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until well-mixed and smooth. I used a spoon for this and ended up having to do a lot of it with my hands. The mixture is fairly dry and too thick for a hand mixer!
4. Cover dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
5. After dough has been refrigerated for an hour, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Put half the dough on a clean, floured surface and roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin to desired thickness. Thin cookies will be crispier, while thicker cookies will be soft. 
7. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. I used fall leaves and acorns here, but you can use any. I also love making bats. Smoosh together scraps of dough into a ball, add more of the reserved dough, roll out and cut out more shapes, and repeat until all of the dough has been used up. 
8. Decoration: for these here, I used a sharp knife to draw grooves into the unbaked cookies and this turned out really nice. I sprinkled a little golden sugar (you can also use raw sugar, standard granulated sugar, or even just sprinkles) on top before baking. 
8. Bake for about ten minutes. The longer you leave them in there, the crispier they will be. 
9. Remove from oven and try to let them cool a bit before you eat them! Serve with your favorite hot beverage!

For the hot apple cider, I just bought a jug of fresh apple cider from the grocery store and boiled a few mugs' worth in my electric kettle. I put cinnamon sticks into the mugs and poured the cider over them. Yes, it made a mess of the kettle, but kettles can be cleaned, and oh my God, was it worth it. These cookies are gorgeous dipped into hot apple cider. Give it a try! 

I hope the weather is better where you are! Stay warm! 


Sunday, October 4, 2015

#ProjectPurseDump: Contemporary Romance Author Gemma Brocato


Hiya, hiya, hiya! I’m Gemma Brocato and I’m here to reveal the cluttered contents of my purse (or pocketbook as my Nona used to call it). Please don’t take the contents of my purse to be a sign that my mind is equally cluttered. You might however agree that my purse shelf is a bit of a mess. I have more handbags than I use. But honestly, I might need that little yellow bag, or the beautiful red one at some point in the future. I can’t bear to part with them.

Here’s a list of what I dug out from the bottom of my bag (I tossed the used tissues, straw papers, candy wrappers and old receipts before I took the picture).

Purse-Annotated

A - I carry six types of lip stuff. I don’t use five of them. But one item I use frequently from this grouping is the blue tube of Friction Block. My love for this product surpasses even the Magic Eraser. This miracle substance keeps blisters away from my toes when I wear those toe-pinching, heel-rubbing high heels I love. Find this one in the aisle with other bandage products. Trust me - you want this in your bag.

B - My wallet. It may not look it, but that thing is at least 20 years old. It fits well in the smaller purses that I carry but isn’t too small to get lost in my oversized bags.

C - Sunscreen with SPF 30. I am so pasty white that I never chance getting caught in the sunlight without it. I might burn up like Luke Evans in Dracula Untold.

D - My business card holder. True story, the TSA does not like it when this goes through their airport screener. My purse is searched almost every time. For them I leave the used tissues in it. Ooh - I’m not so nice after all.

E - My sunglasses and Sylvia Day pouch from RWA 2014. I fangirled all over that lady in San Antonio. And held my head up after. My eyes are blue-green and glare bothers me, so I go nowhere without my sunglasses (PSA here - save your eyes from macular degeneration - wear sunglasses whenever you are outside).

F - An expired postcard for a discount at Designer Show Warehouse. I keep those bad boys way past their expiration dates. I can’t explain it.

G - Author SWAG. Never leave home without it.

H - Mints. No explanation necessary. But I should say, this brand is now my dad’s favorite.

I - A contact lens case. Don’t know why I carry this because I don’t generally have solution or even my glasses. I guess it just makes me feel more prepared to have it.

J - A traveling pill box because I always carry pain reliever, allergy medication and acid reducer. I do not like to feel icky and this little item has saved my life on many occasions. The lives of many of my friends as well, since they know I’m always packing. Another item the TSA doesn’t approve of.

K - A travel sized, folding hairbrush. I received this in an Estee Lauder Gift With Purchase 20 years ago. What can I say...when I like something, I keep it.

L - A spare USB drive. Hey- my life’s work is backed up on this scrap of plastic.

M -  Car keys with the entry fob for the gym I very rarely attend. Honestly, I typically only go when I need to catch up on my reading. I hop on a treadmill and go to town.

N - A key chain with all the other fobs and loyalty tags I’ve amassed over the years.

O - My pad of dreams. No more notes on napkins, or receipts (remember, I cleared those all out). I’m high class all the way. I also carry lots of pens.

P - Bandaids, for those times when I’m careless and injure myself (or I put my friction block on too late and don’t stop the blisters). Again, my friends know I have these and will always ask if they need it.

Q - Another Estee Gift with purchase. This one is like my own little tool kit. I have super glue, Velcro, dental floss, a nail file, and anti-itch cream.

I know, I know. I carry the mommy bag. In spite of the fact that my children are grown-ups, the contents of my purse ensure I’m still prepared for whatever emergency arises.

Gemma Brocato was born with a book in her hands, and learned to read shortly after. She Able to read in a moving car without getting motion sickness, a fact she’s proud to share. After spending too many years making financial products and advisors sound sexy, she quit her full-time job to focus her efforts on contemporary romance novels. As a hybrid author, she has several indie titles as well as traditionally published work, with plans to add four more titles this year to her growing list of books.

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