Blood Marriage

A friend of mine got to read Blood Marriage by Regina Richards before it was printed, and she said it is so beautifully written it even made her like vampires and she doesn't like vampire books. So as soon as I heard this was out, I immediately went and bought my copy. 

(psshh: it's on sale for 99 cents until January 8th)

I'm excited to have Regina as a guest today.

So Regina, tell us a little about what Blood Marriage is about. 

Set in England in 1813, Blood Marriage is the story of Elizabeth Smith, a young woman who is dying of the same mysterious disease that has claimed most of her family. One night she meets Nicholas Devlin, a charming man who lures her into a rose garden with disastrous results. In short order she finds herself married to Nicholas and at turns frightened and confused by his behavior and the behavior of nearly everyone around him: his family, his friends, and even his houseguests.

When a pair of detectives arrive at Elizabeth’s new home to accuse Nicholas of a series of vampire-style killings, Elizabeth is certain they have the wrong man. Yet as servants, friends, and even family die, she begins to question who - or what - she’s married. Is she falling in love with a monster? As the evidence mounts against Nicholas and the detectives close in on their killer, Elizabeth must decide whether to follow her head or her heart. 

Why vampires?

I never meant to write a vampire story. Truly. But many of my stories begin with an object and this question: what is happening around this object? It was November 1st and the Halloween decorations were still on the front porch. The previous night my son had been laying in a coffin he’d built from a cardboard box. He’d been dressed as a vampire and rising up to scare the Trick or Treaters that came to our door. The next morning the coffin was still there. As I sat down to write, the empty coffin was less than an arm’s length away on the other side of the window. So a cardboard box was the object that inspired Blood Marriage. And if you start with a coffin and Halloween still fresh in your mind…

A few days later I had an amazingly vivid dream about vampires. I won’t go into detail, though I remember the dream clearly still, but it spurred me on to write this story.

Anything else you'd like us to know?

I blog most Mondays at and would love to have everyone drop by and add their two cents to whatever I’m musing about that day. 

Also, I’m currently working on a new series of three connected romantic alternative history novels. What if the plague that decimated Europe in the Middle Ages had come with a twist that produced a very different society? Look for the first of this series in the winter of 2013.

Finally, if there’s sufficient interest in Blood Marriage, I have a second novel in mind along similar lines and would love to write it. So if readers like Blood Marriage and want to see more Regency Gothic Vampire Romance, they can contact me through my website and let me know.

Thanks for inviting me to your absolutely gorgeous blog today, Clover.

Holiday Blog Hop

Thanks to all the participants and those who left a comment. I loved reading them. Anyhoo, I had my child pick a number so lucky #7 commenter Laurie is the winner of my prize Highland Sorcerer. 

Congrats Laurie. I'll be contacting you shortly for mailing details!  And as far as the nook or kindle winner, that should be listed soon as well. Good luck y'all for that! I hope one of you that came over here wins it!!!

It's a Happy Holiday from your favorite Authors and Bloggers. While we know everyone celebrates a different way, we wanted to make sure that you guys knew how much we treasure you all. So from Dec 14th to Dec 17th, all 200 or so of us will be blogging about the holidays and what they mean to us. We may talk about our favorite holiday traditions, recipes, gifts, reads, heroes, and so much more. We want to hear about what you do for the holidays, what you read, and who you'll spend it with. We hope to see you here and happy hopping!

And while we do that, we are EACH doing a giveaway. Yep. There will be over 200 giveaways on each blog hosted by that Author or Blogger.

But that's not all....

We have THREE grand prizes. You as a reader can go to EACH blog and comment with your email address and be entered to win. Yep, you can enter over 200 times!

Now what are those prizes?

1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet
2nd Grand Prize: A $200 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
3rd Grand Prize: A Swag Pack that contains paperbacks, ebooks, 50+ bookmarks, cover flats, magnets, pens, coffee cozies, and more!

So what are the Holidays like for the Autrey Family? Weird actually. We are still finding our way. Having a child with cystic fibrosis meant that more often than not due to cold season, Chase was in the hospital for Christmas. Fortunately the children's hospital tried to make it really nice for families with lots of special events, even Santa visits, going on. Then there were all the do-gooders that pop up around Christmas. We've met several Texas Rangers, and Dallas Cowboys, and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (tiny petite things in real life-could blow them over with one breath), a few celebrities like Garth Brooks. As nice as that is, we'd much rather be at home.

Then we had the year when we nearly made it without a Christmas hospitalization  Chase's lungs were holding their own (okay he had just been in over Thanksgiving so our fingers were crossed), but just our luck, my sister-in-law thought it'd be a great thing to hook a trailer behind a SUV and enjoy a pseudo hayride in which our other son fell out and got run over by the trailer. There was a horrifying Bump as the first tire ran over him, then a second Bump as the rear tire got him.

Christmas Eve. Miraculously he was fine, not even bruised, but had to take him in just to make sure... 6 hours later totally bored in the ER, we got to take him home. Joy. What would a Christmas be like without that? And now one of our favorite Christmas carols (cuz we are all sarcastic butts) is "Samuel got run over by a trailer".

So for years we haven't had a normal Christmas. Two years ago, Chase passed away a couple of months before Christmas. No hospital stay, but being at home sucked too, so we hit the road and went down to Galveston. Yes, Galveston in winter. Cold windy beaches, flopping jellyfish, but great food. We wandered around not really knowing what to say to each other and missing the one we lost terribly and opened presents in a motel room beneath a little tree because we couldn't bear to be at home.

Last year? A hotel again, this time closer to home. 15 minutes away actually, which was kind of lame.But we saw a few movies, went out to eat, and went ice skating together  so it was fun and different, but home pulled us back a day earlier than we planned.

This year it's time to stay home. I still won't hang any stockings. The youngest is insisting on getting our tree out so that's inevitable though we're waiting for our daughter to fly in from college and she and T can decorate together, though I'm not sure where to put the tree since part of my present to my husband this year is letting him keep his music set-up in our living room for all of December. It is wall-to-wall speakers, guitars, cords, amps, drums, and electric piano. Don't ask. I can't fathom why he needs the huge speakers in a little 10x16 room either. He just does.

I get two reactions from people coming to our door. One of amused indulgence from the women and salivation from the guys.

So there you have it, the not-so-Holidayish-yet-true story of Autrey Christmas Pasts. I have no idea what this one will end up being like. Shrugs.

Run along and comment on all these blogs. I hope you win a Kindle. My personal giveaway will be a signed copy of Highland Sorcerer, so be sure to comment and while you're at it, let me what your most unusual Holiday was like.

The main list for all the Author Blogs is here. or they are all below...

Making of a Book Cover: Banshee's Cry

Original model for Jake

So here are the two models for the half-human, half-Anointed Gillant brothers Cael and Jake. As you can see the lighting is way different. Cael needed some darkening up some.
Darkened photograph of Cael modelCover model for Cael

Superimposed the pictures together, but had to put a wall for Cael to lean on so he wouldn't be floating in mid-air. Then I grittied them up in keeping within the dark edginess of their world. 
Below, I was playing with turning them into illustrations, but decided not to go with that look.   

So this is the final cover. I'm quite proud of it.
book cover for Banshee's Cry final

 Kindle version                                                  Nook version 

Making of a Book Cover: A Haunting

For the third book in The Anointed series, A Haunting,  I wanted to keep both brothers on the cover again. This one was a little harder to get just right. I loved the picture of Jake standing by the window, but I couldn't find any full bodied pictures of Cael to go with him so I had to not only cut and paste him in, but use one guy's body, and Cael's head. Here's the three original stock photos I had to work with:

Had to mirror image this guy's body to fit in the picture and darkened him up a little. He'll be darkened a little bit more after the fact.

Then desaturated Cael's head because he is so light  And then layer up the three different pictures. Head to body, Cael to Jake's photo... Cael still is too light for the whole though, but that will be taken care of.

Next put the gritty texture onto it and then darkened Cael up more.

So after all that I decided Cael's head was too big, so started over and resized to a smaller head size. Geez.

Kindle version                      Nook version

Making of a Book Cover The Anointed

The more I learn how to Photoshop, the more I want to play around with my covers. It's terribly addictive. This week I updated all three of the covers to my Anointed series, taking them from a horror look to more of a gritty texture with the monster hunting half-human teen brothers.

Here's for the first book in the series The Anointed.
The original photo. This model just has that hard-edged take no prisoners look that big brother Jake embodies. But I wanted the covers to have both brothers so I went scouting around for a stock photo to both fit Cael's more innocent outlook, but also fit the picture. Fortunately the cover model I already liked for Cael also happened to have a photo of him sitting on steps. Perfect!

He needed some darkening up to match the dark tone and saturation of the first picture, and I had to shrink him just right to get his butt planted perfectly on the steps behind Jake.

 A little cropping here, a little cropping there.

Now to go all grainy and texturing. These guys fight demons and operate in a pretty dark gritty world so I wanted the cover to reflect that.

Add the Title and Author (moi) and it's good to go.

                                                   Kindle version                Nook version

My One True Love turns Fifty

My wonderful sweet husband is the big five-oh today. Neither of us is sure how that happened. We just started climbing the hill, and oh, hey, we're over the top and sliding down.

I'm just hoping this side of the slope is a lot smoother than the climb. Besides, we can always roll.

The first time I saw him twenty-five years ago, I was attracted at first sight. I came to Texas to visit a roommate from college and while we were doing the tourist things like Billy Bob's and the downtown cowtown strip, Peggy dragged us to this dive of a bar The Wedgewood Lounge because her friend from church (Pat) kept inviting her to come see his band play and she didn't want to go alone.

I could see why. There were more people in the band than there were occupants in the bar, one of which was slouched and sleeping over the bar.

But that was it for me.  Good thing he was wearing jeans instead of his black spandex he claimed he sometimes rocked out in cuz that would have been a deal killer. *Shudders* What may never have been over black spandex. Oh, did those happen to get lost in the laundry?  Sorry dear.

But spandex aside, I married an intelligent, confident, funny, sweet, forgiving, generous guy.

I love you sweetheart. Happy Birthday, Pat!!!

WIP Blog Hopping

I was tagged by my good friend and fellow chapter mate from North Texas Romance Writers of America chapter, Jerrie Alexander. She’s funny and generous and a wonderful writer. I’ve been anxiously waiting for the arrival of her first book The Green Eyed Doll.

What is your working title of your book?  Reaped

Where did the idea come from for the book?  I was reading Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation and the thought of what it would be like to randomly be plunked into the middle of another world’s war in another person’s body must be like. I know, that premise has nothing to do anything about WWII, but that’s how my bizarre brain works.

What genre does your book fall under? Young Adult Fantasy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I would want actors that aren’t well-known because when I write I don’t imagine any real person’s face so I wouldn’t want my character forever slapped with a really famous actor’s persona like that.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? She died on that lonely country road when their truck flipped, but woke up in a sterile facility with scientists calling her a different name, and in some other girl’s body.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? After six years of being with a traditional publisher, I have fallen in love with everything about self-publishing. Guess I like the freedom and control of it all.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? This book idea so far has been the one-that’s-gotten-away. I had the idea for it at least ten years ago and have written the first chapter many times and then tossed it. It’s gone through several transformations, from a an old man plunked into a young man’s body in a battle similar to WWII, and now it’s completely different about a teenage girl whose soul is scientifically “reaped” and placed into a test-tube grown body. Trouble is, she wasn’t supposed to retain her memories, but does.

This is one of the reasons why I decided to do National Novel Writing Month to push myself into actually writing this thing and finally get it out of my head and onto paper where it belongs. So, long answer to your question: In a month, I hope to have the first draft completed in a month.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I’d have to say James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series due to the mad scientist experimenting on kids aspect.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
Just the whole identity factor. How much of who we are comes down to who we are physically verses who we are inside. Then take those both away, bodies and memories, and who are we then? Would we have the same values or even personalities deep down or does that all filter away?

I have tagged Gina Lee NelsonLee Thompson, and Jesse Kimmel-Freeman  to learn more about what they are working on. So go on over and see what they're writing. 

Making of a Cover: Death & Kisses

This was a fun cover to play around with. Much more difficult than usual. This is my first published Young Adult book so just finding the picture took a long time. Since the story is about a girl who no longer fits in with her crowd at high school and also has some dark elements dealing with death and ghosts and revenge, I thought this first picture fit the bill, with this bright flower floating in dark water.

Then I group emailed my siblings. Oh man, I opened a can of opinions. More than 100 emails between us all later, and after one sister pointed out that with the title and the flower, it looked more like a "self-help book to aid people in saying their final goodbyes to loved ones"--Yikes--I scrapped this cover design completely.

The title itself brought even more controversy, but I figured that was good since I wanted something edgy that would make potential readers do a double-take. It has been titled Outcast for about 3 years while it found a literary agent and she tried to place it, that it was hard to let go of that title. If there weren't already so many books and albums with that title I would have gladly kept it. Death and Kisses though. Controversial. I'm pleased. We'll see how it goes.

Back to finding just the right cover picture. It took a while, but this picture finally felt perfect.
I love the dress, I love how we can't see the girl's face. I love the rose. However, since a haunted pond plays a big part in the story, I wanted water. This is where Smart Photo Editor comes in to change up the background.

We added water to the bottom of the background, but the lighting didn't mesh in the two color versions of both background pictures so we made the background black & white and kept the girl in color and the lighting blended perfectly. It also gave the book a surreal quality, which totally fits the vibe of the story. In keeping with the ghost and death theme, we also painted the rose black.

I wanted the bottom of her dress to be darker so it looks like water is seeping into it so we played around with that on Photoshop.

Next step is playing around with the fonts and colors and word placement. I could do that for hours. Then a coworker of my husband's had a brilliant idea to make the flower's stem pop out from behind the letter "S". Honestly, that is my favorite feature and so easy to do once my husband (the Photoshop, Sagelight, Smart Photo Editor genius--yes, he uses all those programs and more for different effects on one cover) showed me how.

At this point I thought it was done. I loved it as is, but no. You know how creative people can't stop dinking  around? A writer will always find something to edit in her book, even after it's published. Well, my artist husband is the same way, so he threw these at me:

Dang it. Now I love both this first one and the black and white background. I honestly could not decide so I took it to Facebook and had my friends choose between them. I paid close attention to my younger fb friends since this book is really for them, and nearly 90% choose the black and white background. I was surprised, thinking for sure teens would choose the color. Just goes to show you, you can't second-guess kids.

The next challenge was to make a version with a spine and back flap for the paperback version. Usually I pick pictures that have a width to already accommodate the extra for the back, like this, but this picture didn't have any, so we either had to find a picture to go with it or simply go with a black back. I found a forest that kind of goes with the original forest so we used that after darkening the trees a bit and converting it into black and white. I also had to redo the title words to make them fit, which meant redoing the flower between the two "S's" this time, but like I said before, that was easy and kind of fun to do, so no biggie.

                        For your Kindle            For your Nook          Coming Thanksgiving in Paperback

If you have any questions I can help you with for your own covers, just ask me, well, okay, I'll probably have to ask my husband, but he loves talking ask.

New Release: Highland Shapeshifter

For the Kindle       For the Nook        Paperback 

Flung into the 21st Century, Highland shapeshifter Col Limont needs to find the healer Charity Greves in order to get back home and save his family.

However, the healer’s sister, Lenore, is determined to do everything she can to keep Col from dragging her sister back to 13th Century Scotland into his family’s supernatural war. But when monsters and a strange yuppie trio also try to stop him, Lenore has to reconsider her options.

But by helping Col, she’ll lose her sister.


Resolved, she edged forward and dragged the heavy tarp off the creature underneath.
And stared.
It was just a man.
He sat against the sewage pipe, arms pulled behind him, either tied or handcuffed. His head hung forward, dark hair obscuring his face. His jeans were ripped and loose, as was his dirty T-shirt, splattered with blood and mud. Cuts and abrasions speckled his arms and she’d guess there were more under his shirt and on his face. Anger at his harsh mistreatment rose up in her.
“You’re into trafficking humans now?”
“Ha!” Starch flung his large hands up. “Hardly human. Shapeshifter. And a powerful one at that. Took three ghouls and a troll to subdue him and that was after they tranqed him.”
“Is he still drugged?” She crouched down beside the guy, squeezing her hands into fists to hide the anger. This wasn’t right. “What’d you give him?”
She touched his arm and he flinched. Her heart went out to him. He looked young and innocent. A year or so younger than her, maybe eighteen or nineteen. Too young to be caught up in whatever mess this was. Her instinct was to soothe, but she couldn’t show any softness here. Grabbing his chin, she lifted his head.
And the world narrowed down to a pair of mossy green eyes.
Energy shot into her, buzzing strangely across her skin in a lightning rapid pulse. An instant familiarity burned through her, as if she knew him, though she was certain she’d never seen him before, but there was something. Staring into his battered face, a connection rippled between them, tangent and swift and then was gone as quickly as it came.
Stranger still, she wanted that connection back. 

National Novel Writing Month

I did it. I went and signed up for NaNoWriMo and now I'm having buyer's remorse.
What the heck am I thinking?
I've never signed up for this before even though I've known about it for years, but I know me, I'll never write 50k in a month. 
I don't have the time to devote to this.
Are they insane? Am I insane?
Well, yes, the obvious answer is yes.

Well, whatever, I'm committed now.

Besides, I've had a story in my head for years that I can't ever get out. I've rewritten the first chapter in so many variations and then tossed it, it's ridiculous.
This is it's final chance.

Write it or Kill it. 

I should probably sound more enthusiastic, right?

Cover Reveal in the making

I love seeing the transformation a cover goes through. And I'm so pleased with how this latest one turned out for Highland Shapeshifter.

Here's the original stock photo: What caught my eye was not only the movement of the shot, but the worried expression on the model's face. So far I've loved all the girls on the Highland covers for their melancholy looks. On each of them, I'm drawn in, wondering what they could be thinking about.

Yeah, yeah, in reality, they are probably hoping the photographer will hurry up and take the shot, but...

Then it got tweaked a bit. Even though it will be cropped for the ebook cover, a version this size will be untouched for when we start working on the paperback size. It will be a little tricky since she is smack in the middle so the back cover area will have to be expanded, but that's for later.

This one below has been tweaked a bit, removing her reflection behind her. Later on the weird shadow on her leg will be removed and the brightness in the top left corner will be toned way down.

Next, it gets cropped. That was a little harder to decide which way to go because there is so much movement. The general photography rule (as my Sweetheart photographer husband is apt to point out) is for the subject's face to always look inward on the largest "rule of thirds" space. However, I liked the movement of her hair and hand lifting outward. It just felt more active, like she was on the run (which she is throughout most of the book) so I broke the rule and had it cropped so her face is closer to the edge, like she's looking off the page.

Below, notice the shadow from her dress on her leg is gone. She also has some weird nipplish going on with how she's leaning down, and since I write on the Sweeter side, I don't really want that, but some strategic letter placement with the title should take care of that. The things you have to look out for, right?

Here's the final copy. The light at the top corner is toned down a bit to give more focus on the letters. I really wanted a green on green, but the background was so busy, it was just hard to read and not showing up, so I went with kind of a white and green combination, which fits with the title lettering of the first book in the series with lighter and darker shades so it keeps a good continuity between books. I love how it turned out and can't wait for this book to come out this month. So what do you think of it?

RIP Rudy Mata

On Tuesday while I was feeling sad about my deceased son's birthday, a dear friend of mine was racing across town to save his daughter from her abusive husband. Said abuser shot Rudy four times, killing him.

It's hard to believe. Things like this don't happen to people like Rudy, not to Rudy.

I met his wife, Sandy, close to 25 years ago when I first moved to Texas, a few months before Pat and I married. We worked together and she became my first real friend out here.

Our families got together every so often and Pat and Rudy, both into music, got along great as well. Rudy had a voice like velvet. He was funny and sweet and you could see how much Sandy was in love with him by how they teased and interacted and how she sparkled when talking about him. I knew how much she cared for him before I ever met him.

He was always a protector. I remember having a conversation about how one of the things he had looked for in a house was that the children's bedrooms were in the back of the house, rather than the front just for added security for his kids against the world.

It doesn't surprise me that one call from his daughter would carry him to her rescue. That's who he was. He lived as a protector. He died as a protector.

I haven't seen Sandy and Rudy for years as our lives had gotten busier. I talked to Sandy right after Chase died. Well, DMed. We even made tentative plans to get together for lunch or something, but when it came time to make those plans, I didn't. I wasn't in a frame of mind to get together with anybody, knowing how frail my hold on emotions were then and I didn't want to reacquaint with an old friend while bawling my eyes out.

Now she's in the same boat and my heart is devastated for her.

The funeral is today. 

Seventeen Today

Happy Birthday my Beautiful Snarky Funny Son. Miss you so much. I was just telling your brothers yesterday about your funny sense of humor even as a kid. 

When you were very young I was trying to teach you the difference between behaving like a big boy verses a little boy. I'd emphasize, "Chase, you're a big boy now" over and over.

One day you stretched my nerves, I can't remember what you had done, but I lost it and said, "Chase, you are such a little shit." To which you replied in all seriousness, "No, I'm a big shit." 

Man, did that release my anger. I couldn't stop laughing. That was you always coming up with things like that. I told K and T that yesterday and they laughed and laughed too. I think they are dealing a little bit better now. Miss your funny self, baby, but am so happy you aren't hurting anymore.

Chase Joseph Autrey 
Sept 25, 1995 - Sept 1, 2010

Reading Clean

Announcing the Reading Clean Giveaway Hop
September 6th - 12th

Featuring Clean Reads!  Books free from sex, language and gratuitous violence.
Book you can share with anyone without hesitation be it your mother, daughter or bishop's wife. 

I'm giving away my paperback copy of at face value by Emily Franklin, a cute modernized retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. (My review of it here).  I just ask that you "follow this blog" cuz I'm collecting followers like gumdrops (yeah, yeah, I know it's totally just an ego numbers thing, but, hey... I'm not above that) oh, and leave a comment telling me you followed. That's it. 

Thanks so much everyone who participated and became an official Gumdrop!
And the winner is: (cue drum roll)
Jennifer Hoyt

Camp El Tesoro De la Vida Grief Camp

We have arrived just outside of Granbury, Texas to drop Tater off at Camp El Tesoro (Treasure of Life).

He attended last year (in the record 112 degree heat) and has been looking forward to it since then.

This is his second year. So many kids wants to go so they limit the amount of times a child can attend to 3.  

Getting his suitcase out for the week. Sheets, pillow, and battery operated fan are stuffed inside there as well as clothes.

No stationery and stamps because from last year we learned T just doesn't write back!!

No food either since ants got all over his bed from the gummy worms I sent with him last year.

Besides, kitchen raids are more fun.

The baggage cart for Redwood cabin.

This year Tot is in Middle camp, roaming where the big guys roam.

He will be doing Archery and Horseback Riding and swimming every day, as well as different activities on the rope courses, the Cowboy Church's rodeo, and seeing the Magician float a table off the ground.

And the end of camp dance, of course.

 We have to cross that dang swinging bridge. T loved it. Of course he's the guy that makes it swing harder. Stay in the middle, keep your head up and just go....  Yeah, that advice doesn't work.

Lice Check. T passes.

Favorite new word from last year:

Confidentiality: What is said in counseling sessions, stays in the cabin.

His group, AKA, the frogs.

Last year he was a Fish in lower camp.
Time for parents to leave. See you next week, T. 
Now to make it back across that bridge...