Friday, 30 November 2012

Interview with Natale Stenzel + Giveaway

Today I bring you Natale Stenzel, who stops by to tell you about her latest contemporary romance novel Wedding Dress for Sale, which besides a dreamy hero and a runaway bride features memorable secondary characters and plenty of wedding gown tulle! ;-) Please give Natale a warm welcome and you could even win a copy of Wedding Dress for Sale!

Stella: Hi Natale, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Natale: Hi, Stella, and thanks for having me. As for introducing myself…I’m a wife, mom, dog lover, St. Louis native, contented Virginia resident, reader, writer, and lover of trivia and research (i.e., not-so-closet geek).

Stella: Your latest novel Wedding Dress for Sale was released just recently by Entangled Publishing in their Bliss line, congratulations! Can you tell readers what they can expect of it?

Natale: Thanks! I’m hoping they can expect some smiles, laughs, and the occasional warm fuzzy. I write to entertain the reader; I hope I succeed.

Stella: Do you still remember what inspired the story, was there a specific moment/event/film/song that sparked the idea or how did it all start?

Natale: I can’t remember what led me to the website, but I was searching for something online and, one tangent leading to another, ended up on a bridal website, where people were talking about buying wedding gowns. Not so exciting, right? Actually, I was fascinated, not so much by what was said but by the details that went unsaid--the questions that left me guessing. An example: One woman admitted that she’d purchased two wedding dresses because she couldn’t make herself choose one or the other. Even better? She wasn’t even engaged or in a relationship when she bought the dresses. I skimmed further, and people were discussing various thrifty options, including consignment shops, where you could buy used dresses, meaning they were usually worn only once--or maybe not at all. You can’t help but wonder about the stories behind the dresses, right? And, suddenly, I had a story idea (or twelve). It was hard to start with just one.

Stella: The premise of Wedding Dress for Sale sounds like the perfect romantic comedy film, who would play the characters if you could have your dream cast?

Natale: For Jack, I picture a cross between young Chris Noth, (Big on Sex and the City), and Robert Downey, Jr. For Sydney, I picture a cross between Keira Knightley and Courtney Cox.

Chris Noth as Jack
Stella: And now let’s have Couple’s Therapy: Sydney, Jack, if you had to introduce each other, what 3 words would you use to describe the other?

Sydney of Jack: persistent, overwhelming, disarming

Jack of Sydney: vulnerable, formidable, captivating

Stella: What is the quality that you like the most in the other and the one that drives you up the wall?

Sydney of Jack: Can they be the same? His persistence, absolutely. I mean, seriously, who can resist a guy who won’t give up on her? At the same time...come on! He followed me halfway across the state, moved his life and his business interests over here and...that sounds stalkerish, doesn’t it? And it would be creepy if I didn’t want him here even though I really shouldn’t. Plus, he’s so careful. The anti-stalker T-shirt...it was such a doofus idea and yet, well, sweet. He’s worried about me after everything that happened. That comes through loud and clear.

Jack of Sydney: See that right there? All of the above is my answer to your question: She’s always confusing me--contradicts herself all over the place--but she’s ruthlessly, adorably honest about it. She fights like a tiger for the underdog, but she makes no excuses for herself. She admits she’s confusing even herself, and then she looks at me like-- Yeah, like that, actually. What’s a guy to do? Stalk, right? Hey, stop that. I’m wearing the shirt. Did I ask you out? Did I? No. I did not. I said I wouldn’t, so I didn’t. I’m being good. Would you like some coffee?

Keira Knightley as Sydney
Stella: When was that specific moment you realized “wow, I just love that person!”?

Sydney of Jack: That’s tricky.

[Jack: It always is.]

Sydney: Well, it is, and you know it. My heart fell in love with you a long time ago. It just took a while for my stubborn, potentially...leery...brain to acknowledge it.

Jack: And then fall for me, too.

Sydney: Yeah--and how. So your turn for the tough question. When did you first realize you fell in love with me?

Jack of Sydney: That’s not tough at all. You said hello. I guess that’s all it took. Does that make me easy?

Robert Downey Jr. as Jack
Stella: Jack, was there a moment when you thought about giving up on pursuing Sydney?

Jack: Well...yes and no.

[Sydney: What?! You did not.]

Jack: Sure, I considered it. Not because I wanted to. I had to. I was afraid I might make things worse for you if I wasn’t careful. You had every reason to want some space after the stalking and threats in St. Louis (you see why stalking’s a big subject for us, right?). At the same time, why in the world would I leave you alone now? Sure, the guy’s in jail, but he made threats against you. I admit I was grateful for the excuse to stay close, though.

Stella: Natale, Wedding Dress for Sale is full of funny and quirky secondary characters who despite being part of the supporting cast still get their fair share of “screen time”, did you have a favourite one, or one that you particularly enjoyed writing about?

Natale: I have to pick just one? I had fun with my secondary characters in this book. Ginnie, the wedding dress boutique owner with just a touch too much intuition, added a magical sparkle to the story for me. I also loved the shamelessness and quirky sentiment of the Hoffmeiers, married for seventy years and only now seeking out a divorce they don’t really want (although they have a lot of fun pursuing the idea and each other).
 
Courtney Cox as Sydney
Stella: Can you tell us any behind the scenes secret related to Wedding Dress for Sale? (either to the writing process, or some tidbit about the characters, a scene that didn’t end up in the final version, etc.)

Natale: I knew Sydney immediately. She was just there for me, in the way characters sometimes form. Her hero, however, was more of a mystery, so I recast him a few times until Jack presented himself in full color. In one of the early drafts, though, the hero was Liam. A careful reader might be able to tell I have a lingering soft spot for the character.

Stella: Can you summarize Wedding Dress for Sale for us Twitter-style (140 characters or less)?

Natale: I’m going to cheat on this one, but it’s for a good reason. I love the tagline on this book; my editor and I worked on it together and it suits the story so well. Here it is:

The bride’s chasing her fairy tale. And he’s chasing the bride…

Stella: You have published several romances previously, both contemporary and paranormal romances, which subgenre do you prefer? Or which one comes most naturally to you?

Natale: I really couldn’t have one without the other for long, either as a writer or a reader. I like each of them best at different times for different reasons. I like contemporaries because I find them so relatable; these stories could be about you or me or a friend or a sister. It’s easy to sink into that. Meanwhile, the paranormals offer total escapism, from the world as we know it, from the rules, the science, the norms, all of it. It’s a totally different appeal.

Stella: I've seen on Goodreads that Wedding Dress for Sale is marked as Book #1 in the Second-Story Brides series, how many books are you planning and will they all be set in the same small town? Will the point of connection be the bridal shop or something else?

Natale: I don’t like to step too far ahead, so let’s just say book two is coming in early 2013. Yes, it’s in the same town, and we get to revisit some of the characters and places, including the bridal shop, which will definitely come into play again. Drusilla, Sydney’s best friend, is originally from Smizer Mill, the town where the books are set, but she has a past she’s trying to put behind her. She’s totally remade herself into a woman she likes, and returning to any part of that past--much less the town where everything in her life went wrong--is the last thing she wants to do. So, naturally, returning is exactly what she must do. There are secrets, old and new, and of course, her first love, who’s even more appealing as a grown man than he was as a teenager.

Stella: Can you share with us some little secret trivia, something that not many people know about you?

Natale: In another dimension, I’m a world-class spy. You know, Mata Hari style. Aw, man. I’m outed now...

And now I’m going to turn the tables and ask a question of my own. If you could totally remake yourself into anyone or anything--an actual person or a career or position or personality type--what or who would you be?


Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Natale endured an average childhood with two brothers to annoy and parents to baffle. She planted her nose in a book very early in life and has yet to come up for air. The writing addiction began early as well. Natale was active on her school newspapers and literary magazines, then later she attended the University of Missouri-Columbia, earning bachelor’s degrees in English literature and magazine journalism.

She moved to Louisiana, did some technical writing and editing, married, reproduced a couple of times – and then had a real epiphany: Wouldn't it be fun to make up the stories instead of just reporting them?

She sold her first book in July 2002; it was later called FORGET PRINCE CHARMING, published by Harlequin for its Flipside line in November 2003. She published three other romantic comedies for the same line. Her fifth book, PANDORA’S BOX, was the first in a series of funny paranormal romances now distributed by Amazon's Montlake publishing arm. Books two and three of the series are titled THE DRUID MADE ME DO IT and BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HEART PLACE. Scheduled for release in the fall of 2012 are two romantic comedies she's contracted to write for Entangled Publishing.

Currently, Natale resides in lovely central Virginia with her husband, two children and a pair of misbehaving hound dogs.

Connect with Natale at her website - Facebook - Goodreads


Book #1 in the Second-Story Brides series

Not even the bride could deny a certain punch-line quality to her current situation: hard-nosed divorce attorney dumps her fiancé and her career to take a job selling wedding gowns.

Sydney Garfield has always approached relationships rationally—none of this emotional head-over-heels or opposites-attract business. Marrying Jack Kaiser is the smart thing to do—after all, he’ll be the “perfect” husband. But after a life-changing shake-up at work, Sydney abandons logic—and her fiancé—to chase the fairy tale.

Real-estate mogul Jack can’t believe the woman he’s head-over-heels for is ditching her hard-won success—and him—to work as a small-town shop clerk. That’s her idea of a fairy tale? Hoping she's merely in need of time, Jack follows Sydney to Smizer Mill, where he invests in the quaint coffee shop next door. Now, he’s got a few new challenges: make a failing coffee shop a success and convince Sydney that theirs is a romance worthy of a true happily ever after.

Buy at Amazon - B&N

GIVEAWAY RULES:

Entangled Publishing has generously offered an ebook copy of Wedding Dress for Sale to a lucky commenter!


To be entered just answer Natale's question: If you could totally remake yourself into anyone or anything--an actual person or a career or position or personality type--what or who would you be?

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 12 December 2012!

Good luck!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Guest post by Laura Kaye + Giveaway

It is my great pleasure to welcome back today to Ex Libris the wonderful Laura Kaye who is celebrating the release of One Night with a Hero, the sequel to the very popular Her Forbidden Hero (which I loved as you can see in my review), so I couldn't be happier knowing there will be more stories in the series! :-D So please give the warmest welcome to Laura and read on to see why she loves reading and writing series (and you could also win some terrific prizes)!



Why I Love Reading and Writing Series
by Laura Kaye

I’m so glad to be back at Ex Libris today to celebrate the release of my new contemporary romance, One Night with a Hero (Heroes #2). It’s been such an exciting month since the book released, and I’m really thrilled to be able to share it with you. Recently, I decided to turn what was originally just going to be two connected books into a series of at least four. Today, I thought I’d talk about why I like connected stories and series so much.

Many of the reasons I enjoy series are the same whether I look at it from the perspective of being a reader or a writer. The number one reason I enjoy them is getting to spend more time with characters I love. If a book has done its job, it leaves you wanting more, more, more, and that’s precisely one thing series can deliver. In the Hero series, the main couple from the previous book will always appear in the following book. In One Night with a Hero  for example, Marco Vieri and Alyssa Scott, the lead couple from the series’s first book, Her Forbidden Hero  appear in at least six major scenes. So if you fell in love with them in book one, you get to spend more time with them in book two.

A second reason I love connected books is because you get to see what happens to the characters after the end of their story. It’s not just that you want more, but you want to know what their happily ever after actually looks like. And that not only gives you more closure on the first story, but enriches the follow-on story with interesting subplots you care about.One Night with a Hero answers the questions of whether book one’s Marco and Alyssa stay in Frederick or move to D.C., whether Alyssa takes the new job she’s offered, and whether and when they actually get married. One Night with a Hero leaves some questions unanswered, too: Will Brady leave the Army Special Forces? How will Joss and Nicky fair during his final year of deployment? What will he do after the Army if he does leave? So Book 3 will definitely flesh out Brady and Joss’s happily ever after.

A final reason I really enjoy series is because, with each new book, you get to go deeper and deeper into the world of the story. Think of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, for example (when I am NOT thinking of that series??? But I digress…). With each book in that series, the backstory, the mythology, the conflict, and the culture of the Brothers’ world is deepened. But the same can be true in contemporary romance, too. In the Hero series, each book will explore a new facet of a soldier’s/veteran’s experience. Each book will go deeper into the aftermath of war and military service for both those who serve and those who love them. So series give you more of the world you love, too.

So now I want to know, why do you enjoy connected stories and series? 

Comment to enter the giveaway for the two prizes (an ebook copy of One Night with a Hero and a signed 11x17” One Night with a Hero poster plus assorted swag) see the rules below. Open to international! Good luck!

Thanks for reading!

Laura Kaye



Voted Breakout Author of the Year in the 2011 GraveTells Readers’ Choice Awards, Laura is the bestselling and award-winning author of a half-dozen books. Hearts in Darkness is a finalist for the EPIC eBook Award for Best Novella, Forever Freed won the NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best Paranormal of 2011, and North of Need, the first book in the Hearts of the Anemoi series, was named GraveTells’ Best Book of 2011 and won their 5-STAR Gold Heart Award, and won Sizzling Hot Read of the Year at Sizzling Hot Books. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

One Night with a Hero by Laura Kaye

Book #2 in the Hero series

He wants just one night…

After growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father, Army Special Forces Sgt. Brady Scott vowed never to marry or have kids. Sent stateside to get his head on straight—and his anger in check—Brady’s looking for a distraction. He finds it in his beautiful new neighbor’s one-night-only offer for hot sex, but her ability to make him forget is addictive. Suddenly, Brady’s not so sure he can stay away.

…what they need is each other.

Orphaned as a child, community center director Joss Daniels swore she’d never put herself in a position to be left behind again, but she can’t deny herself one sizzling night with the sexy soldier who makes her laugh and kisses her senseless. When Joss discovers she’s pregnant, Brady’s rejection leaves her feeling abandoned. Now, they must overcome their fears before they lose the love and security they’ve found in each other, but can they let go of the past to create a future together?



GIVEAWAY RULES:

All commenters are entered into the drawing for two great prizes: one lucky commenter will win an ebook copy of One Night with a Hero and a second commenter will win a signed 11x17” One Night with a Hero poster plus assorted swag!


Giveway is open worldwide and ends on 12 December 2012!

Good luck!

Guest post by S.J. Pierce + Giveaway

Today's guest is indie author S.J. Pierce who stops by to tell you about Marked for Vengeance, the first book in her Alyx Rayer Chronicles series, and to show you that if Marked for Vengeance was to be made into a movie which actors she would cast to play the lead characters. Please give her a warm welcome and you could even win a copy of Marked for Vengeance!


Perfect Casting for “Marked for Vengeance
by S.J. Pierce

It’s funny that the idea of selecting a “perfect cast” for my guest post today appealed to me so much, only because when I write, I don’t draw my inspiration from one certain person -- famous or not -- that I’ve seen or known. My characters’ physical attributes are something that’s conjured completely in the deepest corners of my mind. But perhaps I ultimately decided upon this topic because I’m also a huge movie buff. What writer WOULDN’T want their book to play out on the big screen? And so, without further ado… meet my dream cast below.


Julia Voth as Alyx
Alyx:

When searching for each “cast member”, I looked for actors who embodied the descriptives that I used for each character throughout the book. For Alyx, she has porcelain skin, raven hair, and full lips. So when I came across a photo of Julia Voth, I thought, “Wow… now SHE would be a spectacular Alyx!” Except, she would need to wear brown contacts, but that’s easily fixable.

I also like how she emits a sense of purity, but you also feel that something else might lurk inside, something that tells you there is more to this girl that what you see. She’s mysterious. Enigmatic. That’s the essence of Alyx.


Tom Welling as Isaac
Isaac:

What can I say? Tom Welling has been a not-so-secret crush of mine for years. As soon as he came onto the scene with “Smallville”, he captivated me. And while I didn’t picture him when writing Isaac, it seems plausible that my imagination conjured a similar forbidden-love interest for Alyx. His hair in this picture fits Issac’s to the “T”, he’s in his thirties but looks to be in his twenties, he has light eyes and soft facial features. He embodies everything Isaac. Just slap an Irish accent on him and cover his left arm in tattoos, and he’d be perfect for the role!


Chandler Riggs as Micah
Micah:

Isaac’s thirteen-year-old son. I describe him in the book as a shorter clone of Isaac, so you could just refer to the picture above and shave off about twenty years physically and mentally. Or maybe this photo of Chandler Riggs from “The Walking Dead” will do.



Aly Michalka as Cindra
Cindra:

Cindra, oh, Cindra… how much fun you were to write! We’ve all had that quirky friend that you wouldn’t trade for the world, and I wouldn’t trade this character for a million others. She’s clumsy, funny, and a little naïve, but always means well and is perfect as Alyx’s BFF.

The actress I chose to play her is Aly Michalka. Yes, her hair is similar in color and texture, but the real reason I selected her was because I saw her in the movie “Easy A” with Emma Stone, and I fell in love with her saucy personality. In my opinion, she could be the only one to play Cindra.


Simon Baker as Benjamin
Benjamin:

Dr. Benjamin Forbes. He’s Alyx’s boyfriend of a year and adores her probably more than she deserves. He’s every girl’s dream guy… successful, handsome, and doting. I saw an episode the other day of “The Mentalist” and just knew that Simon Baker would be fantastic for this hypothetical role with his blonde, side swept hair and meticulously groomed eyebrows. Oh yeah, and that smile…



Book #1 in the Alyx Rayer Chronicles series

“Isaac was more than just precious to her, he was precious in ways the world could only fathom. If she failed, she failed everyone.” –Marked for Vengeance

Alyx Rayer’s existence in Atlanta, the eternally bustling capital of Georgia, is one of routine and blending in among the worker bees. But her ‘normal’ life is actually a façade for a higher calling; she's a three hundred year old soul, encased in a human vessel and sent from the darkness between heaven and Earth to capture her Marked when summoned by her superiors.

During the initial, routine stake-out of her Marked, a dream prophet named Isaac Walsh, Alyx is thrown for an emotional loop when his allure captivates her heart from two rooftops away. The event marks the very instance when her sense of what’s right and what’s wrong is brutally challenged as her contact with him is strictly forbidden.

While already trapped between honor and desire, her emotional struggles are further challenged by a man in a black suit who continually pops up when she least expects it, his presence evoking a strange response from the scar she was branded with at birth. The scar tingles like a warning beacon, alerting her that something is amiss. Because her superiors never told her what this would mean, or much of anything except what to do when they summon, she can only conclude to try and keep her sanity, and her life, from completely shattering to pieces.

This engaging first book of the series is a Paranormal Romance novel interlaced with twists, turns, and thrilling suspense that is sure to satisfy readers of any genre.


And an exclusive excerpt just for you:
CHAPTER 11: Marked for Vengeance, The Alyx Rayer Chronicles

Isaac zipped the bag closed and rounded the corner to the kitchen, snatching the butcher knife from the counter on his way to the door. When he emerged from behind the cabinets, he halted. Alyx stood in the middle of the living room between the staircase and the sofa, staring through the broken door.

“Where’s my son, bitch!” he barked. Seeing her there was of no surprise to him now, he had almost expected her to show up.

At the sound of his voice, she spun around. He dropped his bag, pointing the knife in her direction to show that he meant business, her frightening appearance not deterring him in the least. Because she had occupied his dreams for so long, this didn’t seem any different.

Her dark, polished eyes studied him intently as her body positioned into a careful stance, like a lioness sizing her opponent – or her prey – anticipating her next move. Fairly certain that his face didn’t reveal it, he now felt hunted and vulnerable. “Hello again, Isaac,” she said with a caginess to her voice that harmonized with her posture.

The feral tone in her words almost unraveled him. “Do you know where my son is?” he asked again, and hoped she hadn’t noticed the crack in his voice.

Her eyebrows pinched together as she searched the flat, his question taking her by surprise. “Your son?”

“Yes, I have a son! Don’t play around with me,” he said, waving the blade violently through the air.

“Why would I know?”

“Well don’t you?!”

Her brows pinched tighter. “I wasn’t aware you had one.”

Oh I’m sure.

She placed one foot in front of the other, carrying her smoothly in his direction, reminding him again of a feline.“Do you know who I am?”

He jutted the knife toward her. “I know that you look like a demon and that your name is Alyx. Is that even your name?”

“Yes, that is my name,” she said calmly. “But do you know why I’m here?”

She took another indulgent step, and Isaac lunged forward. “I will use this, I’m not playin’ around!”

She fought an amused smile and held up her hands. “I don’t think that will be of much use to you.”

“All I want is my son, so if you can’t help me with that you need to get out of my way,” he said, grabbing the bag he had dropped, and marched for the door.

“You don’t want to do that,” she warned as she moved into his path.

He stepped around her. “Watch me.”

“No, you don’t understand… you don’t want to do that!” she shouted desperately.

He had almost made it there when she gripped his upper arm, pulling him back with the strength of a man three times her size. Clang! The power behind her quick grasping had launched the blade into the wall and onto the concrete floor. He hollered under the vice of her death grip and dropped to his knees.

“Oh, Isaac, I’m so sorry!” she cried and released her hold. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I don’t know my own strength yet.”

He rubbed his throbbing arm as he stood, and when he glared at her, a burning remorse showed in her eyes. She told the truth, his pain upset her. “You care that you hurt me?”

“It was a reaction. I’m sorry.”

Isaac’s anger slowly withered away. Maybe he should listen to what she had to say. After all, if she had come to harm him, she wouldn’t be upset over his pain.



S.J. Pierce has a degree in Marketing Management, works for a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta, Georgia, and devotes her precious, spare time to writing Fantasy novels as an indie author.

Even though her full-time career has nothing to do with books at all, she has always enjoyed complex story telling with fascinating characters, and has had a penchant for the written word since grade school. As a matter of fact, her only publishing credit to date was a poem she wrote at the age of twelve. Why her love for writing never translated into a career, she can only attribute to 'life happens', but her wish is that she can redirect her career path into something that satisfies her creative inner-self.

To quote a line from her debut novel, Marked for Vengeance; "If he merely lived to work and die, his soul would always thirst for something more. His paintings were an escape into the surreal, a way to cope with the humdrum of everyday life. With every well-placed stroke, he would escape further into whatever world he envisioned, its atmosphere a temporary break from reality." This captures her love for writing flawlessly.

(With every book purchased from the Alyx Rayer series, S.J. donates a percentage of her profit to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.)

If you wish to contact SJ, email her here: sjpierce82@yahoo.com

Connect with S.J. at her blog - Goodreads - Facebook


GIVEAWAY RULES:

S.J. has generously offered an ebook copy of Marked for Vengeance to a lucky commenter!


To be entered just leave a comment and tell us: If you could cast anyone to play you in the story of your life, who would it be?

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 12 December 2012!

Good luck!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Free Kindle Recommendations for the BLI Holiday Reading Challenge


Here are a few holiday themed novels which are free on Amazon right now (just click on the covers to be taken to their Amazon page to read more about the book). /Please bear in mind that these novels were free at the time of writing up the post, however Amazon could change this at any time, make sure to check the price first./

You can find all the reading recommendation links of last year HERE.


                                     

ps. If you haven't yet joined the Challenge, you can do so HERE.

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