Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Percy Jackson is cooler than Hercules - By Stephanie Burkhart

Logan Lerman as "Percy"

 I'm serious. Percy's hip. His father is Poseidon. Percy can bend the water to his will, and his sword, Riptide, shrinks into the smallest ballpoint pen ever. His mentor, Chiron, is half-human, half-horse, his best friend, Grover, is a satyr, Annabeth, his friend, is a daughter of Athena, and there's always a quest lurking around the corner.

I've read the first 3 books in the Olympian Series: The Lightning Thief, Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse and I've enjoyed them all.

So how did I get hooked on Percy?

I was looking for a book for my 4th grader to read that would challenge him and entertain him at the same time. Someone on the Amazon boards (believe it or not!) suggested Percy and loaned me The Lightning Thief. I gave it a try and I was hooked. What I loved about Percy was how he always rose to the occasion. Percy confronted his problems with honor and nobility in a way that my 4th grader could relate to. Percy was brave, courageous, adventurous and had a sense of humor. Percy also values his friendship with Grover and Annabeth and I liked how the book shows what having a true friend is all about.

Percy has ADHD and is dyslexic, but works hard to overcome those challenges in the "mortal" world. (In his demigod world, they are an asset.) These are challenges my 5 year old can related to with his sensory issues.

I bought the movie and sat down with the boys. They loved it. Andrew, my 4th grader, wanted to read the book so I got it for him. The Lightning Thief was the first book he devoured. When he was done, he told me the book was better than the movie. Here's hoping the 2nd movie, Sea of Monsters, (due out in March 2013) follows the book a bit more closely.

I also love the aspect that Percy Jackson has brought the Greek gods to a new generation of young readers in a fresh way to inspire their imagination.

Anastasia Steele, "Annabeth"

Question & Giveaway: Have you read Percy Jackson? Seen the movie? Have a favorite character? Can you guess who played "Zeus" in the movie?

Leave a comment with your email and I'll pick one lucky poster to win a PDF copy of "Danube in Candlelight." Just like Grover and Percy are best friends, so are Max and Adam from Danube in Candlelight. Enjoy this excerpt!

Adam turned toward the voice. His friend, Max Földi, sat underneath the awning of the Café Incognito, a known haunt for fine arts students. Adam had known Max since starting his studies at the university. Max was a tad shorter than Adam, with tight brown curls and hazel eyes. He was sharp and easygoing. Adam smiled and joined his friend at the table. The Dumas' bookstore was just a block north of the café.

"Max, what are you doing here?"
"I couldn't resist."
"Resist what?"

"I want to meet the woman you asked to lunch. I could tell from your voice that this one
is special."

Adam waved his hand in the air. He had dated several women over the past few years,
but none of them had made their way into his heart like Morgan had. "You are shameless. I haven't seen Morgan in years, so I expect you to find an excuse to let us have lunch -- alone."

"Oh, I will. I'm just curious about who this girl is."

The waiter approached. "What would you like, sir?"

Adam checked his watch. He still had another twenty minutes before he met Morgan. "I'll
have a cheese plate and some seltzer water."

"Are you looking forward to starting at the construction company?"

Adam raked a hand through his hair. There just was not enough time in the day. "Yes, but
I want to get an apartment here in the writers' district. I want to be closer to the feel of the city." "What do your parents think?"

Adam frowned. "I haven't mentioned it to them yet. I want to start my job before I tell

The waiter returned with Adam's cheese and waited while Adam paid him.

Max sipped his water. Something past Adam's shoulder caught his attention, and Adam
turned around also.

Zoltan Kristos strutted down the street, moving with purpose. The wind tousled his dark
brown hair. He wore a suit with a white shirt and a gray jacket. His eyes with the golden rings around the irises stood out. Eyes like Adam's.

"Say, isn't that Zoltan Kristos?" Adam sipped his water.

"The Minister of Reconstruction? I gather so," Max said. "I wonder what he's doing down here."

Max shrugged. "Maybe he's on his way to Parliament." "Or he's leaving. Horthy called a meeting today."
Max arched an eyebrow. "Interesting."

"What? The meeting?" Adam nibbled on some cheese.

"Horthy only calls for impromptu sessions when something needs his immediate

"I'm sure the papers will report on it soon."

Adam caught the scent of burning wood and glanced up.

"Do you smell that?" he asked.

Max wrinkled his nose. "Smoke."

"Or a fire." Adam turned around.

Smoke filtered out of the second story windows of the nearby Duma bookstore. "Oh,
no..." he whispered. His stomach knotted.


5 Stars, Reader's Favorite:
This story is the closest I have ever come to reading a book that feels like a movie!

4 Hearts, Sizzling Hot Book Reviews:
Once again, Stephanie Burkhart has touched my imagination and with her writing brings 1922 Hungary to life. Danube in Candlelight is a very romantic, yet spicy read. This is a must read if you enjoy the paranormal werewolf stories or even if you merely enjoy a great romance.

3.5 Stars, The Hope Chest Reviews:
Danube in Candlelight was a pleasant, easy read. Ms. Burkhart has created an interesting world with a mythology that is a little different than any other werewolf stories I've read to date, and the historical settings make them more intriguing to me than many contemporary paranormal stories.

5 Lips, Two Lips Reviews
I found the setting for Danube in Candlelight intriguing.The 1920 period Ms. Burkhart chose for this story lends it a wonderfully dynamic tempo. The discerning reader will not want to miss reading Danube in Candlelight; I highly recommend it.

Book Trailer on You Tube:









Monday, June 25, 2012

First of a first

We've been talking about firsts here at The Writer Limits.  Well, I've got a first of a first...

Future Savior Book One: Conception was the first novel I ever wrote... making The Future Savior Series my first series ever.

Before I give you an excerpt from Conception... be sure to swing by my website ( I'm giving away a copy of Conception right now!


"I do not think it is a question of where, but when." Were the words that Charis left my mother with thirty years ago when I disappeared from Meric…before I was born.

Shortly after being sent back I've been attacked by man-eating Vaipes. I've learned that my father was a power wielding Guardian. I've discovered that the silvery-blue eyes intriguing me my entire life belong to my Watcher, Shaw who is without a doubt the most handsome man I have ever seen. And somehow I need to stop a war mongering tyrant who can manipulate people's thoughts.

So my question isn't where or when. It is how? How can I help the people of Meric when I can't stop myself from falling in love?


Having Shaw teach me the sword may have been a bad idea. I was alone, in this lovely forest clearing, with the most breathtakingly handsome man I could ever have imagined. The fact that the sun was starting to set certainly didn’t help, either. With the light fading and twilight creeping in, the whole scene felt romantic. It was going to be hard to learn when the only thing I could truly concentrate on was him.

“Here,” Shaw said, handing me one of two sticks that he broke off of a nearby tree, “we can practice with these.”

“A stick? Really?”

A playful grin spread across his face. “Well, it’s the safest thing we can use. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Maybe you’re afraid I’ll hurt you.” I joked.

“I doubt it,” he laughed, looking me over with a skeptically raised eyebrow.

“Now wait a second, you’re the one who thinks I have powers. You should be afraid.” I smiled and waved the end of my stick at him.

“Alright, come here,” he laughed again, and gestured for me to go to him.

My stomach jumped up into my throat as nervousness flooded my body. I tried to convince myself that I simply wanted to do a good job. That had to be the only reason I was nervous. Trying to control my growing attraction toward Shaw was getting increasingly difficult. I took a tentative step forward. He reached over and took my hand in his. Pulling me ever so gently, he moved me to a spot directly in front of him.

“Stand here with your feet about shoulder width apart. Keep your knees slightly bent.” I followed his instructions while reminding myself to breathe. It was a meager attempt to stem my nervousness. My heart pounded like a jackhammer in my chest as he circled around behind me. “The type of sword you use will really dictate your fighting style. I use a broad sword, but something more slender would be better for you. I have a nice rapier sword that I might let you have.”

I nodded, very aware of his presence just inches behind me.

“Hold your sword in your right hand.”

“You mean stick,” I corrected. I hoped that joking would ease my nerves.

“Right, but that stick is a formidable weapon,” he agreed with a laugh. The moment of levity felt nice, and my anxiousness eased. Until he touched me.

Placing both of his hands on my waist he moved my body into the proper position. All of my muscles tightened from the contact. Then, one of his hands glided up my body and down my right arm, leaving a tingling trail of heat in its wake. “Don’t hold your arm so stiff, you want to have a little bit of give in your elbow.”

“Is that better?” I asked, making an adjustment. I tried to look over my shoulder at him, but my thick, wavy hair obstructed my view.

He moved his hand off of my arm. Pushing my hair away from his face, he let it drape down my left shoulder, exposing my bare neck. An electrified chill shot through my body when I felt his warm breath on the skin of my neck. Our eyes met and he smiled at me.

“Yes, that’s better,” he said, holding my gaze, which only left my eyes for a quick second to look at my mouth before returning to my eyes. A long moment passed. Then he cleared his throat and moved in front of me, “Your left hand can do several different things. If you use a rapier, you won’t need to hold it with both hands so your left hand can hold a shield. Or, if you don’t have a shield, you should probably keep it behind your back, at least until you’re more practiced. This way your opponent can’t cut it off.”

“Hmm,” I snickered, “that would be a sight, ‘the one-handed savior’. I doubt Leticia would be afraid of me then.”

“Ha!” Shaw exclaimed, “Probably not. Okay, the first move I’m going to show you is a simple defensive counter move. Please keep in mind that this move most likely won’t work if you only have one hand, but we’ll do the best we can.”

I chortled with laughter. “I certainly will try, but it will be hard with this stump.” I tucked my left hand inside the sleeve of my shirt and raised my arm to show him. Sure it was juvenile, but I couldn’t help myself. I was really enjoying this fun, playful side of Shaw.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” he said with mock concern. He held a serious expression for a moment and then we both broke down with laughter.

Friday, June 22, 2012

First Books... The Second (or third) time around...

Last week, I talked about my first ever published novel... Precious Things. I shared an excerpt then, but I love this particular scene, so I thought I would share this one as well. 


From a young age, Benjamin Prescott Roth shut himself off from everyone. He was determined to be his own man, and prove his father wrong when he told Benjamin "You'll never amount to anything."

But, for the first time... Benjamin is letting someone in.

Jewell Kincaid is absolutely beautiful -- and beyond that, she intelligent, feisty and strong willed. Benjamin's perfect match, whether he wanted to admit it or not. 

Then his world is shaken to its foundation, and he can either allow himself to lean on Jewell for support... or walk away.


With a decisive nod, Jewell stood and headed for the door adjoining their offices. Most of the time they left it open so she could hear him come and go. Against the wall by the door leaned an elaborately ornate wooden cane. To most it looked like a decorative piece, but for Jewell and Benjamin it served a purpose. She picked up the rod and tapped its tip against the floor three times with a solid impact.
Benjamin looked up. A slow, lazy smile lifted one corner of his lips. It was the same smile he always greeted her with, and despite its repeated appearance, Jewell was still disarmed by it every time. He sat back in his chair, the back reclining slightly.
"Do you have a minute, Benjamin?" she signed with one hand, mouthing the words as well. He nodded and she crossed the room to stand behind his desk. She set the paperwork down on his blotter and pointed out the section she questioned. "I'm sorry, but I just can't decipher this. Are you referring to the PE Ratio, or the Annual Percentage Earnings?"
"Where?" he asked.
Jewell crouched down, trying to keep her balance on the balls of her feet. The new position brought her line of vision just below Benjamin as he sat in the chair. He swiveled to face her better and scooted closer to look at the paper. Feeling precariously balanced on her toes, Jewell hung on to the edge of the desk with one hand.
"This section right here," she said. There was no way she could sign and hang on at the same time. "I understand you're comparing Hiramitsu to Hitachi, Samsung and Nokia. This chart represents the rate of growth for all four in the last five years. But this number looks like it could be either a rate of growth or a price to earnings ratio."
Benjamin leaned closer and touched his fingertip to the paper, his palm partially covering the back of her hand. Immediate heat warmed Jewell's skin and electric sensations raced up her arm, just as it had the week before when he'd touched her elbow when they walked. The revisiting of contact made her breath hitch and she jerked back. The quick movement threw her off balance and she flailed to remain upright.
Benjamin's arm wrapped around her body as she reached for the nearest thing to hold on to -- his thigh. He pulled her towards him and Jewell's undignified fight ended as she leaned into his lap. By the time she stopped, one hand clutched desperately to the muscle above his knee and the other grasped the opposite side of his chair. The arm that caught her remained in place and Benjamin's bicep brushed the side of her breast.
Jewell's body tingled and heat rose high in her cheeks. Tentatively, she looked up.
His dark stare was bold and frank in its assessment. Jewell was intensely conscious of his nearness and the masculine scent that surrounded him. A slight late-day beard speckled his strong jaw. With the afternoon sun coming through the window, each whisker appeared as a golden fleck on his skin. Jewell's lungs burned from holding her breath. She slowly released it as she came back on her heels.
The arm behind her slowly pulled back, but his fingertips left a searing trail as they moved across her back to her side. His palm remained against her ribcage, the pad of his thumb painfully close to the bottom side of her breast.
"Thank you," she whispered, thankful once again he couldn't hear the weakness behind the words.
He nodded slightly. His intense gaze remained on her face and one tight muscle jerked along his jaw. Jewell's heart skipped when his eyes diverted for a split second downward to the valley between her breasts exposed by the opening of her blouse. In a reflexive move, she tightened her grip on his thigh. Benjamin's arm shot from her side to cover her hand with his own. His fingers lifted her palm off his leg, but they remained wrapped around her hand.
There was a quick knock at the door before it opened and Kevin Burke stepped in. Jewell shot straight up to a standing position, a hot flush burning her from toes to nose. She tugged down on her skirt, which had worked its way several inches up her thigh in the process.
"Good afternoon," Kevin said, but Jewell didn't miss the momentary expression of shock on his face as he looked from her to Benjamin. "I don't know why I knock, but I always do." His statement was slow, belying the amusement only Jewell heard in his voice.
"In lieu of a knock, you may consider checking with April," Jewell managed to say without snapping, but she doubted she'd hidden anything from Burke.
Benjamin stood slowly and picked up the paperwork from his desk. His leisurely smile and cool demeanor only added to Jewell's heightened embarrassment. How could he be so calm? Did he have any idea what Kevin Burke thought he saw? Jewell could only imagine. With a trembling hand, she took the papers Benjamin handed to her.
"I was referring to the price to earnings ratio on the stock," Benjamin said in a steady voice. "Did you have any other questions?"
Jewell shook her head and stepped back from the desk. "No, that should be fine, Mr. Roth. I'll have this done in fifteen minutes." She cursed the nervous twinge in her voice.
"No rush. I don't need it until tomorrow."
Jewell nodded and did her best to make a graceful exit from the room. Her face was on fire. Somehow she managed to move around the desk and walk across the room without her legs giving way beneath her. Jewell glanced back at Benjamin and Kevin before closing the door to her office behind her.
They were deep in conversation, Benjamin standing on one side of the desk and Kevin on the other. Kevin's back was to her. Benjamin didn't look her way, but she caught his finger movement where his hand hung seemingly quiet near his thigh.
"R-E-L-A-X," his fingers spelled.
She dared another glance at his face, and a slow grin lifted his lips although he didn't look her way. The smile was meant for her. Jewell sighed and shut the door to allow the two fund managers to speak privately.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Excerpt from my first: Duty and Devotion

To follow up on my "First Time" post from the 6th, below is an excerpt from Duty and Devotion.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

The next morning, Kaitlin and Jenny dragged her to the ground hangar where they joined up with another crew to go to surface cruising. Nettie had trained in simulation and gone out a couple times, but the fear of real surface, open space, still unnerved her. Kaitlin once concluded it was because Nettie had been raised in a bubble.

When their surface cruisers rolled out of the hanger decompression area, bile threatened to undo her. Since it would have taken too long to remove the suit, she forced it back. These vehicle models were not enclosed, but had an exposed frame the other crew called a 'roll cage'. Nettie decided not to ask why they called it that. They might have answered her, and she would have had to de-suit.

She stayed silent while Kaitlin and Jenny fought over steering privileges, repeating to herself people had been surface exploring for several hundred years. It was a perfectly sound method of fun and adventure. Yeah, she thought bitterly, fun and adventure. Nettie clung to the vehicle's handles as they covered ground, heading away from the facility.

"Relax, Nettie. At least we're not somewhere like Mars... though crater jumping would be fun." Having lost, Kaitlin sat in the rear seat while Jenny steered. The other crew drove ahead of them.

Nettie took a relaxing breath and decided to approach the situation as a soldier would during a mission. She mentally recorded the scene. Behind her loomed the structure of the facility. Several stories of metal and pressurized diamond glass were lit up by bright lights. Beyond it, encompassing two-thirds of the sky was Jupiter. The orange and white bands twisted slowly.

Facing forward, she took in Callisto's open frontier rolling out to caress the horizon. It was a flat surface of eroded and dusty glacier-type ice several hundred miles deep. Beneath that was water, which had never seen the light of day.

It wasn't to say the waters are dark. Hundreds of years ago when man first landed on this moon, they drilled through the glacier in search of little green mermen. Instead, they found small to medium size life forms of the fish variety -- and they found brightness. Aptly named the Under Ocean, the core of the moon kept it warmed and lit. The magnetic balance between the core and Jupiter prevented the glacier surface from cracking. The surface's coldness and the core's warmth kept the glacier surface from melting, or Under Ocean becoming too warm.

Nettie drew her thoughts from under the surface back to the Callisto sky. Without the damping of the facility lights, Galileo's constellations sparkled like diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. Her fears calmed and she forgot the terror of open terrain. She recognized the beauty of it. This was the definition of wonder, of awe. Majestic had no true meaning for her until now. The brightness started where the sky kissed the surface in the distance and went across the whole heavens.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Well, hope you enjoyed it! There's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Purchase Links:
All Romance Books, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google Books, Sony eReader, and Apple's iBookstore.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Michelangelo Blues: For the First Time

Your first published book is like your first love for many reasons. I think the main one is when you finally have your first book published, it's a lot like your first love. You're not sure what you're doing. You're nervous that you're going to screw up in some gigantic way and no one will love you ever again. Once you make it through all the hard work, you find out you didn't have anything to be scared of. The Michelangelo Blues was that book for me. I'm sure some of that nervousness shows through in it, but in spite of that, the book is something I will forever be proud of. Why? Because, it proved that I was an author. You can't get a better feeling than that.


Janis Stockwell knew she was complete when she made partner. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead it just opened a new door into the past. Namely having her portrait done by Michael Dumont, a high school crush she thought she’d left behind years ago. At one time he was everything she wanted in her life. Now he is everything she hates in a man.

When a man she put in jail five years ago blows into town, Janis finds herself a marked woman with Michael the only man she can turn to for help. With a vicious killer hot on their trail, Janis and Michael find themselves running headlong into danger and just maybe love.

A taste of the Blues

Then it hit her. All she needed to do was just sleep with him and get over it. She was simply using him as the focus for her frustration. Yes, she was frustrated! Six years without a man tended to do strange things to a woman's equilibrium. To make it even more pathetic, the last time hadn't exactly been all explosions and rockets bursting in midair. In fact, she couldn't even remember a firecracker going off anywhere in the room, so as far as she was concerned it didn't happen. If she gave into her urges, they would go away. It was classic psychology. Take the treat and the desire goes away.

Big talk while you're hiding in bed but you'll never do it.

Janis knew she couldn't seduce Michael. She wouldn't become one of 'those women'. She had too much self-respect for herself to become a Desperate Housewife. But if the opportunity presented itself, would she turn it down? The thought fluttered through her mind, bringing forth a horde of images making her go weak in the knees. Good thing she was still in bed or Michael would come in to find her a quivering blob on the floor. Janis brushed away the thin sheen of sweat miraculously appearing on her brow and sat up. God, she was returning to her teenager years, with all the raging hormones to go with it.

Janis fumbled with her watch. It was 1:52. She had been in her room for over two hours. Oh yeah! She was acting so grown up.

She knew Wallace was gone. He'd left shortly after she had torn both of them a new one in the kitchen. So, at least he didn't know she had spent half the afternoon brooding in her room. She was, at least, spared the shame of the silent tsk-tsk under his breath.

Michael, on the other hand, knew. She must have put the fear of God into him, because he hadn't made a peep the entire time she'd barricaded herself up in here.

What if he left with Wallace? No, he wouldn't leave her alone in the house with Bettis on the loose. He was out there. Michael was just too afraid to show his face. She couldn't blame him if he was. Janis had done a damn fine job of turning into the Wicked Bitch of the South, and gone all Psycho on him.

Maybe he was in the studio. She sincerely hoped so. She had to use the bathroom and didn't want to run into him just yet. Janis crept up to the door and cracked it open enough to see if there was any sign of him moving about. No sign of him. She opened the door wider. The door to the studio sat closed. She heard his radio blaring through the closed door. Good, he must be holed up in there, painting or whatever he wanted to call it. It seemed safe enough to venture out of her room. In spite of her thoughts of bravely facing her fears, Janis figured she could handle doing it easier with an empty bladder and a few more minutes to work up her courage.

Taking one last look toward the studio, Janis shot from the door and made a beeline for the bathroom. As quick as she could, Janis swung the bathroom door open, ducking in just in time to see Michael stepping from the shower.

Her body stopped working, as she drank in the sight of him. Luckily for her, he had his head covered by a towel, which he was using to vigorously dry his head that made his body dance in unspeakable perfection. Every muscle in his well-formed body rippled from the jerky movements. Janis knew she could dart out leaving Michel none the wiser. The plan, while good in theory, had no chance in hell of working. To her ultimate shame, Janis' feet had become inconveniently frozen in place.

For more of the Blues, all you have to do is stop by the Desert Breeze Publishing Website for your chance to get some down home Southern charm with a heaping dish of danger on the side. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

That special email...

I've told this story before, but I suppose in this case it bears repeating. I grew up a writer. From the time I knew how to spell (and even before) I was writing stories, poems, songs... whatever. I wrote a book when I was fifteen; a Christian Fantasy (which wasn't even a genre then!) and that book is still 'under the bed'. Then I grew up, got married, had a baby... and effectively stopped writing.

In 1995, my mother passed away after a long and difficult illness. In the weeks following her death I helped my father go through her records. We found a metal file box, and in that file box was everything I ever wrote. Every poem. Every scribble. Every version of every story. Every high school paper I appeared in. That discovery made me see what my mother always saw... I was an author. So, in January of 1996 I began writing. I finished a novel I called Gray Clouds (still unpublished), and began searching for an agent or publisher. I did have an agent for a few years, and he told me I had a lot of 'close calls' with publishing, but he never got me results, so I ultimately ended up going my own way. It was during the early 2000s ebook publishing really became the 'talk'. I was very leery. I mean, if my book was on a disk (which is how they were provided back then... mailed to you), was it really a book? I had a couple very good friends and critique partners who had already taken the plunge into ebooks, and had garnered contracts. So, I decided... why not?

At this point, I had finished my second novel Precious Things. It was a much better novel than Gray Clouds, so I did some research on the ebook publishers out there at the time and I submitted to a few. It was a Sunday morning when I received an email from Wings ePress, offering me a contract for Precious Things. I was thrilled! What a rush! I can remember breaking out in a cold sweat, but feeling my face burning at the same time. I ran back upstairs (I was downstairs making breakfast) and told my husband. I think I may have cried. :-) And so... my publishing journey began.

So very much has happened since then. Precious Things was published by Wings, as well as Tender Hearts. While I was busy promoting Precious Things, I was contacted by an editor for another house who had read my excerpts and liked my online presence. She wanted to know if I had anything else going on. At the time, I was just flirting with the concept of The Phoenix Rebellion, and I told her about it. My approach was different from most romance novels, so I wasn't holding my breath. But, she loved it... and my writing career bloomed!

Much has happened since then. I published, I ended contracts. I published others... the publisher went bankrupt. I opened my own publishing house. I suppose it all leads back to that one email on a Sunday morning. The seed that bloomed.

Precious Things has gone through a transformation since that first release. It's got a much better cover (don't even get me started on the horror stories of terrible cover art I've been given!) and the story has been revised just enough to make it better. And now, it's available again. I love Precious Things because it's the book I was told no one would read. I had several New York traditional publishing editors reject Precious Things, but their rejections inspired me. Every one of those editors said "I love your writing. It's clean and fresh, and the hero and heroine are great..." but, they always added in some way "No woman will ever want to read a romance novel with a handicapped hero. None."

I'm the type of person who better not be told what I can't do. Because I'll be the one looking over my shoulder saying "Watch me..."  Benjamin Prescott Roth is deaf, born deaf. And somehow these editors believed that fact would reduce his worth to a reader to such a degree they wouldn't read about him. I could make the heroine deaf... that was okay... but not him. Well, they were wrong. Readers love Benjamin. Not because he's deaf or not deaf... but because he is who he is. The book isn't about him being deaf, but that is a real part of him and helped mold him. I couldn't just switch it over to Jewell!

Okay, I've gotten a little off track here. :-) Anyway, that first release -- that first published work -- is now and still available. This blog's theme is the fantasmic, but hey... I am what I am. :-)

Here's an excerpt. This is a brand new scene I wrote for the revisions. I think it's a good example of how taking away a sense heightens the others. This is from Benjamin's point of view after a chance 'outside the office' lunch meeting. Just to make sure it's clear, since you're kind of jumping into the story, Benjamin is oral and reads lips with great proficiency. His communication with Jewell is a mix of speaking, reading lips, and sign. All sign language is in italics.

Benjamin had plenty to do in the office. His day was filled with reviewing reports, compiling data, and watching various markets as they closed, and opened, depending on the market. But he considered it a stroke of luck that on the one day he wandered outside of Bulwark he would run into Jewell, just sitting in a restaurant, all alone.
She was flushed, bright color blooming in her pale cheeks, and tiny ringlets escaped the french braid that hugged her skull to sprinkle across her brow and along her cheeks. As warm as the day was, he hoped that perhaps he was responsible for the pretty blush and the nervous flitter of her hands. It was wrong, he knew it was wrong, but he couldn't help himself and didn't want to try.
"I feel like I'm holding you up, Benjamin," she said, poking her fork around in the remains of her pasta and chicken. "I peeked in your office before I left to see if you wanted to come with me--"
"You did?"
She nodded, looking at him through her lashes as she created a new bite. He noted how she made sure each bite had at least two pieces of pasta, a piece of chicken and either a tomato or an olive. Sometimes both, but she was running out of olives. Taking the bite, she set down her fork and wiped her lips with a napkin before signing. "Don't you go stir crazy eating at your desk every day?"
"I've never thought about it."
Jewell sat back, dropping her napkin on the remains of her lunch left in her plate. Her smile made his pulse jump, and he liked it. "I believe I'm going to need to get you out of the office more often, Mr. Roth," she signed, feigning a serious expression as she wagged a finger at him. "It's my duty as your executive assistant."
"I don't recall that in your job description."
"I'm taking the initiative."
He was saved from making a completely inappropriate comment, one that was sure to bring a new flush of color to her pale cheeks, by the return of the waitress. Benjamin didn't bother to look up, keeping his attention on Jewell. She looked at the waitress, shook her head and waved a hand at the empty plate. The waitress took it and set the bill on the counter. Jewell reached for it, but Benjamin was faster. He grinned at the shocked look on her face.
"Hey, now. You didn't even eat."
He just grinned and shifted to take his wallet from his back pocket. Leaving a bill on the table, he stood and offered his hand to help her stand. It pleased him in a way he couldn't qualify when she took it and came to her feet, retrieving her jacket from the back of her seat. He liked her bare arms. They were trim, but just as pale as her face and sprinkled with freckles.
They stepped back into the oppressive humidity of the afternoon, both slipping on their sunglasses against the bright sun. Walking in unison, they turned down Market Street toward the Financial District. The walk was short, but August in New England was as hot and humid as any southern bayou or Florida everglade, especially here in the city deep in the jungle of massive steel and glass buildings that blocked any cooling breeze that might drift in off the Atlantic Ocean. They reached the light at the corner, and joined the mass of people waiting to cross. Benjamin chanced a glance in her direction, catching her huff as she blew wisps of hair off her forehead.
"Perhaps we should save our next lunch outing for a slightly less smothering day."
She smiled and nodded. "Please."
The light changed and they all moved en masse. Benjamin cupped her elbow, not realizing until they stepped onto the other curb that he'd once again reached for her. It felt natural, instinctual. And once again, she hadn't moved away. It would be so easy to slide his fingers down the inside of her arm and take her hand, just to see if she'd let him shift his fingers between hers.
They crossed Market and headed down Friend Street toward the tower of steel and glass that housed Bulwark. He dropped his hand from her elbow as they neared the building, and caught the slight tip of her head as she looked down at her bare arm then up at the gleaming face of the tower. Benjamin stepped forward and pulled open the glass lobby doors.
A refreshing wave of cooler air washed over them. Jewell stopped inside the doors and tipped her head back, a slow smile on her lips. He put his hand against her back to move forward, and felt the purr of a groan vibrate through her ribcage.
The reaction in his gut was intense and nearly made him stumble.
She waved to the security guard at the front desk as they crossed the black marble floor to the bank of elevators. He noted that Jewell smiled at every person that passed them, and nearly every one of them returned the smile. She inspired the reaction; he understood that even for himself. When Jewell smiled at him, he couldn't help but smile back.

"This story will tug the reader's heartstrings with the powerful emotions of love, hate, fear, pain, and betrayal with the author's sensual descriptions. I enjoyed the writing style and loved the strong, deaf hero and heroine, the heartbeat of the novel... Never make the mistake of thinking that deaf heroes can't be strong, romantic, or capture a woman's heart. Mrs. Delaney proves otherwise with her five-star novel."

BJ Robinson -- True Hidden Treasures Blog
Rating = 5 Stars

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My First Contract, "The Hungarian" by Stephanie Burkhart

In the early 2000's, I self-published a couple of my contemporary romances, along with a time-traveling romance. This experience taught me a lot about publishing models; what's involved in creating a novel from the writing, the editing, cover production, and marketing. Then, during the mid-2000's, I participated in the Writer's Digests Writing Competitions, using the contests to sharpen my skills. Several of my stories received recognition including "Spontaneous Decision," 8th place in mainstream literary fiction 2008 contest. My short story, "The Wolf's Kiss," was first runner up in the Popular Fiction Romance Contest that year. Told in the first person, alternating between Katherine and Matthias, the hero is a moody werewolf, afraid to allow his heart to find love again. The story was set in Budapest, Hungary at the start of the 20th Century. Matthias and the setting were inspired by my love for Victoria Holt gothic romance novels. Encouraged by the reception of "The Wolf's Kiss," I decided to write a novel length romance from Katherine's point of view.

"The Hungarian" was born. Let's just say the first two drafts were long. The third one. I showed Gail at Desert Breeze Publishing. Gail expressed interest, but wanted it rewritten in the 3rd person to show Matthias' point of view. I agreed and a contract was signed. That was August 2009 and "The Hungarian" was published in 2010.

It felt great to be offered a contract, but I knew I had more work to do and that's where my earlier experience paid off with self-publishing. I knew I would need a marketing plan along with developing an Internet friendly presence. Since I'm a new author striking out in a new market. I knew I would need patience, and a strong, steady resolve to build an audience.

For me, Matthias and Katherine's story has a very real element underneath the paranormal aspect – the desire to be loved and give love. It's something we all strive for. Enjoy this excerpt. ☺


The door squeaked open and Katherine peeked over the top of her book. A tall, muscular man walked in wearing a white button-down shirt and holding his blazer. He paused, as if surprised to find her, and then walked toward the window, his stride easy. He moved with wolf-like prowess, his long legs taking cool, calculated steps as his unusual eyes surveyed her. Katherine bit the inside of her lip, returning his measured perusal with one of her own. His silence was unnerving, yet intriguing.

His eyes drew her to him -- malachite green with a gold ring around the iris. Dynamic. Expressive. Even now, as he looked at her, they softened and grew translucent. He stopped in front of the window and casually threw his blazer onto a nearby chair as if he owned the room.

"Hello," he said.
"You're staring."

"I am? I thought you were staring at me."
He chuckled. "Perhaps I was admiring you."

"Who else is here?"

Katherine pursed her lips as her insides warmed from the deep silkiness of his voice. He smiled and walked to her chair, slowly gliding around it, tracing his finger over the leather headrest, skirting her curly hair.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"And who is inquiring?" She tried to sound cool and composed, but she had to fight the nervous temptation to play with her hands.

Justine Cotsonas inspiration
for "Katherine Archibald"

"Romeo, perhaps?"
"Then my name is Juliet."

A teasing smile graced his lips as he walked out from behind her chair and glanced at a bookshelf before turning to look at her again.

"Would you fall for Tristan?"
"Only if my name were Isolde."

He walked over to a wooden table near the window and ran his long finger over a clay mock-up of Excalibur lodged in a stone. "What do you think of Arthur? Do you think it suits me?"
"Only Guinevere would believe your name was Arthur."

He crossed his arms, his eyes sparkling in the sunlight. "Would you believe my name was Matthias?"

"I might, if--"
"If what?"
"If I knew more about you."

Happily Ever After Reviews, 5 Cups
"This is an excellent book and I think fans of both the paranormal and historical romances will really, really enjoy it."

Hope Chest Reviews - 4 Hearts
Overall, The Hungarian was a pretty good read. Stephanie Burkhart is good at telling an interesting story that holds my attention.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers
inspiration for "Matthias Duma"

You Gotta Read Reviews - You Need to Read, Lupa
I was so very happily surprised by this book. The characters are enchanting, the scenes are vividly written, and the story has a fantastic flow. I really enjoyed the warm love and fiery passion that seemed to leap off the page.

Sizzling Hot Book Reviews, 5 Hearts
"I highly recommend The Hungarian, even if you aren't that interested in the paranormal such as werewolves. The romantic tale of The Hungarian is enough to win over anyone."

Reader's Favorites, 5 Stars
"This book is extremely entertaining. The plot is sensual and romantic."

Coffee Time Romance, 3 Cups
"Ms. Burkhart tells this tale in such a voice that we can practically feel the waves of emotions both characters are feeling coming off the pages."













Monday, June 11, 2012


Well, I'm not gonna beat  the "first time" joke to death so I'll just be straight up with everyone... I am a newbie... and I am also probably very annoying to my fellow writers.  Please believe me when I say that none of this is coming from a place of arrogance.  In fact, if you know me at all, you know how much I lack self-confidence when it comes to my writing.  I'm just as surprised as the next guy with how quickly Future Savior took off... and how much praise it gets from people who read it.

I wrote Future Savior Book One: Conception, my first ever attempt at writing, during my 2009 summer break.  I started querying that September.  By early December I was signed on with Desert Breeze... from what I understand this is very quick and very unusual for a first time writer.  Conception wasn't released until September 2010, but still a very fast turnaround for a newbie like me.

I was sooooo stoked to sign the contract from Desert Breeze!  But what I think gets me even more are the fans... I ACTUALLY HAVE REAL FANS!!!  There are people out there who are freaking out over the next book.  Who devote entire weeks to their blogs just to talk about Future Savior.  Who list The Future Savior Series right along side The Hunger Games as their favorite series of all time!!!  It is such an amazing feeling!  Knowing I have fans out there dying for the next installment keeps me writing even when I wonder, "why the heck am I doing this?"  Here are some snippets of what people have been saying about The Future Savior Series:

"An action-packed, chock-full of romance, cool-creature filled read that keeps your eyes glued to the pages!  Five stars and lots of love for this diamond of a read!  I highly recommend reading this whole series, because it will be one of your favorites!"

"Today, I bring you a special gem.  Every once and a while you take a chance and when you do you find that diamond in the rough.  Well my friends...this is that diamond...I'm glad I picked up this little bit of delight...I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't put it down."

"'ll be anxiously awaiting the second installment just as soon as you turn the last page of CONCEPTION!"

"I give The Future Savior Series 5 stars! On second thought, scratch that... because it really deserves all the stars in the sky!! Jennifer Hartz knocked my socks off and completely blew me away! I only wish I had more hands so I could give it more than two thumbs up!!! Read it and you'll see, it is superb!"

It never ceases to amaze me that people would say such awesome things about my writing.  I must thank Gail Delaney and Desert Breeze Publishing a thousand times over for offering me that first contract.  They took a shot, not only on me, but also on a story that realistically had no right to be published.  If you know The Future Savior Series, you know it's a sub-genre of a sub-genre of a sub-genre... (Christain/Fantasy-Sci-Fi/Romance) Even though it feels so familiar it's like nothing else in existence!

If you haven't checked it out yet, please do so!  Even if you only enjoy it 1/2 as much as the people above, I think you'll still have a fun time reading!

~Jenn Hartz
The Future Savior Series

Twitter:  @JenniferLHartz

Buy Links:
Desert Breeze Publishing:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My First Time

Okay pervoids, I'm not talking about that first, no. I'm not talking about that.

My first published novel weirdos!

Let's set the scene, shall we? (Drop the lights, raise the curtain and all the other goofy mental imagery stuff.)

It's August 2010. I've been touting my most beloved SFR manuscript, Duty and Devotion, for what felt like forever. I'd been steadily published in the short story and flash fiction realm but damn it, I wanted - no needed - to be a published novelist.

When I decide I want something, I get it. Just ask my husband.

But it's a rough world out there in the publishing industry folks. Rejection after rejection. But we writers are perverse creatures. We take that rejection and keep coming back for more. Sick, I know, but there it is.

So, here we are back in August 2010, I got an email from Gail Delaney of Desert Breeze Publishing. As you see in the link HERE when I blogged about the moment, I almost didn't open it. After having a good day, I didn't want to ruin it with another rejection. But I threw caution to the wind and went for it. (Perverse creatures, remember?)

"Good afternoon, Amber

Thank you for submitting Duty and Devotion, and thank you for your patience as we work through our lengthy submissions queue."

Ugh, I thought, here we go again. I prepared to read another form rejection...

"Upon reviewing your submission, I would like to extend an offer for publication. "

Wait. What?

I read through the rest of the letter as Gail extended an offer to publish my manuscript. Still in disbelief, I reread it. (Who knew, I could've read it wrong.)

 "I would like to extend an offer for publication. "

No, not wrong.

Holy crap!

I read through it yet another time and then finally, after THAT time, the excitement slammed into me and I did freak out a little bit. If I recollect right, there was booty wiggling, screeching like a silly girl, possibly some Vanilla Ice dance moves.

Desert Breeze wanted my manuscript! MY manuscript!


Good times. Good times.

(See, here's my proof. My cover for Duty and Devotion by the most awesome over artist, Jenifer Ranieri.)

Even now my heart races with giddy excitement at that memory. I'd wanted to be a published author for forever. The world didn't bend to my will and the path was a bit winding, ninjas were in hiding ready to jump out along the way, and evil warlords sent a fleet of vampire chickens and wereducks I had to defeat, but I eventually got there.

...Huh...wait a minute...I think maybe some of that previous paragraph was actually in my head and not real.

Well, no matter, I'm sure you all can figure out fact from fiction. *Eyes wereduck head mounted on the wall.*

Now, that was August 2010...let's fast forward to June 2011, specifically the week before Duty and Devotion released. You want to know the truth about those moments? Are we authors suave? Are we cool beans sitting in the boiling pot treating it like it's a suana?

No, no we're not. HERE is the post where I share the truth. The reality of what a wreck we are coming up to the release day. Just remember, don't judge me after you've read it. As it falls into one of my top 10 viewed blog posts, I'm pretty sure it's an accurate description for other author's experiences to.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Feels Like the First Time

Once upon a time there was a boy who thought he might want to write suspense filled romance type stories. Sure, I know you hear these kinda things everyday. Or, maybe you don't. Either way, this story has a happy ending. I'm pretty certain it does. Least ways, last time I looked it did. Then again, this wouldn't be the first time the voices in my head have been known to lead me astray.

Where was I again?

Oh yeah, I was about to dish to you about my first time. It was a Monday. How can I remember it so clearly? Because you don't forget things like that. Like I said it was a Monday, horrible day altogether to tell you the truth. One of those days you just want to crawl into bed and forget it happened. You know the type. Any hoo, I stumble in and take care of all those things you do when you get home from a terribly bad day. Shower and shaved and fed up, I proceeded to crawl into the aforementioned bed.

And, there she is waiting for me. The answer to my every dream. My hands shaking with something akin to fear and the strongest desire you've ever experienced, I reached out and stroked my quivering fingers over the one thing I'd wanted most in my entire life. Electricity shot through me at the fleeting touch. I must have pushed all the right buttons because my doorway to nirvana opened up before my eyes. Licking my oh so dry lips, I delved into the secrets of the universe, or something equally boggling to a male mind. Opening an email.

Hey! Back in the day, with dial up, it was a pain to get an email to download in under thirty minutes. Men don't like waiting.

Wait? You thought I was talking about something else. You all have dirty minds! Especially  you over there. Stop mopping your brow and panting. It's unseemly.

No, I'm talking about my first contract as a published author. I had been writing for a few years with a couple nice rejections under my belt for some non-romance books I'd tried my hand at. My wife had finally pushed me to write a romance, since I read so many of them. In less than four weeks I'd written my first romance, which was unlike anything I'd written before or since. I was so nervous that my wife had to be the one to submit it. Time might be messing with me, but I think only two weeks passed before that joyous email came.

In that comedic attempt above to misdirect you, I failed to mention how nervous that email made me. I had my entire future wrapped up in that email. Sure, I would have probably gone on subbing books, but at the time my heart just wasn't in it anymore. If I'd know what was to come, I probably wouldn't have signed my name on the dotted line.  But that's another story. The point of this one is without that first contract, you wouldn't be reading this now. Of course back then, we didn't have blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or a hundred other things we have now. Like Kindle! Amazing how six years changes the landscape of things.

Wait, a second. I forgot to ever mention what book got contracted. Well, it's what I like to call a twofer.  That book represents two firsts for me. It was the first book I had published as an author, and it went on to be the first book I had contracted with Desert Breeze. I think? My mind is a bit foggy lately. If it wasn't, it was close behind. That book was The Michelangelo Blues, and it will forever be my first true love. If you haven't taken the time to read it, I would humbly suggest you give it a try. It shows a side of my writing that doesn't pop up often. Does that make it any less me? Nope, but proves at least one of those voices in my head has a serious side. Scary thought. Isn't it?

Just so you don't have to go looking for it, here's a handy dandy link.