Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 11th "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

She must have made a sound, because Lady Dunlee raised her brows, giving her an alarmingly arch look. “You are very lucky, Lady Anne. Countless society maidens will take to their beds in a fit of the dismals when they hear Mr. Stephen Parker-Roth is no longer available.”

Her stomach sank to the bottom of her slippers. This must be a nightmare. She would wake up in a moment safely tucked into her bed at Crane Castle.

“Oh yes, society will be abuzz with the news of your betrothal.” Lady Dunlee gave what looked suspiciously like a skip as she cleared the threshold.

“But you promised not to say a word,” Anne called after her.

The woman just smiled over her shoulder and waved her hand. Instead of turning to mount the stairs to her house, she headed off across the square. A large, gray cat darted out from under a bush to rub itself against her ankles.

“At least Miss Whiskers is safe,” Mr. Parker-Roth said, closing the door.

Anne glared at him. “I don’t care about that stupid cat--where is Lady Dunlee going?”

“To Melinda Fallwell’s. She lives at number forty-nine.”

“Who’s Melinda Fallwell?” Anne pointed to the door. “And aren’t you leaving, too?”

Mr. Parker-Roth took her arm. “Melinda Fallwell is London’s second greatest gossip--second to Lady Dunlee, of course--and, no, I am not leaving. We need to discuss our betrothal. Where can we be private?” He started back down the corridor, opening doors and peering in. “Ah, this will do nicely.”

He pulled her into what Hobbes had called “the, ahem, Oriental room” when he’d given Anne a quick tour of the house the day before. She called it the harem room. It was furnished with low couches and oversized pillows. Gauzy striped curtains festooned the ceiling and hung down the walls giving one the feeling of being inside a large tent.

Mr. Parker-Roth picked a brass statue off the mantel. His eyes widened and he chuckled. “Interesting decorations you have, Lady Anne.”

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day

If you are in the U.S., today is Memorial Day. While the reason for the holiday is serious—all the more so with the current wars--the day also marks the official start of summer, at least in my neck of the woods. I'm sure many of my friends and neighbors are at the Maryland and Delaware shores frolicking in the surf or walking along the beach. Closer to home, the neighborhood pools opened Saturday, and the summer swim teams are gearing up for the start of practice. Thus I’m taking a break from posting chapter two of The Naked King—that will resume tomorrow.

Last weekend we were traveling—one reason I set the chapter to post. We left Friday and returned Tuesday and didn't sleep two nights in the same bed. First, son #2 graduated from law school. Here’s a shot of graduate and proud parents:

Matt's graduation 013

We were able to work things out so that everyone except son #4 gathered for dinner at a restaurant in Baltimore—3 of the 4 sons, one daughter-in-law and one fiancée. (This was the first time fiancée and d-i-l had met—I think they spent the whole meal discussing weddings and such.)

Son #4 couldn’t be with us because he had his own graduation festivities to attend. We headed north the next day to join him. The tradition at his college is to stay up all night to greet the sun—perhaps you can tell he participated by his somewhat groggy expression.


It was freezing in Boston—well, freezing for a thin-blooded Marylander—and graduation was outdoors, so I was happy to have my blue raincoat/fleece combo. I also hit the bookstore to stock up on warm stuff--knit gloves, padded stadium seats, and a blanket. We managed to make it through without shivering too much.

Now we’re home and I’m busy with promotion efforts for The Naked King—amazing to think the book will finally be out in the “wild.” In an attempt to spread the Naked word, I’ll be blogging all over the place. (Or so it seems to blog-shy me.) I’ll try to post links to those posts when I have them. The date of the first blog is still up in the air, but it might be today...

And don't forget about my publisher's contest (details here) and my contest (details here). They go until June 15, so there's still plenty of time to enter.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 10th "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

Well, perhaps thinking wasn’t the issue. Her head insisted she should move away, but her body... She drew in a deep shuddery breath, filling her lungs with his scent, a heady mix of brandy, damp broadcloth, eau de cologne, and...man.

A heavy liquid warmth settled low in her belly.

Oh, God. She’d never felt this way before, even when she’d thought herself in love with Brentwood. It could not be good.

“I will see if I can train Harry to behave in a more gentlemanly fashion,” Mr. Parker-Roth was saying. “As I’ve been in London and Lady Anne’s been in the country, I haven’t had the opportunity until now to do so--and of course manners in the country are more relaxed.”

“Indeed they are, sir,” Lady Dunlee said, scowling at him, “but I hope manners are not so relaxed as to approve the behavior I just witnessed in the square. You know, if Lady Anne does not, that London society will not tolerate such conduct.”


Mr. Parker-Roth didn’t let Anne squeeze a word in. “I beg your pardon for my lack of decorum, Lady Dunlee. I can only plead temporary insanity. I’d not seen Anne in far too long.” Mr. Parker-Roth managed to look suitably contrite--he’d probably perfected that charmingly apologetic expression as a boy.

Good Lord, Lady Dunlee dimpled up at him. “Of course you have my pardon, sir, as long as I have your vow to control your emotions in the future. I quite understand the fervor of young love.”

Anne had to choke back a laugh, turning it into a cough. Lady Dunlee had at least forty, if not fifty, years in her dish. Young love must be a very faint memory.

“But I would be terribly remiss,” Lady Dunlee continued, “if I didn’t point out many people will wonder at this sudden betrothal. You can’t wish to make things more difficult for Lady Anne and her family.”

“Of course I don’t.”

Anne barely heard Mr. Parker-Roth’s words. Many people would wonder? What a horrifying thought.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 9th "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

Lady Dunlee must have heard her snort and was now looking at her inquiringly.

“Er...” What to say? Lady Dunlee obviously expected something. “I do apologize for Harry’s behavior.” She was saying that a lot today, not that she meant it this time either--Lady Dunlee should have kept her cat inside.

“That’s quite all right.” Lady Dunlee turned to examine a naked statue of Apollo through her lorgnette. “No permanent harm done. Miss Whiskers has likely found her way home by now.”

“Then you’ll want to hurry off to let her in,” Anne said hopefully. She reached for the door, but Mr. Parker-Roth’s large hand grabbed the knob first.

Lady Dunlee tore her eyes away from Apollo’s fig leaf. “Oh, I’m sure my butler has already done so, unless Miss Whiskers chose to stay on the front step. She likes to lie on stone that’s been warmed by the sun. I image it’s quite cozy, don’t you?”

Anne blinked. She hadn’t ever considered the matter. “I...I suppose you are right.”

Lady Dunlee nodded. “Of course I’m right.” She stepped past Anne, but paused on the threshold to give her a stern look. “Before I leave, I must insist you keep your dog under better control in the future, Lady Anne. Miss Whiskers and I will not be pleased if we are constantly disturbed by the brute.”

Miss Whiskers had been the one doing the disturbing this morning, but Anne managed to keep from saying so. “Yes, indeed. I will try to keep Harry away from your cat.”

Lady Dunlee nodded toward Mr. Parker-Roth. “I’m sure your betrothed can help. Oftentimes large dogs need a man’s touch.”

“Exactly.” Mr. Parker-Roth wrapped an arm around Anne’s waist. “I’ll be happy to take Harry in hand.”

Anne stiffened at his touch. Lady Dunlee’s lorgnette had snapped up and her enlarged orb was now staring at his hand on her waist. She tried--halfheartedly, but she did try--to shrug out of his embrace, but he wouldn’t let her go. Instead his hand slipped a little lower so it lay on her hip just below her stays.

Oh! She felt each finger as if it were burning a hole through her dress and chemise. The hard strength of his arm and the warmth of his body all along her side made it very difficult to think clearly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 8th "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

Anne looked at her cousin. Clorinda had already returned to the book she’d been reading when Lady Dunlee, full of moral outrage, had barged in with them. “Coming, Clorinda?”

“Hmm?” Clorinda turned a page.

“Are you coming to see our guests out?”

Clorinda waved her hand vaguely, her nose still buried in her book. “You can do that without my help.”

“Very well. I’ll--”

“Just do be careful.” Clorinda marked her place with her finger to glance up at Anne. “Mr. Parker-Roth is very pleasant to look at, I grant you, but he’s also a bit of a rake. They call him the King of Hearts for a reason, you know.”

“Yes, I know.” And didn’t Clorinda know the man was standing in the corridor right behind her? Anne heard him choke back a laugh. Lady Dunlee snickered.

“Just thought I should put the word in your ear, Anne,” Clorinda said, returning to her reading. “Having spent your whole life in the country, you’re hardly up to snuff.”

“Thank you, Clorinda.” One didn’t need to come to London to learn about libertines, but Anne didn’t wish to discuss that topic whilst the current libertine and the queen of London gossip listened. She pulled the door closed behind her and avoided her guests’ eyes. “This way,” she said.

She started briskly toward the front of the house. She’d be extremely happy to see the back of Lady Dunlee--and Mr. Parker-Roth, too, of course. Once they were out the door, she could finally get on with her day. She’d planned to take her paints out early to explore the back garden, but first Harry had needed a walk and then the...incident with Mr. Parker-Roth and Lady Dunlee had occurred, and now she’d completely missed the morning light. Blast! As soon as her unwelcome guests had departed, she’d hurry upstairs and...

No, the way this day was going, she’d never be so lucky. The boys were sure to be into some kind of mischief--she almost hoped they were teasing Miss Whiskers again--and she was supposed to take Evie shopping. A proper come-out required an annoying amount of clothing.

She glanced over her shoulder. Lady Dunlee was peering around as if trying to memorize every detail her greedy little eyes beheld. Papa must not have invited her in on his rare visits to London. She snorted. Why would he? He might be more focused on Greek and Roman artifacts than English society, but he could recognize trouble when it lived next door.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 7th "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

“Georgiana does share Papa’s passion,” Anne said, trying not to sound disgruntled. Papa and Georgiana never thought twice about taking off at a moment’s notice, leaving her to manage everything at home. She’d got used to it, but to expect her to handle Evie’s come-out as well... What in God’s name had they been thinking? She knew nothing about the London Season, never having had one herself, and it was clear to her Clorinda would be no help. And now with this nonsensical betrothal to complicate matters...

All she needed was for Brentwood to put in an appearance, and this disaster would be complete.

“And I really don’t see how you are one to talk, Clorinda,” Anne said. “You have your nose forever buried in some ornithological tome.”

“That’s an entirely different matter. I’m studying living, breathing creatures.” Clorinda sniffed. “Your father and the countess are pawing through history’s middens”--she wrinkled her nose in distaste--“picking through someone’s garbage.”

Mr. Parker-Roth cleared his throat.

“Oh, what is it?” Anne looked at the man in exasperation, but her damn heart stuttered the moment her eyes focused on him. He was so incredibly handsome. Women must stare at him wherever he went.

Idiot! Of course they stared at him--he was the King of Hearts. All the ton’s females vied for his attention.

“I don’t believe we need to take any more of Lady Dunlee’s time, do you?” Mr. Parker-Roth was saying. He tilted his head slightly toward the woman and raised his eyebrows significantly. “I’m sure she must have other commitments.”

“Oh.” Anne glanced at the annoying busybody. Lady Dunlee’s beady little eyes fairly glowed. Clearly she was gathering bits of gossip like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter. At any moment her cheeks would start to bulge. “Yes, indeed. Please don’t let us detain you, Lady Dunlee.”

“Tut, tut. Don’t be silly.” She smiled as if she were some completely harmless matron. “As it happens, I have nothing pressing to attend to. Please, carry on. Just pretend I’m a potted palm.”

A potted palm with a tongue that runs on wheels. “I wouldn’t think of it,” Anne said. “I know you are a very busy woman.” Busy about other people’s affairs. She walked briskly to the bookroom door and opened it. Mr. Parker-Roth gestured for Lady Dunlee to precede him. The woman hesitated, but finally must have concluded--correctly--she had no choice in the matter. She dragged her feet, but she went.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 6th "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

Truthfully, marriage shouldn’t be that onerous. This farce had saved him the annoyance of shopping for a bride--or having Mama shop. Once he was wed, he’d be off looking for plants on foreign shores most of the time anyway. It might even be convenient to have a woman on his estate to warm his bed and tend his children when they arrived. It wasn’t the marriage his parents had--it wasn’t the marriage he’d thought he’d have--but it was the exact sort of arrangement much of the ton enjoyed.

He studied Lady Anne’s expressive face. She was so full of emotion, she looked ready to explode. How would she look full of passion, naked in the center of his bed?


She should keep his nuptial bed very warm indeed.

“I know we aren’t ready to make a formal announcement, my love,”--she scowled at him--“but now that Lady Dunlee and your cousin have found us out...” He turned to the queen of London gossip. “We can ask you to keep our little secret, can’t we, Lady Dunlee?” He managed to keep a straight face at the absurdity of his request. He might as well ask the sun to change places with the moon.

“Of course.” Lady Dunlee’s eyes gleamed with excitement. “You can rely on me. I won’t tell a soul.”

Stephen believed her. She wouldn’t tell a soul--for however long it took her to toddle across the square to the house of her bosom friend and equally accomplished gossip, Melinda Fallwell.

“I still think the earl would have made it a point to say something to me if he’d known about this betrothal.” Miss Strange’s nostrils twitched as if she smelled something rotten.

What was the matter with the woman? His and Anne’s betrothal might be a complete sham but why would she wish to discuss that in front of Lady Dunlee? She must see the woman was dying for the smallest crumb of gossip, and here she was offering the gabble-grinder a veritable feast.

Stephen forced himself to smile. “I gather Lord Crane was in a hurry to catch his ship.”

“In a hurry?” Anne said. “That hardly describes it. Papa almost shoved us out of the carriage while it was still moving. He certainly didn’t pause to have a word with you, Clorinda.”

“No, he didn’t.” Clorinda nodded. “The man’s obsessed with bits of pottery and broken statues. Queer as Dick’s hatband about it, if you ask me--always has been. We were surprised he got his head out of the dirt long enough to marry your mother, Anne. And the current countess...she’s as daft about debris as he is.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 5th "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

“Betrothed?” All three women spoke together in the same tone of incredulity. They were like a damn Greek chorus. Three pairs of eyes goggled at him now.

“I’m sure you didn’t tell me you were betrothed, Anne.” Miss Strange’s tone was an odd mix of confusion and horror. “I would have remembered if you had. And your father didn’t mention it in his letter.” She paused, her brow wrinkling. “At least, I don’t think he did. I grant you he ran on so about his silly antiquities I did skim a lot of his missive.”

Anne tried to tug her fingers out of his grasp, but he wasn’t about to let her go. “I didn’t tell you, Cousin, because Mr. Parker-Roth and I aren’t--ouch!”

She glared at him accusatorily; he smiled. He was sorry to have squeezed her so hard, but he couldn’t let her ruin his attempt to save her reputation. Couldn’t she comprehend? All they had to do was fabricate something remotely plausible. Lady Dunlee might doubt their story--most likely would doubt it--but she couldn’t know for certain what the truth was. He and Anne would have all Season to convince her and the ton of their devotion.

He lifted Anne’s fingers to brush his lips over them--and smiled a little more as she blushed and tried again to snatch them out of his grasp. This charade might even be pleasant. And should it--as it likely would--end in matrimony... Well, he’d been thinking just this evening--or was it this morning?--that he needed to give in and look about for a bride. He’d just turned thirty, he’d narrowly escaped a marriage trap two months ago, and his older brother and younger sister were both wed and busily procreating. Hell, after his second bottle of brandy, he’d admitted to himself he didn’t much care to live out his life as old Uncle Stephen.

Not that he’d be given that opportunity, of course. When he’d been home for his nephew’s christening, Mama had been hinting--rather more than hinting--that he should embrace the joys of matrimony sooner rather than later, and with John and Jane both taken care of, she would turn the complete focus of her marital machinations on him--Nick was still too young, the lucky dog.

He’d laughed when he’d watched her drag John up for the Season year after year and push eligible young ladies into his path--he would not be laughing so heartily if he were Mama’s victim. Frankly, he’d been a little surprised she hadn’t followed him to London when he’d left the Priory after the christening. Thank God for baby Jack. But he had little doubt the joys of grandmotherhood would not supplant the duties of motherhood--as Mama saw them--forever.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 4th "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

“No. I mean I didn’t.” Lady Anne’s complexion got even redder. “That is, he kissed me.”

The silence that followed this announcement was deafening.

“So the beast forced himself on you?” Miss Strange choked on the words. Two pairs of feminine eyes--Lady Anne had the grace to examine the floor at her feet--swiveled toward him.

“Er...” If he remembered correctly Lady Anne had been a very willing participant in that kiss. Surely he remembered correctly? He wasn’t that drunk--he’d never been so drunk as to take liberties with an unwilling woman.

“No, of course he didn’t force himself on me, Cousin,” Lady Anne said, her cheeks still bright red. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Miss Strange patted Anne on the shoulder. “There, there. No need to be embarrassed. It’s not your fault.” She glared at him. “Everyone knows men are all too often driven by their baser instincts.”

Anne stepped away from her cousin’s touch. “You sound like the worst horrid novel, Clorinda. Mr. Parker-Roth did not attack me.” She shrugged one shoulder, looking most uncomfortable, but compelled by honor to tell the truth. “He may have initiated the encounter, but I didn’t exactly struggle.”

Not exactly. He bit back a smile. Not at all.

He cleared his throat, bringing the ladies’ attention back to him. He couldn’t let Anne dig herself deeper into a hole. A hole? Ha. He felt parson’s mousetrap yawning before him like a bottomless abyss, but there was no way to avoid it now; they might as well step in with as much grace as they could.

“Of course you weren’t struggling, dear heart.” Three jaws dropped at the endearment. “Why would you?” He moved to take her hand in both of his before turning to the other women. “My apologies, ladies, for letting passion rule my better judgment, but I’m afraid it’s been so long since I’ve seen my betrothed, I couldn’t contain my happiness.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 3rd "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

Lady Anne moaned--and not with suppressed desire. No matter. The sound, throaty and deep, caused his eager cock to grow another inch.

Blast it, this was most definitely not the time or place to entertain salacious thoughts concerning Lady Anne. They were in a very sticky situation. Lady Dunlee was by far the biggest gossip in London if not in all of England.

Miss Strange’s jaw had dropped almost to her slippers, and her throat worked exactly as if she were indeed a heron trying to swallow a large fish whole. “Ah, ah.”

“I fell.” Lady Anne had found her lovely voice again. “I wasn’t...there was nothing...” She took a deep breath and scowled at Lady Dunlee. “It was all your cat’s fault.”

Good God, didn’t Anne realize she was teetering on the edge of social annihilation by accusing the woman’s pet of misbehavior? It was akin to jumping in front of a speeding carriage. Lady Dunlee could--and likely would--take instant umbrage and flatten Anne’s reputation with just a well chosen word or two.

He cleared his throat. “Perhaps we should sit down and discuss the matter over a nice, calming dish of tea.” He’d prefer a large glass of brandy, but even his sodden brain knew he dare not ask for that. At least his dimensions had subsided sufficiently so he could risk Lady Dunlee’s scrutiny long enough to take a seat. In fact, other pains were overtaking the ache in his crotch. His shoulder and hip throbbed from where he’d landed on the pavement and his head threatened to explode. His knees felt a touch wobbly and his stomach was considering revolt.

The ladies ignored him.

Lady Dunlee had swelled up like an angry feline. “How can you possibly say Miss Whiskers is to blame for your sins?”

“Because she is to blame.” Lady Anne clasped her hands as though to keep from strangling Lady Dunlee. “And they aren’t sins.”

Lady Dunlee’s eyebrows disappeared into her hair. “Rolling around on the ground in passionate--”

Anne cut her off. “The entire incident was an accident. If your cat hadn’t darted past just then, Harry would not have taken off after her and pulled Mr. Parker-Roth backward, causing us both to fall.”

“Ah.” Lady Dunlee’s lips pulled into a rather dangerous smile. “And I suppose Miss Whisker’s presence somehow compelled you to kiss and caress Mr. Parker-Roth before your dog pulled you over?”

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2, 2nd "bite"

Chapter 2 (cont.)

Lust shot directly to his, er, brain, so he momentarily lost track of the conversation. Fortunately instinct prompted him to step quickly behind a chair, shielding his telltale bit from Lady Dunlee’s sharp eyes.

Lady Dunlee had misconstrued the scene, of course, but he wished she’d had the right of it. He was more than willing to let Lady Anne have her wicked way with his poor self.

How wicked would her way be? Mmm, that was an interesting question to contemplate. If her imagination faltered, his was more than adequate for the task. Much more. It was currently producing a number of delicious images, completely inappropriate for his present location. But if he and Anne were in his bedchamber--

“Mr. Parker-Roth, did I just hear you groan?” Damned if Lady Dunlee’s eyes didn’t drop to his nether regions, still well hidden behind the wing chair.

“I don’t believe so, madam, but I do have a touch of the headache.”

The blasted woman kept her eyes focused on where his unruly cock was misbehaving and arched a brow. “I bet you do.”

She couldn’t see through the chair, could she? He felt a hot flush sweep up his neck, but he did his best to ignore it. At least this corner of the room was too shadowy for his heightened color to be easily discerned...he hoped. He glanced at Anne.

She appeared to be too mortified or too furious to form a coherent sentence. Her mouth was open, but only strangled sounds emerged.

Unfortunately, Miss Strange’s voice was working perfectly. “Anne, were you actually on the ground with a man?” She might as well have said “soul eating devil.”

Her voice drilled right between his eyes. He rubbed the spot with his index and middle finger and leaned a little more against the chair. At a guess, Miss Strange was not a huge admirer of the male of the species. Not surprising. He couldn’t imagine any of his sex admiring her. She looked like an elderly heron, all stiff and angular, with a long neck and beak-like nose. She wore her gray hair in a bun so tight her watery blue eyes bulged.

“Oh, yes.” Lady Dunlee wasn’t even trying to hide her glee. She glanced at him again before dropping her voice to a stage whisper. “Lady Anne’s skirts were up around her knees, and Mr. Parker-Roth’s hands were on her”--she dropped her voice even lower--“derriere.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Naked King--chapter 2 begins

As promised, I'll be posting chapter 2 of my June release, The Naked King, in 14 bites--today is the first installment. If you haven't read chapter 1, you can find it here. And don't forget about my contest and Kensington's contest. The details here and here.


Chapter 2

Stephen rubbed his temples and tried surreptitiously to lean against a sturdy wingback chair in Lord Crane’s bookroom. Tiny devils with sledgehammers were banging away on the inside of his forehead and the high-pitched yammering around him only added to his misery. He’d give his damn fortune to be back in his bedchamber, curtains drawn, icepack on his head. But he was, for all his faults, a gentleman. He couldn’t leave Lady Anne to face the music--or screeching--alone.

He glanced over at her. She looked more than capable of defending herself. At the moment she was glaring at her elderly cousin Miss Clorinda Strange and Lady Dunlee, her mouth set in a tight line, her brows almost meeting over her nose. He’d swear her nostrils flared. If he were closer to her, he’d probably see green sparks shooting from her eyes.

“Cousin Clorinda, Lady Dunlee, you are making far too much of this incident.”

“Far too much?” Lady Dunlee sniffed and raised her eyebrows. “I don’t see how one can make ‘far too much’ of a lady disporting herself with abandon in a public square--and with the King of Hearts, no less.” She shot him a pointed look. He smiled back as blandly as possible.

“Anne.” Miss Strange was scowling. She’d not looked pleased when they’d interrupted her--she’d been perusing some large, musty tome when Lady Dunlee had burst in, dragging them along in her wake. “Is this true?”

Lady Anne turned a lovely shade of red. “Of course not. I was not disporting myself with”--Zeus, she turned even redder--“I wasn’t disporting myself at all.”

Damn, he’d like to disport himself with the lady in a private room, on a large, soft bed. Odd. He’d never been drawn to bespectacled spinsters dressed in sacks before, but there was something about this spinster... She’d been delightful in the square. Shy, hesitant, yet curious, too--quite the contrast from her prickly behavior up to that point.

“Oh, no?” Lady Dunlee said. “I saw you in Mr. Parker-Roth’s arms. You were running your hands over his chest before you kissed him and threw him down on the ground to have your wicked way with him.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Selling by accident

Yesterday I said I'd sold my first book, The Naked Duke, by accident. You may be wondering how that happened.

I decided I wanted to be a writer in about 5th grade. I read a story I'd written to the class and they laughed! I was hooked. But that was back in the days of typewriters, and I wasn't a very good typist. Still, I sought out writing opportunities wherever I found them, mostly writing short pieces--a poem in a free local paper, articles in my college magazine. When I graduated--after a brief stint in law school--I went to work writing federal regulations for the USDA school nutrition programs. (Anyone remember ketchup as a vegetable?) I started writing a book, and I had an essay published in The Washington Post.

And then I had kids. Thinking back, it wasn't my four sons that stalled my writing career. Until the youngest was 5, I was still writing. I had an article published in Parents magazine and was writing--and submitting--picture book texts. I even collected a number of "good" rejection slips. No, I think it was taking over both the neighborhood summer swim team and the cub scout pack at the same time that did me in. That and hitting the peak carpool years--with four sons in almost every possible kid activity, I lived in my minivan. If laptops had been invented then--and I'm not sure they had--I didn't have one.

I believe getting published requires a lot of work, dedication, perseverance, some talent--and a dash of luck. When my oldest son was getting ready to apply to college, I started looking ahead to what I would do when I didn't need to be a hands on mom 24/7. I looked back at all the effort I'd put into writing, and I decided it was time--maybe past time--to see if I could make my dream of publication come true.

I read all the old writing magazines I'd saved. I made myself sit down and write all the way to "The End" and then revise and write some more. Finally I joined the Romance Writers of America to get access to the Beau Monde chapter and all their Regency expertise. And I stumbled onto the Writing Regency loop.

The deadline for entering the Golden Heart--RWA's big contest for unpublished writers--was coming up, and the "loopers" were beating the bushes for manuscripts. If the Regency category (this is the old, short Regency category that's no longer around) didn't get a minimum of 25 entries, it would be cancelled--and not for the first time. Well, I had this manuscript. Susannah Carleton, author of a number of published Regencies, helped me write my first ever synopsis, and I sent in my entry. And here's where the dash of luck comes in--I made the finals. (I've come to realize that reading tastes differ wildly, so if I'd gotten a different group of judges, I might not have done well at all.)

Editors judge the final round. One of those editors so liked The Naked Duke that she got my contact information from RWA and called me out of the blue. The rest, as they say, is history.

Monday I'll start putting up Chapter 2 of The Naked King--Chapter 1 is already up on my web site. And don't forget to enter my contest. Details are in Tuesday's (May 10) blog.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Naked character connections

I’ll confess that my Naked world was born partly from panic. I sold The Naked Duke by accident. I was ecstatic, but I also now had a two book contract, which meant I had to write another book...on deadline. Ulp. I didn’t take note of the exact date that I started the Duke, but I’m guessing it took me 3 to 4 years, writing in fits and starts, to complete. I had less than 9 months to write book 2.

I had a little bit of that “deer in the headlights” feeling.

I also had two male characters--the duke’s friends. Hmm. I was first drawn to Robbie, the Earl of Westbrooke. I’d already identified his heroine--Lady Elizabeth, the duke’s sister. But Lizzie was only 17, in her first Season, and while by Regency standards she was old enough to marry, my modern sensibilities wanted her to be older. So that left Major Charles Draysmith--he became The Naked Marquis. (Actually, he was going to be an earl when his brother died, but then my publisher and I decided these would be the Naked noble books and I already had an earl--Robbie--waiting for his story, so I had to “promote” Charles’s brother to marquis before I killed him off.)

Then it turned out Emma Peterson, Charles’s heroine, had a very interesting sister, Meg. Meg became the heroine of The Naked Gentleman. And John Parker-Roth, Meg’s hero, had five siblings. I haven’t--yet--written all their stories.

Here’s a sort of scorecard of Naked heroes and heroines:

The Naked Duke: James Runyon, Duke of Alvord, and Sarah Hamilton, American

The Naked Marquis: Charles Draysmith, Marquis of Knightsdale (duke’s friend) and Emma Peterson, vicar’s daughter

The Naked Earl: Robbie Hamilton, Earl of Westbrooke (duke’s friend and Sarah’s cousin) and Lizzie Runyon (duke’s sister)

The Naked Gentleman: John Parker-Roth (earl’s friend) and Meg Peterson (Emma’s sister)

The Naked Baron: David Wilton, Baron Dawson, and Lady Grace Belmont (stood John Parker-Roth up at altar years before Gentleman)

The Naked Viscount: Edmund Smyth, Viscount Motton, and Jane Parker-Roth (John’s sister)

The Naked King: Stephen Parker-Roth (John’s brother) and Lady Anne Marston

There are also two Naked novellas connected to the Naked world: “The Naked Laird” in Lords of Desire and “The Naked Prince” in An Invitation to Sin. “The Naked Laird” happens during The Naked Baron, at the house party hosted by Viscount Motton. “The Naked Prince” occurs a few months before The Naked King and is somewhat of a prequel. Part of that story involves the “prince” trying to keep Stephen from being trapped into marriage by an unsuitable female.

Tomorrow, the how I accidently sold the Duke.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Naked chronology

The Regency period in England is technically the years 1811-1820 when Prinny--the Prince Regent who became King George IV--ruled because his father, King George III, was mad. It was a time of great change--the Industrial Revolution was well underway; the Napoleonic Wars were ending. (Waterloo was fought in June 1815.) And it is a favorite setting for historical romances.

When I started writing my first book, The Naked Duke, I knew I wanted to set my stories after the Napoleonic Wars--I'm just not a fan of wartime. So the Duke occurs in 1816. The second book, The Naked Marquis, happens a few months later. And the third book...well, the heroine of The Naked Earl is Lizzie, the Naked duke's sister. She was only 17 in the Duke, and while that would be a perfectly acceptable age to marry in Regency times, it was too young for my modern tastes. She had to grow up--so that pushed The Naked Earl off to 1819. Once I had this basic timeline established, I worked forward or backward depending on who the characters were in my new stories.

So here is the rough chronology of the books. And don't worry--they don't have to be read in any particular order. I didn't actually write them in the order they "happened."

1816, roughly concurrently: The Naked Duke, The Naked Baron, and "The Naked Laird" in Lords of Desire

1816, a few months later: The Naked Marquis

1819, roughly concurrently: The Naked Earl, The Naked Viscount

1820: The Naked Gentleman

1821, February: "The Naked Prince" in An Invitation to Sin

1821, April: The Naked King

Tomorrow, how the Naked characters connect.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Naked noble contest!

I haven't done a contest in years, so I figured it was about time--and what better way to celebrate the release of The Naked King, the last (for now) Naked noble! Here's how it works:

1. Send me an email at writesally@comcast.net. In the subject line put "Contest" and then the Naked book you'd most like to win. So if you want to win The Naked Duke, for example, your subject line should read: Contest--The Naked Duke. That way I can easily separate out all the contest entries.

2. In the body of the email, give me your snail mail address so if you win I don't have to chase you down after the fact.

3. Bonus entries! Tweet about the contest or post about it on your Facebook page or blog to earn bonus entries. Here's a sample tweet: "Be a Naked winner with @Sally_MacKenzie! Visit http://tinyurl.com/5we7v7q to enter. Please RT!" Be sure to tell me about your tweets/posts in your email entry, so I can tally up your bonuses!

4. If you'd like to tell me why you want to win that particular Naked book or what you love about the Naked series, that's good, too. I might add an extra winner.

5. If you enter the contest, I'll save your email address so I can send you a reminder when the next book comes out. I might even, at some point, use the email addresses to send out a quarterly newsletter. So you won't get much email from me--and I'll never share your email address with anyone--but if you never ever want to hear from me, you probably shouldn't enter the contest.

Since the Kensington contest runs until June 15 (see yesterday's postcard post), I'll do the same. Then I'll pick winners, one for each of my books. I'll even pick winners of the novellas. (If you want to win one of those you can put the title of the novella or the title of the anthology in the subject line.) You're only eligible to win one book--I want to spread the Naked love around.

And if you want to learn more about the Naked nobles, keep stopping by. I'll be posting something every day until The Naked King is out in the world.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Naked postcard

Isn't this cool? My publisher designed this to promote The Naked King and all the other Naked nobles. If you click on each book, it will take you to that page on their site. And did you notice? If you go to the Kensington Facebook page by June 15 and tell them why you love me (blush!), you might win a signed copy of the whole Naked series!

It's less than a month until the King's official release date, and in celebration I'll be posting something here every day, Monday through Friday, until June 7. Stop by tomorrow for my own contest announcement!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Note to self--things to bring to conferences

I'm back from the Washington Romance Writers retreat. I'm beat, but I had a great time.

I love the WRW retreat. Yes, we have typical conference stuff like inspiring speakers and great workshops, but to me the retreat is different from any other conference. In some ways it reminds me of a big sleepover party. I love seeing all my WRW pals--I don't tend to go to meetings, so this is my once a year meet-up with many of them. And I always meet new friends.

The retreat is conference-y enough, though, that I need to bring a few items to make my experience more pleasant. Here's my partial packing list:

1. A watch. This time I left my watch at home, and it was a big mistake. I don't tend to wear one normally. I used to, but it annoys me while I'm typing, and shedding it was sort of a symbolic way to disengage from day-to-day reality and enter my story world. But at a conference--even a retreat--I need to stay on reality's schedule if I want to get to things on time. Relying only on my cell phone wasn't a great choice.

2. A water bottle. I find the air in hotels incredibly drying. I tend to drink gallons of decaf tea during the day anyway, so even if the air wasn't so dry my body would probably complain if I suddenly cut the fluids. And if I use the workout room, it's good to have water at hand.

3. A good tote bag. I'm still working on this. I hauled around a purse part of the time at the retreat when I wanted to have my smart phone with me. When I didn't care, I ditched the purse and just used one of those neck wallets. The best kind of bag, though, has a handy place for the cell, note pad, schedule, and water bottle.

4. A jacket of some kind. I thought the weather was going to be warm this weekend, but fortunately I grabbed a shawl at the last minute. (One of the beauties of being able to drive to a conference--your car can become an extended suitcase.) Even if the weather had been warm, hotels can be chilly or, in this case, chilly in some parts. I hate being cold.

5. Drugs. No, nothing crazy. A pain reliever just in case all the excitement of being out of my writerly cave amongst real, live people brings on a headache. And I always pack Benadryl for my seasonal allergies, but also because I seem to have a bad reaction to hotel bedding.

So that's my partial must-have list. Anyone want to add anything? RWA National is less than two months away!