HIGHLAND SEER Sale!

Have you read the award-winning second book in my Highland Talents series, HIGHLAND SEER?  If not, now is a perfect time to get it for yourself and all your friends!  The Amazon #1 Medieval Historical Romance bestseller is on sale for 99 cents. 

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Don’t miss the 99-cent sale! HIGHLAND SEER is available at your favorite vendor:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/186cnLQ
B&N: http://ow.ly/uBNrp
iBooks: http://ow.ly/vwuR6
Kobo: http://ow.ly/vIPVw
AllRomanceEBooks: http://ow.ly/AX4aI
BookStrand: http://ow.ly/AX6C7
The Wild Rose Press: http://ow.ly/AXaa9

September is for…SCOTLAND!

image002This month, I’m finally making that dream trip to Scotland.  I can’t wait!

In the meantime, I’ve teamed up with some of my favorite fellow Scottish historical romance authors to provide a virtual tour of some of their favorite places in Scotland, especially those they’ve used in their books.  If you’re dreaming of your own Highland adventure and looking for ideas, you can read more at the USAToday HEA blog here and here!

And if you can’t make the trip anytime soon, don’t despair. Until you can, our books will transport you to the hills, lochs and glens. Oh, and might find a few men in kilts on the pages, too!

(Hills Reflected in a Loch, Photo Credit: Terry Spear)

HIGHLAND SEER Wins RONE Awards Honorable Mention

What a lovely surprise! At the InD’Tale Magazine RONE Awards on Friday, 11 July, HIGHLAND SEER was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Historical Medieval category!

I’m thrilled for HIGHLAND SEER to get this recognition! If you haven’t read it yet, it’s available in ebook, print and audiobook formats from your favorite retailer!

Cover Reveal! Kissing the Highlander

I can now share with you the cover for Kissing the Highlander, the anthology I’m doing with best-selling authors Terry Spear, Eliza Knight, Vonda Sinclair and Victoria Roberts.

Kissing the Highlander will be out on Valentine’s Day 2015.  In the meantime, you can enjoy the cover!  We’ll post some hints now and again about the novellas it contains.  We’ll also have a Facebook group where you can keep up with developments.  Check back here for details!

Kissing the Highlander final

 

Isn’t it fabulous!  Designed by Vonda Sinclair, a wizard with cover art as well as a great author and fabulous person.

What Do You Call 100 Men in Kilts?

What do you call a hundred men in kilts?  A Pinehurst Scottish Bagpipe Tattoo!  Four groups of pipers of both genders from all over North Carolina, along with drummers, dancers, and a very Scottish drum major, brought a bit of the Highlands to the Sandhills last week to celebrate Pinehurst #2 hosting both the men’s and women’s golf US Opens.

They marched into the Pinehurst village green from different directions to the stirring sound of Scotland the Brave, which brought everyone to their feet. By the time the last notes of Amazing Grace died away at the end of the program, there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen.

RomCon 2014 Readers’ Crown Finalists!

8048ea2d28f90da4fa4ded1f585d5778-1.image.383x550 36841b084a7ba0f35d0f751223ddf148.image.383x550Two of my books, Highland Healer and Highland Seer are 2014 RomCon Readers’ Crown finalists in the Medieval category!  If you don’t have them already, here are two ways to get them: 

1. Place a Bid in Brenda Novak’s auction for Diabetes Research for a signed set of my books, including Highland Healer, 2014 RomCon Readers’ Crown Historical Finalist and Highland Seer, 2014 RomCon Readers’ Crown and InD’Tale Magazine RONEAward finalist (Historical Medieval), plus a signed copy of my latest release, The Healer’s Gift (a Highland Talents novella).  If you place the winning bid, you’ll not only get a great prize, but you’ll have the satisfaction of helping a worthy cause.  

2. Sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win a signed set of my books. And other prizes.  And goodies.  For instance, my May newsletter, coming out late this month, will include a never before seen excerpt from Highland Troth (Highland Talents Book 3) — exclusive for my newsletter subscribers!

Don’t wait another minute.  Place your bid and sign up now for your chances to win.  

H is for Hero

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

H is for Hero – Who is the hero of your story?  In Romance, the convention is to have a hero and a heroine (or a hero/hero or heroine/heroine, or hero/hero/heroine … you get the idea), both of whom get relatively equal time in the story.  Romance is written from the hero’s and heroine’s point of view.  The reader sees what they see, hears what they hear, knows what they know.  Often, those are the only two viewpoints in a story, but sometimes the antagonist (the bad guy) or an important secondary character gets a few scenes, too.

securedownloadRomance readers love an alpha hero – large and in charge describes this type of man.  But beta heroes have their followers, too, who prefer the more sensitive, cooperative male.  Heroines, thankfully, have gone from simpering, empty-headed missies the hero must save to kick-ass women who can not only take care of themselves, they often save the hero, or work side-by-side with the hero to resolve the conflicts in the book.  While the definition of hero, especially the alpha variety, hasn’t changed much in Romance novels, the definition of heroine certainly has.

G is for Genre

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

G is for Genre – What is a genre?  The dictionary definition goes something like this: a category of literature or other forms of art or entertainment, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. In other words, it’s the type of book you’re writing, whether it’s a mystery, a western, science fiction, or some sub-genre of romance (e.g., science fiction romance, historical romance, contemporary romance, etc.).

Traditionally, publishers liked nice clean divisions between genres.  Well-defined genres make books easier to shelve and to market.  But there are some authors (me included) whose books cross genres.  Mine are Scottish historical paranormal romance.  Say that six times, fast!

Red BooksCrossing genres makes marketing more of a challenge, though digital booksellers can get around that with well-chosen keywords, but it also provides opportunities to reach more readers.  My readers might like historical romance, or Scottish historical romance, or paranormal romance, psi-focused science fiction or even fantasy, but they find elements of their favorite style in my books.  So my readers come from all of those preference groups, not just one.

The secret is out.  As writers find their readership expanding, crossing genres is becoming more common.

F is for Finish the Damn Book!

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post, on April 1, was A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

F is for  – Finish the Damn Book!  If you’re like the majority of would-be authors, you’ve started and abandoned many manuscripts.  Starting a book is like starting a love affair.  It’s all mystery and excitement at the beginning.  The possibilities seem endless, and at the beginning, they are.  But like any love affair, the fireworks fade.

Therein lies the rub.  You get confused, lose your focus, your characters don’t cooperate and your plot (if you even have one) seems trite, or it’s going nowhere. So what should you do? Get over it.  Break ranks with the wanna-be’s and finish your first draft.

You’ll have accomplished what 90 percent of writers fail to do.  And if you succeed in editing, polishing, submitting and getting published, you’ll join the elite ten percent of the ten percent who finished their draft. Congratulations!

Easy-reading-is-damn-hardA quote attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne says “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”  It’s true.  You can’t escape doing the work.  But type “the end” on the last page of that finished first draft, second draft, or polished manuscript and you’ll find out that it’s also amazingly rewarding.  Go ahead.  Do it.  I dare you!

E is for Ergonomics

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

478px-Alphanumeric_keyboardE is for Ergonomics – Face it.  We spend hours in the same chair, staring at the same screen, typing on the same keyboard.  Sitting in the same position.

Can you spell repetitive stress injury?

Unfortunately, I can.  I’m battling carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar (elbow – funnybone) nerve damage from my dedication to BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard) and a tendency to lean on my left elbow.

Do yourself a favor and get away from the desk every once in a while.  Stand up.  Move around.  Forget the big, wooden executive desk and get one that you can adjust up and down.  Ditto for the chair.  You’re an author.  These are your tools, just the same as pen and paper.  You’re going to spend hours a day for (probably) the rest of your life with them, so get the best you can afford and remember to take a break — often.

D is for Draft

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

9678365189_6288a55d46_mD is for Draft, First Draft  – What takes a lot of time and effort, and possibly blood, sweat and tears, not to mention a martini or six? Not Bond, James Bond.  It’s draft, first draft.

Trust me, it’s going to hurt.

In fact, there’s an excellent chance your first draft is going to suck.  You won’t want anyone else to see it.  You’ll wonder what you were thinking, calling yourself a writer.  That’s okay.  Once the first draft is done, you’ll have a better handle on the size and scope of your story, the personalities of your characters, and what you need to add and delete and change.  Then, you can transform that hot mess into a fabulous book.

It’s all in that much-maligned first draft.  Write on!

Image courtesy of Shawn Budemer/Flickr

C is for Collaborate

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

C is for Collaborate – You know the old saying: A rising tide lifts all boats.  It’s true for authors, too.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe more we collaborate and cross-promote by tweeting, re-tweeting, joining book release parties on Facebook, and so forth, the more our reach grows.  I’ve gained new readers that way, and I’m sure my readers have found some new authors, too.

If you wonder why you would want to help your “competition,” think again.  Readers love similar books.  Mysteries, contemporary romance, historical fiction, even Scottish historical romance.  Once they’ve read everything by their favorite author, they go looking for similar books.

Don’t pass up an opportunity to cross-promote.  Retweet other authors.  Participate in online book release parties. Create opportunities for other authors by hosting your own online party and inviting them to “appear” to talk about their new book, run a contest and give away a prize.  If you’re not sure who else your readers would enjoy, ask them.  Or explore bookstores to see whose books are similar to yours.  You never know how many great authors, great stories, and new readers you’ll find!

B is for Burr

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first is A, the second is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

B is for Burr, or Brogue.  That lovely Scottish accent that sends chills from our fingertips to our toes.  What is it about rolling Rs vibrating from deep in the chest of a male speaker?  Whatever it is, we can’t get enough.

B1895_HighlandHealer_DAudiobooks to the rescue!  Highland Healer came out in audiobook format just last month.  When I listened, I was amazed at what a different experience hearing the story gave me, instead of reading it.  You can find out for yourself at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tantor, and Audible.

A is for Advertise

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  Today’s post is A, tomorrow’s will be B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

A is for Advertising – you can’t be successful as an author these days without tooting your own horn.  It’s tough, and it’s especially tough for those of us who were taught to do our best and count on someone else to notice. 

Very few authors can just put books out there and make it in today’s market.  So we advertise.  

imageFor example?  Today, I have a Special Sneak Peek up on RomCon for your reading pleasure – including an excerpt.  If you haven’t read The Healer’s Gift (A Highland Talents Novella) yet, take a look.  You might win a copyIf you’re intrigued and can’t wait to see if you won, you can get it from Amazon.

The Healer’s Gift Early Release Day!

It’s Early Release Day for The Healer’s Gift (A Highland Talents Novella)!  Coira’s story is available exclusively on Amazon (Kindle) for the next 90 days.  Read an Excerpt from my latest addition to my Highland Talents series!

imageCoira MacDugall paid with her life for her attack on the Highland Healer.  But her victim did more than heal Coira’s fatal wound that awful night.  Now drowning in the unwelcome emotions of others, Coira wonders if her new empathic ability was meant as a gift or a curse.
Logen MacDugall must discover who killed three previous lairds if he hopes to survive for long in the position. He believes Coira’s new sense can help him root out the conspirators, but after her disastrous time in the Highlands, the last thing she wants is to get involved with another laird.
Logen must help Coira gain control of her talent in time to save him and their clan from those intent on destroying MacDugall. Can Coira accept that this laird truly loves her?  Or will her memories lead her to madness again?

 The official worldwide release day will be 2 July, when it will become available in Ebook format to B&N (Nook), Kobo, AllRomanceEBooks, iBooks, and The Wild Rose Press, and In Print from Amazon and The Wild Rose Press. 

Release Day!

It’s release day for the Highland Healer audio book! Now you can hear those lovely Scottish burrs instead of just imagining them!
B1895_HighlandHealer_D
When do you like to listen to an audiobook? Driving? Exercising? Dreaming?

You can get the audiobook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tantor Media, Audible.com and probably a few more places I haven’t found yet.

Just in Time for the Weekend: Uisge Beatha

We’re back to the Highlands of Scotland today.  Want to add a bit of Scottish flavor to your plans for a romantic weekend?  How about a single-malt tasting party?

Uisge beatha is Gaelic for water of life.  Committed single-malt drinkers consider it to be nothing less than that.  According to the Scotch Whisky Association:

The earliest documented record of distillation in Scotland occurred as long ago as 1494, as documented in the Exchequer Rolls, which were tax records of this time, The quote above records “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae”. This was equivalent to about 1,500 bottles, which suggests that distillation was well-established by the late fifteenth century.

The Scotch Whisky Regulations  of 2009 control the production, labelling, packaging, and advertising standards for Scotch whisky in the United Kingdom.  Among many detailed and specific regulations for the process, strength, color and so forth, it defines “Scotch whisky” as whisky that is distilled in Scotland of water and malted barley and other whole grains.  It must mature in oak barrels a minimum of three years.  

If you’re just getting started with single-malts, the chart below, from Malts.com, is a fabulous visual aid to help you choose a whisky to taste and to find your favorites.  It is not a complete list of all the single-malts available from Scotland, but it’s a good place to start.

My husband’s long-time favorite is Bunnahabhain, but lately, perhaps because the weather has turned chilly, he’s taken a liking to Old Pultney.  He says that one is especially fine on a cold golf day as “swing oil” to warm and loosen up the golfers tight muscles – or maybe he means just to loosen up the golfers.  

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My taste runs to Drambuie – a liqueur made from malt whisky, honey, herbs and spices, or just a wee sip of a single malt, but a friend of ours favors Laphroaig, which smells and tastes like iodine bandages to me.  

That just proves that everyone’s palate is different.  Like wines, single malts express different nuances of flavor that may appeal to one person and not another.   One way to discover your favorite is to host a single-malt tasting party.  An excellent event is Burns’ Night on January 25th.  Much like a wine-tasting, have everyone bring a different bottle (and designated drivers!).  To find the best pairings for the different single-malts, serve a variety of food, whether that includes a noble Haggis or not.  If you’re lucky enough to have plenty of friends in the neighborhood, do a neighborhood single-malt tasting.  Then everyone can simply walk home.  

Slàinte mhath!

USAToday HEA Recommends HIGHLAND SEER!

In today’s USAToday HEA blog, Kathy Altman reviews and recommends HIGHLAND SEER!

FinalHighlandSeer_w7776I don’t want to give away the entire review since I’m sure you’ll want to read it for yourself.  Just click this link!

But to tease you, here are some of my favorites comments:

“Willa Blair’s latest Scottish Highlands historical is the deeply satisfying story of a desperate lady laird and an honor-driven master of arms.”

“16th-century intrigue, muscled men with claymores and a doomed romance — is it any wonder I was reluctant to leave the rich, riveting world of Highland Seer?  Good thing I can make my way back easily enough — all I have to do is treat myself to Blair’s celebrated debut, Highland Healer…”

“Blair has crafted layer upon layer of conflict so ironclad the story teems with tension and expectancy.”

 I’m thrilled!  And to celebrate, I’m going to announce another giveaway…so check back here tomorrow!  

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Z is for (New) Zealand

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9

a-to-z-letters-zI’m in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the month of April.  I need your help!  To meet this challenge, I’ll be doing one post a day, working through the alphabet.

Your job is to comment and keep me motivated!  Let me know you’re out there and following along.  Can she make it?  Will she?  Of course she will!  With you as my cheering section, I won’t be stumped by J or Q or even X.

So without further ado, here is today’s post.

550px-NZL_orthographic_NaturalEarth.svgZ is for New Zealand.  Yes, to finish the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, we’re going just about as far from Scotland as it is possible to get on the planet.  As many Scots did, as part of the Scottish diaspora that has continued to this day.  

Actually, Captain James Cook, who first circumnavigated and mapped New Zealand, was half-Scottish, and among his crew were many Scotsmen.   After them came sealers and whalers, some of whom stayed, establishing settlements.  

1839

1839

Organized settlements began in the 1840s.  Most Scots were Lowlanders or former Highlanders who’d been forced off their land earlier and moved to the Lowlands, and who adopted Highland activities and symbols such as clans, kilts, bagpipes and games, considered more interesting and romantic than the history and culture of the Lowlands.   

800px-Romney_Ewe_and_LambThey came for religious and economic reasons.  They were farmers, artisans, miners, weavers, shipbuilders and carpenters, gold miners, and tradespeople of all kinds, looking for a better life than economic conditions in Scotland allowed.  

Gaelic (see G is for Gaelic) was spoken by some but did not withstand the onslaught of English, though some Gaelic terms continue to be used.  Robert Burns’s poetry (see R is for Robert) and Burns Night is celebrated on Jan 25.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScotland gave New Zealand golf, curling, and Highland games such as tossing the sheaf.  Food and drink include, of course, whisky. But New Zealanders still enjoy porridge, shortbread and scones.

For more on the subject of Scots in New Zealand, click here

Participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month has been a lot of fun.  I’ve enjoyed it and learned a lot in the process of researching these short posts.  I hope you have, too! 

Interested in finding the other nearly 2000 blogs participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?  Click on the title, then scroll down to find the sign-up list.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Y is for Year of Homecoming in Scotland

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9

a-to-z-letters-yI’m in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the month of April.  I need your help!  To meet this challenge, I’ll be doing one post a day, working through the alphabet.

Your job is to comment and keep me motivated!  Let me know you’re out there and following along.  Can she make it?  Will she?  Of course she will!  With you as my cheering section, I won’t be stumped by J or Q or even X.

So without further ado, here is today’s post.

Y is for Year of Homecoming in Scotland.  In 2014, there will be a year-long  series of events celebrating all things Scotland.  

There will be plenty of games and cultural events, arts and crafts and ancestral heritage activities.  The year starts with Hogmanay (see H is for Hogmanay) and continues with a Whisky month in May (see B is for Bunnahabhain, I is for Islay, O is for Old Pulteney, U is for Uisge beatha), the Commonwealth Games in July and the Ryder Cup in September.

I want to go!  Maybe I’ll even put on a Blair (T is for) Tartan plaid (K is for) Kilt and walk along the shores of (L is for ) Loch (N is for ) Ness.      

I might even see Nessie!  Or learn some (G is for) Gaelic.  How about you?

Interested in finding the other nearly 2000 blogs participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?  Click on the title, then scroll down to find the sign-up list.