To celebrate the release of my sizzling new Scottish romance, HIGHLAND SEER (Highland Talents #2) on Kindle, HIGHLAND HEALER (Highland Talents #1) is now on sale for $2.99! Get them both and enjoy action, adventure and romance in the highlands of Scotland this weekend!
Revisions are done on the second book in my Highland Talents series, Highland Seer! I sent them back to my editor on Friday, so I’m hopeful that Highland Seer gets into the queue for a fall release, and that I have a new cover to debut soon.
In the meantime, here’s another snippet from Highland Seer. This follows soon after last week’s snippet. Enjoy!
The Lathans have found a clan in trouble. There aren’t many fighting-age men left, and no one to train the younger lads. Donal is determined to find a solution to this problem, but he’s got his work cut out for him. The half-trained young man who is as close to a master of arms as the MacKyrie’s have finds Donal and Bram working with the younger lads and takes offense. Donal challenges him to show his stuff, but Micheil isn’t inclined to treat it as a demonstration.
Enjoy my Six Sentence Sunday Snippet!
Micheil growled an oath and shoved through the crowd into the circle. “They’re too young to take up fighting,” he argued. “No one would accost them.”
“Were those lads on the whisky wagon too young to be waving their dirks at brigands armed with claymores, then?”
That stopped Micheil in his tracks. He drew his weapon.
Donal grinned. “That’s better. Let’s dance, shall we?”
The Sunday Snippet group is on Facebook! Click on the banner at the top of this post to find the links to the other authors participating.
I’m so excited! I signed the contract last week for the second book in my Highland Talents series, Highland Seer! This past week I worked on revisions, which I plan to return to my editor in the next two or three days so that Highland Seer can get into the queue for a fall release.
The Lathans have found a clan in trouble. There aren’t many fighting-age men left, and no one to train the younger lads. Donal is determined to find a solution to this problem, but he’s got his work cut out for him.
Enjoy my Six Sentence Sunday Snippet!
Donal had collected sticks and wooden swords lying about in the dirt. He gave one to each lad, paired each lad with another, then ordered, “Show me what ye can do.”
Their enthusiasm for sparring didn’t surprise him, but their lack of skill did.
“Do ye think to defend yerselves or yer mates like that?”
The lads stopped what they were doing and stared at him, wide-eyed. “Aye,” a brave one answered him. “We’ll defend our clan to the death.”
“Then die ye will, laddie, unless ye learn how to fight.”
I signed the contract this week for the second book in my Highland Talents series, Highland Seer. So that’s where today’s snippet is from.
The Lathans have rescued old men and lads who were attacked by bandits bent on stealing their wagons loaded with kegs of whisky. Returning the wounded MacKyries home to be cared for, the Lathans are angry that their laird would send his clansmen out so poorly guarded and with bounty guaranteed to draw thieves.
Enjoy my Six Sentence Sunday Snippet!
“Can we be sure of our welcome here?” Jamie asked quietly.
“We’re bringin’ home their whisky and their menfolk,” Donal groused. “The laird’s gratitude had better include answering a few questions, like why we’re havin’ to bring home his wounded.” At Jamie’s raised eyebrow, he continued. “Once they ken how charming we are, there shouldna be any problems.”
Jamie grinned and shook his head.
Behind him, Bram choked back a laugh and began coughing.
I enjoyed a visit from a long-time friend this week, so this snippet is about a visitor Toran receives – a new friend and ally. As the old saying goes, there’s good news and bad news…
Enjoy my Six Sentence Sunday!
“Aye,” Angus answered. “And good news, as well.” He dismounted and handed the reins to one of the lads who stood by.
This week, I spoke on a panel about writing love stories and love scenes at the Writers Guild of Texas in Austin with Tracy Wolff, Mari Mancusi, and Shawnna Perigo. It was so much fun, I’ve decided to share a bit of a love scene here today.
Enjoy my Six Sentence Sunday!
He had to prove to her that he was serious about a future with her. “To become my wife and the lady of my clan.”
Toran glanced quickly around, but no one else seemed to have heard her startled exclamation.
“There will be time, lass. All ye need. And when ye find that ye are ready, we will marry.”
Note: This article used with permission by RWA Online, Chapter #136 from their January/February 2013 issue of LoveBytes.
Interview with Willa Blair
By Karen Jones
Willa, would you tell us a little about Highland Healer?
In 1513, Scotland’s King, James IV, led most of his nobles, lairds and their heirs to their deaths at Flodden Field just over the border in England. Afterward, most clans were led by younger siblings. And many clans near the border suffered so many losses that they broke up. Highland Healer takes place three years later, in 1516, when a lowlander army made up of broken men tries to conquer the highlands.
HE NEEDS HER FOR HIS CLAN.
HE WANTS HER FOR HIMSELF.
CAN HE HAVE BOTH?
Toran Lathan never expected to become Laird, and never expected to meet a woman like Aileanna Shaw. Her healing ability is just what his people need, but Toran cannot resist her beauty. Yet will loving him destroy her ability to heal?
Aileanna Shaw has a healing touch – and a special talent she must keep secret. Stolen from her home by a marauding army, she’s kidnapped again by the Highland Laird she heals. Is she a prize of war, or the prize of his heart?
While Toran battles the invading lowland army, he also battles his desire for Aileanna. And Aileanna must decide if she can trust her secrets to this fierce warrior who needs her talent, but wants her love.
How did you come up with the idea for Highland Healer?
I saw the opening scene in my head: a woman standing in a tent while a big man is carried in on a makeshift stretcher. At first, I didn’t know if it was going to be a fantasy, an otherwordly scifi/fantasy or set in the highlands. But once I had a page or two written, I knew.
Why did you decide to make it part of a series?
The time period following Flodden is so chaotic, especially in the highlands, that little of the history remains. The new king was a toddler, the Queen Mother was Henry VIII’s sister, and the Regent preferred to spend time in France. All of that gives me a spare scaffolding, if you will, of the historical record for me to build stories upon. And several of my secondary characters cried out for stories of their own. Book 2 is written and with my editor. I’m writing Book 3, and there are at least 3 others I’m developing ideas for, perhaps more than that.
What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy it?
You’d have to ask her that question. She loves Scottish historical romance. The changes she requested were minimal, so she must have liked the story and my voice.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing Highland Healer?
Finding the right time period. The vision I had of the opening scene could have taken place in any period of Scottish history when bladed weapons were still the only game in town. I definitely did not see firearms in my world.
How much research did you conduct for Highland Healer and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?
I read a lot, googled a lot, bought some Scottish history books, studied castles (and thought about ones I’ve visited in England), looked at pictures, and played with a few time periods until I settled on the post-Flodden years. The upside of the time period is that there’s not much historical record of life in the highlands. That’s the downside, too. I’m eager to walk the ground – go to Scotland and literally make it part of me – breathe the air, eat the food, see the sights. Maybe this coming spring or summer. I think being there will improve the sensory detail of my books, as well as the sense of place – and time.
Why did you decide to write a historical with a touch of paranormal?
I grew up reading science fiction. In my favorite books, psi talents played a role. I thought it would be fun to explore them in my own writing – and it is! Added to that, psi talents such as healing, precognition, dowsing (i.e., water witching) and so forth have a big place in highland myth and legend, and remained respected there much longer than elsewhere in Britain.
What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantzer
I started life as a pantzer – visualizing a first scene and then running it with it. That and the fact that I was still working my day job meant that Highland Healer took more than a decade to write and sell.
Book 2, Highland Seer, was finished and sent to my editor in less than a year because I decided to try to outline the book before I wrote it. It worked like a charm. That’s not to say that I stuck completely to the outline – I did adjust when the characters led me onto a new path. I got to know the characters as I wrote and they showed me how they wanted to react to the situations I put them into – sometimes not in the way I intended.
I tend to write sequentially, at least in the first draft. As I’m editing, I may decide to add a scene here or there as something occurs to me that needs to be addressed. I think I’m plot driven by training – my long-time critique group is made up of authors I affectionately call “plot-meisters” who have years of experience and hundreds of books published.
Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write?
Synopsis and outline. Keyboard and computer. Kidding. No, I don’t use Scrivener or anything like that – although I do have a trial copy of it, I haven’t figured it out yet well enough to want to take the time to use it. I need to get one of my writer friends to walk me through it.
How do you make time to write?
I have an advantage in that I retired from my day job, so I can focus on writing. Anyone who knows me knows I am NOT a morning person. So in the morning I do email, social media promo, etc. I’m more productive in the afternoon and evening. But I rarely get to write in the evening since my husband does deserve some of my attention.
When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?
At a macro level, I am. At a micro level, I’d say the characters are. They sometimes surprise me. They show me sides of themselves that I didn’t suspect or expect.
Who has had the most influence on your writing?
My critique group, first and foremost. They’ve taught me plot, conflict, point-of-view, layering in senses and emotions, pretty much any aspect of the craft you care to name. I think my voice was greatly influenced by sci fi writers such as Arthur C. Clarke, but I’m a voracious reader, so there’s really no telling. The RWA chapters that I belong to have also been terrific resources, offering classes, speakers and camaraderie with other writers who are at different points on the same path I’m walking.
Have you had any “ah ha” moments as a writer?
Absolutely. When I finished the first draft of Highland Healer. I finally realized what it felt like to complete a book. It had taken me a long time to do that. And it’s a powerful feeling, much more powerful than you’d expect if you haven’t gotten there yet. I put it right up there with any “rite of passage” you care to name.
What advice do you have for other writers?
I have total sympathy for writers who can’t seem to get to “The End,” but I have to say, Do It. Yes, you’ll have tons of editing in your future. Your first draft won’t be pretty – or publishable. But that’s what editing is for. What’s the famous Nora Roberts quote? Something like this: I can edit crap. I can’t edit a blank page.
Why did you decide to become an author?
I always saw myself as a writer. I used to play my 45 of the Beatles’ Paperback Writer over and over. (Now that I’m in TX, I need to play the flip side, Rain.) I won a national essay contest in the 7th grade – there was only one winner per state, and I was it for Florida. I still have “books” I started in long-hand, in pencil. They’re getting pretty faded, but every once in a while I look them over. Not bad for junior high and high school. College killed my writing, as did climbing the career ladder, especially in those years when my commute was 100 miles a day. One of the best things anyone ever did for me was during that time, when the leader of our critique group gave me permission not to write. That was a relief. It was more than I could handle then, but until she absolved me, I still felt guilt-ridden that I wasn’t producing.
Why did you decide to become a romance author?
I have to say that I stumbled into it. I thought I’d write science fiction. But a mentor at work was the writing partner of the woman who runs the critique group I belong to and she introduced me to it, and to Washington Romance Writers. I’ll be forever grateful that she set me on this path. So I joined RWA and except for several years where my day job left me too worn out to write, I never looked back. Then I discovered Catherine Asaro and Linnea Sinclair. I see some SFR books in my future, too. RWAOL, Celtic Hearts and the local chapter SARA, are all terrific. Romance writers support each other in ways other genres can only dream about.
Would you tell us your story of getting “the call?”
It wasn’t a call – it was an email. But it was breath-taking, nonetheless. I do seem to recall copious amounts of champagne being consumed that evening. I did get “the call” when I finaled in WRW’s Marlene contest. All I can say about that is that now I know what actors feel like when the Academy calls to tell them they’ve been nominated for an Academy Award. I only regret that my husband arrived home after I hung up the phone. He didn’t get to see my face as what the caller was telling me finally penetrated my brain.
What was the most exciting thing that happened to you after you signed your contract – besides receiving your first check as a published author?
It’s a tossup between getting the first cover (fabulous!) and the final galley, complete with ISBN numbers, cover, dedications, and all that stuff. There’s nothing like seeing your words in a format that looks like a book, even if you don’t have an actual paper book in your hand yet.
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
Getting more exercise? Volunteering at an animal shelter? (Don’t tell my husband. I could be a crazy cat lady if it weren’t for him.) Becoming a not-so-famous artist?
How does your husband feel about having a romance writer for a wife?
Judging by the fact that he’s always telling people about my book and the latest news about how it’s selling or what else I’m working on, I’d say he’s okay with it.
What are you doing to promote your book?
Right after I signed the contract, I settled on a pen name and cleared it with my publisher, started a FB author page, set it to tweet, and started getting the brand out into cyberspace. I always comment on blogs as Willa Blair, for instance. I’ve been blogging on my website/blog as well as guest-blogging, joining group marketing pages on Facebook, and so forth. I’m going to participate in a group book signing with my local SARA chapter in February and may do some on my own.
What support are you receiving from your publisher, Wild Rose Press?
They’ve been terrific. Besides fabulous cover art and editing, they send their books out to a lot of reviewers. They’re quick to answer questions about marketing, business, or whatever a first-time author like me needs to know. And they do a retreat at a ranch in Bandera, TX every other year that is tons of fun, and a great opportunity to meet other Wild Rose Press authors and other editors. Or just to have time to write, away from everyday distractions like TV, phones and family.
What books can we expect to see in the near future?
Book 2 in the Highlands Talent series is Highland Seer (working title). It will, I hope, be available in 2013. Book 3: Highland Troth (working title) and others will follow as long as TWRP and my readers want to buy them.
Is there a question you would like to answer but it wasn’t asked?
Yes, my question is: What are you doing to give back to the Romance community for the support you’ve gotten over the years?
I’m happy to say I am giving back as best I can. I mentor other authors, I’ve started an in-person critique group here in TX to supplement the online critique SARAs were doing, and help run the SARA website and write blog posts, mostly on craft, for it. I’m not an official officer in my local chapter, and frankly, I prefer that. This way, I’m free to meddle (kidding) as ideas and opportunities come to me. I’m helping a couple of days a week with WRW’s twitter account, retweeting interesting and useful tweets. I’ve gotten a lot of whole-hearted help along the way. I owe it to the romance community to give back. And to write!
Willa Blair is the award-winning author of Highland Healer, her debut novel, the first in a series set in the 16th century Highlands, when the old ways, and old talents, still shaped events. She always wished she had several psi talents, such as reading her husband’s mind, cleaning house by simply thinking about it, and flying. But alas, no. So she endows her characters with special talents and lives vicariously through them. She loves reading and writing romance novels set in the past, present and future.
Highland Healer, Wild Rose Press, January 4, 2013, Print ISBN 978-1-61217-678-9, Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-679-6
To learn more about Willa Blair and her writing, visit her at her web site http://www.willablair.com
About RWA® Online
RWA® Online is proud to have been the first electronic chapter of Romance Writers of America®. We know that the writer’s life can be a lonely one and it doesn’t help when the closest chapter meeting is a hundred miles and two weeks away. Our chapter was created in 1995 specifically to take advantage of the emerging capabilities of the world wide web to bring romance writers together through virtual instead of only physical meetings. We are now over 250 members strong and growing every day.
Our chapter resources are available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! All you need is an internet connection. We offer critique groups, plotting sessions, and lots of support and advice on your writing career. We understand the need to vent over a rejection letter and we celebrate your contest wins and manuscript requests and contracts right with you.
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Membership is open to members of RWA. To learn more, visit us at http://www.rwaonlinechapter.org/
Things are a little chaotic since the demise of #SixSentenceSunday. Our Facebook follow-on group just changed its name to Sunday Snippets. There’s another group called Sneak Peek Sunday that uses 8-10 sentences. I’m going to stick with six for now and hope this all sorts itself out soon. It would be great for all these groups to get together and support each other.
Enjoy my Six Sentence…ooops, I mean Sunday Snippet! In this one, Toran is just starting to get a sense of the chaotic situation he’s landed in.
He needed to get a look outside. If he could move quietly enough so as not to wake the lass, he could peer out the tent flap. His boots were lashed together with enough slack between them to hobble him, but not to prevent him from walking in some limited fashion. He considered trying to remove them, but the bindings around his ankles were too tight, and even if he got the boots off, he didn’t want to lose them. He wouldn’t get far on bare feet, so he’d have to find a way to cut the cord between them. First things first.
This has been a crazy weekend – I appeared on TV Friday to talk about Highland Healer and did my first book signing yesterday. In honor of those pivotal events in my career as an author, I’m giving you a look at a pivotal event in Aileana’s life, one that will affect her, Toran, and everyone around them.
Enjoy my Six Sentence Sunday!
Aileana met Ranald’s impassive stare with one of her own and then turned back to Colbridge. She suspected she knew what went on behind Ranald’s expressionless eyes. Colbridge lay pale as death. Blood soaked the tunic and leathers meant to protect his upper body, and pooled on the table beneath him. The metallic tang of it filled the tent. If she let him die, Aileana fretted, what would be the consequence?
Now that the official Six Sentence Sunday is over, I’ve decided to continue on my own, or until I find a group resuming it. I’m starting with the opening sentences of my debut book, Highland Healer.
Enjoy my first solo Six Sentence Sunday!
They brought the man into the tent on a makeshift stretcher, bound and unconscious. A hunting plaid of muted earth tones draped over his broad chest and across one muscular shoulder, where it fastened to his tunic with a simple brass pin. Quartz crystals decorated the open ends of a braided gold torc at his throat. That fact alone, that jewelry remained on his person, told Aileana that he was being accorded special treatment, not robbed like the common soldiers fallen on the field of battle. He would be a warrior, probably a laird, of the clan that Colbridge fought today.
It’s hard to believe, but this is the last official Six Sentence Sunday. January 27th.
I’m sorry to see it go. I know you are, too. It’s been a wonderful way to get a glimpse of so many talented authors’ work.
Should I continue here – just for my readers? What do you think?
In honor of the end of #SixSunday, I’m sharing the moment when Toran realizes his time with Aileana may be ending.
Enjoy the last official Six Sentence Sunday!
Ice suddenly slid down Toran’s back, from his neck to his buttocks. “What do ye mean, lass?”
“You made a promise to me.”
“A promise?” Panic surged like beating wings in his belly. He knew the promise she meant.
To see other authors contributing to Six Sentence Sunday, just click here.
Welcome to my “stop” on The Next Big Thing blog hop. And thanks to Linda Carroll-Bradd for tagging me to participate. In turn, I’ve asked Kathryn Knight, Chris Redding, Mageela Troche and Bess McBride to participate, and they’ll be posting next week, beginning Dec 10.
“The Next Big Thing” is a question and answer discussion blog in which we discuss…yes! the next big thing we’re working on, or a recent release. In my case, Highland Healer.
- Where did the idea come from for the book? I saw the first scene like a movie clip – a big man being brought into a tent on a rough stretcher, a woman watching and waiting to assess his condition. The rest of the book followed from that. Initially, I wasn’t sure what it was going to be – historical, fantasy, science fiction or something else. But as I wrote that first scene, it quickly became clear to me that the story took place in the highlands of Scotland in the past. Then it was a matter of finding the perfect time in Scottish history, which took a lot of research.
- What genre does your book fall under? Highland Healer is a Scottish Historical Romance with a Paranormal twist. It won the 2011 Washington Romance Writers’ Marlene contest in the Paranormal category.
- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Honestly, I have no idea. In my imagination, the characters have their own faces and personalities, and I’ve never tried to find a “real world” analog for them. I’d love for you to suggest some! It would be fun to find out how my readers see them.
- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? After Toran Lathan escapes with healer Aileana Shaw from the army where she was a captive and the invader lays siege to the Lathan keep to get her back, Aileana uses all her abilities to protect herself and those she loves while Toran fights to keep her.
- Where can we get your book? Click on the cover above to link to Amazon Kindle. Highland Healer is on sale there until its official release date on Jan 4. After that, it will be available at full price from The Wild Rose Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, other e-formats and in print.
- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? My first draft took a decade. I was a pantzer at the time, and still working my day job, so the energy to be creative and write was in short supply. When I started the second book of this series, I first outlined each chapter and its scenes. That book took less than a year to write – a huge improvement for me.
- Who or what inspired you to write this book? I’ve always written – stories, articles for the school newspaper, something for the school literary journal. A few novels that I started as a child are tucked away in a drawer – they’re written in pencil! This book grew over a long period of time out of that initial scene, and like most debut books, a lot of twists and turns in story structure, plot, characters and setting happened before it all come together.
- What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Highland Healer is not your usual historical romance. I always loved reading science fiction and fantasy, especially if the stories included psi talents. So now, traces of psi talents have a way of showing up in most of the stories I write, whether the story setting is past, present or future. Add to that my fascination with how relationships develop, and I think you’ll find my books are captivating, sexy and satisfying to read.
Despite his threats a few moments before, she had sensed no real animosity in him. She’d been treated well since arriving at the Aerie. Her dream of a home, with people who cared about her, perhaps a family of her own, rose unbidden to her mind, and with it came a familiar lump in her throat. She was tired, she thought, to let that longing overwhelm her now. She folded her arms under her breasts and kept her eyes on the flames. She heard Toran move from the door to stand behind her. She tensed as his hands came to rest on her shoulders. He turned her gently, but irresistibly, to face him.
“What should I do with so beautiful, so valuable, a prize?” he murmured, almost to himself.
His deep blue gaze ensnared Aileana as completely as his hands. She knew she should be outraged at being called a prize. He’d done it before, on the way here. Did he truly see her that way? She refused to be chattel any longer, she told herself, and would not allow him to treat her so. But she found she could not summon her ire. One of his hands left her shoulder and he lightly touched her cheek, then slowly slid his fingers down her throat to her collarbone. There, he hesitated, and Aileana held her breath until he moved the hand back to her shoulder.
His simple touch sent shivers dancing and nearly undid her.