Posted in Books, Guests, Talking with

Talking with Morgan O’Neill

After a long hiatus, the tough questions have been answered. The wonderful writing team of Morgan O’Neill joins me today to discuss their newest time-traveling tale, The Thornless Rose, so I present you with two answers for the price of one.

Welcome Deborah, welcome Cary. What inspired you to write The Thornless Rose?DeborahCordes&CaryFrates

Deborah- The Elizabethan Age straddled the old world and the new, an era where science, technology, and modern thinking were in their infancy, yet the foundations that would lead to the Enlightenment were well begun. In choosing this time, I wanted the challenge of accurately portraying the wonders, joys, and horrors that our time travelers, Anne Howard and Dr. Jonathan Brandon, would experience as they attempted to survive life in 1560 London.  It was a different, yet hauntingly familiar, world, and I hope I succeeded in giving our readers a sense of “what might have been.”

Cary- Queen Elizabeth I and the rest of the Tudors have kept me enthralled since earliest memories. Nobody has ever managed to find a pigeon hole that adequately describes Elizabeth Tudor, and I think it is because she had so many facets. She was a scholar, an athlete, a politician’s politician. She was driven, cunning, and knew how to use her feminine “wiles” to the detriment of her male-dominated world. She had an endlessly traumatic childhood, little true love, and throngs of hangers-on who would use her at a moment’s notice. She was her father’s daughter, but only knew his love when it suited him. How can we not be captivated?

I love alternate histories. The Thornless Rose sounds like a terrific book to curl up with on a cold winter night. Thinking of which, what types of books do you enjoy reading? What is on your nightstand?

Deborah- I am reading Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes by Svante Pääbo.  It’s a fascinating memoir by one of science’s greatest paleo-geneticists. I’m about to have my DNA tested, and the test will reveal how much Neanderthal DNA I possess.  Amazing!

Cary- Making Magic by Donna June Cooper (It’s excellent, as are the other two in the Magic series) and The Oresteia by Aeschylus, translation by Robert Fagles.

I haven’t heard of any of those. Other than reading, I mean research time, what are your favorite parts about being an author?

Deborah- Working at home in my pajamas. 🙂

Cary- Bringing the characters to life. Since we deal with many real historical figures and their exploits, I consider this a great privilege.

If a celebrity did the audio book reading, who would you pick and why?

Deborah- For The Thornless Rose, I would like a woman who has a sophisticated voice. Helen Mirren or Judy Dench would be fabulous.

Cary- Hmmm, male, to be sure. I don’t know, but he’d need a low-pitched, rumbly sort of voice, because those are yummy. That’s what our hero, Dr. Brandon, sounds like.

If your hero or heroine were babysitting my kids (age 6 & 10) what would the night be like?

Deborah- I would want our Scottish housekeeper, Trudy MacCunn Leach, to babysit. She’s a real character (pun intended, he, he), who would bring Duffy, a Cairn terrier who adores children.  The two of them would entertain the wee ones for hours and hours.  🙂

Cary- Wellllll, I think they’d be on very solid ground. Elizabeth has stories to tell that could raise the hairs on anyone’s neck, but she has the wisdom to tailor her words to her audience. And she loves kids!

The kids will have a great time. What if we were at a bar with your hero and heroine, what would they drink?

Deborah and Cary- Anne Howard likes the occasional shandy (a mix of beer and lemonade), while Jonathan drinks Guinness or Elizabethan dark beer called double-double.

I approve of Jonathan already. My kids built a time machine out of Legos.  When and where are we headed and why?

Deborah- I would encourage them to avoid taking any trips – just read about it. The idea of actual time travel is frightening, when one considers the consequences of interfering with the past. I know I’m over thinking here, but I can’t let go of the old conundrums, such as “what if I killed my grandfather before my parent was conceived?”  Just. Read. About. It.  lol

Cary- Why, Elizabethan England, of course! The language is familiar-ish, the clothing (we’ll land wealthy) is to die for, and the entertainment (Royals watching) is without equal – bar none.

I love how you each bring something different to the table. Thinking of which, dessert time! Give me your either/ors.

  • Chocolate, fruit or other?

Deborah- Chocolate (another reason I wouldn’t time travel – I’ve gotta have my Lindor truffles or Reeses peanut butter cups). lol

Cary- Fruit

  • Warm or cold?

Deborah- Warm      Cary- Warm

  • Buttercream or fondant?

Deborah- Buttercream        Cary- Fondant

  • Cookies or brownies?

Deborah- Brownies           Cary- Brownies! (moist, not cakey)

  • With nuts or without?

Deborah- Nuts, especially a Hershey’s bar with almonds!    Cary- Without (unless it’s a character trait, then nutty all the way)

Before you ladies run off, care to share anything more about The Thornless Rose?

THE THORNLESS ROSE 1600x2400No one ever knew what really happened to Dr. Jonathan Brandon back in 1945. He simply disappeared from a London pub, leaving behind an unsolved mystery and his fiancée—Anne Howard’s grandmother. Seventy years later, Anne herself is haunted by the strange tale, along with inexplicable hallucinations straight out of Elizabethan England. Including a scarred, handsome man whose deep blue eyes seem to touch her very soul…


Anne wonders if there isn’t something more to the story. Is it even possible that Jonathan disappeared into England’s dark past? And why does Anne keep hearing him whisper her name? Because now she too feels the inexorable pull of the past, not to mention an undeniable attraction for a man she doesn’t even know.


It’s just a matter of time before Anne will step back into history, and face a destiny―and a love―beyond imagining…

The Thornless Rose by Morgan O’Neill is available now

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A chance meeting at a writers’ conference brought Cary Morgan Frates and Deborah O’Neill Cordes together, two award-winning authors who connected because of a mutual love of time travel fiction. Collaboration ensued, the search for a pen name the first step in their working relationship. Their maiden names provided the solution – and “Morgan O’Neill” was born.  Cary and Deborah’s backgrounds are uniquely suited to writing stories steeped in atmosphere and history: Deborah has a Master’s Degree in history and is a dedicated genealogist; Cary is a talented linguist in French and is currently a student of Latin. They’ve traveled to Europe’s ancient and medieval sites many times, with Cary living on the Continent for five years.  The Morgan O’Neill time travel novels have received a number of literary awards, including two finalist wins in the Booksellers’ Best Awards, two semifinalist wins in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, first, second, and third place wins for the Mainstream Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category of the Golden Rose Contest, a top ten finalist award in the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference Zola Awards Literary Contest, and a top ten finalist win in the Orange Rose Contest.

Author Links:

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Posted in Giveaway, Guests, Talking with

Talking with: Heather Thurmeier

Today I’m talking with Heather Thurmeier. Her newest contemporary romance, The Wedding Hoax sounds like a lot of fun. HeatherTWH_500

What types of books do you enjoy reading? What is on your nightstand?

-I have sort of eclectic reading taste. Of course, I love to read romances (paranormal, NA, and contemporary), but I also love dystopian and adventure. Give me a treasure hunt or a horde of zombies and I’m set for the night!

You are amazingly prolific. How do you make time to write?

– I write when the kids are at school. As soon as the bus drives away, my office hours start. I try to get as much done then as I can. Sometimes I will have to work when they’re home, but I try not to. I will bring my work to after school activities is necessary so I can watch dance class and answer interview questions at the same time. (cough) Once in a while I will work at night after bedtime, but usually by then, I’m so darn tired, I can’t think straight! I know that feeling!

What is your favorite part about being an author?

-The freedom! I love the freedom of being able to write on my own schedule. No one tells me when I have to get my work done. I might have a deadline, but I still choose when I sit down and get the work done. It allows me to still be the stay at home mom I want to be, to run to the school on a whim when the kids fall in a mud puddle and need new clothes. (That happens more often than you might expect!)

-The other thing I love about being a writer is getting to live in new worlds all the time. I love getting into a new world of characters and having them in my head while I write their story! It’s so fun to research new places and imagine experiences I’ve never been through in my real life.

If a celebrity did the audio book reading, who would you pick and why?

-Oh, mmmm… I can’t even answer this question without smiling. If you know me in real life, it’s no secret that I have always loved Bruce Willis. It doesn’t matter that there’s a huge age difference. That man is sexy… his lopsided smile, those eyes, and that voice. *happy sigh* He’d definitely be one of my top choices to read The Wedding Hoax. I could totally listen to his voice for hours.

Nice pick. Before we find him and ask if he’ll do the audio, let’s play “Dump the purse” – what’s in yours?

-Oh God. This could be a dangerous game for some people! LOL. But for me, it’s pretty tame. There’s the basics: wallet, sunglasses, tissues, tic tacs, pens and keys. Then there’s the few extras for writing that go everywhere with me: ear buds, business cards, and my idea book. It goes everywhere with me since you never know when inspiration might strike.

Let’s take it to a bar with your hero and heroine, what are they drinking?

– Not surprisingly, they enjoy my favorite drinks. Cole would be drinking a Rye and Coke. For those of you who don’t know, Rye is Canadian whiskey. It would be Crown Royal, to be exact. But in the book, it’s rum because the editor felt that was more commonplace. Daisy would be sipping a strawberry margarita. Delish!

My kids built a time machine out of Legos. When and where are we headed and why?

-We’d be off to the future! We already know what happens in the past, so I see no reason to spend time there. But the future is a mystery and I’d love to know what it was like. But since I don’t have a time machine, I guess I’ll have to become a vampire so I can live forever and see the future in person. And becoming a vampire is probably less painful than a Lego time machine.

Dessert time! Give me your “either—or” answers

  • Chocolate, fruit or other? CHOCOLATE! Is there any other answer?
  • Warm or cold? Cold. It’s easier to warm up than it is to cool off.
  • Buttercream or fondant? Buttercream. Fondant is strange.
  • Cookies or brownies? Brownies. Yum.
  • With nuts or without? Probably without.

Heather, what is The Marriage Hoax about?

A satisfying category romance from Entangled’s Lovestruck imprint…

HeatherTWH_500To save their companies, they’ll plan the fake wedding of the century…

Meet the bride…

Daisy Willows is a wedding dress designer who longs for her own happily-ever-after. In the meantime, she’s struggling to keep her business going even as she covers her mom’s increasing medical expenses. So when a bridal show expo owner offers to help her out, she can hardly say no. And all it takes is Daisy pretending she’s back with her playboy ex. And that they’re engaged…

Meet the groom…

Cole Benton works for his father’s bridal magazine, which is on the verge of downsizing. All he really wants is a crack at an outdoor lifestyle magazine, and if he has to fake-marry Daisy to make it happen, he’s definitely in. Now Daisy and Cole are playing up their fake engagement, shopping for rings, and even kissing upon request. All of which is makes it a whole lot harder to remember that their big white wedding is a big white lie…

Buy Links:





That’s a beautiful bracelet, by the way. Thank you, but it’s not mine. It’s a give away inspired by my heroine Daisy!

Daisy bracelet   Fab! Here’s the Rafflecopter link. The giveaway runs through October 20th.

You can find Heather online at








Posted in Talking with

Talking with: Sarah Ballance

Today I’m talking with Sarah Balance about Forsaken, her latest release from Samhain publishing.

Forsaken72lgSarah, what inspired you to write this book?

If you ask my husband, he’ll say the idea of this book was born solely to aggravate him, LOL. I don’t remember where I got the idea, but this plot is hinged on a rare gun owned by the heroine. Going in, I knew nothing about guns, but my husband knows ALL THE THINGS. I spent a couple of hours trying to find the right weapon for the job (read: asking him question after question), not realizing what I needed wasn’t so much a rare gun, but a rare caliber. ERMAGERD. Once I got past that little detail, the book practically wrote itself. And my husband decided to stay married to me, LOL, so all is well.  Always good.

What types of books do you enjoy reading? What is on your nightstand?

I have always kept piles of Harlequin Intrigues (category romantic suspense) on a shelf by my bed, while my kindle is full of books from Entangled Publishing. (They are, without exception, SO GOOD—so good that I auto-buy pretty much everything they publish.) When I’m not on a tight deadline I’ll read a book a night. I don’t mean to, but if I don’t read between writing and attempting to sleep, my mind just goes crazy with ideas for my work-in-progress. Then I get wrapped up in the story I’m reading and can’t put it down until I turn the last page.

Tell me about your favorite place to write. What makes it special?

My favorite place is inside the cabin of our boat. The marina is SO peaceful, and the creak of the ropes and the slap of water against the hull make for perfect background noise. SO much better than listening with one ear as my kids tear down the house.  (Not really, but sometimes I wonder!)

How do you make time to write?

I usually do so after dinner. We are a homeschooling family so I spend most of the day with my children, which means at the end of the day, taking time for myself is pretty much a guilt-free endeavor. My kids range from ages 4 through 16, so they’re all old enough to understand that I need to be left alone unless there’s a true urgency. If my husband has to work he usually takes kids with him, and if not my older kids help watch the younger ones. It’s getting easier, but a couple of years ago it was tough! You are busy and productive.

 What is your favorite part about being an author?

The flexibility. I’m a full-time author and can literally work anywhere. My husband (who also has some flexibility) and I love road trips and have made it a mission to take our kids to see all 48 contiguous states, and over the course of our travels I’ve worked pretty much everywhere. There’s something incredibly inspiring about the changing view, and the fact that I can share the astounding beauty of this country with the kids and be paid at the same time is a blessing for which I am truly grateful.

Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to know more about your book.

FORSAKEN Forsaken72lg

Her past is back to haunt her—and this time, it’s got a gun.

When Gage Lawton finds his brother shot to death on his back porch, every shred of evidence points to one person: Gage’s ex-lover, Riley Beckett. The only gun in town that fires a bullet of that caliber belongs to her.

Certain the shooting is payback for his part in the loss of her parents, he abandons his promise to stay out of her life and confronts her, his rage backed up with a revolver. Yet when she steps through the door, all thoughts of revenge burn to ashes.

A year after Riley unwillingly walked away from Gage, she enters her home to find him sitting in the dark, gun pointed at her head. One look into those achingly familiar blue eyes reminds her how wrong she was to let him go. But now there’s more standing between them than their heated past.

A twist of fate—and a hail of sniper bullets—puts them in the cross hairs of a killer, leaving Riley with just two slim options: trust her greatest betrayer, or face a murderer alone.

Warning: Prepare to get caught in a crossfire of profanity, danger, and desire. Intense violence may trigger the desire to wear body armor…and take it off. Very, very slowly.

Find ForsakenSamhain Publishing | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes 


Sarah and her husband of what he calls many long, long years live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom, she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids). To learn more about her work in contemporary, historical, and supernatural romance and romantic suspense, please stalk accordingly. FIND THE AUTHOR HERE:   @SarahBallance     Facebook      Website     Good Reads     Pinterest

Posted in Books, For Writers, Writing

Tamara Hughes’ Writing Process.

I’m turning my blog over to Tamara Hughes today to give her a place to share her writing process.

onceuponamasqueradeTamara Hughes is the author of Once Upon a Masquerade, a Victorian murder mystery romance set in New York City. She lives in Minnesota with her two kids and hubby. When she’s not reading or writing romance, she’s watching romantic movies and TV shows, playing poker, or cooking. (Oh, and spending time with her family. Yes, that too. Ha.)  Visit Tamara at

“Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Lola! I love talking about romance books and writing so this should be a lot of fun!

1)     What am I working on? – I’ve recently signed a contract with Entangled Publishing for a three book series with a pirate theme. While the first one is done, I’m working away on the second story and having a great time. Argh. Pirates be so much fun.

This story, tentatively titled Beauty’s Curse, involves a brooding pirate who plays the violin and his attempts to protect a woman who’s nice as can be but a whole lot of trouble. Bad luck seems to follow her wherever she goes.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre? I like unique settings for my historicals (this one begins on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean and ends in the Bahamas). I also loved heroines who are imperfect. Usually they’re a bit clumsy or silly, maybe gullible. I suppose I just relate better to these types of women. Overall, my stories are fast-paced adventures.

 While my paranormal romances aren’t published yet, they all have very unique paranormal people in them. I try to come up with twists on what’s out there or something altogether new.

3)     Why do I write what I do? I love exploring ideas I’m not already familiar with. Historicals have built-in elements I can play with. For any given time or place, there are different rules of etiquette, interesting clothing, and the way a man and woman interact with one another… It’s almost like a dance. I find it very interesting. Men of the past were also more protective and chivalrous, which is so romantic.

 As for my paranormals, I think my reasoning is the same. I can make up a new species of being and explore who they are and what makes them special. Do they interact with humans? And if so, how does that dynamic work? I love thinking through all of this stuff.

4)     How does your writing process work? My process seems to change with each book, but as it stands right now, I start out with a basic premise or idea. I open a new document and I play with where this story could go. When I feel like I have enough to build on, I cast my characters. Basically, I Google images and try to imagine what these people might look like. Then I create a character sketch for each main character. This is a list of questions that range from what their internal and external issues are to what they like to eat and what type of clothes they like to wear.

 From there I attempt to plot the book in an outline form, incorporating the external plot, resolving internal issues, and of course the progression of the relationship. Once this is done, I attempt to write the book. Lately, I’ve been writing a “solid” first draft, meaning not junk. I really think through the scenes as I write them and try to make the wording fairly good. I have my critique partners read the chapters as I write them to let me know if I’m going in a good direction. When the first draft is done, or mostly done, I start at the beginning and edit through. I begin with my critique partners’ suggestions and any big changes I feel are needed, and work my way into the minor things like searching for overused words or phrases. Finally, I do one big read-through before I hand the manuscript to my editor.

Thanks for stopping by!





Posted in Books, Talking with, Writing

Talking with Tamara Hughes

Today I’m welcoming Tamara Hughes to talk about Once upon a Masquerade, her debut novel from Entangled Publishing.

onceuponamasqueradeI love the color palette of this cover and what a tag line. Want to meet a Cinderella with a secret? Read on.

New York City, 1883

A Prince Charming meets his match…

Self-made shipping magnate Christopher Black first spies Rebecca Bailey at a masquerade ball and is captivated by her refreshing naiveté and sparkling beauty. She’s a stark contrast to the hollow behavior of the ton and the guile of his former fiancée, but the closer he gets to her secrets, the further she pushes him away.

A Cinderella with a secret…

Rebecca is drawn to the charismatic Christopher from the first, but she cannot risk him discovering that she is really a housemaid impersonating an heiress. Her father’s life depends on it.

A Happily Ever After that could never be…

When Christopher’s investigation of the murder of his best friend leads him straight to Rebecca, he fears his ingénue may be a femme fatale in disguise.  Now he must decide if he can trust the woman he’s come to love, or if her secrets will be his downfall.


Tamara, what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always loved Cinderella stories – a woman who manages to rise from an awful situation, and ends up with her happy ending. But I wanted to add a twist or two to make it a little more fun. Like a murder mystery. So why not have my Cinderella in the middle of it? The prime suspect.

And to add a little humor, I like my heroines to be very human. In this story, Cinderella is a little clumsy and socially awkward. (A lot like me I’m sorry to say – only I’m more than a little clumsy.) So when this Cinderella sneaks into a ball to meet her Prince Charming, she’s bound to make mistakes.

A ball scene? There must be music. Do you listen to music when you write?  If so, what?

It depends. I find my writing process changes for each book. For most of my books, including this one, I wrote in silence. Sometimes my plots are pretty intense, so I need all my focus on keeping everything straight to weave it all together as tightly as I can. That said, my current work-in-progress is a whole other deal. I’m finding I get inspiration to write from listening to music. My music selection is pretty eclectic, from pop songs to heavy metal. (I’m currently writing a paranormal.) Some of the songs include: Clarity by Zedd, I’m Not a Vampire by Falling in Reverse, Say It by Evans Blue, and Rescue Me by Kerrie Roberts.

Wow, do I feel out of touch.  Looks like I’ll be busy on Spotify later.  What is your favorite part about being an author?

I love sitting down to write. Don’t get me wrong. I find writing really hard – some days impossible. But there’s something about bringing a scene to life on paper that’s amazing. And days when I can make myself laugh, those are really great.

Those are perfect writing days. Since we’re not writing now, let’s play “Dump the purse” – what’s in yours? 

Hmm. Let’s see…all the usual suspects…wallet, Kleenex, lotion…band aids because I’m a mom (even if my kids are teenagers now), a little notebook in case an idea strikes, enough change to choke a horse, the dimensions of my living room lampshades (which I intend to replace someday, maybe – that note’s been in there so long, the ink is starting to blur). Wow. Now I feel boring. Thanks for asking this question, Lola. Ha!

That was productive at least. Let’s have some fun. My kids built a time machine out of Legos.  When and where are we headed and why? 

First of all, wow! Your kids are amazing!  (Blush – yes, they are.) As for the when and where, I was amazed by what I found researching New York City in the 1800’s. You read very few books about this time and place, and I’m not sure why.

In Once Upon a Masquerade, I write about a large masquerade ball hosted by William and Alva Vanderbilt to celebrate the completion of their home. That event actually happened in history. The New York Times had written about it, describing the costumes, the house, the dancing. The article really got my imagination going. In fact, the Hobby-horse Quadrille described in the book was an actual dance performed by guests, dressing up as horses and riders and romping around the room.  I hope you found illustrations! The party sounds amazing.

And while it doesn’t occur during the book, the Brooklyn Bridge’s grand opening also happened in 1883, with fireworks exploding over the water. Crazy, but one week later, a woman tripped on a narrow staircase on the bridge, falling into a large group of people. Someone screamed the bridge was collapsing, which caused a panic that led to twelve people being trampled to death.

Thomas Edison also made great strides in the use of electricity for lighting in 1883. He built a central generating station and lit a small town in New Jersey.

All in 1883. Not to mention a few years later, the Statue of Liberty was unveiled.

Gee, can you tell I’m excited about this stuff?

I sure can and now I’m excited too.  What a fascinating time and place and you’re right, it’s one we don’t often encounter in books even though it was a terrific time of sweeping societal changes and extravagance.  Thinking of which, dessert time!  Give me your “either—or” answers

  • Chocolate, fruit or other? Depends on my mood. Fruit is yummy, but chocolate is a need sometimes, not just a want. Oh, dark chocolate…definitely dark chocolate…  And it’s so good for you… So good… I may have to go get some now.
  • Warm or cold? Warm inside, cold outside – I live in Minnesota doncha know.
  • Buttercream or fondant? Buttercream, no contest. Does fondant even have much flavor? It’s pretty, but buttercream, now that has flavor…Mmm, buttercream… You’re making me do it again… I’ll be right back.
  • Cookies or brownies? Cookies – gooey, thick chocolate chip…or monster cookies…those are good too. Oh, what I’d do for a cookie.
  • With nuts or without? Depends on what dessert you’re talking about, if you know what I mean. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.

And now I’m blushing again.  Thanks for stopping by Tamara.

You can get Once upon a Masquerade at:onceuponamasquerade





About the author: A small town girl with a big imagination, Tamara Hughes had no idea what to do with her life. After graduating from college, she moved to a big city, started a family and a job, and still struggled to find that creative outlet she craved. An avid reader of romance, she gave writing a try and became hooked on the power of exploring characters, envisioning adventures, and creating worlds. She enjoys stories with interesting twists and heroines who have the grit to surmount any obstacle, all without losing the ability to laugh. To learn more, stop by her website: You can also find her on:




Amazon Author Page:

If you’re feeling really lucky, Tamara is offering a $25 Amazon gift card (U.S. only) and 3 copies of Once Upon a Masquerade (international) as part of her blog tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For additional chances to win, check out the full schedule: