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Off the Edge
What-To-Read Wednesday: Off the Edge

Wednesday again, how about that?

This morning, the Romance Writers of America announced finalists for the annual Golden Heart and RITA awards, for unpublished and published romance of distinction, respectively. I’m honored to have received two nominations this year, one in the single-title contemporary category for Along Came Trouble and another in the romance novella category for How To Misbehave.

But I’m also excited to see so many of my friends and favorite writers on this year’s list, including the wonderful Off the Edge by Carolyn Crane, who is fabulous fabulous fabulous. So I decided to do today’s recommendation and reading from Carolyn’s book, because if you’re not reading her yet, you really really should be.

Here’s the blurb—

 

Off the EdgeSHE MAY BE HIS WORST ENEMY…
For deadly secret agent Peter Macmillan, language is a weapon—one he uses to hunt criminals, destroy plots, and charm enemies. Seducing information out of a beautiful singer in Bangkok hotel should be easy…except this particular singer has the power to destroy his cool façade, and with it, his last defense against a dark past.

HE MAY BE HER ONLY HOPE…
He tricked her. He helped himself to her body and her secrets. He has enemies everywhere. Laney Lancaster should hate Peter, but when she discovers him shirtless, sweaty, and chained up in the hotel’s dungeon, all she can think about is freeing him. Because she knows what it’s like to be trapped and alone. And she could use a dangerous friend.

They may be wrong for each other, but the instant they join forces, Laney and Peter are plunged into an odyssey of hot sex and dark danger. To survive, they must trust each other with their lives—and their hearts.

 

The first book I read by Carolyn Crane was one of an erotica title under her pen name Annika Martin — the hilarious, surprising, tender first book in the Taken Hostage By Hunky Bank Robbers series, The Hostage BargainI immediately needed to know WHO THIS PERSON WAS, and DID SHE HAVE AN AGENT, and WHAT COULD I DO TO MAKE SURE SHE GOT ALL THE THINGS? Because, for me, the intelligence and wit and all-around wonderfulness of whoever this woman was who’d written The Hostage Bargain just leapt off the pages right at my face.

It turns out that everything Carolyn writes is like that. Everything. Because she is like that. I met her last year at RWA, and she came along for karaoke, and she wore this skirt with deer on it? And sang this Led Zeppelin song about … blood? bones? in a low, growly voice, with a face like a hot Wisconsin kindergarten teacher.

I don’t know. It was the most awesome thing that ever happened.

Then, later, she joined me and Mary Ann Rivers for drinks and made me laugh so hard I almost puked.

So partly I want you to understand, here, that Carolyn is good people. But also, I want you to understand that when you read Off the Edge — which you should, immediately — you’re going to get what the cover looks like, which is sexy dark romantic suspense with guns and danger — and what the blurb promises, which is Bangkok and action and betrayal and sex and a linguist and a woman on the run — but you’re also going to get Carolyn Crane, who is smart and insightful and hilarious, quirky, a little bit bent, but in the best possible way.

I’m so happy she’s being acknowledged for her talent with a RITA final. I hope she wins, because she deserves to.

Here’s me, reading my favorite scene from Off the Edge.

 

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Off the Edge by Carolyn Crane | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads 

Off the Edge is the second book in The Associates series, but it’s fine to read them out of order.

Roman Holiday The Adventure Begins
Roman and Neville Are On Sale!

About Last Night - CoverHi, chickens!

 

Just a quick post to announce two sales. First, About Last Night is on a $0.99 sale for the next little while, so if you’ve never read it, now’s your chance to snap it up. If you have read it, feel free to buy cheap-o gift copies for everyone you know who might need a barechested Englishman named Nev in her life. (This is probably more people than you think.)

 

Buy Links

Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Sony | Amazon Canada | Random House

Roman Holiday The Adventure BeginsAlso, the first five episodes of Roman Holiday go on sale as a bundle today called Roman Holiday: The Adventure Begins. They’re priced at $3.99, so there’s a little savings from buying all five episodes separately. The final five episodes will be available in a month, on March 25.

Buy Links

Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Sony

Happy reading!

Beloit
Friday Giveaway: Road Trip Edition

This week’s winner is Nikki H. Thanks to everyone who commented! The reading was a blast. I would like to be an honorary Beloiter now.

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Whee, it’s Friday!

BeloitIn a bit, I’m off to Beloit College, where I’m going to do a reading this afternoon and also say various scandalous and provocative things. Although I have decided against reading a hand-job scene. I will save that for some future lucky audience.

Speaking of appearances, California readers, take note! I’ll be on your turf February 28-March 1 for Book Ball. The Book Ball itself is a ticketed event taking place Feb. 28, but on Saturday, March 1, there will also be a free public book signing at the Huntington Beach Barnes and Noble at 2 p.m., where I’ll be signing alongside Alice Clayton, Sylvia Day, Cara McKenna, Katy Evans, Christina Lauren, Monica Murphy, Kristen Proby, Tiffany Reisz, Andrew Shaffer, and Tara Sue Me. Come see us and say hello!

I’ve got to run — twenty minutes to pack and clear out, and I have to throw some food at the Kidlet. Have you ever been to a book reading? Any favorite authors you’ve heard read, or favorite reading stories? Tell me in the comments! I’ll draw one random commenter tomorrow morning to win a $10 gift certificate to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes — winner’s choice!

StrangersOnATrain300
Release Day and Big Boy Excerpt!

StrangersOnATrain300It’s release day for the paperback anthology Strangers on a Train, which includes my novella Big Boy along with four other wonderful stories from Serena Bell, Donna Cummings, Meg Maguire, and Samantha Hunter.

Today’s excerpt is my own story, Big Boy, wherein a beleaguered single mother meets a stranger once a month at the railroad museum for a roleplaying date. As one does.

Big Boy

by Ruthie Knox

We met online. How else?

Lisa wants to find a life partner, and she’d talked me into thinking online dating made sense. I blame sleep deprivation. Josh was four months old then, and I hadn’t had an uninterrupted night’s rest since I took custody of him.

I moved through the days in a fog, mainlining coffee to keep from nodding off during any silence that lasted longer than twenty seconds. In my profile picture, I looked like a zombie, but the algorithm the dating service relied on kept matching me up with brainless men. After three hapless, awkward dates, I tried sifting through the profiles on my own.

That’s when I found him. Viscount Curzon. In his profile picture, he wore a cravat and a monocle.

In another one, he was Benjamin Piatt Runkle, a Civil War soldier. Under Accomplishments, he’d typed, Survived the Battle of Shiloh. His picture was tinted sepia, like a daguerreotype.

The third one, for Frank Sinatra Jr., made me laugh out loud. Dislikes: Living in father’s shadow. Likes: Loose women.

I found eight of them altogether, each with its own picture. He did a remarkable job of looking like eight different men. I mean, I could tell it was him—he had the same hazel eyes, the same sandy-brown hair in every photo. But he inhabited the disguises.

I showed Lisa, and she told me he was weird. I’d already figured that out. Still, I was surprised how much stock she put in it. His weirdness was what appealed to me. I felt so unfocused so much of the time in those days—like I wasn’t myself anymore, but I wasn’t a new person either. I was a blob with feet.

This guy knew something I didn’t. He knew how to change identities nimbly, with a gleam in his eyes that said I’m having more fun than you are.

I sent him an email. It had to go through the dating service, so he only knew me as Mandy, and I only knew him as Chet Baker. Likes: Porkpie hats, West Coast jazz, heroin. Dislikes: Rigamarole.

He told me he had rules. He didn’t want to know my last name or what I did for a living, and he didn’t want to tell me anything about himself, either. It was the very opposite of what the dating service encouraged us to do.

I accepted his boundaries and tried to engage him in chitchat about music, movies, books.

He asked me out. Sort of.

He proposed to meet me at the gate of the National Railroad Museum at eight o’clock on a Tuesday night. I had to wear something appropriate to 1957.

Lisa said he was a crackpot and I should stay away. But I liked the idea of meeting him in costume. If he could pretend to be Chet Baker or whoever, I could pretend to be the version of myself who didn’t have a four-month-old. I could be the superseded me, a competent grad student who never burst into tears at the drop of a hat.

I suppose I was betraying the new me, but I didn’t like her much.

Lisa agreed to babysit. She helped me find a boiled-wool travel suit and locate a source for heavy silk stockings. We curled my hair with rags.

When I got out of my car in the parking lot, I noticed the angle of his hat first. He wore a dark checked jacket with a pocket square, held a cigarette in his mouth that he never lit, and had a louche way of leaning against the brick side of the museum that put me at ease.
“You can be whoever you want,” he told me before he led me to the Aerotrain. “Just stay in character.”

The National Railroad Museum—a considerably less grand operation than the name implies—houses a couple dozen trains. Some are scattered around the grassy grounds, but most, including the fin-tastical 1950s Aerotrain designed by General Motors, are lined up in a huge outdoor shed that’s open on both ends to the elements.

Only the very best trains—the rarest, the well preserved—are indoors, in the Lenfestey Center. The main building also houses a few exhibits, staff offices and a gift shop. Four times a day, they offer a train ride around the tracks that circle the property.

It’s a quaint museum, neither large nor small, funded entirely with donations, grants, admissions and membership fees. Sort of medium-impressive for a city of a hundred thousand people. Very Green Bay.

I’d never been there before that night.

The Aerotrain’s engine was a sleek bullet, but inside, the cars smelled of mouse nests and spent oil, and I had trouble pretending at first. I focused on the wedge of his back moving through the car in front of me. The way his hat sat over his ears.

Lisa had cautioned me to be safe, to keep my hand on the pepper spray in my purse until I knew he was no psychopath. But as I watched him walk, he became just a guy on a train, and I wasn’t afraid of him. I was Florence from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, taking the Saturday special to visit my sick sister in Harrisburg. If I had butterflies in my stomach, they were only because I wasn’t accustomed to traveling, and because I didn’t normally have opportunities to meet such nice-looking men.

His name was Philip. He took me up the steps in the dining car to sit where it was quieter, and he bought me coffee and pastry.

It was an unimaginable relief to talk to him. For one stolen hour, I was somebody else. We swapped stories. Told jokes. We laughed a lot.

When we finished drinking coffee that didn’t really exist, he escorted me back to my seat, his hand settled at the base of my spine. I would’ve let him kiss me goodbye, but he didn’t try.

He waited another two months to kiss me.

————

Order Strangers on a Train

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Samhain Store

All of the Strangers on a Train stories are also available as individual ebook novellas.

You can find links to order Big Boy here.

Deeper MTV
Friday Giveaway: MTV Edition, with Bonus Excerpt!

This week’s winner is Connie. Thanks to everyone who commented!

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It’s Friday! Of release week! *pants as though I’ve run a race*

Seriously, it’s been crazy around here. Lots of release-week stuff, lots of excitement, lots of work revising Harder so I can get a final version turned in on Monday, and then, in the middle of all that, THERE IS AN ARTICLE ABOUT ME ON MTV NEWS.

See? Look, it’s real!

Deeper MTV

 

I can’t even take it. I was such an MTV-watching kid that Tabitha Søren is pretty much burned into my brain. Plus, it’s just amazing to see Deeper getting this kind of exposure for its message. I am all aglow with happiness.

In other news, it’s time for a second excerpt from the forthcoming Strangers on a Train paperback! Today’s is from Serena Bell’s Ticket Home, wherein a workaholic hero stages a sit-in on his ex-girlfriend’s daily train commute in order to convince her to give their relationship another try. And learns some things. Plus, there’s love!

 

StrangersOnATrain300

Excerpt from Ticket Home

by Serena Bell

He was waiting for her on the platform at the end of the day, leaning against a pillar, a study in male nonchalance.

Her insides got tangled as her heart tried to leap at the same time her stomach tried to sink, and then she knew half of her had hoped he’d go back to Seattle, while the other half had been hoping just as hard he’d be here, on the train again.

Stupid workaholic Jeff with his stupid phone.

As she stepped through the sliding doors, he pushed himself up off the pillar, an uncoiling of muscle, and closed the distance between them. Aligning himself at her side, matching her stride.

She sped up, ran for the train, and he chased her, bounding on behind her and following her up the aisle.

There was, of course, no place to go. No way to get away from him. Unless—

There was a conductor at the end of the car, and she started toward him, but Jeff caught her wrist again and spun her around to face him. He was very close, so close she could see the circles under his eyes and the pale brown stubble on his jaw. So close she could remember the exact feel of that well-formed lower lip.

“No more games.”

It was a command. It was a growl. She felt it, everywhere.

“Do you know what I spent my morning doing?”

She shook her head. From behind her, someone said, “Excuse me,” and he sat abruptly in an empty seat and tugged her down to sit beside him. A group of passengers went by and distributed themselves into the seats beyond.

She tried to get up, but he held her firm.

“Jeff,” she protested. “You’re hurting me.”

He released her instantly, and she rubbed the place where his fingers had dug into her.

“Your little stunt this morning with the conductor got me detained by the transit police for questioning. Apparently they take ‘See something, say something’ very seriously in the year of the tenth anniversary of September Eleventh.”

“Oh, God,” she said. “Oh, God.”

“It’s okay. It turns out I don’t have a police record or obvious links with terrorist organizations, and I haven’t traveled out of the country in the last couple of years.”

“Jeff, I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, well. You can make it up to me by not running away again. Okay? Just talk to me.”

She felt terrible about siccing the MTA police on him, but that didn’t mean she wanted to be trapped here with him. It didn’t mean she wanted to rehash bits of their relationship better left behind. And it definitely didn’t mean she wanted his body a few inches from hers, tension rolling off him like fog off the early-morning Pacific Ocean. If she let her eyes flicker sideways, she could see that even his thigh was tensed, the big bulge of muscle straining the wool of his dress slacks.

“I’m not playing games,” she said. “I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to fix things up. I want you to get off the train and leave me alone. It’s over.”

“And I want you to come home with me.”

He said it so simply, it stopped her dead.

————

Preorder Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Samhain Store

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Strangers on a Train by Meg  Maguire

Strangers on a Train

by Meg Maguire

Giveaway ends February 04, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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And now for some giveaway action! Tell me your MTV memories — or if you don’t have any, do you have a story about you and the news? Ever been in a newspaper or on TV? Was it embarrassing? DISH! As usual, I’ll award a $10 gift certificate from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes to one commenter randomly chosen tomorrow morning. Have at it!
Deeper2-FullSize
It’s Here! Release Day for DEEPER

DeeperRDL

It’s here, it’s here!

Deeper is out in the world today. I’m so excited to have this opportunity — to have written a book that means so much to me — and to know it belongs to the world now.

I hope those of you who read it enjoy it and find as much feeling and meaning in the story as I felt writing it.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you, my readers and fans, who have been so supportive of this foray into a new subgenre, a new pen name, a new direction. Your enthusiasm, your messages, your blog comments and Facebook comments, your Twitter friendships — all of it means the world to me. Thank you.

Deeper2-FullSize

Buy Links

Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | other preorder links

If you’re looking to buy Deeper outside the US and its dependencies, the Philippines, and Canada, you’re probably going to need to find the edition from Piatkus Entice (Little, Brown). Piatkus is publishing the ebook first, with the paperback to follow in March.

This is the Piatkus cover:

DeeperPiatkus

Piatkus Edition Buy Links

Amazon UKPiatkus Entice (publisher site – many more links here)

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